Freedom Of Conscience And Religious Authority


“Whether it is right in the sight of God to obey you rather than God, you must not judge.” – Read Acts 4:1–22




No good deed remains unpunished. Peter, together with John, has healed the man in the name of Jesus and preaches the Gospel to the people. But both of them, as much as their Master who ended up on the cross only two months before, have no authority to teach. So, the supreme religious authorities throw them in prison, making them witnesses of the stone rejected by the builders which became the cornerstone. Right to their face they are announcing that that Jesus who was crucified by them is the Savior of the world. In the meantime, only in Jerusalem, the faithful are already five thousand.
The legitimate authorities are irritated at the outspokenness and impudence with which the two apostles are speaking. These illiterate commoners dare to teach the big ones who make the laws! Their only authorization is reality, which declares that they are right. The powerful would like to deny the miracle which happened, but they cannot: the healed crippled stands there, close to the two, as if evidence of a crime. Moreover, the happening is already well known in Jerusalem. What is important is that it may not be widely known or be repeated! For this reason, the authorities forbid the apostles to speak about Jesus. If Peter had complied with the instituted religious authority and not with his own conscience, Christianity would never have been born.
To open prohibition, open defiance. It isn’t “right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God”: “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19–20). As soon as they were released, they broke the imposition to keep quiet and started immediately to speak freely. Again, Peter is arrested and, together, with him, all the apostles. To the high priest who again orders him to keep quiet, he asserts: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The primacy of conscience and evidence over and above every authority is for every person a principle of freedom and responsibility.
“I am searching for freedom that is paid so dearly” (Dante Alighieri). Looking at the ancient and modern prophets, freedom is a rare commodity in the sacristies of power. In a world of slaves, where only the bosses are free, Paul makes of freedom the center of the Gospel: “Christ has set us free for freedom!” If we look for salvation from our laws “we have fallen away from grace.” ”For you were called to freedom, brethren,” for the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourselves.” All those who upset this freedom, imposing circumcision or any other thing, “may they mutilate themselves!” (Galatians 5: Religions pretend freedom for themselves; but rarely grant it to others!
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31–32). Free is the Son: in contrast with the slave, He is the One who is loved and knows how to love. Our freedom comes from the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us. We are in such a need of unconditional love. If we don’t find it, we become slaves of whoever promises us crumbs which stir our hunger but do not satisfy it.
Freedom means intelligence free from errors and free from vices. All those who love power become slaves of its deceptions and fears. They tread on love and truth, raping reality in order to keep it under their control. This is what every authority, which is far from humility and service, does. Unfortunately, there are those who, with an attitude befitting the “Great Inquisitor,” consider freedom as a danger. But this is anti–Gospel. In fact, freedom is the best fruit of Christianity: it makes us children equal to the Father. This era of accomplished freedom is not a threat but an opportunity of better living out our faith. It gives us the responsibility of discerning what better profit us in loving and serving our brothers and sisters.
How many prescriptions and pretended religiosity are a screen that hides perversity (Cf. Colossians 2:20ff)! Why hinder “the law of freedom” (James 2:12) that makes us belong to each other in mutual love? May God open our eyes so that we may be able to see how, even today, God is working in history with what we tend to oppose. © Popoli –

Share Your Thoughts

All comments are moderated

From The Same Issue

The articles and content about this issue

From The Same Issue

The articles and content about this issue

From This Topic

The articles and content about this topic

From This Topic

The articles and content about this topic

Explore Other Topics

Browse other coverage

Explore Other Topics

Browse other coverage


Presents, discusses and draws readers to reflect on issues of outmost relevance to the world today.


Very often, mission is carried out in frontier situations around the world. Those who embrace these situations have much to share.


Writer Ilsa Reyes will be exploring the richness of Pope Francis’s latest encyclical Fratelli Tutti with a view of helping our readers to get a grasp of the this beautiful papal document.


Puts to the front committed and inspiring people around the world who embrace humanitarian and religious causes with altruism and passion.


Focus on a given theme of interest touching upon social, economic and religious issues.


As the Philippines prepares to celebrate 500 years of the arrival of Christianity. Fr. James Kroeger leads us in this series into a discovery journey of the landmark events in the history of faith in the Philippine archipelago.


Aims to nurture and inspire our hearts and minds while pondering upon timely themes.


The large archipelago of the Philippines, in its richness of peoples and cultures, offers varied and challenging situations for mission.


Reflections and vocation stories that shape up the lives of young people.


As humor and goodness of heart are qualities of Christian and missionary life, the new column “Mission is fun” will be publishing some anecdotes and stories that have happened in a missionary context to lighten up the spirits and trigger a smile in our faces.


To help readers of World Mission live this year dedicated to Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples, Tita Puangco, writer and lecturer, shares in this section insights on the spirituality of communion.


A historic view of the Catholic movements that emerged from the grassroots as an inspiration by the Holy Spirit.


On the Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples, radio host and communicator Ilsa Reyes, in her monthly column, encourages Christians and people of good will to be one with their fellow people of other sects, religions and tribes.


Questions to a personality of the Church or secular world on matters of interest that touch upon the lives of people.


News from the Church, the missionary world and environment that inform and form the consciences.


A feature on environmental issues that are affecting the whole world with the view of raising awareness and prompting action.


The editor gives his personal take on a given topic related to the life of the Church, the society or the world.


A monthly column on themes touching the lives of young people in the Year of the Youth in the Philippines by radio host and communicator I lsa Reyes.


A missionary living in the Chinese world shares his life-experiences made up of challenges and joyous encounters with common people.


Life stories of people who deserve to be known for who they were, what they did and what they stood for in their journey on earth.


Stories of people whom a missionary met in his life and who were touched by Jesus in mysterious ways.


Critical reflection from a Christian perspective on current issues.


Comboni missionary Fr. Lorenzo Carraro makes a journey through history pinpointing landmark events that changed the course of humanity.


A biographical sketch of a public person, known for his/her influence in the society and in the Church, showing an exemplary commitment to the service of others.


Gives fresh, truthful, and comprehensive information on issues that are of concern to all.


A column aimed at helping the readers live their Christian mission by focusing on what is essential in life and what it entails.


Peoples, events, religion, culture and the society of Asia in focus.


The human heart always searches for greatness in God’s eyes, treading the path to the fullness of life - no matter what it takes.


The subcontinent of India with its richness and variety of cultures and religions is given center stage.


The African continent in focus where Christianity is growing the fastest in the world.


Well-known writer and public speaker, Fr. Jerry Orbos, accompanies our journey of life and faith with moments of wit and inspiration based on the biblical and human wisdom.


On the year dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyala, Fr. Lorenzo Carraro walks us through the main themes of the Ignatian spirituality.


Fr. John Taneburgo helps us to meditate every month on each of the Seven Last Words that Jesus uttered from the cross.


In this section, Fr. Lorenzo delves into the secrets and depths of the Sacred Scriptures opening for us the treasures of the Sacred Book so that the reader may delight in the knowledge of the Word of God.


Reflections about the synodal journey on a conversational and informal style to trigger reflection and sharing about the synodal path the Church has embarked upon.

Shopping Cart