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The religion clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration on Religious Freedom of the Second Vatican Council offer visions of "responsible freedom"—that is, freedom tempered by the moral claims of others and by the laws necessary to the life of the society. Both visions contain a legitimate role for the state in the protection of children, even where this requires scrutiny by the state of the decisions of religious institutions. In the context of the sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic clergy, this Article argues that the state's role necessarily entails some limits on the Church's autonomy through the imposition of tort liability, and necessarily calls for church-state cooperation on the common goal of protecting minors. Yet in both constitutional and conciliar visions of responsible freedom, the Church has sufficient room for its own internal reforms, and must not grow dependent upon the state as it pursues self-correction. The Church should use its freedom for vigorous new life, neither demanding from the state total deference to its internal decisions nor relinquishing to the state the task of moral renewal and institutional reform.


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6 Sep 2022
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  • Subject
    • Constitutional Law

    • Religion Law

    • Torts

  • Journal title
    • Boston College Law Review

  • Volume
    • 44

  • Issue
    • 4

  • Pagination
    • 1031

  • Date submitted

    6 September 2022