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Sunday, 15 April 2012

A Reminder--Read the Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae

This morning at breakfast here in Surrey, a couple, two others, and I were discussing the problem of religious freedom in the States and the fact that Americans are much more sensitive to the Church being active in politics than here in England. This is at least the sixth time I have had this discussion with British Catholics in recent months. English history, especially the Recusant time (1590-1791), has left its mark on the psyche of many Catholics here, who still want their faith to be "private". In addition, there are less solidly Catholic families with a long tradition of Catholicism, which sadly makes the convert in the family either estranged or quieter than perhaps a family of Catholics, both practicing and fallen away, which is not afraid of disagreement. Whatever the historical, personal or psychological reasons, the average Catholic in Great Britain is not inclined to political activity from the basis of being Catholic. Many Catholics I have spoken with here in England over the past year express an envy of our bishops in the States and the strong Catholic conservative communities, such as the pro-life groups, etc.

Mirror of Justice has an excellent article on the religious liberty issue in America, which is worth reading. Here is the link. However, I was reminded by the author to look at the document of the Church, the Declaration on religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae. I quote from it:

Since the common welfare of society consists in the entirety of those conditions of social life under which men enjoy the possibility of achieving their own perfection in a certain fullness of measure and also with some relative ease, it chiefly consists in the protection of the rights, and in the performance of the duties, of the human person.(4) Therefore the care of the right to religious freedom devolves upon the whole citizenry, upon social groups, upon government, and upon the Church and other religious communities, in virtue of the duty of all toward the common welfare, and in the manner proper to each.
The protection and promotion of the inviolable rights of man ranks among the essential duties of government.(5) Therefore government is to assume the safeguard of the religious freedom of all its citizens, in an effective manner, by just laws and by other appropriate means.
Government is also to help create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life, in order that the people may be truly enabled to exercise their religious rights and to fulfill their religious duties, and also in order that society itself may profit by the moral qualities of justice and peace which have their origin in men's faithfulness to God and to His holy will. (6)
If, in view of peculiar circumstances obtaining among peoples, special civil recognition is given to one religious community in the constitutional order of society, it is at the same time imperative that the right of all citizens and religious communities to religious freedom should be recognized and made effective in practice.
Finally, government is to see to it that equality of citizens before the law, which is itself an element of the common good, is never violated, whether openly or covertly, for religious reasons. Nor is there to be discrimination among citizens.

Any Catholic who has not read this document should do so. Some may be surprised at the strong statements herein. We studied this in high school in a part of a class of "separation of church and state" and I can assure you we came away with the idea that it is the duty of any state to protect religion and religious freedom.

The argument from some that the Bishops' Statement on Religious Liberty (link) is partisan merely shows that there are some non-thinking critics who need to realize that it is, sadly, one party at this time, which is compelling all Catholics to take a stand to defend not only our own Church and Her Teachings, but Life itself. The Catholic Church has never taught a complete separation of church and state, seeing the need for the state to protect religious freedom. One must be careful not to error on either side, that is, a completely religious state, such as sharia law states, or a completely non-religious or even anti-religious state, which is where America is heading quickly.

The other part of this discussion would be the importance and indeed, superiority of the Western legal,  political, and governmental heritage. But, that is another post. We should always be proud to be in Judeo-Greco-Romano-Christian tradition; that is, the heritage of Western Civilization.
By the way, the SSPX has just come out against the Bishop's Statement. You can decide if the arguments there pertain to this discussion or are merely a knee-jerk reaction against anything which came out of Vatican II.

Having said that, I do uphold the teachings of Leo XIII in Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae, a snippet here given.

From the foregoing it is manifest, beloved son, that we are not able to give approval to those views which, in their collective sense, are called by some "Americanism." But if by this name are to be understood certain endowments of mind which belong to the American people, just as other characteristics belong to various other nations, and if, moreover, by it is designated your political condition and the laws and customs by which you are governed, there is no reason to take exception to the name. But if this is to be so understood that the doctrines which have been adverted to above are not only indicated, but exalted, there can be no manner of doubt that our venerable brethren, the bishops of America, would be the first to repudiate and condemn it as being most injurious to themselves and to their country. For it would give rise to the suspicion that there are among you some who conceive and would have the Church in America to be different from what it is in the rest of the world.
But the true church is one, as by unity of doctrine, so by unity of government, and she is catholic also. Since God has placed the center and foundation of unity in the chair of Blessed Peter, she is rightly called the Roman Church, for "where Peter is, there is the church." Wherefore, if anybody wishes to be considered a real Catholic, he ought to be able to say from his heart the selfsame words which Jerome addressed to Pope Damasus: "I, acknowledging no other leader than Christ, am bound in fellowship with Your Holiness; that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that the church was built upon him as its rock, and that whosoever gathereth not with you, scattereth."

The danger of the leaders of the Church is to give to much credence to the idea that the response to religious freedom would be any different in any country of the world, or indeed, that the response to the Church should be any different under the American Constitution than in any nation. The heresy of Americanism is based on a false premise that Rome did not understand or appreciate the "American Experience". As the Church is universal and created by God Himself, of course, this argument is not only fallacious, but extremely protestant.  The Church must be protected by the State, not merely tolerated as one more religion among many. Religious liberty does NOT mean that all religions are the same. We have the One, True, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church instituted by Christ Himself. No other religion claims that, or can.

In addition, as stated by Pope Leo XIII, These dangers, viz., the confounding of license with liberty, the passion for discussing and pouring contempt upon any possible subject, the assumed right to hold whatever opinions one pleases upon any subject and to set them forth in print to the world, have so wrapped minds in darkness that there is now a greater need of the Church's teaching office than ever before, lest people become unmindful both of conscience and of duty.

This means, simply, that there is a hierarchy of ideas in reality, that the Teachings of the Church ARE NOT EQUAL BUT SUPERIOR to those of other faiths, and that the Church transcends any political or governmental system with regard to Truth. Sadly, I have not heard this from leaders in the Church recently, at least in discussions in the media, where the Church has great leverage as well as coverage.

Not all ideas are equal and not all words can be tolerated. American heretics want to hold that the Church does not have a privileged place in society and in law. She does.

Read both documents side by side--pray, and keep thinking outside of merely the Constitutional rights, but the rights of the Church qua Church.