Religious Liberty: Necessity or Virtue?

Hello again TAC! It has been nearly a year since I posted here, and it is good to be back. I have a long one for you this time, but I think you will find it interesting and my hope is that it will contribute to an ongoing discussion about an important topic.

In December of last year John Zmirak, a Catholic author I know and respect, wrote a piece for Aleteia.org titled “Illiberal Catholicism.” In it, Zmirak takes to task a growing tendency among both Catholic traditionalists (bear in mind I consider myself a traditionalist) and various leftists to denigrate liberalism in general and America’s classical liberal heritage in particular. The piece rubbed quite a few people the wrong way, as several hundred Facebook posts I skimmed would attest. There were lengthier responses from some corners of the Catholic blogosphere as well. If I had to offer the thesis statement of the piece, it would be this:

 [T]here is something very serious going on in Catholic intellectual and educational circles, which — if it goes on unchecked — will threaten the pro-life cause, the Church’s influence in society, and the safety and freedom of individual Catholics in America.  The growth of illiberal Catholicism will strengthen the power of the intolerant secular left, revive (and fully justify) the old anti-Catholicism that long pervaded America, and make Catholics in the United States as laughably marginal as they now are in countries like Spain and France…

From there, Zmirak provides us with an overview of the lack of tolerance in Church history that was bound to rankle traditionalists, as well as an endorsement of political and economic liberty that anti-capitalist traditionalists and leftists could not but despise. He also explicitly identified with “Tea Party” Catholicism – what could be more philistine for the enlightened anti-capitalist crowd, traddie or leftie?

Liberalism is a tangle of ideas. There is classical liberalism and modern liberalism. There is political liberalism, economic liberalism, and religious liberalism. The word “liberalism” can be affixed to many other areas of life and thought. This is why we find liberals everywhere; economic liberals on the American right, social liberals on the American left, and religious liberals virtually everywhere, except perhaps among the federal government. The United States is fundamentally liberal, and it is hard to imagine why anyone ought to expect it to be anything else, or spit the words out as if they were a hideous indictment. America’s liberalism did not arise at the expense of the Church as it did in France; it arose as part of a defense of the ancient liberties of Anglo-Saxon freemen and a consideration of the same pagan philosophers that the Church had drawn from throughout the Middle Ages. A republican form of government, which had never been condemned by the Church, combined with a doctrine of individual natural rights also recognized at least in some form by Catholic theology, provided the intellectual foundations for America’s classical liberal heritage.

I am not attempting to argue that the American Revolution was some sort of secret Catholic project, but rather that it drew upon ideas and principles that were not entirely new or controversial. Pope Pius VI had every reason to condemn the French Revolution, which was a brutal assault on the Church based in the radical innovations of men such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau. One would search in vain for similar condemnations of the American Revolution. Pope Leo XIII would state that America’s separation of church and state is not ideal, but that the Constitution had provided one of the best environments for the Church to thrive in the modern world – a world that was filling up with anti-clerical regimes rather quickly at that time.

Part of America’s liberal heritage was the development of religious liberty. Even the beloved king of a few traditionalists I have known, James II, had sought to establish religious toleration primarily for the sake of Catholic Britons. For the same reasons, Lord Baltimore established it in the colony of Maryland. Religious liberty was initially a defensive tactic against a Protestant majority, though its advantages as far as peace and general welfare are concerned were also obvious. It is arguable, perhaps, that Catholics ought to give themselves up to martyrdom before brokering for peace on the terms of religious liberty. It is also arguable that the Church has definite rights, including first and foremost, the right to exist, and that this right ought to be secured in whatever way possible short of compromising the essential truths of the faith. For this reason the Church has often entered into concordats with hostile powers, including post-revolutionary France, the Russian Empire wherein large Catholic minorities resided, and most famously the neo-pagan Nazi Germany.

Where John Zmirak’s conflict with the traditionalists comes into play is over the delicate balancing act between determining what is necessary and declaring what is good. As far as the typical traditionalist is concerned, religious liberty is a heresy condemned in the most explicit terms by Pope Pius IX in the Syllabus of Errors (see #77-79). The Vatican II document Dignitatis Humanae, which declares religious liberty to be a fundamental human right, is therefore null and void. Countries that formally establish religious liberty must also be hated, condemned, and rejected. Liberals on the other hand will either try to stress the basic continuity of Church doctrine – which is theoretically possible but practically almost impossible – or simply agree that there was in fact a rupture at Vatican II, but that it was positive and necessary. This appears to be the direction Zmirak is going. It is worth noting of course that the Church’s position on religious liberty is not necessarily dogmatic, though by elevating religious liberty to a basic human right, it becomes much more difficult to explain the Church’s denial of it for so long. The Church can err on some things, and is protected from error in others; a basic human right seems to be more than a mere prudential matter and something less than a divinely-revealed truth.

I would propose yet another view of religious liberty, provided by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Libertas. Here various liberal innovations, including religious liberty, may be tolerated by the Church for the sake of a greater good. What cannot be done is precisely what occurred at Vatican II, however, which is the elevation of a necessity imposed by the times into a positive virtue, supposedly timeless in its goodness and evident all along. According to Pope Leo:

But if, in such circumstances, for the sake of the common good (and this is the only legitimate reason), human law may or even should tolerate evil, it may not and should not approve or desire evil for its own sake; for evil of itself, being a privation of good, is opposed to the common welfare which every legislator is bound to desire and defend to the best of his ability. (33)

I would argue that the Vatican II conception of religious liberty approves of and desires what had been labeled an evil by the Papacy for its own sake, and not merely for the sake of the common good. Of course it does not sit comfortably with us to refer to religious liberty as an “evil” opposed to the common welfare, especially when it appears to be so essential to our survival as Catholics in the United States, and so evidently good in a number of other respects. And yet from the perspective of Pope Leo:

Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness-namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. (20)

It would be hard to argue that modern liberal societies are not approaching a state of godlessness, to be sure. It would also be very difficult to argue that this is not, in fact, a tragic evil. And yet to recognize this does not necessarily mean that one must reject religious liberty. For as Leo also states:

 Lastly, there remain those who, while they do not approve the separation of Church and State, think nevertheless that the Church ought to adapt herself to the times and conform to what is required by the modern system of government. Such an opinion is sound, if it is to be understood of some equitable adjustment consistent with truth and justice; in so far, namely, that the Church, in the hope of some great good, may show herself indulgent, and may conform to the times in so far as her sacred office permits. (41)

Mark me down as one of those. In the hope of some greater good, I would call upon Catholics to defend religious liberty. But I would also insist that religious liberty itself is not an intrinsic good that the Church just forgot to acknowledge and suddenly discovered in 1962. The formulation of Pope Leo is quite accurate: to treat all religions equally implies that no religion is true, which serves to excuse a great many people from even cursory attempts to study and discover the truth. By example, religious liberty teaches religious indifferentism. It is therefore impossible, as so many contemporary conservatives would have it, to wage wars against moral and philosophical relativism while positively embracing policies that put relativism into practice. At the same time we cannot reject religious liberty in practice, unless we are prepared to be denied the right to publicly exist and profess as authentic Catholics. We must know and profess that our religion is true, and yes, that other religions are in fact false, while simultaneously defending their right to be false. We do so only because it would be a far greater evil to empower the presently-existing state to determine truth and falsehood than to simply allow a free competition of ideas.

Are we required, however, to answer what we would prefer in the unlikely event that Catholic majority had the willingness and ability to establish a Catholic state? For this is a part of Zmirak’s concern; we Catholics must not only accept religious liberty, but we need to emphasize our willingness to fight for the religious liberty of others. Fortunately there is an answer that does not require us to choose between America and Catholicism. Under the Constitution, only the federal government is prohibited from establishing an official church. Established Protestant churches existed in various states until the 1830s. Whether or not the establishment clause of the 1st amendment has been “incorporated” in such a way as to prohibit a state from now establishing a church is a separate question. The original letter and spirit of the supposedly anti-Catholic U.S. Constitution fully allowed for the establishment of an individual Catholic state within the union. All that was wanting were the Catholics, who did not arrive here in sufficient numbers until after Supreme Court decisions such as Reynolds v. U.S. (1878) offered what I think is a historically-dishonest conception of the establishment clause.

That is to say, the early American conception of religious liberty was not necessarily one of individual liberty, but it was certainly one of collective pluralism. A state could choose to totally separate religion from itself, as did Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia, or it could establish a church, as did Connecticut. It should be noted as well that state-level established churches were not instruments of intolerable tyranny (at least after the Revolution) though they could be somewhat inconvenient for those who belonged to other sects. It depends upon what the terms of the establishment are, which can and do vary from tolerant to repressive. The fallacy is that they are inherently repressive and unjust.

So, to Protestants and others whose political support we depend upon to maintain our own liberties, we might confidently express our positive embrace of collective pluralism in religious matters. I have no issue with the letter and spirit of the 1st amendment because I don’t believe that the federal government was formed to be the sort of “State” with a capital-s that the Papacy had always spoken of. In the American context, the Papal capital-s “State” is actually the small-s individual “state” within the union. It is here that the authorities theoretically have the right to establish a religion, and each individual would be free to live in any of these states they chose. There would be Protestant states, Catholic states, disestablished states, and so on. At least in theory.

There is also economic and political liberalism to discuss, but another time. I will close by stating my basic agreement with Zmirak’s piece: that it is essential to defend religious liberty and quite foolish to denounce what people wrongly assume to be “Americanism.” What Pope Leo denounced as “Americanism” has nothing in common with what traddies and lefties denounce as such; what Leo praised about America is generally what these same types hate about it. The abuse of this word is inexcusable since Leo himself told us what he did not mean by it:

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.

81 Responses to Religious Liberty: Necessity or Virtue?

  • I have always felt this way, but I am conflicted partially. I mean, force and the threat of force when it comes to religious convictions seem to be woefully inadequate just in terms of human nature; there is a big difference between “I believe God is real” and “I believe if I say that I believe in God, this will keep me from getting whacked, or could get me a nice government job.”

    So, I wonder, is religious liberty always and everywhere going to be the best option, even though it (in and of itself) is no more than a concession to human nature rather than something to be sought for its own goodness?

    A lot of the popes I have read on this seem to suggest that the ideal state has no religious tolerance, but I wonder whether the ideal state could exist, and whether this belief falls within the parameters of their statements taken holistically.

  • At the same time we cannot reject religious liberty in practice, unless we are prepared to be denied the right to publicly exist and profess as authentic Catholics. We must know and profess that our religion is true, and yes, that other religions are in fact false, while simultaneously defending their right to be false.

    Which Judaism and Christianity can do, adhering to the common belief that man is made in the image and likeness of God, and so has free will to choose Him.
    But some religions do not play well with others; I’m thinking of Islam and Leftism, each of which is built to exclude all other ways of finding God (or the Good). To defend religious liberty is necessary but not sufficient when professing Christians cannot profess and still earn a living baking cakes.
    As to the separation of Church and State, I get awfully frustrated when we argue with Leftists over laws, and we accept the Left’s characterization of themselves as rationally guided towards the Good, and ourselves as irrationally driven by God and making everybody miserable to boot. And no, simply repeating the phrase “human flourishing” over and over again does not correct the characterization.
    Eugene Volokh had a recent blog post addressing this problem with how arguments are framed: Your side tries to impose your beliefs; my side seeks justice. Any Catholics of whatever stripe who assist the Left in framing arguments this way are scoring an own goal. Religious Liberty is a mirage until everybody comes clean about having a system of beliefs.

  • Here, here!!

  • “Religious Liberty is a mirage until everybody comes clean about having a system of beliefs.” Excellent statement of truth, tamsin.
    Films, movies, books, the media, and every politician have agendas. Jesus Christ came to serve God and man. Religious Liberty is about the freedom to come to know, to love and to serve God in thought, speech, press and peaceable assembly.

  • “Which Judaism and Christianity can do, adhering to the common belief that man is made in the image and likeness of God, and so has free will to choose Him.”

    I do not believe that Catholic policy in the age of Christendom denied man his free will. The Church never recognized forced conversions as valid. The Church has always held that a baptism is not valid for a person of the age of reason who does not consent to that baptism. What the Church did do, however, was forbid the public expression of religions such as Islam within Christian lands. I would not recommend this practice today, but can I condemn it as an intrinsic evil in violation of a basic human right? I won’t.

    “I get awfully frustrated when we argue with Leftists over laws, and we accept the Left’s characterization of themselves as rationally guided towards the Good, and ourselves as irrationally driven by God and making everybody miserable to boot.”

    Did I do that somewhere? For my part, I view the left as irrationally driven by radical egalitarianism. It is a civilization-destroying ideology.

  • In order to speak in a complete way about “religious liberty” one must first come to grips with the Tradition concerning “Church and State”.

    Christ Jesus introduced a distinction between state and religion for the first time in human history. Since all governments, and families for that matter, saw a profound unity between ‘authority’ and ‘the divine’, leaders of governments and ‘fathers of families’ were raised to new heights. In most cases, being divinized, becoming ‘gods’ or having ‘god-like’ authority. Even ancient Israel when it finally established their monarchy endowed the king with divine authority-just take a look at Psalm 2 (read in the context of the ancient monarchy). Also recognize the very close association in the Jewish mind of the authority in families with God, in the relationship of the fourth commandment immediately following the first three all of which have to do with the Lord God.

    When Jesus was speaking, both Rome and Jerusalem saw no real separation of religion and state, yet Jesus said “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”. It might seem that this statement was a coy avoidance of a dispute over giving taxes to Caesar, but the whole question about the coin, and whose image was on the coin-Caesar’s has a deeper meaning. Caesar himself, as a human being is created in the image of God. Thus, the ‘state’ has only certain rights and expectations while the Original-God has the right to all or love with out whole being etc.

    If there were a question about this, then the Lord’s response to Pilate during His trial cinches it. There in John 18, Jesus says that His Kingdom does not belong to this world. Jesus is indeed a king, but not a political king. He reminded Pilate that his authority did not come from Caesar but God Himself yet that power and authority is not absolute. It is both under God and bounded by “truth”: the truth about God and the truth about ‘man’

    The Church Fathers were very clear about this ‘distinction’ [I call it a distinction because I do not want to confuse it in anyway with the supposed principle of the "Separation of Church and State" as it is understood today. This distinction however is closer to the "establishment" clause of the First Amendment.] In the Letter of Diognetus, there is a wonderful pithy remark which sums it up: “we pray for the emperor, we do not worship him”

    In the Arian crisis, there was a profound political implication at work as well in the heresy. If indeed Jesus Christ was not the consubstantial Son of the Father, then all bets were off who represented God’s authority on earth. If the Arians were right, then the Emperor represented God’s authority [there was more than conviction at work with so many emperors fighting the nicene bishops]. However, if Jesus Christ is indeed homoousion [consubstantial] with the Father then He first of all images the authority of the Father and after him, the bishop, most especially the bishop of Rome. The Fathers of the Council understood this implication. That is why they put a permanent reminder into the Creed: “He suffered under Pontius Pilate” They were reminding people for all time that “Caesar” is not God but very much a frail, sinful man.

    Pope Gelasius would further this tradition in his ‘two swords”: the political sword (authority) and the religious sword-with the understanding that there was a separation of the two powers.

    In all of this there was never a hint of equivocation of watering down the ‘true religion’ whether in terms of the Church’s relations with the pagans or the ultimate heretics, the Arians. In the early Councils, the Church (on al sides of the disputes) found the machinations and scheming of the “Christian emperors” problematic to say the least. Their scheming led to the exaltation of the bishop of Byzantium into becoming the Patriarch of Constantinople, second only to the pope (but for political reasons!). In later councils both Nestorians and Monophysites broke with the Church more for the interventions of the Emperor than for the doctrinal language and questions at hand.. More than one Pope was pressured by the Emperor to soften his stand or abide by a decision etc, even one being abducted from Rome and brought to Constantinople in chains. The Church, especially the Church in Rome saw very specific distinctions between the two powers. it would be only later that things got confused and even mushy

    It was Augustine, the great Church Father who really brought in confusion. In order to quell the reactionary schism of the Donatists, Augustine, in exasperation, wrote to the local Roman authority to intervene and to squash the reactionaries. In his letter he gave all sorts of high sounding reasons to do so, and in this way paved the way for the Church from that time forward to use the arm of the political authority to deal with the Church’s ‘problems’. From this heretics were burned, witch hunts took place and pogroms of the Jews found ‘succor’

    So which is really the more traditional?

  • Liberty is God-given.

    A government that infringes on a God-given, human right is illegitimate: organized brigandage. They can take your life and property. They cannot take your liberty or your soul.

    Fear not that which can only destroy your physical life but cannot kill the soul. Fear God who can destroy both body and soul in hell. See Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:2-7.

  • “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” God created Caesar and Caesar’s state through the sovereignty of personhood. Personhood comes before citizenship in order. Caesar belongs to God. Christ was put to death for blasphemy. Separation of church and state will forbid state punishment for sins. The church forgives sins, the state prosecutes crime. As Thomas More said: “then let God arrest him.”
    Atheism undermines the sovereign state, denies unalienable civil rights and the Divine image in man. “Religious Liberty: Necessity or Virtue?” Both, as church virtue and state necessity. Only by admitting to church and state can there be separation in principle of each.

  • Botolph,

    I appreciate your overview of the ancient Christian conception of “church and state.” It certainly isn’t the first issue that St. Augustine may have mucked up either. But I don’t believe that the Medieval/Early Modern view of church and state that prevailed – at least officially – up until Vatican II was in any sense a contradiction of the “two swords” doctrine. Popes from Boniface VIII to Leo XIII reaffirmed this doctrine and always understood the demarcating line between secular and ecclesiastical authority. The question of religious liberty is related but ultimately distinct. Church and State may have different functions, which is what the two swords refers to, but States still have positive duties, among which is the recognition of the true religion.

    I don’t believe that this recognition necessarily entails the sort of repression that Augustine requested. The ideal Catholic statesmen would have discretion regarding the implementation of the doctrine. Religious toleration is compatible with an established religion, in which case the established religion would simply receive preferential treatment while all others would more or less be on their own, to sink or swim according to their merits.

    To put it simply, there’s a difference between the idea and its implementation.

  • Bonchamps,

    You are correct that the Medieval and early modern Church is not ruptured from the earlier ‘two swords’ of the early and Patristic Church. My point was to show that the ‘two swords’ and the accompanying way the Church dealt with its problems [persuading and if necessary calling a Council: basicallly putting into practice Matthew 18] was very different than the way the medieval/early Modern Church dealt with such issues: call in the govt, the troops and the use of force.

    See my point is to put a mirror up for us to see ourselves in a very distinct/different light. A light we used to be, but over the centuries became frustrated with dissent, error etc and began to rely more and more on the other sword to enforce our issues. Until the American experiment prevented it for their own reasons [not theological ones], we believed that this second way of doing things was the only way to deal with our problems. The American experiment ‘shocked’ us into looking at our whole history and soon we discovered this older truer way.

    We still hold that the Catholic Church is the true Church etc but we can deal with our difficulties with our own tools, ‘our own ‘sword”, and not turn to the State to enforce our doctrines etc.

    There are moral issues that are very much in the vanguard in our own day. Let’s take for example Life issues. Is it enough for us to work to change laws and criminal codes in order to end such atrocities as abortion etc. Yes, they are important but the real work is to raise consciousnesses, begin to illuminate clouded and even ignorant minds, melt hardened hearts and seek the conversion-but not forced conversion-of our neighbors. It is then and only then that America will truly be pro-life.

    Error does not have rights. People who are in error have the rights

  • I would distinguish between whether or not it is prudent for the Church to demand the use of force to further some aim on the one hand, and whether or not the Church ought to proclaim a positive obligation on the part of governments to acknowledge the one true faith, or – if dealing with non-Catholic governments – the obligation of Catholics to support, when practicable, the establishment of such a government.

    I make the distinction as well between the minimal and maximum demands of an establishment of religion. Religious toleration is entirely compatible with the minimum demands, which are public recognition of the true faith, legislators who profess the true faith, and preferential tax support (I don’t like the idea of subsidies, but exemptions are fine). Nothing about this arrangement necessarily entails the violent repression of those who adhere to other religions.

    This minimal establishment would be in accordance with what Pope Leo XIII prescribed, in my view.

  • Hello Bonchamps,
    I apologize for the confusion — I think we are in close agreement as regards free will, and reason. My complaints were not directed at you. Your discussion of religious liberty got me started thinking about the larger problem: define religion.
    .
    I wonder if we would be better off defending “conscience” rights rather than “religious” liberty, because the word “religion” is poorly understood, or has been mis-defined, to our detriment in the game of writing laws in this country. Per my link to Volokh.
    .
    I view the left as irrationally driven by radical egalitarianism. Agreed. It is a tenet of their religion.
    .
    Thank you for the excerpts from Pope Leo’s writings. Very helpful!

  • If I may, (do not let my appearances of humility fool you, as I will any how.) Faith is a gift from God to which man responds in thought, word, and deed, in a relationship with God, our Creator. This acknowledgement of God cannot be prohibited by any entity, not man, nor beast, nor demon. “…or prohibit the free exercise thereof.”, a constitutional relationship that may not be prohibited.
    In thought, in prayers and petition in meditation and contemplation. In word, speech and free press. In peaceable assembly, community, church, in the forming human being in the womb. Man and his God are inseparable. The atheist denies his Creator and his immortal soul which is perjury in a court of law. The human person is endowed with unalienable, that is, infinite civil rights by his infinite Supreme Sovereign Being.

  • There is not a word in Dignitatis Humanae that prohibits the recognition and establishment of religion by the state. What it forbids is coercion by the state in matters of religion, whilst fully recognising those limitations that may be imposed in the interests of “just public order.”

    The real threat to religious freedom from the liberal state was well summarised by Lord Acton: “Civil and religious liberty are so commonly associated in people’s mouths, and are so rare in fact, that their definition is evidently as little understood as the principle of their connection. The point at which they unite, the common root from which they derive their sustenance, is the right of self-government. The modern theory, which has swept away every authority except that of the State, and has made the sovereign power irresistible by multiplying those who share it, is the enemy of that common freedom in which religious freedom is included. It condemns, as a State within the State, every inner group and community, class or corporation, administering its own affairs; and, by proclaiming the abolition of privileges, it emancipates the subjects of every such authority in order to transfer them exclusively to its own. It recognises liberty only in the individual, because it is only in the individual that liberty can be separated from authority, and the right of conditional obedience deprived of the security of a limited command. Under its sway, therefore, every man may profess his own religion more or less freely; but his religion is not free to administer its own laws. In other words, religious profession is free, but Church government is controlled. And where ecclesiastical authority is restricted, religious liberty is virtually denied.”

  • “There is not a word in Dignitatis Humanae that prohibits the recognition and establishment of religion by the state. What it forbids is coercion by the state in matters of religion, whilst fully recognising those limitations that may be imposed in the interests of “just public order.”

    And yet, MPS, there was a time during which the Church did insist upon coercion in matters of religion for the sake of souls, and not public order. The implication of DH remains: the Church supposedly ignored or denied a fundamental human right for nearly two thousand years, an utterly preposterous conclusion. Moreover, DH does regard as right and good that which Pope Leo XIII and other pontiffs had designated as an evil that at most was to be tolerated. That line of thinking is an insult to the entire history of Christendom. DH goes too far. Pope Leo XIII found the right spot, acknowledging that the Church may have to conform to the times, but still insisting on the fundamental distinction between right and wrong – as opposed to changing it!

    There is another problem. It’s a thin semantic line, but there are likely many people who would regard the official recognition of a religion by a state to be an act of coercion if it is to go beyond mere words and extend into a minimal policy of a religious test for public officials and tax exemptions and/or subsides. It may be impossible to practically separate establishment from coercion.

  • Bonchamps,

    I will certainly let MPS speak for himself. He is extremely capable. However, I might point out that you have a gap in your own logic.

    You state that indeed the Church did use coercion in matters of religion for the sake of souls and not for the sake of public order. We are agreed. That stems back in the West to Augustine’s ‘request’ that the Roman authorities suppress the recalcitrant reactionary Donatists who were creating havoc for the Church in North Africa. We already established this in another post.

    Yet, what is faith? Is not faith a gift which cannot be prevented from being exercised? Is not faith while fundamentally graced nonetheless be a free human act. How could or can the Church possibly hope to gain unity of faith when the unity is nothing more than coerced conformity? Is faith free or not?

  • Botolph,

    As I previously established, the objective of the Church’s coercion, at least in the Middle Ages and beyond, was to prevent the public expression of non-Catholic religions. The point was not to change a person’s religion by force, but to prevent those of other religions from proselytizing or exerting other influences upon the Christian community. I do not claim that this practice is something that ought to be done in all times and places, but I do reject DH’s necessary implication that it was an intrinsically evil act.

    The Papacy had specifically outlawed forced conversions and would not recognize them. So the question, “is faith free or not”, is not relevant to this discussion. What happens in a man’s head and heart is more or less free, ontologically and morally.

  • Bonchamps,

    If I understand you correctly you are saying that ghettoizing the Jews both physically as in Rome or Warsaw or preventing them from owning property as farmers etc thus ghettoizing them into the financial trades (irony of ironies we did that!) not only was ok but still is IF we had the opportunity?

  • Botolph,

    Is “ghettoizing” the same exact thing as “preventing the public expression of non-Catholic religions”? The answer is quite obviously no. The most prominent example I had mind did not pertain to Jews, but rather to Muslims living in Spain. The Papacy insisted that Catholic rulers forbid the call to prayer and other public expressions of Islam in Christian lands, not for “public order”, which I presume John Courtney Murray would be ok with, but for the sake of souls.

    Distinctions and semantics are 90% of the debate here.

  • Bonchamps,

    I agree distinctions and semantics are indeed at least 90% of the debate here.

    My first comment concerning the pope’s insistance concerning the Moslems of reconquered Spain, is that he probably did not have to insist too hard. The Spanish and Portuguese Catholics had been repressed for centuries and, on the human level, it was payback time.

    You make an interesting point however. The pope insisted that Catholic rulers….. Are you interpreting a pope’s insistence, or even a ‘ruling’ to be Church teaching? [As you say distinctions and semantics are 90% of the debate]. You see I would maintain that what appeared to be ‘set policy etc’ based on tradition (notice the small “t” not the capital “T”) is the same as Magisterial teaching. They are not the same.

  • Botolph,

    I would think that a directive issued through one of the official councils of the Church, in this case the Council of Vienne, would count as Magisterial. Here is the entire paragraph, #25, followed by a link to the text:

    “It is an insult to the holy name and a disgrace to the Christian faith that in certain parts of the world subject to Christian princes where Saracens live, sometimes apart, sometimes intermingled with Christians, the Saracen priests commonly called Zabazala, in their temples or mosques, in which the Saracens meet to adore the infidel Mahomet, loudly invoke and extol his name each day at certain hours from a high place, in the hearing of both Christians and Saracens and there make public declarations in his honour. There is a place, moreover, where once was buried a certain Saracen whom other Saracens venerate as a saint. A great number of Saracens flock there quite openly from far and near. This brings disrepute on our faith and gives great scandal to the faithful. These practices cannot be tolerated any further without displeasing the divine majesty. We therefore, with the sacred council’s approval, strictly forbid such practices henceforth in Christian lands. We enjoin on catholic princes, one and all, who hold sovereignty over the said Saracens and in whose territory these practices occur, and we lay on them a pressing obligation under the divine judgment that, as true Catholics and zealous for the Christian faith, they give consideration to the disgrace heaped on both them and other Christians. They are to remove this offence altogether from their territories and take care that their subjects remove it, so that they may thereby attain the reward of eternal happiness. They are to forbid expressly the public invocation of the sacrilegious name of Mahomet. They shall also forbid anyone in their dominions to attempt in future the said pilgrimage or in any way give countenance to it. Those who presume to act otherwise are to be so chastised by the princes for their irreverence, that others may be deterred from such boldness.”

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/councils/vienne.htm

    That and DH occupy two different moral universes, do they not?

  • Bonchamps,

    I do not accept that the Ecumenical Council of Vienne and the Ecumenical Second Vatican Council are in two different moral universes. I do agree they are facing very different issues and problems and arrived at their positions accordingly.

    If you take another look at what the Council states (in your own quote above) you can ask yourself this question. Is the Council addressing a doctrinal, moral or disciplinary issue. Now it is absolutely true that the three are not totally independent, yet, like each Person of the Most Blessed Trinity they are distinct and have their own mission. I believe we both agree that the ‘statement’ is not doctrinal-no doctrine is in question (except of course the preservation of the Catholic Church and faith) But no specific doctrine is being debated etc.
    I will grant that there is a fine line of distinction between the moral and the disciplinary. In fact for many they seem to be the same, however they are not. Moral teaching fundamentally is the Apostolic Moral Tradition that has been passed down through the centuries etc, needs to be passed on, preserved, protected [for example the Church's teaching on abortion, marriage, birth control]. The Council of Vienne is not passing on Apostolic Moral Tradition here. Instead, what we have is a very important part of Church life called “discipline’. Canon law is very much rooted in this. It has to do with how Catholic life is or ought to be lived out at that time. Unlike doctrine or moral teachings however, disciplines, canon law while organic nevertheless changes.

    As to the authority of ‘canons’ of Ecumenical Councils, they are of varying levels of authority and in fact some are not even accepted at all. I presume you kneel during the Canon of the Mass [Eucharistic Prayer], yet the canons of Nicea I call for the faithful to stand. There are canons from the Council of Constantinople I (381) that the Catholic Church refuses to accept-placing the Patriarch of Constantinople second in rank among the Patriarchs because he is the bishop of the New Rome while the pope is the Bishop of old Rome [notice nothing to do with Peter etc]

    Councils and all Church documents, like Sacred Scripture need to be exegeted Bonchamps. In a letter to Fr Feeney S.J. in the late 1940′s, the official communique stated that no one should interpret a Church teaching, statement etc except with the understanding of the Church.

  • “I do agree they are facing very different issues and problems and arrived at their positions accordingly.”

    Is that so? I don’t know how you can agree, when I would not hold that the issues they face are so different. They are not. The same issue is before both councils, at least in general if not in the specifics, and they came to two different conclusions.

    I never made the claim that it was a doctrinal statement. What I do claim, because it is quite simply true, is that what the Church called for at the council is in direct contradiction to what Vatican II calls for with respect to religious liberty. Now you can say that this is merely a “disciplinary” matter, but frankly I think that what Pope Leo XIII wrote was more aligned with a shift in Church discipline. Vatican II, as opposed to Pope Leo, distinct from Pope Leo, proclaims a fundamental human right, a God-given right. This goes beyond discipline. I do not say it extends all the way to dogma.

    I also don’t see how it is relevant to invoke disputed canons of ancient councils to question the authority of a canon of a council that is not in the least disputed by Catholics.

  • Bonchamps

    One very important point about the mediaeval practice is that the Church courts always claimed exclusive jurisdiction over cases of heresy and apostasy. The temporal courts could only punish those relaxed to the secular arm. In other words, the jurisdiction of the state over religious opinions was consistently denied.

    Throughout the Middle Ages, such cases were extremely rare. In the year 1222, Archbishop Stephen Langton held at Oxford a provincial council, where a deacon who had turned Jew for the love of a Jewess was relaxed and burned. That is the first instance in English history of someone being handed over to the secular arm and burnt. The next recorded case is the burning of Sawtry the Lollard in 1400, also relaxed by a provincial council as a relapsed heretic, having some years before abjured the same heresies before the bishop of Lincoln. He was a priest and his bishop did not even suspend him after his abjuration.

    Two executions in the 800 years, from St Augustine’s mission in 597 to the Statute De Hæretico Comburendo – I leave open the question of whether Sawtry was burned at common law or under that statute; the sources are unclear. Bracton who begins the series of English law reports, on the basis of the 1222 case, says it is the penalty for apostasy; he does not mention heresy.

    In Scotland, the first person burned for heresy was John Resby, an English Lollard, in 1407. He taught that no one not in a state of grace could exercise any authority, ecclesiastical or civil – Heady stuff. In 1433, Paul Craw or Crawer, [Pavel Kravař] a Bohemian physician and a Hussite, was burned.

    It is only when we come to the Reformation period, nearly a century later that we find a spate of burnings: Patrick Hamilton, a Lutheran, was burned in 1527; in 1517, at the age of 13, he had been appointed titular abbot of Fearn, from which he drew the revenues, but never visited. Henry Forrest was burned in 1533, David Straiton, excommunicated for resisting payment of teind in 1534, Thomas Forrest and Duncan Simson, also John Kyllour and John Beveridge, Dominicans and Jerome Russell, a Franciscan, all in 1539, The St John’s Toun Martyrs of 1543 were; Robert Lamb, William Anderson, James Hunter, James Raveleson, James Finalson and Helen Stirke. George Wishart, a disciple of Calvin and Zwingli, in 1546 and Walter Milne [alias Myln or Mill] in 1558.

    Again, the requirements of public order were very different in societies in which the ecclesiastical and civil orders were closely intertwined and where religious dissent went hand in hand with defiance of the established government. The French King, for example ruled by the grace of God as roi très-chrétien, anointed by the Church with the oil of Clovis and to attack the Church was to dispute his title.

  • Bonchamps,

    I thought you would get my point about the disciplines/canons of the Church not being universal, absolute etc I was wrong you did not pick up on that. Sorry. While I would say that no one is calling for a rejection of this particular disciplinary statement of the Council of Vienne, (therefore not in dispute) it is hardly being called to mind in any way to be revived, renewed etc. It simply was/is a time-bounded discipline.

    Tell me Bonchamps, how do these principles break with Catholic Church teaching?

    “The Sacred Council begins by proclaiming that God Himself has made known to the human race how people by serving Him can be saved and reach happiness in Christ. We believe that this one true religion exists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord entrusted the task of spreading it among all peoples……All are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and the Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it.

    The Sacred Council likewise proclaims that these obligations bind peoples’ consciences. Truth can impose itself on the human mind by the force of its own truth, which wins over the human mind by gentleness and power. So while the religious freedom which human beings demand in fulfilling their obligation to worship God has to do with freedom from coercion in civil society, it leaves intact the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral obligation of individuals and societies towards the true religion and the one Church of Christ…..DH 1

    “The Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. Freedom of this kind means that everyone should be immune from coercion by individuals, social groups, and every human power so that, within due limits, no men and women are forced to act against their convictions nor are any persons to be restrained from acting in accordance with their convictions in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others. The Council further declares that the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. The right of the human person to religious freedom must be given such recognition in the constitutional order of society as will make it a civil right.

    It is in accordance with their dignity that all human beings, because they are persons, that is beings endowed with reason and free will, and therefore bearing personal responsibility, are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and to direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth. But human beings cannot satisfy this obligation in a way that is in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy both psychological freedom and immunity from eternal coercion. Therefore the right to religious freedom is based not on subjective attitude but on the very nature of the individual person. For this reason, the right to such imunity continues to exist even in those who do not live p to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it. The exercise of this right cannot be interfered with as long as the just requirements of public order are observed. DH2

  • immunity from eternal coercion

    I think you mean external?

  • c matt

    Yes, the ‘x” got dropped. The word is ‘external coercion”

    Thanks

  • immune from coercion by individuals, social groups, and every human power so that, within due limits, … nor are any persons to be restrained from acting in accordance with their convictions in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others.

    Seems this would prohibit the banning of a public Saracen call to prayer as was done by the Council of Vienne.

  • c. matt

    A key phrase of DH is “within due limits”. This is speaking about objective law based on natural law: for example if a religion practiced human sacrifice, or Islamicist terrorist bombing etc.

    Given that, yes, DH would not allow or call for the silencing of the Islamic call to prayer-just as it would state categorically that Islamic countries cannot forbid Catholics practicing their faith etc

  • c. matt,

    You did not explicitly say so, however are you concerned about what seems to be a contradiction between two Ecumencial Councils?

  • Botolph,

    “I thought you would get my point about the disciplines/canons of the Church not being universal, absolute etc I was wrong you did not pick up on that. Sorry.”

    This really isn’t called for. I most certainly understand the general point. I did not argue, at any point, that canon 25 of the Council of Vienne was a binding dogmatic statement. However, I did think obvious that such a directive could only issue from a Church that manifestly did NOT share the view of religious liberty expressed in DH, namely that “the human person has a right to religious freedom.” The Saracens were human persons. The Church did not recognize their right to such a freedom.

  • It is also obvious that the Council of Vienne was NOT concerned with the “due limits” of public order, but rather sought to prohibit the public expression of Islam for entirely spiritual and cultural reasons. It is deemed an insult to God, a scandal, for this practice to continue. No explicit threat to public order is ever mentioned.

  • My problem with DH is that it proclaims as a right what the Church was only ever obliged to recognize as an expedient privilege. It elevates an arguable necessity, given the way the world had changed, into a positive virtue. I believe that goes “too far”, and, as I stated as clearly as I could, Leo XIII’s position represents the ideal point along that spectrum.

  • It is trite learning that Councils are not infallible in the reasons by which they are led, or on which they rely, in making their definition, nor in their legislation nor in their policies.

    As Bl John Henry Newman points out, “Nor is a Council infallible, even in the prefaces and introductions to its definitions. There are theologians of name, as Tournely and Amor, who contend that even those most instructive capitula passed in the Tridentine Council, from which the Canons with anathemas are drawn up, are not portions of the Church’s infallible teaching” and he notes that “in the Third Council, a passage of an heretical author was quoted in defence of the doctrine defined, under the belief he was Pope Julius, and narratives, not trustworthy, are introduced into the Seventh.”

    Following the 1870 decree on papal infallibility, the Swiss bishops declared, “”The Pope is not infallible as a man, or a theologian, or a priest, or a bishop, or a temporal prince, or a judge, or a legislator, or in his political views, or even in his government of the Church”; the same holds for an ecumenical council. What we have from Vienne is a piece of legislation, pure and simple.

  • Bonchamps,

    This did not come up on the agenda of the Council of Vienne, but the Church of that time did not have a major problem at all with human slavery. In fact, as Thomas Aquinas would argue, it a ‘good’ if and when comparing it to the execution of all prisoners etc. However, over time, thanks be to God, the Church began to recognize that slavery was an evil contrary to the human dignity of each and every person created in the image of God. There is something similar going on here. It is a development, not a contradiction or a break in the Moral Tradition of the Church.

    Does this make sense?

  • Botolph,

    In the sense that what you propose is coherent, yes, it “makes sense.” That does not mean I am obliged to agree with it. I disagree with the idea of “moral progress” and all of its Hegelian implications. History is not a process of God coming to understand himself, nor is it the process of the institution that God entrusted with the promulgation of the Gospel coming to understand itself – as has been implicitly and explicitly suggested by the post-conciliar popes, particularly Paul VI and JP II.

    What of slavery? Historically there were different kinds. I think the Christian attitude towards slavery was always practical and humane, as it was towards all social situations it encountered: it established definite moral rules and guidelines that people in positions of power and of subservience had to obey. It made the absolute best out of a situation that was brought about through both barbaric customs as well as the iron laws of scarcity and economic necessity. The abolition of slavery, and we can add serfdom as well, only became a widespread notion when technology had so improved the productivity of human labor that it became counterproductive to rely on masses of raw human labor power to produce goods.

    All of that said, the Church was far ahead of the historical curve in prohibiting the sort of chattel slavery that came to dominate in the early modern period. The Church prohibited the enslavement of indigenous peoples under threat of excommunication. It continued to allow the enslavement of those who were in a state of war with Christendom, such as the Muslim pirates that would take Christian ships and towns and enslave those whom they did not kill. Such was the norm in the world at the time.

    The conditions under which men live, change. The Church, in her wisdom, adapts to these changes. She did not continue to insist that Christian rulers could take Islamic aggressors as slaves, and I don’t believe she continued to insist that Muslim prayers be silenced. Vatican II’s pronouncements were not required for this. It was never necessary to declare that slavery is an absolute moral evil, nor was it necessary to declare, at least by implication, the prohibition of public displays of non-Catholic religions as moral evils. They are simply practices which no longer serve a useful and prudent purpose, and may therefore be set aside in favor of policies that are.

    So you see, I completely agree with you. These are, in the end, policies. It is not me, but Vatican II, that elevates the discourse beyond a mere policy dispute into an absolute moral discussion.

  • Bonchamps

    Vincent of St Lérins (died c 445) – he of the famous “Quod ubique, quod simper, quod ab omnibus – says in his Commonitórium Primum, “Thus even the dogma of the Christian religion must proceed from these laws. It progresses, solidifying with years, growing over time, deepening with age.” It is no great stretch to argue that the same holds true of the moral demands of the Gospel.

    You are right to point to the social conditions which led to tolerance of the practice of slavery (and you could equally have pointed to the question of usury) In societies where religion was central to social cohesion and to the legitimacy of the ruler, individual rights would tend to be marginalised. It is no accident that, as recently as 1745, in the Scottish Highlands, people were Catholic, Episcopalian or Presbyterian by clans. Even now, in Glasgow, the common term of abuse for Catholics is “Fenian B*****s” In an age when religious dissent was closely associated with political disloyalty, the claims of religious freedom were unlikely to be respected..

    This does not mean that the teaching of Dignitatis Humanae does not articulate the demands of the Gospel

  • There is quite a difference, MPS, between what a 5th century saint may have meant by the word “progress” and what people living in a post-Enlightenment, post-Jacobin, post-Bolshevik world may mean by that word.

  • Bonchamps,

    Actually I am pleased. You are developing what is known as a ‘historical consciousness’ for you wrote,
    “There is quite a difference between what a 5th century saint may have meant by the woird ‘progress’ and what people living in a post-enlightenment, post-Jacobin, post-Bolsehvik world may mean by the word”

    Now that’s progress ! :-) Of course now that same sense of differences due to historical context applies to everything-including the Ecumenical Council of Vienne and the Ecumenical Second Vatican Council.

    However, for a more recent witness, how about what Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote in his opus magnus “On the Development of Doctrine”?

  • I didn’t think you had a quality that could exceed your pedantry, but you have proven me wrong with your condescension.

    I have had a “historical consciousness” since I have been conscious.

    At no point before Vatican II did the Church ever imply or declare that her practices were at one point intrinsically evil. The pre-conciliar Pontiffs defended the legacy of the Church. They didn’t apologize for it. That’s the difference between “development” and rupture. One of them at least.

  • And your response is not sarcastic etc?

    Point is this. You do not like/ or even reject Vatican II. What you are doing is attempting to justify that stance. If that is the real issue then we can end this here, because this will go on endlessly. I accept Vatican II as both an authentic Ecumenical Council of the Church and authoritative for the faith of the Church. That acceptance is indeed an act of faith, freely made under the grace of the Spirit.

  • Botolph,

    There has been no sarcasm in my response. I have no need of it, or any other rhetorical aggression.

    You are right: I don’t like Vatican II. But I am not engaging in a pointless Vatican II-bash. The point of my post was to highlight a reasonable course between both the rigid reactionary position of some traditionalists and the Vatican II position on religious liberty.

  • Bonchamps

    Ok fair enough. We obviously do not agree on our approach to Vatican II, I both like andaccept it. However, let me say this to you-something I have said repeatedly in here. I do not subscribe in any shape or form to ‘the spirit of Vatican II’. Although a very amorphous phrase etc., there are those who use it (grant you not all) who actually have not simply misinterpreted VII but corrupted it to the point of destroying it. They have done great harm in the Church. They have given support to a supposed style of being Catholic in which one can pick and choose the doctrines etc one likes about Catholicism. At the same time they have so corrupted and betrayed VII that more traditional Catholics are ‘turned off’ or even ‘scadalized’ by what they believe is VII but is really the ‘spirit of VII”‘s interpretation.

    As to the Declaration on Religious Freedom, it needs to be placed in the context not only of the Catholic tradition but within Vatican II itself. For example, Vatican I and Vatican II cannot be divorced as frequently happens by both ideological sides. Vatican I dealt fundamentally with the ab intra of the Church, giving a solid foundation to an understanding of the Church in which the pope is over the whole Church without interference etc of governments etc and the bishop is over the diocese without interference of govt etc. However, the relationship of the Church ab extra-the relation of the Church with the external world was not described etc and as the Bishops entered into the first session of Vatican II it was understood by all that this relationship of the Church with the world outside it needed to be put forward.

    Therefore we have the four fundamental Constitutions: on Divine Revelation, on the Liturgy, on the Church and on the Church in the Modern World. These are the key to VII, everything else revolve around them. Of course they need to be read in continuity and not discontinuity with the Catholic tradition that preceded them. Like Scripture itself, anything quoted out of context etc will give a very different meaning than when it is read in context etc.

    Thus the Declaration (not a Constitution) on Religious Freedom is to be read in the context especially of Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes. It cannot be read or understood without them. It is rooted in the deep Thomistic contemplation found in Gaudium et Spes which has as its focus and base the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. If one is caught up in the Incarnation one begins to recognize that in a mysterious way, the Incarnate Son of God identified Himself with each and every person from the moment of conception until natural death. This does not mean they are “Christians” nor does it mean they are ‘automatically saved”. It does mean that The Incarnate Son has revealed the dignity of each and every human being, a dignity which is not fulfilled by merely giving or gaining certain rights, but that each person from the moment of conception is called to communion, to participate in the Life of the Blessed Trinity in and through the Paschal Mystery of Christ.

    It is only in this light, not some secularist view of man, that the religious freedom of all people can be seen-because it is in this freedom that they are obliged ultimately to seek the Way the Truth and the Life

  • Botolph,

    I do not share your assessment of Vatican II, though I certainly understand why conservative Catholics feel obliged to hold it. I will say upfront that I do agree with the basic idea that leftists and extreme liberals have run wild with statements from Vatican II. I can agree to the basic proposition that they go beyond perhaps what was intended.

    However, the dense, complicated rhetoric of Vatican II lends itself quite easily to misinterpretation. The fact that so many people have misunderstood what these documents supposedly mean is the first indication that they are riddled with flaws. Ambiguity can be the result of a genuine failure in clear communication; it can also be the result of deliberate design, the ultimate aim being to construct a document that can simultaneously uphold and deny certain controversial positions and ideas.
    You speak of the context of DH. I happen to know that it was authored by John Courtney Murray, that it was barely ratified by the council having met with stiff resistance from men such as Cardinal Ottaviani, and that Murray explicitly and repeatedly relied on Enlightenment thought and viewed it as a significant advance over Medieval thought on these questions. This was not the view of the pre-conciliar popes, as the bulls/encyclicals of Leo XII, Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius X, and so on amply demonstrate. It is quite obvious to me that there is a historical context that is just as if not more important than the context of the council itself; for over a century and a half the Papacy waged an unapologetic and unremitting war against ideals that Vatican II would – to put it nicely – adapt itself to or even positively declare. You may say that Vatican I & II somehow shared a unity of purpose, but this would require that you ignore a century of staunch and unapologetic encyclicals by some of the aforementioned popes that, again to put it lightly, in no way support the central themes of Vatican II. Religious liberty is only one of these fronts. Pius IX, remember, declared Papal infallibility in defiance of the entire world; Vatican I was cut short because invading armies caused him to flee into exile.
    I don’t even want to touch the idea that Christ united himself with every man through the Incarnation. That’s way off the topic and would take way too long to address. Suffice to say that I am familiar with the issues and controversies surrounding Vatican II, and that I take the positions that I do for definite reasons. It is difficult for me to regard the proposition that one must begin with continuity as a premise as anything other than an ideological assertion. Continuity is something that must be proven and demonstrated, not assumed at the outset. If you being by deciding that there is continuity, then you will quite naturally overlook everything and anything that could prove otherwise. In what moral universe is this an honest way to read?

  • Bonchamps,

    Ok but I would say the discontinuity is just as ideological a hermeneutic. Don’t you find it curious that the spirit of VII people begin with the very same premise as ‘ultratraditionalists’: a hermeneutic of discontinuity? Not to sound sarcastic but that makes strange bed fellows.

    VII needs to be read not simply in a hermeneutic of continuity but that the type of literature which it takes up is ‘exhortation’. It expresses the ideal toward which the Fathers of the Council desired the whole Church to move. What those (on both sides) who read the documents in discontinuity fail to recognize is that the documents very frequently state a very balanced approach to a subject in order to point the way to the future. Its manner of communication will say: a then on the otherhand b. Why? because both are needed. Catholic seldom means ‘either/or’ and very frequently means ‘both/and”. Reading the documents in discontinuity leads one to take a or b but not both together and in context.

    I too know that John Courtney Murray was greatly responsible for the Declaration on Freedom of Religion. I also know that it was the most debated of the documents. I know as well that Cardinal Ottaviani and Archbishop Lefebvre were not in favor of the final document. However, that is the history of all Conciliar documents down through the centuries. There has always been a minority against any one of the documents of Ecumenical Councils and or against the Councils as a whole. The problem comes with what that minority seeks to do when the majority have ratified the Council etc.

    I want to be clear here. You took up the conversation with me concerning DH. I am not sure if you are new to this blog or not. I can say that some very vigorous conversations and debates have taken place. I basically choose not to argue for the sake of arguing. Some like to do that, I find it a waste of time, although having been on a debating team in my youth.
    If on this and other subjects pertaining to VII you want to carry on a conversation etc about what this document means etc fine. If you are seeking better understanding, fine, I am up for it. However, if you want to just debate, that’s not for me, I find I have much better things to do with my time. Just let me know what you want to do and how you want to proceed or not proceed with me.

  • Botolph,

    “Don’t you find it curious that the spirit of VII people begin with the very same premise as ‘ultratraditionalists’: a hermeneutic of discontinuity?”

    Not really, not anymore odd than extreme reactionaries and Marxists beginning with the same premise of anti-capitalism. It’s the whole “beginning” part that I don’t like. I don’t mean to boast, but I feel it necessary to establish that I have read almost every relevant encyclical of the 19th and 20th centuries in addition to the documents of the council. My aim was to discover whether there was continuity or rupture. My conclusion is that it is not the least bit easy to determine what the situation is with respect to doctrine/dogma – I think only a much larger context can tell us in that case and I’ll leave it alone for the moment – but that it is rather obvious that there is a sharp rupture when it comes to overall attitude and orientation. From roughly the French Revolution to Vatican II, perhaps a few years earlier with the beginning of John 23′s reign, the Church was waging war with the hostile powers of the world. At Vatican II, the war was declared to be over, explicitly, by Paul VI himself in his closing address. It may not be a doctrinal rupture, but it is a significant break with the past all the same.

    “Catholic seldom means ‘either/or’ and very frequently means ‘both/and”.”

    Wisdom means knowing when it means one or the other.

    “You took up the conversation with me concerning DH.”

    My blog post mentions DH. You decided to comment, so, I decided to respond.

    “I am not sure if you are new to this blog or not.”

    I am not. I’ve been posting off-and-on for roughly four years.

    “However, if you want to just debate, that’s not for me, I find I have much better things to do with my time.”

    I respond to almost all posts that are addressed to me. I am willing and happy to share my thoughts on Church history and documents. It seems you really want me to see Vatican II the way you see it, though, and I don’t think that likely. So, its up to you. I doubt I’ll change your mind about Vatican II, but if you want to know why I think the way I do, by all means, ask away. I’d rather have a discussion than a debate. In fact I hate formal debates. Ego-driven nonsense.

  • ROFL Ok you have me. I didn’t pick up on the fact that you were the original author. With that in mind, I did in fact take up the response to your original post.

    You are correct. By the end of VII, the ‘war with the modern world’ came to an end from the Church’s point of view. It was not a ‘surrender” but a new tact, one attempting to find what is good, true etc in what the world is saying and then building on that. That is a decisively Thomist position. It is incarnational. There are those who accept VII etc yet believe that this approach (not the teaching) was too optimistic. That I believe is debatable. I too believe that many aspects which the Fathers of the Council built upon was a very optimistic (perhaps too optimistic) approach to ‘the modern world’, ‘with Islam’, and even other religions (yes there is in all religions the manifestation of the religious impulse however, if they are worshiping false gods they are worshiping false gods. I totally agree that the Church must enter into dialogue rather than wage war on all parties. However in taking up that dialogue we have to be realistic and honest recognizing that all ‘men’ are seriously flawed due to original sin.

    In terms of DH, I believe what it teaches, however, it was really ‘pushed’ by the American bishops who lived in post WWII America and everything was very much in the Church’s favor [as opposed to the laicism of France and Europe]. Now however, America has changed. We no longer live in that country in many ways. Now we live in a culture that is similar to what the Church has been experiencing in Europe for two centuries. I don’t believe the answer is to take up the ‘war’ again, but have a vigorous, virtuuous, holy response which is realistic and not simply idealistic

  • It’s one thing to build on what is good in the pre-revolutionary world. It is a different thing to make that attempt in the post-revolutionary world. I would not deny that the Church had to change her orientation to a certain extent, for she was totally overwhelmed by hostile powers. I maintain that Vatican II went too far – from necessity, to virtue.

    When St. Thomas picked up Aristotle, Aristotle had been dead for roughly 1500 years, and the world had hardly changed. When Vatican II baptized liberalism and humanism, and worst of all, egalitarianism, the liberals and the humanists and the egalitarians were still, and are still to this day, waging their war against the Church. No matter how much the hierarchy gives into their demands, still the world demands more, and more. It remains to be seen how much more will be given.

    As for other religions, again, don’t get me started. Do you want to know what I think was the real impetus behind off-the-rails ecumenism and syncretism? It was Rousseau’s overt threat to the Church, in the closing lines of his Social Contract: anyone who says “outside the Church, there is no salvation” ought to be driven from the state, unless the Church is the state. And since, of course, the Church was not the state or ever would be, well – you get the idea. The original, exclusive, and I believe authentic understanding of EENS was seen by the revolutionary world as one of the greatest obstacles to its supremacy. Rousseau held that no man could be civil and peaceful with those he believed were going to hell. The French Revolution and everything that followed developed this idea greatly, and it eventually infested the Church hierarchy as well. It didn’t affect the Papacy, however, until Vatican II. It didn’t become Church policy to basically twist EENS beyond all measure to the point of gibberish without actually renouncing it until Vatican II. And I believe it did so mostly under duress, though as I have said, they elevated what they once saw as a necessity under the gun into a positive virtue that they were happy to shout from the rooftops.

  • I realize my views aren’t popular on these topics. They’re just personal observations based on my studies, that’s all. I think the Church is suffering and I’m willing to suffer with it. I think its leadership is deeply disoriented and flawed, and I’m willing to accept it – critically, though.

  • Bonchamps,

    I have heard in the past those who believe that Vatican II basically took up the three-fold call of the French Revolution “Liberte, egalite, Fraternite: liberty, equality and fraternity” as the basis and hermeneutic by which one could understand VII. I can see that that would be a major concern for someone like Archbishop Lefebvre, born in France, and seeing the results of the revolution on the Church in France. Yet, the Church is more than France and the French Church. it simply does not make sense that a bishop from another nation, especially not from Europe, and there were many, would even have the French Revolution’s call on their radar screen. What this understanding of VII is is a hermeneutic, A political one at that. I do not believe that one can really come to know the Church or the Church’s decisions and teachings from a secular perspective, a political one at that.

    I understand the ‘fear’ involved on the part of those who see VII in that manner, but not the substance.

  • Bonchamps,

    I am not sure there has ever been a period of time in the Church’s history in which the leadership of the Church has not been deeply disoriented and flawed. As I keep telling my friends, remember it has taken the Church two thousand years to get to where we are today! We are all extremely slow learners, stiff necked, sluggard of heart!

    It is not on the leadership that we base our faith, but on the Holy Spirit continuing to maintain, guide and teach in the Church. The difference is this: the Holy Spirit works in and through the successors of Peter and the bishops in communion with the successors of Peter-not how matter how flawed and disoriented they are themselves. The Pope and those bishops in communion with Him are the apostolic college. There is no other. There is no other place to go.

  • Botolph,

    I can’t say I entirely agree. I think the 19th and early 20th century popes were quite strong and courageous. I think they were true and effective leaders, for the most part.

    On the other hand, in the past, popes have been criticized, publicly accused of heresy, driven out of Rome, etc. The post-Trent centuries gave us a very long succession of exemplary popes. But I am not afraid to say what I think ought to be said about the direction of the post Vat-II Church.

    Also, the fact is that the French Revolution changed the world. Jacobinism set the stage for Marxism and Masonic anti-clerical nationalism, i.e. Italy, Mexico, Portugal, etc.

  • Bonchamps,

    I was not limiting my comments about disoriented and flawed to the popes, pre or post VII popes. I do not share you view of the Pope VII popes, although Pope Paul VI has been roundly criticized from many quarters concerning how he allowed the post-VII Church get out of control. He apparently did not have the personal gifts and or skills needed for that aspect of his ministry. I certainly stand with him in his upholding of Catholic teaching concerning birth control although I myself am not sure that his presentation and arguments were the best.

    Blessed Pope John Paul II was an amazing man IMHO, my guess is that we disagree on him. He certainly had his faults, we all do. However, he was God’s gift to the Church in bringing her out of the chaos unleashed by those running with ‘the spirit of VII’. It is unfortunate that he did not allow the Tridentine Mass to be celebrated to the same extent as Pope Benedict did, but that is Monday morning quarterbacking. His calling for the Extraordinary Synod of 1985 was ‘inspired’ (not full meaning of that term). The assembled bishops gave the six principles by which VII was to be interpreted-principles the Church uses today. JPII’s weakness was that he was a macromanager/leader and not a micro-manager/leader. He did not bring the Curia under sufficient ‘oversight’, and with that certain bishops (only some not all) ‘got through the process’ were ordained etc and well history proves they were not the best etc. However, in his encyclicals, ppost-synodal exhortations, apostolic letters, Blessed John Paulgave us great guidance as we prepared for the turn of the millenium. The promulgation of the Code of Canon Law 1983 and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are not only great riches in their own right but sure and solid interpreters of VII as well.

    Pope Benedict was a much maligned figure by pseudo-progressives in the Church. I really I loved and cherished Benedict. He really firmed up the hermeneutic of continuity in interpreting the Council (there will be no more hesitancy etc in the Church about this) but also re set the whole of the Church based on Divine Revelation, the Word of God and the Liturgy of the Church (spirit of adoration and thanks).
    He was not up for the challenge of the intrigue within the Curia that was both savaging him and undermining his own petrine ministry. He had the courage to step down so that another more capable could finally set that house in order.

    I am generally favorable toward Pope Francis-no much maligned by more traditional sources He had stepped on some landmines in the first weeks of his petrine ministry but seemed to have learned from that. I am generally very favorable about the tact which he is taking up-however, number one, he is not without his faults, and secondly it is really too early to come down with a definitive verdict on him

    For the rest, Bonchamps, I would agree that the French Revolution certainly prepared the way for many other revolutions etc especially te Bolshevist one in Russia, however, I do not see the French Revolution having lasting effect. The Enlightenment, while related is not the same thing, and I do see the lasting effects of that. We are actually at a point in time that while it seems that the Enlightenment is just about at its apex I believe it is actually in its last gasps. We are entering a totally new era of history, one that cannot be easily described or understood, but it is already here in some form. That will be our next challenge.

  • Yes, on birth control I think Pius XI’s Casti Connubii was more to the point. As for JP II, I will leave it at yes, we disagree. There are aspects of his theology that are extremely troubling. However I am at least grateful that he allowed the formation of the FSSP, whose Latin Masses I usually attend. I have great respect for the intellect and learning of Joseph Ratzinger. I have virtually none for that of Francis. His statements on everything from morality to proselytizing to economics have been nothing but irritating and/or myopic. If ever there was a pope to stir my inner rad-trad to fury, it would be him.

    On John 23, Paul VI, and JP II, you may want to research the translated critical biographies of Fr. Luigi Villa. For starters.

  • Botolph and Bonchamps,
    .
    Thank you for an interesting discussion. I am interested in your opinions regarding “The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita” and its effect, if any, on the current age.

  • Bonchamps

    To put VII in context, the church had been in turmoil for at least 60 years before the Council, possibly for a century.

    It was in 1904 that Maurice Blondel wrote, “With every day that passes, the conflict between tendencies that set Catholic against Catholic in every order–social, political, philosophical–is revealed as sharper and more general. One could almost say that there are now two quite incompatible “Catholic mentalities,” particularly in France. And that is manifestly abnormal, since there cannot be two Catholicisms.”

    We have only to consider the rival Catholic supporters of Action Française and Le Sillon, who fought each other in the streets, to see the truth of that at a political level, but with deep theological undertones (Both movements were ultimately condemned by the Holy See).

    Responding to a national survey in 1907, Blondel articulated his sense of the “present crisis”: “[U]nprecedented perhaps in depth and extent–for it is at the same time scientific, metaphysical, moral, social and political–[the crisis] is not a “dissolution” [for the spirit of faith does not die], nor even an “evolution” [for the spirit of faith does not change], it is a purification of the religious sense, and an integration of Catholic truth.”

    This is a view that was shared by the leading theologians of the 20th century: Brémond, the Oratorians Bouyer and Laberthonnière, the Dominicans, Chenu and Cardinal Congar and the Jesuits, Cardinal Lubac, Cardinal Daniélou, Maréchal and Mondésert.

    Blondel diagnosed the root of the crisis: “First, the scholastic ideology, which still exclusively dominates, includes the study neither of religious psychology nor of the subjective facts that convey to the conscience the action of the objective realities whose presence in us Revelation indicates; this ideology only considers as legitimate the examination of what objectively informs us about these realities as designated and defined. Moreover, and especially, everything is instinctively resisted that would limit the authoritarianism born of an exclusive extrinsicism. And, without formulating it, the conception is entertained according to which everything in religious life comes from on high and from without. Only the priesthood is active before a purely passive and receptive flock.” Hence, anything “that would hinder this spirit of domination, everything that would recall the role of this interior hearing (auditus interior) of which St. Thomas did not fear to speak, would be pitilessly blasted (foudroyé).”

    It was because of this that Cardinal Henri de Lubac said of Blondel that “he is the one who launched the decisive attack on the dualist theory that was destroying Christian thought.”

    The primary task of the Council was to heal this division and why I would venture to suggest that Dei Verbum and Lumen Gentium were its most important achievements.

  • Slainte,

    I have not been ignoring you or your question. I just came back online. Now to your question.

    “Alta Vendita” is a genuine document arising in the 19th century from Masonic circles. It stated that there was a plan to infiltrate the Vatican and take it over. It was hailed by both Pope Pius IX and Leo XIII as genuine and they wanted it to be widely published to show the real danger of Masonry.

    Those are facts that are indisputable. However, with every true story there is a background, history etc. Up until 1870 a relatively large swath of land across the middle of Italy existed which was known as “the Papal States”. The pope was literally a ruler of a sizable portion of land and numbers of people. He had a standing army to defend it, etc. While the actual size of the lands swelled and shrunk according to the historical and political forces of the particular age, they remained in place from the Dark Ages until 1870.

    While the origins of the lands arises from actually many sources, basically as barbarian overlords came to peace with the Church during the Dark Ages they donated tracks of their lands to the popes in thanksgiving for both the Catholic Faith and peace finally achieved. Chief among these were the Lombards, a Germanic peoples who settled down the spine of Italy. A region of Italy is still named after them, Lombardy.

    Over time, what a legend rose which stated that it was the Roman Emperor Constantine who donated the land, thus it became known as Constantine’s Donation. it was a legend which had/has no basis in history. Constantine was generous with plots of land for churches etc but a Constantine would never have dreamed of giving away the unity of his Roman Empire, not even to the Church. However the legend grew and began to believed [this is very important to keep in mind for the specific topic]. In the 800′s a forged document came to be written supposedly a copy of the deed Constantine had given to Pope Saint Sylvester I (the pope at the time of Constantine). That became ‘proof’ of the right of the pope to have what was then known as the Papal States.

    Now there is a real issue at work here. If the pope was subject to any foreign power, which has happened at various points in history, how could he really be independent enough to minister as the successor of St Peter and not be some king’s stooge [See here the development of the distinction between Church and State-even if its form is 'different'] The popes saw the defense of the papal states to be essential not only as keeping what had supposedly given them but also as the primary means for them to remain independent [You can catch the flavor of this in the Movie The Agony and the Ecstasy: the story of Pope Julius II, the warrior pope and Michelangelo and the painting of the Sistine Chapel]

    Now to the point Slainte. In the 1800′s there was a movement to reunite all of Italy and Sicily, While popular etc., it was led by Italian Masons who already as Masons had no love for the Church. The leader of the Italian unification movement was the Italian Mason, Garabaldi. The only thing finally in their way to Italian reunification were the Papal States. They waged war in every way they possibly could-including planning on infiltrating the Vatican-via the Curia. It was the Garabaldi forces who invaded Rome precisely was the First Vatican Council was in session in 1870. The Council disbanded and never ended until the very first act of the Second Vatican Council. Italy was reunited. The papal Palace and residence in Rome, the Quirinal Palace was taken over as the residence of the King of Italy (at the time) It is now the official residence and work place of the Italian President. On a hill overlooking the Vatican is a statue of an Italian revolutionary pointing a gun at the Vatican. It is the statue of Garibaldi, the masonic revolutionary.

    Although Pope Pius IX wanted the First Vatican Council to back his temporal role as well as his spiritual and to state that any statement he made was infallible, the Council wisely ‘staked’ out the real claim and power of the Church: faith and morals. Vatican I unified the Church and her mission ab intra (on the inside) [the relationship with the world ab extra still needed to be staked out-which happened in Vatican II] Neither Pius I nor Leo XIII nor any of the popes until Pope Pius XI agreed to the seizure of the Papal States, Rome or so much property in Rome which belonged to the Church. That would all be sorted out during the ministry of Pope Pius XI with Mussolini of all people. With Mussolini the Church was given a very great amount of money in payment for the lost lands property etc. The Vatican City State was established (thankfully) to ensure Papal independence of foreign powers [which would happen very soon with the German Nazi occupation of Rome]. With Pius XI and then Pius XII the Church was able to begin laying the groundwork of how best to ‘work with Italy and the wider world [I would especially point out Pope Pius XII radio addresses on the subject of the Church and State]

    So what of the Alta Vendita? The reason for wanting to infiltrate the Vatican were no longer pressing after 1870. As a group, the Masons do indeed remain inimical to the Church. That needs to be kept in mind. They are not “Protestant Knights of Columbus’. However, there are so many conspiracy theories about them that they give Dan Brown the novelist great material for his novels. Since 1870 the Nazis had plans to infiltrate the Vatican as well as the Soviet Union. Were there ever Masons in the Curia? I would be nuts to say there were not-see that is the nature of a secret organization-but enough to take over the Vatican and the Church? ROFL ! I am sure there were some fascist/nazi sympathizers in the Vatican during those terrible years. I am also sure there were communist spies in the Vatican as well-but again, enough to take over the Church?

    The bigger question is this. Would the Holy Spirit allow such a widespread apostasy of the Church so that popes, councils, bishops etc deliberately set out to subvert, substantially change [for example say: the Eucharist is not the Body and Blood of Christ] the teaching of the Church in faith and morals? There are those who fully expect the anti-christ to be a pope? Can that be? NO! Not unless the whole thing is one big lie/hoax. See Slainte, people really do not think their positions, their conspiracy theories through. If what they say is true then the Holy Spirit is not guiding the Church, Christ is not faithful to His promise, is not the Son of God, and frankly then, there is no god. I believe it was Cardinal Newman who said, take one strand of the truth of the Church out and the whole thing falls to pieces (this is what Pope Francis was referring to in an interview but it was not communicated well)

    In the meantime, and I will end with this. Napoleon Bonaparte marched into Notre Dame in Paris and announced to the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris that he would take over the Church in a month. Now the previous archbishop of Paris had apostasized and went over with the revolutionaries. Knowing this full well the Cardinal Archbishop laughed in Napoleon’s face and said. “Your excellency, if the popes and bishops of the Church have not done this in 1800 years you are not going to do it in a month!” Don’t get caught up with a sense that Christ Jesus is not Lord and Head of His Church. He is. And HIs Promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church built on Peter is very real and true.

  • Thank you Botolph for explaining the historical context of the document regarding the Alta Vendita. Freemasonry is often discounted as the stuff of conspiracy theories, yet not one but several popes took its promises very seriously including Pope Leo XIII who urged that the mask of freemasonry should be ripped off. It is not just the goals but the ideas of masonry that was of concern to the popes.
    .
    The French Revolution is generally understood to have been a masonic enterprise which directly targeted the Church, causing blood to run in the streets, and eventually resulted in the insinstallation of the goddess of reason on the high altar of Notre Dame. From this revolution came the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen” of August 26, 1789 which encompassed many principles we would associate with masonry and the Enlightenment.
    .
    Isn’t “religious liberty’ fundamentally a masonic principle, and if so, how does Catholicism and the Council at VII reconcile this with the traditional faith and the warnings of several popes?

  • Slainte,

    Botolph already established what he calls – and I would concur – the “indisputable facts.” The document is a real thing, popes recognized it as a real thing, and so it would be wise to take it seriously. Between MPS and Botolph, you have already read a tome, so I will try to make my own remarks relatively short.

    Where I differ with Botolph is here: the Masonic conspiracy did not end in 1870, the documents of the Carbonari, that is, Italian Freemasonry, did not limit their intentions to the overthrow of the Papal States, that it was not simply their desire to crack the temporal power of the Papacy, but to transform the Church into a Unitarian clearing house for all religions. Abolishing the Papal States didn’t abolish the Papacy, after all. It was still there, stubborn as ever, insisting on the exclusivity of the one true faith. Completely unacceptable to the powers and principalities.

    Botolph asks if the Holy Spirit would allow the Church to be consumed by a Masonic conspiracy. My answer would be to read about what God allowed to happen to the Jews in the Old Testament. Yes, I do believe God could, would, and perhaps has allowed the Church to be viciously scourged by the hostile forces of the world for a number of reasons.

    What I can’t say is whether or not the possibility of Masonic popes = loss of office = sedevacantism = the whole thing is over and is either a lie, or, the end times are immanent and we’ll be seeing Enoch and Elijah. There are sedes who believe they ARE Enoch and Elijah, and I’ve met some of them. It is the ONLY position a sede can take. The end is here and now. Otherwise Botolph would be right; you would have to conclude that the Church is a false institution.

    I think it more likely that the hierarchy is proclaiming bold and strange new doctrines that have not been formally defined as heresies, though they could well be and certainly have the odor of them. I think this ambiguous state of affairs does not easily lend itself to simple and definite conclusions, as so many on both sides of the question would have it. Anti-sedes make a lot of presumptions about what God would and wouldn’t do and what His promises mean and don’t mean; the sedes themselves make a lot of presumptions about what heresy is, whether it applies, what it means about loss of office, etc. All of this presumption, I seek to avoid. I don’t know if we are in the last days, but it seems obvious to me that we are in a time of chastisement, and that we have many wolves posing as shepherds.

    However, if you want some interesting facts, I recommend the critical biographies of John 23, Paul VI and JP II by Fr. Luigi Villa. It seems almost certain that John 23 was a Freemason. At the very least, it is a fact that he was admired by Freemasons.

  • Slainte,

    If as you say that the French Revolution was a masonic enterprise and if as you say that freedom of religion is a masonic principle [I would give a qualitative agreement with the first statement and a negative assessment of the second] how is it that the Catholic Church was persecuted in the French revolution?

    Slainte, we have spoken over a great deal of time. Just step back and think for a second. Is it not in the least a bit suspicious that everything being said against Vatican II etc is related back to the French Revolution as if the Church were merely just one more sociological given which can only run according to socio-political forces. The very fact that secular political terms such as ‘left’/’right’ and ‘liberal/conservative’ are used by those on both sides who read Vatican II as a break in the tradition should give you pause at least.

    Christ has established the new and eternal Covenant in His Blood and promised to be with the Church until the end of the world. He has promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church built on Peter. He promised His Spirit to continue to remind the Church of all that Christ has revealed. As terrible and nasty as the French revolution was and as problematic to say the least that the Masons were and still remain-do you really think Christ would abandon His Church, break His faithfulness to His Bride [Israel was not the Bride], and allow revolutionaries and a secret society take His Church away from Him? That Church either remains the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church or everything we confess in the Creed is rubbish. It is that clear, that important!

  • Bonchamps,

    I actually feel very badly that your own spiritual journey has taken you to this point. I am not being sarcastic nor am I giving you ‘false pity’ [just want to make this perfectly clear] I genuinely am saddened by what you are saying. I feel in a situation as if we were two astronauts and that the tether line you are attached to is fraying and you are drifting more and more into deep space. I want to reach out to you brother, I really do.

    I obviously do not agree with much that you wrote. Let me say this. Ancient Israel and the Church are in two very different eras of Salvation History, established by two very distinct and different Covenants, mediated by two very different Mediators. Christ established a new and eternal Covenant in His Blood, establishing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as its center and founding that Covenant Community, the Church on the Apostolic College, headed by Peter. We are not looking for a newer covenant, nor another Church etc. Now I can say outright that there has never been a golden age of the Church-that is perhaps the oldest legend, myth even heresy. If anyone wants to dispute this take a close look at Acts or any of the Letters of Paul, or even the seven Letters found at the beginning of the Book of Revelations. The Church has been attacked on the outside by religious and political forces seeking to either exterminate her or control her. The Church has been attacked on the inside by two [not just one] enemies: heresy (the stubborn refusal to accept in faith/teach what the Catholic Church teaches: the great sin against Truth) and schism (the great sin against charity). Sadly with almost every Ecumenical Council of the Church there has been a minority who have rejected what the Church taught or refused to go in the direction the Church was taking-and went there own way. Some into schism others into both schism and heresy. And where is the Church? The Church is that community that remains with Peter and those bishops in communion with him. It is that Church that is One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic and frankly there is no other (although other churches share in a great deal of this they do not share in its fullness).

    There can be no room for nor reason for either presumption or triumphalism among Catholics. To be Catholic is far more than accepting x amount of teachings as true [athough that indeed is important] It is to answer the call of Christ daily to be a disciple in a community of disciples, growing stronger in being witnesses before the world. It means answering the call of Christ to an ongoing and never ending lifelong conversion of life in Christ’s call to us to be holy. It means to grow more and more in communion with the Church in faith, in the sacramental life and in the unity of community under and with the bishops and pope. There is no room for boasting since none of us has ‘arrived” in the Kingdom. I could go on but will stop here.

    However I need to make one more point. Your reading source from Italy states Pope John XXIII was a mason. In fact that would mean John XXIII did not believe in and consciously rejected the Blessed Trinity, the Divinity of Christ salvation in and through His Paschal Mystery etc (I could go on). Yet in a few months time he will be canonized a saint. Every canonization is an act of papal infallibility, declaring without equivocation that the blessed is living in the Beatific Vision etc. So what is about to take place is an absolutely guaranteed declaration of the most solemn teaching of a pope as defined by Vatican I that an apostate rebel is a saint-according to what your source says and you repeated. Do you realize again what this means? If this actually were true the whole thing-the whole thing=and not just for what you are fighting for is absolute rubbish-can you see that?

  • Botolph,
    .
    I am not questioning the holiness of the Church, the integrity or legitimacy of the popes, or that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church and will ensure that the gates of hell will not prevail against her. I affirm and believe all of the foregoing. to be true. I reject sedevacantism as incompatible with the faith and an insult to Truth I do, however, seek to understand how the Church has been attacked historically; the methodologies and ideologies utilized, and whether the same is ongoing today.
    .
    I tend to agree with Bonchamps that God will permit incursions to occur, yet I also agree with Michael Paterson-Seymour that the Church cannot err in matters of faith because of her saving faith, but that she can hold erroneous positions in matters unrelated to the faith, which she eventually will purge and spit out. (MPS please correct me if I have mis-stated your view).

    .
    Do you view “religious liberty” as a matter of “faith” which is infallible or is it a principle which serves some other useful function?

  • Botolph,

    You ask if I realize what it means, if John 23 were in fact a Freemason. I can only reply that I am grateful that I will never know if he was. As for his canonization, believe me, that’s the least of it. It’s the impending canonization of JP II that has many traditionalists on the verge of declaring themselves sedevacantists.

    But if it were true, it would not necessarily make the whole thing rubbish. As I said, the other option is that the end times are here and now, that we are actually living in the Apocalypse.

    I can’t unknow what I know. But I can take comfort in the fact that I don’t know enough to have a definite idea of what the situation really is, nor can I. If I were really convinced of the sedevacantist/end-times narrative, I wouldn’t be getting ready to head out to an approved Latin Mass performed by the Norbertines. I see possibilities and probabilities, that is all. They weigh on me, but they haven’t crushed me.

  • Bonchamps,

    Then my brother in Christ, While we differ over many issue I offer you my hand in communion. I do not believe we are living in the End Times etc. I am not sure how best to proceed in conversation with you but I will not do anything to ‘break’ the communion we still share together.

  • Slainte,

    I think DHs position on religious liberty scandalizes the Church with its implications, but I don’t think it was heretical.

  • Slainte,

    The Church can and has held all sorts of erroneous things over the centuries that are not matter of faith and morals. If anything the Church in more recent years has been more open to admitting this. These are policies, presumptions, contemporary world-views and assumptions (for example the Greek Ptolemaic world view that the sun revolves around the earth). Over time these needed to be and were indeed purged, the gold and silver separated from the alloys-and still is today.

    No new (key word here) ‘doctrine’ or dogma was proclaimed in The Declaration on Human Freedom or the whole of the Second Vatican Council for that matter. However, just because no new doctrine etc was proclaimed does not mean it can be reduced to non-importance etc. In DH [Dignitatis Humanae: Declaration on Religious Freedom] the doctrinal principles are set out in the first two ‘paragraphs’ [1 and 2], in turn they are based on The Constitution on the Church in the Modern World [Gaudium et Spes] which states “The mystery of man becomes clear only in the mystery of the incarnate Word….For the Son of God by His Incarnation did in a fashion unite Himself with every man.” [Gaudium et Spes 22]

    It is in this light coming from the Face of the Incarnate Word of God in which we begin to see the human dignity of each and every person from the moment of conception until natural death. That is the doctrinal foundation etc of GS [Gaudium et Spes] an DH. Putting it simply, the rest of the document is that doctrine applied in various areas of the question of religious freedom.

    The whole of Vatican II was a profound conversion of the Church to the further and deeper implications of the Mystery of the Incarnation and to the truth that the Church as communion is the sacrament of salvation for the world. Jesus Christ is the Light of the Nations and the Church is the means by which that light reaches the nations of the world for the sake of their salvation.

    I see “religious freedom’ as a principle that arises from a deep and penetrating contemplation of the Incarnation of Christ Jesus and what that means in terms of each person’s dignity.

  • Botolph,

    I don’t intend on spending a great deal of time discussing the various “ologies” of the Church – ecclesiology, theology, eschatology, soteriology, and so on. My area of study and expertise is politics. So 90% of future posts will be on topics that I think we can all agree on, as a traditionalist who doesn’t hate America.
    However, if those kinds of discussions interest you, I will always be happy to oblige. I don’t know if we are in the end-times or not. We could be. What I do know is that I need the Mass. I can’t let theories about what may be keep me from it.

  • Botolph and Bonchamps,
    .
    Thank you for your perspectives.
    .
    As France has often been the epicenter of tumultuos events in Church history, I will defer to your responding to MPS’ earlier comment regarding the state of the Church in France pre-Vatican II.
    .
    By the way Botolph, every time I begin to write a comment to you, I pause for just a moment fearful that I might give you a heart attack! : ) Thanks for being a good sport and responding so generously. : )

  • Botolph

    On the question of the Temporal Power, I would only note that, from the Congress of Vienna in 1815, so far from preserving the independence of the Pope, it did much to compromise it, for subversion, rebellion and sheer anarchy in his dominions made him wholly dependent on French or Austrian troops for his protection.

    “For twenty years Napoleon III had been the true sovereign of Rome, where he had many friends and relations…. Without him the temporal power would never have been reconstituted [after the Roman Republic of 1849 under Giuseppe Mazzini], nor, being reconstituted, would have endured.” (Raffaele de Cesare)

    For centuries, the Papal States had involved the Holy See in questionable alliances, during the struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines and when the Habsburg-Valois rivalry was fought out in Italy.

    All in all, a very mixed blessing and I cannot but feel a certain sympathy for the Abbé Arduini, when he called the Temporal Power, “an historical lie, a political imposture, and a religious immorality.”

  • Slainte,

    LOL Nah I have a strong heart. However, this might give you a little insight into who I am, or rather what I am like. I took a religious personality test years ago. THe test asked certain questions, how you would respond etc to certain issues etc. There were many biblical personalities such as David, Peter, John, Paul. I came out a perfect Paul-minus the saint part of course. This is not a theological boast etc I can pick up Paul’s Letters etc and know what he is getting at very quickly etc. If you have read Paul you know he could be feisty, pointed in his arguments and sometimes well even crude (I don’t go there thanks be to God).

    Of course I recently took a similar test based on Star Wars personalities and I came out a perfect Yoda ROFL Now what does that tell you lol?

  • Slainté wrote, “As France has often been the epicentre of tumultuous events in Church history …”

    There is an old adage, “The Church is governed from Rome, but does her thinking in France.”

  • I suspect Botolph that you just might be an abbe or a pere or a padre or a frere… : )

  • MPS writes, There is an old adage, “The Church is governed from Rome, but does her thinking in France.”
    .
    But her Heart, my dear MPS, is in Ireland and within the Irish people wherever they may be in the world. : )

  • MPS,

    Thank you for that further clarification. I was attempting to catch the kernel of truth at the center of the Papal States etc. I would concur with your evaluation on the necessary compromises etc that the temporal power imposed on the papacy. While the scene is from a movie, it correlates with reality: I can still see Pope Julius II in all his soldier/knight garb sloping around in the mud amid the carnage of the battles in which he was engaged with the papal armies

    I believe that 1870 was a complete blessing for the Church. At one and the same time She was stripped of temporal concerns (Papal States) with which She had no mission nor business Yet Vatican I staked out her real claim: the realm of doctrine and moral teaching. In the process the papacy went from rather mediocre successors of Peter to-beginning with Pius IX and on, some very great spiritual leaders, even saints: St Pius X, Blessed John XXIII Blessed John Paul II (and I believe soon: Pius XII) (I know some will dispute the latter ones but I definitely include them)

  • Slainte

    Ahhhh the mysteries of the internet lol

  • The mysteries of the Internet are not always so mysterious.
    .
    I really am laughing out loud! : )

  • you are funny lol

  • Botolph wrote, “In the process the papacy went from rather mediocre successors of Peter to-beginning with Pius IX and on, some very great spiritual leaders, even saints.”

    The change has been truly remarkable. From Sixtus V, who died in 1590, to Leo XIII, who was elected in 1878, we had a virtually unbroken succession of popes, who had risen through the ranks of the Vatican bureaucracy and who were, by habit, taste and training, administrators.

    It is not unfair to describe the result as one of assiduous mediocrity. Even in Catholic countries, they had the same impact and the same popular appeal, as the average Secretary-General of the United Nations or President of the World Bank. Pio Nono was popular because he was pitied.

    Thirty popes and not a Leo or a Gregory, a Hildebrand or an Innocent III amongst them; the very suggestion seems absurd. Benedict XIV (Prospero Lambertini) can fairly be ranked with Innocent IV as a canonist and with Leo X and Clement VII for his learning and he appears as a giant in that age of pygmies.

    Meanwhile, the Church was riven by the Thirty Years War, the Quietist controversy, the Jansenist heresy, the Gallican controversy, Josephism, the suppression of the Jesuits, the French Revolution and its aftermath, and the Risorgimento, in none of which can the Holy See be said to have distinguished itself.

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