15 March 2014

"They have uncrowned Him" (4)

(NOTE ON THREADS: I have deleted some comments which, by the tone with which they attacked adherents of the SSPX, seemed to be un-reflective, divisive, or uncharitable, or likely to cause hurt. I remind you that the request for restraint in blogs comes from Cardinal Mueller himself. At the opposite end of the spectrum, with some hesitation, I allowed a comment which referred to the Conciliar documents as 'poisonous' because the hyperbole was not personal. But I disliked it, and will probably decide the other way next time. If you wish to spend time penning comments, it is surely in your interest to write comments which I will not suppress; comments which will not upset other people personally. Is debate which remains calm and rational really such a terrible thing?)

I return now to what I mentioned in the first of my series: Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's views about Christian and non-Christian Societies ... and, in particular, to the question raised in Dignitatis humanae about the 'rights of Error'. It is with regard to this Decree that a very distinguished Catholic theologian wrote, not very long ago, that it "occasions a genuine difficulty for orthodox Catholics". And I begin with an anecdote of the Archbishop's which, I believe, goes to the heart of the problem. "Pope John Paul II made [this point] to me on the occasion of the audience that he granted to me on November 18, 1978: 'You know', he said to me, 'religious liberty has been very useful for us in Poland, against communism'".

It is easy to put simply what the ambiguities are. If one is coming from a culture which has been oppressed for a quarter of a century by atheistic Stalinist Communism (and before that, by National Socialism), an obvious truth will prescribe: Religious Liberty must be upheld, therefore the state must cease to prevent Catholic Truth from being upheld. But, against the background of a Christendom State, as we saw it in my first piece, in which the constitution has upheld either explicitly or implicitly the just privileges of the One True Faith taught by the the One True Church, the same truth will receive the expression: Catholic Truth must be upheld, therefore the state must discourage the growth and even the existence of errors against the Truth upheld by the Catholic Church. It is not surprising that B John Paul, the doughty and effective warrior against a dominant Marxism, and the battle-hardened French Missionary bishop from a background of cultural opposition to the inheritance of the the French Revolution, failed to see eye to eye. Yet those two outworkings of the same principle, for two different contexts, have the same message: Catholic Truth must be upheld. And I can understand that some people might go further and say that, since there are few, if any, Christendom states left, and an increasing number of states in which Catholic Truth is opposed or even persecuted by a new illiberal Secularism or by Islam, we must forget about the second outworking and, out of prudence, make a great deal of the first.

Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange OP made this point in a passage which Mgr Lefebvre quotes with approval: "We can ... make of liberty of worship an argument ad hominem against those who, while proclaiming the liberty of worship, persecute the Church (secular and socialising states) or impede its worship (communist states, Islamic ones, etc.). This argument ad hominem is fair, and the Church does not disdain it, using it to defend effectively the right of its own liberty". So far, fair enough.

But Garrigou-Lagrange goes on "But it does not follow that the freedom of cults, considered in itself, is maintainable for Christians in principle, because it is in itself absurd and impious: indeed, truth and error cannot have the same rights". Bang on, surely. Error cannot have rights. But it is not pedantic to observe that the writer is not so much concerned to deny personal liberties to those who belong to such cults as to deny it 'in principle' to the errors asserted by the cults.

Here is the problem: Archbishop Lefebvre, and writers who agree with him, have no difficulty whatsoever in piling up quotations from Popes who wrote before the Council, to the effect that Error has no rights. And the Conciliar Declaration Dignitatis humanae begins with a section including the statement that "it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and of societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ"*. But ... as the Council goes on to "develop" its teaching, it does get quite difficult to see how the so-called 'development' is not in fact a change. This development/change is said to be rooted in a natural right not to be coerced, which is inferred to exist because of the principle that "Man's response to God in Faith must be free."

To be concluded.
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*The Conciliar Acta  make clear the enormous importance of this sentence for the process of achieving Conciliar consensus. On November 19 1965 as many as 249 Fathers had voted non placet on the draft before them. At the final vote, on December 6, the number sank to 70 as the result of pressure put on many of the Fathers. Those who reluctantly changed their vote felt enabled to do so in good conscience because of the addition of this sentence as the result of a personal intervention by Pope Paul VI. It will be remembered that Conciliar decrees are expected to have the authority of a 'moral unanimity'. Dignitatis humanae, considered without the sentence added by the Pope, would be a document that lacked that necessary consensus. There is therefore a sense in which it is the most important statement within this whole Declaration, its clavis aperiendi cetera. It is therefore reasonable to insist that whatever else the document may go on to say, must be understood fully in accordance with both the letter and the spirit of that earlier teaching of the Magisterium. And that, until this coherence has been clearly demonstrated, there is a provisionality about the rest of the document.

8 comments:

Francis Arabin said...

Error has no rights, indeed. It is significant that Westphalia introduced in a way a sort of relativism and indifferentism in the jus publicum of Christendom. It would be an understatement to say that unChristian modernity has merely inherited this juristic indifferentism - much more, the latter is one of the conditions of the former.

Actually, in the case of Westphalia it is more a question of relativism ( starting with the cujus regio of Augsburg, one century earlier) whereas in that of the American First Amendment, it is clearly one of indifferentism.

So it has come that religious indifferentism has become part of the juristic sensus communi, and finds itself consecrated in fundamental law.

But it is interesting to note that in both the seemingly liberal indifferentism of the American First Amendment and the more anticlerical jurisprudence of separation in France, the effects are practically the same - truth and error are allowed on the public forum, with the guardians of the forum (the government) claiming neutrality. How can there be neutrality when it is a question of Truth and error?

Flambeaux said...

I'm finding your analysis fascinating, Father, since I have grappled with these questions for many years.
Thank you.

cd a said...

The term "religious liberty" is ambiguous: either (a) "religious liberty" denotes the liberty of Christ and His Church or (b) "religious liberty" connotes tolerance of error or (c) "religious liberty" connotes license for error.

The traditional(ist) position seems to be that religious liberty in sense (a) is true, in sense (b) is permissible, and in sense (c) is forbidden.

That is, the state has a duty to recognize, among religions, the liberty of only the true religion (which happens to be that of Christ and His Church). Of course, this is a duty that the state may well fail to observe, but that there is such a duty remains regardless.

But because the state has a duty, among religions, only to recognize the true religion, the liberty of other (i.e. false) religions ought be only tolerated, but not recognized as a right. That is, if the liberty of false religions were recognized as a right, then such recognition would be tantamount to state license to commit grave evils (e.g. idolatry, heresy and its propagation, etc.).

The term "personal liberty" is also ambiguous: either (i) "personal liberty" is liberty of conscience in private matters or (ii) "personal liberty" is liberty of conscience in public matters.

The traditional(ist) position seems to be that (i) is true, but (ii) is a matter of tolerance and not right. That is, in effect, one ought not be coerced to submit to Christ and His Church in merely private matters. However, it is permissible to coerce one to submit to Christ and His Church in public matters.

For example, one's confession of a false religion is a private matter. However, one's unsolicited assertion that his false religion is true in the public square would be a public matter. In the latter case, coercion would be permissible because it is a threat to other's souls (just as needlessly brandishing, as opposed to merely carrying, a firearm in public is a threat to other's bodies).

rick allen said...

Error has no rights, but human beings have the right to choose evil or good. If we have no choice, there is no blame in choosing evil, or merit in choosing the good.

Pope John Paul II, as I recall, put it this way: You have the right to choose an abortion, but you have the duty to choose life.

That makes sense to me. I can choose to be a murderer, a thief, a hater, a fraud. That is part of what it means to be a human being. I ought not to choose those things, but I am free to do so. Take away my freedom of choice, and I become, to use Anthony Burgess's phrase, a "clockwork orange," an organic mechanism that is no longer human.

A Christian society is one in which the Christian faith is freely presented to all. But we must choose to embrace it, to maintain it, to live and die in it. If conversion is not free, it isn't true conversion. It is always tempting to use the force of the law. But that's how we make fake Christians. So there must always be that right to be in error. Otherwise truth and error lose their meaning.

Francis Arabin said...

Instead of a right, properly so-called, to choose error, I think, the jus publicum of Christendom included the toleration, the sufferance of the fact that some do choose error. Cf, Cardinal Journet on the place and status of the Israelites in the Christian city. This is a very interesting and important topic. I have no wish to polemicize. Father Hunwicke can rectify and clarify.

rick allen said...

"Instead of a right, properly so-called, to choose error...."

I agree that there is an incongruity in talking about a "right" to do something which, strictly speaking, one has no right to do--that is, doing something which is a violation of a moral or religious norm.

In jurisprudence (I am a lawyer, not a cleric or academic) there is a concept of a "power," an ability to effect something, which the law recognizes, even if that act is contrary to duty. If, for instance, I am a dealer in diamonds, and I am entrusted to keep a diamond for someone, I have the power to give good title to it to a buyer in good faith, even though I have no right to sell what I do not own.

Human freedom, in a sense, is a real power to choose right or wrong. One might say that one has, not a "right" to choose the wrong, but an inalienable power to do so, and that it is in that power that the moral quality of being a human person subsists.

Now that power can never completely be repressed, because it is internal. But the coercive power of the state can go a long way toward forcing an outward, and hypocritical, conformity. The question for Catholics, of course, is whether we want our faith professed on that basis. I certainly don't.

By the way, my reference to Pope John Paul II above was based solely on memory. But thinking over what I said he said, I'm afraid in giving what I recalled as the gist of his statement, I recalled it a little too specifically. As I think back, I think what I read was a more general statement to the effect that the right to choose entails the duty to choose rightly. I don't think that that changes the point significantly. Choice should be directed to the right, to life, to blessing--but its mere existence means that one may choose the wrong, death, and the curse.

Francis Arabin said...

Re: Coercion

The duty of the Christian (read Catholic, of course) Prince is to preserve within his domains the practice and profession of the True Faith.( It would be interesting to see how the rite of coronation was thought to impart sacramental character - I find Kantorowicz vague on the subject). In other words, he ought to preserve the freedom of the Church within his territory, that is, the spiritual care of his vassals and subjects. Allowing the Church to exercise this care must be accompanied with the recognition that the Church alone can perform the same. For it is not a sufferance on the Prince's part that the Church should so act - by his coronation, his relationship, started with Baptism, with the Body of Christ, is further strengthened. In a way, it is because he is Christian that he is Prince, and this, through the mediation of the Church. Therefore, he cannot explicitly or implicitly support something which goes against the very condition of his wielding the civil sword.

The right of the Church to teach is a positive one - the right of the Christian Prince to resist error- a negative one - that is, as I conceive it - it is a support to the teaching office of the Church - in enabling the law of the Church.

The great mistake was probably to think that in destroying heretics, heresy itself would be destroyed. The recourse to extreme civil penalties for a spiritual offence is, of course, wrong and against the spirit of the Gospel. Instead the spread of error should be checked by civil disabilities and incapacity, instead by coercion. This is not, of course, the last word on such a difficult but interesting topic.

It would also be interesting to review the acts of the present Kings of Spain and of Belgium in light of the traditional teaching of the Church.

Francis Arabin said...

"Instead the spread of error should be checked by civil disabilities and incapacity, *instead by coercion."

* I meant "rather than through"