Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Eulogos and the Constitution of the United States of America

A converted Roman Catholic blogger who goes by the name of Eulogos, but has openly used her legal name as well, recently posted in a discussion at Red Cardigan that "When I became a Catholic I said 'I Susan Peterson, enlightened by divine grace, and touching with my hand these Holy Gospels, profess the faith which the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church teaches. I believe that Church to be the one true Church which Jesus Christ established on earth, to which I adhere with all my heart'."

She went on to profess belief in the infallibility of the Pope, seven sacraments, the Apostles Creed, and ended her profession of faith with "And anything else which She (The Catholic Church) defines and declares I do believe, and I renounce every heresy and schism which She condemns."

I don't believe a word of it. Where I live in space and time, that confers on me no civil disability. Ms. Peterson, I assume, sincerely believes every word, which confers no civil disability on her. We can both vote, run for office, own property, we pay the same taxes and have the same access to government services. We can each live in any neighborhood each of us can afford. There the matter might rest, were it not for the evangelical impulse which animates the Christian faith, and the claim to supremacy over civil authority which is often generated by belief in the infallibility of the Pope.

One romishgraffiti adds a citation from that church's current Catechism:

2089. Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

I cheerfully and openly embrace schism and heresy by those definitions. (From what I've heard, listening to those who have studied Greek, "heresy" originally meant party or faction, to the entire Vatican edifice is, ipso facto, heresy. Accepted doctrine is merely the heresy in power at the moment.) I cannot plead nolo contendere to apostasy, although a Roman Catholic definition of "the Christian faith" would undoubtedly condemn me of that as well. I plead not guilty to incredulity only by clinging to my own understanding of what is, and is not, revealed truth. Again, a proper Roman definition could no doubt convict me.

If the canon romishgraffiti cites applies only to those who have, like Susan Peterson, freely and voluntarily confessed the Roman Catholic faith, then that canon is none of my business, and I need think no more about it. If it is asserted that this canon applies to me, then it is my privilege to abjure, renounce, and condemn it.

There has always been a conflict between democratic governance, particularly in the absence of an Established Church, and assertions of Absolute Truth by a religious faith. This conflict is by no means limited to the Roman Catholic Church, nor is that church itself free from charges of heresy and schism.

A most amusing contribution to Rod Dreher's discussion of "Is the Protestant Reformation ending?" was an observation that "The Protestant Reformation will never end until the Roman Catholic Church returns to Holy Orthodoxy, because the Pope is the first Protestant." How so? The Bishop of Rome put his individual pronouncements above the collegial leadership of the patriarchs, who recognized his office as first among equals, but not as the ultimate or sole source of authority. Historically, theologically, and doctrinally, is is more than arguable that the Orthodox church is "the one true Church established by Christ and his Apostles," if indeed any church is, and the Roman church a late-breaking offshoot.

In more recent times, the distant offspring of the Protestant Reformation have rebelled against the separation between church and state, that was inspired by their own forefathers (and mothers), demanding immediate political manifestation of Paul's promise that "every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord."

Protestants should know better. When Alexis de Toqueville visited the United States during the 1830s, he noted the profusion of churches, and active participation they inspired by a large part of the population, compared to Europe. Unanimously, any pastor of any church he asked told him the reason was the separation of church and state. The church thrived when freed from what James Madison called "the profane hand of the civil magistrate."

Today, the broadly secular nature of European life and culture are widely bemoaned by the Pope and by evangelical American Protestants alike. The emptiness of churches in Europe can be traced directly to the long history of officially Established churches dependent upon the subsidy of whatever government might be in power. The continued vitality of churches in the United States is the direct result of having no such unholy bonds.

Roman Catholics also benefited, as the Baltimore Catechism used to sternly remind each new generation. There were a few colonists practicing the Roman Catholic faith at the time of the American Revolution, many of whom became active patriots. Although the colonies had a history of brutal persecution of Catholics, both inherited from English politics and inspired by hatred of the rampant Spanish persecution of Protestants and Jews, Catholic patriots were fully accepted into the common cause.

Those early, post-colonial, Catholics adhered to the rituals and theology of their church, but Rome was far away across the broad Atlantic Ocean. Communication took weeks if not months. The Curia seldom paid much attention to affairs in the former British colonies. Besides, there were few enough of them.

There was always an undercurrent in the Roman Church of "OK, since the place is mostly Protestant, freedom of religion is best for us, but when we get a chance, we will restore the supremacy of Our Church." There was always an undercurrent of fear among American Protestants that, indeed, Catholic immigration would lead to the destruction of our secular republic.

It cost Al Smith the presidency in 1928. It was an issue John F. Kennedy laid to rest by affirming that if the electorate offered him the honor of taking an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," with his hand on the Bible, it would be an offense against God to break that oath. Sincere Roman supremacists bitterly denounced him for that concession.

Christians who, similar to even the most Orthodox of Jews, are willing to wait patiently for God to establish His Kingdom as he sees fit, in his own good time, have no need to challenge the separation of church and state. One can join with Abraham Lincoln in asserting that "the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether," but acknowledge that "Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them."

Those who preach religious supremacy, whether Orthodox, Roman, Anglican, Lutheran, Calvinist, Jewish, Muslim or Pentecostal, must honestly come to terms with what they really mean to offer their neighbors: the hand of friendship, silent contempt, or the sword. American law fully recognizes the autonomy of any church in governing its own internal affairs, in matters of faith and doctrine, even of church property. Those who claim the unwilling obedience of noncommunicants are enemies of freedom, and of their noncommunicant fellow citizens.

If the doctrine of any church is ambiguous as to the jurisdiction claimed, it is the duty of adherents to clarify exactly what they mean, and say so honestly to all the world. The world will, of course, respond in kind: by their fruits do we know them.


eulogos said...

Thanks for giving me a mention.

I was "converted" many many years ago, and now think of myself as "just a Catholic."

As to the content of your post, Catholicism has learned to live peacefully with democracy; it is not clear if democracy has learned to live peacefully with it.

We say that freedom is the necessary atmosphere for conscience and for the free assent to belief. Those who must pretend to believe are not believers, and God is not honored by this.

Have you read John Courtney Murray SJ? He is usually thought of as the person who if not originated, at least wrote most convincingly about, this view. His view was made doctrine at VII. It is one of the things the SSPX disagrees about.

The Church has lived for many years, under the Roman Emperors, with the Byzantine Emperors, the Holy Roman Emperors and the various kings of Europe. It isn't surprising that it should have developed a self understanding compatible with monarchies. Most human beings in the west for at least a thousand years had an understanding of the relationship of religion and society which found it essential for one society to have one religion....and of course it ought to be the true one.

It isn't because we no longer believe that we are the true one that our position has developed, but because of a growth in understanding of the human person, which is a growth in the understanding of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God. Freedom of thought, of conscience, freedom to believe, or not, is proper to the human person. And only in freedom can one truly make a choice to embrace the truth.

However when it comes to the sphere of action, as the beliefs of the Church become more and more different from those of our secular society, there are coming to be many' when push comes to shove' moments. You may be speculating about what we would do in the unlikely situation that we ever held supreme power again...but we are speculating as to whether you will make our hospitals pay for contraceptives in their employee insurance coverage, prescribe contraceptives in their clinics, perform sterilizations and abortions. We are worried if our children in the public schools we all pay for will be told that it is a normal and acceptable thing for two men or two women to have sex with each other at ages when some of us (not me) don't even want to tell our children about sex at all. We find you giving condoms to our 15 year old sons, and leading our 15 year old daughters off to have abortions without telling us. It is difficult for some of us to work as pharmacists, get into med school, work as nurses in non Catholic hospitals, be certified as a counselor or therapist. I could go on with this for a long time.

So who believes in freedom?
Siarlys generally in his comments on "and sometimes tea" which is all I know about him, does support liberty even for Catholics in many of these cases. But society as a whole in Europe/Canada/the USA seems not to.

eulogos(Susan Peterson)

Siarlys Jenkins said...

We say that freedom is the necessary atmosphere for conscience and for the free assent to belief. Those who must pretend to believe are not believers, and God is not honored by this.

Have you read John Courtney Murray SJ? He is usually thought of as the person who if not originated, at least wrote most convincingly about, this view. His view was made doctrine at VII. It is one of the things the SSPX disagrees about.

Hi - I'm flattered you found your way here. If the first statement I've highlighted represents the official position of your church, then I am entirely reassured. But if John Courtney Murray is the one who originated or wrote most convincingly about this view, while the SSPX disagrees, it seems that your church as a whole is not committed to it. This is not (yet anyway) a matter of church discipline that all Catholics must adhere to. You sound sincerely reconciled to democracy, but is the Magisterium?

For much of human history, people lived in small communities, certain that if any one person broke one taboo, the whole community would pay for it in disastrous divine retribution. That led to a primitive sort of Established Faith. Yes, we know better now.

Those who must pretend to believe are not believers, and God is not honored by this.

Again, that is all I as a citizen can ask of any church I coexist with. But the remaining questions raise similar tension.

Yes, I do support freedom of religion as well as nonestablishment, making no exception for the RC church. (That is, I think a little more inclusive than "even for Catholics.")

I've argued strenuously that a nurse in a hospital should not have to choose between losing her job or participation in an abortion... but if she applies for work at a Planned Parenthood clinic, she should be aware what she is applying for.

I wouldn't require that a Catholic hospital offer abortions... but such a hospital should not become or remain the SOLE source of hospital care for the entire local population, and might have second preference for public funds.

What ANY employer pays for in health insurance should not infringe the free choice of individual employees. No exceptions based on the employer's religious beliefs.

I have some skepticism about the demands of the louder gay organizations that ALL children should be taught that same-sex coupling is to be accepted, celebrated, honored... but the mere fact that a church disagrees is not the basis to refrain from teaching it. Some churches (not yours) object to teaching evolutionary biology in biology class.

The most serious threat, in my view, is bishops who attempt to blackmail public officials into using their office as an opportunity to advance the church's legislative agenda, when their responsibility is to represent their constituents. If you were the supreme pontiff Susan, I would be content. But that isn't going to happen.

eulogos said...

I wrote a comment but somehow disappeared it while looking for this.

This is a document of Vatican II, an Ecumenical Council of the Church, and thus magisterial teaching.


Perhaps more later.
Susan Peterson

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Thanks for the link. I haven't read every word, but I skimmed the document. In fact, I think I may post a link to it in the margin. One can hardly expect any religious faith to relinquish its claim to The Truth -- which is the very foundation of its existence. I don't hold that against the authors. They were very careful, without contradicting that claim, to affirm that there should be no coercion. Vatican II accepted that if all humanity is to come to the Roman Catholic Church as the ordinary means of salvation, it will be because the truth of that claim becomes freely and voluntarily evident to all men and women, not because all were compelled.

James Madison said something similar when arguing for the Virginia statute of religious liberty. If Christianity is established as the official state church, then non-Christians might not emigrate here, and might therefore miss out on learning the true faith. (I find it a more powerful argument that the church should be free of the profane hand of the civil magistrate, which the Vatican II document also addresses).

I might quibble about the notion that children should never be taught anything that conflicts with the faith of the parents. Certainly, as is constitutionally established in the USA, public schools should not assert religious doctrines, or presume to teach which are true. But there are some who object, e.g., to their children being taught evolutionary biology. Children are taught evolutionary biology because it is good and well established science. A biology teacher may not (as some have) also teach "Therefore the Bible is wrong and/or their is no God."

I also wonder how well some Catholics understand that this IS a magisterial teaching. Both "liberal" and "conservative" Catholics tend to cherry pick, as Erin has pointed out quite honestly as Red Cardigan. There are still many who assert that the government should aid the RC church, because it is the "One True Faith." Maybe it is. But, as this document states, that must be manifested by voluntary, uncoerced adherence, not by government aid and endorsement.

eulogos said...

Siarlys, Please, the Supreme Pontiff we have is a brilliant, learned, and devout man. Not only am I disqualified by gender, but I am in every way personally not qualified.

Right now, I will just address one point. You say,"What ANY employer pays for in health insurance should not infringe the free choice of individual employees. No exceptions based on the employer's religious beliefs."

Please think of some possible practice which you find intrinsically immoral, horrifying or extremely distasteful, which you believe is truly harmful for others, and then think of how you would react if you were faced with being required by law to fund this practice for your employees.

For instance what if your company operated on one of those places in which girls are a financial drain on families. In this country, parents can just bring their infant girls to a place where for a fee they are "put to sleep" as we do with old and ill pets. Would you want to respect their right of conscience to do that, and pay for it in their health insurance? What about a country where female circumcision was accepted? Would you want to pay for that by your contributions to employee health insurance?

But this is pretty much how Catholics view abortion and contraceptive sterilization. As simple killing of the innocent, and as bodily mutilation.

Ok, one more point. I don't think you understand who the SSPX are. They are a group in schism, (or by courtesy only, partial schism) from the Catholic Church, since not too long after VII. Right now one of their (illicitly but validly consecrated) 5 bishops is in Rome discussing their doctrinal differences with the hope of reconciliation, but these talks have not gone too far.

Hey here is what I thought I lost. For what it's worth.