ORGAN OF THE ROMAN THEOLOGICAL FORUM
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Living Tradition, Oblates of Wisdom, P.O. Box 13230, St. Louis, MO 63157, USA
|No. 9||Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program||January 1987|
The Task of Living Tradition - by John F. McCarthy
Pius IX, Vatican II and Religious Liberty - by Brian W. Harrison
A Marian Year - by John F. McCarthy
by John F. McCarthy
by Brian W. Harrison
The Constitutional power possesses only the right and duty to repress crimes and other offences which would materially attack these liberties (qui attenteraient matériellement à ces libertés) - or other civil and political rights of the citizens.5In other words, Lamennais would not allow the State to recognize in any effective way the existence of God or a transcendent, spiritual nature in man - much less the unique truth of the Catholic faith or of Christian moral values. "Total separation" of Church and State was demanded (even in overwhelmingly Catholic countries)6 along with the abolition of all concordats between governments and the Holy See.7 In this system, the avowedly "materialistic" criteria required of the State would allow it to exercise censorship or coercion only in order to prevent incitement to riots, sedition, or revolution, or to forestall physical harm or annoyance to persons or property. In other words, to preserve "public peace."
citizens have the right to all kinds of liberty, to be restrained by no law, whether ecclesiastical or civil, by which they may be enabled to manifest openly and publicly their ideas, by word of mouth, through the press, or by any other means.8This historical background is essential for an accurate understanding of what Gregory XVI and Pius IX had in mind when they condemned "liberty of conscience and of worship." Admittedly, the concordats which they and their pre-conciliar successors established with nations such as Spain and certain Latin-American states were a good deal more restrictive towards other religions than any agreement which the Holy See would now be prepared to countenance;9 but all that the early encyclicals condemned as incompatible with Catholic doctrine (that is, with divine law) was this totally permissive and secularist vision of the State which was fashionable, then as now, amongst certain Catholic intellectuals. (It was the pre-conciliar public law of the Church, not pre-conciliar doctrine, which held that in predominantly Catholic countries non-Catholic propaganda as such could be seen as a threat to the common good, and therefore restricted by law.)10
Some Fathers affirm that the Declaration does not sufficiently show how our doctrine is not opposed to ecclesiastical documents up till the time of the Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII. As we said in the last relatio, this is a matter for future theological and historical studies to bring to light more fully. As regards the substance of the problem, the point should be made that, while the papal documents up to Leo XIII insisted more on the moral duty of public authorities towards the true religion, the recent Supreme Pontiffs, while retaining this doctrine, complement it by highlighting another duty of the same authorities, namely, that of observing the exigencies of the dignity of the human person in religious matters, as a necessary element of the common good. The text before you today recalls more clearly (see nos. 1 and 3) the duties of the public authority towards the true religion (officia potestatis publicae erga veram religionem); from which it is manifest that this part of the doctrine has not been overlooked. However, the special object of our Declaration is to clarify the second part of the doctrine of recent Supreme Pontiffs - that dealing with the rights and duties which emerge from a consideration of the dignity of the human person.12Here are the last two sentences of Dignitatis Humanae, article 1, in which we have underlined the words added in this final revision to which Bishop de Smedt was referring:
So while the religious freedom which men demand in fulfilling their obligation to worship God has to do with freedom from coercion in civil society, it leaves intact the traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies towards the true religion and the one Church of Christ. Over and above this, the sacred Council, in dealing with this question of liberty, intends to develop the teaching of recent Popes on the inviolable rights of the human person and on the constitutional order of society.The addition to article 3, mentioned by Bishop de Smedt, comes in the last sentence of that section, and makes it clear that governments should not be merely "neutral" or "agnostic" about the value of religious activity. On the contrary, because of its "transcendent" character, they have a duty to "recognize and favour the religious life of citizens."
The Church does not make, as a matter of right or of divine law, the claim that she should be established as the "religion of the state".13We should distinguish two propositions:
(a) Divine law requires the civic community as such to recognize the Catholic Church as the "religion of state" explicitly, in a written Constitution or law-code;Neither Vatican II nor pre-conciliar magisterial teaching insisted on (a) above, because written constitutions and legal documents are only one historically-determined form of "recognition". Divine law concerns what is true always and everywhere; and in earlier centuries (or theoretically even today) a less modern, less developed, or very small society might have no written laws or Constitution at all. (As the Church's Code of Canon Law recognizes in canons 27 and 28, custom - especially ancient or long-established custom - is a very respectable form of law.) Vatican II deliberately refrained from passing judgment on whether the Catholic Church ought to be constitutionally recognized as the "State religion": article 6 simply makes a brief, very general statement that, if one religion (Catholic or non-Catholic) is given special recognition "in the constitution of a State" (in iuridica civitatis ordinatione), then the religious freedom of others must be respected as well.
(b) Divine law requires the civic community as such to give at least de facto recognition to the Catholic Church as the true religion, and to reflect that recognition in its laws and communal decisions.
by John F. McCarthy