Wednesday, July 8, 2009

More comments at Opuscula

Here are some more comments which I have submitted for publication at the Opuscula blog of Mr. Gurries:


1. Applying your definition (in your post “On Duties and Rights” of January 30, 2006) of a right, we can say that God is the subject of a right to obedience, and the term of this right would be man’s duty to obey him. The means which God has given man for discerning how to obey Him is his conscience, so the term of God’s right to obedience amounts to man’s duty to obey his conscience. But in judging how well a man has obeyed his conscience, God takes into account the prevailing circumstances; so for instance, if an heretic’s conscience is telling him to disseminate his errors, but the civic authorities have imprisoned him for doing so and so he is unable to disseminate them, God will not ajudge him to have sinned against his conscience, and a reasonable heretic knows this. Why then would it be illegitimate for the State to impose such a change of circumstances (i.e. imprisoning notorious public heretics), when such an imposition does not induce the offender of the Catholic religion to sin?
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2. You say (in your post “On Duties and Rights” of January 30, 2006) that a proper right has three parts: a subject, which is the person exacting the right, a term, which is “the person with the corresponding duty” and an object, which is the matter of the right. But in a supposed right to public offences against the Catholic religion—which are the matter of a right to freedom of religion for heretics—the term is the Catholics who are exposed to these offences. But being exposed to the seductive errors of heretics is an occasion of sin, and one can only have a duty to put oneself in an occasion of sin for the sake of some higher duty, never for the sake of the sin itself, which would be an absurdity. (And as you say, “Rights have limits - ceasing to be a right at the point where a conflicting duty arises that is superior”, and the duty to avoid occasions of sin is certainly a superior duty when it is possible to make someone refrain sinlessly from imposing the occasion of sin, which, as mentioned in 1., is the case here.) Given, then, that one of the parts of the right is certainly missing, how can a right to religious freedom be considered a true and proper right?
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3. Even if we suppose, by an impossibility, that there is a right to religious freedom of the kind which you describe, how can the matter of this right—which, in the case of offenders of the Catholic religion, is objectively false and evil—be anything other than the object of tolerance on the part of the offender’s neighbours and the civic authorities?
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4. Dignitatis Humanæ teaches (§7) that the common good is composed of two subsets: one is the ‘just public order’, whose elements are listed in §7, and the other is “the rest”, whose elements are whatever elements are not listed under the heading of ‘just public order’, since these two parts are mutually exclusive and exhaustive. One element of “the rest”, then, would be an entirely Catholic populace’s desire to remain united in the Catholic Faith. But Dignitatis Humanæ teaches that with respect to “the rest”—including, as mentioned, the Catholic unity of the populace—“the freedom of man is to be respected as far as possible and is not to be curtailed except when and insofar as necessary” (§7). But is this not an inversion of the Traditional doctrine, which, if we were to try to encapsulate it in a slogan, would be something like “curtailing freedom to offend the Catholic religion as far as possible and not permitting it except when and insofar as necessary”, as is clear when Pius XII affirmed, in Ci riesce, that “religious and moral error must always be impeded, when it is possible”, and does this not therefore defy the emphatic teaching of Leo XIII that all the elements of the common good—since he speaks repeatedly of the common good without qualification—are to be taken into account when considering how much freedom the State should tolerate?
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5. How does Suarez explain how bans on offences against the Catholic Faith (but not, for some reason, offences against Catholic morals, i.e. the natural law) “would involve, to some extent, forcing people to accept the Faith; and that is never permitted”? If he does not explain this, then could you, Mr. Gurries, elaborate on your understanding of this? It seems to be based on an illegitimate symmetry between being forced to disobey one’s conscience and being prevented from obeying one’s conscience.
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Mr. Gurries,

As you know I am not objecting to the substance of your notion of ‘separation’, just the terms; both popular and Magisterial usage of the term ‘separation of Church and State’ has changed greatly during the more than a millennium from Gelasius I to the modern era, to the extent that the terms ‘that the State should be separated from the Church, and the Church from the State’ were condemned in the Syllabus of Errors. Given that that is the present-day usage, does what you have written not attract the censure of “evil-sounding”, i.e., using improper words to express otherwise acceptable truths (cf. the article “Censures, theological” in The Catholic Encyclopedia)?

Furthermore, your citation is of the then-Cardinal Ratzinger, but the man now reigning gloriously as Pope did not use the term ‘separation’ of Church and State when he had the opportunity to do so, at His Holiness’s December 13, 2008 visit to the Italian Embassy to the Holy See, the misrepresentation in a Zenit report notwithstanding:

"“This brief visit allows me to reaffirm that the Church is very aware that the distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God, that is to say, the distinction between State and Church, is a part of the fundamental structure of Christianity. ... This distinction and autonomy are respected and recognized by the Church which is happy with them, considering them a great progress for humanity and a fundamental condition for its freedom and for fulfilling its universal mission of salvation among the peoples".”
[my emphasis,
VIS 081215 (600)]

Given that the term ‘distinction’ is clearly sufficient for the Holy Father, and use of the term ‘separation’ is at best imprudent, why your insistence on the latter?

Regarding “Religious Freedom FAQ’s”, I have condensed my objections into five questions, each no more than a paragraph when taken with its accompanying explanation, and I have submitted them at that post. You are free, of course, to publish as many or as few of them as you please, and to respond to them, if you wish to respond, at your leisure.
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Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Elizabeth of Portugal, Queen, Widow, A.D. 2009

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