In response to this blog by His Eminence, Louise has suggested that “it should be pretty obvious by now that what we need is a Catholic Confessional State”.
Bad idea, Lou. VERY bad idea. Religious freedom is a fundamental human right, and I don’t know of any “confessional state” in history or in the present which has successfully maintained and defended this right for all its citizens and the strangers dwelling within its borders (except perhaps the Vatican City State! Or maybe the United Kingdom, which could – at a stretch – be called a “confessional” state in so far as it has a religion which is established by the State, but that would be stretching the meaning of the word “confessional” to breaking point…)
But Louise suggests it would be all OK if “no-one is forced to observe the confessional religion if they do not wish to.”
Then what do you mean by a “Confessional”state? And what would be the purpose of it?
How would a Catholic Confessional state defend itself against the charge of forcing others to observe the dictates of a certain religion against their wishes, when its governing power (acting as a confessionally Catholic body) is obliged to uphold the moral teachings of the Catholic confession?
And if there were no such obligation for the governing power to uphold the Confessional religion (eg. as in the UK today), what would be achieved by having such an official state religion in the first place?
The separation of church and state is a “good thing” in our society. In case you disagree, just take a look at the various Islamic confessional states where Sharia holds sway. (and for an interesting article on that, see this article by a Muslim author in the latest First Things issue).
What is a “bad thing” is the separation of Christians from the State, or Christians who separate their Christianity from the State. OR, for that matter, when anyone at all feels the need to leave their religious convictions (whatever they may be) indoors when they venture out into the public square.
IOW, what we need is not a “Catholic Confessional State” but simply more confessional Catholics involved in our State.
This is not to deny that Christ is King over the State as well as the Church (not even the Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms denies that).
But his reign over the State can only be recognised by those who accept his reign over their hearts. And those in political power who do recognise Christ as King of their own hearts must also recognise that he is King over the State. In this they will recognise their duty as subjects of Christ the King to enact His Reign in their society by defending the human dignity of each and every human being within it. This includes protecting their religious freedom.
May I recomment re-reading the second half of Pope Benedict’s first Encyclical (or in fact anything he has said before or since his election on this matter) for an understanding of the proper relation between Church and State in Catholic teaching.