Fr James Schall on the "First Freedom" – RELIGIOUS Freedom

Have you discovered this website yet: The Catholic Thing? The short snappy and to-the-point articles are written by reputable chaps and a few chappesses. They’ve been going since June this year, but I have only just picked up on them, thanks to cross advertising with the First Things site.

Anyway, Fr James Schall of Ignatius Press fame has posted an entry on “The First Freedom”, ie. religious freedom and its relation to the state. Since we have been discussing the topic here, I thought I would link it. Note very carefully that he discusses the matter in relation to the situation of Christians living under the Islamic religious states. He writes:

Christians leaving Muslim states is a direct consequence of a reverse position on religious freedom. Here state and religion are one. Freedom of religion does not mean freedom of “false” religion.

Somewhat ironical when we get some commentators on this blog arguing that “true Catholicism” teaches that “error has no rights”. It is true that some Catholics – even some popes – once taught that. Nowadays, as Fr Schall points out,

“Popes state that teh first freedom, that of religion, is the basic freedom. Other freedoms depend on it. Civil law does not “make” this freedom, but recognizes it as inherent in the human person, whose origin and destiny are not political.”

So, okay, if you want to be picky – or exact – we still teach that “error has no rights” before God. When you front up before your Lord and Maker on Judgement day, and he tells you you have been an unrepentant idolator all your life, you cannot plead “religious freedom” as an excuse.

BUT the doctrine of the right to freedom of conscience in matters of religion is not about a “right” before God, but a “right” before Man. No individual human being or collective body of human beings has the right to impose or forbid religious faith or practice upon another human being individually or collectively. There are, of course, grey areas, such as whether a person can be prohibited from offering live animal sacrifices in their back yard, or whether a person can be prosecuted for religious vilification.

This is where the all important – and very modern – doctrine of reciprocity comes into the discussion. It was all very well for Catholics to endorse laws which required all people living in a Catholic kingdom to adhere to the Catholic religion – but the boot was suddenly on the other foot when the Catholics were living in a Muslim or Communist regime.

There is a saying about walking a mile in another man’s shoes. This saying is very pertinent to the interreligious encounter.

But Fr Schall takes the discussion in another direction. Perhaps, saith he, the problem for the Church is not those places where the Catholics are persecuted and denied religious freedom, but those places where they are not. Far from the Catholic ideal being a Catholic Confessional State aligned to the Church, the ideal may very well be as Chaldean Archbishop Ramzi Garmou of Teheran put it at the Synod on the Word:

“The whole Bible…tells us that faithfulness to the Word of God leads to persecution…. According to the Gospel, persecution is considered as the most eloquent sign of faithfulness to the Word of God.”

Calls for a “Catholic Confessional State” seem to me to be almost parallel to Muslim ideas about the relationships between the religious and the political. Thus, Islam divides the world into two halves, the dar-al-Islam (house of Islam) and the dar-al-Harb (house of war). The aim, in this world view, is to make the whole dar-al-Harb into part of the dar-al-Islam.

No Christian – certainly not Catholics – can buy into a Christianised version of this scheme without selling their birthright. “Here we have no abiding city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Heb 13:14). Contrary to Dan Schutte et aliter, we are not “Building the City of God” here on earth. For us, the world will always be the dar-al-harb, although with the crucial difference that we will always be “more warred against than warring”.

So Fr Schall concludes:

The only way we will be able to spot real Christians is if they are persecuted. “Non-persecuted” Christians ally themselves with the modern state or are converted to the dominant religion. They do not maintain enough Christian doctrine or practice to be threats either to the modern state or to other dominant religions.

I like that idea. Rather than commandeering the State into the service of the Church (“a Catholic Confessional State”) the true context for the Christian Church is that which she occupied in the first three centuries of her existence, and that which she has continued to occupy in the majority of places throughout the world ever since: persecution.

Advertisements

9 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

9 responses to “Fr James Schall on the "First Freedom" – RELIGIOUS Freedom

  1. Louise

    Calls for a “Catholic Confessional State” seem to me to be almost parallel to Muslim ideas about the relationships between the religious and the political.

    They are not. A Catholic Confessional State would not be required to persecute its non-confessing people, whereas it seems to me that forcing people to believe is inherently a part of Islam.

    Fr Schall is quite wrong, on economic matters and I can’t see why he mightn’t also be wrong on matters of politics.

    For us, the world will always be the dar-al-harb, although with the crucial difference that we will always be “more warred against than warring”.

    The application of Islamic terminology to Holy Mother Church is rather repulsive to my sensibilities.

  2. Schütz

    They are not. A Catholic Confessional State would not be required to persecute its non-confessing people, whereas it seems to me that forcing people to believe is inherently a part of Islam.

    Well tell me then, Louise, what the government of your Confessing State would do when someone teaches atheistic views in the university lecture halls? Or School Classroom? Would your Confessing State act to stop them from teaching like this by the application of penalties? If so, would they not be within their rights to consider themselves “persecuted” for their religious views (or otherwise)?

    Or what would the police in your Confessing State do about a person who publishes blasphemous material? Would they be penalised? Wouldn’t they be within their rights to consider that “persecution” for their religious beliefs (or otherwise)?

    Or what about the Mormons who go doorknocking and the JW’s who want to hand out their magazines and the Scientologists who want to run their Reading Rooms and the Christadelphians who want to run their seminars – are they all to be allowed to do so in your “Confessing State”?

    Or what about the Secularists and Humanists and Communists in your “Confessing State”? Are they allowed to form political parties supporting their views? If they get elected to the Parliament, would they have the right to express their views freely and to move legislation for laws contrary to the Confessing State’s Confession? What penalties will there be for such behaviour?

    In short, if there are no penalties for dissent from the official confession of the Confessing State, in what sense will the state be “Confessing”?

    (And on the other matter, re Islamic terms, viewing the world as “dar-al-harb” bears similarity to the traditional Christian description of the “Church Militant”. And don’t forget that in Arabic lands, Christians pray to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ under the name “Allah”).

  3. Louise

    Re: the last matter, I’m not especially taking you to task on that matter; what I dislike may not bother you very much.

    My confessing state? This is hardly my idea, even if I brought it up!

    My understanding of a confessional state is that people would be perfectly free to form their own societies and associations for the purposes of worshipping in private. I can’t particularly see why this might not apply to atheists in their own schools/institutions. I don’t see why they should be permitted to publish whatever they like for distribution to the general community, for the same reason that I don’t think that Nitschke, Singer et al should be permitted to speak their death-mongering hatred of the innocent in public, and for the same reason that mild-mannered secularists such as former Senator Andrew Bartlett thought that the Two Dannies should be censored.

    If you want to make the argument that people were generally better off in the first few centuries after Christ when the Church was persecuted than afterwards when it became the State religion, I will certainly listen to you and it’s a plausible story. You may be right. Maybe more souls will be saved in the West now as things are than if we were in confessing States. That is an argument that can be made and possibly very persuasively.

    However, I’m currently of the opinion that the world would have been worse off, even perhaps to the numbers of souls saved (though I don’t think we can prove it either way) without the Edict of Milan etc.

  4. Schütz

    I’m not arguing that the WORLD would be better off when Christians are in the Church Militant (= dar-al-harb) rather than in the Church Politic (= dar-al-Christendom), I’m arguing that Christianity would be more authentic. Slightly different argument there.

    By “worshipping in private” do you mean “not allowed to build places of public worship”? Do you mean “not allowed to proselytise”? What would happen when they do? Would you put them in jail? Fine them? Chop of their left hand?…

  5. Cardinal Pole

    Mr. Schütz,

    Error has no rights. The State has the right to tolerate error, but the erroneous individual has no right to be tolerated.

    “No individual human being or collective body of human beings has the right to impose or forbid religious faith or practice upon another human being individually or collectively.”

    So the State’s purpose is not the common good, but mere public peace?

    “There are, of course, grey areas, such as whether a person can be prohibited from offering live animal sacrifices in their back yard …”

    By your standards, how is this a grey area? How could you possibly argue for animal sacrifice to be prohibited, so long as it is done in an orderly fashion and so long as the animal is killed as swiftly and painlessly as possible?

    “This is where the all important – and very modern – doctrine of reciprocity comes into the discussion.”

    ‘Reciprocity’ is just a re-badging of the ad hominem argument for Catholics to be permitted freedom in a particular country–the idea that ‘this person/group has religious freedom, so let us have it too’. There have been, historically, three arguments that the Chruch has used in arguing for her freedom: the argument ad hominem, the argument in abstracto (the idea that ‘everyone has the freedom to worship God’, at the level of the subject), and the argument from the veracity of the Church’s Divine mandate (at the level of the object).

    “No Christian – certainly not Catholics – can buy into a Christianised version of this scheme without selling their birthright.”

    You have the sequence mixed up. How many centuries after Constantine was Islam concocted?

  6. eulogos

    We do have as our goal that everyone should be Catholic. Just not by force.

    Susan Peterson

  7. Louise

    By “worshipping in private” do you mean “not allowed to build places of public worship”?

    No. I don’t see why they couldn’t have their communal places of worship.

    Do you mean “not allowed to proselytise”?

    Yes.

    What would happen when they do? Would you put them in jail? Fine them? Chop of their left hand?…

    Well, obviously I would burn them at the stake, I’m that mean.

    Seriously, fines and perhaps prison for repeat offences.

    Even secularists believe that “error has no rights” eg the Two Dannies.

  8. Louise

    I said, “worshipping in private,” but I think there may be degrees of public and private. Schools are both public and private; the general public may not simply waltz into a school and go where they please. It is this kind of middle ground I am thinking of.

  9. Louise

    Susan, nobody is forced to believe what they don’t wish to believe in a Catholic Confessional State (the same probably cannot be said for secular society, particularly as time passes).

    My argument basically rests on the observation that the State is always confessional, even if it’s a bit airy-fairy or not so formal.

    Now, you can argue that the mission of the Church (to save souls) is impeded or enhanced by being in a Catholic Confessional State.

    I’m inclined to think that it will at least not be impeded. And the purpose of this discussion in my mind is to try to get to the bottom of what is true governance. I am after the Truth and I admit that I may be wrong in my understanding, but I don’t think it’s good enough for Catholics to simply go along with the various assumptions of modern society without questioning their truth.

    Pole has said that Americanism is a heresy, for example, and I’m inclined to think this is true, but I have, as yet, only an intuition to that effect. I need to think about it longer.

    Another David at my blog pointed out that because we haven’t defined exactly what a Catholic Confessional State is (well, Pole might have, but I don’t recall) therefore our argument has been “all over the shop.”

    This is probably true, but I cannot yet define it perhaps as well as I ought to be able to. Yet I won’t be able to until I have thrashed out the issue more with people such as your good selves.

    Fot those of us who have a vocation either to politics or political thought, it is important to consider these matters from a philosophical point of view, even if it’s not very practical at this time. One of the missions of the laity is to order temporal matters according to God’s will. We cannot even know what God’s will is if we don’t at least examine the issue in greater depth than just going along with whatever we’ve been brought up by the TV to believe.

    I do not accuse anyone here of this, because David and Pole – for example – have probably done a lot more reading along than I have. But I am speaking of Catholics generally.

    As I say, I may be wrong, but I intend to get to the bottom of it.