Okay, he might not be quite “in the grave” yet, but I certainly found reading this paper by Cardinal Avery Dulles in First Things very useful to the discussion on the doctrine of religious freedom.
Challenged by Josh on the point that I might be veering away from the teaching of Catholic Tradition and Magisterium on this matter and “not quite sentire cum ecclesia” (SHOCK! HORROR! GASP!), I think I can make a small adjustment to my guidance system that will get me back on track.
In particular I found this helpful:
It is clear, according to DH, that “society will itself benefit from the fruits of justice and peace that result from people’s fidelity to God and His holy will.” These religious responsibilities are in line with what Leo XIII designated as the “care of religion.”
Vatican II did not adopt the liberal concept of the religiously or morally neutral State—one that concerns itself only with civil peace and material prosperity. Many bishops at Vatican II feared that the Council would deny the duty of the civil government toward the one true religion as affirmed by a whole series of popes. DH stated explicitly that the one true religion subsists in the Catholic Church and that it accepted “the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral obligation of individuals and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.” The question was raised whether this meant that the obligation rested on the citizens, as distinct from the State. On this issue, as on the supposed right to profess error, Bishop De Smedt in his final relatio gave a decisive answer. He explained that the text, as revised, did not overlook or deny but clearly recalled Leo XIII’s teaching on the duties of the public authority (potestatis publicae) toward the true religion. These words may be taken as an official commentary on the text-indeed, the only official commentary we have on this particular point.
We may therefore conclude that DH does not negate earlier Catholic teaching on the duties of the State toward the true faith.
So. Okay. Let’s get this clear.
1) The State is not to be religiously or morally neutral
2) The obligation “toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ” does not rest only with citizens (what I have been calling “society”) but also with the State
3) The State therefore does have a duty of a “care of religion” which is directed twoard the advancement of “the true faith”.
I concede all that. The question is: HOW?
How is the State – and I don’t think it is helpful to talk in the abstract – so let’s be specific – how is the State of the Commonwealth of Australia to carry out this duty of care toward the one true faith?
Dulles answers that in the next couple of paragraphs:
Speaking to a worldwide community in a period of rapid flux, Vatican II wisely refrained from trying to specify exactly what kind of help the Church ought to expect from the State.
That question must be variously answered according to the constitution of the State, the religious makeup of the population, and the traditions of the society. No one formula could be suitable for all countries today, though any legitimate arrangement must, as I have already said, respect the rights of all citizens.
The main difference between the doctrine of the nineteenth-century popes and that of DH is in the means that each envisages. Pius IX and Leo XIII, writing in an age when paternalistic monarchies were still normal in most Catholic countries, evidently preferred to see the Catholic Church in a legally privileged position.
Vatican II, speaking within a more democratic and religiously pluralistic situation, placed greater reliance on indirect support. If the State would simply establish conditions under which the Church could carry on its mission unimpeded, it would do more for the Church than many Christian princes had done in the past.
On the final day of the Council, December 8, 1965, Pope Paul VI addressed to temporal rulers the question: “What does the Church ask of you today?” And he answered: “She tells you in one of the major documents of this Council. She asks of you only liberty, the liberty to believe and to preach her faith, the freedom to love her God and serve Him, the freedom to live and to bring to men her message of life.”
That, to me is the answer to the question “How can we expect the Australian State to carry out its duty of care to the one true religion”.
In short, it is to provide that degree of liberty for all its citizens which make it possible for every member of society to seek and find the Truth which alone can make us free. The State cannot legally impose religious practice or belief – this is fundamental. But by not in any way restricting the Church’s freedom to preach and teach the Gospel, by actively protecting the Church’s right to conduct her activities in Australian society and her members the right to participate fully in the public square, and by freely cooperating with the Church to enable her to fulfil her mission in our land, the Australian State fulfils its duty toward the one true Church.
The fact of the matter is that in our Australian context (I do not speak of any other context anywhere else – although I dare say it applies fairly universally) this freedom and protection and cooperation is best achieved where ALL CITIZENS AND RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES are granted the same freedom and protection and cooperation of the State. In doing this the State is not acting in a “religiously or morally neutral way” nor need it endorse a “relativistic” understanding of the metaphysical validity of all religious ideas and creeds. It is simply enabling that liberty that is necessary for all her citizens to seek and to find the Truth that the Church proclaims.