Dignitatis Humanae / Religious Liberty
#1
I'm reading probably the best and most digestible book on religious freedom I've come across. It has a nice explanation of conscience, and why it demands a right to be free from coercion in all cases except public peace and order. I highly recommend this read, and think it will add fruit to the discussion of Dignitatis Humanae. I myself will be delving further into the teaching on conscience.

The Right to Be Wrong: Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America by Kevin James Hasson

Here is Mr. Hasson on EWTN describing some of the information in the book.

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#2
Could you perhaps tell us what you found to be novel or useful in this book or in Hasson's thought generally? I watched ten minutes of the video from the mark you provided and he appears to be simply reformulating the standard right-liberal line—not to mention offhandedly undermining the efforts of those like Rev. Harrison and others who try to reconcile DH with prior Catholic teaching, by casually remarking that the right to conscience has nothing to do with truth.

His political analysis is quite dishonest, implying that there are really "pilgrims" out there in our public life who want to impose a single religion on the nation. This is a pure leftist fantasy, on the order with "Jud Süß" or the scares about "capitalist wreckers" in 1930s Russia. It is true that the Pilgrims themselves were intolerant and rigidly theocratic, but their solidity was evaporating even by the death of Cotton Mather in the early 1700s, and by time of the actual founding of our nation you see them offering no resistance to the appearance of heresies such as Transcendentalism and Unitarianism in their very midst. By 1900 American society no longer exercised the slightest token vigilance against even non-Christian faiths such as Judaism or Mormonism.

It seems that Catholic resentment of the informal Protestant establishment of this country will never truly die. It also seems that right-liberal myopia about the inevitable development of their preferred "freedom" into a left-liberal tolerance is still in good health. The universal decision of the Catholic bishops to throw in with the apostatizing WASP and Jewish elite and bring down the even more informal Christian establishment in the 1960s, by pulling out the supports from our last morality legislation, was disastrous.
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#3
(11-21-2012, 10:20 AM)Scriptorium Wrote: I'm reading probably the best and most digestible book on religious freedom I've come across. It has a nice explanation of conscience, and why it demands a right to be free from coercion in all cases except public peace and order. I highly recommend this read, and think it will add fruit to the discussion of Dignitatis Humanae. I myself will be delving further into the teaching on conscience.

The Right to Be Wrong: Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America by Kevin James Hasson

Here is Mr. Hasson on EWTN describing some of the information in the book.


The popes have spoken directly on this topic, so not really a point that I think up for discussion. I can tell from the title and from the short synopsis on Amazon that this book conflicts with Catholic teaching. The title is an oxymoron - nobody has a right to be wrong, although many people claim a license. It is important to understand the distinction in those terms before reading secular books on the topic (books that would have in previous times been condemned).

Pope Leo XIII taught in Libertas (June 20, 1888):
“Right is a moral faculty, and as We have said, and it cannot be too often repeated, it would be absurd to believe that it belongs naturally and without distinction to truth and to lies, to good and to evil.”

Libertas by Pope Leo XIII (June 20, 1888):
“...Civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness — namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges.”

Quanta Cura by Pope Pius IX (December 8, 1864):
“Contrary to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures, of the Church, and of the holy Fathers, these persons do not hesitate to assert that ‘the best condition of human society is that wherein no duty is recognized by the government of correcting, by enacted penalties, the violators of the Catholic religion, except when the maintenance of the public peace requires it.’ From this totally false notion of social government, they fear not to uphold that erroneous opinion most pernicious to the Catholic Church, and to the salvation of souls, which was called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI (lately quoted) the insanity (deliramentum): namely, ‘that the liberty of conscience and of worship is the peculiar (or inalienable) right of every man, which should be proclaimed by law, and that 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.’”

The following propositions were condemned by Pope Pius IX in the Syllabus of Errors (December 8, 1864):
“15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true.”
“55. The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church.”
“77. In the present day, it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.”
“79. Moreover, it is false that the civil liberty of every form of worship, and the full power, given to all, of overtly and publicly manifesting any opinions whatsoever and thoughts, conduce more easily to corrupt the morals and minds of the people, and to propagate the pest of indifferentism.”



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#4
(11-21-2012, 10:53 AM)Cordobes Wrote: Could you perhaps tell us what you found to be novel or useful in this book or in Hasson's thought generally? I watched ten minutes of the video from the mark you provided and he appears to be simply reformulating the standard right-liberal line—not to mention offhandedly undermining the efforts of those like Rev. Harrison and others who try to reconcile DH with prior Catholic teaching, by casually remarking that the right to conscience has nothing to do with truth.

He boils it down nicely. Conscience does have something to do with truth, and he states that. He says on one hand that religious freedom doesn't arise because of a statement of truth, meaning that freedom comes before the action, not after it. On the other hand, he states that religious freedom arises because of our nature as creatures created in God's image and likeness. It is based on that truth. The video summarizes his thoughts quite nicely. They are essentially DH, so I don't see how this works against others who are trying to reconcile statements.

(11-21-2012, 10:53 AM)Cordobes Wrote: His political analysis is quite dishonest, implying that there are really "pilgrims" out there in our public life who want to impose a single religion on the nation.

Really? There are many traditionalists like this. There are Muslims like this. I am sure any "ultra-conservative" religious movement is involved in this. Furthermore, when there are people who say you can't have a minorah in a shopping mall because it isn't Christian, they're part of that group. There are numerous cases of people like this either in unique cases or general attitude.


(11-21-2012, 11:52 AM)Aenigmata in Tenebris Wrote: The title is an oxymoron - nobody has a right to be wrong, although many people claim a license.

It means that the right to religious freedom doesn't cease just because someone is mistaken in their judgement of truth. He also makes the distinction that the right is for the truth, to seek the truth.

Also note that in your quotes, and all the quotes of that time, they are addressing an unrestrained (subjective) liberty -- "promiscuously equal rights and privileges", "to be restrained by no law", "that religion which he shall consider true", and "manifesting any opinions". This book, and DH, never teach that. The right is always circumscribed by demands of public peace and morals. All are also bound by conscience to seek the truth and hold to it. So the freedom is in nowise unrestrained.

The book does a fine job of explaining this in a succinct manner, with stories to illustrate the principles.
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#5
Paul H. Hallett, National Catholic Register, July 3, 1977 Wrote:The Declaration on Religious Liberty is not a statement of faith. Neither does it appeal to the traditional teaching of the Church on religious freedom. Hence it is not disloyalty to faith to seek a clarification of its ambiguities. Nothing is gained by pretending that they do not exist.

[...]

It could and should include protection against anything that seriously threatens the welfare of the people. Thus a truly Christian state would repress the televising of a play denying the divinity of Christ, even though no palpable disturbance resulted.

In his encyclical of 1864, Quanta Cura, Pius IX reprimanded those who, "contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture and the Fathers, deliberately affirm that the best form of government is that in which no obligation is recognized in the civil power to punish, with specific penalties, the violators of the Catholic religion, save insofar as the public peace demands."
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#6
(11-21-2012, 12:31 PM)Scriptorium Wrote: They are essentially DH, so I don't see how this works against others who are trying to reconcile statements.

They work against others who are trying to reconcile because he must rest only on the freedom angle of DH, and relegates the truth angle to a totally dependent position.

(11-21-2012, 12:31 PM)Scriptorium Wrote: Really? There are many traditionalists like this. There are Muslims like this. I am sure any "ultra-conservative" religious movement is involved in this. Furthermore, when there are people who say you can't have a minorah in a shopping mall because it isn't Christian, they're part of that group. There are numerous cases of people like this either in unique cases or general attitude.

This is not taking reality seriously. When was the last time an American statesman of any note called for the institution of a single religion in the United States? That is what the author claimed to be true in the past or present in his video, which is simply untrue. What is the motive for that sort of deceptive argumentation? It smells of desperation to justify the liberal program.

(11-21-2012, 12:31 PM)Scriptorium Wrote: Also note that in your quotes, and all the quotes of that time, they are addressing an unrestrained (subjective) liberty -- "promiscuously equal rights and privileges", "to be restrained by no law", "that religion which he shall consider true", and "manifesting any opinions". This book, and DH, never teach that. The right is always circumscribed by demands of public peace and morals. All are also bound by conscience to seek the truth and hold to it. So the freedom is in nowise unrestrained.

In the first place, "bound by conscience to seek the truth" is not a restraint at all, but a sort of hopeful exhortation. Regarding "public peace and morals," could you give one example of an instance in which this would be sufficient grounds to restrict a practice of any real religion? We see that the freedom is for nearly all purposes unrestrained.
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#7
(11-21-2012, 02:38 PM)Cordobes Wrote: This is not taking reality seriously. When was the last time an American statesman of any note called for the institution of a single religion in the United States? That is what the author claimed to be true in the past or present in his video, which is simply untrue. What is the motive for that sort of deceptive argumentation? It smells of desperation to justify the liberal program.

Sure, but there are places like Iran. I think he is rather up front about his views. He also says quite plainly that the primary threat in our day is from the "Park Rangers" who want to bury all religion in public. Watch the video again and you'll see that he states that plainly.

(11-21-2012, 02:38 PM)Cordobes Wrote: In the first place, "bound by conscience to seek the truth" is not a restraint at all, but a sort of hopeful exhortation.

I would not agree with you. Many a martyr went to his death because of his obligation to obey his conscience. Furthermore, it is a sin to act against conscience when one knows something as certain. Thus how can it be a duty and a right to coerce someone to act against his conscience?

Summ. Theo., I-II, Q. 19, Art. 5 Wrote:As stated in the I, 79, 13, conscience is nothing else than the application of knowledge to some action. Now knowledge is in the reason. Therefore when the will is at variance with erring reason, it is against conscience. But every such will is evil; for it is written (Romans 14:23): "All that is not of faith"--i.e. all that is against conscience--"is sin." Therefore the will is evil when it is at variance with erring reason.

I answer that, Since conscience is a kind of dictate of the reason (for it is an application of knowledge to action, as was stated in the I, 19, 13), to inquire whether the will is evil when it is at variance with erring reason, is the same as to inquire "whether an erring conscience binds." On this matter, some distinguished three kinds of actions: for some are good generically; some are indifferent; some are evil generically. And they say that if reason or conscience tell us to do something which is good generically, there is no error: and in like manner if it tell us not to do something which is evil generically; since it is the same reason that prescribes what is good and forbids what is evil. On the other hand if a man's reason or conscience tells him that he is bound by precept to do what is evil in itself; or that what is good in itself, is forbidden, then his reason or conscience errs. In like manner if a man's reason or conscience tell him, that what is indifferent in itself, for instance to raise a straw from the ground, is forbidden or commanded, his reason or conscience errs. They say, therefore, that reason or conscience when erring in matters of indifference, either by commanding or by forbidding them, binds: so that the will which is at variance with that erring reason is evil and sinful. But they say that when reason or conscience errs in commanding what is evil in itself, or in forbidding what is good in itself and necessary for salvation, it does not bind; wherefore in such cases the will which is at variance with erring reason or conscience is not evil.

But this is unreasonable. For in matters of indifference, the will that is at variance with erring reason or conscience, is evil in some way on account of the object, on which the goodness or malice of the will depends; not indeed on account of the object according as it is in its own nature; but according as it is accidentally apprehended by reason as something evil to do or to avoid. And since the object of the will is that which is proposed by the reason, as stated above (Article 3), from the very fact that a thing is proposed by the reason as being evil, the will by tending thereto becomes evil. And this is the case not only in indifferent matters, but also in those that are good or evil in themselves. For not only indifferent matters can received the character of goodness or malice accidentally; but also that which is good, can receive the character of evil, or that which is evil, can receive the character of goodness, on account of the reason apprehending it as such. For instance, to refrain from fornication is good: yet the will does not tend to this good except in so far as it is proposed by the reason. If, therefore, the erring reason propose it as an evil, the will tends to it as to something evil. Consequently the will is evil, because it wills evil, not indeed that which is evil in itself, but that which is evil accidentally, through being apprehended as such by the reason. In like manner, to believe in Christ is good in itself, and necessary for salvation: but the will does not tend thereto, except inasmuch as it is proposed by the reason. Consequently if it be proposed by the reason as something evil, the will tends to it as to something evil: not as if it were evil in itself, but because it is evil accidentally, through the apprehension of the reason. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. vii, 9) that "properly speaking the incontinent man is one who does not follow right reason; but accidentally, he is also one who does not follow false reason." We must therefore conclude that, absolutely speaking, every will at variance with reason, whether right or erring, is always evil.

...

But when erring reason proposes something as being commanded by God, then to scorn the dictate of reason is to scorn the commandment of God.

Decretales Gregorii Papae IX cum glossis (Lyons, 1624), gloss ad bk. 5, tit. 39, chap. 44 Wrote:One ought to endure excommunication rather than sin ... no one ought to act against his own conscience and he should follow his conscience rather than the judgement of the Church when he is certain ... one ought to suffer any evil rather than sin against conscience.


(11-21-2012, 02:38 PM)Cordobes Wrote: Regarding "public peace and morals," could you give one example of an instance in which this would be sufficient grounds to restrict a practice of any real religion? We see that the freedom is for nearly all purposes unrestrained.

Jihad. The imposition of certain aspects of sharia law on us.
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#8
(11-21-2012, 03:16 PM)Scriptorium Wrote: Sure, but there are places like Iran. I think he is rather up front about his views. He also says quite plainly that the primary threat in our day is from the "Park Rangers" who want to bury all religion in public. Watch the video again and you'll see that he states that plainly.

Well now we are getting somewhere, but still the purpose seems to be hidden. Are we working, concentrating our efforts, to promote religious freedom and state neutrality as the principle in the United States in a bankshot attempt to get Iran and other countries that persecute Christians to institute a similar religious freedom in quid pro quo? Does this sound plausible to you? Is it fair to the people of America  that their own good—that is, a society that favors and protects its identity and health as a Christian society—be sacrificed in the interests of dubious international projects?

Scriptorium Wrote:Thus how can it be a duty and a right to coerce someone to act against his conscience?

Perhaps I was not clear. In your earlier post, you said to another poster that the "obligation to obey conscience" was a duty upon individuals that acted as a restraint on an "unrestrained religious freedom." I was pointing out that it is merely a hopeful exhortation to say that all men will care about such an obligation and will use it correctly to arrive at the true religion or even just a less false religion. This obligation to obey conscience is not a restriction on religious liberty at all, which is what you now seem to be saying.  We are left with only the restrictions of "public order and morals."

Scriptorium Wrote:Jihad. The imposition of certain aspects of sharia law on us.

Good. Since jihad and sharia law are integral elements of Islam, would a state operating under a proper acceptance of DH be permitted to prohibit construction of new mosques, or ban public advocacy of Islam, or teach Christianity in its schools, or not allow immigration from Islamic countries? Or is the state bound to only prohibit the actual manifestation of violence from Muslims, and do nothing about the growth of the Muslim religion in its body politic except hope that they treat us as they have been treated?
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#9
(11-21-2012, 03:56 PM)Cordobes Wrote: This obligation to obey conscience is not a restriction on religious liberty at all, which is what you now seem to be saying.  We are left with only the restrictions of "public order and morals."

No, it is a true restriction, it is just one from within, nor from without. The internal restriction is the obligation to seek truth and adhere to the truth we know. The external restriction is public order.

(11-21-2012, 03:56 PM)Cordobes Wrote: [quote='Scriptorium']
Since jihad and sharia law are integral elements of Islam, would a state operating under a proper acceptance of DH be permitted to prohibit construction of new mosques, or ban public advocacy of Islam, or teach Christianity in its schools, or not allow immigration from Islamic countries? Or is the state bound to only prohibit the actual manifestation of violence from Muslims, and do nothing about the growth of the Muslim religion in its body politic except hope that they treat us as they have been treated?

It would seem to limit breeches of public order. It would operate on the same principle of law that they are innocent until proven guilty. Also it is well known that many Muslims practice their religions without a violent doctrine of jihad, nor a desire to impose sharia law on others, or even themselves. Outside of those breeches, persuasion would be the tool to combat Islam.
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#10
I see. We have been using different definitions, that's the trouble. Well an internal restriction is well and good but it does not have any effect on questions of public governance and social order, which is what DH purports to do.

Yes, many Muslims, such as a close friend of mine, practice their faith without a thought to jihad or sharia law; but they are bad Muslims. Whenever a Muslim community listens to its conscience and returns to a higher, more devout expression of its faith, it returns to sharia principles. But I don't want to get off-track too much. It seems that DH, at least in this interpretation, is still just a rather unoriginal reproduction of shopworn liberalism. It forces us to waste energy trying to achieve neutral or bad things, and forces us back into one particular intellectual dead-end of a Western culture which is already disintegrating.
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