Monday, February 13, 2012

The Rise and Fall of Liberty: the Church's Error

Mid-length essay on the history of "freedom of religion."   An alternative title could be "Why the Road to Hell is Paved With the Skulls of Bishops."

...There was a time when Roman Catholicism was the great defender not only of its own liberty but of that of others. There was a time when the prelates recognized that the liberty of the church to govern itself in light of its guiding principles was inseparable from the liberty of other corporate bodies and institutions to do the same.... in the course of defending its autonomy against the secular power, the Roman Catholic Church asserted the liberty of other corporate bodies and even, in some measure, the liberty of individuals. To see what I have in mind one need only examine Magna Carta,...

Those were the 'good old days.'

Things went south after the Reformation.

...In Protestant lands, it tended to strengthen the secular power and to promote a monarchical absolutism unknown to the Middle Ages. Lutheranism and Anglicanism were, in effect, Caesaro-Papist. In Catholic lands, it caused the spiritual power to shelter itself behind the secular power and become, in many cases, an appendage of that power. But the Reformation and the religious strife to which it gave rise also posed to the secular power an almost insuperable problem – how to secure peace and domestic tranquility in a world marked by sectarian competition. Limited government – i. e., a government limited in its scope – was the solution ultimately found, and John Locke was its proponent.

In the nascent American republic, this principle was codified in its purest form in the First Amendment to the Constitution. But it had additional ramifications as well – for the government’s scope was limited also in other ways. There were other amendments that made up what we now call the Bill of Rights, and many of the states prefaced their constitutions with bills of rights or added them as appendices. These were all intended to limit the scope of the government. They were all designed to protect the right of individuals to life, liberty, the acquisition and possession of property, and the pursuit of happiness as these individuals understood happiness. Put simply, liberty of conscience was part of a larger package

This is what the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church forgot. In the 1930s, the majority of the  bishops, priests, and nuns sold their souls to the devil, and they did so with the best of intentions. In their concern for the suffering of those out of work and destitute, they wholeheartedly embraced the New Deal.

You'll wait a long, long, long time to hear Abp Tim Dolan say "We're sorry for that."

The pass we've come to as a result?

...the leaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States – the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity – and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism – the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it

The fact that the Protestants came along for the ride is cold comfort.

...the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has lost much of its moral authority. It has done so largely because it has subordinated its teaching of Catholic moral doctrine to its ambitions regarding an expansion of the administrative entitlements state. In 1973, when the Supreme Court made its decision in Roe v. Wade, had the bishops, priests, and nuns screamed bloody murder and declared war, as they have recently done, the decision would have been reversed. Instead, under the leadership of Joseph Bernadin, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago, they asserted that the social teaching of the Church was a “seamless garment,” and they treated abortion as one concern among many.

Ah, yes.  Bernardin.  Chicago again. the 1980s, when Cardinal Bernadin was the chief leader of the American Church and the man most closely consulted when the Vatican selected its bishops, it became evident to the American prelates that they had a problem – that, in many a diocese, there were priests of a homoerotic orientation who were sexual predators – pederasts inclined to take advantage of young boys. They could have faced up to the problem at that time; they could have turned in the malefactors to the secular authorities; they could have prevented their further contact with the young. Instead, almost certainly at the instigation of Cardinal Bernadin, they opted for another policy. They hushed everything up, sent the priests off for psychological counseling, and reassigned them to other parishes or even dioceses – where they continued to prey on young boys. In the same period, a number of the seminaries in which young men were trained for the priesthood became, in effect, brothels – and nothing was done about any of this until the newspapers broke the story and the lawsuits began.

There is, I would suggest, a connection between the heretical doctrine propagated by Cardinal Bernadin in the Gannon Lecture and the difficulties that the American Church now faces. Those who seek to create heaven on earth and who, to this end, subvert the liberty of others and embrace the administrative entitlements state will sooner or later become its victims.

Umnnhhh, not for nothing is Pride the progenitive principal Vice.


Badger Catholic said...

Good stuff!

Anonymous said...

"In 1973, when the Supreme Court made its decision in Roe v. Wade, had the bishops, priests, and nuns screamed bloody murder and declared war, as they have recently done, the decision would have been reversed."

A leap of faith on the part of the author, who certainly enjoys blaming Protestants, modern liberalism, and Chicago. Interesting read, to be sure, all based on HIS version of "truth".

Grim said...

I have been thinking about this argument today, and will continue to think about it tomorrow. It has some severe weaknesses, but also some strengths; I will try to put something together over the next day or so.

schmenz said...

This problem of Episcopal malfeasance in the face of government isn't new in America. It's been a problem for a long, long time. Leo XIII in Testem Benevolentiae called it "Americanism".

Good read: