A collection of personal reflections. Copyright © 2005-2011 K. Gurries

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On Religious Freedom and Natural Law

Religious freedom, as a civic right, has its foundation in the natural law:

“The believer has an absolute right to profess his faith and live according to its dictates.   Laws which impede this profession and practice of faith are against the natural law.” (Pius XI, Mit Brennender Sorge, 1937)

This basic right is closely linked to another right rooted in the natural law and mentioned by Pius XI in the same context: “Parents who are earnest and conscious of their educative duties, have a primary right to the education of the children God has given them in the spirit of their Faith, and according to its prescriptions.  Laws and measures which…fail to respect this freedom of the parents go against natural law, and are immoral.” (ibid.)  Such rights are correlative to duties belonging to all men (Catholic and non-Catholic) by virtue of the natural law that has been inscribed onto all hearts.  In this sense, St. Thomas teaches: “Man is directed to God by his reason, whereby he can know Him.  Hence a child before coming to the use of reason, in the natural order of things, is directed to God by its parents' reason, under whose care it lies by nature: and it is for them to dispose of the child in all matters relating to God.”  (S.T. ii-ii, 10, 12)  But must the temporal authority tolerate any kind of religious practice?  Here we must distinguish, following St. Thomas, the two kinds of religious practices.

Two Kinds of Religious Practices 

All men have a duty and corresponding right to obey the prescriptions of the natural moral law.  Therefore, all men have a natural right to civic religious freedom within the [due] limits of the objective moral order as expressed by the natural moral law.  In this sense, we may distinguish between two kinds of religious practices:

St. Thomas…rightly distinguishes two kinds of religious practices: there are those which go against reason and against God insofar as he can be recognized through nature and through the natural powers of the soul, e.g., the worship of idols, etc. Others are contrary to the Christian religion and to its commands not because they are evil in themselves or contrary to reason as, for example, the practices of Jews and even many of the customs of Mohammedans and such unbelievers who believe in one true God.  (Suarez, Tract. de Fide Disp. 18 Sect. III, n. 10)

Religious practices in violation of the natural moral law should not be tolerated by civil authorities unless greater evils would ensue.

Regarding the first, the Church may not tolerate them on the part of her own unbelieving subjects. But that is merely the general principle. It may happen often that Christian rulers cannot prevent even such practices without causing greater harm to the nation and to the Christian inhabitants. In that case, the ruler may tolerate such evil with a clear conscience on the basis of what Christ said to the servant who asked the master whether they should remove the weeds from the field. He replied, 'No, or perhaps while you are gathering the tares you will root up the wheat with them.' (idid. sect. IV, n. 9)

But what are we to think of the second type of non-Catholic religious practice that conforms to the natural law but not to divinely revealed truth?  At a first glance, it could seem tempting to follow the Jansenist error by condemning all that does not univocally conform to supernatural truth: “Everything which is not in accordance with supernatural Christian faith, which works through charity, is a sin.” (DZ. 1301)  Here we must distinguish the “believer” in relation to the supernatural Christian faith from the “believer” in relation to the natural law.  Thus, Suarez indicates those “practices of Jews and even many of the customs of Mohammedans and such unbelievers who believe in one true God.”  Additional light is shed on this distinction by Pope St. Gregory VII in his letter to King Anazir: 

Thou and We are bound therefore by this charity peculiar among us, compared to the remainder of the nations, that we believe in and confess one God, although in a different way, Who we praise and venerate daily as Creator of the ages and Ruler of the same world. (Pope St. Gregory VII, Ep. 21, to Anzir, King of Mauritania, PL 148, col. 451A)

Hanc itaque charitatem nos et vos specialibus nobis quam caeteris gentibus debemus, qui unum Deum, licet diverso modo, credimus et confitemur, qui eum Creatorem saeculorum et gubernatorem hujus mundi quotidie laudamus et veneramur. 

Therefore, religious practices that are in conformity with the natural moral law must be tolerated for the sake of “greater benefits” or a superior good – natural liberty or the right to exercise responsible human freedom:

"Temporal government has its origin in divine government, and it must, therefore to the extent that it can, imitate it. God, however, though He is almighty and infinite, permits certain evils to occur on earth, even though He could prevent them from occurring. He does this because, first of all, by preventing evil in this manner He would deprive man of greater benefits and secondly, because therefore greater evils would result." (ST. ii-ii, 10, 11)

To this Bishop Ketteler adds the following commentary: “The greater benefits which St. Thomas had in mind here are not hard to determine. God would have to deprive a man of his liberty which is the highest endowment that man has, if He were to deny a man every possibility of abusing that liberty.  Applying that principle to temporal governments, St. Thomas concluded that they too must tolerate certain evils, and he stated finally: ‘Even though the non-believers sin because of their religious practices, these must nevertheless be tolerated, either because of the good that they still have in them, or because of the greater evil that would result.’” (Cf. Ketteler, Freedom, Authority and the Church)  In addition to the “greater benefits” of natural liberty required for moral action, we have to consider the [due] limits of temporal authority in the religious sphere as well as the [due] limits of ecclesiastical authority over those “not subject to the spiritual authority of the Church”:

“As regards the other religious practices of unbelievers which go contrary to Christian beliefs but not counter to natural reason, there is no doubt but that the unbelievers, even though they are subjects, may not be forced to abandon them. Rather the Church has to tolerate them.  St. Gregory addressed himself clearly to this problem regarding Jews, and he forbade anyone to deprive them of their synagogues or to prevent them from observing their religious practices therein. (Lib. I Epistol. 34) Elsewhere he reaffirmed that no one should prevent Jews from participating in their religious observances. (Lib. II. Ep. 15) The reason is that such observances do not in themselves violate the natural law, and therefore, the temporal power of even a Christian ruler does not confer a right to forbid them. Such action would be based on the fact that what is being done goes contrary to the Christian Faith, but that is not enough to compel those who are not subject to the spiritual authority of the Church. This opinion is also supported by the fact that such a ban would involve, to some extent, forcing people to accept the Faith; and that is never permitted.” (Suarez, op. cit.)

But what are the consequences of this in terms of the political organization of states?  The religious practices of the second type that conform to the natural moral law can give rise to two basic types of temporal regime depending upon the unity or plurality of faith convictions in the body politic (Cf. Journet, The Church of the Word Incarnate, Sheed and Ward, 1955, pp. 214-215).  The secular state is constituted on the basis of temporal affinities of nature whereas the sacral state is constituted also on the basis of supernatural bonds or unity of faith.

The Sacral State

The relational model between Church and State as it existed in the Middle Ages was constituted on the basis of supernatural bonds or unity in faith in addition to merely natural bonds (natural law + divine positive law).  In such circumstances there is virtually no distinction between the citizen of the civil society (state) and the member of the Mystical Body of Christ (Church).  In this context, full civic rights of citizenship (including religious freedom) are accorded on the basis of unity in faith and membership in the Church.  Such a model conforms to the teaching of Suarez insofar as all the citizens are morally and socially bound by the same faith convictions.  In this case, obedience to the natural law and the positive divine law is univocally applied to each member of civil society.  The "due limits" in such a social context necessarily excludes the spread of heresy that militates against public order and the common good in a society held together by common bonds of faith.  A member who renounces his Catholic faith or falls into formal heresy, in this civil context, violates the natural moral law insofar as he violates the norms of public order and the subjective norm of morality (conscience).  Such a state naturally treats heresy as an act of sedition that militates against public order and the common good of society held together by a common faith.  While non-Catholics were generally not accorded rights of citizenship in this context, the worship of non-Catholics legally residing in a territory was tolerated (privately and publicly) by the civil authorities to the extent that it conformed to the prescriptions of the natural moral law.       

The Secular State

With the advent of globalization the supernatural bonds of a common faith linking together the various members of civil society began to erode.  In this modern context the secular state is constituted exclusively on the basis of natural bonds (natural law) rather than supernatural ones.  In this scenario there is a clear distinction between membership in the supernatural society (Church) and citizenship in the natural and temporal society (state).  Civil rights are granted to all regardless of faith convictions and the various religious practices are tolerated according to the principles and within the [due] limits outlined above.  The Catholic who falls into formal heresy, while subjectively guilty of a serious sin, does not violate the [objective] moral order as expressed by the natural moral law nor does he pose a threat to public order in civil society.  In this context heresy, no longer punishable as a civil crime, is dealt with exclusively by ecclesiastical authorities.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

On Globalization and Political Authority

In order to establish and maintain the common good in the context of globalization, Pope Benedict XVI has renewed the call for the establishment of a “world political authority” (Cf. Caritas in Veritate, 67).  Does the existence of a globalized society necessitate a global political authority?  Does such a concept have roots in the traditional social teaching of the Church?  We will consider this question first from the perspective of the natural law (social philosophy or natural ethics) and secondly from the teaching of the Popes in modern times.  Before exploring these questions, however, we will inquire into the nature of the phenomenon of globalization to better understand the precise meaning of the term.

What is Globalization?

Pope Benedicts XVI defines globalization as the “explosion of worldwide interdependence” (Caritas in Veritatis, 33) and that “globalization, a priori, is neither good nor bad.  It will be what people make of it” (Caritas in Veritatis, 42).  We can say that individual nations begin to lose their status as a “perfect society” insofar as they begin to lose their self-sufficiency and begin relying on interdependencies within a body or community of nations.  This process has largely been the result of economic expansion enabled by advances in technology.  In practical terms we can say that individual nations have become less autonomous and the vastness of the world has become effectively “smaller”.  Jacques Maritain makes the following observations on the phenomenon of globalization:

“The basic fact is the henceforth unquestionable interdependence of nations, a fact which is not a token of peace, as people for a moment believed in their wishful thinking, but a token of war: why? Because that interdependence of nations is essentially an economic interdependence, not a politically agreed-upon, willed, and built up interdependence, in other words, because it has come to exist by virtue of a merely technical or material process, not by virtue of a simultaneous genuinely political or rational process…Quoting a statement of Mr. Emery Reves, Mortimer Adler, in his chapter on The Economic Community, points out that ‘the technical developments which render the world smaller, and its parts more interdependent, can have two consequences: 1) a political and economic rapprochement, or 2) fights and quarrels more devastating than ever, precisely because of the proximity of men to each other.  Which one of these two possibilities will occur depends on matters essentially nontechnical.’  And he rightly adds: ‘Both will occur within the next great historic epoch, but the second before the first.’” (Cf. Maritain, Man and the State, CUA Press, p. 189)

Globalization by Chance or by Design?

Pope Benedict XVI warns us not to consider the process of globalization in “fatalistic” terms or from a “deterministic” standpoint that can only perceive the “material” dimension.  We must consider above all the human, cultural and theological dimensions where the "earthly city" becomes to a certain extent "an anticipation and a prefiguration of the undivided city of God." (Caritas in Veritate, 7) In this light, the “truth of globalization as a process and its fundamental ethical criterion are given by the unity of the human family and its development towards what is good” (Caritas in Veritate, 42).  Pope Pius XII indicates that this development is not simply by chance, but one willed by God and part of the Divine plan:

“The Christian therefore cannot remain indifferent to the evolution of the world.  If he sees now in rough outline a development, under the pressure of event, of a constantly narrowing international community, he knows that this unification, willed by the Creator, ought to culminate in a union of minds and hearts which is held together by a common faith and a common love.  Not only can he, but he must, work for the achievement of this community still in the process of formation.  The example and the plan of the Divine Master are, for him, a beacon and an incomparable source of strength.  All men are his brothers, not only in virtue of their common origin and their participation in the same nature but also, in a more pressing way, in virtue of their common calling to the supernatural life.  Sustained by this certitude, the Christian is in a position to gauge to what extent God wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth; for there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, Himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.” (Pius XII, Address to the Eleventh Plenary Assembly of the International Movement of Catholic Intellectuals, April 25, 1957)

Therefore, globalization has effectively placed Catholics side-by-side with non-Catholic neighbors as noted by Journet: “Since the days of the medieval Church, a field in which wheat alone was sown, but enclosed in the narrow limits of the West, Providence has prepared a new era in which tares are to be mixed with the wheat but the field is to cover all the earth” (Cf. Journet, The Church of the Word Incarnate pp. 283-284).  The reason for God’s designs remains a mystery, however, we can be assured that the ultimate purpose is for the good of mankind.  For example, globalization in this sense positions Catholics to act as a leaven in practically every corner of the world in order that all men, in union with Christ, come to call upon God as “Our Father!” (Cf. Caritas in Veritatis, 79)  For their part, Catholics can benefit from the practice of moral and social virtues that would remain more or less dormant by living solely among like-minded fellow Catholics.  Such a scenario necessarily puts Christians in a position of having to collaborate with people of various cultures and religious traditions.  Often it involves the cooperation in “secular” organizations, such as the United Nations, that have no explicit reference to God or religion.  Is this permissible for Catholics?  At a first glance, it may seem tempting to reject such a notion as participation in "naturalism" or "secular humanism" that seems necessarily opposed to supernatural truth and the Kingship of Christ.  Yet Pope Pius XII denounces this tendency as the error of a “one-sided supernaturalism.”  (Cf. Pius XII, Christmas Message, December 24, 1954)  Pope Pius XII continues:

“Does this mean that one cannot collaborate in the service of the world community with those institutions where God is not expressly recognized as the author and legislator of the universe?  It is important to distinguish here the different levels of cooperation.  Without forgetting that his ultimate goal is to contribute to the eternal salvation of his brothers, the Christian will be mindful that the coming of the Kingdom of God in hearts and institutions most often requires a minimum of human enlightenment, a simple appeal to reason with which every man normally concurs, even if he has not the grace of faith.” (Pius XII, Address to the Eleventh Plenary Assembly of the International Movement of Catholic Intellectuals, April 25, 1957)

By this we understand that the social Kingship of Christ over social institutions and nations in the temporal order – while sustained and perfected by the order of grace – finds its center of gravity in the order of reason and the natural law.

Foundations in Natural Law 

Fr. Thomas J. Higgins, S. J. provides the following arguments in support of international social organization from the basis of natural law (Cf. Higgins, Man as Man: The Science and Art of Ethics, TAN Publishers, 1958, 1992, p. 559-561):

THESIS LXXX.  The States are now obliged to erect a positive international authority possessing the institutions necessary to regulate by law the international acts of the nations and attain the end of international society.

Every kind of social obligation does not apply at all times in history…For countless generations the State has been the ultimate unit of social organization…But now the uninhabited parts of the earth have been occupied, and the old isolating barriers have disappeared, because modern transportation and communication have made all nations neighbors.  As a result, the international contacts and interdependencies of all States have increased a thousandfold…

PROOF.  States are obliged to do that which the welfare of their people imperatively demands.  The welfare of all peoples demands positive international authority capable of regulating the international acts of all nations.  In the present system of unlimited national sovereignties the welfare neither of particular people nor of the whole human race is sufficiently provided for.

a)      The welfare of individual nations is at stake.  It is an anachronism to say that today each nation is adequately self-sufficient.  First, when international war arises what single nation can isolate the war or maintain a strict neutrality or when attacked adequately protect its people?  Second, economically and financially no nation can get along without the cooperation of the rest of the world.

b)      The welfare of the human race is at stake.  The important social acts of man require regulation and supervision by positive law; otherwise social life is impossible.  Ample regulation on local, regional, and national levels is provided by State law.  On the international level there is little law.  So long as international relations did not deeply affect the daily lives of men, lack of positive international authority was of small consequence.  But now the economic life of the world is one.  Unfortunately, however, international commerce and finance are conducted as undercover war.  When the tension becomes too great, world-wide war results…the only hope of eliminating or at least lessening the frequency of international war is international authority in law.   

Institutionalized Global Tyranny?

The mere existence of various layers of organization (from the local to the international) does not necessarily imply or lead to authoritarianism or tyranny.  The danger of tyranny can only hope to be avoided by adhering to sound principles of government lead by virtuous men.  In the first place is the principle of the “rule of law” where the various offices are “balanced by other powers and by other spheres of responsibility which keep it within proper bounds.  This is the principle…in which the law is sovereign and not the arbitrary will of men” (CCC, #1904).  The second fundamental principle to be observed is the “principle of subsidiarity”:  

“Subsidiarity is first and foremost a form of assistance to the human person via the autonomy of intermediate bodies. Such assistance is offered when individuals or groups are unable to accomplish something on their own, and it is always designed to achieve their emancipation, because it fosters freedom and participation through assumption of responsibility. Subsidiarity respects personal dignity by recognizing in the person a subject who is always capable of giving something to others. By considering reciprocity as the heart of what it is to be a human being, subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state. It is able to take account both of the manifold articulation of plans — and therefore of the plurality of subjects — as well as the coordination of those plans. Hence the principle of subsidiarity is particularly well-suited to managing globalization and directing it towards authentic human development.  In order not to produce a dangerous universal power of a tyrannical nature, the governance of globalization must be marked by subsidiarity, articulated into several layers and involving different levels that can work together. Globalization certainly requires authority, insofar as it poses the problem of a global common good that needs to be pursued. This authority, however, must be organized in a subsidiary and stratified way, if it is not to infringe upon freedom and if it is to yield effective results in practice.” (Caritas in Veritate, 57)

Rupture or Continuity?  A Survey of Papal Statements on International Order

Pope Leo XIII

There is lacking in the international consortium of nations a system of legal and moral means to determine and guarantee the rights of each.  Only an immediate recourse to force remains.  Rivalry among nations and the development of their military power are the results of these policies…In view of such an unfortunate state of things, the institution of mediation and arbitration appears to the most opportune remedy; it corresponds in all respect to the aspirations of the Holy See.  Perhaps – and this will be better brought out in the discussions of the conference – perhaps We can hope that arbitration, obligatory by its very nature, can become in all circumstances the object of unanimous acceptance and assent.  An institution of mediation, invested with authority and clothed with all the necessary moral prestige, if fortified with the indispensable guarantees of competence and impartiality and in no way restricting the liberty of the litigating powers, would be less exposed to meet obstacles…At the same time, the Holy See expresses a most ardent wish that in the councils of these power the principle of mediation and arbitration may find favorable welcome and be applied as widely as possible.  We give Our keenest sympathy to such a proposal and declare that We are always disposed to cooperate most willingly in order that such a proposal may have a favorable outcome.  For We are convinced that, if an effective international accord could be realized, the latter would have a most happy effect in the interest of civilization.  (Second Diplomatic Note of Cardinal Rampolla, Secretary of State, to Count Mouraviev, Secretary of Foreign Affairs for Russia, February 10, 1899)

Pope Benedict XV

Things being thus restored, the order required by justice and charity re-established and the nations reconciled, it is much to be desired, Venerable Brethren, that all States, putting aside mutual suspicion, should unite in one league, or rather a type of family of peoples, calculated both to maintain their own independence and safeguard the order of human society.  What especially, among other reasons, calls for such an association of nations, is the generally recognized need of making every effort to abolish or reduce the enormous burden of the military expenditure which the State can no longer afford, in order to forestall these disastrous wars or at least to remove the danger of them as far as possible.  So would each nation be assured not only of its independence but also of the integrity of its territory within its just boundaries.  (Benedict XV, Pacem Dei Munus, 1920)

Pope Pius XI

Never perhaps in the past have we seen, as we see in these our own times, the minds of men so occupied by the desire both of strengthening and of extending to the common welfare of human society that fraternal relationship which binds and unites us together, and which is a consequence of our common origin and nature. For since the nations do not yet fully enjoy the fruits of peace -- indeed rather do old and new disagreements in various places break forth into sedition and civic strife -- and since on the other hand many disputes which concern the tranquillity and prosperity of nations cannot be settled without the active concurrence and help of those who rule the States and promote their interests, it is easily understood, and the more so because none now dispute the unity of the human race, why many desire that the various nations, inspired by this universal kinship, should daily be more closely united one to another.  (Pius XI, Mortalium Animos, 1928)

Pope Pius XII

The decisions already published by international commissions permit one to conclude that an essential point in any future international arrangement would be the formation of an organ for the maintenance of peace, of an organ invested by common consent with supreme power to whose office it would also pertain to smother in its germinal state any threat of isolated or collective aggression.  No one could hail this development with greater joy than he who has long upheld the principle that the idea of war as an apt and proportionate means of solving international conflicts is now out of date.  No one could wish success to this common effort, to be undertaken with a seriousness of purpose never before known, with greater enthusiasm, than he who has conscientiously striven to make the Christian and religious mentality reject modern war with its monstrous means of conducting hostilities.  (Pius XII, Christmas Message, 1944)

The Catholic doctrine on the State and civil society has always been based on the principle that, in keeping with the will of God, the nations form together a community with a common aim and common duties.  Even when the proclamation of this principle and its practical consequences gave rise to violent reactions, the Church denied her assent to the erroneous concept of an absolutely autonomous sovereignty divested of all social obligations. (Pius XII, Christmas Massage, 1948)

Your movement, gentlemen, dedicates itself to realizing an effective political organization of the world.  Nothing is more in conformity with the traditional doctrine of the Church, with her teaching concerning legitimate or illegitimate war, above all in the present emergency.  It is necessary, therefore, to arrive at such an organization, if for no other reason than to put an end ot the armaments race in which for many tears peoples have been ruining and exhausting themselves through sheer waste.  (Pius XII, Address to delegates of the fourth annual Congress of the World Movement for Federal Government, April 6, 1951)

No one expects or demands the impossible, not even from the United Nations; but one should have a right to expect that their authority should have had its weight, at least through observers, in the places in which the essential values of man are in extreme danger.  Although the United Nations’ condemnation of the grave violations of the rights of men and of entire nations is worthy of recognition, one can nevertheless wish that, in similar cases, the exercise of their rights, as members of this Organization, be denied to States which refuse even the admission of observers – thus showing that their concept of State sovereignty threatens the very foundations of the United Nations.  This organization ought also to have the right and the power of forestalling all military intervention of one State in another, whatever be the pretext under which it is effected, and also the right and power of assuming, by means of a sufficient police force, the safeguarding of order in the State which is threatened.  If We allude to these defects, it is because We desire to see strengthened the authority of the U.N. especially for effecting general disarmament which We have so much at heart, and on which We have already spoken in other discourses.  In fact only in the ambit of an institution like the United Nations can the promise of individual nations to reduce armament, especially to abandon production and use of certain arms, be mutually exchanged under the strict obligation of international law.  Likewise only the United Nations is at present in a position to exact the observance of this obligation by assuming effective control of the armaments of all nations without exception...The acceptance of the control is the point crucial for victory, where every nation will show sincere desire for peace.   (Pius XII, Christmas Message, 1956)

Pope Benedict XVI

“In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth. One also senses the urgent need to find innovative ways of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect and of giving poorer nations an effective voice in shared decision-making. This seems necessary in order to arrive at a political, juridical and economic order which can increase and give direction to international cooperation for the development of all peoples in solidarity. To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago. Such an authority would need to be regulated by law, to observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, to seek to establish the common good, and to make a commitment to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth. Furthermore, such an authority would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights. Obviously it would have to have the authority to ensure compliance with its decisions from all parties, and also with the coordinated measures adopted in various international forums. Without this, despite the great progress accomplished in various sectors, international law would risk being conditioned by the balance of power among the strongest nations. The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization. They also require the construction of a social order that at last conforms to the moral order, to the interconnection between moral and social spheres, and to the link between politics and the economic and civil spheres, as envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations.”  (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 67)

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Letter In Defense of Bishop Ketteler


Editor, The Remnant:

I would like to respond to the letter by Arnaud de Lassus printed in the edition of June 30, 2009 where some surprising statements appear in reference to Bishop Ketteler of Mainz (1811-1877).  Naturally, since the Bishop is not able to defend himself against the charge of liberalism, and since I had originally submitted his work for publication in The Remnant, I feel obliged to make some response in order to set the record straight. 

May and Must

Considering first the question of translation Arnaud de Lassus objects to “tolerati possunt” being rendered into English as “these must…be tolerated” and instead insisting on the term “may”.  It should be noted that the English translation to Ketteler’s works are by Dr. Rupert J. Ederer.  I do not know whether the quote from St. Thomas was translated from Ketteler’s German original or if it was simply taken from some other existing English translation of the Summa.  Putting that aside, it seems to me that Arnaud de Lassus misses the point insofar as “may” simply indicates the possibility of two scenarios.  In the first case are those situations where we have a moral obligation [must] to repress error or vice.  In the second case are those situations where we have a moral obligation [must] to tolerate error or vice.  In other words, we [may] tolerate inasmuch as the duty to repress religious and moral error is not absolute or unconditional (Cf. Pius XII, Ci Riesce).  Yet in those circumstances that dictate either repression or tolerance – our response is not optional (i.e., “may” in the morally neutral sense) but has the character of a duty or moral obligation [must].  Therefore, an exact translation within the context cited (ST. ii-ii 10, 11) does not rule out the rendering of “must” inasmuch as it reflects the meaning indicated – one of two scenario where there is a moral obligation [must] to tolerate – in imitation of the divine governance – by virtue of the existence of one of the following: (a) a superior good that should not be prevented or (b) a greater evil that would ensue upon repression.  In this sense, “must” is entirely faithful to the meaning of the text insofar as it conveys a moral duty – and it avoids the possible ambiguity rendered by the use of “may” that can easily be taken in the mistaken sense of an optional choice that is morally neutral.   

Private and Public

We are then presented with a second objection in reference to Ketteler’s assertion that the Church “rejects as immoral and illegitimate any use of external force against those who are not her members.”  Arnaud de Lassus counters as follows: “According to the traditional doctrine on civil liberties, public expression of heretical and pagan rites is forbidden…”  Yet in Ketteler’s following sentence he makes the following qualification:

“At the same time, she recognizes definite limits beyond which religious freedom would constitute a wrong that would jeopardize the moral well-being of society. Even in the area of morality, freedom reaches its limits when it constitutes a wrong which poses a threat to society. Therefore, religious freedom too must have its limits, not only where it is a threat to the state, but also if it threatens the rights of others to the higher moral benefits of society.  That becomes the case, when, as at present, sects are founded which under the guise of religion add up to a denial of Almighty God, foster crass materialism, and thereby lay the groundwork for destroying the entire moral foundations of human society. Such religious liberty is in fact immoral and unreasonable abomination which God is bound to curse; and states which tolerate it are doomed.”

Therefore, Ketteler clearly does not rule out the use of “external force” absolutely and unconditionally.  On the contrary, he outlines here the [due] limits to religious freedom.  We are left to wonder whether the objection is based on an absolute and unconditional rejection of the principle of toleration concerning the public profession of non-Catholic worship.  This runs directly counter to the teaching of Suarez (quoted by Ketteler) insofar as it entails both private and public worship: 

“As regards the other religious practices of unbelievers which go contrary to Christian beliefs but not counter to natural reason, there is no doubt but that the unbelievers, even though they are subjects, may not be forced to abandon them. Rather the Church has to tolerate them.[14]  St. Gregory addressed himself clearly to this problem regarding Jews, and he forbade anyone to deprive them of their synagogues or to prevent them from observing their religious practices therein. (Lib. I Epistol. 34) Elsewhere he reaffirmed that no one should prevent Jews from participating in their religious observances. (Lib. II. Ep. 15) The reason is that such observances do not in themselves violate the natural law, and therefore, the temporal power of even a Christian ruler does not confer a right to forbid them. Such action would be based on the fact that what is being done goes contrary to the Christian Faith, but that is not enough to compel those who are not subject to the spiritual authority of the Church. This opinion is also supported by the fact that such a ban would involve, to some extent, forcing people to accept the Faith; and that is never permitted.”

Man is a social being according to his nature and therefore he has the duty and corresponding right to worship in private and in public according to the dictates of conscience.  Pope Pius XI stresses that this [outward profession of one’s faith] is a basic natural right rooted in the natural law: “The believer has an absolute right to profess his faith and live according to its dictates.  Laws which impede this profession and practice of faith are against the natural law” (Pius XI, Mit Brennender Sorge, 1937).  Note that he speaks of the right as one founded on “natural law” rather than positive divine law.  Pope Pius XII affirms the same principle when outlining the basic natural rights belonging to man including the right to…“Promote the respect of the fundamental rights of the human person - that is, the right to maintain and develop corporal, intellectual, and moral life, specifically the right to religious formation and education; the right to worship God in public and in private, including charitable religious action” (Pius XII, Radio Message of December 24, 1942).

Duties and Rights

Arnaud de Lassus seems to consider, in his third objection, that the right to religious freedom, in the sense outlined by Ketteler, is necessarily opposed to the “duty of the State to uphold the One True Faith”.  This is an entirely natural question arising from an [apparent] contradiction.  In fact, Ketteler opens the chapter on Religious Freedom by posing the following set of questions:

“We come now to the all important question whether religious freedom...is opposed to the principles of the Catholic Church. May Catholics who wish to remain true to the principles of their church concede to those of other religions such a position in the state? May Catholic rulers legally permit to their subjects such freedom of conscience without violating their own consciences? Can there be situations in which rulers are even bound in conscience to grant such freedom? Would not such a position be completely opposed to the way the Church operated in the Middle Ages?” 

Ketteler begins to tackle these head on [Part II of the article] and refers to Suarez who essentially poses the same general question in different form:

“It appears as though the religious practices of the unbelievers, notably all of the unbaptized as, e.g., pagans and Mohammedans, may not be tolerated in Christian nations since they involve superstition and injury to the honor that is owed to the true God, whose honor Christian rulers have an obligation to uphold.” 

Suarez proceeds to answer the [apparent] contradiction by distinguishing, after St. Thomas, the two classes of unbelievers:

“St. Thomas, however, rightly distinguishes two kinds of religious practices: there are those which go against reason and against God insofar as he can be recognized through nature and through the natural powers of the soul, e.g., the worship of idols, etc. Others are contrary to the Christian religion and to its commands not because they are evil in themselves or contrary to reason as, for example, the practices of Jews and even many of the customs of Mohammedans and such unbelievers who believe in one true God.” 

Suarez then concludes that the religious practices of the first type of unbeliever ought not to be tolerated – unless greater evils would ensue.  However, the religious practices of the second group [must] be tolerated insofar as they adhere to the natural moral law:

“As regards the other religious practices of unbelievers which go contrary to Christian beliefs but not counter to natural reason, there is no doubt but that the unbelievers, even though they are subjects, may not be forced to abandon them…The reason is that such observances do not in themselves violate the natural law, and therefore, the temporal power of even a Christian ruler does not confer a right to forbid them.”

The other key distinction made by Ketteler [Part III of the article] is a natural consequence of disunity in religious belief.    Ketteler laments the destruction of Christian unity in formerly Catholic countries, however, he also asserts that civil rulers could then only have recourse to the principle of toleration by respecting the religious convictions of all members of society.  Pius XII makes the same point as follows:

“The increasingly frequent contacts between different religious professions, mingled indiscriminately within the same nation, have caused civil authorities to follow the principles of tolerance and liberty of conscience.  In fact, there is a political tolerance, a civil tolerance, a social tolerance, in regard to adherents of other religious beliefs which, in circumstances such as these, is a moral duty for Catholics.” (Pius XII, Allocution to the Roman Rota, October 6, 1946)

The principle of tolerance and freedom of conscience in this context extends even to heresy.  Here it is important to distinguish “punishable heresy” from innocent error. The former has to do with baptized Catholics obstinately rejecting the authoritative teaching of the Church in matters of dogma. Therefore, the very notion of punishable heresy excludes those who are not visible members of the Catholic Church.  Ketteler explains that the treatment of heresy as a civil crime in former times presupposed a state constituted on the basis of unity in faith: “From what we have said, it is clear that treating heresy as a civil matter is no longer legitimate once the unity of the Faith has been shattered. Disunity destroys the essential prerequisites...” 

From all of this it is clear that the “traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ” (Cf. DH, 1) does not entail an absolute and unqualified right or duty of repression of all that is opposed to supernatural truth.  Therefore, just as grace presupposes and builds on nature, the first duty of the State toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ is to uphold the natural law.  In this sense, one can’t pretend to honor and defend the spiritual, social and temporal Kingship of Christ without first having reference to His natural law – which is the participation for all rational creatures (Catholic and non-Catholic) in His Eternal Law.       

The Life and Work of a Liberal?

Bishop Ketteler is regarded as the pioneer of Catholic Social Teaching in our time and was highly esteemed by the Popes who knew him and his work.  Pope Pius IX highly regarded Bishop Ketteler calling him “everything that a Bishop should be” (Cf. Rupert Ederer, The Teachings of Wilhelm Emmunuel von Ketteler, University Press of America, 1981).  Pope Leo XIII often drew from Bishop Ketteler’s teaching and would later refer to him as “our great predecessor from whom I have learned” (Cf. Rupert Ederer, op. cit.).  So much so was his life and work esteemed that Pope St. Pius X “placed a loving tribute upon his honored tomb” (Cf. Cardinal O’Connel, Christian Social Reform, 1912).  The work of von Ketteler continues to manifest itself in the encyclicals of the Popes.  Pope Benedict XVI credits Bishop Ketteler as a “pioneer” in the leadership of the Church who recognized earlier than most that “the just structuring of society needed to be approached in a different way” (Cf. Deus Caritas Est, 27).  Based on all of this, it would be unwise to dismiss Bishop Ketteler as some sort of early “liberal”.  The better approach, it seems to me, would be to see what he has to teach us today.



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