Guidance from Cardinal Dulles from beyond the grave

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.

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0 Responses to Guidance from Cardinal Dulles from beyond the grave

  1. Past Elder says:

    So, it is the same thing just with a different “how” (means) that a paternalistic monarch shall give the RCC a legally privileged position but a democratically elected government in a pluralistic society shall make sure neither the RCC nor any other be legally privilieged but equally free to pursue their courses.

    Ya wonder how another Jesuit and Cardinal, Roberto Bellarmino, would see that. Ask Bruno or Galileo.

  2. Cardinal Pole says:

    “… 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”

    That statement would be a legitimate prudential judgement and perfectly congruous with the teaching of the great Popes of social teaching (see my post on Leo XIII for a summary) if you were to delete the word ‘co-operation’ (for two reasons:

    1) with regard to the Catholic Church: the Church operating independently, and the State operating independently, is clearly not CO-operation

    2) with regard to the false religions: one may never co-operate in sin or error unless purely materially, remotely, and with grievous proportional cause)

    and if you make clear that the ideal is unity of the populace in the true Faith, and heretics do not have a right, in justice, to spread their errors, but they can, in prudence, be conceded tolerance to do so, and this is what is being done here (I take it).

    (Though I, for my part, do not fully agree with all this, but I recognise that prudential and circumstantial matters are an area for a legitimate diversity of opinion.)

  3. Joshua says:

    Well, David, I’m glad to see that you have finally checked up on this and now agree with what we were trying to tell you – but I could do without the sarcastic remarks in your posting, thank you: I certainly don’t expect to be sneered at, especially considering all the nice things I’ve said about you in many fora, up to and including this very day…

  4. Joshua says:

    P.S. Sorry to be a bit narky – tired!

  5. Cardinal Pole says:

    I have been thinking about this, Mr. Schütz, and I think that in fact I was wrong to say that you should delete the word ‘co-operation’ with respect to the Catholic Church. But I reject the way that you explained this co-operation. I would put it this way:

    In principle, the Church and the State are to be united and co-operate, but the exact form of this union and the exact mode and extent of this co-operation that are best for the common good can vary with the circumstances. Nonetheless, the ideal is perfect union and close co-operation, so the State must work gradually, patiently and prudently towards this ideal.

  6. Son of Trypho says:

    Ya wonder how another Jesuit and Cardinal, Roberto Bellarmino, would see that. Ask Bruno

    -why go that far? Didn’t the Lutherans kick him out of part of Germany well before this?

  7. Schütz says:

    Dear Joshua and Eminencia,

    I count you as friends, not oponents. So let us shake hands then and agree that we have reached some sort of consensus on this matter. I am happy to leave it at that. I have learnt much from your persistence in correcting my faults. Let it never be said that Schütz is not open to being convinced by rational argument and proofs, nor that he am too proud to accept correction when I am at fault.

    Joshua, no “sneering” was intended. How could you suspect me of such? (Somewhat hurt even that you could consider me so inconsiderate). Rather I was thankful for you calling me to task on this matter.

  8. Schütz says:

    God help me, you can see from the terrible grammar in that last comment that I have just returned from an Archdiocesan agency staff bash, can’t you?

  9. Past Elder says:

    Yeah, we excommunicated him shortly after he got a teaching post at Hwlmstedt.

    He had trouble with everybody. Hell, the Calvinists ran him out of Geneva, and he left England before that, Italy before that.

    But it was Bellarmine who presided over his trial and conviction for heresy, after which, speaking of the relation of church and state, he was handed over to the state to be burned at the stake.

    His ashes were dumped into the Tiber. Happy swimming.

  10. Joshua says:

    Sorry, David – as I said, I was tired and narky, and I’m a rather touchy sod. Mea culpa.

    Anyway, rejoice! “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity.” (Ps 132:1) – thanks to “God who maketh men of one manner to dwell in a house” (Ps 67:7a), “in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (I Tim. iii, 15a)

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