Friday, October 31, 2014

TFTD: Wasn't this supposed to be a PARODY originally?

Two years ago, The Onion published the article "Supreme Court Overturns 'Right v. Wrong’.” It was supposed to be a parody of bad judicial decisions. But with recent rulings and what it lets stand in the lower courts, it seems that the Supreme Court has rejected the concept of the obligation to do what is right with the concept that restrictions on behavior are bad.

What we have seems to be that the person who feels obligated to do what is right can be fired, sued or prosecuted by people who equate doing what is right with violating the rights of people who think that is a hindrance to their behavior.

Also, as a side note, it’s curious how the justices listed in the article as defending “right” turned out the ones who seem to be defending “wrong” currently.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

More Talk on Schism

The drumbeat of media commentators talking about the danger of schism within the Catholic Church seems to be a popular theme. The latest comes from The Guardian writer, Andrew Brown. His article, "A Catholic church schism under Pope Francis isn’t out of the question,” takes the theme of Ross Douthat and expands on the idea of a conservative schism. He writes:

Until this weekend, I had largely believed in the liberal narrative which holds that Pope Francis’s reforms of the Catholic church are unstoppable. But the conservative backlash has been so fierce and so far-reaching that for the first time a split looks a real, if distant, possibility.

One leading conservative, the Australian Cardinal George Pell, published over the weekend a homily he had prepared for the traditional Latin mass at which he started ruminating on papal authority. Pope Francis, he said, was the 266th pope, “and history has seen 37 false or antipopes”.

Why mention them, except to raise the possibility that Francis might turn out to be the 38th false pope, rather than the 266th real one?

This is a fascinating nudge in the direction of an established strain of conservative fringe belief: that liberalising popes are not in fact real popes, but imposters, sent by the devil. The explanation has an attractively deranged logic: if the pope is always right, as traditionalists would like to believe, and if this particular pope is clearly wrong, as traditionalists also believe, then obviously this pope is not the real pope. Splinter groups have held this view ever since the liberalising papacy of Pope John XXIII at the start of the 1960s. I don’t think that’s what Pell meant, but it was odd and threatening to bring the subject up at all.

The other warning of schism, though veiled in regret, came from the conservative American journalist Ross Douthat, who wrote on Sunday that “[Conservative Catholics] might want to consider the possibility that they have a role to play, and that this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him.”

I believe Brown has a faulty understanding on the workings of the Church—his misunderstanding of what an antipope is leads to a misinterpretation of Cardinal Pell’s words. If one reads the full text of Cardinal Pell’s words, it is clear that the cardinal is not speaking of questioning the legitimacy of Pope Francis. It is a homily on the papacy and how it survived many controversies. Cardinal Pell doesn’t question the legitimacy of the Pope. Rather, he is assuring the faithful who are deeply troubled by the media coverage of the synod that the Church has never fallen into error and never will..

(An antipope, by the way, is a person established as pope in opposition to one canonically chosen. So, Pope Francis couldn’t be an antipope because he was canonically chosen. The idea of labeling a Pope an antipope nowadays is a way to seek giving legitimacy to conservative dissent among the fringes).

But, let’s talk about the dangers of schism. That’s not the same as having a political dispute. That’s a denial that the truth is found in the Church, and a belief that the faction of the Church knows better than those that Our Lord gave His authority to.

Think about it. We Catholics profess our belief that Jesus is God, and that He gave the Church authority to teach in His name. He gave her the power to bind and loose. He promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against her. He promised that He would be with the Church always until the end of the age. With these promises, we can take one of three positions:

  1. We can have faith that the Church will not teach error in matters of salvation because we have faith in Jesus (The Catholic position).
  2. We can deny that the Church properly interpreted those promises (This would be the position of the Protestants and Orthodox).
  3. We can deny that Jesus had the power/will to keep those promises (The position of non-Christians).

The problem is, positions #2 and #3 are not Catholic positions, and to hold either of them is to deny an element of the Catholic Faith. So, why should we look at a Catholic who publicly denies the first position as an example of being a faithful Catholic? After all, the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out that among the sins against faith are:

2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

So when people are claiming that the Church is going to fall into error and that the Pope is teaching dangerous things, it is a serious matter indeed. But people are playing with fire here. Taking the premise that the Church is going to change Church teaching as true, people are deceived into thinking that their own private judgments are closer to the truth than that of the Pope when he teaches.

Usually, when I encounter this online, I ask the person which council declared him or her infallible—because that is effectively what they are claiming for themselves. I think any reader who thinks this way should also ask themselves this question. The point is, you are not and I am not infallible. We can fall into error of misinterpreting the teaching of the Church. In fact, the point is we are supposed to look to the magisterium of the Church for guidance. It’s hard to do that when we’re making ourselves the judge of the Church teaching and teachers.

Historically, schism has come when a group of Catholics have decided that the Church under the leadership of the Pope no longer (or never did) possesses binding authority. The history of the Church is full of schismatics who thought the Pope was too “lenient” on Church teaching. The Church had antipopes because some people decided they didn’t like the results about the Pope who was chosen, and thought they had the authority to name a different one.

Those two are the extremes of course. But the devil doesn’t need to use extremes to lead people to hell. All he needs to do is to get people to put their will first, and follow the Church only if it agrees with what they wish to believe. They can remain within the Church of course. But once they think of themselves as the judges of the Church, they become too proud to be taught. Anything they hear that is contrary to what they decide is right immediately becomes suspect. 

If the devil can get people to do that, it doesn’t matter whether they formally break in schism—they’ve already denied Christ’s promises.

Faith in Christ doesn’t mean that we accept everything the hippy-dip promoter of the Spirit of Vatican II people proclaim. But it means that when the Pope teaches on a matter involving salvation, it means he is not going to teach error.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Conservative Op-Ed Writer and the Precipice

I came across a rather bizarre article in the New York Times about the Church. That in itself is not too unusual for that paper. What made it even stranger was the advocacy of disobedience by conservative Catholics. In "The Pope and the Precipice,” we see conservative columnist Ross Douthat opine that the Pope is supporting change on the Church teaching on sexuality and the votes on the final relatio was intended as a rebuke of the Pope . . . and perhaps it should be.

He writes the following:

Francis is charismatic, popular, widely beloved. He has, until this point, faced strong criticism only from the church’s traditionalist fringe, and managed to unite most Catholics in admiration for his ministry. There are ways that he can shape the church without calling doctrine into question, and avenues he can explore (annulment reform, in particular) that would bring more people back to the sacraments without a crisis. He can be, as he clearly wishes to be, a progressive pope, a pope of social justice — and he does not have to break the church to do it.

But if he seems to be choosing the more dangerous path — if he moves to reassign potential critics in the hierarchy, if he seems to be stacking the next synod’s ranks with supporters of a sweeping change — then conservative Catholics will need a cleareyed understanding of the situation.

They can certainly persist in the belief that God protects the church from self-contradiction. But they might want to consider the possibility that they have a role to play, and that this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him.

Mr. Douthat would have us believe that the Pope really believes the Church teaching must change:

But something very different is happening under Pope Francis. In his public words and gestures, through the men he’s elevated and the debates he’s encouraged, this pope has repeatedly signaled a desire to rethink issues where Catholic teaching is in clear tension with Western social life — sex and marriage, divorce and homosexuality.

and:

Yes, Francis has taken no formal position on the issues currently in play. But all his moves point in a pro-change direction — and it simply defies belief that men appointed by the pope would have proposed departures on controversial issues without a sense that Francis would approve.

 He believes that the Pope can err unless opposed, and he fears a schism can occur if the Pope changes the teaching (see HERE)

I think his understanding of God’s role in all of this seems to be a defective one. If the Pope changes a teaching in such a way that it says that a sin is not a sin, or that public sinners may receive the Eucharist, this is a matter involving salvation—if the Pope teaches wrongly in this matter, it is something that will endanger the souls of many. If the Pope could do that, we could never trust a teaching of the Church. We could never know when the Church taught error and could never be sure we could trust a teaching.

But if this be true, then either the Catholic Church has misunderstood the meaning of Christ’s promises or it means Christ could not keep His promises. Either way, the Church teaching on same sex attraction would be the least of our worries because it means the Church already has taught gravely serious error.

So this is the precipice Mr. Douthat is standing in front of. He’s convinced that the Pope will choose wrongly unless he is challenged. Once you take that step it’s a long way down, because it makes you the arbiter of right and wrong and the judge of the Church. That way lies the dissension, rebellion and schism that he fears. Basically it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy brought on from wanting to avoid it.

But I believe Mr. Douthat grossly misreads the intent of Pope Francis. He is not a “hippy-dip” liberal. He has a record of writings and actions which show he has spent his time defending the Church teaching.

If you read what he has to say, in context, we see that he has always defended the Church teaching from those who would change things. Consider four years ago, (three years before he became Pope), then Cardinal Bergoglio took a stand leading the Church in Argentina against the attempts to legalize same-sex marriage. The article cites him as saying:

He wrote: “In the coming weeks, the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family…At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”

Cardinal Bergoglio continued: “Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

These are not the words of a man who supports a change in Church teaching.

Mr. Douthat’s problem is not that he’s a false Catholic. I won’t accuse him of being a heretic or a schismatic. He seems very sincere in his faith, wanting to be obedient to the Church. The problem is that he sees things in one possible way, and that way is the belief that Pope Francis is what the liberals claim him to be.

As for myself, I don’t fear the catastrophes he does, and this is for two reasons:

  1. I believe that Jesus Christ is still watching over His Church (which is found in communion with the successor of St. Peter) and will not permit her to teach error.
  2. I believe Pope Francis loves God and loves the Church and is determined to be a good servant of Christ.

Because of that, I cannot accept his thesis. There may be a schism if certain Catholics are deceived into trusting their own wisdom over Christ’s and believe that the Church will teach error. But this won’t be the Pope’s fault. This will be the fault of those who lost their faith in Christ, and see the Church as a battleground of factions.

So, I keep praying for the Pope every day, and trust in God to give him the needed grace to serve faithfully.

Forget the role of Our Lord and Savior, and you put yourself on a precipice . . . the only way to avoid a fall is to get off the ledge.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Compassion, Misdirected: The Dangers of Losing Sight of What is True

Ted Olson, a conservative, is known because he changed his views from supporting traditional marriage to favoring so called “same sex marriage.” In the article, "Ted Olson: 'Point of no return' on gay marriage passed,” he tells us that his position is one of compassion and motivated by the hardships it would cause. Unfortunately, his position is logically flawed and based on a desire to help those in a way that cannot be justified.

Compassion, Misdirected

Ted Olson said:

"I do not believe that the United States Supreme Court could rule that all of those laws prohibiting marriage are suddenly constitutional after all these individuals have gotten married and their rights have changed," he said in an interview on Capital Download. "To have that snatched away, it seems to me, would be inhuman; it would be cruel; and it would be inconsistent with what the Supreme Court has said about these issues in the cases that it has rendered."

The article also cites him as saying:

Waiting for the process in lower courts to open the door to gay marriage in all 50 states "would not be good enough because it's not now," Olson said on USA TODAY's weekly video newsmaker series. "When will that happen? And how much misery and how much suffering do individuals in this country have to experience before that happens?"

I find his argument rather dubious to say the least. It starts with begging the question, that it was right for these judges to suddenly decide that it was a violation of civil rights to limit marriage between one man and one woman . . . in all this time, there has never been an argument that doesn’t start from assuming that opposition is rooted in intolerance (which is the point to be proven). 

Moreover, to argue that,

  1. judicial decrees that same-sex relationships can be called marriage are invoked, and
  2. reversing the decisions by the Supreme Court would cause “suffering”, therefore,
  3. The Supreme Court needs to back these rulings to decree same-sex relationships can be called “marriage”
is also to argue in a circle that begins and ends with judicial decrees that assume, but do not prove, that same-sex relationships can be called marriage.

There is another problem here: when judicial activism which makes a bad decision, people will of course be affected when they rush to take advantage of the change and then find out that the judge was wrong. But that is not the issue to be considered. Invoking the “suffering” caused if the Supreme Court were to reverse the decision is to employ the Red Herring fallacy. Assessing the laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman needs to be based on the nature of marriage and whether a judge has the right to change it, not irrelevant appeals to who is affected—slave owners were affected by the abolition of slavery, but nobody would think that fact was relevant to the question of whether people should own slaves in the first place. 

Finally, that Red Herring also uses the appeal to pity fallacy in his argument. The fact that the overturning of judicial abuse might cause pain to people given false hope is not a valid reason to allow a judicial ruling to stand if it is an abuse of power. If the issue is whether or not a judge did wrong, the fact that some benefitted by the judge’s wrongdoing is not a good reason for letting the wrongdoing stand.

Justice Depends on Truth

The solution, however, is not to reach a false conclusion on account of having compassion for those who are suffering and wanting to prevent it. I’m sure Olson is sincere. But his sincerity needs to be based on the truth of the matter, and that truth is to be found in recognizing what is the nature of marriage, and not allowing people to redefine marriage in such a way which goes against the truth of what marriage is.

So those who want to argue that marriage should be redefined have to establish a definition explaining their position and answering the objections—and calling those who object “homophobes” is not an explanation of their position. It’s an ad hominem.

We have to keep the truth in mind when showing compassion—that’s not always easy, but it is important. There’s no doubt that people with same sex attraction feel the same need for love that people with heterosexual attraction have. But the problem is, not all desires for love and not all sexual impulses are proper expressions of love. Most people, for example, realize that sexual affection between an adult and a child is always wrong, and no matter what the feelings the people involved may have, we cannot sanction such relationships that are wrong. So, we have to find solutions which address what is true, and provide guidance for those living in falsehood. In this example, the truth will not permit a sexual relationship between an adult and a child, and this example serves to show why we cannot redefine marriage just because some people are affected by this line that cannot be crossed.

I believe that’s what Pope Francis is really looking for with the extraordinary synod just past and the upcoming ordinary synod of next year. How do we reach out with compassion to those in conflict with what is right? He’s been on record in pointing out that what the modern world calls marriage is not marriage (the media can’t spin this one so this gets ignored). He certainly wants to help people in relationships which are contrary to what God wants, but recognizing that the truth requires people to live as God wants, he cannot redefine marriage and tell them that a lie is true.

Conclusion

Olson’s arguments are not addressing the truth of the matter. They are focussing on how unhappy some will be if the laws redefining same sex marriage are overturned. But truth comes first. Man cannot live a lie. Trying to make a lie into the truth to protect people from being unhappy is compassion misdirected.

 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

TFTD: Don't Judge People You Judgmental @#$%&*#!!!

 

Reading the comments in response to Facebook articles, I came across one raging individual who was launching a tirade against the Church in response to an address given by Pope Francis on the topic of marriage. I found it rather sad, in a pitiful way. She was raging about how God didn’t care about same sex relationships and the Church had no right to judge people choosing to take part in such acts. Besides, the Bible had more to say about different topics besides that! (So which is it? God doesn’t care? Or that He just has higher priorities?)

I find that curious. This person has basically put herself in a no-win situation.

  1. If God exists (which seems to be a given since the woman said He didn’t care and caring depends on existing), and has made known how He wants us to live, then it stands to reason that someone so concerned about what He thinks would follow His teaching, after discerning what He taught.
  2. If God exists, and has not made known how He wants us to live, then how in the hell do you know He doesn’t care?

So, for this woman to prove her point, she has to assume that God has made known how He wants us to live, and has indicated He doesn’t care about sexual preferences. No such statement from God exists, though we do have many condemnations of same sex behavior in both the Old and New Testament. Jesus Himself defined marriage as being between a woman and a man:

He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Matt 19:4–6).

So, this woman has to deny the authority of Scripture when it comes to the verses she dislikes.

But I suspect the woman was probably given a false idea of Jesus as a Santa Claus who just loves people in a warm fuzzy way and never asks them to change their ways because sin is only what other people do. Also, I suspect that she equates “judge” with “say something is wrong.” But the judging Jesus is speaking of is the final judgment. God has the sole authority to determine how each person has sought to learn what is right and then carry it out to the best of his or her knowledge and ability

The second point of interest is that the teaching of Jesus, in the Bible, tells us that He intends to build a Church which He gives His authority and to reject the Church is to reject Him. If this is true, then the Church certainly does have the authority to determine what acts are compatible with being a Christian and which ones are not. That brings us back to the no-win situation above. If God makes His will known, then she needs to either accept the words of Christ as they appear in the Bible or provide an authoritative source as to why it is wrong. If He doesn’t, how in the hell does she know?

Again, the Santa Claus image of Jesus makes her think that God couldn’t say that what she does is wrong.

Really, this kind of mindset is a form of pride. It says "other people are sinners but *I* am not!” But Jesus came to save us because we are sinners and we are called to repent. If we refuse to repent, we refuse His sacrifice on the Cross. So the person who denies their sinfulness and refuses to ask whether they do wrong won’t be able to repent.

So the Church isn’t being judgmental. She’s more like the person with the sign saying, “Danger! Bridge Out Ahead!” Ignore the warning, and it won’t go well with you. Not because the Church is “mean.” But because God is loving and just. Justice requires that people who choose to do what they know is wrong answer for it.

Thoughts on (Lack of) Separation of Church and State in Modern America

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Introduction

One of the more bizarre behaviors of people who say they support a total separation of Church and State is that they seem either ignorant or indifferent to the fact that it is a perversion of both the Constitution and the intent of the founding fathers at the time.

Then, the concern was to prevent the state from encroaching on the churches the way it had been done in Europe and the early days of the 13 Colonies, where the government could pass laws to hinder religions (often Catholics) and compel people to support religions they did not believe were right. For example, Catholics could be fined for refusing to attend the Anglican Church, and in England it was a death sentence to be a Catholic Priest. In some of the colonies, priests were banned. At that time, religions favored by the colonies, like England, were supported by taxes, where refusal to pay would result in legal sanctions.

So, when looking at that context, it becomes clear as to why the Constitution defines religious freedom as one of the freedoms of expression in the First Amendment—one which lists areas the government is forbidden to interfere with. The churches were to be free to do what they believed they were morally obligated to do, with no coercion by tax or by government law.

But, by the fact that it is listed with the rest of the Freedoms (Speech, Press, assembly, petition over grievances), it shows that this amendment was never intended to be interpreted as restricting religion from having a role in the public life of the citizens. People who speak, write, assemble and petition the government have values based on their religious beliefs, and there is no reason for thinking they cannot do these things with a religious motive.

The Modern Government View is a Perversion

But the way government operates today, what we have is a perversion of the original intent. The government is imposing laws and taxes that demand that schools and hospitals affiliated with a religious denomination fund things that they find offensive. The contraception mandate was a major red flag. Now the current attack is in defining same-sex relationships as “marriage” and, with increasing aggression, is insisting that these institutions affiliated with churches accept them as marriages as well—even though they run afoul of what the churches think they must do.

At the same time, the state increasingly legislates in matters long held to be issues of morality, and when the churches assert their rights to teach on these issues, they are accused of violating the “wall of Church and State.” Ultimately what this means is the churches will have a diminishing range of things it can talk about, while the state will have an increasing range of things it can legislate in regards to religion.

Just imagine if the government approached the rest of the First Amendment freedoms in this way. What if they said that while individuals had freedom of speech, groups did not? Think that’s ridiculous? Think again. In term of religion, the government is trying to argue that the business run by a person does not have “religious freedom” so, even though the owner thinks X is a sin, the state can decree that the business must support X.

Basically, the courts and the current administration is assuming that no laws based on religious values can be binding in law. The practical result of this is that the only values which laws can be based on are secular values. But that’s preferential treatment for a certain philosophy which is often hostile to religion. In insisting on laws being based de facto on making a law respecting an establishment of religion (or, the philosophy which denies a place to religion), or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (by preventing individuals with religious beliefs from living all aspects of their life free of government diktat.

Now compare this to what Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1786 in the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom:

Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

And though we well know that this assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act to be irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present, or to narrow its operation, such act shall be an infringement of natural right.

The man who coined the term “wall of separation” expected that the freedom of religion would prevent any person from having their civil capabilities impaired—which includes running a business.

The Catholic Concept of Religious Freedom

Now, compare the current mess America is in with what the Catholic Church said in the Vatican II Document Dignitatis humanae:

2. This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

 

The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.

 

It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.

This is a very reasonable stance to take. It prevents coercion from individuals and groups, public or private with the intent of forcing a person to act in a manner contrary to their belief. That means the government can’t force individuals or groups to do what is contrary to their beliefs—and neither can mobs of public opinion (as they did with Brendan Eich—his religious freedom was violated and the government failed in protecting it).

The main difference between the Church view of religious freedom and the American distortion is that the Church recognizes that the freedom of religion comes with the responsibility to seek out and follow the truth (DH #3):

3. Further light is shed on the subject if one considers that the highest norm of human life is the divine law-eternal, objective and universal-whereby God orders, directs and governs the entire universe and all the ways of the human community by a plan conceived in wisdom and love. Man has been made by God to participate in this law, with the result that, under the gentle disposition of divine Providence, he can come to perceive ever more fully the truth that is unchanging. Wherefore every man has the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in matters religious in order that he may with prudence form for himself right and true judgments of conscience, under use of all suitable means.

 

Truth, however, is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth.

 

Moreover, as the truth is discovered, it is by a personal assent that men are to adhere to it.

This is also crucial. We have to be free to speak the truth if people are going to be able to live in accordance with it. It recognizes that people have to accept the truth personally, and not have someone else discover it and then force you to do what you think is wrong.

But, when the government rules that God’s law may not be taught in places where anyone objects to hearing something they might disagree with, and that laws proposed by shared religious belief are labeled unconstitutional, we have a government which is claiming it knows the truth and is compelling people with religious beliefs to deny what they believe is true and give assent to the government decision.

Opposing a Lobotomized or Double Standard View on the “Separation of Church and State"

That’s why the modern version of the “wall of separation” is asinine. In claiming laws, which are formed from people with a shared religious understanding of right and wrong, are unconstitutional, they deny people the right to exercise their civil capacities to promote what is right, while at the same time, people with a non-religious or anti-religious view have no similar handicap. That’s a de facto intrusion by the government in saying they have the authority to determine what is right or wrong—and they have decided that religion is wrong.

 

So here’s something to consider. If a person believes in a strict separation of Church and State, why do they permit the State to violate that wall? Why is it OK for the state to say, “you must do this in spite of your religious teaching,” when no Founding Father ever intended the 1st Amendment to be understood this way? Surely a person who holds this with the intent of keeping the Church from having any influence on the State must recognize that it cuts both ways, and see that the State can have no influence on the Church either . . . which creates a lobotomized country.

But both the concept of the lobotomized country and the concept of the wall of separation going one way create a country unable to seek out the truth. All a government has to do to silence something it dislikes is to label it “religious.” Just keep in mind that many of those opposing slavery and segregation did so out of “religious motives.” If the government thought then like it does today, they could have negated laws outlawing both on the grounds they were “religious” and therefore a violation of the “establishment clause."

The only sane way for religious freedom to work is to recognize that all people (including politicians) have the obligation to seek out and follow the truth, and the churches do have the authority and obligation to speak out on what is right. A majority of voters can use their religious beliefs as a motivation in voting for laws—while being careful to respect the rights of religious minorities who disagree. At the same time, the state has the responsibility to promote the public good. As DH #7 puts it:

7. The right to religious freedom is exercised in human society: hence its exercise is subject to certain regulatory norms. In the use of all freedoms the moral principle of personal and social responsibility is to be observed. In the exercise of their rights, individual men and social groups are bound by the moral law to have respect both for the rights of others and for their own duties toward others and for the common welfare of all. Men are to deal with their fellows in justice and civility.

 

Furthermore, society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection. However, government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order. These norms arise out of the need for the effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for the peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights, also out of the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice, and finally out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality.

 

These matters constitute the basic component of the common welfare: they are what is meant by public order. For the rest, the usages of society are to be the usages of freedom in their full range: that is, the freedom of man is to be respected as far as possible and is not to be curtailed except when and insofar as necessary.

An Example on How Freedom of Religion Can Work

Some try to offer up the challenge of, “But if what if people want to impose sharia law?” Given such an imposition would have no respect for the people who do not believe Islam is true or for Muslims who choose to leave their faith, such an imposition would be contrary to religious freedom and thus be part of the state’s responsibility to defend against abuses. 

But, even though we recognize that sharia is contrary to religious freedom, that doesn’t permit the government to crack down on Islamic practices that don’t violate the freedom of religion. For those Muslims who choose to follow their beliefs without coercion, they should be free to follow the beliefs that they believe to be right. Likewise Catholic or Jewish beliefs. If believers can convince enough people that their view on what should be a law is a good one, people can vote for it, ensuring that it doesn’t force others to do that which they think is evil.

Conclusion

When one looks at the Catholic beliefs—actual beliefs, not what people wrongly think they are—one can see that they are not forcing their views on others who are unwilling to follow them. When she teaches on the fact that the unborn fetus is a living person, and convinces people that this is truth, the laws that result are not forcing people to do what they think is evil. When the Church teaches that marriage is only possible between one man and one woman and convinces people that this is the truth, they are not violating people’s rights when laws are passed on the basis of this truth. (See Here and Here for an analysis on why the “civil rights” arguments are false).

But, when the state tries to force a business run by a Catholic or an institution affiliated with the Catholic Church to do something that goes against Catholic teaching, that is violating their religious rights not to something they think is evil.

The truth of the matter is this: What we have in America today is a perversion of the concept of freedom. So long as the government continues to think this way, it will continue to be violating our constitutional rights.

 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

TFTD: Funny How They Want it Both Ways...

In the article, "Apology for student who says teacher questioned his refusal to stand during pledge,” we see an interesting thing. An eleven year old atheist refuses to stand for the pledge of allegiance because of the phrase “Under God.” In addition, news stories report that a banner in the classroom which read, “Prayer Changes Things,” is going to be removed. It is acknowledged that he doesn’t have to stand because the pledge is a violation of his beliefs.

But isn’t it funny that when an atheist encounters something he or she does not want to do, everyone has to respect his or her rights, but when a Christian encounters something he or she finds offensive, there is no right to opt out (which is the religious oppression by the Obama administration in a nutshell).

Basically, this is a mindset that says atheism and non-Christian beliefs have the right to refuse having anything to do with Christian beliefs, but the reverse is not true. That’s the whole reason for the current kulturkampf in America. People can tell Christianity it has to change to accommodate non-Christians, but you can’t tell non-Christians that they have to accommodate the Christians. When the non-Christians demand equal time with Christians, that’s considered OK, but when the Christians demand equal time with the non-Christians, that’s a violation of the establishment clause.

I’m not particularly offended by the antics of an 11 year old atheist. He’s young and one prays he finds the truth later in life. But let’s cut the crap on saying it’s being neutral when the country says we have to accommodate a non-believer and when the country refuses to accommodate a believer. There is a difference between believers practicing their faith in public and giving into demands of non-believers to put up countering professions as a means of saying, “We reject this!” I don’t object when a non-Christian group wants to publicly commemorate their beliefs in public, and I won’t interfere or demand that a Christian display be set up right next to it. But treat us the same way.

Otherwise, what you have isn’t justice . . . it’s arbitrariness.