Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pius IX and Modern Democratic Freedoms

I was asked a series of questions in the comments section on another blog dealing with the Church's stance on religious freedom, freedom of conscience, separation fo Church and state, etc.

Since this isn't the first time these issues have come up I feel it worthy to explain it here.

First, let's look at what freedom actually is:

CCC #1739 "...Man's freedom is limited and fallible. In fact, man failed. He freely sinned. By refusing God's plan of love, he deceived himself and became a slave to sin. This first alienation engendered a multitude of others. From its outset, human history attests the wretchedness and oppression born of the human heart in consequence of the abuse of freedom."

CCC #1740 ". . . The exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything. It is false to maintain that man, "the subject of this freedom," is "an individual who is fully self-sufficient and whose finality is the satisfaction of his own interests in the enjoyment of earthly goods." ... By deviating from the moral law man violates his own freedom, becomes imprisoned within himself, disrupts neighborly fellowship, and rebels against divine truth."

CCC #1742 ". . . The grace of Christ is not in the slightest way a rival of our freedom when this freedom accords with the sense of the true and the good that God has put in the human heart. On the contrary, as Christian experience attests especially in prayer, the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials"

CCC #1744 "Freedom is the power to act or not to act, and so to perform deliberate acts of one's own. Freedom attains perfection in its acts when directed toward God, the sovereign Good."

So from reading this we see that true freedom is acting in accordance with God's will. That is, when acting in a moral fashion. We have free will to choose evil but not the God-given moral right to do so. By acting immorally, we have violated our freedom. Only by acting along the moral law are we trully free, immorality imprisons us. Our free will is unlimited, but our freedom is not. We may will ourselves to do evil but we have no freedom or right to do so.

These arguments are mostly derived from Pius IX's syllabus of errors, and his encyclical, Quanta Cura.

First, let's deal with freedom of conscience:

From Quanta Cura:

". . . thence it appears why it is that some, utterly neglecting and disregarding the surest principles of sound reason, dare to proclaim that "the people's will, manifested by what is called public opinion or in some other way, constitutes a supreme law, free from all divine and human control; and that in the political order accomplished facts, from the very circumstance that they are accomplished, have the force of right."

From the Syllabus of Errors:

3. Human reason, without any reference whatsoever to God, is the sole arbiter of truth and falsehood, and of good and evil; it is law to itself, and suffices, by its natural force, to secure the welfare of men and of nations. -- Ibid.

4. All the truths of religion proceed from the innate strength of human reason; hence reason is the ultimate standard by which man can and ought to arrive at the knowledge of all truths of every kind. -- Ibid. and Encyclical "Qui pluribus," Nov. 9, 1846, etc.

To understand this fully, we must ask ourselves: Do we have the God-given right to think and do things that are outside of God's will? Do we have a moral right to dissent with that, as long as it's reasonable?

No, for morality is God's will. Anything contrary to that is immoral. We do not have a moral right to immorality.

We have free-will, with which we can accept or reject God's will. But we know that if we reject it, even though it is with our God-given free will, we will be damned. Just because we can do something doesn't mean it's always permissable and just. That's the beauty of free will; God wants us to choose to do His will, not be forced to do His will. That uncoerced choice is what God wants.

These passages are dealing with moral relativism. As long as the human mind can rationalize it, it must be OK.


What Pius IX is condemning here is placing the human reason above that of God; that human reason alone determines what is right. Objective truth has been destroyed by popular vote. If the majority thinks it's right then it is. If it can be rationalized then it's ok. Well sometimes the majority can be objectively wrong. This is what is condemned; the usurping of God from right and wrong and replacing him with our own imperfect reason.

There is an absolute right and an absolute wrong. We do not have the right (a right being a choice or entitlement where either decision will have no ill consequences) to choose evil. Evil is not acceptable to God. Anything Contrary to God's will is unacceptable to Him. Our free will allows us to choose it, but we have no right to it.

Next, let's deal with Freedom of Religion:

From Quanta Cura:

". . . called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an "insanity,"2 viz., that "liberty of conscience and worship is each man's personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way." But, while they rashly affirm this, they do not think and consider that they are preaching "liberty of perdition;"3 and that "if human arguments are always allowed free room for discussion, there will never be wanting men who will dare to resist truth, and to trust in the flowing speech of human wisdom; whereas we know, from the very teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, how carefully Christian faith and wisdom should avoid this most injurious babbling."

From the Syllabus of Errors:

15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true. -- Allocution "Maxima quidem," June 9, 1862; Damnatio "Multiplices inter," June 10, 1851.

78. Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship. -- Allocution "Acerbissimum," Sept. 27, 1852.

79. Moreover, it is false that the civil liberty of every form of worship, and the full power, given to all, of overtly and publicly manifesting any opinions whatsoever and thoughts, conduce more easily to corrupt the morals and minds of the people, and to propagate the pest of indifferentism. -- Allocution "Nunquam fore," Dec. 15, 1856.

Relating to my earlier commentary, if we do not have the right to relativize morality, do we have the right to falsely worship? All Catholics can agree, at least I hope, that non-Catholic worship is false worship, and is sinful. Is there a time where God allows, or gives us a right to sin?

Like I stated before, just because we can that doesn't mean we should. If a religion is sacrilegous and blasphemous and is an obvious affront to God, do we have the God-given right to practice it?

No we do not. For the same reason we have no moral right to dissent and disobey God's will, we have no moral right to false worship. All religions are not morally equivalent. That is the heresy of idifferentism. There is true worship and there is false worship. Being intellectually honest to our faith there is no reason why we should support the practice of false worship.

Being Catholic we know the truth which puts more responsibility on us. We know that God abhors false worship, even from the ignorant. Culpable or not, a sin is still sin. There is never a time, ignorant or not, that we have a God-given right to sin.

Since the state recieves it's authority from God, the state cannot accept all religions as morally equivalent because God does not accept all religions as morally equivalent. Which leads us to the next part:

Separation of Church and State:

From Quanta Cura:

"For you well know, venerable brethren, that at this time men are found not a few who, applying to civil society the impious and absurd principle of "naturalism," as they call it, dare to teach that "the best constitution of public society and (also) civil progress altogether require that human society be conducted and governed without regard being had to religion any more than if it did not exist; or, at least, without any distinction being made between the true religion and false ones."

"And, since where religion has been removed from civil society, and the doctrine and authority of divine revelation repudiated, the genuine notion itself of justice and human right is darkened and lost, and the place of true justice and legitimate right is supplied by material force, "

"Moreover, not content with removing religion from public society, they wish to banish it also from private families. For, teaching and professing the most fatal error of "Communism and Socialism," they assert that "domestic society or the family derives the whole principle of its existence from the civil law alone; and, consequently, that on civil law alone depend all rights of parents over their children, and especially that of providing for education."

"For they are not ashamed of affirming "that the Church's laws do not bind in conscience unless when they are promulgated by the civil power; that acts and decrees of the Roman Pontiffs, referring to religion and the Church, need the civil power's sanction and approbation,"

From the Syllabus of Errors:

39. The State, as being the origin and source of all rights, is endowed with a certain right not circumscribed by any limits. -- Allocution "Maxima quidem," June 9, 1862.

44. The civil authority may interfere in matters relating to religion, morality and spiritual government: hence, it can pass judgment on the instructions issued for the guidance of consciences, conformably with their mission, by the pastors of the Church. . . . Nov. 1, 1850, and "Maxima quidem," June 9, 1862.

54. Kings and princes are not only exempt from the jurisdiction of the Church, but are superior to the Church in deciding questions of jurisdiction. -- Damnatio "Multiplices inter," June 10, 1851.

55. The Church ought to be separated from the .State, and the State from the Church. -- Allocution "Acerbissimum," Sept. 27, 1852

The authority of the State is God-given, and has a divine origin, as seen in the Catechism:

CCC #2234 "God's fourth commandment also enjoins us to honor all who for our good have received authority in society from God. It clarifies the duties of those who exercise authority as well as those who benefit from it."

CCC #2235 "Those who exercise authority should do so as a service. "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant."41 The exercise of authority is measured morally in terms of its divine origin, its reasonable nature and its specific object. No one can command or establish what is contrary to the dignity of persons and the natural law."

As we do not have the moral right to dissent against God's will, neither does the State (whose authority is God-given) have the right to enact laws or act in such a way that is contrary to God's will. The state has no right to separate itself from objective truth from which it derives its authority. Just as we do not have a moral right to immorality, neither does the state.

What is condemned here is the idea that the state can separate itself from God and set itself up as the author of truth. God no longer determines what is right and wrong, the state does. But most states determine this by popular vote. Again, we're back to moral relativism. If the state has recieved it's authority to rule from God, and the state then separates itself from God, then the state no longer has any authority. It has disconnected itself from the very source of it's authority. That authority is objective truth. Without that we have our feet planted firmly in the air.

So I hope this helps to clear up some things about Quanta Cura and the Syllabus of Errors. Especially in this world, we can indulge our free wills almost as much as we wish, doing any number of immoral things, all within the law of the State. But the law of God is higher than the law of man. It is the law of God that gives the state it's authority. We, nor the State, have the moral right to do anything immoral. That is, to do evil.

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