Sunday, December 27, 2009

Quaeritur: Why Not Sign the 'Manhattan Declaration'?


Quaeritur: You say you will not sign the 'Manhattan Declaration' because it is not in line with the Church's teaching. What teaching do you speak of? Are you still in the Roman Catholic Church, and under the Pope?

Respondeo: The Manhattan Declaration affirms three things:

a) The sanctity of human life from conception to its natural end.
b) The traditional views on marriage and the family.
c) Religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

I am completely in favor of (a) and (b); it is (c) that I have problems with. It's precisely because I'm a traditional Roman Catholic who is faithful to the Magisterium of all ages that I cannot accept that. The third point contradicts Catholic teaching.  This is no novel teaching that I made up, but the traditional teaching of the Church. Unfortunately, on this point we have been victims of liberal pressure and propaganda and most Catholics today are embarrassed of this teaching--and it for this reason you never hear it anymore.

It can be summarized thus:

  • A Catholic state does NOT have the right to COERCE individuals or communities to practice the Faith PRIVATELY.
  • A Catholic state does NOT have the right to COERCE individuals or communities to practice the Faith PUBLICLY.
  • A Catholic state does NOT have the right to PREVENT individuals or communities from practicing false religions PRIVATELY.
  • A Catholic state DOES have the right to PREVENT individuals and communities from practicing false religions PUBLICLY.

Therefore, no individual or community has a God-given, natural right to spread, teach, or practice publicly the errors of a false religion (if there were such a natural right, then the Catholic states of the past would have violated this right by preventing their non-Catholic citizens from spreading their heresies and other pernicious errors).

And it is this point that the 'Manhattan Declaration' denies, when it states: 

Immunity from religious coercion is the cornerstone of an unconstrained conscience. No one should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience or to express freely and PUBLICLY their deeply held religious convictions. What is true for individuals applies to religious communities as well.

This contradicts the constant teaching of the ordinary papal magisterium. I recommend Michael Davies' excellent book on the subject, The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty, for a detailed explanation of this teaching and an account of how it became unpopular (though never retracted) after the Second Vatican Council.

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