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.


JWY said...

Great post!

Andrew Jaeger said...

Isn't it crucial that the four points you pick out are SPECIFICALLY designated for a CATHOLIC STATE, which the USA is definitely not a public Catholic state. Isn't the fourth point to prevent scandal... The reason private worship of a false God is permitted by a Catholic state is because it does not cause public scandal. The reason public worship is prohibited by a Catholic state is because it would cause scandal in a Catholic state (not a secular state).

I don't have the time to go into this, but it seems your reasons are well intentioned, but seem to not directly apply to the current state of affairs, for we (the USA) are NOT in a Catholic state.

If I am reading your 4 conditions properly they pertain to CATHOLIC STATES qua being publicly/politically Catholic, not secular states. If this is so, then it doesn't seem your reasons for not supporting the Manhattan project don't go through.

Don Paco said...

The traditional doctrine on the State's right to prevent the practice of false religions is not reducible to the context of a Catholic State. To do so would be gravely to misunderstand it. In fact, none of the texts where the Magisterium proposes this doctrine expreses it as being true exclusively in the context of Catholic States. Rather, they all propose the doctrine as a universal truth that is independent of this or that historical context.

Regarding your point that it's all about scandal...

The reason why the PUBLIC practice of a false religion MAY be prohibited in a Catholic state is that false religions are evil and the State has the right to regulate PUBLIC affairs for the sake of the common good. It is NOT merely because it would cause scandal.

The reason why the PRIVATE practice of a false religion may NOT be prohibited in a Catholic state is that the State has no right to regulate PRIVATE affairs (at least insofar as these do not have to do directly with the common good). It is not merely because the private practice of false religions does not give rise to scandal.

The reasoning boils down to this:

Premise 1: Human individuals and communities either have or not have a fundamental, God-given, natural right to practice publicly a false religion.

Premise 2: If they do have such a right, then it would be immoral for a State to prohibit the practice of false religions (because it would be a violation of a fundamental, God-given natural right).

Premise 3: But it is not immoral for a State to prohibit the practice of false religions (Catholic States did this .

Conclusion: Therefore, human individuals and communities do not have a fundamental, God-given, natural right to practice false religions.

So ultimately the question is whether I have a natural right to worship a false god. If I do, then the State must protect this right; if I don't, then the State has the right to prevent me from worshiping this god. This question has an answer that is independent of (and prior to) the rights of the State in which I live.