Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Freedom and Law: Pope Leo XIII's Libertas praestantissimum, Part 5

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A MODERATE LIBERAL, a liberal that does not jettison notions of natural law and eternal law, that is, one that does not spurn the notion of an objective and knowable moral realm? Not all liberals, Pope Leo III admits, are as radical as those whom he addressed in the earlier part of his encyclical Libertas praestantissimum. There are those that reject any notion of an intemperate do-as-you-feel liberty, and maintain that liberty ought to be ruled by right reason and the natural law and, at least in theory, divine law. These liberals , however, would reject any public role of the Church as interpreter of the divine law and the natural law. They would expand the freedom of man and hold that man "as a free being is bound by no law of God except such as He makes known to us through our natural reason," LP, 17, thus cutting out divine law altogether at least in a public role, and thereby necessarily assigning "limits to His [God's] legislative authority." But this is to fail to render the obedience to God which God is due. Man's obligations to God go beyond the mere natural law (though they certainly encompass these), but they also include the obligation to obey the divine positive law. To these liberals who would limit God's bailiwick to the natural law, Leo XIII taught, to the contrary:
Man must, therefore, take his standard of a loyal and religious life from the eternal law; and from all and every one of those laws which God, in His infinite wisdom and power, has been pleased to enact, and to make known to us by such clear and unmistakable signs as to leave no room for doubt. And the more so because laws of this kind have the same origin, the same author, as the eternal law, are absolutely in accordance with right reason, and perfect the natural law. These laws it is that embody the government of God, who graciously guides and directs the intellect and the will of man lest these fall into error.

Necesse est igitur, vivendi normam constanter religioseque, ut a lege aeterna, ita ab omnibus singulisque petere legibus, quas infinite sapiens, infinite potens Deus, qua sibi ratione visum est, tradidit, quasque nosse tuto possumus perspicuis nec ullo modo addubitandis notis. Eo vel magis quod istius generis leges, quoniam idem habent, quod lex aeterna, principium, eumdemque auctorem, omnino et cum ratione concordant et perfectionem adiungunt ad naturale ius: eaedemque magisterium Dei ipsius complectuntur, qui scilicet, nostra ne mens neu voluntas in errorem labatur, nutu ductuque suo utramque benigne regit. Sit igitur sancte inviolateque coniunctum, quod nec diiungi potest nec debet, omnibusque in rebus, quod ipsa naturalis ratio praecipit, obnoxie Deo obedienterque serviatur.
LP, 17.

Yet another school of liberalism, even more moderate and tempered, stands condemned by its internal inconsistency. In this kind of liberalism, the advocate affirms "that the morality of individuals is to be guided by the divine law, but not the morality of the State." The divine law may be safely and morally disregarded by the State, and the "fatal theory of the need of separation between Church and State," is compelled as a matter of good governance. Given the existence of God, and given his revealed will in both the natural and divine law, and given that God is the author of both the Church and State, and is the authority behind both of them, "the absurdity of such a position is manifest." LP, 18. Indeed, the real problem seems to be a practical loss of faith.

Michelangelo Buonaroti, The Damned Soul (Uffizi)
(Enjoying his unbridled freedom of religion, speech, and conscience without reference to God)

The problem with an absolute separation between Church and State is that it ignores the complexity of the relationship between these two powers or institutions and substitutes in its place a facile formula that is calculated to reduce the authority of the Church in practical life. The problem is that there are, and always will be, areas of overlap between the two institutions. In those areas of overlap, how can one separate Church from State without giving one precedence over the other? In practice, the overweening State elbows the Church out as it has, for example, in the areas of marriage (e.g., instituting no-fault divorce), family life (e.g., homosexual marriage), education (especially moral education), health care (contraception, abortion, euthanasia, etc.):
[A]lthough the civil authority has not the same proximate end as the spiritual, nor proceeds on the same lines, nevertheless in the exercise of their separate powers they must occasionally meet. For their subjects are the same, and not infrequently they deal with the same objects, though in different ways. Whenever this occurs, since a state of conflict is absurd and manifestly repugnant to the most wise ordinance of God, there must necessarily exist some order or mode of procedure to remove the occasions of difference and contention, and to secure harmony in all things. This harmony has been not inaptly compared to that which exists between the body and the soul for the well-being of both one and the other, the separation of which brings irremediable harm to the body, since it extinguishes its very life.

Sed quod magis interest, quodque alias Nosmetipsi nec semel monuimus, quamvis principatus civilis non eodem, quo sacer, proxime spectet, nec iisdem eat itineribus, in potestate tamen gerenda obviam esse interdum alteri alter necessario debet. Est enim utriusque in eosdem imperium, nec raro fit, ut iisdem de rebus uterque, etsi non eadem ratione, decernat. Id quotiescumque usuveniat, cum confligere absurdum sit, sapientissimaeque voluntati Dei aperte repugnet, quemdam esse modum atque ordinem necesse est, ex quo, caussis contentionum certationumque sublatis, ratio concors in agendis rebus existat. Et huiusmodi concordiam non inepte similem coniunctioni dixere, quae animum inter et corpus intercedit, idque commodo utriusque partis: quarum distractio nominatim est perniciosa corpori, quippe cuius vitam extinguit.
LP, 18.

From his general review of liberalism, it its extreme dogmatic or ideological forms, to its more seeming moderate but equally inconsistent pragmatic forms, Leo XIII launches into an analysis of some of the more common "liberal" liberties or rights, and criticizes the liberal understanding or scope of these liberties or rights: the liberty of worship, liberty of speech and liberty of the press, and liberty of conscience. So much confusion is engendered by those who, wed to relativism or skepticism, or seeking to justify their own disordered appetites or immoral habits, would import license in worship, speech and press, and conscience, transforming license into liberty, and thereby making these rights theoretically or practically absolute, as if they transcended the very obligations of the natural and eternal law. It is, in fact, sheer error to suggest that liberty of worship, liberty of speech or the press, or liberty of conscience is a "safe harbor," a place where one may escape obedience to the law of nature and nature's God.
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy face?
If I ascend into heaven, thou art there: if I descend into hell, thou art present.
If I take my wings early in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea:
Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me.
(Psalm 138:7-10)

Liberty of religion, speech, the press, and conscience are not secular sanctuaries outside the pale of natural law or God's divine law, and those who think otherwise stand in the darkness of nothingness, which are the haunts of the Devil. For where there is not God, there is, by definition, nothing, or at least nothing real, and toward nothing is where the Devil trends. One should think there may be a lot of freethinkers and journalists in the Devil's retinue as he traipses to the Land of Nada, the Kingdom of Nihilo.


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