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.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Freedom and Law: Pope Leo XIII's Libertas praestantissimum, Part 6

FREEDOM OF RELIGION, OF SPEECH AND THE PRESS, and of conscience are considered to be staples of modern political and civil organization in the Western and Western-style democracies. Though there is an authentic freedom of worship, of conscience, and of speech and the press, there is, in Pope Leo XIII's view, also an inauthentic or counterfeit freedom of religion, conscience, and speech, one based upon a misunderstanding of man. The misunderstanding stems from man's supposed autonomy from the natural law and the divine law. Some advocates of such extensive civil rights insist that these freedoms are beyond the reach of the natural or divine law: that these are temples where no man or even God can reach, or, what is the same thing, that such untrammeled freedom of religion, conscience, and speech are themselves mandated by the natural or divine law and so the natural law or divine law precludes any curb--individual or social--upon their exercise.

In his analysis of these liberties or freedom, Leo XIII does not begin with the liberty or freedom, but with its related virtue or good. Thus, with respect to the liberty of worship, he starts with the virtue of religion. LP, 19. With regard to the liberty of speech and and related liberties, he begins with truth. LP, 23. In approaching the rights of conscience, he begins with the duty of man to God. LP, 30. The only means of understanding these freedoms or these liberties is to understand their end. These freedoms are not without their end or purpose, and it is only in reference to their end that they, and any proper limits to them, can be understood. As Pope Leo XIII had earlier indicated, freedom does not consist in the liberty to do wrong, but freedom is the liberty to do right. The freedom of worship is the freedom to worship rightly. The freedom of speech is the freedom to speak truthfully. The freedom of conscience is the freedom conscientiously to determine and follow objective good. Another way of looking at it is to analyze the freedoms from the perspective of their analogous duty. The freedom of worship is tied to the duty to worship the one true God, and not idols of our own making. The freedom of speech is tied to the duty to speak the truth, and not to lie. The freedom of conscience is tied to the duty to form one's conscience in accordance, not with whim, not based upon subjective preference, but upon the foundation of an objective moral reality.

The liberty of worship that Leo XIII analyzes is a one that is based "on the principle that every man is free to profess as he may choose any religion or none." LP, 19 (emphasis added). In assessing this freedom, Leo XIII points to what is "without doubt" man's "chiefest and holiest" duty, officiis . . . sine dubitatione maximum ac sanctissimum, which is the duty "to worship God with devotion and piety." LP, 20. Moreover, the choice of worship is not up to individual whim: the natural law and reason both give guidance here, and impose an affirmative moral duty on man:
And if it be asked which of the many conflicting religions it is necessary to adopt, reason and the natural law unhesitatingly tell us to practice that one which God enjoins, and which men can easily recognize by certain exterior notes, whereby Divine Providence has willed that it should be distinguished, because, in a matter of such moment, the most terrible loss would be the consequence of error.
LP, 20. Consequently, a liberty of religion that is framed as a liberty where "every man is free to profess as he may choose any religion or none," is palpably false. The choice of religion is not an autonomous choice, a choice or exercise of will with no duty but to ourselves and to our whim. It is a choice with a duty, a duty imposed by reason and the natural law. The duty is to the true God. The suggestion that man has the liberty of religion defined as a liberty to manufacture an idol of his own hand, or, if he is more sophisticate, and idol of his own mind, is to suggest that "the power is given him to pervert or abandon with impunity the most sacred of duties, and to exchange the unchangeable good for evil." LP, 20. The sort of notion of religious liberty that Leo XIII condemned is the one espoused by Justice Anthony Kennedy in the "sweet-mystery-of-life" (so-sarcastically referred to by Justice Scalia) passage in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and which he has been justly ridiculed as "New Age jurisprudence" (Robert Bork), "open-ended validation of subjectivism" (William Bennett), "gaseously" written (George Will), or a "thing of almost infinite plasticity" (Michael Uhlman), or as the editors of First Things called it, the "notorious mystery passage":
At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.
Justice Holmes, in his famous dissent in Lochner v. New York, stated that the "14th Amendment does not enact Mr. Spencer's Social Statics." Well neither, one should have thought, did the 14th Amendment enact Sartre's existentialism. I would call Justice Kennedy's "sweet-mystery-of-life" passage as--fittingly--nauseous, "nauseous words past mentioning or bearing." (Byron) For Leo XIII, these are the words of a man--probably through sheer philosophical ignorance or obtuseness or mindless acceptance of convention--which adopt Lucifer's "rebellious cry," and consequently substitutes "for true liberty what is sheer and most foolish license." LP, 14. One can virtually hear the voices of demons a-Maying, dancing as in a Mayfest around a phallic maypole, and chanting in dissipated glee and the rising of he coming mayhem:
La nausée reprend le pouvoir
La nausée reprend le pouvoir
La nausée reprend le pouvoir
La nausée reprend le pouvoir

Neo-Pagans celebrating the "Sweet-Mystery-of-Life"
before the Nausea sets in

The natural law obliges man to search for the truth in religious doctrine, to use all his tools at his disposal to seek for the truth, including both reason and prayer, and, if found, adopt and embrace the religion one believes to be true. That is the liberty protected by liberty of religion. There is no natural right to create our own religion, to create our own god, and to manufacture our own reality, as if religion is nothing other than ordering a Martini instead of a Bellini.

There is a concomitant duty upon the State equally to recognize God, to render homage to God, and to profess that religion which alone is true. Leo XIII labels as "manifestly false," the notions that "the State has no duties toward God, or that such duties, if they exist, can be abandoned with impunity." LP, 21.
[C]ivil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness-namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges.

Quamobrem Deum civilis societas, quia societas est, parentem et auctorem suum agnoscat necesse est, atque eius potesta tern dominatumque vereatur et colat. Vetat igitur iustitia, vetat ratio atheam esse, vel, quod in atheismum recideret, erga varias, ut loquuntur, religiones pari modo affectam civitatem, eademque singulis iura promiscue largiri.
LP, 21. There will be, Leo XIII warns, a loss of liberty that will be engendered by a false notion of liberty of worship which relativizes all religions, which acts indifferently toward them, which advances a notion that religious truth and cult is what we craft and not what we discover. Religion conduces to pure morals and pure morals to liberty. Praetermittimus quantum religio bonis moribus conducat, et quantum libertati mores boni. LP, 22. In fact, if Leo XIII is to be believed, our false notions of freedom of religion and the rejection of any strict obligation, both individual and communal, to God and to objective truth in religion will lead to our demise because it will corrupt morals: "Reason shows, and history confirms the fact, that the higher the morality of States; the greater are the liberty and wealth and power which they enjoy." LP, 22.


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