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.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Religious Freedom for the Church of Christ

THE ISSUE OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM is cleft into two. There is the religious freedom and freedom of conscience that is part and parcel of the natural man who seeks the truth, the homo quaerens Deum. But there is also the religious freedom and freedom of conscience that arises out of the Deus quarens in homine hominem, that is to say the God who seeks man in man, God Incarnate, Jesus Christ, and the Church which he founded.

The Church was founded by Jesus Christ, and so we have to focus on who this Jesus Christ was, and what authority in heaven and earth was given him in order to understand what authority in heaven and on earth was given to the Church. As the Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith puts it in Dominus Iesus, "The Lord Jesus, before ascending into heaven, commanded his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world and to baptize all nations . . . . The Church's universal mission is born from the command of Jesus Christ and is fulfilled in the course of the centuries in the proclamation of the mystery of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the mystery of the incarnation of the Son, as saving event for all humanity." DI, 1. We have here two realities: Jesus and the Church. We shall briefly treat of who Jesus is, and then what the Church Jesus established sees herself to be.*

This reflection will take us directly into what the Protestant theologian Gerhard Kittel, in Mysterium Christi, called "das Ärgernis der Einmaligkeit," which been translated as "the scandal of particularity," the scandal of particularity of Christ.** Because of the Catholic Church's doctrine that there is a unity between Christ and his Church, the "scandal of particularity" also includes the Church. The "scandal of particularity" wholly rejects a religious indifferentism, and this "scandal of particularity" has a great effect upon the Church's understanding of her freedom as against the various States.

The Church firmly believes "that, in the mystery of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, who is 'the way, the truth, and the life' (Jn 14:6), the full revelation of divine truth is given." DI, 5. She is convinced that in the revelation of God in Jesus, "the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines forth," as he is "at the same time the mediator and the fullness of all revelation." DI, 5. Jesus ushered into the history of man a new dispensation, a Christian dispensation, and this is "the new and definitive covenant," one which "will never pass away," and one which expects "no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ." God's revelation to man is fully completed in Christ. There is for man no other Savior. There is for man no other Way.

There is only one salvific economy of the One and Triune God, realized in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, actualized with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, and extended in its salvific value to all humanity and to the entire universe: "No one, therefore, can enter into communion with God except through Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit."

DI, 12 (quoting John Paul II, Redemptoris missio, 5)

"The Lord Jesus, the only Savior," continues Dominus Iesus, "did not only establish a simple community of disciples, but constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him (cf. Jn 15:1ff.; Gal 3:28; Eph 4:15-16; Acts 9:5). Therefore, the fullness of Christ's salvific mystery belongs also to the Church, inseparably united to her Lord." In short, just as there is one mediator, there is one Church. "[T]herefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him."* DI, 17.

The Church was given a mission by the God who revealed himself in Christ. "With the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity (cf. Acts 17:30-31)." DI, 22 (citing VII, Lumen gentium, 17; JP II, Redemptoris missio, 11). "The mission of the Church is 'to proclaim and establish among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth, the seed and the beginning of that kingdom." DI, 18 (quoting VII, Lumen gentium, 5) She has been divinely appointed to proclaim and to establish, to say and to do.

What rights, then do Jesus and his Church have against civil society, in particular against the political community which orders civil society? Those answer to that question is briefly treated in sections 424-27 of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

Like the State, the Church manifests itself in a "visible organizational structure." It is, along with the State, a "perfect society" with all the means at its disposal for its function. (Compendium, No. 445) To be sure, the "organizational structures . . . are by nature different because of their configuration and because of the ends they pursue." (Compendium, No. 424). Their respective ends principally determine their spheres, although, since societies and the men which compose them are one and not divided, they may be some overlap. "The Second Vatican Council," the Compendium states, "solemnly reaffirmed that, 'in their proper spheres, the political community and the Church are mutually independent and self-governing.'
The Church is organized in ways that are suitable to meet the spiritual needs of the faithful, while the different political communities give rise to relationships and institutions that are at the service of everything that is part of the temporal common good. The autonomy and independence of these two realities is particularly evident with regards to their ends.
(Compendium, No. 424)

The State must not only respect the religious freedom of its citizens and of the religious bodies in which they, as demanded by the natural moral law which impels those of good will to seek truth, to accept it once recognized, and to live their life in accordance with their well-formed conscience as they travel--knowingly or in ignorance--to the one True God. The State must in particular respect the religious freedom of the Church, as a perfect society, one whose constitution and function is by divine warrant. With respect to the Church, "[t]he duty to respect religious freedom requires that the political community guarantee the Church the space needed to carry out her mission." (Compendium, No. 424) Failure to do so is against the will of God.

It should be noted that though the State and the Church have their separate spheres, this separation does not exclude overlap, nor does it exclude cooperation. In those areas that are the States, the Church has no role, but in those areas of overlap, the Church does have say, even in democratically-organized societies:

"The Church respects the legitimate autonomy of the democratic order and is not entitled to express preferences for this or that institutional or constitutional solution." nor does it belong to her to enter into questions of the merit of political programs, except as concerns their religious or moral implications.

(Compendium, No. 424 (quoting JP II, Centesimus annus, 47)

In a well-ordered society, the political community and the Church will not be at odds, but will cooperate for the benefit of the common good and salvation of souls:
The mutual autonomy of the Church and the political community does not entail a separation that excludes cooperation. Both of them, although by different titles, serve the personal and social vocation of the same human beings. The Church and the political community, in fact, express themselves in organized structures that are not ends in themselves but are intended for the service of man, to help him to exercise his rights fully, those inherent in his reality as a citizen and a Christian, and to fulfill correctly his corresponding duties. The Church and the political community can more effectively render this service "for the good of all if each works better for wholesome mutual cooperation in a way suitable to the circumstances of time and place."
(Compendium, No. 425 (quoting VII, Gaudium et spes, 76)

The Church likewise claims rights, rights which every State is duty-bound to recognize, as it is God's will as reflected in the fullest revelation of that will in Christ the Lord. We might therefore craft a sort of "Bill of Rights" of the Church as summarized by the Compendium:
  • The right to the legal recognition of her proper identity
  • The right to express her moral judgment on "all of human reality," to the extent that it may be needful to "defend the fundamental rights of the person or for the salvation of souls."
  • The right to freedom of expression
  • The right to teach and to evangelize
  • The right to worship God in a public manner
  • The right to her own organization, her own internal government, without interference from the State, including the right to select, educate, name, and transfer ministers
  • The right to construct religious buildings
  • The right to acquire and possess sufficient goods for her activity
  • The right to form associations not only for religious purposes, but also for educational, cultural, health case, and charitable purposes

This is the "elbow room" that is her right, by natural and divine law.***

The relationship between Church and State may be further ordered through agreements between them. As the Compendium concludes:

In order to prevent or attenuate possible conflicts between the Church and the political community, the juridical experience of the Church and the State have variously defined stable forms of contact and suitable instruments for guaranteeing harmonious relations. This experience is an essential reference point for all cases in which the State has the presumption to invade the Church's area of action, impairing the freedom of her activity to the point of openly persecuting her or, vice versa, for cases in which church organizations do not act properly with respect to the State.
(Compendium, No. 427)

*I am dealing with the core reality of Jesus and his Church. I do not intend to address the more difficult issue of how other adherents of other religions and other Christian churches and ecclesial communions may relate to Christ and his Church and implicitly, and despite their various errors or deficiencies, may participate in a way known to God alone who desires the universal salvation of mankind, in the salvation of Christ which is to be found in his Church. See generally Dominus Iesus. These subsidiary issues, while important, do not change the central reality of Jesus and his Church which is what drives the Church's understanding of her particular religious freedom and freedom of conscience.
**The Oxford English Dictionary states (s.v. "scandal of particularity") the following:
scandal of particularity [tr. Ger. (see quots. 1930, 1936)], the difficulty of seeing the particular man, Jesus, as the universal Saviour. Cf. PARTICULARITY 1.
1930 tr. G. Kittel in Bell & Deissmann Mysterium Christi ii. 31 The scandal of the problem of history. Can a particular historical happening be peculiar? Can it be significant sub specie aeternitatis? And above all, can this particular occurrence be either peculiar or significant? 1936 C. H. Dodd Apostolic Preaching & its Development iv. 219 ‘Like a strange people left on earth After a judgment day.’ This view of the historical status of the events comprised in the coming of Christ introduces us at once to what Professor Gerhard Kittel, in Mysterium Christi, calls ‘das Ärgernis der Einmaligkeit’, ‘the scandal of particularity’. 1961 Listener 9 Mar. 435/2 We do no service to religion by reducing either term of the problem, the total mystery of the Godhead or the scandal of particularity. 1979 C. F. D. Moule in M. D. Goulder Incarnation & Myth iv. 86 The ‘scandal of particularity’ is by no means a denial but rather a confirmation of the ubiquity and continuity of God's activity.

It should go without saying that by quoting this valuable concept, I abjure any of Kittel's anti-Semitism.
***Communist governments (e.g., China) and Islamic governments (e.g., Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, etc.) grossly violate these rights, and so, in their laws which prevent the Church from exercising freely her mission, may be said to be acting manifestly against the will of God as revealed both in the natural moral law and in divine law as contained in the Gospels. Particularly offensive are the actions of the Islamic countries which, ostensibly in name of God act against the will of God.

No comments:

Post a Comment