On Religious Liberty: An Objection Considered

Oct 15th, 2013 | By | Category: Blog Posts

One common objection to the Catholic Church raised by some inquiring Protestants has to do with religious liberty. The objection I have in mind is the claim that the Catholic Church has contradicted her own doctrine on this subject by previously condemning religious liberty and then affirming religious liberty at the Second Vatican Council in the declaration titled Dignitatis Humanae. This objection has also been used more recently in some circles to challenge the legitimacy of the opposition by the US Catholic bishops to the HHS mandate “requiring employee health insurance for contraceptives, including abortion-causing drugs, and female sterilization.” Having opposed religious liberty in the past, goes the objection, the Catholic Church is only appealing to the right to religious liberty now when she does not have the political influence to get what she wants. Here in this post I address this objection briefly first by presenting the relevant Church documents, and then by explaining why there is no contradiction between the doctrines they contain.

VaticanII
The Second Vatican Council

The Documents Condemning Religious Liberty

In his encyclical Mirari Vos (August 15, 1832), Pope Gregory XVI wrote the following:

This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. “But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error,” as Augustine was wont to say. When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly “the bottomless pit” is open from which John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. Thence comes transformation of minds, corruption of youths, contempt of sacred things and holy laws — in other words, a pestilence more deadly to the state than any other. Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty. (Mirari Vos , 14)

Thirty two years later, in 1864, Pope Pius IX wrote the following in Quanta Cura:

For you well know, venerable brethren, that at this time men are found not a few who, applying to civil society the impious and absurd principle of “naturalism,” as they call it, dare to teach that “the best constitution of public society and (also) civil progress altogether require that human society be conducted and governed without regard being had to religion any more than if it did not exist; or, at least, without any distinction being made between the true religion and false ones.” And, against the doctrine of Scripture, of the Church, and of the Holy Fathers, they do not hesitate to assert that “that is the best condition of civil society, in which no duty is recognized, as attached to the civil power, of restraining by enacted penalties, offenders against the Catholic religion, except so far as public peace may require.” From which totally false idea of social government they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, most fatal in its effects on the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls, called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an “insanity,” viz., that “liberty of conscience and worship is each man’s personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way.” But, while they rashly affirm this, they do not think and consider that they are preaching “liberty of perdition;” and that “if human arguments are always allowed free room for discussion, there will never be wanting men who will dare to resist truth, and to trust in the flowing speech of human wisdom; whereas we know, from the very teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, how carefully Christian faith and wisdom should avoid this most injurious babbling.” (Quanta Cura, 3)

On that same day, December 8, 1864, Pope Pius IX promulgated the Syllabus of Errors, among which were the following four condemned propositions:

15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true. — Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862; DamnatioMultiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

77. In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.

78. Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship.

79. Moreover, it is false that the civil liberty of every form of worship, and the full power, given to all, of overtly and publicly manifesting any opinions whatsoever and thoughts, conduce more easily to corrupt the morals and minds of the people, and to propagate the pest of indifferentism.

From these documents, we can see that the Church has taught the following five claims: (a) it is false that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone, (b) it is false that the best society is one in which the civil authority recognizes no duty to restrain offenders against the Catholic religion, (c) it is false that absolute liberty of conscience and worship is each man’s personal right that ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society and restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, (d) it is false that in the present day (1864) it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship, and (e) the civil liberty of every form of worship and the full power given to each citizen to manifest publicly any opinions whatsoever, tends more easily to corrupt the morals and minds of the people, and to propagate the pest of indifferentism.

The Document Affirming Religious Liberty

In 1965 the Second Vatican Council said the following in its Declaration on Religious Freedom, titled Dignitatis Humanae and promulgated by Pope Paul VI:

2. This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.
… Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.

3. … [Man] is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious. … Injury therefore is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in society, provided just public order is observed. …

4. The freedom or immunity from coercion in matters religious which is the endowment of persons as individuals is also to be recognized as their right when they act in community. …

6. …It follows that a wrong is done when government imposes upon its people, by force or fear or other means, the profession or repudiation of any religion, or when it hinders men from joining or leaving a religious community. All the more is it a violation of the will of God and of the sacred rights of the person and the family of nations when force is brought to bear in any way in order to destroy or repress religion, either in the whole of mankind or in a particular country or in a definite community.

From this document we see that the Church teaches the following five propositions: (f) the human person has a right to religious freedom such that he, whether acting individually or within a group, is to be immune from coercion against his conscience by any human power, within due limits, (g) this right to religious freedom has its foundation in the dignity of the human person and is to be recognized within the constitutional law of a society as a civil right, (h) injury is done to the human person and to the very order established by God when the free exercise of religion is denied in society, provided just public order is observed, (i) this right to religious freedom is retained even by those who fail in their obligation to seek out the truth, and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded even in such cases, provided that the just public order be observed, and (j) it is wrong for a government to impose upon its people, by force or fear, the profession or repudiation of any religion, or to hinder persons from joining or leaving a religious community, or to destroy or repress religion.

III. The Apparent Contradictions and Their Resolution

When we lay the first five claims (a)-(e) beside the second five claims (f)-(j), we find what initially seem to be the following contradictions: (k) it is false that liberty of conscience ought to be maintained for everyone, and it is true that liberty of conscience ought to be maintained for everyone, (l) it is false that liberty of conscience and worship is each man’s personal right, and it is true that liberty of conscience and worship is each man’s personal right, (m) when civil liberty of every form of worship is given to each citizen this tends more easily to corrupt the morals and minds of the persons within that society, and when the civil liberty of every form of religion is denied within society, injury is done to the human person and to very order established by God. This last pair of statements is strictly speaking not a contradiction, but it does seemingly imply that harm is done to society when civil liberty of every form of worship is granted and also when it is withheld. This alleged contradiction can also be formulated as a contradiction regarding which society is best, namely, a contradiction between the claim that the best condition of civil society is one in which a duty is recognized by the civil power to restrain offenders against the Catholic religion, and the claim that the best condition of civil society is one which a duty is recognized by the civil power not to restrain offenders against the Catholic religion but instead to recognize freedom of conscience for all citizens, even those who choose some other religion or no religion.

So why aren’t these contradictions? As I have worded them, they surely seem to be contradictions. When approaching this question it is essential to recognize that the errors being addressed in the earlier documents are not the errors being addressed in Dignitatis Humanae. The appearance of contradiction is formed by abstracting the words from the historical and intentional contexts in which they were written.

A. Liberty of Conscience

Let’s start with liberty of conscience. The erroneous “liberty of conscience” referred to in the nineteenth century documents above is built on the error of indifferentism, according to which no religion is better than any other, and no form of Christianity is better than any other form of Christianity. The cause provoking the liberty of conscience section of Mirari Vos was the writing of a French journalist named H.F. de Lamannais, who advocated that the State be entirely secular and grant its citizens absolute liberty to diffuse any idea, intervening only when necessary to preserve the public peace. Lamannais sought an absolute separation of Church and State, and an absolute liberty on the part of citizens to believe whatever they wanted, without the State taking any position on matters of religion.

This was the indifferentism Pope Gregory XVI was addressing in Mirari Vos. Immediately before discussing “liberty of conscience” in Mirari Vos, he defined ‘indifferentism’ with the following statement:

This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained. (Mirari Vos, 13)

This indifferentism therefore implicitly denies either that Christianity is the true religion, or that one form of Christianity (e.g. Catholicism) is the true one among all the others. Indifferentism as so defined is a repackaged form of the ancient heresy of Pelagianism, the notion that man can attain salvation through morality without grace. It is also a form of the modernist notion that there is no supernatural divine revelation we are morally obliged to believe. It is also thereby a denial both of Christianity, according to which God has spoken to us in His Son and grace is needed for salvation, and of Catholicism, according to which the Church is the ark of the New Covenant in which through the sacraments Christ established within her He gives the grace by which we may be saved. So this “liberty of conscience” built on indifferentism entails that under all circumstances the government must never advance one religion over others, must never treat divine revelation as divine revelation, and must never endorse one form of Christianity over others. But that is contrary to Church teaching, as Pope Leo XIII made clear in 1885 when he wrote:

Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its teaching and practice-not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion — it is a public crime to act as though there were no God. So, too, is it a sin for the State not to have care for religion as a something beyond its scope, or as of no practical benefit; or out of many forms of religion to adopt that one which chimes in with the fancy; for we are bound absolutely to worship God in that way which He has shown to be His will. All who rule, therefore, would hold in honor the holy name of God, and one of their chief duties must be to favor religion, to protect it, to shield it under the credit and sanction of the laws, and neither to organize nor enact any measure that may compromise its safety. This is the bounden duty of rulers to the people over whom they rule. For one and all are we destined by our birth and adoption to enjoy, when this frail and fleeting life is ended, a supreme and final good in heaven, and to the attainment of this every endeavor should be directed. Since, then, upon this depends the full and perfect happiness of mankind, the securing of this end should be of all imaginable interests the most urgent. Hence, civil society, established for the common welfare, should not only safeguard the well-being of the community, but have also at heart the interests of its individual members, in such mode as not in any way to hinder, but in every manner to render as easy as may be, the possession of that highest and unchangeable good for which all should seek. Wherefore, for this purpose, care must especially be taken to preserve unharmed and unimpeded the religion whereof the practice is the link connecting man with God. […]

The authority of God is passed over in silence, just as if there were no God; or as if He cared nothing for human society; or as if men, whether in their individual capacity or bound together in social relations, owed nothing to God; or as if there could be a government of which the whole origin and power and authority did not reside in God Himself. Thus, as is evident, a State becomes nothing but a multitude which is its own master and ruler. And since the people is declared to contain within itself the spring-head of all rights and of all power, it follows that the State does not consider itself bound by any kind of duty toward God. Moreover, it believes that it is not obliged to make public profession of any religion; or to inquire which of the very many religions is the only one true; or to prefer one religion to all the rest; or to show to any form of religion special favor; but, on the contrary, is bound to grant equal rights to every creed, so that public order may not be disturbed by any particular form of religious belief. (Immortale Dei, 6, 25)

Pope Leo XIII explains that when it is known publicly that there is a God and that He has revealed Himself and how He is to be worshipped, it is a public crime for the society or the State to act as if there is no God. The State has an obligation to give to God the worship He is due, in the manner He is known to have prescribed. Civil rulers must therefore favor, protect, and shield the true religion, insofar as they know it, and insofar as they are able to do so in their capacity. Among the principles of the Enlightenment that had their roots in the religious controversies of the sixteenth century, is a notion of government according to which “the authority of God is passed over in silence,” as if men owe nothing to God, and as if the government is not obliged to make any public profession of faith or show any form of religion special favor. But this philosophy has false implications, as Pope Leo XIII goes on to explain:

To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name. Men who really believe in the existence of God must, in order to be consistent with themselves and to avoid absurd conclusions, understand that differing modes of divine worship involving dissimilarity and conflict even on most important points cannot all be equally probable, equally good, and equally acceptable to God. […]

Thus, Gregory XVI in his encyclical letter “Mirari Vos,” dated August 15, 1832, inveighed with weighty words against the sophisms which even at his time were being publicly inculcated-namely, that no preference should be shown for any particular form of worship; that it is right for individuals to form their own personal judgments about religion; that each man’s conscience is his sole and all-sufficing guide. (Immortale Dei, 31, 34)

Indifferentism, according to Pope Leo XIII, is an implicit form of atheism. And it was this form of atheism, hidden under the language of ‘liberty’ of religion, that Pope Gregory XVI opposed in Mirari Vos. According to the conception of “liberty of conscience” proposed by the indifferentists, the best society is one in which there is no publicly held or publicly recognized religious truth or religious practice, but instead each man’s reason and conscience must be his sole and all-sufficing guide in deciding which religious beliefs, if any, he will believe while the government remains absolutely mute on the matter of religion and engages in no particular religious practice.

As Pope Pius IX makes clear in Quanta Cura, and Pope Leo XIII confirmed subsequently, the conception of liberty of conscience Pope Gregory XVI condemned follows from the indifferentist conception of the best condition of civil society. Hence this “liberty of conscience” refers to a freedom not only from coercion but also from guidance, teaching, or influence by both civil and ecclesial authorities toward religious truth, and from restriction, impedance, or opposition by such authorities toward religious error. It includes the notion of freedom from the influence or idea or existence of public religious truth and from public religious practice by the civil authority or the endorsement of religious practice by the civil authority. Each man’s guide in matters of religion must be his reason alone, and his reason must not be informed or influenced by civil authorities as such, whether through word or actions, or by ecclesial authorities publicly recognized as such by the civil authority. According to this notion any such informing or influencing would be an abuse of power because there is no true religion and no true form of Christianity. More generally, this conception of freedom of conscience views authority and freedom as opposed, such that the action of a civil authority in its capacity as civil authority to advance a particular religion is ipso facto a violation of the freedom of the citizens with respect to religion. Religion can have no place in the public square, because there can be no publicly recognized religious truth; there can be only private religious decisions. Hence there are no possible social conditions in which upholding the common good requires or allows action of this sort by civil authorities.

The freedom of conscience referred to in Dignitatis Humanae, by contrast, is a more specific definition of freedom, namely, freedom from coercion to act against one’s conscience in matters of religion, within due limits in relation to the common good. The freedom of conscience affirmed in Dignitatis Humanae is not a freedom to form one’s conscience apart from any guidance or direction toward the truth by the civil authority or by an ecclesial authority recognized as such by the civil authority, but instead a freedom to act according to one’s conscience with regard to religion, without coercion, within due limits in relation to the common good.1 This liberty of conscience requires that no government may impose on its citizens the profession or repudiation of any religion such that any citizens are compelled or coerced to act against their conscience with regard to religion. But this liberty of conscience does not disallow a publicly recognized religion, or the promotion and defense and practice of that public religion by the civil authority as such.2

So the “liberty of conscience” condemned in the earlier document is not the same “liberty of conscience” affirmed in Dignitatis Humanae, and for that reason there is no contradiction between the two teachings.

B. The Right of Religious Liberty

What then of the seeming contradiction between the older teaching that it is false that liberty of conscience and worship is each man’s personal right, and the teaching in Dignitatis Humanae that liberty of conscience and worship is each man’s personal right? Here too, the position condemned is not the same position affirmed, because the ‘right’ condemned in the older documents is not the right affirmed in Dignitatis Humanae. The position condemned is the notion that human persons have a right not only to follow their conscience in matters of religion without coercion from the civil authority, but also to form their conscience without any influence by the civil authority as such in matters of religion, through endorsement or promotion or practice of any particular religion, or opposition to any particular religious claim or practice. The ‘right’ of religious freedom as conceived by the indifferentists entails that the civil authority has no obligation to promote and defend religious truth, oppose false religious claims, and practice the true religion. Rather, this proposed ‘right’ entails that the civil authority has an obligation not to do each of those, and thus violates this right if it does them.

In contrast, the right to religious freedom affirmed in Dignitatis Humanae is the right to be immune from coercion to act against one’s conscience in matters of religion, within due limits in relation to the common good.3 This right does not entail that the civil authority has no obligation to promote and defend religious truth, oppose false religious claims, and practice the true religion. This right does not entail that the civil authority has an obligation not to do each of those. The civil authority can defend and practice one particular religion, and oppose false religious claims or practices, while upholding and respecting the right to religious freedom as this right is defined and affirmed in Dignitatis Humanae.

So here too the false right of liberty of conscience and worship rejected in the earlier documents is not the same right of liberty and conscience affirmed in Dignitatis Humanae, and for that reason there is no contradiction between the two teachings. This is also why there is no contradiction between the claim in Quanta Cura that it is false that “liberty of conscience and worship is each man’s personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society” (QC, 3) and the claim in Dignitatis Humanae that “This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right” (DH, 2). The liberty that Pope Pius IX teaches should not be legally recognized is not the same liberty that the Second Vatican Council teaches should be recognized.

C. The Perfection of Society

What then of the third alleged contradiction, namely, between the earlier claim that when civil liberty of every form of worship is given to each citizen this tends more easily to corrupt the morals and minds of the persons within that society, and the claim in Dignitatis Humanae that when the civil liberty of every form of religion is denied within society, injury is done to the human person and to very order established by God? Here too the form of civil liberty said to tend toward the corruption of society is not the same as the form of civil liberty the denial of which injures both the human person and the order established by God.

Once again, the civil liberty that the older documents teach as tending to the corruption of society is a conception of liberty that presupposes indifferentism. Intrinsic to this conception of liberty is a denial of the possibility of the public discovery, preservation, and dissemination of religious truth. In order for the citizens to have this ‘liberty,’ the society as a whole and civil authority as such must act as though no religious truth has been discovered. Clearly this conception of liberty presupposes that God has not spoken publicly or publicly revealed Himself or how He is to be worshipped. In this way this conception of liberty denies the possibility of divine revelation to man in his social dimension and thereby denies the historicity and objectivity of divine revelation altogether. The forced privatization of religion is not a religiously neutral position, because it carries with it the docetic notion that God did not become man in time and space, but speaks at most only directly to individual human hearts in the privacy of their own homes or houses of worship.

The Church’s rejection of that conception of liberty does not entail that civil authorities who come to know religious truth must coerce citizens to accept religious truth. In 1888, Pope Leo XIII, wrote the following:

For this reason, while not conceding any right to anything save what is true and honest, the Church does not forbid public authority to tolerate what is at variance with truth and justice, for the sake of avoiding some greater evil, or of obtaining or preserving some greater good. . . . But if, in such circumstances, for the sake of the common good (and this is the only legitimate reason), human law may or even should tolerate evil, it may not and should not approve or desire evil for its own sake. . . .

But, to judge aright, we must acknowledge that, the more a State is driven to tolerate evil, the further is it from perfection; and that the tolerance of evil which is dictated by political prudence should be strictly confined to the limits which its justifying cause, the public welfare requires. . . . (Libertas, 33, 34)

The civil authority may tolerate what is at variance with truth and justice, for the sake of avoiding some greater evil, or of obtaining or preserving some greater good. But the more a State is driven by the condition of its citizens to tolerate evil and falsehood, the further it is from perfection, all other things being equal. Inversely, the less that evil and falsehood must be tolerated, without violating human conscience, the more perfect the society, all other things being equal. But in a society following the standard of false religious liberty such that there is no public recognition of religious or moral truth, the citizens are more likely to fall into all sorts of error and immorality, and in that respect such a society tends to its corruption and demise.4

By contrast, the conception of religious liberty in view in the claim within Dignitatis Humanae that “Injury . . . is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in society, provided just public order is observed,” does not presuppose indifferentism or docetism or the denial of divine revelation, because it does not presuppose that religious truth cannot be known publicly and promoted publicly by the civil authority. Rather, this religious liberty is the freedom to act according to one’s conscience regarding religion without coercion, provided the just public order is observed. According to Dignitatis Humanae, the reason why coercing others to act contrary to their conscience in matters of religion is wrong lies in the very nature of our duty to pursue and adhere to religious truth:

The reason is that the exercise of religion, of its very nature, consists before all else in those internal, voluntary and free acts whereby man sets the course of his life directly toward God. No merely human power can either command or prohibit acts of this kind. (Dignitatis Humanae, 3)

[M]en cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion. (Dignitatis Humanae, 2)

Because the exercise of religion consists before all else in internal, voluntary and free acts, when a society loses the recognition of religious freedom, and the civil authority coerces its citizens to profess or repudiate some particular religious doctrine or practice, it fails to permit its citizens to discharge their religious obligations before God. And this mistreatment of its citizens thereby harms society.

So here too the false conception of religious liberty said in the earlier Church documents to be harmful to society is not the same conception of religious liberty affirmed in Dignitatis Humanae as part of the very order established by God, and which when denied injures the human person. The false conception of religious liberty is not merely a freedom from coercion when following one’s conscious in matters religious, but is a much broader concept that includes within itself a denial of the possibility of the public discovery, preservation, and dissemination of religious truth, and thus includes within itself a denial of the incarnation. The religious liberty affirmed in Dignitatis Humanae, by contrast, entails no such thing.5 Rather, Dignitatis Humanae acknowledges that society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion, and that this responsibility belongs especially to the civil authority, not only for the sake of preserving public peace, but also for a “proper guardianship of public morality:”

Furthermore, society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection. However, government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order. These norms arise out of the need for the effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for the peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights, also out of the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice, and finally out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality. (Dignitatis Humanae, 7)

The claim that Dignitatis Humanae contradicts prior Church teaching takes another form regarding the perfection of society. According to that objection, the teaching of Dignitatis Humanae that civil authorities ought not coerce citizens to act against their conscience in matters of religion, within due limits, contradicts the falsehood of the statement condemned by Pope Pius IX in Quanta Cura that the best condition of civil society is one in which no duty is recognized by the civil power of restraining offenders against the Catholic religion, except so far as public peace may require. However, that the best condition of society is one in which the civil authority does recognize a duty to restrain offenders against the Catholic religion does not entail that anyone should be subject to coercion to act against his conscience in matters of religion beyond due limits. The moral duty by civil authorities to defend religious truth for the sake of the common good is compatible with the moral duty by civil authorities not to coerce citizens to act against their conscience in matters of religion, beyond due limits. For that reason, here too there is no contradiction between the two teachings.

IV. Points of Continuity

It is worth pointing out the continuity of the two documents, first by noting that the relevant errors addressed by the older documents are repudiated positively in the second paragraph of Dignitatis Humanae:

First, the council professes its belief that God Himself has made known to mankind the way in which men are to serve Him, and thus be saved in Christ and come to blessedness. We believe that this one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad among all men. Thus He spoke to the Apostles: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have enjoined upon you” (Matt. 28: 19-20). On their part, all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it. (Dignitatis Humanae, 1)

Notice the following five claims: (1) God has made known to mankind the way in which men are to serve Him and come to salvation, (2) there is one true religion, (3) this one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, (4) by divine commission the duty of spreading the gospel to all men belongs to this Catholic and Apostolic Church, and (5) all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know and to hold fast to it. Hence the Council goes on to say that its affirmation of religious freedom “leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.”6 These five claims in direct continuity with the previous teaching deny the falsehoods implicit within the false conception of religious liberty rejected within the older documents, and are conjoined with an explicit statement affirming the continuing validity of the traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.

Second, the teaching of Dignitatis Humanae is a development of a doctrine that the Church has always held. Dignitatis Humanae notes that “the doctrine of the Church that no one is to be coerced into faith” has always been the doctrine of the Church even through times when other ways of acting appeared in the history of the Church.7 And Pope Leo XIII testifies to this when in 1885 he writes:

The Church, indeed, deems it unlawful to place the various forms of divine worship on the same footing as the true religion, but does not, on that account, condemn those rulers who, for the sake of securing some great good or of hindering some great evil, allow patiently custom or usage to be a kind of sanction for each kind of religion having its place in the State. And, in fact, the Church is wont to take earnest heed that no one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, for, as St. Augustine wisely reminds us, “Man cannot believe otherwise than of his own will.” (Immortale Dei, 36)

The continuity and development of the Church’s doctrine explains both the need for Dignitatis Humanae as well as its compatibility with older Catholic doctrine opposing an anti-Christian and even atheistic conception of religious freedom.

Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, 2013

  1. This freedom of conscience is to be respected not only by the civil authority, but also by all others:

    However, in spreading religious faith and in introducing religious practices everyone ought at all times to refrain from any manner of action which might seem to carry a hint of coercion or of a kind of persuasion that would be dishonorable or unworthy, especially when dealing with poor or uneducated people. Such a manner of action would have to be considered an abuse of one’s right and a violation of the right of others. (Dignitatis Humanae, 4)

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  2. This freedom of conscience is fully compatible with the civil recognition of one religious community above others:

    If, in view of peculiar circumstances obtaining among peoples, special civil recognition is given to one religious community in the constitutional order of society, it is at the same time imperative that the right of all citizens and religious communities to religious freedom should be recognized and made effective in practice. (Dignitatis Humanae, 6)

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  3. In 1963 Pope John XXIII, in Pacem et Terris, 14, wrote, “Also among man’s rights is that of being able to worship God in accordance with the right dictates of his own conscience, and to profess his religion both in private and in public.” []
  4. See also Pope Pius XII’s 1953 address titled “Ci Riesce,” in which he says:

    The duty of repressing moral and religious error cannot therefore be an ultimate norm of action. It must be subordinate to higher and more general norms, which in some circumstances permit, and even perhaps seem to indicate as the better policy, toleration of error in order to promote a greater good. (Ci Riesce, V)

    []

  5. Dignitatis Humanae affirms just the opposite, teaching:

    The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth. (Dignitatis Humanae, 3)

    []

  6. Dignitatis Humanae, 1. []
  7. Dignitatis Humanae, 12. []
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  1. Bryan, none of this makes sense of Edgardo Mortara. The papacy staked its authority in the 1860s on the rights of the church to use peasant girls to baptize infidel children near death. The church also abducted the child. Lammenais or no, that is coercive. Vatican II, along with the rest of modern Roman Catholicism, would find the baptism of infidel children and taking them from infidel parents, repugnant. No matter how many words you write, you can’t iron out that wrinkle.

  2. Darryl,

    I was not in this post intending or attempting to address or make sense of the Mortara case, or iron out “that wrinkle,” as you call it. My intention was only to show the compatibility and continuity between the teaching of Dignitatis Humanae and the older documents. The civil law in the papal states at the time of the Mortara case was that Catholics could not be raised by non-Catholics as non-Catholics; Catholic children had to be raised Catholic. But non-Catholic infants were not allowed to be baptized against their parents’ wishes except in case death was imminent. (And that latter is still part of canon law today; see Canon 868 §2.) When he was about sixteenth months old, Edgardo was secretly baptized by a teenage Catholic maid, Anna Morsi. He had contracted neuritis, and his case was very serious. Morsi, believing him to be in danger of death, baptized him when his parents were not present, and without their permission, as he explains in his testimony on behalf of Blessed Pope Pius IX’s beatification. Surprisingly, however, he recovered from his illness. By this baptism, according to canon law of the time, he became a Catholic. And because of the civil law not allowing Catholic children to be raised by non-Catholics as non-Catholic, and the parents’ unwillingness to raise him Catholic, the Church by the direct decision of Pope Pius IX had him removed from his home, and raised him as a Catholic. A key contextual premise is the fact that parents’ rights are not absolute, as Pope Pius XI explained in Divini Illius Magistri in 1929:

    It does not however follow from this that the parents’ right to educate their children is absolute and despotic; for it is necessarily subordinated to the last end and to natural and divine law, (Divini Illius Magistri, 35)

    Here he was drawing from Pope Leo XIII’s statement thirty-nine years prior in Sapientiae Christianae 42, “with the obligation super-added of shaping and directing the education of their little ones to the end for which God vouchsafed the privilege of transmitting the gift of life.” Paragraph 5 of Dignitatis Humanae, in continuity with prior Church teaching on the rights of parents, is not teaching an absolute right of parents, but a qualified, yet real right of parents regarding their religious freedom in the upbringing of their children.

    In the events of the Mortara case there are two points at which it could be claimed that coercion was used. The first is the act of baptism against the parents’ wishes. The second is removing Edgardo from his home at the age of six and raising him as a Catholic against his parents wishes. Baptism of an infant is not coercion, we already agree. So the possibility of coercion with respect to the baptism of Edgardo was that of acting against his parents’ wishes and rights with respect to the religious upbringing of their child. However, because parents’ rights are not absolute, the Church holds that in cases in which the parents do not wish the child to be baptized, and the child is in danger of death, the supernatural good of the child supercedes the parents’ rights, and baptizing a child in such a condition is licit (i.e. in keeping with canon law). If parents’ rights were absolute, then this would be coercion. But parents’ rights are not absolute. So because the baptism of an infant is not per se coercion, and because parents’ rights are not absolute, but subordinate to a higher end, and thus they were not wrongfully coerced regarding his baptism, and because no one besides the child and parents is a candidate for being coerced in this case, the baptism of Edgardo was not an act of coercion. The prohibition of baptizing Jewish infants against their parents’ will can be found in the epistle Postremo mense (1747) from Pope Benedict XIV, along with the exception in the case that the child is “close to death.” (See Denzinger 1480-1490)

    The second act in which coercion might be alleged is the removal of Edgardo from his home at the age of six. This could be considered coercion of him, or of his parents with respect to their right to raise him according to their own religion. The additional relevant factor here was the civil law of the papal state that did not allow Catholic children to be raised by non-Catholics as non-Catholics. This is not a principle of natural law, but was a civil law within the papal state to protect the right of Catholic children to receive a Catholic formation. In the unique case of Edgardo (unique because the Church did not ordinarily baptize the children of non-Catholics against the will of their parents, or require non-Catholic parents to have their children baptized), the application of this law required a Catholic child to be given a Catholic education not only against his parents’ wishes (which might be the case for lapsed Catholic parents), but also against their own religious beliefs as practicing Jews. If Catholic children have a right to a Catholic education / catechesis / formation, then providing such a thing is not coercion of the child, all things being equal; withholding such a thing intentionally, in such a case, would be coercion, all other things being equal. And if parents’ rights are not absolute, and they live in a society in which the civil law requires that Catholic children be given a Catholic upbringing, and the parents refuse to give their Catholic child this education, then the civil authority should intervene so as to see that the child receives the Catholic education. Here too, the coercion objection hangs on the implicit assumption either that parents’ rights are absolute, or that the parents’ opinion regarding what baptism does has higher authority than the canon law of the Church concerning that question. If both those claims are false, then if (according to the canon law of the time) baptism makes a child a Catholic, and if by the civil law of the land a Catholic child cannot be given a non-Catholic education, then it is not coercion to give such a child this education, even against his parents’ wishes.

    In one sense, the case is tragic, because all other things being equal, a child should neither be secretly (either without the parents’ knowledge, or against the parents’ will) removed from the religion of his parents and converted to another religion, nor removed from his family, nor raised in another religion against his parents’ will. All three of these occurred in Edgardo’s case, and there was (quite understandably) much sorrow and anger on the part of Edgardo’s family as a result. But because these are not absolute rights, but are subordinate to and ordered to the highest good which is the gift of eternal life, actions that supercede those rights are not necessarily coercive in the beyond-due-limits sense. The religious liberty and right to worship according to one’s conscience that belong to us as persons does not entail an absolute right on the part of parents to raise their children any which way. There are limitations, stemming both from the civil law, the natural law, and the divine law. The key factor in the Edgardo case was the particular civil law requiring that Catholic children be raised Catholic. That law had the Catholic children of Catholic parents in view; it wasn’t implemented with emergency-baptisms of infants in non-Catholic families in view. When the social circumstances are such that such events become possible, the persistence of such a law as a civil law, rather than as canon law, seems imprudent, and the possible need to exercise the virtue St. Thomas calls “epikeia” comes into view.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  3. A very helpful talk by Cardinal George on Dignitatis Humanae:

  4. It should be noted that such arguments may not even be necessary to make anymore. For according to Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, Emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Science, the Vatican II document on religious liberty, Dignitatis Humanae, does “not have a binding doctrinal content.” So while this is.a very nice argument for.continuity…. If one just can’t accept any argument for continuity that is OK. DH could just be in error.

    This is a response to the good cardinal George.
    http://www.remnantnewspaper.com/Archives/2013-0531-p-crenshaw-weigel-ottaviani.htm

  5. Kenneth, (re: #4)

    Dignitatis Humanae, while not infallible, is an instance of the Church’s authentic Magisterium, and so requires adherence with religious submission of will and intellect.

    As for your link, it says nothing about Cardinal George, nor refutes what Cardinal George says in the video.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  6. Bryan,

    oops! I’m sorry about the link. I read that article from the remnant a while ago and got my Georges crossed!

    marari vos, quanta cura, and the syllabus of errors are authentic as well correct? If I am not mistaken quanta cura is the universal and ordinary magesterium so we know that it is infallible. We must not forget Bryan that we are to understand the present by the past and not the other way around! (I am not suggesting that you are doing otherwise) I loved the article and I think you make a great case for continuity! However, if this topic is an obstacle for anyone eyeing conversion I contend that it need not be. No need to make to hard a stand where we need not.

  7. Kenneth, (re: #6),

    Yes, the three documents you mention are authentic Magisterium. But no, QC is not infallible. If a Catholic were put in a situation in which one doctrine to which religious submission of will and intellect is required actually contradicted another teaching to which he was required to give adherence with religious submission of will and intellect, that would be a serious problem, not resolved by the hermeneutic of continuity per se. I affirm the hermeneutic of continuity, of course, but also the development of doctrine by which the past by subsequent developments can be more deeply illuminated and clarified in the present.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  8. Bryan,

    this from an SSPX priest. You have already answered the so called contradictions in this very article…. But perhaps you could respond to his case for the infallibility of QC? If you see anything else of note that you would care to respond to I would love to hear it!

    By Father Daniel Couture

    There is often much talk on papal infallibility: the different degrees, the conditions, etc. Rarely though, a clear text is given as example. Here is one from Pope Pius IX, of December 8th , 1864. It is taken from his encyclical Quanta Cura which was accompanied by the Syllabus of Errors, a solemn condemnation of 80 modern errors.

    “…Amid so great a perversity of depraved opinions, We, remembering Our Apostolic duty, and solicitous before all things for Our most holy Religion, for sound doctrine, for the salvation of the souls confided to Us, and for the welfare of human Society itself, have considered the moment opportune to raise anew Our Apostolic voice. Therefore do We, by our Apostolic authority, reprobate denounce and condemn, in general and in particular all the evil opinions and doctrines specially mentioned in this Letter, and We will and We command that they may be held as reprobated, denounced, and condemned by all the children of the Catholic Church…”

    The violence of such a condemnation may appear to some really astonishing. But a closer look at this passage reveals the fulfillment of the four conditions of infallibility. These are:

    1 – That the Pope speaks as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church, engaging his full Apostolic Authority. He does it here:

    “…We, by our Apostolic authority…”

    “…For the salvation of souls confided to Us”.

    Thus, he clearly refers to the mission entrusted to Peter and his successors by Our Blessed Lord.

    2 – In matters of faith and/or morals. It is obvious again:

    “…Solicitous before all things for Our most holy Religion, for sound doctrine, for the salvation of souls…”

    3 – That the Pope must clarify, condemn or define, that is that he must say something clear, not optional, not hypothetical. The least we can say here is that the Pope didn’t beat around the bush, but called a spade a spade!

    “…We, by our Apostolic authority, reprobate denounce and condemn, in general and in particular all the evil opinions and doctrines specially mentioned in this Letter, and We will and We command that…”

    4 – That the Pope expect and demand obedience, that he requests the submission of the faith from all faithful.

    “…We will and We command that they may be held as reprobated, denounced, and condemned by all the children of the Catholic Church…”

    So, in this text, we find the four conditions of the most solemn papal infallibility clearly fulfilled. Thus our position is crystal clear. It is no longer up to any Catholic to decide which position take in the actual crisis. The Holy Father commanded: “…We will and We command…by all the children of the Catholic Church.” He did not say ‘by those of the XIXth Century. He said “by all”, of all times and places.

    A Catholic cannot be unfaithful to an infallible papal order. There, in this text, lies one of the most important foundation of our position.

    Pius IX proscribed the errors “specially mentioned in this Letter”. In order to make it easier and clearer, he himself composed the famous Syllabus (a Greek word meaning a summary) of the main errors of our modern times. He gives eighty of them. Here are just a few, perhaps the ones concerning us the most today. It must be remembered that the sentences condemned are errors, therefore, each time, it is understood “It is false to say that…” It is a little bit more complicated but much more precise theologically.

    A – Error on the nature of Revolution

    “No. 5. Divine Revelation is imperfect, and therefore subject to a continual and indefinite progress, corresponding with the advancement of human reason”.

    The Pope aims here at those who pretend that the Church must continually adapt itself to a changing world, that she needs to change with the world. This opinion is condemned because, contrary to all other societies, “the Church has been built by Jesus Christ and His Apostles, and is continually taught by the Holy Ghost who continually reminds her of all truth” (Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari vos, 1832). Consequently, it would be totally absurd and mostly injurious for the Church to put forward a restoration as necessary. What would happen then, is that the Church, which is God-made, would become all human.

    B – Error of indifferentism (religious freedom)

    “No. 15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true.

    “No. 16. Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation.

    “No. 17. Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ.

    “No. 18. Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian religion, in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic Church”.

    In other words, the Pope is saying that outside the Catholic Church, there is no salvation. To enter heaven, one must have sanctifying grace. Now, this grace comes from Our Lord, “full of grace and of truth”, and passes necessarily and solely through the Church founded by Him. No other religion can give sanctifying grace. If an individual, member of a false religion, dies in a state of grace, by a merciful disposition of God, he will not have been saved by his religion but in spite of it. He unknowingly belonged to the soul of the Church.

    Now, compare this infallible teaching to the following texts of Vatican II: “The Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. Freedom of this kind means that … nobody is forced to act against his convictions nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his convictions in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others”. (Decree on religious freedom: Dignitatis Humanae, N.2.)

    “Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among the non-Christians, also their social life and culture”. (Decree on Non Christian Religions: Nosta Aetate, N.2)

    “It follows that the separated Churches and communities as such, though we believe they suffer from the defects already mentioned, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”. (Decree on Ecumenism: Unitatis Redintegratio, N. 3)
    C – Error in natural and Christian ethics
    “No. 59. Right consists in the material fact. All human duties are an empty word, and all human facts have the force of right”.

    We are told today that morality must evolve with time. The rights of people flow from what they do. Popular referenda dictates what is right or wrong. The proposition condemned here means that it is false to say that from the moment something is done, it becomes right.

    D – Errors having reference to modern liberalism
    (Ecumenism, State Atheism)

    “No. 77. In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.”

    In the name of Vatican II modern Rome has unfortunately demanded Catholic Countries to modify their constitution, which professed the Catholic Religion to be the official State Religion. It is called the doctrine of separation of Church and State. It has always been condemned by the Popes in the past. But since the Council, it took place in 1973 in Columbia, 1974 in the canton of Valais in Switzerland, in 1975 in Portugal, in 1976 in Spain, in 1980 in Peru, in 1984 in Italy.

    “No. 78. Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship.”

    This has been enlarged today to anyone living in the country. Worse still, when it is the Catholic hierarchy who issue such law! In Germany, for instance, the Bishops have asked parish priests all over the country to let the Muslims use their parish hall for their heretical worship!

    “No. 79. Moreover, it is false that the civil liberty of every form of worship, and the full power, given to all, of overtly and publicly manifesting any opinions whatsoever and thoughts, conduce more easily to corrupt the morals and minds of the people, and to propagate the pest indifferentism.”

    In other words the pope is saying that it is true that religious freedom corrupts morals and leads people to believe that all religions are good, not one better than the other (that is the “pest of indifferentism”).

    Now the II Vatican Council professes clearly the opposite, i.e. that society will indeed benefit from an absolute religious freedom:

    “The common good of society consists in the sum total of those conditions of social life which enable men to achieve a fuller measure of perfection with greater ease. It consists especially in safeguarding the rights and duties of the human person. For this reason the protection of the right to religious freedom is the common responsibilty of individual citizens, social groups, civil authorities, the Church and other religious communities. Each of these has its own special responsibility in the matter according to its particular duty to promote the common good.

    The protection and promotion of the inviolable rights of man is an essential duty of every civil authority. The civil authority therefore must undertake to safeguard the religious freedom of all the citizens in an effective manner by the legislation and other appropriate means. It must help to create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life so that the citizens will be really in the position to exercise their religious rights may enjoy the benefits of justice and peace, which result from man’s faithfulness to God and His holy will. (Dignitatis Humanae, N.6)

    Finally, the very last proposition of the Syllabus summarizes perfectly the whole list of condemnations.

    “No. 80. The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization.”

    In his book “The Principles of Catholic Theology”, Cardinal Ratzinger called the Degree Gaudium et Spes, on the Church in the modern world, an “anti-syllabus”, because that decree teaches what the Syllabus condemns here in its last proposition. G.K. Chesterton summarised it all when he wrote: “When the world and Christianity comes to terms, it will be the end of Christianity.”

    To conclude: we are not free to choose between an infallible teaching and a pastoral one when they are in contradiction. Or else, Our Blessed Lady may not be the Immaculate Conception, and the Mass may as well be offered by a layman.

    No! An infallible document is irreformable, it cannot be altered in any way or form, at any time. Quanta Cura and the Syllabus are clearly infallible. And since Vatican II “did not define any dogma and wanted deliberately to express itself on a more modest level, merely as a pastoral Council” (Ratzinger, 30 Days, Sept. 1988), one can’t be blamed for refusing to accept its teaching when it contradicts previous infallible ones. “

  9. Kenneth, (re: #8)

    I agree that in QC the errors condemned are infallibly condemned therein. When you said that QC is infallible, I thought you were speaking of the whole document. (For reasons that should be clear from my post, I believe the author you quote is mistaken regarding the meaning of the relevant terms in Dignitatis Humanae, but I agree with him about QC.) Nevertheless, if a Catholic were put in a situation in which one dogma to which firm acceptance is required actually contradicted another teaching to which he was required to give adherence with religious submission of will and intellect, that would be a serious problem not resolved by the hermeneutic of continuity per se. The Magisterium would be teaching something contrary to an infallibly defined teaching. Hence my post.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  10. Bryan, I am not sure you have fully successfully resolved the apparent contradictions between earlier Roman Catholic teaching and the teaching of Vatican II on religious liberty, particularly when it comes to the question of the punishment of false religionists and heretics.

    The earlier writings clearly affirm that, normally or in ideal circumstances, it is appropriate to enact penalties against “offenders of the Catholic religion”–and not just when it is necessary for public peace and order. Pope Leo XIII, as you noted, allowed that there might be some (non-ideal) situations where tolerance is acceptable, but this was a concession to non-ideal circumstances and not a matter of fundamental human right.

    Dignitatis Humanae, on the other hand, says that all people have a fundamental right, rooted in the dignity of their humanity, to be free to practice whatever religion they choose, publicly or privately, except when they threaten public peace, order, or morality.

    Now, it is possible, as you have done, to apparently reconcile the two sets of teachings by using phrases like “public morality” to indicate an overlap. So if we take a specific example–say, the execution of a person for propagating Calvinism–we could say, along with the older teaching, that this is acceptable because they are violating public morality by opposing the very foundation of true morality, the truth of the Catholic religion. And we could say that the penalty is acceptable under Dignitatis Humanae as well, because it said that religious freedom should only be allowed when religious belief and practice does not violate public morality–but preaching Calvinism does violate public morality.

    If we only had these documents, isolated from historical context, it might be possible to declare the controversy resolved by these and other similar methods, although it will still be apparent that there is a marked difference of tone between the earlier and later teaching. However, I question whether the reconciliation is tenable when we put the documents into their historical context.

    The earier documents are part of a larger body of teaching and practice that go back thousands of years, in which Catholic theologians have argued in favor of the punishment of false religionists and heretics. We have such arguments from Augustine, Aquinas, and just about everyone who approaches the subject. And the Catholic Church practiced this in very specific ways in many instances–such as the execution of many Protestants during the time of the Reformation and afterwards. The earlier documents also come at a time when “toleration” and “liberty of conscience” were gaining the ascendency in the western world, as exemplified in John Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration, one of the early works that really began pushing these ideas.

    When we read Quanta Cura and the other earlier documents in light of this background, it becomes clear that the Catholic Church was not simply opposing indifferentism in religion, but also the idea that fundamental justice requires that such things as the execution of Protestants for teaching heresy not happen. Anyone living at the time who read the documents would have read them as being in opposition to the core of the whole “liberty of conscience” movement. They are clearly affirming the right of the Church to punish heretics, etc., in opposition to a growing trend to think such punishments an inherent injustice. (This same battle occurred in Reformed circles, as traditional Reformed theologians objected against the growing “liberty of conscience” movement.)

    Of course, we now live in a world where “liberty of conscience” has become the norm. We see it reflected, for example, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 18 and 19:

    Article 18.
    • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

    Article 19.
    • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

    Dignitatis Humanae comes in the context of our modern “liberty of conscience” culture. It even uses words echoing the Universal Declaration and other modern declarations of human religious rights. The concept of “public morals” or “morality” is frequently used in these modern documents, as, for example, in Article 29 of the Universal Declaration:

    In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

    Although it is often said in modern rights language that “public morals” or “morality” can be a reason to limit freedom, yet it is universally understood that such language definitely does not justify something like the execution of heretics.

    By its place in the context of this “liberty of conscience” tradition, plus its use of the wording of the “rights” documents of this tradition, plus its lack of clarification that it intends anything fundamentally out of accord with how such language is universally used in the west today, Dignitatis Humanae is clearly communicating that it endorses the fundamentals of this modern “human rights” and “liberty of conscience” paradigm, and that would include believing it fundamentally unjust to do something like execute people for teaching heresy against the Catholic faith. If the writers of Dignitatis Humanae did not intend to communicate such a meaning, they wrote a document that is fundamentally misleading, thus questioning their honesty or their competence at communicating truth–a problem for an institution protected by God to teach truth accurately. “Human rights” philosophers almost always understand Dignitatis Humanae to be affirming the modern “liberty of conscience” paradigm. Here is one example from an article on John Rawls, the great modern philosopher of political liberalism:

    The quotation below from the second Vatican Council illustrates how one comprehensive doctrine (Catholicism) affirms one component of a liberal political conception (a familiar individual liberty) from within its own perspective:

    This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits. The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person, as this dignity is known through the revealed Word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right. (1965, art. 2)

    Catholic doctrine here supports the liberal right to religious freedom for reasons internal to Catholicism. A reasonable Islamic doctrine, and a reasonable atheistic doctrine, might also affirm this same right to religious freedom, each for its own reasons. In an overlapping consensus all reasonable comprehensive doctrines support not just this particular right, but a complete political conception of justice, each from within its own point of view.

    The author here is taking Dignitatis Humanae to be affirming the modern paradigm of “religious freedom,” which would include, as a fundamental component, the idea that it is inherently unjust to execute people for heresy. Without clarification from the Catholic Church on this point, if it doesn’t mean to be upholding this paradigm, then it has been seriously misleading, and this poses a problem for its reliability as a divine perserver of truth. If it does mean to be upholding this paradigm, on the other hand, then it has declared its previous teaching (held and taught without wavering for thousands of years) and practice with regard to religious liberty to have been fundamentally wrong and unjust–which also poses a problem for its claim to divine teaching authority.

    To reiterate in brief: The earlier Catholic teaching, as exemplified in Quanta Cura as this document exists in the context of thousands of years of Catholic teaching and practice, declares that it is right and just to punish heretics, even to the point of execution. Modern Catholic teaching, as exemplified in Dignitatis Humanae as this documents exists in the context of the modern western paradigm of “religious liberty,” declars that it is fundamentally unjust to punish heretics for teaching heresy, especially to the point of execution.

    I don’t see a way to resolve this conflict.

  11. Mark, (re: #10)

    What is authoritative in Catholic documents is only what they say, not other ideas floating around at the time, even if commonly associated at the time with an idea stated in the document. The Catholic Church has not taught that capital punishment is inherently unjust. Capital punishment is permissible under certain social conditions when necessary for the common good, when the danger posed by the perpetrator to the common good is grave and there is no available alternative. There is no principled reason why that danger can be only physical, and not moral or ideological or spiritual. The religious freedom affirmed by Dignitatis Humanae is not an absolute freedom, as I explained in the post above; otherwise the Church could not even rightly discipline her heretical members without violating their right to follow their conscience in matters of religion. (See Thomas Pink’s article “Conscience and Coercion: Vatican II’s teaching on religious freedom changed policy not doctrine.”) Absolute religious freedom is precisely what the older documents denied, and DH did not change that. The religious liberty DH affirmed is a liberty qualified in relation to the common good, divine revelation, and the moral law. The fact that some persons have treated DH as endorsing absolute religious freedom does not mean that this is what it actually teaches. The Church is the authoritative interpreter of her own documents.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    Update: See also Omar Gutierrez’s Vatican II and Religious Liberty.”

    And Pater Edmund has a four part series on this subject, available here.

  12. Bryan:

    But language has meaning that is to a great extent determined by its context. If I were to come onto this site (or just about anywhere) proclaiming that “I am a Roman Catholic and not a Protestant,” I would be understood to be saying that I am a member of that church which is currently headed on earth by Pope Francis. Imagine that after a long time and many conversations, I eventually declared this: “Oh, when I said I was a Roman Catholic and not a Protestant, what I meant was that I am a member of the real Catholic Church–which is the Lutheran church. The ‘Roman’ part simply meant that I am of Italian descent and my ancestors came from Rome. The ‘not Protestant’ part meant that I was not protesting the Lutheran church.” I would be accused of being misleading and deceptive, because I expressed a sentiment that would naturally, in my context, be understood by listeners to have a meaning other than what I really meant without providing any clarification. Of course, what DH has done is not quite so dramatic, but it is a similar thing, if they didn’t mean to affirm what their words would naturally mean in the context into which they were spoken.

    Is it your view that the historic Roman Catholic view on rules regulating the punishment of heretics is correct, and that DH didn’t repudiate that view at all? Perhaps we could bring in here a particular example–the execution of Jan Hus. Assuming you are familiar enough with the case to have an opinion on it, do you agree that it was right and just of the church to support the execution of Hus (and thus of others who might be in similar circumstances)? Do you think that there is nothing in DH that is opposed to this?

    One reason I ask is that it seems clear to me that DH (given the context in which its language was used) communicated the idea that such responses to heresy are unjust and a fundamental violation of human rights and dignity.

  13. Re: #11. Bryan, the following is a sincere question, and one that many protestants, I’m sure, would like to better understand. Could you comment on how the burning of John Hus met the criteria you list here?

    (1) when necessary for the common good
    (2) when the danger posed by the perpetrator to the common good is grave and
    (3) there is no available alternative

  14. Mark, (re: #12)

    But language has meaning that is to a great extent determined by its context.

    Of course. But first, no statement or set of statements in DH entails an absolute (unqualified) religious liberty, second, DH itself explicitly states that it “it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ” and third the religious liberty it affirms is explicitly qualified as “within due limits” and provided that “just public order be observed” (3x), only by the use of “suitable means,” and again explicitly qualified in the whole of section 7. If you think there is a contradiction between some statement in DH, and a statement in a prior Church document, you’ll need to make the case from the texts, and not merely in the abstract.

    Is it your view that the historic Roman Catholic view on rules regulating the punishment of heretics is correct, and that DH didn’t repudiate that view at all?

    It depends on which “rules” you have in mind. There are ecclesiastical rules, and there are civil laws. And which civil laws pertaining to religion are good for the society depend in part on the condition of the citizens, and thus can change. Going into the details of the Hus case would go beyond the purpose of my post. But, as I said already, DH is not proposing absolute freedom of religion, such that the civil authority must countenance every religious act even if it is gravely harmful to the common good. The civil authority has a duty to uphold the common good and the place of religion in the common good, but the manner in which that is carried out requires a prudential judgment informed by the condition of the citizens, the qualified religious liberty of citizens, and the common good.

    Corn-Czar,

    Could you comment on how the burning of John Hus met the criteria you list here?

    I don’t presume that it did.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  15. Hi Brian,

    It seems as if Pope Leo X is speaking ex-cathedra when he authoritatively condemns 41 propositions in his Exsurge Domine (http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo10/l10exdom.htm). One of the propositions condemned is:

    33. That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.

    So, is it the position of the Catholic Church that it is permissible for the church to burn heretics?

    Best,

    Anon

  16. Anon, (re: #15)

    Jimmy Akin wrote a short but helpful answer to that question a number of years ago. The original page has expired, but there is an archived version here.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  17. @Brian 2
    It takes a particularly twisted sense of right to defend the taking of a 6 year old child from his parents. By your logic, any time the ‘state’ makes some sort of hair-brained law that seems to be in Catholic interests, that law must be enforced.

    What really chaps me is that you defend the law when the law concerns baptized Catholics, but you would condemn it if it was Protestants, or Muslims in a Protestant or Muslim state.

    But because these are not absolute rights, but are subordinate to and ordered to the highest good which is the gift of eternal life, actions that supercede those rights are not necessarily coercive in the beyond-due-limits sense.

    This is a very open-ended statement and allows for all kinds of abuse… you have already used it to justify taking a 6 year old child from his parents. Muslims use the same logic for the murdering of Christians in their lands.

    All you have done is de-humanize the Jewish parents by indicating that their desires for their child can be entirely superseded by throwing some water on their kid. This is a disgusting position to be defending. The law of that Catholic state was flawed and abominable and should have been condemned by your Church of that time. The fact that the Church leaders of the day stepped in and used their twisted logic to remove a kid from his parents shows the depth of depravity of the Church in that culture.

    The Pope of that time even referred to his detractors as ‘Dogs’ – another de-humanizing epithet. For all its talk, when push comes to shove the Catholic church will take kids from their parents if it suits their ends. They will call this obvious sin a non-sin and claim some sort of higher divine will to cover for its ripping apart a Jewish family.

    Wouldn’t the church be better off if it just called it what it is – SIN – and then repent of it? Why are you defending these actions 100 years later? As far as Edgardo’s Catholic faith – to me it looks like Stockholm Syndrome affecting his entire life. Traumatize a kid at 6 by and you can get him to believe whatever you want him to. He would have turned out Muslim if the Muslims were in charge, or Satanist if the Satanists were in charge.

    Shame on them, and shame on you for defending them.

    Questions about religious liberty all boil down to this: Is it OK to use any form of coercion against another person for something they Believe. This also includes any non-violent actions stemming from their beliefs.

    For example, Christians in Iran are being whipped for drinking communion wine. Alcohol is banned in the Muslim religion and in Muslim states. They are being punished for actions that their beliefs compel them to do (drink wine).

    It seems as though the Catholic Church claims that YES, it is permissible to use coercion against another human on account of their beliefs. This is always given with the caveat though that the Catholic church represents the ‘highest’ belief system, so using coercion to get people in line with the Catholic church is always justified.

    What is implied in this affirmation that it is legitimate to use coercion to advance a belief system? Conversion at the point of a sword, punishment of heretics, court systems / tribunals about beliefs (instead of actions) – all are permissible once you allow the premise that it is OK to coerce people for what they believe.

    You also get logical contradictions – why is it OK to take away a 6 year old kid in this scenario, but not OK to advocate the same policy here in America… the only difference is the percentage of the population that is Catholic. You can’t categorically say that taking Jewish kids from their parents is wrong… because it was apparently ‘right’ for the Pope (later beatified) to do it to that Jewish kid.

    I’m going to spout the heretical view that it is wrong in all circumstances to use coercion against people for what they believe. If their beliefs prompt them to ACT in a coercive manner towards others, then it is legitimate to stop them. Punishment for belief itself, or non-coercive action because of their beliefs (ie drinking communion wine, sending kids to Jewish schools instead of Catholic schools) is always illegitimate, even if the POPE HIMSELF does it.

  18. Bob, (re: #17)

    It takes a particularly twisted sense of right to defend the taking of a 6 year old child from his parents.

    If that were true, then even if, for example, a six year old child were being physically abused, or starved, or tortured by his parents, there would be no right of the civil authority to remove the child. But surely that’s not correct. So the matter can’t be as simple as your statement says.

    By your logic, any time the ‘state’ makes some sort of hair-brained law that seems to be in Catholic interests, that law must be enforced.

    Nothing I’ve said implies that any “hair-brained” law must be enforced. Unjust laws are no laws at all.

    What really chaps me is that you defend the law when the law concerns baptized Catholics, but you would condemn it if it was Protestants, or Muslims in a Protestant or Muslim state.

    I haven’t said anything about comparable laws relating to Protestants or Muslims. So you’re basing this statement on speculation, and that’s not helpful.

    This is a very open-ended statement and allows for all kinds of abuse… you have already used it to justify taking a 6 year old child from his parents. Muslims use the same logic for the murdering of Christians in their lands.

    Abuse does not nullify proper use. From the fact that under certain conditions harm to the bodily health, physical life, and mental health of the child requires intervention by the civil authority whose responsibility in upholding the common good includes protecting the rights of the weak and defenseless, it does not follow that abuse by the civil authority of its authority is justified. Nor does abuse by civil authority entail that the civil authority has no responsibility or proper authority to intervene in certain cases. Rather, if harm to the bodily health, physical life, and mental health of the child requires civil intervention, and if the spiritual well-being and eternal life of the child is of greater importance than those, then a fortiori there is a responsibility (whether recognized or not) on the part of the civil authority to intervene when the child is being gravely harmed spiritually, as for example, if a child were being taught to worship Satan, participate in orgies, cannibalism, infant sacrifice, etc. The non-absolute character of parental rights is not limited only to the child’s physical or bodily health. Of course the kinds of spiritual harm entailed by the activities I just mentioned were not present in the Mortara case. They do show, however, that civil intervention can be just and obligatory on account of spiritual harm to the child. Whether in a particular circumstance the withholding of Catholic formation and sacraments from a Catholic child, and teaching the child instead to reject these things as false, is a sufficient spiritual harm to justify civil intervention, is something that can be debated, as can the justice of a law requiring that no Catholic child be deprived of Catholic formation and Catholic sacraments. But it is not the case that civil intervention on account of spiritual harm is ipso facto unjust.

    All you have done is de-humanize the Jewish parents by indicating that their desires for their child can be entirely superseded by throwing some water on their kid. This is a disgusting position to be defending.

    If truths can possibly be disgusting to you (or “chap” you), then if what I said is true, your being disgusted (or “chapped”) by it is no reason for me (or anyone else, yourself included) to disbelieve it. So the question should remain focused on what is and is not true. Obviously you believe that baptism doesn’t *do* anything to the infant. But, of course that’s not what Catholic and Orthodox believe. So your objection here is question-begging, insofar as you presuppose the falsehood of the Catholic dogma concerning baptism. Nor have you demonstrated how this in any way “de-humanizes” parents. If, for example, a child were removed from the home on account of abuse, this would not entail that the parents are “de-humanized;” rather, it would be an instance of the common good superceding the rights of the parents in the family. You’ve expressed elsewhere here at CTC (see comments #61 and #63 under the “Two Questions on Marriage and the Civil Law” post) that you do not believe in the common good. But the rationale in the Mortara case depends on there being such a thing as the common good. So that’s where the discussion would need to turn in order to resolve the question.

    The law of that Catholic state was flawed and abominable and should have been condemned by your Church of that time. The fact that the Church leaders of the day stepped in and used their twisted logic to remove a kid from his parents shows the depth of depravity of the Church in that culture.

    That the law was “flawed” or the logic “twisted” is precisely what would need to be shown. Merely asserting it to be so does not demonstrate it to be so.

    The Pope of that time even referred to his detractors as ‘Dogs’ – another de-humanizing epithet.

    To keep this in perspective, he was alluding to Psalm 22:16: “For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me.” Did David sin in writing those words?

    For all its talk, when push comes to shove the Catholic church will take kids from their parents if it suits their ends.

    Or, at least she will do so in cases where the civil authority recognizes the responsibility to ensure that Catholic children receive and are not deprived of Catholic sacraments and Catholic formation, and the parents refuse to provide it or allow it. Obviously in our time it is difficult to imagine the civil authority recognizing such responsibility. But this situation was unique because it occurred in the papal state, where such a responsibility was recognized.

    They will call this obvious sin a non-sin and claim some sort of higher divine will to cover for its ripping apart a Jewish family. Wouldn’t the church be better off if it just called it what it is – SIN – and then repent of it?

    That it was a “sin” is what would need to be shown. Merely calling it a “sin” does not demonstrate it to be a sin.

    As far as Edgardo’s Catholic faith – to me it looks like Stockholm Syndrome affecting his entire life. Traumatize a kid at 6 by and you can get him to believe whatever you want him to. He would have turned out Muslim if the Muslims were in charge, or Satanist if the Satanists were in charge.

    Of course that’s one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is that his faith was sincere, and he entered into eternal life.

    Shame on them, and shame on you for defending them.

    First you would need to establish that there is reason for shame. Merely chanting “shame on you” does not establish reason for shame. It presupposes it.

    Questions about religious liberty all boil down to this: Is it OK to use any form of coercion against another person for something they Believe. This also includes any non-violent actions stemming from their beliefs.

    For example, Christians in Iran are being whipped for drinking communion wine. Alcohol is banned in the Muslim religion and in Muslim states. They are being punished for actions that their beliefs compel them to do (drink wine).

    It seems as though the Catholic Church claims that YES, it is permissible to use coercion against another human on account of their beliefs.

    Where (i.e. in what Church document) do you think the Church claims this?

    This is always given with the caveat though that the Catholic church represents the ‘highest’ belief system, so using coercion to get people in line with the Catholic church is always justified.

    Again, where do you think the Church teaches this?

    What is implied in this affirmation that it is legitimate to use coercion to advance a belief system? Conversion at the point of a sword, punishment of heretics, court systems / tribunals about beliefs (instead of actions) – all are permissible once you allow the premise that it is OK to coerce people for what they believe.

    Once again, which “affirmation” are you talking about?

    You also get logical contradictions – why is it OK to take away a 6 year old kid in this scenario, but not OK to advocate the same policy here in America… the only difference is the percentage of the population that is Catholic. You can’t categorically say that taking Jewish kids from their parents is wrong… because it was apparently ‘right’ for the Pope (later beatified) to do it to that Jewish kid.

    No, the difference is not the percentage of Catholics. The difference is that there the civil authority recognized its obligation to ensure that Catholic children receive Catholic sacraments and Catholic formation. And your claim about “taking Jewish kids” presupposes, again, a Protestant notion of baptism as inefficacious, and in that respect begs the question.

    I’m going to spout the heretical view that it is wrong in all circumstances to use coercion against people for what they believe. If their beliefs prompt them to ACT in a coercive manner towards others, then it is legitimate to stop them. Punishment for belief itself, or non-coercive action because of their beliefs (ie drinking communion wine, sending kids to Jewish schools instead of Catholic schools) is always illegitimate, even if the POPE HIMSELF does it.

    A lot depends on what you mean by ‘coercion.’ Do you believe that your church has the right to discipline any of its members, and withhold communion from them? If so, your definition of coercion has to allow that. But if you qualify your conception of coercion to allow for Church discipline, and for defending the rights of Catholics to practice their religion, then your position (described in that paragraph) is very much in agreement with that of the Catholic Church’s.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  19. Brian,

    In order to have a correct position on this issue you first need to separate 2 things – Beliefs and Actions.
    If I believe the world is going to end tomorrow, that in it self is not justification to use force against me (take away my kids, harm me, lock me up, fine me, etc etc.). If however, I go on a killing spree, beat my children, become a cannibal or take some other coercive action against another because of my belief – then (and only then) are you justified in using coercion to stop me.

    That is not what happened in this scenario. Instead you have coercion used against the family strictly because of their Jewish beliefs. There is no indication that they were a threat to anyone because of their beliefs – they had every right to be left alone, and any just law would have supported that right. The law was unjust and interfered with their family, kidnapping their 6 year old child.

    As a proof of this, all you need to do is put the shoe on the other foot. Lets assume you live in the LDS state of Utah, and they make people a part of the LDS sect by touching them on the forehead with a magical feather. They touch your kid on the forehead with their magic feather, and now he is an LDS member. Is it just for them to take your child from you because you refuse to convert? NO, of course not. That is absurd, against nature, intrusive, unjust etc etc. Any law to this effect would be unjust – and I hope you would call it out as unjust (you would – right?). The fact that you refuse to call the Papal state law (same law, different religion) unjust proves you have a double standard in this regard.

    The difference is that there the civil authority recognized its obligation to ensure that Catholic children receive Catholic sacraments and Catholic formation.

    The civil authority is wrong in this regard. God put parents in place as the guardian of their kids education – not the state. We would be appalled (and rightly so) if our civil authority decided that all kids must get a secular education, and if we didn’t comply they would take our kids from us. This is no different, other than it is a Catholic Civil Authority supported by the POPE making the abhorrent law and ripping apart a family by enforcing it.

    Your blind spot then is with your own faith. Because you believe your faith and your church to be infallible, you give them a pass when they do this exact scenario to a Jewish person. Rightness and wrongness is twisted based on your belief, rather than on some principle that can be articulated as just for all people regardless of belief.

    The perceive efficaciousness (real or not) of touching kids with feathers or baptizing them has nothing to do with the justice of taking away kids from their parents. Giving kids a million dollars is efficacious – it is immoral for millionaires to steal kids from poor people. Making kids Catholic and giving them eternal life is efficacious – it is immoral to take kids (Catholic or not) from non-Catholic parents.

    Your church may not in a document claim that it is permissible to use coercion against non-believers – the fact of the matter is that they DO use coercion against non believers, and excuse it time and time again. This is one example that YOU are excusing them for. Burning heretics at the stake is another ACTION example that flows from this BELIEF.

    You tell me – do you deserve shame for your beliefs, and the actions you are condoning in defense of them?

  20. Bob (re: #19)

    If I believe the world is going to end tomorrow, that in it self is not justification to use force against me (take away my kids, harm me, lock me up, fine me, etc etc.). If however, I go on a killing spree, beat my children, become a cannibal or take some other coercive action against another because of my belief – then (and only then) are you justified in using coercion to stop me.

    This claim that only physical actions justify intervention, begs the question, i.e. presupposes precisely what is in question.

    That is not what happened in this scenario. Instead you have coercion used against the family strictly because of their Jewish beliefs. There is no indication that they were a threat to anyone because of their beliefs

    Your claim presupposes that raising a Catholic child without the sacraments, and as a non-Christian, is not a threat to the child in any way, and does not fail to provide the child with something he is owed much than food and clothes. So again your claim begs the question, i.e. presupposes precisely what in question.

    – they had every right to be left alone, and any just law would have supported that right.

    This begs the question, for reasons I explained in my previous comments on this topic.

    The law was unjust and interfered with their family, …

    This claim begs the question.

    As a proof of this, all you need to do is put the shoe on the other foot. Lets assume you live in the LDS state of Utah, and they make people a part of the LDS sect by touching them on the forehead with a magical feather. They touch your kid on the forehead with their magic feather, and now he is an LDS member.

    This argument presupposes that Mormonism is true, and that the Catholic dogma of baptism false, and thus begs the question.

    The fact that you refuse to call the Papal state law (same law, different religion) unjust proves you have a double standard in this regard.

    If by “double standard” you mean that my position presupposes that baptism does what the Catholic Church teaches, and that Mormon rituals do not do what they teach, then of course I have a “double” standard, because I’m not a relativist. I don’t believe that all religions are true. But the notion that a law can be just only if it conforms to religious relativism is a question-begging notion.

    The civil authority is wrong in this regard.

    This is precisely the point in question, so your claim begs the question.

    God put parents in place as the guardian of their kids education – not the state.

    The notion that the civil authority has no responsibility regarding the education of children is, again, a question-begging claim.

    We would be appalled (and rightly so) if our civil authority decided that all kids must get a secular education, and if we didn’t comply they would take our kids from us.

    True, but not because the civil authority is exercising responsibility of some sort regarding the education of children, but because the civil authority would be requiring children to be deceived concerning God and religion.

    Your blind spot then is with your own faith.

    This claim presupposes that I have a “blind spot,” which has not been established.

    Because you believe your faith and your church to be infallible, you give them a pass when they do this exact scenario to a Jewish person.

    In order to grasp the Catholic perspective on the Mortara case, one cannot presuppose that baptism is merely splashing water on someone. That, however, is what you are presupposing, as you stated in #17. And everything you have said in criticism of the Church regarding the Mortara case hangs on that presupposition.

    Rightness and wrongness is twisted based on your belief, rather than on some principle that can be articulated as just for all people regardless of belief.

    That rightness and wrongess are “twisted” is what remains to be shown. If baptism does something ontological to a child in relation to the Church, and the rituals of other religions do not, then there *is* an asymmetry here. The notion that to be just, every principle must apply equally to all religions simply presupposes religious relativism. And that’s a question-begging presupposition.

    The perceive efficaciousness (real or not) of touching kids with feathers or baptizing them has nothing to do with the justice of taking away kids from their parents.

    That claim precisely begs the question, by presupposing not only that a non-Catholic child cannot be made a Catholic by baptism, but also that nothing Catholic is owed under justice to Catholic children, and that the civil authority has no responsibility to see that anything Catholic is provided to Catholic children.

    Giving kids a million dollars is efficacious – it is immoral for millionaires to steal kids from poor people.

    The notion that giving a child a million dollars is ontologically equivalent to what baptism does, simply begs the question, i.e. presupposes precisely what is in question.

    Making kids Catholic and giving them eternal life is efficacious – it is immoral to take kids (Catholic or not) from non-Catholic parents.

    Again, this claim simply begs the question, i.e. presupposes precisely what is in question.

    Your church may not in a document claim that it is permissible to use coercion against non-believers – the fact of the matter is that they DO use coercion against non believers, and excuse it time and time again. This is one example that YOU are excusing them for.

    Should a civil authority prevent non-believers who dislike Catholics from burning down Catholic churches? Yes. Is that coercion? Yes. The civil authority has a responsibility to restrain that sort of behavior. And Dignitatis Humanae acknowledges this. But that is not the same as coercing a person to convert from one religion to another religion. That’s what Dignitatis Humanae disallows. The Mortara case is unique because there is no coercion of any person to convert; rather, the question is whether parents’ rights are absolute in relation to the civil authority, regarding what is owed to Catholic children.

    You tell me – do you deserve shame for your beliefs, and the actions you are condoning in defense of them?

    Of course not. Merely asserting derogatory labels is not a shortcut for demonstrating the error of a position. And what you have offered up to this point is only question-begging assertions and question-begging arguments. This question-begging approach is in my opinion not helpful or fruitful, and so as moderator I’m bringing this rabbit-trail to a close. The topic of discussion for this combox is the compatibility of older Church documents with Dignitatis Humanae.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  21. Should a civil authority prevent non-believers who dislike Catholics from burning down Catholic churches? Yes. Is that coercion? Yes. The civil authority has a responsibility to restrain that sort of behavior. And Dignitatis Humanae acknowledges this. But that is not the same as coercing a person to convert from one religion to another religion. That’s what Dignitatis Humanae disallows. The Mortara case is unique because there is no coercion of any person to convert; rather, the question is whether parents’ rights are absolute in relation to the civil authority, regarding what is owed to Catholic children.

    Again, you are confusing actions with beliefs. This whole situation is not about preventing coercion of buildings being burned down – it is about taking kids away from their Jewish parents. Stop trying to equate using force to prevent coercion (justifiable) and using force against non-Believers (not justifiable). This is the 2nd time you have done this very thing, it isn’t helpful.

    Your claim presupposes that raising a Catholic child without the sacraments, and as a non-Christian, is not a threat to the child in any way, and does not fail to provide the child with something he is owed much than food and clothes. So again your claim begs the question, i.e. presupposes precisely what in question.

    No, my claim is that EVEN IF something profoundly ontological happened and the Child is fully Catholic in every sence of the word, that the harm done to the child by taking him away from his parents IS FAR GREATER than missing sacraments. If this were not the case, then the church would be doing Gods work even more by adopting this practice world wide – opening day care centers, baptizing children, then taking them from their parents. State support of the practice has nothing to do with it, since these are matters of belief.

    That claim precisely begs the question, by presupposing not only that a non-Catholic child cannot be made a Catholic by baptism, but also that nothing Catholic is owed under justice to Catholic children, and that the civil authority has no responsibility to see that anything Catholic is provided to Catholic children.

    I am not presupposing that a non-Catholic can be made Catholic by baptism. I am arguing that even if this is true, Catholic children should not be taken from their non-Catholic parents.
    I am also arguing that there is nothing a Catholic is owed that is greater than keeping a child with his parents. When Jesus talked about faith dividing families, he didn’t intend for the State-Church to take 6 year olds from their parents.

    I am also claiming that if something is owed to Catholic Children, it is owed regardless of the States recognition of their responsibilities. As a result, if indeed a Catholic education and Catholic sacraments are a positive obligation that justifies ripping a Jewish family apart, then it follows that the Church should be opening daycare centers, baptizing children, and taking them from their families today. The obligation exists weather or not the state recognizes it (this is the same argument you use against gay marriage).

    Making kids Catholic and giving them eternal life is efficacious – it is immoral to take kids (Catholic or not) from non-Catholic parents.

    Again, this claim simply begs the question, i.e. presupposes precisely what is in question.

    Rather than have me beg the question more, how about you outline another scenario where it is justifiable to take Catholic kids from non-believers. Remember, we are focusing on the Beliefs of the parents, not any Actions (they aren’t beating / abusing / neglecting their children). If it happened and is justified in this scenario, it shouldn’t be too hard to think of another one.

    This question-begging approach is in my opinion not helpful or unfruitful, and so as moderator I’m bringing this rabbit-trail to a close.

    I’m sorry you feel this way – this feeling is called ‘cognitive dissonance’. You are caught trying to hold 2 contradictory truths together in your mind. Truth 1. The church is infallible and always right. Truth 2. It is wrong to take kids from their parents.
    The only way to ease this discomfort is to diminish one side or the other of the equation, or actively run away. It appears you are doing both. Even if you choose not to publish or respond to this one, I consider it a post well written. I am interested in what other people have to say on the issue. In the future it would be nice if you could just publish my posts and then rebut them after a time. I’m interested in other Catholic people’s defenses of this topic (something which can’t happen due to it being closed now…)

  22. Bob, (re: #21)

    Again, you are confusing actions with beliefs.

    No, I contrasted the coercion allowed in the case of violence against Catholicism, with the coercion disallowed in the case of forced conversion. Comparing those two things is not “confusing” actions with belief.

    This whole situation is not about preventing coercion of buildings being burned down – it is about taking kids away from their Jewish parents.

    I agree. My point was not to equate the coercion allowed to prevent violence with the coercion in the Mortara case but only to show that coercion of some sort by the civil authority is allowed by Dignitatis Humanae.

    Stop trying to equate using force to prevent coercion (justifiable) and using force against non-Believers (not justifiable). This is the 2nd time you have done this very thing, it isn’t helpful.

    You’ve misunderstood me, because I did not even try to “equate” them, nor does anything I say entail that they are equated.

    No, my claim is that EVEN IF something profoundly ontological happened and the Child is fully Catholic in every sence of the word, that the harm done to the child by taking him away from his parents IS FAR GREATER than missing sacraments.

    And that’s a question-begging claim. Merely asserting it over and over does not demonstrate it to be true.

    If this were not the case, then the church would be doing Gods work even more by adopting this practice world wide – opening day care centers, baptizing children, then taking them from their parents.

    That’s a non sequitur. Under ordinary conditions it is wrong to override surreptitiously the responsibility of non-Catholic parents for the religious education of their children. Hence just because all children would be better off if they were baptized and raised Catholic, it does not follow that under ordinary conditions Catholics should surreptitiously baptize the children of non-Catholics, kidnap them and raise them as Catholic. What makes the Mortara case possible is the fact that the imminent death of the infant changes the situation from ordinary to extraordinary, thus allowing the emergency baptism. And what underlies that is the Catholic doctrine of baptism, which leads to a baptismal principle comparable to the Pontificator’s Eleventh Law regarding the Eucharist: It doesn’t matter how vigorously you affirm your belief in baptismal regeneration and how vigorously you deny the notion that baptism is a mere symbol, if you believe it is wrong always and everywhere to give an emergency baptism to a dying unbaptized infant without the permission of his parents, you really do not believe in baptismal regeneration.

    I am not presupposing that a non-Catholic can be made Catholic by baptism. I am arguing that even if this is true, Catholic children should not be taken from their non-Catholic parents.

    And that is true, if the parents are willing to raise the child as a Catholic, or if there is no civil law requiring Catholic children to be raised Catholic. If, however, your claim is that a Catholic child should not be taken away from such parents even if the parents are unwilling to raise the child Catholic, and even if it is the civil law of the land that Catholic children must be raised Catholic, that [question-begging] claim would need to be argued for, not merely asserted. Merely asserting disputed claims does not show them to be true, and does not resolve the disagreement about them.

    I am also arguing that there is nothing a Catholic is owed that is greater than keeping a child with his parents.

    That’s the question-begging claim you have asserted (repeatedly), but have provided no argument for.

    I am also claiming that if something is owed to Catholic Children, it is owed regardless of the States recognition of their responsibilities. As a result, if indeed a Catholic education and Catholic sacraments are a positive obligation that justifies ripping a Jewish family apart, then it follows that the Church should be opening daycare centers, baptizing children, and taking them from their families today.

    And again that’s a non sequitur, as I explained just above.

    I’m sorry you feel this way – this feeling is called ‘cognitive dissonance’.

    I said nothing about my feelings, and speculation about them is unhelpful.

    You are caught trying to hold 2 contradictory truths together in your mind. Truth 1. The church is infallible and always right. Truth 2. It is wrong to take kids from their parents.

    Truth cannot contradict truth. So the very notion of “2 contradictory truths” is confused. The doctrine of infallibility does not entail that the Church “is always right.” Nor is it true without qualification that it is always wrong to take children from their parents.

    The only way to ease this discomfort is to diminish one side or the other of the equation, or actively run away. It appears you are doing both.

    The notion that there is “discomfort” on my part is a false assumption. Having engaged in many internet discussions over a number of years now, I’m become aware that when the other person repeatedly and perpetually engages in question-begging, the conversation cannot be fruitful, and there is no point in continuing it, because in order to be fruitful we have to refrain from merely asserting the truth of our own position, and instead work to find the common ground needed in order to address in a non-question-begging way the point or points in question. So as moderator, I’m ending the discussion. But thanks for trying.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  23. Bryan, if you read Kertzer’s book on Mortara, it is dubious whether Mortara was ever near death or even baptized. Plus, there is a gap of several years between the alleged baptism and the abduction. The enormity of taking a child from his parents notwithstanding, this was not the Roman Inquisition’s finest moment. Not to mention that Pius IX dug in his heels on Mortara despite an international outcry against the abduction, an international dispute that cost the papacy its territories and that united Italy as a nation.

    Be that as it may, I do not understand why it is okay to baptize children near death and not any child. All children, eschatologically speaking, are near death. And if it is compassionate and gracious to baptize a child near death, why isn’t it unloving to leave children remain unbaptized when you have the power to regenerate them?

  24. Darryl, (re: #23)

    In the condition of the imminent death of the infant, the eternal welfare of the infant supercedes the ordinary right of parents to determine the religious identity, formation, and practice of their children, because something eternal is immediately at stake. But under ordinary conditions, the parents have the opportunity over time to arrive freely at the truth concerning religion, and then freely choose baptism for their children. Respect for the rights of parents, and faith in the power of God’s grace to bring about such a change over time such that both desiderata are met (i.e. the rights of the parents are respected and the child receives the sacrament of eternal life) oblige Catholics not to baptize infants against parents’ wishes under ordinary conditions. The notion that all children are near death “eschatologically speaking” may be true, but it overlooks the distinction between a condition of imminent death and a condition in which death is not imminent, and hope remains for the parents to choose freely to have their child baptized.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  25. Hi Bryan,

    You said:
    “In the condition of the imminent death of the infant, the eternal welfare of the infant supercedes the ordinary right of parents to determine the religious identity, formation, and practice of their children, because something eternal is immediately at stake.”

    So is a Catholic healthcare worker in a hospital or Catholic EMT/social worker who comes across an infant in dire conditions where death seems likely obligated to baptize them surreptitiously regardless of and even in direct opposition to the desire of parents or their employer’s policies? If not obligated, why? And assuming not obligated, would it be virtuous/meritorious and supererogatory for them to do so and go above and beyond? If not, why according to your statement above?

  26. Hi Bryan,

    You said in comments above:
    “What is authoritative in Catholic documents is only what they say, not other ideas floating around at the time, even if commonly associated at the time with an idea stated in the document.”

    Right – this goes to how even the authorial intent behind such statements or immediate post-decree interpretation does not necessarily inform or color their doctrinal meaning (although it could if it is consonant with and not opposed to the doctrinal meaning) – such as with Unam Sanctam or Trent’s notion of sufficiency where cases can be made that authorial intent and widespread post-decree interpretation contradicted subsequent development/interpretation.
    But above in your article, you also say:
    “The appearance of contradiction is formed by abstracting the words from the historical and intentional contexts in which they were written.”

    So on the face of it, it seems like you’re trying to have it both ways, by defending the doctrinal interpretation of past statements according to their historical and intentional context for DH, versus just limiting ones self to and abstracting the actual words of the statements in other cases where the historical/intentional context contradicts current state of doctrine.
    Or is it the case that you are simply using historical/intentional context to show that the pre-DH and DH teaching are theoretically reconciable, even if such historical/intentional context is not necessitated to be taken into account by the doctrinal statements (since it is not necessitated in interpretation of other doctrinal statements)?

    I hope that makes sense. Also, I am still curious as to your thoughts on my post right above this one. Thanks.

  27. JD (re: #26)

    You wrote:

    So on the face of it, it seems like you’re trying to have it both ways, by defending the doctrinal interpretation of past statements according to their historical and intentional context for DH, versus just limiting ones self to and abstracting the actual words of the statements in other cases where the historical/intentional context contradicts current state of doctrine.

    Words have no meaning at all if abstracted from their context; they have meaning only in the context of a language community. But the following is a false dilemma: either everything involved or related in the minds of the authors at the time they wrote is normative perpetually, or since words stripped entirely of their context have no meaning, ecclesial documents can mean anything we want them to mean. Although the meaning of the words is provided by their context, what is normative is only what is actually written, and not other ideas commonly associated at the time with the propositions actually written, or also simultaneously in the minds of the authors but not written down on the page.

    Also, I am still curious as to your thoughts on my post right above this one.

    The question of baptism, let alone the question of our obligation in regard to baptizing dying infants, is far from the topic of this thread, which is to address and discuss the objection concerning DH‘s teaching on religious liberty in relation to prior Church documents. Nor is the purpose of CTC to teach theology or satisfy theological curiosities. Rather, the purpose of this site is for Protestants and Catholics to discuss together and, with the help of God, resolve that which still divides us.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  28. Bryan,
    You said:
    “Although the meaning of the words is provided by their context, what is normative is only what is actually written”

    Does “what is actually written” have meaning? Is that meaning normative? Is that meaning of the words provided by their context? Is the context historical/intentional or of something else?
    I don’t understand how you divorce the normativity of “what is actually written” from the “meaning of the words” (i.e. what is provided by the context).

    As for baptism, I disagree if DH’s teaching on religious liberty concerns the notion of coercion. Doctrine leads to practice, and practice can help elucidate doctrine. But I won’t press the issue.

  29. JD (re: #28)

    Does “what is actually written” have meaning? Is that meaning normative? Is that meaning of the words provided by their context?

    Yes, yes, and yes.

    Is the context historical/intentional or of something else?

    There’s the false dilemma, that one must accept Humpty-Dumptyism about language (see comment #253 of the “Reformation Sunday 2011: How Would Protestants Know When to Return” thread, and comment #270 there as well), or historical context and intention have nothing to do with the meaning of the text. There is a third alternative, as I just explained in my previous comment.

    I don’t understand how you divorce the normativity of “what is actually written” from the “meaning of the words” (i.e. what is provided by the context).

    I don’t divorce them, nor did I claim anything entailing this. You are inferring this mistaken conclusion (about my position), however, because you are assuming the [false] dilemma I just described.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  30. Bryan,

    You wrote:
    “they have meaning only in the context of a language community.”

    So this is the context? This ties in with your tradition and lexicon article and your example in the comments about “fire” shouted in an english-speaking theater by someone with another language who means something entirely different by the word “fire”. But perhaps I’m still not understanding.

    If so, historical and intentional context can be part of that context of a language community, but it also doesn’t have to be, correct? Historical/intentional context is not *necessitated* by the context of a language community?

    If the context of a language community gives meaning to the words written down, why can there be widespread, maybe universal, misunderstanding of interpretation of the words afterwards by that same community? To use your “fire” example, how could it be the case that everyone in the theater then thought the person had shouted something that meant “hello” rather than “fire”?

  31. JD (re: #30)

    So this is the context?

    Yes, the way in which a term is used in a language community is part of the context determining its meaning.

    If so, historical and intentional context can be part of that context of a language community, but it also doesn’t have to be, correct?

    I don’t understand the question.

    Historical/intentional context is not *necessitated* by the context of a language community?

    Again, I don’t understand the question. Perhaps you could clarify.

    If the context of a language community gives meaning to the words written down, why can there be widespread, maybe universal, misunderstanding of interpretation of the words afterwards by that same community?

    Because contexts are not eternal. A language community can change over time. (But to be clear, for theological reasons I wouldn’t grant that this universal misunderstanding could occur in the Catholic Church)

    To use your “fire” example, how could it be the case that everyone in the theater then thought the person had shouted something that meant “hello” rather than “fire”?

    I never claimed, nor do I believe, that it could be the case that everyone in the theater then thought the person had shouted something that meant “hello” rather than “fire.” Your question presupposes that I share your premise, when first you would need to establish your premise.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  32. Bryan,

    You said:
    “Yes, the way in which a term is used in a language community is part of the context determining its meaning.”

    You say “part” – what would comprise the other “parts” that are not of the language community context that complete the whole “context determining its meaning”.

    Your answer then perhaps touches on the historical/intentional context question which you asked me to clarify.
    Above you have said:
    “What is authoritative in Catholic documents is only what they say, not other ideas floating around at the time, even if commonly associated at the time with an idea stated in the document.”

    Ideas floating around, even if commonly associated with an idea, or in the minds of the authors can indeed form the historical and intentional context of a statement correct? So what I meant by my question was that such historical and intentional context *can* inform the language community context, but it does not *necessarily have to* since as you say “what is authoritative is only what they say, not the historical/intentional context”. In the article, you seem to be arguing that such historical/intentional context helps inform the language community context for pre-DH and DH reconciliation, but I would think with other doctrines (say Unam Sanctam) you might argue that such historical/intentional context does *not* help inform the language community context – what mattered more in that case was the words as meant within the language community context, rather than the historical/intentional context informing the language community context. I hope that is more clear.

    You said:
    “Because contexts are not eternal. A language community can change over time. (But to be clear, for theological reasons I wouldn’t grant that this universal misunderstanding could occur in the Catholic Church).”

    Thank you for this clarification. You would not grant universal misunderstanding could occur (which is why I presume you criticize my “fire” example – please correct me if the criticism lies elsewhere), but would you grant that such misunderstanding could be widespread? Or quite influential for even a long period of time?

  33. JD, (re: #32)

    Of course the immediate context helps us determine the author’s intention, which can disambiguate terms and propositions that in that language community could have more than one sense.

    In the article, you seem to be arguing that such historical/intentional context helps inform the language community context for pre-DH and DH reconciliation, but I would think with other doctrines (say Unam Sanctam) you might argue that such historical/intentional context does *not* help inform the language community context – what mattered more in that case was the words as meant within the language community context, rather than the historical/intentional context informing the language community context.

    What I’m doing in this article is not quite as you describe. I’m not claiming that the historical/intentional context “helps inform the language community context” for pre-DH and DH reconciliation. I’m claiming that the historical/intentional context helps us see more clearly what is actually *written down* in the text. That’s the very same thing I’d say about Unam Sanctum.

    but would you grant that such misunderstanding could be widespread? Or quite influential for even a long period of time?

    I don’t see the relevance of such questions to my article, so I’m going to pass over them.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  34. Bryan, here’s an SSPXer on the contradiction: http://unamsanctamcatholicam.blogspot.com/2008/01/vatican-ii-and-religious-liberty.html

    A non-Catholic possesses a natural right not to be prevented from the public expression of error, limited only by the just requirements of public order (the teaching of Dignitatis humanae; see especially article 2).

    A non-Catholic does not possess a natural right not to be prevented from the public expression of error, limited only by the just requirements of public order (the teaching of the pre-Vatican II popes; see especially Quanta cura and the Syllabus of Errors of Pope Pius IX, Immortale Dei and Libertas humana of Pope Leo XIII, Vehementer nos of Pope St. Pius X, Quas primas of Pope Pius XI, and Ci riesce of Pope Pius XIII).

    Who am I supposed to believe?

  35. Darryl (re: #34),

    I addressed this in section III. B. “The Right of Religious Liberty” above. None of the older documents say that man has no *natural* right to religious liberty. What is denied is an absolute right. What DH affirms, by contrast, is a qualified right. That is where there is no contradiction between them.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  36. Bryan, but the explanation is inadequate. It does not account for why John Courtney Murray’s views were silenced in the 1950s and then prevailed at Vatican II.

  37. Darryl (re: #36)

    An explanation intending to explain x is adequate if it explains x, even if it does not explain y. My explanation was intended only to explain how the two sets of teachings are compatible, and hence is adequate.

    As for Murray, that’s a separate question. He was silenced in large part because of his approach to the hierarchy on that occasion (in 1954). When he gave his talk at CUA in March of 1954, he implied that Pope Pius XII’s recent Ci riesce was a repudiation of Cardinal Ottaviani’s previous representation of Pope Pius’s XII’s position on religious liberty. At that time, Cardinal Ottaviani was the Pro-Secretary of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (now the CDF). The silencing followed within a week. This silencing wasn’t so much because of Murray’s position on the topic, but because he was publicly slighting the Pro-Secretary of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  38. Bryan, who am I supposed to believe?

    On Lumen Gentium and Gaudiem et Spes: “This was truly revolutionary teaching, for the persecution of heresy and enforcement of Catholicism had been a reality since the days of Constantine, and since the French Revolution pope after pope had repeatedly and explicitly denounced the notion that non-Catholics had a right to religious freedom. On the older view, error had no rights, and the Church was bound to proclaim the truth and, wherever it could, to see that society enforced the truth by secular sanctions. Heretics and unbelievers might in certain circumstances be granted toleration, but not liberty. The decree was opposed tooth and nail, especially by the Italian and Spanish bishops (the decree flew in the face of the Concordat which regulated the life of the Spanish church, and which discriminated against Protestants). Another opponent was Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who, after the Council, would eventually form his own breakaawy movement committed not only to the pre-Conciliar liturgy but to the intransigent integralism and rejection of religious liberty which had flourished under Pius X and the last years of Pius XII.
    “The Decree on Religious Liberty was largely drafted by the American theologian John Courtney Murray, another of those under a cloud in the pontificate of Pius XII. It was strongly pressed by the American bishops, who felt that a failure to revise the Church’s teaching on this issue would discredit the Council in the eyes of the democratic nations.” (Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners, 274)

    After all, Duffy has the same paradigm as you.

  39. Darryl (re: #38)

    Your “who am I supposed to believe” question presupposes that you have to choose between something I’ve said, and something Duffy said. But you haven’t yet established that what I said is incompatible with what Duffy says.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  40. Bryan, okay, I’ll play.

    You said Vat 2 showed continuity. Duffy says it reveals discontinuity.

  41. Darryl, (re: #40)

    The developmental changes regarding religious liberty affirmed in Dignitatis Humanae are ‘discontinuous’ in the sense of not previously having been explicitly taught or formally acknowledged. At the same time, as I have shown in the post above, what Dignitatis Humanae teaches is continuous with (in the sense of not contradicting or repudiating) previous Church teaching regarding religious liberty. That is not a contradiction, and thus you don’t have to choose between them. All authentic developments are both continuous in the sense of being in agreement with prior teaching, and discontinuous in the sense of making explicit what was not previously explicit. But being continuous and discontinuous in that way is not a contradiction, and is thus not an either/or.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  42. Bryan, you ignored Duffy and in general you neglect to interact with the historiography of Roman Catholicism by Roman Catholic historians. I have pointed out several times here that Roman Catholic scholars reach different conclusions than you do about continuity. But you have repeatedly attributed my interpretations of Vatican 2 to the wrong paradigm or to not making a point. I find your interactions to be remarkably evasive. Why not adopt the manner and intellect of another Protestant convert to Rome, Michael Davies?

  43. Darryl (re: #42)

    These claims (“You ignored …” “you neglect” “you have repeatedly …” “your interactions … remarkably evasive”) are all ad hominems. They show nothing I have said to be false.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  44. Bryan, nothing you say has disproved my assertions about your avoidance of engaging with Duffy.

  45. Darryl, (re: #44)

    If it needs to be said, when a person presents an argument (as I have in the article above), and the critic responds with an ad hominem, then merely pointing out that it is an ad hominem is sufficient. There is no burden of proof on the person making the argument, to disprove the ad hominem.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  46. Darryl:

    The question at issue here, which I have broached in detail with you before in another thread, is which “paradigm” for interpreting Vatican II’s doctrinal developments is the more reasonable one to adopt: that of “continuity” (HoC) or “discontinuity” (HoD). That question cannot be usefully addressed merely by pointing out that some Catholic scholars adopt HoD, or that Bryan has not engaged with ones you cite. In order to address the question usefully, we need to be clear with each other about what the pertinent pre- and post-Vatican II doctrines, respectively, mean. Only then can we say whether, or if so to what extent, there has been doctrinal continuity or doctrinal discontinuity. But it should go without saying that we can thus be clear with each other only if we already agree on which hermeneutic, which “interpretive paradigm” (IP), to adopt for purposes of interpreting the doctrines in question. That seems to leave things at the level of mutual question-begging. But it does not.

    What this apparent aporia leaves us with is the necessity of addressing the clash of IPs without begging the question by insisting on interpretations of doctrine which hold only on one of them. In the case of Catholic doctrine, that requires distinguishing, as a first step, between doctrines that, by magisterial criteria, have been set forth infallibly and are thus “irreformable,” and doctrines which, by those same criteria, have not been set forth infallibly and are thus reformable. Only once we’ve done that can we determine which doctrinal developments are discontinuous, in such a way as to pose an epistemological problem for Catholicism. The problem, if there is a problem, would be that doctrines taught by and since Vatican II are actual “reformations” of doctrines which, in their earlier iterations, were irreformable. But the question where to draw that line would be purely a matter of opinion without a normative way of doing it. As I’ve explained many times before, if there is such a way at all, that way is what I have called the “CIP,” the Catholic interpretive paradigm. Now on the CIP, it is evident that the HoC, not the HoD, is normative. For the HoD is precisely that IP which, if it were the more reasonable one to adopt, would undermine the Magisterium’s claims for itself, by exposing how allegedly “irreformable” doctrines have in fact been negated by how they’ve developed. Accordingly, if the the HoD is the more reasonable IP to adopt, then the CIP is not credible and Catholicism is false. That conditional statement, of course, would not by itself show HoD to be less reasonable than HoC. It would show that, if HoD is the more reasonable IP to adopt, then there simply is no normative hermeneutic for interpreting Catholic doctrinal developments. But that result would be contrary to fact. Hence the HoC, not the HoD, is the more reasonable IP to adopt.

    Best,
    Mike

  47. Mike, for those who lived before and after Vat 2, discontinuity seems reasonable. (Yet another Roman Catholic on Vat 2): http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/03/memories-of-a-catholic-boyhood

    “There was a time, not so long ago, when Roman Catholics were very different from other Americans. They belonged not to public school districts, but to parishes named after foreign saints, and each morning parochial-school children would preface their Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag with a prayer for Holy Mother the Church. When they went to Mass—never just a “Sunday service”—they prayed silently with rosaries or read along in Latin as if those ancient syllables were the language Jesus himself spoke. Blood-red vigil candles fluttered under statues and, on special occasions, incense floated heavily about the pews. Kneeling at the altar rail, their mouths pinched dry from fasting, the clean of soul were rewarded with the taste of God on their tongues—mysterious, doughy, and difficult to swallow. “Don’t chew the Baby Jesus,” they were warned as children, and few—even in old age—ever did.

    “The Catholic Church was a family, then, and if there were few brothers in it, there were lots of sisters—women with milk-white faces of ambiguous age, peering out of long veils and stiff wimples that made the feminine contours of their bodies ambiguous too. Alternately sweet and sour, they glided across polished classroom floors as if on silent rubber wheels, virginal “brides of Christ” who often found a schoolroom of thirty students entrusted to their care. At home, “Sister says” was a sure way to win points in any household argument.

    “Even so, in both church and home, it was the “fathers” who wielded ultimate authority. First, there was the Holy Father in Rome: aloof, infallible, in touch with God. Then there were the bishops, who condemned movies and sometimes communism; once a year, with a rub from a bishop’s anointing thumb, young men blossomed into priests and Catholic children of twelve became “soldiers of Jesus Christ.” But it was in the confessional box on gloomy Saturday nights that the powers of the paternal hierarchy pressed most closely on the soul. “Bless me Father for I have sinned” the penitent would say, and in that somber intimacy, sins would surface and be forgiven.

    “There were sins that only Catholics could commit, like eating meat on Friday or missing Sunday Mass. But mostly the priests were there to pardon common failings of the flesh, which the timid liked to list under the general heading of “impure” thoughts, desires, and action. Adolescent boys dreamed of marriage when it would be okay by God and the fathers to “go all the way.” But their parents knew full well that birth control was not included in such freedom. Birth control was against God’s law, all the fathers said, and God’s law—like Holy Mother the Church—could never change.

    The church, of course, did change, which is why it is worth recalling what it was like before the reforms of Vatican Council II took hold.

  48. Darryl, (re: #47)

    for those who lived before and after Vat 2, discontinuity seems reasonable.

    That claim equivocates on the term ‘discontinuity,’ as it is used in the phrase ‘hermeneutic of discontinuity.’ As the term is used in ‘hermeneutic of discontinuity,’ it refers to a rejection of what was written in the documents of Vatican II. (See Pope Benedict XVI’s Christmas address on this subject.) As you are using it above, however, it simply refers to the changes that resulted from Vatican II.

    But this thread is for discussing the post above on religious liberty. So please stay on-topic.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  49. Hello.

    I’ve been very busy lately, but I finally managed to write up something on this religious freedom issue. Bryan, I still think the Roman Catholic Church has contradicted itself and that you haven’t successfully shown otherwise, and this link goes to an article I’ve written up to try to show that. I find that I like to go through these things thoroughly, and for me it is easier to make a case in an article format that then can become part of the ongoing discussion in the comments rather than to try to make that case too briefly in the comments themselves.

    So, for those of you who are interested, enjoy! I’ll look forward to any feedback.

    Have a good evening!

    Mark

  50. Mark, (re: #49)

    Which two statements (one from pre-VII, and one from DH) do you think contradict each other?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  51. Hi Bryan, (re: #50)

    Well, these two statements, one from Quanta Cura and the other from DH, I believe are contradictory, when taken in their full contexts, for reasons explained in my article:

    And, against the doctrine of Scripture, of the Church, and of the Holy Fathers, they do not hesitate to assert that “that is the best condition of civil society, in which no duty is recognized, as attached to the civil power, of restraining by enacted penalties, offenders against the Catholic religion, except so far as public peace may require.” From which totally false idea of social government they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, most fatal in its effects on the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls, called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an “insanity,”2 viz., that “liberty of conscience and worship is each man’s personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way.” (Quanta Cura)

    This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

    The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.(2) This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right. (Dignitatis Humanae)

  52. Mark (re: #51)

    The statement in Quanta Cura is condemning the thesis that each man has by right an absolute liberty. The statement in Dignitatis Humanae is affirming the thesis that each man has by right a non-absolute liberty. An absolute liberty is not a non-absolute liberty. Hence the two statements are not contradictory.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  53. Bryan (re: #52)

    I disagree with your interpretation of Quanta Cura on this point. It is not attacking only the idea of an absolute liberty. It is attacking the idea of a liberty to heretics as such restrained only by the concerns of maintaining a secular public peace and moral order (i.e. protecting life, property, religious freedom, etc.). And that is precisely the kind of liberty DH is promoting.

    Mark

  54. Mark, (re: #53)

    It is attacking the idea of a liberty to heretics as such restrained only by the concerns of maintaining a secular public peace and moral order (i.e. protecting life, property, religious freedom, etc.). And that is precisely the kind of liberty DH is promoting.

    The problem for your thesis is that you only get a contradiction when you rephrase the documents according to *your* interpretation of them. So what you’ve done is only show that according to your [Reformed Protestant] interpretation of the documents, they are logically contradictory. The statements themselves from the two documents, as worded, are not actually logically contradictory.

    But it is not charitable to interpret documents as contradictory when a non-contradictory option is available, especially when those documents belong to a tradition other than one’s own, and members of that tradition are able to provide a non-contradictory way of interpreting and relating the documents. In ecumenical dialogue the same “basic ground rule” I’ve described in “Virtue and Dialogue” regarding allowing the other to define his or her own position, is the same rule by which in charity we allow the other to provide the interpretation of the documents belonging to his or her tradition, rather than force and impose our own interpretation upon them, and then use our imposed interpretation as a criticism of the other’s tradition.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  55. Bryan (re: #54),

    I agree that it is uncharitable to interpret a document as contradictory if a non-contradictory plausible possibility is available–at least if one is making an argument against an opposing point of view and trying to prove a contradiction.

    I do not think that one must always accept the interpretations of a community regarding its own documents, particularly if the community’s interpretations are clearly at odds with what the document actually says and/or if the community is itself divided in interpreting its own documents (and you haven’t said that we must do so either, so I don’t think I’m actually arguing with you here). To bring in another example, some Mormons try to claim that the LDS church has never taught as official doctrine that God was once a man. But it is clear that they have, and many documents prove it. It would be inappropriate to let them skew the objective evidence in favor of their own consistency when the facts clearly indicate otherwise.

    It is clear to me that documents like Quanta Cura, particularly in light of the totality of Roman Catholic teaching and practice on religious liberty for the previous 1500 years and in light of the ideas of religious freedom that was growing in the west during the nineteenth century and which QC and other documents make clear reference to as a point of reference to know what they were attacking, were attacking the sort of notion of religious freedom now enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is equally clear to me that DH was attempting to defend the very idea of religious liberty enshrined in that same declaration. I have provided much evidence of this identification–too much, I think, to allow an alternative reading of the texts that would get rid of the contradiction.

    In short, I don’t think a plausible non-contradictory reading is available in light of all the evidence I have presented.

    Perhaps making the issue a bit more concrete may help a bit:

    It seems clear to me that executing a heretic as such (and not as a murderer, a terrorist, etc.) would be contrary to the idea of religious liberty promoted in DH. It would be considered a violation of the fundamental rights of man rooted in his inherent dignity by that document. But it is equally clear to me that previous Roman Catholic teaching and practice denies that executing a heretic as such is contrary to his fundamental natural rights. So we have a contradiction here.

    Or, if we wish to make it less extreme, I would say that any legal restrain upon a heretic as such (and not as a thief, in defense of religious freedom, or some other “secular” sort of concern) is contrary to the idea of religious freedom in DH, and that DH would consider such to be a violation of his basic rights and dignity. And yet it is clear that previous Roman Catholic teaching, such as that articulated in Quanta Cura, clearly taught that civil coercion of a heretic as such would not be a violation of his fundamental rights or dignity, and would indeed be a good thing in at least many circumstances. And these two ideas are contradictory.

  56. Mark, (re: #55)

    It is clear to me that documents like Quanta Cura, particularly in light of the totality of Roman Catholic teaching and practice on religious liberty for the previous 1500 years and in light of the ideas of religious freedom that was growing in the west during the nineteenth century and which QC and other documents make clear reference to as a point of reference to know what they were attacking, were attacking the sort of notion of religious freedom now enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is equally clear to me that DH was attempting to defend the very idea of religious liberty enshrined in that same declaration. I have provided much evidence of this identification–too much, I think, to allow an alternative reading of the texts that would get rid of the contradiction. In short, I don’t think a plausible non-contradictory reading is available in light of all the evidence I have presented.

    Each of those four statements is a statement about yourself (e.g. “It is clear to me that x,” “It is equally clear to me that x,” “I have provided x,” and “I don’t think x.”) Statements about yourself do not demonstrate a contradiction between any pre-VII statement, and DH. Hand-waving is easy; actually demonstrating a contradiction is much more difficult.

    It seems clear to me that executing a heretic as such (and not as a murderer, a terrorist, etc.) would be contrary to the idea of religious liberty promoted in DH. It would be considered a violation of the fundamental rights of man rooted in his inherent dignity by that document. But it is equally clear to me that previous Roman Catholic teaching and practice denies that executing a heretic as such is contrary to his fundamental natural rights. So we have a contradiction here.

    The problem is that the contradictory propositions here are not statements from the texts themselves. Is it possible that your interpretations of Catholic documents contradict each other? Sure. But that doesn’t show that the statements actually contained in the Catholic documents contradict each other. If you want to show that the documents contradict, you have to show the contradiction between the actual statements, not between your interpretations of the statements.

    Or, if we wish to make it less extreme, I would say that any legal restrain upon a heretic as such (and not as a thief, in defense of religious freedom, or some other “secular” sort of concern) is contrary to the idea of religious freedom in DH, and that DH would consider such to be a violation of his basic rights and dignity. And yet it is clear that previous Roman Catholic teaching, such as that articulated in Quanta Cura, clearly taught that civil coercion of a heretic as such would not be a violation of his fundamental rights or dignity, and would indeed be a good thing in at least many circumstances. And these two ideas are contradictory.

    Again, feel free to show the contradiction in the texts themselves. Anyone can claim and show that his interpretations of texts are contradictory. That proves nothing, however, regarding whether or not the statements in the documents actually contradict each other.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  57. Bryan (re: #56),

    No text can go un-interpreted. Your reading of QC and DH are just as much interpretations of them as mine are. In your article, for example, you appealed to the notion of “indifferentism” and to expressions of that idea outside of QC to interpret what QC was saying. In my article, I try to be very thorough showing that I am reading these documents in the correct manner, and my claim is that when read in the only reasonable way possible, when interpreted in the only reasonable way possible, they contradict each other.

    What you need to do, Bryan, is deal with the arguments I presented in my article as to what these documents are clearly saying, show where that reasoning is going wrong, and show that your alternative interpretations of these documents are correct. I am not hand-waiving. Your responses are hand-waiving, because they are ignoring the specific argumentation I have made and presenting the image that you are sticking just with the texts un-interpreted while I am imposing some outside interpretation on them when this is not at all the case.

    I fully agree that we have to be very careful when making charges of contradiction. I feel fully the weight of that responsibility and do not make such charges lightly. But I think that in this case the evidence is clear enough to make the need for such a charge necessary, and you have not refuted the evidence I’ve presented or defended the interpretations you gave in your original article from my responses to them in my article.

  58. Mark (re: #57)

    No text can go un-interpreted. Your reading of QC and DH are just as much interpretations of them as mine are. In your article, for example, you appealed to the notion of “indifferentism” and to expressions of that idea outside of QC to interpret what QC was saying.

    None of this demonstrates any actual contradiction between QC and DH.

    In my article, I try to be very thorough showing that I am reading these documents in the correct manner, and my claim is that when read in the only reasonable way possible, when interpreted in the only reasonable way possible, they contradict each other.

    Statements about yourself, such as “I try x” do not demonstrate any actual contradiction between QC and DH.

    What you need to do, Bryan, is deal with the arguments I presented in my article as to what these documents are clearly saying,

    Statements about me (“What you need to do …”) do not demonstrate any actual contradiction between QC and DH.

    I am not hand-waiving. Your responses are hand-waiving,

    Statements about yourself (“I am not x”) and about my responses do not demonstrate any actual contradiction between QC and DH.

    I fully agree that we have to be very careful when making charges of contradiction.

    Good.

    I feel fully the weight of that responsibility and do not make such charges lightly.

    Good. So, instead of talking about your feelings, please show the contradiction between QC and DH.

    But I think that in this case the evidence is clear enough to make the need for such a charge necessary, and you have not refuted the evidence I’ve presented or defended the interpretations you gave in your original article from my responses to them in my article.

    Again, statements of the sort “I think x” do not demonstrate a contradiction between QC and DH.

    What I’m asking is for you to focus on actually demonstrating the contradiction, rather than continually alluding to a demonstration that has not yet been presented. All this talking around the demonstration (1350 words in comments #49, 51, 53, 55, 57), without actually providing the demonstration, is precisely what I mean by hand-waving.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  59. Bryan,

    This whole posture is not conducive to ecumenical dialogue. It actually subverts it. This is not the only example of such behavior either.

    If you’d like I”ll paste everything that Mark has written from his link. It is there you will find his argument. In everything you’ve written here you have not interacted with anything that Mark has written. It will be beneficial to explain why your comments are obfuscating the discussion by tracking the conversation:

    1. Mark posts about his article (#49)

    2. Bryan asks which statements are contradictory (#50)

    3. Mark posts quotes he believes are contradictory stating, “Well, these two statements, one from Quanta Cura and the other from DH, I believe are contradictory, when taken in their full contexts, for reasons explained in my article” (#51)

    4. Bryan, without citing Mark, asserts that they are not contradictory because they are talking about different things (#52)

    5. Mark explains that they are contradictory because, “It is attacking the idea of a liberty to heretics as such restrained only by the concerns of maintaining a secular public peace and moral order (i.e. protecting life, property, religious freedom, etc.)” (#53)

    6. Bryan, without citing Mark, states that it is not charitable to make documents contradict when there is a possibility they do not. (#54)

    7. Mark explains that he doesn’t want to be uncharitable but believes he argue shows the contradiction. He says, “In short, I don’t think a plausible non-contradictory reading is available in light of all the evidence I have presented [in his linked article].” Mark then goes on to provide an example, execution of a heretic implies that there is not religious liberty in DH. (#55)

    8. Bryan, without citing Mark, identifies the personal pronouns that Mark uses as the substance of his argument. He accuses Mark of hand-waving. The problem is not contradiction between the texts but the contradiction in Mark’s interpretation (which Bryan has still not described or interacted with though Mark has offered it extensively in his link) #56

    9. Mark states that he takes the burden of proof to show contradiction and does not take it lightly. He explains that Bryan has not yet actually interacted with his argument and needs to do so to move the conversation forward. (#57)

    10. Bryan, without citing Mark, believes that the use of Mark’s personal pronouns is speaking about himself or about Bryan which shows that Mark is, again, hand-waving. Bryan responds to Mark’s remark about the burden of proof saying, “So, instead of talking about your feelings, please show the contradiction between QC and DH.”

    Bryan, without citing the article written by Mark, concludes by stating,

    What I’m asking is for you to focus on actually demonstrating the contradiction, rather than continually alluding to a demonstration that has not yet been presented. All this talking around the demonstration (1350 words in comments #49, 51, 53, 55, 57), without actually providing the demonstration, is precisely what I mean by hand-waving.

    Perhaps there has been confusion, but Mark’s argument is in his article. He is posting here to link to it. Mark is not guilty of hand-waving nor is he being emotive. When you treat your guests in this manner you are disrespecting them.

  60. Brandon, (re: #59)

    If you’d like I”ll paste everything that Mark has written from his link. It is there you will find his argument.

    I read Mark’s post (at his link) twice yesterday, and no, I did not find an argument there demonstrating a contradiction between QC and DH. But perhaps I missed it. Feel free to lay out (here) the premises and the conclusion of that argument.

    Perhaps there has been confusion, but Mark’s argument is in his article. He is posting here to link to it.

    Like I said above, I’ve read the article twice, and not found an argument there demonstrating a contradiction between QC and DH.

    When you treat your guests in this manner you are disrespecting them.

    I don’t see any way in which I’ve disrespected Mark. And your merely asserting that I have disrespected him doesn’t demonstrate that I have. Again, assertions are easy, but demonstrate nothing.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  61. Bryan,

    With all due respect, this is childish. Why do you feel the need to say things like:

    And your merely asserting that I have disrespected him doesn’t demonstrate that I have. Again, assertions are easy, but demonstrate nothing.

    What would you say if I said your accusation of my assertion was an assertion? Would you say it was an assertion? What if I responded that *that* was an assertion? Round and round we go. This tactic may score rhetorical points, but for people that are genuinely interested in clarifying differences and coming to mutual understanding this sort of thing treats your interlocutor as your pupil. That is why it is inherently disrespectful.

    Of course, I’m not making an assertion, I’m showing that you have not interacted with Mark’s argument and when he is attempting to genuinely respond to you he gets a response like,

    instead of talking about your feelings, please show the contradiction between QC and DH

    What is particularly egregious is that Mark has pointed you back to his article and you have not mentioned it once and yet you speak to him in this manner? To dismiss a guest without listening to them is not charitable nor is that treating someone with respect. To treat Mark with respect would to say either, “I haven’t read it yet but I will” Or, “It does not show contradiction at this point in your argument.” You have done neither which is why I have not simply “asserted” that you are treating Mark in a disrespectful manner.

  62. Brandon (re: #61)

    What is particularly egregious is that Mark has pointed you back to his article and you have not mentioned it once and yet you speak to him in this manner?

    Perhaps you should be slower to judge. What you do not know is that Mark and I already had a brief email exchange about his article *yesterday.* I had read it before he emailed me about it, and I read it again after he emailed me yesterday. He asked yesterday if he could post the link to it here, and I told him sure, and I told him in advance what I would say to him (here in the combox) in response to his article, namely, that he had not shown that any two quotations from a pre-VII doc and from DH contradict each other. In that email I told him “So, you did a lot of work, but you still haven’t shown a contradiction.” So Mark knows that I already read his article, and knows what I think is wrong with it.

    To dismiss a guest without listening to them is not charitable nor is that treating someone with respect.

    I agree. But I have never dismissed Mark, so I can’t be guilty of dismissing him without listening to him.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  63. Bryan,

    I’m glad that you and Mark have spoken.

    That doesn’t change anything about my assessment of the situation however because you still have not interacted with anything that Mark has written.How can you say someone hasn’t shown something if you don’t actually cite them and interact with them. Mark even provides examples from his article and you don’t interact with them. Until you interact with what Mark has written my criticism of your approach stands.

  64. Bryan (re: #62),

    Yes, we had an email exchange, but I think your comment comes across as suggesting that more happened there than actually did. Basically, all that happened was this: I gave you my article, and asked it it would be appropriate to post it. You said it would be fine to post, but that you would respond if I did by saying I had not shown a contradiction (with no elaboration on that). I then said thanks. And that was it. You never gave me any more of a substantive response to my arguments than you have here.

    More later . . .

    Mark

  65. Brandon, (re: 63)

    How can you say someone hasn’t shown something if you don’t actually cite them and interact with them. Mark even provides examples from his article and you don’t interact with them. Until you interact with what Mark has written my criticism of your approach stands.

    What I’ve done here (in this thread) is only respond to what Mark has stated here. I haven’t responded here to his article. But like I said above, I don’t find any argument there (in his article) demonstrating a contradiction between pre-VII documents and DH. I find only assertions that there is a contradiction. If you think that there really is an argument there, and that it is a good argument, again, please feel free to lay out the premises of that argument, and show how the conclusion follows from those premises.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  66. Bryan,

    But like I said above, I don’t find any argument there (in his article) demonstrating a contradiction.

    For someone making rather rude statements to Mark about his feelings about the burden (wherein Mark said he took it seriously), for you to inject your own feelings as the substance for your argument is sadly ironic.

    You then requested,

    If you think that there really is an argument there, and that it is a good argument, again, please feel free to lay out the premises of that argument, and show how the conclusion follows from those premises.

    No Bryan, this is not how this works. You can’t claim his argument is assertions, rest your case, then put the burden back on me. I haven’t read the article. You need to interact with Mark and show why you believe his argument doesn’t amount to contradiction. Why are you reticent to do so? If it is time or other extenuating circumstances then I’m sure Mark can understand you needing time to read and respond appropriately. Until you do so, however, your claims that Mark’s argument is an assertion of contradiction are…sadly ironic.

  67. Brandon, (re: #66)

    For someone making rather rude statements to Mark about his feelings about the burden (wherein Mark said he took it seriously), for you to inject your own feelings as the substance for your argument is sadly ironic.

    First, I’m not sure why you think my statement to Mark was “rude.” He had said in #57, “I feel fully the weight of that responsibility and do not make such charges lightly.” (Notice that’s an “I feel x” statement.) I responded to that in #58 by saying, “Good. So, instead of talking about your feelings, please show the contradiction between QC and DH.” I’m not sure why you think that is rude. He’s claiming that there is a contradiction between QC and DH, and I’m asking him to show that contradiction instead of talking about his feelings. It is not a criticism of him at all; it is simply a request.

    Secondly, my statement above (in #65), is not about my feelings, so in no way am I “inject[ing] [my] own feelings.”

    No Bryan, this is not how this works. You can’t claim his argument is assertions, rest your case, then put the burden back on me.

    Sure I can. The person making the argument has the burden of proof. So, if you think Mark’s article provides a good argument, then you have the burden of proof.

    I haven’t read the article.

    And yet you can say in #61, “I’m showing that you have not interacted with Mark’s argument.” You might want to read the article first, before asserting that it contains an argument.

    You need to interact with Mark and show why you believe his argument doesn’t amount to contradiction.

    First, I don’t know what it means for an “argument not to amount to a contradiction.” Second, if his article does not contain an argument, then I have no obligation to show what his [non-existent] argument does not do.

    Why are you reticent to do so? If it is time or other extenuating circumstances then I’m sure Mark can understand you needing time to read and respond appropriately.

    Because, as I’ve already explained, I cannot find there an argument showing that some pre-VII document contradicts DH.

    Until you do so, however, your claims that Mark’s argument is an assertion of contradiction are…sadly ironic.

    I don’t mind so much if something I say seems “sadly ironic.” I’m more concerned that it is true. But what makes it seem ironic to you is your assumption that it is not the person advancing the argument who has the burden of proof, but the recipient of the argument who has the burden of proof to refute the argument. I’d be glad to take on the task of evaluating/refuting the argument if I could *find* the argument, that is, if someone would say here are the premises (1 through n), and here is the conclusion that follows from those premises: statement y from DH contradicts statement x from QC.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  68. Bryan,

    I do appreciate your willingness to allow me to post here even though I’ve been critical. Thank you for that.

    Your statement to Mark was rude because you, Mark, and everyone who read knows that Mark is not appealing to his emotions. He is saying he takes it seriously, and in doing so he pointed you back to his article, which you have still not interacted with other than continuing the usual refrain, “Hand-waving.” You even say that you are just,

    I’m asking him to show that contradiction instead of talking about his feelings.

    He’s not talking about his feelings, Bryan, and you know this. He explained why he thinks there is a contradiction and you have yet to interact with anything he has said.

    Also, you are right that you were not talking about your feelings. You were just asserting your opinion when you stated,

    I don’t find any argument there (in his article) demonstrating a contradiction between pre-VII documents and DH.

    It’s true that this statement is not a feeling, it is an assertion and for that I appreciate the correction.

    Regarding the burden, you can do anything you please, but not if you expect anyone to take you seriously. You’ve yet to interact with anything and claim the burden remains on Mark or myself to show it to you? If you haven’t interacted with what is out there why in the world would I waste my time providing information to you that you will handle in this manner? Mark has made an argument and is inviting you to dialogue. I’m simply observing something I’ve seen happen before in other venues; you shifting the focus of the discussion.

    You make statements like,

    You might want to read the article first, before asserting that it contains an argument.

    You are stifling dialogue under the guise of logical fallacies. This is a perfect example, deflect the substance of the argument while myopically fixating on something completely irrelevant. The article is an essay in which the thesis has been stated that there is a contradiction between two sources. You’ve yet to interact with the lengthy article that Mark has written. Whether or not the conclusions follows from Mark’s premise it is assuredly an argument. And you know this. That is why you accusing me of “asserting that it is an argument” is preposterous. The success of the argument is one thing, but the existence of the article is proof that an argument exists.

    Also, when I speak about the argument amounting to a contradiction I should have been clearer.What I was getting at is that you charge Mark’s argument as being an assertion (an assertion that the two documents are contradictory). This is, itself, a contradiction which is why it is ironic. This sorts of assertions plague your response. For example you say,

    Second, if his article does not contain an argument, then I have no obligation to show what his [non-existent] argument does not do.

    So nowhere in Mark’s essay is there an argument even though he has told us his thesis in this thread… Why do you say that? What in his article makes you believe there is no argument? You’ve still yet to prove why that is the case. That is just another assertion and you bear the burden to show that nothing in Mark’s essay presents an argument. As of yet, you’ve done nothing other than assert it.

    Finally, you say,

    I don’t mind so much if something I say seems “sadly ironic.” I’m more concerned that it is true. But what makes it seem ironic to you is your assumption that it is not the person advancing the argument who has the burden of proof, but the recipient of the argument who has the burden of proof to refute the argument.

    The irony is sad because it is true. In order to refute my criticism you would need to show why you think there is no argument in Mark’s paper. That is a claim in response to Mark’s essay that requires substantiation. You’ve yet to provide any substantiation which makes your statements nothing more than brute assertions. You may have reasons for holding those opinions, but no one can evaluate them because you refrain from explaining yourself.

    The reason you do not see the irony is because you believe that once the person advancing their case has rested, that the recipient of the argument can assert that they found no argument. That is subversive to meaningful ecumenical discussion and precisely what you are doing in this situation.

  69. Brandon, (re: #68)

    Your statement to Mark was rude because you, Mark, and everyone who read knows that Mark is not appealing to his emotions.

    I didn’t claim that he was “appealing” to his emotions. I claimed that he was describing what he feels. Of course there is nothing intrinsically wrong with describing one’s feelings, but I’m simply asking Mark to provide the argument, and avoid all the other stuff that is not the argument. Requests of this sort are not rude, because they are not criticisms of one’s interlocutor, just as your requests that I stop “stifling dialogue” are not rude.

    He’s not talking about his feelings, Bryan, and you know this.

    That’s what “I feel x” means, Brandon. And please don’t attempt to read my mind. We can’t be Humpty-Dumptyish about language (see comment #253 in the Reformation Day 2011 post).

    He explained why he thinks there is a contradiction and you have yet to interact with anything he has said.

    That’s because I can’t find an argument there. But, the combox is open here for him (or you) to provide the argument.

    Regarding the burden, you can do anything you please, but not if you expect anyone to take you seriously.

    You are free not to take me seriously, if you choose.

    You’ve yet to interact with anything and claim the burden remains on Mark or myself to show it to you? If you haven’t interacted with what is out there why in the world would I waste my time providing information to you that you will handle in this manner?

    Because you love the truth, and want to show the conclusion of the argument to be true (if it is true), and because you believe I’m telling the truth when I say I cannot find the argument.

    Mark has made an argument and is inviting you to dialogue.

    If you think Mark has made an argument, then you must at least be able to identify the argument. So what are its premises? Please, I really want to know what they are.

    You are stifling dialogue under the guise of logical fallacies. This is a perfect example, deflect the substance of the argument while myopically fixating on something completely irrelevant.

    I’m sorry for “stifling dialogue.” I’m not at all attempting to stifle dialogue. I’d love to dialogue about the argument in question. The problem is, as I’ve said above, I cannot find it.

    The article is an essay in which the thesis has been stated that there is a contradiction between two sources. You’ve yet to interact with the lengthy article that Mark has written.

    I don’t know what it means to “interact” with an article. I evaluate arguments, not masses of word. But I can’t find an argument there in that article. If you really want to help ‘un-stifle’ the dialogue, then help me out by laying out the premises of the argument.

    Whether or not the conclusions follows from Mark’s premise it is assuredly an argument. And you know this.

    Here you go mind-reading again. No, I don’t know that “it is … an argument.” You use the singular when you say “Mark’s premise.” So does his argument have only one premise? If so, what is that premise? If you don’t know what that premise is, how can you talk about “Mark’s premise”?

    That is why you accusing me of “asserting that it is an argument” is preposterous. The success of the argument is one thing, but the existence of the article is proof that an argument exists.

    Wow. So you think it is impossible for there to be an article without an argument? On the contrary, I read articles all the time in which there is no argument.

    Also, when I speak about the argument amounting to a contradiction I should have been clearer.What I was getting at is that you charge Mark’s argument as being an assertion (an assertion that the two documents are contradictory). This is, itself, a contradiction which is why it is ironic. This sorts of assertions plague your response.

    Again, a refutation need not be an argument. That is, a refutation is not itself refuted merely because the refutation is not itself an argument. And I’m not saying that I have refuted Mark’s argument — I haven’t found his argument. The only thing I found in his article pertaining to the alleged contradiction were assertions of a contradiction, not a demonstration of a contradiction.

    So nowhere in Mark’s essay is there an argument even though he has told us his thesis in this thread… Why do you say that?

    Because I believe it to be true, though I’m willing to be corrected if I’m wrong.

    What in his article makes you believe there is no argument?

    The fact that I could not find one, after reading the article twice. But, it is easy to show me wrong here, by laying out the argument right here in the combox.

    you bear the burden to show that nothing in Mark’s essay presents an argument.

    No I don’t. See below.

    The irony is sad because it is true. In order to refute my criticism you would need to show why you think there is no argument in Mark’s paper. That is a claim in response to Mark’s essay that requires substantiation. You’ve yet to provide any substantiation which makes your statements nothing more than brute assertions. You may have reasons for holding those opinions, but no one can evaluate them because you refrain from explaining yourself.

    I have explained myself: I cannot find any argument there. There could be one there, I just can’t find it.

    The reason you do not see the irony is because you believe that once the person advancing their case has rested, that the recipient of the argument can assert that they found no argument. That is subversive to meaningful ecumenical discussion and precisely what you are doing in this situation.

    That’s silly. In rational discourse, when your interlocutor claims not to be able to see or find your argument, you lay it out for him (usually with numbered premises). You don’t tell him that he has the burden to prove that there is no argument there.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  70. Bryan,

    My basic argument is that when pre-twentieth-century Roman Catholic teaching on religious freedom (such as that found in Quanta Cura) and Vatican II’s teaching on religious freedom (found in <Dignitatis Humanae) are understood correctly, in light of their complete contexts, it is clear that they present contradictory ideas. Obviously, the sentence I just wrote does not present all of the evidence that substantiates the argument. That substantiation occurs in the article. The article is not just a mass of words; it is an attempt to substantiate the claim that I am making. I cannot repeat the argument here in a few quick steps, because the evidence requires more substantiation than can adequately be given in a few short sentences. That’s why I wrote the article and posted it here.

    So the article, with the substantiation of my basic claim or argument, is available. If you want to critique it or some part of it, or if anyone else would like to do so, that would be great. In order to do that, you will have to refer to specifics of what I’ve said in light of my my whole presentation and show me where I’ve made an error in my reasoning, where my reasoning has been inadequate, etc. I don’t have anything to add to my overall argument at this point, nor have I really been given anything substantial to respond to thus far.

    But perhaps it would be helpful to ask you a few questions. Here’s one to start with:

    1. Do you think that DH is opposed to the idea of a person being put in jail for teaching against the Trinity (but not for committing any “secular” sort of crime such as theft, murder, etc.) in any earthly society? Do you think DH would consider such an act as a violation of the person’s fundamental rights rooted in his human dignity?

    Mark

  71. Bryan et al,

    I think the discussion at hand is an important one. I’ll read Mark’s article closely, and will re-read Bryan’s as well. Likely I’ll just be reading along from here on out. Thanks in advance to those participating.

    Peace.

  72. Bryan,

    This is an attempt to show the absurdity of your argument:

    I do not see any argument in comment #69. Can you please explain what it is?

  73. Mark,

    I have read your article (Part 1 and 2). I cannot find an argument. I’ve extracted what I think you might believe are your arguments:

    When the supreme leadership of the Roman Catholic Church supports the execution of heretics over a period of around 1500 years, and never attacks this practice as wrong, I think it is safe to say that this activity amounts quite clearly to a definition from the leadership of the church that executing heretics is a fine thing to do.

    This is not an argument. This is an assertion. It is a question begging assertion. “Thinking it is safe to say” is not the same as making an argument.

    These words from Thomas Aquinas (from his Summa Theologica, II:II 11:3–again, links within quotations from the Summa Theologica are from the website itself) well sum up the position of the Roman Catholic magisterium on this issue throughout the vast majority of its history

    It makes no sense why you use St. Thomas here. In a previous section of your paper, you said:

    When the church, speaking in the use of its supreme authority, in the voice either of the pope alone or in the voice of all the bishops in union with the pope, teaches definitively a certain doctrine with the clear implication that the entire church is to believe and follow that doctrine, the church is to be regarded as infallible (or utterly reliable as a final resting place for trust) in its teaching.

    So, you would need to establish why St. Thomas best represents a summation of doctrine defined above. You do not. Therefore, it is assertion. Nevertheless, in your quote from St. Thomas, The Angelic Doctor says:

    On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death…..On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy.

    Note, the heretic deserves death, but the Church [should] extend mercy. Is that not true of all sins? For the wages of sin is death, but…

    Now some people have tried to escape the force of this by overly parsing wording used in this papal document, trying to reach the conclusion that we can’t really say for sure that the pope is saying that this idea is really wrong.  Others have tried to escape by saying that Pope Leo X here was not speaking infallibly (and therefore we don’t have to believe or follow what he says).  But it seems to me that Pope Leo X himself is quite clear that the ideas condemned in this document are indeed errors and that they are indeed required to be rejected as false by all the faithful (implying that their opposites are required to be held as true).

    This is an assertion, both in your assertion and only implied rebuttal of those who “try to escape” your non-argument, but also in your attempt at an argument (where there is none). You then quote the Pope and say:

    Surely all of this indicates the presence of reliable, infallible teaching, according to the Roman Catholic Church’s own standards as examined earlier.  So it would seem that the Roman Catholic Church infallibly teaches that the idea that it is against the will of God to burn heretics is completely and horrendously false.

    That is assertion. Putting up a quote and saying, “Look! I’m right!” is not an argument. It is an assertion. You go on to say:

    It would seem safe to say that the Pope Gregory the XVI was not particularly fond of the notion of “liberty of conscience” (to put it mildly).  Again, the attitude expressed here corresponds to the universal consensus of the Roman Catholic Church in previous centuries:  Far from there being a moral right to a legal “liberty of conscience” for those who err, the civil government ought to use its coercive power to restrain error and promote truth.

    Again, this is an assertion. There is no argument for this conclusion. What you would need to show is (a) what the Pope’s reference of “liberty of conscience” is, and how that reference is the same as in DH (which you do not do in Part II).

    Your quote from Quanta Cura is interesting. The “naturalism” he denigrates is specifically the naturalism that was emerging that made God the creator but not active participator in human affairs. In other words, what we do in this life, God has no interest. Imagine the consequences!

    You said:

    Despite my attempts to define the criteria of infallibility carefully earlier, the fact is that any exercise of papal teaching authority directed to the entire church is binding on the church according to Roman Catholic teaching and therefore cannot be ignored or dismissed merely on the grounds that it does not fit some narrow definition of “infallibility.

    This is assertion. Catholics, today, should understand that we should consider the words of our leaders with deference and prayer – even those words that are not infallibly declared. This is no different than any Protestant who listens to their fallible pastor every Sunday!

    You say:

    So while these statements advocating mitigated toleration may strike a bit of a different tone from historic Roman Catholic statements on the duty to punish heretics, I do not think we can say that the two ideas are inherently contradictory.

    I agree.

    You go on to again lay out two quotes, and then assert:

    This is precisely the idea of liberty of conscience that was condemned

    In order for you to prove this, you would need to contradict Bryan’s claims in Section III of the article to which this combox is connected. It is for all of these reasons, that your claim:

    It is clear that this modern notion of liberty of conscience is completely incompatible with historic Roman Catholic teaching. 

    That is just assertion. Your part 2 does nothing to change this fact. Here are some more question begging assertions from Part 2 of your essay:

    The about-face the church has made on this subject is abundantly clear.

    Now the very same idea is embraced as a fundamental human right, rooted in the inherent dignity of man and in both revelation and reason, and it is now the duty of all societies to recognize this right in constitutional law and thus embrace it as a civil right.

    There can be no reasonable doubt that it is the same basic concept of religious freedom that is being rejected as false by Quanta Cura, presented as true by the Universal Declaration, and also affirmed as true and of fundamental importance by Dignitatis Humanae.

    These ideas are clearly contrary to those expressed by Pope Pius IX in Quanta Cura. 

    But we recall that Quanta Cura, for example, made it clear that the notion of religious freedom being opposed was not an unlimited notion but a limited one

    I agree with Bryan. I cannot find your argument. Please help us.

    Peace,

    Brent

  74. Brandon (re: #72)

    I did not make any argument in #69. Nor did I claim to.

    From your comments it seems to that what is causing the confusion (between you and me) is, at least in part, not having the same conception of what an argument it. Last year in “Virtue and Dialogue: Ecumenism and the Heart” I explained why logic is a precondition for ecumenical dialogue. In 2009 I wrote “A Guide to Rational Dialogue” aimed at helping provide a bit of an introduction to basic logic. And in 2007 I wrote “One Precondition for Genuine Ecumenical Dialogue” in which I explained why understanding the difference between sophistry and rational dialogue is essential for entering into genuine and fruitful ecumenical dialogue. Those might be helpful at least for you to understand where I’m coming from, and for understanding how and why I’ve responded to Mark the way I have in this thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  75. Bryan RE #74,

    You said,

    Wow. So you think it is impossible for there to be an article without an argument? On the contrary, I read articles all the time in which there is no argument.

    From your comments it seems to that what is causing the confusion (between you and me) is, at least in part, not having the same conception of what an argument it.

    Could you point me to those articles where there is no argument(by the way, your suggestion that articles don’t have arguments is…an argument against what I’ve said)? The only thing that I could imagine is a cook book. I have read articles where the conclusion does not follow from the premises, but they are all arguments. I cannot even imagine an example of an article which does not contain an argument, much less reading them all the time.

    It’s not really that we have a different understanding of an argument. I’ve read the other things you’ve written and agree with almost everything you’ve written in them. I’m not opposed to basic logic, rationality, or a heart of humility. I think I get a pretty good sense of where you are coming from through our interaction through the years. What I am trying to show you is that your approach in this case is antithetical to what you’ve written elsewhere.

    As a matter of fact, perhaps the most powerful piece of evidence against your claims that Mark does not present an argument is Brent’s #73. While Brent strangely says he can’t find an argument, he goes on to deal with Mark’s argument. He attempts to show how the various premises in Mark’s argument do not follow from the premises. He provides examples of why Mark is asserting instead of proving. *That* is precisely what is necessary for ecumenical dialogue.

    I’ll allow Mark to take it from here, but this is a valuable example of a methodological procedure I’ve seen employed here and elsewhere. There has to be a willingness for mutual understanding which requires listening. Your refusal to cite anything Mark had written shows a an unwillingness to listen to your guests. Thankfully, however, Brent’s response has allowed the conversation to move forward so I’ll bow out.

  76. Brandon (re: #75)

    Could you point me to those articles where there is no argument

    Try any article in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Try any narrative or biography. Try any historical account.

    (by the way, your suggestion that articles don’t have arguments is…an argument against what I’ve said)?

    No, suggestions are not arguments.

    I cannot even imagine an example of an article which does not contain an argument, much less reading them all the time.

    Like I said above, I think this is one of the reasons for our disconnect; we are not using the same concept for the term ‘argument.’

    What I am trying to show you is that your approach in this case is antithetical to what you’ve written elsewhere.

    I’d very much like to know if my approach in this case is antithetical to something I’ve written elsewhere. So far I haven’t seen any evidence of that, nor have you pointed back to anything I’ve written previously that is antithetical to what I’ve written here.

    As a matter of fact, perhaps the most powerful piece of evidence against your claims that Mark does not present an argument is Brent’s #73. While Brent strangely says he can’t find an argument, he goes on to deal with Mark’s argument.

    He goes on to deal with Mark’s *claims.* Claims are not necessarily arguments.

    He provides examples of why Mark is asserting instead of proving. *That* is precisely what is necessary for ecumenical dialogue.

    I’m glad you found Brent’s reply helpful.

    but this is a valuable example of a methodological procedure I’ve seen employed here and elsewhere. There has to be a willingness for mutual understanding which requires listening.

    I agree, of course.

    Your refusal to cite anything Mark had written shows a an unwillingness to listen to your guests.

    This is a personal criticism of *me* (which isn’t helpful for ecumenical dialogue), and goes against our posting rules here (I’ve given you a lot of slack in this thread to say many critical things about *me*.) I’m very willing to read, examine, evaluate, etc. any argument. My request to Mark has been to lay out his argument (most helpfully would be in numbered premises), because I can’t find it. A person unwilling to listen to his guest would not be making such a request, would he?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  77. Bryan,

    You said,

    Try any article in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Try any narrative or biography. Try any historical account.

    Even these articles take information and form it into a coherent whole by making an argument. Biography makes no sense without showing how or why the person being investigated is important. Historical accounts are intended to show the meaning of events. All of these things present a “thesis” or an argument, just as Mark does.

    No, suggestions are not arguments.

    It seems there is no room for colloquial language in these discussions…

    He goes on to deal with Mark’s *claims.* Claims are not necessarily arguments.

    I just borrowed this from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, but thought it’d be helpful,

    CLAIM: to say that (something) is true when some people may say it is not true

    ARGUMENT: a statement or series of statements for or against something

    It is true that a claim is not necessarily an argument, but Mark is offering an argument. Hey may simply be asserting something (i.e. claiming something) but we know that in his thesis he is attempting to offer an argument. This is quibbling over semantics.

    Finally, you state,

    This is a personal criticism of *me* (which isn’t helpful for ecumenical dialogue), and goes against our posting rules here (I’ve given you a lot of slack in this thread to say many critical things about *me*.) I’m very willing to read, examine, evaluate, etc. any argument. My request to Mark has been to lay out his argument (most helpfully would be in numbered premises), because I can’t find it. A person unwilling to listen to his guest would not be making such a request, would he?

    I am not criticizing your person. That would be like Bill Clinton responding that because I said his actions were sinful that it is a personal criticism of *him.* That is, of course, absurd. I’ve attempted over and over again to show you that your assertions (which is precisely what they are–and you have yet to even address how they are anything other than assertions) are not helpful for dialogue. Your refusal to engage Mark *is* stifling to dialogue. That does not mean any standard definition of an ad hominem (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logic-informal/#One) nor does it stifle ecumenical dialogue. It is an assessment of your methodology. Personal pronouns are part of the English language and as such are properly applied to another’s ideas or behavior. Using those pronouns does not amount to a logical fallacy or to violating your posting guidelines. If you believe it has, perhaps we could discuss it offline so that I don’t violate the guidelines–I want to respect the space you’ve provided me to express my dissent.

    Regarding asking for clarification, that is not how you started the discussion. You started by asserting there was no argument. Only once you have been pressed have you asked for an outline of the argument, which Brent has attempted to provide to you in #70. My whole point was to tell you that until you could explain what Mark has argued (or “claimed” if you like) that your comments on his work were brute assertions which stop dialogue. I stand by this and hope that both sides of the debate are open to listening and understanding one another so that we can be united in the Gospel. Even if we disagree about everything else, at least we can agree on that.

  78. Mark, and others following this topic under discussion:

    I found this article on the subject to be helpful: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=8779

    Thanks

  79. Brandon-

    Hello. As an individual who became a Catholic as an adult, I wish to chime in with a few thoughts regarding some of the things you’ve said above. I would also like to offer 1 suggestion:

    Though you seem to feel that the way Bryan is approaching this conversation is something other than helpful, I believe the opposite to be the case. As a matter of fact it is the clarity that results from such content-focused exchanges that allowed me to begin to accurately judge competing claims as an adult, claims which, for decades prior, had confounded me. It is precisely when we present “distilled” positions, when we reveal the mechanics of our views, that we can evaluate their actual worth.

    Further, I read Mark’s article (parts 1 & 2), and though I understand that Mark holds a position, writes very well, feels strongly about his views, and believes himself to be justified in his stance, I did not detect a clear argument within it. The multiplication of assertions, descriptions, characterizations, and opinions does not constitute an argument, something that can be readily and objectively evaluated. So, rather than bowing out, I request that you, for the sake of readers such as myself, consider taking the time to draw from Mark’s article a clear and substantial argument and present it here.

    thank you for your consideration.

  80. Brandon,

    There is no quibbling over semantics going on at all. Mark has no argument. ‘Making a go at it’, ‘putting up quotes’ is not making an argument. It might be rhetoric, but not argument. I did not demonstrate that Mark’s argument is false. Instead, I demonstrated that Mark had no argument. So you might say that anyone who argues that Mark has an argument, I have rebutted that person. Are we clear?

    Spending time pointing out that someone just makes assertions with no argument is not a roundabout way of granting that they have an argument. In our society, being loud, talking more than everyone else, political power, all are tantamount to arguments. It is sadly a lost art in our culture – we do not know how to have rational dialog anymore.

  81. Brandon (#77)
    The problem here seems to me regarding what is an argument. It is perfectly true that people loosely lose the word to mean any exchange involving two persons who disagree with one another. People might say my wife and I are having an argument when she says she likes tomato sauce on her chips and I say “oh, yuck!”

    It is perfectly all right in casual speech to call that an argument. This blog, however, is about finding truth. There is no question of truth in the above example. She is the authority on whether she likes tomato sauce on her chips.

    But such disagreements will never get us anywhere in the question of the truth of matters of revelation. An argument always is going to boil down to boring old argument forms, such as:

    Major premiss: All men are mortal

    Minor premiss: Socrates is a man

    Conclusion: Socrates is mortal

    There are other argument forms – modus ponens, modus tollens, etc. I have no idea what Mark wrote in his article and haven’t time to read it. Indeed, I haven’t read in detail what he posted here. I do not know whether or not it contains an argument in the formal sense we are speaking of. But I think it will be helpful if you understand that it is in that sense that Bryan is saying Mark has not put forth an argument, or at least not done so in a way that Bryan can put it into some argument form.

    From your comments it does not seem to me that you understand that (and, note: my saying that is a statement about my state of mind vis-à-vis you; it is not an argument :-)).

    jj

  82. Brent (re: #73),

    Thanks for the responses. I want to respond to your responses. I will post your responses, but to see what your responses were responding to one will need to have your comment #73 in front of one. In other words, it will be necessary to refer to #73 in order for readers to understand what the comments I am quoting from you were responding to in my article. (Hopefully that made sense. I can’t seem to find a way to word that without getting tongue-tied! :-))

    This is not an argument. This is an assertion. It is a question begging assertion. “Thinking it is safe to say” is not the same as making an argument.

    That quotation is part of my argument, but my argument is cumulative to some degree, so it will not be possible to sum it up with all its substantiation by simply quoting a few sentences from it. Your selection of quotations does not provide a good summary of my overall case. If someone wants to see that case, I recommend they read the article and not rely on these attempts to summarize it by selective quotations.

    Nevertheless, the quotation is a part of my overall argument. My point in the quotation was that the Roman Catholic Church has made clear its position on the punishing of heretics by means of 1500 years of consistent teaching and practice. There can be no serious doubt to anyone who knows much about Roman Catholic history that the RCC supported the punishment of heretics (and even execution of heretics) as such throughout much of its history. This is an important fact, because this consistent attitude of the RCC contrasts with the attitude expressed in DH. This contrast is shown in other parts of the article.

    It makes no sense why you use St. Thomas here.

    I use St. Thomas here simply because he sums up the typical, nearly universal attitude towards the treatment of heretics throughout about 1500 years of RC history. I did not attempt to assert that he is an infallible source of doctrine.

    Note, the heretic deserves death, but the Church [should] extend mercy. Is that not true of all sins? For the wages of sin is death, but…

    If you are saying here that Thomas is saying that the church should not be in favor of heretics being executed because of mercy, you ought to read the entire quotation from Thomas that I gave, because you are clearly wrong. If you aren’t saying that, I don’t know what you are saying.

    I’ve run out of time, so I’ll finish responding later. I would request that you (Brent) refrain from responding further to my responses until I’ve had a chance to finish responding to yours, so as to make the conversation go more efficiently. I should be able to finish my response tomorrow evening. (Busy week!)

    Thanks!

    Mark

  83. Brandon:

    If I may, and I am sure Bryan is well prepared to thoroughly address your comments to him. You said:

    It seems there is no room for colloquial language in these discussions

    You may be right, you may not be right. In a certain sense, I think you are frustrated because you are hoping that others will infer your *intent* (and Mark’s intent) even though the explicit language may belie something different. Am I right? Sharp criticisms that do not even make an attempt to see the very best in what someone is *trying* to do comes across as lacking in charity, at least from the standpoint of making room for a brother’s faults or weaknesses. So, even though Proverbs tells us that, “He that loveth correction, loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof, is foolish,” and “Open rebuke is better than secret love,” and, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful;” it is also true that a “A mild answer breaketh wrath: but a harsh word stirreth up fury.”

    The quote and short response function in comboxes makes ecumenical dialog difficult, because it is unnatural. I would never, in real life, say, “You said, “blah, blah, blah.” That is assertion!” Full stop. It would stifle dialog because it would come across harsh, and thus it would stir up anger/frustration.

    In a sense, I think colloquial language can be accepted in so much that it can represent an attempt at trying to communicate from the heart. Pope Francis on more than one occasion has been chided for this and his apparent lack of technical speak. So I think colloquial language will be a part of our dialog insomuch that we attempt to speak heart-to-heart. We love our separated brothers, and we yearn to be in Full Communion with you!

    However, in another sense, colloquial language can be alienating because it is not speaking a shared language. Since the Protestant/Catholic division is many times mired in the confusion of two different traditions using the same word in different ways, and since our culture has long since pushed off the dock of rationality, instead favoring might-means-right, loud-wins, and democracy-equals-truth, it might be best for all of us to resist our temptation to use colloquialisms. They shroud meaning in culturally dependent clues, and do not move things forward in rational dialog. I am grateful that you are here, and I hope that you can see that we take these issues seriously. The content of Mark’s essay is not beyond the purview of this group, but collectively we see *no argument* against the position put forward in Bryan’s essay, nor do we see, in the technical sense of argument, any argument at all in Mark’s essay. We are not trying to obfuscate anything, so if you or Mark have an argument that can be derived from his essay, we would appreciate the brotherly help.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  84. Brandon,

    If you indeed have a high regard for logic and rationality, why not simply lay out Mark’s argument (or Mark himself may do so), in the form of a simple or compound argument where the subject(s), predicate(s), and middle term(s) are connected according to logical rubrics such that the conclusion(s) are shown to follow, given the truth of the premise(s)?

    This procedure, having already determined that the argument is valid *if* the premises be true, allows those in dialogue to then focus upon the premises themselves – one by one – either mutually accepting each premise or else distinguishing within its parts so as to uncover the deeper foundation of disagreement within the premise in question. This forces the one making the augment to discipline themselves to take care in choosing their terms and so arranging them that the conclusion(s) evidently follow from the premises. This also insures that unintentional forms of sophistry are not allowed to lay hidden within thick verbiage. Moreover, laying out an argument according to clear premises and conclusions is an act of charity and a sign of serious dialogical intention – especially when repeatedly requested by those who are unable to determine the form of the argument after making a good faith effort to do so. In short, laying out an argument in clear and proper form allows us to dispatch with the question of its formal validity, and focus rather upon the truth of the premises themselves (its material dimension) so as to establish the soundness of the argument (or not).

    The problem with Mark’s article is that his explicit purpose is to establish a formal contradiction within irreformable Catholic teaching. Establishing a formal contradiction requires great precision in the use of terms and in the construction of argument. Long paragraphs laden with assertions make it difficult, if not impossible, for the reader to pick out the actual premises which are supposed to establish the formal contradiction. I simply do not understand why you or Mark, in the context of an article whose express purpose is to establish an exact logical fault, namely a formal contradiction; would continue to resist calls to package the verbiage of the article into a logical form where the formal validity of the argument as such can be easily established, so that interlocutors may then proceed to fruitfully explore the truth of the various premises. If you are convinced Mark’s argument is both sound and valid, you should have no fear of doing so. Almost always, in intricate theological or philosophical disagreements, problems are resolved (if they are resolved), by breaking open one or more premises of an otherwise sound argument, and fleshing out whatever presuppositions, equivocation in terms, etc. lay at the root of disagreement over the truth of the premise in question. That is exactly how serious, rational, dialogue takes place.

    Pax,

    Ray

  85. Mark, here is an excerpt from article which you may find helpful:

    In the same speech, Benedict XVI applied the «hermeneutic of reform in the continuity» precisely to the controversial question of religious liberty. The Pope admitted that there is «some kind of discontinuity» in the Catholic teaching about this issue from Pius IX to the Council. Once the correct hermeneutic is applied, however, we may conclude that there is no rupture. The general principles taught by the Church have not changed. Their applications have changed, also as a consequence of new and different historical situations. The liberalism of the French Revolution considered religious freedom as a philosophical doctrine, implying that all religions are equal and that religious truth is merely subjective. This notion of religious freedom was rightly condemned by Pius IX, the Pope said, and the Church cannot accept it even today. «If religious freedom, the Pope explained, were to be considered an expression of the human inability to discover the truth and thus become a canonization of relativism, then this social and historical necessity is raised inappropriately to the metaphysical level and thus stripped of its true meaning. Consequently, it cannot be accepted by those who believe that the human person is capable of knowing the truth about God and, on the basis of the inner dignity of the truth, is bound to this knowledge».
    However, the meaning of religious liberty derived from the French Revolution is not the only possible meaning. «The American Revolution, the Pope argued, was offering a model of a modern State that differed from the theoretical model with radical tendencies that had emerged during the second phase of the French Revolution». Thus, the Second Vatican Council proclaimed the right to religious liberty not at a «metaphysical level», but «as a need that derives from human coexistence» within the context of the modern secular State. The Pope did not claim that there is a literal continuity between Pius IX and Dignitatis Humanae. Obviously, there is not. But he did argue that the discontinuity concerned the application of the principles, «the practical forms that depend on the historical situation and are therefore subject to change», while there was continuity at the more crucial level of «the principles that express the permanent aspect». This «combination of continuity and discontinuity» is precisely a clear example of a «reform in the continuity», as opposed to a rupture.

    http://www.cesnur.org/2011/dan-mi.html

  86. Brent, (RE #80 & #83),

    I did not demonstrate that Mark’s argument is false. Instead, I demonstrated that Mark had no argument. So you might say that anyone who argues that Mark has an argument, I have rebutted that person. Are we clear?

    We are not agreed. Your interaction with Mark demonstrates that an argument does exist. You say the premises are assertions, but the argument is identifiable. In order to interact with Mark you need to do exactly what you did–point out where he asserts things instead of arguing for them.

    Regarding colloquial language, I appreciate much of what you say. Keep in mind that though my frustration is aimed particularly at my perception of Bryan’s interaction. Language is fluid and if there is ambiguity the best thing to do is ask for clarification, not try to utilize the use of colloquial language as weakness in argument. Just remember that I was responding to Bryan’s statement about reading a lot of articles with no argument (which I still believe is an absurd statement). In order to avoid redundancy rhetorically I called Bryan’s assertion a “suggestion.” Bryan’s response is that a suggestion is not an argument. You can say a specific sense that this is correct, but Bryan doesn’t ask for clarification, he simply says a suggestion isn’t an argument. Please understand that for people who don’t agree with Bryan that this sort of interaction becomes painfully laborious.

    JJ #81,

    We are agreed about premises being needed for an argument. My point the entire time is that Mark’s article (and his brief summary of it here) contains a thesis and premises. Whether or not the premises support that thesis is another question. Brent has begun the process of interacting with Mark. Bryan’s approach was to assert that Mark didn’t have an argument. I’ve pointed out that Mark has indeed followed the form that you have outlined. Bryan has merely asserted that he has not. That is precisely why I’ve shown that Bryan’s approach stifles ecumenical dialogue. Whether or not Mark has a valid argument is another question that I’ll allow Brent, Bryan, and others to parse.

    Ray #84,

    I don’t know Mark (though I’m sure he’s a great guy) nor am I really interested in forwarding his argument. Whether his argument is true or not is really not that interesting to me. What I am interested in is the level of discourse that is being conducted here and in experiences I’ve had with Bryan and others at CtC. What you say here is very apropos,

    Moreover, laying out an argument according to clear premises and conclusions is an act of charity and a sign of serious dialogical intention – especially when repeatedly requested by those who are unable to determine the form of the argument after making a good faith effort to do so.

    This is precisely why I have been showing that Bryan has been uncharitable in merely asserting that Mark has no argument. I’ve only briefly skimmed Mark’s article, but there are clearly premises in the article. Mark does present evidence for his claims and even gave an example in the comments. Bryan did not even acknowledge it. At least Brent has been charitable to show why Mark’s conclusion doesn’t follow from his premises. I do not believe that Bryan has made a good faith effort to determine the argument because he did not show any familiarity with the article.

    I’m done with this thread at this point and I will let Mark defend his thesis.

  87. Brandon, (re: #77)

    Even these articles take information and form it into a coherent whole by making an argument. Biography makes no sense without showing how or why the person being investigated is important. Historical accounts are intended to show the meaning of events. All of these things present a “thesis” or an argument, just as Mark does.

    The problem underlying our disagreement is becoming much clearer, both from this comment, and from everything else you said in #77, including drawing from a dictionary to define what is an argument. We are using very different conceptions of the word ‘argument.’ You’re using the term in the loose colloquial sense such that all that is necessary for an argument is showing something (e.g. “the person being investigated is important”). According to that definition, every photograph is an ‘argument,’ because every photograph shows something. According to that definition, every assertion is an argument, because every assertion shows something; it at least shows something about the one making the assertion. But, again, as I pointed out in comment #74, I’m using the term ‘argument’ as it is used in logic, wherein the term has a specific technical meaning. CTC is written for those who have some familiarity with at least basic logic, and our combox conversations presuppose that as well. (Again, see what I said about logic in the first link in comment #74.) The colloquial sense of the term ‘argument’ is entirely unhelpful regarding the evaluation of inferences, because that sense conflates propositions with no formal logical relation, and those with a formal logical relation; it fails to distinguish assertions from demonstrations, and this failure allows sets of assertions to be treated as if they are demonstrations, and demonstrations to be treated as merely sets of assertions. No fruitful dialogue aimed at resolving disagreements is possible without some familiarity with basic logic and a shared commitment to abiding by the rules of logic. A fortiori, exchanges of snark and sophistry are entirely incapable of resolving disagreements, and that’s all that is left when logic is disregarded.

    Ray pointed out above in comment #84 that “establishing a formal contradiction requires great precision in the use of terms and in the construction of argument.” And that is exactly right. In order to establish a formal contradiction (p & ~p), between a pre-VII document and DH, one has to lay out an argument in the technical sense, and carefully define the terms, and show that the two propositions actually contradict each other. But Mark’s article provides no such argument. It includes many citations (most of which are presented in my post at the top of this page), but it provides no argument (in the logic sense of the term) demonstrating a contradiction between a proposition within a pre-VII magisterial document and a proposition within DH. But, once again, if you think I’m mistaken, and that there actually is such an argument in Mark’s post, please feel free to lay it out here with numbered premises. Referring to an argument while refusing to produce it is what is known as the phantom-argument fallacy.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  88. Brandon (#86)

    JJ #81,

    We are agreed about premises being needed for an argument. My point the entire time is that Mark’s article (and his brief summary of it here) contains a thesis and premises. Whether or not the premises support that thesis is another question. Brent has begun the process of interacting with Mark. Bryan’s approach was to assert that Mark didn’t have an argument. I’ve pointed out that Mark has indeed followed the form that you have outlined. Bryan has merely asserted that he has not. That is precisely why I’ve shown that Bryan’s approach stifles ecumenical dialogue. Whether or not Mark has a valid argument is another question that I’ll allow Brent, Bryan, and others to parse.

    Premisses are necessary for an argument but not sufficient. It is argument form that we are talking about. Premisses to not argue for or against anything. If I merely say:

    All men are mortal

    and

    Socrates is a man

    I have two premisses. These are assertions. I have not made any argument until I then say:

    Therefore Socrates is mortal.

    This is an argument. One could reply to it either by attacking one of the premisses asserted, or by attacking the logic of the conclusion. One could attempt to show that it doesn’t follow that, even if all men are mortal and Socrates is a man Socrates need not be mortal.

    In the case of this classic syllogism, of course, the argument is valid – assuming the truth of the (asserted!) premisses.

    I do not know whether Mark has made an argument at all, valid or invalid, as I haven’t followed the business. But premisses are not sufficient for there to be an argument. If all he is doing is asserting premisses, he is not making an argument.

    jj

  89. Ok, I took the bait.

    I did this in 15 minutes. This is a very rough summary and Mark can clarify if I’ve missed anything. I’m sure I have. Hopefully this helps move the dialogue forward while also showing that Bryan’s assertions stifled the dialogue Mark was attempting to venture into:

    Premise 1: I think we could sum up the conditions of infallibility (or utter reliability and finality) as follows: When the church, speaking in the use of its supreme authority, in the voice either of the pope alone or in the voice of all the bishops in union with the pope, teaches definitively a certain doctrine with the clear implication that the entire church is to believe and follow that doctrine, the church is to be regarded as infallible (or utterly reliable as a final resting place for trust) in its teaching.

    Premise 2: The practice of the church shows a lot about its beliefs regarding liberty of conscience (killing heretics)

    Premise 3: The teaching of Aquinas (II:II 11:3) shows the dominant position of the Magisterium. Aquinas’ thought is shared by official Catholic teaching such as Exsurge Domine #33, Mirari Vos, Quanta Cura, & Syllabus of Errors. Mark does allow for some leniency though that there are sometimes exceptions to the rule

    Premise 4: Locke’s “A Letter concerning Toleration” and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are opposed to the position of Protestants (Samuel Rutherford) and Catholics (Quanta cura, again)

    Premise 5: A shift occurred in Roman Catholic thinking in Dignitatis Humanae on December 7, 1965. (The similarity between modernist documents and Dignitatis Humanae show the influence of the latter on the former).

    Premise 6: Potential exceptions do not make a contradiction, but “DH” does not only allow for exceptions, it is a “full-blown affirmation that religious freedom is a basic right.” The positions of DH that religious communities disseminate their religions publicly contradicts Quanta Cura.

    Premise 7: Some claim that liberty of conscience condemned in QC was condemning the notion of unlimited religious freedom where DH is talking about limited religious freedom, but QC contradicts that.

  90. Brandon (re: #89)

    A set of statements labeled “premises” is not an argument. It is just a set of statements. It would need a conclusion said to follow from the other statements in order to be an argument.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  91. Bryan,

    We already know the conclusion: The teaching of Rome has changed.

    These are just a few things that it took me 15 minutes of reading to find. Also, you are speaking of a logical syllogism which is something you use in deductive logic. The crass deductive logic goes like this:

    Premise 1: DH says religious liberty
    Premise 2: QC says no religious Liberty
    Conclusion: DH and QC contradict

    The inductive argument follows the premises listed in #89 (though certainly not exhaustively) . The 7 premises I’ve listed serve to legitimize the premises in the syllogism. It is impossible through deductive reasoning to validate the premises in this comment, but Mark has attempted to validate them through the 7 premises I’ve listed.

  92. Mark, I think he wants you to put your argument in the form of a 3-point logical syllogism. I’m guessing that would be easy for you to do.

  93. Brandon (re: #91)

    We already know the conclusion: The teaching of Rome has changed.

    I don’t know who the “we” is, but, no I didn’t already know the conclusion. If the conclusion is that “the teaching of Rome has changed,” then no one disagrees with that. I’ve stated that same thing repeatedly myself; see, for example, comment #132 of the “Habemus Papam” thread. But a change is not necessarily a contradiction, as Tom Brown has explained here. My impression from comments earlier in the thread is that Mark’s article purported to demonstrate a contradiction. So if you’re agreed that it doesn’t demonstrate a contradiction, but only a change, then you and I are agreed on that point.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  94. Brandon (re: #91)

    In comment #91 you’ve offered another argument as well. Whether you think this additional argument is another argument in Mark’s article, or another version of the seven premise ‘argument’ you provided in #89, is not clear. But here’s that short argument you offer in #91:

    Premise 1: DH says religious liberty
    Premise 2: QC says no religious Liberty
    Conclusion: DH and QC contradict

    The problem with that argument is that it is guilty of the fallacy of equivocation, as I have explained in the article at the top of this page, and mentioned again in comment #52 above. The sense of the term ‘religious liberty’ affirmed in DH is not the same as the sense of the term ‘religious liberty’ condemned in QC.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  95. Bryan,

    I don’t know who the “we” is, but, no I didn’t already know the conclusion. If the conclusion is that “the teaching of Rome has changed,” then no one disagrees with that.

    The we is everyone who has read Mark. And also the person who seemed to know very well Mark’s thesis:

    The statement in Quanta Cura is condemning the thesis that each man has by right an absolute liberty. The statement in Dignitatis Humanae is affirming the thesis that each man has by right a non-absolute liberty. An absolute liberty is not a non-absolute liberty. Hence the two statements are not contradictory.

    Mark’s position, as you stated, is about contradiction. You may feel that there was a change but not a contradiction, but for the sake of dialogue that would need to be argued and not asserted. When I use the word “changed” I mean changing from A to non-A. When read in context this makes perfect sense considering that in the syllogism I use the word “Contradict.” In any event, however, have definitively proven that there is an argument and you have yet to interact with it outside of asserting that no argument exists. Hopefully at this point you can actually begin interacting with Mark and the substance of what he has argued.

  96. Bryan #94,

    In comment #91 you’ve offered another argument as well. Whether you think this additional argument is another argument in Mark’s article, or another version of the seven premise argument you provided in #89, is not clear. But here’s that short argument you offer in #91:

    My statements are clear. I restated it three times because I wanted to avoid confusion. The seven “premises” are used to substantiate the premises in his article. The overarching argument can be constructed in the threefold syllogism. The seven premises are being used to substantiate those premises.

    The problem with that argument is that it is guilty of the fallacy of equivocation, as I have explained in the article at the top of this page, and mentioned again in comment #52 above. The sense of the term ‘religious liberty’ affirmed in DH is not the same as the sense of the term ‘religious liberty’ condemned in QC.

    That is an assertion. You are begging the question when you assume that the difference is not a contradiction., but that is the very point under dispute. Mark has attempted to show how they are talking about the same thing. Will you interact with him or continue to make brute assertions?

  97. Brandon,

    I still don’t yet know what is the conclusion of the ‘argument’ the premises of which are listed in comment #89. In #91 you say that the conclusion is “The teaching of Rome has changed.” But then in #95 you say, “When I use the word “changed” I mean changing from A to non-A.” So that would entail that the conclusion of the ‘argument’ in #89 is “The teaching of Rome has changed from A to non-A.” So the conclusion is incomplete in its current form. Would you provide a completed version of the conclusion?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  98. Here is the argument. The thesis is contained in the conclusion.

    Premise 1: DH says religious liberty
    Premise 2: QC says no religious Liberty
    Conclusion: DH and QC contradict

  99. Brandon, (re: #98)

    In #94 I had written, “The problem with that argument [in #91] is that it is guilty of the fallacy of equivocation, as I have explained in the article at the top of this page, and mentioned again in comment #52 above. The sense of the term ‘religious liberty’ affirmed in DH is not the same as the sense of the term ‘religious liberty’ condemned in QC.”

    You replied:

    That is an assertion. You are begging the question when you assume that the difference is not a contradiction., but that is the very point under dispute.

    I’m not assuming it. I’ve presented an *argument* for it at the top of this very page.

    And since the argument you provide in #98 is the same as the argument you provided in #91, the problem with this argument is the same.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  100. Bryan,

    I’m glad we’ve come to this point. So we’ve identified that Mark *does* have an argument.

    You believe that Mark has not shown the documents contradict based on your writing in the post. Now, in order to arbitrate between the two positions and to further the dialogue, can you explain why Mark’s argument does not refute what you said? He actually has a section where he interacts with you explicitly. Will you say anything in response or will you not respond to Mark’s rebuttal?

  101. Brandon, (re: #100)

    So we’ve identified that Mark *does* have an argument.

    If you’re referring to the one in #91 and #98, then sure. This is roughly the one he mentioned in #51. What I’ve been referring to as missing is an argument that attempts to show a formal contradiction between propositions, not merely asserts a contradiction between documents through the use of quotations, as in #51.

    can you explain why Mark’s argument does not refute what you said?

    Because, as I’ve explained, it (unintentionally) commits the fallacy of equivocation.

    Will you say anything in response or will you not respond to Mark’s rebuttal?

    Mark’s reply to me (in his article) isn’t exactly a “rebuttal,” because it leaves most of what I say unchallenged. Rather, he repeatedly proposes that I have “missed the point,” by failing to see another way in which QC and DH allegedly contradict, namely, on the question of using civil coercion to restrain and punish heretics. So his section responding to me is proposing another contradiction, one he claims I did not address in my post at the top of this page.

    The problem, however, is that his article does not present two propositions (one from QC, and another from DH) and show that these two propositions formally contradict. If he had done so, I would have already addressed it here. Instead, his claim is supported with general hand-waving allusions and associations with quoted documents, which is why I’ve been saying that I cannot find an argument. If he wants to present an argument showing that a proposition in QC teaches x about civil coercion, and a proposition in DH teaches ~x about civil coercion, I’d be glad to look at it.

    There are many inferential mistakes in the article. One of the mistakes is the inference from QC’s rejection of the position “that is the best condition of civil society, in which no duty is recognized, as attached to the civil power, of restraining by enacted penalties, offenders against the Catholic religion, except so far as public peace may require” to the conclusion that “the civil magistrate has a duty to punish heretics as such.” That’s a non sequitur. Just because it is false that in the best condition of civil society there is no recognized duty by the civil authority to restrain offenders against the Catholic faith, it does not follow that the civil authority has, under all social conditions, the duty to restrain offenders against the Catholic faith. But Mark builds his claim that I have missed another form of contradiction [between QC and DH] on the notion that QC teaches that the civil magistrate has a duty to punish heretics as such, and thus on this mistaken inference.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  102. Following is an effort to illustrate the value of precise argumentation in the context of dispute regarding Catholic teaching on religious liberty:

    One ambitious way to proceed would be to construct a formal argument as follows:

    Premise 1: The Catholic Church promulgated one or more propositions regarding religious liberty prior to Vatican II in an irreformable manner according to the Church’s own doctrine concerning what constitutes irreformable teaching.

    Premise 2: Later, the Catholic Church promulgated one or more propositions regarding religious liberty [specifically in Dignitatis Humanae], also irreformable (i.e. according to the Church’s own doctrine concerning what constitutes an irreformable teaching), which formally contradicts at least one of the irreformable propositions promulgated prior to Vatican II.

    Conclusion: Therefore, the Catholic Church’s claim to be [divinely] protected from error when promulgating irreformable propositions is manifestly falsified.

    As far as I can tell, this argument is valid. Moreover, I suspect all parties would agree that Dignitatis Humanae contains one or more propositions taught irreformably (again, as the Catholic Church herself understands irreformable). However, I can imagine some Catholics potentially debating whether propositions taught within those pre-Vatican II papal documents which touch upon religious liberty are, in fact, irreformable (are they “definitive”, rising to the status of Ex Cathedra promulgations?). If Catholics could show that such propositions are not technically irreformable, then the conclusion of this ambitious argument would not follow, regardless of whether or not the propositions themselves were formally contradictory (i.e. teaching x and ~x at the same time and in the same sense). In that case, the argument above might be modified to test a somewhat less ambitious conclusion as follows:

    Premise 1: The Catholic Church promulgated one or more propositions regarding religious liberty prior to Vatican II with a very high level of teaching authority according to the Church’s own doctrine concerning the various levels of authority attached to magisterial teaching.

    Premise 2: Later, the Catholic Church promulgated one or more propositions regarding religious liberty [specifically in Dignitatis Humanae], in an irreformable manner (i.e. according to the Church’s own doctrine concerning what constitutes an irreformable teaching), which formally contradicts at least one of the propositions promulgated with a very high level of Catholic teaching authority prior to Vatican II.

    Conclusion: Therefore, the Catholic Church is not [divinely] protected from error when promulgating propositions with a very high level of authority – according to the Church’s own doctrine concerning the various levels of authority attached to magisterial teaching.

    Now this revised argument is also valid so far as I can tell. And although it does not demonstrate the falsity of the Catholic Church’s claim to be protected from error in her irreformable teachings, I can imagine someone going on to use the conclusion of this revised argument (assuming it were sound) to argue that it renders the Catholic Church’s claim to be protected from error in her irreformable teachings less probable (although gauging “probability” is notoriously tricky). Nevertheless, the advantage of this later, and less ambitious, formulation of the argument might be that all parties would agree about the following:

    (a.) Premise 1 is true – full stop.

    (b.) Dignitatis Humanae contains one or more propositions taught irreformably (again as the CC herself understands irreformable)

    In this way, by simply taking the time to give careful attention to terms and argumentative structure; various fruitless cul-de-sacs are entirely avoided, allowing all parties to narrow the field of dispute, saving time and intellectual energy.

    Accordingly, both parties might then focus upon those particular propositions respecting religious liberty promulgated with (at least) a high level of Catholic teaching authority prior to Vatican II; and also those particular propositions respecting religious liberty promulgated irreformably within Dignitatis Humanae. And focus should proceed in something like the following order:

    (1.) Clarify and list what propositions were formally asserted with a high level of teaching authority prior to Vatican II by paying close attention to the context of the documents in question (since determining in any proposition precisely what formal judgment or assertion is being made requires attention to the material context – a point I suspect all parties would concede).

    (2.) Clarify and list what propositions were formally asserted irreformably within Dignitatis Humanae by paying close attention to the purpose and context of that document (since determining in any proposition precisely what formal judgment or assertion is being made requires attention to the material context – a point I suspect all parties would concede).

    3.) Determine whether any of the clarified propositions listed in step (1) formally contradict any of the clarified propositions listed in step (2) [i.e. entail asserting x and ~x at the same time and in the same sense].

    Evidently then, the real spade work – and that upon which the truth or falsity of the entire argument primarily depends – involves the effort to properly clarify (and enumerate) the propositions according to context. Only if both parties come to agree (through dialogue about the context of these documents) as to what propositions have been formally asserted therein, can they then go on to determine whether there exits a formal contradiction between them.

    But the point I hope to make here is that by staying tightly focused upon this central (and perhaps sole) area of dispute; the potential for agreement concerning whether a contradiction, in fact, obtains improves and much fruitless discussion avoided. That is the advantage of working together in a careful and meticulous way. Mark’s approach is simply so broad and imprecise to yield substantial dialogical fruit. There is nothing wrong with writing in a broad and logically imprecise manner as a conversational starting point. However, if both parties wish pursue truth – especially in thorny theological or philosophical matters – imprecision must be laid aside and the difficult task of sustained, focused argument must be taken up instead.

    Pax,

    Ray

  103. Ray & Bryan,

    While it may have been unclear during the time, this is precisely the sort of thing I was hoping we could get to. Because I’m busy with other things I will allow others to enter into the fray but I appreciate that we’ve reached a point where the conversation can at least occur and where the points of contention are clearer.

  104. OK, continuing on from my #82 above, responding to #73 from Brent:

    This is an assertion, both in your assertion and only implied rebuttal of those who “try to escape” your non-argument, but also in your attempt at an argument (where there is none).

    It is not just an assertion; it is part of an argument. I provided quotations to show that Pope Leo X intended that “the ideas condemned in this document are indeed errors and that they are indeed required to be rejected as false by all the faithful (implying that their opposites are required to be held as true),” and that therefore this is authoritative papal teaching to the effect that it is not against the will of God to burn heretics.

    That is assertion. Putting up a quote and saying, “Look! I’m right!” is not an argument. It is an assertion.

    It is an assertion backed up by its context, where I provided quotations to substantiate my claims. Sure, if you just take my statement by itself as if it was all I said, it would be a mere assertion. But it’s not out there all by itself in my article.

    Again, this is an assertion. There is no argument for this conclusion. What you would need to show is (a) what the Pope’s reference of “liberty of conscience” is, and how that reference is the same as in DH (which you do not do in Part II).

    Again, the substantiation is in the context. It is not helpful to remove individual statements of mine from the context they are meant to be refer to and then declare that they aren’t substantiated.

    This is assertion. Catholics, today, should understand that we should consider the words of our leaders with deference and prayer – even those words that are not infallibly declared. This is no different than any Protestant who listens to their fallible pastor every Sunday!

    I quoted from Quanta Cura and from the Syllabus of Errors, where they say that Catholic teachers and authors (and, as I recall, Catholics in general) are required to submit to church teaching even when the church is not narrowly defining a dogma. That means that Catholics must submit to the teaching of Quanta Cura, etc.

    That is just assertion. Your part 2 does nothing to change this fact. Here are some more question begging assertions from Part 2 of your essay:

    No, these are not just mere assertions. They are substantiated in the article.

    More later . . .

  105. Mark, (re: #104)

    I provided quotations to show that Pope Leo X intended that “the ideas condemned in this document are indeed errors and that they are indeed required to be rejected as false by all the faithful (implying that their opposites are required to be held as true),” and that therefore this is authoritative papal teaching to the effect that it is not against the will of God to burn heretics.

    The Akin article I linked to in comment #16 above, and which you dismissed in your article with the hand-waving phrase that it is “overly parsing wording” provides an argument showing exactly why your claim here is not justified.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  106. Mark,

    From your comment, I’m not sure what additional information you have given me to help me understand why your statements are not more than assertion. Additionally, you asserting that I missed your context does not help me understand *how* I missed your context. Please advise.

  107. Hi Brent et al,

    I’m a big logic fan, so don’t get me wrong. But is God proved wrong if he doesn’t present us with his truth that is not in the form of a syllogism?

    Can you see the rhetorical nature of my question?

    Peace.

  108. Andrew (re: #107),

    I’m a big logic fan, so don’t get me wrong. But is God proved wrong if he doesn’t present us with his truth that is not in the form of a syllogism?

    I’m not sure if that’s what you meant to say. If God “doesn’t present truth [not syllogistically]” and yet he presents truth, then you are really asking: is God proved wrong if he presents truth syllogistically? And the answer is obviously No. There’s nothing wrong with presenting truth syllogistically.

    If you meant to ask: Is God proved wrong if he presents truth that is not in the form of a syllogism, then the answer is still No, and that question would’ve been clearly rhetorical.

    Peace,
    John D.

  109. Is God proved wrong if he presents truth in a non-syllogistic way?

    I think my triple negative is still accurately saying the same thing as my rhetorical question directly above. No matter.

    John D, my point is, God is bigger than the best religious syllogism I will ever construct in my days here before glory. That’s all.

    Peace and thanks.

  110. Andrew,

    Unless you think Mark Hausam’s article carries authority comparable to God’s, I’m not sure what the point of your rhetorical question is.

    John

  111. “Is God proved wrong if he presents truth in a non-syllogistic way?”

    Evidently not, if one already know that what He presents is a “truth” (which, given the nature of God, we would be in a position to *believe* if we have a moral certainty based on credible motives, for thinking that the truth claim in question is truly of divine origin).

    More generally, nothing about the truth or falsity of a claim follows from the form in which it is presented. Even a logically valid argument is not, by virtue of its validity alone, shown to be sound (true/false). The test of validity is a negative test for truth, not a positive test for truth.

    If a statement conveyed by God in non-syllogistic form were subsequently placed in syllogistic form, and (per impossible) thereby shown to entail a formal contradiction, then God would be wrong. Which, of course, *is* impossible, since God is perfect being and identity, and therefore – in Himself – the very basis of the law of non-contradiction; and further, He is also the basis for the concept of truth (adequation of the intellect to reality) since His being is identical with His intellect in reality, even if not in our predications about God.

    The necessity of logical form, validity, soundness, etc., pertains to epistemology, not ontology. Any given assertion *might* be true (properly correspond to reality), so long as there are no self-evident or definitional contradictions involved in the terms of the assertion itself. However, for *we humans* to *know* its truth, an assertion must be shown to (1) entail no contradiction per se (in its very terms), (2) be valid in relation to the premises which support it (display proper logical form), and (3) be constructed upon premises which are themselves true (establishing its soundness). Unless or until those criteria are shown to obtain, the assertion remains an assertion – possible, plausible, perhaps even probable – but not demonstrable. And, of course, some assertions cannot – in principle – be established demonstrably (at least in this life); wherein, we must be satisfied with possibility, plausibility or probability of varying degrees.

    -Pax

  112. John, is the point of this website to talk with someone like me, a presby, or not?

  113. Ray,

    Thanks for providing your thoughts.

    Catholics,

    As for my question in 112 to John S, I don’t need anyone’s answer to that. I thought the point of this website more broadly was to attempt to convert someone like me, a presby, to Catholicism.

    I could be wrong on that, you know.

    Grace and peace.

  114. Andrew,

    If you want to know what is the purpose of this website, go to the “About” tab at the top of this page, and then on the ‘drop-down’ menu select “Welcome.” Let’s keep this thread on the topic of religious liberty. Thanks!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  115. kimd (re: #78),

    Thanks for the article. It was very interesting, and raises some worthwhile points. I was hoping to respond here a bit more on Friday, but got caught up in thinking through the arguments in the article and didn’t manage to post anything here. Now that I’ve had some time to think about it a bit, here are a few brief thoughts:

    1. The article makes the argument that there should not be private interpretation of church tradition and documents any more than private interpretation of Scripture (arguing against the Lefebvrites). An interesting point. I would agree that the benefit of the doubt should go to Rome’s interpretation of its own documents, but I would say that the benefit of the doubt cannot be indefinitely stretched. I would say the same with regard to Scripture. It is theoretically possible to prove that Scripture contradicts itself. I have what I take to be conclusive theological reasons to think it doesn’t (as well as experience seeing that it doesn’t), but an alleged contradiction could theoretically be put forward such that it could not reasonably be read in any other way than as a real contradiction, and if that were to happen it would have to be acknowledged. I would say the same about Roman Catholic teaching. We should defer to a non-contradictory reading whenever possible, but in this case I can’t see how a non-contradictory reading is possible, and I don’t think the attempts to remove the contradiction are successful.

    2. The article makes an argument based on the Latin word violare (which is the root of the word used in the phrase “offenders against the Catholic religion” in Quanta Cura) that Pope Pius IX was not referring to the punishment of heresy as such in QC, but only to those who launch violent attacks (literally and metaphorically) against the Catholic church and faith. It is quite true that the Latin word is a strong word, and the article is right to bring that out. A person who is a violatore against the Catholic faith is a person who profanes, attacks, offends, assaults, etc., the Catholic faith.

    I think it is difficult to use this word by itself to determine what Pius IX had in mind, however. Churches have traditionally used strong language when talking about heresy. Any heresy could be said (from a Roman Catholic point of view) to profane or attack the Catholic faith. Simply teaching heresy is an attack on the Catholic faith, not to mention writing an article like the one of mine currently under consideration in this thread which actually explicitly attacks the Roman Catholic faith. So I don’t think referring to the Latin word adds much by itself to reconciling QC and DH. I think we have to look at the wider context to figure out what both documents had in mind.

    In looking at the wider context of both documents, I still think the contradiction is pretty clear. Within QC itself, it seems clear that Pius IX, when he speaks of “offenders against the Catholic religion,” has in mind not people who use physical violence or anything like that to attack the Catholic Church, but rather those who make arguments against its teachings. Look back at the quotations from QC I provided in my article, or at the document itself, and I think this can be seen. Pius IX, right after using the phrase under consideration, links it to the idea that people can speak whatever opinions or arguments they wish in society without censure. Other places in QC and The Syllabus of Errors speak of the error of thinking that people should be able to enjoy “the public exercise of their own peculiar worship.” Also, remember that Pius IX is attacking the idea that offenders against the Catholic religion cannot be punished “except so far as public peace may require.” He is attacking a viewpoint that is growing in prominence in western culture in his day. The view he is attacking would not say it is OK to disturb public peace and order (say, by bombing churches, or doing the sorts of things that secular societies tend to view as illegal). Pius IX is defending the idea that it is appropriate and right to civilly censure attacks on Catholicism even when they don’t violate public peace and order. In short, I think that the context of QC as a whole implies a broader context for what it means to “attack” or “offend” the Catholic religion than this new article may be willing to acknowledge (although it does acknowledge quite a bit, actually).

    But remember also that in my article I am not looking at QC on its own, but as part of a wider pre-Vatican II tradition of teaching. Whatever can be said about QC by itself, when we bring this wider context in, it surely cannot be reasonably doubted that the Roman Catholic Church has approved the punishment of heretics as such (even to the death) in ways that modern notions of religious freedom, including (I have argued) that articulated in DH, deplore as violations of fundamental human rights.

    3. The article seems to make an argument that earlier papal teaching allowing that there are some situations in which error should be tolerated shows earlier teaching to be consistent with the teaching of DH that it is a violation of fundamental rights to civilly restrain or punish people following their consciences. But this ignores the difference between saying that sometimes the civil magistrate, for various reasons having to do with specific cases, ought not to try to punish heresy, and saying that he alwaysought not to punish heresy (beyond what secular public peace and order would call for) because doing so would violate basic human rights. I can grant (and have granted) that occasional toleration is not incompatible with a general duty to punish heresy civilly, but punishing heresy at all is not compatible in any way with saying it is always a fundamental violation of human rights to do so, as DH teaches.

    More might be said about this new article (new in the sense of being mentioned first in #78), but I’ll stop there. If anyone wants me to say anything more about any part of it, please let me know and I will be happy to do so.

    Thanks!

    Mark

  116. Just a note on the whole “what is an argument?” conversation: I think that what I have already written and what others have written thus far goes far enough to make clear that I have an argument and what it is. I don’t think that trying to put it in some formal syllogistic form would actually add much to the conversation, so I’m not really interested in trying to do it. Arguments about history and literature, especially when they rely on a great deal of substantiation in the form of quotations, do not always lend well to a more reductionistic method of stating an argument. I think that what I am arguing is quite sufficiently clear, and so I will leave it at that.

    Thanks!

    Mark

  117. Rick (re: #85),

    Thank you for that excerpt and the thoughts it contains.

    I don’t think that the excerpt adequately deals with the depth of the change that has actually occurred in the Roman Catholic Church on the issue of religious freedom. If DH had merely argued that toleration is sometimes required, if it had made a pragmatic argument like that, without making any claims that civil coercion against conscience is a violation of basic human rights, that it is such a violation always in all societies (even Catholic ones), and without linking its ideas to modern prevailing notions of religious freedom, I think it could be said that there is no contradiction. Some earlier papal statements did just that–the whole “toleration” argument–and I have granted that there is no real contradiction there. But DH goes further, to such an extent, I believe, that it simply cannot be reconciled with previous Roman Catholic teaching and practice on the punishment of heretics.

    Thanks!

    Mark

  118. I will continue to respond to the previous responses (there’s a lot there to deal with!), but before I must go this evening let me make a more general observation and suggestion, and perhaps try to direct the conversation in a slightly different pathway:

    It is certainly useful to argue about whether or not I’ve got all the jots and tittles right in understanding specific documents like Quanta Cura. That’s perfectly appropriate and useful. But I think there is a more useful focus, and that is to examine the more general argument I have made as a whole. My basic claim is that Roman Catholic teaching for the past 1500 years before Vatican II clearly taught and practiced that heretics as such (that is, because they are heretics, as opposed to some secular reason) generally ought to be punished, even so far as being exiled, imprisoned, executed, etc. On the other hand, it is clear that the modern Roman Catholic Church (as exemplified in DH, taking into account its modern context in the western world) has decided that religious freedom–in the modern sense of not punishing people for religious issues beyond secular sorts of concerns–is a fundamental human right for all times and places rooted in basic human dignity. This is a serious problem for the Roman Catholic Church’s claim to possess infallible teaching authority, because it means that either before Vatican II or since, the RCC has been teaching fundamental falsehoods to its members and to the world on these important matters of faith and practice. This overall argument needs to be dealt with, and it isn’t going to be adequately dealt with merely by focusing on the jots and tittles of Latin words in Quanta Cura (or even less by spending lots of time arguing about the formal definition of what an “argument” is).

    I think it would be very helpful to the dialogue that is happening here if we could get some answers to a few questions from the Roman Catholics who are here:

    1. What, exactly, do you think that DH has taught about religious freedom? It is intended, apparently, to teach something, so what is it teaching?

    2. What has been the Roman Catholic Church’s expressed (in words and actions) view on when, how, why, etc., heretics should be punished over the 1500 years before Vatican II? (By the way, here’s another useful example of pre-Vatican II classic Roman teaching on punishing heretics, Canon 3 in particular.)

    I think perhaps that looking at more concrete examples may be helpful, so here’s one: Imagine we have a Catholic society, and a person is preaching against the Trinity. He is not doing anything that would bug the Universal Declaration of Human Rights crowd. Is it ever permissible that such a person ought to be punished, or would punishing him for his preaching against the Trinity always be a violation of his fundamental human rights rooted in his human dignity? What do you think about this? What would 1500 years of Roman Catholic teaching say about this? What would DH say about this?

    Thanks!

    Mark

  119. #118
    Mark,
    Before others provide more informed answers, let me call your attention to the fact that the issue of ‘burning heretics’ is somewhat similar to that of capital punishment in general. As a Catholic, I believe that (i) “it is not against the will of God to apply capital punishment”, and simultaneously that (ii) under the current organisation of Western societies (and at a time of peace), civil authorities should refrain from applying capital punishment. (i) and (ii) are not contradictory in any way.
    Now, as killing one’s soul is a greater crime than killing one’s body, even today I fully subscribe to the statement that (i) “it is not against the will of God to burn heretics” (that is, in certain circumstances, civil authorities were entitled to apply even capital punishment to them, and it was not against the will of God; naturally, “heretics” here presupposes “public heretics”, that is those who try to disseminate their false teachings publicly and lead others astray), while I also believe that (ii) under the current organisation of Western societies, civil authorities should refrain from applying capital punishment to heretics. There is no contradiction in it. And in fact, if you take a close look at DH (like Bryan has done in his article) no statement of DH undermines (i) in any way.
    Quanta Cura and DH rather point out to different sides of the same coin (or you can call it the half empty/half full problem).

  120. Bryan (re: #101),

    You said this:

    There are many inferential mistakes in the article. One of the mistakes is the inference from QC’s rejection of the position “that is the best condition of civil society, in which no duty is recognized, as attached to the civil power, of restraining by enacted penalties, offenders against the Catholic religion, except so far as public peace may require” to the conclusion that “the civil magistrate has a duty to punish heretics as such.” That’s a non sequitur. Just because it is false that in the best condition of civil society there is no recognized duty by the civil authority to restrain offenders against the Catholic faith, it does not follow that the civil authority has, under all social conditions, the duty to restrain offenders against the Catholic faith. But Mark builds his claim that I have missed another form of contradiction [between QC and DH] on the notion that QC teaches that the civil magistrate has a duty to punish heretics as such, and thus on this mistaken inference.

    My claim is not that QC teaches that “the civil authority has, under all social conditions, the duty to restrain offenders against the Catholic faith.” I allow that pre-Vatican-II Roman teaching does not (so far as I know at this time, anyway) repudiate the notion that toleration of error may be called for in some social conditions. What I do claim is that pre-Vatican-II Roman teaching, including but not limited to QC, holds that heretics can be punished as such (and not just as offenders of a secular public peace and order) and that civil governments ordinarily have a duty to restrain and punish them (in the sense that this is what they ought to do unless there is some specific good reason not to arising out of particular circumstances). This conflicts with modern Romanist teaching, exemplified in DH, which teaches that no heretics can ever be punished in any circumstances as such–that is, beyond what is required for the maintenance of secular public peace and order–because their immunity to such civil restraint and punishment is not a contingent right for some circumstances but is rather a fundamental human right rooted in basic human dignity and is therefore to be respected in all conditions of society (even in societies where Catholicism is the official religion). Of course, my substantiation of these claims is found in the article.

    Thanks!

    Mark

  121. Ray (re: #102),

    What you propose looks good. I think you’ve laid out my basic argument well.

    I think I was quite precise in my article. I cited both specific instances of pre-Vatican-II teaching on religious liberty that teach that heretics as such (that is, beyond secular public peace and order) should (ordinarily at least) be punished as well as citing the general, universal practice of the church for 1500 years (as articulated by Thomas Aquinas). I think what I put forward there was quite enough to show what the pre-Vatican-II Roman Church’s position had been on punishing heretics. I have since added a citation from the Fourth Lateran Council. I could add many more citations. I didn’t add more in my article because I think it ought to be evident to anyone who knows much about RC history that the pre-Vatican-II RC church believed and practiced the sort of thing that modern notions of religious freedom (as articulated in DH) were intended to oppose.

    Then, I very carefully examined the claims of DH and I think clearly enough showed that it affirms a view of religious freedom in line with the general modern western conception of religious freedom (as such is enshrined, for example, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the general practice of modern western nations) and which contradicts quite starkly pre-Vatican-II Roman Catholic belief and practice in this area.

    So the article does these things, but it is also long and has lots of quotations. That is because this kind of an argument requires a lot of substantiations in the form of quotations, and there’s no way around that. I wasn’t interested in looking at a couple of quotations isolated out of historical context and comparing them. Bryan has shown quite well how one can make just about any two statements which appear at first glance to be contradictory appear not to be by showing the possible range of semantic meanings for words and phrases in language (for example, the whole discussion over “due limits,” etc.). The way to respond to claims like those Bryan has made is to go into more detail and show that the fuller context does not allow certain interpretations, and so that is what I tried to do.

    I have no problem if you or anyone else wishes to give me further advice as to how you think I ought to have gone about writing my article, or how I ought to state my argument now. But I think it will also be helpful to accept that we may not entirely agree on something like that and move on to actually discuss the arguments as they currently exist, as I would assert they are quite clear. And see also my own attempt to carry on the conversation by asking specific questions about what you all actually believe Rome has taught and now teaches about religious liberty and how you think pre-Vatican-II Rome and post-Vatican-II Rome would deal with a somewhat more concrete scenario. My opinion is that answering those questions will help move the conversation along much better than arguing about whether I have chosen the best method to present my claims and arguments thus far.

    Thanks!

    Mark

  122. Bryan (re: #105),

    You said this:

    The Akin article I linked to in comment #16 above, and which you dismissed in your article with the hand-waving phrase that it is “overly parsing wording” provides an argument showing exactly why your claim here is not justified.

    I believe I dealt with Akin’s claims sufficiently in my article. As I recall, he claims that not all the propositions condemned in Exsurge Domine can be said to have been held to be errors by Pope Leo X. I think the full context of the bull makes it quite clear that he did indeed consider all the condemned propositions to be errors, and I tried to show this by means of quotations. If you think I’ve missed something, you can give a specific argument to that effect and I can respond to it. I think I’ve shown enough to make clear that Pope Leo X understood all the propositions to be errors forbidden to be believed by Catholics and also that he intended his bull to be binding on the entire church in such a way as to meet Vatican I’s later standards outlining an infallible statement.

    And, again, my citation of this bull and other pre-Vatican-II statements are meant to be taken in the full context of Roman teaching and practice for 1500 years, as articulated by Thomas Aquinas (and also the quote from Augustine towards the end of the article), which makes it quite clear that heretics are normally to be punished in a way impermissible to DH.

    Thanks!

    Mark

  123. Jan (re: #119),

    Thank you for providing your own viewpoint as to what Roman teaching currently is in your comments. That is very helpful. Such disclosure helps us all to know where exactly our disagreements may lie.

    If the relationship between DH and previous Roman teaching were as you suggest, then I think you all would win this debate. As I have said, I do not think that a general duty to restrain and punish heretics as such is contrary to an occasional duty to embrace a limited toleration in peculiar circumstances. I do not claim that such an idea of toleration contradicts historic Roman teaching. (Perhaps it does, but I do not know about it if it does, so I don’t make that claim. It might be worth exploring further to see if any teaching against occasional toleration has ever been given by the Roman church. Certainly I do not see any inherent contradiction between a general rule and occasional exceptions.)

    But, as I’ve argued, it seems clear to me that DH goes significantly beyond making a pragmatic argument for a limited, non-ideal toleration in some circumstances. It claims, rather, that freedom from civil restraint and punishment with regard to religious matters or matters of conscience (except insofar as someone violates a secular public peace and order) is always inherently wrong and can never be engaged in ethically, because a right to freedom from such coercion is a fundamental right rooted in the inherent dignity of man (and therefore needs to be respected in law in all societies, even Catholic ones).

    To go back to my somewhat-more-concrete scenario: Pre-Vatican-II teaching would say that a person teaching against the Trinity (but not violating secular public peace and order) in a Catholic society might very well, in normal circumstances, be rightly restrained and punished by civil law, while DH says that such a person could not ever be punished without violating his basic rights and dignity as a human being. The contradiction comes over whether immunity from civil coercion in religious matters purely with regard to religious (and not secular) concerns is a fundamental human right or not.

    Let me add another thing to the conversation as well: I think it is important to note, a I have argued, that DH quite clearly links its ideas on religious freedom to the modern western notion of religious freedom–explicitly referring to the latter, using the language of the latter’s documents, stating what sounds exactly like the same basic principles as the latter. Part of being a finally-reliable teaching authority is that one communicates clearly enough so that one is not inherently misleading in what one says all things considered. Since DH so clearly indicates that it is trying to affirm modern notions of religious freedom (which were formulated exactly against the sorts of things the RCC, and other churches, believed and practiced concerning the punishment of heretics through the centuries), if it does not mean what it so clearly indicates, it is guilty of being deceptively misleading (especially since the Church has never come out and repudiated the typical and natural reading of DH or affirmed its previous teaching that heretics can sometimes be punished as such, etc.). And that, too, would be a problem for its claim to be an infallible (which includes the notion of “finally reliable”) teaching authority.

    Jan, I think your own personal views that you have expressed are probably consistent (at least so far as I currently know) with pre-Vatican-II Roman teaching, but I think your personal views are out of accord with the modern teaching of the Roman Church as articulated in DH. I’ll bet if you were to express the idea clearly and publicly within the church that Roman teaching is perfectly fine with people being burned as heretics on occasion, if people listened to you you would get denounced by quite a few members as well as priests and bishops as being contrary to the church’s teachings (and no doubt DH would come up eventually), and the RCC would not come to your defense (though they probably would not discipline you either, as the RCC seems pretty slow to discipline anyone for heresy at all these days much of the time).

    And by the way, my own position agrees more with yours: I believe that heretics as such ought to be restrained and punished by civil power in ordinary circumstances. I reject the teaching of DH as an unbiblical giving-in to modern philosophical fads.

    Thanks!

    Mark

  124. Mark

    Re: #120

    What I do claim is that pre-Vatican-II Roman teaching, including but not limited to QC, holds that heretics can be punished as such (and not just as offenders of a secular public peace and order) and that civil governments ordinarily have a duty to restrain and punish them (in the sense that this is what they ought to do unless there is some specific good reason not to arising out of particular circumstances).

    I understand that. The problem is that you’re conflating what is per se and what is per accidens. The duty of the civil authority is to defend and promote the common good. That’s what is taught per se. It is only per accidens that in particular cases this involved restraining or punishing heretics. There is no per se magisterial doctrine that civil authorities must punish heretics. Nor have you provided any evidence demonstrating this.

    Re: #122

    I believe I dealt with Akin’s claims sufficiently in my article. … I think the full context of the bull makes it quite clear that he did indeed consider all the condemned propositions to be errors, and I tried to show this by means of quotations… I think I’ve shown enough to make clear that Pope Leo X understood all the propositions to be errors forbidden to be believed by Catholics and also that he intended his bull to be binding on the entire church in such a way as to meet Vatican I’s later standards outlining an infallible statement.

    Once again, statements of the form “I think that x” are statements about your own epistemic condition, and are not evidence of anything outside your mind, or reasons to believe anything about the world other than your epistemic condition. All of your comments above are mostly filled with statements about your own epistemic condition. But statements about your own epistemic state are not reasons or evidence for anything other than the state of your mind, and do not belong in a public forum designated for dialogue aimed at resolving disagreements through reasoning. As for your last statement, Akin explicitly explains why not all the propositions are infallibly condemned; see for example his statement about “offensive to pious ears.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  125. Mark,

    Just curious – have you read any of Brian Harrison’s work on reconciling pre-Vat2 and Vat2 on the issue of religious liberty? Many of his articles are online at http://www.rtforum.org/lt/ – you may be interested in
    http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt44.html
    http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt9.html#II
    http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt119.html
    http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt151.html

  126. A video on this subject by CNS:

    (Thomas Pink is one of the persons interviewed in the video; a link to his FT article on this topic can be found in comment #11 above.)

  127. At the very least, I think what all this shows is that Roman Catholic apologetic arguments that you need Rome or you are left in a state of confusion, etc. can be put to rest.

  128. Geoff (re: #127)

    Catholic apologetic arguments that you need Rome or you are left in a state of confusion,

    The first step here is to avoid the straw man. The Catholic argument is not that being Catholic guarantees no confusion. Obviously many Catholics are confused about Catholicism, inasmuch as they are poorly catechized. Rather, the Catholic argument is that a magisterium is necessary in order to define dogma, so that interpretive and doctrinal disagreements can be definitively resolved. The necessity of x for y does not entail that if x then y. Hence neither the presence of confusion among Catholics nor the presence of unresolved questions within Catholicism shows that a magisterium is not necessary for defining dogma and definitively resolving disagreements.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  129. “The Catholic argument is not that being Catholic guarantees no confusion. Obviously many Catholics are confused about Catholicism, inasmuch as they are poorly catechized. Rather, the Catholic argument is that a magisterium is necessary in order to define dogma, so that interpretive and doctrinal disagreements can be definitively resolved.”

    So it is left to Roman Catholic apologists to try to resolve the clear contradictions of the magesterium like this one. I’m aware of the methodology.

    “When Unam Sanctum said Greeks and others must confess they don’t belong to Christ, what is really being said is…” “Oh no, that is an infallible teaching.”

    This magesterium is good in theory, but the problem comes in when the magesterium speaks out of both sides of its mouth.

  130. Geoff, (re: #129)

    So it is left to Roman Catholic apologists to try to resolve the clear contradictions of the magesterium like this one.

    First you would need to establish that there is a contradiction. If you look only superficially, then of course there can seem to be contradictions. Same with the Bible. But if you look carefully, there are (surprisingly) no contradictions.

    “When Unam Sanctum said Greeks and others must confess they don’t belong to Christ, what is really being said is…”

    The “my objection failed so I’ll throw Unam Sanctum at them” approach isn’t good faith dialogue, nor is it one I haven’t see many times before. But if you want to understand how Unam Sanctum fits with the rest of Catholic doctrine, see comment #98 of the “Why Evangelicals are Getting High” thread, though you’ll have to do some digging (but I write only for diggers anyway, not for skimmers).

    This magesterium is good in theory, but the problem comes in when the magesterium speaks out of both sides of its mouth.

    First you would need to establish a contradiction (which shouldn’t be difficult, if you’ve had any training in logic), so as to avoid begging the question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  131. Bryan (re: #124),

    The problem is that you’re conflating what is per se and what is per accidens. The duty of the civil authority is to defend and promote the common good. That’s what is taught per se. It is only per accidens that in particular cases this involved restraining or punishing heretics. There is no per se magisterial doctrine that civil authorities must punish heretics. Nor have you provided any evidence demonstrating this.

    No, I have not conflated these things. I have not said that the church’s pre-Vatican-II teaching was that the civil magistrate must always punish heretics. I’ve allowed that previous church teaching, so far as I can tell thus far, is consistent with the idea that sometimes the greater good calls for tolerating heresy to some degree. Rather, what I’ve said is that DH went further than this in teaching that it is inherently wrong always for the civil magistrate to punish heretics as such (that is, beyond what secular public order would require), and that this teaching is what contradicts earlier teaching and practice which taught clearly that there is at least a normal duty the civil magistrate has to punish heretics and that at least sometimes it is appropriate for him to carry that duty out.

    Once again, statements of the form “I think that x” are statements about your own epistemic condition, and are not evidence of anything outside your mind, or reasons to believe anything about the world other than your epistemic condition. All of your comments above are mostly filled with statements about your own epistemic condition. But statements about your own epistemic state are not reasons or evidence for anything other than the state of your mind, and do not belong in a public forum designated for dialogue aimed at resolving disagreements through reasoning.

    It is perfectly normal and legitimate in public discourse to use self-referencing language of this sort in order to preface the expressing of one’s point of view. Frankly, I would say it is silly to jump on such language as if it is some kind of blight on a person’s argument. Everyone knows what I am saying when I use such language (if somebody doesn’t, I would suggest he needs to get out and have more public discussions in order to become more aware of how people actually talk). I do not believe it is productive to dialogue to try to so narrowly coerce how people express themselves. This is how I talk, and I am not interested in adjusting my language to fit your personal and arbitrary desires. In my view, it is best to let you talk like yourself and let others talk like themselves. As this is your forum, however, if you wish to exclude such language, let me know, and I will stop posting on this forum.

    As for your last statement, Akin explicitly explains why not all the propositions are infallibly condemned; see for example his statement about “offensive to pious ears.”

    I am aware of Akin’s argument. I disagree with it. He thinks that the language of “offensive to pious ears” and some other language in Exsurge Domine implies that it is not necessarily the case that all the propositions condemned are condemned as errors or necessarily deemed to be errors. I disagree. I provided quotations in my article which I think show that Pope Leo definitely understood the propositions to be erroneous and to be rejected by all Catholics. Akin’s argument has some plausibility, but I think the entire context of the document rules his reasoning out.

    Thanks!

    Mark

  132. Cletus (re: #125),

    Thanks for the links to the articles by Brian Harrison. I hadn’t seen them before.

    Here are some thoughts on the first linked article:

    First of all, the article makes me want to read some stuff from Michael Davies. He comes across in the article as a careful and thoughtful critic of the position that Vatican II’s teachings were entirely consistent with previous Roman church teaching. It sounds like his book on Vatican II and religious freedom would be really interesting.

    My main criticism of Harrison’s article is that I think he misconstrues the teaching of DH in such a way as to obscure the conflict between it and earlier Roman teaching. For example, he seems to want to paint the teaching of DH to be merely that sometimes there is a right that non-Catholics have to not be restrained or punished in religious matters, and then he points out that pre-Vatican-II popes allowed for toleration of heretics and other false religionists to practice and propagate their teaching in some circumstances. Here is an example from the article:

    To sum up our argument so far: the novel element in Dignitatis Humanae’s doctrinal teaching is that under some circumstances non-Catholics can have a natural right to immunity from coercion in the public manifestation of their religion.

    The problem with this is that that was not the novel element in DH. The problematic novel element in DH is the idea that there is a natural right, rooted in the inherent dignity of man, never to be restrained or punished by civil power for merely religious reasons. DH does not merely allow that in some circumstances it may be inappropriate for the civil magistrate to restrain or punish heretics as such (that is, beyond what secular public order would call for); it teaches that it is inherently and always a violation of fundamental human rights to punish heretics as such.

    Harrison’s article also tries to use the link between heresy and social harm to reconcile pre-Vatican-II and post-Vatican-II teaching. For example:

    It is evident that a contradiction of the above thesis affirmed by Vatican II would affirm or imply the following: no violation of a natural right of non-Catholics is ever committed by a government which represses the public expression of their beliefs, not even in circumstances where such expression does not violate public morality, nor public peace, nor any rights of other citizens. This amounts to the doctrine that public religious error may always and everywhere be repressed without injustice, simply because it is erroneous; that is, without any regard for the social consequences of either repression or non-repression. (Such social considerations, according to this doctrine, could be relevant only to whether repression is prudent or imprudent, not just or unjust.)

    Now I am unaware of any pre-conciliar Pope who taught this doctrine. Certainly Davies cites no papal teaching to this effect. Indeed, when nineteenth century Popes urged the repression of religious error, they certainly did not have in mind circumstances in which that error would not violate the “rights of other citizens”; on the contrary, they were thinking of circumstances wherein they thought it certainly would do so. Davies recognizes as a good summary of pre-conciliar teaching the preparatory schema on these matters which was subsequently thrown out by the conciliar Fathers, and prints it as Appendix V to his book. Article 5 of the schema asserts that, when a Catholic State imposes legitimate restrictions on “public manifestations of other cults”, this is to be seen precisely as a measure to protect the rights of others: it aims to “defend [Catholic] citizens against the spreading of false doctrines which, in the judgment of the Church, put their eternal salvation at risk” (Davies, p. 300).

    Of course it is the case that Roman church teaching has always linked the punishing of heretics to the good of society as opposed to totally divorcing these two concepts. But this doesn’t help to reconcile pre-Vatican-II teaching to DH. What DH affirms is that it is always wrong as a violation of fundamental human rights to punish heretics as such (that is, beyond what is necessary for secular public order–including the protecting of the public peace and the sorts of general, secular rights acknowledged in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other such secular “human rights” documents), while it is sometimes necessary to punish them as violators of secular public order. But pre-Vatican-II Roman teaching and practice clearly held that the punishment of heretics as such (as defined above) is ordinarily a duty (though toleration may be granted, perhaps, in some circumstances). Yes, the punishment of heretics was always done in light of the overall public good, but the key thing is that that pre-Vatican-II public good included not just secular but religious and specifically Catholic concerns (such as the danger of the spread of heresy to the souls of men). It is precisely these sorts of religious reasons to punish heretics that are excluded in modern notions of religious freedom and in DH. So no reconciliation can be established by this line of reasoning.

    The article also seems to hold that DH did not exclude all punishment of heretics as such in Catholic societies, while it seems to me (see my article for my reasons) that it clearly did.

    One more interesting quotation from the article:

    Having said all this, it must be acknowledged that Leo XIII and the other earlier Popes certainly did frequently urge (in concordats and other lesser documents) the repression of all public non-Catholic manifestations in Catholic states or societies. This policy was such a firm and unanimous norm of public ecclesiastical law – universally applied throughout centuries of Christendom – that I believe (as I am sure Davies does) that the Holy Spirit could not have permitted it if it were, per se and intrinsically, a violation of natural law. Indeed, all traditional theologians (and thus, the Popes and Bishops who approved their works) have taught it as theologically certain – a conclusion inseparable from revelation itself and therefore part of the infallible Ordinary Magisterium – that the Church’s sanctity and indefectibility exclude the possibility that any general disciplinary norm of the universal Church (as distinct from a merely local norm) could be intrinsically (per se) contrary to divine law, whether natural or positive. It follows that if Dignitatis Humanae affirmed a natural right not to be prevented from publicly propagating non-Catholic religions in Catholic societies, then indeed the Declaration would implicitly contradict the aforesaid doctrine of the Ordinary Magisterium.

    Harrison goes on try to respond to this concern by making a number of distinctions. I won’t go into detail here right now, but suffice it to say I think his responses are unsuccessful. It seems to me clear that DH definitely did affirm a natural right not to be prevented from publicly propagating non-Catholic religions in Catholic societies (at least so far as the secular public order would allow).

    Anyway, enough for now. I’ll make some comments on the other linked Harrison articles later. Feel free to follow up with any particular arguments from this first article (or any of the articles) that you would like to see me deal with more specifically or explicitly.

    Thanks!

    Mark

  133. Mark, (re: #131)

    Rather, what I’ve said is that DH went further than this in teaching that it is inherently wrong always for the civil magistrate to punish heretics as such (that is, beyond what secular public order would require),

    Except that’s not what DH says. Pink’s article mentioned above explains this. DH is speaking of civil authority acting on its own, not as an agent of the Church carrying out ecclesial discipline on members of the Church.

    and that this teaching is what contradicts earlier teaching and practice which taught clearly that there is at least a normal duty the civil magistrate has to punish heretics and that at least sometimes it is appropriate for him to carry that duty out.

    Again, no prior document teaches that the civil authority as such has a duty to punish heretics.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  134. Cletus (re: #125),

    I’ve read through the second article as well. As with the first one, there is a lot there to discuss. It might be worth doing another (briefer) article examining it in greater detail. And if I fail to discuss any part of it here that you or anyone else would like to see me address, let me know and I will be happy to do it. But for now, here are some very brief thoughts:

    1. The article rightly points out that DH does not clearly reject the idea that societies ought to adopt the Roman Catholic religion as the official religion. I would actually say that it unclearly hints in both directions. It hints in favor of wanting societies to officially endorse RC when it says it intends to “leave untouched” traditional Catholic doctrine on the duties of individuals and societies towards the true religion. It hints against it when it suggests that laws should not discriminate between citizens on religious grounds. Ultimately, what can it mean for a society to endorse RC as the official religion and base laws on RC principles other than to at least sometimes make laws that RC principles would endorse but which other worldviews might not, and thus end up making religiously discriminatory laws? So I think there is significant unclarity in DH on this point. But, nonetheless, I’ll say that DH doesn’t clearly oppose establishing RC as the religion of the state, and so it does not clearly contradict previous RC teaching on that subject.

    But, again, this is not where the alleged contradiction lies. It lies in DH affirming a fundamental human right to be free from civil restraint or punishment for religious reasons (that don’t also violate secular concerns), whereas previous RC teaching and practice clearly approved of such restraint and punishment (at least in some circumstances).

    2. The article argues that the idea of liberty of conscience condemned by earlier papal teaching held that only violation of public peace is a just reason to restrain or punish anyone, while DH teaches that there are other reasons for restraint, such as violation of public morality and the rights of others. But Harrison’s own commentary on all of this, I think, points out well enough that the reasons for restraint in both cases overlap in that they are both secular and not religious, and they include mostly the same things. Harrison quotes the French author that Mirari Vos was responding to saying this:

    The Constitutional power possesses only the right and duty to repress crimes and other offences which would materially attack these liberties (qui attenteraient matériellement à ces libertés) – or other civil and political rights of the citizens.5

    I don’t think this is fundamentally different from what DH says:

    Furthermore, society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection. However, government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order. These norms arise out of the need for the effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for the peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights, also out of the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice, and finally out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality.

    These matters constitute the basic component of the common welfare: they are what is meant by public order. For the rest, the usages of society are to be the usages of freedom in their full range: that is, the freedom of man is to be respected as far as possible and is not to be curtailed except when and insofar as necessary.

    I think that Harrison’s own summary of what DH says is right on:

    As far as civil restriction goes, then, the Church now interprets and applies the divine law less severely than before: in matters of religion, the common good now permits and requires coercive measures only if its most fundamental features are assailed – the features which are grouped together in Dignitatis Humanae: 7 under the term “public order”. In other words, even in a strongly Catholic country, the public diffusion of non-Catholic ideas or practices should not now (according to Vatican II) be considered a punishable threat to the common good simply insofar as they are non-Catholic. Rather, in order to merit that classification they would usually have to be the kinds of anti-Catholic propaganda which also assault or threaten (by virtue either of their content or their methods) those norms of truth, honesty, civic responsibility, sexual morality, and respect for other persons which can be validly argued and established on human and rational grounds alone, without appealing to the supernatural authority of divine revelation.

    The key thing is that earlier RC teaching and practice clearly held that people could legitimately be civilly restrained and punished not only for violating secular norms but also for violating explicitly religious and Catholic (including Scriptural) norms (this is evident from 1500 years of RC teaching and practice on punishing heretics), whereas DH teaches that it is a violation of the fundamental rights of man ever to restrain or punish someone for doing anything that does not violate a secular public order–that is, a public order that discriminates between citizens on religious grounds by making laws that impose peculiarly Catholic norms on non-Catholics.

    3. Harrison’s article tries to avoid the conclusion of contradiction partly by pointing out the distinction between the infallible doctrine of the church and the mutable laws of the church. I grant that such a distinction can exist and should be taken into consideration, but I don’t think it avoids the contradiction here. As I’ve said before, if DH had only said that it would be appropriate in light of current circumstances to grant religious freedom, or that it is currently best for the common good to do so, or something like that, I think it would successfully escape being charged with a clear contradiction (so far as I can tell at this point, anyway). But it goes further than that. It makes it a violation of fundamental human rights rooted in the dignity of man to restrain and punish anyone beyond what is necessary to preserve a secular public order.

    More could be said, but I’ve already written more than I intended to! Again, if anyone wants me to address anything more specifically from the article let me know.

    Thanks!

    Mark

  135. Mark and Bryan,

    It seems to me there is more than one question being addressed here.

    #1 – Has the Catholic Church changed its teaching? The two of you are covering that topic thoroughly: Mark says “yes”, Bryan says “no”; Mark says the documentary evidence can only be construed in such a fashion that one must conclude “yes”, Bryan says the most plausible interpretation is one which has no contradiction — and presumably also holds that, in accord with the hermeneutic of continuity, whenever multiple interpretations are available, one is obligated to adopt one which avoids contradiction anyway. (All Christians do this with the Bible; if the Catholic Church’s authority claims are true, it naturally follows that one must also do it with the teachings of the Church.)

    Fair enough. I will continue to follow what you guys are saying, and see where it leads.

    But I’m also curious about the other question….

    #2 – Regardless of what the old teaching was, or what the new teaching is (whether they be the same or different), what teaching is true?

    I mean, quite apart from my likes or dislikes, influenced by culture or inclination or my upbringing as a 20th-21st century American citizen, what REALLY IS the responsibility of the secular civil authority? And what are the limits of that authority? Does that answer vary according to whether it’s an elected government or one with an absolute monarch? Can the answer largely be derived from Natural Law, as the American Founders liked to assert? Or does some part of that answer require revelation?

    I am asking this question with a broader scope than merely “is punishing heretics permissible or required?” But it seems to me that the answer to the question, “What is the nature and limit of the just authority of civil/secular government according to the Catholic Church?” would have implications limiting how (or whether) civil authorities can punish heretics.

    Bryan, if to answer that question from a Catholic perspective would “hijack” the thread, then of course it’s right for you to skip it here. But if so, I’d love to see it dealt with in a later thread. And if there is no definitive Church teaching answering that question in full, then I’d like to know what the limits of permissible Catholic thought are.

    And, returning to question #1, it seems to me that if one could articulate the Catholic Church’s understanding of the responsibilities and powers of government in a straightforward way, the resulting formulation might be compatible with both the early documents and the later ones, and show their congruence. Or, if Mark is correct, such a formulation would either contradict the early documents, or the more recent ones, or be internally contradictory in an attempt to satisfy both.

  136. R.C. (re: #135)

    Has the Catholic Church changed its teaching? The two of you are covering that topic thoroughly: Mark says “yes”, Bryan says “no”;

    No, that’s not right. Please see comment #93 above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  137. Mark (re: #134),

    The key thing is that earlier RC teaching and practice clearly held that people could legitimately be civilly restrained and punished not only for violating secular norms but also for violating explicitly religious and Catholic (including Scriptural) norms (this is evident from 1500 years of RC teaching and practice on punishing heretics), whereas DH teaches that it is a violation of the fundamental rights of man ever to restrain or punish someone for doing anything that does not violate a secular public order–that is, a public order that discriminates between citizens on religious grounds by making laws that impose peculiarly Catholic norms on non-Catholics.

    In section III-B of the original article, Bryan states,

    “The civil authority can defend and practice one particular religion, and oppose false religious claims or practices, while upholding and respecting the right to religious freedom as this right is defined and affirmed in Dignitatis Humanae”.

    If that statement is correct, then either (a) your claim above about DH is incorrect or (b) I don’t understand your claim [which is very possible].

    If civil authorities can “oppose false religious claims or practices” this would seemingly include the restraint or punishment of heretics. Perhaps a question might help me understand what you mean.

    What type of actions could fall into the category of “religious acts that violate a secular public order?” What about “religious acts that do NOT violate a secular public order?” I think I would better understand what you’re driving at if you provided some concrete examples.

    You also said:

    But, again, this is not where the alleged contradiction lies. It lies in DH affirming a fundamental human right to be free from civil restraint or punishment for religious reasons (that don’t also violate secular concerns), whereas previous RC teaching and practice clearly approved of such restraint and punishment (at least in some circumstances).

    Again, if Bryan’s statement quoted above is correct, then it seems DH is compatible with such punishment/restraint in that civil authorities can “oppose false religious claims or practices”.

    Peace,
    John D.

  138. Bryan,

    I apologize; I should have been more precise when summarizing an ongoing debate where precision matters so much. I should have said something like, “Has the Catholic Church changed its teaching in a way which contradicts an earlier and supposed-to-be-unreformable teaching? The two of you are covering that topic thoroughly: Mark says ‘yes’, Bryan says ‘no.'”

    Did I get it right that time?

    At any rate, I do hope, at some point, to see a treatment of the broader topic. I think it would be applicable to the question of what the Church teaches about the civil authority punishing heretics. It would provide a context and a framework in which that teaching would fit; and this would probably lead to further illuminations about just and unjust laws and punishments.

  139. Bryan,

    1. I much agree with John D. and R.C. that it would really move forward the sincere dialogue (not just the debate!), if you, with your thorough knowledge of the issue, could explain how you understand the irreformable teaching of the Church with respect to restraining and punishing heretics. Perhaps even a separate blog post – not negatively explaining that there is no contradiction (like you did this time) but rather positively presenting the case – would not be out of place on this website, as not only the alleged contradiction of this teaching now and then but also proper understanding of it is really a stumbling block for many in their journey towards full communion with the Church, sometimes comparable in magnitude to Marian dogmas, purgatory, asking saints for intercession, etc.

    2. On a personal note, I already expressed my opinion in #119 that the Church’s teaching about punishing heretics (including proverbial ‘burning’) is similar to that about capital punishment, as even bl. John Paul II, who repeatedly appealed for pardoning a number of convicts in the US and himself clearly opposed the practice in the Western word nowadays, never questioned the general admissibility of such measures, particularly in the past.
    And contrary to Mark’s statement in #123 that my “personal views are out of accord with the modern teaching of the Roman Church as articulated in DH”, I have not heard my bishop or any of the priests I know condemning an opinion that, in general, public authorities have the right to punish ‘public’ heretics, that is heretics who keep disseminating their heretical views to others (in contrast to those who keep their views mostly to themselves), while in specific cases (perhaps even in all cases in modern Western societies) it is prudential to restrain from any such punishment and, moreover, such restraint may even be beneficial to the common good.
    I truly wonder if you would agree with the last opinion – or perhaps you would reformulate it, as you really have a great ability to present things in a clear and logical way.

    Godspeed,
    Jan

  140. In minutes 16′ through 34′ of this video, Robert Louis Wilken talks about the first documents that examined religious freedom:

  141. Cletus (re: #125(,

    I have read through the third document in your list from Brian Harrison. It deals with the history of how the RCC has viewed torture, and it includes some thoughts on the punishment of heretics.

    As with the previous two articles, Harrison’s approach in this article is to argue that changes in church attitudes towards torture over the millennia have not been changes to clear, infallible doctrinal teaches, but merely to fallible and temporary rulings, and so there is no contradiction here which is a problem for RC claims to have an infallible teaching authority.

    But if the church constantly gives rulings over a period of a millennium that imply that torture to obtain confessions and the punishment of heretics by death and other legal sanctions is an OK thing to do, I can’t see but that the church has made it clear that its position is that such things are OK. But now, according to DH, such things are no longer OK but violations of fundamental human rights and dignity. The church, either now or in the past, has clearly misled its people on a fundamental point of doctrine and morals, and this is incompatible with a claim to be a finally-reliable source of moral and theological doctrine. Although Harrison tries to refute this reasoning in this article, the article provides plenty of evidence to the contrary through his very-helpful quotations. Harrison tries to escape, for example, by saying that rulings telling rulers to use torture were local rather than universal, for example. But if the church leadership tells a local ruler that it is OK to use torture in a certain circumstance, such a ruling is a clear telling of the universal church that such an act, in such a circumstance, is not wrong. And this is contradicted by a later telling of the universal church that all such acts violate fundamental human rights and dignity. Harrison deals with the quotation from Exsurge Domine we’ve discussed earlier, and he uses a tactic similar to that of James Akin, suggesting that Pope Leo didn’t specify clearly that he regarded all the condemned propositions as errors. However, Harrison does add a point at the end of his discussion of this that goes further than what Akin would acknowledge. Here is what he said on this subject:

    Unfortunately, the same indulgence was not always accorded by the See of Peter to those who opposed the use of torture for another purpose – that of putting heretics to death. Pope Leo X’s condemnation of the proposition, “Burning heretics is contrary to the will of the Spirit” (cf. B6 above) is clearly a doctrinal censure. However, just what kind of doctrinal status the Pope intended to give this condemnation is not clear. No precise theological note is attached to this proposition. Like any other among the 41 censured in this Bull, it could be assigned an ‘iniquity-level’ as grave as “heretical”, as mild as “offensive to pious ears” or “seductive of simple minds”, or anywhere in between (“scandalous” or “false”). For at the end of the document, the Pope simply makes a general declaration that all of the preceding propositions merit one or more of these censures. However, he adds that in any case they are all in one way or another “opposed to Catholic truth” (veritati catholicae obviantes), and so “condemn[s]”, “reprobate[s]”, and “absolutely reject[s]” them all.50

    Harrison is closer than Akin to acknowledging what seems clear to me, that Pope Leo was telling the church that all of the propositions condemned were errors contrary to Catholic doctrine and were not to be held or taught.

    A couple more worthy quotations from Harrison’s article:

    What was the doctrinal status of this deplorable regression to ancient cruelty? With the exception of B6 above, to which we shall return below, the relevant papal and conciliar decrees were all clearly disciplinary, rather than doctrinal, in character. That fact, however, does not in itself guarantee that no doctrinal position was being assumed by the Church in regard to the practice in question. For approved theologians ever since Bellarmine, Melchior Cano, and Suarez in the 17th century have argued that Christ’s promise of the Holy Spirit’s unfailing assistance to his Church will guarantee that at least some categories of ecclesiastical legislation can never be contrary to faith or morals, or otherwise inflict serious harm on the Church and souls. This was confirmed by the Council of Trent when it anathematized the contention of Calvinists and other Puritans that “the ceremonies, vestments and outward signs” prescribed by liturgical law for the celebration of Mass are “incitements to impiety”.45 Likewise, Pius VI in 1794 condemned the Jansenist teaching that the Church had in fact passed, or ever could pass, legislation “which is not only useless and burdensome for Christian liberty to endure, but which is dangerous and harmful and leading to superstition and materialism”46. However, the consensus of approved theologians interpreting such magisterial interventions seems to be that by no means all ecclesiastical legislation enjoys such a guarantee, but only that which is “universal”, not just in the geographical sense of applying throughout the Catholic world, but in the anthropological sense of applying to the faithful as a whole. In other words, we can be sure the Holy Spirit is never going to allow Peter’s Successor to command, or even authorize, the Church as a whole – the great bulk of the faithful round the world – to commit sin, or to do something that will cause grave harm. For that would be contrary to the ’note’ of sanctity (“One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic”) which is a revealed attribute of the Church.

    I noted with interest the sentiment attributed to Bellarmine and others that what the church rules in ecclesiastical law cannot lead to fundamental falsehood or immorality. This makes sense. What the church authorizes and practices in its rulings clearly implies the teaching of certain beliefs and values, and therefore such rulings cannot escape the claim that an infallible, ultimately-reliable church should not be able to err on such matters. If the church rules and practices in favor of the death penalty for heretics, it is inseparable from this that it teaches that executing heretics is OK. So if it is not OK, the church led people into error and sin, contrary to the idea of a church teaching authority that is finally reliable.

    Anyway, I know I’m not doing full justice to Harrison’s article. Much more could be said. I just wanted to give some brief thoughts. As always, if anyone wants me to respond to anything more particularly, I would be happy to do so.

    To all: I’ve noted the recent requests to get more concrete, to hear what Vatican II and the teaching of the Church really does with regard to the punishment of heretics, etc. I wholeheartedly agree that that would be a useful direction to go in. Those who have followed the conversation will note that I have been trying to get us to move in that direction for a while. I have proposed more concrete scenarios and have asked about the positive teaching of the RCC on punishing heretics, etc. Later on, if someone else doesn’t move us all forward before then, I will reiterate those suggestions and scenarios. My initial sense, I will say, is that while the RCs here are convinced that there is no contradiction between earlier and later infallible doctrinal teaching, yet it seems that there is no clear positive agreement as to what exactly the church’s doctrine now is regarding religious freedom and the punishment of heretics. It looks like there are those who would more defend a modern view, and those who would defend the practices of the RCC through its earlier history. I’d love to hear some more specific, clear, and concrete affirmations made.

    Anyway, more at a later time. I’m still working systematically through comments in chronological order, and the articles from Harrison are taking me a while (which is good–it means there are full of substance to discuss).

    Thanks!

    Mark

  142. Bryan Cross,

    Earlier in the comments you wrote that

    If a Catholic were put in a situation in which one doctrine to which religious submission of will and intellect is required actually contradicted another teaching to which he was required to give adherence with religious submission of will and intellect, that would be a serious problem, not resolved by the hermeneutic of continuity per se. I affirm the hermeneutic of continuity, of course, but also the development of doctrine by which the past by subsequent developments can be more deeply illuminated and clarified in the present.

    It has been brought to my attention recently that this (authentic magisterium erring) has already happened in history. Father Lainey writes that

    There is a historical example illustrating my point: the Council of Florence (Dz 701) gave as the matter of the Sacrament of Holy Orders the transmission of the chalice – this was the opinion of St Thomas Aquinas – but Pope Pius XII later judged definitely that the matter of that Sacrament was the imposition of the hands of the Bishop (Dz 2301). So unless one claims that the matter of sacraments can change – which no proper theologian would claim, since the matter is part of the very essence of the sacrament, over which the Church has no power, since it is established by Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself – then here you have a simple statement of a Council which happens to be incorrect.

    If the authentic magisterium has erred in the past why would an error in the Second Vatican Council be a problem with regards to religious liberty? Much less a serious problem?

  143. Kenneth, (re: #142)

    First, that’s not a contradiction; at most it would be a contrary. But in fact it is not even a contrary. As Pope Pius XII explains, the intention of “Exultate Deo” is made clear by the fact that

    … at the Council of Florence, in which the union of the Greeks with the Church of Rome was accomplished, it was not imposed on the Greeks that they change the rite of ordination, or that they insert in it the tradition of the instruments; rather, the Church wished that in the City itself (Rome) Greeks be ordained according to their own rite. From all this it is gathered that according to the mind of the Council of Florence the tradition of the instruments is not required for the substance and validity of this sacrament, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. (D2301)

    Thus the tradition of the instruments was not taught by the Council of Florence to be the essential matter of the sacraments. Rather, in designating the matter, it referred to the tradition of the instruments as the terminus ad quem of the Latin rite of ordination, necessarily included within which was the laying on of the bishop’s hands, which was even then considered the essential and sufficient matter of the sacrament. The tradition of the instruments was even then not considered part of the essential matter of the sacrament per se, otherwise the Council would not have considered the Orthodox ordinations valid. Pope Pius XI only made explicit what had always been taught by the Magisterium concerning the matter of the sacrament of ordination. So the teaching was not even a contrary, let alone a contradiction.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  144. Hello all,

    Since the last time I posted on here, I’ve become Catholic (well, almost–I and my family are in RCIA right now). I’ve been continuing to consider the issue discussed in this thread, and have just written up something on it and would be interested to see what people think of it. So here it is.

    Thanks!

  145. Mark,

    Wow! To you and your family, welcome to the Church! Praise God! This is very exciting news – definitely something worth much more than a post #144 in a CTC article… in Christ,

    casey

  146. Thanks, Casey!

  147. In “Vatican II and Religious Freedom: Rupture or Authentic Development?” Carl Olson interviews Dr. David L. Schindler and Dr. Nicholas J. Healy regarding their recent book titled Freedom, Truth, and Human Dignity (Eerdmans, 2015), which includes a detailed examination of and commentary on Dignitatis Humanae.

  148. de Nicola Family Colloquy: “Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty: Revision, Reform, or Continuity?”
    Thomas Pink (King’s College London) and Rev. Martin Rhonheimer (Pontifical University of the Holy Cross), November 20, 2015.

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