Religious Liberty

November 3, 1996

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

There is a can of worms I want to open yet again, because these worms do untold harm to Catholics' innards without their even being aware of it. The can of worms is religious liberty.

To re-open the can may be hurtful, but it is made necessary by, for instance, the recent article of a Catholic writer here in the United States of America knocking down with one hand what she builds up with the other, because even while hating Vatican II she believes in one of its key errors, namely religious liberty. Since this writer Understands Otherwise Catholic doctrine, let us call her U.O. and press on with the arguments.

U.O.'s self-contradiction appeared earlier this year in an article criticising Dr. John Rao's lecture on "Why Catholics Cannot Defend Themselves", an overview of which was sent out with this letter last year. You may remember that Dr. Rao argued that the collapse of the Catholic Church over the last half-century was to be blamed on Catholics having been conquered by pluralism, meaning the wide-spread modern acceptance of freedom for all different religions to coexist in peace (religious liberty). For, once a mind holding a single Truth like Catholicism accepts plural truths, its grip on that single Truth is bound to be loosened until it can lose the Catholic Faith. As Dr. Rao said, this disintegration of Truth by pluralism can be especially seen in the United States of America, where the pluralism originally imported from Europe so flourished that it was re-exported to Rome for the Second Vatican Council, to be spread from there by the Church all over the world.

The objection of U.O. to Dr. Rao's analysis is essentially twofold. Firstly, in general, U.O. distinguishes pluralism in the Church or in the supernatural domain from pluralism in the State or in the natural domain. Now of course, says U.O., to accept a plurality of truths in the supernatural domain is out of the question for Catholics who know there is only one religious Truth; but to accept a plurality of faiths or religions in the natural domain of the State is not only "in the modern systems of democracy an absolute necessity inasmuch as it secures the peaceful co-existence of diverse religious communities", but also it is a positively good thing because, for instance, "a free competition of different Christian religions... has worked well in asserting the absolute superiority of the Roman Catholic Church over all other Christian sects".

Thus, secondly, in answer to Dr. Rao's accusations against pluralism in the United States of America in particular, U.O. replies that "the excellent Christian social order of the U.S. Republic brought forth the most prosperous Christian nation in modern times, simultaneously giving the impetus to the wonderful growth of the Catholic Church in this hemisphere".

On these two points, general and particular, U.O.'s thinking is as common amongst American Catholics as Dr. Rao's thinking is rare. Nevertheless, Dr. Rao is right, and U.O. is in self-contradiction, or, Dr. Rao is Catholic and U.O. is Liberal. Since general governs particular, let us start with her first objection.

To answer Dr. Rao's accusation that pluralism is what paralyses Catholics, she distinguishes Church pluralism, which she admits would indeed undo Catholics, from State pluralism, which she says Catholics should not only accept but also rejoice in. But this distinction rests upon the separation of Church and State, which is a Liberal principle constantly condemned by the true Church. Her distinction wants to place that separation in the mind. Thus in the upper or "supernatural" part of my mind, she wants plurality of truths to be unacceptable, whereas in the lower or "natural" part of my mind, she wants plurality of truths to be acceptable.

But, as Mother Church knows and teaches, that is not how truth works, nor how a truthful mind works. That is only how a divided mind works. Either truth excludes error both in the upper and lower parts of my mind, or it excludes it in neither, but it cannot exclude it in one and not in the other, except in a divided mind. But as the Truth is one, so the mind seeks to be one, so the divided mind is unstable and will seek stability in unity.

Therefore if I refuse Church pluralism but accept State pluralism, one of two things will happen: either by believing firmly that plurality of truths is unacceptable in Church I will arrive at the Catholic position that it is equally unacceptable in the State (although the State will only coerce error if that is both possible and, for the salvation of souls, in the circumstances, prudent); or, being a liberal convinced of the wisdom of pluralism in the State, I will, like so many U. S. Catholics, in effect pay merely lip service to the Catholic Church being the one and only true Church. Of such Catholics (who include too many "'Traditionalists") it can be said that their real religion is not their Catholicism, but that which really holds their minds and their lives together, namely their liberalism or Americanism.

A good illustration of a sane man's natural refusal to split his mind, and hence of the unnaturalness of Liberalism's Church-State split, was to be found in the Angelus article of July, 1995, by Edwin Faust. During his Pennsylvania boyhood in the 1950's, he wrote, "few then considered that God and country might be at enmity", especially as they were both enemies of Communism. "Bred of an ignorance of history and abetted by Americanist sentiment, that habit of the Catholic mind that blinds itself to conflicts between the Faith and the Republic was taking shape in me. Later, when these conflicts became apparent, they gave rise to cynicism. My mind seemed a collection of beliefs like so many pieces of a puzzle that failed to fit together. As is the case with many young people new to the habit of self-reflection, the weight of contradictions bore down on me and I wanted to rid myself of all I had been taught to that point and begin again" (my underlinings).

Along the same lines, to exclude error from the Church but not from the State, as U.O. proposes, is a contradiction that will usually be resolved, given original sin, in favour of error being admissible in both. In vain U.O. hates Vatican II, when the split she proposes between Church and State pluralism contains all Vatican II in a nut-shell!

It also, as Dr. Rao claimed, turns men's minds to mush. Here is how. To be different at all, different religions must contradict one another on some point of doctrine (notably the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, or the divine institution of his one Catholic Church). If then the State is to treat all religions alike, the State will encourage in its citizens' minds contradiction, at least in questions of religion. But if contradiction in religion does not matter, then truth in religion does not matter. But if truth in religion does not matter, how can religion matter? (And if truth in religion does not matter, what truth matters? The mind is mush, sentiment is all.)

The United States' founding President, George Washington, wanted religion, any religion, to back the new nation's morals. But how can a religion of doubtful truth back anything? Men's minds do pot work that way. To give backing, religion must have truth. But the State which is pluralist in religion undermines the truth of all religion.

Thus God's having over the last 40 years been driven out of the U.S.A. public schools is not, as the decent patriots following George Washington claim, despite the First Amendment, but it is, as the indecent but logical liberals claim, because of the First Amendment. Decency is in the long run no match for logic. Principles matter. So if the Founding Fathers bequeathed to the Republic that they founded decent instincts but liberal principles, the contradiction might last for a while, but sure enough, principles in minds eventually prevailed and the Republic is inexorably disintegrating. If Americans now wish to save anything of all that was truly decent in their Republic, they must re-found it on integrally Catholic principles.

That is why, to come to U.O.'s second objection, she is only superficially right when she claims that "the excellent Christian social order of the U.S. Republic" gave "the impetus to the wonderful growth of the Catholic Church in the hemisphere". That "wonderful growth" had a mighty collapse in the 1960's, because Catholic bricks were held together not with Catholic mortar but, as Edwin Faust suggests, with Liberal sand. Then was that "wonderful growth" so wonderful? Or, is Bing Crosby "Sound of Music" Catholicism Catholic?

Objection: the 1960's Church collapsed world-wide, not just in the U.S.A. Reply: true, all nations were rotten with their own rot, but firstly, it is surely more profitable on this side of the Atlantic to tell of the form the rot took on this side of the Atlantic, and secondly, as Dr. Rao (a New Yorker) truly says, the virus of pluralism originally imported from Europe (England) to the Americas was re-exported from the United States to Vatican II. The essential problem is doctrinal, not national, but because the United States happened to be founded on religious liberty, the problem in the USA is accessorily national as well as doctrinal. Hence a local name for the virus is "Americanism".

So U.O. is superficially right in saying that the U.S. social order promoted Church growth, but Dr. Rao is profoundly right when he says that the pluralism underpinning that social order undermined the Catholic Church. U.O. will surely object that Leo XIII in "Longinqua Oceani" praised the U.S. social order, but that paragraph of Leo XIII must be read in context, and taken together with everything else Leo XIII wrote on these questions, notably in his great Encyclical on "Liberty", roundly condemning religious liberty, separation of Church and State, freedom of the press, etc., etc.. (The Encyclical is available for a few dollars from Angelus Press, 2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109, USA, and a volume of Leo's Encyclicals can be had from TAN Books, Rockford, Illinois 61105, for $25 including postage.)

Leo's Encyclical on liberty is also presented and explained in the video-tapes of the Winona 1996 Doctrinal Session, together with three other basic Encyclicals to present the Catholic Popes' clinical diagnosis of today's ills. Order with the enclosed flyer. Surely profitable Christmas presents.

And for Christmas cards, the Seminary is laying in a stock of new four-colour cards (original painting by Brother Marcel) which for a small donation you can send to your friends with the promise of their intentions being included in the Novena of Masses celebrated from Christmas Night on the Seminary's main altar. Order as many as you like, for early December.

On that altar now and through November lie the cards you sent in for Holy Souls, and all cards from previous years. May these souls rest in peace.

Most sincerely yours in Christ,