Opus Publicum links to an essay by Dr. John Lamont critiquing the Pink thesis and laying out his own understanding of Dignitatis Humanae and its compatibility with Tradition. According to Lamont, traditional Catholic teaching holds that the state did have its own authority of religious coercion (plus attendant duty to recognize the true faith and accept the Church’s rulings on matters of orthodoxy), rather than only having such when delegated by the Church. His arguments don’t seem to me to be decisive (e.g. the fact that the temporal but not spiritual power could execute heretics; it seems possible that the Church might have an authority that it would be unfitting to exercise directly). He shows that the futility of attempting to coerce an interior act of faith is part of the Tradition. He also amasses evidence that Christian rulers were held to have a duty to defend the Faith precisely as rulers rather than as private believers. I think the case for this is conclusive, but I hadn’t realized Pink was arguing the opposite. Nor does he agree that Dignitatis Humanae revoked the state’s religious duties, as seen in its exceptions to religious freedom in the name of public order, which in the canon law of the time included the spiritual common good.
What, then, did Dignitatis Humanae actually do? According to Lamont, it drew a new limit to the state’s legitimate rationale in regulating religion. Whereas the Church may employ at least mild coercion on the faithful for the good of their own souls, the state’s coercion may only be employed to defend the spiritual common good.
Along the way, Lamont argues that the condemnation of religious freedom in Quanta Cura is an infallible ex cathedra statement.
How, though, could the Council Fathers have ended up approving a document which seems to be saying something so different from what it actually says? Lamont tells a similar story to Pink/Waldstein. The theologians believed in religious freedom, but couldn’t agree on the theological rationale. Murray and Maritain were working from a very crude idea of the separation of man’s natural and supernatural ends to endorse public secularism. De Lubac also promoted public secularism even though the natural consequence of his abolition of pure nature would have been the opposite: an extreme Guelph position. One can’t help coming away with the impression that the main actors in this drama weren’t very bright, that they made up ad hoc theological justifications in the service of political partisanship. (It’s quite scandalous how much feelings regarding Action Francaise seem to have driven the debate.)
By the way, some choice quotes on the Council:
The second peculiar circumstance was that the Second Vatican Council was run on a ‘bishop’s conference’ model. Previous ecumenical councils had considered itessential to thoroughly debate the questions they were addressing. At the Council of Trent, for example, there were two sets of debates; first, questions were debated by theologians who argued against each other while the bishops listened, and then the bishops themselves debated the theological questions prior to voting on them. At theSecond Vatican Council, however, thorough and objective theological debate was notthe main way in which decisions were arrived at. The predominant factors were bureaucratic manoeuvring, public relations, and parliamentary manipulation – thestandard methods by which bishops’ conferences are run – on the part of the mostinfluential figures at the Council and their supporters.This element was notably present in the production of Dignitatis Humanae. The decisive stage at the council was the drafting of the texts presented to the council to be voted upon, rather than the theological debate over the issues discussed by these documents; and the drafting of these texts was determined by the control of the committees that produced them. The text of Dignitatis Humanae began as a document composed by two bishops and two theologians in Fribourg in 1960. The preparatory commissions for the Council had produced a text on religious freedom in ch. 9 of its document De Ecclesia, a text that agreed with A) to F) above [statements of the traditional position]. All the preparatory documents for the Council were however rejected without any proper debate on their contents. Through the initiative of the Secretariat for Christian Unity under Cardinal Bea, the Fribourg text, which agreed with the Liberal Catholic position, was adopted as the basis for a document on religious freedom…Another reason is the character of the process that produced Dignitatis Humanae. This process included the suppression of views contrary to those of the drafters of the document, the misrepresentation of previous magisterial teaching, and the avoidance of debate on crucial issues. It was a squalid episode that reflects the greatest discredit on Bishop de Smedt and his allies. This attempt at hoodwinking the Council Fathers nonetheless had considerable success.
Filed under: Catholic doctrine |