under the patronage of St Joseph and St Dominic
By the rivers of Babylon there we sat and wept, remembering Zion;
AMERICA’S PROBLEMS WITH RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
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Two papers on The Catholic Thing website some three months apart demonstrate the problems inherent in the concept of religious liberty. On 7th February, 2013 the editors published a contribution by Thomas W. Josziewicz, Professor of history at the University of Dallas, entitled The Founders’ Vision of Religious Liberty. On 2nd May they published Gerald J Russello’s The New Era of Religious Liberty. Copies of the papers are reproduced in the Appendix. This article considers the problems.
I. One must first address the whole issue of belief in God.
The apogee of belief lies in a man’s acceptance that it is reasonable to hold that an intellectual and non-material (and therefore invisible) being of supreme power, a Person, exists on whom he is utterly dependent; who created him, who keeps him in existence. He accepts additionally that God has revealed himself and his plans for man who is the chief of his material creatures; that God is concerned with, and influences momently, his life and the life of every man despite what may at times appear to the contrary. He understands that the issue the human mind must address in relation to belief is not, ‘Why is there evil in the world?’ but ‘Whence comes the good of which evil is the deprivation?’
While this faith begins as something human, because it addresses God the ultimate reality it involves an interchange, a conversation, with him. In this converse God reveals something of his own inner life, notably that in this one supreme being there is not one only, but three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He reveals also man’s flawed nature in consequence of original sin and that the Son became a man, Jesus Christ, to redeem mankind from eternal perdition; that he established a Church, an institution comprised of men of which Christ himself is the head. God confirms the believer’s acceptance with a gift, this faith becomes something Divine.
This is the one, the Catholic faith, of whose unity God himself is the source:
II. He who chooses to reject some aspect of God’s revelation compromises this faith and lapses into a merely human religion. Of these there are, first, those who accept his revelation only with qualifications. This is Protestantism which, since quot homines tot sententiae, exists in a great variety of forms some close to, others removed from, the faith given by God. Whatever its shade, this faith is of man; mutable; easily turned into another variety, or lost completely.
The category divides secondly into those who reject the vast body of God’s revelation but retain basic features—such as that God is the creator, that he is one, that he has promised felicity to those who follow his teaching, and so on—but add features that suit their own proclivities, features arrived at usually through some private ‘revelation’. These are the sects, the religions founded on nothing but assertion, lacking any proof that demonstrates a Divine involvement. Of such are the Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Mohammedans and the like.
Finally, there are those who reject the assertion of God’s existence and its possibility, agnostics, Deists, Freemasons and atheists. Today, the majority of Western peoples fall into this last camp.
Thus, the passage from belief in God in accordance with his gift through the Divine Redeemer, Jesus Christ, to mankind down to a professed atheism follows a logical, if irrational, process.
III. The move from belief in God to belief in ‘no-God’ brings with it deleterious effects on both intellect and will. As he descends from Divine faith to the blindness of the secular a man departs from the felt need to comply with the demands of reality and constantly to acknowledge the truth as true. He rejects reality when he rejects the truth that he could not exist without some cause of what he is or of that he is which is itself uncaused. He is disposed by this folly to embrace the simplistic explanations of materialism (which contend that natural being has no more than one cause, matter) and the claims of subjectivism, that what matters is not reality, but what he (or the majority of men) think about reality.
The disposing cause of these departures from principle is that the human intellect is feeble, so feeble that no man is capable of comprehending creation in all its immensity and intricacy. If a man will not believe in God he cannot thereby escape the need for belief. If he will not believe in God, he must believe in something else; must rely on the assertions—most of them unproven—of others. The way is open to engage in further folly, a folly not lessened because he shares it with many others.
IV. Inevitably, when peoples with diverse religious affiliations try to live together in society there are tensions. They will agree over the things they have in common and disagree over the things they do not. The test of unity in matters social is the common good. Pope John XXIII defined it shortly in Mater et Magistra as—
St Thomas was more expansive in his commentary on book I of Aristotle’s Ethics:
Now it is religion that addresses the ultimate end of human life. Hence the most fundamental issue affecting the common good is religion. So, Pope Pius XII wrote—
Accordingly, while toleration of a particular religion may be required in a social mix, the extent to which that toleration should be extended is determined by the effect on the common good. No religion, no ideology, harmful to the common good has a right to be fostered or promoted. Indeed, society’s good may demand its suppression.
Where there is no religion—where atheism reigns—the fundamental element underlying the common good is lost and with it the sense which gives life its ultimate purpose, which makes it worth living. The descent into hedonism of western nations whose members flourished under even a residual Christianity but the bulk of whom have now resorted to atheism is patent for all to see.
V. The Founders’ Vision of Religious Liberty
This is the setting in which to weigh the views of Thomas W. Josziewicz. ‘The Founders’ to which he refers are, of course, the Founding Fathers of the Republic of the United States of America.
The revolution that destroyed the salutary influence of Christ’s Church in France in the late eighteenth century had its effects on the mix of peoples that had gathered, and would gather thereafter, on the north American continent. The burgeoning nation was a melting pot for the religious distortions that flowed from the Protestant Revolt. Yet the dominant influence there was not Protestantism but something that derived from it, the Deism that underlay the French Revolution. This quasi-religion denied that any revelation could come from a supreme being. It offered in lieu a ‘religion’ derived from reason and nature. Deism’s offspring, Freemasonry, soon flourished in innumerable forms in the United States so that Protestantism and even Catholicism became infected with its tenets. The resolution of the issue of religion was not based on the limits demanded by the common good but on a compromise dictated by Deism/Freemasonry. The title of that compromise was ‘religious liberty’.
The ‘First and the Second Great Commandments’ to which Professor Josziewicz refers in his paper are not the first two of the Ten Commandments in Leviticus 19: 18, but those Christ referred to in Mark 12: 29—
Benjamin Franklin’s reported perception that the most acceptable service to God was the doing of good to man subordinated God, and the duties owed Him, to the demands of mankind. This is Deism’s reduction of religion to a pragmatic atheism. So separated, the second commandment reduces to altruism: the acts it inspires are not done for God’s sake—not as a return in quasi-justice for the ineffable gifts of creation, conservation and redemption—but for man’s sake. Every Mason, every quasi-Mason, substitutes altruism, a sort of worship of his fellow man, for latria, the worship he owes Almighty God.
VI. Josziewicz’s bland recitation of the vision of America’s founders—written be it noted for an allegedly Catholic website—ignores the reality that every American, no matter what his religious affiliation, every man no matter what his provenance, is created by the One God; that that One God established a religion for mankind’s welfare and salvation; that a man reduces that religion to parity with any man-made religion at his peril. But that is just what ‘religious liberty’ does.
He fails to recognise that the critical issue is not as, under the influence of the atheism of the French revolutionaries America’s founders thought, freedom, but freedom’s right usage. He does not see as Leo XIII, the greatest of modern popes, saw that the word ‘freedom’ expresses not one but two realities, absolute freedom and moral freedom, and that one may not laud ‘freedom’ let alone ‘religious freedom’ unless he has first understood the distinction and its implications.
So he treats freedom as if there is no such distinction. He repeats the current learning on religious freedom as if it was Catholic teaching. It is not; it never has been Catholic teaching, the ill considered decision of some 2,300 bishops of the Catholic Church in December 1965 notwithstanding. The very concept of religious liberty is self-contradictory and conflictive as anyone with an ounce of sense can see. Consider Josziewicz’s conclusion to his paper:
For a start the Founders were more inclined to atheism than to religion and ‘religious freedom’ includes eo ipso the entitlement to embrace atheism, as Leo XIII noted in Immortale Dei. Next, ‘religious values’ are as various as the religions from which they stem, the ‘religious value’ of one frequently at odds with the ‘religious value’ of another. Thirdly, the term ‘religious truths’ can be said rigorously only of the truths of the Catholic faith because they alone are of God. The ‘truths’ of other religions are truths only in a qualified sense.
‘Religious liberty’ is not, as the bishops of Vatican II thought, an expression of moral liberty. It is absolute liberty by another name. Just as absolute liberty unfettered by the demands of the moral law offends the common good, so does ‘religious liberty’. No one has a moral right to follow the religion of his choice unless that religion is the one true religion established by Almighty God. No religion but this religion has a moral right to exist. Which is not to say that some society may not tolerate a man-made religion, a foreign religion, provided the harm it works does not outweigh the limited advantages it may bring to that society.
VII. The New Era of Religious Liberty
The American legal system suffers the debility—another legacy of France’s revolution—of a ‘bill of rights’ mentality. The mind at work in such a system is inherently atheistic and materialistic. For it involves the implicit assertion of an impossibility, namely, that one can delineate exhaustively the rights that attach to man. Man, the chief of the material creatures of an infinite God, made in God’s image, is himself objectively infinite. So is the ambit of his rights.
The Common Law starts with the Catholic assumption that man’s freedom is given him by God and is only to be curtailed where necessary, through laws which proscribe actions which offend the moral law, or the demands of society which parallel the moral law. Here everything is permitted except what is forbidden: with a ‘bill of rights’ system, the tendency is to hold that everything is forbidden except what is permitted.
Underlying a ‘bill of rights’ system is the preconception that a man’s freedom is something given him by his fellows (an element of Rousseau’s erroneous thesis of ‘the social contract’), not by God. And, what his fellows have given they may take away! The problems with such a system are manifest in the near impossibility of determining with finality the ambit of any of such legislated ‘rights’. In Australia we have but one such. Section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution provides that trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free. This provision has been a constant source of litigation. The High Court has changed its interpretation on numerous occasions and it unlikely that the latest ruling will long abide demand for a further change. No lawyer would be surprised in the least, then, at Russello’s assertion of the situation in the United States in relation to the guarantee in their First Amendment —
In a Common Law system the citizen may, where a law is oppressive, vote out the lawmaker in the hope that his replacement will change things for the better. In a ‘bill of rights’ system the citizen is in the hands of the law’s interpreters, the judges, and the ideology to which they currently adhere. Hence, the assertion in Josziewicz’s paper is, with respect, naïve that—
And if, as Russello complains—
it is not in spite of ‘religious liberty’, it is because of ‘religious liberty’. For ‘religious liberty’ entitles you to believe or disbelieve ad libitum. And if the majority of the people are disbelievers, and the judges are elected by the people, as they are in America, the majority will prevail and the rest must suffer the consequences.
It was primarily because they operated in a ‘bill of rights’ system that the members of the United States Supreme Court were free to import into the Constitution the interpretation of “a wall of separation between church and state”. The reality represented by that expression is not religious, it is Masonic. The ideal situation for any society created by God is active cooperation between the one Church founded by God, the Catholic Church, and the members of that society as Leo XIII taught in Immortale Dei (November 1st, 1885) and elsewhere. But Masonry insists on a doctrine whose slogan one may hear on the lips of any schoolchild, as on those of any social commentator, of any politician—‘separation between church and state’: of course the church at which this doctrine is aimed is the Church of God, the Catholic Church.
Consider the material Russello quotes in the address in 1845 of “the great Catholic American thinker Orestes Brownson”—
Religious liberty is certainly an aspect of absolute liberty, but it is Masonic (derived from Protestantism) to claim that individual conscience is superior to lawful authority. Brownson’s is not a Catholic, but a Masonic, understanding of principle. That religious liberty is not immune from the demands of the moral law nor from rightful intervention by the state for the common good was confirmed in 1851 when Pope Pius IX condemned the proposition—
He repeated this condemnation in 1862 and confirmed it formally in the Syllabus of Errors annexed to the Bull, Quanta cura (December 8th, 1864) in terms which conformed to the requirements laid out six years later (in the Constitution Pastor Aeternus of the Vatican Council) for a papal teaching to proclaim an infallible truth.
Just as absolute liberty should be proscribed whenever moral liberty demands it, so religious liberty should be proscribed whenever it offends the common good, when the harm its exercise brings exceeds any incidental good that results. Hence a good argument could be mounted that, for the good of the American people, Mormonism in its original form at least should have been proscribed. Likewise, an argument can be mounted that Mohammedanism, a religion which troubles the common good of any society in which it is embedded, should be proscribed. This is the practical, if not the theological, reason behind Catholicism’s age-long opposition to Islam.
VIII. Consider the dilemma for America, and Americans. The country proclaims itself ‘the land of the free’. A sort of idolatrous proclamation of freedom, the gift of the heirs of France’s Revolution, stands at the entrance of the country’s chief harbour. Freedom is lauded in America as if it had its home in no other place on earth.
Yet Americans lack many basic freedoms enjoyed by the peoples of other countries. You cannot, for instance, at Christmas time set up in a public place in America a Christmas crib depicting the Holy Family, the shepherds and the wise men who attended them. You would be prosecuted for breaching ‘the wall of separation’; prosecuted, in other words, for offending the Masonic agenda. Americans are deprived by their heritage of the ability to see things other than in fixed categories. Is a foreigner poor or rich? Is he black or white? Is he Protestant or Catholic? That he should be welcomed because he is an individual created by God, because he is a member of the human race, hardly weighs with them.
The obsession with firearms in the name of ‘freedom’, a consequence of the passage of the Second Amendment, puts the very life of the country’s citizen, the very ground of his personal freedom, at risk. The suspicion of a breach of a law in America brings with it consequences which are draconian, utterly removed from a sense of balance. The suspect is likely to be constrained in chains that reduce him to the level of a slave, a great irony given the country’s history. The effect is to assume guilt until the suspect proves himself innocent: the ‘social gift’ of freedom is peremptorily taken from him until he can justify to the people why they should return it.
In their naïve obsession with the concept of freedom, Americans have betrayed its reality. How has this come about? They have adopted the errors of Deism, the errors of the French Revolutionaries. They have confused absolute freedom with moral freedom. They have confused moral freedom with absolute freedom.
THE FOUNDERS’ VISION OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
Thomas W. Josziewicz (Professor of History at the University of Dallas)
It seems politically incorrect today, but the truth is there truly were “Founding Fathers” of the American republic in the latter part of the eighteenth century. The most prominent of these Founders (and Framers as those who would write the second constitution in 1787 were called) are familiar names: Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton.
THE NEW ERA OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
It is a truism among legal scholars that the jurisprudence of religious liberty has long been a near-hopeless mess. Almost seventy years ago, the Supreme Court imported into the Constitution the phrase “wall of separation of church and state,” which has caused endless confusion – since that “wall” was in the mind of no Founder other than perhaps Jefferson, who in any event was in France when the First Amendment was drafted. In response to a perceived need to address this “wall,” the Supreme Court and lower federal courts have devised various tests, standards, and thresholds to interpret the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.
 “[I]t is a violation of reason not to believe in the existence of God… a violation of our moral sense not to believe that God has made himself known to man… that the revelation he has given is Christianity; and… that Christianity is Catholicism…” Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, “The Temporal Mission of the Holy Spirit”, quoted in Manning and Chesterton, Sheridan Gilley, The Chesterton Review, vol. xiii, p. 494.
 St Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on St John’s Gospel, II, ii.
 “[H]e who adheres to the teaching of the Church as to an infallible rule, assents to whatever the Church teaches. It is otherwise if he holds what he chooses to hold of the things taught by the Church and rejects what he chooses to reject, for he no longer adheres to the teaching of the Church as to an infallible rule, but to his own will… It is clear that such a heretic with regard to one article has no faith in the other articles, but only a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will.” St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 5, a. 3; cf. II-II, q. 11, a. 1.
 Such as, the teaching that Christ founded a Church, that he gave the headship of the Church to St Peter and his successors; that it is the Church, and not some self promoting individual, that determines what has been Divinely revealed in the scriptures; that tradition in that Church is to be respected as well as sacred scripture; that marriage is indissoluble; that there are seven sacraments; and so forth.
 Whose dominant thesis is Darwinian evolutionary theory.
 15.5.1961, n. 65; and cf. Gaudium et Spes, n. 26.
 Book I, Lecture 2, n. 30.
 In his Christmas Message of 1942.
 The demands of the common good were sufficient to justify the outlawing of the Communist Party in Australia in 1950. The Australian High Court erred when it disallowed the Communist Party Dissolution Act of Liberal/National Party Government. Sir Own Dixon, a dominant member of the Court, adverted obliquely to the applicable principle when he endorsed the American view that “it is within the necessary power of [a] federal government to protect its own existence and the unhindered play of its legitimate activities.” [Australian Communist Party v Commonwealth (1951) 83 CLR 1, at 188.] While he adverted to the principle which is embodied in Cicero’s aphorism salus populi suprema lex in passing—in a citation from an earlier judge of the Court addressing the powers of the Court in time of war, he did not see it as a principle which applied at all times. Legal positivism deprives the modern judge of the realisation that there is no element of posited law which is not an application by the human mind of law imprinted on his being by nature; a further instance of the evils that follow on loss of belief in God.
 And Matthew 22: 34 et seq.
 Who, in the blasphemous oaths in which he indulges, mocks God to his face.
 1st November, 1885, n. 31.
 Experiential proof of this is provided by the recurring exercise by the United States legislature addressing perceived shortcomings in existing ‘rights’ by ‘Amendments’ to the Constitution.
 Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
 Democracy’s major problem: a wrong thinking majority exercises a sort of tyranny over the right thinking minority.
 In the Condemnation Multiplices inter, June 10th 1851.
 In the Allocution Maxima quidem on June 9th, 1862.