19 January 2009

Burning for Unity

To Evensong at the Oratory this evening: so superior to the College Chapels with their 'performance' style of worship. At S Alyoggers, no musical extravaganzas but just 6 or12 young clergymen singing their Office simply together; followed by Benediction. As I walked down S Giles afterwards with a friendly seminarian, the conversation turned, I'm nor quite sure how, to the practice of burning heretics. It was particularly in my mind anyway, because a couple of days ago Pam and I senior-citizen-bus-passed our way to Thame, where the Church contains the monument of one 'Lord Williams'; son of one of the Welshmen-on-the-make who accompanied Henry Tudor in the Welsh invasion of 1485. Williams himself, who made a packet out of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, has the countenance of an unreflective bruiser. In the reign of Good Queen Mary, he presided at the burning of Latimer and Ridley. (Quaeritur: should he be in the Guiness Book of Records? Is there anybody else in history who got to preside at the burning of two bishops?) Ridley's last cry was along the lines of 'Lord, I commend my cause to you'. Williams, affecting to consider the cry as addressed to himself, replied 'Master Ridley, I will consider your plea'. Now that really does count as Kicking A Man When He Is Down. Compared with it, the humour of the pre-War Anglo-Catholic Society of S Peter and S Paul ('For Sale: Latimer and Ridley Pricket Stands') seems almost kindly.

Somehow, I have never got round to reading the Vatican II decree on Religious Liberty, although I know it must be sound because the blogosphere has recently revealed to us a picture of the official copy of the decree with Archbishop Lefebvre's signature on it. Can somebody better read than me let us know whether it contains anything on the ecumenism of burning heretics?


Anonymous said...

But didn't Jesus burn heretics?

Ttony said...

I believe that it says that burning heretics is fine if it done with love and in the vernacular.

Independent said...

Although emphatically not more learned than your good self on subjects such as the fathers, I have read the decree which you mention and it would appear not only to rule out any religious persecution in the future but by implication to suggest that it was wrong in the past. Indeed it says at one point "In the life of the People of God as it has made its pilgrim way through the vicissitudes of human history, there have at times appeared ways of acting which were less in accord with the spirit of the gospel and even opposed to it".

Chapter I General Principle of Religious Freedom - 2. " This Vatican Synod declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion....... in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs ....

This Synod 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" (WM Abbott, "Documents of Vatican II" , Angelus Books, NY 1966, pp 675 - 696) for the text of the decree)

Since it is considerably different from the Syllabus of Errors 0f 1864, it poses a considerable problem for theologians how the development from the one to the other occurred. It is argued that this problem of development was the reason why the decree was so hotly contested

Also it puts to rest the idea that "error has no rights" which is held now only by Muslims and Secularists . Catholics used to believe that but now they cannot.
I can remember when Protestant Churches existed in Spain only on sufferance.

Unknown said...


I am afraid that this is not so. The Declaration on Religious Liberty does not create any new doctrine. Rather it is a re-emphasis on the Church's eternal position that all have the right to chose to reject God and that Christians also have the right to practice their religion in peace and a de-emphasis on the unrealistic hope that secular societies of today will restore the Catholic Integral state.

Dignitatis Humanae lays down not only that religious liberty, while being an abstract right, can and should be curtailed a)"within due limits" and b) by "the just requirements of public order." Now this means that within the context of a Catholic state (ie that mode of governments that all Catholics must work for the creation of) the public practice and preaching of false religions can be curtailed. This is more fully explained in the article I attach a link to below. I reproduce the rub of the matter below:

"Usually the supposed contradiction in Church teaching on religious liberty is seen as a conflict between earlier papal teaching and Dignitatis Humanae. But if the text of Dignitatis Humanae is taken seriously this is not so. Dignitatis Humanae states, as I quoted above, that it 'leaves intact the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of . . . societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ.' The moral duty of societies toward the true faith and Church, however, is precisely those propositions found in the traditional papal teaching supposedly at variance with Dignitatis Humanae. In other words, if an interpretation of the declaration is insisted upon that conflicts with Gregory XVI, Pius IX, et al, then Dignitatis Humanae conflicts with itself, for, as I just quoted, the earlier teaching, far from being changed, is explicitly left intact. If we keep this in mind when reviewing the declaration, we will see that the common interpretation, although at first glance seemingly obvious, must be based on a misunderstanding. Probably Dignitatis Humanae was intended to be irenic, and perhaps some of its framers wanted to change the teaching, but as Fr. Most points out, 'we must confine ourselves to what the writer succeeded in setting down on paper explicitly.' No one will deny that Dignitatis Humanae says what it says in a curious way, but I think I have shown that one need not read it in such a way that it conflicts with former teaching."

In all, any the reading of DH that you advocate is, I am afraid, wrong.

Anonymous said...

Vatican 2 produced documents that, unfortuantely, are wide open to interpretation - having even exposed the Pope to, of all things, manipulation by Jews! Dignitatis Humane smacks of Freemasonry.

Every now and again someone runs a new g-i-s-t up the flag pole (AKA reform of the reform) which distracts folks for a bit; but shortly things return to the vomit of a liberal paradigm. V2 was either an unmitigated disaster or the Roman Church lacks a Newman to "Tract-90" the V2.

The fact that ++Lefebvre signed the document shows that even great men can be led down the primrose path. He agian showed this tendency by insisting on the use of the so called 1962 Missal, which I am told priests of the time descirbed as either "the Missal that nobody knew about" or "the Missal that nobody used."

Independent said...

One realises that no Roman Catholic blog seems to be complete without at least one anti-semite, holocaust denier, or believer in Jewish conspiracies, so it is not surprising that in this Anglican one the deficiency seems to some extent to be supplied by rev'd up.

As for Christian his interpreation of the Decree would seem to align him with the Moslem world where a "true" religion is supposed to have the right to
persecute (he says "curtail") all other religions. He seems to live in the world of Franco's Spain where one's allegiance to the state was measured by one's attendance at church. The decree makes it clear that the Church does not deal with the secular order in terms of a double standard demanding freedom when a minority, and privilege and intolerance for others when in a majority.

It is perhaps better to read documents for what they say rather than in the light of what they repudiate or re-interpret. I would suggest that people read the decree itself. It is not an apologia for totalitarianism but a repudiation of it.Pope Paul VI called it "one of the major texts of the Council" an appelation which could not be given to minor amendments in teaching.

Unknown said...


I am sorry if I sounded sharp in my last comment but you must understand that this is a vitally important point. What I think of religious freedom is really totally irrelevant. What is important is to show that no 'change' in teaching has occurred. If that had happened then the sedevecantists and SSPXers are right and all those who follow V2 are heretics. Whatever you or I say does not take that away. I say again; the document explicitly says that it "leaves intact the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of . . . societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ." If the document was a change in the traditional teaching why would this be said? Why the specific qualifications? Why did the bishops of Spain and Latin America not go home and remove all laws against the practice of false religions?

Indeed, during the debate on the document during the Council the document was only passed because, after many a cry of 'error has no rights', one bishops stood up and said that "error has no rights, but those in error do". In that way the slogan is in fact still fully applicable.

Besides, the teaching does not hold a double standard. It holds one thing for the truth (as we see it) and one thing for error (as we see it). Surely that is only reasonable. A myriad of papal documents have explained this clear logic. Fundamentally, why should truth be held on the same level as falsehood?

Now you see why the interpretation that I just put up is the only one that can be followed?

Anonymous said...

The reality is that the document in question, Dignitatis Humanae, subordinates the Church to the state. This in the face of the traditional principle that, objectively speaking: Neither evil nor error can be the object of a right. The state has been ceded the jurisdiction by DH to ultimately decide what "right" is - meaning evil and error are no longer objectively measured. Murry and his cohorts forgot that men are intrinsically nasty brutes and the presumption of a "limited constitutional state" was the sport of fools, to say the least.

Most people could not read between the lines of the Council's documents and the end result has been skyrocketing divorce rates, runaway conception prevention, sodomites on parade and (worst of all) sacrilege against the Body and Blood of Christ. For crying out loud, Christopher West (Imprimatur, Archbishop Charles Chaput) has told men it's OK to bugger their wives as long as it's "only foreplay." Disgusting, huh?

Could this have been the case before V2?

Presbyter: I'm sorry you see me as an "anti-Semite." I assure you I have absolutely nothing but the tenderest sympathies for Palestinians. As for their oppressors - they are not Semites - no matter what the state says. Read John viii.39 for the spiritual reason. Read Arthur Koestler for the genetic reason.