In conclusion, as I finish my journey through the conceptual background of the Lake Garda Declaration, I return to a sensible little book on the Council by the Dominican polymath and theologian Fr Aidan Nichols (The Council in Question, 2011). I quoted it in earlier parts of this post; it has a characteristically down-to-earth Foreward by Cardinal Pell ( "When the reforms of Vatican II were imposed, unexpected consequences followed, especially when leaders were naive and optimistic, underestimating the virulence of hostile forces ..." Bull's eye, Eminence). This is what Fr Aidan has to say:
" ...the 'Declaration on Religious Freedom' occasions a genuine difficulty for orthodox Catholics ... it is not immediately apparent how to reconcile its acknowledgement of the traditional teaching about the Christendom State with its development of the teaching about the freedom of the act of faith. If we are unpersuaded of a difficulty here, we have only to look at its aftermath. Except among two groups, the period since the Second Vatican Council has witnessed a withdrawal from 'theo-politics' on the part of the hierarchy. Traditionalists and Liberation theologians, neither group popular with Rome, are the two constituencies that have most vocally supported a continuing appeal to civil society to recognise evangelical and Catholic truth not just in the private lives of individual citizens but also in its public institutions, which include, of course, society's own legal form, the State. Does the Declaration bear some responsibility for this dereliction of duty? I do not think we can wholly exculpate the fathers of the Council ... . ... publicly recognising divine revelation is an entailment of the Kingship of Christ on which, despite its difficulties in a post-Enlightenment society, we must not renege."
I will not dispute with extreme violence Fr Nichols' view that the withdrawal from theo-politics on the part of the hierarchy constituted a dereliction of duty. And even when he concludes with a final suggestion that "a truly excellent statement on this whole topic" by the Holy See and the SSPX could "renew the Christendom aspiration of the whole Church", I will only throw my hands up in moderate and distinctly attenuated shock and horror.
18 July 2015
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I have not yet read Fr Nichols work on this point, so forgive me if he has considered these particular questions:
1. What is the scope of coercive secular authority that the Church would ideally expect to exert over its baptized members? Canonically, we have, principally, denial of Holy Communion, and full excommunication, but what civil remedies should the Catholic Church request of the state as its agent to enforce? Would this entail deprivation of property rights (extra tax, fines, etc.) or even deprivation of the liberty of the person (parole terms, jail, etc.?).
2. If the answer as to deprivation of property or liberty right in #1 is affirmative, what effect does this have in our current Western culture of our evangelistic mandate (ie., would we scare the pants off potential converts)? And how does the substance of this differ from Sharia law's claim of death to apostate Muslims (other than, perhaps, in the severity of the sentence)? Would the potential benefit to shaking a relapsed Catholic back into a course towards eternal salvation be outweighed by the effect this public discipline would have on potential converts?
3. If the answer as to deprivation of property and liberty rights in #1 is negative, what other remedies would the state enforce visa-vis unrepentant lapsed Catholics?
4. Catholic teaching has always been clear that the unbaptized may not be coerced into accepting our Lord as Saviour. In a hypothetically "Catholic" country, with a majority of Catholics, what could the Church realistically request of secular leaders in terms of public recognition of Catholic Faith and Morals that affects all of society (believers and non-believers alike)? For example, should we return to Sunday rest laws? Should public leaders be encouraged to open legislative session exclusively with the Lord's prayer? Should our Constitutions (as does my home country's Constitution) recognize the supremacy of God (although precisely which theological understanding of Him)? Would the coercive authority of the state be used to ban certain sinful behaviour of individuals and, if so, on what grounds (for example, I assume we would not invoke Levitical Purity Code sanctions on adulterers, given that we are in the New Covenant, but would we ban pornography and prostitution)?
We have reached the stage where an assessment of Vat II can begin to be made. Not a pretty picture!
That there was a “withdrawal” of the Hierarchy and Council Fathers is now clear. History will reveal further how grave this has been.
Dignitatis Humanae is a faulty document. It has many ambiguities, the “subsists” clause being the most infamous. But it is essentially about the Church's right to be free from political persecution. The term “Government” occurs 18 times. It was written at the height of the Cold War when half of Europe and many other parts of the world were under the atheistic Marxist Socialist yoke.
That said , sections 2 and in particular, 14 makes it quite clear that that the Truth lies in the Catholic Church and all are bound to acknowledge and accept that, whatever conscience-wise doubts exist.
And yes, for Heavens sake, let's get the soundly Catholic SSPX back into full union with the Church, although I would not say no to many of the profoundly heterodox and heretical groups who seem to continue as “Catholics” being turfed out!
I agree, and I think that Archbishop Lefebvre would have been less frustrated with DH had he been able to see that it was directed at Communist regimes.
I certainly appreciate this series of posts. Being at Lake Garda was a totally refreshing and invigorating experience, one I hope will sustain me until such time as I can return.
On Christ as King, I and my sons said that prayer nightly for many years, until they were off on their own. And now, per John Rao's recommendation, I will take it up again. It covers all of the important needs of modern man. What better way to rest at night, knowing that one has entrusted his family and world to the King of Creation (and perhaps, adding the prayer to St. Michael). God bless you, Father, for reminding us of the importance of this activism and devotion.
I'm still not sure whether we are speaking, but I remain your almost anonymous friend in the far off reaches of west coast USA,
Mrs. Mary Jones
Dear (if I may) Mary
Thank you for that. Gardone was indeed great fun, wasn't it? I shall retain happy memories of that "Rest Room" at the back of that Trattoria whose name I forget in that gorgeous village with the castle and the mills whose name I forget on the River Mincio. I'm very glad you plan a return. So do I. Placeat Omnipotenti!
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