Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Catholic Fiction: The Separation of Church & State

A Continuation of Constitutional Fiction: The Separation of Church & State

To repeat: What is the longstanding Catholic teaching on the separation of the Church and State? If we were to make reference to centuries of papal writings one would have to conclude that Chris Coons does not agree with the position of the Catholic Church.

It might scandalize Catholics who subscribe to Secular-liberal principles (and even orthodox Catholics for that matter) that as recent as 1862, Pope Pius IX denounced the following proposition: “In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.” One might be tempted to chalk this up to some kind of an anomaly; that is, an isolated incident. But Pope Leo XIII confirmed twenty-six years later in his encyclical, On the Nature of Human Liberty, that the separation between Church and State is a “fatal theory.”

State neutrality with regard to Christianity as somehow being mandated by the Constitution is legal fiction! Moreover, the separation between the Church and the State as it is commonly conceived today finds no sanction in Catholic doctrine; especially as it pertains to the two thousand years of papal writings. I would even argue that the statements of Pope Pius IX and Leo XIII represent the vast majority of the popes who had anything to say about the relationship between Church and State.

The fruits of a long held Secular understanding of the separation between Church and State are before us. The worries and concerns over jobs and the economy among the voters can be traced to banishment of the Christian religion from our public institutions. As Tocqueville said, religion is the guarantor of morality, and morality, in turn, is the guarantor of freedom. Is it any wonder that the free market has come under assault in recent years? Freedom, even as it applies to the economy, is simply unintelligible without Christianity. But throughout world history, freedom has been the exception, not the rule. It is precarious and for that reason it requires discipline and prudence among the citizenry. However, with all the focus on jobs and the economy- a legitimate concern, no doubt -I am afraid that the public is missing the bigger picture.

More on the next blog