Skip to comments.The Liberalism of John Paul II
Posted on 12/02/2005 5:46:55 PM PST by annalex
Copyright (c) 1997 First Things 73 (May 1997): 16-21.
It is no secret that when Centesimus Annus appeared in 1991 some of us viewed it not only as an important teaching moment but also as a vindication of our understanding of Catholic social doctrine. There was a great temptation to declare triumphantly, "I told you so." That temptation was not always resisted as it should have been. This contributed to a degree of polarization over the encyclical. Liberals who paid any attention at all to the document were not convinced of the demise of socialism and lifted up passages that they thought supportive of their collectivist dream. But, for the most part, liberals paid little attention. As with the other great teaching documents of the pontificate of John Paul II, the appearance of Centesimus Annus was for most liberal Catholics a nonevent.
The stronger polarization developed between certain conservatives and those called neoconservatives, the former accusing the latter of hijacking this pontificate, and Centesimus Annus in particular, in order to gain magisterial legitimation for what is called democratic capitalism or liberal democracy. The neoconservatives are described, and sometimes describe themselves, as advancing "The Murray Project," referring to the effort of the late Father John Courtney Murray to square Catholic teaching with the American democratic experiment. The conservative criticsfor instance, Professor David Schindler of the John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C.accuse Murray and those like him of selling out authentic Catholic teaching to a desiccated and desiccating liberalism.
Schindler writes in his recent book, Heart of the World, Center of the Church: "My argument, then, offered in the name of de Lubac and Pope John Paul II as authentic interpreters of the Second Vatican Council, has two main implications. First, it demands that we challenge the regnant liberalism which would claim that it (alone) is empty of religious theory in its interpretation of the First Amendment and indeed of Western constitutionalism more generally. Secondly, it demands that we seek a truly Catholic Moment in America [as distinct from Richard John Neuhaus Catholic Moment], understood, that is, not as another Murrayite moment but as a truly Johannine (John Paul II) moment. This means that we must expose the con game of liberalism which enables it, precisely without argument, to privilege its place in the public order."
In his book, and repeatedly in the pages of the English edition of Communio, of which he is the editor, Schindler assaults the liberal "con game" in which he thinks some of us are complicit. I confess that I find this somewhat frustrating. In my experience, David Schindler is a friendly fellow. We have engaged our differences in both private and public exchanges, after which he ends up agreeing that there is no substantive disagreement between us. I always look forward to our next amicable conversation, and brace myself for his next public attack.
I do think there is an important difference between us. It is not, or at least it is not chiefly, a difference over Catholic theology. The difference, rather, is that Prof. Schindler and those who are associated with his criticism tend to put the worst possible construction upon the liberal tradition, and on the American cultural, legal, and political expression of that tradition. In doing so, I believe Prof. Schindler and his friends hand an undeserved victory to those who interpret the liberal tradition in ways that we all deplore. With John Courtney Murray, I suggest that our task is to contend for an interpretation of liberalism that is compatible with the fullness of Catholic truth.
There is no doubt that the American experiment is constituted in the liberal tradition. Since we cannot go back to the eighteenth century and reconstitute it on different foundations, we must hope that the foundations on which it is constituted are not those described by Ronald Dworkin, John Rawls, Richard Rortyand David Schindler. Toward the end of understanding the liberal tradition as consistent with Catholic truth, Centesimus Annus is an invaluable guide.
Liberalism, needless to say, is a wondrously pliable term. There is the laissez-faire economic liberalism condemned by Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum, and also by John Paul II. In American political culture that liberalism goes by the name of libertarianism, and, despite its many talented apologists, including Charles Murray (no relation to John Courtney), it has never acquired many adherents beyond what Russell Kirk called its "chirping sectaries." In the American context, libertarianism remains in the largest part a thought experiment for college sophomores of all ages.
The liberalism so fiercely criticized today is not limited to libertarianism. At the hands of the critics, the republican liberalism of virtue and the communitarian liberalism of Tocquevillian civil society come off little better than libertarianism. David Schindler has good ecumenical company in attacking liberalism tout court. Stanley Hauerwas, a Methodist theologian at Duke University, has in books beyond number been assaulting, hammering, pummeling, and battering it with magnificent aplomb. Liberalism and all its ways and all its pomps has more recently taken a severe beating from Oliver ODonovan, Regius Professor of Theology at Oxford. Despite his Anglican bias against what he calls "papalism," I most warmly recommend his book, The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology (Cambridge University Press). It is not only a devastatingly convincing critique of a certain version of liberalism, but also a fascinating examination of what the idea of "Christendom" might mean in our moment of modernitys discontent.
We can summarize some of the salient points in the indictment offered by the Christian critics of liberalism and modernity (the two terms usually being more or less interchangeable). Whether it be the enchanted G. K. Chesterton, the near-magisterial Alasdair MacIntyre, the caustic George Grant, the swashbuckling Stan Hauerwas, the daring ODonovan, or the melancholic David Schindler, the indictment tends to be much the same. Lest there be any misunderstanding, let me say that I find myself in warm agreement with the indictment of a certain kind of liberalism. The contention turns on what we mean by liberalism.
The first charge is that Christian thinkers have been too ready to trim the Christian message in order to accommodate the ruling cultural paradigm of liberalism. I definitely agree. That, however, is more accurately seen as an indictment of Christian thinkers, not of liberalism. If we are hesitant to declare in public that Jesus Christ is Lord, the fault is in ourselves. We cannot plead the excuse that liberalism made us do it. John Rawls or Richard Rorty or the Supreme Court, claiming to speak in the name of liberalism, may have intimidated us, but the fault is with our timidity.
Other points in the indictment of liberalism are variously expressed. It is charged that liberalism is purely procedural. Excluding the consideration of ends, liberalism claims to be only about means, but in fact disguises its ends in its means. Thus Father Murrays construal of the First Amendment as "articles of peace" is in factor so the indictment readsa surrender to the inherently antireligious bias of liberalism. In short, the claimed "neutrality" of liberalism is anything but neutral. Liberalism, it is charged, is premised upon the fiction of a "social contract" that is, in turn, premised exclusively upon self-interest. Liberalism denies, or at least requires agnosticism about, transcendent truth or divine law, recognizing no higher rule than the self-interested human will. Liberalisms idea of freedom is freedom from any commanding truth that might impinge upon the totally voluntaristic basis of social order.
These liberal dogmas, it is further charged, are inextricably tied to the dynamics of capitalism. Liberal dogma and market dynamics are the mutually reinforcing foundation and end of a social order that is entirely and without remainder in the service of individualistic choices by the sovereign, autonomous, and unencumbered Self. The wages of liberalism is consumerism, and consumerism is all-consuming. The end result is what some critics call "liberal totalitarianism."
It is an impressive indictment, and it is supported by impressive evidence. Against each of the distortions mentioned, I have written at length, as have others who are favorably disposed toward liberal democracy or, as some prefer, democratic capitalism. But that is just the point: one may argue that the indictment is an indictment of the distortions of liberalism. If that is the case, we are contending for the soul of the liberal tradition.
A personal word might be in order. In the 1960s I was very much a man of the left. Not the left of countercultural drug-tripping and generalized hedonism, but the left exemplified by, for instance, the civil rights movement under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In the latter half of the 1960s this began to change with the advent of the debate over what was then called "liberalized" abortion law. By 1967 I was writing about the "two liberalisms"one, like that earlier civil rights movement, inclusive of the vulnerable and driven by a transcendent order of justice, the other exclusive and recognizing no law higher than individual willfulness. My argument was that, by embracing the cause of abortion, liberals were abandoning the first liberalism that has sustained all that is hopeful in the American experiment.
That is my argument still today. It is, I believe, crucially important that that argument prevail in the years ahead. There is no going back to reconstitute the American order on a foundation other than the liberal tradition. A great chasm has opened between the liberal tradition and what today is called liberalism. That is why some of us are called conservatives. Conservatism that is authentically and constructively American conservatism is conservatism in the cause of reappropriating and revitalizing the liberal tradition.
Toward that end, Centesimus Annus, as I said, is an invaluable guide. The document is often described as an encyclical on economics, but I suggest that is somewhat misleading. Certainly it addresses economic questions in considerable detail. One reason for that is that the encyclical is commemorating and developing the argument of Rerum Novarum, which was much and rightly concerned about the problems of the worker and the threat of class warfare in an earlier phase of capitalism. Another reason for the focus on economics is that the Pope is addressing the situation following the Western-assisted suicide of the Soviet empire, and that empire had justified itself by a false ideology that reduced the human phenomenon to the economic dimension. In explaining why that ideology is false and in pointing the way toward a more promising future, it was necessary for the encyclical to pay close attention to economics.
It is more accurate, however, to say that Centesimus Annus is about the free society, including economic freedom. The discussion of Rerum Novarum, of the right understanding of property and exchange, and of the circumstances following the momentous events of 1989, culminates in chapters V and VI, "State and Culture," and "The Person Is the Way of the Church." When we consider the encyclical in relation to American liberalism, several cautions are in order. Centesimus Annus is not a free-standing text. It must be understood within the large corpus of this most energetic teaching pontificate, and, beyond that, in the context of modern Catholic social doctrine dating from Rerum Novarum. Even further, it must be understood in continuity with the Churchs teaching ministry through the centuries. Then too, we must always be mindful that the Pope is writing for and to the universal Church.
Keeping these and other cautions in mind, however, one cannot help but be struck by how much Centesimus Annus is a reading of "the signs of the time" with specific reference to the world-historical experiences of this century. The encyclical is not historicist, in the narrow sense of that term, but it is firmly and determinedly located in a historical moment. And, while it is not a free-standing text, one can through this one text trace the controlling themes of this teaching pontificate. Although it is written to and for the universal Church, the Church in each place is invited and obliged to read the encyclical as though it were addressed to its own specific circumstance.
Moreover, I am confident that we as Americans make no mistake when we think that the American experiment is a very major presence in Centesimus Annus. After all, the Western democracies, and the United States most particularly, are the historically available alternatives to the socialism that so miserably failed. I think it true to say that in this pontificate, for the first time, magisterial teaching about modernity, democracy, and human freedom has a stronger reference to the Revolution of 1776 than to the French Revolution of 1789. It is, then, neither chauvinistic nor parochial to read Centesimus Annus with particular reference to the American experiment. On the contrary, it is the course of fidelity, made imperative by the duty to appropriate magisterial teaching to our own circumstance, and by the powerful awareness of the American experiment in the mind of the encyclicals author.
There is no more common criticism of the liberal tradition than that it is premised upon unbridled "individualism." CA speaks of the "individual" and even of the "autonomous subject" (13), but most typically refers to the "person." Citing the earlier encyclical Redemptor Hominis, John Paul writes that "this human person is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission . . . the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption." He then adds the remarkable statement, "This, and this alone, is the principle which inspires the Churchs social doctrine." (53)
This, and this alone. He writes, "The Church has gradually developed that doctrine in a systematic way," above all in the past century. Very gradually, we might add without disrespect. In the later encyclical Veritatis Splendor, John Paul pays fulsome tribute to modernity and its development of the understanding of the dignity of the individual and of individual freedom. Individualism is one of the signal achievements of modernity or, if you will, of the liberal tradition. Nor should we deny that this achievement was effected in frequent tension with, and even conflict with, the Catholic Church. One important reason for such conflict, of course, was that the cause of freedom was perceived as marching under the radically anticlerical and anti-Christian banners of 1789. It is a signal achievement of this pontificate that it has so clearly replanted the idea of the individual and of freedom in the rich soil of Christian truth from which, in its convoluted and conflicted development, it had been uprooted. Only as it is deeply rooted in the truth about the human person will the flower of freedom flourish in the future.
It is a mistake to pit, as some do pit, modern individualism against a more organic Catholic understanding of community. Rather should we enter into a sympathetic liaison with the modern achievement of the idea of the individual, grounding it more firmly and richly in the understanding of the person destined from eternity to eternity for communion with God. The danger of rejecting individualism is that the real-world alternative is not a Catholic understanding of communio but a falling back into the collectivisms that are the great enemy of the freedom to which we are called. As CA reminds us, "We are not dealing here with humanity in the abstract, but with the real, concrete, historical person." The problem with the contemporary distortion of the individual as the autonomous, unencumbered, sovereign Self is not that it is wrong about the awesome dignity of the individual, but that it cuts the self off from the source of that dignity. The first cause of this error, says CA, is atheism. (13)
"It is by responding to the call of God contained in the being of things that man becomes aware of his transcendent dignity. Every individual must give this response, which constitutes the apex of his humanity, and no social mechanism or collective subject can substitute for it." (13) The great error of both collectivist determinism and of individualistic license is that their understanding of human freedom is detached from obedience to the truth. (17) Culture is a communal phenomenon, but it is in the service of the persons response to transcendent truth. In one of the most suggestive passages of the encyclical, John Paul writes, "At the heart of every culture lies the attitude a person takes to the greatest mystery: the mystery of God. Different cultures are basically different ways of facing the question of the meaning of personal existence." (24)
We are brought back to the remarkable proposition about the flourishing of the human person. "This, and this alone, is the principle which inspires the Churchs social doctrine." This is not individualism in the pejorative sense, but it is commensurable with the modern achievement of the idea of the individual. It is commensurable with the constituting ideas of the American experiment, in which the state is understood to be in the service of freedom, and freedom is understood as what the Founders called "ordered liberty"liberty ordered to the truth. And there are, as the Declaration of Independence declares, "self-evident truths" that ground such freedom and direct it to the transcendent ends of "Nature and Natures God."
The theistic references of the Declaration are not, as some contemporary commentators claim, simply crowd-pleasing asides but are integral to the moral argument of the documentand the Declaration is, above all, a moral argument. Moreover, such references must be understood in the context of the innumerable statements by all the Founders that this constitutional order is premised upon moral truths secured by religion. The American experiment is constituted by a Puritan-Lockean synthesis that in recent decades has been bowdlerized to fit the secularist prejudices of our academic elites. It is imperative that we challenge the bowdlerized version of the founding that has been fobbed off on several generations of students, from grade school through graduate school, and take our American history straight.
It will be protested by some that this is mere "civic religion." But we have missed the point of CA if we think there is anything "mere" about sustaining a public order that acknowledges the transcendent source and end of human existence. Of course such formal acknowledgment provides only a very thin and attenuated theology, but it creates the condition within which the Church can propose a rich and adequate account of the human story. But that, it is objected, is just the problem: In a liberal society the Church can only propose its truth, putting the gospel on the market place as one consumer item among others.
This is a frequently heard objection, and we have to wonder what people mean by it. Are they suggesting that the Church should coerce people to obey the truth? In the encyclical on evangelization, Redemptoris Missio, the Pope says, "The Church imposes nothing, she only proposes." She would not impose if she could. Authentic faith is of necessity an act of freedom. If we fail to understand this, it is to be feared that we fail to understand what John Paul calls the principle which alone inspires the Churchs social doctrine. The Church is to proposerelentlessly, boldly, persuasively, winsomely. If we who are the Church are not doing that, the fault is not with liberalism but with ourselves. Although the Churchs message provides a secure grounding for liberalism, liberalism is not the content of the Churchs message. It is simply the condition for the Church to invite free persons to live in the communio of Christ and his Mystical Body, which communion is infinitely deeper, richer, and fuller than the liberal social orderor, for that matter, any social order short of the right ordering of all things in the Kingdom of God.
Few things are more important to the free society than the idea and reality of the limited state. However much the courts and secular intellectuals may have denied it in recent decades, the American order is inexplicable apart from the acknowledgment of a sovereignty higher than the state. As in "one nation under God," meaning a nation under judgment. Christians understand and publicly declare that higher sovereignty in the simple proposition, "Jesus Christ is Lord." It is not necessary for the state to declare that Jesus Christ is Lord. Nor, at least in the American circumstance and any forseeable reconfiguration of that circumstance, is it desirable that the state declare that Jesus Christ is Lord. The role of the limited state is to respect the political sovereignty of the people who acknowledge a sovereignty higher than their own. As the encyclical states, "Through Christs sacrifice on the cross, the victory of the Kingdom of God has been achieved once and for all." (25) That victory denotes the highest sovereignty by which the state is limited, and the proclamation of that victory is the most important political contribution of the Church. In a democratic society that has been effectively evangelized, citizens do not ask the state to confess the lordship of Christ. Their only demand is that the state be respectful of the fact that a majority of its citizens confess the lordship of Christ. We affirm not a confessional state but a confessional society, always remembering that the state is the servant of society, which is prior to the state.
The Church also makes an invaluable political contribution by insisting upon the limits of politics. The great danger, says CA, is that "politics becomes a secular religion which operates under the illusion of creating paradise in this world. But no political society . . . can ever be confused with the Kingdom of God. . . . By presuming to anticipate judgment here and now, people put themselves in the place of God and set themselves against the patience of God." The power of grace "penetrates" the political order, especially as the laity take the lead in the exercise of Christian public responsibility, but there can be no pretensions that earthly politics will create the final right order for which our hearts yearn. (25)
As in the liberal order the ambitions of the state are checked by the democratic assertion of a higher sovereignty and by the limits of politics itself, so those ambitions are checked by diverse "sovereignties" within society itself. With Leo XIII, John Paul declares that "the individual, the family, and society are prior to the State." The state exists to serve and protect individuals and institutions that have priority. (11) Human persons and what I have elsewhere described as the mediating institutions of society "enjoy their own spheres of autonomy and sovereignty," according to CA. (45) These spheres of sovereignty are smaller than the state, but they are not lower than the state.
The striking modernity of the encyclicals argument is evident also in its understanding of the state. Unlike earlier formulations, the state is not situated within a hierarchy of authorities, descending from the rule of God to the rule of the lord of the manor. The argument of CA is profoundly democratic. Christ is sovereign over all, and that sovereignty is asserted by those who acknowledge the sovereignty of Christ. The unlimited state, whether based on Marxist atheism or the engineering designs of Enlightenment rationalism, aspires to totalitarian control. "Thus there is a denial of the supreme insight concerning mans true greatness, his transcendence in respect to earthly realities, the contradiction in his heart between the desire for the fullness of what is good and his own inability to attain it and, above all, the need for salvation which results from this situation." (13) The limited state is kept limited by the democratic assertion of the transcendent aspiration of the human heart.
In this connection, John Paul infuses the doctrine of subsidiarity with new vitality by the use of a most suggestive phrase, "the subjectivity of society." "The social nature of man . . . is realized in various intermediary groups, beginning with the family and including economic, social, political, and cultural groups which stem from human nature itself and have their own autonomy, always with a view to the common good." (13) In the free society, the state is one institution, one player, among others. It is an indispensable player in its service to all the other players, but it is subject to the subjectivity of society, and the subjectivity of society consists in free persons and free persons in community living in obedience to God and solidarity with one another. There is in CA and in other writings of this pontificate, I believe, a fresh and compelling theory of democracy that awaits systematic development by the next generation.
There must be a cultivated skepticism about the state if it is to be kept limited. "To that end, it is preferable that each power be balanced by other powers and by other spheres of responsibility which keep it within proper bounds." (44) Skepticism regarding the power of the state does not mean, however, skepticism about the purposes that the state is to serve. Quite the opposite is the case. Only when those purposes are clearly and unambiguously asserted can the state be held accountable. Section 45 of CA clearly and unambiguously challenges the point at which contemporary liberalism has most severely distorted the meaning of democracy in the liberal tradition. Here is the crucial paragraph:
Authentic democracy is possible only in a state ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person. It requires that the necessary conditions be present for the advancement both of the individual through education and formation in true ideals, and of the "subjectivity" of society through the creation of structures of participation and shared responsibility. [Then comes the vital passage.] Nowadays there is a tendency to claim that agnosticism and skeptical relativism are the philosophy and the basic attitude which correspond to democratic forms of political life. Those who are convinced that they know the truth and firmly adhere to it are considered unreliable from a democratic point of view, since they do not accept that the truth is determined by the majority, or that it is subject to variation according to different political trends. It must be observed in this regard that if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.
The importance of this paragraph, and its pertinence to our American situation, can hardly be overestimated. The dogmatic insistence upon agnosticism in public discourse and decision making has created what I have called "the naked public square." People who, like the Founders, hold certain truths to be self-evident are today "considered unreliable from a democratic point of view." In a usurpation of power that indeed threatens a "thinly disguised totalitarianism," the courts have presumed to declare that the separation of church and state means the separation of religion and religiously grounded morality from public life, which means the separation of the deepest convictions of the people from politics, which means the end of democracy and, in fact, the end of politics. Thank God, we are not there yet. But it is the direction in which we in the United States have been moving these last several decades, and it is the real and present danger requiring those of us called conservatives to rally to the defense of the liberal tradition.
In contending for the soul of liberalism, we must be sympathetically alert to some of our fellow citizens who honestly believe that any appeal to transcendent truth poses the threat of theocracy. John Paul recognizes how widespread that misunderstanding is, and therefore immediately follows the above passage with this:
Nor does the Church close her eyes to the danger of fanaticism or fundamentalism among those who, in the name of an ideology which purports to be scientific or religious, claim the right to impose on others their own concept of what is true and good. Christian truth is not of this kind. Since it is not an ideology, the Christian faith does not presume to imprison changing sociopolitical realities in a rigid schema, and it recognizes that human life is realized in history in conditions that are diverse and imperfect. Furthermore, in constantly reaffirming the transcendent dignity of the person, the Churchs method is always that of respect for freedom.
Let it be candidly said that that has not always appeared to be the Churchs method. We should not leave it to others to point this out. In Tertio Millennio Adveniente (As the Third Millennium Nears) and on many other occasions, the Pope has candidly called upon Christians to acknowledge the ways that, individually and corporately, they have failed to respect the dignity and freedom of others. That acknowledgment must, however, be joined to two other propositions. First: When, in the name of democracy, transcendent truth is excluded from the public square, the result is "open or thinly disguised totalitarianism." Second: Democratic totalitarianism, which recognizes no higher truth than majority rule, creates a treacherously dangerous circumstance for minorities.
We could go on to examine other themes of Centesimus Annus that can be correlated with the liberal tradition, rejuvenating that tradition and turning it in more promising directions. There is, for instance, the connection between freedom and virtue, both personal and public, which must evoke intensified effort toward the evangelizing and reevangelizing of society. The stakes in that effort are very high, as John Paul sets forth with such urgency in Evangelium Vitaes dramatic portrayal of the conflict between "the culture of life" and "the culture of death." But these and other questions are for another time. Indeed, as I have suggested, it will be the work of generations to systematically unfold and disseminate the remarkable teaching ministry of this pontificate.
I began with some comments on Centesimus Annus and what some call "The Murray Project." Nobody should try to usurp the authority of magisterial documents in order to advance particular intra-Catholic partisan arguments. Before the magisterium of the Church we are all learners. Our purpose must be sentire cum ecclesia, to think with the Church. I know that I have learned from and have been changed by Centesimus Annus, and I trust that will continue to be the case. In no way should the encyclical be interpreted as an unqualified affirmation of the American experiment. In many ways, it is a searing criticism of what that experiment has become under the influence of contemporary liberalisms. Yet I do believe CA is commensurate with the American liberal tradition, and in critical continuity with the great work of John Courtney Murray. I believe that is the case, and I hope that is the case, for we have not the luxury of imagining the reconstitution of this social and political order on foundations other than the liberal tradition.
As sympathetic as we may be to some of the determined critics of liberalism, we do well to remind ourselves that all temporal orders short of the Kingdom of God are profoundly unsatisfactory. When we survey the depredations and ravages of our social, political, and religious circumstance, it is tempting to look for someone or something to blame. It is easy to say, "Liberalism made us do it." But liberalism is freedom, and what we do with freedom is charged to our account. For American Christians, and for Catholics in particular, there is nothing that has been done wrong that could not have been done differently. Amidst the depredations and ravages of an American experiment that once exalted the human spirit, and may do so again, Centesimus Annus invites us to reappropriate and rebuild the liberal tradition.
Richard John Neuhaus is Editor-in-Chief of First Things. This article is adapted from a paper delivered at a conference sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center marking the fifth anniversary of Centesimus Annus.
As an opening statement I will quote Dionysius's post from the other thread:
I don't quite understand your animus [toward democracy]. Surely the democratic state can be the servant of society. The demos can be virtuous--if we truly had genuine Catholics it would be. The problem is that the demos rarely or never has been. But it surely could be and ought to be. And exactly the same applies to kings or oligarchs. They ought to be virtuous. Few have ever been so. But that doesn't mean that they cannot ever be.
There's nothing intrinsically incompatible between Catholicism and a democratic society. (We're using the term here, of course, meaning representative republic, I hope--I'm sure that's how Neuhaus was using it.) It would be better to use the term republic. But even a democracy could be the servant of society if its members were honest, just, virtuous. If they aren't, all bets are off.
It's just harder to accomplish a virtuous demos than virtuous representives in a republic and that makes a representative republic superior to a true demo-cracy. But Neuhaus wasn't referring to strict democracy anyway.
Granted, the American experiment in republican virtue did not last. But I would caution you very strongly against assuming that the record of kings or oligarchies or noble republics (the old Polish commonwealth of the 1600s, for example) is any better--more kings have been non-virtuous than virtuous, and that includes Catholic kings. And the record of oligarchies is, well, worse. Perhaps the noble constitutional republic would be best but it's been tried extremely rarely in history and the American republic was the closest to it in many ways. I'd beware of nostalgia for feudal kingship.
The quote from Neuhaus (*), as far as I can see, accords fully with JPII on culture being prior to the state and the state being the servant of culture. I really don't see the problem. It's not naive, assuming that he's giving a prescription of how things ought to be. He's not saying that this in fact is the way things are, is he? You've pulled this out of context.
(*) The quote from Neuhaus that provoked my derision is
the [democratic] state is the servant of society, which is prior to the state
And now I am going to write a response to Dionysius's thoughtful post.
We all understand that no one is defending pure democracy as mob rule, but rather the system of a constitutional republic in which democratic elements are embedded.
I have no animus to the constitutional republic of the Founding Fathers; but I think that the American Project contained the seeds of its present demise from the beginning. I see that seed in the inability of the Founding Fathers to draw a wall of separation where it really belongs, -- between moral law and the democratic process. I think it is a deeply flawed thing to put issues of moral law to the voter, either directly in a referendum, or indirectly through electoral politics, or even less directly through the judicial nominations controlled by elected senatorial elite. Why? Because things are morally right or wrong regardless of the popular opinion. Let us recall that the choice between Jesus and Barabbas was decided in an election. The abortion regime of today is a firmly entrenched legal system because of a democratic process that worked as designed.
I don't think the Founding Fathers understood subsidiarity. They designed a system where subsidiarity prevailes in issues of economics or administration, such as our system of cascading federal state and local government, and constitutional protections for the individual. But subsidiarity has another dimension, and that is the immutability of moral law, which is derived top-down from Christ the King and is not taken to a vote. I believe that the dual background of the Founding Fathers in Protestantism and Enlightenment allowed them to think that either the democratic politics would not invade the moral sphere (and of course they did nearly from the start), or that a bottom-up political process of independent Christian communities reaching a moral consensus would not produce a starkly un-Christian outcomes. On these counts they were wrong.
Comparing immoral democratic force to an immoral king is comparing apples and oranges. A democratic force, unless limited to mundane administration such as traffic rules, is intrinsically immoral, as it is a mechanism by which a majority dictates economic or, worse, moral decisions to a minority. The thinking that a decision is good simply because it is arrived at democratically replaces serious ethics. A king, on the other hand is an owner of real estate, -- of the public space. If he mismanages it, due to immorality or ineptitude, the effects are limited to his property. In this environment the Church has a chance to project her teaching from her own property. Further, a king has no interest in expanding his reach beyond his royal property line, because with such expansion comes a need for larger government from which a threat to his dynasty might emerge. A king has no institutional need to sell his services to the people, -- if he leaves them alone they will leave him alone; an elected politician must sell the government service on a 4-year cycle. Monarchies tend to act defensively and republics -- expansively. But since expansion into the economic sphere punishes the government rather quickly with decreased economic output, the expansion invades the moral sphere. Which is precisely where the state does not belong.
The Church cannot mount and effective defense of her sovereignty over the moral sphere unless she stops endorsing the democratic institutions of modern state.
Throne and Altar.
And I really don't think that the experiment failed because of inherent refusal to integrate moral law and electoral process. It failed because the actors, the elite actors, abandoned moral law in favor of positivism, might makes right etc. (O. W. Holmes) and because we tinkered with the checks and balances, especially in direct election of senators.
And with respect, I just don't see the difference you see between representatives (who were elite members of society in the vision of the Founders, who could only be chosen from stakeholders, property-owners and indeed, were expected to be from the upper ranks of the property-owners) and kings. The citizen-legislators who went to Washington to do their selfless civic duty and then return to their estates and farms are analogous in every way to kings. They are more numerous than a single king, yes, but that's merely a difference of number. They are elected (though medieval kings were elected, usually following dynastic lines), yes. But they were expected to act and vote in their own moral persons, not merely mechanically reflect the will even of the majority of their constituents. I really don't see the gaping chasm you see between the systems.
The tyranny of the majority does not have to be direct. In a constitutional republic some group of people, somewhere, holds the balance on which moral decisions are made for others. Whether it is a hierarchy of elected representatives and other elites reducing an issue of Divine Law to a 5:4 Supreme ourt edict or 51% doing it to 49% of the entire electorate like in a plebiscite is an unsignificant detail for the level of the discussion we are having. Among various democratic systems, sure, the one less democratic, like the American constitutional republic, wins. This simply proves my point.
The difference between a citizen legislator and a hereditary worthy is that one has to find a way to get elected, -- or someone with less scruples will, -- and the other does not. This puts in place a mechanism of crowd-pleasing that corrupts the political class overtime.
When the early medieval kings were elected, the franchise was few men who knew the candidate personally and could assess his honor and virtue. And the system was replaced with hereditary rights because the latter was a superior system.
ON CATHOLICISM IN THE UNITED STATES
To the Archbishops and Bishops of the United States.
We traverse in spirit and thought the wide expanse of ocean; and although We have at other times addressed you in writing-chiefly when We directed Encyclical Letters to the bishops of the Catholic world-yet have We now resolved to speak to you separately, trusting that We shall be, God willing, of some assistance to the Catholic cause amongst you. To this We apply Ourselves with the utmost zeal and care; because We highly esteem and love exceedingly the young and vigorous American nation, in which We plainly discern latent forces for the advancement alike of civilization and of Christianity.
2. Not long ago, when your whole nation, as was fitting, celebrated, with grateful recollection and every manifestation of joy, the completion of the fourth century since the discovery of America, We, too, commemorated together with you that most auspicious event, sharing in your rejoicings with equal good-will. Nor were We on that occasion content with offering prayers at a distance for your welfare and greatness. It was Our wish to be in some manner present with you in your festivities. Hence We cheerfully sent one who should represent Our person. Not without good reason did We take part in your celebration. For when America was, as yet, but a new-born babe, uttering in its cradle its first feeble cries, the Church took it to her bosom and motherly embrace. Columbus, as We have elsewhere expressly shown, sought, as the primary fruit of his voyages and labors, to open a pathway for the Christian faith into new lands and new seas. Keeping this thought constantly in view, his first solicitude, wherever he disembarked, was to plant upon the shore the sacred emblem of the cross. Wherefore, like as the Ark of Noe, surmounting the overflowing waters, bore the seed of Israel together with the remnants of the human race, even thus did the barks launched by Columbus upon the ocean carry into regions beyond the seas as well the germs of mighty States as the principles of the Catholic religion.
3. This is not the place to give a detailed account of what thereupon ensued. Very rapidly did the light of the Gospel shine upon the savage tribes discovered by the Ligurian. For it is sufficiently well known how many of the children of Francis, as well as of Dominic and of Loyola, were accustomed during the two following centuries to voyage thither for this purpose; how they cared for the colonies brought over from Europe; but primarily and chiefly how they converted the natives from superstition to Christianity, sealing their labors in many instances with the testimony of their blood. The names newly given to so many of your towns and rivers and mountains and lakes teach and clearly witness how deeply your beginnings were marked with the footprints of the Catholic Church.
4. Nor, perchance did the fact which We now recall take place without some design of divine Providence. Precisely at the epoch when the American colonies, having, with Catholic aid, achieved liberty and independence, coalesced into a constitutional Republic the ecclesiastical hierarchy was happily established amongst you; and at the very time when the popular suffrage placed the great Washington at the helm of the Republic, the first bishop was set by apostolic authority over the American Church. The well-known friendship and familiar intercourse which subsisted between these two men seems to be an evidence that the United States ought to be conjoined in concord and amity with the Catholic Church. And not without cause; for without morality the State cannot endure-a truth which that illustrious citizen of yours, whom We have just mentioned, with a keenness of insight worthy of his genius and statesmanship perceived and proclaimed. But the best and strongest support of morality is religion. She, by her very nature, guards and defends all the principles on which duties are founded, and setting before us the motives most powerful to influence us, commands us to live virtuously and forbids us to transgress. Now what is the Church other than a legitimate society, founded by the will and ordinance of Jesus Christ for the preservation of morality and the defence of religion? For this reason have We repeatedly endeavored, from the summit of the pontifical dignity, to inculcate that the Church, whilst directly and immediately aiming at the salvation of souls and the beatitude which is to be attained in heaven, is yet, even in the order of temporal things, the fountain of blessings so numerous and great that they could not have been greater or more numerous had the original purpose of her institution been the pursuit of happiness during the life which is spent on earth.
5. That your Republic is .progressing and developing by giant strides is patent to all; and this holds good in religious matters also. For even as your cities, in the course of one century, have made a marvellous increase in wealth and power, so do we behold the Church, from scant and slender beginnings, grown with rapidity to be great and exceedingly flourishing. Now if, on the one hand, the increased riches and resources of your cities are justly attributed to the talents and active industry of the American people, on the other hand, the prosperous condition of Catholicity must be ascribed, first indeed, to the virtue, the ability, and the prudence of the bishops and clergy; but in so slight measure also, to the faith and generosity of the Catholic laity. Thus, while the different classes exerted their best energies, you were enabled to erect unnumbered religious and useful institutions, sacred edifices, schools for the instruction of youth, colleges for the higher branches, homes for the poor, hospitals for the sick, and convents and monasteries. As for what more closely touches spiritual interests, which are based upon the exercise of Christian virtues, many facts have been brought to Our notice, whereby We are animated with hope and filled with joy, namely, that the numbers of the secular and regular clergy are steadily augmenting, that pious sodalities and confraternities are held in esteem, that the Catholic parochial schools, the Sunday-schools for imparting Christian doctrine, and summer schools are in a flourishing condition; moreover, associations for mutual aid, for the relief of the indigent, for the promotion of temperate living, add to all this the many evidences of popular piety.
6. The main factor, no doubt, in bringing things into this happy state were the ordinances and decrees of your synods, especially of those which in more recent times were convened and confirmed by the authority of the Apostolic See. But, moreover (a fact which it gives pleasure to acknowledge), thanks are due to the equity of the laws which obtain in America and to the customs of the well-ordered Republic. For the Church amongst you, unopposed by the Constitution and government of your nation, fettered by no hostile legislation, protected against violence by the common laws and the impartiality of the tribunals, is free to live and act without hindrance. Yet, though all this is true, it would be very erroneous to draw the conclusion that in America is to be sought the type of the most desirable status of the Church, or that it would be universally lawful or expedient for State and Church to be, as in America, dissevered and divorced. The fact that Catholicity with you is in good condition, nay, is even enjoying a prosperous growth, is by all means to be attributed to the fecundity with which God has endowed His Church, in virtue of which unless men or circumstances interfere, she spontaneously expands and propagates herself; but she would bring forth more abundant fruits if, in addition to liberty, she enjoyed the favor of the laws and the patronage of the public authority.
* As usual, the Poes "get it."
FWIW, I am sure you are aware of St. Robert Bellarmine's defense of Democracy, St Benedict's Rule etc.
Y'all are welcome to your personal opinions about which political-economic structure is "best" for HM Church but the Church doesn't mandate any particular form of government.
I rather appredciate America and think Murray, a scandal to the "trads" was right.
You are right on as usual annalex. The conception of the non-confessional, democratic state maintaining its moral order thru the piety of its constituents is a pipe-dream. But that's liberalism for you, ignore reality and substitute vaguely defined, universal principles.
Fr. Neuhaus is getting on my neves more and more these days, it is appalling that he is the public face of "conservative" Catholicism. He is about as conservative as his hero GW Bush.
There are so many errors in his article its hard to know where to start. But here's the chief one.
"It is not necessary for the state to declare that Jesus Christ is Lord. Nor, at least in the American circumstance and any forseeable reconfiguration of that circumstance, is it desirable that the state declare that Jesus Christ is Lord"
This is the exact opposite of H.H. Leo XIII in Immortale Dei:
"6. As a consequence, the State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion. Nature and reason, which command every individual devoutly to worship God in holiness, because we belong to Him and must return to Him, since from Him we came, bind also the civil community by a like law. For, men living together in society are under the power of God no less than individuals are, and society, no less than individuals, owes gratitude to God who gave it being and maintains it and whose everbounteous goodness enriches it with countless blessings. Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its teaching and practice-not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion -- it is a public crime to act as though there were no God. So, too, is it a sin for the State not to have care for religion as a something beyond its scope, or as of no practical benefit; or out of many forms of religion to adopt that one which chimes in with the fancy; for we are bound absolutely to worship God in that way which He has shown to be His will. All who rule, therefore, would hold in honor the holy name of God, and one of their chief duties must be to favor religion, to protect it, to shield it under the credit and sanction of the laws, and neither to organize nor enact any measure that may compromise its safety. This is the bounden duty of rulers to the people over whom they rule. For one and all are we destined by our birth and adoption to enjoy, when this frail and fleeting life is ended, a supreme and final good in heaven, and to the attainment of this every endeavor should be directed. Since, then, upon this depends the full and perfect happiness of mankind, the securing of this end should be of all imaginable interests the most urgent. Hence, civil society, established for the common welfare, should not only safeguard the wellbeing of the community, but have also at heart the interests of its individual members, in such mode as not in any way to hinder, but in every manner to render as easy as may be, the possession of that highest and unchangeable good for which all should seek. Wherefore, for this purpose, care must especially be taken to preserve unharmed and unimpeded the religion whereof the practice is the link connecting man with God.
7. Now, it cannot be difficult to find out which is the true religion, if only it be sought with an earnest and unbiased mind; for proofs are abundant and striking. We have, for example, the fulfillment of prophecies, miracles in great numbers, the rapid spread of the faith in the midst of enemies and in face of overwhelming obstacles, the witness of the martyrs, and the like. From all these it is evident that the only true religion is the one established by Jesus Christ Himself, and which He committed to His Church to protect and to propagate. "
You cannot say it any clearer, error has no rights.
That doesn't mean you go door to door, holding people down and baptizing them against their will. But it does mean the state must have a care for the Truth.
If the purpose of the state is the provide for temporal justice, how can it do so absent a foundation in the Truth?? That's just bizarre.
If you want to quote John Paul II, how about "there is no freedom without Truth"? (Veritatis Splendor)
His error comes from the liberal conception, Lockean and Hobbesian primarily - shared by the libertarian anarchist wing, that the state is an artifical construction.
Nonsense, God wills the state. It is necessary for man's perfection. Has Fr. Neuhaus every even read City of God? Or is he just cherry picking St. Augustine for statements supportive of his liberal thesis?
It is self-evident the state is not a contract, I did not sign it, did you?
Rather I was born into it. A man is not born into a contract, he is born into a family and that is the proper understanding of the state, as Sir Robert Filmer proves in Patriarcha (Lockes refutation of this work is way off the mark, he never comes close to refuting Filmer's thesis). A family is led by the father, and lest we fall into protestant error on the domination of women by men, the father models his leadership on the leadership of Christ. It is self-sacrificial
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it:" (Ephesians 5:25)
I can think of no other time in man's history when we have needed the leadership of properly formed intellects than now. Democracy requires widespread virtue and proper intellectual formation, is someone going to seriously argue we have that today?
We have no care for the Truth, today is most likely that a man who has been "educated", knows nothing of value.
On one hand you have the vast majority (about half of which don't vote, thanks be to God) half-educated in public schools, which were purposely designed to create a docile and ignorant population. They are pacified with meaningless polemics, bread and circuses.
On the other hand, you have the "intellectual elite" who have taken pure rationalism to its irrational conclusion, Dr. Peter Singer is the perfect example here - a modern day Fredrich Nietzsche.
The homeschooling movement, which favors the classical education model, in which all men have been educated since classical Greece, may provide some long term remedy to this problem but its numbers are small at the moment and it will take decades for any signficant number of leaders, probably educated in the patrimony of Western Civilization, to emerge.
All this is necessary, as Aristotle shows in The Politics:
"men of vigorous intellect naturally rule over others".
The rule of democracy is nothing more than the rule of the
C student who has not the skill to manage his position.
FReepmail me to get on or off this list
Two in one week!
This is the exact opposite of H.H. Leo XIII in Immortale Dei:
*No it isn't. Pope Leo does not say a State must declare Jesus is Lord.
FWIW I readily admit you and others who personally favor Monarchy are widely and deeply read in the matter; far more than I will ever be.
My only point is I don't recall ever reading HM Church mandating any particular form of government; just the opposite.
Still, I think rehearsing all these arguements are helpful and informative and when it comes to ideas about establishing a Monarchy in America and,as an Irishman, I admire any and all forms of such fruitless causes :)
Oh, I forgot to add..I agree with Kalb. When men like Rush laugh at the left and say it had lost its power and it can't get its agenda implemented, he fails to acknowledge that is has already, largely, acheived its goals.
"*No it isn't. Pope Leo does not say a State must declare Jesus is Lord."
How could you possibly read the two paragraphs of Immortale Dei that I posted and come to this conclusion??
"As a consequence, the State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion."
The state must profess religion.
"Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its teaching and practice-not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion -- it is a public crime to act as though there were no God."
So not just any religion, but the true religion.
So what religion is true? (if you can't answer that question then go back to your Catechism)
"From all these it is evident that the only true religion is the one established by Jesus Christ Himself, and which He committed to His Church to protect and to propagate."
How could you possibly read the two paragraphs of Immortale Dei that I posted and come to this conclusion??
* Well, for starters, I came to that conclusion because the Pope didn't say a State must declare Jesus is Lord.
"Well, for starters, I came to that conclusion because the Pope didn't say a State must declare Jesus is Lord."
Does the religion "established by Jesus Christ Himself, and which He committed to His Church to protect and to propagate." declare Jesus is Lord?
So if the state must profess the true religion, which declares Jesus is Lord, then the state must declare Jesus is Lord.
Liberals like Neuhaus like to pick and choose their quotes, always with an eye towards forwarding their liberal agenda. So before someone brings up "Pope Leo was speaking to another time" or some other such nonsense (as if truth changes). The often vague Catechism of the Catholic Church, released less than 20 years ago says exactly the same thing:
2105 The duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both individually and socially. This is "the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ."30 By constantly evangelizing men, the Church works toward enabling them "to infuse the Christian spirit into the mentality and mores, laws and structures of the communities in which [they] live."31 The social duty of Christians is to respect and awaken in each man the love of the true and the good. It requires them to make known the worship of the one true religion which subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church.32 Christians are called to be the light of the world. Thus, the Church shows forth the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies.33
And in fact the "33" in the above quote refers to this footnote:
33 Cf. AA 13; Leo XIII, Immortale Dei 3,17; Pius XI, Quas primas 8,20.
Sorry, no way out for Fr. Neuhaus. He is denying the catechism. While it does not necessarily rise to the level of formal heresy, it is material heresy.
This, then, is the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the constitution and government of the State. By the words and decrees just cited, if judged dispassionately, no one of the several forms of government is in itself condemned, inasmuch as none of them contains anything contrary to Catholic doctrine, and all of them are capable, if wisely and justly managed, to insure the welfare of the State. Neither is it blameworthy in itself, in any manner, for the people to have a share greater or less, in the government: for at certain times, and under certain laws, such participation may not only be of benefit to the citizens, but may even be of obligation. Nor is there any reason why any one should accuse the Church of being wanting in gentleness of action or largeness of view, or of being opposed to real and lawful liberty. The Church, indeed, deems it unlawful to place the various forms of divine worship on the same footing as the true religion, but does not, on that account, condemn those rulers who, for the sake of securing some great good or of hindering some great evil, allow patiently custom or usage to be a kind of sanction for each kind of religion having its place in the State. And, in fact, the Church is wont to take earnest heed that no one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, for, as St. Augustine wisely reminds us, "Man cannot believe otherwise than of his own will
*Look, America was created by Calvinists yet we have found a home here and not a single Pope has condemned our Constitution nor stated in must profess that Jesus is Lord.
As for Fr Nuehaus being a material heretic, that is laughable
The Church, the guardian always of her own right and most observant of that of others, holds that it is not her province to decide which is the best among many different forms of government and the civil institutions of Christian states, and amid the various kinds of State rule she does not disapprove of any, provided the respect due to religion and the observance of good morals be upheld.
KJ, you're way off base here
I am making an argument, at this point, that the state must profess the true religion. Not for monarchy, not yet at least. When Pope Leo says:
"This, then, is the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the constitution and government of the State. By the words and decrees just cited, if judged dispassionately, no one of the several forms of government is in itself condemned, inasmuch as none of them contains anything contrary to Catholic doctrine, and all of them are capable, if wisely and justly managed, to insure the welfare of the State"
Secular is not a "form" of government. There are bascially 4 forms of government, according to Aristotle and accepted by St. Thomas:
This is the "form" of government.
Pope Leo is saying, and I agree that, in theory, any form of government is acceptable as long as it professes the true religion. In theory, any of these could be confessional states.
Monarchies, historically are confessional states. I don't know of a secular monarchy, nor given the political theory of monarchy is one possible.
Republics - whether aristocratic or democratic (plebscite)- could be confessional states. The Republic of Venice was a confessional republic (of the aristocratic variety).
Tyrannies can be confessional states. Strictly speaking Franco's Spain would be classified, by Aristotle, as a tyranny and it was confessionally Catholic. (BTW, this is not a negative judgement of Franco, I like him)
Prudence is the highest natural virtue (according to Aristotle and St. Thomas).
So the question becomes, which form of government is the most prudent choice given the absolute requirement of a confessional state?
Now, using reason and experience, I could argue for monarchy :)
When Pope Leo writes:
"The Church, indeed, deems it unlawful to place the various forms of divine worship on the same footing as the true religion, but does not, on that account, condemn those rulers who, for the sake of securing some great good or of hindering some great evil, allow patiently custom or usage to be a kind of sanction for each kind of religion having its place in the State."
It has to be read in context with the rest of the encyclical as well as in context with other writings. This means you don't have to ban the practice of other religions, if you have a good reason. Such as securing the peace and maintaining order in society. But what is the "place" of such religons in the State?
They may be privately practiced, but not publically professed. Gregory XVI wrote in Mirari Vos:
"This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. "But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error," as Augustine was wont to say. When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly "the bottomless pit" is open from which John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. Thence comes transformation of minds, corruption of youths, contempt of sacred things and holy laws -- in other words, a pestilence more deadly to the state than any other. Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty.
15. Here We must include that harmful and never sufficiently denounced freedom to publish any writings whatever and disseminate them to the people, which some dare to demand and promote with so great a clamor. We are horrified to see what monstrous doctrines and prodigious errors are disseminated far and wide in countless books, pamphlets, and other writings which, though small in weight, are very great in malice. We are in tears at the abuse which proceeds from them over the face of the earth. Some are so carried away that they contentiously assert that the flock of errors arising from them is sufficiently compensated by the publication of some book which defends religion and truth. Every law condemns deliberately doing evil simply because there is some hope that good may result. Is there any sane man who would say poison ought to be distributed, sold publicly, stored, and even drunk because some antidote is available and those who use it may be snatched from death again and again?
16. The Church has always taken action to destroy the plague of bad books. This was true even in apostolic times for we read that the apostles themselves burned a large number of books. It may be enough to consult the laws of the fifth Council of the Lateran on this matter and the Constitution which Leo X published afterwards lest "that which has been discovered advantageous for the increase of the faith and the spread of useful arts be converted to the contrary use and work harm for the salvation of the faithful." This also was of great concern to the fathers of Trent, who applied a remedy against this great evil by publishing that wholesome decree concerning the Index of books which contain false doctrine. "We must fight valiantly," Clement XIII says in an encyclical letter about the banning of bad books, "as much as the matter itself demands and must exterminate the deadly poison of so many books; for never will the material for error be withdrawn, unless the criminal sources of depravity perish in flames." Thus it is evident that this Holy See has always striven, throughout the ages, to condemn and to remove suspect and harmful books. The teaching of those who reject the censure of books as too heavy and onerous a burden causes immense harm to the Catholic people and to this See. They are even so depraved as to affirm that it is contrary to the principles of law, and they deny the Church the right to decree and to maintain it."
And in fact the first amendment of our Constitution enshrines exactly this error. Cardinal Newman wrote "God save us from the freedom to err".
Pope Gregory did not envision television or even radio which carries these errors to every man even more potently than the printed word (since the dominant senses of man are sight and hearing). In the age of plebscite democracy, all you need to manipulate the masses and secure power is a good propogandist (euphamistically called "press secretaries" these days)
Heresy is error, error is sin, heresy is sin. Sin causes a darkening of the intellect leading to more error, etc.
So "freedom to err" is a contradiction in terms for Christ said "he who commits sin becomes a slave to sin".
Let me know what you think. Your views are interesting and your knowledge impressive yet I believe you are way over-reaching in your conclusions; so over-reaching as to be outside Tradition - at least as far as I understand it.