Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Secularity, A Christian Truth

Thesis: Christian faith lived as Personal Experience is the foundation and root of the Separation of Church and State as institutions, giving it the distinct quality of "secularity."

The dominant philosophy of the street holds that churches deal with religion, and the civil state is religion-neutral. This neutrality of the state is called, in common parlance, "secularism" with the co-relative nomenclature of "separation of Church and State."

With the help of the Catholic Church's Declaration on Religious Liberty from Vatican II, we could say:

"Contemporary man is becoming increasingly conscious of the dignity of the human person; more and more people are demanding that men should exercise fully their own judgment and a responsible freedom in their actions and should not be subject to the pressure of coercion but be inspired by a sense of duty. At the same time they are demanidng constitutional limitation of the powers of government to prevent excessive restriction of the rightful freedom of individuals and associations. This demand for freedom in human society is concerned chiefly with man's spiritual values, and especially with what concerns the free practice of religion in society" (Dignitatis Humanae #1).

These"spiritual values" (personal dignity and autonomy) belong to consciousness coming from the exercise of Christian faith. They insist that religion cannot be foisted upon any person coercively. We could say that a truly Catholic conscience prohibits that the Catholic Faith be imposed coercively on anyone. In that sense, the Catholic Church champions the "separation of Church and State" as institutions. What is called "secularism" in the religiously neutral civic order is now to be understood to be "secularity" in a faith driven civic order. We could provisionally define secularity as the relative autonomy of the human person to self-determine, and therefore, to decide about himself before God, and therefore, a fortiori, before the state - always with the moral obligation to seek the truth. Concerning the autonomy of the human person, Gaudium et spes #36 reads: "If by the autonomy of earthly affairs is meant the gradual discovery, exploitation, and ordering of the laws and values of matter and society, then the demand for autonomy is perfectly in order: it is at once the claim of modern man and the desire of the creator."

On the contrary, by way of example of the philosophy of the street, the internet's “Wikipedia free encyclopedia” reads:

“Secularity is the state of being free from religious or spiritual qualities. For instance, eating a meal, playing a game, or bathing are examples of secular activities, because there is nothing inherently religious about them. Saying a prayer or visiting a place of worship are examples of non-secular activities. An approximate synonym for secular is worldly.

It goes on to interchange the word "secularity" with "secularism: "Secularism [sic] has two distinct meanings.

a) It asserts the freedom of religion, and freedom from religion, within a state that is neutral on matters of belief, and gives no state privileges or subsidies to religions.

b) It refers to a belief that human activities and decisions should be based on evidence and fact, and not superstitious beliefs, however devoutly held, and that policy should be free from religious domination. For example, a society deciding whether to promote
condom use might consider the issues of disease prevention, family planning, and women's rights. A secularist would argue that such issues are relevant to public policy-making, whereas Biblical interpretation or church doctrine should not be considered and are irrelevant.”

To parse out the distinction between secularity and secularism, it will be necessary to parse out the epistemological underpinnings of faith as concept and faith as consciousness. And to do that, it will be necessary to delve into the fact that there is not just one kind of experience that gives knowledge of reality, but two. And that that second experience is the experience of the "I" (that is not reducible to consciousness and "thought") that has been disclosed by the philosophic work of Karol Wojtyla in his deployment of phenomenology (his own brand) in tandem with Thomistic metaphysics in his analysis of faith in St. John of the Cross. As he opens his master work, The Acting Person, Wojtyla remarks: "Man's experience of anything outside of himslef is always associated with the experience of himsellf, and he never experiences anything external without having at the same time the expereince of himself" (3). This second tier of experience is an experience of God by the moral act of imaging God, and it will be there that we can pinpoint the consciousness that is the self-evidence of democratic citizenship and "secularity."

Epistemological Underpinnings

The epistemology of Church as world-neutral and State as religious-neutral is grounded on empirical sensation-cum-abstract thought, and hence, what you see is what you get. It corresponds to the dualism of the Enlightenment that works between the person as consciousness and sensation of material reality. Only the material is real; the human person is consciousness. He can think whatever he wants, but it has no impact on the real world. The political state is an institution of the real sensible world and must be religion-neutral; the Church is an institution that has no real experiential foundation in sensible reality, and consequently should be separated from the state in fact and in ideology.

Development of the Thesis that “Secularity” is a Christian Truth (and therefore distinct from "Secularism")

As quantum physics emerged as an unexpected child from the experience of black body radiation, so also, the American Revolution arose as unique in the history of revolutions and the political order. It arose not from objective discomfiture imposed by tyranny, but from a development of the subjective consciousness of its citizens. Somehow, in the history of nationhood, a threshold had been crossed in which the center of authority had passed from an objective and institutional center to the subjective “I” of the person who experiencing self as believer who becomes conscious of self as citizen with inalienable rights and responsibilities. This consciousness resulted from the exercise of faith as an act of self-transcendence.

This is new. Freedom had been viewed, has been viewed, and continues to be so viewed, as a multiplicity of choices to be exercised by the individual in the absence of external constraint. As I quote Gordon Wood in the blog below: “(America had) reversed in a revolutionary way the traditional conception of politics: the stability of government no longer relied, as it had for centuries, upon its embodiment of the basic social forces of the state. Indeed, it now depended upon the prevention of the various social interests from incorporating themselves too firmly in the government…. This revolution marked an end of the classical concept of politics and the beginning of what might be called a romantic view of politics.”

The United States works because the original colonies experienced a true-to-reality anthropology that in turn emerged from the Christian act of faith as an act of self-transcendence. This anthropology is one of consciousness, and not of ideology such as the received “individual substance of a rational nature.” It is important not to go too fast here.

Epistemological Refinement:
Not only the "Object," but the "Subject" is Real

The Distinction between Consciousness and Intentional Knowing, i.e. the Concept:

Karol Wojtyla has done pioneering work in this regard. Following Husserl and his school in their “back to the object” (zuruck zum Gegenstand) in the search for what is objective in ethics, his object is the subject, not as consciousness, but as being.

The problem, of course, was that for the last 400 years, the object was the sensibly empirical, contingent “thing,” and therefore "real," while the subject ("I") was the consciousness of the "res cogitans," and therefore not "real." This dualism had not been overcome. And when it was overcome, the subject – the “I” – was always reduced to an object, be it the material reductionism of “nothing butism” (sex is nothing but, thought is nothing but, love is nothing but, good is nothing but…) or a scholastic reductionism to the objective category "substance" with qualifiers of subsistence, etc. Endemic to this captivity in objectivism was epistemology. If all knowing was identified with signs or symbols of the real called “concepts,” and the self was consciousness itself, then there was no way to know except by forming a concept of the thing or reality. Fundamentally, what you could not draw a picture of , and form a concept of, was not real. Obviously, the self as consciousness wasn’t “real.”

The fallout from that means in our case here that religious faith must be conceptual as response to a revelation that is also conceptual. It also puts the meaning of meaning in parenthesis since there is no concept of meaning to give meaning to concepts. "Meaning," rather, is the context in which concepts are embedded, and Wojtyla’s point is that context is consciousness. His “discovery” is that the “I” or self is not consciousness, but disclosed in the act of free moral action as being which is experienced as real, but it is disguised as consciousness. Wojtyla distinguishes between consciousness and concepts as non-intentional and intentional ways of knowing. He says:

“It lies in the essence of cognitive acts performed by man to investigate a thing, to objectivize it intentionally, and in this way to comprehend it. In this sense cognitive acts have an intentional character, since they are directed toward the cognitive object: for they find in it the reason for their existence as acts of comprehension and knowledge. The same does not seem to apply to consciousness. In opposition to the classic phenomenological view, we propose that the cognitive reason for the existence of consciousness and of the acts proper to it does not consist in the penetrative apprehension of the constitutive elements of the object, in its objectivation leading to the object. Hence, the intentionality that is characteristic of cognitive acts – to which we owe an understanding, of the objective reality on any of its levels – does not seem to be derived from acts of consciousness. These are not essentially intentional by nature, even though all that is the object of our cognition, comprehension, and knowledge is also the object of our consciousness. But while comprehension and knowledge contribute in an intentional way to the formation of the object – it is in this that consists the inherent dynamism of cognizing – consciousness as such is restricted to mirroring what has already been cognized. Consciousness is, so to speak, the understanding of that has been constituted and comprehended. The purport of the preceding remarks is that the intrinsic cognitive dynamism, the very operation of cognition, doest not belong to consciousness. If act of cognition consist in constituting in a specific way the meanings referring to cognitive objects, then it is not consciousness that constitutes them, even if they are indubitably constituted also in consciousness.[1]

Thus, Wojtyla is offering to the intellectual world the proposal of distinguishing between objectified knowing of the subject as object and the knowing of the subject as subject via consciousness. He has said:

"The problem of the subjectivity of the human being seems today to be the focal point of a variety of concerns… Today more than ever before we feel the need – and also see a greater possibility – of objectifying the problem of the subjectivity of the human being..

“In this regard, contemporary thought seems to have more or less set aside the old antinomies that arose primarily in the area of the theory of knowledge (epistemology) and that formed an as though inviolable line of demarcation between the basic orientations in philosophy. The antinomy of subjectivism vs. objectivism, along with the underlying antinomy of idealism vs. realism, created conditions that discouraged dealing with human subjectivity – for fear that this would lead inevitably to subjectivism. These fears, which existed among thinkers who subscribed to realism and epistemological objectivism, were in some sense warranted by the subjectivistic and idealistic character – or at least overtones – of analyses conducted within the realm of `pure consciousness.’ This only served to strengthen the line of demarcation in philosophy and the opposition between the `objective’ view of the human being, which was also an ontological view (the human being as a being), and the `subjective’ view, which seemed inevitably to sever the human being from this reality.

“Today we are seeing a breakdown of that line of demarcation – and for some of the same reasons that gave rise to it in the first place. By `some of the same reasons’ I mean that his is also happening as a result of phenomenological analyses conducted in the realm of `pure consciousness’ using Husserl’s epoche: bracketing the existence, or reality, of the conscious subject. I am convinced that the line of demarcation between the subjectivistic (idealistic) and objectivistic (realistic) views in anthropology and ethics must break down and is in fact breaking down on the basis of the experience of the human being. This experience automatically frees us from pure consciousness as the subject conceived and assumed a priori and leads us to the full concrete existence of the human being, to the reality of the conscious subject. With all the phenomenological analyses in the realm of that assumed subject (pure consciousness) now at our disposal, we can no longer go on treating the human being exclusively as an objective being, but we must also somehow treat the human being as a subject in the dimension in which the specifically human subjectivity of the human being is determined by consciousness.

“And that dimension would seem to be none other than personal subjectivity.”[2]

The overcoming of this line of demarcation has also been referred to as the transition from the epistemological world of “classicism” that is inadequately realist in that it is abstractive, to the world of “historical consciousness” that is existential and realist without giving up the truth and value of the classical world, but integrating it within it.[3]

Christian Faith is Consciousness before it is Concept

Christian faith is a free moral act of the entire person. It is not primarily an act of the faculty of the intellect. It is an act of the “I” of the person as being that is experienced, and experience is always accompanied by consciousness. Hence, faith as a relational act of person to person.

Comment by John Paul II: “I have already drawn your attention to the difference between the catechism formula, `accepting as true all that God reveals,’ and surrender to God. In the first definition faith is primarily intellectual, in so far as it is the welcoming and assimilation of revealed fact. On the other hand, when the constitution Dei Verbum tells us that man entrusts himself to God `by the obedience of faith,’ we are confronted with the whole ontological and existential dimension and, so to speak, the drama of existence proper to man.

“In faith, man discovers the relativity of his being in comparison with an absolute I and the contingent character of his own existence. To believe is to entrust this human I, in all its transcendence and all its transcendent greatness, ut also with its limits, its fragility and its mortal condition, to Someone who announces himself as the beginning and the end, transcending all that is created and contingent, but who also reveals himself at the same time as a Peron who invites us to companionship, participation and communion. An absolute person – or better, a personal Absolute.

“The surrender to God through faith (through the obedience of faith) penetrates to the very depths of human existence, to the very heart of personal existence. This is how we should understand this `commitment’ which you mentioned in your question and which presents itself as the solution to the very problem of existence or to the personal drama of human existence. It is much more than a purely intellectual theism and goes deeper and further than the act of `accepting as true what God has revealed.’

“When God reveals himself and faith accepts him, it is man who sees himself revealed to himself and confirmed in his being as man and person.”

The result of this experience of self-gift that is faith is consciousness before it is concept. Therefore, the “theological epistemology” of Josef Ratzinger – that is the epistemology of such Fathers of the Church as St. Gregory of Nyssa - kicks in here. Because of its importance as the meaning of the “new evangelization,” I repeat it here:

“In our human life bodily health is a good thing, but this blessing consists not merely in knowing the causes of good health but in actually enjoying it. If a man eulogizes good health and then eats food that has unhealthy effects, what good is his praise of health when he finds himself on a sickbed? Similarly, from the Lord’s saying: Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God, we are to learn that blessedness does not lie in knowing something about God, but rather in possessing God within oneself.

“I do not think these words mean that God will be seen face to face by the man who purifies the eye of his soul. Their sublime import is brought out more clearly perhaps in that other saying of the Lord’s: The kingdom of God is within you. This teaches us that the man who cleanses his heart of every created thing and every evil desire will see the image of the divine nature I the beauty of his own soul. I believe the lesson summed up by the Word in that short sentence was this: You men have within you a desire to behold the supreme Good. Now when you are told that he majesty of God is exalted above the heavens, that his glory is inexpressible, his beauty indescribable, and his nature transcendent, do not despair because you cannot behold the object of your desire. If by a diligent life of virtue you wash away the film of dirt that covers your heart, then the divine beauty will shine forth in you.

“Take a piece of iron as an illustration. Although it might have been black before, once the rust has been scraped off with a whetstone, it will begin to shine brilliantly and to reflect the rays of the sun. So it is with the interior man, which is what the Lord means by the heart. Once a man removes from his soul the coating of filth that has formed on it through his sinful neglect, he will regain his likeness to his Archetype, and be good. For what resemble the supreme Good is itself good. If he then looks into himself, he will see the vision he has longed for. This is the blessedness of the pure of heart: in seeing their own purity they see the divine Archetype mirrored in themselves.

“Those who look at the sun in a mirror, even if they do not look directly at the sky, see its radiance in the reflection just as truly as do those who look directly at the sun’s orb. It is the same, says the Lord, with you. Even though you are unable to contemplate and see the inaccessible light, you will find what you seek within yourself, provided you return to the beauty and grace of that image which was originally placed in you. For God is purity; he is free from sin and a stranger to all evil. If this can be said of you, then God will surely be within you. If your mind is untainted by any evil, free from sin, and purified from all stain, then indeed are you blessed, because your sight is keen and clear. Once purified, you see things that others cannot see. When the mists of sin no longer cloud the eye of your soul, you see that blessed vision clearly in the peace and purity of your own heart. That vision is nothing else than the holiness, the purity, the simplicity and all the other glorious reflections of God’s nature, through which God himself is seen.”

Now observe again Ratzinger’s proposal of “theological epistemology:”

“Thesis 3: Since the center of the person of Jesus is prayer [read love, self-gift, work], it is essential to participate in his prayer if we are to know and understand him.“Let us begin here with a very general matter of epistemology. By nature, knowledge depends on a certain similarity between the knower and the known. The old axiom is that like known by like. In matters of the mind and where persons are concerned, this means that knowledge calls for a certain degree of empathy, by which we enter, so to speak, into the person or intellectual reality concerned, become one with him or it, and thus become able to understand (intellegere = ab intus legere).“We can illustrate this with a couple of examples. Philosophy can only be acquired if we philosophize, if we carry through the process of philosophical thought; mathematics can only be appropriated if we think mathematically; medicine can only be learned in the practice of healing, never merely by means of books and reflection. Similarly, religion can only be understood through religion… The fundamental act of religion is prayer, which in the Christian religion acquires a very specific character: it is the act of self-surrender by which we enter the Body of Christ. Thus it is an act of love. As love, in and with the Body of Christ, it is always both love of God and love of neighbor, knowing and fulfilling itself as love for the members of this Body (underline mine).“In Thesis 1 we saw that prayer was the central act of the person of Jesus and, indeed, that this person is constituted by the act of prayer, of unbroken communication with one he calls `Father.’ If this is the case, it is only possible really to understand this person by entering into this act of prayer, by participating in it. This is suggested by Jesus’ saying that no one can come to him unless the Father draws him (Jn. 6, 44). Where there is no Father, there is no Son. Where there is no relationship with God, there can be no understanding of him who, in his innermost self, is nothing but relationship with God, the Father… Therefore a participation in the mind of Jesus, i.e., in his prayer, which… is an act of love, of self-giving and self-expropriation to men, is not some kind of pious supplement to reading the Gospels, adding nothing to knowledge of him or even being an obstacle to the rigorous purity of critical knowing. On the contrary, it is the basic precondition if real understanding, in the sense of modern hermeneutics – i.e., the entering-in to the same time and same meaning – is to take place… All real progress in theological understanding has its origin in the eye of love and in its faculty of beholding”[6] (underline mine).

How "I" Know Another "I"

Again, let’s go slowly here to understand more clearly and deeply what is at stake in the “knowledge” of another as “I.” This is precisely the knowledge that BenedictXVI claims to be missing in present day society,[7] and that its absence – the absence of God – is the major crisis of the present day. This knowledge of God as “I,” i.e., as precisely what He has revealed Himself to be, Yahweh – “I AM WHO AM” – is the knowledge that yields eternal life: “Now this is everlasting life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou has sent, Jesus Christ” (Jn. 17, 3). In his comment on John Paul II’s “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” Ratzinger observed, “God in Karol Wojtyla is not only thought but also experienced. The pope expressly opposes the limitation of the concept of experience which occurred in Empiricism; he points out that the form of experience elaborated in the natural sciences is not the only kind, but that there are also other forms which are no less real and important: moral experience, human experience, religious experience (34). But this experience is, of course, also reflected upon and verified in its rational content.”[8] He (Ratzinger) previously noted: “This knowledge of God, in which God is not longer merely thought, but is also experienced, ripens in that dialogue with God which we call prayer. `Prayer is a search for God, but it is also a revelation of God,’ says the pope (25): to pray is not just to talk, but also to listen.”[9]

Notice that the action of prayer as act – and the first act - of the “I” of the believer yields a consciousness of who Christ is (“the Christ, the Son of the living God”) before there are any concepts. This is necessarily true for two reasons: 1) no one can know another as “I” precisely because the “I” is not visible to the senses as “I;”[10] 2) a fortiori, because of the uncreated transcendence of God, “no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mt. 11, 27). The philosophic root of this noetic consists in this: the only being that one as direct unmediated access to is the self, the “I.” Every other noetic endeavor is mediated by perception or symbol to produce some identity between the knower and the known. The material reality must be taken in by the perceptive power of the knower as precisely a perception, and then abstracted from in order to be rendered immaterial for the identification with the immaterial knower. Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur. The “I” can only be experience by the “I” in the act of free self-determination and in this there is no medium. When two persons engage in the same activity, the experience that one has of self as “I” can then be transferred to the other “I” who experiences self in the same way. And it is in this way that we can say that we “know” another in his/her subjectivity as “I.”

This is the basis of the theological epistemology of knowing Jesus Christ and being able to know Him and confess, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16). John Paul explains (following Ratzinger and, say, the Greek Father of the Church, Gregory of Nyssa) that Simon must enter into the prayer of Christ to the Father so as to experience becoming Christ as relation to the Father in order to experience in himself what it means to be Christ. That experience then is within the prayer-believer and, by reflection, is able to say: “You are the Christ…” because I am also the Christ.

Theological Epistemology Becomes Political Epistemology

But in the very nature of this epistemology, by the very act of entering into the prayer of Christ, the believer transcends himself as Christ is Self-transcendence by his very divinity. Hence, by experiencing himself to act like Christ, and therefore be Christ (since the action of relating to the Father is His very Person as Logos), the believer also experiences himself. And so, in the very act in which one experiences Christ, one experiences self. John Paul II said it this way: “When God reveals himself and faith accepts him, it is man who sees himself revealed to himself and confirmed in his being as man and person.”[11] We could add to this: “and as citizen.” And as this revelation is experiential of the self about the self, it is consciousness before it is reflectively intentional and therefore conceptual. This consciousness is the self as inviolate dignity and subject of rights and responsibilities, in a word, the Declaration of Independence. This consciousness that accrues to faith is the very consciousness that is the basis of American, and all, democratic citizenship. As Benedict said on December 22, 2005: “the modern age had also experienced developments. People came to realize that the American Revolution was offering a model of a modern State that differed from the theoretical model with radical tendencies that had emerged during the second phase of the French Revolution.”

This insight that is at the root of American political philosophy was rendered conceptually explicit by Leo XIII and enshrined in the major magisterial document Dignitatis Humanae of Vatican II. I repeat the quote from John Courtney Murray, who was the “first scribe” of the third and fourth schemas of that document:

“I consider that by some manner of genius he (Leo XIII) put forth the principle of solution. It is contained in the special twist, so to speak, that he gave to the Gelasian doctrine. Consistently, he posits as the root of the necessity of an `orderly relation’ between the two powers the fact that `utriusque imperium est in eosdem,’ the rule of both is over the same one man. If therefore there is conflict and not harmony between them, the conflict is felt in the depths of the personal conscience, which knows itself to be obligated to both of the powers which are from God. Their harmony therefore is required by the unity and integrity of the human personality. The whole Gelasian doctrine is thus made to grow, from the standpoint of the finality of the diarchy [Church and State] , out of the essential datum, `civis idem et christianus,’ the same one man who is citizen and also a Christian. (underline mine).

“(T)he Leonine starting point is not the Church nor are its perspectives social. Its starting point is the dualism within the human person, who is both child of God, member of the Church, and also member of the human community, citizen of a state – endowed in each capacity with a set of rights, which are of different origin but which must be organized into an organic whole. And the principle of organization is the primacy of the spiritu7al aspect of his nature, which implies the fundamental right to have the two powers to which he is subject in harmony with each other. The finality of this harmony is ot a social unity but a personal unity – the integrity of the human personality. It is only by preservation of this integrity that man is truly `free,’ empowered to be n fullness what he is – citizen and Christian. This freedom is a positive empowerment – the full faculty of obeying the law which he knows to have the primacy (the law of Christ as mediated by the Church), under due obedience to the other law to which he is also subject, the human law of the state. Unless these two obediences are in harmony, there is no freedom.
“My point is that this Leonine restatement of the Gelasian doctrine opens in principle the way to the solution of the ancient problem in its modern position – the manner of exercise of the indirect power, the manner of maintaining the primacy of the spiritual under respect for the autonomy of the temporal. [Read here, “secular”]. Leo XIII was in advance of Pius XII in placing `the whole man in his concrete and historical reality at the center of the whole social order in its two components, Church and state, whose dualism corresponds to the dualism in man himself and whose orderly relationship is the exigence of the unity of human personality…. In the developed conditions of modern political society they are not the medieval sacerdotium and imperium, nor yet the Throne and Altar of the confessional state. The are sacerdotium and civis idem et christianus.”

Leo XIII’s “Civis idem et Christianus” Becomes “Dignitatis Humanae”

A Short History

The Epistemological Development from the "archaic" principle, “Truth Alone Has Rights” to the ontologically subjective, "Persons Have Rights." John T. Noonan, Jr. writes: “John XXIII commissioned an encyclical, Pacem in terries, which he issued in April 1963.” The scribe of the encyclical was Pietro Pavan, a thinker who was “capable of reading and taking in the American sources, of citing the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom as the first of its kind, and of distinguishing the American concepts from those developed by the French Revolution. Over thirty times the encyclical used the phrase `the dignity of the human person’ – the phrase that was in the end to introduce the document on religious liberty. Without Pacem in terris – so Pavan later observed - `it would have been difficult to come to that conclusion [on religious liberty] to which the Council came.’”[13]

“Almost simultaneously with the issue of Pacem in Terris came an official notice from Rome: Murray was designated an expert of the Council and invited to participate in its proceedings. Murray ascribed the invitation to Cardinal Spellman, who, as he put it, `pried me in.’”[14]

“In November 1963, as the second session of the Council was under way, Murray appeared before the Theological Commission. The issue was whether the text prepared by the Secretariat for Christian Unity should be reviewed by another committee…. The chairman of the Theological Commission was Cardinal Ottaviani. Murray rose to speak, introduced by John Wright, bishop of Pittsburgh. `Who is that man?’ asked Ottaviana, nearly blind and not hearing the introduction. `An expert, eminence,’ he was informed. The debate went on for two and one-half hours. At its conclusion Ottaviani’s own commission voted 18 to 5 in favor of the Secretariat’s text proceeding without further review.”[15]

The Secretariat’s text, however, was still not on the Council’s agenda. Murray wrote the presentation of the text to the Council that was delivered by Bishop De Smedt. It contained four reasons for a document by the Council: (1) The reason of Truth (only by forming and following conscience could a human person obtain the end of human life, union with God; (2) The reason of defense (atheistic materialists sought to deprive human persons of this liberty. The believers needed to assert it for all. (3) The reason of peaceful coexistence (In today’s world there were no societies so closed that their actions of religious discrimination did not have repercussions elsewhere; (4) The reason of ecumenism (Catholics were suspect of defending religious freedom as long as they were a minority; but when a majority, they would want to deny it to others). The presentation goes on to assert that religious liberty does not mean “indifferentism,” nor the relativism of truth, nor contentment with uncertainty with religious truth.

“What did the term [religious freedom] mean? Two things: positively, `the right of the human person to the free exercise of religion according to the dictate of the person’s conscience;’ negatively, immunity from all external coercion in such matters. Affirming the existence of religious truth and the duty to seek it, the report asked the Council to assert the inviolability of the person in relationship to God.” [16] Noonan then asked “Could such a declaration be controversial? To the curia conservatives it was not only controversial but unthinkable.”[17]
Murray then wrote a 112 page essay for the American Hierarchy entitled: “The Problem of Religious Freedom” in which he presented the two epistemological views that were competing at this critical point of the Council.

The two views are those we have seen above: classicism and historical consciousness. The one belongs to the epistemology of sensible experience and abstraction that renders reality to be “object.” Noonan summarizes the “First View:” “(It) was guilty of `Fixism,’ the doctrine that the Church’s understanding could not develop; `Archaism,’ a rejection of the present age and a return to the past; and `Misplaced Abstractness,’ insistence on an ideal where there were only concrete conditions.”[18] With regard to the “Second View,”

Murray began:

“The problematic of religious freedom is concrete and historical. Its construction begins with a scrutiny of the `signs of the times.’ Two are decisive. The first is the growth of man’s personal consciousness; the second is the growth of man’s political consciousness… Man’s sense of personal freedom is allied with a demand for political and social freedom, that is, freedom from social or legal restraint and constraint, except in so far as these are necessary, and freedom for responsible personal decision and action in society. Freedom, not force, is the dynamism of personal and social progress.
“The common consciousness of men today considers the demand for personal, social, and political freedom to be an exigency that rises from the depths of the human person. It is the expression of a sense of right approved by reason. It is therefore a demand of natural law in the present moment of history.” Hence, because of this “growth of the personal and political consciousness, the state of the ancient question concerning public care of religion has been altered. Today the question is not to be argued in medieval or post-Reformation or nineteenth-century terms, scil., the exclusive rights of truth and legal tolerance or intolerance, as the case may be, of religious dissidence. The terms of the argument today are, quite simply, religious freedom. The question is to know, first, what religious freedom means in the common consciousness today, and second, why religious freedom, in the sense of the common consciousness is to receive the authoritative approval of the Church.
“The Second View addresses itself to the question in its new historical and doctrinal state.”

The Key to "Secularity": The Human Person as “Theonomous[20]-Self-Determining-Freedom”

Murray reaches the key to discernment with regard to the two views when he says: “Two lines of argument converge to establish the relation between freedom of conscience and freedom of religious expression. First, a true metaphysic of the human person affirms that human existence is essentially social-historical existence. It is not permitted to introduce a dichotomy into man, to separate his personal-interior existence and his social-historical. Hence it is not permitted to recognize freedom of conscience and to deny freedom of religious expression. Both freedoms are given in the same one instance; they are coequal and coordinate, inseparable, equally constitutive of the dignity and integrity of man. A dichotomy between them would rest on a false metaphysic of the human person.” Hence “(it) is not within the competence of the public powers to consign churches to the sacristy, or to exterminate religious opinions from the public domain. The Erastian doctrine that the public powers are the arbiter of religious truth and the architect of church polity is not only contrary to Christian doctrine but also contrary to political principle. Civil law, which has no power to coerce the religious conscience, has no power to coerce the religious conscience, has not power to coerce the social expressions of the religious conscience. To bring force to bear, in restraint of freedom of religious expression is to bring force to bear on conscience itself, in restraint of its freedom.” [21]

Secularity in Magisterial Teaching

The key to the entire issue is the fact that the human person as historical and existential “I” is also the truth of Being. Freedom and truth are not separate in the “I” but one. Freedom is not truthless, and the fullness of truth is not an abstraction. The truth of freedom is the existential and historical gift of the self as image of the divine Persons. The “I” given is both truth-as-consciousness and freedom. The separation of freedom and truth after the first sin is overcome in the self-gift of Christ on the Cross. John Paul enunciates: “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom.”[22]

“Secularity” is presented as “dimension” and “characteristic” in Christifideles laici #15. “Certainly all the members of the Church are sharers in this secular dimension but in different ways. In particular the sharing of the lay faithful has its own manner of realization and function, which, according to the Council, is `properly and particularly’ theirs. Such manner is designated with the expression `secular character’ (bold mine).

“In fact the Council, in describing the lay faithful’s situation in the secular world, points to it above all, as the place in which they receive their call from God: `There they are called by God.’ This `place’ is treated and presented in dynamic terms: the lay faithful `live in the world, that is, in every one of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very fabric of their existence is woven.’ They are persons who live an ordinary life in the world: they study, they work, they form relationships as friends, professionals, members of society, cultures, etc. However, the Council considers their condition not simply an external and environmental framework, but as a reality destined to find in Jesus Christ the fullness of its meaning….

“The `world’ thus becomes the place and the means for the lay faithful to fulfill their Christian vocation because the world itself is destined to glorify God the Father in Christ…. The lay faithful, in fact, `are called by God so that they, led by the spirit of the Gospel, might contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties….” Thus for the lay faithful, to be present and active in the world is not only an anthropological and sociological reality, but in a specific way, a theological and ecclesiological reality as well…

“Precisely with this in mind the Synod Fathers said: `The secular character of the lay faithful is not therefore to be defined only in a sociological sense, but most especially in a theological sense. The term secular must be understood in light of the act of God the creator and redeemer, who has handed over the world to women and men, so that they may participate in the work of creation, free from the influence of sin and sanctify themselves in marriage or the celibate life, in a family, in a profession, and in the various activities of society.’”

The Incarnation of the Logos is the paradigm of secularity as dimension. The freedom of the Logos, now become Flesh, before the Father is the autonomy of the “world”[24] subsumed into the humanity of the Person of Christ. The Body of Christ, the Church in its totality (including the religious) is secular, with the autonomy of the divine Person of Christ before the Father.

But there is also secularity as "characteristic." This means the secular world, its work and friendships, is the very occasion of the giving of the self. John Paul II described it as “the place, the environment, the means, or if you prefer, the tools and language of our response to the caring love of God.”[25]

Secularity as characteristic is intrinsic to Christian anthropology, not the result of an extrinsic state. “Secularity… is not added on to our vocation from outside. On the contrary, it receives it fullest meaning from our vocation. Our vocation means that our secular state in life, our ordinary work and our situation in the world, are our only way to sanctification and apostolate.[26] Secularity is something Christian, a Christian way of being and living. In other words, our divine vocation, our spirit – or in broader terms, Christian faith and morality – cannot be judged from the starting-point of a secularity defined a priori. Rather, secularity should be judged and valued – or rather, discovered – from the starting-point of our vocation, and what the Christian faith reveals to us about man, about the world and about our destiny.”[27]

[1] Karol Wojtyla, “The Acting Person,” D. Reidel Pub. Co. Boston, USA, 32.
[2] Karol Wojtyla, “Subjectivity and the Irreducible in the Human Being,” Person and Community, Lang (1993) 209-210.
[3] “The second great trend of the 19th century was the movement from classicism to historical consciousness… Suffice it to say that classicism designates a view of truth which holds objective truth, precisely because it is objective, to exist `already out there now” (to use Bernard Lonergan’s descriptive phrase). Therefore, it also exists apart from its possession by anyone. In addition, it exists apart from history, formulated in propositions that are verbally immutable. If there is to be talk of development of doctrine, it can only mean that the truth, remaining itself unchanged in its formulation, may find different applications in the contingent world of historical change. In contrast, historical consciousness, while holding fast to the nature of truth as objective, is concerned with the possession of truth, with man’s affirmations of truth… The Church in the 19th century, and even in the 20th, opposed this movement toward historical consciousness. Here, too, the reason was obvious. The term of the historical movement was modernism, that `conglomeration of all heresies,’ as Pascendi dominici gregis called it. The insight into the historicity of truth and the insight into the role of the subject in the possession of truth were systematically exploited to produce almost every kind of pernicious `ism,’ unto the destruction of the notion of truth itself – its objective character, its universality, its absoluteness. These systematizations were false, but the insights from which they issued were valid. Here again a work of discernment needed to be done, and was not done. To be quite summary about it, this work had to wait until Vatican Council II.
“The sessions of the Council have made it clear that, despite resistance in certain quarters, classicism is giving way to historical consciousness;” [Appendix III by John Courtney Murray, S.J. in the Paulist Press (1966) publication of the “Declaration on Religious Freedom of Vatican Council II”]

[4] Andre Frossard, John Paul II, “Be Not Afraid,” St. Martin’s Press (1982) 66-67.
[5] Gregory of Nyssa, “De Beautitudinibus:” PG 44, 1270-1271; Second reading from Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time.
[6] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 25-27.
[7] “The greatest `crisis’ facing the Church and the world is `the absence of God’ – a culture and way of life without any transcendent dimension, without any orientation toward eternity, toward the sacred, toward the divine. And that the `solution’ to this `crisis’ is quite simple to express in a phrase: the world needs `the presence of God;’” “The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI, Let God’s Light Shine Forth,” Robert Moynihan, Doubleday (2005) 4.
[8] J. Ratzinger, “God in Pope John Paul II’s Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” Communio 22 (Spring, 1995) 110.
[9] Ibid. 109.
[10] “In order for me to regard the other or neighbor as another I … I must become aware of and experience, among the overall properties of that other `human being,’ the same kind of property that determines my own I, for this will determine my relationship to the other as an I. The lived experience of my own I – of the human being that I am as a self – is determined… not only by self-consciousness but also and to a far greater degree by the self-possession conditioned by self-consciousness. Self-possession is connected ore with the will than with knowledge. I possess myself not so much by knowing myself as by determining myself. Self-possession brings to light both my full subjectivity and the objective unity that exists between my activities and the being that I am as the subject of those activities. Self-possession thus testifies to my own I as a person. The category of the person objectifies and expresses in philosoph8ical language (and in everyday language as well) what is given in experience as the I…. I cannot experience another as I experience myself, because my own I as such is nontransferable. When I experience another as a person, I come as close as I can to what determines the other’s I as the unique and unrepeatable reality of that human being…. I have no other access to another human being as an I except through my own I.
[11] Andre Frossard and John Paul II, “Be Not Afraid,” St. Martin’s Press (1982) 67.

[12] John Courtney Murray, S.J., “Contemporary Orientations of Catholic Thought on Church and State in the Light of History,” Theological Studies, Vol. X, June 1949, no. 2, 220.
[13] John T. Noonan, Jr. “The Lustre of Our Country, The American Experience of Relgious Freedom,” University of California Press (1998) 339-340.
[14] Ibid. 340-341.
[15] Ibid. 341.
[16] Ibid. 342.
[17] Ibid. 342.
[18] Ibid. 343.
[19] John Courtney Murray, S.J. “The Problem of Religious Freedom,” Woodstock Papers, The Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland (1965) 17-19.
[20] Man has a genuine moral autonomy. But this autonomy, which means self-determining, is both created and therefore needy of preservation in being, and relational, in that man must be affirmed and loved in order to have an identity and be capacitated to exercise self-determination. Hence, the term “theonomous.” See “Veritatis Splendor” #41.
[21] John Courtney Murray, S.J., “The Problem of Religious Freedom,” op. cit. 38-39.
[22] Veritatis Splendor #85.
[23] “Christifideles laici” #15.
[24] “For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollo’s, or Cephas; or the world, or life, or death; or things present, or things to come – all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor 3, 22-23.
[25] L’Osservatore Romano, N. 17 – 26 April 1995, 3.
[26] St. Josemaria Escriva, Letter, 9 January 1959, 41.
[27] The Prelate of Opus Dei, Letter, 28 November 1995, #20.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Have you heard of Herman Dooyeweerd? He has both, conservative and radically liberal interpretors.