Friday, November 24, 2006

Why Give Thanks on Thanksgiving? - November 2006

What should we be giving thanks for on Thanksgiving? I suggest what seems a subtlety in epistemology but... : the self-gift to Christ, which generates an anthropology of the dignity and rights of the "subject" - the "I" -, creates the political dualism, and therefore separation of Church and State. This dualism is unique to the United States of America. John Courtney Murray, S.J. affirmed: "the United States of America (is) the first state in the history of the world that was established by the uniquely revolutionary means of a formal constitutional consent" ["Contemporary Orientations of Catholic Thought on Church and State in the Light of History," Theological Studies Vol X, June 1949, #2, 187.] It is therefore the first truly "secular" state that emerged from the lived Christian faith of 150 years of Pilgrim experience.

In Islamic experience and culture, since God is so transcendent that there can be no giving of self to an unfindable Self, that dualism is impossible. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger remarked: "The construction of society in Islam is theocratic, and therefore monist and not dualist; dualism, which is the precondition for freedom, presupposes for its part the logic of the Christian thing.

"In practice this means that it is only where the duality of Church and state, of the sacral and the political authority, remains maintained in some form or another that the fundamental pre-condition exists for freedom. Where the Church itself becomes the state freedom becomes lost. But also when the Church done away with as a public and publicly relevant authority, then too freedom is extinguished, because there the state once again claims completely for itself the justification of morality; in the profane post-Christian world it does not admittedly do this in the form of sacral authority but as an ideological authority – that means that the state becomes the party, and since there can no longer be any other authority of the same rank it once again becomes total itself. The ideological state is totalitarian; it must become ideological if it is not balanced by a free but publicly recognized authority of conscience. When this kind of duality does not exist the totalitarian system in unavoidable.

“With this the fundamental task of the Church’s political stance, as I understand it, has been defined; its aim must be to maintain this balance of a dual system as the foundation of freedom. Hence the Church must make claims and demands on public law and cannot simply retreat into the private sphere. Hence it must also take care on the other hand that Church and state remain separated and that belonging to the Church clearly retains its voluntary character.”[1]
[1] J. Ratzinger, “Church, Ecumenism and Politics – Theology and the Church’s Political Stance,” Crossroad (1988) 162-163.

Theological Epistemology Becomes Political Epistemology
(from the July 11 blog above)

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.”[12]
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.”[19]

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.’”[23]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. 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" (Letter, Prelate of Opus Dei, Nov. 1995).

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