SSPX on “Religious Freedom”
An interesting fruit of the battle about HHS mandate is the fact it forces the Church in the US to progressively clean herself from the influences of a not-so-glorious past; but in doing so, she runs the risk of her message not being properly understood, or being altogether wrong.
The issue here is religious liberty. There is no doubt in the US:
a) there has historically been a great measure of religious liberty, and
b) this religious liberty is now endangered by the HHS mandate and the Obama troops.
It seems wrong to me to deny that, from the factual point of view, religious liberty has served the Church in the US well. A country originally colonised by hard-line Protestants now has some 70 million Catholics, and I doubt this would have been the case if religious liberty had not been – though nothing is perfect on this earth – a distinctive trait of American society.
Up to here, I think we all agree, even the SSPX: what American faithful now have (=religious liberty) is worth fighting for, because what will happen otherwise is a country where Christianity – and most directly, Catholicism – is discriminated against or even, in extreme cases, forced to go underground.
In addition, the issue of religious freedom is what allows – and rightly so – to obtain the mobilisation of Protestants, Jews & Co against the HHS mandate, undoubtedly an attack on religious freedom. If the Church in the US would say “religious freedom is endangered, but we don;t care because we are against religious freedom in the first place” this would not be terribly useful, or intelligent.
Where the problems begins is – as the SSPX rightly observed – when the US Church interprets religious freedom as something intrinsically right, or intrinsically Catholic. This is very V II, and very wrong. Read these words:
From well before Cardinal Gibbons, Catholics in America have been advocates for religious liberty, and the landmark teaching of the Second Vatican Council on religious liberty was influenced by the American experience. It is among the proudest boasts of the Church on these shores. We have been staunch defenders of religious liberty in the past. We have a solemn duty to discharge that duty today.
As the Gipper would say, “there you go again”. Again the usual V II soup, and again the defence of an error as the result of the “American experience”.
Far more to the points are the words of the SSPX:
Certainly we must fight for the liberty of the Catholic Church – that is, the ability for her to fulfill her divine mission to save souls, promote the faith (particularly in society) and enact the corporal acts of mercy. However, this is a much different thing than defending religious liberty, a false notion that originated with the Protestants and condemned as an error under the generic title of “Liberalism”.
Note the SSPX doesn’t say the Church in the US must not fight against the HHS mandate, or for her ability to work as freely as she can. But when religious liberty is smuggled for a Catholic value, we are clearly in heresy territory. It can’t be said that error is entitled to the same degree of freedom as Truth, and that a country in which error and truth are allowed the same rights is doing things the Catholic way. Jesus did not die on the cross so that people may be Muslims, of Hindus, or whatever. He did not say “I am one of the ways”.
Therefore, religious liberty is emphatically not a Catholic value, even if it was
“the vision of our founding [?] and our Constitution, which guarantees citizens of all religious faiths the right to contribute to our common life together”
and this is the first time I see Catholic bishops approving non-Catholic religious principles from a largely Protestant body, and taking their Protestant ideas as an example of good Catholic thinking. This must have been V II, no doubt.
If I were an American citizen, my take on the matter would be that whilst I can be a good Catholic and a good American, I will never allow my patriotism to come before my God, and therefore in matter of religious freedom I will acknowledge religious freedom as a component of American political life, whilst wishing and professing the Catholic view on the matter, namely: that error can never have the same rights as Truth.
I do not think this is too much to ask of a Catholic in the US, because it is not too much to ask of a Catholic everywhere else. On the contrary, when the US bishops make of religious liberty a religious value, they are mixing Catholicism with US politics, and giving right to those who say V II, wrongly interpreted – as on this occasion – only produces confusion and heresy. I understand they are fighting a good fight against secular oppression, but they are sending signals that whilst politically acceptable are very wrong if taken as religious principles.
The President’s good servant, but God’s first.