A collection of personal reflections. Copyright © 2005-2011 K. Gurries

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Intervention of Mgr. Dupanloup (Part III)

Freedom of Worship
We now proceed to Mgr. Dupanloup’s discussion of the topic of “Freedom of Worship” within the context of Quanta Cura and the Syllabus.  He begins by pointing out the mass confusion on the true position of the Church in this matter.  The Papal condemnations essentially have to do with the error of religious indifferentism or the proposition that one religion is as good as any other.  In other words, the Church condemns that indifference between good and evil, between truth and falsehood and also the notion that it is “man who makes the truth” to be believed.

Granted, you again reply; but surely you cannot deny that the Encyclical condemns liberty of conscience and freedom of worship?  Here, again, pray explain yourself; for in France, and throughout the world, there are strange ways of understanding these points.

Must it be repeated for the hundredth time?  What the Church and the Pope condemn is religious indifference, or indifference in matters of religion. An absurdity, the more absurd because it is impious, which now-a-days is repeated on all sides, in every key, viz: that religion, God, the soul, truth, virtue, the gospel, or the Koran, Buddha, or Jesus Christ, truth and falsehood, good and evil, are all the same; and to justify such aberrations, men have gone so far as to assert that it is man who makes the truth which he believes, and the sanctity of that which he adores.    

The Principle of Tolerance
At the same time, however, we must distinguish between the error, in itself, and the socio-political tolerance of religious error for good and just reasons (i.e., in order not to deny a superior good or in order to avoid greater evils).  In other words, to tolerate error “with a good intention” is not to sanction religious indifference or to approve of the error in itself. 

But to repel this insensate and culpable indifferentism, and the license which consequently flows from it – is this to refuse tolerance to persons, and civil liberty in worship?  This never was admitted, and all the theologians declare the contrary.   

Never have the Popes condemned those governments who considered it their duty to inscribe this tolerance, this liberty upon the constitutions, according to the necessity of the times.  What do I say?  The Pope practices it himself at Rome.  “Error is the evil, and not the law, which, with a good intention, tolerates error.”  This is what I have read in a book lately printed at Rome, under the eyes of the Index, and it is what Pius IX deigned to say to me during the last winter.  “The Jews and Protestants,” he said, “are free and quiet with us.  The Jews have their synagogue in the Ghetto, and the Protestants in their temple at ‘Porto del Popolo,’ the gate of the people.”

A Tradition of Religous Freedom
To condemn error and indifference, per se, is not to condemn persons nor does is contradict a "guarantee to individuals" for the sake of the inviolable rights of conscience and [due] freedom in religious matters.1  Here we must distinguish between the error, in itself, and the erring person who remains a subject of human rights – often in spite of his errors.  Mgr. Dupanloup then gives us a sense of the tradition of freedom of worship in the case of the crowning of Napoleon by Pope Pius VII.     

But all of this is traditional with the Popes.  Did not Pius VII receive in person the oath of Napoleon on the day of his coronation, and did not this oath contain an engagement to respect, and cause to be respected by others, the freedom of worship?  What passed at that time is memorable, and well calculated to enlighten men of sincerity on this head.

The form of the oath at first troubled the virtuous Pontiff.  Did it not imply indifferentism, and the negation of the authority of the Church, and the imprescriptible rights of truth?  The Pope justly desired to know.  Cardinal Gonsalvi requested explanations.  Cardinal Fesch replied that the words implied none of the evil principles which the Pope apprehended, but merely a civil tolerance, and a guarantee to individuals.  Pius VII declared himself satisfied; Napoleon pronounced the oath before the Pope, and was solemnly crowned.  So true it is, that to condemn indifference in matters of religion, is not to condemn the political liberty of worship, and to condemn doctrines is not to brand persons…freedom of worship allowed to dissenters does not imply adhesion to the tolerated forms, nor contradict the Christian dogma, repeat, when the occasion demands it, the celebrated words of Fenelon, addressed to James II: “Grant legal tolerance, not by approving all as indifferent, but by suffering with patience all that God permits, while endeavoring to lead men to the truth by mild persuasion.”

Religion Not By Force
After having considered the Papal condemnation of indifferentism and the true ideal of Christian unity, Mgr. Dupanloup denies any possible interpretation that would seek to impose religious truth on individuals and society by means of force.

But does this mean that we would impose our faith on you by violence, and compel you to believe?  Not the least in the world.

In the first place, I reply that it is impossible.  Can force persuade man?  Can it make them wish for what they do not want?

“No,” said Fenelon.  “No human power can force the impenetrable intrenchments of the freedom of the heart.” (Discourse at the consecration of the Elector of Cologne.)

Such was not the doctrine of our masters in Christianity; of those who had the undying glory of having founded and propagated the faith in the world.

Mohametanism established itself by the sword; Christianity was founded by the power of the Word…

“It is not,” said St. Athanasius, “with the sword, nor by the aid of soldiers and arms, that the truth is preached, but by persuasion and counsel.  The characteristic of religion is not to constrain, but to persuade.” (S. Ath. Ad solitaries; Non enim gladiis aut telis, non militum manu veritas predicator, sed suasione et conaillo, religionis proprium est non cogere, sed persuadere.)

The Right To Defend Her Children
On the other hand, the Church has a right to protect her own children by all legitimate means including the right to enact and enforce disciplinary laws for her members.  These points of common sense are made abundantly clear by a series of rhetorical questions that any honest intellect can easily grasp.

Does that mean that the Church, to whom everything is now denied, has not like every society, her rights of defense, her canonical discipline, and her correctional authority?  That the Church ought to be, here below, as if she had only angels to deal with?  That the Church ought to remain absolutely without strength to defend herself and her children against the attacks of impiety?  Would this declare that the spiritual authority should not have the rights even of paternal authority, of which she has the duties, and that she ought to leave the minds and hearts, the faith and morals, of her children to be corrupted with impunity?  That she ought not to possess that which the most humble father of a family undoubtedly claims – the right, the duty, and the means to protect the objects of his affection against the enemies of the family and each other, and to prevent them from committing folly, or being misled, or ruining themselves?   

The Sense of the 77th Proposition
All of this positions Mgr. Dupanloup to present the true sense of the 77th proposition of the Syllabus.  The civil society constituted on the basis of unity of faith (sacral state) is a blessing and ought to be preserved and defended by all legitimate means wherever it exists.

Would this same Catholic tradition teach, that if, in the course of ages there had been, or that there are yet, certain regions of the world where the law of the Church has become the civil law, in consequence of the unity of faith, and the agreement of the will among the citizens, where the State has constituted the Bishop protector of the holy canons – does it say that there the Church and the State have acted without right?  For this is the meaning of the 77th proposition…

Has not this been the state, for ages, of the great countries of Europe, who have had their days of glory, which we are not sure of equaling?  Are the fruits of division so delicious?  And is not unity of religion, in a country, a blessing which we may use all legitimate means to preserve?

The social state, where the religious law had penetrated the civil law, was long the normal and general state of Europe; and it still subsists, in a certain degree, in the greatest and freest countries of the world.    

Changed Circumstances
At the same time, however, one must acknowledge that not every state is blessed with such a unity of faith insofar as mixed populations have developed in many regions of the world.  Such circumstances require social tolerance from Catholics and civil freedom of worship in view of the common good as well as the good of individuals.  Put another way, the de facto shift away from a sacral state (i.e., constituted on basis of unity of faith) to a secular state (i.e., constituted on the basis of affinities of nature) requires a corresponding de jure adjustment to the [due limits] inherent in religious freedom.  Such an adjustment “must be determined for each social situation by political prudence , according to the requirements of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority in accordance with ‘legal principles which are in conformity with the objective moral order’” (CCC 2109).

But circumstances having changed, and the public law also, do we learn from this that Catholics would fail in their duty to God and the Church by accepting sincerely, and in all simplicity of thought, the constitution of their country, and the civil freedom of worship which it authorizes?  Or, if we speak of liberty, when we are weak, is it only to refuse it to others when we shall be strong? 

Possession Suffices
Mgr. Dupanloup rejects outright any suggestion that the Church would seek to suppress due religious freedom should Catholics be in a position to do so.  Catholics are not free to simply renounce or betray their promises.  Additionally, Mgr. Dupanloup notes that the mere “possession” of a civil freedom “suffices” to ensure that it be respected in the future in the sense that possession is nine-tenths of the law.    

Of all the accusations usually directed against us, this has always appeared to me, I confess, the most insupportable, because it attacks our good faith and our honor…Were we a hundred times the strongest, we should be faithful to our word; we would always maintain our oaths.  Besides the engagements which are made, even the possession suffices to make liberty of worship respected.

The principle that “possession suffices” is also important to help us understand the 78th proposition of the Syllabus.  Cardinal Newman states that “the men who were forbidden the public exercise of their religion were foreigners, who had no right to be in a country not their own at all, and might fairly have conditions imposed upon them during their stay there…”  Furthermore, Cardinal Newman indicates that the context of the Papal Allocution applied to the situation in New Granada. (Cf. Newman, Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, 1875)   

Concluding Observations

The intervention of Mgr. Dupanloup sheds an important light on Quanta Cura and the Syllabus.  In recent times we have numerous examples of those who attempt to “spin” Papal acts in ways that align with or support their own particular ideology.  The Papal acts of Pope Pius IX were not immune to similar distortions.  In addition to those hundreds of Bishops (including Pope Pius IX himself), we can all be grateful to Mgr. Dupanloup for his courage to set the record straight by tackling the many distortions head on.  He has accomplished this by outlining some basic rules for the interpretation of Papal acts.  Additionally, he has provided us with an important conceptual framework in the thesis-hypothesis distinction.  Finally, he has elucidated the true sense of freedom of worship as it exists in various contexts.  

In the first place we can consider the sacral state freely constituted on the basis of unity of faith.  In this case, the Church laws penetrate the civil laws and the due limits to religious freedom will conform to positive divine law.  Alternatively, we can consider the context where there is lacking (for any variety of reasons) such a unity of faith.  In this context, the secular state is freely constituted on the basis of natural law or affinities of nature and the due limits to religious freedom will conform to the natural moral law (See Figure 3 above).2  Therefore, while religious freedom exists in both scenarios, the due limits are applied analogically according to the circumstances and to the degree of unity that actually exists in a given society.  Of course, the real nub of the problem lies in the unavoidable tensions created during any period of social transition where Catholics in good standing often find themselves favoring various (even opposing) hypotheses.  Finally, while never losing sight of the absolute ideal, in itself, (thesis) and the essential universal principles, Catholics will seek to understand the question of fact in the here and now – adapting suitable social forms that meet the just requirements of concrete circumstances (hypothesis).


Back to Part I            Back to Part II


1 I am referring to the traditional Catholic understanding of freedom of conscience that is correlative to duties of conscience.  "Conscience has rights because it has duties..." (Cf. Cardinal Newman, Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, 1875) 

2 Taparelli appears to have expressed a similar view as noted by Dr. Rao: “What happens if a society suffers an obvious, severe division of opinion regarding religious truth, as in any modern pluralist society?  Every Catholic in such circumstances, the Civiltà argued, should strive to re-Catholicize the society in question with the greatest possible vigor.  Nevertheless, the Catholic living under these conditions of disunity could demand from the State only those restrictions on error that were commonly accepted by everyone as being rational and natural.”  Dr. Rao also makes the following comment relative to the position taken by Taparelli:  “Even if a society had made great advances towards re-Catholicization, the Civiltà urged moderation in re-establishing the fullness of Church-State connections.  This can be seen in its comments on concordat negotiations with Tuscany in 1851, after the disturbances of 1848. Ideal concordats put into operation in troubled circumstances could, instead of working effectively, endanger the entire concept of authority." (Cf. Rao, Op. cit.) 


Anonymous mike said...

Some will still say the Church demands that all is subject to her and this denies free will but these three articles definitely gives us a chance to refute that claim. I do have a problem still with the oath of Napoleon and the secular understanding that can be given by those who do not practice our catholic religion. I can accept why the Pope accepted the government explanation and why the Church interpreted it for Her benefit. Perhaps I have misunderstood or see a nuance in the article that does not exist.

September 03, 2009 9:28 AM  
Blogger flatlander said...

Much obliged to you for this thorough exposition, and for exposing me to Bishop Dupanloup for the first time. I'm a seminarian wading through the history of this period (using Bokenkotter's CHURCH AND REVOLUTION) and found your input very helpful. I'll be distributing your blog site to my classmates for their edification, and checking back periodically myself!
What, may I ask, prompted you to tackle this subject?

October 12, 2009 5:04 PM  
Blogger K Gurries said...

flatlander, thanks for your comments and I am glad you found the piece helpful. I am fortunate to have a number of very good priest friends visit this blog -- and from time to time I get encouragement, constructive feedback and suggestions. One priest (residing in New Zealand) prompted me to look into Bishop Dupanloup and I am very grateful to him for the recommendation. It was certainly a challenge but well worth the effort.

October 12, 2009 6:51 PM  

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