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

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Basile Valuet On Hermeneutic Of Reform

Sandro Magister brings us another important contribution by Benedictine theologian Basile Valuet to the ongoing debate concerning the nature and interpretation of the "hermeneutic of reform" proposed by Pope Benedict XVI.  As we have seen previously, the philosopher Martin Rhonheimer considers that Vatican II had "corrected" previous teaching relative to the nature and function of the state in relation to the Church and its duties towards religious truth.  Furthermore, Rhonheimer considers the logic behind the "due limits" taught by DH to correspond to a conception of a civil order that has a secular character in the sense of being "neutral" towards the diverisity of religious traditions.  This is precisely where Rhonheimer identifies the "discontinuity" introduced by vatican II -- even if not at the level of a dogmatic rupture.  According to Rhonheimer, the previous Magisterium seemed to demand the "confessional" Church-state model (where the state acts as a department or "secular arm" of the Church) whereas Vatican II seemed to propose the secular model of the state where the spiritual and temporal powers are each considered mutually autonomous.


Basile Valuet rejects this conclusion and indicates that Vatican II leaves open the possibility for a variety of governmental forms -- including a confessional state.  The Benedictine theologian also stresses that the errors of liberalism, condemned in the 19th century, remain condemned today and are perfectly compatible with DH and the "hermeneutic of reform" proposed by Pope Benedict XVI:   

"According to Benedict XVI, Pius IX was taking aim at the "radical liberalism" of the 19th century, but not at other forms of the organization of society, rising from a further evolution of liberalism. The discontinuity between Vatican II and Pius IX stems from the fact that RF is not the "freedom of conscience" condemned in the 19th century: it did not have either the same foundation, or the same object, or the same limitations, or the same goal. So it will always remain true that the liberalism condemned by Pius IX was condemnable (R. does not see this), but it will not always remain true that the theories or the states of law that we have before us are the ones that Pius IX condemned (R. grasps this perfectly)."

The principles of RF are universal whereas the application can vary accrording to the circumstances of time and place.  In other words, there is no universal or "one size fits all" juridical formula to implement RF in every possible circumstance or social context.  The development or "novelty" introduced by Vatican II was to formulate the principles governing RF in a more general way -- taking into account changing circumstances and the wide diversity of legitimate social and governmental forms in the modern era:

"If a change of situation cannot change the natural law, it can nevertheless make a principle of the natural law (let's call it P1: it is not contrary to the natural law that the state should repress religious error), valid in a previous situation of ius gentium (in which RF is not yet recognized in reciprocal form), no longer apply in the same way in a new situation of ius gentium (in which RF is mutually recognized), and make another principle be applied now (P2: the modern state does not have penal competency, not even delegated, in religious matters).  In this way, if one wishes to have a truth that is valid in every situation, one is obligated to formulate a principle P3, more general, which combines P1 and P2, and which DH has made an effort to formulate: it is contrary to the natural law that the state - in any age - should repress religious error, unless, in the circumstances considered, it disturbs the just, objective public order."    


Anonymous Ben G said...

Rhonheimer is undoubtedly wrong.

On an unrelated topic, do you know what happened to David's blog? It seems to have disappeared without a warning.

June 02, 2011 2:33 AM  
Blogger K Gurries said...

Hi Ben. I think David decided to close down his blog.

June 02, 2011 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Gurries,

Would you be willing to dig into the arguments found in this article on RF: http://blog.messainlatino.it/2011/06/un-interessante-articolo-di-cristianita.html

Unfortunately, I can only find it in Italian, though the online translation is readable.

June 04, 2011 10:43 AM  
Anonymous Ben G said...

Yes, I guessed as much myself. It's a pity he didn't leave time to thank him & save some of the interesting blog posts.

June 04, 2011 2:15 PM  
Blogger K Gurries said...

Anonymous 10:43, the themes are familiar and I have written here quite a lot on most aspects of the question. Maybe you have something specific in mind?

June 04, 2011 4:19 PM  
Anonymous Ben G said...

Mr. Gurries,

I did read that article (by means of google translator, since I don't speak any Italian). He gives a good basic summary of traditional teaching: that error has no rights, that the State should ideally be Catholic, the rights of Christ the King, etc.

He then admits that there is a right not to be coerced into the Catholic religion, and that the conscience cannot be coerced in the internal sphere.

However, he argues that, "religious freedom in the internal forum in no way implies religious freedom in the external forum, namely the right to practice any religion publicly, to teach any error. The freedom of everyone in this area is limited because the right of others to be protected against false ideas that can be so dangerous to the souls (and even to humans in its entirety) as the drug for the bodies".

Further, "According to traditional doctrine, the state can not force someone to act against his conscience, but has the right, however, in certain cases to prevent them from acting according to his conscience".

I guess those might be the arguments that your commentator wants you to respond to.

June 05, 2011 1:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The author seems critical of Msgr. Dupanloup, though it is hard to tell exactly what he is getting at reading it in translation. He also claims to cite contradictory statements in the last section.

Also I am curious to hear your take on Fr. Thomas Crean's essay on religious liberty, which has a different resolution than any other I have read. http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/thomas-crean/religious-liberty.htm

June 07, 2011 7:11 AM  
Blogger K Gurries said...

Ben and Anon, I suggest checking out the following that cover these issues/themes:

...this on Dupanloup:


This for a brief survey of the common themes on RF:


....and also this for a brief survey of the common themes relative to Church/State relations:


Finally, if you want to go into more detail I suggest this:


June 07, 2011 9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Gurries,

To be clear I am not charging that their is a contradiction, just seeking answers. I am actually much more interested in your Take on Fr. Crean's article, which proposes a harmonization, that I have not read anywhere else.

June 07, 2011 9:53 AM  
Blogger K Gurries said...

Anon, I think the author needs to further consider the response to the "dubia" together with the requirements of "due limits" to RF as taught by DH. The concept of the application of "due limits" is not a univocal but an analogical one. It has to be justly applied given the nature and composition of a given society. That is why the (absolute) limits of natural moral law cannot arbitrarily be extended to Catholic ecclesiastical law -- without consideration of the makeup of the body politic. While everyone is universally subject to the natural moral law -- only those that freely enter through the "door" of baptism are subject to the law of Faith and ecclesiastical law. This is where the author misses the mark in my view.

For more, see my post on Kettler who relies on Suarez to clarify this very point. Basically, the law of the Faith can only be imposed on those that freely subject themselves to it by virtue of their baptismal promises. On the other hand, everyone is subject to the natural moral law by virtue of their natural birth.

Hope this help a little...

June 07, 2011 11:00 AM  
Blogger K Gurries said...

Anon, let me add something more. The author concludes by summarizing his own position:

"So in attempting to reconcile this with the rest of Dignitatis Humanæ, I have argued that one must use the phrase about ‘due limits’ to exclude all actually existing non-Catholic religions. Of course this is a very different interpretation of Dignitatis Humanæ from the one that is commonly held; but in my very fallible opinion, I cannot see any other way to reconcile it with Catholic tradition."

In my view, this conclusion is based on some mistaken ideas -- ideas that are certainly shared by others. To explain what I mean, I invite you to read the following in response to Fr. Laisney (SSPX) where the heart of this question is addressed:


June 07, 2011 2:32 PM  
Anonymous Ben G said...

I have read all of those articles you linked to.

Tell me if I'm understanding your arguments about public religious liberty correctly: the human being is social, and therefore has the right to social interaction. This applies to the social aspect of religion also, so that it would be unjust to prohibit a Jew from meeting with other Jews to worship God together and exchange religious views in their synagogue. Freedom of religion doesn't only mean that one is free to maintain certain false religious ideas in one's head, but to express them externally.

But there are limits to public religious liberty: in a secular context, based on natural moral law. In a Catholic State, based on the divinely revealed religion. In a Catholic State there are presumably a very small percentage (let's say under 5%) of non-Catholics. So ideally there should be no non-Catholics in this country.

But if there are some, in this context, these people should be free to public worship in their religious buildings, but not to damage the religious unity of the State and people by spreading their religion to Catholics, or undertaking public processions which would offend the natives. The State should legislate in accordance with the morals and spirit of Catholicism, and the Catholic religion should be the sole officially supported religion of the government, but these non-Catholics should still have some such rights to freedom from coercion.


June 07, 2011 9:18 PM  
Blogger K Gurries said...

Ben, I think there are some important points to clarify.

Para. 1: Yes, man's social nature requires that he also worship with others or socially (not only in private). But he does not have a right to error, as such. He has a corresponding right to fulfill the duties of conscience -- in spite of his honest error.

Para. 2: Yes, basically the "due limits" will be modified depending on the type of society (confessional or mixed). A true a confessional state is composed of citizens that freely profess the same beliefs. The classical confessional states may "tolerate" others that dwell in the same lands -- but these are not recognized as "citizens" properly speaking. There is no distinction between citizen and faithful in the classical confessional model. Once there is a recognized mixture of "citizens" with various beliefs then (de facto) you no longer have a confessional state.

Para. 3: This is the problem of those residing in a confessional land -- but not formerly considered as citizens -- and legally recognized as having "foreigner" status. These would be free to worship together with others of the same faith tradition (e.g., in a Church or synagogue) but would not be granted the right to worship publicly in the fullest sense (including the notion of civic worship, public processions, etc). Spain (Franco regime) is a good example of this scenario.

I hope that helps a little to clarify.

June 15, 2011 8:57 PM  

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