Sunday, August 07, 2011


I am fascinated by the paper of Dr Thomas Pink over at Rorate, Sensible Bond and Dr Joe Shaw add to the discussion.

The debate on religious freedom centres around the relationship between the Church and the State, it is one of the crucial things in the discussion between the SSPX and the Church. It touches on broader issues, which have had quite a profound influence on the Church over the last half century: in what way may those with authority use it to promote their faith. May they coerce someone to live according to the faith? What is legitimate coercion? Should we coerce the bad to do good?

Just some examples:
Should a parent insist his child goes to Mass? Obviously if child is seven but what about seventeen?
Is it right that a class of children who are baptised should be forced to go Mass at school, rather than play football?
I had a parishioner who was anxious about the practice of her adult children, they believed, I hope, but they were lazy, she left them money providing they ensured a Catholic education for their children. is that right?
What about a bishop coercing the staff at a Catholic school to live according to Catholic teaching. Is it right for him to make it a condition of employment that a cook in the school should go to Mass, or that the caretaker does not fornicate in a house owned by the Church?
Must a Catholic refuse to allow her twice "married" son to sleep with second "wife" when they come to visit?
Must a bishop always denounce an individual Catholic who votes pro-contraception or pro-abortion? What form of coercion can be legitimately used?
What should a local chapter of Catholic Knights do about a Knight who uses IVF, or if his conscience says he should have a vascetimony because of his wife's health.
Similarly should a local councillor, refuse planning permission to a Satanic Temple, if he can do that what, about about refusing to allowing an heretical sect, like the Church of England, who will teach part of the Truth but also errors.


Thomas Windsor said...

As the father of a family ( a wife and 4 children), I am responsible for them. I will need to account to God for all my actions.
I have to ensure they go to Mass, attend family prayer etc., their Spiritual welfare is as important if not more so than their physical welfare.
As part of that I do need to compel my children to attend for example Mass as long as they are under my authority. I can do this as as in many things in 3 ways;
1. by example
2. by reward
3. by enforcement
We need to be careful in using the second and third ways!

As a (Science) teacher, I am also in authority, and need to ensure the children learn. In a Catholic school regular attendance at Mass is a MUST. We need to show the children that their faith is the most important part of their life, and we must use the 3 ways above to ensure this.

It is perfectly fair that someone can leave money to educate children in the Faith, including their grandchildren, it is an example of the second way I mentioned above.

For the other points we should think what God would expect, not what our pagan society wants! We should also not be seen to condone sin, but we should always love the sinner.

santoeusebio said...

Father: We tremble. Are your questions obligatory? What happens if we answer incorrectly due to post-prandial somnolence? Will you appear on the doorstep with the garrote? :-)

Nicolas Bellord

Michael Petek said...

The right to religious freedom is set forth in the international law of human rights.

Under the pre-Conciliar teaching of the Church, the State is bound to repress or tolerate non-Catholic religious activity, but only by a just law and therefore according to what is useful and beneficial to the common good in the particular time and place.

The effect of the right to religious freedom is that acts which fall within its terms may not be repressed save by a law which is not merely useful to the common good. To be just, such a law must be necessary to particular common goods on the following closed list: public safety, order, health or morals, and the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

The right to religious liberty as set forth by the Council entails an absolute right not to be forced to act against conscience, and a right qualified by due limits, not to be restrained from acting as conscience commands.

Finally, the right to religious liberty cannot be claimed by the State for its own organs of government. These are bound to act in conformity with the Catholic religion at all times, though their legitimacy as ministers of God is not affected by reason only of the fact that they do not.

Michael Petek said...

I just visited the website you linked to, Father, and I think the issue arises from the condemnation of the proposition that the Church has no power of temporal coercion.

I put the question once to Pius IX's biographer Roberto De Mattei, and he gave me the answer I had expected: the affirmation of the condemned proposition would have denied the legitimacy of the Pope as Sovereign of the Papal States.

The Pope, and any Bishop, is not disqualified from holding temporal power and coercive authority within a defined territory if it comes to him as a matter of political fact. If he were to exercise coercive power in the territory of another Sovereign, he would be violating his right.

Even when England was a vassal of the Holy See, the enactment of the Statute of Praemunire (preserving the King's monopoly of coercive force in England) attracted no excommunication.

Kate said...

All good questions:
I could only attempt to comment on the first, and have put up my thoughts on my own blog(too long a post for a comment here!)

George said...


Yes to all.

I don't think you mention anything extreme in your litany of questions.

Remember, all the SSPX wants to say is that that is the Teaching of the Church. In practice, prudence may dictate various compromises, examples of which are well documented throughout the 2000 year history of the Church.

The argument in this regard between Traditional Catholics and Modernist Catholics, as I understand it, is not that various and sundry types compromises or arrangements are necessary in order to allow the Church to exist throughout the world, rather, it is that the truth of the matter always be clearly, unambiguously, and traditionally taught and declared.

What's happened in these modern times is the Church has gone from tolerating the State, when the State strays on this or that matter, to a situation where universally the State tolerates the Church, and only to certain degrees. And the modern Church has accepted this paradigm.

This is the rub with Traditional Catholics.

The situation as it exists currently is one where the Church hides the truth and speaks deliberated ambiguously in order to exist publicly. This is untenable and rightly so from traditional Catholics.

santoeusebio said...

In response to Michael Petek. My reading of Professor Pink's article is that the Church has the right of coercion in religious matters and can delegate its authority to the state to do the coercion. The state of itself has no such power of coercion.

Nicolas Bellord

Michael Petek said...

Another point that deserves to be made is this.

Compare the following propositions of a hypothetical criminal law of the State:

(1) "It is an offence for a person to profess any religion other than the true religion."

(2) "It is an offence for a person to profess any religion other than the Catholic religion."

The first might be a just law. The second is not, for there is no gain to the temporal common good in substituting the second for the first.

If a person commits a criminal act under (1) by professing a false religion he honestly believes to be true, he commits no offence in English law because he does not have the mental element (mens rea) of the crime. He is entitled to be tried on the facts as he honestly believes them to be.

Michael Petek said...

Santoeusebio, Professor Pink's proposition relies on Canon 14 on Baptism, Council of Trent.

My reading of it is as follows

The fact that a person was baptised in infancy and refused in adulthood to ratify his baptismal commitment shall not of itself serve as a ground for limiting his penal liability (if any) to exclusion from the Eucharist and the other sacraments.

Canon 14 merely serves to defeat a claim to an exception from liability under any penal law generally applicable to Catholics.

geoffthecat said...

All very interesting questions, Father, but there’s one absolute certainty: No Bishop should allow the distribution of the Protestant, heretical and schismatic Tablet in any of his churches. That sort of orchestrated, large-scale, anti-Catholic propaganda, does infinitely more damage to Christ-and-His-Church than any of the individual cases you cite.

If that issue were to be dealt with - together with wider and better catechesis - then your discussion points should never arise in the first place.

Ma Tucker said...

Why is this discussed under coercion. I would have labeled it charity. The fact is, anything but Catholic teaching and practice will damage. It is right and proper if you love your neighbor to insist on it surely. It is right and proper to enforce it where you have the power and authority to do so coupled with a reasonable expectation of a favorable outcome.

This is akin to discussing whether it is right and proper to insist on people eating nutritious food. Sure, if you value their licentiousness more than their wellbeing you might want to keep stum and let them on. If you love them and desire what is best you will use every means at your disposal to keep them on the right track.

Of course each situation is different and what might be an effective approach for one person may not be effective for another. The issue of employees though needs to be looked at properly. For instance if I run a Catholic school I am set up to provide a faith centered environment for the children. I am acting in loco parentis. The selection of employees is subject to that overriding responsibility. People who are not properly morally formed have no business moulding the minds of children. Out they must go and preferably not be allowed in in the first place. That would go for all employees at the school. Caretakers included. I would have thought that was obvious.

Richard said...

Another excellent piece, Father.

One problem with a lot of the SSPX side on this debate is that they seem to be living in a Habsburg fantasy where the alternative to Freedom of Religion is State-protected Catholicism.

Sadly today the alternative to Freedom of Religion is more likely to be State-enforced atheism.

But as you set out in your questions, there is far more to discuss than that.

Anonymous said...

Let us remember that error has no rights, and that the Bull Unum Sanctum still stands. The SSPX is right to oppose the spirit of 1789, even if many American 'traditionalists' seem unable to see that the US constitution is not holy scripture, but the product of masonry and so called rationalism. Weshould work for the restoration of Christendom, and the restoration of True Monarchy. God save King Francis II!


Fr Ray Blake said...

Who or what is King Francis II?

Richard Duncan said...

“King Francis II” is the fantasy name given by most (but not all) “Jacobites” to a Bavarian aristocrat called Franz Bonaventura Adalbert Maria von Wittelsbach, who, they like to pretend, is the lawful monarch of this country rather than Elizabeth II. In fact, there are a couple of other European claimants to the Jacobite succession and a respectable case can be made for Mrs Windsor herself.

The thing is, these people take themselves seriously. Go to and it won’t be long before you hear the white coats flapping.

Jonathan West said...

What about a bishop coercing the staff at a Catholic school to live according to Catholic teaching. Is it right for him to make it a condition of employment that a cook in the school should go to Mass, or that the caretaker does not fornicate in a house owned by the Church?

Whether or not you happen to think it is right, to do this is in fact unlawful under British law. The recent Equality Act made it clear that exemptions to equality legislation for religious organisations apply only where there is a "Genuine Occupational Requirement (GOR)" for the exemption.

It is accepted that being a man is a GOR for the catholic priesthood, so you needn't worry that women priests will be foisted on the Catholic Church by secular legislation. But a cook is not better at cooking for attending mass, so this cannot be regarded as a GOR.

If it is any consolation, the Evangelicals within the Church of England are greatly upset about this. Some of them (Jonathan Chaplin for instance) wanted to be able to specify a religious test for any church job at all, suggesting that they should have the right for instance to bar a Catholic from being a cleaner in a Church of England school.

I don't think you would want a situation where that kind of religious discrimination against Catholics was permissible and enshrined in law.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I would hope that the entire staff of a school passed on the faith, that it did form a Christian Community, including the cook!

Catholic cooks of course always say the Rosary whilst cooking, in the same way Jewish cooks ensure the proper Kosha regulations are followed, you can't ensure that happens by contract, only by faith committment.

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