Sunday, August 05, 2012

Faith and Religious Liberty

Rorate Caeli: De Mattei: "Religious Liberty - or liberty for Christians?"

"Further, the right of being immune to coercion, or rather the fact that the Church does not impose the Catholic Faith on anyone, but requires the freedom of the act of faith, does not arise from a presumed natural right to religious freedom or a presumed natural right to believe in any religion whatever, but it is founded on the fact that the Catholic Religion, the only true one, must be embraced in complete freedom without any constraints."

This does not seem to explain why the act of faith cannot be coerced. Should it not be said that the act of faith, by its very nature, must be free? The will moves the intellect to assent to God as First Truth, and the will cannot be coerced.

Secondly, if one is motivated to assent to propositions of the Faith for a reason other than God Himself, then it would not be an act of Faith but of some other sort of belief.

Since Faith cannot be coerced or compelled and its object is Divine and it is an act possible only through God's grace, it falls outside the competence of human authority. Human authority may act to protect the Church but it cannot punish those who have deliberately rejected Faith, except in so far as they threaten the good of the community? Does the Church have the authority to punish those who have sinned in rejecting Faith? It seems to me that Aquinas is wrong on this point. Even if Christians are obligated to keep the Faith, once they have turned away from it, how can they be compelled to return to it? How can anyone but God move them to return to Faith?


Geremia said...

"How can anyone but God move them to return to Faith?"

Divine Providence is the only being capable of changing hearts, and He chooses to work through secondary causes to carry out His plan.

States must profess the Catholic Faith, not because they by themselves are capable of converting the citizens they serve, but because their authority comes from God, and to disobey His 1st Commandment, which would be against natural law, is a tyrannical abuse of this authority.

papabear said...

Yes, God has appointed that men convey the truths of the Faith and administer the sacraments, among other tasks. And one can argue that polities have an obligation to worship God and recognize him "publicly" or as a group. But I am doubtful about the claim that human authority can compel former Christians to observe the obligations of Faith because human coercion is not proportionate to restoring Faith.

Geremia said...

"But I am doubtful about the claim that human authority can compel former Christians to observe the obligations of Faith because human coercion is not proportionate to restoring Faith."

It seems this is a denial of the rationale behind excommunication.

papabear said...

Excommunication seems to be more the drawing out the implication of a serious sin than an attempt to compel Faith directly. (All mortal sin separates himself from God and communion with His Church.) I am responding specifically to Aquinas's claim that "there are unbelievers who at some time have accepted the faith, and professed it, such as heretics and all apostates: such should be submitted even to bodily compulsion, that they may fulfil what they have promised, and hold what they, at one time, received."

Geremia said...

To maintain the common good, the State is in charge of "bodily compulsion," which is why the Church handed heretics over to civil authorities to have them tried and tortured or executed.

papabear said...

Bodily compulsion can be used to deter or punish acts that injure the common good, but that does not imply they can be used to compel Faith directly, or are effective in doing so.

Geremia said...

"Prov 23:13 Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Prov 23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell."

papabear said...

I don't see that as a proof text for Aquinas's claim, just for corporal punishment to prevent vices opposed to the four cardinal virtues from taking root.