Friday, July 6, 2012


It was hot, hot, hot and even more humid, humid, humid, but here's the 10:30 AM Mass at downtown Savannah's Forsyth Park:


Nate said...

It felt like a State of the Diocese Address with all of the clapping and standing...but it was awesome!

If this becomes an annual occasion (and I hope that it does), I pray that Bishop Hartmayer makes it during a cooler month!

Marc said...

Since we have all been praying for it these past few weeks... Here's the Catholic teaching on "religious liberty":

Fr. Reginal Garrigou-Lagrange:

"Liberty of religions allows us to frame an argument ad hominem, against those, that is to say, who profess liberty of religions yet harass the true Church and directly or indirectly forbid its worship. That argument ad hominem is correct, and the Catholic Church does not disdain it but rather urges it in defense of her rightful liberty. But from that it does not follow that liberty of religions, considered in itself, can be defended unconditionally by Catholics, for in itself it is absurdand wicked: truth and error cannot have the same rights."

Pope Pius XII:

"The annual celebration of this feast (of Christ the King) will remind States that magistrates and rulers are bound, just like citizens, to offer public worship to Christ and to obey Him.... For His royalty requires that the whole State be governed by the commandments of God and by Christian principles in its legislation, in the way it does justice, and also in training youth with sound doctrine and good moral discipline."

"We shall not delay here to repeat that it is a serious error to affirm that this separation [of Church and State] is licit and good in itself."

Pope St. Pius X:

"That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error. Based as it is, on the principle that the State must not recognize any religious cult, it is in the first place guilty of a great injustice to God..."

Marc said...

... continued:

Pope Leo XIII:

"Justice forbids and reason itself forbids the State to be godless, or to adopt aline of action which would end in godlessness -- namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow on them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. Since, then, the profession of one religion is necessary in the State, that religion must be professed which alone is true [that is, the Catholic religion]."

"And since the people is declared to contain within itself the spring-head of all right and of all power, it follows that the State does not consider itself bound by any kind of duty towards God. Moreover, it believes that it is not obliged to make public profession of any religion; or to inquire which of the very many religions is the true one; or to prefer one religion to all the rest... but, on the contrary, is bound to grant equal right to every creed, so that public order may not be disturbed by any particular form of religious belief.... [T]his most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theoryand practice, and this in the same thing as Atheism, however it may differ from it in name."

Condemned by Pope Pius IX in his Syllabus of Errors:

CONDEMNED - Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guidedby the light of reason, he shall consider true.

CONDEMNED - The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church.

CONDEMNED - In our day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion be acknowledged as the one State religion to the exclusion of other formsof worship.

CONDEMNED - Praise is due to certain nominally Catholic countries where the law has provided that strangers coming to live there shall enjoy the public exercise of their particular religions.

Marc said...


In Dignitatis Humanae, the Second Vatican Council explicitly states, "[This Council] leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ." Therefore, we know that everyone I cited above, which is taken entirely from the ordinary Magisterium of the Church (except for the bit from Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange) is binding upon Catholics.

Summary: Non-Catholic "religions" are merely tolerated where the civil consequences and potential difficulties of stamping out false religions might create a greater evil.

Actually, say what you will, but Abp. Lefebvre makes an excellent point on this in his Open
Letter to Confused Catholics while explaining why we should maintain this teaching in modernity:

"And yet in practice the Church does not prescribe blindly and intransigently regarding the expression of false religions in public. She has always said that they could be tolerated by the authorities in order to avoid a greater evil. That is why Cardinal Ottaviani preferred the term 'religious tolerance.'

If we put ourselves in the position of a Catholic state where the religion of Christ is officially recognized, we see that this tolerance can avoid troubles which may be harmful to the whole. But in a secular society professing neutrality, the law of the Church will surely not be observed. Why, you will then ask, maintain it?

First of all, it is not a question of a human law that can be abrogated or altered. Secondly, abandoning that very principle has its consequences."

Anonymous said...

The music was marvelous and spirit filled - the Sacred Heart Folk Choir was outstanding.

Joseph Johnson said...

Thank you for the rundown on the traditional teaching on religious liberty/tolerance and the language of continuity in Dignitatis Humanae. Given this clear language of continuity ("leaves untouched" etc.) what is the crux of the SSPX's criticism of Dignitatis Humanae?

I pray daily for their regularization as I believe there is much good they can contribute to the Church. However, I have never fully grasped the essence of their objections/reservations in this area. Can you summarize this for those of us who have an interest but lack the time to study this problem in depth? Thanks!

Anonymous 2 said...

The Bishop gave a good homily.

Marc, I need some help with these passages:

(1) I do not fully understand what Archbishop Lefebre is saying in his final two paragraphs .

(2) I do not see much “tolerance” in most of the pre-Vatican II passages quoted.

(3) Can these passages, or indeed Archbishop Lefebre’s principle of “tolerance” (once it is clarified), be squared with the rest of Dignitatis Humanae?

(4) Can they be squared with the apparently more positive tone (i.e., more than “mere tolerance” of error) in Nostra Aetate (e.g., while proclaiming the truth of Christ, the Church “rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these [non-Christian] religions”)?

Thanks for your help with this.

Marc said...

Joseph - The problem with Dignitatis Humanae is found at the beginning of the document in the second paragraph: "The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself." The issue is precisely what is meant by religious "liberty" coming from the dignity of the human person - this is not Traditional Catholic teaching.

On the contrary, here is a very brief summary of the SSPX/Traditional Catholic teaching: "As for man’s 'liberty', mankind has been endowed with free will, but only to use for good – that which corresponds with Truth (i.e., Christ and His Church) – but not to do evil. Or as the Catechism asks: 'Why did God create you?' Thus error never has any rights. However, the secularistic and anti-Catholic principle of religious liberty denies this reality and instead, makes error equal to Truth."

Essentially, there is no dignity in the human person in religious terms when they believe in a false religion (that is, any religion other than the Catholic religion).

Here is Abp. Lefebvre on this:

"What is dignity? According to Catholic tradition, man derives dignity from his perfection, i.e, from his knowledge of the truth and his acquisition of the good. Man is worthy of respect in accordance with his intention to obey God, not in accordance with his errors, which will inevitably lead to sin. When Eve the first sinner succumbed, she said, “The serpent deceived me.” Her sin and that of Adam led to the downfall of human dignity, from which we have suffered ever since.

We cannot then make the downfall the cause of liberty. On the contrary, adherence to truth and the love of God are the principles of authentic religious liberty, which we can define as the liberty to render to God the worship due to Him and to live according to His commandments.

If you have followed my argument, you see that religious liberty cannot be applied to false religions; it does not allow of being split up in this way; the only right that must be recognized by the state is that of the citizens to practice Christ's religion."

Marc said...


(1) Basically, the teaching is that the State can tolerate false religion (that is, non-Catholic "religion") where the keeping of the civil order would be disturbed by not doing so as societal chaos in this regard is a greater evil to be avoided. But, since the teaching on religious tolerance comes from God, we cannot presume to change the teaching itself.

(2) The tolerance of the quoted sections is that in a non-Catholic state, heretics are not killed. Falsity is tolerated, but should not be allowed to propagate - so that in a Catholic State, false "religion" has no right (they would be barred from public worship, advertising, etc.). Another aspect of tolerance is that no one can be coerced into believing the Catholic Faith, but again that does not give them the right to publicly espouse their particular error.

(3) If I could square Dignitatis Humanae with Catholic Tradition, I think the Holy Father would name me a cardinal! At this point, only the Holy Father himself or an ecumenical council can explain the interrelation of these things. Since Dignitatis Humanae is vague and there is an overwhelming amount of documents (what I quoted is a drop in the bucket) supporting apparently contrary positions, I'll stick with the previous Popes on this, personally.

(4) With regard to the "little bit of Truth in every religion idea", this has always been something recognized by the Church. However, it was previously seen as the "lot of falsehood in every other religion idea". I would summarize by saying that, yes, there is a glimmer of Truth in Hinduism for example, but there is quite a bit more falsehood. And a little bit of falsity is like being a little bit pregnant!

As for Nostra Aetate, it just doesn't make sense to me. Modern day Jews believe in a false religion, plain and simple. They are not the "chosen people" - the Catholic Church bears that mantle. Jews need to convert just like every other non-Catholic - to pander to them as our "elder brothers in the faith" is ridiculous. Modern day "Judaism" bears little to no relation to the Judaism of Christ and our Blessed Mother. It is the worst sort of charity to tell these people they are saved in their false religion...

Marc said...

And just so no one says I am being anti-Semetic, we are speaking of the Jewish "religion" here, not the Jewish people. We should love the Jewish people so much that we want them to drop their false religion and embrace Catholic Truth so that they can be saved. How much more pro-Semetic can you be than wanting the Jewish people to get to Heaven? Same goes for everyone else!

ytc said...

Outdoor Masses! The HORROR!

Anonymous 2 said...

Thank you, Marc. You have really helped to clarify and focus the issues. I think we now have a much better understanding of the SSPX position on these matters and why it is one of the stumbling blocks to full communion with Rome.

I have not read all the pre-Vatican II documents you cite (except of course for your excerpts). I have, however, just now read again Dignitatis Humanae, Nostra Aetate, and the 1974 Guidelines on Religious Relations with the Jews. Reading those documents alone, I personally can find nothing objectionable in them. Perhaps they can be reconciled in some way with the earlier documents. Perhaps they cannot.

I would like to make a few observations.

First, on a personal level, one of the reasons I was attracted to the Catholic Church over thirty years ago was precisely that it seemed to be much more tolerant (i.e., robustly tolerant as in Dignitatis Humanae, not anemically tolerant as in “We will not kill you any longer”) and accepting (i.e., as in “We don’t regard you as damned for eternity if you are not Christian/Catholic”) than some of my fellow Christian believers (for some of whom, of course, we Catholics are damned because the Church is the Anti-Christ: let’s not forget that!). The Catholic position as I understood it made sense to me, both theologically and experientially (i.e., in light of my personal knowledge of people of other faiths, and even no faith, some of whom were close friends).

Second, I have grown weary of so many different groups, secular and religious, running around all making absolutist claims to have “THE truth” and condemning all the others as “false.” Clearly, applying the law of non-contradiction, they can’t all be right; at best only one can. But that is the point. Isn’t it a fallacy to apply the law of non-contradiction in an all or nothing way as so many groups tend to do? We don’t_have_to do that. And I believe the Catholic Church does_not_do that. Instead, the Church seems to recognize that there is a continuum, with Truth (the fullness of Truth as revealed through the Catholic Church) at one end and Falsity at the other, with degrees of Truth and Falsity depending on where one is on the continuum. Moreover, perhaps the other end is not utter Falsity (what would that be exactly?). I believe the Church can legitimately engage in dialogue with those holding other beliefs to identify common ground (greater or lesser depending again on the place of the partners on the continuum). Actually it is probably a spectral continuum because there are different issues/strands/themes – with more agreement on one, less on another perhaps.

Third, I wonder if human dignity should not also be understood in the same way, so that it too is not like pregnancy in fact. Instead, might there not be a continuum of dignity with full restored human dignity in Christ at one end and utter depravity at the other? Moreover, perhaps the other end is not utter depravity (again, what would that be exactly?) but an irreducible core of human dignity that belongs to all humans as images of God. However, because we are fallen and sinful creatures, we also are undignified to a greater or lesser extent depending where we are on the continuum. Was the Prodigal Son totally without dignity? Or did he have some remaining dignity enabling him to “come to his senses” and return to his Father?

Anonymous 2 said...


Fourth, might that parable provide a clue for a proper understanding of “tolerance”? The Father did not compel his son to return but waited patiently with loving and open arms; indeed He ran towards his son as he was returning (a metaphor for inter-faith dialogue perhaps?). And Jesus went among sinners to call them to repentance. I assume He did not condemn everything in their lives, just their sin (similarly, the Church does not condemn everything in our lives, just our sins). And presumably it is no answer to say that unless they followed Him they were damned. That begs the very question at issue. It may be different if someone has truly heard the Word and then rejects it in an act of complete free will.

Fifth, and following on from the last point, I am no theologian and do not know the answers to all these questions, or whether the SSPX is right or not. I will leave it to the Magisterium to decide these matters. As I have said before, they are beyond my pay grade. But as long as the Magisterium abides by the relevant Vatican II documents, I am inclined to abide by them too. Also, as always, if anything I have said above is theologically unsound, I seek correction from those who know and understand much more than I do.

But thank you again, Marc, for focusing us on the issues and for clarifying them for us. As I said, it is really helpful.

Anonymous 2 said...

P.S. I have an additional thought regarding my second point. The continuum approach avoids the Scylla of completely conflicting absolutist and total claims to have THE truth and the Charybdis of relativism. It allows the Church to maintain Her own absolutist and total claims to have the one true religion (and others to maintain any similar claims they might have) while reducing the areas and degree of conflict. It is no longer complete conflict arising from a lack of understanding but a reduced and more manageable conflict arising from mutual understanding. As to the remaining areas of disagreement, we can rely upon divine grace to let the Truth be revealed to all in the conversation, as it surely will be in the fullness of time. And presumably the same is true for the question of ultimate salvation. At least so I would like to believe.

Joseph Johnson said...

Yes, thanks, Marc, for taking the time to put things in a "nutshell" as best you can! It would now be great to hear a clerical perspective on this issue.

Anonymous said...

A2, nice posts there. I don't claim to be an expert on either the "official" Church position or the so-called SSPX position. There is clearly a misunderstanding or at least a gulf presently existing, whether perceived or actual, between current Catholic teaching on this and former Catholic teaching. It does have practical consequences in terms of how we respond to other religions, so it is all the more important in these modern times.

I have a couple thoughts to add to your post, which deal with the same practical-level line of thought (as opposed to doctrinal).

First, what I once heard an FSSP priest say in a homily: "You'll never hear me preach on extra ecclesiam nulla salus. We are in the Church, there's no need to talk about those on the outside in a homily."

Second, we believe as Catholics that we have a particular grace that comes from being in the Church, in fact we have the Sacraments - established by Christ to convey grace. Yet, often we are put to shame by Protestants and others in deeds and works and faith. By analogy, many outside the Church are better builders than us and they are working without tools and with no toolbox!