Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What if we just stop fighting Vatican II?

Bl. Pius IX
On February 7, Johannes Faber at Golden Straw huffed, "All this talk about Obama's health bill is rather shocking. I think that the way American Catholics are rebutting it is extremely unwise. I am referring to the constant appeal to religious freedom."

From there, you can pretty much figure it out, even if you don't follow the link: Cite Syllabus of Errors and St. Thomas Aquinas, then cast Dignitatis Humanae into non-infallibility as if such will make it irrelevant.  The only extra difference is that Faber brings up the Vatican's efforts to bring the Society of St. Pius X back to full communion: 

I propose, pace the US Consistution, American Catholics find other ways of arguing this issue. Otherwise we may find ourselves either a) cutting off the branch we're sitting on, or b) with egg on our faces when this issue is resolved in the Church in the future. I do think that Dr Pink's paper on the matter goes a long way in resolving this issue in the Church, but until we have a clear consensus [there is a clear consensus among the successors of the apostles, which is the only consensus needed; this is just weasel-speak for "until the unreasonable folks in the Vatican finally give the SSPX some concessions"] , it would wise for us to rely on other arguments (that are generally better anyway).
I think we need to be clear: HHS is not wrong because it is anti-Catholic. It is wrong because it is mandating something that is intrinsically evil, and contrary to the natural law. Religious liberty has nothing to do with it, the evil of contraception is not a revealed truth [non sequitur]. Conscience is only relevant in so far as we make clear that we will not comply.  But this is not about building a fortress where can carry on our pleasant prophylactic-free lives [and nobody said it was, either] — the endgame is to have no contraception anywhere, not just to have Catholic hospitals exempt. We should not be using secular, atheistic [?] arguments like religious liberty to justify this, because of the consequences down the road. Our arguments must be rooted in philosophy (not theology) and the natural law. We have had enough of the world's greatest philosophers in the one true fold of the Redeemer to be able to construct a better, richer and more convincing argument from than religious liberty.

Can I point out one tiny, teensy little flaw with this brilliant plan?  Such as that neither the President nor Congress nor SCOTUS is bound to philosophy or natural law but to the Constitution of the United States?

Since we're all into quoting Church documents, let me take an example from a Church Father, St. Augustine:

Perhaps you will read the gospel to me, and will attempt to find there a testimony to Manich├Žus. But should you meet with a person not yet believing the gospel, how would you reply to him were he to say, I do not believe? For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church (Against the Letter of Mani Called Fundamental 5:6).
I bring this example up because our fellow Americans, particularly those in a position to limit our freedom within the public square, don't feel themselves under any onus to recognize magisterial authority in Bl. Pius IX or St. Thomas Aquinas.  We need freedom of speech and religion in order to promote the further goal of converting people away from contraception.  And I speak of "conversion" because, even if I could grant Faber's arguments against religious freedom and Dignitatis Humanae, that wouldn't change the fact that we're in no position to compel obedience.  This is neither France in the 13th century nor Spain in the 17th century; the Inquisition, if it were ever a proper instrument of the Church (a dubious proposition), is no longer a viable possibility.  We are therefore limited in our tools to persuasion and evidence; papal allocutions are no good here.

This brings me to one of my greatest pet peeves: the "bunkhouse lawyers" who are all for compelling obedience to the Church except when it comes to acknowledging the authority of Vatican II.  Then "Compelle intrare!" turns into quibbles about dogmatic councils versus pastoral and appeals to finer detail, as if the bishops of Vatican II were any less successors of the apostles than the bishops of Trent. 

The infallibility of Dignitatis Humanae is barely relevant in this context: since the documents of Vatican II would still fall within the ordinary exercise of the magisterium, we are still called to "adhere to [them] with religious assent", which is distinct from yet an extension of the assent of faith (CCC 892).  For all that they aren't accompanied by the traditional definitions and anathemas, they still bear the authority of a legitimate Council held in communion with the Holy See.  

Don't hold your breath waiting for B16 to throw DH under the bus in order to bring the SSPX in.  It's not gonna happen.  And in any event, in order to make the case against contraception, we must first be allowed to speak as Catholics in the public square.  The HHS ruling is simply a "wedge" issue; the Obamination's ultimate goal is to confine religion within the four walls of church, synagogue, mosque and temple — as I've said before, to turn our churches into little more than catacombs built to code.

Just as St. Paul used pagan Greek and Latin poets to preach to the people of Athens (Ac 17:28), we're justified in basing our arguments on the secular ("atheistic" is neither accurate nor apposite) Constitution because that is the only grounds the secular government is bound to respect.