Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

CSTBlogging: Freedom of Religion

Professor Penalver posts a summary of yesterday's CST class.

I wonder if you can't argue for continuity between Dignitatis Humanae and the Church's position in the 19th Century in a similar way that people have argued for continuity in the death penalty context. Theargumentt would run something like this: the Church didn't really abandon the thesis/hypothesis in Dignitatis Humanae. The Catholic confessional state, with at least the theoretical power to sanction heretics and non-Catholics for their disbelief, remains the ideal. At the same time, the "hypothesis" remains in effect - where a Catholic confessional state isn't possible, religious toleration should be the rule. Dignitatis Humanae can be read not as overturning the form of the existing paradigm, but as making a factual claim about the world: that in the context of the modern, globalized world, the conditions under which Catholic confessional states can be established are basically non-existent. Perhaps in some distant era, if the religious uniformity of the 12th Century has been re-established, the Catholic commonwealth might be able to return, but not now. (Just as, in the death penalty context, the Church doesn't deny in principle the power of the state to take life when necessary, but does say that in the modern context the situations in which execution would be "necessary" would be few if not non-existent.) That way you get continuity and change (I sound like Austin Powers: "Freedom and responsibility! It's a very groovy time, yeah!") which, for those of us who like both free exercise and the idea that Catholic doctrine doesn't frequently make complete 180s, has a certain appeal.

The big problem with this is that you largely have to ignore the actual words of Dignitatis Humanae, which seem pretty clearly to treat the endorsement of religious freedom as a matter of principle rather than prudence. So perhaps the above is a version of "What Dignitatis Humanae Should Have Said" or somesuch.