Monday, June 27, 2011

You can't have both

Think religious believers are foolish to be worried about attacks on religious freedom in the wake of this gay "marriage" decision in New York? Maybe not:

Though there was unnecessary secrecy in the negotiations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a determined effort to achieve marriage equality in New York. He shares credit with the four Republican state senators who bucked their party and threats from conservatives to do what they knew was right. State Senators James Alesi, Roy McDonald, Mark Grisanti and Stephen Saland, all from upstate districts, deserve the support of their communities. They showed the kind of strength that is extremely hard to find in today’s politics.

In drafting a compromise, however, Senator Saland and other Republicans insisted on language that carves out exceptions for religious institutions and not-for-profit corporations affiliated with those religious entities. That provision allows those tax-exempt entities to refuse to marry a same-sex couple or to allow the use of their buildings or services for weddings or wedding parties. There was simply no need for these exemptions, since churches are protected under both the federal Constitution and New York law from being required to marry anyone against their beliefs. Equally troubling, an “inseverability clause” in the act appears to make it impossible for any court to invalidate part of the law without invalidating the whole law — raising questions about what happens to couples during an appeal.

While some civil rights advocates are optimistic that these provisions are relatively minor, we are deeply troubled by their discriminatory intent. The whole purpose of this law should be to expand civil rights without shedding other protections in the process.

The New York Times apparently believes that it is unnecessary to protect religious believers--and that doing so proves "discriminatory intent."

But there's more, from this:
But in one very important way, gay marriage will not quite be marriage even in New York, even 30 days from now when the law goes into effect. That is because the psycho-sexual-financial-commercial-legal dramas that entangle the domestic lives of straight people often have another component: religion. And religious institutions have an exemption in the new law over accommodating gay people. It was key to the passage of the legislation.

Marriage without a church or temple wedding isn't the real thing. Why can some people have all the bells and whistles in the church of their choice but not me? Of course, there have been and will be congregations and churches that allow gay men and lesbians to be married in their midst and to bless those unions, recognizing that God loves them just as much as Governor Andrew Cuomo does. But some rich and influential religious institutions are not only free to continue to reject gay men and women as equal beneficiaries of all aspects of faith but will now also rally their congregants to reject politicians who are willing to abide with this extension of secular civil rights — no matter how much acceptance there is of same-sex marriage elsewhere, no matter how many wedding announcements appear in the New York Times.

I write this as a deeply religious Christian who is pained that the church that otherwise provides me with so much spiritual comfort and joy will never allow me to marry within its walls. Some clerics may be "liberal" enough to turn a blind eye to gay relationships so long as they do not have to recognize them, much less grant them any kind of imprimatur. And as of now, even in New York, religious institutions cannot be compelled to perform such a simple act of charity. [Emphases added--E.M.]

The writer goes on to say that, of course, the state can't force a church to change its beliefs. But once upon a time most of us believed that the state couldn't force the perverse fiction of gay "marriage" upon its citizens...something to reflect on before we take this writer, or any other same-sex attracted person, at his or her word when he or she says that it would be wrong to force churches to change their beliefs.

The question as to how religious freedom would fare in a post gay "marriage" world has been asked before, of course. Here is an interesting article some readers may remember, from 2006:

Marc D. Stern, whose many years handling religious freedom cases for the American Jewish Congress have made him an expert in the area, can hardly be identified as a conservative agitator. Yet he firmly believes that legal recognition of same-sex marriage will make clashes with religious liberty "inevitable."

"No one seriously believes that clergy will be forced, or even asked, to perform marriages that are anathema to them," Mr. Stern has written. But for other individuals and institutions opposed on religious grounds to same-sex marriage, its legal acceptance would have "substantial impact."

He has in mind schools, health care centers, social service agencies, summer camps, homeless shelters, nursing homes, orphanages, retreat houses, community centers, athletic programs and private businesses or services that operate by religious standards, like kosher caterers and marriage counselors. [...]

Chai R. Feldblum, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and a proponent of same-sex marriage, agrees that permitting gay couples equal access to civil marriage will inevitably burden the religious liberty of those religiously opposed. [...]

For Professor Feldblum, the only honest position is to admit that "we are in a zero-sum game in terms of moral values." In her view, the dignity and equality of gay people should almost always outweigh considerations of religious freedom, though she believes that such freedom might weigh more heavily for religious institutions "geared just towards members of the faith" as opposed to those that interact broadly with the general public.

In other words, even five years ago the answer to the question: does gay "marriage" burden religious freedom? was "Yes, except for those willing to keep their bigotry locked up in the Church itself--and it really doesn't matter so long as same-sex attracted people get what they want."

Watch for that answer to have real, concrete, and grievous effects on religious believers in the state of New York over the next five years. Proponents of gay rights have been clear all along: you can either have gay "marriage" or religious freedom, but you can't have both. It shouldn't surprise anyone that they would choose their own self-interest above the rights of religious believers; and I won't be all that surprised when gay rights activists start agitating for the taxation of churches that won't marry gays, for such churches to lose their ability to sign civil marriage licenses (requiring, for instance, Catholics to have one 'civil' wedding and then a religious ceremony which is totally separate), and to punish "bigoted" and "discriminatory" churches any way they can. It is intolerable to them that our faith, and the faiths of others such as Orthodox Christians, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and some Protestants, should be able to continue to teach that two men or two women are not only not married but merely codifying their perverse sexual behavior; they will not let that rest for long.


John E. said...

So if I understand your logic here...

Some gay Christian is sad that he won't be able to marry in an unspecified Christian church, therefore America is going to lose its religious freedom.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

I too was ambivalent about provisions in the New York law carving out "exceptions" for religious institutions. On the one, hand, it is good the legislators paid attention to the concern. On the other hand, IF these exceptions were SOLELY a legislative act, they could be repealed any time. They are not.

There is a simple, direct, and final answer to the pathetic whiner who wants to know why he can't have "equal access" to any church he wants: it is called The First Amendment. It is elaborated by the courts in the legal doctrine of Church Autonomy in Matters of Faith and Doctrine. Courts simply don't have any jurisdiction, and cannot entertain lawsuits against churches on such matters, except for the time it takes to dismiss them with prejudice.

You won't, I'm sure, find Geoff whining about such matters. He has no interest in seeking anything from a church that will not forthrightly accept him as he is. That is just about the only reason he is not a Roman Catholic.

Incidentally, I am not free to marry in a Roman Catholic church, or in a Jewish synagogue, or in a mosque, or in the churches of at least two Lutheran denominations, because I am none of the above, and a marriage in those institutions has to be performed in conformance to the canons of their respective faiths. So if misery loves company, I'm not miserable, but I'll be happy to offer whiner the consolation of my (virtual) company.

What the legislators should have done is insert an ACKNOWLEDGEMENT that "this bill has no jurisdiction to impose penalties or disabilities upon religious organizations, and no cause of action in violation of the Free Exercise or Establishment clauses of the First Amendment is created by this act."

ANY religious institution, rich or poor, remains free not only to refuse to host a wedding between two persons of the same sex, but to teach that the consummation of such a marriage is a sin, an offense in the eyes of God, unnatural, etc. etc. etc. Those who disagree don't have to pay attention.

And so Erin, although I understand your concern, I think you are making a mountain of binding case law out of a molehill of whining.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

P.S. I have left the same comment at the TIME article Erin quotes from.

Sleeping Beastly said...

I don't think it's an exaggeration at all. The free exercise of religion has limits, and those limits are generally set by this kind of legislation.

If I decided I was a follower of Huitzilopochtli and that I would like to offer daily sacrifices to my patron of my neighbors' hearts, they would lock me up promptly and no amount of talk about free exercise would get me released. A less extreme example is a Rastafarian who (unlike Catholics under Prohibition) is not allowed to possess the herb that's darn near a sacrament to him; free exercise is trumped by federal controlled substance legislation.

A more controversial example can be seen in the legislation up for a vote in my very own hometown prohibiting circumcision. Does free exercise cover cutting flesh off your children? How about just a little snip? What if we've been doing it for millennia?

I don't think it's terribly farfetched to imagine a certain view of equal protection trumping free exercise. This is a battle that pretty much has to have a loser.

Diamantina da Brescia said...

Erin, I see nothing wrong with churches and other religious institutions losing their ability to sign civil marriage licenses. Catholics and other religious people in France and Brazil (among other nations) have "to have a 'civil' wedding and then a religious ceremony which is totally separate". Separating the civil wedding from the religious ceremony might be better for the Church than involving the Church in any affairs of State.

If the Church is going to lose the battle because the majority of Americans does not believe that free exercise of religion trumps equal protection of those homosexuals involved in the gay culture, so be it. The United States is not a Catholic-majority country. Demographics might win out in the end, however: by mid-century, the US is set to become a "majority-minority country". I suspect that by 2111, a majority of US citizens will be at least partly of Latino descent and/or Catholic. (Note: I am partly of Mexican descent, and of course, a Catholic.) If a critical mass of that majority takes their faith seriously, then things will be much better for the Church in the US a century from now.

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is marriage has lost something or is in the process of losing something. I think it's a very short time before most gay people realize it's a shallow victory because, indeed, what they wanted is more than just a social contract. What they WANTED was the sacred union.
And they don't get that. They just get social contract disguised as marriage. Because they want sacred union but they CAN'T define marriage as such without inherently defeating themselves. It won't be very long before they all realize this and start whining. And then, church's will be in trouble. If this were NOT true, than we would have arrived
at a place where gay people could be treated completely
equally under the law, but marriage could remain defined
as between a man and a woman. Just commandeering a word does not in fact change reality. One way or the other.
There is no way to have a "sacred union" without it being a) sacred that is blessed under God not just the state and or b) an actual union which would be two people truly conjoined as one person by a sacrament and further by their offspring. The state only has power to "unify" people contractually and on paper. Again, a shallow victory. And I am sure it's only a matter of time before it's not enough.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Sleeping Beastly, your logic proceeds with impressive consistency from a transparently poor choice of premises.

The reason you can't sacrifice to Huitzilopochtli (at least not your neighbor's hearts) is that you would have to take their lives to do so. On the other hand, if you are a practitioner of Santeria, your right to conduct animal sacrifice is fully protected, by a Supreme Court decision in which a certain conservative Lutheran chief justice was part of the majority. In fact, I believe the decision was unanimous.

The ONLY was Santeria rituals could be prohibited is if ALL killing of animals for ANY purpose was prohibited by law.

If you would look up the court decisions I repeatedly link to when this subject comes up, instead of working yourself up into a paroxysm of misplaced righteous rage, you would be at least modestly edified. If you wished to renew your argument, you could then do so in an informed and perhaps even persuasive manner.

If the Roman Catholic Church continued to sanction burning practicing homosexuals at the stake, THAT would be prohibited by law. But you can teach that the conduct is a sin to your heart's content. Nobody get to suppress free speech, much less free exercise of religion, on the grounds that the speech offends someone or other.


and also study carefully

Note the care with which the 4-3 majority acknowledges that they ONLY have jurisdiction over civil law.

Hector said...

Re: I suspect that by 2111, a majority of US citizens will be at least partly of Latino descent and/or Catholic.

Unlikely. The percentage of Americans who are RC is holding stable or slightly decreasing, because conversion to other religions (or to atheism/agnosticism) more than offsets increased immigration.

Latin America is increasingly less overwhelmingly RC than in the past, as well.

Tarcisius said...

I don’t think the Catholic Church ever “sanctioned burning practicing homosexuals at the stake.” There may have been localized activity (a.k.a. “a few nutjobs”) or a government action using the faith as a cover/excuse that did this, but the Church’s position on murder has always been the same.

Additionally, barring a miracle, I’d be surprised if America as we currently define it even exists one hundred years from now.

Hector said...

Erin, let's flip this around for a minute. Some religious groups, including some Christian churches, have no problem with gay marriages. My church doesn't actually perform them (regardless of what you may hear to the contrary) but I think the Quakers and the Congregationalists do. If gay marriage were illegal, wouldn't that violate _their_ freedom to define marriage as they see fit? Either way, someone's toes are going to get stepped on, to a greater or lesser extent.

I don't, in point of fact, think that gay couples should be able to get married in church. Not that I have anything morally against homosexual sex, but I don't think such a relationship is a Christian marriage. That being said, I don't care if they get married in a civil registry. Secular and Christian marriage are two very seperate things.

Anonymous said...

I want to say this again:

Note the similarity in tone between Erin's dire predictions about the coming religious persecution as a result of legalized gay marriage, and the dire predictions she made during the 2008 election:

The first thing Obama would do, if elected, was push an abortions rights act through Congress and thereby shut down the entire pro-life movement and force Catholic hospitals and "doctors" (chiropractors? podiatrists?) to perform abortions on demand.

Has that happened?

Neither will religious people be pushed into hiding or jailed for speaking out about or practicing their faith.

A certain flavor of conservative religious activism seems to thrive on fear.


romishgraffiti said...

I think we are losing the overall thrust of this thread. Mainly, that this isn't over by a long shot. Homosexual acts are evil by any standard except in the Progressivist-faux-egalitarian Matrix which we are currently theocratically ruled by (just minus a formal god.) And the thing about evil acts are, its stalwart practitioners need accomplices and need naysayers silenced. Like the anonymous poster pointed out, the homosexual lobby can gloat about how they badgered the state into forking over an official looking piece of paper, but ultimately it is hollow, and soon they will be back on the prowl looking for whomever they can devour.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Taking a step back from what Hector said, it has ALWAYS been true that a church which cared to host, celebrate, or recognize the union of a same-sex couple, whether or not calling it "marriage," could do so. It has been true until recently, e.g. in New York state, that this had NO LEGAL STANDING for any purpose.

Now, in New York, a same-sex couple (or "pair" if you prefer) can obtain a legal license which has legal standing of the same nature that has always characterized marriage, and, as it happens, it also CALLED a "marriage."

This has NO BEARING AT ALL on whether any given church will, or will not, host a ceremony to solemnize that union spiritually.

Accordingly, I think Elizabeth is essentially correct in her observations that the fear factor is overdone.

Tarcisius, I cannot document the extent of formal church involvement in burning homosexuals, BUT, the involvement of the church in burning accused witches (at least one Pope wrote a treatise on the subject), and heretics (Sir Thomas More was responsible for several), is well documented, not to mention the slaughter of the Albigensians. So don't try to pass off a broad general statement that "the Church’s position on murder has always been the same." It hasn't.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

P.S. My response to the pathetic narcissistic whiner got 11 "Likes" at TIME, for whatever that's worth, and the only comment suggesting that in time churches could be required by law to conform got a firm refutation by another American patriot who knows his First Amendment. The crybabies aren't getting anywhere with that number.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, I do not like to post anonymously and will always sign my posts Mel. I want to distinguish myself right now from any other anonymous posters in any other comment threads.
Mel( only anon because my gmail account won't let me sign on without joining blogger )
Again, this is Mel and any comment I post will be signed as such. Thank you. ;-)

Tarcisius said...

Actually, the burning of witches at the stake was a government activity. The Church spoke against “witch hunts” several times. Because the state had a use for the Church’s authority for their own goals, they wouldn’t want naysayers (heretics) around either. The Church has always had the same position on murder, but there are always those who are willing to bend the rules just a little bit, or we wouldn’t have pro-choice "Catholics." Imagine if in one or two hundred years, someone were to point to this era and say that the Church used to support infanticide (or child molestation, if you prefer). However, we know better.

As for the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, I agree that it should defend us for a while, especially since most Americans practice some form of organized worship, but there have been erosions and attack against several items in the Bill of Rights; Lincoln’s pursuit of war against the southern states for attempting to secede among them. In addition, I don’t think our increasing reliance on the Bill of Rights is a good thing. The fact that we have to keep pointing to them to denounce certain abuses with increasing frequency is not a good sign.

Fun fact: my CAPTCHA text was kingism.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Au contraire, Tarcisus, the church condemned the heretic or the witch, but did not dirty its hands with the actual execution. Having identified the diseased branch on the body of Christ (as the medieval prelates understood it), the church turned to the state to do the pruning.

As for secession, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, and of religion, but does not provide for a freedom to secede. Secession is an act of war, as the Confederacy proved by firing first on Fort Sumter.

All but four of the seceding states came into existence only upon the authority, and by legislative act of, the Congress of the United States. They had no legal basis outside of it.

Constitutions are written precisely because public sentiment will sometimes surge in a prohibited direction -- and a properly established constitution will restrain the impact of that surge. This is exactly what the First Amendment is providing now.

Tarcisius said...

The Church condemned heresy and witchcraft, but never actually asked the state to kill them. Love the sinner, hate the sin. Some couldn’t differentiate, and/or used the Church’s condemnation of the heresies and practice of witchcraft as an excuse to administer capital punishment. While the Church condemns the practice of witchcraft, it does not require that witches be burned. As well, the method of witch hunting was about as sound as it was in a Monty Python routine, and could easily be used against someone totally innocent that someone else had a grievance against (or had something they wanted). There were possibly some prelates who were fine with this practice, but they did not follow Church teaching in that matter.

The first amendment doesn’t protect the right to secede. A weak argument could be made that it does through the “freedom of association” clause, but that might be stretching it a bit. The tenth amendment protects the states’ right of self-government, and this is what would have protected their right to secede. The Federal government was exactly that, a federation, or union, of the states.

Yes, the nation is stronger as a whole, and perhaps the south shouldn’t have tried to leave, but if we actually believe that famous phrase from the Declaration of Independence, that we have a right to throw off a government and provide new guardians, then we must assent to the fact that “there comes a time” for this country as well. No, I don’t think that time was then or that it is now, but they believed that they had legitimate grievances that were not being addressed, and that they needed new guardians.

Remember, it isn’t just constitutions that are meant to protect against surges in public sentiment; that is the role of governments in general. And we broke away from our last government; we seceded. Were we wrong?

Diamantina da Brescia said...


Yes, the South was wrong to secede. Yes, the 13 Colonies were wrong to start a rebellion against the British government. Given some decades, we could have been like Canada or Australia instead!

Hector said...

Re: The Church condemned heresy and witchcraft, but never actually asked the state to kill them.

On the topic of heresy, I'm going to have to agree with Siarlys here. Various popes did authorize crusades against the Albigensians and other heretical Christians, and Aquinas, for one, defended the death penalty for heresy. I'm not aware if there was ever an ecumenical council defending the execution of heretics, so if you subscribe to the 'if it isn't in an Ecumenical Council or an ex cathedra statement, it isn't actually infallible Church Teaching', then yes, the RC church has never called for the execution of heretics. Of course, by that logic, there's never been an ecumenical council condemning contraception, either.

On the topic of witchcraft, you're probably correct: the traditional doctrine of the RC church was (as far as I know) that witchcraft was not actually efficacious, and that witches, while wicked and immoral, were not actually capable of harming people (which would seem to argue that there was no need to kill them).

As for the Confederates, they were no better than the Nazis, and they got what they deserved, in spades. I'm shedding no tears for treasonous slaveholders.

beadgirl said...

Red, it's been several years since Massachusetts allowed gay marriage -- do you know if the rights and freedoms of religious people been infringed upon or narrowed there?

Tarcisius said...

Ecumenical Councils and ex cathedra statements only define already existing doctrine due to promulgated misunderstandings. Some of the Crusades were noble ventures, or started out that way, and could be described as the equivalent of a just war statement. However, the nations involved in the Crusades (especially the fourth) were also motivated by their own interests, and deviated from the mission statement. The Fourth Crusade’s leaders were actually warned several times that aspects of their campaigns were terribly unjust. They were further warned that because they were giving the impression that their activities were allowed by the Church (when in fact said activities were condemned), continuing in that course was grounds for excommunication. However, the war leaders chose to continue, and kept these statements secret; lest the soldiers left.

Anything defined by the Church is doctrine, but it didn’t suddenly get there; it just began to be misunderstood or warped (on a large scale), so the Church had to issue a forceful, formal statement as to what was actually meant by what was in the deposit of faith. As such, definitions are a serious matter, and issued only when needed.

While I agree that slavery was and continues to be wicked, the south wasn’t primarily seceding over that issue; it was, at most, a secondary issue, and the Emancipation Proclamation was not even issued until after the war had begun. I vehemently protest the notion that the Confederates were as bad as the Nazis, though; they were not bent on genocide.

Anonymous said...

BTW, I'm all for taxing churches that continually act in the political arena, with voters "guides." (My childhood church paid taxes simply on principle.)


Siarlys Jenkins said...

Innocent VIII issued his most infamous proclamation, the papal bull of the 5th of December 1484. In it, he gave free reign to the Inquisition and opened the floodgates for near-on three centuries of the most vicious persecution, mainly against Witchcraft, but including anyone who opposed the authority of the Catholic Church. The principles he outlined in this bull where later embodied in the Malleus Maleficarum, and in 1487 he appointed Tomas de Torquemada as the Grand Inquisitor of Spain to enforce it.

You can read the Malleus Maleficarum here:

'Nuf said on that. Tarcisius examines all these matters with rose-colored glasses, imagining that the church WAS what he would like to believe. Perhaps it is a little closer to his preferred vision not, but not always.

In the words of Andrew Jackson, "The United States is a government, not a league." He was ready to send federal troops into South Carolina to prove it, and that was his native state.

The revolutionary war of independence was a self-governing people dissolving bonds that held them in subjection to another. The Civil War was a CIVIL WAR, not a "war between the states." There were large portions of every southern state where confederate officers rode at peril of being shot. There were also wide areas in the north infested with "copperheads." To fight for liberty is one thing. To fight for the right to keep others in slavery is another. Ulysses S. Grant, paying respect to his southern countrymen who had "fought for a cause" added "although I think it was the worst cause that men have ever fought for."

Hector said...

Re: I vehemently protest the notion that the Confederates were as bad as the Nazis, though; they were not bent on genocide.

Okay, fine. In the Evil Olympics, they certainly win a bronze medal, though.

I wasn't talking about the crusades against the Muslims, but rather about the crusades against heretical Christians (since that was the topic of the thread). Something like the Albigensian Crusade was very definitely endorsed by the pope.

Turmarion said...

Hector, I'd second you on the Albigensian Crusade and on the Civil War. The Albigensian crusade was one of the most barbaric, abominable, and outright evil episodes of violence of Christian against Christian in the whole sorry history of Christian perfidy. The Albigensians were pacifistic, and even most of the orthodox Christians in the region supported them as good citizens and neighbors. The motivation for the Crusade was largely political, with a veneer of theology. It is in the attack on Monts├ęgur in which Arnaud-Amaury, when asked how to tell who was a heretic and who wasn't, uttered the infamous phrase, "Kill them all! God will know His own!" This episode is one that should be deeply shameful to all us Christians even now.

As to the Civil war, Tarcisius might read Ta-Nehisi Coates's blog over at The Atlantic website. He discusses the Civil War at length, and pretty much destroys the old Southern "lost-cause", "slavery was secondary: canards. They might not have gassed millions of people like the Nazis--but "did not gas millions" is certainly damning with faint praise!

Tarcisius said...

Ah, the Inquisition. Probably the most infamous example of evil done in the name of the Church, but not actually done by the Church! This is exactly what I was thinking of every time I was describing how nations would use the name of the Church for their own goals. In a document I found describing a documentary debunking the Inquisition Myth, I found the following line: “The Inquisition had a secular character, although the crime was heresy. Inquisitors did not have to be clerics, but they did have to be lawyers.” (The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition) The document stated earlier that the goal of Spain was to achieve a unified religion for the purpose of creating a unified state. Yes, there were deaths, but not as many as some believe. The Papal bull was an appointment of clerical oversight; this could have been a good thing, especially since an earlier bull (preceding the 1484 bull by more than two years) condemned using the Spanish inquisition to gain wealth. The article I linked to also contains an embedded copy of the documentary debunking the myth, but I couldn’t watch it due to data size restrictions. The article provides good food for thought, though.

The witch burnings are another source of stones hurled at the Catholic Church. However, one source debunking the common view of these events can be found here: Witch Burnings during the Inquisition.

Concerning the Albigensian crusade, it too had a political side; north France wanted to spread its control southward.

Perhaps the biggest failing of the Church during these times was that it relied too much on human governments who proclaimed loyalty to God. Eventually, she learned exactly what most modern Americans know; you can never trust the government.

Turmarion said...

I'm aware of the complexities of the Inquisition and the exaggerations of the so-called "burning times" regarding witches. Their oversimplifications have been a convenient club with which opponents of the Church have enthusiastically beaten it. Also, of course, all public actions have some political side to them.

Nevertheless, the Church never stepped in and told the secular powers, "Hey, maybe heresy shouldn't be criminalized--maybe you shouldn't execute people for believing differently. Maybe we should leave the Cathars alone." Much of what went on may not have been directly the Church's "fault"; and in some cases the ecclesiastical authorities probably mitigated things; but still, the Church was perfectly willing to buy into the mode of thinking that heresy was such a danger that it warranted capital punishment. The Church could have acted prophetically by leaving the tares alone to grow beside the wheat and letting God sort it out at the end; but it preferred to do as the servant suggested, uprooting the tares, and damaging the wheat at the same time. (Matthew 13:24-43)

For all the politics surrounding the Albigensian crusade (which I did allude to), the Church was enthusiastically on board, and has plenty of blood on its hands. Read the excellent book The Perfect Heresy some time.

In closing, I think you can never fully trust any organization composed of humans, be it government, businesses, corporations, or churches.

Hector said...

Re: Nevertheless, the Church never stepped in and told the secular powers, "Hey, maybe heresy shouldn't be criminalized--maybe you shouldn't execute people for believing differently. Maybe we should leave the Cathars alone."

Whereas, of course, the Catholic Church did take a strong stand against other forms of violence- against duelling, famously, against killing of civilians in war, against certain types of military tactics (I think the longbow, and then in our time the atomic bomb), and they even did their best to try to suppress war itself during the medieval period. Which is certainly in their favour.

They didn't, on the other hand, take a strong stand (or any stand at all) against the death penalty for heretics, and in fact while it was the secular arm that actually did the executions, the church was an enthusiastic collaborator in the process of trying and interrogating the heretics. Daniel Larison, who's as right-wing a commentator as any, differentiates the RC church from the Eastern Orthodox communion in this regard: according to him (I can't vouch for the accuracy of this) Byzantium rarely if ever used the death penalty for heresy, with the exception of the Manichaeans. (N.B.: I'm not Eastern Orthodox either).

And really, if you're looking for a written doctrinal source, Aquinas says, right there in black and white, that the death penalty is legitimate for unrepentant heresy.

I'm not arguing, incidentally, that the Roman Catholic Church is any worse than other human institutions, and it's considerably better than the vast majority. Its historical record, though, is enough to keep me from believing that it's an infallible judge of the truth, which is why I'm not swimming the Tiber anytime soon.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Tarcisius, the church had a political side. That is part of what was wrong with it. You know the Borgias were all children of a Pope, right? He never married their mother because such a marriage would violate his vows of chastity!

You can delude yourself with a rosy view of your church's past all you want. Your excuses fool nobody but yourself. The point is that one or more Popes ENDORSED all the persecution, and many highly placed princes of the church participated.

I'll grant you the church has done better. It has done best when it lacked political power and influence. I would like to keep it in a position where it can continue to be at its best.

Tarcisius said...

Concerning the sentiment that the Church was “enthusiastically on board” because it failed to denounce the actions of the secular governments, isn’t that quite similar to what is going on right now? Yes, silence can give the wrong impression. However, while silence is a failure by omission, it is not an active endorsement. And yes; there have been bad popes, just as there have been bad priests, bishops, and laymen (including kings). This is what the Church is; a group of sinners trying to better themselves by following the teachings of Christ as preserved by the Catholic Church. Does the Church hate heretics? No. Do some members of the Church hate heretics? It is possible. Nor am I arguing that the Church never played politics; this was a problem, especially when the positions of clergymen were also given authority by the state. This creates a conflict of interests; the state has this world as its goal, but the Church has the next in mind.

Although we have had bad popes, bishops, and priests, none of them have ever been able to alter the teachings of the Church. These individuals may have been able to undermine the rules because they favored/feared/desired rewards from Caesar rather than God, but they were never able to change the rules of the Church. Yes they broke the rules, but whose rules were they? One of the common demonstrations of the fact that the Holy Spirit guards the Church from error is to point to troubled periods where the hierarchy was corrupt and show that, even in those times, no matters of faith or morals were altered.

I already allowed that the problem was caused by the political coziness the Church had with the state (in the last paragraph of my last comment). What I am pointing out is that the Church was being used by the state. The state used the Church’s name to perform some actions, and the Church leaders assumed that a few gentle reminders would take care of everything. What happened in those days was a result of bad politics, bad politicians, and the fact that some clergymen were also politicians. While the Church herself doesn’t conform to the ways of the world, her members quite often do.

If the point is indeed that Popes and princes endorsed slaughter, then it is also true that they did so without the voice of the Church. I don’t fully trust any organization founded by man, but I do trust God, and therefore that He will protect His Church (the Church He founded) from error as He promised. If you can’t fully trust any organization composed of humans, then you cannot fully trust the universe itself, as it is both organized (according to specific natural laws) and composed of humans (objectively obvious).

Turmarion said...

If you can’t fully trust any organization composed of humans, then you cannot fully trust the universe itself, as it is both organized (according to specific natural laws) and composed of humans (objectively obvious).

Given the current management of the universe (Luke 4:6, John 12:31, John 13:30-31; some exegesis here), I don't think we can fully trust it, at least as currently constituted and--ah--administered.

Popes who endorsed slaughter did so "without the voice of the Church" in the metaphysical sense that the correct teaching of the Church is against such, and a Pope, being not above the Church but a servant of it, defects from it when he teaches or preaches such things. In that sense, I agree with you. However, to probably 99% of the population, even Catholics, what the Pope says is the voice of the Church. Most don't understand the fine theological distinctions.

Put it like this--we can trust God to protect the Church and disseminate the truth in the big picture; but observed reality indicates that we can not trust Him to prevent the existence of evil Popes (see the Renaissance), Popes who speak "without the voice of the Church" on very important issues, such as killing heretics, and bishops and hierarchs who cover up and enable horrible evil (see the abuse scandal of the last decade). Would it were otherwise, but there it is. It is in this sense that I say I don't completely trust the institutional Church--or if you prefer a different phraseology, the people working for it.

Tarcisius said...

Ah, but speaking in terms of the structure of the Church, the reason a bad Pope cannot change teaching is because he would have to get the rest of the Church Magisterium to agree with him. Though people may believe everything the Pope says is Church doctrine today, this was probably untrue in the past, especially when there was a bad Pope. Frankly, I suspect that it isn’t true today, or fewer people would be referring to the history of the Church. Even as an institution, the Church is sound. In fact, the Church has to be an institution, or it would be naught but a belief. The Church was founded by God on the backs of men who all ran away when He was arrested. The first Pope actually lied to save his own life, denying thrice that he knew Jesus. Yet, Jesus still called him the rock upon which the Church would be built. The Church would not exist if there were no sinners, and the Church must not only be made up of sinners, but does her best to draw in more sinners. You cannot, therefore, expect to see no sin whatsoever in the Church (much as we are called to strive for that lofty goal).

You argue that we cannot trust God to defend us from bad Popes. God doesn’t give us everything that we want. However, He does give us everything that we need. Even bad popes have some part in God’s plan, and I trust that He has a good reason for everything that He does. That is what we can trust. If we could plainly see God’s plan, then there would be no need for trust. I trust that God has a perfectly ordered plan that will bring about the greatest good. It may seem like there is no reason for mosquitoes or bad popes, but they all fit into God’s plan. This doesn’t excuse the behavior of bad popes, though. They could have been very good and holy men, had they chosen it, and done great work in service of God’s plan, but they didn’t. However, in spite of whatever failures and evils these men were involved in, they still serve God’s plan.

For example, in the abuse scandal, the mistaken bishops could have been forthright and taken positive action to prevent more instances, but they didn’t. Nevertheless, their actions have come to light, and the scandal is instigating a response; one we are on record saying we wish we had done sooner.

God would no more prevent a bad pope from existing than He would a good one. It is not a question of what they will be, but what they choose to be. However, he has always protected us from these men and their ways. As I said, no matter how bad a pope might be, he cannot alter the Church. This is because God defends His Church. I don’t argue that the endorsements of sin from sinners were separate from the Church in just a metaphysical sense, but also in an organizational one. The pope is a voice in the Church, but he can only speak with the voice of the Church in conjunction with the hierarchy. An ex cathedra statement is a perfect example. Bishops and others loyal to God will serve to defend the Church, and will not add their voices to ruin her. There are always people within the Church to trust, and there are always those to watch out for. “Test everything; hold to that which is good.” No one is perfect, and this is equally true for Catholics, but the Church is there to guide us as we seek perfection.

Turmarion said...

However, he has always protected us from these men and their ways.

The innocents slaughtered at Monts├ęgur, the quarter of Europe's population that died in the Thirty Year's War, which resulted from the battles between Protestants and Catholics, which resulted from the Reformation, which resulted from bad Popes, and others, might disagree with this. They don't seem to have experienced much protection.

Even bad popes have some part in God’s plan, and I trust that He has a good reason for everything that He does.

In a highly abstract way, yes. The same is true, presumably, of the Black Plague, HIV, cancer, and the Holocaust. For whatever reason, God allows horrendous evil; and if there's to be any purpose to our faith, we must indeed believe that somehow it is part of the Divine plan, and that in the end "all manner of thing will be well," as Dame Julian of Norwich said. Nevertheless, those who have experienced true suffering and evil often find it hard to have that trust; and with no disrespect intended, your mode of expressing this often sounds like the rather blithe shrugging off of the foulest evil so memorably parodied by Voltaire in the character of Dr. Pangloss in Candide.

c matt said...

Courts simply don't have any jurisdiction, and cannot entertain lawsuits against churches on such matters, except for the time it takes to dismiss them with prejudice.

As a point of clairification, if a court does not have jurisdiction, it has no power to dismiss a claim with prejudice- it can only dismiss without prejudice (to dismiss with prejudice presumes it has jurisidiction).

c matt said...

Yes, the nation is stronger as a whole

I would have to disagree with that. Just like any organization, there are those parts that perform well, and those that are, essentially, dead weight. There are certain areas of the country that by almost every objective measure are doing better than others, and are propping them up. Even though it would be undeniably better for these parts of the country to jettison the dead weight, it is highly unlikely to happen due to deeply ingrained sentiments (i.e., conditioning). But it is demonstrably false that the nation is better as whole, but no one's got the eggs benedict do to anything about it.

c matt said...

As Davy Crockett might say - let them go to hell, I will go to Texas.

Tarcisius said...

I was speaking of the Church and her moral law when I said that God has protected us from bad popes. This was only in the sense that they cannot change the Church; it was intended to support the statement that the Church has never changed her doctrine. I do not deny the damage they may have caused through their sins, but instead deny that they were allotted any right to do so by the Church. The sins committed by Catholics are many, just as we ourselves are many, but they are neither the fault of nor endorsed by the Church.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Your church is an abstraction. It has no existence outside your own mind. The church that does exist is staffed with sinful people, as are church councils, and the sinfulness of those people has a direct influence on the acts of the church. The Abstract Church, divorced from all the sinful people by whom and for whom it exists, may indeed be pristine.

Tarcisius said...

Aside from the Church triumphant, known otherwise as saints or other souls in heaven or purgatory, yes, the Church, pure in her doctrine, is staffed and composed of sinners, but isn’t that the point of the Church? Any church?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Indeed, and therefore, the church is not without fault.

Tarcisius said...

The Church is without fault. The people are not.