Thursday, August 28, 2008

Archbishop Chaput: "Nobody wants a theocracy.."

In an interview with Zenit which may be found here, Archbishop Charles Chaput is quoted as having said: "..Catholics have always been a minority in the United States, and prejudice against Catholics in this country has always been real, even before the founding. Sometimes the bias has been indirect and genteel. Just as often it has taken more vulgar forms of economic and political discrimination, and media bigotry. Either way, prejudice always fuels the appetite of a minority to fit in, to achieve and to assimilate, and American Catholics have done that extraordinarily well -- in fact, too well.

In the name of being good citizens, a lot of Catholics have bought into a very mistaken idea of the “separation of Church and state.” American Catholics have always supported the principle of keeping religious and civil authority distinct. Nobody wants a theocracy, and much of the media hand-wringing about the specter of “Christian fundamentalism” is really just a particularly offensive scare tactic. The Church doesn’t presume to run the state. We also don’t want the state interfering with our religious beliefs and practices -- which, candidly, is a much bigger problem today.

Separating Church and state does not mean separating faith and political issues. Real pluralism requires a healthy conflict of ideas. In fact, the best way to kill a democracy is for people to remove their religious and moral convictions from their political decision-making. If people really believe something, they’ll always act on it as a matter of conscience. Otherwise they’re just lying to themselves. So the idea of forcing religion out of public policy debates is not only unwise, it’s anti-democratic."

Of course, when the Archbishop says that "nobody wants a theocracy," he is referring to people of good will and not cultists or other fanatics who express their support for coercion and who routinely employ the techniques of degradation.

Because many Episcopal Conferences throughout the Church had expressed a growing concern over the activity of sects, new religious movements and cults, the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity prepared a report entitled Sects or New Religious Movements: A Pastoral Challenge which was issued in the name of several departments of the Holy See and released on May 3, 1986. The Departments represented were the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, the Secretariat for Non-Christians, the Secretariat for Non-Believers, the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Secretariat of State.Question one of the report stated that, "For practical reasons, a cult or sect is sometimes defined as ‘any religious group with a distinctive worldview of its own derived from, but not identical with, the teachings of a major world religion. As we are speaking here of special groups which usually pose a threat to people’s freedom and to society in general, cults and sects have also been characterized as possessing a number of distinctive features. These often are that they [groups] are often authoritarian in structure, that they exercise forms of brainwashing and mind control, that they cultivate group pressure and instill feelings of guilt and fear, etc.

The basic work on these characteristic marks was published by an American, Dave Breese, Know the Marks of Cults (Victor Books, Wheaton, IL, 1985). While cults engage in coercion and various forms of manipulation to win and maintain adherents, the Catholic Church, by way of contrast, teaches that:"..the human person has a right to religious freedom. Freedom of this kind means that all men should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups and every human power, so that, within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his convictions in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others. The Council further declares that the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person, as known by the revealed word of God, and by reason itself" (Declaration on Religious Liberty - Dignitatis Humanae, No. 2 of the Second Vatican Council).

And again:"It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons - that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore bearing personal responsibility, are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once they come to know it and to direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth. But, men cannot satisfy this obligation in a way that is in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy both psychological freedom and immunity from external coercion....The search for truth, however, must be carried out in a manner that is appropriate to the dignity of the human person and his social nature, namely, by free inquiry with the help of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue. It is by these means that men share with each other the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in such a way that they help one another in the search for truth. Moreover, it is by personal assent that men must adhere to the truth they have discovered" (Dignitatis Humanae, Nos. 2, 3).

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