Tuesday, August 28, 2007

From the La Salette Journey Archives

In his Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth), Pope John Paul II reminds us that:

"Only God can answer the question about the good, because he is the Good. But God has already given an answer to this question: he did so by creating man and ordering him with wisdom and love to his final end, through the law which is inscribed in his heart (cf. Rom 2:15), the "natural law". The latter "is nothing other than the light of understanding infused in us by God, whereby we understand what must be done and what must be avoided. God gave this light and this law to man at creation". He also did so in the history of Israel, particularly in the "ten words", the commandments of Sinai, whereby he brought into existence the people of the Covenant (cf. Ex 24) and called them to be his "own possession among all peoples", "a holy nation" (Ex 19:5-6), which would radiate his holiness to all peoples (cf. Wis 18:4; Ez 20:41).

The gift of the Decalogue was a promise and sign of the New Covenant, in which the law would be written in a new and definitive way upon the human heart (cf. Jer 31:31-34), replacing the law of sin which had disfigured that heart (cf. Jer 17:1). In those days, "a new heart" would be given, for in it would dwell "a new spirit", the Spirit of God (cf. Ez 36:24-28).Consequently, after making the important clarification: "There is only one who is good", Jesus tells the young man: "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Mt 19:17).

In this way, a close connection is made between eternal life and obedience to God's commandments: God's commandments show man the path of life and they lead to it. From the very lips of Jesus, the new Moses, man is once again given the commandments of the Decalogue. Jesus himself definitively confirms them and proposes them to us as the way and condition of salvation. The commandments are linked to a promise. In the Old Covenant the object of the promise was the possession of a land where the people would be able to live in freedom and in accordance with righteousness (cf. Dt 6:20-25).

In the New Covenant the object of the promise is the "Kingdom of Heaven", as Jesus declares at the beginning of the "Sermon on the Mount" — a sermon which contains the fullest and most complete formulation of the New Law (cf. Mt 5-7), clearly linked to the Decalogue entrusted by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. This same reality of the Kingdom is referred to in the expression "eternal life", which is a participation in the very life of God. It is attained in its perfection only after death, but in faith it is even now a light of truth, a source of meaning for life, an inchoate share in the full following of Christ.

Indeed, Jesus says to his disciples after speaking to the rich young man: "Every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life" (Mt 19:29).Jesus' answer is not enough for the young man, who continues by asking the Teacher about the commandments which must be kept: "He said to him, 'Which ones?' " (Mt 19:18). He asks what he must do in life in order to show that he acknowledges God's holiness. After directing the young man's gaze towards God, Jesus reminds him of the commandments of the Decalogue regarding one's neighbour: "Jesus said: 'You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not bear false witness; Honour your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbour as yourself' " (Mt 19:18-19).

From the context of the conversation, and especially from a comparison of Matthew's text with the parallel passages in Mark and Luke, it is clear that Jesus does not intend to list each and every one of the commandments required in order to "enter into life", but rather wishes to draw the young man's attention to the "centrality" of the Decalogue with regard to every other precept, inasmuch as it is the interpretation of what the words "I am the Lord your God" mean for man. Nevertheless we cannot fail to notice which commandments of the Law the Lord recalls to the young man. They are some of the commandments belonging to the so-called "second tablet" of the Decalogue, the summary (cf. Rom 13: 8-10) and foundation of which is the commandment of love of neighbour: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Mt 19:19; cf. Mk 12:31).

In this commandment we find a precise expression of the singular dignity of the human person, "the only creature that God has wanted for its own sake".The different commandments of the Decalogue are really only so many reflections of the one commandment about the good of the person, at the level of the many different goods which characterize his identity as a spiritual and bodily being in relationship with God, with his neighbour and with the material world. As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "the Ten Commandments are part of God's Revelation. At the same time, they teach us man's true humanity. They shed light on the essential duties, and so indirectly on the fundamental rights, inherent in the nature of the human person".

The commandments of which Jesus reminds the young man are meant to safeguard the good of the person, the image of God, by protecting his goods. "You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness" are moral rules formulated in terms of prohibitions. These negative precepts express with particular force the ever urgent need to protect human life, the communion of persons in marriage, private property, truthfulness and people's good name.The commandments thus represent the basic condition for love of neighbour; at the same time they are the proof of that love. They are the first necessary step on the journey towards freedom, its starting-point. "The beginning of freedom", Saint Augustine writes, "is to be free from crimes... such as murder, adultery, fornication, theft, fraud, sacrilege and so forth. When once one is without these crimes (and every Christian should be without them), one begins to lift up one's head towards freedom. But this is only the beginning of freedom, not perfect freedom...".

This certainly does not mean that Christ wishes to put the love of neighbour higher than, or even to set it apart from, the love of God. This is evident from his conversation with the teacher of the Law, who asked him a question very much like the one asked by the young man. Jesus refers him to the two commandments of love of God and love of neighbour (cf. Lk 10:25-27), and reminds him that only by observing them will he have eternal life: "Do this, and you will live" (Lk 10:28). Nonetheless it is significant that it is precisely the second of these commandments which arouses the curiosity of the teacher of the Law, who asks him: "And who is my neighbour?" (Lk 10:29). The Teacher replies with the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is critical for fully understanding the commandment of love of neighbour (cf. Lk 10:30-37).These two commandments, on which "depend all the Law and the Prophets" (Mt 22:40), are profoundly connected and mutually related. Their inseparable unity is attested to by Christ in his words and by his very life: his mission culminates in the Cross of our Redemption (cf. Jn 3:14-15), the sign of his indivisible love for the Father and for humanity (cf. Jn 13:1).Both the Old and the New Testaments explicitly affirm that without love of neighbour, made concrete in keeping the commandments, genuine love for God is not possible. Saint John makes the point with extraordinary forcefulness: "If anyone says, 'I love God', and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (Jn 4:20). The Evangelist echoes the moral preaching of Christ, expressed in a wonderful and unambiguous way in the parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:30-37) and in his words about the final judgment (cf. Mt 25:31-46). (VS, Nos 12-14).

Too many forget that while God loves us even when we sin (He loves even the damned - they would cease to exist if He did not), being loved by God is not enough to be in friendship with Him, because friendship is mutual love. If we all truly understood this, we would exhort others - as Jesus did - to accept God's mercy, repent of their sins, and abide in love. Furthermore, we would all warn others - as Jesus did - that hell awaits those who do not abide in love. Recall the teaching of Vatican II (specifically Lumen Gentium, No. 14):

"They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a "bodily" manner and not "in his heart." All the Church's children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged."

"If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love." (John 15:10). This is a conditional statement folks. If we are engaging in adultery or homosexual acts, practicing contraception or having abortions, are we keeping His commandments? Will God be mocked? He who can neither deceive nor be deceived? Do we think to ourselves, "As long as God loves me I can continue to do these things because God is love and mercy? Do we say to others, "God and religion are about love, your opposition to my homosexual acts or my adultery is unloving?" Do we honestly believe that we can remain in Jesus' love without keeping His commandments? If so, we make Jesus a liar and His word, His Love, His life is not in us.

Spiritually, we are dead.

Paul Anthony Melanson

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gabriel Marcel and the Fanaticized Consciousness

In his work of critical importance entitled "Man Against Mass Society," the French philosopher Gabriel Marcel writes, "..the fanatic never sees himself as a fanatic; it is only the non-fanatic who can recognize him as a fanatic; so that when this judgment, or this accusation, is made, the fanatic can always say that he is misunderstood and slandered...Fanaticism is essentially opinion pushed to paroxysm; with everything that the notion of opinion may imply of blinded ignorance as to its own nature....whatever ends the fanatic is aiming at or thinks he is aiming at, even if he wishes to gather men together, he can only in fact separate them; but as his own interests cannot lie in effecting this separation, he is led, as we have seen, to wish to wipe his opponents out. And when he is thinking of these opponents, he takes care to form the most degrading images of them possible - they are 'lubricious vipers' or 'hyenas and jackals with typewriters' - and the ones that reduce them to most grossly material terms. In fact, he no longer thinks of these opponents except as material obstacles to be overturned or smashed down. Having abandoned the behaviour of a thinking being, he has lost even the feeblest notion of what a thinking being, outside himself, could be. It is understandable therefore that he should make every effort to deny in advance the rights and qualifications of those whom he wishes to eliminate; and that he should regard all means to this end as fair. We are back here again at the techniques of degradation. It cannot be asserted too strongly or repeated too often that those the Nazis made use of in their camps - techniques for degrading their victims in their own eyes, for making mud and filth of them - and those which Soviet propagandists use to discredit their adversaries, are not essentially different though we should, in fairness, add that sadism, properly so called, is not to be found in the Russian camps." (pp. 135-136, 149).

Marcel explains that, "In fact, the greatest merit of the critical spirit is that it tends to cure fanaticism, and it is logical enough that in our own fanatical times the critical spirit should tend to disappear, should no longer even be paid lip service as a value."

But why is this? Why is our own time marked by the fanaticized consciousness? Dusty Sklar addresses the problem in his book "The Nazis and the Occult" in a Chapter entitled "Making an Obedient Mass." He writes, "Since World War II, several books have appeared which, while not dealing directly with the Nazis, are of invaluable aid in explaining how ordinary people can be transformed into automata, devoid of conscience or reason. They help us to understand, not only the Nazis, but millions of disciples of movements in Western countries today, who, almost overnight, are weaned from their customary behavior and attachments and indoctrinated with irrational beliefs. They are The True Believer by Eric Hoffer, The Mind Possessed by William Sargant, and The Rape of the Mind by Joost Meerloo. What is the formula for producing pliant followers? Take people, not wholly preoccupied with subsistence, who despair of being happy either in the present or in the future. They feel the sharp cutting edge of frustration. Either through some personal defect or because external conditions do not permit growth, they are eager to renounce themselves, since the self is insupportable. Many German men were in this position at the end of World War I. They came home to a civilian life without purpose, in which they had no part. In the chaos and collapse, vast armies of uprooted people felt threatened by the war's economic and social aftermath. National Socialism gave them a chance for a fresh start. As Eric Hoffer points out:

'People who see their lives as irremediably spoiled cannot find a worth-while purpose in self-advancement. The prospect of an individual career cannot stir them to a mighty effort, nor can it evoke in them faith and a singleminded dedication. They look on self-interest as on something tainted and evil; something unclean and unlucky. Anything undertaken under the auspices of the self seems to them foredoomed. Nothing that has its roots and reasons in the self can be good and noble. Their innermost craving is for anew life - a rebirth - or, failing this, a chance to acquire new elements of pride, confidence, hope, a sense of purpose and worth by an identification with a holy cause. An active mass movement offers them opportunities for both. If they join the movement as full converts they are reborn to a new life in its close-knit collective body, or if attracted as sympathizers they find elements of pride, confidence and purpose by identifying themselves with the efforts, achievements and prospects of the movement. To the frustrated a mass movement offers substitutes either for the whole self or for the elements which make life bearable and which they cannot evoke out of their individual resources.'

The movement, in turn, encourages self-renunciation. It does not attract the individual who believes in himself, nor does it care to; on the contrary, he is precisely the individual whom it ridicules." (pp. 149-150).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Prophecy: Society on the Verge of Total Collapse

Virtually all of the great pagan juridical systems acknowledged the fact of wrong-doing and their legal systems prescribed punishment for it. However, in our day, there is a widespread denial of the existence of sin and moral laws. This makes God appear as the Creator of evil. And God hates this blasphemy, pride and hypocrisy on the part of His creature man.

On November 5, 1977, in a locution to Father Stephano Gobbi of the Marian Movement of Priests, Our Lady said:

“Do not stop to consider the ever thickening darkness, the sin which has been set up as the norm of human action, the suffering which is mounting to its peak and the chastisement which this humanity is preparing with its own hands.”

Our Lady does not want sin and darkness to discourage us. But in our own time, our society continues to suffer from what Pope John Paul II described as “a loss of the sense of sin.” Today, people commit sin, deny it as being sin, and even blasphemously call it virtue.

How can we honestly assert that we have not called down chastisement upon ourselves?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

President of Iran says Israel is evil

In reality, Iran is a rogue state which has weapons of mass destruction and which supports global terrorism: http://www.state.gov/t/vci/rls/rm/24494.htm

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Study: Abortion leads to higher crime and increased murder rates

It was Mother Teresa who once said that the fruit of abortion is nuclear war. Our society no longer respects human life. Unless we return to sanity, and soon, we may very well experience the fruit of abortion which the saintly nun from Calcutta spoke of. Is this what we want for ourselves and our loved ones?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of SeparationBetween Church and State
An Interview with Author Daniel Dreisbach

By John W. Whitehead and Casey Mattox

In 1802 Thomas Jefferson penned a letter to the Danbury, Connecticut, Baptist Association in which he described the First Amendment as erecting a "wall of separation between church and state." That phrase, largely forgotten for nearly 150 years, was reintroduced to our lexicon in 1947 by Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in his opinion in Everson v. Board of Education, a case holding that state funded transportation of all students to and from their schools, including parochial schools, was constitutional.

The wall metaphor has since been accepted by most Americans, and many jurists, as the authoritative description of the interaction between religion and civil government countenanced by the First Amendment. In his latest book, Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State, Daniel Dreisbach exposes the history of the wall metaphor and argues that the wall is rooted in anti-Catholicism and the fear of religious influence on public life. Dreisbach argues that the modern "wall of separation" is not the wall that Jefferson wrote about in his letter to the Danbury Baptists.

According to Dreisbach, the wall metaphor misconceptualizes the roles of religion and civil government by restricting religious influence on public life, a result not called for by the text of the First Amendment.

Daniel Dreisbach is a professor in the Department of Justice, Law and Society at American University in Washington, D.C., and the editor of Religion and Political Culture in Jefferson’s Virginia (2000) and Religion and Politics in the Early Republic (1996). We recently talked to Dreisbach about his latest book and the role of religion in public life.

TRI: Justice Hugo Black is often described as a textualist. So why, in this instance, did he reach beyond the text of the First Amendment and use Thomas Jefferson’s metaphor to describe the relationship between religion and civil government.

Dreisbach: A number of Supreme Court Justices who depart from conventional interpretations often cloak their own predilections in the clothing of originalism or adherence to history, and I think to some extent that describes Black. I think he was aware that there were problems in his interpretation of the First Amendment.

Are you saying that Justice Black was dishonest?

I think that there are certainly questions about the integrity of his historical approach. A man who wrote a very sympathetic biography of Justice Black pointed out that when the Everson decision came out, Black was surprised that there was so much criticism of the history that he used in his opinion. He instructed his law clerk to go and look up the debates of the First Congress. Now, I think this in itself is very revealing; Justice Black is examining the historical record after he has already issued the opinion. I think that raises some very troubling questions about his historical methodology. But I think he, like many judges and scholars, was driven by his own predilections and thus was very selective in his use of history. While he may claim to have the support of history, I think he understood that this is in large measure a lawyer’s use of history to advance a particular position that he happens to adhere to.

So Black selectively used history to advance an agenda?

This is often the case with the way courts and judges use history. Let’s keep in mind that we are talking about a profession that is trained in adversarial techniques. They are taught how to use evidence and present evidence in a light most favorable to a particular position. So, what I say of Black is true of many judges, and it’s true of many lawyers, especially those lawyers who use history. Now, I think Black is an interesting character. He is a man who carried with him to the Supreme Court many biases and prejudices. In his youth he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Was that just a political affiliation or do you think Black was sympathetic to the Klan’s beliefs?

Well, I think that there probably was a time in his life when he was somewhat sympathetic to the racial views of the Klan. I am inclined to believe that he was able to shed some of those prejudices as he matured. Having said that, I think throughout his political career he was very happy to accept the support of his former friends in that element of Alabama society. But even his son acknowledged that while Black abandoned some of the racial views of the Klan, one of the things that he did not abandon was the anti-Catholicism or the fear and dread of the Catholic Church, which is very much part of the Klan’s ideology.

But how did his feelings about the Catholic Church influence his judicial opinions?

I think he was rather constant in that respect throughout his political career as well as his career on the Court. In Everson and McCollum v. Board of Education the following year, we see a streak of anti-Catholicism not only in Black but also other Justices of the Supreme Court. As one recent Supreme Court Justice has said, it’s virtually impossible to read those decisions of the Court in the late 1940's and into the 50's without understanding the depth and degree of anti-Catholicism in American intellectual circles including the Justices of the Supreme Court.

But the present Supreme Court isn’t anti-Catholic, is it? Wouldn’t you agree that those attitudes have changed?

Well, I think that’s a fair observation. There are, in fact, a good number of Catholics who happen to sit on the Supreme Court at the moment. But they are working on a foundation that is rooted in Everson and McCollum. These are the precedents upon which the last 50 years of Establishment Clause jurisprudence have been built, and while they have made some desirable adjustments, they have never fully repudiated the foundations laid in Everson and McCollum.
But in Everson, the case in which Black revived the "wall of separation" metaphor, the Court held that the Establishment Clause did not prevent the state from bussing Catholic schoolchildren to parochial schools.

The force and influence of Everson and McCollum is less in the holdings themselves than in the dictum and in the rhetoric that the Court used, and you find that influence pervasive in legal thought. So when I look back on the decisions of 50 years ago, I see their significance less in the actual holdings than in the rhetoric that the Court used and the tone that they set for church-state jurisprudence.

You don’t find that tone today?

I think the Court has adopted a much more sensitive tone today. I find that recent jurisprudence is much more in line with what I believe to be the historical understanding of the First Amendment, but having said that, they have not fully abandoned those foundations laid in 1947 and 1948.

In Santa Fe v. Doe, the case holding that a policy permitting student prayers at public high school games was unconstitutional, it seems that there was a return to the antagonism toward religious influence–or did you read it that way?

No, I think that’s true about the Sante Fe case. I think going back to Justice Souter’s opinion in Lee v. Weisman [where the Supreme Court held that invocations by clergy before public school graduations were unconstitutional] there was an attempt to aggressively revive the rhetoric and the tenor of Everson. For many years, Justice John Paul Stevens has been attempting at every opportunity to reassert the rhetoric and the tone of Everson, but he has been pretty much a lone Justice in that regard. But beginning with Lee v. Weisman, you see Justice Souter joining that cause, and I think to some extent you see a revival of the Everson rhetoric and tone in the majority opinion in the Santa Fe case. So while I think that there is a richer understanding of history on the Supreme Court today, I think Santa Fe is an example of where the Court harkens back to the foundations laid in Everson. So we’ve seen some back and forth in the last five or six years of Court decisions. I think that the recent voucher case [Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 122 S.Ct. 2460 (2002)] is a sign of hope, but there is not a clear direction being set here, and most importantly the Court appears unwilling to revisit or repudiate the hostile rhetorical tone set in the Everson case.

So the same fear of religion still remains to some degree on the Court and still exerts an influence?

There is certainly a powerful segment of the Court that reflects those fears. These are fears that were rooted in the role of the Catholic Church in American society at mid-century. There is still a group of Justices who reflect that fear. And this goes to the very heart of why this metaphor is so troubling: the metaphor misconceptualizes the First Amendment.

How does the "wall of separation" metaphor misconceptualize the First Amendment?

The metaphor emphasizes the concept of separation, unlike the First Amendment which speaks in terms of disestablishment, or nonestablishment to be more precise, and of the free exercise of religion. Furthermore, the wall of separation metaphor, unlike the First Amendment, imposes restrictions on religion and religious perspectives. The literal text of the First Amendment restricts government only; whereas a wall, given its bilateral nature, restricts the role of religion and faith communities as well. The wall metaphor implies that the First Amendment restricts people of faith, religious spokesmen, and religious leaders also, but that’s far beyond the requirement of the text of the First Amendment.

Do you think the average religious person is really restricted by the wall of separation metaphor?

Oh, absolutely. I think there is much evidence to support this both in rhetoric and in judicial opinions. Quite often the courts have embraced this wall metaphor as a substitute for the First Amendment. It has been used to silence people speaking from a religious perspective in the public marketplace of ideas. We see this in court cases limiting the rights of students to express their faith in public school settings. We see this in public forum cases where religious groups want to use public forums on the same terms and conditions as secular groups. The courts are restricting that ability.

For example, the reaction to Attorney General John Ashcroft’s morning Bible studies at the Justice Department?

Right. I think that is a clear example of a restriction on a person bringing their faith into the public arena. The Attorney General and others at the Justice Department wish to ground their daily activities in faith, but the media and critics in academia suggest that somehow this is a violation of the First Amendment. They think that this might be something offensive to a wall of separation, but again we must remind ourselves that the wall of separation is not a concept born of the First Amendment. It is a misrepresentation, I believe, of what the First Amendment stands for.

You argue that the "wall of separation" metaphor is grounded in the fear of religion, particularly Catholicism, but is it possible to remove the wall from these fears?

I think we must confront the uncomfortable fact that for much of American history, the phrase "separation of church and state" and its metaphoric formulation as a "wall of separation" have been the expressions of exclusion, intolerance and bigotry. These have been phrases that have been used to silence people in communities of faith and to exclude religious persons from full participation in public life. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, for example, Establishmentarians [those who favored official state religious establishments] attempted to frighten Americans by deliberately mischaracterizing the Baptist aspirations for liberty of conscience and disestablishment. They said that the Baptists advocated a separation of religion from public life that would lead inevitably to political atheism and rampant licentiousness. This illustrates that the language of separation didn’t come from the advocates of separation, but was used by the Establishmentarians to frighten people away from embracing the disestablishment agenda of the Baptists.

In the election of 1800, it was the Jeffersonians that used this separationist language to silence Jefferson’s most vociferous critics, the Federalist clergy of New England, who were trying to expose Jefferson as an infidel and as an atheist. In the 1830's and 1840's we experienced a first big wave of Catholic Irish immigrants, and this language of separation was being used by Protestant nativists to marginalize this new immigrant group from full participation in American life. This was repeated at the end of the 19th century when the next big wave of Catholic immigrants came to America. Finally, in the middle of the 20th century, around the time of Everson and McCollum, we again see the fear of the role of religion, and particularly Catholicism, in American society. This fear drives this language of separation of church and state and its metaphoric formulation of wall of separation. So throughout our history this language and this metaphor have been freighted with nativist and bigoted connotations, and I think it’s time that we reexamine the propriety of their continued use in our legal and political discourse.

What would you say to the Jewish, Muslim or atheist parents who fear that without the "wall" their children will be subjected to the Christian prayers of fellow students?

Well, we have to start with a basic understanding of the Establishment, Free Exercise, and Free Speech clauses and then examine how the wall of separation reconceptualized them. My view of the First Amendment is that it is intended and designed to create an environment where various ideas and perspectives can compete in a marketplace of ideas on the same terms and conditions. I would argue that religious communities and religious perspectives, like those of other artistic or political groups, should be able to compete in that marketplace. An analysis that draws on the wall of separation metaphor singles out the religious perspective. It treats religious perspectives differently than other nongovernmental perspectives and actually puts them at a disadvantage. So other faith communities–whether they be Jewish or any other–have nothing to fear from the historic understanding of the First Amendment. Indeed, I think what they have to fear is a misinterpretation of the First Amendment through this lens of a wall metaphor.

According to one poll, 69 percent of Americans believe that the phrase "wall of separation" is in the First Amendment. Do you think the impact of the metaphor has been greater in judicial opinions or in public opinion?

There is no doubt that many Americans view this metaphor as supplanting the text of the First Amendment. That should concern us greatly. But this public attitude is reflected by a number of judges. One need not read deeply into case law to reach the conclusion that there are many judges who believe that the First Amendment has embraced this wall of separation metaphor. I think this is a good place to recall how this wall of separation was first introduced into the legal lexicon. Jefferson used this phrase in a letter that he wrote in January 1802 to a Baptist association.

What was the contemporary reaction to Jefferson’s letter?

In my book I lay out the argument and the supporting evidence to suggest that the Danbury Baptists themselves were discomforted by Jefferson’s use of this metaphor. Because the Baptists were a minority community in New England, they were the objects of persecution. They had been agitating for disestablishment and for liberty of conscience, and what worried them was that Jefferson was leading them down a different path, a path of separation, which is not what their agenda was about. Again, they were arguing for disestablishment and liberty of conscience, not separation, because they, like virtually all Americans at that time, believed that religion played a vital role in promoting social order and stability. The evidence is rather compelling that they were somewhat embarrassed by the use of this metaphor.

You write that Jefferson would have been surprised that his letter continues to have such an impact two centuries later. Do you think he would be displeased with the current interpretation of his wall?

Well, of course, that’s a very hard question to answer because it involves a high degree of speculation. What I would feel very comfortable in saying is that I think Jefferson was in agreement with the part of his generation that believed that religion played an essential role in a self-governing society for a democratic people. He, like virtually all of his generation, believed that a self-governing people must be a virtuous and self-controlled people, and that religion was an essential element in promoting those qualities. To the extent that a wall of separation has been used to exclude or to limit the ability of religion to inform public life or to inform the actions of public officials and private citizens, I think he would find that worrisome. As president as well as in his career as a public official in Virginia, Jefferson took a number of steps to try to encourage virtue and religiosity within the public at large. Now, this is not to say what Jefferson’s personal religious beliefs were. Even those of the founding generation who were not particularly religious, or perhaps were even privately skeptical about traditional Christianity, nonetheless believed that religion was an indispensable support to political prosperity and social order.

The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law," etc. It wasn’t until the 1940’s that the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment applied to the states as well as the federal government. Should the First Amendment have been incorporated to the states?

This is one way in which Jefferson’s understanding of the wall has been transformed. In my book I argue that Jefferson would have thought that his wall of separation was most appropriately placed between state governments and the national governments on matters pertaining to religion, such as Thanksgiving Day proclamations. Again, let’s examine the context in which Jefferson wrote this letter. In the early days of his administration, he was being criticized for not appointing days for prayer and Thanksgiving. His Federalist critics had said this was evidence that Jefferson was in fact a political atheist and an infidel. Jefferson had refused to issue such proclamations, and he wrote that one of the reasons he wanted to write the letter was to explain to a wider constituency why he had declined to issue a Thanksgiving Day proclamation. I think Jefferson believed that what was appropriate for a state or local official to do, such as issuing a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, which he did as Governor of Virginia, was, because of that language in the First Amendment, not appropriate for him to do as President of United States. What this tells us is that Jefferson’s wall was placed not between church and state in the most general sense. This was not a universal general principle. Rather his wall was erected between what was appropriate for a national chief executive to do and what was appropriate for a state chief executive to do.

But, of course, at that time there was no Fourteenth Amendment to extend the protections of the Bill of Rights to the states. You acknowledge that Jefferson, the author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, opposed religious establishments by the states. Couldn’t the case be made that the incorporation of the Establishment Clause to the states is the completion of Jefferson’s ideal?

In the year 2002, we have to confront a First Amendment that not only restricts Congress, as its text states, but which has also been incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment and applied to the states. In my book I say that it’s very plausible that Jefferson would have desired the various states to erect their own walls of separation, so to speak, at the state level. But I think he would have been very uncomfortable with the use of a First Amendment wall, by way of incorporation or any other mechanism, to impose that separation from the federal level. Now, why would he not see incorporation of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment as the fulfillment of his desires as you asked in your question? I think that there are a couple of reasons. First, I think it removes the average citizen from the process of structuring their government. Moreover, incorporation itself has been imposed upon us by unelected courts, and I think Jefferson would have been uncomfortable with that. The second reason is that Jefferson, like virtually all of his contemporaries, viewed the concept of federalism, which separates the powers of the state governments from the power of the federal government, as in itself a very important part of the Bill of Rights. That is to say, I think he might have considered the separation of the powers of the national government from the state government as a more important right than those specifically enumerated rights in the Bill of Rights. So when the Court overturned the Federalism inherent in the Bill of Rights, they destroyed that structural protection of our liberties in the original design of the Constitution, and I think that would have made Jefferson uncomfortable and unhappy.

If not a "wall of separation," how would you suggest that we describe the relationship between religion and civil government?

I would suggest we return to the text of the First Amendment. I think the Baptists were right to focus on concepts such as disestablishment or nonestablishment or to use the terminology of free exercise of religion or liberty of conscience. I see no compelling need to abandon the text of the First Amendment in favor of a metaphor. And let me just add this. I think metaphors are a beautiful part of our literary heritage. I love metaphors. But I think that there is grounds for some caution in their use in a legal context. In legal discourse we need precision of expression: specific, strict, orderly adherence to rules and past judicial decisions and statutes. Metaphors are by definition comparisons of two things which are not actually identical. That is the case with the wall of separation. The wall of separation might help give us some insight into understanding the First Amendment, but it carries with it things that are dissimilar to what the First Amendment is about. Those dissimilarities introduce misconceptualizations about the First Amendment. So I believe we should indulge the use of metaphors in legal rhetoric with great caution.

What do you hope to accomplish with this book?

I hope that I can bring some clarity to the debate by urging those participants in the debate to move away from a misleading metaphor and by refocusing our attention on the actual text of the First Amendment. I think that if we abandon this metaphor, the debate will be healthier and clearer. We will force those who are seeking to exclude religion from public life to articulate the premises of the position more clearly rather than simply relying on a slogan. So I think that it’s healthy to reexamine this metaphor because I think it will lead to a clearer and less ambiguous debate about the proper role of religion in our society and culture.

To read the text of Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists and a Library of Congress study on Jefferson’s original drafts of the letter, go to http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danbury.html.

Nova Scotia mayor says no to "gay" flag

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Convert or coerce?

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).

Does the Saint Benedict Center accept this teaching of the Second Vatican Council? According to "Brother" Andre Marie, it does. He writes, "Whenever, in the history of the Church, there were those who incorrectly sought to force conversions, the pope or the bishops generally were there to issue a reprimand. That’s not the Catholic way and it’s not our way.." (Our Desire to Convert America, http://www.sbcrichmond.blogspot.com/)

If this be true, how then does one explain the grave concerns of so many residents of Richmond, New Hampshire that the Saint Benedict Center is attempting to take over the town? And how does one explain this portion of a letter to the Editor of The Keene Sentinel which was crafted by an individual who is deeply involved in the spiritual exercises and activities of the Saint Benedict Center:

To: The Sentinel:"...I will apply the perennial teachings of the Catholic Church without reserve or apology. I will foster the tenets of the social reign of Christ the King in all aspects of society, including cleaning out the public schools of this state and of the nation of all liberal, atheistic and morally corrupt teachers and administrators and bringing God and common sense back into the curriculum... And, unlike President Kennedy, I will not cower before Protestants, Jews, and atheists....Homosexuals who publicly display their alternative lifestyle will be immediately arrested and thrown in jail..." (Mr. Eugene De Lalla, Reader Opinion, October 18, 2006).

Is the Saint Benedict Center really interested in "free inquiry, communication and dialogue"? If so, why does a prominent member of the cult wish to "clean out" the public schools of any teacher or administrator whom he deems to be "liberal," "atheistic," or "morally corrupt"? Doesn’t this statement represent a desire to engage in coercion?


Sunday, August 05, 2007

More from Mr. Tom Matson, a concerned citizen from the Monadnock area who has been opposing the anti-Semitic Saint Benedict Center cult in Richmond:

Here is a comment, posted on stormfront, in a discussion about Lt Cmdr. Sharpe, who is a featured speaker at the St. Benedicts Conference in August. Lt. Cmdr Sharpe was relieved of duty and is being investigated for distribution on White Supremacist Materials while an active duty officer in the USN. The quoted posting is in response to the SPLC's article on Lt Cmdr Sharpe."

Default Re: U.S. Navy Suspends 'Radical Traditionalist Catholic

"I'll get right to it and cut to the chase. 'Traditional' (real catholics, real Christians) Catholics outwardly name the jew as murderers of Jesus Christ. That is what this is really about. The same goes for the many and continual examples-alot of which are posted on this site- such as the jews attacking the Polish priest and the jews attacking the Catholic New Hampshire group.

But this is nothing new, the jews obviously don't want to be named and will do anything to put a lid on anyone who singles them out, and those God-fearing Whites won't be seen flying around in israeli jets. The jews, faggots and leftists have attacked the Catholic church over a span of many years and finally managed to destroy her. But what I'm sure that they do understand is that there are MILLIONS of White Catholics who will only become more vocal in what they know to be truth, and nobody will stop them.

The jews and their friends can attack and corrupt the top, yet they have never and will never change the thinking of the flock. They know it. History has a way of repeating itself. The government and media control by the jews will come crashing down on their heads in due time. They cannot fight millions of White Christian men who are knowledgable about jewish perfidy, supremacy and their glaringly obvious hatred of Christianity. Perhaps most are unaware of their satanic seedline, but they're aware of everything else.

The cork is about to pop! and all the alphabet soup jew groups, together with all of their wealth will be prove to be useless when our people fully wake up and act. More and more they are speaking out. It is our job as WN's [ White Nationalists, my note] to help them on their way and educate them further."

The face of hate. One has to wonder. Since Stormfront has come to the defense of the Saint Benedict Center cult, and since one of the guest speakers at their up and coming conference to be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua was relieved of duty and is being investigated by the U.S. Navy for distributing White Supremacist materials while serving on active duty, what exactly is the relationship (if any) between Stormfront and/or other White Supremacist hate groups and the Saint Benedict Center?
More information on John Sharpe and his Legion of St. Louis:

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I posted this recently:

In Latin, an important use of the accusative case is with prepositions. Prepositions and the nouns or pronouns they go with show direction toward, time, the means by which something is done, where and when something is done, purpose, and various other kinds of directions.

As an adverb, the word "extra" in Latin is properly translated into English as "outside." However, the same word in the maxim Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus is a preposition which takes the accusative case. It is, therefore, more accurately translated into English as "without."

Consequently, the maxim Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus is more accurately translated into English as "Without the Church there is no salvation."Why is this so important? Because, for the Feeneyites, the maxim means that an individual who is not formally a practicing Catholic cannot be saved. The Church has condemned this interpretation (cf. Denzinger-Schonmetzer, 3870-3873).

As Pope John Paul II explains:"The Council speaks of membership in the Church for Christians and of being related to the Church for non-Christian believers in God, for people of good will (cf. Lumen Gentium 15-16). Both these dimensions are important for salvation, and each one possesses varying levels. People are saved through the Church, they are saved in the Church, but they always are saved by the grace of Christ. Besides formal membership in the Church, the sphere of salvation can also include other forms of relation to the Church. Paul VI expressed this same teaching in his first encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, when he spoke of the various circles of the dialogue of salvation (cf. Ecclesiam Suam 101-117), which are the same as those indicated by the Council as the spheres of membership in and of relation to the Church.
This is the authentic meaning of the well-known statement 'Outside the Church there is no salvation.'" (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, pp. 140-141).

The cultists at the SBC in Richmond reject this Magisterial teaching of the Church.

Meanwhile, actor Mel Gibson has just sunk another 8 million into his church: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,291701,00.html
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