Liberal Antagonism for the Harmony Between Church and State

January 9, 2014

Someone might object that such a happy concord is not possible given the history of our secular State.

Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa, known as "the Cardinal of Charity" for helping save thousands of Italians from execution under the Fascist regime during World War II.

Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa, known as “the Cardinal of Charity” for helping save thousands of Italians from execution under the Fascist regime during World War II.

To this, we would reply that we find vague echoes of a desire for concord in the writings of the Founding Fathers who, despite their personal beliefs (heavily influenced by deism and the Enlightenment), understood the indispensable role of religion for the nation to prosper.

George Washington and his farewell speech, painted by John Trumbull.

George Washington delivering his Farewell Address, painted by John Trumbull.

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports,” writes George Washington in his Farewell Address. (1) “Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not only of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all governments and in all the combinations of human society,” wrote John Adams to Dr. Benjamin Rush in 1811. (2)

Painting of Jean-Jacques Rousseau by Maurice Quentin de La Tour.

Painting of the arch-revolutionary philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau by Maurice Quentin de La Tour.

Such patriotic pleas run counter to today’s tragic antagonism between Church and State. This hostility is a product of a liberal attitude that refuses to recognize the Church as a perfect society. In its more extreme form, it is based on the Rousseauan idea that all rights come from the people who delegate them to the State, and consequently the Church has no rights, save those conceded to Her by the State. As such, the State has no obligations towards the Church, which must live a separate subordinate existence. And while its more moderate form may be less intolerant of the Church, the logical course of this liberal attitude eventually leads to the hostility and confrontation of our days.

Bishop Austin Vaughan was arrested at an upper East Side Manhattan abortion clinic in May 1988 and was arrested at least eight other times, serving prison sentences of up to 10 days for campaigning against abortion.      On August 27, 2003, a Ten Commandments monument in the Montgomery Alabama courthouse was forcefully removed.

(L) Bishop Austin Vaughan was arrested at an upper East Side Manhattan abortion clinic in May 1988 and was arrested at least eight other times, serving prison sentences of up to 10 days for campaigning against procured abortion.
(R) On August 27, 2003, a Ten Commandments monument in the Montgomery Alabama courthouse was forcefully removed.

A truly balanced position is that each perfect society should recognize the rights and autonomy of the other, and each should render to the other those obligations that arise from this recognition. Such an association should lead to opportunities for cooperation and not exclusion.

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(1) George Washington, “Farewell Address,” in A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, ed. James D. Richardson (New York: Bureau of National Literature, 1897), 1:205.

(2) William J. Federer, The Ten Commandments & Their Influence on American Law: A Study in History (St. Louis: Amerisearch, 2003), 20.

 

John Horvat II, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go (York, Penn.: York Press, 2013), 217-8.

 

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