Thursday, February 02, 2012

It took the Church several centuries to definitively disavow her acquiescence (since the late Middle Ages) to the notion that the state had a moral right and obligation to violently enforce a man’s positive religious obligation to embrace the true religion and worship God according to the approved rites of His Church. For centuries, the Church, as ferociously as the most pious Islamist, endorsed the putting-to-death of apostate Catholics and, where feasible, the political subjugation of all non-Catholics besides, this in the hopes of encouraging the latter to embrace her true faith.

You do concede this is “an awfully truncated summary of a very complex history.” It is also true that Protestants were no better: John Calvin, e.g., pretty much established a “Christian” police state during his heyday in Geneva . I believe you may be overstating the case nonetheless.

Islam does not differentiate between faith and state. For that matter, neither do secular humanists. (They aggressively reject traditional religious mores, even as they insist on translating their effete, not to say warped, notions of the good—e.g., taxpayer-funded abortion, drug prohibition, equal employment diktats—into civil law.) The bifurcation between temporal and spiritual is entirely a Western, i.e., Catholic, development.

Catholic monarchs may well have melded church and state in ways not consistent with the Catholic libertarianism you and I share. The Church may well have failed to disabuse them of the notion they should be melded. But she always upheld the fundamental distinction between the two.

This is not to detract from your criticism of the illibertarian bishops. I also agree libertarianism is the only political philosophy consistent with Catholicism. In your effort to be fair to the other side, I just think you may have gone too far.

While it certainly is true that medeival [sic] Christendom and Islamdom [sic] operated, in several respects, under very different ideological frameworks, as a practical matter apostates, heretics, and infidels fared about equally bad under both regimes, because both took for granted the duty of the state to enforce citizens' positive religious obligations.

Now, it is true that Christianity did not have an analogous institution to jihad, i.e., aggressive war against pagan nations and forcing its citizens to convert or be killed; but Jews under Chrisendom [sic] could accurately be called "dhimmis," and ex-Catholics as good as apostates in Muslim countries. This is a fact.

Nevertheless, you are correct that the medieval Christian innovation that Church and state were at least separate institutions did sow the seeds for a deeper appreciation of the implications for religious liberty, these implications were not realized for several centuries. I don't think the Church is served by apologists whitewashing just how terrible this was for those who did not subscribe to the religious status quo.

Nobody’s whitewashing or apologizing. Again, I think you’re missing vital historical context. At the very least, please recognize there are competing schools of thought on the matter. Take the much ballyhooed persecution of Jews in medieval Spain. My (no doubt obscurantist) sources tell me the persecution was directed at the Conversos: Jews who feigned conversion to the Church with the aim of infiltrating and subverting her.

Jews infiltrating and subverting the Church?! Shades of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion! Only the most rabid anti-Semite would level such a charge! Meanwhile, the prevailing view, i.e., that the Church got its jollies persecuting the Jews (“dhimmis”)just for being Jews, strikes no one as particularly anti-Catholic--not even card-carrying Catholics.

Why, that’s just history! Everybody knows that!

Every people has a story. The Catholics have a story. The Jews have a story. The Methodists, Mohammedans and Mormons have a story. Within the larger culture, some people’s story gets marginalized, while others’ gets mainstreamed. I’ll let you decide under which category the traditional Catholic version of events tends to fall.

Of course the Spanish Inquisition was directed solely at conversos: not because the Church was tolerant toward Jews and advocated their political equality with Christians, but because the Spanish state (with not a peep of protest from the Church) expelled all the Jews in 1492, and so there were no Jews left to subjugate, only heretics with real or alleged Judaizing tendencies.

Of course the Bolshevik Revolution was directed solely at bourgeois turncoats: not because (the overwhelmingly Jewish) Bolsheviks were tolerant toward Christians and advocated their political equality with (the overwhelmingly Jewish) Bolsheviks, but because the Soviet state (with not a peep of protest from the overwhelmingly Jewish Bolsheviks) expelled, exiled or starved all the Christians in the years following 1917, and so there were no Christians left to subjugate, only bourgeois turncoats with real or alleged Christianizing tendencies.

See? Two can play this game.



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