Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Conscience, Natural Law, and Religious Liberty

I'm putting original sin and all that on the back burner for now. It's an important topic, but I've learned that I can't always do everything at the same time.

Even after editing, this post is a long one. Maybe a list of headings will help you find something interesting. Or, not:

I ran across part of the Catechism that discusses religious liberty while writing yesterday's post. Since we're still in Fortnight For Freedom, I figured I'd write about religious freedom, ethics, and conscience, for this week's 'Bible and Catechism' post.

Right, Wrong, and Crazy

The idea that some things are right, and some things are wrong, no matter what the Supreme Court or an opinion poll say, is counter-cultural. At least for today's establishment.

So, apparently, is the idea that religious freedom involves letting people act as if God matters.

I suspect that many Americans fear 'religious people' getting political power for what seem like good reasons. I've explained how a particularly virulent sort of Christianity in my home area made me very curious about religion, among other things. I eventually became a Catholic.

I could have written off Christianity as a sort of psychiatric disorder. I didn't, partly because I knew about the Catholic Church's millennia-spanning, continuous, documented, history. (April 18, 2012, February 27, 2011)

(back to list of headings)

Long Hair, Music, and Me

One thing I learned from radio preachers of my youth was that they hated rock and roll, and long hair on men. Personal preferences are one thing: that lot acted as if God agreed with them on every point.

I changed my listening habits, started enjoying rock, and grew moderately long hair. Then, around my mid-to-late teens, I started going bald: and that's another topic.

I also began seeing inconsistencies between what the painfully pious people said, what they did, and what I learned when I studied the Bible

I never assumed that all Christians were hypocrites, but I could see why many of my contemporaries thought so. The more 'Biblical' of the 'good church-going people' often seemed to have few verses missing from their reading list:
"1 Therefore, you are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment. 2 For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things. ... There is no partiality with God. "
(Romans 2:1-11)
One of the reasons I don't express a desire to see 'that sinner over there' burning in Hell is that my Lord wouldn't like it. (Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:37-38, 41-42; and see footnote 10 in Luke:6)

(back to list of headings)

Hypocrisy's Out: So is Stupidity

My Lord teaches us to love. Everybody. (Luke 6:35) He also said this:
"You hypocrite, 3 remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye."
(Matthew 7:5)
Looks like hypocrisy is out as a lifestyle option. And yes, I know about the pedophile priests. Moving on.

'Not judging others' doesn't mean putting my brain on 'hold,' and 'lovingly' accepting any behavior:
"1 [1-12] In ⇒ Matthew 7:1 Matthew returns to the basic traditional material of the sermon (⇒ Luke 6:37-38, ⇒ 41-42). The governing thought is the correspondence between conduct toward one's fellows and God's conduct toward the one so acting.

"2 [1] This is not a prohibition against recognizing the faults of others, which would be hardly compatible with ⇒ Matthew 7:5, 6 but against passing judgment in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of one's own faults."
(Matthew 7, footnote 1, footnote 2)
"A spirit of arrogance" hurts the person harboring it. I think it hurts others, too: to the extent that they accept the distorted image of Christianity - or reject my Lord. Bottom line, hypocrisy is a bad idea.

So is 'letting friends drive drunk,' and ignoring other self-destructive behavior:
(back to list of headings)

Natural Rights, and Natural Law

I've discussed natural law before. It's the idea that ethical rules exist, and are as real as those of the physical world. I've put links to some of my take ethics, cause, and effect, under "Related posts," below.

The Catholic Church teaches that "every human person, created in the image of God" has natural rights, including the right to be:
  • Seen as a free and responsible being
    (Catechism, 1738)
  • Protected, when a guest
    • Includes reciprocal obligations
    • Applies to
      • Foreigners
      • Governments
    (Catechism, 2241)
  • Respected, to retain the honor of his
    • Name
    • Reputation
    (Catechism, 2479)
About the personal pronoun? That's the way English, my native language, works. (April 10, 2012)

(back to list of headings)

Religious Liberty

I've been spending an hour outside each evening praying during Fortnight For Freedom, together with a few dozen other folks. (June 25, 2012) Sometimes it's been hot, damp, work. I've kept going because I think religious freedom is important. For everybody.

I've posted this quite often:
  • Religious freedom is vital
    (Catechism, 2104-2109)
    • For everybody
      (Catechism, 2106)
Like I said before: as a practicing Catholic I can't 'be holy' for an hour on Sunday, and behave as if God doesn't matter the rest of the time. Friday's Supreme Court decision makes that a little more awkward. (June 29, 2012)

That's because I recognize an authority higher than the Supreme Court. In a nation with just laws, thinking that God has more authority than some judges wouldn't be a problem. One of my duties is to be a good citizen, and obey legitimate authorities. (Catechism, 2199, 1915, 2238-43, for starters)

However, being a good citizen doesn't extend to blindly obeying whatever the nearest ruler commands. Saying "I was only following orders" will not make everything okay. (June 26, 2012)

I've been over this before. Often:
The Catholic Church takes life, freedom, and conscience very seriously:
" 'Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others, within due limits.'34 This right is based on the very nature of the human person, whose dignity enables him freely to assent to the divine truth which transcends the temporal order. For this reason it 'continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it.'35"
(Catechism, 2106)
Oho! "...nor nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience..." That means that as long as I really believe that it's okay to kill my wife, or neighbor, or someone else, it's okay: right?

Wrong. I've already written about natural law: that's the "objective moral order" in this excerpt. Some things are, simply, wrong. No matter how sincere someone is, or how many people 'really believe:'
"The right to religious liberty is neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error,37 but rather a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e., immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities. This natural right ought to be acknowledged in the juridical order of society in such a way that it constitutes a civil right.38

"The right to religious liberty can of itself be neither unlimited nor limited only by a 'public order' conceived in a positivist or naturalist manner.39 The 'due limits' which are inherent in it must be determined for each social situation by political prudence, according to the requirements of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority in accordance with 'legal principles which are in conformity with the objective moral order.'40"
(Catechism, 2108-2109)
The Church thinks freedom is important: but so is truth. And responsibility. (Catechism, 1730-1742, 2464-2503)

Finally, about the words "naturalist" and "positivist," used in Catechism, 2108-2109:
  • Naturalist (noun)
    • An advocate of the doctrine that the world can be understood in scientific terms
    • A biologist knowledgeable about natural history (especially botany and zoology))
    (Princeton's WordNet)
  • Positivism (noun)
    • The form of empiricism that bases all knowledge on perceptual experience
      • Not on intuition or revelation
    • A quality or state characterized by certainty or acceptance or affirmation and dogmatic assertiveness
    (Princeton's WordNet)
  • Positivist
    • (Noun)
      • Someone who emphasizes observable facts and excludes metaphysical speculation about origins or ultimate causes
    • (Adjective)
      • Of or relating to positivism
    (Princeton's WordNet)
(back to list of headings)

Good grief. This post is long enough already. If you're interested, check out my take on science, reason, and getting a grip under "Related posts:"

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.