Religious liberty was a controversial topic, religious liberty was either comforting or threatening to the faith, depending on the region. In America, religious freedom was a guaranteed constitutional right that helped Christianity thrive. In Latin American, aggressively polemic American evangelicals were eager to poach the Catholic faithful. In the communist Eastern bloc, the persecuted Church dreamed of guaranteed rights to religious liberty so the Church could thrive. In continental Europe, many Catholics equated religious liberty with the ideas of the French Revolution and its hatred of all things religious. In Italy and Spain the Catholic Church was granted preferential treatment by the state, would a new emphasis on religious liberty lead to a loss of faith in these countries? […]
Luther starts his Large Catechism commentary on this commandment memorably, “Besides our own body, our wife or husband, and our temporal property, we have one more treasure which is indispensable to us, namely, our honor and good name, for it is intolerable to live among men in public disgrace and contempt.” Our reputation is our most precious possession, more important than baubles and gold, every man wants “to maintain his self-respect before his wife, children, servants, and neighbors.” […]
For Americans, what is puzzling is why a Declaration of Religious Freedom not be an obvious right, why would bishops argue over this decree over three sessions of Vatican II, and why would it need to go through six drafts before being approved? The United States was the first major country to guarantee the freedom of religion in our founding documents, and the American bishops led by John Courtney Murray led the Council in the formulation of the final drafts on religious freedoms.
To understand the controversy over the doctrine of religious liberty we need to review European history from classical times to modern times. In future years we plan a series of more in-depth blogs in this interesting history, here we will review the broad brush of history as it relates to religious history. This is general knowledge so we will forgo footnotes, instead I will provide links for the various Great Courses that IMHO best pertain to these topics. Painting history with such a broad brush may reveal more about my own personal beliefs than the actual history, hopefully it will spark your curiosity to study further these topics so you can come to your own conclusions. […]
In Murray’s words, the final decree denies the concept of a “double standard, freedom for the Church where Catholics are a minority, privilege for the Church and intolerance for others when Catholics are a majority.” Murray describes freedom of religion as three tiers. First, religious liberty is a human right and a personal freedom and a collective freedom for the citizenry. Second, religious liberty is a political doctrine on the functions and limits of government in religious affairs. Finally, religious liberty is a theological doctrine that governs the relationship between the Church and the state. […]
What has also not changed is the fact that the moral laws apply to all people, no matter their rank in society. Many modern men are deluded into believing that the moral law only binds individual men to behave properly to one another, but Pacem in Terris reaffirms that the moral law also applies to relationships between men and the state, and to international disputes and behavior between states, and between states and international institutions like the UN and the World Bank and the IMF.
Also affirmed, “man has a right to live,” he has a right to live with dignity, with sufficient “food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and necessary social services,” to be cared for when he is sick, disabled, widowed, elderly, or when he cannot earn a living through no fault of his own. Man should be guaranteed freedom from harassment, freedom of speech, and be enabled to get a good education and realize his potential regardless of his class or wealth. […]
A common misconception is that this Commandment only forbids us to lie. However, this Mitzvah goes deeper. Not only should we not destroy the reputation of our neighbor, we should also guard the reputation of our neighbor like we should build a parapet on our roof. Not only does this Mitzvah forbid us to lie, it also forbids us from telling the truth in a mean and heartless and cruel manner. […]
Dr Laura bemoans how the tangled web of the lies we weave is dragging us down, how “people expect politicians, lawyers, lobbyists, advocates, journalists, talk-show hosts, and anyone else in the public view will lie if it serves their purpose.” Even when the often-malicious gossip that they spread to millions of viewers has an element of truth, these celebrities can totally destroy someone’s reputation and even life. Indeed, our acceptance of this twisting of the truth leads to the “disappearance of common social courtesies to the prevalence of vulgar and vicious radio and television programming, from disrespect for traditional sexual and marital mores to the ever-growing cynicism about the potential of goodness to survive anywhere.”
Dr Laura bemoans how commonly people give false testimony to win their case in court. We think that if we suffer no immediate consequences, like lightning bolts, that nobody notices our lying, that it is quite okay. “Americans tend to assume that whatever deficiencies our system has, they largely are not a result of corruption, but rather due to judges and juries who are too soft, or racial prejudice, or insufficient concerns for the rights of victims.” “It is remarkable that we can be proud of our judicial system in spite” of how often we lie under oath.
Dr Laura tells us how horribly the lives of her listeners and others have been ruined by lies and slander. These damaging slanderers include the husband who lies about working late but is really out drinking and carousing with his buddies and maybe flirting with the women at the bar. They include the incredibly cruel lies told in custody battles, false reports of child abuse that harm both spouse and child. She tells how digging up possibly non-existent stories of childhood abuse decades in the past can destroy families. She also has stories of less destructive lies that enable to steal time and money from our employers or our neighbors. […]
The Church Fathers focus on our love for our neighbor when contemplating this commandment. St Gregory Palamas in our English translation renders the commandment as, “You shall not accuse anyone falsely.” We are warned that if we accuse anyone falsely, we may “become like the devil, who falsely accused God to Eve and was cursed by God. Rather, we should conceal our neighbor’s offense, unless by so doing others may be injured; and in this way we will imitate not Ham, but Shem and Japeth, and so like them receive the blessing.” […]