Cardinal Müller takes a definite stance on the Kasper proposal

Maike Hickson has a guest article at Rorate Caeli regarding Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller’s stance on the question of communion for bigamists. You may recall that the Germanicus small group’s proposal—essentially the old forum internum solution—had been offered as a compromise to the Synod. The argument, as we understood it, was that, since the Germanicus report was unanimous, Cardinal Müller and Cardinal Kasper had to agree about the viability of the forum internum solution. (Reinhard Cardinal Marx, Ratzinger’s successor in Munich and Freising, was hailed for brokering such a compromise.) Some questions had arisen, therefore, about what Cardinal Müller actually thought about communion for bigamists. Not much, it turns out. In the last couple of days, press reports have come out showing Cardinal Müller taking a strong line against communion under the Kasperite proposal. (We won’t quote from the article, but will instead encourage you to read it at Rorate.)

We wonder what this exhortation is going to look like on March 19 or whenever it is finally issued. We have heard much about a forty-some-page memorandum from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. We have heard much, also, about multiple drafts whizzing back and forth. And we have heard a little bit about Archbishop “Tucho” Fernandez, who seems to have the Holy Father’s ear on these matters. But we read for ourselves the Holy Father’s comments on the plane ride back from Mexico on the question, which sounded a little different than usual.

Reconsidering the comment policy

When we started Semiduplex last fall, we decided not to allow comments, believing that anyone who wanted to say something about one of our posts could take to Twitter, Facebook, or their own blog, or some other new social-media platform that has so far escaped our notice. However, we note today that we have had our six-thousandth page view and over twenty-five hundred unique visitors from all over the world. (Not exactly big-time stuff, we know, but impressive to us.) Since folks have been so kind as to read Semiduplex—and we really do appreciate your time and generosity, dear readers—we wonder if we ought to reconsider the comment policy. And so we are. Thus, we may start enabling comments on selected posts (with some mild moderation controls) in the near future. (We will indicate the posts on which comments are enabled.)

Link Roundup: Feb. 28, 2016

Did we post Pater Edmund Waldstein’s piece about embertide in Austria?  If we didn’t, we meant to. (Nothing like Lent for relying on one’s good intentions.) We would have sworn that the Ember days had been suppressed, one way and another, throughout the world after the conclusion of the liturgical reform in 1970. But we would have been wrong.

Fr. John Hunwicke has an interesting series going on Pauline pseudonymy. PART 1; PART 2. A third part should be coming soon, but we found it too engrossing not to mention it now.

Elliot Milco has a piece at The Paraphasic about a the necessity of a more serious approach to metaphysics and the importance of such an approach to Christianity. It is his opinion that a metaphysically oriented Christianity is necessary to restore Christianity’s place in public discourse, which, in our view, has been usurped by a lazy scientism and a narcissistic humanism.

Andrea Gagliarducci has some more from Patriarch Sviatoslav of Kiev about the rapprochement between Rome and Moscow, which has not exactly worked to the benefit of the Catholics of Kiev.

Gabriel Sanchez notes that Bishop Richard Williamson, one of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988, though subsequently expelled from the Society of St. Pius X, intends to consecrate Dom Thomas Aquinas, a traditionalist priest from Brazil. Bishop Williamson, you may recall, consecrated Bishop Faure some time ago.

We have generally associated Handel’s coronation anthem “Zadok the Priest” with The Madness of King George. (Insofar as we have associated it with anything other than an English coronation.) More recently, AT&T has taken up the anthem in its advertising. Jesuit Fr. Joseph Koczera, however, recalls that “Zadok the Priest” was sung as the offertory chant at his priestly ordination last summer. An interesting choice, to be sure. The video Fr. Koczera provides shows a really very grand moment from the Mass, which will no doubt be long remembered by those in attendance.

Piloting towards an unknown shore through shoals

It is plain by now that the Holy Father has a soft spot for the Society of St. Pius X. It was, of course, a great disappointment when negotiations broke down between the Holy See and the SSPX back in 2012, not least because it was clear that Benedict XVI desired greatly to see the SSPX return to full communion with Peter. And, as disappointing as that was, it has been just as extraordinary to see the Holy Father get things back on track and moving in a positive direction. The unilateral grant of faculties for confession to priests of the SSPX as part of the Year of Mercy was a wonderful gesture from the Holy Father, and one that could scarcely have been imagined under John Paul or Benedict. And it seems that things are once again moving.

Bishop de Galarreta, one of the three remaining SSPX bishops, recently gave a conference in Versailles, and during his conference he discussed the status of negotiations:

I think, and this is the other aspect of things, that this pope who tells anyone who will listen that we are Catholic, who says and repeats that the Society is Catholic, that we are Catholic, will never condemn us, and that he wants our ‘case’ taken care of. I think– and he has already started down this path – that when he sees that we cannot agree with the Congregation of the Faith, I think that he will overreach any doctrinal, theoretical, practical condition, or any condition whatsoever… He is going to take his own steps towards recognizing the Society. He has already begun; he is simply going to continue. And I am not saying what I desire but what I foresee. I foresee, I think that the pope will lean towards a one-sided recognition of the Society, and that by acts rather than by a legal or canonical approach.”

Bishop de Galarreta admitted that “this de facto recognition would have a good, a beneficial effect: it is a rather extraordinary apostolic opening, and it would have an extraordinary effect.” But he adds that there would then be two risks: that of creating an internal division and that of conditioning our preaching in certain circumstances. And he wondered: “It would take an extraordinary wisdom and prudence, a very great firmness and clarity. Are we capable of this?”

(Emphasis supplied.) More excerpts of the conference are available at the DICI website.

We also read at Zenit a new interview with Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, discussing the status of negotiations with the SSPX. (It is in Italian, so we will not quote from it here. However, the translation we obtained for ourselves from Google Translate was very readable.) It is especially interesting, since we think it gives one a good idea of Rome’s position with respect to the Second Vatican Council. Obviously, a unilateral canonical recognition of the SSPX, which seems to be what Bishop de Galarreta anticipates, would limit the necessity of a careful understanding of the Conciliar decrees and their relative weights.

It’s really very interesting to see these developments under the Holy Father. Remember what they said about Nixon?

The pro-life movement and the sickness of modernity

In reading Roberto Riviera’s thought-provoking piece at Ethika Politika about “Pro Life 2.0,” we were reminded of one of the Holy Father’s most incisive points in Laudato si’:

The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation. Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit. It is the false notion that “an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed”.

(Emphasis supplied.) In the Holy Father’s view, this technocratic paradigm sets up a misguided anthropocentrism, about which the Holy Father goes on to say:

A misguided anthropocentrism leads to a misguided lifestyle. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I noted that the practical relativism typical of our age is “even more dangerous than doctrinal relativism”. When human beings place themselves at the centre, they give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative. Hence we should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests. There is a logic in all this whereby different attitudes can feed on one another, leading to environmental degradation and social decay.

The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labour on them or enslaving them to pay their debts. The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests. It is also the mindset of those who say: Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and nature as collateral damage. In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted? This same “use and throw away” logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary. We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.

(Emphasis supplied.) It seems to us that combating the sickness at the heart of modernity, which the Holy Father diagnoses so brilliantly, is an important step in combating the various assaults on life and the dignity of life mounted by the world and the lord of the world.

How I’ve learned to please, to doubt myself in need

At The Paraphasic, Elliot Milco argues that conservative despair results from a conservative disposition without goals:

Food is conserved in conditions of scarcity.  Forests are conserved when they are being wiped out.  We conserve historical sites when they are in a state of disrepair or permanent disuse.  The word “conservatism” suggests the preciousness of what is being preserved and a will to defend it, but it also suggests a climate of decay and a general trend toward decrepitude.  Conservation, after all, is merely a way of staving off the inevitable.

The source of conservative despair is a weakness not of principles or ideals, but of posture.  Our disposition toward the present context lacks adequate direction.  We fight for things like neutrality, and the liberty to be left alone. (Acedia’s plea.) We gripe about our losses and reminisce about the good old days (of fifty years ago or fifteen hundred).   We huddle together in increasingly isolated enclaves of fellow-thinkers.  And this posture of conservatism, which is merely conservative, primes us for failure.  The inevitable.

(Emphasis supplied and italics in original.) Milco has identified, we think, this tendency in conservative thought previously. For example, he called the late Antonin Scalia, “the mighty rearguard in our [i.e., conservatives’] long and slow defeat.

For our part, we’d take a step back: when Milco says that “the source of conservative despair is a weakness not of principles or ideals,” we are not so sure we agree. Certainly, to the extent that the Christ’s teachings and the teachings of Christ’s Church are conservative, we would agree that the foundation of those principles or ideals is as strong as possible (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11–15). But there are plenty of conservative ideals not built upon Christ’s teachings. For example, the sort of unrestrained faith in capitalism and near-idolatry of the free market so popular among some conservatives is to be found nowhere in sound Christian doctrine. Likewise, a concept of the role of government that is divorced entirely from the notion of the common good—by this, of course, we mean the obsession with “limited government” on the right, which is not at all the same thing as subsidiarity—is not a concept in accordance with reason. And, of course, worshipping a Constitution that resolutely and intentionally denies the rights of God and his Church is the very antithesis of Christian doctrine. Now, we mention all this not to demonstrate how little we think of standard-issue movement conservatism in the United States—though we do not in fact think a whole lot of it—but to show that there are articles of conservative faith today that are weak. They are weak because they are un-Christian.

Now, we are under no illusion that Milco meant to imply that basic movement conservatism is founded upon sound ideals; our demonstration was intended to set up this point: Christians have made common cause with movement conservatives over a variety of issues. In some cases, there have been common goals—the defense of life and marriage against the world and the lord of this world—and where the groups’ goals diverged, they were still essentially compatible. Perhaps, however, it is time for Christians to go forward alone and on their own terms. The goal of a Christian is not to win elections, but to win an imperishable crown, as Paul says (1 Cor. 9:24–25)—though serving Christ, who is the lawful king over all nations, may involve government according to Christ’s laws—and perhaps it’s time to start moving forward with that goal in mind.

The 1998 Doctrinal Commentary and the Papal Magisterium

In recent days—which is to say, in the wake of the Holy Father’s comments on the plane ride back from Mexico—we have noticed some worried analyses, the thrust of which is that the Magisterium is in jeopardy. Fr. John Hunwicke has reposted some comments he wrote after the explicitly non-magisterial statement on the Church’s relations with the Jews. Likewise, Fr. Ray Blake has offered some thoughts about the Magisterium under the Holy Father.

It seems to us that Cardinal Ratzinger’s Doctrinal Commentary on the so-called concluding formula of the Professio Fidei required by Ad tuendam Fidem as relevant than ever. Obviously, Cardinal Ratzinger was writing in a very different context; however, the Doctrinal Commentary offers some precision in thinking about the Magisterium, including any given pope’s teachings, that is helpful to sort out situations like the Holy Father’s statements on Zika virus and contraception.

Just a thought.


Link Roundup: Feb. 22, 2016

Note: This Link Roundup, in addition to coming a day late, is devoted to a single topic. 

The Holy Father’s recent statements about contraception in the light of South America’s Zika virus crisis have thrown everyone into a frenzy. Secular news outlets have leapt to proclaim papal endorsement of contraception, noting that some Catholics have argued that the Holy Father’s statements are largely in keeping with the Church’s traditional teaching.

Catholics of a certain stripe are especially happy to hear that the Holy Father has, allegedly, opened a crack in the Church’s doctrine, since, we are unfailingly reminded, most American Catholics don’t buy the Church’s position on contraception.

One point of controversy that has emerged is the Holy Father’s anecdote about Paul VI giving women religious in the Congo dispensation to use birth control, since they were in danger of being outraged. In Catholic News Service’s translation of the Holy Father’s interview, the Holy Father said:

Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another. That’s what the Mafia does. It is a crime, an absolute evil. On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape.

Don’t confuse the evil of avoiding pregnancy by itself, with abortion. Abortion is not a theological problem, it is a human problem, it is a medical problem. You kill one person to save another, in the best case scenario. Or to live comfortably, no?  It’s against the Hippocratic oaths doctors must take. It is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil in the beginning, no, it’s a human evil. Then obviously, as with every human evil, each killing is condemned.

On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, or in the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I would also urge doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these two mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on.

(Emphasis supplied.) Some writers have, understandably, focused on this bit about Paul VI.

John Allen has a piece at Crux about the origins of the Holy Father’s anecdote. However, Allen concludes that no such juridical act occurred. What happened was, in 1961, an academic article about birth control was published in a magazine close, according to Allen, to then-Cardinal Montini. That article concluded that, under the circumstances alleged to exist in the Congo, birth control would be acceptable. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf has a longer version of the story at his blog, which includes some detail about the article and its post-publication history.

We note, as a parenthesis, that the question of “the pill,” which involves natural hormones, was very much debated before Humanae vitae, when it was still essentially a scientific breakthrough. For example, Charles de Koninck and Msgr. Maurice Dionne, two of the titans of Laval Thomism, wrote a lengthy brief in 1965 for Maurice Cardinal Roy, then the archbishop of Quebec, arguing that, under certain circumstances, “the pill” might be permissible. We mention this not to show that “the pill” is or is not permissible, but to add some context for those of us who have grown up, essentially, in the wake of Humanae vitae and the pontificate of its primary author, Karol Wojtyła. At one time, the question was not so settled. (Though, for our part, we note also that Casti connubii, another one of Papa Ratti’s prophetic encyclicals, was published in 1930, and it expressed a dim view on contraceptives.)

Edward Pentin has a very lengthy piece at the National Catholic Register analyzing the Holy Father’s statements, including interviews with Fr. Robert Gahl and Prof. Melissa Moschella, two philosophers who argue that the Holy Father’s statements were in line with traditional Church teaching on contraception, properly understood.

Blink and you’ll miss it: Pope says post-Synodal exhortation may be released before Easter

Catholics are abuzz with the suggestion that the Holy Father approved in some manner contraceptive use in the context of South America’s Zika virus crisis during his in-flight press conference on the trip back to Rome. As you might imagine, the interpretations of his less-than-clear statements have broken down on predictable fault lines. Likewise, there has been much discussion of his statements about Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall. And the interpretations of these statements have broken down on predictable fault lines. (For our part, we recommend that traditionally minded Catholics take a minute and read Pius XII’s Exsul Familia and La solennità della Pentecoste before posting or retweeting pictures of the Vatican’s walls.) But this press conference is interesting for other reasons.

Catholic News Service has prepared and released a full-text English version of the Pope’s airplane interview. In that interview there were several exchanges that touch, we think, upon the bigger question—the Holy Father’s forthcoming post-Synodal exhortation. The first exchange, with American reporter Anne Thompson, gives some tentative papal confirmation to the suggestion that the Holy Father’s post-Synodal exhortation will be handed down before Easter. (We had heard March 19, which is the feast of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is also Saturday before Palm Sunday in the Ordinary Form this year.) The entire exchange is very interesting and worth reading carefully:

Anne Thompson, NBC (USA): Some wonder how a Church that claims to be merciful, how can the Church forgive a murderer easier than someone who has divorced and remarried?

Pope Francis: I like this question! On the family, two synods have spoken. The Pope has spoken on this all year in the Wednesday Catechisms. The question is true, you posed it very well. In the post-synod document that will be published, perhaps before Easter – it picks up on everything the synod – in one of the chapters, because it has many – it spoke about the conflicts, wounded families and the pastoral (care) of wounded families. It is one of the concerns. As another is the preparation for marriage. Imagine, to become a priest there are eight years of study and preparation, and then if after a while you can’t do it, you can ask for a dispensation, you leave, and everything is OK. On the other hand, to make a sacrament (marriage), which is for your whole life, three to four conferences…Preparation for marriage is very important. It’s very, very important because I believe it is something that in the Church, in common pastoral ministry, at least in my country, in South America, the Church has not valued much.


Another interesting thing from the meeting with families in Tuxtla. There was a couple, married again in second union integrated in the pastoral ministry of the Church. The key phrase used by the synod, which I’ll take up again, is ‘integrate’ in the life of the Church the wounded families, remarried families, etcetera. But of this one mustn’t forget the children in the middle. They are the first victims, both in the wounds, and in the conditions of poverty, of work, etcetera.

Thompson: Does that mean they can receive Communion?

Pope Francis: This is the last thing. Integrating in the Church doesn’t mean receiving communion. I know married Catholics in a second union who go to church, who go to church once or twice a year and say I want communion, as if joining in Communion were an award. It’s a work towards integration, all doors are open, but we cannot say, ‘from here on they can have communion.’ This would be an injury also to marriage, to the couple, because it wouldn’t allow them to proceed on this path of integration. And those two were happy. They used a very beautiful expression: we don’t receive Eucharistic communion, but we receive communion when we visit hospitals and in this and this and this. Their integration is that. If there is something more, the Lord will tell them, but it’s a path, a road.

(Some emphasis supplied and text omitted.)

The second exchange was with Italian reporter Franca Giansoldati and dealt most directly with Italy’s upcoming parliamentary vote on same-sex unions:

Franca Giansoldati, Il Messaggero (Italy): Holiness, good evening. I return back to the topic of the law that is being voted on in the Italian parliament. It is a law that in some ways is about other countries, because other countries have laws about unions among people of the same sex. There is a document from the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith from 2003 that dedicates a lot of attention to this, and even more, dedicates a chapter to the position of Catholic parliamentarians in parliament before this question. It says expressly that Catholic parliamentarians must not vote for these laws. Considering that there is much confusion on this, I wanted to ask, first of all, is this document of 2003 still in effect? And what is the position a Catholic parliamentarian must take? And then another thing, after Moscow, Cairo. Is there another thawing out on the horizon? I’m referring to the audience that you wish for with the Pope and the Sunnis, let’s call them that way, the Imam of Al Azhar.

Pope Francis: For this, Msgr. Ayuso went to Cairo last week to meet the second to the Imam and to greet the Imam. Msgr. Ayuso, secretary to Cardinal Tauran of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. I want to meet him. I know that he would like it. We are looking for the way, always through Cardinal Tauran because it is the path, but we will achieve it.

About the other, I do not remember that 2003 document from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith well but every Catholic parliamentarian must vote according their well-formed conscience. I would say just this. I believe it is sufficient because – I say well-formed because it is not the conscience of ‘what seems to me.’ I remember when matrimony for persons of the same sex was voted on in Buenos Aires and the votes were tied. And at the end, one said to advise the other: ‘But is it clear to you? No, me neither, but we’re going to lose like this. But if we don’t go there won’t be a quorum.’ The other said: ‘If we have a quorum we will give the vote to Kirchner.’ And, the other said: ‘I prefer to give it to Kirchner and not Bergoglio.’ And they went ahead. This is not a well formed conscience.

On people of the same sex, I repeat what I said on the trip to Rio di Janeiro. It’s in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

(Emphasis supplied.) The question of conscience—and what constitutes a well-formed conscience—has been bubbling around the edges of the Synod debate, particularly through the statements of Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich. We find it interesting to see the Holy Father drawing a clear line through the concept that a well-formed conscience is the conscience of “what seems to me.” While this is not necessarily related to the question of the Synod and his exhortation, it seems to us that it is a window into how the Holy Father approaches these issues.

All the battles you’ve fought (and lost)

Rod Dreher sets forth a social conservative’s case for Donald Trump at The American Conservative. In itself, that’s an interesting argument. Dreher argues that the “real” fight is over religious liberty, and Trump has promised to protect religious liberty. Dreher also asserts that Trump is no more untrustworthy on issues like this than establishment Republicans, who have sold out social conservatives time and time again on a whole range of issues to appease their donors. Like we said, an interesting argument. However, it seems to be an argument that concedes defeat on a couple of important points.

We hasten to say, at the outset, that, while we have made made up our mind on the likely Republican and Democratic candidates this year, we do not intend with these reflections to urge you, dear reader, to vote for or against any candidate. (Just as we did not intend to urge you to vote for or against Bernie Sanders with our comments about whether Catholics can vote for a self-described socialist.) Our point, which we shall elaborate here in a second, is that Dreher, in making this case for Donald Trump, makes some assumptions that are, well, troubling. It is not clear to us, furthermore, that Dreher intended to urge his readers to vote one way or the other. (He said as much in a comment thread, in fact.)

We note, first, that Dreher’s argument seems to call upon Christians to formally cooperate in the error of religious liberty. After all, that is exactly what voting for a candidate because he supports religious liberty is. This is, perhaps, not a huge deal to many Catholics. However, to traditionally minded Catholics, especially Catholics connected with the Society of St. Pius X, religious liberty remains a live topic. Dreher argues, as we noted above, that,

Religious liberty is where the real fight is, specifically the degree to which religious institutions and individuals will have the freedom to practice their beliefs without running afoul of civil liberties for gay men and women. This is where having a friendly administration matters most to religious and social conservatives. And this is an area where religious and social conservatives are in the most danger of being bamboozled by the GOP Establishment.

(Emphasis supplied.) But the question of religious liberty is a tricky one for the Christian. While the Church and individual Catholics ought to be free to profess the Apostolic faith and to live in accordance with the commands of Christ, religious liberty itself is a proposition that has been condemned and condemned and condemned by good and holy popes.

By religious liberty we refer to the opinion that it is a fundamental right of man to worship, or not worship, according to the dictates of one’s conscience. Gregory XVI condemned this opinion’s close corollary, indifferentism, in 1832 in Mirari vos (DH 2731–32). Likewise, Pius IX condemned indifferentism in Qui pluribus in 1851 (DH 2785). And he definitively proscribed indifferentism and religious liberty in Syllabus Errorum, in propositions 15–18, 77, and 79 (DH 2915–18, 2977, 2979).  Leo XIII condemned so-called liberty of conscience in stringent terms in his 1888 encyclical Libertas praestantissimum (DH 3250–51). Indeed, that great Pope held that the civil authority can tolerate false sects only in furtherance of the common good, always taking care not to approve the false sect itself (ibid., 3251). In other words, the teaching of the Church is clear: religious liberty is an error. Finally, we note that Dignitatis humanae left “untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.” Thus, to some extent, it is unclear whether or not the Council changed the Church’s venerable teaching on indifferentism and religious liberty in Dignitatis humanae. For our purposes, we will assume that the Council did not.

And this leads us to an interesting question: can one support a candidate because he supports religious liberty? As shown above, religious liberty is an error, condemned by the Church; therefore, one would be supporting a candidate because the candidate supports an error, condemned by the Church. At some level, such support would be formal cooperation in error. (Whether it is subjectively culpable as a sin is another question, though heresy is a grave sin.) Now, one might say that the Church would benefit from this error, as indeed it might, but that does not redeem the erroneous proposition itself. Furthermore, such cooperation is not as grave as, say, supporting a candidate because she supports abortion, which is strictly impermissible. But it is not clear to us that the gravity is nonexistent, either. Thus, we have some doubts that it would be appropriate to support a candidate because of his stance on religious liberty, though one could support a candidate despite his stance on religious liberty if there were proportionately serious reasons to support him.

That’s one issue we have with Dreher’s column. It’s not the only one.

The bigger issue is Dreher’s willingness to concede defeat on abortion. While the question of religious liberty is perhaps a little obscure to many Catholics, there is not a Catholic in the United States today who does not understand the issue of abortion and the stakes involved. In order to make the case that religious liberty is where the real action is these days, Dreher asserts:

On abortion, unless the Supreme Court were to revisit Roe v. Wade — something nobody foresees happening — the right to legal abortion is here to stay. Even if the Court overturned Roe, all that would mean is that the right to regulate abortion would return to the states. Most states would unhesitatingly protect abortion rights. Some would impose restrictions. In no state would it likely be banned outright. The possibility of there being an end to abortion achieved through judicial and legislative means is remote. That does not mean that having a pro-life president is unimportant, but it does mean that its importance has to be judged relative to other factors.

Anybody who thinks Obergefell is going to be overturned is dreaming. It won’t happenRoe was less popular in 1973 than Obergefell is today, and we all know by now that the generation most opposed to same-sex marriage is passing away. Gay marriage is here to stay. Our side lost that battle, and we waste time and resources trying to re-fight it. The candidates who say they’re going to work to overturn Obergefell are either pandering or deluded. And socially conservative voters who are in touch with reality know that what’s done is done. Fighting same-sex marriage in the courts is the most lost of lost causes.

(Enumeration and hyperlink omitted, emphasis supplied, and italics in original.) This is, frankly, astounding. Dreher’s argument appears to be that Christians have lost, irretrievably, the battles over abortion and same-sex “marriage.”

If this is the case, then what’s the point fighting any more battles? It is not as though abortion in particular has been some trivial issue in the life of the Church, a defeat over which Catholics can laugh off lightly. Far from it! For forty years, the political choices of serious Christians have been driven, for the most part, by the questions of abortion and same-sex “marriage.” (Perhaps longer, since Griswold v. Connecticut was the real beginning of the movement toward widespread abortion.) During that time, for American Catholics, abortion has been, quite rightly, the number-one question. Indeed, there are not a few Catholics who have written off, not unjustifiably, a major political party solely on the issue of abortion. Moreover, prelates have threatened to deny communion to politicians who support abortion. And, in his 2004 memorandum, which we have cited here previously, Cardinal Ratzinger stated (or strongly implied or whatever) that abortion was perhaps the most important moral issue facing Catholics. Same-sex “marriage” has been, in recent years, a major battleground, especially in state elections and referenda. But, according to Dreher, they’ve lost. Why would anyone think that they’re more likely to win on religious liberty or any other fight after they lost their number-one fight?

Dreher’s point also raises an interesting issue as far as voting goes. If no politician can make a difference on the questions of abortion or same-sex “marriage,” and that is precisely what Dreher implies when he says that those fights are over, then is it appropriate to consider those points when casting one’s vote? That is to say, does it really matter if, in the race for president, John Johnson is ardently pro-abortion and Jane Jones is ardently pro-life? If “[t]he possibility of there being an end to abortion achieved through judicial and legislative means is remote,” then does it really matter who you vote for? And when Dreher says that the importance of a pro-life candidate “has to be judged relative to other factors,” what other factors are there? Aside from the question of life and the question of marriage, the two major American political parties are not hugely different.

That said, is there any principled reason for a serious Christian to engage politically after the defeat on abortion and same-sex “marriage”? If the two most important battles in living memory have ended in irretrievable defeat, as Dreher says, then why should a Christian continue to fight the fight with weapons that manifestly do not work? In the context of another discussion, we were politely corrected by an acquaintance of ours for excluding the possibility of divine intervention in a particular situation. (We cannot remember just now what it was, though.) If the political battle is truly lost, then perhaps it is time to set aside political weapons. So what if the ballot box cannot stem the tide of this world and the ruler of this world? The Mass and the Rosary can. So what if politicians fail to keep their promises? Our Lord keeps his promises. It would perhaps make more sense to devote one’s energies where they can do some good: in imploring the Lord to intervene and put things right.  One may argue that such an approach is resignation (or fatalism or worse), but it seems to us that Dreher’s approach is the approach of resignation, insofar as he urges us to accept that the battles over abortion and same-sex “marriage” are lost. Dreher says “what’s done is done.”

And, of course, we are reminded of the Holy Father’s recent homily to the clergy of Mexico just this past Tuesday:

What temptation can come to us from places often dominated by violence, corruption, drug trafficking, disregard for human dignity, and indifference in the face of suffering and vulnerability? What temptation might we suffer over and over again – we who are called to the consecrated life, to the presbyterate, to the episcopate – what temptation could might we endure in the face of all this, in the face of this reality which seems to have become a permanent system? 

I think that we could sum it up in a single word: “resignation”. And faced with this reality, the devil can overcome us with one of his favourite weapons: resignation. “And what are you going to do about it? Life is like that”. A resignation which paralyzes us and prevents us not only from walking, but also from making the journey; a resignation which not only terrifies us, but which also entrenches us in our “sacristies” and false securities; a resignation which not only prevents us from proclaiming, but also inhibits our giving praise and takes away the joy, the joy of giving praise. A resignation which not only hinders our looking to the future, but also stifles our desire to take risks and to change. And so, “Our Father, lead us not into temptation”.

(Emphasis supplied.)