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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and Freedom of Speech

Many people argue that freedom of speech includes the right to mock someone else's religion. They seem to forget the origins of the First Amendment.

The first law concerning free speech on the North American continent was passed on April 21, 1649: Maryland's "Act of Toleration." Maryland was the only English Catholic colony on the eastern seaboard. The Act was the world's first prohibition on religious hate speech. It is universally acknowledged as the harbinger and model for the Constitution's first amendment protection of free speech.

So, what did the Act of Toleration say?
That whatsoever person or persons within this Province and the Islands thereunto belonging shall from henceforth blaspheme God, that is Curse him, or deny our Saviour Jesus Christ to bee the sonne of God, or shall deny the holy Trinity the father sonne and holy Ghost, or the Godhead of any of the said Three persons of the Trinity or the Unity of the Godhead, or shall use or utter any reproachfull Speeches, words or language concerning the said Holy Trinity, or any of the said three persons thereof, shalbe punished with death and confiscation or forfeiture of all his or her lands and goods to the Lord Proprietary and his heires.
And bee it also Enacted by the Authority and with the advise and assent aforesaid, That whatsoever person or persons shall from henceforth use or utter any reproachfull words or Speeches concerning the blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of our Saviour or the holy Apostles or Evangelists or any of them shall in such case for the first offence forfeit to the said Lord Proprietary and his heirs Lords and Proprietaries of this Province the summe of five pound Sterling or the value thereof to be Levyed on the goods and chattells of every such person soe offending, but in case such Offender or Offenders, shall not then have goods and chattells sufficient for the satisfyeing of such forfeiture, or that the same bee not otherwise speedily satisfyed that then such Offender or Offenders shalbe publiquely whipt and bee imprisoned during the pleasure of the Lord Proprietary or the Lieutenant or cheife Governor of this Province for the time being. And that every such Offender or Offenders for every second offence shall forfeit tenne pound sterling or the value thereof to bee levyed as aforesaid, or in case such offender or Offenders shall not then have goods and chattells within this Province sufficient for that purpose then to bee publiquely and severely whipt and imprisoned as before is expressed. And that every person or persons before mentioned offending herein the third time, shall for such third Offence forfeit all his lands and Goods and bee for ever banished and expelled out of this Province.
And be it also further Enacted by the same authority advise and assent that whatsoever person or persons shall from henceforth uppon any occasion of Offence or otherwise in a reproachful manner or Way declare call or denominate any person or persons whatsoever inhabiting, residing, traffiqueing, trading or comerceing within this Province or within any the Ports, Harbors, Creeks or Havens to the same belonging an heritick, Scismatick, Idolator, puritan, Independant, Prespiterian popish prest, Jesuite, Jesuited papist, Lutheran, Calvenist, Anabaptist, Brownist, Antinomian, Barrowist, Roundhead, Separatist, or any other name or terme in a reproachfull manner relating to matter of Religion shall for every such Offence forfeit and loose the somme of tenne shillings sterling or the value thereof to bee levyed on the goods and chattells of every such Offender and Offenders, the one half thereof to be forfeited and paid unto the person and persons of whom such reproachfull words are or shalbe spoken or uttered, and the other half thereof to the Lord Proprietary and his heires Lords and Proprietaries of this Province. But if such person or persons who shall at any time utter or speake any such reproachfull words or Language shall not have Goods or Chattells sufficient and overt within this Province to bee taken to satisfie the penalty aforesaid or that the same bee not otherwise speedily satisfyed, that then the person or persons soe offending shalbe publickly whipt, and shall suffer imprisonment without baile or maineprise [bail] untill hee, shee or they respectively shall satisfy the party soe offended or greived by such reproachfull Language by asking him or her respectively forgivenes publiquely for such his Offence before the Magistrate of cheife Officer or Officers of the Towne or place where such Offence shalbe given.
As a result of this act, Protestants whose own religions were persecuted in the various English colonies fled the other colonies to settle in Maryland. Within five years, the Protestant population had grown so large that the Protestants were able to revolt and overthrow the Catholic government of Maryland. The Protestants not only overturned the Act, they passed a law forbidding Catholics the right to worship in Maryland at all.

The Catholic governor managed to regain control and strike a deal, allowing the Act to be reinstated in 1658. That lasted until 1692, when the Protestants again overthrew the Catholic government, this time for good. The Act was again repealed, Catholicism again outlawed. By 1718, Catholics were denied the right to vote.

Prior to the Civil War, the Constitution was seen as only being applicable to the federal government, not to local state governments. Thus, many states in America's Constitutional Republic barred Catholics from various aspects of public life right up through the end of the Civil War.

When Pope Francis points out that no one has a right to mock another person's religion, he is echoing Maryland's 1649 Act of Toleration. He is invoking the Catholic history of the United States.

How many modern American Catholics realize this?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Infallible on Fracking?

Newsies are now saying the Pope is going to deliver an encyclical on the environment that will (a) denounce fracking, (b) embrace global warming and (c) give Greens throughout the world warm fuzzies because these statements will be infallibly stated in an infallible encyclical infallible. I threw that extra "infallible" in, because you're going to see that word a lot whenever the Pope says something the MSM thinks turns to their advantage. Might as well get used to it. We're going to see it a lot in the coming days. Sigh.

Anyway, we will ignore the fact that they are not similarly thrilled about the infallible teaching contained within Humanae Vitae, and get down to brass tacks. What is an infallible teaching?

This is almost always very badly explained.

We could yammer a bit about how an infallible teaching must be on a matter of (1) faith and morals, (2) to the whole Church, (3) pronounced with Peter's own teaching authority, and that it's very rare, yada, yada, yada.

But that all misses the point.

To begin with, infallible statements are not at all rare - they are extremely common. Second, anyone can pronounce an infallible statement - it isn't just restricted to the Pope. When I say, "God is Three Divine Persons in One Divine Nature", I have made an infallibly true statement. I have spoken infallibly.

To make an infallibly true statement, you need only teach what the Church has always taught. That's all. Period. Done. Infallible statements are made in every child's catechism class every day. They are made in every book that correctly enunciates Catholic doctrine, even books written by raging atheists. Teach what the Church has always taught and, boom!, you have spoken infallibly! You can do it, too! Try it!

Now, fracking is not a subject upon which the Church has always taught, therefore not subject to the charism. Same with global warming. Perhaps there is an underlying principle of preserving the environment - which arguably is a point upon which the Church has always taught. After all, Scripture, which is infallible Church teaching, talks about Adam (and therefore the rest of us, too), being set to steward the earth and the things within it.

All well and good. We must steward the earth, that is an infallibly true statement. But how we do it - that's a prudential judgement. The Pope is not infallible in matters of prudence. He is also not infallible on matters of technology or applied experimental science. Is fracking good or bad when it comes to stewardship? You have to know a whole lot, not only about the fracking process, but also about what would happen to people if we didn't do that and tried doing something else to get energy instead. Even if the Pope were to specifically denounce fracking in an encyclical (it won't happen, but let's say he did), good Catholics could look at the argument he brought forward and disagree.

Why? Well, because the Church doesn't have an eternal teaching on energy development and use. She has eternal teachings on the sanctity of human life, from its beginning to its natural end. How we use energy and the environment certainly impacts human life. But it isn't at the core of human life or the life of heaven. Energy use and environmental use are areas where we are to apply the principles of caring for each other as God cares for us, and figure out the best road given the tools we have developed.

IVF, contraception, euthanasia - these are at the core of human life. Doesn't matter what technology is being employed, people have a right to be conceived by two parents, spouses have a duty to be open to life, everyone has a right to food, water, and shelter and a right to not being murdered. Now, how we feed them - are GMOs good or bad? That's a prudential judgement. How we get the energy necessary to get them food, water and shelter. That's a prudential judgement. But having a lab tech conceive a kid in a Petri dish and then freeze him solid in liquid nitrogen? Yeah, that's not how God treats us, so that's not how we are supposed to treat each other.

So, what's the story with the three-point test and rarity and all that?

Well, there have been times in Church history when nearly the whole Church got themselves so confused on a doctrine that essentially no one was correctly enunciating the doctrine. Everyone was mis-teaching on it. In those situations, the Popes have stood up and clearly stated exactly what the doctrine is - those were infallible statements. But we, as a Church, were so crazy on the point that we had to go through that three-point list above to make sure we had heard it correctly and understood that he was authoritatively telling us to get our heads screwed on straight. That is the charism of infallibility - the ability to keep one's head and correctly teach what is necessary for salvation when everyone else is running around yelling nonsense like a lunatic.