Thursday, February 17, 2005

An All-American Controversy

The recent controversy about Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish's refusal to conform to the norms of canon law is a near-perfect contemporary example of the centuries-old dispute between the American Established Religion and Catholicism, which started when the Pilgrims landed on these shores.

This parish in the City of Saint Louis, privately owned by a civil corporation, recently changed its charter to exclude archdiocesan representation on its board, as well as making other changes that deviates from the norm of canon law. In reaction, Archbishop Burke has placed Parish's board members under an interdict, or exclusion from the Sacraments.

The mainstream media are overwhelmingly favorable to the parish board: this is seen as a David versus Goliath struggle, and these media are cheering for the underdog without consideration of the facts of the matter, such as well-established canon law. The media seem to be interested only in certain types of Davids or certain underdogs, however. Would the mainstream media cover a similar dispute, say, between a parish in Los Angeles that decided to offer the Tridentine Mass without an Indult from their Archbishop, and were then placed under interdict? It seems that only particular underdogs, those that keep the party line, are to be encouraged.

The American mainstream media, while not official organs of State propaganda, are instead the mouthpieces of what could be called the American Established Religion: the Religion that forms the basis of belief used consistently in the courts, public education, and civic life in general. That the United States should have an Established Religion (it can no longer call itself a church, having divorced itself from explicit Christian roots) should be no surprise to those who study the history of our country from its very founding by the Pilgrims. It is a religion with radical Protestant Puritan roots, but also includes elements of the Enlightenment Religion of Reason as well as now nature worship.

Religion and philosophy are, at their roots, similar. Religion may have Divine Revelation, where philosophy uses Reason, but there is considerable overlap. Faith is now often defined as a system of beliefs, but the same could be said of philosophy. So some kind of faith is present in civil life, where that life is shaped by a civil philosophy. Every judge, especially when developing -- or creating -- law, does so from some basis, some philosophy, some norm. Educators teach, and have to teach something, and that something ultimately is chosen according to educational philosophy. Judges and educators act according to their philosophy, and we can inductively deduce a philosophy from these actions. We can then say that judges, educators, and even journalists show faith -- acting on a system of beliefs-- through their actions. If we find that all of these public professions are acting from a similar basis, and if that basis is enshrined in law and public custom, then that basis is dejure the official philosophy of the State: it is Established. And an all-encompassing philosophy can be called religion when it assumes a universal worldview in conflict with other religions. Our American civil philosophy is becoming ever more radical, so now it is fair to call it a religion; as it had been called in the past. Now if judges just made decisions based on the laws passed by Congress, and if teachers just taught what the school board tells them, then I would not say they are acting on a philosophy. But instead these professions are autonomous to a large extent, and are highly influenced by the American philosophy. The same could be said of other professions, such as medicine.

The American Established Religion was originally the Puritanism of the Massachusetts Colonies; it was the official religion of the government and did not tolerate Catholicism. The extensive Blue Laws of that colony included the death penalty for Catholic priests. Puritanism was basically Calvinist, and its modern descendants are the Presbyterians, Congregationalists (now UCC), Quakers, low church Anglicans, and some Unitarians. This movement rejected tradition, hierarchy, liturgical art, and all things Catholic. Its leaders believed that they were saved: a single conversion experience justified a person forever. They sought autonomy and freedom from higher worldly authority, but were strict and controlling of the multitudes under them, for the Puritans believed that the ignorant and poor were born to be damned. Poverty was a sign of God's displeasure, and showed that the person was not saved. The Puritan ideal of a "Shining City on a Hill" is actually a stark statement of the saved living in a free society upon which the lost can only look from a distance. Puritans founded Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth Universities, as well as other prominent schools, and these are still highly elitist institutions that promote policies for the control of the masses in a particularly Puritan manner. The United States still celebrated its Puritan roots even as late as the 1960s. Puritan ethics informed American law, especially regarding the economy, and educational reformers used to encourage Puritan-style "good citizenship" in public schools.

During the Enlightenment, the religion of the Puritans developed into the philosophy of the Freemasons, exchanging Reason for the Bible as the source of wisdom and civic philosophy. The Enlightenment perhaps started with Isaac Newton and his deterministic laws of physics. This theory is very much in harmony with the deterministic religion of the Puritans and Calvin. The Enlightenment philosophy is a belief in a rational, orderly and comprehensible universe, and the Enlightenment embraced a religion of a rational, orderly, and comprehensible God. The ecclesial communities of the Puritan movement became quite liberal and rationalistic during the Enlightenment. Freemasonry, the ultimate Enlightenment movement, promotes a rationalistic and naturalistic philosophy, and could also be called a religion, since it reinterprets public religions in a private and hidden manner within its own worldview. The Enlightenment promoted an elitism of intellect, and had great fervor during the French Revolution, which attempted the destruction of the not-purely-rational Catholic Church. Similar anti-clerical Enlightenment regimes were founded worldwide, and priests and religious were executed en masse in diverse places such as Spain, Mexico, Italy, Russia, and Portugal, and Catholic churches were shuttered. The United States embraced this Puritan-Enlightenment determinism, in its philosophy of American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny, and its continuing mission of changing the world in its own image. The Enlightened mind needs autonomy from all authority; however, this autonomy is not to be extended to those still in darkness; in fact, those unenlightened need to be controlled far more than they were under the former regime.

The Enlightenment ended with liberal Modernism, in both its Capitalistic and Socialistic versions, which has recently formed a remarkable synthesis called 'Globalism'. This synthesis isn't really surprising since they come from the same rationalistic roots. Under Globalism, freedom and power is given to the intellectual elite and others who are masters of their own destiny. Under Modernism, a person only deserves freedom if they claim it. Like the Puritans, who knew that they had salvation and acted likewise, the Modernist shows his freedom only by acting independently of authority. A Modernist cannot freely choose to tie himself to authority and still have claim to freedom. This is in opposition to the Catholic version of freedom, which is the right to choose the Good. For example, a Catholic artist is free to use any style in his art, while a Modernist artist is contstrained from making his art in any preexisting style. American business and government, dominated by the thinking and the graduates of the Puritan universities, imposed liberal Modernistic principles on all sectors of American society.

Postmodernism is a somewhat irrational outgrowth of Modernism, and has its roots in 19th century Romanticism. The Enlightenment had a dirty secret: many of its proponents preached Reason in the daytime and practiced the Occult during the night. The Romantics were drawn to the Occult, nature-worshiping, and sexually free aspects of the Enlightenment, bringing it out into the open, and formed a movement that was parallel to Modernism. Postmodernism is a synthesis of the highly organized and Puritanical Modernism, with the irrational and free-loving Romanticism. This movement gained much political power in the 1970s.

Modernism is democratic, for sure, but it still respected institutions. Modernists may not like the Catholic Church, and would oppose it, and would offer alternatives, but still they have an explicit respect of the Church as an institution, even if they were trying to destroy it. A Modernist will proudly oppose the Catholic Church. Postmodernists, however, have a radical individualist democratic vision, and they do not respect institutions, and they encourage internal subversion of institutions. So a Postmodern would feel comfortable calling himself a Catholic, even though he hates Catholicism, since he is attempting to subvert it.

Postmodern legal theory has no respect for institutions and promotes free-love as is obvious in our current judicial climate. The current form of the American Established Religion has an extremely radical vision of democracy: the enlightened citizen must have total freedom of conscience, even to the point of freely subverting any institution to which he belongs. A common Postmodern argument is that a person has an absolute right to belong to an organization, even though he will not submit to the views and requirements of that organization. The Boy Scouts are a common target. Current educational practice trains students in this kind of thinking. The law is also attempting to do the same to the Catholic Church, especially in response to the over-hyped sexual abuse crisis.

Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish is supported by the Established Religion because it stands in stark, explicit opposition to its major competing Religion, Catholicism, in particular to Catholicism in its official worldwide form. A small, weak, schismatic Polish church is more in compliance with the Established Religion as are other groups such as the Old Catholics. Disunity and discord in Catholicism is then to be encouraged: divide and conquer.

Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish is appealing the Archbishop's interdict to the Vatican, and will lose. Two paths seem likely: either the parish will immediately join a schismatic group (so that they may have access to the Sacraments, which may be valid but illicit), or they will appeal to the secular courts. Either path would be a victory for the Established Religion, but the later would be a greater victory.

In his article "ASSIMILATION, TOLERATION, AND THE STATE’S INTEREST IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF RELIGIOUS DOCTRINE", associate professor Richard W. Garnett of the Notre Dame Law School writes "Thirty-five years ago, in the context of a church-property dispute, Justice William Brennan observed that government interpretation of religious doctrine and judicial intervention in religious disputes are undesirable because, when “civil courts undertake to resolve [doctrinal] controversies . . . , the hazards are ever present of inhibiting the free development of religious doctrine and of implicating secular interests in matters of purely ecclesiastical concern.” This statement, at first, seems wise and fittingly cautious, even unremarkable and obvious. On examination, though, it turns out to be intriguing, elusive, and misleading. Indeed, Justice Brennan’s warning presents “hazards” of its own, and its premises —if uncritically embraced —can subtly distort our constitutional discourse."

Garnett shows that "free development of religious doctrine" is encouraged by the State through the courts in cases such as these. This "free development" always means conformity of doctrine to the Established Religion: radical individualism, denial of moral authority, liberalism in politics, sexual libertinism, and naturalism instead of revelation. Our foreign policy also encourages such attitudes in an extremely heavy-handed manner.

Garnett later writes: "...a reminder that liberal, democratic governments like ours necessarily care what their citizens believe, and therefore will invariably seek to shape the content of citizens’ beliefs through government speech and other means, including regulation, subsidization, and criminalization. The state does this not simply for the sake of self-expression, but in order to form and change the minds of those to whom it speaks. A speaker hoping to change listeners’ minds is not indifferent to the message of her competitors. A sober awareness of this fact is a better defense for the freedom of religion than well meaning but marginalizing and misleading assurances of the government’s lack of interest."

More Catholic law articles can be found in the blog Mirror of Justice

I make the claim that the United States has an Established Religion. American has a distinct culture, this culture is enshrined in the law and our professions, and this culture has a universal philosophical worldview, and is put into practice, which makes it a religion. It does not tolerate competing worldviews, and the single major worldview that it must deal with directly and constantly is Catholicism. The culture feels that it is in its interest to encourage the schism of Saint Stanislaus Kostka parish.

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