On Matrimony – Part 17 (The Bible and Catholic Teaching on Divorce)

Part 17

Where can one find the Catholic teaching against divorce? Is it Biblical or not? Has the Catholic Church strayed? Does she place burdens and not carry them? Is she Pharisaical? She is not. She is the Lord’s truthful servant. The teaching is Biblical. It is also the constant Tradition. It is the Word of our Lord.

Jesus teaches, “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Mt 5:31f).

Here we see Jesus proscribe divorce. His words are the source of Tradition and Scripture, and the Catholic Church takes them at face value.

Some will however raise a question: “Didn’t Jesus make an exception… unchastity?” Good question.

The Catholic response to that question is as follows:

First, we must see that Jesus’ work was to restore marriage to its original state. About that state, Jesus declares that “The two are made one.” He adds in consequence, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” categorically (Mt 19:6). The first state involved a joining by God, and no man can break what God joined. The exceptions allowed under Mosaic Law were granted on account of human sinfulness, human weakness in the face of the great demand entailed in the bond. But Jesus came with “grace and truth” (Jn 1:17); therefore, I can do all things in him who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).

Second, in the context of this passage (Mt 5:31f), Jesus is overturning the Mosaic permission, just as he is Promulgating a Divine Law more exacting than the Mosaic Law. Thus, the “stress” of this passage is on the proscription of divorce.

Third, note that in every passage in which this “exception” clause occurs, Jesus immediately follows with an absolute proscription of marrying a divorced woman. “Whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” This is a blanket proscription. It is in contrast to Deut 24:1-4, in which a man may marry a divorced woman. Jesus prohibits anyone marrying a “divorced” woman. Why? Because it would be adultery! That means that “divorce” is a pure fiction if by divorce you mean the “breaking of what God has joined.” Luke discloses even more of Jesus words: “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Lk 16:18). Once again, if I commit adultery by getting married after being “divorced,” then I must still be married. Divorce is pure fiction. See also Mk 10:11-12; Mt 19:9; and 1 Cor 7:10-11. Observe that Mk unpacks the implication: “And if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mk 10:12). Mark’s unpacking of this implication is crucial because of the Roman Law which allowed a woman to file for divorce. Mark had a Roman audience in mind.

Fourth, observe that in some of these texts just referenced there is no mention of an exception clause. See, e.g., Mk 10:11-12 and 1 Cor 7:10-11. See also Rom 7:1-3. Paul is categorical that the bond of marriage, and the legal obligations it entails, last for either spouse until the death of the other spouse (Rom 7:1-3).

This raises the question, “What did Jesus mean by this ‘exception’”? I will treat that tomorrow.

 

On Matrimony – Part 16

Part 16

If divorce is a pure fiction, what should a person (esp. a married woman) do in the case of serious and chronic abuse? Or some analogous and equally grave situation?

Separation of bed and board is morally permissible in these situations. Separation does not involve a breaking of the bond. Separation is simply a physical, financial, emotional distance necessary for the welfare of one or both spouses.

Because separation is not the breaking of the bond, the separated parties remain married. They are married until the death of one party. Thus, each is called to remain faithful to the marital vows. That entails keeping oneself free from emotional friendships with the opposite sex. In so remaining faithful to their vows, the separated spouses witness to Christ’s fidelity to his Church despite the unfaithfulness of individual shepherds.

Where does Christ allow separation but forbid divorce? Next post or two.

On Matrimony – Part 15

If man is meant for love and if the ultimate natural expression of love in ordinary human life is marital love, and if entry into the human community ought to be in the context of this total marital love, if society itself is premised upon marital love, then the health of marriage is the health of society.

Let us hear then the grave words of Pope Leo XIII about how sickness in the health of marriage can ruin society.

Leo XIII reflects on the grave danger to society that results from any threat to the bond of marriage. A lengthy quote, worth considerable attention. Here, he is only lamenting divorce. He is not considering all the diseased ideas being legalized today. From Arcanum:

29. Truly, it is hardly possible to describe how great are the evils that flow from divorce. Matrimonial contracts are by it made variable; mutual kindness is weakened; deplorable inducements to unfaithfulness are supplied; harm is done to the education and training of children; occasion is afforded for the breaking up of homes; the seeds of dissension are sown among families; the dignity of womanhood is lessened and brought low, and women run the risk of being deserted after having ministered to the pleasures of men. Since, then, nothing has such power to lay waste families and destroy the mainstay of kingdoms as the corruption of morals, it is easily seen that divorces are in the highest degree hostile to the prosperity of families and States, springing as they do from the depraved morals of the people, and, as experience shows us, opening out a way to every kind of evil-doing in public and in private life.

Allowance of divorce leads to other evils. The slippery slope. He gives the history of Protestant states as testimony. He points out the United States and Germany in particular. This is chillingly similar to the situation brewing concerning the October Revolution that some are planning to achieve at the October Synod.

30. Further still, if the matter be duly pondered, we shall clearly see these evils to be the more especially dangerous, because, divorce once being tolerated, there will be no restraint powerful enough to keep it within the bounds marked out or presurmised. Great indeed is the force of example, and even greater still the might of passion. With such incitements it must needs follow that the eagerness for divorce, daily spreading by devious ways, will seize upon the minds of many like a virulent contagious disease, or like a flood of water bursting through every barrier. These are truths that doubtlessly are all clear in themselves, but they will become clearer yet if we call to mind the teachings of experience. So soon as the road to divorce began to be made smooth by law, at once quarrels, jealousies, and judicial separations largely increased; and such shamelessness of life followed that men who had been in favor of these divorces repented of what they had done, and feared that, if they did not carefully seek a remedy by repealing the law, the State itself might come to ruin. The Romans of old are said to have shrunk with horror from the first example of divorce, but ere long all sense of decency was blunted in their soul; the meager restraint of passion died out, and the marriage vow was so often broken that what some writers have affirmed would seem to be true-namely, women used to reckon years not by the change of consuls, but of their husbands. In like manner, at the beginning, Protestants allowed legalized divorces in certain although but few cases, and yet from the affinity of circumstances of like kind, the number of divorces increased to such extent in Germany, America, and elsewhere that all wise thinkers deplored the boundless corruption of morals, and judged the recklessness of the laws to be simply intolerable.

Yet Catholic states were not immune from this problem either.

31. Even in Catholic States the evil existed. For whenever at any time divorce was introduced, the abundance of misery that followed far exceeded all that the framers of the law could have foreseen. In fact, many lent their minds to contrive all kinds of fraud and device, and by accusations of cruelty, violence, and adultery to feign grounds for the dissolution of the matrimonial bond of which they had grown weary; and all this with so great havoc to morals that an amendment of the laws was deemed to be urgently needed.

Leo urges that whoever learns from history would will that divorce not be permitted by the nation. (In truth, such laws have no legal foundation. They are pure fictions. However, the public law of a land has a great influence on the private morals of individuals.)

32. Can anyone, therefore, doubt that laws in favor of divorce would have a result equally baneful and calamitous were they to be passed in these our days? There exists not, indeed, in the projects and enactments of men any power to change the character and tendency with things have received from nature. Those men, therefore, show but little wisdom in the idea they have formed of the well-being of the commonwealth who think that the inherent character of marriage can be perverted with impunity; and who, disregarding the sanctity of religion and of the sacrament, seem to wish to degrade and dishonor marriage more basely than was done even by heathen laws. Indeed, if they do not change their views, not only private families, but all public society, will have unceasing cause to fear lest they should be miserably driven into that general confusion and overthrow of order which is even now the wicked aim of socialists and communists. Thus we see most clearly how foolish and senseless it is to expect any public good from divorce, when, on the contrary, it tends to the certain destruction of society.

Once again, the Gospel of Christ must assist and guide society in the framing of laws for the good of the state itself. Of all the Christian gatherings, the Catholic Church alone bears the torch of this element of the Gospel: The Indissolubility of Marriage.

33. It must consequently be acknowledged that the Church has deserved exceedingly well of all nations by her ever watchful care in guarding the sanctity and the indissolubility of marriage. Again, no small amount of gratitude is owing to her for having, during the last hundred years, openly denounced the wicked laws which have grievously offended on this particular subject; (51) as well as for her having branded with anathema the baneful heresy obtaining among Protestants touching divorce and separation;(52) also, for having in many ways condemned the habitual dissolution of marriage among the Greeks;(53) for having declared invalid all marriages contracted upon the understanding that they may be at some future time dissolved;(54) and, lastly, for having, from the earliest times, repudiated the imperial laws which disastrously favored divorce.(55)

On Matrimony – Part 14

 

Part 14

The institutional character of marriage is for the sake of its personal character, Conjugal Love. Conjugal Love involves total gift of oneself to another of the opposite sex. Total in terms of the breadth of human existence: bodily, emotional, and rational. The bodily character of this giving is beautifully brought out by John Paul II. Total bodily giving is sexual, for the body is sexual. Sexual is distinct from asexual. Asexual involves no distinction between male and female. Sexual on the other hand involves just this distinction. That is, sexual means opposites. Man and woman. As I have brought out before “homo-sexual” or “same-sex” action is absurd. It is a contradiction in terms. It is not sexual. It is perhaps a sexual aping of the asexual.

So Conjugal Love is personal and sexual. It is a sexual communion of persons. The properties of unity and indissolubility point the way for a successful living of this communion. Fidelity and tenderness, commitment unto death. In sickness and in health. This is the personal living out of the shelter that God has created.

The disciples knew the cost at once. A great cost at times. A frightening prospect in today’s world. No Exit. Yet again, any great life since the Fall of Adam is at the cost of the Cross. The No Exit is terrifying especially if we fail to see that it is through relationships that we come to life. Without love, as Vatican II states, man is meaningless. This is nothing but the constant Tradition that Jesus Deposited to his Church. We are meant for love. And the married state is the state in which one can die to oneself so as to life for one’s spouse. It is an awesome task.

At the end of the day, in the evening of our lives, we shall be judged by love. Not only by He who is love. But by the instinct for love we have in our hearts. This instinct for love shall exhibit to us whether we have followed through on the graces God gives. Whether we have given our all. Or withheld ourselves in some fundamental manner.

O Lord, help us to let go the things of yesterday; help us to follow your ways.

On Matrimony – Part 13

 

 

Part 13

I have noted the two properties of the institutional aspect of the bond. But the bond can be either merely natural or also sacramental. The two properties apply in either case. However, the unity in the natural order is simply the spousal unity of two human beings of opposite sex. It is a unity of those who can form a proper sexual friendship. It is tender and lifelong. It is “total” as one of the good public defenders of true marriage has indicated. Yet, it is not nearly as glorious as the sacramental bond.

Of incomparably greater strength, goodness, and beauty is the sacramental unity established by Christ between a baptized man and a baptized woman. The bond of Christians who are married is a sign of the bond between Christ and the Church (Eph 5:25, 32). Just as Christ shall never leave his bride, so this sacramental bond is absolutely indissoluble.

That is, when Christians licitly marry and consummate their marriage, there is absolutely no authority on earth, neither the power of an unreligious state, nor the power of a state that, rightly following its duty, recognizes the authority of the one Church of Jesus, nor even the supreme power of the Church of Jesus herself – the Pope. No one may break what God has joined in this manner. By contrast, a merely natural marriage, even if consummated, can under certain circumstances be broken by the power of Jesus’ Church. (Note that that would not be divorce.)

In all of this, the secular authority is absolutely out of its depths. The secular authority has not anything licitly to say about any of this except insofar as it recognizes the divine appointment of the Catholic Church.

 

On Matrimony – Part 12

Part 12

Jesus himself reaffirmed the natural institution of marriage and brought it to completion in the sacrament. He both added the sacramental graces and also re-founded natural marriage in harmony with the Divine Law with which God began the human race (Mt 19:6; Mk 10:9).

If we read the Old Testament, we see that certain polygamous marriages were at least not explicitly condemned by God. (Implicitly, perhaps; or frowned upon; or judged unwise.) And divorce was permitted under certain circumstances.

Thus, God permitted the attenuation of the unity and indissolubility of natural marriage in his providential wisdom, as he labored to rescue the race that was going to ruin because of the Fall of Adam. However, Jesus brought the full truth and the grace whereby to live the truth. Thus, Jesus the Good Shepherd abrogated all such exceptions. Divorce and polygamy have no foundation in law any more, neither in the natural institution nor in the sacramental institution which began with Jesus.

Jesus’ decisions are decisions of Supreme Wisdom. For although polygamy is not per se evil abstractly considered, indissoluble monogamy remains the wisest order of things.

Monogamy. For how can one man figure out two women? And how could one man give himself totally to two women? The friendships would have to be halved. And how could a woman totally and enthusiastically give herself to a man who had another woman also? And if it is enough of a challenge to raise five children prudently with the collective prudence of one man and one woman, how could one raise ten children with two wives? And if it takes time to develop bonds and learn who one’s child is, then how much more difficult if children were being born every four or five months? And how would children see a total and undivided commitment without monogamous parents? Monogamy is thus the wisest order of things.

Indissolubility. The spouses need to know that they are sheltered unto death in this bond. They need to know that they are loved for their own sake, to the end. And children need to be raised in an environment that is stable, that can stand the storms of time. With an indissoluble bond established as the bedrock for individuals and also for society as a whole, spouses can live more and more freely, as they grow in the commitment that arises because of the bond. (Note: The commitment arises because of the bond. The bond is not the creation of the commitment.)

Jesus bequeathed to his Church the fullness of the Gospel whereby alone all these permanent decisions of Divine Law can be known by men and redound to the health of society.

His decisions have carried inertial momentum in society. However, societies have thrown off his Church and they tumble to ruin. For what Church remains that teaches the full truth on marriage? The Orthodox allow divorce and remarriage. Mainline Protestants allow divorce and remarriage.

What about other religions? Well, Islam would be a study for a different day. Mormonism allows polygamy. Secular societies in the wake of the French Revolution allow all manner of errors in connection with marriage.

Thus, increasingly, as societies have thrown off his Church, this inertial momentum, a momentum of life-giving and healing balm for society, has gradually slowed down. Divorce and civil unions were major battles waged against the truth of marriage. And now on the doorsteps is a most deformed notion of marriage, the proposal of homo-sexual marriage.

As it appears, insofar as societies fall away from Christ’s one true Church, they fall into these sundry errors.

The only group holding to the full truth in this matter is the Catholic Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.

On Matrimony – Part 11

Part 11

I have treated the efficient cause of marriage and various implications of this teaching. It is time to treat the formal cause of marriage, its essence—the marital bond.

We must look at the essence of marriage in two respects. First, in its institutional aspect. Second, in its personal aspect.

The institutional aspect of marriage involves a bond joining the man and the woman. God is the author of this bond. He establishes this bond when the man and woman rightly promise themselves to one another so as to enter this bond. The bond entails a contractual obligation of each party to the other. Each is bound in sexual friendship to the other until one party dies.

These days, most people tend to neglect this contractual aspect of marriage, and not without reason. They see the term “contract” and they think “pre-nup” agreement. It is not a contract in that sense. It is a contract sealed by God. It is a contract because it is legally binding and entails rights and duties. God in his goodness providentially supplies gifts that correspond to this bond, so that the spouses can live this life to the full. However, these gifts are not simply “poured out” in some kind of constant flow. Rather, God’s providence also requires a certain cooperation. Hence, those who grow in their relationship rightly will grow in these divine gifts also. (Later, we will distinguish nature and grace, the natural marriage and the truly sacramental marriage.)

There are two key properties of this bond: Unity and Indissolubility.

The bond involves unity because it consists in one man and one woman. Thus, the two become one, and only these two. Polygamy is contrary to this unity. Also opposed to this unity is “shacking up”. God establishes a shelter of unity for the man and woman, and in this shelter they can live freely as spouses.

The second property of the institutional aspect of the bond is indissolubility. This bond cannot be broken by the couple that enters the union. This point dovetails with the “agent” of the bond. God is the agent. He builds the shelter that is marriage. The couple does not build it. It is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Likewise, neither can the couple dissolve the bond. The shelter shall last until one of them dies.

On Matrimony – Part 10

Part 10

Whether we have heard it before or not, this objective duty of every society to recognize the Catholic Church as the one true religion established by God is Catholic teaching. As I said in the last post, this duty is objective. Whether such recognition can be given in a concrete situation is another matter. Clearly, few are the societies today in which this duty can be carried out. However, it remains an objective duty; this objectivity serves as our North Star. It tells us that the current configuration of society is not ideal. It is not the goal. We must not accustom ourselves to act as though it is the goal, as though we have arrived.

But we have not arrived. We ought to have deep pathos in breaking bread with friends and family if they are not devoted to be saints of Jesus Christ in his one true Church. We can break bread. We can play. We can converse. We can smile. We can begin to build friendships. But in all these efforts, a measure of sadness out of love for them should be ours. Sadness until Christ’s prayer is realized in full: That they may be one. Sadness until his Kingship is enthroned in society. Sadness until the laborers labor chiefly to build beautiful sanctuaries. Sadness until everything is ordered to God. Sadness until our towns have Christ in their centers. Sadness until the lost sheep return. It must be a blessed sadness, not a negative sadness. A sadness willing the good of the neighbor. A sadness rooted in love of Christ.

So, at the same time, we must have interior joy in God and confidence in his strength, wisdom, and goodness. He knows what is best, wants what is best, and can achieve what is best. Let us offer up our sadness with the Cross and share our joy like bread. All the while, keeping the North Star as our guide in this journey, the search for a righteous society.

There has been catechetical silence about this North Star for 60 years. Interestingly, that silence is correlated to a phenomenon obvious to anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear: Accelerating degeneration of society… on all levels… on all issues (except perhaps the race issue). What about women’s issues? Some progress, yes; mixed with permission to murder infants in the womb; mixed with an assault on femininity and the masculinization of woman.

Today, the degenerating rot spews into perverse notions of marriage.

It is as though the boat of the nation struck a reef some time in the past and has been foundering in the breakers for decades. Since its inception? But meanwhile, regarding this latest symptom of the problem, savvy public thinkers attempt arguments in favor of true marriage. They have some local successes here and there; they are well intentioned heroes in a battle badly waged.

These arguments are also themselves part of the problem. Why? They are premised on a secular society. Such arguments in a fallen world cannot win attention in the long run. They cannot suffice. Further, if we premised victory on them, would we not have to swallow their premise: Affirmation of secular society qua secular? I hope not but fear so.

Because of these adverse circumstances regarding such arguments, I liken the making of them to the panicked labor of sailors madly running about on deck, wondering what line to pull, what sail to trim or reef or hoist. Meanwhile, the boat is on the reef and the breakers beat upon it with the rhythm of rage in revolutionary referenda.

A storm calls for a certain measure of alarm and zeal, etc. Yes. Yet it also calls for calm thought. It demands that a few good men enter the realm of navigation. Look upon the starts. Consider the charts. Examine the hull. Plot a course or plan the abandonment of the ship.

It is time for a few brave warriors to take counsel and consider.

Our nation is dying. One can save an ember here, an ember there. But one should also have an eye on the long haul. Whither are we going? Why? Whence have we come? Where do we stand?

In order to have this sapiential perspective, one must drink in the full teaching of the Catholic Church. One cannot limit oneself to simple little statements of a personal catechism and holiness, in order to achieve personal salvation and a that of one’s neighbors. That is not enough. That is a good goal; but it is narrow. Especially is it narrow if one says, upon hearing some of these key established teachings, “That is not going to get me to heaven; that will off put some of the patriots; no one can hear that now; shouldn’t we just sanctify our work?” Yes, sanctify work. But more is needed.

Sanctify the mind with wisdom. Dig down deep. Reach up high. After drinking from the brook by the wayside, lift up one’s head and announce the Good News and its attendant clarion call, “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand.” We must put on the banner of truth, not hide it under a bushel or in a drawer or upon a desk; we must display this truth to the world, with the message of John the Baptist.

Will we lose our heads? Yes.

Better to lose one’s head for the sake of the Gospel than to lose one’s head in a panic for the World’s vote.

On Matrimony – Part 9

Part 9

All things concerning human freedom must be governed in some way. For human freedom is not its own measure. It is measured by the good. Since marriage concerns human freedom, it must be governed. And the proper governance of marriage is absolutely crucial for the health of society.

Why? Marriage is the foundation of society. It is the most primordial society in all society. To get marriage wrong is to expose the very fabric of civilization to stresses that will unravel it.

If we are at the end of the end of marriage, we are at the beginning of the bitter end of contemporary society.

But how to govern marriage rightly if no merely human authority has any power concerning the bond? If no merely human authority can judge marriage cases or legislate concerning marriage? Further, how to govern marriage if, in our fallen state, to discern the elemental structure of natural law is very difficult and even practically (statistically) impossible in many cases? Further, how to govern marriage if no human mind can on its own grasp the determinations of Divine Law? (By Divine Law we are indicating specifically those free providential decisions God makes but which could be different for a good purpose. For example, through Jesus God has absolutely proscribed polygamy. Also, divorce is proscribed. These proscriptions are most wise, yet they are not absolutely necessary.)

If marriage is to be well governed but no merely human authority can undertake this, are we sheep without a shepherd? Are we lost? Doomed to found intrinsically foundering states? No, we are not doomed. God has provided for us. In the Old Covenant, he provided for his people Israel, chosen for the sake of the world (not only for themselves), a Light to the Nations. Fulfilling this Covenant in Jesus, he now provides for the world through him, the King of the World.

It is becoming clear that there is a significant political implication of Catholic dogma.

If marriage is crucial for society, and if it must be well governed, and if the only agency that has any authority about this institution itself (natural or sacramental) is the Catholic Church, then every society will find itself well governed in this arena to the extent that it receives guidance from the very religion established by Jesus Christ, namely, the Catholic Church.

Further, since it is incumbent upon rulers to rule in accordance with God’s law and the law of nature, since it is incumbent upon rulers to rule for the common good and not their own and not for the base desires of the governed, it is incumbent upon them, objectively, to recognize the divine institution of the Catholic Church so as to receive that good counsel concerning the essence of the bond over which the state has no authority.

Thus, not only is the Kingship of Christ a reason that all societies and states must acknowledge his Church to be the one divine religion — for his Kingship objectively calls for recognition by all (individuals, families, associations, cities, and states). Not only this. But the very institution of marriage, its properties, etc., call for the state, if it seeks its own good, to acknowledge this Church as well.

This obligation is objective. There may be conditions in which this obligation cannot be prudently met. Indeed, great obstacles. However, that there is an objective obligation is the teaching. This gives us our “North Star” to navigate practical decisions.

But who has heard this of late? Hardly a one. The reader will be dumbfounded someone could say this. But this is what the Catholic Church herself teaches. Let us read the salutary words of the great pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical  Immortale Dei (A.D. 1885):

6. … The State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion…. For, men living together in society are under the power of God no less than individuals are, and society, no less than individuals, owes gratitude to God who gave it being and maintains it and whose ever-bounteous goodness enriches it with countless blessings. Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its reaching and practice—not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion—it is a public crime to act as though there were no God. So, too, is it a sin for the State not to have care for religion as a something beyond its scope, or as of no practical benefit; or out of many forms of religion to adopt that one which chimes in with the fancy; for we are bound absolutely to worship God in that way which He has shown to be His will….

But this seems unreasonable! After all, did not the same pope teach that there are two swords–the secular state and the Church–and that these should remain separate?

That there are two swords, yes. That they should be separate, no! The swords are Distinct but Not Separate.

But how can the secular authority have any competence in religion? It cannot judge the contents of the religion. Is the emperor the pope? No, the emperor is not the pope. The state cannot judge the contents of the religion (Trinity, Eucharist, etc.).

However, God has indicated with clear signs what is the true religion. Thus, it is possible to recognize it and thus adhere to its counsel. Thus from the discernible Glimmer of Divine Truth shining in the midst of the world’s history, an obligation arises on the part of individuals and of states.

Thus, Leo XIII continues:

7. Now, it cannot be difficult to find out which is the true religion, if only it be sought with an earnest and unbiased mind; for proofs are abundant and striking. We have, for example, the fulfillment of prophecies, miracles in great numbers, the rapid spread of the faith in the midst of enemies and in face of overwhelming obstacles, the witness of the martyrs, and the like. From all these it is evident that the only true religion is the one established by Jesus Christ Himself, and which He committed to His Church to protect and to propagate.

But surely the Catholic Church no longer teaches the above? Surely, she has abandoned this ancient idea? Not so, unless we subscribe to a “hermeneutic of rupture”. But what Leo puts forth here is established Catholic teaching, having been expressed by numerous popes over centuries.

But what about Vatican II? Vatican II is in continuity with the Great Tradition. Thus, it must be read in accordance with this continuity, not in accordance with a hermeneutic of rupture. Here are some key opening lines of the Council’s counsel:

Art. 1: On their part, all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it.

One cannot be forced to this embrace. that would be contrary to God’s providential care for the human race. Thus, one cannot force another to become Christian or die. The Council defends this principle thoroughly. But

…it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.

 

Many have taken Vatican II as an excuse to baptize the secular state qua secular. But right here in this line we see that there is no excuse being given for the separation of Church and state. Religion has since the Peace of Westphalia been more and more privatized.

A certain public state of tranquility prevailed in many ways since that peace. Yet, that tranquility was premised upon morality. And morality was premised upon religion. As the strangling of religion has continued, morality has declined. As morality declines, public order deteriorates. Wester states become more and more “police states”.

Thus, the peace of Westphalia is being proven false before our eyes. Religion cannot be a private affair. It is anti-religion to think it or make it so. Religion is public. If it is not the true religion, it is a false religion. Although some false religions are truer than others, none is that true religion itself. At most, it can have elements of truth about it or preserve the elements of sanctification and truth found in that one true religion. The West has declined from false religions closely associated with the true, to a general humanism and hedonism. We now worship the cult of pleasure and of Marxist egalitarianism. Thus, we have exchanged one religion for another and that for another. Absolute commitments are public and these form the pith of religion. We thus do not have a public zone of neutrality and a private arena of freedom of religion. We have warring religions.

After the peace of Westphalia fails, and modern civilization collapses before the barbarians within and outside the borders, … when a new society must be constructed, let us pray the wise words, about Church and state, of Popes Gregory XVI – Pius XII, as well as those of Pope Leo the Great, et al.,  esp. those of Leo XIII, will be heeded.