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Chaput Hits the Mark on Religious Liberty | Faith Family and Freedom
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Monday, 25 July 2011 18:48

The recent scandal in Ireland and Australia, in the wake of the Cloyne report, is catalyzed by the effort of the respective governments to impose on Priests the obligation to break the seal of confession.  The problem is described very clearly by Canonist Ed Peters ( In Light of The Law):

The seal of confession is a not creature of civil law, rather, it rests on divine law and is articulated by canon law (see cc. 983 and 1388). Because the state has no authority over the seal of confession, it can exercise no authority over the seal by way imposing, regulating, or revoking it, in whole or even in part.

The newly announced Archbishop of Philadelphia Chaput is probably one of the most astute commentors on contemporary culture. In his article published in First Things he strikes right to the source of the dilemna.

A new kind of America is emerging in the early 21st century, and its likely to be much less friendly to religious faith than anything in the nation's past.  That has implications for every aspect of Catholic social ministry... American life has always had a deep streak of unhealthy individualism, rooted not just in the Enlightenment, but also in Reformation theology.  In practice, religion has always moderated that individualism.  It has given the country a social conscience and a common moral compass.  Religion has also played another key role.  Individuals, on their own, have very little power in dealing with the state.  But communities, and especially religious communities, have a great deal of power in shaping attitudes and behavior.  Churches are one of the mediating institutions, along with voluntary associations, fraternal organizations, and especially the family, that stand between the power of the state and the weakness of individuals.  They're crucial to the "ecology" of American life as we have traditionally understood it.


Many folks don't seem to recognize that the breakdown of the role of these mediating institutions has already begun.  Catholic adoption agencies in Massachussettes and New York are compromised, Catholic business owners are being sued over their decision to not host a gay wedding reception and now two countries are poised to legislate against the seal of confession.  The political dialogue in America is dominated by libertine thought obsessed with freedom of the individual without due consideration to the role of mediating institutions in protecting individuals and without due consideration to the value and integrity of the mediating institutions themselves.   More from Chaput:

The individual is sacred but not sovereign. For Catholics, every human person—no matter how disabled, poor, or flawed—has a unique, inviolable dignity. Sanctity of life and the basic rights that go with it begin at conception and continue through natural death.

But civil society consists not just of autonomous individuals. It also consists of communities, which have rights of their own. Catholic institutions are extensions of the Catholic community and Catholic belief. The state has no right to interfere with their legitimate work, even when it claims to act in the name of individuals unhappy with Catholic teaching. The individual’s right to resent the Church or reject her beliefs does not trump the rights of the Catholic community to believe and live according to its faith.

 

Read The Entire Article by Chaput



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