Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Confessional State

From Crisis:
Why am I allowed to attend Mass on Sundays? Is it because God has commanded that I worship him, and having a social nature I must do so in union with my fellows within the bounds of the Church founded by Christ for that purpose, on the day he rose from the dead? Or is it because I want to?

The first answer was given by states that officially professed Catholicism. A Catholic confessional state, as they were historically called, recognized as true that Catholics bear a duty from God to attend Mass on Sundays. Given their duty, Catholics had a right to exercise it, and the right was practically expressed in Catholics’ liberty of action.

The progression thus ran from truth, to duty, to right, to liberty. Liberty in the Catholic confessional state meant a liberty of truth. This liberty, which extended to the other sacraments, to the Church’s preaching and teaching, and to the Church’s temporalities such as buildings and liturgical goods, was generally known as the liberty of the Church.

That is not the answer given to me by the governments of the United States of America and the state of Kansas. These governments, taken as a single entity for the sake of convenience, allow me to attend Mass on Sundays because I want to. The state’s answer expresses liberalism, a governing philosophy that grants liberty in matters of religion within the bounds of public order.

Is this answer, like the prior one, the answer of a confessional state? Most people would say no, because the state does not officially profess a traditional religion like Catholicism. However, the state does officially profess liberalism, and in a prior essay I have argued liberalism functions as a religion. (Read more.)

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