Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Inquisition Cancelled--All A Misunderstanding

Arlington Bishop,
Paul Loverde
I am deeply ashamed.  I broke a cardinal rule of historians.  I published (albeit in blog form) without having completed my research.  It turns out that there is no “fidelity oath” in the Diocese of Arlington after all.  After contacting the diocese I received a copy of Bishop Loverde’s letter and of the alleged “oath.”  And the diocesan spokesperson told me: “It is not an oath.  It is a profession of faith”—and that is the very sort of thing that I had said was the appropriate requirement. Here is the text of the Arlington profession of faith.  

I, N., with firm faith believe and profess everything that is contained in the Symbol of faith: namely:
I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.
I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.
Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.
   This profession of faith contains the key doctrines of the faith as articulated in the Nicene Creed, as well as that which is taught by the Magisterium as divinely revealed in scripture and (Apostolic) Tradition.  It further demands assent to that which has been defined by the Church in the areas of faith and morals.  And it includes that which is taught by the Universal Magisterium even when it is not defined as dogma.  That is actually not asking a lot, especially of a potential religion teacher.  When one understands the language, it is not as fearful as it might sound. 
First, while I would have preferred that it not require a “religious submission of will and intellect” to that which is taught by the Roman Pontiff and the College of Bishops,” such a requirement does not infringe on the rights and obligations of conscience in the interior forum.  It simply means that in the public forum—in the classroom, in public discussions, in what one writes or publishes—one does not dissent from that which is taught by the Pope or by the College of Bishops, that is by the ordinary magisterium.  One must agree publically with what the Pope has taught not only in “infallible statements” but in his ordinary teaching mode—i.e. encyclicals.  (This would exclude Mr. Justice Scalia from teaching CCD were he so inclined as he has publicly dissented from the teaching on Capital Punishment as laid out in Evangelium Vitae.  By equivalency, however, it also means that one cannot dissent in teaching, writing, publishing, or public speaking from the teaching on contraception as outlined in Humanae Vitae.)  It does not mean, however, that one in one’s own conscience cannot reach a different conclusion on contraception, or another issue taught by the magisterium.   Operative here is “in one’s own conscience” which is not a public forum but a matter of internal forum.  Of course such a private divergence from Church teaching requires that one have studied the issue with due seriousness.  Furthermore, if one is to actually practice contraception (and not only privately disagree with the teaching) it normally would mean that in addition to a serious study of the issue, one has discussed this with his or her confessor before deciding that the moral principles laid out in the Church’s teaching for some grave reason do not apply to the particular circumstances of one’s own life.  And it would require due discretion in the public forum regarding such a decision.  While one might come to such a conclusion in one’s own circumstances, and one can discuss it freely with one’s family or friends, one should not advertise one’s dissent—theoretical or practical—from magisterial teaching.    I know this sounds awfully complicated but there are some fine lines here precisely to protect the sovereignty of conscience. 
Secondly, in regard to this final paragraph of required profession of faith, let me draw your attention to the phrase “College of Bishops.”  One must not only show public respect and not publicly dissent from the magisterial teachings of the Roman Pontiff, but also to the magisterial authority of the College of Bishops. 
While a bishop can require of the Catholic faithful over whom he has authority assent to his magisterial authority in his diocese, this document does not attempt to go that far.  It only requires assent to the magisterial authority of the Pope and the College of Bishops.  That refers to the universal college of bishops acting as one such as when the bishops proclaim in the canons or decrees of an Ecumenical Council.  “College of Bishops” refers neither to an individual bishop nor to a Conference of Bishops such as the USCCB.  A bishop (who is the Ordinary, i.e. the bishop of the diocese) has magisterial authority in his own diocese but this document does not include that.  A Bishops’ Conference (such as the USCCB) does not have magisterial authority in any circumstances.  So the USCCB position on the HHS mandate is not binding—publicly or privately—on the faithful, even those called to be catechists.   It also must be remembered that magisterial authority is limited in all cases—even that of the Roman Pontiff—to matters of faith and morals.  While faith and morals can (and should) have impact on one’s political, economic,  or social behavior or one’s ideas in philosophy, history, science, mathematics,  magisterial authority extends only over areas of doctrine and morals.  Thus the magisterium cannot directly command a particular political choice though it can lay out the moral principles which should bind the Catholic citizen to certain criterion in making his or her political choice.  In any event, despite the claim of the unnamed doctrinal authority of the Arlington Diocese quoted by the Washington Post, there is no required affirmation that the HHS mandate violates the religious freedom of the Church.  One may hold that opinion if one so chooses but the USCCB has no authority to require assent to any teaching and while the universal magisterium rightly teaches the moral requirement for freedom of religious practice, the question of whether this particular bill impinges on that freedom is a matter of Constitutional Law and not in the realm of faith/morals. 
More comments on the Arlington Profession of Faith in future entries.      

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