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Saturday, April 25, 2015

God-Given Rights

So, recently Hillary has been mouthing off about the interaction between religion and rights. Let's see if she has a grasp of either one.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, 
America's founders refer to "unalienable Rights". How does that work?

God is Truth. Catholic Faith is the most accurate representation of Who God is, therefore it is the most accurate representation of Truth.

We are persons in the image and likeness of the original Persons. The three Persons of the Trinity are distinguished ONLY by the relationships between the three Persons: Begetting and Begotten (Father and Son), Spirating and Spirated (Father-Son and Spirit, Spirit and Father-Son).

Each Person defined by these relationships has Right relationship with the other two Persons. Each Person has a right way to interact with the other Two Persons. These are God's "rights". "Rights" refer to how a relationship is ordered, what is permissible within the relationship and what is not permissible.

Because God has rights, we have rights. Our rights flow from the image and likeness we are of God, they flow from our relationship with Him. Indeed, every "right" I have is merely an instance of my right relationship with God. Insofar as I do not have a right relationship with God, I have no "rights."

So, for instance, I do not have the "right" to murder because that would put my relationship with God in an un-right status. I only have the right to do that which keeps me in right relationship with God. That is what it means to say we are "endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights."

Rights are absolute because God is absolute and my relationship with God is the norm for everything I do. There is a way to maintain the relationship and grow it (a right) and a way to destroy it (not a right).

Every action, whether religious or not, is a reflection of my right relationship with God. If I ignore this divine relationship, compartmentalize it, pretend it doesn't exist, then I am saying there is no "right" relationship with God.

The moment I deny God exists, my rights degrade. Now my rights can, at most, center around what I think my relationship with other people should be. Perhaps I think other people should define the relationship, perhaps I think I should. It doesn't matter. At that moment, my "rights" are based in what I like, not in any external norm.

Now, being a good Catholic, doing what a good Catholic does, maintains my rights because the exercise of Catholic Faith is the only way anyone has to maintain his relationship with God. There is no other way. This is what Vatican II means when it says:
This demand for freedom in human society chiefly regards the quest for the values proper to the human spirit. It regards, in the first place, the free exercise of religion in society. This Vatican Council takes careful note of these desires in the minds of men. It proposes to declare them to be greatly in accord with truth and justice... (emphasis added)
This Vatican Council likewise professes its belief that it is upon the human conscience that these obligations fall and exert their binding force. The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power.
Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore 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. (Dignitatis Humanae, #1)

The desire for free exercise of religion is "greatly in accord with truth and justice". Notice, the Council does NOT say that religious freedom is in perfect accord with truth and justice. As Aquinas points out, referring to St. Paul, the natural law is written on every person's heart, but written without the clarity and force we need, nor do we have the power of grace to follow what is written on our heart even if it were more clear (CCC 1954-1966).

We have "freedom of conscience" only in the sense that our natural knowledge is limited. In fact, our natural knowledge is often erroneous. Thus, our natural understanding of something may lead us to an action which is objectively evil, but whose evil we cannot recognize. We are blind to the evil, therefore God will not hold us accountable for the evil. Invincible ignorance is the basis for Vatican II's religious freedom of conscience claim. As the Council points out, free exercise of religion is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. The end, the object, the purpose is to join and live the true religion of the one Church of Christ. "Religious freedom... leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ"

So, "religious freedom" cannot be a right except insofar as it is the freedom to be a Catholic or to do what a good Catholic would do. The phrase "religious freedom", used in any other sense, is a shibboleth. It is a two-year old wielding a knife. The two-year old is not blamed by the Church for wielding the knife or for the damage the knife inflicts because the Church recognizes the invincible ignorance of the two-year old.  She is willing to suffer the damage the two-year old inflicts while She trains the child in the right way to use a knife.
For the word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two edged sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

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