Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Point on the State and Just Laws!

A friend of mine, in the comments on the first part of this discussion, has brought up an interesting point that I think gets to the heart of why I'm reconsidering my position on the burning of heretics.

The standard argument for defending the practice, which I discussed in the first part, is that the secular State was punishing heresy not as an ecclesiastical crime or sin (already carried out by the Church in excommunication) but as a form of treason or sedition given how heresy threatened even the temporal order of civil society in Christendom.

When asked why the State could do this for civil order against heretics, but not against Catholics (in, say, a country based on some other religion or ideology where Catholicism itself would be a threat to social stability)...I could only answer that it was just in one case but not the other simply because Catholicism is true and actually morally obligatory on its members in a way that no other religion is (objectively speaking). Claims of "conscience" making this untenable didn't seem to work, as the rights of even conscience are clearly circumscribed by public order and safety (for example, the State would still obviously have a right to stop someone even if they were convinced that human sacrifice was a binding religious obligation of theirs).

However, the point brought up in the comments was this: why, then, can't the State punish Jews and Muslims (and other infidels, etc) for not converting as long as it could make an argument that them not doing so was against the common good? If it can enforce the Truth on heretics for the "common good" (under the presumption that Catholicism is indeed the Truth), why couldn't it enforce the Truth on Jews and Muslims, etc??

Now, of course, many countries did expel the Jews during the Middle Ages for the sake of such hegemony (and, usually, to get the king out of debt). But, nevertheless, the Church has never admitted any right for the secular State to kill Jews or Muslims in the manner it seemed to approve of for Christian heretics.

The usual argument floated is that the Church has jurisdiction over the baptized, but has no jurisdiction over the non-baptized. True enough. But when it comes to the common good...if error has no rights, why should the State have to worry about whom the Church has jurisdiction over? If enforcing the Truth is allowed as a question of sedition against the temporal common good, assuming Catholicism is the Truth, why does it matter whether it's being enforced on people the Church already has jurisdiction over or not, if we're claiming this was a matter of State authority, not Church? The Church's jurisdiction may be limited to the baptized, the State's is not.

Claims of "conscience" don't seem to work, as the heretics probably have valid claims in conscience too. Sometimes you see an argument that the heretics, by their baptismal vows, have a "contract" to obey, but that argument seems flimsy too, especially given how many were baptized as infants.

So I'll ask again: if the standard of what makes a law "just" cannot be simply a utilitarianism, cannot be simply "whatever it takes to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number" (which might end up involving inhumanities against innocents), but isn't limited by the moral law or conscience either (as counter-examples easily demonstrate)...then what is the standard by which laws may be considered just??


Who Am I said...

This is what I was alluding to yesterday regarding the blur between The Church's authority and the secular arm (These are from a note I have on Facebook.):

For instance take these Papal Bulls
(There are probably others, but these do so just fine. You have got to LOVE Wikipedia facilitating the citing and access to such information.):

Dum Diversas
Romanus Pontifex
Inter caetera

These particular bulls authorized (even legitimated) not only the taking of Native lands ((for the profit of the crown in question) To think people wonder why The Americas are banana republics, hhhmmm... .), BUT went further to say that they should be PERPETUALLY enslaved (Isn't that just THE ICING on the cake ? sarcasm*).

From Dum Diversas (1452):

"We grant you [Kings of Spain and Portugal] by these present documents, with our Apostolic Authority, full and free permission to invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, and other property [...] and to reduce their persons into perpetual slavery."

Who Am I said...

Here is another one.

Romanus Pontifex (1455):

"The Roman pontiff, successor of the key-bearer of the heavenly kingdom and vicar of Jesus Christ, contemplating with a father's mind all the several climes of the world and the characteristics of all the nations dwelling in them and seeking and desiring the salvation of all, wholesomely ordains and disposes upon careful deliberation those things which he sees will be agreeable to the Divine Majesty and by which he may bring the sheep entrusted to him by God into the single divine fold, and may acquire for them the reward of eternal felicity, and obtain pardon for their souls. This we believe will more certainly come to pass, through the aid of the Lord, if we bestow suitable favors and special graces on those Catholic kings and princes, who, like athletes and intrepid champions of the Christian faith, as we know by the evidence of facts, not only restrain the savage excesses of the Saracens and of other infidels, enemies of the Christian name, but also for the defense and increase of the faith vanquish them and their kingdoms and habitations, though situated in the remotest parts unknown to us, and subject them to their own temporal dominion, sparing no labor and expense, in order that those kings and princes, relieved of all obstacles, may be the more animated to the prosecution of so salutary and laudable a work....to conserve their right and possession, [the said king and infante] under certain most severe penalties then expressed, have prohibited and in general have ordained that none, unless with their sailors and ships and on payment of a certain tribute and with an express license previously obtained from the said king or infante, should presume to sail to the said provinces or to trade in their ports or to fish in the sea,
...since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso -- to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit -- by having secured the said faculty, the said King Alfonso, or, by his authority, the aforesaid infante, justly and lawfully has acquired and possessed, and doth possess, these islands, lands, harbors, and seas, and they do of right belong and pertain to the said King Alfonso and his successors, nor without special license from King Alfonso and his successors themselves has any other even of the faithful of Christ been entitled hitherto, nor is he by any means now entitled lawfully to meddle therewith."

True these particular bulls were issued prior to the so called "discovery" of "The Americas", but they later came to be applied to the newly "discovered" lands.

Who Am I said...

From Inter caetara (1493):

"Among other works well pleasing to the Divine Majesty and cherished of our heart, this assuredly ranks highest, that in our times especially the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself. ...we (the Papacy) command you (Spain) ... to instruct the aforesaid inhabitants and residents and dwellers therein in the Catholic faith, and train them in good morals."

So take their lands, overthrow their kingdoms, make a profit, enslave them and oh yeah, make sure that you instruct them in The Catholic Faith.

That is precisely what I was referring to as regards to a foreign government entering a territory that it technically didn't have jurisdiction over. The Church GRANTED jurisdiction of these new lands to European monarchs.

How would such laws apply then ?