Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

How liberal ideology undermines religious freedom

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 16, 2013

For the 2nd day in a row (refresh your memory here) Catholic World Report carries an interesting commentary on religious freedom.

Benjamin Wiker identifies Benedict Spinoza as “the father of modern political liberalism.” While Spinoza claimed to advance the cause of religious freedom, Wiker argues that the unconventional 17th-century Jewish thinker actually undermined true liberty, by suggesting that people may believe whatever they want in private, but should be restricted in what they do in public. If religion is purely a private affair, Wiker reasons, “Spinoza’s atheism becomes the default ‘belief’ of the liberal state.”

Actually, Wiker writes, Spinoza arrived late for the discussion of religious freedom. The most important advances had already been made. It was the Catholic Church, Wiker notes, that first recognized the need to separate secular from religious authority. “The principled distinction between the church and political power was something hammered out by the church between the 5th and 12th centuries.”

Wiker concludes his provocative essay:

Or, more deeply, there is all the difference, between defining religious liberty as the right of the unified church to be free from manipulations by the state, and defining religious liberty as the right of every individual to believe whatever he wants, which destroys the unity of the church and leaves the individual powerless before the manipulations of the state.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jun. 23, 2018 4:03 PM ET USA

    The shrink may be more right that he thinks he is. Not only is it OUR problem, but it is OUR problem with a vengeance. Every layman is now under suspicion. The "rules" say we cannot trust each other. Laymen cannot trust clergy, clergy cannot trust laymen, clergy cannot trust clergy, laymen cannot trust laymen. In August I will be handing out form upon form upon form to parents and catechists, forms filled with warnings, disclaimers, signature lines--a pile of paper that is supposed to protect...

  • Posted by: shrink - Jun. 22, 2018 10:15 AM ET USA

    Perhaps there were just too many sexual events for Uncle Ted to keep track of. But, Uncle Ted's seminarian pets, who are now priests and bishops, will never forget Uncle Ted. And they are not talking. And if history foretells the future, these priests and bishops will remain selectively paralyzed about all matters sexual. Thus, Uncle Ted made his problem, their problem, and their problem has been OUR problem for many decades now.

  • Posted by: rfr46 - Jun. 22, 2018 3:07 AM ET USA

    To me the question is not whether he did what he is accused of. His "I do not recall" response is an admission at least that he did such things but does not remember the particulars. The more serious question is how this man was promoted to the highest levels of the Church without anyone speaking up. Or perhaps someone did speak up and he was still promoted. That would be even more disturbing. We need to get to the bottom of this and I am not confident that the clergy are willing to do so.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jun. 21, 2018 8:36 PM ET USA

    How could he not recall that at least two cases of abuse were settled out of court?

  • Posted by: koinonia - Jun. 21, 2018 6:39 PM ET USA

    I saw on the news today that the CEO of Intel was forced to resign for a consensual relationship with an employee that was forbidden by the company policy. The executives are not to engage in such relationships- even if consensual- with subordinate employees. He was forced to resign. Perhaps there is something Church administrators can learn from the way these things are handled at the corporate level. Cut the cord and do it right away. Makes things a heck of a lot less bad.