Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Reprise on Just War and the American Revolution

I received quite a post-bag on this one.

Let me look at some of the questions raised.

Pedes Christi wrote:

”My question is, can such a government be considered legitimate? And if not, what is one justified in doing about it? I am not suggesting violent revolution (given your just war theory above), but how does one otherwise deal with such tyranny? I pray for the conversion of my country, but what else? With this I wrestle”.

I think you are right to wrestle with this issue. See what you think of my comments below.

Mark asks:

”Surely St. Thomas would not say that a private citizen should bear ‘any’ level of injustice imposed upon him, correct? To use an example from modernity, would a private citizen in say, the Soviet Union, China, Cuba or North Korea be justified in rebelling against the dictatorship?”.

He later asks:

”1. What relevance is it to the question of Just War when the subject is a private (Catholic) citizen rebelling against a non-Catholic government? Does it matter what form the government is (monarchy, democracy, communist, tyrant), or whether it is oppressive towards Catholicism, or Christianity in general? At what point does a secular government, tyrant or otherwise, become so oppressive to a Catholic society as to merit rebellion? I have in mind your response on 10 June at 14:51 and your comment s regarding the alleged Freemasonic affiliations of the European Prime Ministers.

2. In your reply to Ollie you offered that his view was that of a ‘tiny minority’; I wonder what relevance does this have? Did you mean that in terms of having any bearing on a contemporary public that it is not relevant because it is impractical, or because it was not widely held at the time, or only that it is so obscure as to be discarded for purposes of discussion?

3. As you have explained your understanding of the application of Just War principles to this particular conflict, I wonder whether you believe the Crusades to have been just? What about the First War of Independence by the Scots?

4. In your reply to Dion, you asked a (rhetorical?) question as to how he would conclude as to the guilt of a Mohammedan claiming justice as the motivation for a act which resulted in the death of innocents; I wonder if by this you mean to imply that combatants whose actions result in the death of other combatants in wars which you believe to have been unjust are guilty of murder? Or does the responsibility for the justice of the war rest solely on the civil authorities to whom God has granted this responsibility? Is his culpability greater because the innocents were his targets, as opposed to a combatant who knows there will be innocent lives loss by his actions but which are otherwise unintended?

5. I am curious if you know of any declarations since 1789 by Roman Pontiffs declaring a major conflict to have been unjust.”

Was the German invasion of Poland just? Pomerania and Silesia were both originally German and had been seized after World War I. But the German government had pledged not to invade and, moreover, its ideology was then Nazi, a grossly heretical creed.

Let me essay an answer to these.

1. The principles of a just war are matters of Natural Law and, as such, apply to all men, not just Catholics. A private citizen, Catholic or otherwise, may not, according to those principles, rebel against properly constituted authority. It matters not what form the government takes, although it may be relevant that the government is oppressing Christianity, which is a true religion, rather than a false religion. However, that does not confer upon the private citizen the right to revolt against properly constituted government. Thus, at no point does a secular government, tyrant or otherwise, become so oppressive to a Catholic society as to merit rebellion, if it is a properly constituted government. Private citizens did not have the right to rebel against the Freemasonic European Prime Ministers, for instance, if they were properly constituted. There may be some residual or other powers of the Pope, however, to depose Catholic sovereigns but it would first have to be convincingly demonstrated that they derived their authority from the Pope. In general, according to Dante and St Thomas, Catholic monarchs derived their authority direct from God and not the Pope, although that varies. For instance, the Pope had the right to refuse to accept the Prince-electors nominee for Roman Emperor.

2. In my reply to Ollie I meant that his view is so obscure as to be discarded for purposes of discussion.

3. Not all of the Crusades were unjust – although they were not always justly conducted – because the Holy Land belonged to Christendom and the Eastern Empire in particular and it was a war of restoration and defence, expressly sanctioned by the Church as restorative and defensive against the ever-encroaching advance of Islam. I am not sure about the First War of Independence by the Scots. I would need to study the causes in more detail. Does anyone else have a view on it?

4. In my reply to Dion, I did not mean that combatants whose actions result in the death of other combatants in wars which are unjust are necessarily guilty of murder, although their leaders might be depending upon the usual criteria of intentionality. It is a standard application of the principle of “double effect” that a combatant who knows there will be innocent lives loss by his actions but which are otherwise unintended Is not guilty of moral crime. The culpability of the terrorist who deliberately targets the innocent is plainly evident. None of this was my primary point which was that no man can plead his disagreement with the Natural Law as an excuse for his crimes because every man has the Natural Law “written in his heart” and so cannot claim ignorance of it or exemption from it. If he could then Al Capone could say that he was innocent of murder because he did not believe that killing those who got in his way was murder.

5. There have been plenty of papal condemnations of conflicts as unjust since 1789. Pope Pius VI and Pius VII both declared the French Revolutionary wars unjust as well as the Bonapartist wars. Leo XII also did so and Gregory XVI declared the Italian revolutions unjust as did Bl Pius IX. He also condemned the Irish rebellions and excommunicated the Fenians on 12 January 1870. Of course, he also did the same to the Italian rebels. The Polish rebels were also – very significantly since they were rebelling against an heretic Tsar – condemned. The First World War was variously condemned and so were the Fascist and Nazi wars. The Spanish rebels were condemned (as were some actions by the Nationalists), Paul VI condemned the anti-terrorist war against ETA and John Paul II condemned the British invasion of the Falkland Islands, albeit not formally (and, in my view, on questionable grounds) as well as the Iraq war.

St Thomas Aquinas, leading theologian of just war principles

St. Thomas would not say that a private citizen should bear ‘any’ level of injustice imposed upon him, however bad, because he expressly allows the principle of self-defence. One may defend oneself, one’s family and others, together with property. If this requires what may become a war against the government then that is justified on the principle of “double effect” provided that there is no intention to overthrow the government or to prosecute a war against it.

If, however, the government was never a legitimate one then a war might be prosecuted against it (subject to all the usual just war criteria) in order to restore the legitimate government.

This was the purpose behind the Jacobite and Carlist wars and – arguably – the US War between the States. The South were seeking to restore the original Constitution as against the effectively new and unauthorised Constitution imposed by Lincoln and the Northern Yankees.

The governments of the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and North Korea were all illegitimate governments imposed by revolution and force of arms against legitimate governments. So long as they continued to be illegitimate in that sense it would be open to anyone (subject to all the other just war criteria) to rise up against them to restore the true and legitimate government (if there was one).

"Manifest Destiny" was just a re-run of the old Puritan and Cromwellian cry that the Protestant white man was pre-destined by an apparently arbitrary God to rule over all other men as a "chosen people" of Biblical stature who would be enriched in a new republic designed chiefly for their benefit. It is, of course, unbiblical nonsense.

I agree that “Manifest Destiny” is really an outgrowth of the theology of certain Protestant groups (often Calvinists) who beleive in the “God is on our (America's) side” school of thinking and I agree that this theology – like that of the Cromwellian Puritans and the Afrikaner Boer Vortrekker people – tends to give the impression of a status of “chosen people” based upon the nation of Israel as a chosen people.

That is one of the reasons why I am opposed to such Americanist Yankee nonsense. It does no good to America nor to the rest of the world.

But you cannot persuade Americanists of this view. They simply stick their fingers in their ears and shout pro-Americanist slogans.



Anonymous said...

With regard to your thoughts about the United States, I would suggest you read ( or reread) Jacques Maritain, a Thomist who was a major force in the modern revival of Thomism. He saw that only in the U.S. had democracy and Christianity been seen as complementary and reinforcing values. Did the American War of Independence meet all the elements of a just war? Few wars do. Is there such a thing as and Americanist heresy? Absolutely, but not every American patriot is an Americanist. Neither is every instance of a person adhering to American exceptionalism a potential heresy.

Emanuel said...

The new government was actually (originally) imposed unconstitutionally by John Marshall's Supreme Court, and then enforced ten-fold by Lincoln's war on the Southern states.

But the Americans were indeed fighting illegal measures by the British, who were not governed by a legitimate sovereign, but by Parliament. Even Jefferson had no qualm with the King's sovereignty, it was his subordination to Parliament that he had a problem with. Therefore I don't think its very easy to deem the American revolution just or unjust. It was a very complicated scenario.

The fact that radical ideologues were present and even supposedly helped invigorate the zeal for war doesn't mean anything. They had no role in the foundation of the ideals which were meant to govern the United States as understood by reference to the Philadelphia Convention and the ratifications. Not only that, but the revolution was fought over sovereignty, not ideology. Many of the states even had their owen churches.

Not even do the "framers'" ideologies really count. The states called for a governance that was very similar to the British tradition, and even abided by the British legal tradition (and kept their respective constitutions. The American "Revolution" was very conservative.

I don't even know how much "manifest destiny" really had to do with the expansion westward. The only questionable annexations were those of Florida and the land previously belonging to Mexico. The former was legally settled then purchased, and the latter (as a result of Polk's obvious provocation of Mexico) was met with much protest within the ranks of Congress. But people wanted land and would have pursued it whether or not they had a theology to justify it. There were frontiersmen even before the American War for Independence--and the Treaty of Paris following the war expanded the boundaries from Appalachia to the Mississippi River.

And regarding the Monroe Doctrine--it was merely just sound foreign policy similar to Britain's domination of the seas (and even supported by that very domination, another sound foreign policy). It had no relation to theology.

In any event, I don't at all like the concept of a theological justification for expansion, nor do I like Bush's "Freedom Agenda" as regards to his foreign policy (not that I totally disagree with some of the campaigns in the Mid-East, even if they are remotely inspired by Zionism and technically unconstitutional. But when was the last time the Constitution ever mattered?)

The problem you're addressing is much older than America and is not very much related to her war of independence. Your problem has more to do with European revolutionary notions later adopted by America.

Tribunus said...

Dear Anonymous,

Maritain's political theology was (and is) very controversial, if not actually heterodox. He was no Thomist politically.

Actually, quite a lot of wars meet the just war criteria, so I do not agree with your comment there, either.

But you are once again relying on the entirely spurious argument that your actions are OK because the other guy's are as bad or worse.

Two wrongs do not make a right.

What is American "exceptionalism"?

You are not arguing seriously that America is excepted from normal morality, are you?

Tribunus said...

Thanks for your points Emanuel.

I agree with you about John Marshall but am pretty certain that you will never find Jefferson saying he preferred a king to a parliament.

You have yet to prove your case that the American Continental Congress had more legitimacy than the British King or Parliament.

If the American colonists had re-instated the Stuarts as their monarch then you might have had a point.

The truth is that the American revolutionaries were even more anti-Stuart than the British.

To say that radical ideologues had no role in the foundation of the ideals which were meant to govern the United States is not a statement that many historians would readily concede.

But if radical ideologues are irrelevant to the argument then having one's own church or keeping up the British legal code after the revolution, must also be irrelevant.

No matter how "conservative" the American revolution may seem to us, it was not so seen at the time. In any case, we are concerned with its justice not its conservatism.

You are right, however, that the revolution was fought chiefly over sovereignty. But that is my point. The American revolutionaries had no right to sovereignty. They were rebelling against their own sovereign.

Florida was not freely purchased but only after a war of aggression by the Yankees.

The whole of the West belonged to Mexico or the Indians and was the subject of nothing less than naked aggression by US citizens and their allies.

The partly Protestant and partly secular doctrine of "Manifest Destiny" is repeatedly cited as the justification for America's wholly unjust wars of aggression against Catholic Mexico and Spain and against the often Catholic Indians.

As justifications go the fact that "people wanted land and would have pursued it whether or not they had a theology to justify it" is about as paltry as it gets.

A robber wants what he steals - does that make it right?

No - of course not!

Let's keep a grip on reality, shall we?

The Monroe Doctrine amounted to this: hands of Latin America, it's now ours. Even though it was Spanish or Portuguese we, with our "manifest destiny" are now going to take it and woe betide anyone who gets in our way.

As immoral foreign policy it rates pretty high up the scale.

If you don't at all like the concept of a theological justification for expansion, then you agree with me.

I tend to agree that Mr Bush's "Freedom Agenda" looks a bit like the same sort of theological/ideological jsutification.

When you say "But when was the last time the Constitution ever mattered?" I presume that is a sardonic criticism of US policy?

You're right that the problem of selfish hegemonism and conquest is nothing new and that the American revolutionaries got their ideas of revolution from Europe but that does not make them any the more right or anything less wrong.

Indeed, I have many times on this blog criticised previously those same false ideas in a European context.

The British Whigs, who were the chief source of inspiration for the American rebels, are particularly subject to criticism on this blog.

They were the people who invented lie after lie to justify their rebellion against their true monarch, King James II and VII, for the very simple reason that many of these Whigs were the heirs and successors of those Protestant rebels who became rich by robbing the monasteries and the poor and who feared that a Catholic king like James might hold them to account for their gains, robberies and rotten misdeeds.

So they decided to oust him - just as the American revolutionaries later ousted King George.

A plague on all such unnatural rebels.

Emanuel said...

I only meant to point out that the American War for independence was not a "revolutionary war," and that the American colonies were self sustaining, self-governing entities who's relationship with the British was supposedly that they shared the same legal rights as Englishmen. According to the English constitution since 1688, Parliament had no right to tax the colonists because they didn't represent them.

I still hold that the radicals had little to do with the drafting of the Constitution, and wholly nothing to do with it's ratification by the states.

The philosophies of guys like Tom Paine and Sam Adams were rejected by the men who took control of the war against the British Crown. These men were not atheists. The framers were deists at worse, who could claim more affinity for Christianity than many in Parliament (men like Edward Gibbons come to mind), and the ratifiers--the people who matter--were mostly religious men.

It must also be taken into account that the British were not even clear who their sovereign was.

I don't care what historians concede. Most historians are career liars--especially on this subject. Besides, not all historians concede on this matter. There are indeed many who hold my understanding.

The Continental Congress was recognized internationally, and the colonists were property owners who did not pay taxes on anything except imports. Each colony had a militia and a legislative assembly. These people and their lands were hardly the property of the Elector of Hanover, or any British lord. They had a great case for claiming sovereignty over themselves and even over their property... even according to established British standards.

The Stuarts were the legitimate Kings of England, not of America, and the war for independence was not a civil war.

I did not justifying the land robbery; I was merely demonstrating that theology was not on many of these men's minds. If certain Anglo-Saxon eugenists and theological quacks wanted to justify it by the spiritual and physical superiority of the WASP, it doesn't mean that's what all Americans were thinking. Much of the land was vacant and unsettled by any agricultural society. It was inhabited by nomadic tribes who depended on the population of wild game. These tribes were also very hostile. The Catholic Spanish robbed land from actual settled societies, and they certainly didn't need theology to back them up.

Not only that, the frontiersmen don't represent the whole of America's heritage, which is hardly homogeneous.

Read Jefferson's Rights of British America. That's were you'll find his belief in monarchic sovereignty. In fact, his understanding of sovereignty reflects the political structure of the decentralized realms of Europe (before the rise of the strong national monarchies who created this whole mess). The problem you have (and in fact one I share with you) was that Americans happened to be mostly anti-Papist, though substantially less so than most Protestant European countries (of course, the radicals--who, as I maintain didn't represent the war effort--were as bad as anyone; but the founding fathers and ratifiers weren't as disdainful). But how could they help it? I mean, being British and claiming the rights of a post 1688 Brit...

Emanuel said...

"When you say "But when was the last time the Constitution ever mattered?" I presume that is a sardonic criticism of US policy?"

Exactly. The Constitution was merely a compact between sovereign states until the the Supreme Court justices began mangling its meaning over time and before the South lost their war for independence. Today it means whatever anyone wants it to mean and the least accountable (the Judges on the Supreme Court) have the last word, no matter how flawed their reasoning is.

If there were no Bill of Rights for instance, religion wouldn't be so restricted and profanity wouldn't be so protected.

But it's all the same either way. Presidents can wage war whenever they want--and apparently assume the role of all three branches in cases of whatever they want to deem an "emergency".

The American form of government is no where near the best thing, but show me any other country that does better. I believe America is only great because of her people. The written Constitution and the only lines one hears quoted in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence serve only as obstacles to that greatness.

The founding fathers were certainly not demigods and I hate when people refer to the Constitution as some sort of miracle. It's just an absurd, anti-intellectual notion because the true dreams of the patriots (illustrated most accurately by Jefferson, the only founder who's philosophy doesn't contradict itself) were not even realized. The Federal Government became a tyrant worse than the British Crown in any age before 1776, and it's getting worse.

Tribunus said...

Dear Emanuel,

Well I see your point about the present day manipulation of the Constitution and you would know more about how much that is happening than me since you live in the US.

As to your first reply, I agree with some of it but not all.

According to the English constitution since 1688, Parliament had no right to tax the colonists because they didn't represent them.

I thought you'd got me with this one for a minute!

But where in the Bill of Rights does it say this?

Check it out here:

Is it this:

"By Levying Money for and to the Use of the Crowne by pretence of Prerogative for other time and in other manner then the same was granted by Parlyament".

This refers to the British Parliament which was, at the time, the supreme Parliament of the American colonies. It does not recognise any supposed "right" of the Colonists to reject all taxes save those they voted themselves.

The British Parliament did not consist largely of men like Gibbon but, for the most part,of men who were rather less unorthodox in their beliefs than most of the American Founding Fathers.

I am not sure what you mean by saying "the British were not even clear who their sovereign was."

The fact that the Continental Congress was recognized internationally is no argument for its moral legitimacy. Plenty of rogue states get international recognition.

Doubtless the property of many a rich American is not the property of the President and Congress but does that mean that they can rebel against the government and declare their land and independent state?

No, of course not.

No more did the American colonists have the right to declare themselves indepednent of King George III.

They had no case whatever for claiming sovereignty. They did not even have much of a case for doing so by "established British standards".

The Stuarts were the legitimate Kings of England and America, and the war for independence was certainly a civil war. Many loyal Americans fought for the British crown.

There is plenty of evidence that many Americans considered it their manifest destiny to seize land illegally from their neighbours.

The fact that some of the land was vacant and unsettled by any agricultural society did not give the Americans the right to seize it.

Neither does the fact that it was inhabited by nomadic tribes who depended on the population of wild game.

It is not surprising that these tribes were also very hostile to the invading Americans. Most people are hostile to invading armies!

The Catholic Spanish had lawfully settled the land and their sovereignty was acknowledged, even by the Indians themselves but also by pope, emperor and Church.

The Americans had not one iota of legal or moral justification for invading these Spanish lands and stealing them.

However, I fully accept that the frontiersmen don't represent the whole of America's heritage. Nevertheless, the US government did support the idea of "manifest destiny".

Can you give us an extract from Jefferson's Rights of British America which evidence his belief in monarchic sovereignty? And is not that work an address to King George III and so bound to be couched in terms of recognition of a sort? And did he not expressly reject this view when he opted for revolution?

What you describe as a "whole mess", if by that is meant the US revolution, can hardly be laid at the door of all the European sovereigns.

I accept that Jefferson was - or claimed to be - a decentralist which, if he meant it, seems to accord with the principle of subsidiarity.

I agree with you that Americans happened to be mostly anti-Papist, though I am not so sure that they were substantially less so than most Protestant European countries.

Jefferson and Adams wrote some amazingly anti-Catholic tracts. They were very anti-Papist.

Tribunus said...

In 1765, John Adams wrote that the "whore of Babylon" had falsely grabbed the "keys to heaven", blasphemously claimed to convert wine into the blood of the Lord, and survived by keeping subjects in "sordid ignorance and staring timidity".

Its hard to recognize freedom’s champion in his letter to Abigail in which he describes a visit to St. Mary's Catholic Church in Philadelphia.

His pen dripping with contempt, Adams wrote: "The poor wretches fingering their beads, chanting Latin, not a word of which they understood, their holy Water, their crossing themselves perpetually, their bowing to the Name of Jesus, wherever they hear it, their bowings, and kneelings, and genuflections before the Altar".

He went on: "But how shall I describe the picture of our Saviour in a frame of marble over the altar at full length upon the Cross, in the agonies, and the blood dropping and streaming from his wounds… Here is everything which can lay hold of the Eye, Ear, and Imagination. Everything which can charm and bewitch the simple and ignorant".

On 12 August 1765, the Boston Gazette published an essay again linking Catholicism to tyranny. The essay argued that religious canon law – "extensive and astonishing" - was created by the "the Romish clergy for the aggrandizement of their own order".

Church law enslaved people by "reducing their minds to a state of sordid ignorance and staring timidity" and warned that only an educated populace could thwart the "direct and formal design on foot, to enslave America".

The author was John Adams.

Mark said...

1. Regarding point 1, is the US a properly constituted government? You have demonstrated that the war of independence was not just, and certainly it could be argued that the government was founded on anti-Catholic masonic princples and continues to promote anti-Catholicism, the territories were taken by what ammounts to robbery, and the WBTS raises questions of legitimacy, so should not Catholics rise up in rebellion to restore the monarch, viz., a Jacobite? Natural law does not ‘go stale’, after all…and I’m tired of paying for wars and abortions.

2. If you agree that North Korea is an illegitimate government, would the people of the US (or say, the British), be justified to help the Koreans overthrow that illegitimate government?

3. Was the war against the Papal States just, and if not, who would have standing to restore them? If the present occupant chooses not to, does that mean that claims to the papal states are forfeit, and revert to whomever the current occupant may be, regardless of their ‘legitimacy’?

Anonymous said...

"From the dawn of the republic, America's quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the creator. Religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force." -Benedict XVI

Tribunus said...

Dear Mark,

Most of your questions can be fairly readily answered by asking yourself this question: if I seek to overthrow the government as illegitimate, with which legitimate government shall I seek to replace it?

If you cannot find one then you may have to face the fact that the government you are seeking to overthrow is, in fact, now the legitimate one.

If you really think that the US government is illegitimate, then whom do you say the legitimate government is?

Do you seriously suggest it is Francis, Duke of Bavaria?

And even if you can point to one, by what stretch of the imagination do you suppose you can fulfil the other criteria of a just war in carrying out your overthrow?

Face it: you can't.

Accordingly, you have no choice now but to accept the US government as legitimate.


Natural Law is not the narrow, blunt instrument that you seem to think it is, neither is morality a set of impractical rules for the sake of rules.

The Natural moral law is a profoundly practical law whose aim is justice, peace and the best interest of both humanity and each individual human.

It may be right to go to war in the conditions pertaining on one day but not in the conditions pertaining the day after. That is a proper operation of the very much alive and fresh Natural Law not an instance of it "going stale" as you put it.

It is only an anarchist who seeks to overthrow a government with no idea of who should legitimately replace it.

You must ask whom would you would consider that the legitimate government ought to be replaced by, before you even begin to contemplate war.

It may well be that the North Korean government is illegitimate and that the legitimate government is, say, South Korea; but, even if arguable, that would not be the end of the matter.

You must see if the other just war criteria apply, before even beginning to contemplate any action.

One major consideration is the question of proportionality.

For the US or British governments to attempt such a thing would be grossly disproportionate in the present climate and given the enormous expense and massive firepower of modern weapons.

The war against the Papal States was not just. The Papal armies and the Catholic kings of Christendom had standing to restore the legitimate government against the usurping revolutionaries.

But that was 150 years ago and the present Italian government has been left in possession after 2 world wars.

It could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be a proper application of the principles of just war for a group of citizens - or even a sovereign state - to seek to overthrow the current Italian government with a view to restoring the old Papal States to the Pope, even assuming what is undoubtedly false, that the Pope would want that territory back.

It is therefore wrong to speak of "occupation regardless of legitimacy".

Lack of a just basis for overthrowing the present government, the passage of time, and the fact that any prospective legitimate sovereign repudiates his claim, are obviously ineluctable grounds for not seeking to overthrow such a government and thus for recognising, even if only by default, that this government is now legitimate.

It's common sense, really, if you think about it.

Tribunus said...

Dear Anonymous,

If you are going to quote from the Pope's White House speech of 16 April 2008, you need to be a little less selective.

Here is the fuller quote:

"From the dawn of the republic, America's quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the creator.

The framers of this nation's founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the 'self-evident truth' that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature's God"

The Pope is merely drawing attention to the truism that you cannot have inalienable rights grounded in the law of nature and of nature's God if you do not first believe in a "moral order based on the dominion of God the creator".

That is base level and is merely a repudiation of those who, like Christopher Hitchens and others, seem to think that the American revolutionaries were chiefly atheists.

If you think this means that the Pope endorses all that the Founding Fathers of the US taught and believed, including their extreme anti-Catholicism and hatred of Papacy, then you have begun to embrace a fantasy which you may find difficult to represent, in any rational way, as reality.

Still less will you be able to present a speech made on a diplomatic occasion, the visit to the White House, as if it were an example of the Pope teaching immutable truths to be held by all Catholics.

I have provided you with chapter and verse of the very anti-Catholics beliefs of at least two of the American revolutionaries.

Are you seriously going to pretend that the Pope so much hates his own office and his own Church as to agree with such bigoted beliefs?


Well, then.

Stephen D. said...


In reference to a statement you made in another comment string, can you cite the evidence for your description of the Carrolls of Maryland as "notoriously heterodox" Catholics? I assume you had more in mind than only the fact that they supported the War of Independence.

Thank you for a thought-provoking discussion.

Tribunus said...

The fact of his being the only Catholic to sign the Declaration might be a bit of a give-away but there is, in fact, real evidence of Carrollton's heterodoxy.

But because he is part of the iconography of America's democratic "saints", it is hard to find the truth about him amongst all the fawning adulation that litters American writing on him, not least by liberal Catholic Irish-Americans who, of course, worship him like a kind of god and a precursor of the Kennedys.

He was rich beyond the dreams of avarice and used his wealth to secure political favour and position.

The truly revolutionary aspect of American independence was, in fact, not merely political separation from England but the
establishment of the separation of church and state doctrine.

Clean contrary to the tenets of his own Church, Carrollton wrote this:

"When I signed the Declaration of
Independence, I had in view not only our independence of England but the toleration of all sects, professing the Christian Religion, and communicating to them all great rights".

He also wrote:

"To obtain religious, as well as civil, liberty I entered zealously into the Revolution, and observing the Christian religion divided into many sects, I founded the hope that no one would be so predominant as to become the religion of the State. That hope was thus early entertained, because all of them joined in the same cause, with few exceptions of individuals. God grant that this religious liberty may be preserved in these States, to the end of time."

Thus for the "Catholic" Carrollton, all religions were to be treated equally by the state.

From this idea of the religious indifference of the state comes the idea that even religions like that of the Rev Jim Jones, David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, and even the Church of Satan must be given equal rights to that of more orthodox Christian churches.

The record of Carrollton's private conversations with Benjamin Franklin are even more revealing of the extent to which he shared the heterodox views of his fellow revolutionaries.

He did retain many Catholic beliefs, however, together with a more aristocratic view of the estates of society - hence his retention of the old aristocratic "designation", the name of his estate, Carrollton, with his name.

His cousin, Fr John Carroll, the former Jesuit, believed English-speaking Americans would never be converted as long as the Church insisted on "the Latin Tongue in the publick Liturgy", a foretaste of other revolutions to come.

It is not so surprising, then, that both Carrolls were enthusiastic supporters of a revolution brought about by men like Jefferson and Adams who were both viciously anti-Catholic.

Carrollton's grandfather, Charles Carroll the Settler, received a commission from Lord Baltimore as the colony's Attorney General on 18 July 1688, and arrived in the colony in October 1688.

En route, Carroll the Settler changed his family motto from In fide et in bello forte (strong in faith and war) to Ubicumque cum libertate (anywhere so long as there be freedom).

"Freedom" before faith? Perhaps that was a foretaste of things to come?