Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, April 25, 2014

"Shameless Lovers of Liberty"

Here, at Ethika Politika, is a review-essay about John Pinheiro’s religious history of the Mexican-American war, Pinheiro’s Missionaries of Republicanism (Oxford University Press).  Matthew Gerken writes:

[I]n a time when so much political attention is focused on questions of religious liberty, the brutal honesty of Missionaries is a breath of fresh air.  Against the simplistic narrative of America as a unique bastion of religious freedom, Missionaries chronicles a period of ugly bigotry against Catholics in which “religious liberty” was not a shield held up in defense of the Church, but was instead the very weapon raised against it.

It's a bracing piece -- certainly, as I have written about elsewhere, anti-Catholicism in American history and practice was pervasive and powerful (and has not disappeared).  I think, though, that Gerken might be too quick to embrace -- or, might embrace without appropriate reservation -- the idea (common in some circles, I realize) that "there was at least some truth to the charge that Catholicism was inimical to religious liberty and republican forms of government."  These are tricky matters, to be sure, but it still seems to me that what the 19th century papal denunciations of "religious liberty" were denouncing was not exactly what existed or has been -- imperfectly -- practiced in the United States.  (That said, like Gerken, I think there are reasons to worry that things are moving in the United States in a direction that will bring the Church's religious-freedom proposal into sharper conflict with American practice and belief.)

In any event, this looks like a good book, and I look forward to reading it, but I will do so keeping in mind -- as I have argued one generally should! -- Dignitatis humanae and We Hold These Truths. 


Garnett, Rick | Permalink