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.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Reinsch on Brownson, the Freedom of the Church, and "The Church and the Republic"

This essay, "The Church and the Republic", by Richard Reinsch, is definitely worth a read.  Especially for those of us who've thought and written about "institutional" religious freedom and the "Freedom of the Church," it's a really helpful piece.  Here's just a bit:

. . . Brownson, though, ultimately provided in this essay a teaching that goes beyond calculated adjustment to contemporary circumstances that existed between church and state. He grounded religious freedom in the nature of the human person because religion is the quintessential internal decision made by citizens and the state was “incompetent” to regulate this choice. Brownson observed that human beings possess equal rights to err before the state on religious identification. The state’s chief concern is with regulating external acts to prevent violence and fraud and to order citizens’s acts towards the common good. The mission of the Church, however, is “a spiritual not carnal one” and she directs persons through their conscience. To the extent the Church has an effect on the public order it is indirectly through the impact her teaching has on her members or those who have heard her proclaim the gospel and moral principles of the church and whose thinking and behavior changes accordingly. This is, Brownson contended, “the precise order which obtains in the United States.” It follows that “in all this she can address herself only to . . . moral nature, to . . . reason or understanding, his free will, his heart, and his conscience.”

The American Option

Brownson, though, did not merely restate America’s defense of religious freedom to the editors of La Civiltá Cattolica, but also stressed that American constitutionalism is really the form of government that most approximates a Christian anthropology and provides an example of how modern republics can realize the Christian idea of the integral development of the human person. On this point, Brownson observed that the First Amendment’s religion clauses were a specific limitation on the state’s power reminding it that it stood under a higher order of law. . . . 


Garnett, Rick | Permalink