When looking back from the perspective of the 1800’s America, the experience in the 20th and certainly the 21th centuries, has been a consistent and total repudiation of the underpinnings of civil liberties. With the widespread rejection of natural law, the secular humanism of the worldly culture has replaced the time tested and well-grounded principles that are the basis of Western Civilization. The sacredness of the individual has withered to the winds and drifts of arbitrary circumstance. Relative significance has replaced timeless permanence. Civil Liberties are not temporary or discretionary. Society cannot exist as an educated and respectful union among variegated parts, when the sanctity of personhood is not respected and protected.
Some might argue that the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, a product of the Enlightenment, was the essence of glorifying Human Rights. This proclamation “brought together two streams of thought: one springing from the Anglo-American tradition of legal and constitutional guarantees of individual liberties, the other from the Enlightenment's belief that reason should guide all human affairs.”
The quest for reason has a sordid record. Before Jean-Paul Marat lost the last drop of blood soaking in his bath, the residue of collective madness in the name of the revolution stained the tub. Liberté, égalité, fraternité was practiced selectively. Such excess attained a raw level of retribution with each dropping of the guillotine blade. The “National Razor” became the great equalizer for priests and the aristocracy.
Contrast this “Cult of Reason” with the National Law tradition best embodied by John Locke.
“Locke speaks of a state of nature where men are free, equal, and independent. He champions the social contract and government by consent. He goes even farther than Hobbes in arguing that government must respect the rights of individuals. It was Locke’s formula for limited government, more than Hobbes’s that inspired the American Founding Fathers. But what is the basis of Locke’s theory? Is it natural law or Hobbesian natural right? The Founding Fathers, in the Declaration of Independence, speak of both natural rights and natural laws. Locke does likewise. Natural law and natural right may be combined, but if they are, one must take precedence over the other. Either the individual’s right, or his duty to moral law, must come first.”
What presupposes this difference between natural law and natural rights? Who else could provide a definitive and valuable insight into this issue, but the celebrated polemicist Voltaire, the master of wit and elegant expression?
“Voltaire is often thought of as an atheist, although he did in fact take part in religious activities and even built a chapel at his estate at Ferney. The chief source for the misconception is a line from one of his poems (called "Epistle to the author of the book, The Three Impostors") which is usually translated as: "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him". Many commentators have argued that this is an ironical way of saying that it does not matter whether God exists or not, although others claim that it is clear from the rest of the poem that any criticism was more focused towards the actions of organized religion, rather than towards the concept of religion itself.”
Without the presence of the divine, the intrinsic source of the bestowed natural law could never justify the natural rights of the individual. In order to avoid this maxim, secular humanism has indeed invented their personal version of god, at the cost of denying and burying the one and only Supreme Being as a matter of course.
The formative progression in thinking that developed institutional safeguards and instilled in the hearts and minds of mankind, respect for their neighbor, was not the product of enlightened evolution. The basis and origin of civil liberties is founded and rests upon the authority of Christian teachings.
Illustrating the concern that Voltaire expresses about the Church, both its authority and its deviation from following the Gospels has only magnified during the last century. Religious liberty contradicts Tradition states: “The years following Vatican II have shown the truth of Leo XIII’s statement that religious liberty necessarily leads to immorality. In formerly Catholic countries, it is not only faith that has disappeared, but also Christian morality.”
The declaration of Vatican II on religious liberty, Dignitatis Humanae (§2), affirms:
This Vatican Synod declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits." (Walter M. Abbott, S.J., Editor, The Documents of Vatican II (New York: The America Press, 1966), pp. 678-79.)
What is noteworthy in this passage from Vatican II?
First, Vatican II not only says that no one should be forced to believe (which the Church has always taught), but also claims that no one can be restrained from practicing the religion of his choice.
Then, and this is paramount, Vatican II no longer speaks of tolerance alone, but actually recognizes a real natural right of the adepts of all religions not to be hindered in the practice of their religion.
Finally, this right not only concerns practice in private, but also public worship and propagation of the religion. Thus Vatican II promotes something the Church always condemned previously.
One need not be a believer to recognize that “a real natural right of the adepts of all religions” is a departure from millenniums of traditional Christian teachings. Only the misguided will read into Vatican II that civil liberties are being defended. The correct understanding is that the Roman Catholic Papacy’s authority is anything but universal.
In an abstract authored by Antonio Thompson, Approaches to Teaching Civil Liberties in 21st Century, case studies are cited. The context used for civil liberty is obviously a secular definition. “Civil liberties, by any other name, are still liberties guaranteed by law . . . A textbook definition refers to civil liberties as “freedoms guaranteed to the individual” that “declare what the government cannot do”
Accepting this designation avoids the fundamental source of where exactly does the freedom come from? In order to guarantee individual freedoms, much less authentic liberties, the very government that routinely violates the inalienable authority bestowed upon man by God is absent from the analysis. How can a civil self-ordained authority possess the legitimacy to protect the natural law when their entire conduct of existence is to oppress every human being under their control?
People are usually obsessed with their own notion of their personage freedom. Much like the postulate that no one can be restrained from practicing the religion of his choice, the cultural relativist demands that they can exercise any conduct that makes them feel good . . . just so long as they do not hurt someone else, has become a quaint euphemism for what Voltaire would say: “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”
Civil liberties are not championed by the masses because they are clueless as to the nature of the most basic of social relationship with their fellow citizens, and more important; especially what actual authenticity does the state possess, outside the shedding of your blood.
Understanding the meaning of Inherent Autonomy is no longer taught nor is it practiced. When in doubt turn to a modern day sophist, like Hunter S. Thompson: “In a closed society where everybody's guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.” He perfectly reflects the debased culture and the absurdity of life without a genuine acceptance of divine authority.
Our Stuck on Stupid series addresses this aspect of the human condition. While politics is unavoidable, absence of belief is unredeemable. Yes, crooks permeate the planet, but repentance is found in accepting the gospels.
A profound fear of God was instilled in the social order and most individuals adhered to the dread of eternal hell in past centuries. Towards a singular society is all the rage. There is no need for civil liberties if one becomes their own god.
Why worry about the loss of your soul when you will live forever? The rejection of natural law is at the essence of the spiritual crisis that plagues Omega Man. The biological warfare of our collective Armageddon is an internal struggle in each of us, which can only be rescued by a revival in traditional values and faith.
Trust in our fellow man, seldom seems to be warranted. Yet, adhering to a universal practice, based upon civil liberties is the belief that we all should share. Regain your deliverance from the Hobbesian State of Nature and believe that salvation is found in the blood of Christ.
© SARTRE – February 2, 2016