Monday, May 28, 2007

More rebuttals

Michael Denton takes the Catholic Hatriots to task even harder than I do (and it should be noted that I don't agree with everything he says ... I do think secular flags and patriotic songs are inappropriate at church/Mass), as does Patrick O'Hannigan (both linked at Christopher Blosser's)

But the best part, and the reason I have a separate post, is the three quotes Michael cites from Bishop Fulton Sheen about how patriotism is possible for Catholics in a secular state:
Patriotism is not just a negation of anti-American activities; it is above all the affirmation of a love of country as a reflection of our love of God. When the roof leaks the householder may become so concerned with its repair as to forget the happiness of himself and his family under that roof. So it is with America. Because our national structure has such economic leaks as unemployment and dust storms we are apt to forget the joys of living in the house called America. It is about time we stopped talking about our aches and pains and began to think of the happiness of being Americans. ---Freedom and Peace, 1941

Love of country needs once more to be revived, otherwise we shall perish for no other crime than because we refused to love. Patriotism has a negative aspect and a positive aspect and one cannot be divorced from the other. Negatively, patriotism implies for us strong opposition to all anti-American activities; positively, patriotism requires that we be so grateful to God for the blessings that we enjoy in America that we dedicate our lives to preserve those blessings to the end. (Freedom and Peace, 1941)

It is our solemn duty as Catholics, therefore, to be conscious of our duty to America , and to preserve its freedom by preserving its faith in God against that group which would identify revolution with Americanism...But as we talk about patriotism, it might be well to remind ourselves that in a crisis like this even devotion to the Stars and Stripes is not enough to save us. We must look beyond them to other stars and stripes, namely the stars and stripes of Christ, by whose stars we are illumined and by whose stripes we are healed! ---Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, 20Feb1938

This (me) is a Briton and a Scot speaking; I know what political anti-Catholicism is (and even so, I will not turn against my native country over it). Bishop Sheen says that while Americanism is a heresy; America is not. Therefore, and this is more relevant to the likes of Iafrate, conceptualizing America so as to reduce it to Americanism is, at best, spectacular bad faith.

UPDATE: Read the comments to this post. First of all, "doubting thomas" puts up the question to Thomas's Summa that I was tearing my hair out earlier trying to remember, which definitively put the lie to the notion that love of country is contrary to love of God (in fact, if love of country were contrary to love of God, so would love of family and love of other men, on the very same "logic"). Also, the reply prompted me to remember where in the Catechism that the discussion of patriotism and civic duty occurs (here, from 2234 to 2246).
Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country.
This is not incompatible with pacifism as an act of personal witness or a particular calling (even hard-headed Victor admires it when it is coupled, though it usually isn't today, with acceptance of exile from the political community). But Church teaching IS incompatible with pacifism as a general moral demand upon all or upon the state.

Second, Christopher alludes to more links at his site (get thee there), giving particular mention to one I feel constrained to put up here -- the Catholic Encyclopedia article on civil allegiance, which covers the matters pretty exhaustively.


doubting thomas said...

This from the Summa:

"Question 101. Piety
To whom does piety extend?
What does piety make one offer a person?
Is piety a special virtue?
Should the duties of piety be omitted for the sake of religion?
Article 1. Whether piety extends to particular human individuals?
Objection 1. It seems that piety does not extend to particular human individuals. For Augustine says (De Civ. Dei x) that piety denotes, properly speaking, the worship of God, which the Greeks designate by the term eusebeia. But the worship of God does not denote relation to man, but only to God. Therefore piety does not extend definitely to certain human individuals.

Objection 2. Further, Gregory says (Moral. i): "Piety, on her day, provides a banquet, because she fills the inmost recesses of the heart with works of mercy." Now the works of mercy are to be done to all, according to Augustine (De Doctr. Christ. i). Therefore piety does not extend definitely to certain special persons.

Objection 3. Further, in human affairs there are many other mutual relations besides those of kindred and citizenship, as the Philosopher states (Ethic. viii, 11,12), and on each of them is founded a kind of friendship, which would seem to be the virtue of piety, according to a gloss on 2 Tim. 3:5, "Having an appearance indeed of piety [Douay: 'godliness']." Therefore piety extends not only to one's kindred and fellow-citizens.

On the contrary, Tully says (De Invent. Rhet. ii) that "it is by piety that we do our duty towards our kindred and well-wishers of our country and render them faithful service."

I answer that, Man becomes a debtor to other men in various ways, according to their various excellence and the various benefits received from them. on both counts God holds first place, for He is supremely excellent, and is for us the first principle of being and government. On the second place, the principles of our being and government are our parents and our country, that have given us birth and nourishment. Consequently man is debtor chiefly to his parents and his country, after God. Wherefore just as it belongs to religion to give worship to God, so does it belong to piety, in the second place, to give worship to one's parents and one's country.

The worship due to our parents includes the worship given to all our kindred, since our kinsfolk are those who descend from the same parents, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 12). The worship given to our country includes homage to all our fellow-citizens and to all the friends of our country. Therefore piety extends chiefly to these.

Reply to Objection 1. The greater includes the lesser: wherefore the worship due to God includes the worship due to our parents as a particular. Hence it is written (Malachi 1:6): "If I be a father, where is My honor?" Consequently the term piety extends also to the divine worship.

Reply to Objection 2. As Augustine says (De Civ. Dei x), "the term piety is often used in connection with works of mercy, in the language of the common people; the reason for which I consider to be the fact that God Himself has declared that these works are more pleasing to Him than sacrifices. This custom has led to the application of the word 'pious' to God Himself."

Reply to Objection 3. The relations of a man with his kindred and fellow-citizens are more referable to the principles of his being than other relations: wherefore the term piety is more applicable to them."

From this I think that we can conclude that patriotism is a virtue according to justice. Like any virtue however, if taken to an extreme it becomes disorded. At this point we have nationalism which I think Sheen refers to incorrectly as a errant form of patriotism.

Christopher said...

Thanks for posting your analysis in my combox as well, Victor.

I added a few more 'incentives for thought' to the post -- the Catholic Enyclopedia's entry on "civil allegiance" is a good primer.

Anonymous said...

A sad sign of intellectual regression - if you had asked your average Catholic fifty or one hundred years ago if it was sacreligious to celebrate Independence Day or Thanksgiving, he would have looked at you like you were crazy, and he would have been right. Is Mother's Day sacreligious too? It could be criticized on the same basis...

As Dwight Eisenhower once said, "there is no definitive answer to the question 'How stupid can you get?'"


Michael J. Iafrate said...

Is Mother's Day sacreligious too? It could be criticized on the same basis...

No it couldn't.