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The creed of an American Catholic politician

The most famous public controversy over the issue in the first half of the twentieth century was the exchange of letters between an Episcopalian layman, Charles C. Marshall, and Alfred E. Smith, the Catholic Governor of New York State and later Democratic candidate for President of the United States. [For background, see James H. Smylie, "The Roman Catholic Church, the State and Al Smith," Church History 29 (1960) 321-43; Thomas J. Shelley, What the Hell is an Encyclical?: Governor Alfred E. Smith, Charles C. Marshall, Esq., and Father Francis P. Duffy, U.S. Catholic Historian 15 (1997) 87-107; see also Francis L. Broderick, "When Last a Catholic Ran for President," Social Order (May 1960) 198-210.] Marshall initiated the exchange in April, 1927, with an open letter in The Atlantic Monthly. [Charles C. Marshall, "An Open Letter to the Honorable Alfred E. Smith," The Atlantic Monthly 139 (April, 1927) 540-49, reprinted in his book, Governor Smith's American Catholicism (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1928) 44-70.] He began with "a note of doubt, a sinister accent of interrogation" caused by the irreconcilability of conceptions Smith shared with other Catholics with the Constitution of the U.S. Not superficial features of Catholic thought, these concepts were "derived from the basic political doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church" that has committed her "to that intolerance that has disfigured so much of her history." She defines dogmatic intolerance as her sacred duty and at best will allow a State to tolerate, "by favor, but not by right," other religions.
The "irrepressible conflict" arises in mixed matters, where though both Church and State are involved, the Church claims final jurisdiction. This conflicts with the Supreme Court's decision that assigns the final decision to the State which may intervene when religious practices are "inconsistent with the peace and safety of the State." Marshall spelled out these conflicts in a series of contrasts between what the American Constitution permits or requires and what modern Popes have claimed. He then illustrated the conflict with several particular examples: the education of youth, marriage jurisprudence, the call by an American Catholic for U.S. action to preserve the Church's rights in Mexico, and Leo XIII's inflaming of ancient tensions by beatifying a Catholic objector under Queen Elizabeth. Marshall concluded:
Nothing will be of greater satisfaction to those of your fellow citizens who hesitate in their endorsement of your candidacy because of the religious issues involved than such a disclaimer by you of the convictions here imputed, or such an exposition by others of the questions here presented, as may justly turn public opinion in your favor.
Smith replied to Marshall in the next issue of the magazine. [Alfred E. Smith, "Catholic and Patriot: Governor Smith Replies," The Atlantic Monthly, 139 (May, 1927), 721-28, reprinted in Progressive Democracy: Addresses and State Papers of Alfred E. Smith (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1928) 254-69.] Disclaiming any canonical or theological expertise, he said that he had received assistance in writing his reply from Father Francis P. Duffy, the famous chaplain of the 165th Regiment in World War I and a former professor at the New York Seminary. Smith vigorously denied that in his twenty-five years of public service there had ever been any conflict between his official duties and his faith. After affirming his belief that public education is "one of the foremost functions of government," he expressed his inability to understand "how anything that I was taught to believe as a Catholic could possibly be in conflict with what is good citizenship;" and he urged an end to quarreling "over dogmatic principles" and "the bickering among our sects" lest young people lose all interest in religion whatever.
After these and other general illustrations of the compatibility of Catholicism with public service, Smith turned to Marshall's specific questions. He corrected his misinterpretation of the meaning of dogmatic intolerance, which affects only the Church's attitude towards Catholics themselves. He questioned Marshall's right to "ask me to assume responsibility for every statement that may be made in any encyclical letter," pointing out that such documents are not "articles of faith":
The Syllabus of Pope Pius IX, which you quote on the possible conflict between Church and State, is declared by Cardinal Newman to have "no dogmatic force." You seem to think that Catholics must be all alike in mind and in heart, as though they had been poured into and taken out of the same mould. You have no more right to ask me to defend as part of my faith every statement coming from a prelate than I should have to ask you to accept as an article of your religious faith every statement of an Episcopal bishop, or of your political faith every statement of a President of the United States. So little are these matters of the essence of my faith, that I, a devout Catholic since childhood, never heard of them until I read your letter.
Smith went on to quote Msgr. Ryan and Father Pohle on the obligation of Catholics to accept religious tolerance in a religiously pluralistic society. To their names he then added those of Cardinals O'Connell and Gibbons and of Archbishops Ireland and Dowling, concluding from their words his right to "stand squarely in support of the provisions of the Constitution which guarantee religious freedom and equality." Reminding Marshall that his faith also acknowledged the distinct spheres of Church and State, he asked him:
What is this conflict about which you talk? It may exist in some lands which do not guarantee religious freedom. But in the wildest dreams of your imagination you cannot conjure up a possible conflict between religious principle and political duty in the United States, except on the unthinkable hypothesis that some law were to be passed which violated the common morality of all God-fearing men. And if you can conjure up such a conflict, how would a Protestant resolve it? Obviously by the dictates of his conscience. That is exactly what a Catholic would do. There is no ecclesiastical tribunal which would have the slightest claim upon the obedience of Catholic communicants in the resolution of such a conflict.
And in support of these claims, he again quoted Gibbons, Ireland, and England on a Catholic's right in conscience to resist even the Pope were he to act beyond his competence.
After brief replies to Marshall's cases of conflict in education and marriage jurisprudence, Smith pointed out that the U.S. Bishops had explicitly rejected the imputation that their defense of the rights of the Church in Mexico were a call for armed intervention. He ended with a sort of confession of faith:
I summarize my creed as an American Catholic. I believe in the worship of God according to the faith and practice of the Roman Catholic Church. I recognize no power in the institutions of my Church to interfere with the operations of the Constitution of the United States or the enforcement of the laws of the land. I believe in absolute freedom of conscience for all men and in equality for all churches, all sects, and all beliefs before the law as a matter of right and not as a matter of favor. I believe in the absolute separation of Church and State and in the enforcement of the provisions of the Constitution that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. I believe that no tribunal of any church has any power to make any decree of any force in the law of the land, other than to establish the status of its own communicants within its own church. I believe in the support of the public school as one of the corner stones of American liberty. I believe in the right of every parent to choose whether his child shall be educated in the public school or in a religious school supported by those of his own faith. I believe in the principle of noninterference by this country in the internal affairs of other nations and that we should stand steadfastly against any such interference by whomsoever it may be urged. And I believe in the common brotherhood of man under the common fatherhood of God.
In this spirit I join with fellow Americans of all creeds in a fervent prayer that never again in this land will any public servant be challenged because of the faith in which he has tried to walk humbly with his God.
Marshall published a rejoinder immediately after Smith's reply was released. [ See Marshall, Governor Smith's American Catholicism, 72-84.] He could not accept Smith's statement that Catholics did not hold the views Marshall had attributed to them. He cited in evidence a Manual of Christian Doctrine, published in 1926 by John Joseph McVey with an imprimatur of the Archbishop of Philadelphia. In it the Pope was taught to have "the right to annul those laws or acts of government that would injure the salvation of souls or attack the natural rights of citizens, while the State was said to have the right and duty to proscribe schism or heresy, but that "dissenting worships" could be tolerated when they have "acquired a sort of legal existence consecrated by time and accorded by treaties or covenants." Marshall argued that, therefore, Catholics were still being taught principles incompatible with the American Constitution.
Later Marshall also cited Hilaire Belloc's statement that "the Roman Catholic Church is, in its root-principle, at issue with the civic definitions of freedom and authority." In his final paragraph he expressed his hope for the future:
In closing, let me say with the greatest emphasis that no view I have expressed has been intended to suggest the placing of a ban against candidacy for office because of religion. The way out lies by no such unhappy path; and your disclaimer is my voucher for this assertion. It is often said your venerable Church never changes, but history proves this is not true. There is transforming religion within her as well as confining polity. In spite of the latter, imposing indeed is her store of the riches of grace, piety and devotion. She may be encumbered at present with the undiscarded traditions of mediaevalism, but she is alert to the call of her divine Master. May your disclaimer mark the beginning of the era when that Church may so redress her historic claim that the whole Christian world may be one with her and her polity be brought into harmony with the modern State.
The idea that this new era might be opening dominated the long essay Marshall then wrote for the book in which he published his open letter and rejoinder. [ Marshall, Governor Smith's American Catholicism, 1-43.] In the U.S. Smith's reply had reassured his fellow citizens that "in his discharge of the highest civic trust from the American people he would never allow his loyalty to his Church to conflict with his loyalty to the State, as the State (not the Church) defined such loyalty." But the exchange had also attracted interest elsewhere; in Europe Smith's reply was seen as evidence "that in the New World a Roman Catholic statesman of intrepid spirit had set forth convictions in respect to the relation of his Church to the State that, to the European mind, were in flat conflict with the decrees of 1870, and what the Popes had asserted and the Church had practiced as integral in religious faith since that date,--and there was neither denial, rebuke nor admonition from ecclesiastical authority."
In the U.S., Marshall went on, Smith's reply was seen as evidence of "the existence of something that was curiously designated as 'American Catholicism,'" which, as Walter Lippmann had noted, revealed no differences from Protestantism on the relation between religion and secular matters. While welcoming the effect of public validation of Smith's candidacy, Marshall repeated his fear that the principles of 1870, the Vatican Council's statements about papal primacy and infallibility, remained in force and continued to imply papal jurisdiction over the State in mixed matters. It remained that "a civic community or State motivated in moral matters through a Roman Catholic solidarity by an ecclesiastical government at Rome differs radically from one motivated by the Civic Primacy of its people within the State." He pointed out the contradictions between Smith's concluding statement of beliefs and the official teachings of the modern Popes.
Marshall then went on to speak of the international echoes of Smith's reply which, he said, had attracted press-interest in France, England, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Australia, China and Ceylon! He took specific note of French interest, in the context of the papal condemnation of Action franaise, in Smith's letter as "the contribution of American Catholic thought as to what the doctrine and dogma of the Church ought to be, if not what it is." The French journal, L'Europe Nouvelle, had published Smith's letter in full, reading it as in flat contradiction to the Syllabus of Pius IX and as related to Montalembert's liberal Catholicism and to the traditional liberties claimed by the Gallican Church. The French newspaper saw Smith's position as a denial of the indirect power of the Church in secular matters; it wondered if the American Church enjoyed a derogation of the law that European Catholics felt obliged to obey. Marshall himself noted how anomalous it would be for the Church "if its membership in the United States could develop for itself an American Catholicism that involved a departure from the universal doctrine of the Church." What was needed to clarify the issue, he concluded, was for the Church's highest authority to issue "an authoritative declaration as to the relation of the Church to the political order of the modern world."

David Gibson's thread below recalls to mind the challenge posed to Al Smith, who would become the first Catholic candidate for the presidency of the U.S. Here is how Smith replied:

I summarize my creed as an American Catholic. I believe in the worship of God according to the faith and practice of the Roman Catholic Church. I recognize no power in the institutions of my Church to interfere with the operations of the Constitution of the United States or the enforcement of the laws of the land. I believe in absolute freedom of conscience for all men and in equality for all churches, all sects, and all beliefs before the law as a matter of right and not as a matter of favor. I believe in the absolute separation of Church and State and in the enforcement of the provisions of the Constitution that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. I believe that no tribunal of any church has any power to make any decree of any force in the law of the land, other than to establish the status of its own communicants within its own church. I believe in the support of the public school as one of the corner stones of American liberty. I believe in the right of every parent to choose whether his child shall be educated in the public school or in a religious school supported by those of his own faith. I believe in the principle of noninterference by this country in the internal affairs of other nations and that we should stand steadfastly against any such interference by whomsoever it may be urged. And I believe in the common brotherhood of man under the common fatherhood of God. In this spirit I join with fellow Americans of all creeds in a fervent prayer that never again in this land will any public servant be challenged because of the faith in which he has tried to walk humbly with his God.

Is this the sort of statement that we want politicians of any religious background to have to make? Is it only religiously serious people who should be required to formulate such a "creed"? Would this be considered a sufficient statement for a Catholic candidate today? Or do developments and circumstances require something more, or something different?For the broad background I have posted an essay here; for the particulars of the Marshall-Smith debate, keep reading.

The most famous public controversy over the Church-State issue in the first half of the twentieth century was the exchange of letters between an Episcopalian layman, Charles C. Marshall, and Alfred E. Smith, the Catholic Governor of New York State and later Democratic candidate for President of the United States.

[For background, see James H. Smylie, "The Roman Catholic Church, the State and Al Smith," Church History 29 (1960) 321-43; Thomas J. Shelley, What the Hell is an Encyclical?: Governor Alfred E. Smith, Charles C. Marshall, Esq., and Father Francis P. Duffy,"U.S. Catholic Historian 15 (1997) 87-107; see also Francis L. Broderick, "When Last a Catholic Ran for President," Social Order (May 1960) 198-210.]

Marshall initiated the exchange in April, 1927, with an open letter in The Atlantic Monthly.

[Charles C. Marshall, "An Open Letter to the Honorable Alfred E. Smith," The Atlantic Monthly 139 (April, 1927) 540-49, reprinted in his book, Governor Smith's American Catholicism (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1928) 44-70.]

He began with "a note of doubt, a sinister accent of interrogation" caused by the irreconcilability of conceptions Smith shared with other Catholics with the Constitution of the U.S. Not superficial features of Catholic thought, these concepts were "derived from the basic political doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church" that has committed her "to that intolerance that has disfigured so much of her history." She defines dogmatic intolerance as her sacred duty and at best will allow a State to tolerate, "by favor, but not by right," other religions. The "irrepressible conflict" arises in mixed matters, where though both Church and State are involved, the Church claims final jurisdiction. This conflicts with the Supreme Court's decision that assigns the final decision to the State which may intervene when religious practices are "inconsistent with the peace and safety of the State." Marshall spelled out these conflicts in a series of contrasts between what the American Constitution permits or requires and what modern Popes have claimed. He then illustrated the conflict with several particular examples: the education of youth, marriage jurisprudence, the call by an American Catholic for U.S. action to preserve the Church's rights in Mexico, and Leo XIII's inflaming of ancient tensions by beatifying a Catholic objector under Queen Elizabeth. Marshall concluded:

Nothing will be of greater satisfaction to those of your fellow citizens who hesitate in their endorsement of your candidacy because of the religious issues involved than such a disclaimer by you of the convictions here imputed, or such an exposition by others of the questions here presented, as may justly turn public opinion in your favor.

Smith replied to Marshall in the next issue of the magazine.

[Alfred E. Smith, "Catholic and Patriot: Governor Smith Replies," The Atlantic Monthly, 139 (May, 1927), 721-28, reprinted in Progressive Democracy: Addresses and State Papers of Alfred E. Smith (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1928) 254-69.]

Disclaiming any canonical or theological expertise, he said that he had received assistance in writing his reply from Father Francis P. Duffy, the famous chaplain of the 165th Regiment in World War I and a former professor at the New York Seminary. Smith vigorously denied that in his twenty-five years of public service there had ever been any conflict between his official duties and his faith. After affirming his belief that public education is "one of the foremost functions of government," he expressed his inability to understand "how anything that I was taught to believe as a Catholic could possibly be in conflict with what is good citizenship;" and he urged an end to quarreling "over dogmatic principles" and "the bickering among our sects" lest young people lose all interest in religion whatever. After these and other general illustrations of the compatibility of Catholicism with public service, Smith turned to Marshall's specific questions. He corrected his misinterpretation of the meaning of dogmatic intolerance, which affects only the Church's attitude towards Catholics themselves. He questioned Marshall's right to "ask me to assume responsibility for every statement that may be made in any encyclical letter," pointing out that such documents are not "articles of faith":

The Syllabus of Pope Pius IX, which you quote on the possible conflict between Church and State, is declared by Cardinal Newman to have "no dogmatic force." You seem to think that Catholics must be all alike in mind and in heart, as though they had been poured into and taken out of the same mould. You have no more right to ask me to defend as part of my faith every statement coming from a prelate than I should have to ask you to accept as an article of your religious faith every statement of an Episcopal bishop, or of your political faith every statement of a President of the United States. So little are these matters of the essence of my faith, that I, a devout Catholic since childhood, never heard of them until I read your letter.

Smith went on to quote Msgr. Ryan and Father Pohle on the obligation of Catholics to accept religious tolerance in a religiously pluralistic society. To their names he then added those of Cardinals O'Connell and Gibbons and of Archbishops Ireland and Dowling, concluding from their words his right to "stand squarely in support of the provisions of the Constitution which guarantee religious freedom and equality." Reminding Marshall that his faith also acknowledged the distinct spheres of Church and State, he asked him:

What is this conflict about which you talk? It may exist in some lands which do not guarantee religious freedom. But in the wildest dreams of your imagination you cannot conjure up a possible conflict between religious principle and political duty in the United States, except on the unthinkable hypothesis that some law were to be passed which violated the common morality of all God-fearing men. And if you can conjure up such a conflict, how would a Protestant resolve it? Obviously by the dictates of his conscience. That is exactly what a Catholic would do. There is no ecclesiastical tribunal which would have the slightest claim upon the obedience of Catholic communicants in the resolution of such a conflict.

And in support of these claims, he again quoted Gibbons, Ireland, and England on a Catholic's right in conscience to resist even the Pope were he to act beyond his competence. After brief replies to Marshall's cases of conflict in education and marriage jurisprudence, Smith pointed out that the U.S. Bishops had explicitly rejected the imputation that their defense of the rights of the Church in Mexico were a call for armed intervention. He ended with a sort of confession of faith:

I summarize my creed as an American Catholic. I believe in the worship of God according to the faith and practice of the Roman Catholic Church. I recognize no power in the institutions of my Church to interfere with the operations of the Constitution of the United States or the enforcement of the laws of the land. I believe in absolute freedom of conscience for all men and in equality for all churches, all sects, and all beliefs before the law as a matter of right and not as a matter of favor. I believe in the absolute separation of Church and State and in the enforcement of the provisions of the Constitution that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. I believe that no tribunal of any church has any power to make any decree of any force in the law of the land, other than to establish the status of its own communicants within its own church. I believe in the support of the public school as one of the corner stones of American liberty. I believe in the right of every parent to choose whether his child shall be educated in the public school or in a religious school supported by those of his own faith. I believe in the principle of noninterference by this country in the internal affairs of other nations and that we should stand steadfastly against any such interference by whomsoever it may be urged. And I believe in the common brotherhood of man under the common fatherhood of God. In this spirit I join with fellow Americans of all creeds in a fervent prayer that never again in this land will any public servant be challenged because of the faith in which he has tried to walk humbly with his God.

Marshall published a rejoinder immediately after Smith's reply was released.

[See Marshall, Governor Smith's American Catholicism, 72-84.]

He could not accept Smith's statement that Catholics did not hold the views Marshall had attributed to them. He cited in evidence a Manual of Christian Doctrine, published in 1926 by John Joseph McVey with an imprimatur of the Archbishop of Philadelphia. In it the Pope was taught to have "the right to annul those laws or acts of government that would injure the salvation of souls or attack the natural rights of citizens, while the State was said to have the right and duty to proscribe schism or heresy, but that "dissenting worships" could be tolerated when they have "acquired a sort of legal existence consecrated by time and accorded by treaties or covenants." Marshall argued that, therefore, Catholics were still being taught principles incompatible with the American Constitution. Later Marshall also cited Hilaire Belloc's statement that "the Roman Catholic Church is, in its root-principle, at issue with the civic definitions of freedom and authority." In his final paragraph he expressed his hope for the future:

In closing, let me say with the greatest emphasis that no view I have expressed has been intended to suggest the placing of a ban against candidacy for office because of religion. The way out lies by no such unhappy path; and your disclaimer is my voucher for this assertion. It is often said your venerable Church never changes, but history proves this is not true. There is transforming religion within her as well as confining polity. In spite of the latter, imposing indeed is her store of the riches of grace, piety and devotion. She may be encumbered at present with the undiscarded traditions of mediaevalism, but she is alert to the call of her divine Master. May your disclaimer mark the beginning of the era when that Church may so redress her historic claim that the whole Christian world may be one with her and her polity be brought into harmony with the modern State.

The idea that this new era might be opening dominated the long essay Marshall then wrote for the book in which he published his open letter and rejoinder.

[Marshall, Governor Smith's American Catholicism, 1-43.]

In the U.S., he noted, Smith's reply had reassured his fellow citizens that "in his discharge of the highest civic trust from the American people he would never allow his loyalty to his Church to conflict with his loyalty to the State, as the State (not the Church) defined such loyalty." But the exchange had also attracted interest elsewhere; in Europe Smith's reply was seen as evidence "that in the New World a Roman Catholic statesman of intrepid spirit had set forth convictions in respect to the relation of his Church to the State that, to the European mind, were in flat conflict with the decrees of 1870, and what the Popes had asserted and the Church had practiced as integral in religious faith since that date,--and there was neither denial, rebuke nor admonition from ecclesiastical authority." In the U.S., Marshall went on, Smith's reply was seen as evidence of "the existence of something that was curiously designated as 'American Catholicism,'" which, as Walter Lippmann had noted, revealed no differences from Protestantism on the relation between religion and secular matters. While welcoming the effect of public validation of Smith's candidacy, Marshall repeated his fear that the principles of 1870, the Vatican Council's statements about papal primacy and infallibility, remained in force and continued to imply papal jurisdiction over the State in mixed matters. It remained that "a civic community or State motivated in moral matters through a Roman Catholic solidarity by an ecclesiastical government at Rome differs radically from one motivated by the Civic Primacy of its people within the State." He pointed out the contradictions between Smith's concluding statement of beliefs and the official teachings of the modern Popes. Marshall then went on to speak of the international echoes of Smith's reply which, he said, had attracted press-interest in France, England, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Australia, China and Ceylon! He took specific note of French interest, in the context of the papal condemnation of Action franaise, in Smith's letter as "the contribution of American Catholic thought as to what the doctrine and dogma of the Church ought to be, if not what it is." The French journal, <i>L'Europe Nouvelle</i>, had published Smith's letter in full, reading it as in flat contradiction to the Syllabus of Pius IX and as related to Montalembert's liberal Catholicism and to the traditional liberties claimed by the Gallican Church. The French newspaper saw Smith's position as a denial of the indirect power of the Church in secular matters; it wondered if the American Church enjoyed a derogation of the law that European Catholics felt obliged to obey. Marshall himself noted how anomalous it would be for the Church "if its membership in the United States could develop for itself an American Catholicism that involved a departure from the universal doctrine of the Church." What was needed to clarify the issue, he concluded, was for the Church's highest authority to issue "an authoritative declaration as to the relation of the Church to the political order of the modern world."

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I am not interested in any "statement" or "creed" that any politician's staffers might "formulate". I think candidates should be questioned relentlessly by reporters who have done their homework, who can cite chapter and verse from the religion's beliefs and practices, including those reserved for members only.E.g., if a candidate cited Hilaire Belloc, a reporter should ask if s/he shares Belloc's anti-Semitism.http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F10812F93E5E1A738DDDA1... should a craftily crafted statement be preferred to extemporaneous answers to unexpected questions? Keep asking until they answer. Pin them down. Name names. E.g., the NYT's lead editorial on Rick Perry the other day was quite specific. Let that be a model. As to televised debates? The set-ups for questioning candidates are absurd, imho. Having McCain and Obama answer to Rick Warren was a perfect example. How should it be done? Each candidate in a separate room, alone. Show the candidate the question on a screen. Give her one, two, or three minutes, randomly selected by the computer. Then on to the next isolated candidate with the same question. When all have answered, on to the next question. No preening moderators. How should the questions be selected? Let viewers submit them, and then have a random selection by the computer just before the question is flashed to the candidate.

This strikes me as a very apt summary of the controversy around Smith's Catholicism. My memory tells me that John McGreevy goes into this exchange at some length in his Catholicism and American Freedom: A History (Norton, 2003). But I don't have the book at hand.At best, though, isn't it a bit of a standoff? Smith was clearly out of his depth, and Marshall pretty good at marshaling his facts, including the claims made by Rome on the consciences of the faithful. I'm interested in Smith's statement that "the Syllabus of Pope Pius IX, which you quote on the possible conflict between Church and State, is declared by Cardinal Newman to have 'no dogmatic force.' Did Newman in fact say that? It wouldn't entirely surprise me if he did. And yet the New Catholic Encyclopedia (published in 1967) pretty clearly states (again if memory serves) that the Syllabus is binding in the faithful, and makes no attempt to reconcile the differences between the teachings of Pius IX and, say, John XXIII. How, in fact, has Rome sought to deal with its earlier efforts to bind the faithful and its apparent backing off in more modern times? Again it seems to me it banks on historical ignorance. No one will ever stand up and ask the question, because we've all forgotten Pius IX, Gregory XVI, and people like that. On the other hand, if you want to discover why Vatican II and the heretical antipopes who followed it depart from the magisterium as clearly set forth by Gregory XVI, go tohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cR9rVV4ySP0PS I'm no expert on US political history, but I think there's a good deal of disagreement among the historians as to how important a factor Smith's Catholicism was in his defeat, and whether his being a wet and identified with big city machine politics was not more telling to a country that still liked to think of itself as rural and agricultural in nature (no matter how unreal that claim in 1928).

Yes, Nicholas Clifford, in his "Letter Addressed to His Grace the Duke of Norfolk on the Occasion of Mr. Gladstone's Recent Expostulation" Newman said: " The Syllabus then has no dogmatic force; it addressed us, not in its separate postions, but as a whole, and is to be received from the Pope by an act of obedience, not of faith, that obedience being shown by having recourse to the original and authoritative documents, (allocutions and the like,) to which the Syllabus pointedly refers." (Qtd. in Francis A. Sullivan, Creative Fidelity: Weighing and Interpreting Documents of the Magisterium Wipf and Stock: Eugene, Oregon 2003, p. 142). Sullivan's book will be very helpful to anyone interested in the problem of authority in the Church. I ran across this passage a day or two ago, there, but I think Fr. K referred to the Letter in an much earlier thread. It rang a bell when I came across it.

Nicholas, about your PS:Good summary by Jay Dolan in NDMag. http://magazine.nd.edu/news/1155-the-right-of-a-catholic-to-be-president... that:---The most comprehensive study, conducted by the historian Allan Lichtman, concluded that the religious issue was by far the most important influence on voting. Smiths contemporary, Republican Senator George W. Norris, acknowledged, as did many others in 1928, that the greatest element involved in the landslide was religion. Moreover, he added, the religious issue has sowed the seeds of hatred, prejudice, and jealousy, and they will grow and bear fruit long after the present generation has passed away.---And, about Kennedy:---In a speech in Morgantown, he struck a theme that he would repeat throughout West Virginia. Nobody asked me if I was a Catholic when I joined the United States Navy, he said to a stunned crowd. His aide, Ken ODonnell, recalled that Kennedy went on with a fire and dash that I had seldom seen in him, asking if 40 million Americans lost their right to run for the presidency on the day when they were baptized as Catholics. That wasnt the country my brother died for in Europe, he said, and nobody asked my brother if he was a Catholic or Protestant before he climbed into an American bomber plane to fly his last mission.

Hillary Clinton was channelling Eleanor Roosevelt and Gandhi during the Monica Lewinsky episode. She had a New Age coterie telling her that she might be a latter-day Joan of Arc (Carl Bernstein's book). Are voices still helping her?Probing the beliefs of Governor Moonbeam, Kucinich and other flakes on the left would also be enlightening. Clearly we need a modern Inquisition and trials by ordeal, impartially administered of course.

I would actually have one very specific question to ask a Catholic candidate: "If your local bishop told you, privately or publicly, that if you did not vote a particular way on a piece of pending legislation that you could not receive communion, what would you do in that situation?Am I mistaken in thinking that this actually happens now? My understanding was that Congressman Kennedy in Rhode Island was told he couldn't receive because of his legislative activity regarding abortion. If that's true, I could see a similar situation around same sex marriage, federal funding of contraceptives, etc. I think it is fair to ask a candidate how he would act in that instance.I had always thought it just awful that politicans like Al Smith's loyalty was once questioned

"What was needed to clarify the issue, he concluded, was for the Churchs highest authority to issue an authoritative declaration as to the relation of the Church to the political order of the modern world.Vatican II with Murray's religious liberty help goes only half way. It's amazing that a grammar school drop out like Al Smith could be the catalyst to start a discussion in 1928 that has yet to be resolved, at least IMHO.

Thank you for the helpful and very apt summary of your 2000 article in Revue d'Histoire Ecclesiastique. The footnotes to the article are as rewarding as the text. Was Father Francis Duffy one of the professors removed from the Dunwoodie faculty during the anti-Modernist purge forced [I think] on Archbishop Farley?(In the footnotes I noted Gerald Fogarty's The Vatican And The American Catholic Hierarchy From 1870 to 1965 (1982 and 1985). I consider Fogarty's study one of the most important books written in the field of US Church history.)And thanks to Susan Gannon for the citation from A Letter To The Duke Of Norfolk.

I have always been thankful that Al Smith did not win the presidency in 1928, since a year later the Stock Market crashed. Just think what anti-Catholic bigots would have done with that!I understand that John Courtney Murray did not attend the first session of Vatican II (having been "disinvited, according to Xavier Rynne) but that he was present at subsequent sessions through the efforts of Cardinal Spellman. The link to Fr. Komonchaks essay, Religious Freedom and the Confessional State, was very helpful in giving me background about the opposition to Murrays analysis of the American experience.(Thanks to the author.)

I recently showed my students a series of American movies and TV shows roughly 50 years apart, beginning with D.W. Griffith's "Broken Blossoms" (1919) and ending with an updated version of the Twilight Zone's "The Monsters on Maple Street" made after 9/11.In each of these stories, beer, a gun, and an "outsider," someone whose beliefs were outside the norm, elicited fear, suspicion, and tragedy. What changed, of course, in each story was who the "outsider" was.It seems to me that questions--even open accusations--about someone's background may actually be salubrious at times. Marshall, in accusing Smith of being in conflict with the U.S. Constitution b/c of his Catholicism, allowed Smith to make his case and demonstrate the Catholics are not monolithic, nor are Catholic politicians always in lockstep with literature that receives the imprimatur from their bishops.Whenever politicians seem to be affiliated with groups outside the "norm," they're going to have to answer questions about it. In retrospective, those questions will seem stupid, bigoted. But perhaps they're necessary to the assimilation of the "outsiders."

My thanks to Susan Gannon for the reference of Newman's letter to the Duke of Norfolk -- now that I've had it pointed out to me, I remember, though the haze of the distant past, coming across it many years ago. I'm still at a loss to understand how Rome has handled the question of what explanations to give when the magisterium changes -- between, say, the teachings of Gregory XVI and Pius IX in the 19th century, and those of John XXIII and his successors. No doubt just my ignorance, but I'd be grateful for any pointers on that subject.

Rome has handled the changes either by saying it has always taught the new teaching (e.g., the infallibility of the pope) or by claiming that the old formulation didn't get it right for these times so new a new formulation is needed.

Which of the Church's teachings is a public office holder obligated to ignore on grounds of separation of church and state, and which of them is he or she obligated to comply with?If the subject is abortion, must he act like Mario Cuomo and ignore Church teaching while justifying his pro-abortion rights position?What if the subject is taxation of the rich? Must he also then ignore what many insist is the Church's teaching on social justice? Or is he required in that instance to comply?Or should he say that the Church's teaching on abortion is not based on matter of faith or doctrine, but is a matter of reason and biological truth, such that it is obligatory on the politician, not as a matter of religious dogma, but as a matter of reason and truth and justice?

Many thanks for this thoughtful, detailed and well-sourced post. Al Smith is, for me, a classic example of the power of institutions (in his case, the Catholic Church and the Democratic Party) to shape people's lives for the better. Without the Church, and without Tammany Hall, Smith would likely have been another of the millions of anonymous grade-school dropouts of his era. Instead he became a significant figure in the history of his church, his party and his country.His statement is an excellent summary of what I think of as the "classic" American Catholic position on issues of church and state, religion and public life:*freedom of religion;*separation of church and state;*freedom of conscience;*equality before the law as a basic right;*the obligation of the citizen to support the state (e.g., public schools);*the right of parents to educate their children in a religious or other non-public school.Given the rise over the past generation of an evangelical Protestant theory of the relationship between church and state/religion and public life, it is, for me, both welcome and refreshing to read Smith's words again.

From Ann Olivier: "Rome has handled the changes either by saying it has always taught the new teaching (e.g., the infallibility of the pope) or by claiming that the old formulation didnt get it right for these times so new a new formulation is needed."Thanks for the response, and I'm afraid that you're right The first claim, of course, risks being a prevarication, to use no stronger term; the second claim essentially historicizes church teachings (or at least the forms those teachings take), seeing them as reflections of their times, and thus undercutting their supposedly eternal validity. The Youtube clip I cited above gives a clearly different answer. Vatican II flat out contradicts certain of Gregory XVI's points in Mirari Vos (1832); ergo, the Council fathers, John XXIII and his successors are all heretics. Q.E.D. A simple-minded answer, to be sure, but still more of an answer than Rome (as far as I know, which isn't very far) apparently has ever given.

"Rome has handled the changes either by saying it has always taught the new teaching (e.g., the infallibility of the pope) or by claiming that the old formulation didnt get it right for these times so new a new formulation is needed."Raber attended a diosesan catechetical conference some years back. One of the breakout sessions for RCIA leaders included a handout that said (direct quote): "NEVER tell candidates and catechumens, 'We don't believe that anymore.'"While Raber is a devout and faithful Catholic, he said that the breakout session, which required catechists to role play answering questions about Limbo, was a short course in weasel wording, and it bothered him.Clearly not too much b/c he's taking a pie up to the outdoor mass and picnic at the local parish, bless him. I went last night to avoid the "fellowship."

@Nicholas Clifford (8/28, 9:03 am) Here's a bit of background about the source for the YouTube clip you linked to above: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Most_Holy_Family_MonasteryI guess, as with most things, everyone can draw their own conclusions about the credibility of the source.I would just note one of the weaknesses of the type of argument exhibited in that YouTube clip is that it is not historical *enough*. If, as in this example, you're only going back 170 years to make your argument about the failings of the Catholic Church today, you've missed 90% of the Church's history. (Not to mention a number of popes who were far more heretical and/or scandalous than the 5 most recent popes!)

Nicholas C. --I actually have a great sympathy for the SSPXers when they call the popes heretics because the popes now deny what they used to affirm. If, by its own earlier standards, the Vatican has contradicted itself then it is being heretical. What the SSPXers don't see is that the problem is in the 16-19th century Vatican standards.

One of Al Smiths older contemporaries deserves to be remembered for his contribution to the Catholic Church-State stance. William Bourke Cockran was a New York Congressman and well known defender of the faith in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Eliot of Harvard called him the most eloquent orator of the most eloquent Church, comparing him to Chrysostom and Bossuet.In November of 1908 Theodore Roosevelt argued that it is subversive of the basic principles of separation of church and state to permit the religious belief of any candidate for public office to determine the casting of ones vote for or against such a candidate.Roosevelt was immediately reproached by members of the Baptist and the Evangelical Lutheran Churches. They affirmed the soundness of the Rooseveltian principle when dealing with most religions but claimed that, because of Rome's anti-democratic past, the principle failed when Catholicism was involved. Bourke Cockran was drawn into the battle. At the time he apparently was the go-to guy on these matters, having long ago gained the favor of the hierarchy. He had earlier argued that if every man, woman, and child in the United States were Catholic -- if full power to change our political system was in the hands of Catholic representatives -- not one word of the Constitution could be changed with advantage to the Catholic Church. Against the ministers he delivered an hour and a half speech, later distributed as a pamphlet in a million copies. His exposition featured extended analyses of the Unam Sanctam, Boniface VIII vs. Philippe le Bel episode. Rabbis and ministers were impressed. The Chicago Tribune: Cockrans address was perhaps the most eloquent tribute ever paid by a layman to the Catholic Church . . . the speech was not a defense, not an apology, not an excuse, but a thundering, aggressive, exultant challenge.Later in his career, after rejoining Tammany (as a reformer he was in and out of their favor), he nominated Al Smith for President at the 1920 Democratic convention, at the time still a hopeless effort.Bourke Cockran was a quite interesting character. He reportedly had a fling with Jenny Churchill, from the details of which we will here piously avert our eyes. Jennies son, Winston, acknowledged Cockrans oratorical power, which he tried to imitate. The secret: speak like an organ, in wave-like rhythm. http://homepage.eircom.net/~jas/bourke_cockran.html

Joseph, thanks forhttp://jakomonchak.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/religious-freedom-confess... big chunk of good reading to look forward to.

David Smith:Had to read it a few times - well worth it.

Jean Raber 08/28/2011 - 10:37 am:

Raber attended a diosesan catechetical conference some years back. One of the breakout sessions for RCIA leaders included a handout that said (direct quote): NEVER tell candidates and catechumens, We dont believe that anymore.While Raber is a devout and faithful Catholic, he said that the breakout session, which required catechists to role play answering questions about Limbo, was a short course in weasel wording, and it bothered him.

To say "We don't believe that anymore." isn't the same thing as saying "The Church's teachings change as the conditions to which they apply change. For many centuries, the Church was a co-ruler with monarchies over so-called Christian states. The founding of the United States marked a time after which these political entities began to be replaced by the modern democratic and pluralistic states, in which the Church no longer ruled officially. Today, a Catholic's social conscience is informed by his personal conscience, which is in turn guided by the teachings of the Church." It's probably awfully tempting to say the former - thus the admonishing to avoid it, because it's misleading in important ways.Even in the age of sound-bite oversimplification it's important to be careful and precise.

Helen 08/28/2011 - 11:30 pmDavid Smith:Had to read it a few times well worth it.

Yes, thanks, I agree. Just finished it. It's fascinating.In an interview on C-SPAN not long ago, George Will said that if only one subject could be taught in schools, it should be history.

Fascinating story about Bourke Cockran and Teddy Roosevelt. Thanks!

Patrick Molloy: Thank you for the reference to Bourke Cockran. Is his speech available anywhere?At Vatican II one of the principal debates was about whether acknowledging a right to religious freedom would represent a repudiation of papal teaching since Gregory XVI. John Courtney Murray had devoted the previous fifteen years to demonstrating that the immunity from coercion he was urging as a constitutional right was not the same thing the modern popes had been repudiating and that acknowledging it could represent the kind of vital adaptation to changed circumstances that Pius XII had said the Church was always capable of. (An early draft of the Declaration on Religious Freedom had sketched an argument to this effect, but it was taken out, probably wisely, because it was the sort of thing you can't say in a few sentences.) Murray in particular argued that the modern idea of a confessional State owed far more to modern theories of state sovereignty and omnicompetence than it did to earlier traditions of thought. The chief opponents to the Declaration at the Council and since erected the confessional State into a dogmatically required ideal.Joseph Ratzinger on more than one occasion criticized the clinging to this ideal by nineteenth- and twentieth-century popes. In his famous speech to the Roman Curia in 2005 on the interpretation of Vatican II, Benedict XVI exemplified the need for new thinking and for revision of earlier views by reference to the Declaration on Religious Freedom, and in the course of his comments echoed Murray's view that the American political experiment represented a quite different approach to the matter than that visible in the bitter struggles that characterized the separation of Church and State on the European continent in the nineteenth century. Dignitatis humanae was the pope's illustration of reform as continuity and discontinuity on different levels. I think Murray would agree with this.

Fr. Komonchak,I havent seen the entire speech. There are extensive quotes from the speech and paraphrases in the chapter Defender of the Faith in the biography, William Bourke Cockran, A Free Lance in American Politics by James McGurrin, New York, Charles Scribners Sons, 1948. There are no footnotes in the book but the bibliography includes these two items:William Bourke Cockran Papers 1881 - 1924 in the New York Public LibraryCockran, William Bourke, In the Name of Liberty: Selected Addresses by William Bourke Cockran, edited by Robert McElroy, New York: G.P. Putnams Sons, 1925.The McGurrin biography states that Cardinal Gibbons urged Cockran to reply to the Lutheran ministers. The speech was delivered at the First American Catholic Missionary Congress, held in Chicago on November 16th. The Catholic Church Extension Society had a million copies printed and distributed. One distinguished prelate, Archbishop Ireland of St. Paul, wrote Cockran that he regarded the speech as an historic pronouncement and compared it to Cardinal Newmans Apologia. I see that Amazon has this 1909 book:The Logical and Historical Inaccuracies of the Hon. Bourke Cockran in His Review of the Lutheran Letter of Protest to President Roosevelt by William Herman Theodore Dau------------------For those interested in the Cockran - Churchill connection:http://www.5min.com/Video/How-Churchill-Became-Churchill-273170697and the book by McMenaminAlso of note, Churchill refers to Cockran in his Iron Curtain SpeechI have often used words which I learned fifty years ago from a great Irish-American orator, a friend of mine, Mr. Bourke Cockran, There is enough for all. The earth is a generous mother; she will provide in plentiful abundance food for all her children if they will but cultivate her soil in justice and peace."http://www.historyguide.org/europe/churchill.htmlAnother footnote: William Bourke Cockran is sometimes listed under the Bs and sometimes under the Cs in indexes, so if you look up only one of his names youll underestimate his influence. Ive always sympathized with Conor Cruise OBrien who suffers the same fate. Those with several names should be allowed to move up in all the important rankings.

Re: Patrick Molloy 08/27/2011 - 2:03 pmYou really should submit your stuff to The Onion. Or the California Catholic Daily.The former delights in satire and the latter's readers would eat up each and every thing you say and still probably think that you are a stinkin' commie liberal.

"I would actually have one very specific question to ask a Catholic candidate: If your local bishop told you, privately or publicly, that if you did not vote a particular way on a piece of pending legislation that you could not receive communion, what would you do in that situation? Am I mistaken in thinking that this actually happens now? My understanding was that Congressman Kennedy in Rhode Island was told he couldnt receive because of his legislative activity regarding abortion."Hi, Irene, I'd be extremely disappointed if any of the bishops wielded the sacraments like a political club to try to influence votes on pending legislation. I'm certainly open to correction, but I don't believe it happens. Yes, some politicians have been told that they may not receive communion in certain dioceses. That is simply to recognize the reality (in the judgment of those dioceses' bishops) that, by a long, sustained, consistent track record of voting against Catholic principles and in ways that contravene Catholic doctrine, the politician in question has separated himself from full communion. In other words, it's an acknowledgement of current status (separated from full communion) as a result of a long string - a professional lifetime - of *past actions*. That's very different than the bald threat, 'Vote no on HB 12345 or you'll never get communion again.'In my view, the questioning of Catholic politicians who consistently vote against the principles of Catholicism, specifically because such votes would be unpopular with their constituents and would endanger their political career (and let's be real - they're almost all Democrats) should run along the lines of, 'How can you claim to be Catholic when you've conducted your professional life in such a way that indicates that you take Catholicism less seriously than your rooting interest in the local major league baseball team?'

Jim P. ==Do read Charles Taylor's short but powerful article "Magisterial Authority" in The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity. The article is about the scope and limitations of Church authority and some basic ways in which the hierarchy transgresses those limits. His approach is both theological and historical. I'm surprised he hasn't heard from the bishops yet, though maybe he has. Quite a courageous article. Almost as if he's challenging the bishops to defend some of their behavior.

1)Second Ann's motion2) Jim, keep an eye on the upcoming fodham Conference son Fauthful Citizenship.Should be really informative!

I just learned so much. Thank you, Fr. K.

"and let's be real - they're almost all Democrats"This preachy aside is unnecessary to your overall point, and ends up weakening it.

The only cardinal to resign in the twentieth century was the Jesuit curial cardinal, Louis Billot. He refused to accept Pius XI's condemnation in 1927 of Action Francaise. In a contentious audience with the pope, Billot offered to resign his cardinalate. Five days later the pope accepted the resignation. Father Billot spent the remaining four years of his life at a retreat house in Naples, dying at age eighty-five.

and lets be real theyre almost all Democrats"Hello Jim, I think only if you limit the scope of review to Catholic teaching on abortion and sexuality. If we also consider Catholic teaching on the rights of workers, on our obligation to the poor and on limitations on unjust war, I think we can safely say that Catholic politicians' deviance from Church teaching (vis-a-vis their voting record) is pretty bipartisan.

An Evangelical Christian who sincerely believes that humans didn't evolve from other species, most likely also believes that Jesus is the Son of God, was incarnated of the virgin Mary, became man, was crucified, died and was buried, descended into hell, rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven - in other words, is a Christian. On the most important articles of faith, she is in agreement with me. I have way more in common with such an Evangelical Christian on the truly important things in life than I do with Christopher Hitchens, who apparently would consider me a stooge and a menace for subscribing to these articles of faith, and longs for the day - which will never come - when Jesus' influence ceases to operate on the human race.From that framework, I'm more likely to align myself with Rick Perry than Christopher Hitchens, even though the former may - or may not - disagree with my views on evolution.There are many ardent foes of the pro-life cause who agree with me on evolution. They have inflicted incalculable suffering and carnage on many millions of my fellow human beings. I conclude that evolution is a poor litmus test for a Christian in the public sphere.

"I conclude that evolution is a poor litmus test for a Christian in the public sphere."Certainly, if our common creed leads our fundamentalist and evangelical friends toward humane and kindly policies that protect babies and allow for a diversity of thought, that's dandy, and unbelief in evolution would not prevent me from voting for them. Our state senator was one such fellow. He was a great guy, and I was happy to cross party lines and vote for him.My concern is when those who are vocally anti-evolution want to get laws passed against teaching it or at least forcing other people's children to consider it in light of one particular interpretation of the Genesis creation story,which is debated hotly among Christians and Jews of various stripes. If we're going to let the fundiegelicals set their version of Genesis alongside the teaching of evolution, why not let the Christian Scientists insert info about their beliefs when the kiddies study Pasteur? Why not let the Amish offer their Flat Earth views when the children study astronomy? Why not let those who find certain words offensive in Mark Twain expurgate them so no one is offended? (Oh, wait ....)

ISTM the question is: do we have a right to be irrational?The reason that honorable and reasonable people reach different conclusions is because they start out from different premises. Are we sometimes obliged to reconsider our own premises about matters that are important to the community? I think the answer is Yes. The fundies say No because they think that their premises are certified by God. But that itself is an assumption that needs reconsideration.

Hopefully my choice at the ballot box would not have to be between Christopher Hitchens or a Young Earth Creationist. I would vote for neither.

oops. think the above post was on the wrong thread.

Even though dated I agree with Al Smith. Just finished reading "The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity". If we lived by cannon law we would have a theocracy and the Pope would rule by "divine right". I don't understand how anyone can support vochers for church schools, home schooling and charter schools which the church sure seems to want here in the USA. I sure don't want my tax dollars going to the New Apolstolic Reformation sect or any other religion. Universal primary education is to educate for citizenship. If the parents want their children to be educated in a religion then they and their community should pay for it. I'm still RC despite only 8 years of Catholic education; the pracitice of the Faith is handed on through family life and involvement in church activities and the sacraments in the power of the Holy Spirit ----not through civil government. And no bishop has the authority to deprive a politician from recieving the Euchrist. As we say in mass--in praying for the deceased---"whose faith is know only to You" We are a faith for all and not just the many!

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About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.