Tag Archives: state

Bending back the sword of fear

With the long-held American tenet of separation of church and state, it would seem that wearing one’s faith on his sleeve in business might be ‘imprudent.’ After all, by the late 19th century, non-Catholic governments became the norm in Europe and in the Americas – and certain principles were instilled to keep Catholics ‘in line’ with dictates of civil authority. Catholicism and its unique teachings were to be granted no special treatment. And so an intolerable intimidation has trickled down to this day.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

It is the sword of fear pointed particularly at Catholics – in business, in government, in education, in everything.

The virtue of fortitude lets an executive act unapologetically and with confidence that God has his back. It’s the grit that lets him follow Divine instinct. It’s what prompts the CEO, judge, university professor, or administrative assistant to state plainly what he or she personifies as a Catholic – whether derided for it or not. High-octane guts trump human respect, and make some of the greatest leaders what they are.

But fear is the great underminer of fortitude, and there are reasons why.

Living in a continual state of moral compromise gives rise to fear – leading to heightened anxiety about others’ opinions or of being exposed. It’s been said the more one runs from God, the greater his unrest.

Next, the Church today is less likely to have her princes and shepherds draw clear boundaries clarifying longstanding right and wrong. Rather, many clerics pursue affirmation of the culture. The perception of losing centuries-old Church support makes Catholics more fearful, and more lax.

Third, among man’s deepest instincts is self-preservation, which kicks into high gear amid fear of loss – of business, income, stature, loved ones, health – even death. It takes supernatural muscle to go beyond the limitations of self-preservation and forge ahead for the selfless purposes of God.

Fourth, many contemporary Catholics recoil from living sacrificially or embracing hardship – errantly perceiving it as a lack of self-sufficiency. This exacerbates their fear of pain or even mild discomfort – making them ‘soft,’ less able to stand immovably firm on the tougher aspects of faith.

Finally, a close ‘relative’ of fear is uncertainty – which makes people queasy about circumstances and imagined outcomes. It keeps them inert, unable to take bold steps. The early 20th-century communists and Nazis exploited uncertainty, and kept people in constant suspicion of each other so they’d remain fearful and easily controlled.

Years ago when I was a legal writer, the attorney who owned the firm hosted Christmas parties at his spectacular country estate. He was devout Greek Orthodox, and one year gave us a special house tour. Matter-of-factly, he led us into a glorious room with a large spotlighted Bible on an ornate brass bookstand, flanked with candles in gilded holders, fresh poinsettias, and a spectacular gold-carved cross. Illuminated paintings of Christ and saints’ icons lined the walls. His wife led us in religious Christmas carols around their piano.

A godly leader, he made his faith evident in every setting. Many of us are still affirmed by his example.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.

How did separation of Church and State occur?

The separation of church and state is a relatively new development. When Emperor Constantine gave freedom of religion to the Roman Empire in the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, the Church was able to come out of hiding and into the public.

Fr. John Trigilio

Fr. John Trigilio

Constantine gave many government buildings over to the Church for its use. In fact, Christianity became the state religion of the Empire. It was hard to distinguish the role of government from that of the Church.

As time went on, the relationship between church and state intensified. For many years there was only one religion, the Catholic Church. Everyone in Europe was Catholic. The height of earthly power in the Church came under Pope Innocent III. All rulers and noblemen were subjected to the pope and looked to him for guidance.

In addition, the pope was also a leader of a country, the Papal States. He looked to strong Catholic rulers to help him from time to time — when the Papal States were being invaded, for example. With their aid came conditions. One of the conditions was that the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire would be in attendance at papal elections. Rulers also had  a say in who could be bishops of dioceses in their realm. The division of church and state was so slight that the emperor had the right to approve who could enter a religious community or order.

This interference was at its peak when the king of France kidnapped the papacy and brought it to Avignon, France. For over 70 years — from 1309 to 1378 — the center of Church government was not Rome but the back pocket of the king in Avignon. He regulated papal elections, which undermined the central authority and power of the Church.

After American independence and the establishment of a new Catholic diocese, the Holy See conferred with President George Washington on his choice for the new bishop. The American government, which is built on the principles of the separation of church and state, said bishop selection was none of its business.

For the first time in centuries the Church did not need government approval on its choice of bishop. Over the years this would become the norm. Only in Communist countries would government still interfere in Church policy.

FATHER JOHN TRIGILIO JR is an author, theologian and president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. This article is reprinted with permission from “The Catholicism Answer Book: The 300 Most Frequently Asked Questions,” which he authored with Fr. Kenneth D. Brighenti.

Catechism 101

The Church, because of her commission and competence, is not to be confused in any way with the political community. She is both the sign and the safeguard of the transcendent character of the human person. The Church respects and encourages the political freedom and responsibility of the citizen.

It is a part of the Church’s mission to pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it. The means, the only means, she may use are those which are in accord with the Gospel and the welfare of all men according to the diversity of times and circumstances.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2245-2246