Chutzpah (KHʊt’ spə): Utter nerve; effrontery. Pope Benedict XVI had the chutzpah to claim that “the distinction between religion and politics is a specific achievement of Christianity and one of its fundamental historical and cultural contributions.”

I think David Gibson at the Catholic blog, dotCommonweal, is on to something when he says, “this statement seems to elide a lot of history. Like, a lot.”

4 thoughts on “Chutzpah

  1. Maybe I am dense. What is wrong with this?
    It is only in Christianity that this has been achieved. Not in any other belief structure.
    We have done this badly but we alone have done it.
    Many things have been a gift of the West and of the Christian Faith. Democracy, woman’s equality under the law, the end of slavery, the university, the hospital. None of these goods came without struggle against our fallen nature, including the fallen nature of us Christians. Where do you think the philosophical underpinnings of the seperation of Goverment and Religion came from? Paganism? Fundalmentalism? Islam? Who?

  2. It was Christians, but this was the achievement of Protestants, specifically Baptists such as Roger Williams.

    Catholicism gave us “Christendom,” and crusades, and inquistion–it created the problem to which separation of church and state was the answer.

    Consequently, popes throughout history have consistently and vehemently condemned separation of church and state, including, but not limited to, Pius IX, Leo XIII, and Pius X.

    Here, for example, is Pope St. Pius X: “That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error. … Hence the Roman Pontiffs have never ceased, as circumstances required, to refute and condemn the doctrine of the separation of Church and State” (Vehementor nos).

  3. The Pope has a point. It is precisely in Christian lands that there is a separation of church and state. Each had its own sphere. Certainly there were controversies about it, but that is true today. There was always the Emperor/King and the Pope.

    Btw, the inquisition is an example. The state was not supposed to interfere in church courts, although it sometimes did. Likewise the church could not execute heretics, but had to turn them over to the state. The manner of separation was not exactly like today, but there was a separation. And the inquisition courts were much more fair then those of the state. Very few people were executed. Many many more were executed in Protestant countries where the state used the church to execute Catholics. Geneva under Calvin is much more a theocracy then anything in the Catholic world. Luther never minded using the state to achieve his ends. The ones who wanted separation in the modern sense were the French revolutionaries. They wanted no church at all or at best a state controlled church. Secularists are not known for their tolerance.

    Do try to avoid the “evil papists” theories of history. It is way to simplistic and is simply incorrect.

  4. The fact is, separation of church and state was explicitly rejected by repeated popes as a heresy contrary to Christian faith; I’ve given the references above.

    Note that I said it was the Baptists who gave us separation of church and state, not Luther and Calvin.

    Catholics are in no position to criticize Luther and Calvin, because this is an area where they simply refused to break free from the principles they had been taught by the Catholic Church. God couldn’t deliver his church from darkness instantaneously. It came bit by bit.

    It took the Baptists, and others like them, who had been oppressed by Protestant and Catholic alike, to assert the separation of church and state. It first saw reality here in America, thanks to the efforts of men like Roger Williams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. We should give thanks that Benedict XVI has seen the wisdom of their teaching–but he can’t take credit for it.

    Oh, and if he has finally come to accept the sensibleness of separation of church and state, perhaps he can tell the USCCB to stop begging for state money to run church schools.

    But wait. In fact, the pope has not embraced church/state separation. His address to the Philippine ambassador, to which Commonweal linked, shows he still wants to intermesh them. He speaks of cooperation between the two; they are to “support each other.” In this context, he wants a special relationship with the Filipino people; he wants church influence on Filipino politics; he wants privileges from the state and he wants the state to listen to the church. So there’s nothing new here. Just the same old stuff. “Separation of church and state” for the Catholic mind can only be a sort of “separation of powers” that maintains an integral harmonious relationship. That’s what “Christendom” was about. That’s what America broke free of, thanks be to God.

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