Beneke on Religious Violence, Anti-Catholicism, and Rights of Conscience in Early America

Chris Beneke (Bentley University) has posted “Not by Force or Violence”: Religious Violence, Anti-Catholicism and Rights of Conscience in the Early National United States. The abstract follows. – ARH

This essay maintains that the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century wars of religion, as well as the periodic hanging, burning, and disemboweling of heretics, did indeed provide a lush and useful ideological backdrop during the Revolutionary era.  As state and federal constitutions were framed, religious violence was vividly recalled, but it was also safely ensconced in the distant past.  Late eighteenth-century partisans of religious rights generally treated religious violence as the defining characteristic of a regrettable age that all reasonable and sympathetic people would want to avoid reliving, rather than an imminent threat.

This approach to a sanguinary and increasingly remote history was integral to a new legal and cultural framework in which anti-Catholicism slackened and less corporal understandings of religious faith took hold.  It was also integral to the justification of a more expansive conception of rights. Toleration’s protections were limited to preserving dissenters from violence and severe, intrusive forms of persecution.  By contrast, “religious liberty” (a close, late eighteenth-century synonym for “free exercise of religion”), protected them from the more mundane operations of religious oppression, such as restrictions on movement, marriage, and office holding, exclusive incorporation laws, and inequitable taxation, thus clearing the way for full participation in civil life.  To those who conceived and defended religious liberty in the new nation, violence was of course deplorable.  It was just not directly relevant.

Jonathan Sacks on Our Impending Doom

This essay by Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, has been making the rounds. On the occasion of the 9/11 commemorations, Rabbi Sacks meditates on whether the West really is doomed to follow the path of all great civilizations before it to inevitable decline. He’s not hopeful. Like all civilizations that become rich and powerful, he says , the West today has lost its moral cohesion: it has grown secular, self-indulgent and soft. He thinks the only thing that can save the West is a return to covenental politics of the sort advocated by the Abrahamic religions:

It is a peculiarity of the Abrahamic monotheisms that they see, at the heart of society, the idea of covenant. Covenantal politics are politics with a purpose, driven by high ideals, among them the sanctity of life, the dignity of the individual, the rule of justice and compassion, and concern for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the stranger. G.K. Chesterton called America a “nation with the soul of a church.” Britain used to be like that also. In the 1950s there was no television at certain hours on Sunday so as not to deter churchgoing. Sundays helped keep families together, families helped keep communities together, and communities helped keep society together. I, a Jew growing up in a Christian nation, did not feel threatened by this. I felt supported by it – much more than I do now in an ostensibly more tolerant but actually far more abrasive, rude and aggressive society.

What is unique about covenant is its seemingly endless possibility of renewal. It happened in the Bible in the days of Joshua, Josiah and Ezra. It Read more

Noda on The Role of Economics in the Discourse on RLUIPA and Nondiscrimination in Religious Land Use

Tokufumi Joshua Noda  (Student at Boston College Law School) has posted The Role of Economics in the Discourse on RLUIPA and Nondiscrimination in Religious Land Use. The abstract follows. – ARH

Courts have been divided over the proper application of the substantial burden and equal terms provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) to religious land-use cases. In particular, courts and scholars have had trouble balancing the competing concerns between municipalities and religious institutions regarding control over land-use regulations. The basic question remains, how to provide religious institutions with protection against discrimination without conceding too much control over land-use regulations. This Note observes the use of economic principles in Judge Posner’s opinions, which can help guide a balanced, fact-sensitive application of RLUIPA’s provisions. Using this approach, courts can balance competing concerns by weighing them against relevant facts that are specific to each community. Nevertheless, although the economic approach sheds light on the application of RLUIPA, it also reveals new tensions both within RLUIPA’s application and the economic approach generally.

Fosi’s “Papal Justice: Subjects and Courts in the Papal State, 1500-1750”

Readers interested in the late history of ecclesiastical law may want to check out Papal Justice: Subjects and Courts in the Papal State, 1500-1750 (CUA Press 2011), by Irene Fosi (G. D’Annunzio, Chieti-Pescara) (translated by Thomas V. Cohen).  The publisher’s description follows.  — MOD

In early modern Europe, justice was always the key to public order and the state’s main pillar. The pope, though the head of the church, was also a prince like any other, but his justice, as machinery and moral model, displayed the double nature of his rule, targeting not only actions but also beliefs and consciences. Irene Fosi, the doyenne of scholars of papal justice, lays out the ambitious, complex, and sometimes baffled endeavors of the pope’s magistrates and through lively anecdotes gives the flavor of the encounter between the pope’s assorted magistrates, inquisitors, and others, and the men and women hauled before the law.

Originally published in Italian and widely acclaimed, Papal Justice has been translated into English by Thomas V. Cohen, professor of history at York University. With the English edition, this lively overview of the papal justice system reaches a transatlantic readership and makes available the fruit of Fosi’s decades-long research in unpublished archives in Rome and the Vatican.

The book examines the very motley shape of the pope’s territorial domain, the institutions found there, and the relationships between Rome and its outlying cities. Microhistories of how things worked form a clear picture of relations between the sovereign and his subjects.

Crockpot and Microwave Catholics

Here’s an interesting column by David Gibson from a couple of days ago about Catholics who have been raised as such from birth (often within a family structure), and those who convert to Catholicism later in life.  Gibson mentions it himself, but William James’s discussion of conversion in The Varieties of Religious Experience seems to reflect a preference for the latter.  Peter Berger is quoted at the end of the piece as saying that “religion today is a choice, and we are all converts to one degree or another[.]”  Maybe that’s right, though I wonder whether it might also be right to say that “choice” is a concept with many attendant and very different conceptions.  — MOD [x-posted MOJ]