Catholic Social Doctrine and Freedom for the Church
How does Jesus Christ affect religious freedom?
The State must in particular respect the religious freedom of the Church, as a perfect society, one whose existence, constitution, and mission is by divine warrant. With respect to the Church, "[t]he duty to respect religious freedom requires that the political community guarantee the Church the space needed to carry out her mission." (Compendium, No. 424)
How does Jesus Christ affect religious freedom?
The Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ, and so we have to focus on who this Jesus Christ was, and what authority in heaven and earth was given him in order to understand what authority was given to the Church by him. As the Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith puts it in Dominus Iesus, "The Lord Jesus, before ascending into heaven, commanded his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world and to baptize all nations . . . . The Church's universal mission is born from the command of Jesus Christ and is fulfilled in . . . the mystery of the incarnation of the Son, as saving event for all humanity."
We have here two realities: Jesus and the Church. We shall briefly treat of who Jesus is, and then what the Church Jesus established is.
In Jesus we confront what the Protestant theologian Gerhard Kittel called "das Ärgernis der Einmaligkeit," which been translated as "the scandal of particularity." The "scandal of particularity" in Jesus arises from the fact that he is God as well as man. Among all religious figures he is unique and universal. This "scandal of particularity" has a great effect upon the Church's understanding of her freedom vis-ā-vis the various States.
Relying on the teachings of Dominus Iesus, we see in Jesus Christ, "the full revelation of divine truth is given." The Church is convinced that in Jesus "the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines forth," as he is "at the same time the mediator and the fullness of all revelation." Jesus is "the new and definitive covenant," one which "will never pass away," and one which expects "no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ." God's revelation to man is fully completed in Christ. There is for man no other Savior. There is for man no other Way.
"There is only one salvific economy of the One and Triune God, realized in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, actualized with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, and extended in its salvific value to all humanity and to the entire universe: 'No one, therefore, can enter into communion with God except through Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit.'"
This is the "scandal of particularity" in Jesus.
"The Lord Jesus, the only Savior," continues Dominus Iesus, " constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him. Therefore, the fullness of Christ's salvific mystery belongs also to the Church, inseparably united to her Lord." In short, just as there is one mediator, there is one Church. "[T]herefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him."
This is the "scandal of particularity" as it pertains to Christ's body, the Church.
The Church was given a mission by the God who revealed himself in Christ. "With the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity." "The mission of the Church is 'to proclaim and establish among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth, the seed and the beginning of that kingdom."
Uniquely, the Church has been divinely appointed to proclaim and to establish, to say and to do. With this duty come rights.
What rights, then do Jesus and his Church have against civil society, in particular against the political community which orders civil society? The answer to that question is briefly treated in sections 424-27 of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
Like the State, the Church manifests itself in a "visible organizational structure." It is, along with the State, a "perfect society" with all the means at its disposal for its function. (Compendium, No. 445) To be sure, the "organizational structures" of the Church and of the State "are by nature different because of their configuration and because of the ends they pursue." (Compendium, No. 424). Their respective ends principally ...
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