Friday 20 February 2015

Record of the Week: "Church and State"

The relationship between Church and State has been in flux for centuries.

Canadian politicians and clergy did not shy away from the contentious issue, especially when this nation was still young. In 1876, Archbishop of Toronto John Lynch delivered a lecture, entitled "Church and State" to a packed audience in St. Michael's Cathedral. Text of the lecture was published in The Irish Canadian, June 28, 1876.

Archbishop Lynch fonds, LAA12.41

" is not the duty of the Government to decide which is the true religion; but must protect all subjects in their civil rights, and maintain peace and liberty of conscience in things which do not interfere  with public morality. Liberty of conscience does not mean licence to propagate erroneous, false and pernicious doctrine...Liberty of conscience means the liberty to follow a rightly-formed and prudent conscience, and not a conscience that dictates false principles."

In January of the same year, Archbishop Lynch had written to Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie to inform him that the Catholic clergy of his Archdiocese had been strictly forbidden from using the pulpit to express partisan views. The letter and Mackenzie's reply were published in The Sun:

Archbishop Lynch fonds, LAE12.53

Abp. Lynch to PM Mackenzie: "I might here remark that when in a free country, religious and sacred rights are brought into the arena of politics, then the Catholics have to follow them to the polls and contend there for their right as in the case of education."

PM Mackenzie to Abp. Lynch: "It is a fortunate circumstance that the form of the Canadian constitution  renders it difficult, if not impossible, to bring questions of religion into our political arena, where the subjects proper for debate are purely secular, and where, consequently, men of opposite religious views find no difficulty whatever in uniting in the conduct of public affairs."

Catholic Church teaching on religious freedom as it relates to separation of Church and State was defined in the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae (1965).

The question of religious freedom and its role in civic life has dominated media headlines lately, following the Supreme Court of Canada's decision on assisted suicide earlier this month. Read Cardinal Collin's public statement on the issue.

What's your opinion on the role of Church and State?  To hear two luminaries debate "Religion’s Role in Political Life," sign up to attend the next Chesterton Debate on February 27th.

Learn more about the Chesterton Debate Series and the guy it was named after.

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