If Islam is going to develop into a religion of peace and tolerance, it doesn’t need either a Reformation or an Enlightenment, according to Daniel Philpott. Instead it needs a Vatican Council — preferable Vatican Council 2.0 since the first council was a tad militant and intolerant.
Here are the limitations of Protestantism and philosophy:
Protestant reformers enforced their orthodoxy with every bit the deadliness that Catholics employed. While England’s Queen Mary acquired the sobriquet “bloody” for her brutal restoration of Catholicism, her little sister Elizabeth was equally violent in reestablishing the Anglican Church.
The 18th century Enlightenment advanced individual religious freedom but was skeptical towards religion. The French Revolution, the Enlightenment’s political enactment, asserted the rights of man but severed the heads of men and women of faith.
Yes, lots of blood before 1800. But where’s the American exceptionalism? Where’s John Courtney Murray arguing for the Enlightenment tradition of natural law that shaped the founding of the United States? Maybe Philpott’s editor didn’t give him enough words to embrace the religious freedom that his bishops celebrate every fortnight for freedom:
Catholics must fight against forces seeking to remove the influence of religion from American culture, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore told over 1,000 Catholics at a Mass beginning a 14-day campaign for religious freedom.
“In differing ways, both the Church’s teaching and our nation’s founding documents acknowledge that the Creator has endowed individuals with freedom of conscience,” said Archbishop Lori. “Such freedom goes to the heart of the dignity of the human person.”
The archbishop delivered the opening homily for the Fortnight for Freedom, the two-week period leading up to the Fourth of July that the bishops have dedicated as a time for prayer, education and advocacy for religious liberty.
That was 1776. But the real lesson of religious freedom, for Philpott, comes in 1965 (for the historically minded, notice the chronology and the Roman-centric
. . . western history contains a more promising pathway, ironically one found in the very religious body that the Reformation and the Enlightenment considered freedom’s greatest enemy: the Catholic Church.
It was in Second Vatican Council’s declaration, Dignitatis Humanae, on Dec. 7, 1965 — a date whose 50th anniversary is right around the corner — that the Church finally and authoritatively endorsed the human right to religious freedom.
While the Catholic Church’s road to religious freedom will not suit Islam in every respect, it shows how a religious community that for many centuries did not teach religious freedom could discover grounds for the principle that were rooted in its own teachings rather than in modern secularism.
Like Islam, Catholicism long predates the modern world. The period from which Dignitatis Humanae most dramatically departs is medieval Christendom, when the integrity of the Catholic faith was regarded as crucial for social order. Heresy was not merely a sin but an act of sedition.
Not the point of the post, but notice how this booster also notices what the rest of us without a dog in the fight of papal supremacy notice — namely, that Roman Catholicism changed from medieval to modern at the Second Vatican Council. Everyone sees this except for those who put their trust in ecclesiastical princes.
What is the point here, though, is how Rome is an example to Islam. Was it not the case that modern developments in Europe and North American finally forced bishops to open the church’s windows to modernity? In which case, it was not that the church embraced religious freedom on its own but “finally” — Philpott’s word — caught up to religious freedom in trails blazed by Americanists (and others). Of course, Protestantism did not usher in freedom of conscience. But Protestants did adjust much earlier than Rome. And Philpott gives Protestants no credit.
Instead, he thinks Muslims should look to Roman Catholics — who still celebrate the Battle of Lepanto.