This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Confession versus coercion

Now it seems wise to remind the reader of that document which we mentioned early on in our discussion, namely Dignitatis Humanae. There is a very distinct difference between confession of faith on the part of the State, and acts of coercion by it. The confession of faith by a public authority need not entail—and in fact must not entail—coercion of the citizen with respect to religion, for the conscience of the individual is a thing that cannot be coerced. Dignitatis Humanae therefore affirms the Church’s traditional condemnation of the latter, while at the same time it “leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.”[1]

As an example of this arrangement working in a healthy manner, which is also proof that Dignitatis Humanae was not revolutionary in its nature, we might remind the reader of the role of the Church in combating popular oppressions in the past, such as those against the Jews and against women accused of witchcraft. Churchmen of the Inquisition itself were some of the most determined voices in attempts to curb the persecution of “witches” and “sorcerers” in Europe. Pope Alexander IV even declared a canon prohibiting even the investigation of alleged witches.

As a counterexample to show what happens when popular movements are allowed to go unchecked by an active spiritual authority, the Salem witch trials in the United States can teach us a great deal.

Returning again to the issue of conscience, we must remember that Leo XIII, that towering warrior against the political errors of liberalism who is himself cited in Dignitatis Humanae, vigorously stated his agreement with Vatican II’s position, saying that “the Church is wont to take earnest heed that no one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, for, as St. Augustine wisely reminds us, ‘Man cannot believe otherwise than of his own will.’ ”[2]

[1] DH, 1.

[2] ID, 36.

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