CASC Lumen Magazine_Winter 2021

CSMA Master’s Essay

have no obligation to obey divine law and that, therefore, any form of belief is pleasing to God. Fenton also argues that government has an obligation to recognize the Catholic Church as the one true Church of Jesus Christ. By not allowing for this recognition, the First Amendment prevents the Church and the state from existing in right relationship with one another. Through my research, I concluded that Murray’s arguments are ultimately more compelling because he applies Catholic thought to the principles of the First Amendment more accurately than Fenton does. Murray would hold fast to the idea that each person has an obligation to pursue the fullness of truth ultimately found in the Catholic Church. However, he also recognizes that the dignity of the human person prevents individuals from being coerced into religious practice. Murray holds that the First Amendment does not allow for unfettered freedom of religion or make a claim that any form of belief is pleasing to God. Rather, it simply does not allow the government to dictate how individuals practice their religion beyond what is necessary to keep public peace. Therefore, the First Amendment allows for the pursuit of truth without any coercion.

Additionally, Murray recognizes that simply acknowledging the Catholic Church as the one true Church of Jesus Christ does not create a proper relationship between the Church and the state. He notes that there are many societies throughout history in which Catholicism has been the official state religion and yet this has not always ensured that the Church’s rights were respected. Moreover, the privilege that comes with state establishment of religion can taint the place of the Church in society with earthly power, putting the Church’s divine mission at risk. The First Amendment gives the Catholic Church a great deal of freedom, while not providing undue benefits from the state. In this way the First Amendment is an outgrowth of the Catholic idea that while the jurisdictions of the Church and the state are ultimately intertwined, they are also fundamentally separate. I believe that, with Murray’s help, American Catholics can better recognize that the First Amendment was fundamentally inspired by Catholic thought. This doesn’t mean that American religious liberty is perfect, or that it is the best way to institute religious liberty in any particular society. It does mean that from the founding of our country, in our very essence, our imperfect

FIRST AMENDMENT OF THE U.S. CONSTITUTION Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

constitutional republic has been touched by the Incarnation. This should inspire American Catholics to strive to be faithful stewards of our religious liberty and our country.

St. Thomas Lumen Fall/Winter 2021 Page 25

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