Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Benedict XVI on Church and State

EWTN's news-feed reports that in an on-flight press conference en-route to the United States, Benedict XVI praised the U.S. model of Faith-Secular State relationship. He went on to say that the secular state's relationship with faith as it exists in the United States is a "fundamental model" that should be imitated in Europe.

I have often had this discussion, of whether or not the U.S. is "good" for faith communities. It would seem to me that the Pope is saying that it is.

I'm often looking for reasons to like the U.S. I think that, both wittingly and unwittingly, I have been a partaker in the general cynisism that is so common today. This cynisism seems to have particularly corrosive effects on patriotism. Should I be excited about being an American? Is there reason to die for this country?

It is oft overlooked, but the Church along with most classical ethical systems, see love for country as a virtue to be cultivated personally and communally. Patriotism, which has such a bad name in the U.S., is the moral glue of a commonwealth. Many sceptics would see propaganda and brainwashing in attempts to cultivate devotion to our native land, and perhaps with good reason. But, abuse does not negate right use. We have to see what is truly good in our land to raise the cultivation of patriotism above the level of propaganda.

If anyone could cultivate this virtue in me, I would be most grateful. Perhaps Pope Benedict can help me out.


Anonymous said...

I agree patriotism is a virtue, but Jesus taught our "native land" is really heaven. Being the Catholic (universal) Church, I should think love of country should gel with love of enemy, or else it should be called something else. Hmmm.....nationalism?

This Liberal said...

Well, Christine, as you point out, this is a complicated issue. I believe that there is a fine line of balance between nationalism on the one hand and cynicism on the other that the Church calls upon us to find.

Using the analogy of family, which the Church itself uses when teaching about the virtue of patriotism, I am called to love my own family in a particular way. As you point out, it's important not to let love of my family interfere with the practice of charity to my neighbor. But charity to my family has primacy, since God has given me my family to love in a particular way. So I cannot let charity to neighbor interfere with love of my family, otherwise I would be neglecting my duties.

The same would seem to be true of my country. But you are right, it is a complicated issue.