I've been reading a bit about some of the 19th-century Catholic figures who anticipate the kinds of thinking on Church-state relations here in America found in the likes of Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J., Jacques Maritain and contemporary post-Vatican II Catholics like Michael Novak, Kenneth Whitehead, George Weigel, Joseph Bottum and the late Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus on Church-state relations here in America.
This includes Irish champions of American assimilationism in the 19th-century like Archbishop Ireland of St. Paul, MN (pictured left), and the prophet of Americanism, Fr. Isaac Hecker (pictured below, right), a Catholic convert from Protestantism and one-time Transcendentalist and ex-Redemptorist who founded the Paulists, a congregation of priests without vows dedicated to working among Protestants. Henri Daniel-Rops (quoted by Geoffrey Hull in The Banished Heart) describes Hecker thus:
A strong personality, whom some regarded as a superman and a saint even during his lifetime, Father Hecker was hostile to book learning, almost impervious to logical argument, but of uncommon energy and generosity. He was, moreover, a mystic, believed himself to be guided directly by the Holy Ghost, and was therefore little inclined to attach much importance to tradition and hierarchical institutions.Hecker was an indefatigable promoter of Americanism and the reconciliation of Catholicism with American democracy and the separation of Church and state. The American Catholic hierarchy was suspected by Rome of harboring many bishops sympathetic to these ideas, which were termed "Americanism" and condemned by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Longinqua Oceani (1895). Leo's efforts, however, were undercut by the likes of Cardinal Gibbons, who simply denied that anyone in the American Church held the condemned views.
It's instructive to see how strategies were then employed by opponents of the Vatican , which we find in abundant use today; as well as to examine the sorts of things that were being asserted by Rome. Leo XIII described both the positive (seductive) aspects of the American experiment, as well as the negative, corrosive aspects. In Longinqua Oceani, he writes:
For the Church amongst you, unopposed by the Constitution and government of your nation, fettered by no hostile legislation, protected against violence by the common laws and the impartiality of the tribunals, is free to live and act without hindrance. Yet, though all this is true, it would be very erroneous to draw the conclusion that in America is to be sought the type of the most desirable status of the Church, or that it would be universally lawful or expedient for State and Church to be, as in America, dissevered and divorced.In an Apostolic Letter to Cardinal Gibbons (January 22, 1899), Leo XIII rejected the Americanist view that
[t]hat in order the more easily to bring over to Catholic doctrine those who dissent from it, the church ought to adapt herself somewhat to our advanced [American] civilization, and, relaxing her ancient rigour, show some indulgence to modern popular theories and methods.In the intervening years between the uncooperative clerical Irish Mafia and promoters of Americanism in the Vatican II era, however, there were decades dominated by staunchly orthodox prelates such as Archbishops Hayes and Spellman of New York, and McIntyre of Los Angeles. As Hull comments in the aforementioned work: "But like its more lethal contemporary, Modernism, Americanism hibernated for some sixty years until the American political and economic domination of Western Europe afforded it an opportunity to reassert itself with a vengeance during the Second Vatican Council."
- "Who's Betraying Tradition: The Grand Dispute" (Musings, June 2, 2011)
- "George Weigel vs. pre-V2 teaching on Social Kingship of Christ" (Musings, June 16, 2011)
- "Dr. Thomas Pink responds to Fr. Rhonheimer" (Musings, August 5, 2011).