Saturday, May 20, 2006

B-16 Extols Separation of Church and State

Last week Pope Benedict XVI described separation of Church and state as ┬╗great progress for humanity┬ź. In a news bulletin by zenit.org, B-16 is quoted saying there is a fundamental

"distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God, in other words, the distinction between Church and state, or the autonomy of the temporal sphere."

It may be added here, that one of the origins of a later notion of civil society and one of the roots of western liberalism is an idea, developed in the early Middle Ages, that society is not identical with its political organization. This notion that took place in Latin Christendom was followed by a crucial differentiation - political authority was now its own organ and Church was a societas which was independent from the authority. Pontiff is clearly appreciative of a conception in which Church is simply a part of civil society, participating in common discourse:

"[W]ithout doubt, a healthy laicism of the state ensures that temporal matters are dealt with according to their own norms; to this, however, are associated ethical concerns that have their foundations in the very essence of man and that therefore, in the final analysis, can be traced back to the Creator. [...] In current circumstances, by recalling the value for public and private life of certain ethical principles rooted in the great Christian heritage of Europe, and in particular of Italy, we commit no violation of the laicism of the state, Rather, we contribute to guaranteeing and promoting the dignity of the person and the common good of society."


Thorough acknowledgment of separation principle by Catholic Church can be found in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes and most recently in B-16's own Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est.

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