Chanting the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary
A few days ago, I was in the old city center of Pamplona, in Spain, and in the early Sunday morning darkness just before dawn, I had been thinking about whether there is a natural desire for supernatural goods--such as eternal bliss in an afterlife--and I was surprised when I heard my question answered by chanting voices from Heaven.
I was staying in an apartment on the Recoletas Plaza within the walls of the old city. At one end of the plaza stands the Church of San Lorenzo.
The Church of San Lorenzo
I heard a singing or chanting crowd of people outside the apartment. When I walked out onto the balcony, I saw that congregants at the Church were walking through the streets while chanting the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. The five glorious mysteries are the Resurrection of Jesus, the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, and the Crowning of Mary as the Queen of Heaven.
Looking down on the street, I also saw two young men walking the Pilgrimage of Compostela (or Way of St. James). Pamplona is on one of the major routes of the pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain. This has been a major pilgrimage for Christians since the 9th century. For over a thousand years, pilgrims have walked the Way of St. James, often for months and sometimes for years, starting from locations in Spain, France, Germany, and Italy.
Since Spain has for many centuries been one of the most deeply Catholic countries in the world, perhaps it should not be surprising to see such an expression of Catholic piety in Spain today. But what is significant about this is that while Spain was for long an illiberal integralist state that coercively enforced Catholic orthodoxy and persecuted heretics, particularly through the Spanish Inquisition, Spain today is a largely liberal state that secures religious liberty. This challenges the claim of today's Catholic integralists that a liberal society cannot satisfy the natural human desire for the supernatural goods of true religion.
I should say, however, that while traveling around Spain, I have noticed that while almost every village has a Catholic church, most of them are empty on Sunday. Most of the Spanish people who identify themselves as Catholic rarely attend mass. Some recent surveys report that about 45% of the Spanish identify themselves as atheists, agnostics, or non-religious. So Spain has become a predominantly secular society. Surely, the integralists would point to this as evidence that not coercively enforcing Catholic orthodoxy promotes secularism.
My relatives who live in Pamplona are Catholics. When I talked about the current revival of Catholic integralist thought in the United States, they found it hard to believe that anyone would seriously propose returning to the theocratic Catholicism of the Middle Ages as the best regime for human beings.
In touring some of the churches in Pamplona, I also saw exhibits that explicitly rejected medieval Catholic Integralism and affirmed the modern liberal principle of religious liberty as the fulfillment of New Testament Christianity. The most eloquent statement of this argument was in the Pamplona Cathedral--the Cathedral of Santa Maria.
The Pamplona Cathedral
In the Cathedral, one of the exhibitions--"Occidens"--uses artwork to display the whole history of Western Civilization as represented in the history of the Cathedral. A guidebook for this exhibition written by historians of Pamplona and Navarre lays out this history as progress towards the Liberal Enlightenment.
The guidebook frames the history of the West as depicted in the "Occidens" exhibition as turning on three crucial events. First, in 313, the Roman Emperor Constantine I issued the Edict of Milan that granted religious freedom: Christianity and all other religions would be free from persecution. The guidebook identifies this religious freedom as endorsed by the New Testament Christians, because their churches were voluntary associations, so that those who denied the traditional doctrines of the church could be expelled, but they were not punished by coercive violence.
Later, in 380, the Emperor Theodosius I issued the Edict of Thessalonica that declared Christianity as defined by the Nicene Creed of 325 as the official religion of the Empire. This Edict indicated that those who disagreed with any part of the Nicene Creed--such as Arians who denied that Jesus was of "the same essence" as God--could be punished by the Church and the State. Constantine had convoked the Council of Nicaea--the first ecumenical council of the Church--to resolve the Christian theological debates over the doctrine of the Trinity. Arianism affirmed that while Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus is not fully divine and is subordinate to God. Against the Arians were those who affirmed the full divinity of Jesus as the "same in essence or being" with God. Constantine worried that this theological disagreement would create political instability in the Empire. The Nicene Creed condemned the Arians as heretics who denied Christian orthodoxy. But while the Church would condemn these heretics, the heretics would not be punished with coercive violence. By contrast, the Edict of Thessalonica authorized coercive punishment of heretics by the state. This set the model for the Christendom of the Middle Ages, in which the Church often appealed to the State to coercively enforce Christian orthodoxy and punish heretics, apostates, and schismatics. In late medieval and early modern Spain, the Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834) was the most disturbing manifestation of this cruel suppression of religious liberty.
Finally, in the Modern Age, the guidebook observes, the New Testament teaching of religious liberty and toleration was restored "thanks to the American Revolution and the Second Vatican Council." With the Dignitatis Humanae of 1965, the Catholic Church's declaration "meant the triumph of the freedom of conscience in the heart of the West, which, through this triumph, attained plenitude."
Thus does the guidebook clearly reject Thomas Pink's distorted reading of Dignitatis Humanae as supporting Catholic Integralism.
The success of Spain in moving from theocratic tyranny to religious liberty can be measured by its ranking on the Freedom Index. Out of 165 countries, Spain ranks at 31. By comparison, the United Kingdom ranks at 20, the United States at 23. The Freedom Index combines personal freedom and economic freedom, and an important part of personal freedom is freedom of religion. On a scale of 1 to 10, Spain's ranking for religious freedom is 8.8. By comparison, the religious freedom ranking for the United States is 9.5, for Russia 4.9, and for Saudi Arabia 1.7.
After the end of the Francoist dictatorship in Spain in 1975, the Catholic Church was no longer regarded as the established church. The Spanish Constitution of 1978 denied that there was a state religion.