Friday, January 18, 2008

ARTICLE VI Draws Diverse Viewers

ARTICLE VI, Ben, Sally, and the Papal Nuncio

Our online event today has been a very interesting one, and has drawn some delightfully diverse commentary.

Salley Morem offered the following comment:
I watched your trailer and it made a number of excellent points about the dangers of applying a religious test to candidates for high office in America.

I'll be even more impressed when avowed atheists and agnostics can run for high office without being attacked speciously for "having no morals."

Congratulations on your movie.
I decided to follow the link to Sally's site, to learn more about her. She's a secular humanist, with a variety of essays posted on her site. I checked out this one: The Curious Case of America, Benjamin Franklin, and the Papal Nuncio

(Sally, I'm going to pull a few choice sections from your essay, to illustrate a point. If you object, let me know.)

Her essay relates the story of how the papal nuncio (the Pope's diplomatic representative in France) was prepared for difficult and detailed negotiations with our government, as it had been compelled to do across Europe and across the centuries, regarding how the Catholic Church would be allowed to operate in the newly formed United States. According to Sally,
...the Nuncio asked Franklin, "What would be the best way to approach your Congress so that we may discuss the organization of the Catholic Church in America at this time of great change? I'm sure you agree this is a matter of some concern to the Church and to Americans." (I'm paraphrasing here.)

Franklin looked at him somewhat curiously and asked, "Why would Congress care about that? Do what you want." (I'm paraphrasing here again.)

The distance of time does not permit us to know exactly how the Nuncio reacted to such an astounding statement. But we may reasonably assume that his mouth dropped open in stunned shock.

...The nonchalant, almost unthinking way in which Franklin brushed off the Nuncio's concerns indicates that Franklin inherited a long-held American assumption that governments didn't meddle in church affairs and vice versa.
Sally goes on to point to the presence of Article VI of the Constitution as an indication of that assumption, and describes its roots in American self-reliance. She concludes that we've got a peculiarly secular national fabric in a country of deeply religious people.

Coincidence? I think not. In fact, we interviewed Randall Balmer, professor of religious studies at Columbia University, and he believes that
"Religious life has flourished in America as nowhere else, precisely because of Religious disestablishment."
We rarely think of irony as something beautiful, but in this instance, I think it really is. And it's a fundamental part of what has made our country beautiful.


Eric Davis said...

I really enjoyed it. I do have one question that I didn't get to ask that night though. Is there an e-mail address I can send that question to?

John Carosella said...

Hi Eric,
Sorry for my delayed response -- I missed your comment in all the hubbub.

You can send an email to