John Lilburne's journal about Daniel in the lion's den, State power, religious freedom and the interview with President Bush and his wife.



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0912 L Thu 29 Nov 2001

Today's first reading at Mass has Daniel survive the lion's den after the king enforces his law. It is from Daniel 6:12-28

This is the third king Daniel has influenced. In Monday's reading it was Nebuchadnezzar, then yesterday his son Belshazzar, and today it is Darius the Mede. The Jerusalem Bible footnote has "'Darius the Mede' is unknown to history ...".

The point being made in around 164 B.C. seems to be about the authority of the king. Daniel is one of the king's three top ministers, but he disobeys the king's order not to pray to anyone but the king.

It also highlights how the accusers are playing with fire in using the king against Daniel. Yes, he follows his law by putting Daniel in the lion's den. But when this backfires he has the power to throw Daniel's accusers, their wives and children to the lions.

So while the king's power is to be taken very seriously, it is God who is paramount. Some extracts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church discuss the need for authority and the limitations of it in religious matters:

1898. "Every human community needs an authority to govern it.[Cf. Leo XIII, Immortale Dei; Diuturnum illud.] The foundation of such authority lies in human nature. It is necessary for the unity of the state. Its role is to ensure as far as possible the common good of the society. "

2106. "'Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others, within due limits.'[DH 2 # 1.] This right is based on the very nature of the human person, whose dignity enables him freely to assent to the divine truth which transcends the temporal order. For this reason it 'continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it.'[DH 2 # 2.]"

2107. "'If because of the circumstances of a particular people special civil recognition is given to one religious community in the constitutional organization of a state, the right of all citizens and religious communities to religious freedom must be recognized and respected as well.'[DH 6 # 3.]"

This is reflected in an interview with President Bush and his wife which I read yesterday in Newsweek section of The Bulletin magazine. Here are two brief extracts of what he said:

Prayer has meant a lot to me. It meant a lot to me before, it means a heck of a lot now because there's a lot of people praying for me and I feel it. Truly.
        You know, it's something, I have never felt more confident about something in my life. And I believe a lot of it has to do with the prayers of the people.
        My attitude about threats, it is truly: if it's the Lord's will. That's what I believe. ...

I'm mindful of the Constitution. I'm also mindful of history. I think about how others have used force... I think the president needs to have the powers necessary to conduct a war. And it's up to me to make sure I provide the right balance.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 28 November 2001.


Links to other sites:

President Bush's interview on