Christianity from its inception has expressed a tension between imperium and sacerdotium; after the Reformation, this tension has only been aggravated. Avowals of religious freedom thereafter have often rightly insisted on the capacity of spiritual communities to invoke limits for the state. This is readily apparent in South Africa, past and present. However, scholarship has shown that “religious liberty” has an ambiguous function, such as its privatisation of belief, based on a liberalised notion of “negative” freedom that allows the state to grant the “right” to “belief,” while simultaneously rendering belief a purely private or “otherworldly” affair. This is traceable to overly-Protestant conceptions of “religion” and “freedom” that are pervasive – including South Africa. From a theological perspective, I argue that this conception of “religious freedom” might sit in tension with aspects of ecclesiology and that the discursive deployment of “religious freedom” should therefore be engaged critically.
From an anthropological and religious studies point of view, the Catholic liturgical reform in the wake of Vatican II is a highly intriguing event and/or process. The type of change to the ritual represented by this reform raises the question of its impact on Catholicism. This article proposes to look at this problem from the perspective of Roy A. Rappaport’s theory of ritual, primarily in terms of the ritual stabilisation of meaning. The breakdown in terms of the semiotics of immutability that resulted from the reform, and the far-reaching shift towards verbal communication that this brought about in the post-conciliar liturgy, seem to have been the main factors responsible for destabilizing the Catholic universe of meaning as regards its relationship to “truth.” As a result, instead of just one Catholicism, today we can speak of many “post-Catholicisms.”