JMC : The State and the Church / by Ryan and Millar

2. Comments on the "Christian Constitution of States"

by Rev. John A. Ryan, D.D.


The principle laid down in this paragraph is sometimes confused by ignorant persons with the theory of "the divine right of kings." The resemblance between the two doctrines is entirely superficial. In its logical and best known form, the latter doctrine comes down to us from King James I, of England. He maintained that his right to rule was conferred upon him by God directly and positively. That is to say, God did not bestow that power upon the king because the latter was designated by the people, nor because he was the constitutional heir to the throne, nor on account of any other fact, event, or situation. God selected and gave authority to the King (James I and every other king) by direct and positive action, independently of human wills or institutions, just as he chose and empowered Saul to rule over Israel. (See The Political Works of James I. Harvard University Press; 1918.) Hence the king rules by divine right in the complete sense of that phrase. The refutation of this theory, and the statement of the Catholic theory concerning the manner in which moral authority is conferred upon the ruler, are presented in subsequent pages of this volume. In the paragraph that we are discussing, Pope Leo declares that the authority to rule comes from God, indeed, but points out that it arrives by way of nature. It is not conferred by a divine act of supernatural intervention, as asserted by King James. Ruling authority, divinely sanctioned, comes into existence as a necessary consequence of the nature and end of human beings. They cannot live right and reasonable lives without civil society; civil society cannot function effectively without a governing authority; therefore, the latter, just like political society itself, is necessary for human welfare, and consequently sanctioned and ratified by the Creator and Governor the human race. Hence the political ruler has true moral authority to govern, and the citizens or subjects have a moral obligation to obey. The authority and ordinances of the rulers of a State are quite different from the authority and regulations of the president of a literary society or the leader of a whist club. Civil laws are, generally speaking, binding in conscience, for simple reason that they proceed from functionaries who hold power from God, "the Sovereign Ruler of all." Since only God has the authority to impose moral obligation upon human beings, political rulers can enact morally obligatory ordinances only because their authority is derived from Him. In this doctrine the authority of the government and the obligations of the governed are placed far above considerations of mere expediency, of arbitrary caprice, or of physical might.{1} Whether the authority of the political ruler, as thus expounded, may be called a "divine right," is objectively a question of language. In itself the phrase is not inappropriate. Owing, however, to its association with the false and decidedly unpopular theory of James I, it should be avoided and repudiated by all who reject that theory. Moreover, we must remember that the "divine right" to govern, in the explanation of Pope Leo, attaches quite as truly to the president of a republic as to the head of a monarchy.

The principal concern of Pope Leo in this paragraph is not to show precisely how moral authority is conferred upon a ruler or government, but rather to point out the fact and the nature of that authority. For the right ordering of human life it is necessary that civil society should exist, that government should function, and that governmental ordinances should impose moral obligations. That is all that Pope Leo says concerning the manner in which moral authority comes to the ruler. The conditions that are necessary to justify the possession and exercise of political power by any individual or group of individuals, -- whether there must be a popular election or some other manifestation of the will of the people, whether certain constitutional forms must be observed, whether the ruler derives his credentials from a happy concatenation of events, -- are questions that Pope Leo does not touch in this place. Nor does he assert or imply that every actual ruler is legitimate and therefore possessed of moral authority. He merely assumes the case of a government that is legitimately established, and points out the moral character of its authority. His statements are directed against those who would deny the ethical nature of political power, not against any particular theory of the way in which it legitimately reaches the ruler.


Two important principles are contained in the first two sentences of this paragraph. None of the three classical forms of government (monarchy, aristocracy, democracy) nor any of their modifications or combinations, is morally unlawful or unfavorably regarded by the Catholic Church. It is true that many Catholic writers have defended the monarchical as superior to the other forms, but the Church has never officially sanctioned such a view, nor formally expressed a preference for any of the other polities.

The second important principle in this statement of Pope Leo concerns the supreme test of a good form of government. That test is the general welfare. Since this is the end of all government, any form of polity that promotes it in any given circumstance is morally legitimate and reasonable. By implication, therefore, a form of government which is destructive of the general welfare is not legitimate and ought, through lawful means, to be supplanted by some other form which will attain the true end of a political society.


To the present generation this is undoubtedly "a hard saying." The separation of Church and State, which obtains substantially in the majority of countries, is generally understood as forbidding the State to make "a public profession of religion." Nevertheless, the logic of Pope Leo's argument is unassailable. are obliged to worship God, not only as individuals, but also as organized groups. Societies have existence and functions above the existence and functions of their individual members. Therefore, they are dependent upon God for their corporate existence and functions, and as moral persons owe corporate obedience to His laws, formal recognition of His authority, and appropriate acts of worship. To deny these propositions is to maintain the illogical position that man owes God religious worship under only one aspect of his life, in only one department of his life. Since the State is by far the most important of the secular societies to which man belongs, its obligation to recognize and profess religion is considerably greater and stricter than is the case with the lesser societies. And the failure of the State to discharge this obligation produces evil results of corresponding gravity. It exhibits in most extensive proportions the destructive power of bad example.{2}

The logic of Pope Leo's position receives strong confirmation from the attempts that have been made to enforce consistently the opposite theory. In governments which profess absolute neutrality toward religion, the actual policy is one of hostility. This is shown in a hundred ways (some of them open and some quite subtle) in the recent history of France, and of some of the countries south of the United States. Such a policy is logically defensible on no theory except Atheism. It is conceivable that a State might explicitly adopt the opinion that there is no God, and therefore prohibit divine worship as injurious to the public welfare. The practice of repression would follow logically from the theoretical position. But the persecuting governments to which reference has just been made, have not had the courage, or the hardihood, to support their practical policy by a frank avowal of the corresponding theory. As a consequence, they exhibit a contradiction between theory and practice, and demonstrate the impossibility and unveracity of the theory of neutrality.

The State cannot avoid taking an attitude toward religion. In practice that attitude will necessarily be positive, either for or against. There can be no such actual policy as impartial indifference.

This proposition receives further confirmation from the attitude of those States which refrain from any formal acceptance of religion in theory, and yet accord it some measure of recognition in practice. The policy of the United States is the most conspicuous and significant. Our Federal and State constitutions forbid the legal establishment of any form of religion, thereby ensuring the separation of Church and State, and apparently making inevitable a policy of neutrality or indifference. Nevertheless, our Federal and State governments have never adopted such a policy. Their attitude has been one of positive friendliness toward religion. Some of the manifestations and expressions of this policy are: The appointment of an annual day of public thanksgiving by the President of the United States and the Governors of the several States; the empoyment of chaplains to open with prayer the sessions of the National and State legislatures; the provision of chaplains for the Army and Navy; the exemption of church property from taxation; the general policy of promoting the interests of religion, and many other acts and practices, for example, the recent action of the school board of New York City in placing the school buildings at the disposal of the various denominations for the purpose of giving religious instruction.

These institutions and practices are in fact what Pope Leo "a public profession of religion." As compared with the degree of recognition accorded in a formal union of Church and State, they are, indeed, feeble and inconspicuous. Nevertheless they do exemplify the principle. "The public profession of religion," is susceptible of very many forms and degrees, from the adoption, support, and toleration of only one creed, to the slight manifestations of recognition shown by countries which do not go even as far as the United States.

It is not here contended that the latter kind of attitude is normal or desirable in the abstract. The point to be kept in mind is that the principle laid down by Pope Leo is not to be contrasted with the policy of separation of Church and State. His principle is directly and universally opposed only to a policy of specious neutrality, which in practice is always a policy of hostility. To assume that "the public profession of religion" always calls for something radically different from the arrangement obtaining in the United States is to be guilty of confused thinking and to ignore important facts of experience.


But Pope Leo goes further. He declares that the State must not only "have care for religion," but recognize the true religion. This means the form of religion professed by the Catholic Church. It is a thoroughly logical position. If the State is under moral compulsion to profess and promote religion, it is obviously obliged to profess and promote only the religion that is true; for no individual, no group of individuals, no society, no State is justified in supporting error or in according to error the same recognition as to truth.{3}

Those who deny this principle may practically all be included within three classes: First, those who hold that truth will by its own power speedily overcome error, and that the State should consequently assume an attitude of impartiality toward both; second, those who assume that all forms of religion are equally good and true; third, those who hold that it is impossible to know which is the true one. The first theory is contradicted and refuted by the persistence of a hundred errors side by side with truth for centuries. In the long run and with sufficient enlightenment, truth will be sufficiently mighty to prevail by its own force and momentum, but its victory can be greatly hastened by judicious assistance from the State and, indeed, from every other kind of organized social power. The successful opposition of the Church to the Protestant Reformation in those countries where the Church had the sympathy and assistance of the State, is but one of a vast number of historical illustrations. Against the theory that all forms of religion are equally sound, it is sufficient to cite the principle of contradiction; two contradictory propositions cannot be true, any more than yes can be identified with no. Finally, it is not impossible to know which religion is the right one, inasmuch as the Church of Christ comes before men with credentials sufficient to convince all those who will deliberately examine the evidence with a will to believe. The argument and the proofs are summarized by Pope Leo in the paragraphs immediately following the one now under consideration. Such is the objective logic of the situation. In a particular case the public authorities can reject and frequently have rejected the evidence for the divinity of the Catholic Church.

It is not of such rulers or such States that Pope Leo is speaking in this part of the encyclical. The principle that he is here defending has complete and unconditional application only to Catholic States. Between these and the Catholic Church the normal relation is that of formal agreement and mutual support; in other words what is generally known as the union of the Church and State. In his encyclical on "Catholicity in the United States," the same Pope gave generous praise to the attitude of our government and laws toward religion, but immediately added: "Yet, though all this is true, it would be very erroneous to draw the conclusion that in America is to be sought the type of the most desirable status of the Church, or that it would be universally lawful or expedient for State and Church, to be, as in America, dissevered and divorced. The fact that Catholicity with you is in good condition, nay, is even enjoying a prosperous growth, is by all means to be attributed to the fecundity with which God has endowed His Church, in virtue of which unless men or circumstances interfere, she spontaneously expands and propagates herself; but she would bring forth more abundant fruits if, in addition to liberty, she enjoyed the favor of the laws and the patronage of public authority." Occasionally some Catholics are found who reject this doctrine on the ground that alliances between Church and State have done more harm than good. Space is wanting here for an adequate discussion and refutation of this contention. Nor is a formal criticism necessary. Men who take this position are engaging in what the logicians call "the fallacy of the particular instance." Because they find some forms of union between Church and State working badly in some countries for certain periods of time, they rush to the conclusion that all are bad, at all times, in all countries. An adequate evaluation of the arrangement, a judicious weighing of the good effects against the bad effects, supposes a knowledge of history far more comprehensive than is possessed by any of these critics. Men who lack this knowledge ought to show a becoming modesty and hesitancy in making any general pronouncement on the complex effects of this policy.

One observation may be made which is calculated to prevent much misconception and false reasoning on this subject. It is that the principle of union between Church and State is not necessarily dependent upon any particular form of union that has actually been in operation. When men condemn the principle because they see that State support of the clergy, or State nomination of bishops, has in certain cases been harmful to the Church, they are laboring under a false assumption. Neither of these particular arrangements is required by the principle. Other critics identify the principle with the particular application of it that obtained in the Middle Ages. This assumption is likewise illogical and incorrect. The distinguished German theologian, Father Pohle, writes thus: "The intimate connection of both powers during the Middle Ages was only a passing and temporary phenomenon, arising neither from the essential nature of the State nor from that of the Church."{4} In the same article, he points out three grave evil results of this intimate connection; namely, excessive meddling by ecclesiastical authorities in political affairs, conflicts between the two powers which produced diminished popular respect for both, and "the danger that the clergy, trusting blindly to the interference of the secular arm in their behalf, may easily sink into dull resignation and spiritual torpor, while the laity, owing to the religious surveillance of the State, may develop rather into a race of religious hypocrites and pietists than into inwardly convinced Christians." All that is essentially comprised in the union of Church and State can be thus formulated: The State should officially recognize the Catholic religion as the religion of the commonwealth; accordingly it should invite the blessing and the ceremonial participation of the Church for certain important public functions, as the opening of legislative sessions, the erection of public buildings, etc., and delegate its officials to attend certain of the more important festival celebrations of the Church; it should recognize and sanction the laws of the Church; and it should protect the rights of the Church, and the religious as well as the other rights of the Church's members.

Does State recognition of the Catholic religion necessarily imply that no other religion should be tolerated? Much depends upon circumstances and much depends upon what is meant by toleration. Neither unbaptized persons nor those born into a non-Catholic sect, should ever he coerced into the Catholic Church. This would be fundamentally irrational, for belief depends upon the will and the will is not subject to physical compulsion. Should such persons be permitted to practice their own form of worship? If these are carried on within the family, or in such an inconspicuous manner as to be an occasion neither of scandal nor of perversion to the faithful, they may properly be tolerated by the State. At least, this is the approved Catholic doctrine concerning the religious rites of the non-baptized. Only those religious practices of unbelievers which are contrary to the natural law, such as idolatry, human sacrifice and debauchery should be repressed.{5} The best indication of the Church's attitude on this question is the toleration and protection accorded all through the Middle Ages to Judaism and Jewish worship by the Popes in their capacity of civil rulers of the Papal States. The same principle regarding freedom of worship seems fairly applicable to baptized persons who were born into a non-Catholic sect. For their participation in false worship does not necessarily imply a wilful affront to the true Church nor a menace to public order or social welfare. In a Catholic State which protects and favors the Catholic religion and whose citizens are in great majority adherents of the true faith, the religious performances of an insignificant and ostracized sect will constitute neither a scandal nor an occasion of perversion to Catholics. Hence there exists no sufficient reason to justify the State in restricting the liberty of individuals.

Quite distinct from the performance of false religious worship and preaching to the members of the erring sect, is the propagation of the false doctrine among Catholics. This could become a source of injury, a positive menace, to the religious welfare of true believers. Against such an evil they have a right of protection by the Catholic State. On the one hand, this propaganda is harmful to the citizens and contrary to public welfare. On the other hand, it is not among the natural rights of the propagandists. Rights are merely means to rational ends. Since no rational end is promoted by the dissemination of false doctrine, there exists no right to indulge in this practice. The fact that the individual may in good faith think that his false religion is true gives no more right to propagate it than the sincerity of the alien anarchist entitles him to advocate his abominable political theories in the United States, or than the perverted ethical notions of the dealer in obscene literature confer upon him a right to corrupt the morals of the community. No State could endure on the basis of the theory that the citizen must always be accorded the prerogative of doing whatever he thinks right. Now the actions of preaching and writing are at once capable of becoming quite as injurious to the community as any other actions and quite as subject to rational restraint.{6} Superficial champions of religious liberty will promptly and indignantly denounce the foregoing propositions as the essence of intolerance. They are intolerant, but not therefore unreasonable. Error has not the same rights as truth. Since the profession and practice of error are contrary to human welfare, how can error have rights? How can the voluntary toleration of error be justified? As we have already pointed out, the men who defend the principle of toleration for all varieties of religious opinion, assume either that all religions are equally true or that the true cannot be distinguished from the false. On no other ground is it logically possible to accept the theory of indiscriminate and universal toleration.

To the objection that the foregoing argument can be turned against Catholics by a non-Catholic State, there are two replies. First, if such a State should prohibit Catholic worship or preaching on the plea that it was wrong and injurious to the community, the assumption would be false; therefore, the two cases are not parallel. Second, a Protestant State could not logically take such an attitude (although many of them did so in former centuries) because no Protestant sect claims to be infallible. Besides, the Protestant principle of private judgment logically implies that Catholics may be right in their religious convictions, and that they have a right to hold and preach them without molestation.

Such in its ultimate rigor and complete implications is the Catholic position concerning the alliance that should exist between the Church and a Catholic State. While its doctrinal premises will be rejected by convinced non-Catholics, its logic cannot be denied by anyone who accepts the unity of religious truth. If there is only one true religion, and if its possession is the most important good in life for States as well as individuals, then the public profession, protection, and promotion of this religion and the legal prohibition of all direct assaults upon it, becomes one of the most obvious and fundamental duties of the State. For it is the business of the State to safeguard and promote human welfare in all departments of life. In the words of Pope Leo, "civil society, established for the common welfare, should not only safeguard the well-being of the community, but have also at heart the interests of its individual members in such mode as not in any way to hinder, but in every manner to render as easy as may be, the possession of that highest and unchangeable good for which all should seek."{7}

In practice, however, the foregoing propositions have full application only to the completely Catholic State. This means a political community that is either exclusively, or almost exclusively made up of Catholics, In the opinion of Father Pohle, "there is good reason to doubt if there still exists a purely Catholic State in the world." The propositions of Pope Pius IX condemning the toleration of non-Catholic sects do not now, says Father Pohle, "apply even to Spain or the South American republics, to say nothing of countries possessing a greatly mixed population." He lays down the following general rule: "When several religions have firmly established themselves and taken root in the same territory, nothing else remains for the State than either to exercise tolerance towards them all, or, as conditions exist today, to make complete religious liberty for individuals and religious bodies a principle of government."{8} Father Moulart makes substantially the same statement: "In a word, it is necessary to extend political toleration to dissenting sects which exist in virtue of a fact historically accomplished."{9} The reasons which justify this complete religious liberty fall under two heads: First, rational expediency, inasmuch as the attempt to proscribe or hamper the peaceful activities of established religious groups would be productive of more harm than good; second, the positive provisions of religious liberty found in the constitutions of most modern States. To quote Father Pohle once more: "If religious freedom has been accepted and sworn to as a fundamental law in a constitution, the obligation to show this tolerance is binding in conscience." The principle of tolerance, he continues, cannot be disregarded even by Catholic States "without violation of oaths and loyalty, and without violent internal convulsions."{10} But constitutions can be changed, and non-Catholic sects may decline to such a point that the political proscription of them may become feasible and expedient. What protection would they then have against a Catholic State? The latter could logically tolerate only such religious activities as were confined to the members of the dissenting group. It could not permit them to carry on general propaganda nor accord their organization certain privileges that had formerly been extended to all religious corporations, for example, exemption from taxation. While all this is very true in logic and in theory, the event of its practical realization in any State or country is so remote in time and in probability that no practical man will let it disturb his equanimity or affect his attitude toward those who differ from him in religious faith. It is true, indeed, that some zealots and bigots will continue to attack the Church because they fear that some five thousand years hence the United States may become overwhelmingly Catholic and may then restrict the freedom of non-Catholic denominations. Nevertheless, we cannot yield up the principles of eternal and unchangeable truth in order to avoid the enmity of such unreasonable persons. Moreover, it would be a futile policy; for they would not think us sincere.

Therefore, we shall continue to profess the true principles of the relations between Church and State, confident that the great majority of our fellow citizens will be sufficiently honorable to respect our devotion to truth, and sufficiently realistic to see that the danger of religious intolerance toward non-Catholics in the United States is so improbable and so far in the future that it should not occupy their time or attention.


No one who accepts the proposition that the Son of God founded a church to teach religion and bring souls to Heaven, can logically reject the principle laid down by Pope Leo in this paragraph. The spiritual and eternal interests of men are surely more important than their material and temporal interests; therefore, the society which deals with and promotes the former is more exalted than the society which cares for the latter. Emphatically, then, the Church is "not inferior to the civil power."

For upwards of a century, however, the theory has been upheld by numerous writers on political science, and put in practice by many civil governments, that the State, not the Church is the supreme social organization in the world. This theory assumes its most extreme and consistent forms in the Hegelian conception of the omnipotent State and in the Austinian theory of sovereignty. According to Hegel, the State is the highest manifestation and development of the universal reason; to it all individuals and all social institutions are subordinate, and from it they all derive their importance and the justification of their existence. Hence the State is the highest institution on earth. According to the English political theorist, John Austin, the sovereignty of the State is unlimited. Every independent State is legally sovereign within its own territory, since it is not subject to other States, nor subordinate to any part of itself or any society within itself. While sovereignty thus defined is a purely legal concept, inasmuch as it merely describes the legal supremacy of each State over its own territory and the mutual independence of all States, it has been expanded so as to include moral implications. Is a sovereign State independent, not merely of other States, but of the moral law and the ordinances of religion? May a State reasonably do anything that it has the constitutional authority to do, regardless of the claims of individuals or societies? The answer given to these questions by most political theorists and by many political rulers has been in the affirmative. It has been in effect that the sovereignty of the State is not only legally but morally unlimited. The State is supreme and may do what it pleases. Among the English speaking peoples, as well as in Germany, the theory of State absolutism has made considerable progress both in theory and in practice.

From this point of view, the Church appears as not simply the less important of the two great societies, but merely one of several private associations existing within and subordinate to the State. On the other hand, the State is regarded as the highest expression of social life, co-extensive and all but identical with human society itself. To it is attributed the moral authority and supremacy that men once acknowledged as the prerogative of the Church. It usurps the place in society formerly held by the Church. It makes itself the spiritual and moral, as well as the temporal and civil head of society, the final determinant of social right and social wrong, social justice and social injustice. This is far more than a reversal of the doctrine set down by Pope Leo. As we shall see presently, the Catholic doctrine concedes, nay, maintains, that the State is co-ordinate with the Church and equally independent and supreme in its own distinct sphere. According to the Catholic position, the Church is superior to the State only in the dignity of its nature and end, not in those matters that are the peculiar province of the State. According to the theory that we are now criticising, the State is supreme over the Church in all departments of life. The Church has no co-ordinate and independent authority, nor any province that is exclusively its own.

Happily there are many indications of a reaction against this theory of State omnipotence, this deification of the State. Says Prof. Harold J. Laski: "The two characteristic notes of change are present in the dissatisfaction with the working of law, on the one hand, and the reassertion of natural rights upon the other."{11} These are really two aspects of the same conception. Catholics welcome this reaction because they have always contended that the State, as well as the individual, is governed and limited by the natural law, that is, by the moral law which we know by the light of reason. They likewise insist that the actions of the State should be conformed to the law of Christian revelation, of which the guardian and interpreter is the Catholic Church. In our opposition to the theory of State omnipotence, we cannot indeed, go as far as Professor Laski, in his statement that, "sovereignty means no more than the ability to secure consent,"{12} for we recognize that the State has true moral authority, and that within certain limits, this authority is rationally and morally independent of the assent of the citizens. We do not accept that moral anarchism which would permit any social group at any time to withhold its allegiance and fix the limits of sovereignty. Our contention is simply that the sovereignty and authority of the State are not absolute, but are limited and defined by the proper end of the State and its methods of operation and we insist that the sphere of the Church is not only distinct from that of the State, but higher in dignity and in importance.


The Supreme and independent authority in the spiritual realm cannot be exercised adequately unless it is recognized by the rulers of States. Pope Leo calls attention to such recognition in the official relations between civil governments and the Church for many centuries. Then he points out that "it was not without a singular disposition of God's providence," that this independence and freedom of action were, for a long time, safeguarded through the Church's possession and exercise of civil sovereignty. The reference is, of course, to the Papal States, the Temporal Power, which the government of Italy took by force from the Church in 1870. Pope Leo does not say that the Church must have civil power over the Papal States, or over any other territory, at all times and in all circumstances as "the surest safeguard of her independence." He is speaking historically. The end that he desires to see attained is freedom for the Church to exercise her spiritual and moral mission. Conceivably that end might be reached by other means than that of temporal sovereignty. It might be realized by adequate international recognition and guarantees.


In the clearest and briefest terms, Pope Leo here asserts that Church and State are mutually independent, and that each is supreme in its own province. This is the most authoritative and convincing answer to the charge that the Catholic doctrine makes the State subject to the Church. In the field of temporal affairs, in all that pertains to civic welfare, the State is supreme, and the Church has neither the desire nor the authority to interfere. It is true that the actions of the State, whether in the field of legislation or administration, have moral aspects, inasmuch as they are human actions; therefore, they are in some manner subject to the Church as the interpreter of the moral law. On this point we must make two important observations.

First, the proportion of State enactments and performances which raise a distinct and important moral question is exceedingly small. The great majority of the acts of government do not compel or permit the citizen to ask himself whether he is obliged in conscience to refuse his adherence. Therefore, they are none of the Church's business, In the second place, when the Catholic citizen is constrained to regard a civil law or administrative action as unjust or immoral, he acts upon the same principle and adopts essentially the same course of action as the conscientious citizens who is not a Catholic. Even though he takes his moral guidance from the Church, his refusal of civil obedience does not put the Church in the position of interfering in the affairs of the State, or of denying the proper supremacy of the State. In deciding whether the obnoxious law ought to be obeyed, the non-Catholic citizen may consult his Bible or his minister, or his church, or merely his own conscience. In a similar situation the Catholic citizen may consult his priest or his bishop, or the Pope. In neither situation is there a denial of the authority and supremacy of the State.

The case stands thus: While the authority of the State is supreme in civil affairs, it is not in every respect unlimited. It must be exercised in conformity with the moral law. Whether a particular act of the State is contrary to the moral law, is a question which obviously must be decided by some other authority or tribunal than the State itself, since the State has no competence in the field of morals. The solution will be sought by one man from his conscience alone, by another from the Church. In neither case is it proper to say that the supremacy of the State is denied.{13}

In times past the authorities of the Church occasionally seemed to exceed this function of moral interpretation of governmental acts. Apparently they sometimes claimed direct and immediate jurisdiction over the State; for example, when the Popes deposed temporal rulers. A brief review of the theological opinion on this subject, a brief notice of one famous historical instance, will suffice to meet this particular issue, and will at the same time make more clear the general doctrine concerning the limits of the State's independence.

No formal, dogmatic pronouncement has ever been made by the Church regarding her precise authority in civil affairs. Theologians have discussed the question at great length, but their opinions have not been unanimous. Three theories have found favor among them: The Church has direct power over States; her power in this field is only indirect; her power is merely directive and of counsel.

According to the first theory, both spiritual and temporal power have been committed by God to the Church; consequently civil rulers derive their authority from, are responsible to, and may be deposed by the Church. This opinion was never held by more than a few writers, chiefly Henry of Segusia (13th century) and Augustus Triumphus (14th century). The great majority of theologians in all ages have maintained that the power of the Church over the State is merely indirect. That is to say, the Church has authority to affect civil rulers or their ordinances only when and insofar as these have a distinct bearing upon religion or morals. This power is called indirect because it is not formally civil or political, but only spiritual with indirect civil effects and implications. According to this theory, neither a Pope nor a General Council, nor any other organ of the Church has the authority directly to depose a civil ruler.

When a Pope excommunicated a prince or king, the act was clearly one of spiritual jurisdiction. When, as sometimes happened, it was followed by a Papal declaration releasing the subjects of the excommunicated person from their oaths of allegiance, the latter pronouncement was likewise of a spiritual nature; for it directly concerned the binding obligation of an oath, which is primarily a religious engagement. The question whether the subjects of a Christian prince who had apostatized from the true faith were still obliged to give him obedience, was obviously a question of religion and morals. Unless we maintain that the State is the supreme authority in matters of morality and religion, we cannot concede it the right to decide such a question. Therefore, an authoritative decision could come only from the Church. The effect of a decision unfavorable to the ruler was, indeed, quite the same as though the Pope had claimed the right to depose him directly. The king lost his kingdom. Nevertheless the course of action followed by the Pope was spiritual and moral throughout. At no point did it involve any claim of direct civil power.

With regard to the deposing power in the Middle Ages, we must remember that it was in many countries specifically recognized and accepted by the public law. To that extent the Pope did, indeed, exercise a direct power over the civil ruler, but it was a power that came from the concurrence of the State, not merely from his position as head of the Church. In all cases where such concurrence was not given, the deposing power of the Pope was only indirect, in virtue of his spiritual and moral jurisdiction.

Perhaps the logic and the precise nature of this indirect civil authority of the Church can be more clearly described if we abstract from the question of excommunication, oaths of allegiance and every other circumstance that was peculiar to the Middle Ages. Let us consider one or two modern instances. Suppose that the people of Russia were suddenly converted to the faith of the Roman Catholic Church, and that they appealed to the Pope for an authoritative judgment as to whether they were obliged to support the government of Lenine and Trotzky. Obviously this is a moral, not a legal question. A great number of the world's newspapers, publicists and politicians, would give a negative answer, and their reasons would necessarily be stated in terms of ethics. Their moral standards would be in most cases provided by their private judgment, by the dictates, let us say, of their own consciences. We will suppose that the Russians place more confidence in the authoritative moral judgment of the Catholic Church than in that of journalists or politicians. After due consideration of all the facts (a process frequently disregarded by journalists and politicians) the Pope decides that the people of Russia are under no moral obligation to continue their support of the Communist regime. In consequence of the acceptance of this decision by the Russian people, the government is unable to continue. In effect the Pope has deposed Lenine and Trotsky.

Many contemporary persons who would loudly applaud this action of the Pope because they like the result to which it leads, are prone to denounce the deposing power of the Popes, as exercised in past ages, and to resent any similar exercise of the indirect power of the Church in any other department of civil affairs. Yet all such actions exemplify the same principle; namely, that the Church, as the guardian and authoritative interpreter of the moral law, has as much right to pronounce upon the morality of political actions and relations as upon the morality of the actions and relations of private societies and individuals.

For those who deny this indirect power of the Church over the State, this right to affect political affairs having a religious or moral aspect, -- the only practical alternative is to accept the theory that the power of the State is unlimited morally as well as legally. This means that whatever is done by the State, any State, even the State of Lenine and Trotzky, is morally right, and all actions in opposition thereto are morally wrong. Nor is there any escape from this dilemma by assuming that the subjects or citizens of a conceivably immoral regime may properly refuse obedience under the sanction of their own consciences. In this case they are setting their consciences above the State. They are giving allegiance to another authority in preference to the State. Therefore, they are quite as disloyal to the State as are our imaginary Russians whose consciences bid them to seek and accept the moral judgment of the Catholic Church. In both cases the fundamental appeal is to the consciences of the citizens. In both cases conscience denies that the State is morally omnipotent and infallible. The difference between the operations of conscience in the two cases is a difference of method, not of principle.

Let us consider a milder instance of the indirect power, one that involves not the rejection of a government, but the refusal to obey a particular law. For several years a numerous and well organized band of bigots have been striving for an amendment the Constitution of Michigan which would prohibit the operation of parochial schools. Suppose this aim were accomplished, and the authorities of the Church formally declared the amendment to be unjust and not binding upon Catholics. This would be an exercise of the indirect power of the Church over the State. The Church would have interfered with, opposed, an ordinance of the State on the ground that the religious and moral rights of Catholic citizens were violated. But the Lutheran church in Michigan would probably take the same stand, and continue to maintain its parochial schools. While the authorities of this church would probably not defend their position by any formal claim to indirect power over the actions of the State, their course would have quite the same effect practically. It would imply the right to determine when a State ordinance is out of harmony with the ordinances of religion and morality, and the right to refuse obedience to civil regulations which were found to be of this character.

We recur to the statement of the issue by Professor Laski: "We deny the validity of any sovereign power save that of right." And "the discovery of right," which Professor Laski declares to be the duty of the individual members of the State, is for the Catholic citizen achieved in the authoritative decisions of the Church. That is the whole of the situation, considered practically. If a moral decision of the Church which is adverse to a government or a law, is accepted by a sufficiently large section of the citizens, the State will find itself in difficulty. But the same thing will happen if a sufficient number of citizens are moved by their individual consciences to repudiate the actions or laws of the government. In both cases the independence of the State is not questioned within its legitimate field; it is denied only when the State transgresses the moral law.

In the light of the foregoing discussion, the pretended menace to civil authority from the allegiance of Catholic citizens to the Church vanishes into thin air. The Church has no authority, direct, indirect, or of any other sort or description, over the acts of the State, so long as these are not in conflict with religion or morality. If any Church official, priest, bishop or Pope, were to command Catholics to vote a certain way on free trade, or an income tax, or a bonus for ex-soldiers, or any other political issue that involves no clear moral or religious question, the injunction would properly be disregarded by substantially all to whom it was addressed. Even in regard to political matters that have a distinct moral aspect, the authorities of the Church never issue instructions, or even advice, unless the question is one of very grave importance and its moral or religious implications are evident to all. Those who profess to believe that any modern State is threatened by the claim of the Church to pronounce judgment on the moral phases of civil affairs, are ignorant alike of the principle and the manner in which it is customarily applied.

The third theory of the theologians concerning the power of the Church over the State, describes that power as "directing or guiding." Inasmuch as it does not differ greatly from the theory of indirect power, and inasmuch as it was never held by any considerable number of writers (Gosselin and Fenelon are the principal names) it need not be further examined. The prevailing Catholic view is now, as it has been always, that which is known as the theory of indirect power.

Against this statement the objection may be made that the Bull, "Unam Sanctam," of Pope Boniface VIII formally defined the power of the Church over the State to be direct. This is the famous doctrine of the "two swords," the one spiritual and the other temporal, both "in the power of the Church." For our present purpose the following will be a sufficient reply to this objection. In the first place, even if Boniface had intended to assert that the Church has direct power over the State, this declaration would not be defined dogma, since the only dogmatic definition in the Bull is the statement, "that all must give due religious obedience to the Pope."{14} In the second place, all Catholic authorities from Pope Clement V (the second successor of Boniface) to the present, have interpreted the Bull as claiming only indirect power in civil matters.{15}

Our discussion of the authority of the Church over the State in matters having a moral or spiritual aspect, may be fittingly concluded by a quotation from Cardinal Hergenroether: "The indirect power of the Church in matters temporal in general, and in relation to the dethroning of princes in particular, is not a temporal but a spiritual power. It is exerted in matters temporal only in so far as they intrench upon religion, and in this way cease to be purely temporal."{16}


After declaring that each of the two great societies is supreme in its own sphere, Pope Leo points out that there is a common province or borderland over which both have jurisdiction "One and the same subject, related differently, . . . might belong to the jurisdiction and determination of both." Hence arises the problem of marking the limits of the two jurisdictions, of determining which parts, or aspects, or relations of a common field or subject belong to the Church, and which to the State. The principle of distinction is precisely the same as that which separates the provinces themselves. That principle is to be found in the respective natures and ends of the two societies. Jurisdiction and function are determined by nature and ends. Spiritual and moral matters constitute the province of the Church; civil and temporal matters that of the State. The latter has no authority over the administration of the sacraments; the former has nothing to do with the maintenance of the police force. In those borderland subjects which fall under the jurisdiction of both societies the distinguishing principle is the same. Those phases of a common subject which have a moral or religious character belong to the Church; those which are in their nature and objects temporal are under the authority of the State. Thus, education is a concern of the State in its civil and social aspects, and of the Church in its religious and moral aspects.

While this principle is sufficiently clear in its conception, in the abstract, it is not always easily applied in praetice. Hence we find frequent disagreements between Church and State concerning this borderland. Indeed, some States have gone so far as to claim the whole territory for their exclusive jurisdiction and to deny that any of these "mixed" or common matters belong to the Church in any degree or under any aspect. For example, more than one State has instituted a monopoly of education, and has taught its own doctrines of religion and morality.

The principal matters that provoke controversy concerning the mutual limits of jurisdiction of the two societies, are marriage and education. According to Catholic doctrine, marriage is not merely a civil contract; it is also a sacrament. Since its sacramental character, being a spiritual entity, is higher than its civil character, the matrimonial contract must be conceived and regulated in harmony with its spiritual nature and purposes. The Church cannot sanction or recognize a marriage which is contrary to either the revealed or the natural law, Therefore, she lays down conditions for the validity of the matrimonial contract, conditions which are necessary to safeguard its spiritual and sacramental character. A disagreement with the State arises whenever the latter independently attempts to regulate the validity of the contract.

According to the Catholic position, the State has no right to make laws affecting the validity of the marriages of baptized persons. The Church does not deny that the State has a civil and social interest in the marriage contract, but she maintains that her own standards of validity, her own regulations on this subject, being in accord with the moral laws of both nature and revelation, are wisely calculated to safeguard the civil and social as well as the spiritual welfare of the contracting parties and of mankind as a whole. She does not admit that human welfare, or social welfare, is promoted by State recognition of any marriage that she pronounces invalid, nor by State prohibition of any marriage that she declares to be valid. She recognizes, indeed, that the State may properly impose certain regulations which do not affect validity, but which are necessary for the common good, and therefore morally binding upon the persons concerned. Such are the requirements of residence, an official license to marry, the registration of the marriage by the officiating clergyman, and many others. But the Church maintains that none of these conditions is of sufficient importance to justify the State in declaring invalid a marriage in which they have been disregarded.

In Catholic countries maintaining a union between Church and State, the probem of the two jurisdictions in the matter of marriage has generally been adjusted in accordance with the foregoing statements. In non-Catholic and secular States, there has always been more or less disagreement, because the civil authority has insisted upon setting up its own standards for the validity of the matrimonial contract. The principal difference has been concerning divorce and civil marriage. In this situation the Church endeavors to minimize the friction. For example, while she does not regard as invalid some marriages which the civil power proclaims to be such, as those between blacks and whites in some of our Southern States, she uses all reasonable means to make her practice conform to the law.

Conflict between the two societies in the field of education should be easily preventable in Catholic countries. Inasmuch as the pupils are all Catholics, it is feasible to include formal religious and moral instruction in the curriculum of the State schools, and to give them the proper religious atmosphere. And this is the obvious duty of a Catholic State. It is possible and frequently desirable for a non-Catholic or a secular State to grant pecuniary aid to denominational schools, according to the amount and quality of general instruction imparted in them. This system obtains in England, in some of the provinces of Canada, and in some other countries. It is obviously impracticable for the State to provide religious training for the children of various denominations that attend the public schools; but the Church has a right to expect that the teachers will not directly or indirectly propagate doctrines that are contrary to the Catholic religion or to sound morality. Finally, neither the Catholic nor the non-Catholic State has a right to maintain a monopoly of education.

In the light of the foregoing discussion, it is evident that an amicable adjustment of the relations of Church and State in matters of common jurisdiction, ought to be comparatively easy in Catholic States. On Catholic principles the limitations of the two jurisdictions can be ascertained with the exercise of a reasonable amount of effort and good will. Even in non-Catholic and secular States, it is possible to arrive at an adjustment which, though not in full accord with Catholic claims, will forestall misunderstanding and actual friction. All that is necessary for this purpose is that the civil authorities should seek merely to promote the public welfare, and not to make difficulties for the Church.

9. (p. 9) CONCORDATS

As a matter of historical fact, however, disagreements have arisen between the Church and even Catholic States concerning the mutual limits of their respective jurisdictions. In such cases, says Pope Leo, "rulers of the State and the Roman Pontiff come to an understanding touching some special matter." In other words, the two powers draw up and give their solemn assent to a sort of treaty or compact. To such an instrument has been given the name of concordat. Its general purpose is "to terminate, or avert, dissension between the Church and the civil powers." The great majority of concordats have been made to put an end to disagreements already begun, and have included some concessions by the Pope. Hence the statement of Pope Leo: "At such times the Church gives signal proof of her motherly love by showing the greatest possible kindness and indulgence." More than fifty concordats have been established since the year 1107, the majority of them in the nineteenth century.{17}


In this paragraph Pope Leo summarizes the principal ways in which the secular theory of the State leads to the violation of the rights of the Church. Under the pretense of separating Church and State, governments have usurped control of marriage, confiscated Church property, disregarded those rights over education which are inherent in both the family and the Church, made their own determinations of the respective spheres of the two societies without consulting the Church, and in general treated the latter as merely one among several private societies, all of which are regarded as completely subordinate to the state. Our non-Catholic fellow citizens who are unable to understand why churchmen denounce the doctrine of separation of Church and State, would see the matter in a clearer light if they reflected that these denunciations are uttered against a conception and a form of separation which is entirely different from that which obtains in the United States.


Only the unthinking and the malicious will see in this paragraph a condemnation of democracy, or of the doctrine of "the consent of the governed." For the Pope specifically states that the theory which he denounces attributes political sovereignty to the people, "without any reference to God." As he had already pointed out in this encyclical, all authority, all sovereignty, all right to rule, whether in Church or State, comes ultimately from God. Therefore, even in democratic States, the people are merely the depositories, not the original source of political authority.{18}

Evidently a political community is bound to exercise its power in conformity with the reason and will of God. The people have not the moral right to do what they please with their governing authority. They have only the right to do that which is morally lawful. This is determined by the end of the state which is the protection and furtherance of the common welfare. Now the common welfare is not promoted by a political theory or a political constitution which teaches, "that seditions may rightfully be fostered." A government which attempted to function on the basis of this doctrine would be a constant menace to social well-being.

Pope Leo condemns the theory, "that princes are nothing more than delegates chosen to carry out the will of the people." This is obvious common sense. In a political constitution which includes hereditary kings or princes, it is specified and understood that the tenure and powers of these functionaries is not immediately and constantly dependent upon the approval of their subjects. Princes are, indeed, morally bound to exercise their authority in such a way as to promote the common good, but this object is not always quite the same as the aim of the popular will. When their rule has degenerated into tyranny, subversive of the social good, they may (as will be explained later in this volume) be deposed by the people; but this is an extreme situation. To accept this principle is very different from admitting that princes are at every moment subject to the will and disposition of the people.

Even republics do not admit that public officials must always carry out the wishes of the people, or that their administration may at any time be terminated by the people. Elected officials are, indeed, frequently expected, and properly so, to carry out a few large and important policies to which they have committed themselves during the election campaign; but there is always an immense number and variety of matters upon which the people have made no pronouncement, and concerning which officials may properly exercise their own best judgment. When officials, as sometimes happens, violate their explicit pledges to their constituents, they are still entitled to hold office to the end of the term for which they have been elected. There is, indeed, an exception to this rule in States which have adopted the political device known as the recall. Even in this situation the matter must be conducted according to certain forms prescribed by law. A special election must be held at which the voters decide whether the offending official will be permitted to serve out the term for which he was originally chosen. This procedure and the theory underlying it, are quite different from the method and theory which are condemned by Pope Leo. The former are in accord with reason and good order; the latter are the expression of popular whim. The former safeguard the common welfare; the latter place it in constant jeopardy.


In this paragraph Pope Leo explicitly rejects the doctrine of unlimited freedom of expression. The logic of his argument is unassailable. Speech and writing are not ends in themselves. They are only means to human welfare. The chief constituents of welfare are virtue and truth; the chief obstacles, vice and error. Any action or institution which exposes men to the latter is contrary to human welfare, to social welfare, and, so far as possible, should be prohibited by the State. As a matter of fact, this principle is to some extent recognized in the laws of every enlightened people. False statements injurious to the neighbor, teaching the young immoral practices, publishing and distributing indecent literature, -- are scarcely anywhere recognized as legitimate liberties. No peculiar sacredness inheres in the vocal organs or in the faculties which produce the written or printed page. There is no more reason for permitting a man to say or write what he pleases than for permitting him to exercized any other set of muscles according to his unregulated pleasure and regardless of social welfare.

All this is too evident to need formal statement. Why, then, are men, -- in modern times probably the great majority of men so thoroughly devoted to the policy of freedom of expression? There are four main reasons or arguments. The first is that such freedom is among the individual's natural rights. In reply let it suffice to point out that all natural rights are only means to some rational end, such as life, liberty, and the development of human faculties. Now freedom of expression carried so far as to include the utterance of doctrines which are false and injurious to human welfare is not a rational freedom, since the end which it promotes is irrational. Consequently, there exists no such natural right, any more than there exists a natural right of a manufacturer to adulterate food. Of the two forms of adulteration that which injures mind and character is frequently more deadly than that which harms only the body. Therefore the natural right of freedom of expression extends only to those opinions and doctrines which are true and righteous

The second argument for unrestricted freedom of speech and writing maintains that in certain departments of thought the difficulty of distinguishing between truth and error, or between a socially beneficial and a socially harmful doctrine, is so great as to render the attempt to repress wrong opinions and teachings productive of more harm than good. This assumption is applied especially to the fields of religion, politics, and industry. In a preceding note, we have dealt with the subject of religious freedom. Here we shall merely repeat that all men of good will can find and recognize the true religion, and that when it is recognized and adopted by the vast majority of the citizens, the State ought to protect them by all legitimate means against the advocacy of false religious notions. It is quite as much the duty of the State to safeguard the spiritual welfare of its members as their moral and physical welfare.

In politics and industry, however, the task of separating truth from error is much more difficult. There exists no infallible authority or institution to perform this service. Concerning the great majority of opinions in both politics and industry, no prudent man will stake his eternal salvation, or his reputation, on the proposition that his theories and policies are infallibly right and socially beneficial, and that all opposing doctrines are certainly wrong and subversive of the public welfare. Nevertheless, there are certain fundamental and primary political and economic principles which every democratic government assumes to be, if not certain, at least essential to good order and the welfare of the people. Among these are the proposition that changes in the form of government should not be effected by force, and that industrial betterment must not be pursued by means of the destruction of property. Since actions of this sort are inadmissable, the advocacy of them is likewise improper and unjustifiable. Hence the laws of the United States provide for the deportation of aliens who indulge in this particular sort of freedom of expression. During the great war, liberty of speech was very considerably restricted on the assumption that actions or omissions which tended to prevent successful prosecution of the war, could not reasonably be advocated in speech or in writing. The safety of the nation was postulated as something about which there could be no legitimate difference of opinion, and against which the doctrine of free speech could not properly be invoked. Apart from these fundamental assumptions which involve the security of the State and of such important social institutions as private property, our laws permit complete freedom of expression, so long as it conforms to the elementary canons of public decency.

The third reason adduced for unlimited freedom of speech and writing is in some measure a corollary of the second. Since truth cannot readily be distinguished from error beforehand, all opinions should be permitted to prove themselves by the method of competition. In this contest between what is true and what is false, the former will ultimately triumph. The insuperable objection to this method lies in the word "ultimately." The injury done to the bodies and souls of millions of men through the unrestricted propagation of false opinions during hundreds of years, is scarcely offset by the fact that in the long, long run, these doctrines will have become discredited in the contest with truth. History admonishes us that truth and error can exist side by side for centuries, the latter as well as the former continuously winning new adherents. When the State adopts a policy of permitting the advocacy of socially injurious error, it neglects its duty to the numerous generations that come and go in the long interval before error is "ultimately" vanquished.

In the fourth place, unrestrained freedom of expression is defended on the ground that it is the smaller of two evils. To expose the minds and souls of men to wrong doctrine is deplorable able, but to provoke continual strife in the commonwealth by attempting to repress it, is frequently a greater calamity. This is a sound practical rule. As we have seen in the discussion of religious freedom, the Church admits that such a policy may be preferable even when error appears in its worst form, namely, as a denial of the religion established by God. With much greater reason can the policy be applied to political and economic opinions, since the evil results of false doctrines in these fields are not nearly so great as those that ensue upon the propagation of errors in religion. Moreover, the public repression of any beyond the obviously harmful political and economic doctrines is frequently unjust and almost always of doubtful justice, since it is impossible to determine with certainty whether the proscribed views are really erroneous and socially injurious. Again, it is extremely difficult to frame legal prohibitions of expression which cannot by administrative abuse be carried much further than the intentions of the lawmakers. We had innumerable instances of this abuse in the administration of the espionage act during the Great War, and we have seen the intolerable degree of repression which would have been possible under some of the restrictive measures which were nearly enacted by Congress in the winter of 1920. In view of the foregoing and other practical considerations, it is clear that save in the case of a few fundamental principles which are essential to the existence of our political and economic institutions, complete liberty of speech and of writing, within the limits of public decency, should be permitted and protected in the domains of politics and economics. In this situation the theory of competition is correct. To permit truth and error to compete for supremacy in the market place of discussion, is the less of two evils.

The sum of the matter is that while many of the current arguments for unlimited freedom of expression are unsound, the practical policy that has been adopted by most modern States is in the main justifiable; but it is defensible only on grounds of practical expediency, not on the basis of natural rights or any other objective doctrine.{19}


The celebrated Syllabus of 79 propositions condemned by Pius IX, has received more adverse criticism than almost any other document issued by the Holy See in modern times. In view of the principles that we have reviewed in the foregoing pages, however, the proscriptions contained in this document are justifiable and reasonable. The four propositions quoted on page 18 are fair samples of the proscribed doctrines, In the first of the four we find a denial of any rights to the Church except those which the State is willing to concede. The principle expressed in this proposition is fatal to the rights and welfare, not only of the Church, but of every other organization to which the citizens may wish to belong. If the civil power may justly determine the rights and activities of the Church, it may with greater reason exercise the same control over all lesser societies. Men could not maintain a trade union, a fraternal association, or a debating society if the State decided to forbid them. This is tyranny and absolutism. Of course, the State has a right to regulate and limit the activities of private societies to the extent that is necessary for public welfare, but it has no right to restrict their freedom beyond this point, much less to forbid their existence entirely. The right to form associations for common advantage is among the rights which men derive from reason and nature. It is not a right which may properly be denied or arbitrarily restricted by the State.

The right of the Church to exist and perform all her necessary functions is not only natural, as in the case of private societies, but supernatural, inasmuch as the Church was directly established by Christ. Non-Catholics do not acknowledge this claim, but they need not do so in order to concede the reasonableness of immunity from arbitrary State interference. The rights and the freedom claimed by the Church in virtue of her divine foundation and mission do not injure any genuine public interest, nor limit any of the legitimate powers of the State. The best practical evidence of this statement is provided by the history of the Church in the United States of America.

Proposition XXXIX is a bold enunciation of the doctrine of State omnipotence. It asserts in effect that neither individuals nor associations have any rights which the State is bound to respect. The civil government may do what it pleases with the liberty, the property and the lives of the citizens. This monstrous doctrine was not the least of the forces which moved the people of the United States to enter the war against Germany. Prussian autocracy was discerned to be not merely a bad thing for the Germans, but a constant menace to democracy throughout the world.

The proposition which affirms that Church and State should be separated, was condemned because of its universal terms. Pope Pius IX did not intend to declare that separation is always unadvisable, for he had more than once expressed his satisfaction with the arrangement obtaining in the United States. What he condemned was the doctrine that in no country, in no circumstances, should Church and State be united. The untenableness of this doctrine has been sufficiently shown in preceding pages.

In the last of the four propositions quoted, it is asserted that unlimited liberty of religious and other opinions does not lead to the corruption of morals or the spread of religious indifference. This is a question of fact, and experience as well as common sense assures us that the license to preach immoral doctrines increases immorality, while indifference toward religion on the part of the State tends to produce a similar attitude among many of the citizens.


This sentence expresses briefly the true principle of religious toleration and its sole justification. In a genuinely Catholic State, public authority should not permit the introduction of new forms of religion; but when several denominations have already been established, the State may, and generally should, permit them all to exist and to function. The reason is that the attempt to suppress them would on the whole be injurious to the commonwealth.


Pope Leo here states the ordinary Catholic doctrine concerning the duty of the citizens to take part in politics. Of course, he has in mind governments which exemplify the republican principle. The public welfare depends upon the conduct of government; the policies and activities of government are determined fundamentally by the citizens; therefore, the latter are morally bound to devote a reasonable amount of time and effort to the task of providing and promoting good government. For the individual citizen this is not merely a political right; it is a duty of legal justice, of that justice which obliges all members of the commonwealth to further the common good within the limits of their powers and opportunities.{20}

{1} "The true remedy for many of the disorders with which we are troubled, is to be found in a clearer understanding of civil authority. Rulers and people alike must be guided by the truth that the State is not merely an invention of human forethought, that its power is not created by human agreement or even by nature's device. Destined as we are by our Maker to live together in social intercourse and mutual co-operation for the fulfilment of our duties, the proper development of our faculties and the adequate satisfaction of our wants, our association can be orderly and prosperous only when the wills of the many are directed by that moral power which we call authority. This is the unifying and co-ordinating principle of the social structure. It has its origin in God alone. In whom it shall be vested and by whom exercised, is determined in various ways, sometimes by the outcome of circumstances and providential events, sometimes by the express will of the people. But the right which it possesses to legislate, to execute and administer, is derived from God himself." -- (From the Pastoral Letter of the American Hierarchy, 1920.)

{2} "The State itself should he the first to appreciate the importance of religion for the preservation of the common weal. It can ill afford at any time, and least of all in the present condition of the world, to reject the assistance which Christianity offers for the maintenance of peace and order. 'Let princes and rulers of the people,' says Pope Benedict XV, 'bear this in mind and bethink themselves whether it be wise and salutary, either for public authority or for the nations themselves, to set aside the holy religion of Jesus Christ, in which that very authority may find such powerful support and defense. Let them seriously consider whether it be the part of political wisdom to exclude from the ordinance of the State and from public instruction, the teaching of the Gospel and of the Church. Only too well does experience show that when religion is banished, human authority totters to its fall. That which happened to the first of our race when he failed in his duty to God, usually happens to nations as well. Scarcely had the will in him rebelled against God when the passions arose in rebellion against the will; and likewise, when the rulers of the people disdain the authority of God, the people in turn despise the authority of men. There remains, it is true, the usual expedient of suppressing rebellion by force; but to what effect? Force subdues the bodies of men, not their souls' " (Encyc., Ad beatissimi, November 1, 1914) . -- From the Pastoral Letter of the American Hierarchy, 1920.

{3} Cf. Cardinal Billot, De Ecclesia Christi, qu. xix, which is a recent and comprehensive presentation of the whole subject.

{4} Catholic Encyclopedia. Article, "Toleration."

{5} Cf. Suarez, De Fide, disp. xviii, sec. 4, No. 9, 10.

{6} In its decision sustaining the law for the suppression of polygamy is Utah, the United States Supreme Court thus characterized the propagation of the doctrine of polygamy: "The existence of such a propaganda is a blot on our civilization. The organization of a community for the spread and practice of polygamy is, in a measure, a return to barbarism. It is contrary to the spirit of Chrisitianity and of civilization which Christianity has produced in the Western world." Late Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ vs. United States, 136 U.S. 1.

{7} Supra, page 5.

{8} Catholic Eiwyclopedia, loc. cit.

{9} L'Eglise et l'Etat, p. 311 (Paris, 1887).

{10} Loc cit. COMMENTS ON "CHRISTIAN CONSTITUTION" 39 {11} Authority in the Modern State, p. 118.

{12} Studies in thc Problem of Sovereignty, p. 14.

{13} An extended discussion of some important controversies in which both Catholic and Protestant bodies refused to accept the unlimited authority of the State, will he found in Laski's Studies in the Problem of Sovereignty. Professor Laski declares that the true attitude is that which "denies the validity of any sovereign power save that of right, and which urges that the discovery of right is, on all fundamental questions, a search upon which the separate members of the State must individually engage" (Authority in the Modern State, p. 122). In this search, however, the individual who is a Catholic has a very great advantage over all others, since he can appeal to and apply the very definite, systematic, and authoritative moral teaching of the Church.

{14} Hergenroether, Catholic Church and Christian State, vol. 1, p. 31.

{15} Cf. Cardinal Manning, The Vatican Decrees and their Bearing on Civil Allegiance, pp. 57-71.

{16} Op. cit., vol. II, p. 209. Cf the whole discussion of the question by Cardinal Hergenroether.

{17} Ch. Catholic Encyclopedia: Art., "Concordats."

{18} A full discussion of the sense in which the people are sovereign will be found in chapter IV.

{19} For an authoritative discussion of this subject see the extracts from Pope Leo's encyclical on Human Liberty in chapter XI.

{20} For a full treatment of this subject see chapter XIII.

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