Church and State: Consistency of the Catholic Church's Social Teaching
Church and State: Consistency of the Catholic Church's Social Teaching
Christopher T. Carlson
Follow this and additional works at: http://scholarship.law.stjohns.edu/tcl Part of the Catholic Studies Commons Recommended Citation
CHURCH AND STATE:
CONSISTENCY OF THE
CHRISTOPHER T. CARLSON*
The Catholic Church has played a significant role in society by
exerting a Christian influence on the political and social order. Throughout
the centuries, the Church displayed this influence as an instructor and
guardian of morals and human rights, and as a motivator of the political
order. Though the response to this influence has varied between total
acceptance and total rejection, the Church's efforts have perservered. At
times, the Church's instruction was so accepted that the civil
government and the Church operated in close harmony. The Church has both
influenced the constitution of the social order and affected its
relationship with the Church-a constitution and relationship based on Christ's
statement to render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is
The Catholic Church began to expand its understanding of Christ's
statement and formed a body of teaching called "social teaching." The
Church has infused its social teaching in numerous political settings by
corresponding directly with rulers, by publicly condemning particular
activities, and by issuing documents with deliberate formality to ensure
that the Church's message would be taken with the utmost gravity.
In 1962, a council of Church officials convened in Rome and, as part
of its discussion, deliberated the Church's role in the world. The council,
* Associate, Blair, Cornwell & Minnich, Lima, Ohio; J.D., Ohio Northern University,
Claude W. Pettit Law School, 1993; B.A., Christendom College, 1990.
1 Pope Leo XIII, EncyclicalImmortale Dei (Nov. 1, 1885), reprintedin CHURCH AND STATE
THROUGH THE CENTURIES 298 (Sidney Z. Ehler & John B. Morrall eds. & trans., 1954)
[hereinafter ImmortaleDei]. "Jesus Christ has Himself given command that what is Caesar's is
to be rendered to Caesar, and that what belongs to God is to be rendered to God." Id. at
called Vatican Council II ("Vatican II"), issued several documents
addressing the Church's place in the modern world and its role within the
civil order. Many interpreted these documents as a departure from the
Church's previous views on such issues. The position articulated by the
Church prior to Vatican II is commonly referred to as the Church's
"traditional" teaching, whereas those teachings espoused after Vatican II
are described as something other than traditional.
The purpose of this Article is to examine the constancy of a
particular aspect of the Catholic Church's teaching-the relationship between
the Church and State, with an emphasis on the malleable notion of
"religious freedom." Its purpose is not to determine whether a particular
point, subpoint, or conclusion is correct, nor to judge whether the
position is flawed in any respect. Rather, its purpose is only to examine
whether the Catholic Church has been consistent in its social teaching
on the relationship between the Church and State. The scope of this
topic is quite broad and certainly cannot be entirely explored in a single
article. Accordingly, this Article will present a brief sketch of the major
contributors to Church thought and comment on a few of the many
Part I of this Article describes the Catholic Church's historical and
traditional social teaching. Part II explains Vatican II's presentation of
the relationship between the Church and State. Finally, Part III
demonstrates that the Church has been consistent with its teachings by
refuting certain commentators' criticisms of the Church's position. This is
accomplished by providing the circumstances under which the documents
were issued, and explaining the relationship between Vatican II and the
Church's prior teaching.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH'S TRADITIONAL SOCIAL TEACHING
St. Thomas Aquinas: Natural Law Framework
St. Thomas Aquinas ("St. Thomas") was one of the major influences
on the Church's thought regarding the relationship between the Church
and State.2 He often has been quoted and honored by the Church, her
popes, and commentators.3 A major theme in St. Thomas' Humanea
2 Lisa S. Cahill, The Catholic Tradition:Religion, Morality, and the Common Good, 5 J.L.
& REL. 75, 75 (1987).
3 See Pope Leo XIII, EncyclicalRerum Novarum (May 15, 1891), reprintedin CHURCH AND
STATE THROUGH THE CENTURIES, supra note 1, at 320, 324, 330, 335, 340-41, 348-49
[hereinafter Rerum Novarum];Pope John Paul II, Encyclical LaboremExergens (Sept. 14, 1981),
passim [hereinafter Laborem Exergens]; Pope John XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magister
(May 16, 1961), at 9; Pope Pius XI, Encyclical QuadragesimoAnno (May 15, 1931),
reprintedin CHURCH AND STATE THROUGH THE CENTURIES, supranote 1, at 407, 427, 434, 436
[hereinafter QuadragesimoAnno]; see also DECREE ON PRIESTLY FORMATION, reprinted in
THE DOCUMENTS OF VATICAN II 437, 452 (Walter M. Abbot gen. ed. & Joseph Gallagher
Generes was the reaffirmation of the value of Thomism as the Church's
philosophy-a philosophy Pius XII believed "to be under attack."4 Any
attempt to articulate the Catholic Church's view concerning the
relationship between the Church and State requires an explanation of St.
St. Thomas grounded his philosophy on natural law. When he spoke
of man's relation to the political order, it was in terms of what is natural
and rational to man. St. Thomas' philosophy begins with the observation
that men generally aggregate in some form of society.5 Simply, men
naturally live together and are naturally social.6 However, a community of
men living together could not exist unless someone took charge and
directed the people toward some end.7 St. Thomas saw two ways in which
a person or government directs people.' In one, people are ruled for the
utility of the government in a relationship of subjugation of ruler to
slave.9 In the other, people are ruled and directed to their own
individual ends for the good of the community.10 St. Thomas believed the latter
to be the better form and supported his conclusion with scripture:
"Everyone using the grace he has received for the benefit of his fellow men."1 1
In his view, the purpose of the political order is to direct man toward
the "common good" which is "composed of many private goods."' 2 Laws
must consider these many goods with respect to persons, social affairs,
and the times.' 3 In addition, laws must be promulgated for the general
benefit of the citizens, rather than for some private interest.
trans. ed., 1966) ("[S]tudents should learn to penetrate [the mysteries of salvation] more
deeply ... under the tutelage of St. Thomas."); id. at 452 n.52. In an allocution delivered
at the Pontifical Gregorian University of Studies on March 12, 1964, Pope Paul VI
Let teachers reverently pay heed to the voice of the Doctors of the Church,
among whom St. Thomas holds the principle place; for the Angelic Doctor's
force of genius is so great, his love of truth so sincere, and his wisdom in
investigating, illustrating, and collecting the highest truths in a most apt bond of
unity so great, that his teaching is a most efficacious instrument not only in
safeguarding the foundations of the faith, but also in profitably and surely
reaping the fruits of its sane progress.
St. Thomas maintained that the State is not autonomous. Its laws
must be made solely for the common good and welfare of man, 14 and they
must be just. 15 Laws are unjust when they are contrary to the common
good 16 or to the attainment of the Divine Good.'" Man is not bound to
obey the first class of laws, but may obey them to avoid scandal or civil
disorder. The latter type, however, may not be obeyed under any
Unam Sanctam: Religious Doctrine in the Midst of Political
In 1302, approximately fifty years after St. Thomas died, Pope
Boniface VIII issued a document entitled Unam Sanctam.'9 The last
sentence of this document is significant because of its dogmatic character:
"[W]e declare, state, define and pronounce that it is altogether necessary
to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman
Boniface VII made this statement during a struggle for French
recognition of the Church's authority. 2 ' When the French Church returned
14 Id. at 368 (Summa Theologiae, pt. I-II, question 93, art 3).
15 AQUINAS, supra note 5, at 373 (Summa Theologiae, pt. I-II, question 96, art. 4). St.
Thomas quotes St. Augustine's On Free Choice: "An unjust law is considered no law." Id. at
17 Id. at 373-74.
18 Id. at 374 (e.g., with respect to the first, payment of excessive taxes; with respect to the
second, idolatry). "We must obey God rather than man." Id. (quoting Acts 5:29).
19 Pope Boniface VIII, Encyclical Unam Sanctam (Nov. 18, 1302), reprinted in CHURCH
AND STATE THROUGH THE CENTURIES, supra note 1, at 89.
20 Id. at 90, 92. The immediate controversy was over the king's taxation of the clergy
without prior agreement with the Pope. Pope Boniface VIII considered this act an
infringement on the Church's freedom from civil control. Id. at 89 (commentary).
21 See id. at 89-90. The French king took offense at any possibility that his power in any
area of society was subordinate to the Pope. See id. at 89. The king had been trying to
sever France, including the Catholic clergy, from Rome because he rejected any notion that
France, its king, nobles, and clergy were subject to anyone but the king. Id. at 89-90.
Many letters passed between the king and Pope Boniface VIII. Id. In one letter, Boniface
VIII asserted: "[L]et no one persuade you that you have no superior, or that you are not
subject to the head of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. . . ." Id. The king, seizing an
opportunity, burned the letter; he distributed a forged one stating that all are "subject to us in
spiritualties and temporalitiei." Id. The forgery effectively turned the dispute from a
defense of the Church against the French king to a defense of the French against a power
hungry pope. Id.
Boniface had set out to defend the French church against the king.... In April
of 1303 a great assembly of clergy, nobles, and people met at Paris in the
Cathedral of Notre Dame. It was the first meeting in French history of a
representative Estates-General-the institution was called into existence
specifically to mobilize national opinion for Philip's antipapal policy. Pierre Flotte
to full union with Rome, Pope Leo X reconfirmed Unam Sanctam's
mandate for obedience to the Pope. 22
In light of this political dispute, it may be easy to interpret
Boniface's words as prescribing the Church's authority over both religious
and secular matters. However, the hierarchical relationship between
religious and civil powers was by no means a new or settled issue. This
specific issue had been addressed by St. Thomas, along with a host of
other parties having a stake in a recognized formulation. According to
St. Thomas, the religious and civil authorities are both derived from and
subject to God. 23 Although each authority acts independently, civil
authority is subject to religious authority whenever man's salvation is
directly involved.2 4
treatIinsetewrersittitnegnlyb,y SUtn.TamhomSaans,ctOanmt'hselaEsrtrosersnotefntchee SicshbisomrroawticedGrfereokms.2a5
The treatise has little, if anything, to do with the Church's supremacy
over temporal authority. Rather, it targeted Greeks who denied St.
Peter's authority over religious matters. 26 Boniface VIII also admonished
the Greeks in his document.
Why should Boniface VIII worry about the Greeks in a document
written for the French at a time of political unrest? The Pope had called
a Council in Rome that year and less than half (thirty-six out of
seventyeight) of the French Bishops attended. 27 The document was intended to
preserve the Church's interior unity and solidarity at a time when the
French government was trying to sway those faithful to Rome to
allegiance to the French state.28 One commentator noted that Unam
Sanctam's"intense preoccupation" with the Church's inner unity seemed
misplaced in a letter written at the peak of a political controversy related
to the Pope's secular claims.29 The Pope's concern was to avoid the
possibility that the Church could become "a cluster of national churches"
which would depend on their kings for leadership during crises.3 ° The
addressed the assembly and apparently told it that the pope had claimed
feudal lordship over France.... The clergy, deeply embarrassed, wrote to
Boniface, addressing him as pope but explaining that they were much perturbed as
his 'unheard-of statements' and asking to be excused from attendance at the
counsel in Rome.
Pope feared that if bishops were forced to choose between obeying the
Pope or obeying their king in ecclesiastical matters, the Church would
lose its international structure and its autonomy in government and
discipline.3 1 Therefore, Unam Sanctam was not a command for papal
supremacy in all matters both religious and civil. Rather, it was a
worried plea and a reminder to the Church's French clergy that the Pope is
the head of their Church and that they must remain faithful.
C. Leo XIII: Explanationand Application of TraditionalSocial
In 1885, one of the Church's great writers contributed to delineating
the relationship between the Church and State. Operating against the
backdrop of the natural law approach and the dogmatic assertions of the
Chu3r2ch's supremacy, Pope Leo XIII set out to settle the problems of his
Pope Leo XIII authored several documents concerning society. 3 3 His
most influential discussion addressing the relationship between the
Church and State is located in Immortale Dei, or On the
ChristianConstruction of the State.3 4 In this document, Leo XIII elaborated on the
principles of natural law and addressed a specific issue: How far can a
loyal Catholic fulfill the duties of a citizen in the modern, secular,
religiously neutral State?35 His answer was twofold. First, he described the
scope of the State's authority and its duties to its citizens. Second, he
discussed the Catholic citizen's duty in the State.
In his discussion of the first point, Leo XIII began, as St. Thomas
did, by noting that living in a society is something natural to man, and
that men need to be led and directed by someone.36 Like St. Thomas, he
emphasized that the political order should direct man "to strive
earnestly" toward the common good.3 7 In his view, the State must promote
the general welfare, safeguard the community, and have the interests of
its citizens at heart.38 Since man has a duty to worship God, the State
32 See CHURCH AND STATE THROUGH THE CENTURIES, supra note 1, at 299 (commentary).
Leo XIII faced a problem similar to that encountered by Boniface VIII regarding the
French. The French were again the "spearhead of the militantly secularist and
anti-clerical" sentiment. Id.
33 Immortale Dei, supra note 1, at 300.
35 CHURCH AND STATE THROUGH THE CENTURIES, supra note 1, at 298.
36 Immortale Dei, supra note 1, at 300-02.
37 Id. at 302.
38 Id. at 303.
must also take into account the religious aspect of man in all areas of
Pope Leo XIII also discussed the affirmative duties of the State. He
claimed that the State is obliged to promote and encourage religion.4 ° In
his opinion, a state is "[c]learly bound to act up to the manifold and
weighty duties linking it to God, by public profession of religion."4 1 In
addition, the State has a duty to protect and shield religion in a manner
that facilitates citizens' attainment of their final end-heaven.4 2 Pope
Leo XIII specified these duties in his discussion on the State's duties to
the Church. The State may not exclude the Church from making laws,
teaching children, family life, or daily events.4 3 The State may not
subject the Church to its civil authority.44 Pope Leo XIII also stated that it
is "great folly and sheer injustice" even to wish this.4 5
Leo XIII claimed that the Catholic faith is the one true religion and
that all men are bound to worship in accordance with the Catholic
Church.4 6 While he did not expressly state that the State is bound to
profess the Catholic faith, Leo XIII indicated that it is unlawful to place
various forms of religion on the same footing with the Catholic faith. He
continued, however, that the Church "does not, on that account, condemn
those rulers who for the sake of securing some great good, or of hindering
some great evil, tolerate in practice that these various forms of religion
have a place in the State."47 Leo XIII exphasized that the Church did
not want individuals forced to embrace the Catholic faith.48
Leo XIII instructed that the State has a duty to protect and foster
religion, to prefer the Catholic faith, and to permit other forms of religion
only where some good will be achieved or some evil will be avoided. The
State must enable its citizens to practice religion and achieve their final
home in heaven.
39 Id. "Everything, without exception, must be subject to Him, and must serve Him, so that
whosoever holds the right to govern, holds it from one sole and single source, namely God,
the Sovereign Ruler of all. There is no power but from God." Id. at 302 (emphasis in
40 Id. "Nature and reason, which command every individual devoutly to worship God in
holiness, because we belong to Him and must return to Him since from Him we came, bind
also the civil community by a like law." Id. at 303.
41 Immortale Dei, supra note 1, at 303.
42 Id. "[F]or one and all we are destined, by our birth and adoption, to enjoy, when this frail
and fleeting life is ended, a supreme and final good in heaven, and to the attainment of this
every endeavour should be directed." Id.
43 See id. at 299, 313.
44 Id. at 313.
46 Immortale Dei, supra note 1, at 317-18.
47 Id. at 315.
48 Id. "[N]o one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, for, as St.
Augustine wisely reminds us, 'Man cannot believe otherwise than of his own free will.' "Id.
During his discussion of man's religious duty as citizen to the
Church, Leo XIII made two general statements. In private matters,
individuals must conform their lives and conduct to the precepts of the
Gospel. 49 In public matters, all are "bound to love the Church as their
common mother, to obey her laws, promote her honor, defend her rights and
to endeavor to make her respected and loved by those over whom they
have authority."5 0 This statement echoes Pope Boniface VIII's
statement in Unam Sanctam requiring obedience to the Catholic Church.5 1
Leo XIII specifically admonished Catholics to be faithful in their duties;
not only to promote the Church, but also to prevent injury to other
Leo XIII recognized that both Church and State powers are
legitimate. The State has the duty to direct men toward the common good.
The Church has the duty to spread Christ's message of salvation through
the Gospel to all men.53 The Church's goal of man's salvation is not
limited in time or place.5 4 Although civil society and the Church direct the
same subjects, each has its proper realm or activity in which to exercise
its authority.5 5 When each issues conflicting mandates, the State must
recognize the rights of the Church.5" According to Leo XIII,
[w]hatever, therefore, in things human is of a sacred character,
whatever belongs either of its own nature or by reason of the end to
which it is referred, to the salvation of souls, or to the worship of God,
is subject to the power and judgement of the Church. Whatever is to
be ranged unde5r7 the civil and political order, is rightly subject to the
Other pontiffs have reaffirmed that the Church is the supreme
authority of all within her realm of care. In QuadragesimoAnno, Pope Pius
XI wrote, "[I]t is Our right and Our duty to deal authoritatively with
social and economic problems." 8 Pope Pius XI believed that, with just
cause, the Church could interfere with earthly concerns and all matters
that fall under the moral law. 59 The Church's duty to declare and
inter49 Id. at 317.
50 Id. at 316-17.
51 See supra notes 19-20 and accompanying text.
52 ImmortaleDei, supra note 1, at 318.
pret the moral law demands that the socia6l °order and economic life be
within the Church's "supreme jurisdiction."
Leo XIII conceded that the Church may not be competent in every
aspect of the civil order. However, he maintained that the Church
retains the right to judge that order whenever moral and religious tenets
or rights are violated. Rerum Novarum, or On the Working Condition,
exemplifies the Church's application of its teachings. 61 Until Rerum
Novarum, the Church had never provided so detailed a description of the
duties of states and citizens. For example, with respect to the horrible
living conditions associated with the industrial revolution, Leo XIII
believed that employer and employee should agree freely as to wages, and
that wages should never be less than that necessary to support a "frugal
and well-behaved wage-earner." 62 In his view, those forced to accept
wages below that level were the victims of force and injustice.6 3 Leo XIII
advocated that the worker be allowed recourse to unions, boards,
societies, or even the State for protection and sanction.64 Similarly, in
QuadragesimoAnno, Pope Pius XI articulated the Church's guidelines
on private property. Pius XI wrote that man has a natural right to
possess private property and keep it free from the State's interference.65
However, the State retains the authority to adjust ownership to meet the
needs of the public good, to support human life, and to prevent
intolerable disadvantages. 66 These two instances illustrate how the Church
began to specify its general teachings. The Church judges a particular law,
course of conduct, or omission on whether it is in discord or harmony
with justice, human rights, or man's attainment of an eternal home.
Up to this point, the Church focused on defending her teachings and
condemning violative activity. With Vatican II, however, the Church
seemed to be taking a new direction. This universal conference produced
many changes. An obvious internal alteration was allowing the Catholic
Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular language, instead of Latin.
Another such change was the introduction of new forms of art and music to
the sanctuary and liturgy. Externally, the Church focused on the laity.
The Church encouraged them to take an active role in all aspects of
lifeby fulfilling their duties and aspiring to Christ's message to spread his
gospel. In fact, this call was nothing new. As did the Roman Pontiffs
before, Vatican II called upon all persons to embrace Christ's message.
61 Rerum Novarum, supra note 3, at 324.
62 Id. at 346.
64 See id.
65 QuadragesimoAnno, supra note 3, at 427.
VATICAN COUNCIL II: THE CHURCH'S ROLE IN THE MODERN WORLD
Overview of Vatican II and its Documents
Approximately 100 years before Vatican II, from 1869 to 1870, the
Church attempted to convene a discussion on its role in the world, but
was unable to do so because of political turmoil. The papal states were
invaded by political rivals and the council was interrupted. The bishops
met to discuss and issue a declaration on the Church's constitution and
its relation to the political world. However, they were unable to fully
review a fifteen chapter draft entitled the Constitution on the Church of
Christ. They deliberated and enacted four chapters regarding the
papacy, but failed to consider issues concerning Church hierarchy and the
laity. Critics viewed this unbalanced approach as creating an absolute
monarchy, making mere lackeys of the bishops. This may explain why
the bishops were very active in Vatican II-there were several "pastoral"
documents. Pressing questions relating to the bishops' and laity's roles
went unanswered until Vatican II. In light of these issues, the Church
felt compelled to reassert its place in the modern world.
On October 11, 1962, the bishops of the world convened in Rome to
address one main question: What is the Church's role in the modern
world with respect to man's religious and social needs? In the opening
message, Pope John XXIII outlined the Church's two main concerns.
The first concern was peace, of bringing all people together to develop
mutual respect for one another.67 The second concern focused on social
justice, for which, according to the Pope, the Church was supremely
Vatican II promulgated many documents. With respect to the
relationship between the Church and State, it issued three documents of
primary importance: Dogmatic Constitutionon the Church6,9
PastoralConstitution of the Church in the Modern World,7" and Declaration on
The Church recognized the need to expressly define itself as both the
institutional Church founded by Christ and the external Church as the
People of God.72 The distinction may be best understood in terms of the
United States government. The framers of the United States
Constitu67 MESSAGE TO HUMANITY, reprintedin THE DOCUMENTS OF VATICAN II, supra note 3, at 6.
69 DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH, reprintedin THE DOCUMENTS OF VATICAN II,
supra note 3, at 14.
70 PASTORAL CONSTITUTION OF THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN WORLD, reprintedin THE
DocuMENTS OF VATICAN II, supra note 3, at 199.
71 DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, reprinted in THE DOCUMENTS OF VATICAN II,
supra note 3, at 675.
72 DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH, supra note 69, at 14-16.
tion created a government structure possessing the power and authority
to rule. When the government acts, it is rightly said that the United
States acts. The framers, at the same time, created a body of people
which together constitutes the United States, and who are also properly
called the United States. Similarly, Christ established the Church,7 3
and all those who have faith in Jesus are the Church.7 4 By so defining
and explaining the Church, Vatican II did not shirk the bold statements
previously made concerning the Church's external and institutional
authority and role in the world.
Vatican I's Use of TraditionalSocial Teaching
Vatican II restated the traditional propositions expounded by St.
Thomas and Pope Leo XIII regarding the State: Man is naturally a social
being;75 the purpose of political order is towards the common good; 7 6 the
political order must direct man toward morals;7 7 and political authority
is subject to limitation. 78
Furthermore, in describing the relationship between the Catholic
Church and other religions, Vatican II stressed the importance of union
with the Catholic Church and "reiterate[d] the traditional Catholic
teaching on the necessity of the Church for salvation."79
73 Id. at 22.
Christ, the one Mediator, established and ceaselessly sustains here on earth
His holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity, as a visible
structure. Through her He communicates truth and grace to all. But the society
furnished with hierarchical agencies and the Mystical Body of Christ are not to
be considered as two realities....
Id. (footnote omitted).
74 Id. at 26. "God has gathered together as one all those who in faith look upon Jesus as
the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace, and has established them as the
Church, that for each and all she may be the visible sacrament of this saving unity." Id.
75 PASTORAL CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN WORLD, supra note 70, at 211
("Forby his innermost nature man is a social being, and unless he relates himself to others
he can neither live nor develop his potential.").
76 Id. at 284 ("[P]olitical community exists for that common good in which the community
finds its full justification and meaning, and from which it derives its pristine and proper
77 Id. at 284 ("[A]uthority must dispose the energies of the whole citizenry toward the
common good .. . primarily as a morale force.").
78 Id. (political authority must be exercised within limits of morality).
79 DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH, supranote 69, at 32 n.47. However, according
to Vatican Council II ("Vatican II") the Church never ceases to pray that all Christians may
enter the Church. Id. Further, in Ecumenism, Vatican II also says that "itis through
Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the all embracing means of salvation, that the
fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained." DECREE ON ECUMENISM, reprinted in
THE DOCUMENTS OF VATICAN II, supra note 3, at 341, 346.
Vatican II understood that the Church and State are distinct
entities. The Church sees itself as "a conscience on human society" ° which
must be free and independent to carry out its duties.8 ' However, the
Church and State govern the same subjects and, therefore, cannot be
separated entirely. Since its mission is to all mankind, 2 the Church
cannot be hindered by the State, nor subject to its laws. 3 The Church
recognizes that she is not competent in the particulars of legislation,
economics, and the like.8 4 However, she will not hesitate to make moral
judgements on the political order when basic personal rights or the
salvation of souls are in jeopardy.8 5
C. Vatican I's Declaration on Religious Freedom
As part of its focus on the Church as the People of God, Vatican II
took the opportunity to expand a principle contained in its traditional
social teaching: No one shall be forced to embrace the Church against
their will. 6 As previously discussed, this was asserted by St. Thomas,
Leo XIII, and Boniface VIII, and Vatican II elaborated on this tenet in
Declaration on Religious Freedom.8 7 Essentially, the Church teaches
80 DECREE ON THE BISHOPS' PASTORAL OFFICE IN THE CHURCH, reprintedin THE DOCUMENTS
OF VATICAN II, supra note 3, at 396, 411 n.54.
81 Id. at 410. "In discharging their apostolic office, which concerns salvation of souls,
bishops of themselves enjoy full and perfect freedom, and independence from any civil
authority." Id. However, like man, the church herself is to support the civil authority "in the
things of Caesar." Id. at 410 n.54.
82 PASTORAL CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN WORLD, supra note 70, at 247.
Indeed, God "was Himself made flesh so that as perfect man He might save all men." Id. St.
John said that Christ died so that He could gather His scattered children. John J. King,
Towards an Adequate Concept of Church, in VATICAN II THE THEOLOGICAL DIMENSION 11,
14 (Anthony D. Lee ed., 1963).
83 PASTORAL CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN WORLD, supra note 70, at 287.
Because the Church serves all men, id. at 247, "she must in no way be confused with the
political community, nor bound to any political system." Id. at 287. While "the political
community and the Church are mutually independent and self-governing," each serves the
same people. Id. at 288. Therefore, both the political community and the Church should
strive for a mutual cooperation. Id.
84 See id. at 287.
85 Id. at 289. Vatican II took great pains to point out that the Church is "a sign and a
safeguard of the transcendence of the human person." Id. at 288. This means that the
Church has full authority to preach, teach, and discharge her duty toward man without
hinderance. Id. at 288-89. Vatican II expressly pointed out that the Church "has the right
to pass moral judgments, even on matters touching the political order, whenever basic
personal rights or the salvation of souls make such judgments necessary." Id. at 289.
86 DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, supranote 71, at 689. "Itis one of the major
tenets of Catholic doctrine that ... no one is to be forced to embrace the Christian faith against
his own will." Id. (footnote omitted).
87 Id. at 675.
that a person has a right to religious freedom.88
Vatican II explained
[t]his freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on
the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in
such wise that in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a
manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone to be restrained
from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately or
publicl8y9, whether alone or in association with others, within due
amopderesronnptooliteimcabl riancsetiatuptiaorntisc.u93lar religion.92
Vatican II carefully pointed out that the type of religious freedom
asserted "has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society."90 To
avert the temptation to read more than was intended into this particular
right, Vatican II stated that the right "leaves untouched traditional
Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true
religion and toward the one Church of Christ."9 1 This document
expressed opposition to coercion by individuals or a state which would force
Furthermore, it addressed
Declarationon Religious Freedom laid the bottom-most stone in an
edifice which would allow Catholics to fully practice their faith within
temporal society. With its emphasis and focus on the laity's role as
members of Christ's Church, Vatican II urged the faithful to live up to the
88 Id. at 678. The Church views freedom of religion as a human and civil right. Id. at 678
89 Id. at 678-79.
90 Id. at 677.
91 DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, supra note 71, at 677.
92 Id. at 675. The document argues that it is the "sense of the dignity of the human person
... impressing itself more and more deeply on the consciousness of contemporary man" at
the root of modern calls for religious freedom. Id. It is this sense of dignity that led to the
increasing demands "that men should act on their own judgement, enjoying and making
use of a responsible freedom, not driven by coercion but motivated by a sense of duty." Id.
This sense of duty as a motivating factor in religious exercise is in accord with the
Church's position that "all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns
God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it."
Id. at 677. This obligation should not be coerced, but is a duty that falls upon the human
conscience. Id. The truth should not be forced upon someone by civil coercion. Indeed, it
'cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth." Id. Religious freedom, then, "has to
do with immunity from coercion in civil society," id., because "men cannot discharge these
obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from
external coercion." Id. at 679.
93 Id. at 675, 676 n.2 (note by Father John Courtney Murray). Declarationon Religious
Freedom demands "that constitutional limits should be set to the powers of government, in
order that there may be no encroachment on the rightful freedom of the person and of
associations." Id. at 675. It is a basic doctrinal theme of the Church that these
constitutional limits on government must exist. Id. at 676 n.2 (note by Father John Courtney
calling of Christ, to follow his gospel, to actively evangelize, and to
practice their faith in all areas of their lives.9 4 As discussed in subpart I(C),
supra,Pope Leo XIII instructed that the State has a duty to protect
religion and enable its citizens to reach their final home,9" and that it is
sinful to act as if their were no religion.9 6 Following his teachings,
Vatican II took the opportunity to lay a foundation to enable the People of
God in the modern political atmosphere to fulfill these substantial
duties. According to Vatican II, this freedom is one so fundamental that it
must be declared a fundamental civil right and incorporated into state
Declaration on Religious Freedom seems to speak out against the
United States and similar governments. Vatican II both criticized and
appealed to civil authority when it stated:
[Tihe social nature of man itself requires that'he should give external
expression to his internal acts of religion; that he should participate
with others in matters religious; that he should profess his religion in
community. Injury, therefore, is done to the human person and to the
very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of
religion is denied in society when the just requirements of public order
do not so require .... However, it would clearly transgress the limits
set to its power were [civil authority] to presume to direct or inhibit
acts that are religious.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution provides for
the free exercise of religion.9 9 It guards against coercion or prohibition
in religious matters, and provides for equality of all religions before the
law. 10 0 American jurisprudence in this area has traveled far from the
original notion. In McCollum v. Board of Education,10 ' the United
States Supreme Court abandoned the principle that the national
government cannot prefer any one religion in favor of the position that
"[n]either a state nor the Federal Government... can pass laws which
aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. " I0 2
When McCollum was decided, members of Vatican II witnessed a
stunning victory for American secularism. This was a hard blow after the
struggle with recurrent French secularism in the past centuries.10 3
Faced with this dilemma, but experienced with problems of
anti-religious and secular sentiment,10 4 Vatican II viewed the First Amendment
as a perfect window of opportunity through which to defend against the
extinction of all religion from society. From this perspective, it is easy to
discern why Vatican II issued an entire document on the right to be free
from coercion and prohibition, especially in public affairs and religious
matters. When faced with this issue in the past, the Church responded
with Unam Sanctam'0 5 and Syllabus of Errors.' Perhaps by stressing
a different, rather than opposed, aspect of its social teaching, the Church
will more readily win support in the temporal arena.
Declarationon Religious Freedom is a practical document. Its
practicality derives from its elaboration on religious freedom; a principle
which is generally familiar to all men and which promotes the Church's
support, growth, and perhaps her very existence in secular countries.' 0 7
100 Id.; John Courtney Murray, A Common Enemy, A Common Cause, in FIRsT THINGS 29,
101 333 U.S. 203 (1948).
102 Id. at 210. Various religions, including Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant sects, formed
the Champaign Counsel on Religious Education (the "Counsel"). Id. at 207. The Counsel
obtained permission from the Board of Education to offer weekly religion classes, lasting 30
to 45 minutes. Id. at 207-08. Parents signed printed cards requesting permission for their
children to attend. Id. at 207. The Counsel provided the teachers; and the Board made
public school classrooms available for instruction. Id. at 208-09. The Supreme Court struck
down this practice, stating that this was "beyond all question a utilization of the
tax-established and tax supported public school system to aid religious groups to spread their faith."
Id. at 210. Finding the practice unconstitutional, the Supreme Court held that the activity
fit "squarely under the ban of the First Amendment." Id. at 239.
For an excellent discussion on the effect of this decision from the Catholic perspective,
see Murray, supra note 100. Generally, the Catholic Church has stressed the importance of
its freedom to act in the area of education. See generally, DECLARATION ON CHRISTIAN
EDUCATION, reprinted in THE DOCUMENTS OF VATICAN II, supra note 3, at 637.
103 Murray, supra note 100, at 34-37.
104 See supra notes 19-22 and accompanying text.
105 See supra subpart I(B).
106 See infra subpart III(C).
107 Vatican II takes a Thomistic approach in upholding the right to religious freedom. In
Summa Theologiae,St. Thomas argued primarily from revelation and scripture because he
intended it to be used by people versed in those areas. In Summa Contra Gentiles, St.
CONSTANCY OF THE CHURCH'S SOCIAL TEACHING
Approach of Vatican II
Many viewed the documents of Vatican II as an avenue for radical
change within the Church.'" 8 Others viewed the marked difference in
vocabulary as an indication that, not only was the Church beginning to
teach something new and different, it was also departingly opposed to
the Church's previous teachings despite Vatican II's explicit statements
that it was following its prior social decrees. It is submitted that Vatican
II entirely followed the Church's traditional social teachings. Its
teachings are wholly consistent and harmonious with the Church's traditional
position on the Church and State."0 9
Aside from the textual differences between translations, there is an
obvious difference in language use and diction between the documents of
Vatican II and the Church's prior statements. This difference may be
attributable, in part, to real differences in cultural language usage. In
the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, literacy was not widespread.
Official documents written in Latin were seen as somewhat immutable. The
nuance of official documents may be best exemplified by a cursory look at
any legal document today, particularly a deed. However, the documents
of Vatican II clearly target a wider audience than did the Church's prior
Thomas chose another common ground on which to base his arguments-natural law. In
areas where people had no familiarity with scripture or even with Christ, missionaries
found a basis upon which to spread Christ's message. Vatican II utilized a similar
technique. Declarationon Religious Freedom establishes freedom from religious coercion as a
common ground used to facilitate the practice and consequent spread of the faith.
108 It is evident that the popular perception of Vatican II is that it led to radical change in
the Church. One commentator declared that "[t]he changes wrought by Vatican II were the
most radical in Catholic life in centuries." Richard N. Ostling, Discordin the Church,TIME,
Jan. 4, 1985, at 50. Others have maintained that "[w]hen Pope John XXIII convened
Vatican II, he set in motion powerful and irresistable winds of change in the Catholic Church."
Helen Van Son & George Van Son, Letters to the Editor,TIME, Nov. 3, 1986, at 9.
109 Vatican II teaches that "the political community and the Church are mutually
independent and self-governing. Yet.... each serves the personal and social vocation of the
same human beings." PASTORAL CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN WORLD,
supra note 70, at 288. This teaching is in accord with and is a continuation of the writings
of Pope Leo XIII:
The Almighty . . . has appointed the charge of the human race between two
powers, the ecclesiastical and the civil, the one being set over divine, and the
other over human, things. Each in its kind is supreme, each has fixed limits
within which it is contained, limits which are defined by the nature and special
object of the province of each, so that there is, we may say, an orbit traced out
within which the action of each is brought into play by its own native right.
But ... each of these two powers has authority over the same subjects ....
Immortale Dei, supra note 1, at 306.
In addition, Vatican II deliberately attempted to avoid rigid
definitions, condemnations, and anathemas, and to present the Church in a
positive light using biblical, historical, and dynamic terms. Vatican II
made a concerted effort to reach all Christians in order to bring them
back into one fold." 0 Vatican II avoided undue divisiveness among
Christians in an attempt to achieve one of the Church's chief
concernsthe restoration of Christian unity.' 1 ' Sensing a widespread yearning for
unity in one Church," 2 the Council set out to speak to all in common
terms of The Bible and history, while adding to its discussion an evident
Use of St. Thomas Aquinas
In light of Vatican II's approach to ecumenism, it may be true that
"the Council was an attempt to restate the faith in categories more
suited to the modern world, [rather] than the patently discarded ones of
the Thomists and the Schoolmen."" 3 Some hold that the philosophical
and theological works of St. Thomas have been discarded entirely. In
secular institutions today, this is true; one need only look to the modern
university for proof. St. Thomas' thought is emphasized in only perhaps
two or three colleges in this country. In fact, the entire subject of
philosophy has largely been abandoned in favor of highly specialized degrees.
Some may attribute this attitude to the Church as well, but that is
misplaced." 4 Vatican II has time and again encouraged the study of St.
Thomas and the scholastic method. In Declarationon
ChristianEducation, Vatican II stated that the Church pursues her goals in the "manner
of her most illustrious teachers, especially St. Thomas Aquinas." 1 15 In
Decree on Priestly Formation,Vatican II stated that "by way of making
the mysteries of salvation known as thoroughly as they can be, students
should learn to penetrate them more deeply with the help of speculative
reason exercised under the tutelage of St. Thomas." 116 Pope John Paul
II has also quoted from and relied on St. Thomas' thought. 117
110 See DECREE ON ECUMENISM, supra note 79, at 346-47.
111 Id. at 341. Vatican II felt that the division among Christian churches "openly
contradicts the will of Christ, provides a stumbling block to the world, and inflicts damage on the
most holy cause of proclaiming the good news to every creature." Id.
112 Vatican II expressed the belief that there has been, "[iun recent times[,] . . . remorse
over [Christian] divisions and a longing for unity." Id. at 342.
113 Edward Norman, An Outsider'sEvaluation,in MODERN CATHOLICISM, supra note 4, at
114 See supra note 3 and accompanying text.
115 DECLARATION ON CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, supra note 102, at 648.
116 DECREE ON PRIESTLY FORMATION, supra note 3, at 452.
117 Laborem Exergens, supra note 3, passim; J. BRIAN BENESTAD, THE PURSUIT OF A JUST
SOCIAL ORDER 122 (1982).
In fact, Vatican II documents discussed above on the political order,
the common good, and the choice of government are consistent with St.
Thomas' teachings on these topics. So, while it may be true that Vatican
II used different language, it still used, promoted, and followed the
teachings of St. Thomas.
Syllabus of Errors
One commentator noted that "[t]he critic who is still unconvinced
that the document [Declarationon Religious Liberty] ushers in a new era
is invited to compare it with an earlier Catholic treatment of the same
issues-Syllabusof Errors-andsee if he does not emerge from the
comparison rejoicing."118 Pope Pius IX wrote Syllabus of Errorsin 1864 as a
response to then-current theories on the nature of man and his place in
society.1 1 9 Syllabus attacked various principles regarding the Church
and State, particularly the State's right to interfere with all aspects of
society and with12t0he organization and life of the Church and its
The best response to this commentator is that he is apparently
correct if you look no further. However, if the propositions of Syllabus of
Errors were studied as the documents of Vatican II were studied, the
critic does, in fact, come away rejoicing because Vatican II has stated and
reaffirmed traditional teaching contained in Syllabus. 2 ' First, it must
be understood that Syllabus of Errors and the documents of Vatican II
are not the same type of document; further, Syllabus of Errors is an
ex118 THE DOCUMENTS OF VATICAN II, supra note 3, at 310 (commentary by Robert McAfee
119 Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Syllabus Of Errors, reprinted in part in THE CHURCH AND
STATE THROUGH THE CENTURIES, supranote 3, at 281, 281 [hereinafter Syllabus of Errors].
121 Vatican II's documents contain many of the principles set forth in Syllabus of Errors.
For example, Syllabus renounces as false the proposition that "[iln a legal conflict between
either authority civil law should have precedence." Id. at 283. Vatican II holds that the
Church has full authority to judge political matters whenever political activity infringes on
the basic rights of humans. PASTORAL CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN
WORLD, supra note 70, at 289. Syllabus also states that "[t]he Church should be separated
from the State and the State from the Church." Syllabus of Errors,supra note 119, at 284.
Vatican II states that, while the Church and State are distinct entities, they cannot be
separated because they each have as their subject the same object-humanity. PASTORAL
CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN WORLD, supra note 70, at 288. Syllabus
further rejects the notion that "[tihe principle known as that of'non-intervention' [i.e. ofthe
Church in political affairs] is to be proclaimed and observed." Syllabus of Errors,supra
note 119, at 284. As we have seen from the documents of Vatican II, the Church cannot be
subject to civil authority, nor can the State prohibit a person from practicing the Catholic
faith. See supra note 83 and accompanying text; DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM,
supra note 71. Indeed, the arguments and explanations stated in Syllabus of Errorsare
capable of further elaboration.
tremely condensed list of propositions which are fully explained and
developed in other documents referring to the particular practices or
problems of the time. Many of Syllabus' contents are explained by Leo
XIII in his documents.
Tolerance as Catholic Doctrine
There is another, more pressing question that must be addressed:
How did Vatican II affect the traditional social teaching regarding
toleration of religious beliefs? Toleration of religion is a difficult concept
because it is susceptible to many different interpretations. In the present
context, it seems to cover two areas: (i) Church toleration of individual
religious beliefs and practices, and (ii) State duties toward religion.
In Tolerance as CatholicDoctrine,122 Derek Cross summarized the
Church's traditional perspective on these areas. As stated by Cross,
man's duty is to worship God in the way He has prescribed, namely by
and through the Catholic faith; the State's duty is to promote religion
and to prefer the Catholic faith, tolerating other forms of religion only
when the common good requires.1 2 3 This is a clear and accurate
statement of traditional Catholic thought.
Cross continued explaining Vatican II's position. Cross viewed
Declarationon Religious Freedom as a "novelty" to Church teaching. 124 He
may be partially correct because the Church had never set forth its
teaching on religious toleration in a single document. In Declarationon
Religious Freedom, Vatican II pronounced:
This Vatican Synod declares that the human person has a right to
religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune
from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any
human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is to be
forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone to
be restrainedfrom acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether
pwriitvhaitneldyueorlimpuitbsl.i1c2ly5, whether alone or in association with others,
As previously posited, Declarationmay be construed to represent only
the proposition that persons cannot be forced to accept a particular faith,
and that civil law may not prevent individuals from practicing their
faith. Cross interpreted this document differently. Quoting the French
Dominican Yves Congar, he noted, "It cannot be denied that a text like
122 Derek Cross, Tolerance as Catholic Doctrine, in FIRST THINGS 38 (1992).
123 Id. at 38-39.
124 Id. at 43.
125 DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, supra note 71, at 678-79 (emphasis added).
this does materially say something different from the Syllabus of
1864."126 This comment requires elaboration.
Cross sees Declarationas promoting a new individual right, within
limits, to profess any religion in the State. He considers the document as
guaranteeing "the natural right to teach and practice any fundamentally
decent form of religion in the public forum."' 2 7 This reading is incorrect
because it is contrary to the plain language of this and other Vatican II
documents. Declarationproclaims that "all men are to be immune from
coercion." "' Further, it expressly states that it is wholly following
traditional Catholic social teaching. 129 Nowhere in traditional social teaching
does the Church posit an affirmative right to practice any fundamentally
decent form of religion. People have a right only to be free from coercion
and prohibition; to posit a right to do whatever the conscience tells "is a
perilous theory." 130 As one commentator described,
in assigning a negative content to the right to religious freedom (that
is, in making it formally a "freedom from" and not a "freedom for"), the
Declaration is in harmony with the sense of the First Amendment to
the American Constitution. In guaranteeing the free exercise of
religion, the First Amendment guarantees to the American citizen
immunity from all coercion in matters religious. Neither the Declaration
nor the American Constitution affirms that a man has a right to
believe what is false or to do what is wrong. This would be moral
nonsense. Neither error nor evil can be the object of a right, only what is
tfrreueedoamnd fgrooomd.coIetrcisi,onhoiwnemveart,tetrrsuerealnigdioguoso.d1 3t1hat a man should enjoy
126 Cross, supra note 122, at 39.
128 DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, supra note 71, at 678-79 (emphasis added).
129 In formulating Declaration,the Vatican Synod "searche[d] into the sacred tradition
and doctrine of the Church." Id. at 676. Further, it was the express intent of the Synod to
"develop the doctrine of recent Popes on the inviolable rights of the human person and on
the constitutional order of society." Id. at 677. Clearly, Declarationsprings forth from
traditional Catholic teaching. Indeed, "[t]he Council brings forth out of the treasury of truth a
doctrine that is at once new and also in harmony with traditional teaching." Id. at 678 n.4
(note by Father John Courtney Murray).
130 Id. at 679 n.5 (note by Father John Courtney Murray). Father Murray notes that
the Declaration does not base the right to the free exercise of religion on
"freedom of conscience." Nowhere does this phrase occur. And the Declaration
nowhere lends its authority to the theory for which the phrase frequently stands,
namely, that I have the right to do what my conscience tells me to do, simply
because my conscience tells me to do it. This is a perilous theory. Its particular
peril is subjectivism-the notion that, in the end, it is my conscience, and not
the objective truth, which determines what is right or wrong, true or false.
131 Id. at 678 n.5 (note by Father John Courtney Murray).
The rights encompassed by the terms "freedom for" and "freedom
from" are different. The first involves a right to do a particular thing.
This right relates to what is being done; for example, to kill a cow for food
or to kill a human being for sport. A person has no right to do the
latter.13 2 The second involves the ability or freedom to act. A person does
not have a right to do anything; but, a person does have a right to be free
to act within due limits. This distinction is crucial because, in asserting
the first type, the Church would have precluded itself from stating that
all persons have a duty to worship in the Catholic form, or even from
asserting itself to be the true religion. In the second interpretation, a
person's freedom to act without coercion is not violated by giving that
person a duty to do something. A person may have a duty to do
something, and retain the freedom to do it or not. It is this freedom, according
to Pope John Paul II, that is rooted in the very dignity of the human
This phrase echoes Pope Leo XIII's statement that "the Church
cannot approve of that liberty which begets a contempt of the most sacred
laws of God, and casts off the obedience due to lawful authority, for this
132 Id. "Neither the Declaration nor the American Constitution affirms that a man has a
right to believe what is false or to do what is wrong ....
object of a right, only what is true and good." Id.
133 See BENESTAD, supra note 117, at 15. According to Benestad,
Neither error nor evil can be the
Pope John Paul II argues that the Church functions as a sign and symbol of the
transcendent dimension of the human person, not only by defending human
rights but also by encouraging fulfillment of the corresponding duties and the
right use of the freedom afforded by the protection of rights. Rights, however,
must be conceived in their correct meaning. The right to freedom, for example,
does not of course include the right to moral evil, as it were possible to claim,
among other things, the right to suppress human life, as in abortion, or the
freedom to use things harmful to oneself or others. Likewise one should not deal
with rights of man without envisaging also his correspondingduties, which
express his own responsibility and his respect for the rights of others and the
Id. (quoting Pope John Paul II, Address to the Diplomatic Corps (1980) (emphasis added)).
In addition, Father John Courtney Murray's comments:
The reason why every man may claim immunity from coercion in matters
religious is precisely his inalienable dignity as a human person. Surely, in matters
religious, if anywhere, the free human person is required and entitled to act on
his own judgment and to assume personal responsibility for his action or
omission. A man's religious decisions, or his decision against religion, are
inescapably his own. No one else can make them for him, or compel him to make this
decision or that, or restrain him from putting his decisions into practice,
privately or publicly, alone or in company with others. In all these cases, the
dignity of man would be diminished because of the denial to him of that
inalienable responsibility for his own decisions and actions which is the essential
counterpartof his freedom.
DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, supra note 71, at 678-79 n.5 (note by Father John
Courtney Murray) (emphasis added).
is not liberty so much as license."1 34
With the good of the public order
duonmderfrocmonsciodeerrcaitoinona,nwdhpernohniebcietisosna.r1y3,5 Vatican II set limitations on
According to Cross, "[w]e have moved from the right of the public
authorities to repress religious errors, subject to the maintenance of the
common good, to the universal right of individuals to profess any
religion, subject to 'due limits' later identified by Vatican II as 'public
order.' "136 If correct, his observation raises a serious issue. In the past,
Catholic states prohibited the practice of various forms of worship.
Under Cross' interpretation, after Vatican II, how would a Catholic
monarch rule his Catholic country?
With Pope Leo XIII, the answer is clear. Leo XIII expounded a duty
to prefer the Catholic faith, but found it permissible to give other
religions a place in the kingdom for the sake of the common good. 137 Leo
XIII also asserted that rulers should take "earnest heed that no one shall
be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will."138 So, while
upholding a national duty to practice the Catholic faith, the monarch
must ensure that no individual is forced to practice it, that all persons
may go about their way-subject to the common good.
Under Cross' theory, the monarch must prevent coercion and
prohibition, but also establish a national right to practice any decent religion.
The problem lies in establishing which entity decides what constitutes a
decent religion, and in delineating due limits to this approach. The
monarch, in effect, cannot decide, and it is unclear whether the Church can
ultimately make this determination either.
However, Vatican II presents the monarch with the same guidance
provided by Leo XIII. Society and individuals have a duty toward
profession of the Catholic faith. Vatican II "leaves untouched traditional
Cath134 Immortale Dei, supra note 1, at 315.
135 DECLARATION ON RELIGIOus FREEDOM, supra note 71, at 679-80. Vatican II explicitly
limits the exercise of religious freedom by stating that "the exercise of this right [is not] to
be impeded, provided that thejust requirementsof public order are observed." Id. at 680
136 Cross, supra note 122, at 39.
137 In Immortale Dei, Pope Leo XIII set forth a ruler's duty toward the Church:
The Church, indeed, deems it unlawful to place various forms of Divine
Worship on the same footing as the true religion, but does not, on that account,
condemn those rulers who for the sake of securing some great good, or of
hindering some great evil, tolerate in practice that these various forms of religion
have a place in the State. And in fact the Church is wont to take the earnest
heed that no one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against the will,
for, as St. Augustine wisely reminds us, "Man cannot believe otherwise than of
his own free will."
Immortale Dei, supra note 1, at 315.
138 Id.; see supra note 135.
olic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true
religion."139 The monarch must act to favor religion and prefer the Catholic
faith. 140 Vatican II emphasizes that an individual's freedom to practice
religion cannot be limited, except for the sake of public order.14 ' The
monarch must content with three principles: the duty to prefer the
Cathopleicrmfaititho;r tphreosdcuritbyetothgeuacoranndtuecet forefeidtsomcitfizroemns cfooerrcthioen;coamndmtohne groigohd.t1t4o2
Essentially, the monarch may establish a Catholic state, but it may not
coerce the practice of Catholicism, nor prohibit the practice of other
religions except where the common good or public order mandates such
restriction. However, the monarch does not have the duty to guarantee
the right to "practice any fundamentally decent form of religion."' 4 3
This distinction is important because under Cross's position, in the
public order, all religions would be on equal footing-with each other
and with the Catholic faith. Further, in the religious order, the Church
would not have a basis to hold itself out as the one true religion.
However, if there is an affirmative right, why should it be limited to the civil
order? Why should this fundamental right be precluded from the
religious realm? We have seen that, in its tradition and in Vatican II, the
Church has repeatedly stated that it is the one true Church and that all
men are bound to worship in its way. An individual retains his freedom
to act and the Church retains the authority to hold itself out as the one
true religion, and to determine whether a particular religion is
acceptable. The Church retained this authority in documents promulgated
subsequent to Vatican II.
The lack of juridical dogmatic statements in Declarationmay induce
some to glean from its text a right to practice any religion, enunciated in
an attempt to spur ecumenism. However, Father John Courtney
Murray, a commentator who played an integral role in drafting Declaration
on Religious Freedom, noted that the "frank profession of Catholic faith
at the outset of the Declarationis in no sense at variance with the
ecumenical spirit, any more than it is at variance with full loyalty to the
principle of religious freedom."1 44 Declaration emphasizes Christ's
intaelln, tyteot fnooutndtharnusetxtueprioonr banoydym-athn;e cCoaetrhcioolnic hCahsunrcohp.laItceis wtohbaetstoaeuvgehr.t' t4o5
Father Murray further explained that
139 DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, supra note 71, at 677.
140 Id. at 677, 685.
141 Id. at 679.
142 Id. at 677, 679, 685.
143 Cross, supra note 122, at 39.
144 DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, supra note 71, at 676-77 n.3 (note by Father
John Courtney Murray).
145 Id. at 676 n.3 (note by Father John Courtney Murray).
no man may say of religious truth which subsists in the Church: "It is
no concern of mine." Once given by Christ to His true Church, the
true religion remains the one way in which all men are bound to serve
God and save themselves. Consequently, religious freedom is not a
title to exemption from the obligation to "observe all things
whatsoever I have enjoined upon you." In fine, a harmony exists between
man's duty of free obedience to the truth and his right to the free
exercdiosees otfhreelriiggihotndiinmsinocisiehtyt.heTdheutyd.u1t4y6 does not diminish the right, nor
Declarationaddressed civil society, rather than the Church. The
title calls to mind many civil declarations and constitutions, including
those of the United States. Vatican II spoke to civil authority, and at
times criticized and attacked it. It proclaimed that free exercise of
religion must be sanctioned by constitutional law.14 7 Vatican II took great
pains to emphasize the injustice of civil authority's strive to deter
citizens from practicing their faith while making it difficult and dangerous
for religious bodies to fulfill their purposes.1 4 Declaration focused on
the external practice and expression of religious beliefs in all aspects of
society. This may be considered a direct criticism of the United States
for its recurrent attempt to build an impenetrable wall between
humanity as civil and humanity as religious.
The issues considered here have received only the most cursory
glance. Much analysis has been and will be done on this topic. However,
even from this brief exploration, the consistency of the Church's social
teaching on the relation of the Church and State is clear. Much
confusion stems from the absence of accurate historical facts, or even the lack
of a fair rendition of the facts surrounding Church action. Indeed, even
Declarationon ReligiousFreedom, which is new in the sense that an
entire council document has been devoted to religious liberty, is a
restatement of a fundamental principle contained throughout traditional social
Beginning with St. Thomas, and through Pope Boniface VIII, Pope
Leo XIII, and Pope Pius XI, the Church developed a working social
theory on the relationship between itself and the State. Contrary to critics,
Vatican II has not issued a single document contradicting this theory.
94 DECREE ON THE APOSTOLATE OF THE LAITY, reprintedin THE DOCUMENTS OF VATICAN II, supra note 3, at 489 passim. "The obligation of spreading the faith is imposed on every disciple of Christ. . . . " . DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH, supra note 69 , at 36.
DECREE ON THE APOSTOLATE OF THE LArrY, supra , at 489 (citations omitted).
95 DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, supra note 71 , at 685 , 685 n. 16 (note by Father John Courtney Murray). "[G]overnment is to assume the safegaurd of the religious freedom ofall its citizens, in an effective manner, by just laws and by other appropriate means." Id.
at 685. Further, governments must, as part of this duty, "create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life, in order that the people may be truly enabled to exercise their religious rights and to fulfill their religious duties." Id.
96 Immortale Dei , supra note 1 , at 303.
97 DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, supra note 71 , at 675 , 678 n.5.
98 Id. at 681.
99 U.S. CONST. amend. I.