…a very bitter and fearsome war against the whole Catholic commonwealth is being stirred up by men bound together in a lawless alliance. These men do not preserve sound doctrine, but turn their hearing from the truth. They eagerly attempt to produce from their darkness all sorts of prodigious beliefs, and then to magnify them with all their strength, and to publish them and spread them among ordinary people… These men use these means to spread their hatred for truth and light. They are experienced and skillful in deceit, which they use to set in motion their plans to quench peoples’ zeal for piety, justice and virtue, to corrupt morals, to cast all divine and human laws into confusion, and to weaken and even possibly overthrow the Catholic religion and civil society… they go so far in their rash imagining as to teach without blushing, openly and publicly, daring and unheard-of doctrines, thereby uttering blasphemies against God.Pope Pius IX, Qui pluribus (1846)
Picture this – it’s a hot afternoon on Trinity Sunday, and a large crowd of people are gathered in a tightly-packed square, while a crowd of onlookers watch through their cars the ongoing spectacle, and police are present to prevent any chaos from escalating. Leading the forefront are a group of men holding large banners sporting Biblical verses and urging the population towards repentance and a Godly lifestyle. No, I’m not describing the opening ceremonies of a Eucharistic Congress procession, or the Cardinal Archbishop of Toronto leading an open-air prayer service. I’m instead talking about an event from Anime North from three years ago, where for the first time in my life I witnessed a group of street preachers bull-horning their message amidst a large crowd of convention-goers who were gathered to do anime-related things there. The preachers, who belonged to the non-denominational branch of the Vatican II sect, were not there to edify people towards God like St. Dominic, St. Anthony of Padua, or St. Ignatius Loyola did back in their day, but simply make a spectacle big enough for the convention-goers to nickname it “an unofficial Anime North panel”.
Having just returned from High Mass at the local SSPX chapel located south of the convention hall, I was (un?)fortunate enough to view the circus and found myself siding with the massive crowd of weebs, in spite of their unruly behavior. While they mocked the preachers’ motives on the grounds that they were there to defend their love for anime, I, on the other hand, had a different reasoning on theological grounds. I could not side with a group whose sole purpose was to spread cursed Protestant nonsense that could easily be debunked by an hour with some pre-Vatican II dogmatic theology books, and feigned their love of God through ego-boosting shenanigans – all while citing St. John the Baptist and St. Paul as their primary inspiration, and sullying the good work that these figures did in the name of Jesus Christ. However, this event did lead me to take the traditionalist Catholic Faith more seriously, and study it from a more apologetic side of things. The conclusion: within the framework of a Catholic state, such an open-air abomination would never have been permitted to happen, and all these can be traced back to one issue: the notion of religious liberty.
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: ATTACKING THE TRUTH FROM ALL FRONTS
A few months prior to this, I had the pleasure of reading The Duties Of A Catholic State, a 1953 lecture by one of my favorite Roman Catholic cardinals, Alfredo Ottaviani, who served as the a key member of the Vatican’s Holy Office Of The Inquisition from 1953 to 1968. The eminent Cardinal, using the teachings enshrined by some of the papal predecessors of his time, voiced the imperativeness of the state to profess the Catholic Faith in all matters political and social. The eminent cardinal writes in his treatise:
Accordingly, the Church does not desire to be a State, but her Divine founder has constituted the Church a perfect society, enriched with all the powers inherent in such a juridical condition, in order to accomplish its mission in every State, without conflicts between the two societies of which He is, though in different ways, the Author and the Support… it is … the duty incumbent on the Rulers in a State composed almost entirely of Catholics, and which therefore ought to be governed by Catholics in a manner consistent with their religion, to mould the legislation of the State in a Catholic sense.
Three consequences follow immediately from this duty:
(1) The social, and not merely the private, profession of the religion of the people;Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, The Duties Of The Catholic State (1953)
(2) Legislation inspired by the full concept of membership of Christ;
(3) The defense of the religious patrimony of the people against every assault aimed at depriving them of the treasure of their faith and of religious peace.
Cardinal Ottaviani makes it clear that a state which claims to profess Christ must actively pursue this end by means of its laws, social conduct, and by safeguarding its people from anything that could lead them astray into error. The reason stems from the idea that the Catholic Church, as the divine institution founded by Christ, acts as the sole guardian of truth, morals, and right living. In order to assert that its followers can live up to God’s standards, and thereby establish the kingdom of God on Earth, it cannot tolerate even a single ounce of error, to minimize the risk of their spread and derailing the mission of the Church and salvation; for starters, look no further the preachers at Anime North as an example of this. Being given free rein to preach errors like sola scriptura, the intrinsic rejection of Church authority, and implicitly promoting scandal to those weak in the Faith only serve to further the rift between one’s personal relationship with God, and in turn lead people astray from the truth which only the Church holds.
Religious liberty, on the other hand – the idea that all religions are allowed to profess their faith in both public and private settings – has long been condemned by the Catholic Church, as dangerous to public life. Pope Gregory XVI, in his encyclical Mirari Vos in 1820, attacked the principle as absurd, citing that “cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil”. It was also condemned in Pope Pius IX on several occasions: starting from his first encylical, Qui Pluribus in 1846, and later in Quanto Conficiamur Moreore of 1863, then most famously, Quanta Cura in 1864 alongside the famous Syllabus of Errors.
Condemned Proposition #77: In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.Pope Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors (1864)
Condemned Proposition #78: Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship.
Condemned Proposition #79: Moreover, it is false that the civil liberty of every form of worship, and the full power, given to all, of overtly and publicly manifesting any opinions whatsoever and thoughts, conduce more easily to corrupt the morals and minds of the people, and to propagate the pest of indifferentism.
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD
More than a century after Pope Pius IX released Quanta Cura condemning religious liberty, among many other propositions, the Vatican II document Dignitatis Humanae reversed the previous Catholic teaching on religious toleration, and advocated for the former instead. The consequences of this teaching to be devastating, and Catholic areas like Quebec (Canada), Italy, Spain and Ireland are a testament to this.
- Religious liberty destroys the foundation of a Catholic state. The Church and state must work with each other, not just as co-workers in a company, but also as siblings for a family unit. They must work together to edify the population, stand for virtues and be firm against vices. The state must also ensure that the Catholic Faith must be professed, not just in peoples’ private lives, but also by their example. Religious liberty completely shades away that, by giving every non-Catholic religion equal footing with the truth – and logically leads to the separation of Church and State. An admission of truth and falsehood being on the same footing is not only contradictory, but damaging to a nation’s standard of morals and unity. It also promotes moral relativism – the idea that what’s right can only be determined from a personal, rather than objective, basis – for how can you expect to reconcile a law that won’t be accepted by everyone, and leads to backlash from a certain sector?
- Religious liberty promotes the acceptance of absurd ideas, without restriction. How would you like to have a school where teachers can teach anything they want, no matter how wrong it is, and get away with it? Religious liberty works in a similar way, and anyone, no matter how mentally incapable they are, can promote their beliefs in the name of religion. An example is the notorious writer Jack Chick, whose fundamentalist beliefs are shared by some “non-denominational” groups – including the ones I saw at Anime North. To sum up a few of these:
– Catholicism was responsible for the creation of Islam, Freemasonry, Communism, and Nazism, in spite of numerous papal condemnations against these groups
– Many Catholic practices are supposedly founded upon pagan practices such as those of the ancient Babylonian religion; ignoring that the Church Fathers were completely unaware of the existence of such during its formation
– The Jesuits and the Papacy are Satanic in origin, having been involved in numerous grisly conspiracies since the beginning of time – ignoring that the former was established in the 16th century
Not only does this sound like something straight out of a bad fanfiction, but thanks to religious liberty, such ignorance and slander is allowed in the name of religion – behold the fruits of it! If you actually believe in this, I can only paraphrase Mr. T: “I pity the fool who believes in this retarded garbage”.
- Religious liberty is poison to the spiritual life. In Latin American countries such as Brazil, where the Catholic Faith once flourished in its heyday, Evangelical sects are growing in prominence, rising from 5% representation in 1960 to 25% by the 2010s. Because there’s nothing to stop them from promoting their false conceptions of Christianity, their appeal only grows broader and results in people literally getting their souls scammed just for a diluted version of the Faith. Here in Canada, the state of supposedly Catholic high schools are all but exemplary; instead of using resources such as Uniformity With God’s Will by St. Alphonsus Liguori or Faith Of Our Fathers by James Cardinal Gibbons for spiritual/dogmatic formation, religious education classes focused primarily on praising non-Catholic religions and philosophies, watching secular movies, and never teaching about things like how to get to Heaven. Without this divine assistance, schools thus become a cesspool of immorality and moral degeneracy, and no better than public schools. I should have you know too that not a single Catholic student from my school ever considered a vocation to the priesthood or religious life because of this influence.
- Religious liberty allows for a quicker spread of loose morals. The old adage, “If God does not exist, everything is permitted” rings true once religious liberty comes into play. No longer held back by any sense of state-sponsored religious morals, it becomes expedient that anything to become legal as long as if, according to the person proposing it, it either “feels good” or “physical benefits outweigh the negatives”. If you lived in Quebec back in 1955 and you told someone that abortion and professing to be a gender that you’re not would be legal – and even encouraged by many – within the next half-century, you’d probably get looked at as if you were insane, or in the best case get hired as a stand-up comedian. Alas, gone are the days when such was the case, and as a result the Church has been forced back underground against the increasing tidal wave of moral degeneracy, thanks to religious liberty.
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: AN ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION
While the Church has never allowed for the public promulgation of false doctrines, since the 19th century theologians have proposed another more practical Catholic solution: religious tolerance. Like religious liberty, it allowed for non-Catholic religions to be able to operate privately within the walls of their institutions. They would be allowed to practice their beliefs, operate as part of civil society, and be exempt from persecution; however, unlike full-on religious liberty they would not be allowed to push their teachings in schools or in the public square. Pope Leo XIII sponsored this idea in his encyclical Immortale Dei in 1885, which would also be referenced in Cardinal Ottaviani’s own lecture seven decades later:
The Church, indeed, deems it unlawful to place the 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, allow patiently custom or usage to be a kind of sanction for each kind of religion having its place in the State.Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, paragraph 36 (1885)
Just as God tolerates evils existing in the world for a particular purpose, it can be at times expedient that non-Catholic religions be allowed to operate, for reasons such as maintaining national security, to encourage involvement in certain state-sponsored activities, or for economic purposes. However, all this cannot in any way serve to undermine the truth of the Catholic Faith, nor make it subservient to state protocols. Rather, the two should work together to promote Christian morals and encourage others towards that divine end. True, no one can be forced to accept Christ by coercion, but neither can one be freely compelled to join a sect which is contrary to that ultimate end.
Gone are the days when the Catholic Faith was actively promoted in many parts of the world, by both the people and their respective governments. Every day I’m convinced society strays further away from God’s light – parishes continue to close amidst a declining, secular demographic; errors concerning Christian doctrine and social living are promoted in both the public square, schools, and even on the Internet without fail; and with so many avenues of religion to look into, many will unfortunately reject Christ through these sectors instead of pursuing a sincere love, charity and gentleness that can only be found in Him and the Sacraments. So, next time you see someone with a bullhorn and their consorts drowning the streets with their heretical rhetoric and absurd theology, you have religious liberty to thank for that banter.
St. Francis De Sales, who lived in France during the aftermath of the Protestant Revolt, can certainly be said to not be a champion of religious liberty. Instead he’s the model of a Catholic statesman in clerical robes: to combat the errors of “reformer” John Calvin from spreading like wildfire across his diocese, and out of a zeal for Christ and His Church, he worked with the monarchy to win souls back by preaching sermons, not with aggression but rather the love of God in his mind, in captive parishes, penning useful tracts to promote the truth of the Catholic Faith, such as the great textbook The Catholic Controversies, and allowing his personal behavior to be modeled by the grace of God – as evidenced by his splendid spiritual masterpiece, Introduction To The Devout Life. I doubt he would be happy to see how far and wide the errors which he worked hard to fight and contain, and the free rein that they have on society today.
To preach is the publication and declaration of God’s will, made to men by one lawfully commissioned to that task, to the end of instructing and moving them to serve his divine Majesty in this world so as to be saved in the next.St. Francis De Sales, On The Preacher And Preaching (1604)