Vatican II’s teaching

“[N]or is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others....” Documents of Vatican II, Fr. Abbott (General Editor), Dignitatis Humanae, pp. 679-80 (emphasis added). Vatican II teaches that this religious liberty “continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it.” Id. Vatican II does say that religious liberty has “due limits” but makes clear that these limits concern peace and safety: “nor is the exercise of this right to be impeded, provided that the just requirements of public order are observed.” Id.1

The consistent teaching of the Catholic Church rejecting the right to practice religious error

Vatican Secretariat of State to the Archbishop of Sao Paulo on April 14, 1955:

“It is not only individuals who have the duty of paying to God the tribute of their homage and gratitude for benefits received, but also families, nations, and the State as such. The Church in her wisdom and maternal solicitude has always inculcated that duty.”

Emphasis added.

Pope Pius XII (1876-1958):

“[T]hat which is opposed to … the truth of Faith infallibly revealed by God … is, necessarily, an error, and the same rights which are objectively recognized for truth cannot be afforded to error. In this manner, liberty of thought and liberty of conscience have their essential limits in the truthfulness of God in revelation.”

October 6, 1946 Discourse Ecco che un anno.

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. (1877-1964):

Temporal good is not a means fitted to the attainment of a supernatural good, but is subordinated to it, for ‘we are helped by the temporal to move towards beatitude, in that by it the life of the body is maintained and it is an instrumental aid to acts of virtue’ (II II Q.83, a.6). Indeed, if that subordination were removed, temporal goods would be the first object of desire and we should make them our end, as happens in an irreligious or atheistic society.

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange continues, answering an objection that the liberty of the true religion was sufficiently protected in the liberty of all religions:

Liberty of religions allows us to frame an argument ad hominem, against those, that is to say, who profess liberty of religions yet harass the true Church and directly or indirectly forbid its worship. That argument ad hominem is correct, and the Catholic Church does not disdain it but rather urges it in defense of her rightful liberty. But from that it does not follow that liberty of religions, considered in itself, can be defended unconditionally by Catholics, for in itself it is absurd and wicked: truth and error cannot have the same rights.

De Revelatione, Bk. II, ch. 15, a. 4, Ferrari, Rome (publisher), ©1945, in a section entitled, Of the Duty of Civil Authority and Society, of Accepting Divine Revelation When it is Adequately Proposed.

Fr. Jean Marie Herve (1881-1958):

Status Ecclesiae subordinari debet, negative quidem et positive, sed indirecte. [The State should be subordinate to the Church, negatively and positively, but indirectly.]

Manuale Theologiae Dogmaticae, Bk. I, n. 537, Berche et Pagis, Paris, © 1936.

Jacques Maritain (1882-1973)

We must affirm as a truth above all the vicissitudes of time the supremacy of the Church over the world and over all terrestrial powers. On pain of radical disorder she must guide the peoples towards the last end of human life, which is also that of States, and, to do that, she must direct, in terms of the spiritual riches entrusted to her, both rulers and nations.

Primauté du spirituel, n. 23, Plon (editor), Paris, ©1927.

Pope Pius XI (1857-1939):

We earnestly hope that the Feast of the Kingship of Christ, which in the future will be yearly observed, may hasten the return of society to our loving Savior. It would be the duty of Catholics to do all they can to bring about this happy result.... If the faithful would generally understand that it is their duty to fight bravely and continually under the banner of Christ their King, then, fired with apostolic zeal, they would endeavor to win over to Our Lord those who are estranged from Him or know Him not, and would valiantly defend His rights.... The rebellion of individuals and of nations against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable effects. …
The annual celebration of this feast (of Christ the King) will remind States that magistrates and rulers are bound, just like citizens, to offer public worship to Christ and to obey Him.... For His royalty requires that the whole State be governed by the commandments of God and by Christian principles in its legislation, in the way it does justice, and also in training youth with sound doctrine and good moral discipline.
Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether individually or collectively, are under the dominion of Christ. In Him is the salvation of the individual, in Him is the salvation of Society.

December 11, 1925 Encyclical Quas Primas, ¶¶ 18, 24 & 32.

We learned with great sorrow that … it is openly declared that the [Spanish] State has no official religion, thus reaffirming that separation of State from Church which was, alas, decreed in the new Spanish Constitution. We shall not delay here to repeat that it is a serious error to affirm that this separation is licit and good in itself, especially in a nation almost totally Catholic. Separation, well considered, is only the baneful consequence – as We often have declared, especially in the Encyclical Quas Primas – of laicism, or rather the apostasy of society that today feigns to alienate itself from God and therefore from the Church.

June 3, 1933 Encyclical Dilectissima Nobis, ¶6.

[T]he Church is able to set both public and private life on the road to righteousness by demanding that everything and all men become obedient to God ‘Who beholdeth the heart’, to His commands, to His laws, to His sanctions. If the teachings of the Church could only penetrate in some such manner as We have described the inner recesses of the consciences of mankind, be they rulers or be they subjects, all eventually would be so apprised of their personal and civic duties and their mutual responsibilities that in a short time ‘Christ would be all, and in all.’ (Colossians iii, 11).
For the Church teaches (she alone has been given by God the mandate and the right to teach with authority) that not only our acts as individuals but also as groups and as nations must conform to the eternal law of God. In fact, it is much more important that the acts of a nation follow God's law, since on the nation rests a much greater responsibility for the consequences of its acts than on the individual.

December 23, 1922 Encyclical Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio, ¶¶ 43-44.

Pope St. Pius X (1835-1914):

That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error. Based as it is, on the principle that the State must not recognize any religious cult, it is in the first place guilty of a great injustice to God; for the Creator of man is also the Founder of human societies, and preserves their existence as He preserves our own. We owe Him, therefore, not only a private cult, but a public and social worship to honor Him. Besides, this thesis is an obvious negation of the supernatural order. It limits the action of the State to the pursuit of public prosperity during this life only, which is but the proximate object of political societies; and it occupies itself in no fashion (on the pleas that this is foreign to it) with their ultimate object which is man’s eternal happiness.... The same thesis also upsets the order providentially established by God in the world, which demands a harmonious agreement between the two societies.... It follows necessarily that there are many things belonging to them in common in which both societies must have relations with one another.... Finally, this thesis inflicts great injury on society itself, for it cannot either prosper or last long when due place is not left for religion, which is the supreme rule and the sovereign mistress in all questions touching the rights and duties of men.

1905 Encyclical, Vehementer nos, ¶3.

Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903):

Let us examine that liberty in individuals which is so opposed to the virtue of religion, namely, the liberty of worship, as it is called. This is based on the principle that every man is free to profess as he may choose any religion or none. But assuredly of all the duties which man has to fulfill, that, without doubt, is the chief and holiest which commands him to worship God with devotion and piety. Wherefore, when a liberty such as We have described is offered to man, the power is given him to pervert or abandon with impunity the most sacred of duties, and to exchange the unchangeable good for evil; which, as We have said, is no liberty, but its degradation, and the abject submission of the soul to sin. This kind of liberty, if considered in relation to the State, clearly implies that there is no reason why the State should offer any homage to God, or should desire any public recognition of Him; that no one form of worship is to be preferred to another, but that all stand on an equal footing, no account being taken of the religion of the people, even if they profess the Catholic faith. But to justify this, it must needs be taken as true that the State has no duties to God, or that such duties, if they exist, can be abandoned with impunity, both of which assertions are manifestly false. ... God it is Who had made man for society, and has placed him in the company of others like himself, so that what was wanting to his nature and beyond his attainment, if left to his own resources, he might obtain by association with others. Wherefore, civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice forbids and reason itself forbids the State to be godless, or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness -- namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow on them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. Since, then, the profession of one religion is necessary in the State, that religion must by professed which alone is true ....
We must now consider briefly liberty of speech, and liberty of the press. If is hardly necessary to say that there can be no such right as this, if it be not used in moderation, and if it pass beyond the bounds and end of all true liberty. For right is a moral power which -- as we have before said and must again and again repeat -- it is absurd to suppose that nature has accorded indifferently to truth and falsehood, to justice and injustice. Men have a right freely and prudently to propagate throughout the State whatsoever things are true and honorable, so that as many as possible may possess them; but lying opinions than which no mental plague is greater, and vices which corrupt the heart and moral life, should be diligently repressed by public authority .... If unbridled license of speech and of writing be granted to all, nothing will remain sacred and inviolate.... [I]t is contrary to reason that error and truth should have equal rights.... Thus, truth, being gradually obscured by darkness, pernicious and manifold error, as too often happens, will easily prevail. Thus, too, license will gain what liberty loses; for liberty will be ever more free and secure in proportion as license is kept in fuller restraint. From what has been said, it follows that it is quite unlawful to demand, to defend or to grant unconditional freedom of thought, of speech, of writing, or of worship, as if these were so many rights given by nature to man.

June 20, 1888 Encyclical Libertas praestantissimum, ¶¶ 19-24, 32.

[I]t is not lawful for the State, any more than the individual, either to disregard all religious duties or hold in favor different kinds of religion.
There was once a time when States were governed by the principles of the Gospel. Then it was that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people, permeating all ranks and relations of civil society. Then, too, the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, established firmly in befitting dignity, flourished everywhere, by the favor of princes and the legitimate protection of magistrates, and Church and State were happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices. The State, constituted in this wise, bore fruits important beyond all expectation, whose remembrance is still, and always will be, in renown. A similar state of things would have continued had the agreement of the two powers been lasting.... But that harmful and deplorable passion for innovation which was aroused in the sixteenth century threw first of all into confusion the Christian religion, and next, by natural sequence, invaded the precincts of philosophy, whence it spread among all classes of society. From this source, as from a fountainhead, burst forth all those later tenets of unbridled license which, in the midst of the terrible upheavals of the [eighteenth] century, were wildly conceived and boldly proclaimed as the principles and foundations of that new conception of law which was not merely previously unknown, but was at variance on many points with not only the Christian, but the natural law.

Pope Leo XIII goes on to elaborate what he means by the "principles and foundations of that new conception of law...previously unknown" to Christian civilization:

that each is free to think on every subject just as he may choose, and to do whatever he may like to do; that no man has any right to rule over other men .... [T]hat the judgment of each one's conscience is independent of all law; that the most unrestrained opinions may be openly expressed as to the practice or omission of divine worship; and that everyone has unbounded license to think whatever he chooses and to publish abroad whatever he thinks. …
[T]he State is acting against the laws and dictates of nature whenever it permits the license of opinion and of action to lead minds astray from truth and souls away from the practice of virtue.
And since the people is declared to contain within itself the spring-head of all right and of all power, it follows that the State does not consider itself bound by any kind of duty towards God. Moreover, it believes that it is not obliged to make public profession of any religion; or to inquire which of the very many religions is the true one; or to prefer one religion to all the rest... but, on the contrary, is bound to grant equal right to every creed, so that public order may not be disturbed by any particular form of religious belief.... [T]his most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice, and this in the same thing as Atheism, however it may differ from it in name.

November 1, 1885 Encyclical Immortale Dei, ¶¶ 35, 21, 32, 31.

Mariano Cardinal Rampolla del Tindaro, Vatican Secretary of State (1843–1913)

Cardinal Rampolla condemned, as the belief of one class of persons who do not profess the Catholic Faith, that these persons affirm:

that the life and conduct of private citizens should be regulated by the Divine laws but not the life and conduct of the State. According to them it is lawful in public affairs to depart from God's commands and to take no account of them in legislation. From this follows that pernicious conclusion that Church and State should be separated.

April 6th, 1900 letter from Cardinal Rampolla to the Archbishop of Bogata, Columbia.

Pope Pius IX (1792-1878)

[T]he cause of the Catholic Church, and the salvation of souls entrusted to us by God, and the welfare of human society itself, altogether demand that we again stir up your pastoral solicitude to exterminate other evil opinions, which spring forth from the said errors as from a fountain. Which false and perverse opinions are on that ground the more to be detested, because they chiefly tend to this, that that salutary influence be impeded and (even) removed, which the Catholic Church, according to the institution and command of her Divine Author, should freely exercise even to the end of the world--not only over private individuals, but over nations, peoples, and their sovereign princes; and (tend also) to take away that mutual fellowship and concord of counsels between Church and State which has ever proved itself propitious and salutary, both for religious and civil interests.
For you well know, venerable brethren, that at this time men are found not a few who, applying to civil society the impious and absurd principle of “naturalism,” as they call it, dare to teach that “the best constitution of public society and (also) civil progress altogether require that human society be conducted and governed without regard being had to religion any more than if it did not exist; or, at least, without any distinction being made between the true religion and false ones.” And, against the doctrine of Scripture, of the Church, and of the Holy Fathers, they do not hesitate to assert that “that is the best condition of civil society, in which no duty is recognized, as attached to the civil power, of restraining by enacted penalties, offenders against the Catholic religion, except so far as public peace may require.” From which totally false idea of social government they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, most fatal in its effects on the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls, called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an “insanity,” viz., that “liberty of conscience and worship is each man's personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way.” But, while they rashly affirm this, they do not think and consider that they are preaching “liberty of perdition;” and that “if human arguments are always allowed free room for discussion, there will never be wanting men who will dare to resist truth, and to trust in the flowing speech of human wisdom; whereas we know, from the very teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, how carefully Christian faith and wisdom should avoid this most injurious babbling.”

December 8, 1864 Encyclical Quanta Cura ¶3.

Pope Pius IX condemned the following errors:

15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true. …
55. The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church. — Allocution Acerbissimum, Sept. 27, 1852. …
77. In our day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion be acknowledged as the one State religion to the exclusion of other forms of worship.
78. Praise is due to certain nominally Catholic countries where the law has provided that strangers coming to live there shall enjoy the public exercise of their particular religions.

December 8, 1864 Syllabus of Errors (Denzinger 1777), Propositions 15, 55, 77 & 78.

Pope Gregory XVI (1765-1846):

From this poisoned source of indifferentism springs that false and absurd maxim, better termed the insanity [deliramentum] that liberty of conscience must be obtained and guaranteed for everyone. This is the most contagious of errors, which prepares the way for that absolute and totally unrestrained liberty of opinions which, for the ruin of Church and State, is spreading everywhere.... Here we must include that harmful and never sufficiently denounced freedom to publish any writings whatever and disseminate them to the people, which some dare to demand and promote with so great a clamor. We are horrified to see what monstrous doctrines and prodigious errors are disseminated far and wide in countless books, pamphlets and other writings.... Some are so carried away that they contentiously assert that the flock of errors arising from them is sufficiently compensated by the publication of some book which defends religion and truth.... Is there any sane man who would say poison ought to be distributed, sold publicly, stored and even drunk, because some antidote is available and those who use it may be snatched from death again and again?

August 15, 1832 Encyclical Mirari Vos, ¶¶ 14-15.

Pope Pius VII, (1742-1823):

Our heart is more grievously and even most vehemently afflicted by the 22nd Article of the [French] Constitution, by which We confess that We are pained, oppressed and grieved. By this Article We see that liberty of worship and liberty of conscience, to use the words of the Article in question, are not only permitted, but that help and protection are promised to those who are called the ministers of the different forms of worship. There is certainly no need of a long discourse, when speaking to you, to get you to see clearly what a deadly blow is thus dealt to the Catholic Religion in France. By the fact that the freedom of all forms of worship without distinction is proclaimed, truth is confused with error, and the holy and immaculate Spouse of Christ, outside of which there can be no salvation, is placed on the same level as heretical sects and even as Jewish perfidy.

April 29, 1814 Encyclical Post tam diuturnas, ¶3.

Pope Pius VI (1717-1799)

In his June 17, 1793 encyclical Quare lacrymae, Pope Pius VI condemned the new constitution of the French Revolution, deploring that, in this civil constitution, “it as decreed that everyone could freely profess the religion he wanted, as if all religions were true and would lead to eternal salvation.”

Quare lacrymae, ¶8.

The necessary effect of the [French] constitution decreed by the Assembly is to annihilate the Catholic Religion and, with her, the obedience owed to Kings. With this purpose it establishes as a right of man in society this absolute liberty that not only insures the right to be indifferent to religious opinions, but also grants full license to freely think, speak, write and even print whatever one wishes on religious matters – even the most disordered imaginings. It is a monstrous right, which the Assembly claims, however, results from equality and the natural liberties of all men.
But what could be more unwise than to establish among men this equality and this uncontrolled liberty, which stifles all reason, the most precious gift nature gave to man, the one that distinguishes him from animals? …
Where then, is this liberty of thinking and acting that the Assembly grants to man in society as an indisputable natural right? Is this invented right not contrary to the right of the Supreme Creator to whom we owe our existence and all that we have? Can we ignore the fact that man was not created for himself alone, but to be helpful to his neighbor? …
Man should use his reason first of all to recognize his Sovereign Maker, honoring Him and admiring Him, and submitting his entire person to Him.

Brief Quod aliquantum, of March 10, 1791

Pope Pius VI had the traditional Catholic understanding that the secular government should assist the Catholic Church in her work combating religious error. In an August 28, 1794 papal bull condemning the errors of the heretical Synod of Pistoia, Italy, Pope Pius VI instructed the Catholic hierarchy, the Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops and other Ordinaries to seek “if needed, the help of the secular arm”2 of the civil government to suppress the supporters of this synod’s religious teachings.

Bull Auctorem fidei (at the end).

Pope Benedict XIV (1675-1758)

After praising the country of Poland for strongly resisting the errors of the Lutherans, the pope adds that thanks belong to a council of the leaders of Poland because they prevent religious liberty for non-Catholic religions:

To the great glory of God, it [i.e., this council of leaders] prohibited the principle of freedom of conscience; adherents of this principle were seeking to introduce and establish it in Poland.

June 14, 1751 Encyclical A Quo Primum, ¶1.

Blessed Pope Innocent XI (1611-1689)

Blessed Pope Innocent XI himself imprisoned Miguel de Molinos solely for his religious ideas (his heresies) which were misleading Catholics. (This shows that Blessed Pope Innocent XI did not agree with the idea of religious liberty for those practicing a false religion.)

November 20, 1687 Apostolic Constitution, Coelestis Pastor, ¶1.

Saint Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Catholic Church (1542-1621)

Saint Robert Bellarmine condemned the error of those who:

teach that rulers should care for the State and the public peace, but they should not be concerned about religion, but should allow everyone to think as he pleases and to live as he pleases, provided he does not disturb the public peace. … [T]his error is most harmful, and without doubt Christian rulers are in duty bound not to allow freedom of belief to their subjects, but to afford opportunity that that faith may be preserved which the Catholic Church, and especially the supreme Pontiff, says should be held.

De Laicis (Treatise on Civil Government), Ch. 18.

Council of Trent (1545-1563)

Canon 21 of the Council of Trent (Dz. 831), demonstrates that Our Lord Jesus Christ is the ruler of all men without qualification:

If anyone shall say that Christ Jesus has been given by God to men as a Redeemer in whom they should trust, and not also as a Legislator, whom they should obey: let him be anathema.

Comment: As is clear from this canon, our obedience to Our Lord Jesus Christ as Legislator is not qualified or limited in any way. The Council of Trent does not say that men should obey Our Lord “in their individual capacities” or that they should obey Him “except when conducting political activities”. Men owe Our Lord Jesus Christ obedience in all matters and at all times, including when acting collectively or politically.

Pope Paul IV (1476-1559)

Pope Paul IV, so far from countenancing religious liberty for non-Catholics, decreed the following civil punishments for all heretics everywhere:

§2 We will and decree that the aforementioned sentences, censures and penalties be incurred without exception by all members of the following categories:
(i) Whoever … [has] fallen into any heresy … . These sanctions, moreover, shall be incurred by all members of these categories, of whatever status … even worldly authority or excellence, as Count, Baron, Marquis, Duke, King or Emperor. …
§3 Hence, by this Our Constitution which is to remain valid in perpetuity, … We enact, determine, decree and define (since the aforesaid sentences, censures and penalties are to remain in efficacious force and strike all those whom they are intended to strike) that: … each and every member of the following categories … Counts, Barons, Marquises, Dukes, Kings and Emperors who[have] … fallen into heresy or incurred schism or provoked or committed either or both of these … shall also automatically, without any exercise of law or application of fact, be thoroughly, entirely and perpetually deprived of … Countships, Baronies, Marquisates, Dukedoms, Kingships and Imperial Power ….

Further, those who give aid to heretics, Pope Paul IV inflicted with many punishments including: …

[§5] (iii) they shall be excluded on pain of invalidity from any public or private office …
(iv) they shall be incapable of making a will;
(v) they shall not accede to the succession of heredity;
(vi) no one shall be forced to respond to them concerning any business;
(vii) if perchance they shall have been judges, their judgments shall have no force, nor shall any cases be brought to their hearing;
(viii) if they shall have been advocates, their pleading shall nowise be received;
(ix) if they shall have been notaries, documents drafted by them shall be entirely without strength or weight; ...
(xi) laymen, [shall be automatically deprived of] moreover, in the same way - even if they be qualified, as already described, or endowed with the aforesaid dignities or whatever Kingdoms, Duchies, Dominions, Fiefs and temporal goods possessed by them;
(xii) finally, all Kingdoms, Duchies, Dominions, Fiefs and goods of this kind shall be confiscated, made public and shall remain so, and shall be made the rightful property of those who shall first occupy them if these shall be sincere in faith, in the unity of the Holy Roman Church and under obedience to Us and to Our successors the Roman Pontiffs canonically entering office.

February 15, 1559 Apostolic Constitution Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, §§ 2, 3 & 5 (Roman Bullarium Vol. IV. Sec. I, pp. 354-357).

Pope Leo X (1475-1521)

Pope Leo X condemned and described as “pernicious poison”, the following error:

#33. That heretics be burned, is against the will of the Spirit.

June 15, 1520 Bull Exsurge Domine.

Pope Leo X showed that he was an opponent of religious liberty for error, when he praised the German people, especially the German emperors, for their previous indefatigable war on heretics:

Indeed it is certain that these Germans, truly germane to the Catholic faith, have always been the bitterest opponents of heresies, as witnessed by those commendable constitutions of the German emperors in behalf of the Church's independence, freedom, and the expulsion and extermination of all heretics from Germany. Those constitutions formerly issued, and then confirmed by our predecessors, were issued under the greatest penalties even of loss of lands and dominions against anyone sheltering or not expelling them.

June 15, 1520 bull Exsurge Domine, ¶7.

Council of Vienna and Pope Clement V (1311-1312), Canon 25:

It is an insult to the holy name and a disgrace to the Christian faith that in certain parts of the world subject to Christian princes where Saracens live, sometimes apart, sometimes intermingled with Christians, the Saracen priests commonly called Zabazala, in their temples or mosques, in which the Saracens meet to adore the infidel Mahomet, loudly invoke and extol his name each day at certain hours from a high place, in the hearing of both Christians and Saracens and there make public declarations in his honor. There is a place, moreover, where once was buried a certain Saracen whom other Saracens venerate as a saint. A great number of Saracens flock there quite openly from far and near. This brings disrepute on our faith and gives great scandal to the faithful. These practices cannot be tolerated any further without displeasing the divine majesty. We therefore, with the sacred council's approval, strictly forbid such practices henceforth in Christian lands. We enjoin on catholic princes, one and all, who hold sovereignty over the said Saracens and in whose territory these practices occur, and we lay on them a pressing obligation under the divine judgment that, as true Catholics and zealous for the Christian faith, they give consideration to the disgrace heaped on both them and other Christians. They are to remove this offence altogether from their territories and take care that their subjects remove it, so that they may thereby attain the reward of eternal happiness. They are to forbid expressly the public invocation of the sacrilegious name of Mahomet. They shall also forbid anyone in their dominions to attempt in future the said pilgrimage or in any way give countenance to it. Those who presume to act otherwise are to be so chastised by the princes for their irreverence, that others may be deterred from such boldness.

Pope Boniface VIII (1235-1303):

We are informed by the texts of the gospels that in this Church and in its power are two swords; namely, the spiritual and the temporal. For when the Apostles say: 'Behold, here are two swords' [Lk 22:38] that is to say, in the Church, since the Apostles were speaking, the Lord did not reply that there were too many, but sufficient. Certainly the one who denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter has not listened well to the word of the Lord commanding: “Put up thy sword into thy scabbard” [Mt 26:52]. Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered by the Church but the latter for the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.
However, one sword ought to be subordinated to the other and temporal authority, subjected to spiritual power. For since the Apostle said: “There is no power except from God and the things that are, are ordained of God” [Rom 13:1-2], but they would not be ordained if one sword were not subordinated to the other and if the inferior one, as it were, were not led upwards by the other.
For, according to the Blessed Dionysius, it is a law of the divinity that the lowest things reach the highest place by intermediaries. Then, according to the order of the universe, all things are not led back to order equally and immediately, but the lowest by the intermediary, and the inferior by the superior. Hence we must recognize the more clearly that spiritual power surpasses in dignity and in nobility any temporal power whatever, as spiritual things surpass the temporal. This we see very clearly also by the payment, benediction, and consecration of the tithes, by the acceptance of power itself and by the government even of things. For with truth as our witness, it belongs to spiritual power to establish the terrestrial power and to pass judgment if it has not been good. Thus, is accomplished the prophecy of Jeremias concerning the Church and the ecclesiastical power: “Behold to-day I have placed you over nations, and over kingdoms” and the rest. Therefore, if the terrestrial power err, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a minor spiritual power err, it will be judged by a superior spiritual power; but if the highest power of all err, it can be judged only by God, and not by man, according to the testimony of the Apostle: “The spiritual man judgeth of all things and he himself is judged by no man” [1 Cor 2:15]. This authority, however, (though it has been given to man and is exercised by man), is not human but rather divine, granted to Peter by a divine word and reaffirmed to him (Peter) and his successors by the One Whom Peter confessed, the Lord saying to Peter himself, “Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven” etc., [Mt 16:19]. Therefore whoever resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordinance of God [Rom 13:2] …. Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

November 18, 1302 bull Unam Sanctam, ¶¶ 2-4.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church (c. 1225-1274)

Summa Theologica II-II, Q. 11, a.3:

[W]ith regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.
On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy which looks to the conversion of the wanderer, wherefore she condemns not at once, but “after the first and second admonition,” as the Apostle directs: after that, if he is yet stubborn, the Church no longer hoping for his conversion, looks to the salvation of others, by excommunicating him and separating him from the Church, and furthermore delivers him to the secular tribunal to be exterminated thereby from the world by death. For Jerome commenting on Gal. 5:9, “A little leaven,” says: "Cut off the decayed flesh, expel the mangy sheep from the fold, lest the whole house, the whole paste, the whole body, the whole flock, burn, perish, rot, die. Arius was but one spark in Alexandria, but as that spark was not at once put out, the whole earth was laid waste by its flame.”

Summa Theologica II-II Q.60, a.6:

Secular power is subject to the spiritual power as the body is subject to the soul, and therefore, it is not a usurpation of authority if the spiritual prelate interferes in temporal things concerning those matters in which the secular power is subject to him.

Commentary on Peter Lombard's Sentences, II, 44:

In the Pope the secular power is joined to the spiritual. He holds the apex of both powers, spiritual and secular, by the will of Him who is Priest and King unto eternity, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

On Kingship Bk. 1, c. 15:

So, because the goal of that life which deserves here below to be called the good life is heavenly beatitude, it belongs on that score to the function of the Ruler to provide the good life for the many, in terms of what will obtain for them the beatitude of heaven; that is to say, he should prescribe (in his order, which is the temporal) what leads to beatitude, and as far as possible, proscribe what is opposed to it.

The Rule Given by a Saint-King, St. Louis IX (1214-1270):

[N]o man, unless he is a skilled theologian, should debate with Jews. Instead, when a layman hears the Christian law slandered, he should defend it only with his sword, which he should thrust into the offender's guts as far as it will go.

These words of King St. Louis IX are quoted in Life of St. Louis, by John of Joinville, a courtier and fellow-crusader, Part I, Ch. 53, page 155 of the 2008 Penguin Classics edition which is called Chronicles of the Crusades, translated by Caroline Smith.

Lateran IV, The Catholic Church’s 12th Ecumenical Council (1215):

Secular authorities, whatever office they may hold, shall be admonished and induced and if necessary compelled by ecclesiastical censure, that as they wish to be esteemed and numbered among the faithful, so for the defense of the faith they ought publicly to take an oath that they will strive in good faith and to the best of their ability to exterminate in the territories subject to their jurisdiction all heretics pointed out by the Church; so that whenever anyone shall have assumed authority, whether spiritual or temporal, let him be bound to confirm this decree by oath. But if a temporal ruler, after having been requested and admonished by the Church, should neglect to cleanse his territory of this heretical foulness, let him be excommunicated by the metropolitan and the other bishops of the province.

Canon 3.

Pope St. Gregory VII (Hildebrand) (c. 1020–1085)

He showed that the Church has indirect authority over the state and that the state must obey the Church in matters which affect the welfare of souls, by declaring that the German Emperor, Henry IV, was deposed from his throne. The pope relented after the emperor did public penance and promised future obedience.

Source: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Pope+Gregory+VII

The Example of a Saint-King, St. Olaf II (late 10th Century to 1030):

The Icelandic King, St. Olaf II, in about 1000 AD, forbade the practice of false religions in Iceland. Church History, by Fr. John Laux, TAN Books and Publishers, page 279.

Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Catholic Church (circa 540-604)

In a letter to Praetor of Sicily, Pope St. Gregory insisted that the Praetor: “inflict without delay the severest corporal punishment” on a Jew who had, in Pope St. Gregory's words, “erected an altar to the blessed Elias, and deceived many Christians, impiously inducing them to worship there.”

The Remnant Newspaper, p. 15, Nov. 17, 1998.

Pope St. Gregory the Great also wrote:

There are some heretics who believe that Jesus is God, who also believe that He is man, but who absolutely refuse to believe that His kingdom is everywhere.

Commentary on St. Matthew’s Gospel, in passage concerning the adoration of the Magi, as quoted in The Remnant Newspaper, January 17, 1980, page 9.

Pope St. Gelasius I (reign 492-496) wrote in 494:

There are two powers, august Emperor, by which this world is chiefly ruled, namely, the sacred authority of the priests and the royal power. Of these that of the priests’ is the more weighty, since they have to render an account for even the kings of men in the divine judgment. You are also aware, dear son, that while you are permitted honorably to rule over human kind, yet in things divine you bow your head humbly before the leaders of the clergy and await from their hands the means of your salvation. In the reception and proper disposition of the heavenly mysteries you recognize that you should be subordinate rather than superior to the religious order, and that in these matters you depend on their judgment rather than wish to force them to follow your will.
If the ministers of religion, recognizing the supremacy granted you from heaven in matters affecting the public order, obey your laws, lest otherwise they might obstruct the course of secular affairs by irrelevant considerations, with what readiness should you not yield them obedience to whom is assigned the dispensing of the sacred mysteries of religion. Accordingly, just as there is no slight danger in the case of the priests if they refrain from speaking when the service of the divinity requires, so there is no little risk for those who disdain – which God forbid – when they should obey. And if it is fitting that the hearts of the faithful should submit to all priests in general who properly administer divine affairs, how much the more is obedience due to the bishop of that see which the Most High ordained to be above all others, and which is consequently dutifully honored by the devotion of the whole Church.

Translated in J. H. Robinson, Readings in European History, (Boston: Ginn, 1905), pp. 72-73. This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book and is used with permission. © Paul Halsall Jan 1996; halsall@murray.fordham.edu

Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Catholic Church (reign 440-461):

You ought, O Emperor, to realize that your kingly power has been conferred on you not only for ruling the world, but especially for the purpose of giving aid to the Church, in order that by restraining the rashness of wicked men you may defend those things which are well established and restore true peace to those which are disturbed.

Epis. 75 to Leo Augustus, quoted in De Laicis, by Saint Robert Bellarmine, Chapter 18.

Pope Anastasius II: (c. 401-498):

I recommend this especially to Your Serenity, that when the reasons of the Alexandrines reach your most pious ears you may force those men by your authority and wisdom, and by your Divine orders, to return to the Catholic and true faith.

Letter to the Emperor Anastasius, quoted in De Laicis, by Saint Robert Bellarmine, Chapter 18.

St. Augustine, Father and Doctor of the Catholic Church (354-430):

On Duties of Christian Kings
By bad laws the good are tried and by good laws the evil are corrected. The perverse King Nabuchodonosor passed a savage law that idols were to be adored; the same king, corrected, passed a severe law forbidding the true God to be blasphemed. For in this, kings, as is divinely ordained to them, serve God inasmuch as they are kings if, in their kingdom, they command what is good, forbid what is bad, not only in what pertains to human society, but also in what pertains to Divine religion.
What more grievous death for souls than liberty of error!

These words of St. Augustine are quoted in Peter Lovest Thou Me? by Abbe Daniel LeRoux, p. 21.

Who, being in his right mind, will say to kings: “In your kingdom, have no care as to that by which the Church of your Lord is supported or opposed,” “‘In your kingdom, it is not your affair who wishes to be devout or sacrilegious,” to whom it cannot be said: “In your kingdom, it is not your affair who wishes to be virtuous or who does not?”

These words of St. Augustine are quoted in: De Laicis (Treatise on Civil Government), by Saint Robert Bellarmine, Chapter 18.

St. Ambrose, Father and Doctor of the Catholic Church (c. 340-397)

St. Ambrose praises Valentinian II. in his funeral oration because he had strongly resisted the City of Rome when it asked that it might be granted its former liberty in religion, that it might worship by offering sacrifice to the gods. As cited in De Laicis (Treatise on Civil Government), by Saint Robert Bellarmine, Chapter 18.

St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Catholic Church (347-407):

[God] does not … forbid our checking heretics, and stopping their mouths, and taking away their freedom of speech, and breaking up their assemblies and confederacies, but our killing and slaying them.

Sermon 46 on St. Matthew’s Gospel

God has made the person of the king subject to the hand of the priest, teaching us that the dignity of the latter is greater than that of the former. In sooth, that which is less receives a blessing from that which is greater.

Sermon 5, quoted by St. John Chrysostom in his own treatise On the Priesthood, p. 43.


Pope Paul VI knew that Vatican II's position on religious liberty for error was a new position and was not the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church. In 1969, Pope Paul VI declared that:

The NEW position adopted by the Church with regard to the realities of this earth is henceforth well known by everyone ... the Church agrees to recognize the NEW principle to be put into practice ... the Church agrees to recognize the world as ‘self-sufficient’, she does not seek to make the world an instrument for her religious ends ....

August 24, 1969 Declaration of Pope Paul VI, L'Osservatore Romano; (Emphasis added).

Vatican II expert and prominent conciliar theologian, Fr. Hans Küng, recognized that religious liberty was the opposite of Church’s prior teaching:

“Lefebvre has every right to question the Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom,” Küng says, “because Vatican II completely reversed Vatican I’s position without explanation. … The Council bishops said: It’s too complicated to explain how you can go from a condemnation of religious liberty to an affirmation of it purely by the notion of progress.”

October 21, 1977 Interview, National Catholic Reporter

  1. Cf. Article 10 of the French Revolution’s 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man: “No one can be molested for his opinions, even for his religious opinions, provided their manifestation does not trouble the public order established by law.”
  2. I am not aware of a published English translation of this Bull. However, the Italian version states: “Comandiamo inoltre ai Venerabili Fratelli Patriarchi, Arcivescovi e Vescovi, ed agli altri Ordinarii dei luoghi, agl’Inquisitori dell’eretica pravità, che assolutamente reprimano e costringano qualunque contraddittore e ribelle con le censure e con le sopraddette pene, e con altri rimedii di diritto e di fatto, invocando anche a questo fine, se sarà necessario, l’aiuto del braccio secolare.”