Rorate Caeli

Dignitatis Humanae: religious liberty and continuity

Sandro Magister has a post in Chiesa today (on Traditionalists, following a January post on the "Dossettians"), on the matter of Dignitatis Humanae and the concept of religious liberty as proposed by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in that declaration. The basis of his articles is the Pope's epoch-making "Hermeneutics of Continuity" speech of December 2005.

As we mentioned in January 2006, in those days when we were the first English-speaking venue to discuss that address, and though Magister overlooks it in what could perhaps be considered a deliberate oversight, it is not very relevant to discuss the deeper theological aspects of Dignitatis Humanae as mentioned in the "Hermeneutics of Continuity" address because the Holy Father, in his address, made it clear that the notion of religious freedom as discussed in the Council was simply not a primarily theological proposition - it was a pragmatic solution for a practical consideration of the age (... hac nostra aetate...). Which is why it should not be incompatible with the specifically theological aspects of the matter as presented in earlier documents. [Image: repository.]


  1. Please, behave in this comment thread, dear brothers and sisters. It is not necessary for anyone to agree with anyone else, but it is necessary that all be charitable and civilized.


  2. Bottom line on Religous Liberty as infallibly taught by the Church, is that false religions may be tolerated for the civil good but that no one has a personal right to error.

  3. Cruise the Groove, that's my understanding, too.

  4. In his Principles of Catholic Theology, then-Card. Ratzinger called Gaudium et Spes, "(in conjunction with the texts on religious liberty [e.g., Dignitatis Humanæ] and world religions)," "a revision of the Syllabus of Pius IX, a kind of countersyllabus."

    What exactly does he mean by this? Does it contradict what he said in the December 2005 Christmass speech? Also, why does Pope Benedict agree with the first phase of the French Revolution?

    How is he not supporting dogmatic evolution? How is he not supporting the "New Theology?" I am still confused.

  5. I think that a very simple reading of the actual text of DH without prejudices and without hysteria - and without extrapolating excerpts form their context - would reveal why it is in perfect harmony with the doctrine of the preceding 19 centuries. The "religious liberty" of which it speaks is not the same of the XVII and XVIII revolutionaries and liberals. It is a fundamental human right which implies no "right to error" and does not eliminate the duty to seek the truth and hold firm to it.

    However, no one can be forced to believe in anything. it would be not only a violation of human rights, it would be absurd. And that is another self-evident truth that was always professed by the Church

  6. Naturally, Magister also loves the s word. Those mad skyzmatiks!!!! Not very Conciliar, Sandro...


  7. I respectfully disagree that "it was a pragmatic solution for a practical consideration of the age (... hac nostra aetate...). Which is why it should not be incompatible with the specifically theological aspects of the matter as presented in earlier documents."

    Dignitatis Humanae bases it's teaching on the "intrinsic dignity of the human person" as revealed through Scripture and reason itself (DH #2.2).

    If this is true, the Church has been perpetrating a grave violation of justice from Constantine to Pius XII. This is why Archbishop Lefebvre opposed it so forcefully. He even saw the response of the CDF (under then-cardinal Ratzinger) to his dubia about DH as the key factor persuading him to consecrate other bishops, even if he could not get papal approval.

    If DH were just urging a pragmatic solution based on the state of the modern world, he might have disagreed but he would have never taken such a serious step based on a "pragmatic" teaching.

    DH is the nadir of the Council itself and the cause of much of the post-conciliar debacle. It undermines the Social Kingship of Christ as taught by Pope Pius XI in Quas Primas (and a long line of papal teachings preceding it). It is not heresy but it is erroneous and incompatible with Tradition.

    Pope Benedict's 12/05 speech does nothing to demonstrate the contrary. He basically reiterated what he'd said several times before: "that was then, this is now". And even worse, he implies that the Church went off course for centuries and is now finally coming back to the right course, which is consistent with DH's implication as I mentioned above.

  8. Quirinius, you're right that the teaching of DH is not identical to the liberal errors condemned by popes Pius VI, VII, IX, Leo XIII, etc. Michael Davies points this out in his book Religious Liberty and the Second Vatican Council.

    He mentions that it was Karol Wojtyla (JPII) who saved DH from being worse than it would've been by inserting a reference to "the objective moral order" as a criteria that all religions had to observe in order to enjoy full religious freedom.

    However, Mr. Davies points out that while DH may not be contradictory to the previous teaching, it is contrary to it. For DH to be in formal contradiction it would have to deny the previous teaching or affirm the exact opposite of it. But it is contrary in this sense: DH says that religious freedom is the default of the state (Catholic or not) and that we should only restrict this freedom if a particular religion or religious practice violates the objective moral order or interferes in a serious way with the rights of others. Tradition has always maintained that the ideal is the only the Catholic Faith may be freely expresses publicly but that false religions could be tolerated to prevent a greater evil or to obtain a greater good and ONLY TO THE EXTENT NECESSARY to do so. There may not be a head-on collision between the pre- and post-conciliar teachings on this subject but they are starting from different points and going in opposite directions.

  9. @Alan Aversa,

    The fact that then-Card. Ratzinger pointed out that GS was a "countersyllabus" does not at all imply that he was endorsing it.

  10. DH was a declaration to civil authorities. It is Providential given the times we live in. Obviously, it remains strictly within the civil domain. It does not teach or advocate that all religions are equal, true etc. It proposes only that religion in general should be free from civil authorities (consider the state of Sovietism at the times, or the fascist statism in the EU, Canada and the US presently).

  11. Regarding the document with Mgr. Lefebvre's signature just posted on the site, Mgr. Lefebvre always maintained that he simply signed a document acknowledging his presence to vote on the documents listed above. He said the actual voting was done separately and that he did not vote for Dignitatis Humanae or Gaudium et Spes. I don't know the truth of the matter and it's apparently rather complicated, but anyone who knew Mgr. Lefebvre, including his enemies, knew that he was a man of integrity and would never lie about a thing like that. Either he told the truth and others are mistaken or intentionally misleading or he was mistaken about what he signed. He was not a liar and he was not senile. That is certain.

  12. Mr. Hummel, this is not intended to show that he approved of everything, just to remind everyone that he too was a Conciliar Father.


  13. Understood. Thanks for the clarification.

  14. I remember I had read somewhere that during one of the meetings between archbishop Lefebvre and Cardinal Ratzinger. Ratzinger made this point that 'that was then this was now' and these things are changable.
    The Archbishop then suggested on this premise he could wait until it changed back again. Which is one of the reason I have a great affection for him the fact that he could go straight to the principle and see it's finality. Does anyone have the quote?

  15. Philothea, the truth of the matter is that magisterial teaching often comingles elements that are immutable with elements that are prudential, contingent and transient in nature. The social doctrines of the Church are full of immutable principles combined with practical application. The immatable principles remain the same whereas the practical application can change over time. Religious freedom is another case in point. In any case, I posted some impressions on Sandro Magister's latest article here:

  16. When Lefebvre signed DH etc. he accepted the documents. Discrepancies may exists amongst a Board of Directors, but when a motion is passed, the Board supports it irrespective of personal reservation. Board members who cannot live with a passed motion always have the option of resignation.

  17. @dcs: Yes, I realize that. He also said in that same book that it "represents on the part of the Church, an attempt at official reconciliation with the new era inaugurated in 1789." Viz., a concession to Masonry, vehemently condemned by many popes prior to Vatican II.

    @Tracy Hummel: Here is Michael Davies' book on religious liberty, for free online.

    @Pascendi: "DH was a declaration to civil authorities."
    Then why does it say: "This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom." (D.H. §2)? Human persons are not all "strictly within the civil domain," are they? D.H. directly contradicts, e.g., what Pope Gregory XVI called an "insanity" in Mirari Vos §14, which Pope Pius IX reiterated in Quanta Cura, 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."

    "Obviously, it remains strictly within the civil domain."
    Pope St. Pius X condemned a separation of Church and State in Vehemeter Nos §3: "That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error."

    The real question is: "Why does the Church need a French Revolution?," as Card. Suenens called Vatican II?

  18. Indeed, certain traditional theologians took a traditional view of DH...but what about Nostra Aetate. Both in the same breath or not?

  19. Steve7:19 AM

    DH did not say that error has rights, but that people have rights; among these rights is for individuals and groups to freely practice religion. St. Thomas Aquinas has said as much; For worship of God is an act of man's free will. No man can be coerced into loving his Creator. This is all that DH affermed, to address the societies of today, post Holy Roman Empire. It does not in any way contradict that fact that every man and in fact even the state has a moral obligation to seek out and serve the true God who established and sustains the true religion in the Holy Catholic Church. However, this must be done freely.

  20. This thread proves the inherent flaw of Vatican II. The documents of the Council are ambiguous essays written by two factions, one Catholic and another modernist. You can read and understand them in either light.

  21. Alex, I could be sympathetic to your view, which is quite commonly held, IF Modernism itself had not been a problem decades before the Council. It WAS possible for Modernists to use the whole available dogmatic treasure of the Church to hide their wrong views - otherwise, the entire struggle of Pope Saint Pius X would have been unnecessary. It is not that there are no ambiguities - but that, if there are apparent ambiguities, these can be resolved in favor of the only possible traditional view, in matters for which debate and disagreement are not possible.

  22. Anonymous9:19 AM

    I question the entire thinking behind NH.
    The Church is there in order to fight the "practical considerations of the age" (of whatever age), not to try to accommodate them.

    This fundamentally wrong approach is what causes all the problems in the first place.

    The Church is an enemy of the world. Irrespective of the age.


  23. Anonymous11:37 AM

    If Vac II was so wonderful why after 50 years of rot we are still talking about it.

  24. Social Reign Booster11:43 AM

    I must say that I find it difficult to accept this kind of explanation. DH is at odds with the perennial mind of the Church going back for most of its history.

    On the matter of recognizing Catholicism as the one true faith and making it a state religion, this is considered infallible doctrinal teaching, as I understand it, according to traditional theological manuals, and is cited specifically by Cardinal Franzelin as a chief example as to how an explicit, unconditional condemnation [separation of Church and State] constitutes a basis for Church doctrinal infallibility.

    As to saying that the public propagation of error againsst Catholic faith and morals now enjoys a right to be immune from legal restriction within due limits, this is at odds with the previous stance of the Church in a number of ways. It seems doctrinally at odds with any basic standard reading of Quanta Cura, Immortale Dei, and Libertas, at a minimum. Going back to Leo X's Exsurge Domine in the 1500s, he explicitly declares it a doctrinal error injurous to Catholic orthodoxy to say that heretics cannot be executed.

    In the area of ecclesial laws, we have a raft of them through the ages from the Index of Forbidden Books to the Concordats with Catholic States. Even if an ecclesial law is not doctrine itself, it represents an implied, albeit non-infallible, doctrinal statement that such laws square with the Church's faith and morals. DH represents an attack an this entire concept. Not to mention that by saying this is tied to man's human dignity, DH in effect declares that for over 1,500 years, all of these ecclesial laws approved and enacted by the Holy See in this area constituted an immoral abhorent affront against mankind's very human dignity.

    The claim that earlier teaching was grounded on fears as to challenges that there is one true faith seems incredibly specious. These popes stated that state recognition of Catholicism was for the glory of God, that Christ makes demands on us for profession of faith in civil community, not just as individuals. They also cite the dangers to the faithful by allowing all sorts of theological errors to propagate openly.

    And even if the teaching were somehow driven primarily by a fear of religious relativism, that doesn't in any undermine its truth, authority and value.

    To try to relativize teaching, not to mention impeach the Church's moral indefectability that she should be seen as enjoying in all of her official acts, by saying a whole area of doctrinal theology is historically contingent is to turn our faith into situational theology. If it can be done here, it can be done on most any other subject as well.

    If DH truly stands, I fail to see how we escape having a jellyfish of a faith, one that stands for nothing other than what the current pope likes and believes, where we have no way of knowing if today's truth is tomorrow's error, or vice versa.

    Forgive me for any improper tone here, but these Second Vatican subjects have greatly challenged and, I fear, to some degree are undermining my faith. Please pray for me

  25. Argento1:26 PM

    As far as I understand, the magisterium teaches that the state must be confessional, but it never taught that it had an obligation to always impede the practice of error, under any circumstances.

    We don't have to get to Vatican II to find support for this. Pius XII asserted in a discourse to the National Convention of Italian Catholic Jurists:

    Could God, although it would be possible and easy for Him to repress error and moral deviation, in some cases choose the "non impedire" without contradicting His infinite perfection? Could it be that He would not give men any mandate, would not impose any duty, and would not even communicate the right to impede or to repress what is erroneous and false? A look at things as they are gives an affirmative answer. Reality shows that error and sin are in the world in great measure. God reprobates them, but He permits them to exist. Hence the affirmation: religious and moral error must always be impeded, when it is possible, because toleration of them is in itself immoral, is not valid

    Moreover, God has not given even to human authority such an absolute and universal command in matters of faith and morality. Such a command is unknown to the common convictions of mankind, to Christian conscience, to the sources of Revelation and to the practice of the Church. To omit here other Scriptural texts which are adduced in support of this argument, Christ in the parable of the cockle gives the following advice: let the cockle grow in the field of the world together with the good seed in view of the harvest (cf. 13:24-30). The duty of repressing moral and religious error cannot therefore be an ultimate norm of action. It must be subordinate to norms, which permit, and even perhaps seem to indicate as the better policy, toleration of error in order to promote a


    Even if in context he is speaking about a community of nations and the attitude the catholic statesman should have towards the religious beliefs of other nations in such community, the underlying theological principle is clear: God does not always communicate to the Catholic State the duty and/or right to impede the practice of error. DH is in line with this line of thought and addresses the question of when does the Catholic State have the right to impede the practice of error. The answer given by the council for our age is: When such practice transgresses the objective moral order.

  26. Social Reign Booster1:52 PM


    True, a Catholic state does not have an obligation to always impede public propagation of error. I don't think anybody is claiming this. SSPX even doesn't.

    The crux of the matter is: do any public propagations of error contravening Catholic faith and morals enjoy a natural right to be immune from legal restriction? That, the classic thought of the Church has always held, in effect, is a resounding 'No'. The Catholic state always had at least the basic, theoretical right to suppress such public errors - any errors, theological or moral - when it felt it necessary and appropriate to do so, though it did not have to do so when it considered there to be a greater evil to be avoided.

    Dignitatis Humanae and our new contemporary theology here says that all publicly propagated theological errors enjoy such a right now, and suppression can only be done for public safety, the intrinsic moral order or to ensure dignified language and tone that is not unsavory.

    While I will admit it's true that DH's critics tend to think it is more liberal than it actually is, nonetheless, what it does say is still a fairly sharp break from traditional Catholic thought, magisterial practice and at least de facto doctrinal teaching of the past. I believe it makes a hash of classical Thomistic thinking and effectively unravels a number of standard classic understandings and underpinnings of Church ecclesiology, from ecclesial laws representing implicit doctrinal ideas, to the Church having moral indefectibility in its official conduct, however imprudent over time certain contingent decisions can be seen as in retrospect.

  27. Comparing Dignitatis Humanae to Quanta Cura:

    "The Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom..." (Dignitatis Humanae, §2),

    Contrary condemned statement: "Liberty of conscience and of worship is the proper right of every man..." (Pius IX, Quanta Cura)

    "... all men should be immune from coercion on the part of ... every human power so that, within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his convictions nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his convictions..." (§2),

    Contrary condemned statement: "... the best condition of society is the one in which there is no acknowledgment by the government of the duty of restraining... offenders of the Catholic religion, except insofar as the public peace demands" (Pius IX, Quanta Cura).

    "This right of the human person to religious freedom must be given such recognition in the constitutional order of society as will make it a civil right" (§2),

    Contrary condemned statement: "Liberty of conscience and of worship ... should be proclaimed and asserted by law in every correctly established society ..." (Pius IX, Quanta Cura).

    Either this is dogmatic evolution or Vatican II is infallible and was a failed council. Is that a false dichotomy to assert?

  28. Anonymous5:39 PM

    "If Vac II was so wonderful why after 50 years of rot we are still talking about it."

    Good point, Anon. Not only that, why is the rot still with us, and getting worse? Why is it getting worse? Because it is by this time deeply rooted and most difficult to yank the error(s) out of Catholics.


  29. John McFarland5:51 PM

    Dear Booster,

    What could be more liberal than contradicting the doctrine of the Church, which -- as you yourself indicate in some detail -- is what DH does?

    In this connection, it's also worth noting that the "public order" exception of DH is not a "Catholic" exception, but a secularist one, since it is political authority that determines what is and is not an exception. For example, the government of France gets to decide who owns the Church buildings, whether Muslim girls can wear head coverings in school, etc.

    So religious freedom turns out to be as much freedom as the state sees fit to permit, for whom it sees fit to permit it; and DH effectively agrees to this.

  30. Social Reign Booster, you are correct that error has no rights. At the same time, persons have rights -- and often in spite of their errors. This is a complex but important point. You can find a deeper dive on this question here:

  31. Anonymous6:37 PM

    If Vac II was so wonderful why after 50 years of rot we are still talking about it.

    I could just as easily say:

    If Trent was so wonderful, in stopping the Protestant Revold, why are we still talking about it over 400 years later?

  32. Anonymous6:48 PM

    By the way, I had difficulty posting yesterday. Each time I would hit "Publish Your Comment", I would get an invite to start my own blog.

    New Catholic, Jordanes and Co., is this some kind of hint from you???


  33. Social Reign Booster7:54 PM

    K Gurries,

    I think my treatment of the subject is in keeping with the traditional thought of the Church. If I followed opuscula's thinking at a quick glance of the material at the link, it seems to represent a significant departure from traditional Catholic thought and takes distinctions between the subjective and objective to heights not recognized in the past. Not to mention that there doesn't seem to be any logical limit to taking them to even further heights even beyond what DH allows.

    Safe to say that all sorts of folks, from Aquinas to Pope Pius XII and just about every venerable thinker chronologically in between would never have accepted this.

    It also seems to represent a serious dearth of the importance of civil law facilitating the salvation in truth by all, and tries to reduce civil law norms to some kind of proto-humanist agenda.

  34. John McFarland8:30 PM

    Dear Mr. Gurries,

    I respectfully sumbit that the rights of a person in respect of his erroneous religious beliefs can be handled with a fairly shallow dive.

    A man can't be forced to believe something that he in good conscience does not believe, nor made to do things that are not consistent with his belief (for example, forcing an unbeliever to be baptized or attend Mass).

    But one can certainly lock up a man up and even execute him if he commits a crime, even if he believes with a perfectly clear conscience that he had the right to commit that crime.

    The situation is the same for a man who believes in good conscience that he can (or even must) engage in false worship. Political authority can prohibit him from public exercise of his false religion, and punish him if he violates that prohibition.

    There are indeed subtleties, but none of them have much effect on the things said above.

  35. Social Reign Booster, indeed, the sharp division between the subjective and objective aspects of morality is a theory that I critique within the article (perhaps you missed that). In any case, apparent difficulties are resolved in the following section by having recourse to the traditional doctrine on the permission of evil. It shows that there is no contradiction or conflict between right and tolerance -- as these ultimately refer to distinct objects.

  36. John, what you are saying is that the exercise of rights are never unlimited and unqualified. There are always "due-limits" that apply (CCC 2109). Yes, absolutely.

  37. Steve3:30 AM

    Has any one addressed the fact that the previous Popes traditionally cited for the precocillior position did not make any infallible decree concerning their position, and that Vatican Council II was the first council to address this doctrine specifically in an extraordinary way?

  38. John L12:03 PM

    'I respectfully sumbit that the rights of a person in respect of his erroneous religious beliefs can be handled with a fairly shallow dive.

    A man can't be forced to believe something that he in good conscience does not believe, nor made to do things that are not consistent with his belief (for example, forcing an unbeliever to be baptized or attend Mass).

    But one can certainly lock up a man up and even execute him if he commits a crime, even if he believes with a perfectly clear conscience that he had the right to commit that crime.'

    This is exactly right. It is, it should be added, the position of those Fathers such as Tertullian and Lactantius who are quoted in support of the alleged right to religious freedom. They were arguing against the pagan policy of compelling Christians to engage in pagan worship. This argument does not entail that pagans have a right to engage in pagan worship - which all the Fathers denied; it entails that pagans have a right to not be compelled to become Christians - which all the Fathers accepted. There is of course an alternative to pagan and Christian worship, which is doing neither.

  39. Mr. Gurries,

    I enjoy your blog very much. It is well written and thought provoking.

    However, in your discussion addressing Father Laisney, I think you're talking passed the point.

    You state: "Fr. Laisney apparently departs from the teaching of Saint Thomas, the moral theologians and Archbishop Lefebvre who all recognize the existence of 'invincible error' or 'honest error' with respect to religious conviction and conscience."

    No, he does not contradict them. The traditionalist view of the issue being addressed here is that, while those holding invincible or honest error may not be coerced into refuting it, that does not give them the right to teach or practice it publicly. That does not seem to be the position of DH (nor by the popes that have reigned to implement it).

    This has been one of the best discussions on Rorate Caeli, both in content and in tone. However, the excellent posts by those defending DH have not addressed the rejection of long-held Catholic principles as itemized so effectively by Alan Aversa (29 April 04:26) which are seemingly contradicted in DH.

    The moral law is a reflection of the identity of the One True God. The Church's traditional teaching regarding false public practice regarding doctrine or morals has has always reflected this first principle. To place the PUBLIC practice of one's error on a par with one's RIGHT to do so inverts the order of the Two Great Commandments.


  40. Giles, many thanks for the nice comments. My debate with Fr. Laisney on this topic has a little more history -- and so his posisition on invincible error becomes more clear in the context of the previous exchanges. In any case, I try to put my arguments to the test before posting them. In this case, I relied on a professor of theology (now retired from a Pontifical University but well known in traditional circles) to review, critique and sharpen my thought process on this issue/debate. Incidentally, he agreed with my initial assessment regarding Fr. Laisney's erroneous position regarding the erring conscience (ironic, I know...).

    Putting that aside, I would like to clarify that my arguments do not put error and right on the same level. That is what Fr. Laisney assumed too. My argument rests on the traditional doctrine on the permission of evil. What happens when an act involves both good and erroneous and/or evil aspects? Often we must suffer or tolerate the evil for the sake of the good. The right is founded on the good and not the evil (the evil aspect that is merely tolerated) -- but these are often inseperably connected. God permits the error or evil for the sake of the good that He directly wills. The right is ultimately founded on the good that God directly wills. But more on this in the article...

  41. Giles7:04 PM

    Mr. Gurries:

    You quote Bishop Ketteler regarding STA (ii-ii, 10, 11):

    "The greater benefits which St. Thomas had in mind here are not hard to determine. God would have to deprive a man of his liberty which is the highest endowment that man has, if He were to deny a man every possibility of abusing that liberty. Applying that principle to temporal governments, St. Thomas concluded that they too must tolerate certain evils, and he stated finally: 'Even though the non-believers sin because of their religious practices, these must nevertheless be tolerated, either because of the good that they still have in them, or because of the greater evil that would result."

    Some comments:

    (1) The doctrine of the permission of evil is usually applicable to theological discussions regarding God's permission of evil in connection with moral evil (and free will) or physical evil (i.e. earthquakes and tsunamis).

    (2) STA seems to be speaking of the permission of evil in this context:

    "The purpose of human law is to lead men to virtue, not suddenly, but gradually. Wherefore it does not lay upon the multitude of imperfect men the burdens of those who are already virtuous, viz., that they should abstain from all evil. Otherwise these imperfect ones, being unable to bear such precepts, would break out into yet greater evils... (STA I-II, q. 96, a.2, ad 2)

    STA is NOT speaking here of the State tolerating false worship. That would be as foreign to him as an IPAD. He is addressing the issue of the State's assistance to the Church in developing a virtuous citizenry.

    Every Pope from the 12th through the 20th century had access to the section of STA which you cite. Yet nowhere -- least of all in Pius IX's "Quanta Cura" -- is there the least hint that the notion of the permission of evil would apply to the public practice of a false religion.

    It is difficult to see how permitting contraception and abortion because all of the mainline Protestant communions accept them as in conformity with the moral law would advance the virtue of any citizen.

    I see what you want to say in your use of the permission of evil in regard to DH, but I really think you're trying to pound a square peg into a round hole.


  42. Giles, actually ST is quoted by Ketteler specifically to address the question of tolerating false forms of worship. Ketteler also relies on Suarez who gives additional insight in ST on this very point. Allow me to direct you to the source article (by Bishop Ketteler, 1862; note this is in three parts):

    This is the article that sparked the religious freedom debate in the pages of The Remnant (including the remarks by Fr. Laisney). In response to many of the reactions I wrote a summary of some of the key disputed questions here (in seven parts):

    These two articles summarize my understanding and position on the topic of religous freedom.

  43. Argento11:28 PM

    It is difficult to see how permitting contraception and abortion because all of the mainline Protestant communions accept them as in conformity with the moral law would advance the virtue of any citizen.

    Giles, I think that both DH and the catechism say that the limit of what they define as "religious liberty" has the "objective moral order" as a limit. As far I see, they do not endorse toleration of such objective evils, on the contrary. Furthermore, the object of religious liberty as defined in these documents seems to be only public worship; any moral belief is out of its scope. E.g., prohibiting muslims to engage in polygamy would not be against DH teaching but in line with it.

  44. Pius XII5:47 PM

    "DOVERI DELLO STATO CATTOLICO VERSO LA RELIGIONE", secondo il Magistero tradizionale della Chiesa - a cura del Card. Alfredo Ottaviani (pdf)

  45. John McFarland9:48 PM

    Dear Steve,

    "Has any one addressed the fact that the previous Popes traditionally cited for the precocillior position did not make any infallible decree concerning their position, and that Vatican Council II was the first council to address this doctrine specifically in an extraordinary way?"

    Let me say the most important thing on this matter.

    Revelation closed with the death of the last apostle.

    So 1962 is too late in the day to create a doctrine entirely at odds with the Church's teaching and practice until then.

    I would also note Fr. Yves Congar's famous observation that when set by his progressivist cohorts at Vatican II to finding support for religious freedom in prior Church teaching, he was unable to do so.

    The extraordinary magisterium cannot make up new doctrine any more than the ordinary magisterium -- least of all when it is both extraordinary and "pastoral."

  46. John McFarland11:23 PM

    Dear Mr. Gurries,

    You say:

    "John, what you are saying is that the exercise of rights are never unlimited and unqualified. There are always "due-limits" that apply (CCC 2109). Yes, absolutely."

    No, CCC 2109 is certainly NOT what I am saying.

    CCC 2109 says that the absolute right to religious liberty proclaimed in CCC2106 as "based on the very nature of the human person," is subject to limitation by political authority.

    It thus tracks faithfully the contradiction of the Declaration of the Rights of Man: human freedom is absolute, but so is political power.

    So I would argue that CCC 2109 stands for the proposition that, if the political authority determined that for the common good, all public manifestations of Catholic worship must be suppressed, all the Church could do was to bow its head to the principles of CCC 2109.

    That is not consistent with the "objective moral order"?

    Says who? Is not the common good the highest principle of the "objective moral order" as it applies to the exercise of political authority?

    That's the curious thing about this whole exercise. The highest authority of the Church is very concerned about the rights of politcal authority, but curiously unconcerned about the rights of the Church.

    Indeed, it is not clear to me that for the Vatican II church, the Church HAS any rights, other than the rights of its individual faithful to freedom of religion (subject to political authority), the same as the worshipers of Allah or the Great Thumb.

    This is crazy, you say?

    True enough.

    The question is whether the craziness is of my concoction -- or that of the authors of DH and CCC 2104-09.

    In this connection, I would note that all the pre-conciliar reference in these paragraphs imply that Pius VI and Pius IX and Leo XIII are talking about the same thing as DH. As you well know, they are not. Pius VI and Pius IX and Leo XIII deny the principle of CCC 2106 root and branch.

  47. I think it surprisingly refreshing that we are even having these discussions! It wasn't that long ago that one was thought a super-heretic for even debating one word of the "super dogma" Council, Vatican II!

    That it was spawned in the 1960's, and the new liturgy "novus ordo" (new order, nice, I like that!) was birthed in the 1970's, should raise suspicions as to its effect and meaning. Where's the Sacrifice in the new order mass? So, Catholics believed one thing for 1,500 years, and, abracadabra, a liturgical think-tank can create a brand new thing by commission! Now we believe something else; thanks Bugnini, you really 'saved the day' from us backward medievalists! Eliminating the Sacrifice, yay!

    Well, think about this: something birthed in the 1960's, hijacked and informed by liberal periti, and this virus infused throughout the world, should be the basis of Christ's Church? I don't think so!

  48. Social Reign Booster12:37 PM

    John McFarland,

    Thank you for the comment. I was not aware of this possible understanding of the DH 'public order' clause. This just seems to make things even worse.

    Any advice as to how one is to cope with such things? Lately, it's become ever more difficult to shake the feeling I'm stuck in some kind of Catholic Twilight Zone.

  49. Mr. Gurries,

    I found your essay to be intriguing reading. It made me stop to think, and this is the best of what Catholicism is about: listening to each other in order to ascertain the truth. I fear that this subject has fallen off the radar screen given the number of threads that have appeared since this one began, but I think I owe you a response regardless of the present interest of the blog readers.

    Some observations:

    (1) Remember that the thought of STA, though the theologian par excellence of the Church, remains a contributor to the Church's Magisterium. Just as he could not arrive at a definitive affirmation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, the same scenario might well be operative here. STA was addressing this concept from a theoretical position; he hadn't lived to see the day when a mosque could be constructed in Paris or Rome.

    (2) That being said, I still find nothing that I read in STA or Suarez which would address the issue of the PUBLIC WORSHIP of non-believers. (If I'm in error, please point this out; I couldn't find it -- but I was admittedly a bit pressed for time when I read through the articles.) Everyone agrees that a non-believer should not be deprived of the practice of his erroneous beliefs -- as far as he is able -- within the confines of his own home. That is far different from permitting it to be practiced or taught publicly.

    (3) As I mentioned earlier, the Magisterium was in possession of STA's analysis of religious freedom from the 13th century onwards; in the many Magisterial references to the pre-Conciliar teaching on this issue, never once do we see a reference to the concept of God's permission of evil applied to it.

    (4) I quick glance through DIGNITATIS HUMANAE gives no indication that the document itself applies or considers the notion of God's permission of evil in regard to this discussion. I should think, therefore, that for us to suddenly discover the foundation for DH is methodologically challenged.

    (5) In his work, "The Problem of Religious Freedom" (1965 -- contemporaneous with the Council), Father John Courtney Murray argues that freedom of conscience MUST recognize the public practice of a false religion:

    "It is not permitted to introduce a dichotomy into man,to separate his personal-interior existence and his social-historical existence. Hence it is not permitted to recognize freedom of conscience and to deny freedom of religious expression. Both freedoms are given in the same one instance; they are coequal and coordinate, inseparable, equally constitutive of the dignity and
    integrity of man."

    Notice that Father Murray, the architect of DH, is not contextualizing the document's contents in any way but as that of a GOOD NOT AN EVIL.

    Father Murray insisted that freedom of to publicly practice even a false religion was a right of man. Traditional Catholic theology always laid emphasis concerning this issue upon the rights of God and not the rights of man. This was the major disagreement between Murray and Msgr. Joseph Fenton in their famous long-conducted duel in "Theological Studies" and "The American Ecclesiastical Review": before the Council.

    I could go on, but I think you understand my point without beating a dead horse.

    I think we're going to have to agree to disagree. DH is revolutionary, and has no pedigree in the Church's theological history; what is more, it contradicts it.



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