Rorate Caeli

'The Council and The Eclipse of God' by Don Pietro Leone - Part XIV: The Church and The State


In Chapter 4,  Don Pietro turns to consider the Council’s teaching on the Church and State. He explains how the Church has a duty not only to Her members, but also to the entire world. Her role in regard to the State is to guide Kings and governors to promote the best interests of their citizens, i.e. in the final analysis the attainment of eternal life in Heaven, such as has been the constant teaching of Holy Mother Church.   Readers will be amazed to learn that an entirely new political vision was to supplant this teaching, a vision which originates in Freemasonry and of which the most notable  fruits are the Declarations of the French Revolution and the American Constitution, namely, the total separation of Church and State. The genius behind this devastating work of destruction was the American Jesuit, Father John Courtney Murray, who, unbelievably, was the author of all the speeches of the five bishops calling for these changes.   F.R.

The Council and the Eclipse of God


Don Pietro Leone


Chapter IV

The Church and The State 

                The court of Justinian I, a case of strong cooperation between Church and State.   Justinian with clerics (right) and soldiers (left) (Mosaic Ravenna)



After having considered the Council’s conciliatory attitude and behavior guide-lines towards the other Christian denominations in chapter 2 and towards the other Religions in chapter 3, we proceed in the present chapter to examine its greatest and most important conciliatory act towards these two categories of person, that is its Declaration on Religious Liberty: Dignitatis Humanae. We shall subsequently examine the Council’s failure explicitly to condemn the greatest political evil of the age, namely atheistic Communism. The chapter will accordingly be divided into the following sections:


     A.  Religious Liberty;

B. The Failure to Condemn Communism. 



A.   Religious Liberty


We begin by giving a brief summary of Catholic doctrine on the Church and the State, and then a brief historical background to the Council doctrine.    


   Catholic Doctrine


The Church and the State are sovereign, each in its own domain. The purpose of the Church is the salvation and sanctification of man; whereas the purpose of the State is the common good of its citizens. The common good is, however, not merely natural and temporal, but also supernatural and eternal. It follows that the separation of Church and State is an error: rather the Church and the State must collaborate for the supernatural and eternal good of citizens. This entails that all men and every state be subjected to the dominion of Christ the King, although no-one may be coerced into embracing the Catholic Faith.


The principle of the common good entails that citizens be protected from both moral and religious falsehood: both from legislation opposed to the objective moral order (such as the legitimization of abortion), and from the public practice of false religions and the diffusion of heresy. The same principle of the common good can, however, in some circumstances, justify the toleration of such errors. It will of course be possible to protect the citizens from moral and religious error only in a state where Catholics are in the majority (‘the thesis’); where they are in the minority, by contrast, the Church will only have the negative right of exercising the Faith with freedom (‘the antithesis’).



    Historical Sketch


The principal Council document which treats of the relation between Church and State is the Declaration Dignitatis Humanae. It is almost exclusively the work of Father John Courtney Murray SJ, an American peritus. Formerly maintaining traditional Catholic social doctrine, he was gradually to abandon it from the mid-forties onwards, until he was finally to adopt a fully liberal position some 20 years later in his celebrated article The Problem of Religious Freedom [1], which would  exert ‘considerable influence upon the formulation’ of the said Declaration [2]. ‘By 1955, his unorthodox views had become so blatant that the Holy Office felt bound to intervene. Father McCormick, his superior, told him that he was to cease writing on the Church-State issue’, adding, however, that ‘Time will bring changes.’[3] Michael Davies remarks: ‘Within ten years…Father Murray was able to celebrate his triumph with a champagne party after concelebrating Mass with the Pope himself.’ [4]


Dignitatis Humanae - is almost exclusively the work of Father John Courtney Murray SJ. (TIME MAGAZINE COVER - December , 12 - 1960)

The Council peritus commented on his triumph: ‘During the Council the schema on religious freedom was often called the ‘American schema’… during the long course of its legislative history, the schema had the solid and consistent support of the American bishops… the support derived its basic inspiration from the American experience… the object and content of the right to religious freedom, as specified both in the Declaration and in the American constitutional system is identical’ [5]. If he saw as one of the scheme’s merits its conformity to the American constitution, he saw as another the fact that it aligned ‘the Church firmly and irrevocably with the movement of the historical consciousness of contemporary men.’[6]


In the Second Session of the Council, the Belgian Bishop Emile de Smedt held an impassioned speech, combining orthodox and heterodox doctrine, which was to arouse thunderous applause and to assure the support of the overwhelming majority of the Council Fathers for Father Murray’s thesis on religious liberty. The speech had been written by Father Murray himself, as had been the previous one delivered by Cardinal Spellman, together with those by Cardinal Meyer of Chicago, Auxiliary Bishop Veuillot of Paris, Bishop Mendez Arceo of Cuernavaca, Mexico, and Cardinal Henriquez of Chile. An important theme in all the speeches was that of Ecumenism.


1962 PRESS PHOTO RICHARD american CARDINALs, CUSHING, SPELLMAN, MEYER AND RITTER IN ROME During the second vatican council

After many amendments to the scheme had been made, it was presented in the Third Session, and attacked by Cardinals Ottaviani, Ruffini, Browne, Archbishop Lefebvre, and a number of other prelates opposed to the scheme. Hereupon, 14 liberal Cardinals complained to Pope Paul VI, who in a spirit of compromise established a consultative commission from which Archbishop Lefebvre was excluded. The schema that resulted (the Third Schema) was more liberal than ever and had Father Murray’s ‘consciousness of contemporary man’ as a basic theme; only a fraction of the second scheme had been retained and almost 500 new lines had been added. Heterodox doctrine had been added concerning the right to repress heresy in the external forum [7].


Cardinal Ottiaviani - opponent of the schema on Religious Liberty 

The International Fathers (the group to which Mgr. Lefebvre belonged) complained that the two days allowed for the study of the new version was insufficient. The Council Presidency agreed, which led the Liberal party to pen the following petition to the Pope: ‘Reverently but insistently, more insistently, most insistently (instanter, instantius, instantissime), we request that the vote on the Declaration on Religious Freedom be allowed to take place before the end of this Council session, lest the confidence of the Christian and non-Christian world be lost.’ Father Wiltgen comments: ‘Copies of the petition passed rapidly from hand to hand. Never had there been such a furious signing of names, such confusion, such agitation. Never had there been such wild and harsh words as in this moment of panic when it seemed that a cherished Council document might be tabled forever’ [8]. The Pope ratified the postponement, and Father Murray stated that he was ‘willing to be quoted’ as being ‘furious’ over the papal action. Protestants observing the Council from within and without joined in expressing their indignation.


Cardinal Ruffini – opponent of the schema on Religious Liberty

The journalist, Xavier Rynne, explained the reason for the brevity of the period offered for the review of the schema: ‘In order to get a vote, The Secretariat for unity worked out a wording designed to attract as many positive votes as possible from the opposition, with the idea of restoring the watered-down parts to full strength when the modi [9] were considered in revision. To forestall action on the part of the opposition, it was deliberately decided to keep the text under cover until the last possible minute. Unfortunately this little manoeuvre failed’ [10].


Cardinal Michael Browne – opponent of the schema on Religious Liberty 


A fourth version was proposed in the Fourth Session. The Americans ‘were more determined than ever to secure the passage of the document. Almost to a man they made their own the observation that Father Courtney Murray had uttered many times…: ‘One must have in mind that it will be the duty of the Council to establish the formula ‘religious freedom’ within the Christian vocabulary…’ ’ [11].


64 Council Fathers spoke. Of those who opposed the schema Cardinal de Arriba y Castro of Tarragona said: ‘This is probably the most delicate problem of the whole Council with respect to the faith. We must clearly affirm this basic principle: only the Catholic Church has the duty and the right to preach the Gospel…The Council must be careful not to decree the ruin of Catholicism in those countries where it is in fact the only religion.’ Bishop Velasco of Amoy, China declared: the schema is totally unacceptable…’; Cardinal Ottaviani stated that only the Catholic Church has a true, natural, and objective right to liberty because of Her divine origin and because of Her divine mission.


Cardinal de Arriba y Castro of Tarragona – opponent of the schema on Religious Liberty 

In the course of a forceful and luminous intervention, Mgr. Lefebvre asked of the theory of religious liberty: ‘Where, in point of fact, did this conception come into force? … Clearly it made its appearance among the self-styled philosophers of the 18th century: Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Voltaire. In the name of the dignity of human reason they tried to destroy the Church by causing the massacre of innumerable bishops, priests, religious and laity… It is in the name of this same conception, in the name of the dignity of the human person, that the Communists wish to force all men down to atheism and to justify their persecution of every religion… [then, referring to the scheme’s proposal to limit religious liberty only to considerations of public order, he added:] Jesus Christ Himself was crucified in the name of public order, and, in the name of that same order, all the martyrs have suffered their tortures. This conception of religious liberty is that of the Church’s enemies. This very year Yves Masaudon, the Freemason, published the book: ‘Ecumenism as Seen by a Traditional Freemason’. In it the author expresses the hope of Freemasons that our Council will solemnly proclaim religious liberty… ’


Archbishop Lefebvre  - opponent of the schema on Religious Liberty, delivered a forceful speech during the Fourth Session referring to the roots of the idea [of religious liberty]as fruit of ‘the self-styled philosophers of the 18th century: Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Voltaire.’


After a large majority subsequently accepted the scheme, it was subjected to further modifications, but only in order to improve its structure and clarity. The basis for the right to religious freedom in both the internal and external forum was ‘now stated with absolute clarity’, to be the principle of ‘the dignity of the human person’ [12].


The resultant Fifth Schema aroused over 600 proposed amendments, after which a Sixth Schema was composed. This schema added the word ‘recent’ before the word ‘popes’ in the following sentence that had been added to the end of the Preface by the Fifth Schema: ‘… in dealing with the question of liberty the sacred council intends to develop the teaching of popes on the inviolable rights of the human person and on the constitutional order of society.’ This addition was made ‘because some Fathers asserted again and again that the doctrine contradicted the doctrine of the Popes on religious freedom’ [13].


Before the vote on the Sixth Schema, the International Group of Fathers made a final suggestion, which, if accepted, could have achieved an almost unanimous vote in favor of the text, namely that the criterion for limiting religious freedom should be the common good and not the preservation of law and order; but the suggestion was refused. Of 2,216 Fathers 1,954 voted placet (yes), and 249 non placet (no), and despite the large number of negative votes, the Pope approved the schema.


Henri Fesquet – liberal journalist at the Council: ‘Vatican II rang the death-knell for Scholastic theology ushering in a personalist “existential” theology.” 

Henri Fesquet, the best known liberal journalist at the Council commented: ‘Vatican II rang the death-knell for a conceptualist, notional, Scholastic type of theology, and ushered in a personalist, and so to speak ‘existentialist’, theology… Liberty, Equality,,Fraternity. This liberation of Catholic thought, too long imprisoned in the negative tide of the Counter Reformation, in a way enables the Church to take up the standard of the French Revolution… this glorious motto was the quintessence of Vatican II, as Hans Küng has recently suggested.’[14]



     Analysis of Texts


We shall examine Council teaching in the light of Tradition under the following headings:


1.     The Relation between Church and State;

2.     The Right to Religious Liberty;

3.     The Justification of the Right to Religious Liberty;

4.     The Right to Propagate Error;

5.     Christ the King;

6.     The Rupture with Tradition Constituted by the Document Dignitatis Humanae.



1.     The Relation between Church and State


i) ‘The political community exists for the common good... The common good embraces the sum total of all those conditions of social life which enable individuals, families, and organizations to achieve complete and effective fulfillment.’ (Gaudium et Spes 74);


ii) ‘There is no better way to establish political life on a truly human basis than by encouraging an interior sense of justice, of good will, and of service to the common good…’(GS 73)


iii) It is clear that the political community and public authority are based on human nature, and therefore that they need to belong to an order established by God’ (GS 74).


iv) ‘The political community and the Church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields. They are both at the service of the personal and social vocation of the same individuals… [so as to] develop better co-operation according to the circumstances of place and time’ (GS 76);


Texts (i), (ii), & (iii) are correct in presenting the good of the citizens, their common good, as the end of the State, but incorrect in limiting the common good to the things of this world such as social life, justice, and the exercise of good will. It is true that God is mentioned in text (ii), but without specifying Him as the God of the supernatural realm adored by the Church, to Whom the State is ordered. Text (iv) is correct in distinguishing the two different domains over which State and Church are sovereign, but incorrect in silencing their common ground, namely the eternal good of man. 


The texts correspond to the views set forth by Jacques Maritain in ‘Man and the State’ [15]: ‘… the immediate object of the temporal community is human life with its natural activities and virtues, and the human common good, not divine life and the mysteries of grace…’ In short, both the conciliar texts and that of Maritain ignore the State’s supernatural object, which, if it is not ‘immediate’, is nevertheless ultimate, and therefore primary. The error in question is, then, that of naturalism.


Concerning the relation between the Church and the State, Pope Leo XIII declares [16]: ‘Each of them is in its nature supreme. Each has definite limits, within which it must remain, limits which are determined by its nature and its immediate purpose’, and yet at the same time both the Church and the State share common ground in their duty to promote man’s eternal good.


Consequently St. Pius X condemns the error of limiting [17]: ‘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… with their ultimate object which is man’s eternal happiness after this short life shall have run its course. But as the present order of things is temporary and subordinated to the conquest of man’s supreme and absolute welfare, it follows that the civil power must not only place no obstacle in the way of this conquest, but must aid us in effecting it.’


The malice of texts such as we have quoted from the Council and from Maritain is that they can be used to justify the separation of the Church and the State, which St. Pius X describes in [18] as ‘a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error’ and which is condemned as Error 55 in the Syllabus of Bl. Pius IX, with the words: ‘The Church ought to be separated from the State and the State from the Church.’


Rather the Church and the State should be united in a work of close collaboration, as Pope Pius XII declares [19]: ‘the Church does not hide the fact that she considers such collaboration normal.’ In such collaboration the Church has the primacy over the state just as the eternal and supreme good has the primacy over the temporal good. The Church’s primacy derives from Her divine institution, Her ‘most sublime’ object, and Her ‘most eminent’ power [20] which subordinate the state to Her and imposes on the state the positive obligation of promoting Her final end.




[1] cf. Theological Studies XXV, Dec. 1964, MD rl, p.72

[2] MD rl, p. 72.  

[3] MD rl, pp. 100-1

[4] MD rl p.101

[5] MD ibid.

[6] MD rl, p.103

[7] see (d) below

[8] Father Ralph Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, p.237, MD rl, p.139

[9] suggested amendments

[10] MD rl, p.141

[11] Mgr. Vincent Yzermans, American Participation in the Second Vatican Council, p.625, MD rl, p. 146

[12] MD rl, p.154

[13] MD rl p.155 quoting Mgr. Pavan in Vorgrimler, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II (London 1965), p. 61

[14] MD rl, p.160-1

[15] London 1965 pp. 10-11, quoted in MD rl, p. 81. We recall the confusion reigning during the fabrication of the Novus Ordo Missae, as reported by Cardinal Antonelli cf. our book ‘The Destruction of the Roman Rite’ op.cit.

[16] Immortale Dei, 13

[17] Vehementer nos (1906) REFERENCE

[18] Vehementer nos, 3

[19] in the address to the Tenth International Congress of Historical Sciences in Rome in 1955

[20] Immortale Dei 7-11