Rorate Caeli

'The Council and The Eclipse of God' by Don Pietro Leone - PART XVI - 'The Right to Propagate Error'


In this installment, Don Pietro focuses further on the origins of the concept of ‘Religious Liberty’ which has wormed its way into the Church and minds and hearts of countless Catholics,  contradicting centuries of Church teaching.  We shall see in more detail how this notion of religious liberty reflects the concepts of the American Constitution and the French Revolution’s ‘Declaration on the Rights of Man’, emanating from the Freemasonic ideals and philosophy of the likes of Jean-Jacque Rousseau,  an opposer  of the order of natural morality, and one who believed in the concept of  ‘The Sovereign People’ and their right to ‘self-determination.’  Don Pietro emphasizes that the Council’s obsession about religious liberty contradicts centuries of papal documents in which they denounce it as: ‘insanity’;  ‘a monstrous error’;  ‘most pernicious to the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls’; ‘the liberty of perdition’ ; ‘the pest of indifference’ ; ‘a public crime’ ; and ‘atheism, however it may differ in name’ (See the sources for these quotes in the footnotes of this installment).






Don Pietro Leone



Part 2 of Chapter 4 on Religious Liberty

The Holder of the Keys to True Religious Liberty 

4.     The Right to Propagate Error


i) ‘… within due limits, no men are forced to act against their convictions nor are any persons to be restrained from acting in accordance with their convictions in religious matters in private or public, alone or in association with others’ (DH 2);


ii) ‘… to deny the free exercise of religion in society, when the just requirements of public order are observed, is to do an injustice to the human person and to the very order established by God for human beings’ (DH 3);


iii) ‘… if it [the civil authority] presumes to control or restrict religious activity it must be judged to have exceeded the limits of its power’ (DH 3);


iv) ‘… provided the just requirements of public order are not violated, these groups [religious communities]… must be allowed to honor the supreme Godhead (supremum numen) in public worship, help their members to practice their religion and strengthen them with religious instruction, and promote institutions in which members may work together to organize their own lives according to their religious principles… [they have] the right… not to be prevented from freely demonstrating the special value of their teaching for the organization of society and the inspiration of human activity in general’ (DH 4).

These texts declare that religious groups are not to be prevented from practicing their religion in public, as long as public order is not violated. This teaching corresponds to that condemned in the encyclical Quanta Cura as follows: ‘The best condition of human society is that wherein no duty is recognized by the Government of correcting, by enacting penalties, the violators of the Catholic religion, except when the maintenance of the public peace requires it.’ The encyclical describes the proposition as ‘contrary to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, of the Church, and of the Holy Fathers’ and adds: ‘From this totally false notion of social government they fear not to uphold… the insanity [1], namely: “that the liberty of conscience and of worship is the peculiar (or inalienable) right of every man, which should be proclaimed by law, and that citizens have the right to all kinds of liberty...[including the freedom of speech].” ’


Quanta Cura rightly makes a connection between ‘not being prevented’ from violating the Catholic religion and the liberty of worship. In the language of Dignitatis Humanae, we might express the thought as follows: not to be prevented from practicing the religion of one’s choice is equivalent to the freedom to do so (is equivalent, in other words, to religious liberty). The reason for this is that the meaning of the term ‘freedom’ is nothing other than the concept of ‘not being prevented’, or of not being impeded, from doing that thing. Furthermore, the right to religious liberty in effect amounts to the right to error, in that the Catholic Religion is the one true religion, so that giving some-one the right to choose another religion is in effect giving him the right to error.


Religious liberty, the belief that the State must accord equal freedom to truth and error, has been condemned frequently and forcefully by the Popes [2], for the Church teaches that the State should indeed repress falsehood and evil: In the words of Pope Leo XIII: ‘Men have a right freely and prudently to propagate throughout the State what things soever are true and honorable… 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, lest they insidiously work the ruin of the State’ [3]. It is true that the State may tolerate falsehood and evil for motives of the common good, but only to the minimal degree necessary: ‘To judge aright’, declares the Pope in the same encyclical, ‘we must acknowledge that the more a State is driven to tolerate evil, the further it is from perfection; and that the tolerance of evil which is dictated by political prudence should be strictly confined to the limits which its justifying cause, the public welfare, demands.’



 Corollary: Historical Origins of the Right to Religious Liberty


Conceding Religious Liberty to all men, then, and consequently the right to error, the Council brings its social teaching into conformity with that of the American Constitution: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or of abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievance.’ [4] As Father Courtney Murray himself commented: ‘The object or content of the right to religious freedom, as specified both in the Declaration and in the American constitutional system, is identical’ [5].  


Now although in the early drafts of Dignitatis Humanae , the common good was still the criterion for tolerating falsehood and evil in the State, the term was deliberately removed in deference to Protestant objections, and replaced by ‘public order’, the term that can be seen in texts (ii) & (iv) above [6]. In this way the declaration Dignitatis Humanae  was also brought into conformity [7] with article 10 of the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man’ of the French Revolution [8] which states: ‘No-one may be troubled regarding his opinions, even religious ones, providing that their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law’ [9].


Father Denis Fahey (1883 – 1954) - scholar and theologian


Father Denis Fahey points out that the Constituent Assembly of the French Revolution responsible for the Declaration, of which more than 300 members were Masons, and given ‘the naturalism of Freemasonry, the Declaration... is simply a formal renunciation of allegiance to Christ the King, of supernatural life, and membership of His Mystical Body’ [10].


The same eminent priest and Professor explains that Freemasonry in effect substitutes itself for the Mystical Body of Christ and substitutes the purely natural deification of man for the supernatural one [11]. He traces Masonic social theory to the theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose writings were to be found on the table of the Committee for Public Safety of the French Revolution. ‘Rousseau’s revolt was against the order of natural morality, by the exaltation of the primacy of our sense-life. The little world of each one of us, our individuality, is a divine person, supremely free and sovereignly independent of all order, natural and supernatural’ [12].

Jean Jacque Rousseau (1712-1778)  

‘Rousseau’s revolt was against the order of natural morality, by the exaltation of the primacy of our sense-life.’



The State, consisting in the sum total of all sovereign individuals, constitutes the sovereign people, the ‘Divinity State, leading on to the World-State, or Humanity-God’ [13]. The thesis of the ‘Sovereign People’, together with the thesis that universal suffrage creates right and justice, constitutes the illicit, Rousseauist type of democracy, in contrast to the licit form which simply holds that governors should be designated from the whole people and by them.


Two particular features of the Rousseauist democracy worthy of note are its egalitarianism and its theory concerning the source of power. Its egalitarianism consists in its vision that each individual is sovereign in his own right, which entails that he should not be differentiated on the basis of private property or of any other criterion; as to the origin of power, it places it in the people, and holds that the people use it to determine their own ends: their subjective, common good. According to the Catholic vision of government, by contrast, power comes from above, which the government uses to further the objective common good of the people.


The Council inserts itself, in conclusion, into a self-deifying current of thought originating in Rousseau and in his conceit of the Sovereign People. It does this not only in advocating the right to propagate error, but also in its egalitarianism [14]; in its glorification of revolutionary ‘fraternity’; and in its suggestions that power comes from the people and that man is sovereign in society. In regard to the last two elements we read: ‘… humanity… is and it ought to be the beginning, the subject and the object of every social organization’ (GS 25). In the following section we shall see what this deification of man signifies for the doctrine of Christ the King.

Pope Pius X, author of the Ant-Modernist Oath of 1907 -  abolished by Paul VI in 1967


We observe finally that the Church’s bounden duty to denounce and, if possible, to suppress falsehood and evil which was renounced by the Council for the World, was to be renounced by Pope Paul VI for the Church Herself in the two years following the Council: with the abolition of the Index in June 1966 and with the abolition of the Anti-Modernist Oath in July 1967; while his deposition of the tiara in 1964 while the Council was still in full course, although apparently motivated by the desire to succour the poor and needy, may be understood on a deeper level as a symbol of his renunciation of the Papal exercise of the munus regendi altogether.


Abandonment of the Papal Tiara by Pope Paul VI on November 11, 1964

[1] deliramentum, Pope Gregory XVI Mirari Vos, 1832

[2] they have described it as ‘a disastrous and ever to be deplored heresy’ (Pius VII, letter to Mgr. de Boulogne); ‘insanity’ (see above); ‘a monstrous error’ Bl. Pius IX, Qui Pluribus); ‘most pernicious to the Catholic Church, and to the salvation of souls’ (Quanta Cura); ‘the liberty of perdition’ (Quanta Cura); something which will ‘corrupt the morals and minds of the people’ (Syllabus); which propagates ‘the pest of indifferentism’ (Syllabus); ‘a public crime’ (Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei); ‘atheism, however it may differ in name’ (Immortale Dei); ‘contrary to reason’ (‘Libertas Humana’) MD rl p.62

[3] Pope Leo XIII, Libertas Humana, 23

[4]the First Amendment’, 15th December 1791

[5] MD rl p. 101

[6] MD rl, p. 186

[7] at least verbally, because the authors of DH defined the sense of ‘public order’ more broadly than the sense in which it had been understood in the declaration of the French Revolution (MD rl ch. XX).

[8] We note in particular the phrase ‘to honour the numen supremum’. The phrase, apparently intended to include the worship of the One True God, the Most Blessed Trinity, has a Deist ring, evoking the cult of the pagans, of the Masonry, and of such revolutionaries as Robespierre (cf. Sinossi,  p.106). The text also denotes thespecial value’ of religious groups as their ‘teaching for the organization of society and the inspiration of human activity in general’. What of the ‘special value’ of the one true Religion for teaching the nature of Eternal Life? we might ask, and for ‘inspiring the human activity’ (namely Charity) which alone can secure its possession?     

[9] Nul ne doit être inquiété pour ses opinions, même religieuses, pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l’ordre public établi par la loi.

[10] MD rl p.80

[11] The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World, Christian Book Club of America, CA, 1939, p.26

[12] ibid. p.29 The author contrasts Rousseau’s revolt with Luther’s which was against the supernatural order who, while pretending to remain attached to Christ, promised a return to Him against the exigencies of the supernatural order which He had established for that return.

[13] ibid. p.33

[14] in the section on the Church’s Hierarchy in chapter 1