POPE PIUS XI & RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
(Taken from the "America Ecclesiastical Review," August 1946).
Question: In the English version of the Encyclical 'Mit Brennender Sorge', sent by Pope Pius XI to the German bishops on March 14, 1937, we read: "The believer has an inalienable right to profess his faith and to put it into practice in the manner suited to him."
Could not one conclude from this that no matter what religion a person may profess he has a genuine natural right to practice it, without being molested or impeded?
Answer: If Pope Pius XI meant to teach what our questioner concludes from his statement, he certainly departed from traditional Catholic belief and from the clear teaching of his predecessor, Pope Pius IX, who condemned the proposition: "Everyone is free to accept and to profess that religion which, under the guidance of the light of reason, he has judged to be true" [DB, 1715]. It is incredible that Pope Pius XI intended to teach a doctrine so utterly at variance with Catholic tradition - a doctrine, moreover, which would lead to the strange conclusion that a person has an inalienable right to be wrong.
POPE PIUS XI AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
The only reasonable interpretation of the Pope's words is that he was speaking of the inalienable right of 'Catholics' to profess and to practice their faith in the manner suited to their religious needs. It must be remembered that the pope was denouncing the Nazi government for its restrictions on the Catholic Church, so that it was most natural that he should proclaim the right of the Catholic to practice his religion. It should be remembered, too, that our English word "believer" is not an adequate translation of "Der glaubige mensch," as used in a papal document. This latter phrase is the equivalent of the Latin "fidelis," which in the language of the Church normally means "one who has the Catholic Faith." Similarly, the word "Christian," when used in the Church's official statements, does not signify anyone who accepts Christ as his religious leader, as the word does nowadays in our land.
A Christian, in the language of the Church, means a Catholic. -END QUOTE- [and "Church" in the language of the RC "Church" does not mean the people who accept Christ as his religious leader, as the word is used in the NT. "Church" in the language of Roman Catholicism, means the Roman Catholic "Church"].
LIBERTY IS a dogma of the modern world. Liberty is enthroned as one of the great goods to be cherished in life, something worth dying for. The American War of Independence was fought for liberty's sake. World War II was fought for liberty, and was financed in part by "Liberty Bonds." For a long time our money had an image of a woman who personified liberty, and even wore a crown with the word liberty inscribed on it. This "Miss Liberty" as well wore a "Liberty Bonnet," which can also be found on the insignia of many states, including those of New York and New Jersey. In New York's harbor stands the colossal Statue of Liberty, holding a torch. The original name of this statue is "Liberty Enlightening the World." The red and white stripes of the American flag are derived from the flag of the "Sons of Liberty." Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or give me death."
Thomas Jefferson enthroned liberty in the Declaration of Independence by numbering it among the inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Bill of Rights touts freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press as great goods to be guaranteed. Norman Rockwell, after the suggestion of Franklin D. Roosevelt, portrayed in art the four great freedoms: freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of worship, freedom of speech. The Declaration of Independence was heralded by the ringing of the "Liberty Bell," now a national relic and shrine. The cherishing of freedom is very much a part of, if not the essence of, American culture. Nor is it confined to America.
French money always has the word 'liberte' engraved upon it, together with 'egalite' [equality] and 'fraternite' [fraternity]. Nearly every European democracy enthrones the concept of liberty in one form or other.
Since all culture must come under the scrutiny of the Catholic Faith, it is necessary to take a look at this cult of liberty which is so much a part of the American culture, and of all Western culture since the eighteenth century. The Catholic Notion of Liberty that is a little odd at first view in the cult of liberty is that it was non-existent before the eighteenth century.
Nowhere in the great Catholic culture of medieval Europe do we find a cult of liberty. Why, all of a sudden in eighteenth-century Europe, do we find a cult of liberty to the point of "deifying" the concept by means of an image of a glorified woman? A red flag should go up to any Catholic well-versed in history.
The eighteenth century is the century of revolution, of freemasonry, of naturalism and rationalism. It is the century of the guillotine. It is the century of Jansenism, which besides being a form of Protestantism in the religious sphere, was a powerful political influence on the side of liberalism. In short, the eighteenth century is the century of intellectual ferment against the legitimate authority of the Church and of civil government.
The new-fangled cult of liberty implied that the Catholic Church or Catholic culture up to the eighteenth century had somehow missed the boat on liberty. It is as if something was missing from life, as if there were constraints in the Catholic culture which needed to be done away with. In other words, what did the liberty-cultists in the eighteenth century seek to be free 'from'? The Catholic Church, however, missed nothing about liberty.
Always a defender of free will, particularly against Protestants, the Catholic Church in no way failed to address the liberty of the human will in the writings of her great minds. It has always taught that man is endowed with free will, and is thereby accountable for his actions. Because of his free will, he is capable of merit, and therefore capable, with the help of divine grace, of achieving eternal salvation. He is therefore also capable of demerit, and of causing himself to be damned for all eternity.
Catholic philosophy teaches that the human will is a blind faculty which must be informed by the intellect as to what is good and what is bad. The intellect is that faculty of the soul by which it takes in reality. The intellect informs and commands the will with regard to the objects it should pursue.
Catholic philosophy further teaches that the foundation of the freedom of the will is the indifference of the object. This simply means that created goods, unlike God, do not have a necessary attractive power on the soul, like a magnet does to iron, but merely a limited attractive power, one that can be refused by the intellect, and therefore by the will.
Let an example illustrate. When you set down food in front of a hungry cat, the cat moves necessarily toward the food, without any freedom or deliberation, since it perceives only the sensual good of the food. The cat goes to the food like iron would go to a magnet. It is not a free act for the cat. On the other hand, if you set down a plate of food in front of a hungry man, although he would be strongly attracted toward it by his sensual nature, he would still be able to perceive with his intellect the fact that the food is merely a limited good. He could perceive something good about the food, and something bad about it. For example, while he might perceive that it is nourishing, he also might perceive that it tastes bad. He must then make a deliberate decision, a free decision, either to bear the evil of the bad taste and eat the food for its nourishment, or to reject the good of nourishment for the fact that the evil of the bad taste outweighs it. Thus, even though he be very hungry, he could freely refuse to eat.
The reason why man is free in front of limited created goods is that his intellect is made to know universal being, and his will is made to love universal good. When something fails to be universal good, but only a limited good, the will remains free, that is, unconstrained, in front of such an object. The will may freely draw back from a good that is attractive to it in a limited manner. Martyrs, for example, have even freely drawn back from the good of preserving their natural lives in order to possess a greater good, namely God. No animal could do such a thing, for no animal could perceive the great good of possessing God. In fact, only the vision of God, who is Subsistent Being and Subsistent Good, is able to necessarily attract the attention of the human intellect and the adherence of the human will.
If we now pass to liberty in the social and political sphere, it is obvious that human beings should be free in those areas which are truly indifferent, but constrained with regard to those things which are necessary. Thus the observance of the law of God and of the natural law pertains necessarily to the common good, and consequently civil governments are duty bound to outlaw the transgressions of these laws. Men should not be "free" to disobey the law of God and the natural law.
Hence murder, which is against both laws, is outlawed by the civil law. On the other hand, civil governments would exceed their authority, were they to attempt to dictate to citizens practices which are not necessarily linked to the common good, e.g., whether people should drink alcoholic beverages or not, or whether they should wear seat belts or not.
Is this the liberty that the cult of liberty strives for? Is the cult of liberty the desire to free man from the excesses of government in regulating the lives of the citizens?
No, because the facts of history tell us otherwise.
The world has never known more oppressive governments or bigger governments than those which profess the cult of liberty. No governments have meddled more in the lives of their citizens. Since the abolition of the monarchies and the rise of democracies, the common man, the family and business have been subject to tyrannical oppression, emaciating taxation, as well as economic and social "engineering" which affects every aspect of life. The democracies of the past two hundred years make the most dictatorial monarchical regimes look like liberty fests. With democracy have come both liberalism and socialism, two sources of oppression for hundreds of millions of people, if not billions, over the past two hundred years.
This fact tells us that the liberty which the cult of liberty seeks is not the freedom of the common man from big, oppressive, and tyrannical governments. It is a freedom from somethin else which the cult of liberty seeks. mason6.htm
.../Back to Contents