The American Catholic's Problem

Cherishing Ideals Condemned by the Church

I cite these examples of the influx of masonry into our institutions in order to point out to the American Catholic that principles which are alien to the Catholic Faith have sadly influenced the culture in which we live. The Catholic Church in the United States had difficulty in grappling with this problem. In the nineteenth century there were two camps of clergy, the liberals and the anti-liberals, for lack of a better term. The liberals saw no problem in incorporating into Catholicism the principles of the American cult of liberty; the anti-liberals recognized the problem, and denounced them for watering down the Catholic Faith. In the end the liberals won out, particularly with the emergence of a personality like Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore. Cardinal Farley of New York and Archbishop Ireland of Saint Paul also figure prominently in the liberal camp.

By "liberal" is not meant here the same thing that it means today. It meant at the turn of the century, when these men lived, a belief that the principles that animated American politics and the American mentality in general, were compatible with Catholicism. These liberals actually held up the American system of the government's indifference to all religion as an ideal for all nations to follow. In such a system, they argued, the Church can and does flourish, for it meets with no resistance illustrations of "liberty caps" on the "great seals" of 10 states] resistance from a hostile civil government. This sounded good to many ears on this side of the Atlantic. For a century they had been hearing the horror stories from Europe of civil governments persecuting the Catholic Church. The American system of "hands off religion" just seemed better.

While it is true that the Catholic Church did flourish in this country whose government was professedly indifferent to religion, it must be said that the Church received this "freedom to flourish" at a high price. That price was the nearly complete negligence of the Church's doctrine of union of Church and State, of the duty of governments to profess the one true faith, and to repress non-Catholic religions. Catholics were told that the American system of freedom of all religions was the ideal system, and Catholics had deeply fixed in their heads the notion that you have a civil right to be a Protestant, a Jew, a Moslem or even a Satanist, since religion should have nothing to do with the state, and the state nothing to do with religion. But this idea was condemned by Pope Gregory XVI and Pope Pius IX: "And so from this rotten source of indifferentism flows that absurd and erroneous opinion, or rather insanity, that liberty of conscience must be claimed and defended for anyone." (Pope Gregory XVI)

"For surely you know, Venerable Brothers, not a few are found who, applying the impious and absurd principles of naturalism, as they call it, to civil society, dare to teach that the "best plan for public society and civil progress absolutely requires that human society be established and governed with no regard to religion, as if it did not exist, or at least, without making distinction between the true and the false religions." (Pope Pius IX)

"And also, contrary to the teaching of Sacred Scripture, of the Church, and of the most holy Fathers, they do not hesitate to assert that the best condition of society is the one in which there is no acknowledgment by the government of the duty of restraining, by established penalties, offenders of the Catholic religion, except insofar as the public peace demands." (Pope Pius IX)

"And, from this wholly false idea of social organization they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, especially fatal to the Catholic Church and to the salvation of souls, called by Our predecessor of recent memory, Gregory XVI, insanity; namely that "liberty of conscience and of worship is the proper right of every man, and should be proclaimed and asserted by law in every correctly established society; that the right of all manner of liberty rests in the citizens, not to be restrained either by ecclesiastical or civil authority; and that by this right they can manifest openly and publicly and declare their own concepts, whatever they may be, by voice, by print, or in any other way." (Pope Pius IX)

From these texts it is clear that the Catholic Church condemns freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. Yet these "freedoms" are held as sacrosanct in the American culture. In an effort not to appear un-American, the Catholic clergy in the United States for the most part neglected these condemnations, as well as the teaching of Sacred Scripture, of the Church, and of the holy Fathers which supports them. One searches in vain to find in Catholic catechisms before Vatican II, even on the High School level, the Church's teaching on the duty of states to the Catholic religion. Rather most pre-Vatican II Catholic catechisms and history books are either totally silent on the subject, or actually extol the American system of indifference to all religions, and extol freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.

Why was this so? Why were these teachings and condemnations purposely ignored by the Catholic clergy of this country, to the extent that students who came through twelve or sixteen years of Catholic schools knew nothing of them?

The answer is that the Catholics of the nineteenth and early twentieth century felt an urgent need to convince the Protestant establishment of this country that Catholics were good Americans, and had no problem in accepting American mentality and culture. Irish, German and Italian immigrants, most of them Catholics, were eager to secure for the Church peace and prosperity in a land peopled by those who, in large degree, had fled Europe in order to get away from Catholic influence.

And since the cult of freedom, the cherishing of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of conscience was paramount in the existing protestant-masonic culture of America, Catholics perceived it necessary to somehow marry their Catholicism to the cult of liberty. The result was the neglect, through nearly total silence, of very important moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It furthermore required a whitewashing, a pulling, and a stretching of historical facts and events of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in order to make them appear compatible with Catholic principles.

Archbishop Ireland, prominent at the turn of the century, was the embodiment of this whole mentality. He was so imbued with these ideas that he was capable of making these statements in a speech entitled "Catholicism and Americanism," given in Milwaukee in 1913: "Necessarily religious freedom is the basic life of America, the cement running through all its walls and battlements, the safeguard of its peace and prosperity. Violate religious freedom against Catholics: our swords are a once unsheathed. Violate it in favor of Catholics, against non-Catholics: no less readily do they leap from the scabbard."

Had I been in his audience, I would have asked, "Your Excellency, when in sixty or seventy years, in the name of religious liberty, the enemies of the Church shall make films portraying Our Lady as a harlot and Our Lord as a fornicator, shall Catholics unsheathe their swords to protect the rights of these blasphemers to make such films!" What would this Archbishop have answered to such a question! One shudders to think.

Further on he states: "Personal conscience is the ultimate asylum of the soul, in presence of civil or ecclesiastical authority. Both Americanism and Catholicism bow to the sway of personal conscience."

'Bow to the sway of personal conscience'? "Your Excellency, when in sixty or seventy years, in the name of freedom of conscience, women shall kill their babies in their wombs, should the civil or ecclesiastical authority bow to the sway of personal conscience?"

It is unbelievable that a Catholic bishop, living in 1913, could utter such words. What is the purpose of the authority of the Church, if it must 'bow to the sway of personal conscience'?

Such an idea is thoroughly protestant and masonic in origin. It is to this very principle, that the personal conscience is higher than the authority of the Church, that Luther made appeal in his heresy and revolt against the Catholic Church.

In another place the same Archbishop says: "Would we alter, if we could, the Constitution in regard to its treatment of religion, the principles of Americanism in regard to religious freedom? I answer with an emphatic No."

'No'? "Your Excellency, would we not be obliged, as Catholics, to desire the public and legal recognition of the Roman Catholic Church as the one true Church of Christ?"

This question he answers: "Do we, however, demand special privileges not accorded to other citizens of America? No - never - no more than we would allow others special privileges not accorded to ourselves - less even than we would allow such privileges to others. If the members of a Church, or a religious or semireligious organization of any kind, arises in America calling for special privileges, be the shame of un-Americanism their portion. Such a contention will never be the disgrace of Catholicism."

'Disgrace of Catholicism'? To ask that Our Lord Jesus Christ the King and His Church be given the public and legal recognition that is due to them is the 'disgrace of Catholicism'? Rather Archbishop Ireland is the disgrace of Catholicism. It is impossible to reconcile these statements with the condemnations of Pope Pius IX, which I cited above. He condemned, with his apostolic authority, the proposition that 'the best plan for public society and civil progress absolutely requires that human society be established and governed with no regard to religion, as if it did not exist, or at least, without making distinction between the true and the false religions'.

Archbishop Ireland would completely agree with this condemned statement. The awful problem is that Archbishop Ireland was not just a "kook," but represented a whole system of thought very popular among much of the Catholic clergy in America. This marriage of Catholicism and the cult of liberty would win out, until finally it was sanctioned as "Catholic doctrine" at Vatican II in the document 'Dignitatis Humane'.

It is not surprising that the document was prepared by American priests, and won the support of the American bishops as a whole, Cardinal Spellman in the lead.

Archbishop Ireland's disgraceful compromise of Catholic doctrine had won the day in the Vatican basilica.

It is precisely this doctrine of religious liberty which throws the wrench into Vatican II. To be sure this wicked assembly had produced other heretical doctrines, even more profound and far-reaching than this one. Religious Liberty has the distinction, however, of being 'specifically condemned' by Pope Pius IX.

As a result the Catholic conscience is perplexed: do I listen to the apostolic authority of Pope Pius IX, who tells me that religious liberty is an insanity, a monstrous error, an error most fatal to the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls? Or do I listen to the "apostolic authority" of Vatican II, which tells me that religious liberty is a right which every human person possesses in virtue of his human dignity, a right "which is based on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself?" ['Dignitatis Humanae', no. 2. It says further on, "This doctrine of freedom is rooted in divine revelation, and for this reason Christians are bound to respect it all the more conscientiously."] Upon this dilemma, this contradiction, is based the whole problem of Vatican II. mason9.htm

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