Among the slogans of “politically correct” language there is the term “religious liberty”, which is used incorrectly at times by Catholics as a synonym for freedom for the Church or freedom for Christians. In reality the terms and concepts are different and it is necessary to clarify them.
The ambiguity present in the Conciliar declaration Dignitas Humanae (1965) rose from the lack of distinction between the private forum, which is in the sphere of personal conscience, and the public forum, which is in the sphere of the community, or rather the profession and propagation of one’s personal religious convictions.
The Church, with Pope Gregory XVI in Mirari Vos (1836), with Pope Pius IX in the Syllabus and in Quanta Cura (1864), but also with Pope Leo XIII in Immortale Dei (1885) and in Libertas (1888) teaches that:
- No one can be constricted to believe in the private forum, because faith is a personal choice formed in the conscience of
- Man has no right to religious freedom in the public forum, or rather freedom to profess whatever religion, because only the true and the good have rights and not what is error and is evil.
- Public worship of false religions may be, in cases, tolerated by the civil authorities, with the view of obtaining a greater good or avoiding a greater evil, but, in essence, it may be repressed even by force if necessary. But the right to tolerance is a contradiction, because, as is evident even from the term, whatever is tolerated is never a good thing, rather, it is always a purely bad thing. In the social life of nations, error may be tolerated as a reality, but never allowed as a right. Error “has no right to exist objectively nor to propaganda, nor action” (Pius XII Speech Ci Riesce 1953)
Further, the right of being immune to coercion, or rather the fact that the Church does not impose the Catholic Faith on anyone, but requires the freedom of the act of faith, does not arise from a presumed natural right to religious freedom or a presumed natural right to believe in any religion whatever, but it is founded on the fact that the Catholic Religion, the only true one, must be embraced in complete freedom without any constraints. The liberty of the believer is based on the truth believed and not on the self-determination of the individual.
The Catholic and only the Catholic has the natural right to profess and practice his religion and he has it because his religion is the true one. Which means that no other believer apart from the Catholic has the natural right to profess his religion. The verification of this is in the fact that rights do not exist without responsibilities and duties and vice versa. The natural law, summed up in the ten commandments, is expressed in a prescriptive manner, that is, it imposes duties and responsibilities from which rights arise. For example, in the Commandment “Do not kill the innocent” the right of the innocent to life arises. The rejection of abortion is a prescription of natural rights which is separated from religion and whoever conforms to it. And this is the same for the seven Commandments of the Second Table. Comparing the right to religious liberty to the right to life, considering them both as natural rights, is however, nonsense.
The first three commandments of the Decalogue in fact do not refer to all and sundry divinities, but only to the God of the Old and the New Testaments. From the First Commandment, which imposes adoration of the Only True God, arises the right and the duty to profess not any religion but the only true one. This counts for both the individual and the State. The State, like each individual, has the duty to profess the true religion, also because the aims of the State are no different from those of the individual.
The reason the State cannot constrain anyone to believe does not arise from the religious neutrality of the State, but from the fact that adhering to the truth must be completely free. If the individual had the right to preach and profess publically any religion whatever, the State would have the obligation of religious neutrality. This has been repeatedly condemned by the Church.
For this reason we say that man has the right to profess, not any religion, but to profess the only true one. Only if religious liberty is intended as Christian liberty, will it be possible to speak of the right to it.
There are those who sustain that we live actually in a pluralistic and secularized society, that the Catholic States have disappeared and that Europe is a continent that has turned its back on Christianity. Therefore, the real problem is that of Christians persecuted in the world, and not that of a Catholic State. Nobody denies this, but the verification of a reality is not equivalent to the affirmation of a principle. The Catholic must desire a Catholic society and State with all his heart, where Christ reigns, as Pope Pius XI in the encyclical Quas Primas (1925) explains.
The distinction between the “thesis” (the principle) and the “hypothesis”(the concrete situation) is noted. The more that we are obliged to suffer under the hypothesis, the more we have to try to make the thesis known. Hence, we do not renounce the doctrine of the Social Kingship of Christ: let us speak of the rights of Jesus Christ to reign over entire societies as the only solution to modern evils. So, instead of fighting for religious liberty, which is the equalizing of the true religion with the false ones, let us fight in defense of liberty for Christians, today persecuted by Islam in the East and by the dictatorship of relativism in the West.