Further Proofs of the Church’s True Teaching on Civil Allegiance

Further Proofs of the Church’s True Teaching on Civil Allegiance

© Copyright 2009, T. Stanfill Benns (This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.)

It is always important, in studying the decisions made by the Roman Pontiffs, to look not only at those decisions themselves but to try and look further to discover historically what prompted those decisions. In determining the full scope and extent of any law, and infallible decrees are laws issued by the Supreme Lawgiver on earth, this is what Can. 18 tells us: “If the meaning of the terms remains doubtful or obscure, one must have recourse to parallel passages of the Code (if there are any) or to the purpose of the law and its circumstances, and the intention of the legislator.” Some have expressed the opinion that in issuing “Ci Riesce” and his authentic interpretation of the law, “Freedom of Conscience,” Pope Pius XII contradicted the teachings of his predecessors, particularly Pope Pius IX and Pope Gregory XVI. It is of primary importance that Catholics themselves understand this teaching in its entirety if they are to defend their own faith. Protestants and others do not hesitate to use Catholics’ ignorance, confusion and dissension as grist for their own mills. Thus we find a posting of Pope Pius IX’s “Quanta Cura,” quoted below, and see the comments made on this papal teaching by Protestants who know nothing of Pope Pius XII’s later explanation of the meaning and present application of these teachings of his predecessors.

“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 the salvation of souls, called by Our Predecessor of recent memory, Gregory XVI, ‘insanity,’ namely that ‘liberty of conscience and worship is the proper right of every man, and should be acclaimed and asserted by law in every correctly constituted society; that the right to all manner of liberty rests in the citizens, not to be restrained by either ecclesiastical or civil authority, and that by this right they can manifest openly and publicly and declare their own concepts whatsoever they may be, by voice, by print or in any other way…’” (“Quanta Cura,” DZ 1690, “Sources of Catholic Dogma,” Henry Denzinger, 1955).

Protestants misrepresent Church teaching

The following comment on Pope Pius IX’s quote above, presented on one Protestant website illustrates quite well what these popes were combating in their day, and illustrates equally well that Protestant attitudes and teaching have not changed in over 150 years.

“The assertion has just been made by two Popes [in DZ 1690] that the concepts of religious liberty and freedom of speech are nothing less than ‘insanity,’ and that Catholic and civil authorities have the right to restrict and abolish all rights of anyone who is not Catholic. He also considers such principles of liberty as fatal blows to the Catholic faith, that the Catholic faith cannot survive in an atmosphere of freedom, but rather only by resorting to repression and persecution as directed by the Church…It is interesting to note that in Quanta Cura, Pope Pius IX makes a point of quoting Pope Gregory XVI as using the word ‘insanity’ in describing the principle of religious liberty in “Mirari Vos,” yet if you check “Mirari vos” at Catholic sources on the web, you will discover the word has been removed from the text. I offer the translation of “Mirari Vos” at EWTN as one example of this kind of politically correct historical revisionism that attempts to take the edge off past papal remarks and make them appear more palatable. Here is an apparently more accurate translation of what Gregory XVI actually said in section 14 of “Mirari Vos,” and below it is what EWTN’s version says:

14. And from this most putrid font of indifferentism flows that absurd and erroneous view, or rather insanity, that liberty of conscience should be asserted and claimed for just anyone.”

[EWTN] 14. This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone,” (http://biblelight.net/freedom.htm).”

If anyone is trying to take the “edge” off these decrees it would be the Novus Ordo church, which compromised them in the first place with their universal spread of ecumenism beginning at the time of the false Vatican II council. True Catholics have no reason to minimize these decrees, because they know the Church cannot err and has not erred in Her teachings. They know the answers can be found in the Church’s own history and the intent of her lawgivers, the popes, at the time the teaching was issued. They also know that the popes cannot and do not contradict each other, although to those ignorant of the circumstances involved, this can appear to be the case. Rather than investigate such things, too many are quick to blame Pope Pius XII for excesses that paved the way for Vatican II, even accusing him of collaborating with those who betrayed the Church. Failing to observe the instructions of Can. 18, they offer no alternative explanation for Pius XII’s decision and make none of the necessary distinctions. Generally ignorant of the obligation to do so, also pre-conditioned to the proliferation of anti-popes, readers of these Traditionalist sites assume they have made a plausible case, but base this entirely on a one-sided presentation.

Unfortunately there are other sites which have excluded the word ”insanity” from Gregory XVI’s encyclical, not just EWTN. It is obvious here that this selective editing of papal encyclicals has provided ample ammunition for these Protestants in their attempt to smear the Church. For centuries they have portrayed Her as wishing to overthrow democratic governments proclaiming separation of Church and State; also to have represented the Church as repressive and punitive. As we know from the explanations by Rev. J. C. Fenton on membership in the Mystical Body and also in the article on this board concerning religious tolerance (See TradWatch: Countering Objections), what these Protestants are presenting as the truth is NOT the teaching of the Catholic Church, as stated by Pope Pius XII. What Pope Pius IX is saying in “Quanta Cura,” is that these governments are not just wishing to claim ascendancy over its citizens in this matter, but wish to dictate to the Church that She may not condemn this teaching as contrary to faith among Catholics over whom She has rightful jurisdiction. Moreover, the Church condemns the teaching of these rulers that no other form of government is rightly constituted, because She teaches that several forms of government are permissible in and of themselves. So while Protestants tell their brethren the Church is poised to dictate to governments and persecute those claiming religious liberty, in reality some governments during this time period were instead infringing on the Church’s right to rule Catholics in these countries.

Teachings of succeeding popes not noted

One of the problems not considered in these discussions is found in that part of Pope Gregory XVI’s “Mirari Vos” which these “bible believers” had access to but failed to quote in its entirety. This Pope wrote: “We have learned that certain teachings are being spread among the common people in writings which attack the trust and submission due to princes; the torches of treason are being lit everywhere. Care must be taken lest the people, being deceived, are led away from the straight path. May all recall, according to the admonition of the apostle that ‘there is no authority except from God; what authority there is has been appointed by God. Therefore he who resists authority resists the ordinances of God; and those who resist bring on themselves condemnation.’ Therefore both divine and human laws cry out against those who strive by treason and sedition to drive the people from confidence in their princes and force them from their government.

“And it is for this reason that the early Christians, lest they should be stained by such great infamy deserved well of the emperors and of the safety of the state even while persecution raged. This they proved splendidly by their fidelity in performing perfectly and promptly whatever they were commanded which was not opposed to their religion, and even more by their constancy and the shedding of their blood in battle. ‘Christian soldiers,’ says St. Augustine, ‘served an infidel emperor. When the issue of Christ was raised, they acknowledged no one but the One who is in heaven. They distinguished the eternal Lord from the temporal lord, but were also subject to the temporal lord for the sake of the eternal Lord.’ St. Mauritius, the unconquered martyr and leader of the Theban legion had this in mind when, as St. Eucharius reports, he answered the emperor in these words: ‘We are your soldiers, Emperor, but also servants of God, and this we confess freely . . . and now this final necessity of life has not driven us into rebellion: I see, we are armed and we do not resist, because we wish rather to die than to be killed…’ These beautiful examples of the unchanging subjection to the princes necessarily proceeded from the most holy precepts of the Christian religion. They condemn the detestable insolence and improbity of those who, consumed with the unbridled lust for freedom, are entirely devoted to impairing and destroying all rights of dominion while bringing servitude to the people under the slogan of liberty.”

Those who at the moment are objecting that Pope Pius XII’s teaching contradicts “Mirari Vos” because it attenuates Gregory XVI’s teaching on religious liberty need to think about what the Pope really says and consider it in light of what Catholics truly believe. Pope Gregory wrote: “Now We consider another abundant source of the evils with which the Church is afflicted at present: indifferentism. This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained,” (Ibid). Catholics have never embraced this opinion and Pope Pius XII’s teaching on this subject in no way suggests that it should be believed. Those doing the objecting must take two things into consideration here:

1) Even in “Suprema Haec Sacra” and “Mystici Corporis,” Pope Pius XII makes it clear that no one who is not a juridical member of the Church can ever “be certain of their salvation.” Pope Pius XII by no means suggests that the majority of those invincibly ignorant can be saved and in “Mystici Corporis,” reproves those who “exclude from eternal salvation all those united to the Church…those who falsely assert that men can be saved equally well in every religion.”

2) “The man who has a sincere votum or desiderium, enlightened by faith and animated by charity, to enter the true Church of Jesus Christ is thus one who actually intends to work for the objective of the Church. And a man’s intention to work for the glory of God through the salvation of souls in according to God the supernatural service of acknowledgement due to Him because of His supreme excellence and our complete dependence on Him is an intention of worshipping God,” (“Pope Pius XII and the Theological Treatise on the Church,” December, 1958 American Ecclesiastical Review). Therefore, such a man possesses the “animated charity” and faith in God that Pope Pius XII requires as necessary to merit Baptism of desire. These very specific conditions of salvation of the invincibly ignorant make it clear that the Church is not extending this possibility of salvation to all and sundry, as the NO church has done. Moreover, Pope Gregory XVI clearly indicates that he is speaking of certain enemies of the Church who attack the governments of those countries favorable to Catholicism and its practice.

And there is another very important things these bible believers missed in failing to quote other pertinent parts of “Mirari Vos”: “Nor can We predict happier times for religion and government from the plans of those who desire vehemently to separate the Church from the state, and to break the mutual concord between temporal authority and the priesthood. It is certain that that concord which always was favorable and beneficial for the sacred and the civil order is feared by the shameless lovers of liberty. But for the other painful causes We are concerned about, you should recall that certain societies and assemblages seem to draw up a battle line together with the followers of every false religion and cult. They feign piety for religion; but they are driven by a passion for promoting novelties and sedition everywhere. They preach liberty of every sort; they stir up disturbances in sacred and civil affairs, and pluck authority to pieces…This is the hour granted to the powers of darkness to grind the elect as wheat. Evil comes out of Secret Societies…Those conspiring societies have… vomited…as into a privy, all they hold of licentiousness, sacrilege and blasphemy.”

References to Freemasonry ignored

In talking here about the separation of Church and State, it is clear that Gregory XVI is NOT talking about countries SET UP on this erroneous basis, where many Catholics happen to live. He is talking about the stealthy work of secret societies, who conspired to break the mutual concords between temporal authority and the clergy of European countries. No such concord ever existed between America and the Church because this country was founded on Separation of Church and State to begin with. In once-Catholic states, such as France and others, the Masonic sects set out to subvert heads of state and those advising them, on the pretext of granting “freedom of religion,” (which in reality they wished to grant all the “freedom” to abandon Catholicism). This is what Pope Gregory was referring to in “Mirari Vos,” had those quoting his work simply quoted the pertinent parts of this document. And certainly he was not unaware of the nefarious influence these societies had in both the founding and the governing of America.

The popes above were unquestionably condemning the action of these secret societies on governments worldwide to establish “liberty, equality and fraternity” after toppling Catholic thrones or fomenting dissent in predominating Catholic countries. They also were combating the accusations made against the Jesuits who they depict as acting as its own “secret society.” Protestants have relentlessly painted the Jesuits as fomenters of sedition and treachery and have accused them of plotting to overthrow governments. Yet all these fervent missionaries attempted to do was to effectively battle the inroads made by Freemasonry and the Illuminati, its bitter enemy, and prevent the subversion of Catholic rulers and nations. This is why Pope Gregory XVI explains that far from promoting and inculcating sedition as a matter of papal obedience, the exact opposite is true of the Church and Her emissaries.

It is precisely why Pope Pius XII wrote as he did, also, concerning the duties of Catholics living in democracies where they were expected to at least not interfere with the religious and moral “liberties” of their fellow citizens, because God allows the cockle to grow alongside the wheat. The alternative for the Church, in defending Herself and making the truth known, was to deny what Pope Gregory speaks about above, that: “He who resists authority resists the ordinances of God,” (St. Paul). This is the “common good” of which Pope Pius XII spoke in “Ci Riesce.” What appears to some to be back-peddling and a softening of his predecessors’ teachings by Pope Pius XII is actually no different at all than the Church’s same forced retreat following the Reformation. We must remember how many have pointed to “Unam Sanctam” as proof that the Church believes she has power even over non-Catholic rulers and governments, using the conditions which prompted Pope Boniface VIII to state that “If earthly power deviates, it shall be judged by spiritual power,” (DZ 469).

Cardinal Manning explains why conditions have ceased

But those conditions ceased to exist when England became a Protestant nation and other countries followed her into schism. What Pope Boniface VIII taught in his day was right and true; but the conditions which prompted his teaching ceased to exist. No less a stalwart defender of the papacy than Henry Cardinal Manning explained this well in his “The Vatican Council’s Teaching in Its Bearing on Civil Allegiance,” (1875). English politicians were distributing propaganda following the Vatican Council that promoted the idea that with the declaration of infallibility, the popes would then invoke their spiritual authority over non-Catholic rulers to enforce the teaching concerning religious liberty by encouraging rebellion of Catholics living under democratic rule. The Know-Nothing Party in America (later to become the Republican party), prior to the definition of infallibility, had spread the propaganda that Catholics were plotting to take over America by force and impose Catholic rule and teachings. The definition of infallibility only reignited this old accusation. Manning explained that the Church can exercise such powers only over Her own, and that although She did so exercise these powers in the past, over Catholic rulers and people, the rulers of these countries were no longer Catholic — hence no longer fell under Her jurisdiction spiritually.

These politicians were accusing the Church of precisely what Pope Gregory XVI said She could never and would never do. And even before “Miriari Vos,” was ever written, as Manning points out, Pope Pius VI had written the following to the Congregation of Cardinals in 1791: “A most accurate discrimination should be made between the genuine rights of the Apostolical See and those that are imputed to it by innovators of this age for the purpose of calumniating. The See of Rome never taught that faith is not to be kept with the heterodox — that an oath to kings separated from the Catholic communion can be violated — that it is lawful for the Bishops of Rome to invade their temporal right and dominions. We, too, consider an attempt or design against the life of kings and princes even under the pretext of religion, as a horrid and detestable crime.”

Manning then quotes Pope Pius IX on this same subject: “In the variety of subjects which will present themselves to you, one appears to me of great importance at this time; and that is, to defeat the endeavors which are now directed to falsify the idea of the infallibility of the Pope. Among all other errors, that is malicious above all which would attribute (to the infallibility of the Pope) the right of deposing sovereigns and of absolving people from allegiance. This right without doubt has been exercised by the Supreme Pontiffs from time to time in extreme cases, but it has nothing to do with Pontifical Infallibility; neither does it flow from the infallibility, but from the authority of the Pontiff. Moreover, the exercise of this right in those ages of faith which respected in the Pope that which he is, that is to say, the Supreme Judge of Christendom, and recognized the benefit of his tribunal, in the great contentions of peoples and of sovereigns, was freely extended…But altogether different are the conditions of the present time from the conditions (of those ages); and malice alone can confound things so diverse…Everybody can discern the reason why such an absurd confusion of ideas is stirred up at this time…It is because every pretext, even the most frivolous and furthest from the truth, is eagerly caught at, provided it be of a kind to give us annoyance, and to excite civil rulers against the Church,” (address given in Rome July 21, 1871).

Cardinal Manning goes onto explain that “The ancient world had never yet believed the faith; the modern world has believed, but has fallen from its faith…and this has changed all the moral conditions of the subject. The Church never, indeed, loses its jurisdiction in radice over the baptized, because the character of baptism is indelible; but unless the moral conditions justifying its exercise be present, it never puts forth…” Manning goes onto explain that the Church had jurisdiction over Elizabeth I because she was baptized a Catholic, received First Communion and Confirmation in the Church as a Catholic and was crowned as a Catholic; and most of England was yet Catholic. Therefore the Church formally excommunicated her. Card. Manning concludes by saying exactly what Pope Gregory XVI and Pius XII would later say, words some claim are so indicative of Pope Pius XII’s “V2 tendencies.” Manning writes: “The Vatican Council has not touched our civil allegiance at all; the laws which govern our civil allegiance are as old as the revelation of Christianity and are regulated by the Divine constitution of the Church and the immutable duties of natural morality.” The natural law bids all Catholics to render civil allegiance to Caesar, but in matters concerning faith, to always give to God what is His own. This is exactly what Pope Pius XII said. The faith was never compromised; it simply was never understood as an integral whole.

Separation of Church FROM state, when that state is Catholic to begin with, is an unspeakable evil. But for Catholics to live in a country founded on that very premise from the beginning, one is not required to crusade against it because it works contrary to the common good and gives the impression one is not obeying authority. As shown above, this is injurious to the Church and only scandalizes non-Catholics. The conditions which once required us to openly oppose this evil and to protest its enforcement no longer exist; no states in the world today are Catholic. Deprived of the hierarchy, with no way to restore the papacy and no voice to make our plight known, we have watched as the cockle grew so thickly around us that finding any wheat in its midst is nearly impossible. We may not be able to demand our rights as Catholics by desire, but we are, at present anyway, free to speak and write about our faith, to defend it and at least to worship in the privacy of our own homes. Because of America’s anti-Communist stance, I believe that Pope Pius XII held out hope she would somehow aid in the defeat of Communism. He did not hesitate to condemn the abuses of American democracy, but thought perhaps that at least freedom of worship would protect the Church to some degree here. Sadly, he was mistaken. We must remember that the Fatima seer Lucia dos Santos told Fr. Fuentes that even America would fall to Communism.

At the end of his work, Card. Manning warns of the coming deluge, yet holds out hope for the faithful: “I have shown, I hope, that in the conflicts of the Civil Powers with the Church, the causes have arisen, not from acts of the Church, but from such acts as the Constitution of Clarendon, [16 articles representing an attempt to restrict ecclesiastical privileges, curb the power of the Church courts and limit the extent of papal authority in England]; the claim of Investitures [that government officials or other members of the laity themselves have the right to appoint bishops to their Sees or officially confirm them as possessing these Sees]; the creation of Royal Courts of final appeal [when concerning spiritual matters, only ecclesiastical courts have the final say]…These invasions of the Spiritual domain have ever been from the attempts of Governments to subject the Church to their own jurisdiction; and now more than ever, from a universal and simultaneous conspiracy against it. A leader of this conspiracy said the other day, ‘The net is now drawn so close about the Church of Rome that if it escape this time, I will believe it to be Divine.’ If God grant him life, I have hope of his conversion. For, that the Church of Rome will escape out of the net is certain, and that for two reasons: first, for the same reason why its Divine Head rose again from the grave — ‘it was not possible that He should be holden by it;’ and next, because the Civil Governments that are now conspiring against it are preparing for their own dissolution. Finally, I have given the true and evident reasons why, when some six hundred Bishops from the ends of the Church were gathered together, they defined the Infallibility of their Head — ‘Visum est Spiritui Sancto et nobis:’ It has seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.”


As seen above, Pope Gregory XVI condemned the teaching that: “liberty of conscience and worship is the proper right of every man, and should be acclaimed and asserted by law in every correctly constituted society; that the right to all manner of liberty rests in the citizens, not to be restrained by either ecclesiastical or civil authority.” Later Pope St. Pius X would explain that it cannot be the “proper right” for Catholics because it is contrary to the teaching of the Church. Nor can it ever be said that a society is not “correctly constituted” if it is not democratic. Pope St. Pius X, in his infallible work “Our Apostolic Mandate,” against the Sillon, taught precisely WHY liberty of conscience cannot be exercised in every rightly constituted society: “There is no true civilization without a moral civilization and there is no true moral civilization without the true religion. It is a proven truth, an historical fact.” As Yves Dupont has pointed out in his booklet, “The Popes on Democracy,” commenting on this and other passages in Pope St. Pius X’s condemnation of the Sillon: “He taught that true Christians alone are qualified to build the society of tomorrow, and that they must do it without associating with misbelievers and unbelievers.” The Church is a Divine society and unless one belongs to the true Church She cannot consider them “equal” in any true and juridic sense. Dupont continues: “The civil constitution cannot grant equal rights to all citizens, nor can it allow all citizens to rise to positions of power, otherwise unbelievers would soon run the whole state…” If Catholics are to be governed equally and in a fair manner in accordance with their beliefs, if they are to be allowed to practice their religion to its fullest, “It follows that the organization of the state must be modeled on the organization of the Church, so that men may have the necessary guidance in matters temporal, as they have, through the Church in matters spiritual.”

Commenting on the amalgamation of believers and unbelievers alike in states where free license is given to all sorts of liberties, Pope St. Pius X observes that the end result can only be the emergence of “some kind of new religion at once godless and humanistic…The famous trilogy, ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ [is] opposed to Catholic truth, warping the essential and fundamental notions which regulate social relations in every human society…By separating fraternity from true Christian charity thus understood, democracy, far from being a progress, would mean a disastrous setback for civilization.” Clearly the Popes knew where we were headed, for Pope Pius XII warned that democracy in his day was only “…a social order, which, beneath a deceptive appearance or mass of conventional formulas, conceals a fatal weakness and an unbridled lust for profit and power,” (Christmas Day address, 1952). And here he only echoes Pope Leo XIII, who in “Rerum Novarum,” condemned those practices of modern capitalism which would, in effect, reduce man to a form of slavery to the state. As Pope St. Pus X warned later, “truly one can say that the Sillon (i.e., democracy) brings in its train socialism.” These popes were scarcely ignorant of the fact that those working to make every country a democracy did so for hidden motives — to better prepare all countries for one-world rule and religion. As all Catholics are aware, this is the true aim of Freemasons whose idea of “liberty, equality and fraternity” all the popes vehemently condemn.

If modern democracies governed largely by Protestants are so concerned that Catholics are plotting against them (when the opposite is true, since many professing some form of Protestantism are entirely at home also in the Masonic Lodge), the answer to this threat seems relatively simple: allow those of the Catholic faith to occupy their own country and select their own form of government. But this will never happen. Such a solution poses a great threat, for if the resultant state was prosperous or peaceful; if others gravitated to it in large numbers and if it gained any kind of recognition among other governments, then democracy might not seem so appealing to the majority. Protestants and freethinkers have largely created and supported the idea of direct democracy because in separating themselves from the Church, and in constantly producing new sects, all must be free to embrace their own take on religion and govern themselves. Freedom from the rule of the popes was the cry that propelled the Reformers forward. Freedom from persecution amongst their own sects later caused the first English settlers to flee to America. But that freedom was never fully extended to Catholics. We are left today to try and defend ourselves as best we can in a government essentially hostile to our existence, and today we must fight just to keep the basic freedom to practice what is left of our faith.

Several essential points need to be highlighted here that better explain the Church’s true teaching concerning civil allegiance and civic obligations.

1. The Church will always condemn the teaching that one is free to choose any religion they please. Christ instituted one Church to work for the salvation of souls, and when governments impede this work the Church must defend Her own rights and those of Her Divine Founder. They likewise have not changed their teaching on the evils of separation of Church and State; they simply are not any longer able to enforce these laws over subjects who are not members of the one, true Church.

2. Catholics are required to hold these teachings firmly and irrevocably. Nevertheless, they are not required to crusade for the restructuring of the governmental system in the U.S. to reflect these teachings, nor may they refuse to comply with the laws that forbid discrimination on the basis of religion.

3. Pope Pius XII called for the tolerance not only of the teachings above per se but the right of authority to demand obedience to its own laws, since this authority IS from God and not the people, regardless of how such authority is fixed by law on a certain person. The laws of God supersede those of man.

4. Catholics cannot resist such authority without endangering the common good and disregarding Divine law. Therefore the higher law dictates that tolerance of those systems which Catholics are helpless to change is not a violation of Divine law as long as a) Catholics make it clear they cannot and do not believe those teachings which conflict with the teachings of the Church, whenever it is possible; b) advocate for change without blowing up abortion clinics and calling for overthrow of the government and c) work prudently for change of such laws within the laws of these countries when able to do so.

The Popes basically reserved to themselves the right to speak out on these abuses on behalf of the people, while insisting that Catholics, although not remaining silent, yet not agitate, either, or resort to anarchy. Today we must defend ourselves in their absence, yet observe their teachings concerning obedience to lawful authority. It is a fine line we are asked to walk and may become finer still if what some believe are restrictive laws against fundamentalist religion become a reality. And if ever the fundamentalists are all attacked as a group, Protestants may be surprised to find they are thrown into the same pit with Catholics, there to await the lions.

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