Religious tolerance, freedom of conscience and cults today

Religious tolerance, freedom of conscience and cults today

© Copyright 2009, T. Stanfill Benns © Copyright 2012, 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.)

One Conclavist has attacked the first paragraphs of the initial cult information made available on this board as heretical and supportive of Masonic ideas promoted in Vatican II documents, and previously by Americanists. Apparently this accusation is not something new to the theological world, since it surfaced in the early 1950s. Certain theologians of that era also misunderstood even the teachings of Pope Pius XII on this subject. In the Trad/Conclavist world, the underlying error that contributes to such criticism — even of a valid pontiff — is rife. It is rooted in a failure first to define terms and secondly, on the part of those conducting the discussion, to make the necessary distinctions and properly evaluate the facts. For Traditionalists, it is commonplace to criticize the teachings even of valid popes, popes to be obeyed and respected, not taken to task. Conclavists, however, believe that once their candidate has attained the “papacy,” the one claiming to be a true pope can then sit in judgment on past papal pronouncements and call the shots. Since no one in these groups have the requisite orders or jurisdiction, necessary seminary training or even common sense to decide such matters, any further comments are pointless.

But the means to sort out the Church’s true teachings on these matters exists, if only a concerted effort was made to research and confirm the facts. They obviously possess at least some of the works available on these topics; they certainly quote from them when it serves their purpose. But all of them focus only on those things they believe support their own “positions” and whatever they feel will discredit their enemies, whether their allegations are supported by positive proofs or not. What they do is commonly referred to as taking things out of context. But more to the point, it is what scholasticism refers to, in this case, as “Fallacies extra dictionem,” one of which is “Accident or A Dicto Simpliciter ad Dictum Secundem: Assuming that what is true generally is true in every circumstance, when circumstances alter the case,” (“Logic,” by Rev. Joseph Walsh, S.J., 1940). This is exactly what happened with religious tolerance as taught by the different popes. As Pope Pius XII points out, “Religious and moral error must always be impeded… [But this] is not valid absolutely and unconditionally.” Had the proper distinctions on the subject of religious liberty and toleration been rightly understood and had the Church’s true teaching on the matter been sought out, the accusation mentioned above would easily have been seen as groundless. How groundless it really is will be proven below.

Pope Pius XII’s “Ci riesce”

In an article written for the American Ecclesiastical Review in 1954 entitled “Ci riesce and Cardinal Ottaviani’s Discourse,” Giuseppe Di Meglio wrote from Rome that such a misjudgment was made concerning an address given at the Laeteran University by Cardinal Ottaviani on March 2, 1953 and a subsequent address to the Union of Italian Catholic Jurists (“Ci riesce”) delivered by Pope Pius XII on Dec. 6, 1953. Some theologians claimed that Pope Pius XII taught contrary to Cardinal Ottaviani’s discourse on religious liberty and religious tolerance, but Di Meglio stated that this claim was “without foundation [and] disrespectful.” He noted that Cardinal Ottaviani was addressing the subject of the Catholic state, and the duties of Catholics within such a state where the “internal order” was concerned. “He was not discussing the case in which that Catholic state would join, under juridical bonds, a community of states. As for example that community of states which is the United States of America. The religious problem taken up by the Holy Father has reference, on the other hand, to a juridical community into which ‘states, remaining sovereign, would freely unite,’ and which, “depending on the religious belief of the great majority of citizens, or by reason of an explicit declaration of law, people and member states of the international community will be divided into those that are Christian, non-Christian, indifferent to religion or consciously without it or even professedly atheist.”

Di Meglio then quotes Ottaviani, who explained that when a state is totally or almost absolutely Catholic, then it is the duty of those governing “to protect against everything that would undermine it the religious unity of a people who unanimously know themselves to be in secure possession of religious truth.” Di Meglio comments: “With reference to other cults, the Cardinal stated that tolerance could be used, even in the case of a Catholic state, when there were very serious reasons for it. He says the Church, too, recognizes the fact that [even] some who govern Catholic countries may find it necessary, for very grave reasons, to grant tolerance to other cults.” But Ottaviani also states that this should not be misconstrued in such a way as to lead Catholics to believe that tolerance is the same thing “as freedom to propagandize in such a way as to foment religious discord and to disturb the secure possession of truth and of religious practice in countries like Italy, Spain and others.” Di Meglio then goes on to explain again that Pius XII was not discussing Catholic countries but rather was addressing “…the question of whether or not other cults can be tolerated throughout the entire territory of an international community.” He then quotes from Pope Leo XIII on this subject.

[“Neither does there appear any just cause for anyone charging the Church with being lenient and more than rightly restricted by affability, or with being hostile to that liberty which is proper and lawful,” DZ 1873]. “Although the Church deems it unlawful to place the various forms of divine worship on the same footing as the true religion, it does not, on that account, condemn those rulers who, for the sake of securing some great good, or of hindering some great evil, patiently allow custom or usage to be a kind of a sanction for each kind of religion having its place in the state,” (DZ 1874). Di Meglio then compares this to Pope Pius XII’s teaching in “Ci riesce” on this same tolerance in a community of states, which is “…within the limits of the possible and lawful, to promote everything that facilitates union and makes it more effective; to remove everything that disturbs it; to tolerate at times that which it is impossible to correct, but which, on the other hand, must not be permitted to make a shipwreck of the community, from which a higher good is hoped for.”

Di Meglio sums up Pope Pius XII’s teaching on the matter from “Ci riesce” as follows: “First: that which does not correspond to truth or to the norm of morality objectively has no right to exist, to be spread or to be activated. Secondly: failure to impede this with civil laws or coercive measures can nevertheless be justified in the interests of a higher and more general good.” Di Meglio goes on to note that Pope Pius XII also expects Catholic statesmen to ask for the judgment of the Holy See in matters of religious tolerance and abide by its judgment. He concludes that far from contradicting Cardinal Ottaviani’s address, “Ci riesce” was “a magnificent confirmation and solemn seal of approval” on all Ottaviani said.

Related teachings from Pius XII on tolerance

Pope Pius XII also issued other definitive pronouncements which further elaborate on this subject. In an authentic interpretation of Can. 2314 entitled “Freedom of Conscience,” which officially treats of the excommunications exacted for heresy, apostasy and schism, Pius observes that many rulers “violate consciences and…impose on the Catholic part of the population a yoke of oppression, especially in regard to the rights of parents in the education of their children…The ever increasing frequency of contacts and the promiscuity of the various religious confessions within the same country have led the civil tribunals to follow the principles of ‘tolerance and freedom of conscience.’ And indeed there is a tolerance — political, civil, and social, toward the adherents of other faiths — which is, under these circumstances, a moral obligation also for Catholics.” …“The Church Herself, in Can. 1351 of the Code of Canon Law, has given the force of law to the maxim: No one is to be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will,” (emph. the pope’s). This canon, which reproduces the very words of our great Predecessor Leo XIII in the encyclical “Immortale Dei” (Nov. 1, 1885) is the faithful echo of the doctrine taught by the Church from the first centuries of Christianity.

“Let it suffice to cite the testimony of Lactantius, written about the years 305-310: ‘There is no need of force or injury, for religion cannot be forced; to move the will, words rather than blows are to be used…And so we keep no one against his will — for he who lacks devotion and faith is useless to God…There is nothing so voluntary as religion; for if the heart of the one who offers sacrifice be turned away, religion is gone, it is nothing’… According to the Catholic doctrine, conversion must be the result, not of external constraint, but of an interior adherence of the soul to the truths taught by the Catholic Church,” (“Canon Law Digest,” Vol. 3, AAS 38-391). So if the Church proscribes force and fear where conversions are concerned, which She obviously does; and even admits that in those invincibly ignorant such ignorance — by its very description — ordinarily cannot be overcome, would this not apply also to those who are being seduced by a subtle psychological force instilling fear, such as the coercive subversion used by cults today? Modern cult leaders attack the very will of those who belong to them, and weaken it in such a way that their followers then become more susceptible to even vague fears and psychological manipulation. This makes it possible, then, for them to accept lies for truth. So is this not the use of psychological force and injury, which then allows these cult members to accept the false teachings of these leaders more or less against their own will?

In the original cult information article I wrote: “Those operating destructive religious groups are not just guilty of endangering the faith of Catholics; they also endanger the basic rights of all Americans to freedom of speech and belief, freedom of worship and freedom of the press.” I later amended this to the following: “Those operating destructive religious groups are not just guilty of endangering the faith of Catholics; they also endanger the basic rights of all Americans, under the U.S. Constitution, to freedom of speech and belief, freedom of worship and freedom of the press. In this they violate the civil law (which Catholics are obliged to obey whenever this does not violate Church teaching) and the consciences of those invincibly ignorant, at least, (since all Catholics know that no one is ever “free” to worship as they please). Commenting on the second half of the conclusion in the article by Di Meglio above, Pope Pius XII writes: “Concerning the second proposition, that is to say, concerning tolerance in determined circumstances, toleration even in cases in which one could proceed to repression, the Church — out of regard for those who, in good conscience (though erroneous, but invincibly so) are of a different opinion — has been led to act and has acted with that tolerance, after She became the State Church under Constantine the Great and the other Christian emperors, always for higher and more cogent motives. So she acts today…In such individual cases the attitude of the Church is determined by what is commanded by the ‘bonum commune’ on the one hand, the common good of the Church and the State in individual states, and, on the other, the common good of the universal Church…No norms are valid for the Church except the norms that We have just indicated,” (“The Pope Speaks,” Vol. I, 1954; “Ci riesce”).

Catholics are taught to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and in this case Pope Pius XII declares that the Church has tolerated other religions for the sake of the common good and for very serious reasons. In “Freedom of Conscience” above we read that not only is it allowable for Catholics to tolerate such existing conditions, but that the Church teaches it is “a moral obligation.” Nor is it necessary for Catholics to actively combat or repress religious error among other sects, even though they openly deride the Catholic faith. Again from “Ci riesce,” Pope Pius XII writes: “…The question is raised whether in these circumstances… positive repression is not always a duty…Could it be that in certain circumstances [God] would not give men any mandate, would not impose any duty and would not even communicate the right to impede or repress what is erroneous and false?”

Here Pope Pius points out that while God does not will sin He allows it, because He cannot revoke man’s free will. And He has given us the parable of the cockle and the wheat growing up side by side. Pope Pius XII then concludes that, “Religious and moral error must always be impeded, when it is possible, because toleration of them is, in itself, immoral. [But this] is not valid absolutely and unconditionally,” (emph. the pope’s). Under the laws of freedom of speech and the press in this country, it is yet possible to point out and thereby perhaps impede the errors of other religions, at least in way of written and spoken arguments. The Church teaches that absolute freedom to speak or write anything at all is not Catholic. But at the same time, it is civil law and insofar as it works in the favor of the Church to impede error “when it is possible,” it is at least to be tolerated. This is especially true since to abolish these freedoms would mean that errors could be freely taught with no means of combating them at all. And this would scarcely work for “the bonum commune.”

Summary of Pope Pius XII’s teachings

So to summarize what Pope Pius XII has taught in “Ci riesce and “Freedom of Conscience”:

1) In “Ci riesece,” Pope Pius XII was attempting to explain how an international order of states could be established on a Catholic basis, versus the secular basis proposed by those advocating one world government at that time, (for the purposes of preventing nuclear proliferation and providing protection against Communist countries).

2) He was discussing precisely that sort of situation on a religious level, which at that time existed in America.

3) He was not considering the obligations of those who would live or function on an official level in a truly Catholic state; this was the subject of Card. Ottaviani’s speech.

4) The difference between the two situations revolves around the age-old question of the Church’s spiritual authority and the right to insist that Her own laws be used to govern the strictly Catholic state, where she lawfully holds sway, and Her inability to insist that these same laws be upheld in countries or unions where neither the leaders nor the majority of the populace are Catholics. The Church has the right to insist that all baptized Catholics abide by Her laws, but She has no way to enforce these laws.

5) The Church can never state that all religions and forms of divine worship can be placed on the same footing, (Pope Leo XIII). Nor will She ever teach that what does not correspond to truth or to the norm of morality objectively has the right to exist. Nevertheless, the Church, in the political climate existing since the 1700s, has had no choice but “to tolerate at times that which it is impossible to correct.”

6) This being the case, “Religious and moral error must always be impeded, when it is possible, because toleration of them is, in itself, immoral. [But this] is not valid absolutely and unconditionally,” (Ibid).

7) Furthermore, as Pope Pius XII taught, this is precisely what Catholics must believe, for “No norms are valid for the Church except the norms that We have just indicated,” (see “Ci riesce” quite above).

8) Rev. J. C. Fenton stated in his article “Pope Pius XII and the Theological Treatise on the Church,” written for the American Ecclesiastical Review: “It is certainly no longer feasible to reprove the teaching that objectively, a complete separation of Church and state is an evil. Likewise it would appear that henceforth the legitimacy of the explanations between Church and state in terms of thesis and hypothesis will be acknowledged.” Fenton states that previously this objective consideration of the separation of Church and state was a topic that had been open for discussion before Pope Pius XII’s allocution.

Does what is stated in this summary and in the preceding pages relieve us from the duty of defending the faith and exposing and condemning error? No, because we are doing so, as it were, within our own ranks; among those who claim to be Catholics (similar to what is envisioned by Cardinal Ottaviani in his address). These individuals present themselves as Catholics, and should be behaving as true Catholics. We are not thereby disturbing the State in any manner. And we are definitely trying to work for the good of the faith, to impede error while it is yet possible. It also might be pointed out that America is awash in a sea of paganism, socialism and materialism and that as such we more greatly resemble the first Christians and those in Communist countries. At present we can still speak out against the totalitarianism that is fast becoming the status quo and threatens what few “freedoms” we yet are able to exercise. In allowing tax money to be used for abortions we cannot fail to speak; against same-sex marriages we must not remain silent; laws eliminating the necessity for parental consent to birth control and abortion demand our condemnation. These are blatant violations of the natural law, which God has written on all men’s hearts.

Pius XII places limits on toleration

So where would the Church have us draw the line in these matters? Pope Pius XII set down these guidelines very clearly in an address given to the faithful of Rome on Feb. 20, 1949. There he spoke of the shameful arrest and reprehensible brainwashing of Cardinal Mindszenty by his Communist persecutors and condemned all who had any part in his arrest and torture. In the course of this address Pope Pius wrote:

“The Church of Christ…knows that she cannot perish and that the most violent of storms will not overpower her…The threats of disgrace of earthly powers does not intimidate her. She does not meddle in questions which are purely political or economic; she does not care to debate on the utility or the lack of it in one or another form of government… Now, it is well known what the totalitarian and anti-religious state exacts and expects [of the Church] as the price of her toleration and her problematic recognition. This is what it wants her to be:

• a Church that will be silent, when she should speak;

• a Church that will water down God’s law, adapting it to the tastes of the human will, when she should proclaim it aloud and defend it;

• a Church that would detach itself from the unshakeable foundation on which Christ built it, and take up a convenient position on the moving sands of the opinion of the day, or yield herself to the passing currents;

• a Church that will not resist the oppression of consciences and will not defend the legitimate rights and the just liberties of the people;

• a Church that, with shameful servility, will remain closed in the four walls of the temple, forgetting the divine mandate received from Christ: (a) ‘go into the highways and (b) teach all men.’

“Beloved sons and daughters! Spiritual heirs of an innumerable legion of confessors and martyrs! Is this the Church that you love and venerate? Do you recognize in such a Church the features of your Mother’s face?(!)”

There are those Traditionalist and Conclavist clergy and leaders who would silence all who speak against them and dare tell their followers the truth as it comes — unvarnished — from the mouths of the popes. They would have us all believe that the laws God gave His Church the power to create should be watered down and adapted to the wants and needs of those who mistakenly believe that the external practice of the Catholic faith is the faith itself. They may believe they are preserving the faith, but they have many things to consider: their economic situation, their image and what they would do if they had to admit they were wrong. Yielding to passing currents, they have chosen to remain where they are. Followers and leaders alike often do not understand that from the very beginning they were not told the truth, or at least the whole truth, and that they therefore could scarcely form a right conscience without being able to examine the true and undiluted teachings of the popes and councils. The knee-jerk reaction of these leaders to criticism often is to demonize all those who would defend their legitimate rights to know the truth, act upon it, and exercise their just liberties. They shrug off the obligation of Catholic Action and any participation in the lay apostolate, reducing it to fulfillment only of the promises made at Baptism, or to the daily duties in which they already are engaged. This happens often because they have no real idea of its importance, or how to implement it. They remain isolated and bogged down in their particular ideology, a stance Pope St. Pius X condemned, since Catholics are not allowed to isolate themselves where Catholic Action is concerned. As a result, they fail to carry on the mission of the Church to fully engage in the salvation of souls, at least that mission as it was envisioned by Christ and urged on the faithful without exception by His vicars.


As Pope Pius XII notes above, and Pope Leo XIII also suggests, Catholics are obligated to protest even when cult leaders manipulate the wills of their Protestant neighbors, thereby rendering their consciences inoperable. If the Catholic Church forbids even its own clergy and catechists to force conversions in any way, when such conversions would be to the true faith, how much more would they condemn the activities of cults today, who first use Communist tactics to seduce their prey, then indoctrinate them in error?! Eager to preserve their own standing and portray others as the enemy, these cult leaders not only strive to conceal their wrongdoings; they do not hesitate to cravenly misrepresent the Church’s own teachings in order to do so. If they truly believed that there can be no religious tolerance in America or other democracies, they would be preaching relentlessly from housetops and street corners against pagan and Protestant sects alike; burning their churches and harassing their ministers. Instead they are focused solely on pursuing their critics and gaining new adherents to their false religions. Why don’t they pursue these other leaders of non-Catholic sects? Because the civil law forbids it, and that law is upheld by the Church. They hypocritically rail against others for rightfully obeying these civil laws and teaching that the Church says they must be obeyed, when Pope Pius XII teaches that it is an obligation binding on Catholics, not an option. Yet this pope also teaches that such tolerance cannot extend to the imposition of religious beliefs by anything even vaguely resembling force and fear, nor a contrived and deliberate misrepresentation of the truth, whether this be perpetrated by physical or psychological means.

Yet Pope Pius XII did not seem to envision our own situation, where these Communist tactics were actually used by those claiming to be Catholic, but who instead are ignoring Church laws and falsifying the very faith that he commands true Catholics to defend. Protestants, at least today, do not claim to be Catholic when engaging in attacks on the Church. In reality the majority of present-day Protestant attacks are aimed at the church in Rome, so do not always involve the condemnation of the true Church and Her teachings. The danger, as Pope St. Pius X emphasized in “Pascendi Dominici Gregis,” is always greater the closer it comes to the truth. Many yet believe that Rome, with all the scandals She has originated in the past 50 years, is still numerically identical to the true Catholic Church that has always existed in the world. And Traditionalists, being the only “Catholic” group identified publicly as dissenting from the V2 church, are portrayed as preserving the ancient faith when instead they have followed an illusion. Those confounding Traditionalists and Conclavists are generally ignored; their claims of V2 antipopes and falsification of doctrine are roundly rejected as fanatical. Moreover, their critics do not even bother to measure the validity of these objections in the light of the Church’s true teachings. Truth is trampled upon the ground, as Scripture foretells, when Christ teaches that it is truth alone that can set us free. The prophets have been exiled and murdered, the temple that is the Church left utterly desolate.

Pope St. Pius X wrote in his “Our Apostolic Mandate,” against the Sillon: “[Pope Leo XIII] taught, among other things, that: ’Christian Democracy must preserve the diversity of classes which is assuredly the attribute of a soundly constituted State, and it must seek to give human society the form and character which God, its Author, has imparted to it.” Our Predecessor denounced ‘A certain Democracy which goes so far in wickedness as to place sovereignty in the people and aims at the suppression of classes and their leveling down.’” Sadly, this is the “democracy” in which we find ourselves living today. Elitists are not only busy suppressing the upper and middle classes as we speak; they are openly plotting to do away with anything which remotely smacks of “right-wing religious extremism.” Internet and radio restrictions may soon be put into place that will prevent Catholics from accessing the truth. Many anticipate full-blown panic and martial law. Others warn that the H1N1 vaccine contain miniscule chips that will endanger health and/or be used as a human tracking and programming system. It is not something against which the Church has not already warned, on numerous occasions.

Pope Pius XII spoke of a “fatal lethargy” or apathy preventing Catholics from engaging in Catholic Action and did not hesitate to condemn such lethargy as Quietism in “Mystici Corporis.” Speaking of this same disorder, Pope Pius XI prophetically described what would happen if such lethargy were not overcome. “All who do not want anarchy and terrorism to replace decent civilization should line up with the forces of Catholic Action.” Already Pope Pius XI’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XV had warned Catholics of the approaching spectre of one world government.

“The advent of a Universal Republic, which is longed for by all the worst elements of disorder, and confidently expected by them, is an idea which is now ripe for execution. From this republic, based on the absolute equality of men and community of possessions, would be banished all national distinctions, nor in it would the authority of the father over his children, or of the public power over the citizens, or of God over human society, be any longer acknowledged. If these ideas are put into practice, there will inevitably follow a reign of unheard-of terror,” (from the Motu Proprio, “Bonum Sane,” 1920; quoted by Rev. Denis Fahey in his “The Kingship of Christ”). Rev. Fahey then quotes the Communist Lenin as follows: “The United States of the World…that is the state formula of the union…The complete victory of Communism will bring about the definite disappearance of every State, even [those] purely democratic,” (“The Social Democrat,” 1915). And Pope St. Pius X told the Bishop of Madrid in 1906: “All must remember that nobody has the right to remain indifferent when religion or the public welfare are in danger. Those who strive to destroy religion and civil society aim above all at getting control…It is therefore necessary that Catholics should strive with all their might to avert that danger.”

That danger is at our very doors. And who will now be willing at this late date, or even able, to engage in Catholic Action in order to prevent the coming Christian holocaust? In “Immortale Dei,” Pope Leo XIII taught over 100 years ago that, “It is the duty of all Catholics worthy of the name…to endeavor to bring back all civil society to the pattern and form of Christianity…It is not an easy matter to lay down any fixed method by which such purposes are to be attained, because the means adopted must suit places and times widely differing from one another. Nevertheless, above all things unity of aim must be preserved and similarity in all plans of action must be sought. Both these objects will be carried into effect without fail, if all will follow the guidance of the Apostolic See as their rule of life…” The see is presently vacant, but the wealth of papal teaching on Catholic Action leaves no doubt that the Popes expected Catholics to continue this work even without their specific guidance and permission. The harvest is great and the laborers few. Who will come forward to reap the harvest of souls for Heaven?

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