I recently heard some lectures on religious liberty aimed at showing that there was no contradiction between the teaching of Dignitatis Humanae and earlier magisterial documents. They were learned and plausible. But they seemed to me to have a defect. They appeared to assume that it would be enough to demonstrate the absence of any such formal contradiction, in order to affirm that Dignitatis Humanae, taken to be declaring a right not previously taught by the Church, was a legitimate “development of doctrine”.

But such absence of contradiction is not enough. If I were to say, for example, that it is more virtuous to sit on the epistle side of church than on the gospel side, or more important for an island nation to have a good army than a good navy, then neither of these statements would contradict earlier magisterial teaching, as far as I know. Yet neither of them could therefore become objects of later magisterial teaching. Why not? Because they are not part of the revealed deposit that was complete with the death of the last apostle.

Since the revealed deposit cannot grow, development of doctrine can only mean expressing more clearly something which was found really, but less clearly, in the earlier tradition of the Church. One has to imagine someone at an earlier stage in the Church hearing the later formulation, for example St Ignatius of Antioch reading the Tome of Leo. If the earlier person would have said, “Yes, that’s just what I meant, only I never put it so well”, then we have a legitimate development. But if the earlier person would have said, “Well, I never heard anything like that before”, or “what on earth are you talking about?”, then it is no legitimate development, even if it is not in contradiction with what came before, and even if it is true.

Those who want to want to maintain that the earlier and later teachings on Church and State are both true and both authentic magisterial teachings, but that the later teaching is nevertheless importantly new, are faced with a problem. If it is new, how can it be the object of a magisterium whose sole duty is to expound the revealed deposit given once for all to the saints? They sometimes seek to resolve this problem by appealing to the notion of human dignity. The thought seems to be this. “Human dignity is part of the revealed deposit, and has always been upheld by the Church. In more recent times, the Church has become more conscious of the demands of human dignity. So at Vatican II she was able for the first time to teach the right to religious liberty. So the teaching is new, but we do not thereby fall into the error of continuing revelation, since the notion of human dignity, from which the teaching comes, was there from the beginning.”

There are two problems with this. First, there is the rule-of-thumb already mentioned. If the Fathers of the Church would have said “I never heard anything like that before”, then it is not a legitimate development. But if Vatican II was saying, as many people think, that pagans and heretics have a God-given right to be allowed to meet together for their worship and to be allowed to encourage others to join them, albeit a right that in some cases may be trumped by other rights, then I think the Fathers of the Church might well have said “where on earth do you get that idea from?” At least I know of nothing in them to think that they would have said, “yes, that’s just what I think, but I had never expressed it so clearly.”

Secondly, how, precisely, are we supposed to go from the notion of “human dignity” to the notion of religious liberty just outlined? Human beings have three modi sciendi, as far as I know: that is, three ways of going from less clear to more clear knowledge. These are traditionally called definition, division (e.g. triangles are isosceles, scalene or equilateral) and inference. Which one of these three is employed in going from “human dignity” to “right to religious liberty”? Is this right a part of the definition of human dignity? But people have had a concept of human dignity for centuries without grasping it by means of this right; and people today can still have the concept without accepting the right; so it does not look like part of the definition of an idea that was already generally accepted as belonging the revealed deposit. Again, “division” seems to have no place here. In what sense would one divide the notion of “human dignity” into “the right to religious liberty”, and what would the other members of the division be?

That leaves only the last modus sciendi, inference. Inference is either induction or deduction. But induction belongs to the world of experimental, empirical science, which is out of place here. So it must be deduction. But in that case, what are the two premises, certainly contained in the deposit of faith, from which the right to religious liberty is deduced?

It seems in reality as if the proponents of this kind of development of doctrine are imagining a kind of angelic intuition, whereby one would contemplate an essence (“human dignity”) and behold in it a property (“right to religious liberty”). But that is not given to mortals to do.

The only legitimate society is the City of God, the earthly portion of which is the Catholic Church (militant). The visible head (and supreme earthly judge) of the members of the Church is the Pope. The ecclesiastical hierarchy which governs the Church militant is forbidden to administer earthly affairs (that is: matters pertaining to property, autonomy and marriage) beyond the bare necessities required to sustain the preaching of the Gospel, the administration of the sacraments and the maintenance of the canons. Those lay Christians who have not been given the graces necessary to bind themselves to the counsels by vow are obliged to continue to administer earthly affairs and require a social authority to do so. This authority is called the temporal power as distinct from the spiritual power exercised by the ecclesiastical hierarchy. As temporal goods are ordered to the supernatural final end those who exercise the temporal power do so subject to the judgement of the spiritual power and may do so legitimately only if they are members of the Church militant (a question subject to the judgment of the spiritual power). Inside the Church an apostate prince loses power ipso facto.
A temporal community is inside the Church when by its constitutional law it fulfils its obligation to submit to the ecclesiastical hierarchy. This is an obligation consequent upon the obligation of natural law upon all men and communities of men to recognise and embrace the true religion. Once this obligation is fulfilled the temporal community necessarily recognises its limited jurisdiction over earthly affairs and submits to the supreme jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.
The temporal power is a necessary part of human life and consequently whosoever exercises it outside the Church the faithful must submit to that authority whenever it does not conflict with natural or divine law (even though such a person ex hypothesi fails in his obligation to worship God individually and qua ruler in the manner God has appointed). Inside the Church a temporal authority which is judged to have sinfully misused the temporal power may be sanctioned and if necessary deposed by the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Outside the Church this power would equally obtain were it not that it would contravene the divine law prohibition on forcible conversion. Those in the Church who exercise the temporal sword may do so upon their own initiative or as directed by the spiritual power to chastise or depose those outside the Church who grossly and obstinately violate the natural law or prevent the preaching of the Gospel, or (inside the Church) to execute the sentence of the spiritual power against an offending member of the faithful (including a delinquent wielder of the temporal power).
In the appointment of the temporal ruler in the Church the relevant civil laws are to be followed. In the event that these laws are entirely frustrated (whether on account of their own failure in particulars or because they cannot be obeyed without sin) the spiritual power may exceptionally appoint the temporal ruler. This is exceptional because the appointment of the wielder of the temporal sword is itself an exercise of the temporal sword which the holder of the spiritual sword may not ordinarily wield. The civil laws may allot to the spiritual power the authority regularly to appoint (or participate in the appointment of) the temporal ruler only where this is unavoidable to sustain the preaching of the Gospel, the administration of the sacraments and the maintenance of the canons. This will generally be the case in regard to the election of the emperor and the appointment of the administrators of the papal state but in other instances only in exceptional (though potentially prolonged e.g. the Dark Ages) circumstances. The temporal power may coerce in regard to divine law only as directed by the spiritual power and only inside the Church. It may proscribe idolatry and the promotion of irreligion even prior to fulfilling its obligation to recognise and embrace the true religion.

This is a complement to my post, What were the good fruits of Vatican II? My question is how the Church of Rome, presiding over the charity, may restore a just and Catholic peace to the Church. Obviously she cannot do everything: the co-operation of all the bishops is needed, not to mention the daily conversion of life required of all the faithful. But there are some things that only she can do.

Since the last Council there has been a bifurcation of holy Church. Before the Council there was one Roman missal (the variants of the religious orders not creating any sense of disunity); now there are two. Before it, there was one Roman ritual; now there are two. Before it there was one Vulgate bible; now there are two. And so with the catechism, the sacramentals, the calendar, the martyrology, and the divine office. However much one speaks of ‘continuity’, all this tends in practice fatally to compromise the Church’s claim to be, like her divine Spouse, semper eadem. It is foolish to suppose that the later member of any of these couplets will be suppressed any time soon or ever denounced by the Holy See; in any case, the Catholic cause is not furthered by the Church of Rome’s humiliating herself. But what we can desire is that a primacy of honour may be recognised as belonging to the elder member of each pair. This recognition is already implicitly contained in the statement of Universae Ecclesiae that ‘on account of its venerable and ancient use, the forma extraordinaria is to be maintained with appropriate honour’. If the due degree of honour is measured by venerable antiquity, then it is clear which version of the Roman Missal merits a higher honour; and so with the other examples of bifurcation. Things are probably still too sensitive for the pope himself to speak about such a primacy of honour, but we can hope that some cardinals will begin to do so. We can, however, hope and pray that the Roman pontiff celebrates Mass publicly according to the ancient use.

Next, it seems very desirable that something be done about the Novus Ordo Missae. Even though the SSPX are doubtless at fault in strict theology to deny its bare ‘legitimacy’, is it not the part of authority to have respect for the tender consciences even of erring brothers, especially brothers who have done so much to fight the silent apostasy of the West? To this end, we can desire that additions be made to the new missal such that it becomes impossible to celebrate Mass without explicitly affirming the doctrine of the propitiatory sacrifice. Canon II and the offertory prayers must therefore be amended. In fact, it is perhaps not too much to hope that the present offertory prayers will be simply suppressed and replaced with the Tridentine.

How else can the new rite be brought under the authority of tradition rather than used as a tool against tradition? The pope could instruct the bishops to institute lay-men as acolytes and lectors (which may well be the same as the minor orders of the same name). The indult for communion in the hand, please God, will be withdrawn. The faithful can be invited to receive kneeling, and women and girls to veil their hair or cover their heads. It can be made a requirement of new churches that the tabernacle be on the main altar, thus preventing celebration versus populum.

Next, the ambiguities in Vatican II must be dealt with. First, ecumenism. Ambiguous expressions such as ‘the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church’ should, I respectfully suggest, not be used; it needs to be reasserted that non-Catholics are not members of the Church, even if they can be in a state of grace. The doctrine of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, in its proper interpretation, needs to be re-affirmed. The expression ‘partial communion’ should be abandoned, as I argued recently. The canon about giving Holy Communion in certain circumstances to non-Catholics with the Catholic faith in the sacrament should be interpreted formally, to mean people who not only believe the same thing as the Catholic Church but who believe it because it is proposed by the Catholic Church, even if for some good reason (such as the absence of a priest) they have not yet been received. The traditional prohibition of participation by Catholics in non-Catholic services should surely be re-affirmed, even if pastors may for the moment turn a blind eye to certain mild cases in order to avoid greater evils.

Next, collegiality. It needs to be affirmed that the bishops have the right only to govern their local churches. They do not have the strict right to share in the pope’s governance of the universal Church, though it is obviously fitting that they be consulted in certain cases. Strictly, there can be only one supreme power in the Church, not two; this supreme power belongs to the pope, and he can exercise it either alone or with his brother-bishops, as he judges fit.

Finally, for Vatican II, religious liberty. The social kingship of our Lord should be taught ‘from the housetops’, as well as its corollary, the active co-operation of the civil power with the apostolic hierarchy. The Church’s right to coerce erring members with the aid of the civil power should be re-affirmed, as well as the latter’s innate right to protect the common good of society from the harmful effects of heresy.

Last of all, and in conjunction with these clarifications, we need a list of propositions against the errors of the age. Perhaps as a concession to the times, it could be expressed as a list of affirmed truths rather than a list of condemned errors. For example, ‘Only men can be ordained to the priesthood’; ‘according to the usual law of God’s providence, no one who dies  without actually receiving the sacrament of baptism, and without attaining the use of reason, receives the beatific vision’; ‘only matrimonial acts of a kind that are open to the procreation of new life are pleasing to God’. But however it is done, they should not, this time, be introduced by a monsignor saying that they are not infallible.

In disentangling the question of religious liberty it seems useful to distinguish four typical cases of coercion:-

(1) Coercion by the spiritual power of the baptised

(2) Coercion by the spiritual power of the unbaptised

(3) Coercion by the temporal power of the baptised

(4) Coercion by the temporal power of the unbaptised

It is a matter of faith that (1) is licit. According to the 14th Canon of Trent on baptism, the baptised can be coerced to a Christian life by certain penalties, other than by simple refusal of the sacraments. The present Code of Canon Law allows for certain people to be deprived of their jobs or confined within a monastery as a punishment for heresy. In a Catholic society, the bishop could call on the civil power to help enforce such penalties. That would, however, still be an example of coercion (1) in my schema, since I am considering who the prime mover is in the coercion.

(2) is generally illicit, since the unbaptised are not subject to the jurisdiction of the Church. Nor can she ask the civil power e.g. to freeze the bank accounts of Muslims so that they will be induced to convert. However St Thomas believes that the Church has the radical power to deprive independent pagan rulers of their jurisdiction over the faithful (IIa IIae 10,10), only she doesn’t use it, so as to avoid scandal. He says that the Church has the radical power to do this, ‘having the authority of God’, and pagan rulers have merited  – since they would not even be negative infidels without some mortal sin – to lose their dominion. I am not quite sure how this fits with the idea of baptism as what gives the Church jurisdiction over people. Perhaps one could say that she would not be exercising her own jurisdiction, but being a pure instrument of God’s jurisdiction. In any case, it is purely hypothetical, as St Thomas explains, never being done ‘so as not to scandalise them’.

(3) appears to be illicit in the sense that the civil power cannot legitimately impose penalties for heresy, schism and apostasy except at the will, implicit or explicit of the ecclesiastical power. From the very fact that the spiritual power is higher than the temporal power, the latter must yield to the former when they deal with the same subject-matter.

(4) is perhaps the most controversial point. St Thomas teaches (IIa IIae 10,11), in words that are used by Leo XIII for discussing the same subject, that the rites of pagans (the Jews are a special case) are per se to be suppressed because they are sinful, except when this would lead to some greater evil or prevent some greater good. But from whom is the initiative to come, ecclesiastics or politicians? Since the pagans would be under the jurisdiction of the latter, it would seem to come from them. The civil ruler is the one who has the charge of the temporal common good, and so it seems to be he who must decide, e.g. if a small group of Muslims who have taken refuge in his Catholic country after a civil war back home should be allowed a mosque or not. The question then arises of how a refusal by the civil ruler of the Muslims’ request would square with Dignitatis Humanae. I think it can do if you take into account the clause about ‘public morality’ in DH as a reason to limit religious liberty. In the actual order of providence, every non-Catholic cultus tends to weaken the clarity with which the average citizen, not specially firm in the faith, grasps the truth of the Catholic Church as the one ark of salvation; which surely is a ‘moral’ truth, and therefore a matter of public morality. Only, unlike the case with (1), the civil rulers here cannot aim at coercing the beliefs of the pagans, since, as DH teaches, no merely human power has jurisdiction over the conscience as such.

Unbaptised infidels are not to be compelled by external force to receive the faith, since to believe belongs to the will; for they cannot be compelled by the Church, since they are not subject to her power, nor by civil society, which lacks spiritual jurisdiction. Still, they can be compelled not to hinder the preaching or practice of the faith in the places where they are by blasphemies, arguments and persecutions, since the Church has received from Christ the right of preaching everywhere. Indeed, they can be compelled by their rulers both to observe the natural law, including natural religion, since the right ordering of society is founded upon this, and also on certain occasions to hear the faith preached.

Baptised infidels can be compelled by spiritual and temporal penalites to return to the faith and to the Church, since by baptism they were made subject to the Church (Council of Trent, session 7, canon 14).

(Benedict Merkelbach, Summa Theologiae Moralis, I, 740)