Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 9, 1960

Can Catholics Separate Church & State?

Luther W. Martin — St. James, Mo.

Look Magazine, in its February 16, 1960, issue, devotes five full pages to an article by a Roman Catholic priest, John A. O'Brien in which twenty-nine questions are asked, and O'Brien gives twenty-nine replies. We urge that you refer to LOOK MAGAZINE and compare Priest O'Brien's replies with the answers given herein.

How do you explain the fear of some Americans that the separation between church and state will break down if a Catholic is elected President? A Papal Encyclical, Unam Sanctam states in part: ". . . Both swords, the spiritual and the material, therefore, are in the power of the church; the one; indeed, to be wielded for the church, the other by the church; the one by the hand of the priest, the other by the hand of kings and knights, but at the will and sufferance of the priest. One sword moreover, ought to be under the other, and the temporal authority to be subjected to the spiritual. Therefore if the earthly power err it shall be judged by the spiritual power. Indeed we declare, announce and define; that it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff. (Pages 73-74, The Papal Encyclicals In Their Historical Context, Edited by Anne Freemantle, and carrying the Imprimatur of Francis Cardinal Spellman, published, 1956.)

Are Catholics Merely going along with American public opinion when they make statements favoring separation? Why? A Jesuit publication, Civilita Catoica, April 1948, states: The Roman Catholic Church, convinced through its divine prerogatives of being the only true church, must demand the right of freedom for herself alone, because such a right can only be possessed by truth, never by error. As to other religions, the church will never draw the sword but she will require that by legitimate means they will not be allowed to propagate false doctrines. Consequently, in a state where the majority of the people are Catholic the church will require that legal existence shall be denied to error and if religious minorities actually exist they shall only have a defacto existence without opportunity to spread their beliefs. In some countries Catholics will be obliged to ask full religious freedom for all, resigned at being forced to combat where they alone should rightfully be allowed to live. But in doing this the church does not renounce her thesis, which remains the most imperative of her laws, but merely adapts herself to be facto conditions which must be taken into account as a practical matter. (Published also in the Appendix to the Congressional Record, June 26, 1959, page A5521).

Does The Catholic Church In The United States Take Part In Politics?

Time Magazine, February 8, 1960, states: "The church (referring to Rome) (LWM) must maintain its right and duty to advise laymen on how to vote in elections, and those who profess or defend Communistic, materialistic or anti-Christian principles may not be married in a religious ceremony (which means not being married at all in the eyes of the church) or serve as godparents in baptisms and confirmations. Laymen may not attend non-catholic church services or argue religion in public with non-Catholics." (Time, page 79.)

"Catholics must unite their strength toward the common aim, and the Catholic hierarchy has the right and the duty of guiding them. (Pope John XXIII, quoted in The St. Louis Review, Dec. 12, 1958, from an item entitled, "POPE ON POLITICS.")

"...Though instituted for a spiritual end, the Church (Roman Catholic. LWM) has the right to use material and temporal means to secure that end, and in the use of such means as are necessary she has exclusive authority." (Page 41, A Catholic Dictionary, by Attwater, published by The Macmillan Co., 1949.)

If a Catholic were elected President of the United States, would he be REQUIRED to place the so-called demands of his religion above the demands of his country? "The relations of Church and State are based on the following principles: (a) Each is a perfect society, supreme in its own domain, the Church in spiritual things, the state in material things, (b) Each is juridically independent of the other. But because of the nobler end of the Church — the glory of God and the salvation, of souls — the state is bound to further that end by refraining from all interference with the Church's legitimate authority and by aiding her positively... (e) The Church has the absolute right, independently of the state, to those material and temporal things which are necessary to her spiritual ends, e.g., church buildings, funds. (d) The Church is a society of a higher order than the estate, SO THAT IN A CONFLICT OF RIGHTS OVER MIXED MATTERS THE CHURCH MUST PREVAIL." (Emphasis mine. LWM.) (Page 97, A Catholic Dictionary, by Attwater.)

What about religious freedom under a Catholic President? Would he try to suppress what he considered religious error? "The Catholic citizen is in conscience bound to respect and obey the duly constituted authority provided faith and morals are thereby not endangered. (Emphasis supplied, LWM) under no circumstances may the Church (Roman Catholic. LWM) be subjugated by the State. Whatever their form may be, states are not conceded the right to force the observance of immoral or irreligious (as defined by Catholicism — LWM) laws upon a people." (Catholic Almanac, 1948.)

" . . . . It is clear, then, that no Catholic may positively and unconditionally approve of the policy of separation of church and state. But given a country like the United States, where religious denominations abound and the population is largely non-Catholic, it is clear that the policy of treating all religions alike becomes, all things considered, a practical necessity, the only way of avoiding a deadlock. Under such circumstances, separation of Church and State is to be accepted, not indeed as the ideal arrangement, but as a modus vivendi." (modus vivendi: a temporary, expedient, way of living. . . . to exist until a better arrangement can be achieved. LWM.) (Pag 10, The Liberal Illusion, by Veuillot.)

Do Catholics oppose public schools? "Catholic children should no frequent non-Catholic, neutral, or mixed schools. It is for the local Ordinary (Bishop of the Diocese. LWM.) to decide, according to the instruction of the Apostolic See, (Pope of Rome. LWM) in what circumstances and with what precautions, attendance at such schools may be tolerated without danger of perversion to the pupils." (Canon Law 1374 — St. Louis Register, Sept. 2, 1955.)

. . . . There are certain clear-cut mortal sins that parents can commit. The chief ones are: 1. Refusing to send a child to a Catholic school, where there is no good reason for not doing so, and no permission from their pastor for not doing so. . . . If, without consulting their pastor, and for subjective reasons of their own, they send their child to a public school, they are guilty of a mortal sin, and ordinarily cannot be absolved in confession until they have placed their child in the Catholic school or obtained the permission of their pastor or bishop not to do so." (The Liguorian, page 520, Sept. 1950.)

Do Catholics object to public discussion of such questions as those you have answered?? Time Magazine, Feb. 8, 1960, page 79: ... Laymen may not attend non-Catholic church services or argue religion in public with non-Catholics.

This writer has tried numerous times to induce a Roman Catholic clergyman to engage in a public discussion of our differences. But in every case, this invitation has been turned down. Several years ago, a local Catholic "layman" made plans to engage in a public discussion of some of our differences in religion. However, as soon as his intentions became known, the local priest forbade the "layman" to proceed with the planned discussion.