Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 9, 1955

Italian Religious Freedom . . . Catholic Viewpoint

Luther W. Martin, St. James, Missouri

On the front page of Section Two, of The St. Louis Register, of Friday, April 29, 1955, the headline and upper right-hand corner article, gives the Roman Catholic viewpoint of religious freedom in Italy. We copy it in full:

"State Department Says Italy Has Full Freedom Of Worship" "Right To Place Sign On Building Not Same Thing"

"Washington — The U. S. State Department 'knows of no case in Italy where Americans are denied the right to worship as they wish,' it is declared in a paper prepared by the Department for distribution to members of Congress, newsmen, and others who ask about the situation.

"The paper says there appears to be 'a general misunderstanding' regarding the problems of the Church of Christ sect in Rome. It adds that there is a confusion of `the question of freedom with that of placing a sign on a building in Rome.'

" `The latter difficulty is one in which the Church of Christ in Rome has lately been involved,' the State Department points out. 'The issue is not one of freedom of worship . . . in fact, the Church of Christ in Rome is open for worship and the representatives of that Protestant denomination openly conduct services and otherwise minister to their congregations.'

"Protestant Workers Numerous"

"'At present,' says the paper, 'there are in Italy 67 American missionaries who have entered Italy since 1948. With the exception of three, all the American missionaries who did not leave the country voluntarily were permitted to remain and still are in Italy. The Church of Christ alone has in Italy 14 American missionaries who, with the addition of 10 Italian missionaries, minister to approximately 1,000 members of that denomination.'

"Noting the apparent confusion in both press and public in the U. S., the State Department adds: 'Many persons who have approached this Department regarding the removal of the Church of Christ sign base their representations on the premise that the Church of Christ was given a right to place the sign by a judicial decision in Rome.'

"This premise, the paper explains, appears to be based on a decision by an investigating judge of a local Roman court in a legal action brought by Rev. Cline Paden, American pastor of the Church of Christ, against various Italian authorities for forcing him to take down the sign about a year ago. All the authorities were eventually cleared, but in discussing certain subjects not directly related to the case in point the judge indicated that the Church of Christ could place a sign. It remains for the higher courts of Italy to decide whether this has the force of law.

"Mr. Paden has been charged with violation of Italian law as a result of placing the sign and his case will probably come before the court soon, which will give him an opportunity to test the validity of the judge's remarks.

"There has been regular consultation between the American Embassy in Rome and Italian officials, and between the State Department and the Italian Embassy in Washington on the problem, according to the paper, which adds: 'The Italian authorities suggested a compromise solution to the problem of the sign, which according to press reports, the American representative of the Church of Christ in Rome did not accept'."

Comment And Criticism

The foregoing portion of this article was transmitted from Washington by the (NCWC) a Roman Catholic News Wire Service, to the various American publications which subscribe thereto. This accounts for much of the sectarian terminology used therein.

It must be kept in mind, that any information supplied to the State Department, must be filtered through channels which include Mrs. Clare Boothe Luce, the Roman Catholic Ambassador to Italy, from the United States.

It must be remembered, that the U. S. State Department now utilizes Georgetown University, a Jesuit school, in training its diplomats for foreign service.

It is also reported by Brother O. C. Lambert, that Secretary of State John Foster Dulles has a son who is a Jesuit priest. Therefore, this writer questions the accuracy of information made available to the members of Congress and newsmen.

However, if Italian authorities offered a 'compromise' to the workers of the church of Christ, which would have permitted the erection of a sign, but would have called for the ALTERATION OF THE NAME ON THE SIGN, then is it not obvious that IT IS NOT THE SIGN WHICH IS OBJECTIONABLE, BUT THAT WHICH IT CONTAINS?

We understand that the original sign simply read ... "CHIESA DI CHRISTO" (Church of Christ). The suggested 'compromise' would have given the Italian equivalent of "MISSION OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST." Therefore, it is not the sign itself to which an objection is made .... but that which it publicizes.

Not far away, is the building of the Roman Catholic Church, known as "Chiesa Di Christo Re," or (Church of Christ the King). Consequently, the Priest of that parish is the one who, along with his superiors, has been at the bottom of the opposition, to the non-Roman Catholic Church sign.