Toleration in general signifies patient forbearance in the presence of an evil which one is unable or unwilling to prevent. By religious toleration is understood the magnanimous indulgence which one shows towards a religion other than his own, accompanied by the moral determination to leave it and its adherents unmolested in private and public, although internally one views it with complete disapproval as a “false faith”. Since, in this article, we are to treat toleration only from the standpoint of principle, leaving its historical development to be discussed in a special article, we shall consider:
I. The Idea of Toleration;
II. The Inadmissibility of Theoretical Dogmatical Toleration;
III. The Obligation to Show Practical Civil Toleration;
IV. The Necessity of Public Political Toleration.
The idea of toleration
Considered in the abstract, the general idea of toleration contains two chief moments:
- the existence of something which is regarded as an evil by the tolerating subject;
- the magnanimous determination not to interfere with the evil, but to allow it to run its course without molestation.
Viewed under the former aspect, toleration is akin to patience which also connotes an attitude of forbearance in the face of an evil. Patience, however, is rather the endurance of physical sufferings (e.g. misfortune, sickness), toleration of ethical evils. When not an evil but some real good (e.g. truth or virtue) is in question, toleration gives way to interior approbation and external promotion of such good. No one will say: “We must show toleration towards science or patriotism”, for both these objects are recognized by all as laudable and desirable. A second idea akin to toleration is connivance (conniventia, dissimulatio), which means the deliberate closing of one’s eyes to evil conditions so as not to be obliged to take measures against them. The distinction between connivance and toleration lies in the fact that the latter not only closes its eyes to the tolerated evil, but also openly concedes it complete liberty of action and freedom to spread. It is indeed in this deliberate granting of liberty that the characteristic quality of toleration lies. For the intolerant person also regards what opposes him as an evil and a source of annoyance; but, it is only by combating it overtly or secretly, that he shows his intolerance. Not all intolerance, however, is a vice, nor is all tolerance a virtue. On the contrary, an exaggerated tolerance may easily amount to a vice, while intolerance keeping within just limits may be a virtue. This statement is substantially in agreement with Aristotle’s definition that virtue in general holds the right mean between two extremes which are as such both vices. Thus the intolerance shown by parents towards grave faults in their children is an obligation imposed by conscience, although, if it be carried to the extreme of cruelty, it degenerates into a vice. On the other hand, excessive toleration towards an evil becomes under certain circumstances a vice, for example when secular rulers look with folded arms upon public immorality.
The above remarks show that manifold distinctions are necessary before we are in a position to develop the true principles which underlie real toleration. Viewing our subject partly from the ethical and religious, and partly from the political standpoint, we find three distinct kinds of tolerance and intolerance, which refer to entirely different domains and thus rest on different principles. As regards religious tolerance, which alone concerns us here, we must distinguish especially between the thing and the person, the error and the erring. According as we consider the thing or the person, we have theoretical, dogmatic, or practical civic tolerance, or intolerance. Distinct from both is political tolerance, since the distinction between the individual and the State must also be considered. We must inquire somewhat more closely into these three kinds of tolerance and their opposites before considering the principles which underlie each.
(1) By theoretical dogmatic tolerance is meant the tolerating of error as such, in so far as it is an error; or, as Lezius concisely expresses it, “the recognition of the relative and subjective right of error to existence” (“Der Toleranzbegriff Lockes u. Puffendorfs”, Leipzig, 1900, p. 2). Such a tolerance can only be the outcome of an attitude which is indifferent to the right of truth, and which places truth and error on the same level. In philosophy this attitude is briefly termed scepticism, in the domain of religion, it develops into religious indifferentism which declares that all religions are equally true and good or equally false and bad. Such an internal and external indifference towards all religions, especially the Christian religion, is nothing else than the expression of personal unbelief and lack of religious convictions. A person who is tolerant in the domain of dogma resembles the botanist who cultivates in his experimental beds both edible plants and poisonous herbs as alike valuable growths, while a person intolerant of error may be compared to a market-gardener, who allows only edible plants to grow, and eradicates noxious weeds. Just as vice possesses no real right to existence, whatever toleration may be shown to the vicious person, so also religious error can lay no just claim to forbearance and indulgence, even though the erring person may merit the greatest affection and esteem. There is, of course, a psychological freedom both to sin and to err, but this liberty is not equivalent to an inherent right to sin or to err in religion. The “freedom of thought” claimed by free-thinkers is really vitiated by an internal contradiction, since the intellect is bound by the laws of thought and must in many cases yield to the force of evidence. But if by freedom of thought we are to understand the personal right of the individual to form on all questions such internal convictions as he may judge right, this ethical freedom also has its limits, since the inner spiritual life is at all events subject to conscience and to the moral order of the universe, and is, therefore, bound by ethical obligations which no man may disregard. The so-called “freedom of belief”, which asserts the right of each person to believe what he pleases, is open to the same criticism. For, if the psychological liberty to accept the wildest phantasies and the most foolish stories is an undeniable prerogative of the human soul, ethical freedom and the ethical right to freedom of belief are nevertheless conditioned by the presumption that a person will spurn all false religions and cling solely to that which he has recognized as alone true and consequently alone legitimate. This obligation was justly emphasized by Leo XIII in his Encyclical “Immortale Dei” of 1 November, 1885: “Officium est maximum amplecti et animo et moribus religionem, nec quam quisque maluerit, sed quam Deus jusserit quamque certis minimeque dubitandis indiciis unam ex omnibus veram esse constiterit” (The gravest obligation requires the acceptance and practice, not of the religion which one may choose, but of that which God prescribes and which is known by certain and indubitable marks to be the only true one). (Cf. Densinger, “Enchiridion”, 9th ed., Freiburg, 1900, n. 1701.) The mere description of this kind of tolerance shows that its opposite, i.e. theoretical dogmatic intolerance, cannot be a vice. For it is essentially nothing else than the expression of the objective intolerance of truth towards error. In the domain of science and of faith alike, truth is the standard, the aim, and the guide of all investigation; but love of truth and truthfulness forbid every honourable investigator to countenance error or falsehood. It, therefore, follows that well-considered opposition to actual or supposed error, in whatever domain is simply the antagonism between truth and falsehood translated into personal conviction; as impersonal adversaries, truth and error are as bitterly opposed to each other as yes and no, and consequently, in accordance with the law of contradiction, they can tolerate no mean between them. This theoretical dogmatic intolerance — so often misunderstood, so often confounded with other kinds of intolerance, and as a result unjustly combated — is claimed by every scholar, philosopher, theologian, artist, and statesman as an incontestable right, and is unhesitatingly accepted by everyone in daily intercourse.
(2) Practical civic tolerance consists in the personal esteem and love which we are bound to show towards the erring person, even though we condemn or combat his error. The motive for this difference of attitude is to be sought in the ethical commandment of love for all men, which Christianity has raised to the higher ideal of charity or love of neighbour for the sake of God. One of the most beautiful outgrowths of this charity is shown in the correct Christian attitude towards the heterodox. This relation, rooted solely in pure love, is commonly meant when one speaks of “religious tolerance”. It springs, not from pharisaic pride or from pity pluming itself on its superiority, but chiefly from respect for another’s religious convictions, which out of true charity we do not wish to disturb to no purpose. Since innocent error may attain to the firmest and sincerest conviction, the person’s salvation does not seem to be greatly imperilled until good faith turns into bad faith, in which case alone the feeling of pity has no justification. The good faith of the heterodox person must, as a rule, be presumed, until the contrary is clearly established. But even in the extremest cases, Christian charity must never be wounded, since the final judgment on the individual conscience rests with Him who “searches the heart and the reins”. The same measure of respect which a Catholic claims for his religion must be shown by him to the religious convictions of non-Catholics. Here obtains the principle which Gregory IX once recommended in a Brief (6 April, 1233), addressed to the French bishops concerning the attitude of Christians towards the Jews: “Est autem Judæis a Christianis exhibenda benignitas, quam Christianis in Paganismo existentibus cupimus exhiberi” (Christians must show towards Jews the same good will which we desire to be shown to Christians in pagan lands). (Cf. Auvray, “Le régistre de Grégoire IX”, n. 1216.) Whoever claims tolerance must likewise show tolerance. True tolerance in the right place and under the right conditions is one of the most difficult, and also one of the most beautiful and delicate virtues, and in the possession of it the true greatness of a noble and beautiful soul is reflected. To such a soul has been communicated, as it were, a spark of the burning charity of the God of love, Who with infinite forbearance tolerates the countless evils of the world, and suffers the cockle to grow with the wheat until the harvest.
The precept of fraternal charity is transgressed by practical civic intolerance, which in more or less detestable fashion transfers intolerance of the error to the erring persons. With complete justice did the sarcastic Swift write: “In religion many have just enough to make them hate one another, not enough to make them love one another” (cf. J. S. Mackenzie, “An Introduction to Social Philosophy”, Glasgow, 1890, p. 116). The intolerant man is avoided as much as possible by every high-minded person, both in society and in daily intercourse. The man who is tolerant in every emergency is alone lovable and wins the hearts of his fellowmen. Such tolerance is all the more estimable in one whose loyal practice of his own faith wards off all suspicion of unbelief or religious indifference, and whose friendly bearing towards the heterodox emanates from pure neighbourly charity and a strict sense of justice. It is also an indispensable requisite for the maintenance of friendly intercourse and co-operation among a people composed of different religious denominations, and is the root of religious peace in the state. It should, therefore, be prized and promoted by the civil authorities as a safeguard of the public weal, for a warfare of all against all, destructive of the state itself, must again break out (as at the time of the religious wars and of American Knownothingism), if citizens be allowed to assail one another on account of religious differences. A person who by extensive travel or large experience has become acquainted with the world and men, and with the finer forms of life, does not easily develop into a heretic-hunter, a sadly incongruous figure in the modern world.
(3) Public political tolerance is not a duty of the citizens, but is an affair of the State and of legislation. Its essence consists in the fact that the State grants legal tolerance to all the religious denominations within its boundaries, either through its written constitution, through special charters, or at least through prescriptive right based on long tradition. This tolerance may under certain circumstances amount to the principle of equality of rights or parity, even to the full enjoyment of all civil rights, entirely regardless of one’s religious belief. Since the modern State can and must maintain towards the various religions and denominations a more broad-minded attitude than the unyielding character of her doctrine and constitution permit the Church to adopt, it must guarantee to individuals and religious bodies not alone interior freedom of belief, but also, as its logical correlative, to manifest that belief outwardly — that is, the right to profess before the world one’s religious convictions without the interference of others, and to give visible expression to these convictions in prayer, sacrifice, and Divine worship. This threefold freedom of faith, profession, and worship is usually included under the general name of religious freedom. Tolerance and religious liberty are not, however, interchangeable terms, since the right implied in state tolerance to grant full or limited religious liberty involves the further right to refuse, to contract, or to withdraw this freedom under certain circumstances, as is clear from the history of toleration laws in every age. Nor is the idea of parity identical with that of religious liberty. For the maintenance of a state Church from public funds (e.g. the Established Church of England) is an offence against parity as regards the dissidents, who must meet their religious needs out of their own means, but it does not affect the general religious liberty, which is enjoyed by the dissidents in the same degree as by the members of the state Church.
Political intolerance finds its harshest expression in the forcible imposition of a religion and its worship, which reached its climax in the drastic political maxim of the Reformation epoch: “Cuius regio, illius et religio”. Since external profession and liturgical worship are but the spontaneous expression of faith, it is plain that state compulsion in the matter of worship is a grievous attempt to tyrannize over conscience and tends to breed hypocrisy. Neither political nor ecclesiastical authority can exercise a physical control over interior conviction, since into the secret sanctuary of the mind only the Deity can enter, and He alone can compel the heart. Hence, the principle of Roman law: “De internis non judicat prætor.” But, inasmuch as the Church and she alone, with her authority to teach and the power of the keys, may legislate even for conscience, she and only she is justified in making a particular faith obligatory in conscience; consequently she may bring to bear upon interior conviction an ethical compulsion, to which corresponds the obligation to believe on the part of the subject. The State on the other hand cannot extend its jurisdiction to religion until this has become visibly embodied in external profession and worship. There are several ways in which the State may interfere. It may either adopt a friendly attitude towards a certain religion and make it the state religion (c. g. the medieval religious States, and certain modern States which have established Churches); or it may adopt a hostile attitude towards a certain religion, which it may eventually endeavour to suppress by the employment of force and the infliction of penalties, as e.g. the pagan Roman Empire tried to suppress Christianity. But the State may also remain neutral, confining itself to simple tolerance, e.g. as did Constantine the Great and Licinius in the Tolerance Edict of Milan, A.D. 313. The modern constitutional State adopts as a basic principle, not mere tolerance towards the various religious bodies, but complete religious freedom; this principle finds its truest and most consistent expression in the United States of America.
The inadmissibility of theoretical dogmatic toleration
As already said, this kind of tolerance implies indifference towards the truth and in principle, a countenancing of error; hence it is clear that intolerance towards error as such is among the self-evident duties of every man who recognizes ethical obligations. Inasmuch as this dogmatic intolerance is a prominent characteristic of the Catholic Church, and is stigmatized by the modern spirit as obstinacy and even as intolerable arrogance, its objective justification must now be established. We will begin with the incontestable claim of truth to universal recognition and exclusive legitimacy. Just as the knowableness of truth is the fundamental presupposition of every investigator, so also are its final attainment and possession his goal. Error itself, as the opposite of truth, is intelligible only when there is an unchangeable norm of cognition by which the thinking mind is ruled. He who sees in the development of human sciences only one vast graveyard containing thousands of tombstones erected over truth, preaches the death of all science — that is, the scepticism which was avowed in antiquity by the Middle Academy of Arcesilaus and by later Greek Pyrrhonism, and which the sceptics of all the succeeding centuries down to the ingenious Pierre Bayle (d. 1706) have taken for their model. Recent Pragmatism (W. James, Schiller, and others), which denies the eternal, necessary, and unalterable character of truth, is only a dreary relapse into the scepticism of the sophist Protagoras, against which Socrates raised the banner of truth and virtue. The mutability of truth with the passage of time is also a thesis of Modernism. In the Decree “Lamentabili” of 3 July, 1907, Pius X condemned the Modernistic proposition: Veritas non est immutabilis plus quam ipse homo, quippe quæ cum ipso, in ipso et per ipsum evolvitur (Truth is no more unchangeable than man, since with him, in him, and by him it is evolved). (Cf. Denzinger-Bannwart, “Enchiridion”, 11th ed., Freiburg, 1911, n. 2058.) The final consequence of this suicidal system led F. Nietzsche to intellectual Nihilism: “Nothing is true, everything is allowed.” The transference of this destructive scepticism to the domain of religion breeds religious indifferentism, which is no less unreasonable and immoral, since it also sins against the sacredness of truth.
Nowhere is dogmatic intolerance so necessary a rule of life as in the domain of religious belief, since for each individual his eternal salvation is at stake. Just as there can be no alternative multiplication tables, so there can be but a single true religion, which, by the very fact of its existence, protests against all other religions as false. But the love of truth requires each man to stand forth as the incorruptible advocate of truth and of truth alone. While abstract truth, both profane and religious, asserts itself victoriously through its impersonal evidence against all opposition, its human advocate, engaging in personal contest with adversaries of flesh and blood like himself, must have recourse to words and writing. Hence the sharp, yet almost impersonal clash between opposing views of life, each of which contends for the palm, because each is thoroughly convinced that it alone is right. But the very devotion to truth which supports these convictions determines the kind of polemics which each believes himself called on to conduct. He whose sole concern is for truth itself, will never besmirch his escutcheon by lying or calumny and will refrain from all personal invective. Conscious that the truth for which he fights or in good faith believes he fights, is, by reason of its innate nobility, incompatible with any blemish or stain, he will never claim licence to abuse. Such an ideal champion of truth is fittingly designated by the English word “gentleman”. He may, however, by a fair counter-stroke parry an unjust, malicious, and insulting attack, since his adversary has no right to employ invective, to falsify history, to practise sordid proselytism, etc., and may, therefore, be driven without pity from his false position. These principles obtain universally and for all men — for scholars and statesmen, for Catholics and Protestants.
If, therefore, the Catholic Church also claims the right of dogmatic intolerance with regard to her teaching, it is unjust to reproach her for exercising this right. With the imperturbable conviction that she was founded by the God-Man Jesus Christ as the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) and endowed with full power to teach, to rule, and to sanctify, she regards dogmatic intolerance not alone as her incontestable right, but also as a sacred duty. If Christian truth like every other truth is incapable of double dealing, it must be as intolerant as the multiplication table or geometry. The Church, therefore, demands, in virtue of her Divine commission to teach, the unconditional acceptance of all the truths of salvation which she preaches and proposes for belief, proclaiming to the world with her Divine Founder the stern warning: “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). If, by conceding a convenient right of option or a falsely understood freedom of faith, she were to leave everyone at liberty to accept or reject her dogmas, her constitution, and her sacraments, as the existing differences of religions compel the modern State to do, she would not only fail in her Divine mission, but would end her own life in voluntary suicide. As the true God can tolerate no strange gods, the true Church of Christ can tolerate no strange Churches beside herself, or, what amounts to the same, she can recognize none as theoretically justified. And it is just in this exclusiveness that lies her unique strength, the stirring power of her propaganda, the unfailing vigour of her progress. A strictly logical consequence of this incontestable fundamental idea is the ecclesiastical dogma that outside the Church there is no salvation (extra Ecclesiam nulla salus). Scarcely any other article of faith gives such offence to non-Catholics and occasions so many misunderstandings as this, owing to its supposed hardness and uncharitableness. And yet this proposition is necessarily and indissolubly connected with the above-mentioned principle of the exclusive legitimacy of truth and with the ethical commandment of love for the truth. Since Christ Himself did not leave men free to choose whether they would belong to the Church or not, it is clear that the idea of the Christian Church includes as an essential element its necessity for salvation. In her doctrine the Church must maintain that intolerance which her Divine Founder Himself proclaimed: “And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican” (Matthew 18:17). This explains the intense aversion which the Church has displayed to heresy, the diametrical opposite to revealed truth (cf. 1 Timothy 1:19; 2 Timothy 2:25; Titus 3:10 sq.; 2 Thessalonians 2:11). The celebrated church historian Döllinger writes very pertinently: “The Apostles knew no tolerance, no leniency towards heresies Paul inflicted formal excommunication on Hymenæus and Alexander. And such an expulsion from the Church was always to be inflicted. The Apostles considered false doctrine destructive as a wicked example. With weighty emphasis Paul declares (Galatians 1:8): ‘But though we or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema’. Even the gentle John forbids the community to offer hospitality to heretics coming to it, or even to salute them” (“Christentum und Kirche”, Ratisbon, 1860, pp. 236 sq.).
During the Middle Ages the Church guarded the purity and genuineness of her Apostolic doctrine through the institution of the ecclesiastical (and state) Inquisition, which, with many excellent qualities, had unfortunately also its drawbacks. As justly remarked by Cardinal Hergenröther, the Inquisition suffered internally from “serious and lamentable defects”, for example, secrecy as to accusers and witnesses, the admission of suspected witnesses, excessive scope for the subjective judgment of the judge, secrecy of the procedure (see INQUISITION). Thus are explained the frightful scenes which Germany witnessed under the grim grand inquisitor, Conrad of Marburg (d. 1233). Following the example of the Apostles, the Church today watches zealously over the purity and integrity of her doctrine, since on this rests her whole system of faith and morals, the whole edifice of Catholic thought, ideals, and life. For this purpose the Church instituted the Index of Prohibited Books, which is intended to deter Catholics from the unauthorized reading of books dangerous to faith or morals, for it is notorious that clever sophistry coated with seductive language may render even gross errors of faith palatable to a guileless and innocent heart. The State itself is at times obliged to confiscate books that are dangerous to its existence or to morality in order to protect unsuspecting readers from contagion and to preserve the structure of the social order. But what is right for the State must be also just for the Church. The sharp attack made by Pius X on Modernism, which is undermining the foundations not alone of Christianity, but even of natural religion, is simply an act of necessary self-defence against an assault, not only upon individual dogmas, but likewise upon the whole basis of faith. Again the ancient expression “heretical poison” (venemum seu virus hæreticum; pravitas hæreticalis), which has passed from canon law into the set phraseology of the papal chancery and quite naturally sounds hard to Protestants, is to be explained psychologically in view of the above-mentioned fundamental conviction. It is not intended to express any offensive slur on the heterodox, who adhere to their opinions in good faith and in honest conviction. Consequently, the writers who represented Pius X as applying to the present generation of honest Protestants the historical condemnation which he passed on the Reformers of the sixteenth century in his Borromæus Encyclical, and thus ascribed to him a public rebuke which he never in the least intended, were guilty of exaggeration and evident injustice. Besides, Protestant historians have passed much harder judgments on the leaders of the Reformation. No Protestant takes umbrage at the fact established in every manual of church history, that, after long convulsions and spasms, the Lutheran Church, by the Formula of Concord (1577), expelled the “crypto-Calvinist poison” which Philip Melanchthon had instilled into the faith of Orthodox Lutheranism. And did not Crypto-Calvinism really act like blood-poisoning? The canonical expression “heretical poison” is intended to convey no other meaning than that the Catholic faith dreads as blood-poisoning heretical infection of any kind, whatever be its source.
But does the proposition that outside the Church there is no salvation involve the doctrine so often attributed to Catholicism, that the Catholic Church, in virtue of this principle, “condemns and must condemn all non-Catholics”? This is by no means the case. The foolish and unchristian maxim that those who are outside the Church must for that very reason be eternally lost is no legitimate conclusion from Catholic dogma. The infliction of eternal damnation pertains not to the Church, but to God, Who alone can scrutinize the conscience. The task of the Church is confined exclusively to the formulating of the principle, which expresses a condition of salvation imposed by God Himself, and does not extend to the examination of the persons, who may or may not satisfy this condition. Care for one’s own salvation is the personal concern of the individual. And in this matter the Church shows the greatest possible consideration for the good faith and the innocence of the erring person. Not that she refers, as is often stated, the eternal salvation of the heterodox solely and exclusively to “invincible ignorance”, and thus makes sanctifying ignorance a convenient gate to heaven for the stupid. She places the efficient cause of the eternal salvation of all men objectively in the merits of the Redeemer, and subjectively in justification through baptism or through good faith enlivened by the perfect love of God, both of which may be found outside the Catholic Church. Whoever indeed has recognized the true Church of Christ, but contrary to his better knowledge refuses to enter it and whoever becomes perplexed as to the truth of his belief, but fails to investigate his doubts seriously, no longer lives in good faith, but exposes himself to the danger of eternal damnation, since he rashly contravenes an important command of God. Otherwise the gentle breathing of grace is not confined within the walls of the Catholic Church, but reaches the hearts of many who stand afar, working in them the marvel of justification and thus ensuring the eternal salvation of numberless men who either, like upright Jews and pagans, do not know the true Church, or, like so many Protestants educated in gross prejudice, cannot appreciate her true nature. To all such, the Church does not close the gate of Heaven, although she insists that there are essential means of grace which are not within the reach of non-Catholics. In his allocution “Singulari quadam” of 9 December, 1854, which emphasized the dogma of the Church as necessary for salvation, Pius IX uttered the consoling principle: “Sed tamen pro certo pariter habendum est, qui veræ religionis ignorantia laborent, si ea est invincibilis, nulla ipsos obstringi hujusce rei culpa ante oculos Domini” (But it is likewise certain that those who are ignorant of the true religion, if their ignorance is invincible, are not, in this matter, guilty of any fault in the sight of God). (Denzinger-Bannwart, 11th ed., Freiburg, 1911, n. 1647.)
As early as 1713 Clement XI condemned in his dogmatic Bull “Unigenitus” the proposition of the Jansenist Quesnel: “Extra ecclesiam nulla conceditur gratia”, i.e. no grace is given outside the Church (op. cit., n. 1379), just as Alexander VIII had already condemned in 1690 the Jansenistic proposition of Arnauld: “Pagani, Judæi, hæretici aliique hujus generis nullum omnino accipiunt a Jesu Christo influxum” (Pagans, Jews, heretics, and other people of the sort receive no influx [of grace] whatsoever from Jesus Christ) (op. cit., n. 1295). In her tolerance toward the erring the Church indeed goes farther than the large catechism of Martin Luther, which on “pagans or Turks or Jews or false Christians” passes the general and stern sentence of condemnation: “wherefore they remain under eternal wrath and in everlasting damnation.” Catholics who are conversant with the teachings of their Church know how to draw the proper conclusions. Absolutely unflinching in their fidelity to the Church as the sole means of salvation on earth, they will treat with respect, as ethically due, the religious convictions of others, and will see in non-Catholics, not enemies of Christ, but brethren. Recognizing from the Catholic doctrine of grace that the possibility of justification and of eternal salvation is not withheld even from the heathen they will show towards all Christians, e.g. the various Protestant bodies, kindly consideration. Concerning these dogmatic questions, cf. Pohle, “Dogmatik”, II (5th ed., Paderborn, 1912), 444 sqq., 453 sqq.
The obligation to show practical civic toleration
For the practical attitude of Catholics towards the heterodox the Church has inculcated the strict command of neighbourly love, which corresponds to Christian charity: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The sincerest love for the erring is indeed quite compatible with keen repugnance for the error to which they cling. From the very definition of practical civic tolerance (see above, I, 2) springs the maxim which St. Augustine expresses as follows: “Diligite homines, interficite errores; sine superbia de veritate præsumite, sine sævitia pro veritate certate” (Love men, slay error; without pride be bold in the truth, without cruelty fight for the truth) (Against Petilian 1.29). God is a God of love, and consequently His children cannot be sons of hate. The gospel of the Divine paternity in heaven is also the joyous tidings of the brotherhood of all men on earth. For all without exception the Saviour prayed in His capacity of high-priest during the night before His Passion, and for all He shed His Blood on the Cross. The sublime example of Christ affords a striking indication of the manner in which we should regulate our conduct towards those who differ from us in faith, for we know that, so to speak, a drop of the redeeming Blood of Christ glistens on every human soul. To penetrate into the inner shrine of another’s conscience with feelings of doubt and distrust is forbidden to all in accordance with the principle: “Nemo præsumitur malus, nisi probetur” (No one is presumed to be evil until proved to be so). And St. Paul declares: “Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely . . ., is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:4 sq.). By this Christian love alone is the truly tolerant man, the true disciple of Christ, recognized. But did not the medieval Church by her bloody persecution of heretics trample under foot this commandment of love and thus nullify in practice what in theory indeed she always inculcated with honeyed words? The enemies of the Church search eagerly the musty documents which tell of inquisitional courts, autos-da-fé, chambers of horror, instruments of torture, and blazing pyres. Without any palliation of the historical facts, let us examine a little more closely this reproach, and see what importance is to be attached to it.
(1) When the inglorious origin of his forbears is constantly cast in the teeth of an honest nobleman, with the spiteful idea of wounding his feelings, no upright person will regard such conduct as tactful or just. What has the Church of today to do with the fact that long-vanished generations inflicted, in the name of religion, cruelties with which the modern man is disgusted? The children’s children cannot be held accountable for the misdeeds of their forefathers. Protestants also must take refuge in this principle of justice. However much they endeavour to blink the fact, they have also to regret similar occurrences during the Reformation epoch, when, as everyone knows, the Reformers and their successors made free use of the existing penal ordinances and punished with death many inconvenient and, according to their view, heretical persons (e.g. the anti-Trinitarians Servetus and Sylvanus, the Osiandrist Funk, the Calvinist Nicholas Krell at Dresden). Hundreds of faithful Catholics, who fell victims to the Reformation in England, are venerated today as the English martyrs. The greater number of executions occurred, not under Mary the Catholic, but under Queen Elizabeth. It is, however, unjust to hold modern Protestantism, in the one instance, and Catholicism in the other responsible for these atrocities.
(2) In every age the Church has drawn a fundamental distinction (which, on account of its importance, should never be overlooked) between formal and merely material heretics, and her penal legislation was directed solely against the former category. As the open and obstinate rebellion of a Catholic against the Divinely instituted teaching authority of the Church, formal heresy still remains one of the most grievous sins. Material heresy on the other hand, i.e. an error in faith entertained undesignedly and unconsciously, is in itself neither sinful nor punishable, except where the error is itself inexcusable. In excusable error are all who possess subjectively the firm and honest conviction that they have the true faith of Christ, thus including the vast majority of non-Catholics, who were born and educated in their particular form of belief. Even in the Middle Ages, while using her punitive power only against formal heretics who through baptism had belonged to her body from birth, the Church openly proclaimed her incompetency to take action in the case of Jews and pagans, since over these she possessed no jurisdiction. The Church has been always averse to forcible conversions, as was emphasized in modern times by Leo XIII in his Encyclical “Immortale Dei” of 1 November, 1885: “Atque illud quoque magnopere cavere Ecclesia solet, ut ad amplexandam fidem catholicam nemo invitus cogatur, quia quod sapienter Augustinus monet: ‘Credere non potest (homo) nisi volens'” (The Church has always taken great care that no one should be compelled against his will to embrace the Catholic Faith, because, as Augustine wisely declares: except he be willing, man cannot believe) (cf. Denzinger, op. cit., n. 1875). Hence the tolerance always displayed by the Church, especially towards the Jews, and also the prohibition in canon law to make war on pagan nations merely on account of their unbelief, except when they put to death Christian missionaries or attacked Christian States, as the Saracens formerly did (cf. Schmalzgrüber, “Jus can. de Judæis”, n. 53). A decision of Gregory the Great given in the Decree of Gratian (c. 4 jam vero C. 23, qu. 6) contains no warrant for religious coercion, since the pope simply grants to the Catholic colonists on his domains certain favours which he withholds from settlers obstinately adhering to their paganism.
(3) If in medieval times the Church adopted sterner measures against formal heretics, apostates, and schismatics than she adopts today, she did this not as a private individual, who must show only consideration and love, but as the legitimate governing authority within whose sphere also fell the administration of penal justice. The State must also inflict on the thief and revolutionary the legal punishment for theft and revolution, which are not punishable in the abstract. However repulsive, when judged from the more refined standpoint of modern civilization, the barbarous cruelty of medieval penal ordinances may be, as expressed even in the “Cautio criminalis” of the German Emperor, Charles V, against traitors, highway robbers, and notorious debauchers (impaling, breaking on the wheel), we may not for this reason condemn the whole penal system of that age as judicial murder; for the legal punishments, while indeed inhuman, were not unjust. Now, formal heresy was likewise strongly condemned by the Catholic Middle Ages: and so the argument ran: Apostasy and heresy are, as criminal rebellions against God, far more serious crimes than high treason, murder, or adultery. But, according to Rom., xiii, 11 sqq., the secular authorities have the right to punish, especially grave crimes, with death; consequently, “heretics may be not only excommunicated, but also justly (juste) put to death” (St. Thomas, II-II, Q. xi, a. 3). But there is no need to go back to the Middle Ages, since the present age likewise furnishes us with examples of extreme severity in the chastisement of certain crimes. With whatever disapproval the philanthropist may view the terrible punishments inflicted on those guilty of rape in parts of the United States, adjudging such penalties as excessive in their severity, the jurist will on the other hand seek their explanation in the special circumstances of time and place. American lynch law will not be unreservedly excused or justified, but, in judging it, allowance will be made for the imperfections of the existing penal procedure. The frequent inefficacy of the ordinary procedure is only too likely to excite the enraged populace to deeds of violence. Keeping these occurrences of modern times before our eyes, we will pass a much juster verdict on the Middle Ages. Catholics have, of course, no desire for the return of an age whose liberal, and in many respects admirable, state institutions were greatly marred by sinister penal ordinances.
(4) A distinction must be drawn between the penal system as such and its external forms. The barbarous penal forms of the Middle Ages are to be credited, not to the Church, but to the State. After the Christianized Roman Empire had developed into a theocratic (religious) State, it was compelled to stamp crimes against faith (apostasy, heresy, schism) as offences against the State (cf. Cod. Justin., I, 5, de hær.: “Quod in religionem divinam committitur, in omnium fertur injuriam”). Catholic and citizen of the State became identical terms. Consequently, crimes against faith were high treason, and as such were punishable with death. This was the universal opinion in the Middle Ages. This idea of the execution of heretics had not the slightest connexion with the essence of the Church or her constitution, and to the primitive Church such a penalty was unknown. St. Cyprian (d. 258) disapproved of all external means of coercion, such as were customary in the Old Testament, and claimed for the New Testament as “spiritual weapon” (spiritualis gladius) excommunication, which was worse than death. The earliest example of the execution of a heretic was the beheading of the ringleader of the Priscillianists by the usurper Maximus at Trier (385); this called forth a protest from St. Martin of Tours, St. Ambrose, and Pope Siricius (cf. Histor. polit. Blätter, XC, 1890, pp. 330 sqq.). Even St. Augustine, who towards the end of his life favoured state reprisals against the Donatists, always opposed the execution of heretics (cf. Ep. c [alias cxxvii]: “Corrigi eos cupimus, non necari”). During the long dominion of the Merovingians and Carlovingians, heresy was never regarded as a civil crime, and was chastised with no civil penalty. A change came only in the eleventh century when Manichæism, which had earlier experienced bloody persecution at the hands of the Eastern emperors Theodosius (d. 395) and Justinian (d. 565), revived in the orgies of the Catharists and Albigenses. These disruptive sects attacked marriage, the family, and property, wherefore even Lea has to admit: “Had Catharism become predominant, its influence would infallibly have proved fatal” (History of the Inquisition, I, 117). Influenced by the Roman code, which was rescued from oblivion, the Hohenstaufen emperor, Frederick II, who was anything but a warm supporter of the papacy, introduced the penalty of burning for heretics by imperial law of 1224 (cf. Monum. Germ., IV Leg., II, 326 sqq.). The popes, especially Gregory IX (d. 1241), favoured the execution of this imperial law, in which they saw an effective means not alone for the protection of the State, but also for the preservation of the Faith. And indeed the danger to the common weal seen in Catharisin inclined neither the State nor the Church to mildness, just as in the time of St. Augustine the ill-famed Circumcilliones of the Donatists bore every sign of a public rebellion. Would not even a modern state have to proceed against these murderers and incendiaries with weapon in hand? Unfortunately, neither the secular nor the ecclesiastical authorities drew the slightest distinction between dangerous and harmless heretics, seeing forthwith in every (formal) heresy a “contumelia Creatoris”, which the theocratic State was called upon to avenge with the pyre. This inability to distinguish may be easily traced even in the writings of Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, Butzer, Wenceslaus, Sturm, Strigel, Matthias Coler, and other Protestant leaders. We may, therefore, rightly conclude that the harsh forms of punishment are to be referred partly to the fact that the medieval heretics were a menace to the community, and partly to the excessive strictness of the ancient penal code.
(5) It follows from what has been said that the custom of burning heretics is really not a question of justice, but a question of civilization. History shows that even in an age otherwise highly civilized certain especially detestable criminals are severely dealt with. A regrettable illustration is found in the introduction of torture into the trial of heretics by Innocent IV in 1252. Here again the influence of the ancient Roman code is discernible, since it also was accustomed from the earliest times to employ torture not as a punishment, but simply as a regular means of extracting the truth from the accused. That, despite its promised “evangelical liberty”, the Reformation introduced no softening of manners, the continuation of torture and the prevalence of witch-burnings even in the eighteenth century clearly show. Torture was first abolished in Prussia (1745) by Frederick the Great; the last witch was burned in Switzerland in 1783. We cannot read without a shudder how in England high treason, which term included the profession of the Catholic Faith., was punished with hanging and the tearing out of the still throbbing heart from the living body. The law against mendicancy passed in 1572 under Queen Elizabeth ordained that the harmless offence of begging was to be punished with severe scourging, with perforation of the right ear with red hot iron, and, if the offence were repeated, with death (cf. G. Kassel, “Geschichtliche Entwickelung des Deliktes der Bettelei”, Breslau, 1898, p. 37). In France no less cruelty was shown. When Henry IV was assassinated by Ravaillac on 14 May, 1610, the unfortunate criminal was mercilessly tortured; he was pierced with red-hot pincers, molten lead was poured over the hand which committed the murder, and finally he was torn to pieces by four horses. Exactly the same punishment, even to the smallest details, was meted out to the half-witted Damiens, although he merely scratched the libertine Louis XV with a pen-knife (cf. Pilatus, “Der Jesuitismus”, Ratisbon, 1905, pp. 183 sqq.). After the horrors of the French Revolution the methods of punishment were gradually softened, and during the course of the nineteenth century humanitarian views won the victory everywhere. It rests with mankind to decide whether the penal systems of the future are to be disgraced by cruelty and barbarism or not. The coming generations must see that the return of inhuman penal ordinances shall be made impossible by the refinement of morals, the deepening of ethical culture, the philanthropic training of the young, and the impression of the mild and gentle characteristics of Christ on civil, national, and religious life. Since the secularized State renounced its union with the Church, and excluded heresy from the category of penal offences, the Church has returned to her original standpoint, and contents herself again with excommunication and other spiritual penalties (irregularity, ineligibility for ecclesiastical prebends, etc.), with which the modern State no longer associates (as in the Middle Ages) any penal or civil actions.
The necessity for public political toleration
Since the State may not pose either as the mouthpiece of Divine Revelation or as the teacher of the Christian religion, it is clear that in regard to matters of religion it can adopt a much more broad-minded position than the Church, whose attitude is strictly confined by her teaching. The ethical permissibility, or rather the duty, of political tolerance and freedom of religion is determined by historical presuppositions and concrete relations; these impose an obligation which neither State nor Church can disregard. We will first consider the State in itself, and then the specifically Catholic State.
(1) The State is under obligation to make external conditions subserve the public good, and to protect against arbitrariness or molestation all individuals and corporations within its territory in the enjoyment of their personal, civic, political, and religious rights. This is in an especial manner the function of the constitutional State, which has slowly developed since the end of the eighteenth century. The Church has always combated the idea that the winning of new members and the recovery of the apostate pertain to the State. Christ entrusted, not the State, but the Church with the announcement of His Gospel to the whole world. Not even the medieval “religious State”, whose constitution we shall describe in greater detail below, undertook to act as bearer of a supernatural revelation or as preacher and judge of the Catholic Faith. The intimate connexion of both powers during the Middle Ages was only a passing and temporary phenomenon, arising neither from the essential nature of the State nor from that of the Church. The Church is free to enter into a more or less close association with the State, but she can also endure actual separation from the State, and, given favourable circumstances, may even prosper under such conditions, as for example in the United States of North America. For the State also certain conditions may prevail which render a close union with the Church inadvisable or indeed quite impossible. When, for example, several religions have firmly established themselves and taken root in the same territory, nothing else remains for the State than either to exercise tolerance towards them all, or, as conditions exist today, to make complete religious liberty for individuals and religious bodies a principle of government.
The final conversion of the old religious State into the modern constitutional State, the lamentable defection of the majority of states from the Catholic Faith, the irrevocable secularization of the idea of the state, and the coexistence of the most varied religious beliefs in every land have imposed the principle of state tolerance and freedom of belief upon rulers and parliaments as a dire necessity and as the starting-point of political wisdom and justice. The mixture of races and peoples, the immigration into all lands, the adoption of international laws concerning colonization and choice of abode, the economic necessity of calling upon the workers of other lands, etc., have so largely changed the religious map of the world during the last fifty years that propositions 77-79 of the Syllabus published by Pius IX in 1864 (cf. Denzinger, op. cit., 1777-79), from which enemies of the Church are so fond of deducing her opposition to the granting of equal political rights to non-Catholics, do not now apply even to Spain or the South American republics to say nothing of countries which even then possessed a greatly mixed population (e.g. Germany). Since the requisite conditions for the erection of new theocratic states, whether Catholic or Protestant, are lacking today and will probably not be realized in the future, it is evident on the basis of hard facts that religious liberty is the only possible, and thus the only reasonable, state principle. If, in those lands where she still enjoys a privileged position as state Church (e.g. Italy and Spain), the Catholic Church would not allow herself to be driven from this position without a protest, she has not only a right, but is even under obligation to offer this protest. For a justly acquired right should not be surrendered in silence. In this matter also the Church does only what is done by Protestant princes, who steadfastly adhere to Protestantism as the state religion (e.g. the King of England). But the priceless asset of religious peace compels the modern State to concede tolerance and religious freedom. Without this peace, the undisturbed continuation of the commonwealth is inconceivable. The history of the world could not easily display before the eyes of a patriot a more revolting picture than the fratricidal struggles which resulted from the Reformation in the religious wars of Europe. Wherever separate religious parties live in the same land, they must work together in harmony for the public weal. But this would be impossible, if the State, instead of remaining above party, were to prefer or oppress one denomination as compared with the others. Consequently, freedom of religion and conscience is an indispensable necessity for the State.
From the standpoint of natural law and Christian public law, however, this political tolerance is subject to a threefold limitation, since neither the completely unreligious character of the State nor the unbridled liberty of all imaginable cults may be set up as a principle of government, nor finally may the separation of State and Church be lauded to the skies as the perfect state ideal. These three limitations can be easily justified.
(a) To propose for the State such downright irreligion as a drastic remedy against intolerance is to advise it to saw through the bough on which it sits. For the “State without God”, pledged to the “Principles of 1789”, would be an immoral monster, which through lack of internal vitality would as surely encounter decay and destruction as did the atheistic Revolutionary State of France at the opening of the nineteenth century. If it is true that human society as a whole is bound to recognize the supreme dominion of God, then no State can shirk the obligation of confessing this God and of publicly venerating Him. The religionless State would be nothing less than an atheistic State, bearing in its very nature the germ of disintegration; since atheism is in itself and its effects a direct peril to the State. The pantheistic is not a whit better; for Hegel’s motto, “the State is God”, is pure nonsense, since it makes the absurd claim that the State is the original source of all right, and sets the omnipotent State in the place of God (cf. Syllab. Pii IX, prop. 39). A commonwealth that is to endure can be erected only on a theistic basis, since the fundamental ideas of justice, fidelity, and obedience, indispensable for the preservation of the State, can exercise their full influence only in theism. Furthermore the respect for property, the observance of the laws of chastity, aversion to revolution and high treason are best secured by a lively faith in God. Consequently, not alone Christian statesmen like Montesquieu and Guizot, but also freethinkers like Macchiavelli and Voltaire, strongly defended the religious foundations of the State. Even the pagan Cicero (De nat. deor., I) frankly recognized the impossibility of a State without the fear of God, on which depend in turn fidelity and justice. A State which is not itself permeated with sentiments of religion and idly tolerates the sapping of religion and morality is preparing the way for revolution, that is for its own destruction. The state axiom of religious freedom can therefore mean only freedom for religion, not freedom from religion or irreligion. In his Encyclical “Vehementer nos”, of 11 February, 1906, Pope Pius X sharply denounces for its injustice the violent breach of the Concordat by the French Government, instancing as the chief grievance that, by the official recognition of its own irreligion, the French Republic had forsworn God Himself (cf. Denzinger, n. 1995). The historian von Treitschke expressed the conviction that “atheists have strictly speaking no place in the state” (“Politik”, I, Leipzig., 1897, p. 326); the philosopher John Locke would hear nothing of state tolerance towards atheists. With a strange perversity of judgment he would indeed extend this intolerance to Catholics also, the firmest believers in God among all classes of mankind and the surest supporters of throne and altar. But, as things are today, nothing remains for the State but to tolerate atheists in its midst so long as they do not, by unlawful deeds, render themselves liable to punishment. In its own interest, however, the State must endeavour to protect and promote belief in God among the people by the establishment of good schools, by the training of believing teachers and officials in seminaries, lyceums, secondary schools, and universities, and finally by leaving the Church free to exert her salutary influence.
(b) A well-ordered commonwealth can no more recognize the maxim of unlimited and unbridled religious freedom than it can adopt the suicidal principle of irreligion. For state toleration of all forms of religion without exception, which could be justified only on the basis of disruptive atheism or a deistic indifferentism, is in palpable contradiction to natural law and to every rational system of polity (cf. Encyclical of Pius IX “Quanta cura” of 8 December, 1864). If the State as such is under the same obligation to confess and venerate God as the individual, it must set bounds to religious freedom at least at the point where the unrestricted exercise of this freedom would lead to the subversion of state security and public morality. The history of religion shows that, to deceive unwary authorities, intrigues most immoral and most dangerous to the State have disguised themselves in the mantle of religion: the cults of Moloch and Astarte, religious prostitution and community of women, ritual child-murder and Anabaptist horrors, conventicles for debauchery and anarchistic secret societies, etc. No State with a regard for its own preservation will hesitate to raise a barrier against moral, religious, and political anarchy; and to repel with vigour all such attacks aimed, under the mask of freedom of belief, at the existence of society. Free competition between truth and error, which is sometimes urged in the name of tolerance, promises neither for the State nor the Church an enduring success; the free competition between virtue and vice could be upheld by the same reasoning. There are certain deceits and vices which display their immorality so plainly that the State must mercilessly apply her penal law and, in the interest of the community, prevent their propagation. Thus England, in general so indulgent towards paganism in her colonies, could not tolerate the continuation among the Hindus of the ritual murder of children and the burning of widows (the Suttee), prohibiting the former under severe penalties in 1802 and the latter in 1829 (cf. Lecky, “Democracy and Liberty”, I, 1896, pp. 424 sqq.). Again, although the Constitution of the United States guarantees complete freedom of belief, the American people always found Mormonism unbearable., and never rested until, by forbidding polygamy to the Mormons, the Christian conception of marriage had been recognized. Not even the atheistic Revolutionary State of France granted an unlimited freedom of religious opinions in its “Déclaration des droits de l’homme” (1791), since it added the clause: “pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l’ordre public établi par la loi”. Almost all modern States have admitted this limitation of religious freedom into their constitutions.
(c) Christian public law erects a third barrier to complete religious freedom in forbidding that the principle of the separation of Church and State be raised to the true ideal of the State and regarded as fundamentally the best form of the State; this does not mean that in certain exceptional cases actual separation may not be more beneficial for both Church and State than their organic union. While this separation may be always viewed as relatively the better condition, it does not thereby become the ideal state. The latter is only then attained when Church and State proceed hand in hand and in perfect harmony to promote by their common efforts the temporal and eternal happiness of their common subjects. As it is unnatural for a married couple to live separated, although separation may be defended in particular instances as the better or less harmful arrangement in view of quarrels which have arisen, so also the ideal relation between Church and State is to be found, not in the separation of the two, but in their harmonious co-operation (cf. Pius IX, Encyclical “Quanta cura” of 8 December, 1864; Syllab. prop. 55). As a practical proof of the internal advantages of a separation in principle, it is usual to point to the example of the United States which has extended the blessing of its liberal Constitution in recent years to its newly-acquired colonies of Porto Rico and the Philippine Islands. But, while it may be granted without reserve that both Church and State seem to prosper exceedingly well in their friendly juxtaposition, it would be rash to speak of the situation as ideal. It must, however, be acknowledged that no other land in the world has so honourably maintained the amicable separation of Church and State, while in some European countries the law of separation was unfortunately only a pretext for a more violent attack on the rights of the Church. Not without good reason did Leo XIII in his Brief of 1902, addressed to the American hierarchy, express his approval of a wise and patriotic adaptation to the national and legal conditions of the United States. He could do this with a good conscience, although in his Encyclical “Immortale Dei” of 1 November, 1885, he had declared the harmonious union of the two highest powers the ideal situation, and had referred to concordats as the means of arranging questions bordering on both jurisdictions. If the United States forms the sole honourable exception to the rule, this is due partly to the fact that the State neglects neither the religious factor at large nor Christianity, as is shown by the strict laws concerning Sunday observance, Christian monogamy, and the celebration of Thanksgiving Day. What E. Walter wrote fifty years ago is still true today: “Even in the United States of North America, to which people so readily appeal, religion is not regarded as a matter of indifference to the State, but is presupposed as the State’s complement” (“Naturrecht und Politik im Lichte der Gegenwart”, Bonn, 1863, p. 495).
(2) By a Catholic State we understand a community which is composed exclusively of Catholic subjects and which recognizes Catholicism as the only true religion. In this case also the relations between Church and State may be different, according as the two powers are closely united for offence and defence, or, while each maintains its independence, are less compactly joined. The first kind of union finds its truest expression in the “religious state”, a distinctive feature of the Middle Ages, while the second or looser union may be realized in a constitutional state that admits various denominations and yet retains its Christian character. In view of the difference of the fundamental ideas on which these two forms of state are based, the principles of political tolerance are subject to important modifications.
(a) Every religious State, Catholic or Protestant, presupposes by its very existence that all or nearly all the citizens have the same faith, otherwise it would be contrary to natural justice and practically impossible. In certain cases such a State must take drastic measures to expel or exclude all elements which do not fit into its framework. Thus a Protestant religious State was forcibly instituted in England under Queen Elizabeth by clearing the country of all Catholics, and the Diet of Upsala in 1593 strove to preserve the strictly Lutheran character of Sweden by making the immigration of Catholics punishable with death. The situation of the Catholic religious State in the Middle Ages was somewhat, though not entirely, similar. The medieval idea required that the State should lend the secular arm to the Church for the maintenance of all her doctrines, laws and ordinances, and that in return it should receive from the Church spiritual support in all purely secular affairs. Thus State and Church formed the two all-embracing members of the one Christian body, assisting and supporting each other in the broad field of all secular and ecclesiastical interests. Empire and papacy, like body and soul, formed an organic whole. Citizen and Catholic were interchangeable terms. The rebel against the Church was regarded as likewise a rebel against the State, and conversely the political revolutionary was by that very fact an enemy of the Church. Whoever was stricken with excommunication finally incurred also imperial ban, and the imperial ban brought excommunication in its train. It is true that many advantages must be conceded to the religious State. We see an imposing and elevating idea rendered concrete in the supreme dominion of the Christian spirit throughout the civic, national, and religious life, in the organic connexion of the secular and the religious government, and in the strengthening of the state authority by the Church and of ecclesiastical authority by the State. These great advantages, however, must not cause us to overlook the numerous drawbacks which this mystical marriage of Church and State involved. First of all, in consequence of the fusion of the objects of the State and of religion, the Catholic religious State was compelled to adopt an attitude of fundamental intolerance towards all errors of faith, which became so many crimes against the State. Viewed from the historical standpoint one may justly doubt whether the bloody persecutions resulted in greater blessings and advantages or in greater want, hate, and suffering for Christendom (cf. De Laveley, “Le gouvernement dans la démocratie”, I, Paris, 1892, pp. 157-62). It is certain that the odium for all those severities and cruelties had to be borne, not by the State which inflicted them, but rather by the Church, since she seemed to stand behind all these measures as the secret motive force, even though she did not know, much less justify many of them. We endeavoured above without partiality to appraise these accusations against the Church at their true value. To refer briefly to another gloomy aspect of this question, the ecclesiastical right to meddle directly in purely secular affairs might easily become a dangerous prerogative, inasmuch as the infliction of excommunication for purely political offences must necessarily have brought ecclesiastical penalties, especially when they were unjustly inflicted, into great discredit among princes and people. On the other hand, the right of protection exercised by the sovereign in ecclesiastical matters, often without or even against the wish of the popes, had for its unavoidable consequence the loss of public respect for both authorities. The proverbial contest between imperium and sacerdotium, which practically runs through the whole history of the Middle Ages, redounded in fact to the advantage of neither. A third disadvantage, arising essentially from the religious State, may not be passed over in silence; this consists in the danger that the clergy, trusting blindly to the interference of the secular arm in their behalf, may easily sink into dull resignation and spiritual torpor, while the laity, owing to the religious surveillance of the State, may develop rather into a race of hypocrites and pietists than into inwardly convinced Christians. A Catholic clergy which relies on State assistance for its pastoral activity lacks that glowing zeal for souls which springs from heartfelt convictions, and the vitality and sincerity of religion are grievously impaired when practices of piety are made compulsory by the State. The last and most serious disadvantage associated with the religious State lies in the immanent danger that the claim of the Church to supremacy over the State must almost necessarily call forth the opposite extreme of Cæsaropapism. The early protectorate of the State thus develops finally into the complete control and enslavement of the Church. Such in fact has been the historical sequence. Not alone in the Eastern Empire, in which Byzantine Cæsaropapism won its greatest triumphs, but also in the Western Empire these unworthy tendencies were all too clearly revealed, especially under the Hohenstaufens.
(b) When various Christian denominations establish themselves in any country, the Catholic State can no longer maintain its former exclusive attitude, but is compelled for reasons of State to show tolerance towards the heterodox and to grant them religious freedom within the limits described above and determined by natural law. If religious freedom has been accepted and sworn to as a fundamental law in a constitution, the obligation to show this tolerance is binding on conscience. The Catholic Church recognizes unreservedly the inviolability of constitutions confirmed by oath, of traditional laws and regular religious compacts, because a breach of the constitution, of allegiance, of a treaty, or of an oath is a grievous sin, and because the Christian moral law prescribes fidelity to the State as an obligation strictly binding in conscience. To justify ethically tolerance towards certain religious practices of heathen subjects, medieval theologians appealed to the principle that tolerance might be always exercised wherever either its refusal would cause more harm than good, or, vice versa, whenever the granting of it ensured greater advantage than disadvantage. Thus St. Thomas teaches (Summa theologica II-II:10:11): “Ritus infidelium tolerari possunt vel propter aliquod bonum, quod ex eis provenit, vel propter aliquod maum, quod vitatur” (Heathen worships can be tolerated either because of some good that results from them or because of some evil that is avoided). In all the centuries the Church displayed an admirable tolerance especially towards the Jewish religion, since the survival of Judaism offered a living proof of the truth of Christianity. The medieval principle of tolerance is specially applicable to present conditions, since the historical development of the modern State has created throughout the world so uniform a basis of rights that even Catholic States cannot without violation of oaths and loyalty and without violent internal convulsions disregard it, even if they desired to do so. Besides, there is good reason to doubt if there still exists a purely Catholic State in the world; and it is, of course, just as doubtful whether there is such a thing as a purely Protestant State. Cosmopolites have established colonies and settlements everywhere, and to these international law concedes freedom of belief and worship. Consequently, Leo XIII also supported the principle of tolerance, when he declared (cf. Denzinger, n. 1874): “Revera si divini cultus varia genera eodem jure esse quo veram religionem Ecclesia judicat non licere, non ideo tamen damnat rerum publicarum moderatores, qui magni alicujus adipiscendi boni aut prohibendi causa mali moribus atque usu patienter ferunt, ut ea habeant singula in civitate locum” (If the Church declares that the various kinds of worship should not have the same rights as the true religion, she does not thereby condemn those rulers who, in order to secure some great good or to avert some evil, permit each cult to exist).
There are, however, a number of States, which in virtue of their constitutions are committed not alone to tolerance and religious freedom, but also to parity. By parity is understood the placing of all legalized or recognized religious bodies on the same footing before the law, all show of partiality and disfavour being equally avoided. Such is the basic principle of the constitutional State, which, while ethically Christian, allows various forms of belief. On it devolves especially the duty of placing no obstacle in the way of the public promotion of religion in sermon and writing and of extending to the religious practices of all denominations the same legal protection, to the exclusion of any compulsory system that would bind the citizens to receive certain religious rites (e.g. baptism, burial) from clergymen appointed by the State. With freedom of belief are intimately associated the personal right of changing one’s religion and the right of the parties in the case of mixed marriages to decide as to the religious education of the children. The State must likewise recognize and protect the right of the various denominations to hold property and their right of self-government, in so far as these rights are enjoyed by all legally constituted corporations. Wherever such a State makes contributions or grants from the budget of public ownership, all recognized religious associations must receive equal consideration., unless a particular association, in virtue of a special title (e.g. the secularization of religious property), has legal claims to exceptional treatment. Finally, legal equality must be granted to the adherents of all denominations in both their civic and national capacities, especially in the matter of appointment to public office. Concerning Christian States in which various religions exist, F. Walter, the well-known professor of public law, made the wise observation: “The government as such, entirely regardless of the personal belief of the sovereign, must maintain towards every church the same attitude as if it belonged to this Church. In the consistent and upright observance of this standpoint lies the means of being just to each religion and of preserving for the State its Christian character” (loc. cit., p. 491). Such indeed is the admirable theory; wherever deviations from it occur in practice, they are almost without exception to the detriment of Catholics.
By Joseph Pohle
This article is borrowed from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14763a.htm
- Concerning the Idea of Toleration: PELISSON-FONTANIER, De la tolerance des Religions; Lettres de M. Leibniz et Réponses de M. Pelisson (Paris, 1692); BALMES, El protestantismo comparado con el catolicismo en sus relaciones con la civilización europea, I (Barcelona, 1842); LEHMKUHL, Gewissens-u. Kultusfreiheit in Stimmen aus Maria-Laach, XI (1876), 184 sqq.; REINKENS, Lessing über Toleranz (Leipzig, 1884); NILLES. Tolerari potest in Zeitschr. für kath. Theol., XVII (1893), 245 sqq.; LEZIUS, Der Toleranzbegriff Locke’s u. Puffendorf’s (Leipzig, 1900); RUFFINI, La libertà religiosa (Turin, 1901); SIMAR, Gewissen u. Gewissensfreiheit (2nd ed., Freiburg, 1902); CATHREIN, Gewissen u. Gewissensfreiheit (Munich, 1906).
- Concerning Theoretical Dogmatic Toleration: JAMES, The Meaning of Truth (New York, 1900); BALDWIN, Thoughts and Things, or Genetic Logic, I (New York, 1906); SCHILLER, Studies in Humanism (London, 1907); JAMES, Pragmatism (New York, 1907). In answer to the theories there advocated: DE TONGEDET, La notion de la verité dans la philosophie moderne (Paris, 1909); LECLÈRE, Pragmatisme, modernisme, protestantisme (Paris, 1909); SWITALSKI, Der Wahreitsbegriff des Pragmatismus (Braunsberg, 1910); SÁNCHEZ, De tolerantia religiosa (Madrid, 1785), antiquated; DÖLLINGER, Kirche u. Kirchen (Munich, 1861); MERKLE, Die Toleranz nach kathol. Principien (Dillingen, 1863); De intolerantia catholica seu de sententia: Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (Turin, 1868); HANSJAKOB, Die Toleranz u. Intoleranz der kathol. Kirche (Freiburg, 1899); SEITZ, Die Heilsnotwendigkeit der Kirche (Freiburg, 1903); ROMEIS, Das Heil der Christen ausserhalb der wahren Kirche nach der Lehre des hl. Augustinus (Paderborn, 1908); MAUSBACH, Die Ethik des hl. Augustinus, II (Freiburg, 1909). Concerning the Inquisition: LEA, A Hist. of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages (3 vols., New York, 1888); DOUAIS, L’Inquisition, ses origines, sa procédure (Paris, 1906); VACANDARD, L’Inquisition. Etude historique et critique sur le pouvoir coercitif de l’église (Paris, 1907); DE CAUZONS, Hist. de l’Inquisition en France, I (Paris, 1909). Concerning the Tolerance of the Reformers: PAULUS, Die Strassburger Reformatoren u. die Gewissensfreiheit (Freiburg, 1895); IDEM, Protestantismus u. Toleranz im 16. Jahrh. (Freiburg, 1911); KÖHLER, Reformation u. Ketzerprozess (Tübingen, 1901); WAPPLER, Inquisition u. Ketzerprocesse in Zwickau zur Reformationszeit (Leipzig, 1908).
- Concerning Practical Civic Toleration: RICKABY, Moral Philosophy or Ethics and Natural Law (London, 1893); DORNER, Das menschliche Handeln. (Berlin, 1895); LECKY, Democracy and Liberty, I (London, 1896), 424 sqq.; WALDMANN, Die Feindesliebe in der antiken Welt (Vienna, 1902); CATHREIN, Moralphilosophie, II (Freiburg, 1911); STREHLER, Das Ideal der kathol. Sittlichkeit (Breslau, 1912); GRÜNEBAUM, Sittenlehre des Judentums anderen Bekenntnissen gegenüber (Strassburg, 1878); MILAS, Das Kirchenrecht der morgenländ. Kirche (Zara, 1897), 604 sqq. Concerning the Punishment of Heretics: FICKER, Die gesetzliche Einführung der Todesstrafe für Ketzer in Mitteil. für osterreich. Geschichtsforschung, I (Vienna, 1880), 177 sqq.; HAVET, L’hérésie et le bras séculier au moyen-âge jusqu’au XIIIe siècle (Paris, 1896); HINSCHIUS, System des kathol. Kirchenrechts, V (Berlin, 1895); PIGGE, Die religiöse Toleranz Friedrichs des Grossen (Mainz, 1899); TIMPE, Die kirchenpolitische Ansichten u. Bestrebungen des Kardinals Bellarmin (Münster, 1905); HERMELINK, Toleranzgedanken im Reformationszeitalter (Leipzig, 1908); BEVEN, The Birth and Growth of Toleration (London, 1909); POHLE in Staatslexikon der Görresgesellschaft, I (1908), s.v. Bekenntnisfreiheit.
- Concerning Political Toleration: VON KETTELER, Freiheit, Autorität u. Kirche (Mainz, 1862); MONTALEMBERT, L’église libre dans l’état libre (Paris, 1863); WALTER, Naturrecht u. Politik im Lichte der Gegenwart (Bonn, 1863); ESCHER, Handbuch der praktischen Politik (Leipzig, 1863); RAUSCHER, Der Staat ohne Gott (Vienna, 1865); TRENDELENBURG, Naturrecht auf dem Grunde der Ethik (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1868); LIBERATORE, La chiesa e lo stato (Naples, 1871); HERGENRÖTHER, Kathol. Kirche u. christl. Staat (Freiburg, 1872); ZELLER, Staat u. Kirche (Leipzig, 1873); MARTENS, Die Beziehungen der Ueberordnung, Nebenordnung u. Unterordnung zwischen Staat u. Kirche (Stuttgart, 1877); MAASSEN, Ueber Kirche u. Gewissensfreiheit (Graz, 1876); VON SCHERER, Handbuch des Kirchenrechts, I (Graz, 1886); VON TREITSCHKE, Politik, I (Leipzig, 1897); HARING, Kirche u. Staat (Münster, 1907); VON HERTLING, Recht, Staat u. Gesellschaft (Freiburg, 1907); ROSCHER, Politik (3rd ed., Stuttgart, 1908); KOHLER, Katholicismus u. moderner Staat (1908); TROELTSCH, Politische Ethik u. Christentum (1909); NIEHUES, Gesch. des Verhältnisses zwischen Kaisertum u. Papsttum im Mittelalter (Münster, 1877-87); ROQUAIN. La papauté au moyen-äge. Etudes sur le pouvoir pontifical (Paris, 1881); BLUNTSCHLI, Gesch. der neueren Staatsgemeinschaft (3rd ed., Munich, 1881); CATHREIN, Die Aufgaben der Staatsgewalt u. ihre Grenzen (Freiburg, 1882); CHR. PESCH, Christl. Staatslehre (Freiburg, 1887); FÜRSTENAU, Grundrecht der Religionsfreiheit (Leipzig, 1891); BAS, Etudes sur les rapports de l’église et de l’état et sur leur séparation (St. Quentin, 1882); SCHAFF, Church and State in the United States or the American Idea of Religious Liberty and its Practical Effects (New York, 1888); JANNET AND KÄMPFE, Die Vereignigten Staaten von Amerika in der Gegenwart; SITTEN, Institutionen u. Ideen seit dem Secessionskriege (Freiburg, 1893); WAPPLER, Die Trennung von Staat u. Kirche (Leipzig, 1907); ROTHENBUCHER, Die Trennung von Staat u. Kirche (Leipzig, 1908); SÄGMÜLLER, Die Trennung von Staat u. Kirche (Tübingen, 1909). Concerning Parity: DRACHE, Parität u. Imparität (Leipzig, 1892); KAHL, Ueber Parität (Berlin, 1895); LILLY AND WALLIS, A Manual of the Law especially affecting Catholics (London, 1893); BACHEM, Parität in Preussen (2nd ed., Cologne, 1899); ERZBERGER, Der Toleranzantrag des Zentrums im Deutschen Reichstag (Berlin, 1906).
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APA citation. Pohle, J. (1912). Religious Toleration. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved May 1, 2012 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14763a.htm
MLA citation. Pohle, Joseph. “Religious Toleration.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 1 May 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14763a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.