Religious Liberty and the Second Vatican Council
by Raymond Taouk
The documents of Vatican II come within the category of the Church’s Ordinary Magesterium, which can contain error in the case of a novelty, which conflicts with previous Church teaching.
The Second Vatican Council in contrast to the Churches constant teaching declared that “the human person has a right to religious freedom” in order that “all men should be immune from coercion on part of individuals, social groups and every human power so that, within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his convictions nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his convictions in religious matters in private or public” (General Principles of Religious Freedom). However Pope Leo XIII condemned such an idea as being “the great error of our age”. Nor was Pope Pius IX tolerant of these ideas as he openly spoke against such innovations saying that “contrary to the Teachings of the Holy Scriptures, of the Church and of the Holy Fathers, these persons assert, that the best condition of human society is that wherein no duty is recognized by the violators of the Catholic religion except when the maintenance of public peace requires it” (Quanta Cura). Thus not only is it contrary to the pronouncements of the previous popes but also to that of the Churches constant teaching.
The fact that Vatican II declaration was contrary to Church’s constant teaching was openly admitted by Fr. Yves Congar who himself helped draft the text of the Declaration itself. Fr. Congar affirms that “it cannot be denied that a text like this does materially say something different from the syllabus of 1864, and even almost the opposite of propositions 15 and 77-9 of the document” (Challenge to the Church, London, 1977, p.44).
Since true liberty is often regarded as being without constraint, this only serves to confirm that true liberty Is not understood by so many as they have “an absurd notion as to what liberty is, either they pervert the very idea of freedom, or they extend it at their pleasure to many things in respect of which man cannot rightly be regarded as free” (Pope Leo XIII, Libertas Praestantissimum). The Church has always been the guardian of true liberty. Man being a rational creature endowed by God with an intellect and will is prone to evil due to original sin and so he requires direction from without in order to perfect his liberty. Natural Liberty to do what one can comes from within, but the right to do what one may comes from without. Thus an ability to do something does not constitute a right to do it (i.e. Murder). With these basic truths we may affirm that true liberty to commit evil is not liberty but rather license, as man’s reason prescribes to the will what it should seek after or shun in order to aid him to his final end.
Yet “some have tried to argue that while error has no rights, persons inculpably holding erroneous doctrines have the right to hold them. But it must be borne in mind that error can be believed, spread, and activated only by persons and so it is difficult to see what it would mean to say “error has no right to be spread” if one held at the same time “persons can have a right to spread error” that is if “right” be taken in the same sense in both statements . . . . How can one have a genuine right to believe, spread, or practice what is objectively false or morally wrong? For a genuine right is based on what is objectively true and good” (Fr. Connell, American Ecclesiastical Review, No. 151, February 1964, p.128).
In conscience faithful Catholics cannot accept the ideas of Vatican II on Religious liberty, because the only religion that has a right to exist is the one God has revealed (the Catholic Religion). Nor can governments accept these ideas without failing gravely in their duty as they “must acknowledge God and obey and reverence His Power and authority” (Pope Leo XIII, Libertas Praestantissimum).
Vatican II further declares that “religious freedom must be given such recognition in the constitutional order of society as will make it a civil right” (General Principles of Religious Freedom). Yet civil law is to be prescribed in order that people live according to the eternal Law. For this reason we can grasp why such a proposition was long ago condemned by Pope Pius XI in Quanta Cura when he spoke against those who “uphold that erroneous opinion most pernicious to the Catholic Church and to the salvation of souls . . . namely that liberty to conscience and worship is the peculiar right of every man and should be proclaimed by law”. If a choice must be made it is evident that it is not possible to agree with both Vatican II and the mentioned Popes statements, as a Catholic can not accept these declarations of religious liberty without betraying the mission of the Church. For with this firm conviction of bringing men to the truth and saving souls from eternal damnation (1tim 2:4) did the apostles and Catholic missionaries go forth at the risk of their lives in order to teach all nations what Christ had commanded (Matt 28:19).
The bitter fruits of this “Liberty of Perdition” (St. Augustine) are the ruin of moral law and truth. Society shall only continue to demoralize as a result of Vatican II’s declaration on religious liberty which has been most prominent in bringing about the auto-destruction of the Church as man is now only subject to the requirements of civil law, which themselves are in conformity (in most countries) with Vatican II’s notion of religious Liberty.
Pope Pius XII taught in his discourse Ecco che gia un anno, of 6th of October 1946, that “The Catholic Church, as we have already said, is a perfect society and has as its foundation the truth of Faith infallibly revealed by God. For this reason, that which is opposed to the truth is, necessarily, an error, and the same rights, which are objectively recognized for truth, cannot be afforded to error. In this manner, liberty of thought and liberty of conscience have their essential limits in the truthfulness of God in revelation”.
Error is now given a “right” to exist along side with truth, which amounts to religious indifference as condemned by Pope Gregory XVI because “from this poisoned source of indifferentism flows that false and absurd, or rather extravagant maxim that livery of consciences should be established and guaranteed to each man, a most contagious error, to which leads that absolute and unbridled liberty of opinion which for the ruin of the Church and state spreads over the world” (Mirari Vos).
This plague of indifference was also feared by Pope Pius IX who warned against those who say that society should “be constituted and governed without regard whatsoever to religion. . . or at least with out making any distinction between true and false religions (Quanta Cura). The same Pope continues to exhort all “Sons of the Catholic Church” to reject these condemned notions of liberty and the errors that come with it.
In openly defending the wisdom of the Church in proclaiming her syllabus in the person of Pius IX, the great Catholic Statesman, Gabriel Garcia Moreno, the present of Ecuador during the mid 19th Century, exclaimed that contrary to what is claimed “they (liberal Catholics) do not understate that if the Syllabus remains a dead letter, society is at an end! If the Pope has put true social principles before us, it is because the world needs them if it is not to perish.” – Garcia Moreno, by Fr. Augustine Berthe, pg. 245