Reader Mode Text to speech



The second error is that of those who, going to the other extreme, teach that rulers should care for the State and the public peace, but they should not be concerned about religion, but should allow everyone to think as he pleases and to live as he pleases, provided he does not disturb the public peace. This error was formerly held by the pagans, who permitted all religions, and allowed the sects of all the philosophers, as St. Augustine says. Hence St. Leo says, “But this State, ignorant of the Author of its progress, when it was ruling over almost every nation, preserved the errors of every nation and seemed to have taken to itself much religion, since it rejected no falsity.” And, as Socrates relates, the philosopher Themistius attempted to persuade the Emperor Valens that a multiplicity of sects was pleasing to God, because He is thus worshipped in many ways, and because this is more advantageous, since He is known with difficulty.* And so a certain heresiarch, Rhetor by name, taught that all sects were true, as is stated by St. Augustine.

Finally, the Germans desired and obtained this freedom in the year 1526, when the leaders and the princes of the empire were gathered together at Spire, and they are now said to be seeking the same thing in Flanders. The arguments of these are chiefly four in number. One, that faith is free. Another, that it is the gift of God. The third, that experience teaches that nothing is gained by force. The fourth, that Christians always tolerated the Jews, although they were the enemies of Christ.

But this error is most harmful, and without doubt Christian rulers are in duty bound not to allow freedom of belief to their subjects, but to afford opportunity that that faith may be preserved which the Catholic Church, and especially the supreme Pontiff, says should be held. It is proved first from Scripture, “the king, that sitteth on the throne of judgment, scattereth away all evil with his look.” And likewise, “A wise king scattereth the wicked.” Indeed, it cannot be denied that heretics are impious. And the same is said, “And now, O ye kings, understand, receive instruction, you that judge the earth. Serve ye the Lord with fear.”

St. Augustine says: “The king serves God in one way as a man, and in another as a king ; as a man, he serves Him by living in fidelity to His law, and since he is also a king, he serves by promulgating just laws, and forbidding the opposite, and by giving them a fitting and strong sanction; just as Ezechias served by destroying the shrines and temples of the idols; just as King Josias served by himself doing like things; just as the King of the Ninevites served by compelling the whole State to appease God; just as Darius served by breaking of the idols into the power of Daniel; just as Nabuchodonosor served by forbidden by a terrible law all those dwelling in his kingdom to blaspheme God.” And in the same place he adds: ‘‘Who, being in his right mind, will say to kings: ‘In your kingdom have no care as to that by which the Church of your Lord is supported or opposed, ‘In your kingdom it is not your affair who wishes to be devout or sacrilegious,’ to whom it cannot be said: In your kingdom it is not your affair who wishes to be virtuous or who does not?”

Besides, in the New Testament, the Angel of Pergamus is censured because he kept about him some who held the doctrine of the Nicolaites, and the Angel of Thyatira because he allowed Jezabel to seduce the servants of God. From which it is inferred that it is harmful to the Church to allow heretics to mingle with Catholics. In the Epistle to the Romans Christians are commanded to turn aside from heretics. St. Paul also says, ‘T would they were even cut off.” “Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be strong in the faith.” Therefore kings, who are the guardians of the Church, should not allow this intermingling.

Secondly, it is proved by the testimony of the Popes and the Emperors. Leo says : “You ought, O Emperor, to realize that your kingly power has been conferred on you not only for ruling the world, but especially for the purpose of giving aid to the Church, in order that by restraining the rashness of wicked men you may defend those things which are well established and restore true peace to those which are disturbed.” Pope Anastasius II., in his letter to the Emperor Anastasius, says: “I recommend this especially to Your Serenity, that when the reasons of the Alexandrines reach your most pious ears you may force those men by your authority and wisdom, and by your Divine orders, to return to the Catholic and true faith.” St. Gregory has like statements to the King of England, and to Leontia Augusta. Agatho makes the same statements in his epistle to Constantine IV.

Indeed, the pious Emperors were of the same opinion, for Theodosius: L. cunctos populos, C. de summa Trinitate et fide Catholica, utterly rooted out freedom of belief, which the other rulers had allowed, and commanded all to believe what the Roman Pontiff teaches should be believed. St. Ambrose praises Valentinian II. in his funeral oration because he had strongly resisted the City of Rome when it asked that it might be granted its former liberty in religion, that it might worship by offering sacrifice to the gods. Similarly, Marcian strictly prohibits any one from bringing in question those doctrines which have been defined in the Councils of the Bishops, or from presuming to argue about them in public.

Constantine the Great, indeed, at the beginning of his reign allowed liberty of religion to all, as is clear from the History of Eusebius, yet he afterwards ordered the temples of the idols to be closed and the Christian religion alone to flourish, as Optatus asserts against Parmenides. His sons, Constans and Constantinus, imitated him, as St. Augustine states, and (according to Ruffinus) Constantine threatened with exile all those who did not assent to the definitions of the Council of Nicaea.

Three are found who granted liberty of belief. The Emperor Jovinianus, who nevertheless was admonished by the Council of Antioch not to mingle Catholics with heretics, as Socrates writes. The Emperor Valens the Arian allowed liberty of religion to all heretics and pagans, as Theodoret writes. Finally, Julian the Apostate, who permitted liberty for the reason that he hoped thus to wipe out Christianity: for thus says St. Augustine, “Julian, the betrayer and enemy of Christ, allowed the freedom of perdition to heretics, and then gave to the heretics the basilicas that had been temples of demons, thinking that by this means the name of Christian might perish from the earth, if he should destroy the unity of the Church from which he had fallen away and should allow sacrilegious disputes to be freely indulged in.”

It is proved, thirdly, by reason. First, the temporal and spiritual power in the Church are not two separate and distinct things, as two political kingdoms, but they are united so that they form one body ; or rather they exist as the body and soul in one man, for spiritual power is as the soul, and temporal power as the body, as St. Gregory Nazianzen teaches in his sermon to the people when struck by fear. Therefore the temporal power ought to serve the spiritual and to protect and defend it from enemies, and, as St. Gregory says, the earthly kingdom should serve the heavenly; but this liberty is deadly to the Church ; for the bond of the Church is the confession of one faith, “One faith,” and for this reason dissension in faith is the dissolution of the Church. Therefore, rulers ought in no way to permit this liberty, if they wish to fulfill their duty.

Secondly, when the true religion flourished among the Jews, the kings could not allow liberty of religion, therefore much less should Christian kings permit it ; for the Church should be no less rightly governed than the Synagogue. The antecedent is clear from the Scriptures, where by the order of the civil judge those who did not obey the priests should be put to death. And he orders the false prophets likewise to be slain,” as St. Augustine states, concerning Josaphat, Josias, and the other pious kings, who destroyed the shrines and temples of the idols, and severely punished the idolaters, and compelled the people to worship the true God. But that a little before the time of Christ heresies had begun to be permitted, and especially that of the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, is not wonderful, because the Synagogue at that time was drawing near its end, nor did it have as king at that time a real Jew to have a care of such matters, but Herod and Idumean, while the high priests could do nothing.

Thirdly, liberty of belief is dangerous even to the temporal welfare of the kingdom and to public peace, as is clear, first, from St. Gregory, when he says that the safety of the civil State depends on the peace of the Church. Then from reason: for where faith and obedience are rendered to God, there also will the same be rendered to the ruler; for faith itself teaches and exacts this. Likewise, a dissension in faith causes dissensions in minds and wills, but every kingdom divided against itself will fall ; and experience of our own time shows this so clearly that we need not strive to prove it.

Fourthly, liberty of belief is dangerous to those very men to whom it is granted; for liberty of belief is nothing less than liberty of error, and of error in regard to the most dangerous of all matters; for faith is not true if it is not one, “One Faith,” therefore liberty of falling away from this one faith is liberty of plunging headlong into the abyss of errors. Therefore, just as liberty of wandering through the mountains is not permitted to sheep, and for its own safety a ship is not freed from the rudder, nor allowed to be driven by any wind at all, so also for their own safety freedom of belief is not given to the people, after they have given their adherence to the one true faith.