Religious Liberty 50 Years After Dignitatis Humanae

Vatican II ended in December 1965 with an outpouring of enthusiasm and hope. The Council’s hope was grounded in two things: a renewed Catholic faith; and confidence in the skill and goodness of human reason.

Half a century has passed since then. A lot has happened. The world today is a very different place from 1965. And much more complex. That’s our reality, and it has implications for the way we live our faith.

Hope is one of the great Christian virtues. Christians always have reason for hope. As we read in John 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that he who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God is alive. God loves us. God never forgets us.

But Christians also need to see the world as it really is, so as better to bring it to Jesus Christ.

In some ways, the Council’s Declaration on Religious Liberty—Dignitatis Humanae in Latin, or “Of Human Dignity” in English—is the Vatican II document that speaks most urgently to our own time. The reason is obvious. We see it right now in the suffering of Christians and other religious believers in many places around the world.

Pope Paul VI, who promulgated Dignitatis Humanae, saw it as one of the most important actions of the Council. It changed the way the Church interacts with states. And it very much improved the Church’s relations with other Christians and religious believers.

My purpose is to give an overview of religious liberty issues: the problems we currently have, and the ones we’ll face in the years ahead. I’ll do that in three parts. First, I’ll outline what the Church teaches about religious freedom. Second, I’ll list some of the key religious liberty challenges heading our way. Third, I’ll talk about why the Council was right. Not just right in its teaching about religious liberty, but right in its spirit of hope.

The Church was Born in a Religious Age
So let’s turn first to what the Church teaches about religious freedom. And we should start by recalling the nature of the world that the Church was born into.

One of the themes of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, which still has great influence today, was a kind of “anything but Jesus” attack on religious superstition, and a special distaste for the legacy of the Catholic Church. Enlightenment philosophers wanted to recover the habits of reason and learning they thought were embodied in ancient Classical culture. But this is rich in irony, because the Classical age itself was deeply religious at every level of life. The gods were everywhere in daily routines and civic power.

To put it another way: Early Christians weren’t hated because they were religious. They were hated because they weren’t religious enough. They weren’t killed because they believed in God. They were killed because they didn’t believe in the authentic gods of the city and empire. In their impiety, they invited the anger of heaven. They also threatened the well-being of everyone else, including the state. The emperor Marcus Aurelius—one of history’s great men of intellect and character—hated the Christian cult. He persecuted Christians not for their faith, but for what he saw as their blasphemy. In refusing to honor the traditional gods, they attacked the security of the state.

Why does this matter? The reason is simple. T.S. Eliot liked to argue that “no culture has appeared or developed except together with a religion.” Nor can a culture survive or develop for long without one. Christopher Dawson, the great historian, said the same. Religious faith, whatever form it takes, gives a vision and meaning to a society. In that light, pagans saw the early Christians as a danger, because they were. Christianity shaped an entirely new understanding of sacred and secular authority. Christians prayed for the emperor and the empire. But they would not worship the empire’s gods.

For Christians, the distinction between the sacred and the secular comes straight from Scripture. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus himself sets the tone when he tells us to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. But if that’s true, then how do we explain 16 centuries of the Church getting tangled up in state affairs? The details are complicated, but the answer isn’t. Christians are amphibian creatures. God made us for heaven, but we work out our salvation here on earth. As the Roman world gradually became Christian, the Church gained her freedom. Then she became the dominant faith. Then she filled the vacuum of order and learning left by the empire’s collapse. Religious and secular authority often mixed, and power is just as easily abused by clergy as it is by laypeople. The Church relied on the state to advance her interests. The state nominated or approved senior clergy, and used the Church to legitimize its power.

Harmonizing the Confessional State with Religious Rights
Of course, the idea of the “state” is a modern invention. I use it here to mean every prince or warlord the Church has faced through the centuries. The point is this: Over time, and especially after the Wars of Religion and the French Revolution, the “confessional state”—a state committed to advancing the true Catholic religion and suppressing religious error—became the standard Catholic model for government.

That’s the history Dignitatis Humanae sought to correct by going back to the sources of Christian thought. The choice to believe any religious faith must be voluntary. Faith must be an act of free will, or it can’t be valid. Parents make the choice for their children at baptism because they have parental authority. And it’s important that they do so. But in the end, people who don’t believe can’t be forced to believe, especially by the state. Forced belief violates the person, the truth and the wider community of faith, because it’s a lie.

Or to put it another way: Error has no rights, but persons do have rights—even when they choose falsehood over truth. Those rights aren’t given by the state. Nor can anyone, including the state, take them away. They’re inherent to every human being by virtue of his or her creation by God. Religious liberty is a “natural” right because it’s hardwired into our human nature. And freedom of religious belief, the freedom of conscience, is—along with the right to life—the most important right any human being has.

Having said this, we should recall what Dignitatis Humanae doesn’t do. It doesn’t say that all religions are equal. It doesn’t say that truth is a matter of personal opinion or that conscience makes its own truth. It doesn’t absolve Catholics from their duty to support the Church and to form their consciences in her teaching. It doesn’t create a license for organized dissent within the Church herself. It doesn’t remove from the Church her right to teach, correct and admonish the baptized faithful—including the use of ecclesial penalties when they’re needed.

It also doesn’t endorse a religiously indifferent state. It doesn’t preclude the state from giving material support to the Church, so long as “support” doesn’t turn into control or the negative treatment of religious minorities. In fact, the declaration says that government “should take account of the religious life of its citizenry and show it favor [emphasis added], since the function of government is to make provision for the common welfare.”

In its own words, Dignitatis Humanae says “religious freedom … has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society [emphasis added]. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.”

Freedom For the Truth Often Overlooked
In the same passage, the Council Fathers stress that the “one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church,” and that “all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it.”

To put it another way, Dignitatis Humanae is not just about freedom from coercion. It’s also about freedom for the truth. The issue of truth is too easily overlooked.

The declaration took four drafts to complete. And it created a great deal of internal debate. Karol Wojtyla took part in Vatican II as a young bishop. He supported Dignitatis Humanae and became a great defender of religious freedom as John Paul II. But he resisted an early draft of the declaration precisely because it failed to make a strong connection between freedom and truth. The two go together.

What John Paul saw, and what the Council Fathers addressed in the declaration’s final draft, is that words like goodness, freedom and beauty don’t mean anything without an anchor. They’re free-floating labels—and very easily abused—unless they’re rooted in a permanent order of objective moral truth. We see that abuse of language every day now in our public discourse. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.

In the mind of the Council, religious liberty means much more than the freedom to believe whatever you like at home, and pray however you like in your church. It means the right to preach, teach and worship in public and in private. It means a parent’s right to protect his or her children from harmful teaching. It means the right to engage the public square with moral debate and works of social ministry. It means the freedom to do all of this without negative interference from the government, direct or indirect, except within the limits of “just public order.”

Churches Must Counter Growing State Persecution
Before we turn to the second part of my remarks, it’s also worth noting that the full title of Dignitatis Humanae is: On the right of the person and of communities to social and civil freedom in matters religious. Religious liberty belongs not just to individuals, but also to communities. Civil society precedes the state. It consists of much more than individuals. Alone, individuals are weak. Communities give each one of us friendship, meaning, a narrative, a history and a future. They root us in a story larger than ourselves or any political authority. Which means that communities, and especially religious communities, are strong—and a necessary mediator between the individual and the state.

So let’s move now to some issues we’ll face in the years ahead. We’ll start on the global level.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Armenians were the first nation in the world to adopt Christianity in A.D. 301. Starting in 1915, Turkish officials deliberately murdered more than 1 million members of Turkey’s Armenian minority. The ethnic and religious cleansing campaign went on into the 1920s. The victims were men, women and children. And they were overwhelmingly Christian. Turkey has never acknowledged the genocide. It’s one of the worst unrepented crimes in history.

That kind of ugliness may sound impossible in our day. But today we have our own tragedies—from church bombings in Pakistan to the beheading of Christians in North Africa. More than 70 percent of the world now lives with some form of religious coercion. Tens of thousands of Christians are killed every year for reasons linked to their faith. North Korea has wiped religion out of its culture. China runs a sophisticated security system to interfere with, and control, its religious communities. Islamic countries have a very mixed record. Muslim states range from relative tolerance to repression and forced conversion of religious minorities. And the persecution has grown worse as Islam has radicalized. Shari’a law claims to protect religious minorities. In practice, it slowly smothers them.

Even in Europe, laws that interfere with religious dress, practice and public expression are on the rise. The postwar founders of European unity—committed Catholic men like Alcide de Gasperi, Robert Schuman and Konrad Adenauer—assumed the Christian heritage of their continent. Today the European Union ignores it, and in practice, repudiates it. In doing so, Europe robs itself of any real moral alternative to the radical Islam spreading in its own countries.

Vacuous Slogans Used to Obtain Power
And what about the United States? Compared to almost anywhere else in the world, our religious freedom situation is good. Religious believers played a very big role in founding and building the country. Until recently, our laws have reflected that. In many ways they still do. A large majority of Americans still believe in God and still identify as Christian. Religious practice remains high. But that’s changing. And the pace will quicken. More young people are disaffiliated from religion now than at any time in our country’s past. More stay away as they age. And many have no sense of the role that religious freedom has played in our nation’s life and culture.

The current White House may be the least friendly to religious concerns in our history. But we’ll see more of the same in the future—pressure in favor of things like gay rights, contraception and abortion services, and against public religious witness. We’ll see it in the courts and in so-called “anti-discrimination” laws. We’ll see it in “anti-bullying” policies that turn public schools into indoctrination centers on matters of human sexuality; centers that teach that there’s no permanent truth involved in words like “male” and “female.” And we’ll see it in restrictions on public funding, revocation of tax exemptions and expanding government regulations. We too easily forget that every good service the government provides comes with a growth in its regulatory power. And that power can be used in ways nobody imagined in the past.

We also forget Tocqueville’s warning that democracy can become tyrannical precisely because it’s so sensitive to public opinion. If anyone needs proof, consider what a phrase like “marriage equality” has done to our public discourse in less than a decade. It’s dishonest. But it works.

That leads to the key point I want to make here. The biggest problem we face as a culture isn’t gay marriage or global warming. It’s not abortion funding or the federal debt. These are vital issues, clearly. But the deeper problem, the one that’s crippling us, is that we use words like justice, rights, freedom and dignity without any commonly shared meaning to their content.

We speak the same language, but the words don’t mean the same thing. Our public discourse never gets down to what’s true and what isn’t, because it can’t. Our most important debates boil down to who can deploy the best words in the best way to get power. Words like “justice” have emotional throw-weight, so people use them as weapons. And it can’t be otherwise, because the religious vision and convictions that once animated American life are no longer welcome at the table. After all, what can “human rights” mean if science sees nothing transcendent in the human species? Or if science imagines a trans-humanist future? Or if science doubts that a uniquely human “nature” even exists? If there’s no inherent human nature, there can be no inherent natural rights—and then the grounding of our whole political system is a group of empty syllables.

Democracy Depends on Christian Idea of Human Dignity
Liberal democracy doesn’t have the resources to sustain its own purpose. Democracy depends for its meaning on the existence of some higher authority outside itself. The Western idea of natural rights comes not just from the philosophers of the Enlightenment, but even earlier from the medieval Church. Our Western legal tradition has its origins not in the Enlightenment, but in the eleventh and twelfth century papal revolution in canon law. The Enlightenment itself could never have happened outside the Christian world from which it emerged. In the words of Oxford scholar Larry Siedentop—and in contrast to ancient pagan society—“Christianity changed the ground of human identity” by developing and uniquely stressing the idea of the individual person with an eternal destiny. In doing that, “Christian moral beliefs emerge as the ultimate source of the social revolution that has made the West what it is.”

Modern pluralist democracy has plenty of room for every religious faith and no religious faith. But we’re lying to ourselves if we think we can keep our freedoms without revering the biblical vision—the uniquely Jewish and Christian vision—of who and what man is. Human dignity has only one source. And only one guarantee. We’re made in the image and likeness of God. And if there is no God, then human dignity is just elegant words.

We need to remember two simple facts. In practice, no law and no constitution can protect religious freedom unless people actually believe and live their faith—not just at home or in church, but in their public lives. But it’s also true that no one can finally take our freedom unless we give it away. Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). He also said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for people who want to be free, “free” in the truest sense. And its message is meant for all of us; for all men and women—unless we choose to be afraid.

Despite Everything, There is Always Hope
Looking back over the past 50 years, and even at our lives today, I think it’s too easy to see the problems in the world. It’s too easy to become a cynic.

There’s too much beauty in the world to lose hope; too many people searching for something more than themselves; too many people who comfort the suffering; too many people who serve the poor; too many people who seek and teach the truth; too much history that witnesses, again and again, to the mercy of God, incarnate in the course of human affairs. In the end, there’s too much evidence that God loves us, with a passion that is totally unreasonable and completely redemptive, to ever stop trusting in God’s purpose for the world, and for our lives.

The Second Vatican Council began and ended in the aftermath of the Holocaust and the worst war in human history. If there’s an argument to be made against the worthiness of humanity, we’ve made that argument ourselves, again and again down the centuries, but especially in the modern age. Yet every one of the Council documents is alive with confidence in God and in the dignity of man. And there’s a reason. God makes greatness, not failures. He makes free men and women, not cowards. The early Church father Irenaeus said that “the glory of God is man fully alive.” I believe that’s true. And I’d add that the glory of men and women is their ability, with God’s grace, to love as God loves.

And when that miracle happens, even in just one of us, the world begins to change.

Editor’s note: This paper was delivered at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia on March 17, 2015 as part of a lecture series commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dignitatis Humanae. The footnotes have been removed from this slightly edited version. The original paper may be obtained on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia website. The lecture is reprinted here with permission. (Photo credit: Jeff Fusco)

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.


Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., is the archbishop of Philadelphia. Before his appointment to Philadelphia by Pope Benedict in 2011, he served as bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota and archbishop of Denver. He is the author of three books: Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics (2001); Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life (2008) and Strangers in a Strange Land (2017)

  • jacobhalo11

    Vatican II wanted to renew the Catholic Faith? What a disaster that has been! Before Vatican II, we had a 90% rate of attendance at mass, seminaries, convents, Catholic schools were full, long lines at confession, and the term “cafeteria Catholics” was unheard of. We used to proselytize, convert people to the faith. Now, Pope Francis says that proselytizing is “nonsense”. Even Pope Benedict told a woman who wanted to convert to Catholicism her no, just be a good Lutheran.
    Now, we have empty seminaries, convents, Catholic schools closing at an alarming rate, and Cafeteria Catholics outnumber faithful Catholics.
    Would you say that the goal of “renewing the Catholic faith” was not met, in fact, reversed?

    • Augustus

      You should read the whole article instead of only the first paragraph. You might learn something. Chaput is not your typical archbishop.

      • BillinJax

        So true! Love and appreciate such a faithful servant of Christ’s Church. For any Catholic who wishes to remain true to the Church in this age of lost logic and right reason I heartily recommend staying tuned to Mark Mallett’s daily blog.

        Peace to All

    • Jay

      Religious revival occurred in the 1950s in most Protestant denominations as well. The aftermath of the Second World War, the battle against secular Communism all played a role in getting people back into Churches. I believe most Protestant denominations have been losing members the past 30 years as well. It’s not just a Catholic problem.
      Also, do you have hard numbers that validate your argument that “Cafeteria Catholics outnumber faithful Catholics.” Also please provide evidence that “Cafeteria Catholics” did not exist before the Second Vatican Council. Some sort of academic work published would be helpful.

      • jacobhalo

        Yes, well over 50% of Catholics are pro choice and over 80% don’t believe in transubstantiation.

        • Jay

          Ok – so is it the Church’s responsibility to teach the foundations of the Church, or is it families? I was always told it was the parents who hold the most responsibility in teaching the truths of the Church.

          • JP

            True. It is primarily the parent’s job. But, the priests and parents are mandated to work together and not against each other. If the Church just stops teaching the Truth, and substitutes non-Catholic ideas for the Truth over a period of 50 years, what do you think will happen?

            • Jay

              Agreed. I wonder how many priests even believe in Transubstantiation?

          • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

            Of course… but it would be very helpful not to be opposed by the authorities in the Church!

          • jacobhalo

            not if the parents don’t know the teachings of the church.

        • Watosh

          Now that should be of a major concern.

        • Chris Cloutier

          What the hell. Why don’t they just become protestant. If you call yourself Catholic and believe these things, you commit a mortal sin every time you receive Communion.

          • jacobhalo

            I follow all the laws of the Catholic church. It is the cafeteria Catholics who don’t follow them.

            • Chris Cloutier

              The you I used was to those Catholics who do believe this stuff, and not to you specifically. Sorry about the confusion.

      • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

        “do you have hard numbers that validate your argument that “Cafeteria Catholics outnumber faithful Catholics.” Oh, please! Is it even possible to be so blind to the reality all around you? Try reading the other leading Crisis article today for some evidence of what you seem to deny. Or try reading up on “catholic” politicians, voted into office by “catholic” voters, all across the country. Or, just have a few children, put them into “catholic schools,” and watch what happens when you object to rank immorality being brought into the classroom.

        • Jay

          I would love to have children, but for whatever reason God has said no.

          • Guest

            Is that all you took out of his comment?

            • Jay

              I’m not agreeing or disagreeing. I don’t know if there were ever “Cafeteria Catholics” before Vatican II. If so, did they outnumber the faithful? I do know there’s too many right now.

      • JP

        Catholic fertility rates in the US have averaged between 1.7 and 1.9 children per female for about 35 years. Less than 10% of Catholic couples practice NFP. Ergo, the vast majority of Catholic couples use artificial birth control. That is, they are living in sin. Yet, during any given Mass almost everyone takes Communion.

        • Jay

          But I wonder how many of them do not know it’s a sin. Rarely do I hear a sermon at Mass about the sins of contraception.

          • JP

            I agree with you. However, I believe the Church’s teachings on Birth Control are supposed to be hammered home in Pre-Cana. In any event, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it is not being taught at all these days. On the other hand, I remember a number of Catholic couples in the past say that birth control is one area that they will not submit to Church teaching.

            It’s interesting how silent the episcopate is on these matters.

      • jacobhalo

        I don’t have a number for the pre Vat. days, but I was alive and well before the Council. I was born in 1946 and I attended Catholic schools for 12 years.

  • Robert Boehm

    A person has the liberty of the will to choose, between the good; and certainly does not have a right to choose evil. As there is only one true religion–it does NOT subsist in the Catholic religion; it IS the Catholic religion, the only religion given by God–one has an obligation to find it and practice it. Rights come from God to fulfill this most important obligation. One may have the liberty of the will to choose a false religion, but to claim one has a right to do this is absurd. Accompanying false ecumenism and collegiality, this false idea of religious liberty is one of the chief errors of Vatican II.

    • Watosh

      It is always refreshing these days to hear someone state authentic Catholic truths. Thank you, Mr. Boehm. Comments like this give me hope.

    • jacobum

      Direct Hit Bullseye. Just add the “Pastoral Care” nonsense and you got it boxed. Sadly, it appears that the good Abshp Chaput has become a bit more “flexible” since his days in Denver. Maybe the combination of the water and “red caps” on the east coast do something to the spine? Cdl’s Dolan and Wuerl have totally liquified.

    • Chris Cloutier

      “…a renewed Catholic faith; and confidence in the skill and goodness of human reason.”

      What the heck is a renewed Catholic faith? I’ll stick with the 2000year old faith. That’s good enough for me. The rest of that mush is what has gotten us into the mess we are in today. We need less reason and more obedience.

    • Dr. Robert Schwartz

      Many who are non-Catholics feel the right to choose their religion. This seems to contradict your closing comments, but those who choose a “false” religion certainly don’t perceive it as false. As Catholics, we are obliged to deepen our faith, and this means our total conviction that we are gifted by God with the faith established by Christ, who came as the Messiah. Our faith is a gift. We must strengthen it, and we must share it.

    • Thomas J. Hennigan

      By stating that the true Church of Christ “subsists” in the Catholic Chuch (it doesn’t say Catholic religion”, as Christianity although it is a religion, it is not just a religion), should not be interpreted to mean that the Catholic Church is not the true Church of Christ. Vatican II makes a better explanation of the traditional axiom going back to Origen and S. Cyprian “extra ecclesia nulla salus”, by recongizing that all the validly baptized Christians are in various ways linked to the Catholic Church, which is the one true Church, some more like the Orthodox, some less. This is not a completely new doctrine, as traditional Catholic teaching including St, Thomas Aquinas, recognized the value of “baptism of desire”.
      You don’t seem to understand what Vatican II actually says, as you may not have carefully read it. Who are you to decide that an Ecumenical Council of the Church has taught and promoted the practice of “false ecumenism, collegiality and religious freedom”. It seems to me that a loyal Catholic, before deciding that an Ecumenical Council and several Popes, plus all the bishops are teaching errors, should examine his own conscience and be humble and realize that he is wrong. In fact, he is falling into the Protestant error of “private examinarion” and the exclusion of the mediation of the Church, for Jesus said to his apostles “he who hears you, hears me”. St. Augustine stated that he wouldn’t believe in the Scripure if it were not presented and explained to him by the Catholic Church.

  • Michael B

    “It doesn’t preclude the state from giving material support to the Church, so long as “support” doesn’t turn into control or the negative treatment of religious minorities.”
    Isn’t giving material support to the Church a ‘negative (fiscal) treatment of religious minorities’? And if one would reply that they should also give support to other religious groups, how would that not count as religious indifferentism?
    Literally everything the state does, it does with (the threat of) coercion, so if you want “immunity from coercion in civil society”, religious freedom quite emphatically does end up with “a religiously indifferent state”.

  • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

    Archbishop Chaput gives a nice sermon., But I am more interested in deeds. His treatment of the traditional Catholics on pilgrimage from St. Isidore’s in 2007 speaks volumes about his real orientation. For me, he is just another version of Cardinal Wuerl.

    • St JD George

      Can you expand on that for those of us unaware?

      • Erika Allen

        I was in the Marine Corps at the time, but my Mom had mentioned that they were not given access to the Churches downtown during the Pilgrimage. I also know that in 2002, we were not allowed to have Mass said at the Mother Cabrini Shrine, but at the highway turn out below. That had to have changed though, because last pilgrimage, we attended Mass there. Honestly, Dr. Williams might know more. My head was sadly in other places during my military service.

        • St JD George

          Thanks Erika, and thanks for your service. No worries on where you were, more important is where you are today.
          Every story has “complicating factors” I know, but I’m interested to learn more about what was the Bishop’s role in this particular fracas in CO was then.

          • Erika Allen

            Thank you! I will ask Grider Lee about this on Sunday: He is the spokesperson for our parish. Dr. Williams will undoubtably comment something awesome in the meantime.

            • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

              I really don’t know too much about the situation. I do have friends in western Kansas who drove all the way to Denver for the TLM. They felt Chaput was decidedly unfriendly towards the Mass.

      • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

        As bishop in Denver, he refused to allow the SSPX parishionners from St. Isidore’s to make a prayer stop at the cathedral while on their annual pilgrimage to the Cabrini Shrine in Golden, CO (50 miles, on foot). Under the previous bishop, they were allowed to celebrate Mass at the Shrine and enter and pray at the Cathedral. Instead, in 2007, they had to pray and celebrate Mass outdoors, beside the highway. This was all because a few people at the Cathedral “complained” about the “traditionalists.”

        • St JD George

          Thanks, I think. Based on your earlier comment I had a hunch it was something like that. In the battle we face with the hostile world it would be nice to think that we are united and not divided in defending our faith. Naive, I know.

        • St JD George

          I read some more and it sounds more complicated. From what I read he is a friend of the traditional mass, but in this case capitulated to those who complained because of their aggressive (if leaving flyers can be called that) attempt to win converts. If anything the picture painted after reading several stories was one of being weak or easily intimidated. Do you think that’s a fair assessment, or do know more about him and his actions here? I ask honestly because I know there is only so much you can truly know searching on line with biases everywhere. I’d like to believe in him and that he will strongly represent traditional values during the synod.

        • Objectivetruth

          Chaput’s a good man, one of the best examples of orthodoxy we have. He had his reasons for not allowing the SSPX to make a prayer stop. The last thing he’d ever do is let a “few people” dictate his actions. Bravo Sierra.

          Until you’re elevated to archbishop of flocks of 1-2 million souls, knock off your armchair quarterbacking.

          • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

            “Chaput’s a good man, one of the best examples of orthodoxy we have.” No doubt about it, but that doesn’t mean much these days. The standard is very very low. Chaput also played the stale “excommunication card” for people attending Mass at SSPX chapels. That nonsense had been settled long before, as at least a dozen bishops were overruled by the Vatican for doing the same thing.

            • Objectivetruth

              With all the “bishop bashing” and second guessing on this site I can only conclude then Christ has abandoned His Church and the hierarchy and the Church is no longer guided by the Holy Spirit.

              Maybe we should all try to support men like Archbishop Chaput instead of constantly trying to point out the splinter in their eyes.

              Seriously……did you even read his article above? The man’s writing is clear and brilliant, and his voice is the strongest pushback out there against our secular relativistic society. Archbishop Chaput’s homilies and writings give me hope, strength and courage:

              “The current White House may be the least friendly to religious concerns in our history. But we’ll see more of the same in the future—pressure in favor of things like gay rights, contraception and abortion services, and against public religious witness.

              Looking back over the past 50 years, and even at our lives today, I think it’s too easy to see the problems in the world. It’s too easy to become a cynic.

              There’s too much beauty in the world to lose hope; too many people searching for something more than themselves; too many people who comfort the suffering; too many people who serve the poor; too many people who seek and teach the truth; too much history that witnesses, again and again, to the mercy of God, incarnate in the course of human affairs. In the end, there’s too much evidence that God loves us, with a passion that is totally unreasonable and completely redemptive, to ever stop trusting in God’s purpose for the world, and for our lives.”

              And you want to nitpick because he wouldn’t allow a schismatic group pray at the Cathedral?

              • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                In point of fact, I do agree with most of what you say. However, it is not “nitpicking” to point out that the SSPX is NOT a schismatic group. They have never been, and this is not simply my opinion. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ruled that the status of the SPPX is an “internal” matter of Church discipline. Many conservative bishops take a harder line against them (and the TLM in general) than do liberal bishops. Chaput and Bruskewitz are two prime examples. As if to show how equally and “fairly” they treat everyone, and that they are not just out to hammer heretics, they throw traditional Catholics under the bus. Not cool.

                • Objectivetruth

                  True, the Church (as of yet) has not declared the SSPX schismatic, but what road are they heading down? Pope John Paul II even wrote of the 1988 illicit consecration of bishops as a “schismatic act.” And the Church has made it clear that receiving the sacraments through the SSPX is illicit.

                  My point Tim is if you’re looking for “deeds” from archbishop Chaput understand there are seven Tridentine/traditional masses in the archdiocese of Philadelphia every Sunday. Hardly a man hostile to “traditionalists.”

                  “Roma locuta est, causa finita est.” we must submit to the authority of Rome, whether we understand or agree.

                  • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                    Oh goodness! This would require a lengthy response, and this is not the time or place for it. I will say this, however. You know very little indeed about Msgr. Lefebvre. I was blessed to have met that saintly man and spent two long sessions speaking with him. And Bishop Foys has misquoted Canon 844, which is precisely the law – according to ROME – that permits Catholics to receive the sacraments from SSPX priests. Moreover, though there are certainly “traditionalists” with a “schismatic” attitude, such would seem far more prevalent in the American “Catholic” Church, where disbelieving everything taught by the Church has become de rigueur. I can think of a hundred “catholic” groups, religious orders, dioceses, and even entire nations, that are much, much farther “down the road” of schism than the SSPX.

                    • Objectivetruth

                      Why did he elevate four bishops, then?

                      And bishop Foy is wrong?

                    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                      By and large, the TLM (now called the “Extraordinary Form”) is allowed only where a flourishing SSPX chapel or Mass has pre-existed. The intent is obvious: to draw people away from the Society priests. However, there is no legitimate commitment to maintaining the right to attend the TLM. Even the Bishop of Rome clearly views the TLM as a passing “fad,” and he has said so in so many words. What happended to the Mass at Franciscan University is a perfect example. As soon as Francis came in, the TLM went from being offered every Sunday (albeit at 4:00 PM) to once a month. I doubt it will be permitted much longer. And yes, Bishop Foys is wrong. He has quoted only part of Canon 844, and out of context. It is precisely this Canon 844 that Traditionalists have used in appealing their “excommunications” to Rome, and they have won their case, every single time. Read the entire paragraph to see why.

                    • Objectivetruth

                      Sounds like Bishop Fellay has a Martin Luther playbook:

                      “In a homily delivered on February 2 at the SSPX seminary in Flavigny, Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the traditionalist group, underlined his insistence that the group will not accept Vatican policies regarding religious liberty and ecumenism.

                      Regarding the widespread rumors that the SSPX is close to an agreement with the Holy See, Bishop Fellay said: “It is not at all true; it’s all hot air.”

                      The traditionalist leader said that the SSPX would unflinchingly support the same arguments that drove Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre to break with Rome in 1988. He insisted that the Vatican moved away from Catholic traditions after the Second Vatican Council. “Rome seems to have lost its way,” he said, and no accord would be possible unless the Vatican changed its policies.”

                    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                      Absloutely. And I endorse what Fellay has said. Is there ANYTHING more self-evident about Rome today that n the fact that it is lost in a hopeless muddle? It isn’t just Fellay saying this. Haven’t several prominent Cardinals suggested more or less the same thing? Thank God the SSPX is out there operating independently. This is NOT the time to enter into serious discussion with Rome. They could not go anywhere, because one is unable to obtain a clear statement of belief from Rome these days.

                    • Objectivetruth


                      You’re scaring me, Tim.

                      Matthew 16: 13-18.

                    • winslow

                      Vatican policies regarding religious liberty and ecumenism are heresies. Abp. Lefebvre was right to reject them. Let me put my cards on the table with a sentence from a book I’m writing on this subject. “If the revolt of Martin Luther from the Catholic Church was the most grevious wound inflicted on the Body of Christ since the crucifixion, and I say it was, then Vatican II is a good bet for second place.” No one who knows the history of Vatican II would write the things you’re writing here. Do you know who Annabale Bugnini was? As is suggested elsewhere in this thread, just look at the results of Vatican II and you have no argument.

    • Objectivetruth

      What “deeds” are you looking for from Archbishop Chaput, Tim?

      According to the website Ecclesia Dei, there are seven Traditional/Tridentine masses offered every Sunday in the archdiocese of Philadelphia. Outside of New York and Chicago, it looks like it might be the most in the country. Don’t you think this speaks loudly about Chaput’s “real orientation?”

      You’re sounding very much like a closet supporter of SSPX. Be careful, schism is a grave sin. Lefebvre died thumbing his nose at the Church, especially after in love and charity the pope reached out to him.

      Catechism, 2089: schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

  • St. John Cassian

    Why are we to presume that Catholics during the age of Christendom were coerced and that Catholic states were somehow a bad thing? Because we believe the enlightenment revolutionaries ?

    • Augustus

      There was coercion in the age of faith but it was directed mostly toward heretical groups who posed a challenge to orthodoxy. The inquisition was quite limited in scope and the Spanish Inquisition, sponsored by the state (not Rome) did not prosecute as many people as Church critics had once claimed. What should shock most people is that Dignitatis Humanae did NOT ban the Confessional State. But this is what a great many people assumed after Vatican II. It is yet another example of the chaos that followed the council.

      • Thomas J. Hennigan

        Agreed that Vatican II did not ban the Confessional State. It seems to me that the Church cannot renounce the effort of proclaimng the Gospel to all nations and trying to bring their culture, laws and customs in line with the Christian principles. However, in the present circumstances, this does not seem possible, but we have to do what is possible to proclain Christian principles and Catholic Social Teaching.
        The Spanish Inquisition was organized by the State yes, but the Pope authorized that, and it was run mostly by the Dominican Order. In fact, there are many positive aspects to the Spanish Inquisition. For instance it prevented the spread of Protestantism in Spain and with that the civil wars which were provoked by Protestants wherever they took over. They began the civil war in what is now Holland by burnning 80 churches. When the religious wars were tearing the rest of Europe apart, Spain was in the midst of its Golden Age (Siglo de Oro) and also involved in the greatest missionary feat in the 20 centuries of Christianity. Spain had been able to expel Islam and unify the country. In those days religious unity was considered a national necessity, so that it is practically impossible to separate the political and social aspects of the work of the Inquisition from the specifically religious side of it. These days, many go to war for the rather vacuous concept of “freedom” which is now in vogue. Wodrow Wilson thought that he was “making the world safe for democracy”. Geoge W. Bush went into Iraq to “impose” democacy on the tribal Iraqi society. The results are plain for anyone to see. In those days, the great and irrenouncable good was the faith and Christendom, which the Medieval man felt called to defend against the “infidels” (Islam). It seems to me that the crusades and the Inquisition are lot more definsible than recent wars, such as World War I (the war to end all wars”.

    • Yankeegator

      We have been so brainwashed by The Enlightenment that most of us grew up thinking like freemasons, without ever joining… The scales have been removed from my eyes now… Vivat Christus Rex!!!

  • Castilleon

    With respect to His Grace, I feel that a traditionally understood confessional state is entirely compatible with Dignitatis Humanae (DH). Here is a thought experiment, inspired by the idea “Error has no rights, but people do” in this article.

    An ideal state in the age inspired by Vatican II (another council, I believe, will come, but I digress) would look like this: the state would allow freedom of religious belief and conscience. Those seem to be the main aims of DH, and ideas that faithful Catholics can embrace. However, the state would proclaim Catholicism to be the state religion, and officially pronounce that it is the One True Religion by which men can be saved. That being said, it would not punish religious minorities in any way for their erroneous beliefs, like utilizing imprisonment, fewer rights or higher taxation. They would be free to enter any profession they choose, with the sole exception of state religious formation teaching positions, for the obvious reason of not giving them an official platform with which to spread their religious error.

    The main caveat, however, is that the state would not permit the construction of any non-Catholic building of worship or non-Catholic religious school within its borders. Those buildings are principally built for the promulgation of error, which has no rights, and would potentially serve as a lure for those Catholics who may be weak in their faith. The state would not stop religious gatherings by religious minorities in homes or in other privately-owned buildings, or instruction of non-Catholic religion in a homeschooling environment, as this would be a general suppression of their freedom of religious worship, which DH protects.

    Thus the ideal state will preserve and uphold the truth and primacy of the Catholic faith, and not be coercive to members of religious minorities. This, I feel, would satisfy the Fathers of DH.

  • English Catholic

    The best thing I’ve read on this topic is by Thomas Pink, in an article titled What is the Catholic Doctrine of Religious Liberty?

    Prof Pink, in my opinion, shows convincingly that DH can be read in an orthodox way (ie it does not contradict the idea of the confessional state, or the 19th Century popes’ statements on the duties of the state with regard to the true religion).

    Please, please read it (easily found on Google). It really set my mind at rest on this matter. I think it’s been made into a book too, but I’m not sure. It should be much better known than it is. There’s also a 45-minute talk available — search for “latin mass society conference thomas pink” without the quotes.

    • William Murphy

      Thanks very much. Professor Pink’s article is really useful and has inspired several equally illuminating replies, some helpfully disagreeing with aspects of his discussion.
      A major driver behind those promoting a liberal understanding of “Dignitas Humanae” was the hope of Christian Reunion. The ecumenical movement would have not left the starting gate without a proclamation which seemed to suggest that all Christians had full civil liberty to preach their understanding of the Christian message. After nearly fifty years of futile discussions (ARCIC being the prime example), perhaps a younger generation of Catholics are prepared to reconsider the
      unresolved issue of religious liberty without the burden of empty dreams. It is a measure of how badly the Vatican 2 discussion of religious liberty was handled that we are still arguing about it 50 years later.

  • blablabla

    So the Church grows when She is in a state of persecution. I’m not sure; however, how Vatican II and it’s changes are the reason for the Catholic Church to retrieve in the West. In Africa, the Catholic Church is growing. Yes I would agree the State have persecuted the Church as history proves, but we elect our government. Like, was Hitler elected by a Christian/Catholic society? If so, were these Catholics very traditional or were they more secular? I have to do some research, but this is a really good article.

  • steve5656546346

    Not everything done in the name of a religion can be tolerated (e.g., human sacrifice, child brides). With no official religion, the State has no basis for determining what is acceptable other than its own (secular and political) values.

    And it always turns out that the government is a jealous god, allowing no God before it.

  • Yankeegator

    USA is a land where The King of kings is dethroned and brought to the level of buddha, islamic allah, hindu gods, wicca goddeses, and even fallen angels… It is a pluralistic wonderland where most worship themselves…

    You can keep Vat II, I’ll stick with LEO XIII…

    Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus!!!

  • Yankeegator

    Dignitatis Humanae is the freemasonic error that invaded The City of God.

  • Rondre

    My take is that the Religious Freedom discussion is a smoke screen for the sexual abuse cover up by our bishops.