The Liberty of Perdition: How the teaching of Vatican II is at variance with true Catholic teaching

If one examines the development of the Society of St. Pius X., especially regarding their current talks with Rome, he would discover that one of the points to be discussed by the Society is religious liberty. In the conciliar texts of Vatican Council II – to be more precise, in the declaration Dignitatis Humanae – there is taught a doctrine of religious liberty which cannot be considered to be in accord with Catholic tradition.

If some one hears the term “religious liberty” or reads an explanation (e.g. one cannot use forced in religious things) he would ask himself if religious liberty is such a bad thing in this sense. Isn‘t that tolerance, taught and practiced by the Catholic Church for many centuries? The following article will explain this question. We will show by quotations from Dignitatis Humanae, what the Second Vatican Council considers to be religious liberty. Then we will proceed to compare the results with the teaching of the Catholic Church before the Council, especially by reading what Pope Pius XII. said in a speech to an association of Catholic lawyers about this topic.

● What is the teaching of Dignitatis Humanae?1 The headline of the document can already be seen as a kind of summary: “On the right of the person and of communities to social and civil freedom in matters religious.” A right of man as an individual or as a community is going to be explained. It is important to notice that the document speaks of a right – a right of liberty in religious matters. The declaration repeats the same below (I.2.), saying: “This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom.” It also speaks about the right of a human person as such. The document continues to declare: “that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person….”

● And what is the meaning of freedom in religious matters or religious freedom? The council says: “This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.” It may seem after a quick glance that this definition is the right one, especially since it is correct that no one can be forced to act against his conscience. The second part is more of a problem, however, saying, in other words, that this is his right. He has therefore a right to follow his conscience unhindered. The only limit he has is to act “within due limits.” These limits are defined as such: “The exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.” These due limits are the just public order – a very flexible term, since it cannot be fixed to something absolute like, e.g., justice.

● To show the whole meaning of these sentences, one can take this as an example: According to the council nothing can be done when Muslims practice their religion openly, even in a country with a mostly Christian population. According to the council every man has the right to profess false teachings publicly. One could not, for example, stop the building of a mosque, as long as public order is not violated. But who determines when public order is violated? Is order violated when an absolute supernatural right, the right of truth is violated? Or is order violated, when the majority of the population is disturbed by the acts of some person? In the latter case public order and the limit for “religious freedom” is determined by the opinion of the majority of a society, which is very disturbing. 

● To show already here, that religious freedom is not just quibbling theology, the following example is mentioned. (It also shows that, in practical consequences, the declaration did not only affect “religious matters” but also morals.) After the council Spain had to change its concordat with the Vatican to the following: “The State guarantees the protection of religious liberty, which shall be guaranteed by an effective juridical provision which will safeguard morals and public order.” The consequences of this change were that every sect had the right to agitate publicly in Spain. With the propagation of every kind of opinion and religion, Spain finally even allowed pornography, divorce, contraception, homosexuality and abortion.2

This religious freedom of Vatican II,  in the final analysis, means that error, injustice, falsehood – and consequently, evil –  have a right to manifest and spread among men. Thus it is said that error, injustice and falsehood have a right – a right which only justice, the truth, and the good can have!

Dignitatis Humanae says exactly this: “It is in accordance with their dignity as persons – that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility – that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth. However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore, the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it; and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.”
● Freedom of action, to use the words of the Council, is not bound to the subjective constitution of the person – that is, to what he decides by free will – but is unchangeably connected to the person as such. We can easily see, by the consequences which the Council itself gives, that this theory does not make sense: even those, who do not perform their duty to follow the truth cannot be hindered in their practices, as long as public order is not violated.

● According to the Council, it seems that the violation of public order is the only evil to be avoided. To be more precise: If somebody practices and propagates black magic his actions would definitely fall into the category of “religious matters,” and thus he could claim freedom of action through the Council. But this deed does not seem to be an evil for the Council, since he has the right to continue unhindered. An evil only seems to exist whenever public order is violated. But this “public order” is in any case contrary to absolute truth, subject to time, determined by current public laws. A sane man would already have a bad conscience if he would tolerate Satanic practices – we will speak later of the term tolerance – not to mention giving the practice any rights. He would have a bad conscience because public order may not necessarily be violated, but souls are in danger of being lead astray and eternally lost.

Again, witches and Satanists would have the right to display themselves on the Internet and to advertise their beliefs, as long as public order is not violated – which could hardly be the case, since they usually don’t make public appearances. On the contrary, Dignitatis Humanae attacks those who intervene against injustice: “Injury therefore is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in society, provided just public order is observed.”

We can take the referendum which took place a short time ago in Switzerland as an example of the problems of the criteria of “public order.” As we know, the majority of the population in Switzerland decided against the building of minarets. And even though Dignitatis Humanae chose public order as its highest standard, the Vatican explicitly criticized the referendum of the Swiss people. In this way it becomes very clear how easily the principle of “public order” can be changed!

As quoted above, man enjoys religious freedom as an individual as well as in a group. This is stated in the Council document as follows: “The freedom or immunity from coercion in matters religious, which is the endowment of persons as individualism, is also to be recognized as their right when they act in community... Provided the just demands of public order are observed, religious communities rightfully claim freedom in order that they may govern themselves according to their own norms, honor the Supreme Being in public worship, assist their members in the practice of the religious life, strengthen them by instruction, and promote institutions in which they may join together for the purpose of ordering their own lives in accordance with their religious principles.”

(Of which Supreme Being does the Council speak? Obviously not of the one true God, but of gods which are worshiped in various religions as supreme! So it is no longer: “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have strange gods before me,” but “Each person has the right to worship in public cult his own god!”)

● It is also interesting, how the Council tries to prove its teaching of religious liberty from revelation. The document cites, among other examples, the parable of the wheat and the cockle. As we know, the householder ordered his servants to let the cockle grow with the wheat, because otherwise they might root out the wheat along with the cockle. From this standpoint the Council states – because the cockle is no longer cockle in their eyes – that cockle has a right of existence. But isn‘t that actually just tolerance? It is very interesting that Pope Pius XII used this same parable to explain Christian tolerance, as we see below.
● We will now listen to the words of Pope Pius XII to the association of Catholic lawyers of Italy in 19533. The topic of this speech is the modern community of states and treats of the relation of individual states to other states and to the community of states. The pope speaks of religious tolerance within such a community of sovereign states and the  question of how to deal with people of other religions and those who advocate non-Christian morality. When answering this question, Pius XII states the basic principle at first, namely that “it must be clearly affirmed that no human authority, no State, no community of states, of whatever religious character, can give a positive mandate or a positive authorization to teach or to do that which would be contrary to religious truth or moral good....

“Whatever does not respond to truth and the moral law has objectively no right to existence, nor to propaganda, nor to action. Such a command or such an authorization would have no obligatory power and would remain without effect. No authority may give such a command, because it is contrary to nature to oblige the spirit and the will of man to error and evil, or to consider one or the other as indifferent. Not even God could give such a positive command or positive authorization, because it would be in contradiction to His absolute truth and sanctity.”

Therefore, no one can give a mandate to teach or to act against religious truth or moral good. But Dignitatis Humanae does exactly that by giving men the “right” to teach and practice doctrines contrary to the truth.
● But how should we deal with people of different religions? The pope explains: “Reality shows that error and sin are in the world in great measure. God reprobates them, but He permits them to exist. Hence the affirmation: religious and moral error must always be impeded, when it is possible, because toleration of them is in itself immoral, is not valid absolutely and unconditionally. Moreover, God has not given even to human authority such an absolute and universal command in matters of faith and morality. Such a command is unknown to the common convictions of mankind, to Christian conscience, to the sources of Revelation and to the practice of the Church.”
One should not misunderstand the words of the Pope, when he says that religious and moral error must not unconditionally and always be impeded. He does not teach situation ethics or doctrinal relativism in the claim of truth to absoluteness. He presupposes the obliging principle to act against religious error and sin. But there are circumstances in which error and sin can be tolerated, if there is a higher good to be accomplished.  “In his decision he (the statesman) will permit himself to be guided by weighing the dangerous consequences that stem from toleration against those from which the community of nations will be spared, if the formula of toleration be accepted. Moreover, he will be guided by the good which, according to a wise prognosis, can be derived from toleration for the international community as such, and indirectly for the member state.”

To confirm the teaching of tolerance, Pope Pius XII refers, as mentioned above, to the parable of the wheat and the cockle. Christ said that the householder allowed the cockle to  grow in the field of the world together with the good seed, because of the wheat. Now the pope comes to the conclusion: “The duty of repressing moral and religious error cannot, therefore, be an ultimate norm of action. It must be subordinate to higher and more general norms, which in some circumstances permit, and even perhaps seem to indicate as the better policy, toleration of error in order to promote a greater good.
● “Thus the two principles are clarified to which recourse must be had in concrete cases for the answer to the serious question concerning the attitude which the jurist, the statesman and the sovereign Catholic state is to adopt in consideration of the community of nations in regard to a formula of religious and moral toleration as described above: 1) That which does not correspond to truth or to the norm of morality objectively has no right to exist, to be spread or to be activated. 2) Failure to impede this with civil laws and coercive measures can nevertheless be justified in the interests of a higher and more general good.”

Please note the opposition to Dignitatis Humanae, which gives those “who do not adhere to the truth” a right of existence and free propagation. But in his speech, the pope says that nothing has an objective right to existence, propagation and action, which is not according to truth and moral law, although there are cases where toleration of an evil is allowed for a greater good. Pope Pius XII never approved or praised non-Christian religions or non-Catholic communities – he wouldn’t even consider it!

● Pope Pius XII also shows the positive aspects of this topic. Truth does not only oblige us to stop its violation, but also to propagate, proclaim and teach it: “For the Church with her mission has been, and is confronted with men and nations of marvelous culture, with others of almost incredible lack of civilization, and with all possible intermediate degrees: diversity of extraction, of language, of philosophy, of religious belief, of national aspirations and characteristics (...) peoples that have never belonged to the Church and peoples that have been separated from her communion. The Church must live among them and with them; she can never declare before anyone that she is 'not interested.' The mandate imposed upon her by her divine Founder renders it impossible for her to follow a policy of non-interference or laissez-faire. She has the duty of teaching and educating in all the inflexibility of truth and goodness, and with this absolute obligation she must remain and work among men and nations that in mental outlook are completely different from each other.”
● Again Pius XII returns to the two principles mentioned before: “Let Us return now, however, to the two propositions mentioned above: and in the first place to the one which denies unconditionally everything that is religiously false and morally wrong. With regard to this point there never has been, and there is not now, in the Church any vacillation or any compromise, either in theory or in practice. Her deportment has not changed in the course of history, nor can it change whenever or wherever, under the most diversified forms, she is confronted with the choice: either incense for idols or blood for Christ.(...) Concerning the second proposition, that is to say, concerning tolerance in determined circumstances, toleration even in cases in which one could proceed to repression, the Church—out of regard for those who in good conscience ... are of different opinion — has been led to act and has acted with that tolerance, after she became the state Church under Constantine the Great and the other Christian emperors, always for higher and more cogent motives. ... In such individual cases the attitude of the Church is determined by what is demanded for safeguarding and considering ... the common good of the Church and the State in individual states, and the common good of the universal Church, the reign of God over the whole world.”
● We hope that the preceding remarks make more clear to the reader that the teaching of Vatican II, which is the teaching of the modern Church, does not correspond with the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church. Even liberal Cardinals, Bishops and theologians who agree with Dignitatis Humanae can find no possibility of reconciling this teaching with the teaching of earlier Popes4. It also should be clear how dangerous this new teaching is, since it places truth and error, justice and injustice on the same level, giving them the very same right. Finally, let us consider that Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) declared himself to be the pope of the Council and, according to his own words, does not want to turn back the clock to before the Council. Therefore, he identifies himself with what was taught in Vatican Council II. What does that mean for his office in the true Church of Christ, since he should know the mentioned problems? A true Church authority, a legitimate Vicar of Christ could never agree with such a teaching and never identify himself with it!

Fr. Johannes Heyne


1 The following quotes are from: Peter Hünermann (Hrsg.), Die Dokumente des Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzils, Herder 2009
2 from: “The doctrinal errors of Dignitatis Humanae” by Bishop Pivarunas, website of the CMRI
3 from: Arthur-Fridolin Utz / Joseph-Fulko Groner (Hrsg.), Aufbau und Entfaltung des gesellschaftlichen Lebens – Soziale Summe Pius' XII., Bd. 2, 1954, S. 2042ff.
4 from: “The doctrinal errors of Dignitatis Humanae” by Bishop Pivarunas, website of the CMRI


Back Up Home