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Friday, 10 February 2012

On Liberty of Conscience by Pope Leo XIII--June 20, 1888

Here is a quotation from the great Pope Leo XIII from his work On the Nature of Human Liberty, Libertas Praestantissimum. This work applies to the argument for religious freedom of conscience going on in the States. If this question is not resolved in favor of the protection of religion by the Constitution, the entire Western World is in danger, not just America. The time for action, prayer and fasting is now. If Catholics do not respond to the seriousness of this threat, we shall face further persecution. The impetus for change gathers support against the Church, as those fallen away Catholics and those who disagree with the Church, undermine freedom.

Another liberty is widely advocated, namely, liberty of conscience. If by this is meant that everyone may, as he chooses, worship God or not, it is sufficiently refuted by the arguments already adduced. But it may also be taken to mean that every man in the State may follow the will of God and, from a consciousness of duty and free from every obstacle, obey His commands. This, indeed, is true liberty, a liberty worthy of the sons of God, which nobly maintains the dignity of man and is stronger than all violence or wrong -- a liberty which the Church has always desired and held most dear. This is the kind of liberty the Apostles claimed for themselves with intrepid constancy, which the apologists of Christianity confirmed by their writings, and which the martyrs in vast numbers consecrated by their blood. And deservedly so; for this Christian liberty bears witness to the absolute and most just dominion of God over man, and to the chief and supreme duty of man toward God. It has nothing in common with a seditious and rebellious mind; and in no tittle derogates from obedience to public authority; for the right to command and to require obedience exists only so far as it is in accordance with the authority of God, and is within the measure that He has laid down. But when anything is commanded which is plainly at variance with the will of God, there is a wide departure from this Divinely constituted order, and at the same time a direct conflict with Divine authority; therefore, it is right not to obey.