I’ve realized this is a topic I’d like to learn more about in the history of Christianity, specifically the Catholic Church. If anyone can provide some good links or book titles it would be much appreciated. I guess I’m somewhat troubled by this concept of the Church merging its power with secular powers, especially because I don’t know much about it. It seems unbecoming of the church that Christ founded, though I realize that church is made up of sinful human beings. Have there been instances of secular leaders defining articles of faith/morals for the Catholic Church, or electing Popes for the Church? Thanks.


some fundamentalist preacher must have just done a radio show or written a book raising this completely unhistorical accusation again, because there have been several questions in the same vein in the last few days. What this question betrays about a lack of knowledge of Church history is lamentable, but not surprising, since even Catholics are not taught the history of Christianity any more. However, what it betrays about a lack of knowledge of European history is really shocking, and a condemnation of our public school system.

That any adult could graduate high school, much less from college, without an understanding of major developments in European history, including the rise of Christianity, the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the split between the East and the West in government, culture and religion, and the effects of these developments on society, including the Church, is unthinkable. We are becoming a nation ignorant of our own culture and history. Shameful.


Caesaropapism, or secular government control over the Church, has indeed been a strain in history since the conversion of Constantine. In the West it reached its height with the Avignon Captivity, when the Papacy was moved to what is now France. In the West it tended to be a local problem rather than problem at the top of the Church, with local lords imposing their beliefs on the peasant population. This is the primary reason for the spread of Protestantism, for example, which never found much popular support, but was rather a theology of nobles in the beginning.

Caesaropapism has always been a much, much bigger problem in the East, specifically with the Eastern Orthodox. For long stretches of history, the Eastern Patriarchates were literally sold by the secular powers, and in Russia the Tsar actually disolved the Patriarchate and replaced it with a synod controlled by the Tsar. Both the Ottoman and Russian Empires engaged in direct and overwhelming caesaropapism, and I personally think that the Eastern Orthodox haven’t yet recovered (the most overwhelming influences of secular control of the Eastern Orthodox Churches only ended in the 1900s).

The only online resource I can find on a quick search is here.

I’ll see if I can find any books on the subject for you :smiley:

Peace and God bless!


Remember that when God set up a nation, the form of government that God established was essentially a theocracy (rule by the church). The “power” in God’s governments lay in the prophets and religious leaders.

The notion of “separation of Church and state” is an atheist’s ideal. It has no basis in morality or theology.

But, of course, the two have never been completely separated, nor have they ever been completely unified.

In the case of the Catholic Church, there have been periods when the Church wielded considerable political power, and periods in which the State has wielded considerable power within the Church.

There is perhaps no better example than Constantine. It was he (the emperor) who decided that the Council of Nicea should be convened. He actually had no authority to call an Ecumenical Council, but the Church thought it was a good idea (the fact that he was Emperor was no doubt a factor) and went along. But Constantine had Arian sympathies, and, even though he attended the Council and participated in its discussions, the Council ultimately decided against the Arians.

So he could influence Church affairs, but not their outcome. This is an important distinction.

Throughout history, many secular forces have influenced the Church (the Goths, for example. Heh!), but none have been able to sway doctrine.


It should be pointed out also that Constantine held to his Arian beliefs after the First Council, and his children persecuted the Catholic Church. We survived, they did not. It’s a classic argument against historical caesaropapism in the end.

Peace and God bless!


“secular government control over the Church”

There are some living examples of the effects and meaning of secular control over the church, which it could be interesting to compare with a ‘free from secular control’ Catholic Church.
The Church of England whose head is the Monarchy but which in turn, ultimately, is led by a democratic secular parlament.

The official Catholic Church in Communist athiest China, whose bishops must first be approvedby the communist party.


The Catholic Church in China is actually going through some major changes right now, with an integration of the “official” and the “underground” Catholic Church. The Communist Government there has little actual control in defining Church policy and teaching, even though it doesn’t always officially approve of the bishops. Those that are approved by the Chinese government are the “official” ones, those who aren’t are the “unofficial” ones, but ecclesiastically they are generally interchangable.

I don’t know how selection of Bishops or defining of doctrine is done in the Church of England, though I’m not even sure that the Church of England knows given its utter craziness involving openly homosexual clergy. Both cases are very different from the outright and literal caesaropapism found in Russian history, however, which makes all three cases worthy of study.

Peace and God bless!

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