Is Separation of Church and State indispensable to a democracy or not?


Besides, it’s more theoretical than real. This is even more apparent in democratic Muslim countries, IMO.

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IMHO it is just due to the fact that in a democracy, the goal being to represent the entire population, its best to leave government out of the Church. Im not saying this is the ideal form of government, but if you want a solid democracy, I dont see how it can be done fairly without separation of Church and state. Especially since government leaders are human and the potential for religious abuse is always there.

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Separation is must. God gave the people the free will, the responsibility to make free choices. Who are we, the people, to take this away from other people by building theocracy?

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How about rewording it something like “Separation of Organized Religion and Civil Authority” so it will not be abused?

I should probably point out that in the US, no such phrase exist in the US constitution, and it certainly does not exist in the Bill of Rights, and contrary to what Penn & Teller seem to believe about the 1st Amendment, it was to keep the government out of the church, not the church out of the government


Very good points Adam!


Assume that Catholic Church is in the government. How do you keep such government out of the Episcopalian chruch?

E.g. one may argue that the protection of unborn children are the human rights. But similarly one can say that the rights to the dignified work, to the just salary, to the basics for human life are the human rights too? Too often we are hearing from the Church the talks about abortion in the context of human rights but too little we are hearing from the Church about the social rights as the human rights, that should be considered as such in the deliberation before voting.

My guess is that Episcopalians and other progressive Christians are more open to the social human rights.

So - there should still be separation.

These matters are especially grave in the current times of artificial intelligence, automatisaion and times of robotcs, digital economy.

It depends what you mean by separation. Certainly a democracy makes no sense if the priests also wield the temporal power directly (like say, in Vatican City). Likewise, both Church and state have their proper purposes which should not be confused.

However, it is indespensable to democracy that public authority be subject to the truth, including revealed truth. The whole purpose of government is to advance and defend the common good–it cannot do this effectively unless it acknowledges man’s true good, especially his highest good.
Otherwise, democracy becomes no better than a tyranny. Pope Pius IX explained in the encyclical Quanta Cura:

  1. And, since where religion has been removed from civil society, and the doctrine and authority of divine revelation repudiated, the genuine notion itself of justice and human right is darkened and lost, and the place of true justice and legitimate right is supplied by material force, thence it appears why it is that some, utterly neglecting and disregarding the surest principles of sound reason, dare to proclaim that “the people’s will, manifested by what is called public opinion or in some other way, constitutes a supreme law, free from all divine and human control; and that in the political order accomplished facts, from the very circumstance that they are accomplished, have the force of right.” But who, does not see and clearly perceive that human society, when set loose from the bonds of religion and true justice, can have, in truth, no other end than the purpose of obtaining and amassing wealth, and that (society under such circumstances) follows no other law in its actions, except the unchastened desire of ministering to its own pleasure and interests?

The Catechism sums this up as follows:

2244 Every institution is inspired, at least implicitly, by a vision of man and his destiny, from which it derives the point of reference for its judgment, its hierarchy of values, its line of conduct. Most societies have formed their institutions in the recognition of a certain preeminence of man over things. Only the divinely revealed religion has clearly recognized man’s origin and destiny in God, the Creator and Redeemer. The Church invites political authorities to measure their judgments and decisions against this inspired truth about God and man:

Societies not recognizing this vision or rejecting it in the name of their independence from God are brought to seek their criteria and goal in themselves or to borrow them from some ideology. Since they do not admit that one can defend an objective criterion of good and evil, they arrogate to themselves an explicit or implicit totalitarian power over man and his destiny, as history shows.51

To be honest - I am bound to the Orthodox church from time to time. Orthodox church is all about prayer, about personal and emotional relations with the God. All that fills man up unconsciously and then it appears in his or her deeds.

It is quite different with Catholics. They are trying to make all this explicit, to go from prayer, emotions, feelings all way to the rational elaboration of the normative behavior. It it stays at the personal level - then that is OK. It is OK, if we are formulating this ethics for ourselves.

But it gets pretty disgusting when we are trying it to formulate it for others, even for those who are not desiring, willing or longing for that. Why there is such urge to subject other people to our own wisdom (which is definitely local and bounded) and wishes?

We can suggest the faith, not suppress.

Besides - can you name at least single instance of good, fruitful, non-degenerate (over time) symbiosis of Church-State? Whole history is teaching us for separation.

I find it odd that you favor the Eastern Orthodox on this point, when they certainly are not fans of separation of Church and State. They are the established Church in various countries and have much more embedded relationships with the temporal governments in such places than Catholics do anywhere. Historically, the Eastern Orthodox Churches were much more defined by their relationship to the imperial power (and now, to particular nations).

Certainly the act of faith cannot be coerced, however, as the Catechism noted, every society is governed by some ideology or another. And said ideology is always imposed on others. If public authority and its laws are not inspired by the Gospel, it will be something else. Why should we not want society governed in light of what God says is good for us rather than some other ideology? Why would we only permit society to be governed by other conceptions of good, except exclude our true good?


Democracies are the most vile form of government and since we are not one, I would rather see the question asked with respect to a republic.

Not necessarily. It is essential to maintaining a democracy in a pluralistic society, not necessarily so if you have a homogenous society in which you have a high level of consensus on religious and moral values. However, given that this is a rare thing, and that over time values and morals tend to shift, this is more of a theoretical answer than a practical one. In practice, long term, I would agree that separation of Church and State are core values in a democratic society.

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It was included in some of the earliest writings by the framers of the Constitution. There is no way we can have freedom of religion without separation of church and state.

As to Muslim democracies, Morocco is a constitutional monarchy which is 93% Muslim. Other religions (including Judaism) are freely practiced.

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I think that depends on what you mean by Church and which Church it is you mean. Can you name a religion that is democratic in its governance? If not then why do you think combining religion with a secular state would endow it with more democracy not less?

Actually Chruch of Sweden is quite democractic, e.g.

That is why Chruch of Norway, Church of Sweden, Church of Denmark are more or less tied with state, because they are modern and democratic. And Queen of England is still head of Church of England.

If is remember correctly, then Catholic Church in the first centuries was democractic also - Pope was elected by the whole Christians of Rome. But theses are days gone. As was the communitarian spirit of Early Church.

Agreed. Church and State separation, particularly in the manner of French laïcité, is very much viewed negatively amongst EO Churches. Most EO theologians have broadly held the 6th century Codex Iustiniani (Code of Emperor Justinian) as an ideal for a harmonious relationship (συμφονία symphonia) between Church and state, and the Codex contains many proscriptions against heresy.

I don’t think it’s indispensable. In Greece, the (democratic) Constitution starts “In the Name of the Holy, Consubstantial and Undivided Trinity.” Later there is a paragraph that talks about Christ (Article 3):

I muuuuch rather prefer this to Western “Enlightenment” democracy.

I think the article is misleading. By definition ALL Christian Churches are theocracies not democracies. The governing body of all Christian Churches is Christ. In a democracy the power lies in and is exercised by the people or their freely elected agents.
At no time was a pope ever elected through the freely voting body of the Church including the laity. Its not a democracy if only Rome votes.

Here is wiki article about that There are quite a nuances. But laity is the mystical Body of Christ too and hence the Spirit acts through them too.

The apostolate of laity is very important and even more - laity should be involved in decision making - this is the manifestation of synodality

And we can see this in very practical way. There are so many open questions today - digital economy, biotechnologies (CRISPR gene editing, anti-aging, on chip organ growth and regeneration), artificial intelligence etc. And exactly laity are the most prominent experts in those fields and their are gathered in around Pontifical Academies to support decision making of Church Teaching for the new times.

E.g. here is the input of Pontificial Academy of Life in the debate about ethics of Artificial Intelligence (there is free access to article as well text: ).

Define separation, Church, State, indispensable, and democracy.

Then we can discuss.

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