On Libertas and Tolerance

I was browsing through Vatican archives today, looking for historical materials about the Church’s stance on religious freedom. I was rather confused to find that a certain number of vocal “traditionalists” believe that Vatican II introduced heresies into this church; their least favorite seems to be Dignitatis Humanae, and it’s defense of a person’s right to religious freedom. While, as far as I can tell, this was the first time any pope had expicitely approved this idea, I noticed something else. I feel like while Libertas Praestantissimum was fairly clear in it’s condemnation of secularization/moral relativism, it was rather vague on the notion of religious tolerance itself (while it certainly seems not to be quite the same, thankfully, as Pope Pius IX’s definitive “no” some 20 years earlier). I would like to hear everyone’s opinion on what Leo XIII expressed about religious freedom, and how you feel it is similar/different to the stance of Vatican II

What specifically would you like to discuss about Libertas Praestantissimum June 20, 1888

On whether it allows for religious tolerance to the same extent as Vatican II:)

Just looking at terms used and highlighting specific texts

Re: Libertas Praestantissimum

*] in the dicument Tolerance/tolerate is mentioned 6 times
I’m not sure I’m completely catching your question.

In these sections I also highlight the following words

*]Intolerant is mentioned 1 time
*]liberty 5 times

  1. But, to judge aright, we must acknowledge that, the more a State is driven to tolerate evil, the further is it from perfection; and that the tolerance of evil which is dictated by political prudence should be strictly confined to the limits which its justifying cause, the public welfare, requires. Wherefore, if such tolerance would be injurious to the public welfare, and entail greater evils on the State, it would not be lawful; for in such case the motive of good is wanting. And although in the extraordinary condition of these times the Church usually acquiesces in certain modern liberties, not because she prefers them in themselves, but because she judges it expedient to permit them, she would in happier times exercise her own liberty; and, by persuasion, exhortation, and entreaty would endeavor, as she is bound, to fulfill the duty assigned to her by God of providing for the eternal salvation of mankind. One thing, however, remains always true – that the* liberty* which is claimed for all to do all things is not, as We have often said, of itself desirable, inasmuch as it is contrary to reason that error and truth should have equal rights.
  2. And as to tolerance, it is surprising how far removed from the equity and prudence of the Church are those who profess what is called liberalism. For, in allowing that boundless license of which We have spoken, they exceed all limits, and end at last by making no apparent distinction between truth and error, honesty and dishonesty. And because the Church, the pillar and ground of truth, and the unerring teacher of morals, is forced utterly to reprobate and condemn tolerance of such an abandoned and criminal character, they calumniate her as being wanting in patience and gentleness, and thus fail to see that, in so doing, they impute to her as a fault what is in reality a matter for commendation. But, in spite of all this show of tolerance, it very often happens that, while they profess themselves ready to lavish liberty on all in the greatest profusion, they are utterly intolerant toward the Catholic Church, by refusing to allow her the liberty of being herself free.

Liberty to do all things (right & wrong) is there. Just because one has liberty to do wrong, doesn’t mean there is license to do wrong. Nor should there be tolerance to do wrong, but there is liberty (freedom) to do wrong.

Let me clarify, my question is, do you believe Libertas Preastantissimum advocates religious tolerance or not?

The reason I’m asking for specifics, is because contrary to the words used in
Libertas Praestantissimum

*] Tolerance
Those words aren’t used in
Dignitatis Humanae *vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651207_dignitatis-humanae_en.html

freedom otoh is mentioned over 50 times.

So I think the issue is over how you use the words freedom and tolerance.

Is that perhaps what you are referring to?

Thats exactly what I’m referring to:)

Just wanted to make sure before I gave you my answer. :slight_smile:

Protestantism is one of the [FONT=&quot]Great Heresies[/FONT] in history.

As Paul wrote to Titus
Titus 3:10
“As for a man who is factious ( [FONT=&quot]αρετικν[/FONT] heretic ), after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.”

Paul was obviously not tolerant of error. But he [FONT=&quot]wouldn’t persecute them either. (not like the old Saul). Paul had nothing more to do with them who won’t turnaround from their error. [FONT=&quot]But they were free to be and continue to be who they wanted to be.

[/FONT]Neither can the Church be tolerant of error. Which is what the docs you referenced showed. And the Church writes against errors. And people are still free to hold onto errors if that is their choice. And the Church will excommunicate them.

Tolerance is different than freedom.One is absolutely free to be who and what they want to be (absent breaking the laws) .They are absolutely free to pursue heaven, and they are just as free to pursue hell. That doesn’t mean a person’s erroneous beliefs are tolerated as if error is equal to truth. They aren’t. But a person is free to be a heretic and once informed, are free to suffer the consequences of holding those beliefs if they don’t change. Free will, given to us by God, is a serious gift. It makes us culpable for what choices we make.

Here is the best article you can read on the issue:


In short, there are some key distinctions which actually do clear things up. The main distinction to keep in mind is which “liberty” is being approved of and which “liberty” is being condemned. In one sense, “liberty” is used in one sense to mean “freedom from coercion,” meaning you shouldn’t be forced to accept the truth. In another sense, “liberty” means the freedom to live a fulfilling life within the confines of natural law (e.g. you can do almost anything your heart desires as long as it’s not sinful).

The false notion of “liberty” is that which teaches any rules/laws put upon someone is wrong and that a person should be able to do whatever they want, including sinful activity. When it comes to the role of government, the government should not (1) coerce people to doing something that violates their conscience, but on the other hand the government should not (2) be indifferent such that there is no Truth and any lifestyle is as good as another.

The Popes prior to Vatican-II were fighting the Liberal notion that the fundamental Role of the State is to promote Indifferentism by saying man can and should do anything they want to. The Popes after Vatican-II were fighting the Totalitarian notion that the Role of the State is to force citizens to act in ways that violate their conscience. (By the way, the Liberal notion of the role of government actually ends up Totalitarian, see THIS AWESOME article.)

It’'s the same. Here’s the key part of Libertas:

[quote=Leo XIII, Libertas]34.the tolerance of evil which is dictated by political prudence should be strictly confined to the limits which its justifying cause, the public welfare, requires. Wherefore, if such tolerance would be injurious to the public welfare, and entail greater evils on the State, it would not be lawful; for in such case the motive of good is wanting.

The state exists for the common good–that is it’s purpose according to Catholic doctrine. While in general faith cannot be coerced, public authority’s overall care of the common good gives it the power to curtail even religious activity when doing so would advance the common good.

Dignitatis Humanae says the same thing. Over and over it discusses the limits public authority is to place on religious freedom being tied to the “public order” which it associates with the “common welfare” or common good (see par. 7 of DH).

The Catechism goes into more detail on this point, citing both paragraph 7 of DH and Pius IX’s encyclical Quanta Cura, which definitively condemns an absolute and unlimited religious freedom:

[quote=CCC]2109 The right to religious liberty can of itself be neither unlimited nor limited only by a “public order” conceived in a positivist or naturalist manner.39 The “due limits” which are inherent in it must be determined for each social situation by political prudence, according to the requirements of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority in accordance with "legal principles which are in conformity with the objective moral order."40

39 Cf. Pius VI, Quod aliquantum (1791) 10; Pius IX, Quanta cura 3.
40 DH 7 § 3.


It should be noted, Pius IX did not give a “definitive no” to any freedom–he merely condemned an absolute freedom that was subject to no limits, human or divine. Bl. John Henry Newman, a contemporary of the condemnation. explains this well. See the last five paragraphs here:

Back to the CCC paragraph 2109. Note how the limits to religious freedom are based on the common good, which is objective (not positivist) and includes the supernatural end of man (it is not naturalist) (See also CCC 1924 to 1925 for the elements of the common good, which includes the spiritual, as well St. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 57-59). Since public authority exists to ensure the common good (see CCC 1898), it has the power to limit false religious activity when it is a detriment to the common good. The limits necessary to preserve and promote the common good are going to vary depending on the circumstances, the make-up of a populace, etc.

As Catholic Dude noted, in the 19th century the main problem was the Liberal promotion of a liberty based on religious indifferentism and naturalism–it failed to take into account the good of the objective true religion or man’s supernatural well being. The Church still teaches that public authority should take into account the true religion when carrying out its mission (see CCC 2244 as one example). At Vatican II, the concern was instead that Communist and other regimes which were arbitrarily eradicating all religious activity, even if it was not objectively harmful to the common good or even helped the true notion of the common good. Both the Popes of the 19th century and Vatican II were applying the same principles, just to different circumstances (one, where there was too much freedom based on false principles, and the other when there was too little based on different false principles).

Ahh, blessed cardinal Newman. My role model:thumbsup:

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