Should religious teaching (catholicism) dictate civil law?

Should moral/religious/catholic teaching/law dictate civil law?

Yes, because Catholic teaching isnt just true for Catholics. Catholicism has the deep truth about life, period.

There are two opinions of this that I can’t think of.

Matthew 22:18-22 * Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” 18Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? 19* Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. 20He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” 21e They replied, “Caesar’s.”* At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” 22When they heard this they were amazed, and leaving him they went away.

Any student of Catholic Tradition soon discovers a rift between what the Fathers, Doctors, Popes, and Councils have authoritatively taught and many teachings of contemporary Catholic apologists. This rift reflects a major shift within Catholic academia. The philosophy of St. John of Damascus and St. Thomas has been replaced by a new modern philosophy. Holy Tradition has been supplanted by the private opinions of contemporary Popes, Church leaders, or even mere theologians.

Unsuspecting and sincere Catholics who have the gift of Divine Faith are rightly moved with charity toward God and neighbor when they seek to defend and explain the teachings of our Holy Mother the Church. Unfortunately there are those ready to instruct these sincere souls from a philosophical perspective that was born from the womb of Liberal Protestantism and that took the Protestant world by storm in the 19th century. Another name for this Protestant world-view is “Theological Liberalism.”

But first a little background is in order. Theological Liberalism was built upon the Classical Liberalism of Great Britain and her American colonies. This movement within Protestantism refused to recognize the authority of God over the State. Catholics and Orthodox alone have held that God is only given true worship within the one, true Church.* And since human society “has its source in nature, and has, consequently, God for its Author”[ii], He “is the paramount ruler of the world.”[iii] Therefore the Church authoritatively teaches that “the State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion.”[iv] The State may not profess “such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion”[v] - the Catholic religion.

So while the Liberals in Protestant States, such as the Unites States and the United Kingdom, moved toward religious liberty for their citizenry, in a Catholic state such a move was unthinkable. For the Catholic, error has no rights. For men like Jefferson and Franklin, empirical science was to be made superior to religious tradition. So for many of the American “Enlightenment” thinkers Holy Tradition – which teaches us about man’s origin, his nature, his sin, and his present condition – cannot be trusted because of a lack of empirical data confirming its authenticity.

By the end of the eighteenth century, this attitude of subordinating the supernatural to the natural began to take hold in Catholic France. Protestant (and now Catholic) Liberals, having willfully traded Holy Tradition (with its sacred theology and philosophy) for a contrived non-authoritative standard of empiricism informed by modern philosophy, began to ignore the rights of God in matters pertaining to the State. Jefferson and Rousseau wrote enthusiastically about the so-called rights of man. Religious Liberty (meaning the granting of freedom to all religions by the State) was spoken of as a human right. Of course the Magisterium of the Church condemned this foolish notion on more than one occasion.[vi]*

Laws are based on catholic/christian moral teaching in the US .

The authority to make laws come from God to the people which in-turn empowers a government.

I suspect that there is a way to “naturally” have God provide one with inspirations that lead to a catholic civil law rather than needing catholicism to dictate civil law my force. My commentary will be reserved until I’ve had a chance to read this below book.

**The Blessed Virgin Mary In England: Vol. II: A Mary-Catechism with Pilgrimage to Her Holy Shrines Paperback – March 2, 2009 **

O Blessed Confidence, O Safe Refuge, Mother of God and Our Mother!St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033?1109), Doctor of the Church"What is not generally known and only infrequently studied is the role of Our Lady over the centuries as a catechist: teacher of the faith, in a very real sense, primary teacher because she is Mother of God and Mother of the Church and faithful If any one factor might be singled out for the very high level of faith and religious practice in medieval ‘merry England’ (merry, because Mary’s dowry, because consecrated to Mary as her possession and property) it is this Marian catechesis.Only when England deliberately rejected Mary did it cease to be the happy place it once was. Unfortunately, English colonization of other peoples took place only after the repudiation of Mary by England. That is why this catechetical work is especially valuable for the faithful and those who are seeking faith in America and other English speaking cultures. It will bring to their attention precisely what is central to catechetics and so often missing, the presence of Mary, Mother and Teacher. It will make perfectly clear why we need not fewer Marian sanctuaries, but many, many more in all parts of the country where this quiet, but so real and profound influence of the Marian principle of the Church will be felt at every level.It is my prayer and hope that those who read and study this work will find the same inspiration and stimulus that I found in having the privilege to read the manuscript before publication. We are much indebted to Brother Anthony Josemaria Pasquale, a Franciscan Tertiary of the Immaculate and gifted scholar, for the effort he has expended to find qualified contributors and to offer so well edited a book to the general public."-From the Foreword by Father Peter M. Fehlner, FI, theologian, sponsor of the International Symposium on Marian Coredemption

  1. Moral teaching DOES dictate civil law.
    Right now the civil law and culture of the US are being dictated by the teachings of a moral code - whether you agree with that code…it is being taught.

  2. Religious teaching should never “dictate” to those who are not of that faith.
    Rather, religious teaching should seek to express truth and to draw others to itself through Truth.

  3. Those who are members of a given faith should not “check their faith” at the entrance to the voting booth. They should vote their conscience just as anyone else does.

Just some thoughts


Regarding #2, some things should be dictated when it comes to things like loss of innocent life. Such situations need to be addressed assertively, like taking the wheel from a toddler who’s driving a car, not passively. Catholic teaching is based on morality and it isnt Catholicism that should be “dictated”, but morality. At the end of the day, its the same thing.

Even Jesus dictated when the place and time called for it, and even then it was not even a life or death circumstance, i.e. flipping tables.

As Catholics, we shouldn’t be afraid to flip tables at the appropriate times.

Not everything that is immoral should be illegal and not everything that is illegal is necessarily immoral.

But morality (particularly the natural moral law) is the foundation of any civil law worth anything. If we don’t base our laws on the common good, then what else would we base them on? Anything else would lead to unbridled anarchy or utilitarian totalitarianism (or quite probably both).

No. This would lead to a Theocracy. Moral and religious teachings can certainly dictate how we as individuals live our life, but Faith in God is not a civil matter, and our beliefs should not be forced on others via law.

Despite how sincerely I believe in the Church, her teachings and God, I cannot force others to follow those believes and practices. They must come to this under free will, not law.

Catholic teaching isnt just “Faith in God”, its also about morality. Morality is objective and applies to all, regardless of religion.

We need to be careful here when analyzing this question. I think many people are unaware that Catholic’s are not trying to force RELIGION on them, but rather, Catholic’s are trying to impose MORALITY. Moral law is something all should follow, regardless of religion.

The reality is that you’re making a distinction that is lost on most people, since most will argue that what Catholics hold to be the moral law is determined by religious beliefs and that we are indeed trying to force religion on them.


If you want an idea of how a theocracy works look at how well It works in Islamic countries.

While I think it would be wonderful if all the world were Catholic and every leader and government was Catholic, I’ve heard Jesus say we are to be subject to the authorities and governments of our respective countries. Also seeing that God said we would have trouble in the world and that His Kingdom is not of the world, how realistic is it to envision such a plan? I don’t think Jesus would’ve said so if He was planning on having His followers take over the government of the world.

No. Theocracy isn’t God’s will although it bodes well for the Church when those in authority are Catholic and trying to live rightly.


That’s a loaded question, and the answer isn’t simple.

The first question you have to ask is, what is the purpose of a state (and accordingly, its civil law)? Is it to maximize human happiness? Is it to maximize economic prosperity? And so forth. I think the answer for most liberals (in the sense of political philosophy, not in the sense of domestic politics) is that a state’s real function is to maximize the liberty of its citizens. We should accord to each individual the ability to use the gift of reason to order his own life as he sees fit.

Of course, this can’t be the end of things. An individual can’t just do whatever he wants. There must be rules that constrain antisocial behaviors. Additionally, we have to be concerned with maintaining certain levels of material comforts. So, we need to create and regulate economic systems, as well.

The question, then, of when religious law interacts with a social law is within this broader setting. Furthermore, the answer isn’t binary: it’s a spectrum.

Nearly all people on this forum who are American, for example, would likely agree it is not appropriate legally (or even morally!) for a Catholic President to sign an executive order demanding all citizens convert to Catholicism. Even the most ardent Catholic would be squeamish, because we recognize and value the right to religious freedom, even when the exercise of that right means that an individual (in our view) is missing out on true religious beliefs.

On the other hand, even the most strident anti-theist would likely be squeamish with an Executive Order disbanding religion entirely, or banishing it completely to the private sphere.

So, everyone can agree that religion cannot completely replace civil law, nor can civil law completely eradicate or obscure religion.

Between these two unacceptable poles exists a range of possibilities. Choosing when it is appropriate for religious belief should influence civil policy lies somewhere in here. In my opinion, the best hope is to admit that religious beliefs have a place in civil society. Discussions of religious morality, always with the understanding that contrary beliefs deserve civil respect, are a foundational piece of politics.

The countervailing, limiting principle, I think, is when religious belief cannot be justified in non-religious terms.

For example, Catholics are morally opposed to the death penalty due to their beliefs about human dignity. They can argue against the death penalty, however, only by using language that would be understood by any rational person regardless of that person’s own personal beliefs. Thus, an argument that says, “Human beings are created in the image of God” might not be appropriate, but the argument that says, “Human beings have fundamental rights that cannot be stripped away by any civil authority” is appropriate.

Thus, if a religiously-motivated belief cannot be justified by reason alone, it probably doesn’t deserve to be placed within the public sphere.

I would change the question a little, or make a little different statement.

Something like:

As long as civil law is rooted in the natural law and God’s revealed laws, a society avoids chaos.

Start to change civil law to accept as good, items against natural law, or God’s revealed laws, and you won’t find peace, patience, or order.

The Church teaches that we are to to infuse the Christian spirit into the mentality and mores, laws and structures of the communities in which we live (CCC 2105). In other words, our civil laws and structures should be inspired by and consonant with the true religion. Later, the Catechism explains why this should be and the consequences of it not being so (remember, every law is inspired by some ideology or practical consideration or another, so why not the truth revealed by God?):

[quote=CCC]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

Moral teaching already does. So safe to say religious/Catholic teaching does also since people vote on what they believe. Same can be said of non Catholic Churches.

That’s not really a dictatorship though, it’s just each person voting his conscience

This question is worded in such a way that, combined with the generally fuzziness in what people mean/how people think about this issue, neither a yes or no answer captures the entire truth of the matter.

For example: if Catholic teachings, correctly followed, were to dictate civil law, civil law would not in fact require all people to do all the Catholic things. Because coercing people to follow a faith they don’t believe in goes against Catholic teaching.

But Catholic teaching does say that, for example, the people can be justly prevented from murdering one another, regardless of what they believe about the morality of murder. And Catholic teaching is silent on many other things - it doesn’t particularly care what the exact numerical speed limit on the interstate is (despite the fact that I would really, really, like to be able to say that Catholicism requires all speed limits on interstates to be immediately raised to 75mph, but that may just be because I have a 14 hour drive coming up).

But of course law should be founded on morality. This is not, as has been mentioned, the same things as saying all immoral things ought to be illegal and/or that only explicitly immoral things ought to be illegal. But clearly, in addition to the fact that some immoral things such as murder and theft ought to be outlawed, we ought not be forced to do immoral things, nor prevented from doing things we are morally required to do, and we shouldn’t be arbitrarily restricted from doing things that are morally acceptable. And clearly, laws should be based upon the correct version of morality when taking these things into account.

So it all boils down to what it is you meant by the question. Yes, our laws should be based upon truth. Laws that are not based upon correct morality (which is included within Catholic teaching) are unjust and bad laws. I would not use the word dictate for this sort of based upon, but if that is what you meant by that word, then absolutely yes. But this is not the same as saying that laws should require everyone to abide by every aspect of the truth, so if that is what you mean by dictate, then absolutely not.

Some things “dictated” by Catholicism are indeed moral issues and as you say should be pursued assertively…
However there are things dictated by Catholicism that are disciplines and should not be “dictated”…such as attending mass on Sunday.

Even Jesus dictated when the place and time called for it, and even then it was not even a life or death circumstance, i.e. flipping tables.

Jesus also told the Apostles, when they preached in the various towns, that if the towns would not hear them they were to leave (not dictate) shaking the dust from their sandals.

Or leave the town and shake the dust from our sandals.


The 1st Amendment prohibits the establishment of denominational religion.

However, the 1st Amendment is not intended to supppress the general influence of religion in the public square, as the founders made abundantly clear.

People are entitled to vote their conscience, whether they have or have not a religious conscience.

Catholics can be voted into office. They are entitled to vote their conscience. If abortion seems repugnant to them, they are entitled to vote accordingly. If they are in the majority, they rule. If they are not in the majority, they may not rule. However, Catholics can, in certain matters, make common cause with non-Catholics. There are many Protestants and even some atheists who find legalized abortion and same-sex marriage to be abhorrent and against the natural law, upon which civil law is ordinarily based.

In the present pervasive attitude of liberal political correctness, it is very difficult if not impossible in many instances for Catholics and their allies to prevail, but they certainly have a right to prevail if they can. Let’s not forget that the laws are based on a majority consensus, or what is a democracy for? The liberals will certainly not let us forget that.

Why should we let them forget it either?

Yes, the rights of the majority are to be protected. But in all matters? Hardly. And least of all where the minority are clearly defiant toward common sense morals.

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