Church and State in the Modern Age: A Documentary History

By J. F. MacLear | Go to book overview

[Catholics must] take a prudent part in the business of municipal administration, . . . so that . . . public provision may be made for the instruction of youth in religion and true morality. Upon these things the well-being of every State greatly depends.

Furthermore, it is in general fitting and salutary that Catholics should . . . give their attention to national politics. . . .

It follows . . . that Catholics have just reasons for taking part in . . . public affairs.

For in so doing they assume not the responsibility of approving what is blameworthy in the actual methods of government, but seek to turn these very methods, so far as is possible, to the genuine and true public good . . . .

. . . it is the duty of all Catholics . . . to make use of popular institutions, so far as can honestly be done, for the advancement of truth and righteousness; to strive that liberty of action shall not transgress the bounds marked out by nature and the law of God; to endeavor to bring back all civil society to the pattern and form of Christianity which We have described. It is barely possible to lay down any fixed method by which such purposes are to be attained, because the means adopted must suit places and times widely differing from one another. Nevertheless, above all things, unity of aim must be preserved, and similarity must be sought after in all plans of action. . . .

* * *

But in matters merely political, as for instance the best form of government, and this or that system of administration, a difference of opinion is lawful. Those, therefore, whose piety is in other respects known, and whose minds are ready to accept . . . the decrees of the Apostolic See, cannot in justice be accounted bad men because they disagree as to subjects We have mentioned; and still graver wrong will be done them, if -- as We have more than once perceived with regret -- they are accused of violating, or of wavering in, the Catholic faith.

Source: John J. Wynne (ed.), The Great Encyclical Letters of Pope Leo XIII ( New York, 1903), pp. 108-111, 114-115 ,120-121, 122-124, 126-133. Latin text in Acta Sanctae Sedis ( Rome, 1885), XVIII, 161-180.


SUGGESTIONS FOR BACKGROUND AND REFERENCE

A. Dansette, Religious History of Modern France (Freiburg, Germany, 1961), II, 58-111.

A. Debidour, L'Église catholique et l'état sous la Troisième République ( 1870- 1906) ( Paris, 1906- 1909), II, 1-78.

E. T. Gargan, Leo XIII and the Modern World ( New York, 1961).

K. S. Latourette, Christianity in a Revolutionary Age ( New York, 1958- 1962), I, 298-301, 307-310.

E. Lecanuet, Les premieres anndes du pontificat de Léon XIII ( 1878- 1894) ( Paris, 1930 1931), pp. 285-608.

C. S. Phillips, The Church in France, 1848- 1907 ( London, 1936), pp. 211-236.

J. Schmidlin, Papstgeschichte der neuesten Zeit ( Munich, 1933- 1936), II, 352-383.

E. Soderini, The Pontificate of Leo XIII ( London, 1934).

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