Church and State in the Modern Age: A Documentary History

By J. F. MacLear | Go to book overview

By the patrons of Liberalism, however, who make the State absolute and omnipotent . . . , the liberty of which We speak . . . is not admitted; and whatever is done for its preservation is accounted . . . an offence against the State. Indeed, if what they say were really true, there would be no tyranny, no matter how monstrous, which we should not be bound to endure . . . .

The Church most earnestly desires that the Christian teaching . . . should penetrate every rank of society . . . . Yet, with the discernment of a true mother, the Church weighs the great burden of human weakness and well knows the course down which the minds and actions of men are in this our age being borne. For this reason, while not conceding any right to anything save what is true and honest, she does not forbid public authority to tolerate what is at variance with truth and justice, for the sake of avoiding some greater evil, or of obtaining or preserving some greater good. . . . But . . . the more a State is driven to tolerate evil the further is it from perfection; and . . . 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 . . . . 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 . . . to fulfil the duty assigned to her by God of providing for the eternal salvation of mankind. . . .

Source: John J. Wynne (ed.), The Great Encyclical Letters of Pope Leo XIII ( New York, 1903), pp. 145-146, 151-153, 155-158. Latin text in Acta Sanctae Sedis ( Rome, 1887), XX, 593-613.


SUGGESTIONS FOR BACKGROUND AND REFERENCE

References for Document 111.


113
Return Novarum (Extracts) May 15, 1891

This encyclical, the most famous of Leo XIII's pronouncements, defined Catholic social doctrine with reference to the problems of an industrial society. Social philosophy and programs of social action had earlier been explored by French and German Catholics, notably by Comte Albert de Mun, founder of the Cercles Catholiques d'Ouvriers, and Wilhelm Emmanuel von Kettler, Bishop of Mainz. Leo himself had a familiarity with modern industrialism extending back to his Brussels nunciature in the 1840s. In 1881 he placed Cardinal Mermillod of Lausanne over a commission to study the social question, and after 1885 gave his patronage to

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