Relations between the Catholic Church and the state

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The relations between the Catholic Church and the state have been constantly evolving with various forms of government, some of them controversial in retrospect. In its history it has had to deal with various concepts and systems of governance, from the Roman Empire to the medieval divine right of kings, from nineteenth and twentieth century concepts of democracy and pluralism to the appearance of left- and right-wing dictatorial regimes. Although the Second Vatican Council's decree Dignitatis humanae emphasized that people must not be coerced in matters of religion, it "leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ", i.e., that in an ideal society the Catholic Church would be recognized as the official religion of the state.

Roman Empire Period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–476 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Roman Republic period of the ancient Roman civilization. Ruled by emperors, it had large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Caucasus. From the constitutional reforms of Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, the Empire was a principate ruled from Italy, homeland of the Romans and metropole of the empire, with the city of Rome as capital. The Roman Empire was then ruled by multiple emperors and divided in a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until 476 AD, when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus after capturing Ravenna and the Senate of Rome sent the imperial regalia to Constantinople. The fall of the Western Roman Empire to barbarian kings, along with the hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire, is conventionally used to mark the end of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

Divine right of kings political and religious doctrine of the legitimacy of monarchs

The divine right of kings, divine right, or God's mandate is a political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving the right to rule directly from the will of God. The king is thus not subject to the will of his people, the aristocracy, or any other estate of the realm. It implies that only God can judge an unjust king and that any attempt to depose, dethrone or restrict his powers runs contrary to the will of God and may constitute a sacrilegious act. It is often expressed in the phrase "by the Grace of God", attached to the titles of a reigning monarch.

Pluralism as a political philosophy is the recognition and affirmation of diversity within a political body, which permits the peaceful coexistence of different interests, convictions, and lifestyles. While not all political pluralists advocate for a pluralist democracy, this is most common as democracy is often viewed as the most fair and effective way to moderate between the discrete values.


Catholicism and the Roman Emperors

Christianity emerged in the 1st century as one of many new religions in the Roman Empire. Early Christians were persecuted as early as 64 A.D. when Nero ordered large numbers of Christians executed in retaliation for the Great Fire of Rome. Christianity remained a growing, albeit, minority religion in the empire for several centuries. Roman persecutions of Christians climaxed with the Diocletianic Persecution at the turn of the 4th century. Following Constantine the Great's victory on Milvian Bridge, which he attributed to a Christian omen he saw in the sky, the Edict of Milan declared that the empire would no longer sanction persecution of Christians. Following Constantine's deathbed conversion in 337 all emperors adopted Christianity, except for Julian the Apostate who, during his brief reign, attempted unsuccessfully to re-instate paganism.

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with over 2.4 billion followers.

Christianity in the 1st century Christianity-related events during the 1st century

Christianity in the 1st century deals with the formative years of the Early Christian community. The earliest followers of Jesus were composed principally from apocalyptic Jewish sects during the late Second Temple period of the 1st century. They were Jewish Christians, who strictly adhered to the Jewish law. Jerusalem had an early Christian community, which was led by James the Just, Peter, and John.

Nero 1st-century Emperor of Ancient Rome

Nero was the last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius and became Claudius' heir and successor. Like Claudius, Nero became emperor with the consent of the Praetorian Guard. Nero's mother, Agrippina the Younger, was likely implicated in Claudius' death and Nero's nomination as emperor. She dominated Nero's early life and decisions until he cast her off. Five years into his reign, he had her murdered.

In the Christian era (more properly the era of the First seven Ecumenical Councils) the Church came to accept it was the Emperor's duty to use secular power to enforce religious unity, anyone within the Church who did not subscribe to Catholic Christianity was seen as a threat to the dominance and purity of "the one true faith" and they saw it as their right to defend this by all means at their disposal. [1]

Catholic Church Largest Christian church, led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

Beginning with Edward Gibbon in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire some historians have taken the view that Christianity weakened the Roman Empire through its failure to preserve the pluralistic structure of the state. Pagans and Jews lost interest and the Church drew the most able men into its organisation to the detriment of the state. [2]

Edward Gibbon English historian and Member of Parliament

Edward Gibbon FRS was an English historian, writer and Member of Parliament. His most important work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788 and is known for the quality and irony of its prose, its use of primary sources, and its polemical criticism of organised religion.

<i>The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire</i> 1776-89 book by English historian, Edward Gibbon

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is a six-volume work by the English historian Edward Gibbon. It traces Western civilization from the height of the Roman Empire to the fall of Byzantium. Volume I was published in 1776 and went through six printings. Volumes II and III were published in 1781; volumes IV, V, and VI in 1788–1789.

The papacy and the Divine Right of Kings

The doctrine of the divine right of kings came to dominate mediaeval concepts of kingship, claiming biblical authority ( Epistle to the Romans , chapter 13). Augustine of Hippo in his work The City of God had stated his opinion that while the City of Man and the City of God may stand at cross-purposes, both of them have been instituted by God and served His ultimate will. Even though the City of Man --- the world of secular government --- may seem ungodly and be governed by sinners, it has been placed on earth for the protection of the City of God. Therefore, monarchs have been placed on their thrones for God's purpose, and to question their authority is to question God. Although it is worth mentioning that Augustine also said "a law that is not just, seems to be no law at all" and Thomas Aquinas indicated laws "opposed to the Divine good" must not be observed. [3] This belief in the god-given authority of monarchs was central to the Roman Catholic vision of governance in the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Ancien Régime . Although this was most true of what would later be termed the ultramontaine party and the Catholic Church has recognized, on an exceptional basis, Republics as early as 1291 in the case of San Marino. [4]

Bible Collection of religious texts in Judaism and Christianity

The Bible is a collection of sacred texts or scriptures. Varying parts of the Bible are considered to be a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between God and humans by Christians, Jews, Samaritans, and Rastafarians.

Epistle to the Romans book of the Bible

The Epistle to the Romans or Letter to the Romans, often shortened to Romans, is the sixth book in the New Testament. Biblical scholars agree that it was composed by the Apostle Paul to explain that salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the longest of the Pauline epistles.

Augustine of Hippo early Christian theologian and philosopher

Saint Augustine of Hippo was a Roman African, early Christian theologian and philosopher from Numidia whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. He was the bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa and is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in Western Christianity for his writings in the Patristic Period. Among his most important works are The City of God, De doctrina Christiana, and Confessions.

During early medieval times, a near-monopoly of the Church in matters of education and of literary skills accounts for the presence of churchmen as their advisors. This tradition continued even as education became more widespread. Prominent examples of senior members of the church hierarchy who advised monarchs were Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in England, and Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin in France; prominent, devoutly Catholic laymen like such as Sir Thomas More also served as senior advisors to monarchs.

Thomas Wolsey 16th-century Archbishop of York, Chancellor of England, and cardinal

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, Lord Chancellor of England, was an English bishop, statesman and a cardinal of the Catholic Church. When Henry VIII became King of England in 1509, Wolsey became the King's almoner. Wolsey's affairs prospered, and by 1514 he had become the controlling figure in virtually all matters of state and extremely powerful within the Church, as Archbishop of York, a cleric in England junior only to the Archbishop of Canterbury. His appointment in 1515 as a cardinal by Pope Leo X gave him precedence over all other English clerics.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Cardinal Richelieu French clergyman, noble and statesman

Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis, 1st Duke of Richelieu and Fronsac, commonly referred to as Cardinal Richelieu, was a French clergyman, nobleman and statesman. He was consecrated as a bishop in 1607 and was appointed Foreign Secretary in 1616. Richelieu soon rose in both the Catholic Church and the French government, becoming a cardinal in 1622, and King Louis XIII's chief minister in 1624. He remained in office until his death in 1642; he was succeeded by Cardinal Mazarin, whose career he had fostered.

Besides advising monarchs, the Church held direct power in mediaeval society as a landowner, a power-broker, a policy maker, etc. Some of its bishops and archbishops were feudal lords in their own right, equivalent in rank and precedence to counts and dukes. Some were even sovereigns in their own right, and the Pope himself ruled the Papal States. Three archbishops <> played a prominent role in Holy Roman Empire as electors. As late as the 18th century, in the era of the Enlightenment, Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, preacher to Louis XIV, defended the doctrine of the divine right of kings and absolute monarchy in his sermons. The Church was a model of hierarchy in a world of hierarchies, and saw the defense of that system as its own defense, and as a defense of what it believed to be a god-ordained system.

During the French Wars of Religion, the Monarchomachs began to contest the divine right of kings, setting up the bases for the theory of popular sovereignty and theorizing the right of tyrannicides.

The French Revolution

The central principle of the medieval, Renaissance and ancien régime periods, monarchical rule 'by God's will', was fundamentally challenged by the 1789 French Revolution. The revolution began as a conjunction of a need to fix French national finances and a rising middle class who resented the privileges of the clergy (in their role as the First Estate) and nobility (in their role as the Second Estate). The pent-up frustrations caused by lack of political reform over a period of generations led the revolution to spiral in ways unimaginable only a few years earlier, and indeed unplanned and unanticipated by the initial wave of reformers. Almost from the start, the revolution was a direct threat to clerical and noble privilege: the legislation that abolished the feudal privileges of the Church and nobility dates from August 4, 1789, a mere three weeks after the fall of the Bastille (although it would be several years before this legislation came fully into effect).

At the same time, the revolution also challenged the theological basis of royal authority. The doctrine of popular sovereignty directly challenged the former divine right of kings. The king was to govern on behalf of the people, and not under the orders of God. This philosophical difference over the basis of royal and state power was paralleled by the rise of a short-lived democracy, but also by a change first from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy and finally to republicanism.

Under the doctrine of the divine right of kings, only the Church or God could interfere with the right of a monarch to rule. Thus the attack on the French absolute monarchy was seen as an attack on God's anointed king. In addition, the Church's leadership came largely from the classes most threatened by the growing revolution. The upper clergy came from the same families as the upper nobility, and the Church was, in its own right, the largest landowner in France.

The revolution was widely seen, both by its proponents and its opponents, as the fruition of the (profoundly secular) ideas of the Enlightenment. The 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen , voted by the National Constituent Assembly, seemed to some in the church to mark the appearance of the antichrist, in that they excluded Christian morality from the new 'natural order'. The fast-moving nature of the revolution far outpaced Roman Catholicism's ability to adapt or come to any terms with them.

In speaking of "the Church and the Revolution" it is important to keep in mind that neither the Church nor the Revolution were monolithic. There were class interests and differences of opinion inside the Church as well as out, with many of the lower clergy—and a few bishops, such as Talleyrand—among the key supporters of the early phases of the revolution. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which turned Church lands into state property and the clergy into employees of the state, created a bitter division within the church between those "jurors" who took the required oath of allegiance to the state (the abbé Grégoire or Pierre Daunou) and the "non-jurors" who refused to do so. A majority of parish priests, but only four bishops, took the oath.

As a large-scale landowner tied closely to the doomed ancien regime , led by people from the aristocracy, and philosophically opposed to many of the fundamental principles of the revolution, the Church, like the absolute monarchy and the feudal nobility, was a target of the revolution even in the early phases, when leading revolutionaries such as Lafayette were still well-disposed toward King Louis XVI as an individual. Instead of being able to influence the new political elite and so shape the public agenda, the Church found itself sidelined at best, detested at worst. As the revolution became more radical, the new state and its leaders set up its own rival deities and religion, a Cult of Reason and, later, a deistic cult of the Supreme Being, closing many Catholic churches, transforming cathedrals into "temples of reason", disbanding monasteries and often destroying their buildings (as at Cluny), and seizing their lands. In this process many hundreds of Catholic priests were killed, further polarising revolutionaries and the Church. The revolutionary leadership also devised a revolutionary calendar to displace the Christian months and the seven-day week with its sabbath. Catholic reaction, in anti-revolutionary risings such as the revolt in the Vendée were often bloodily suppressed.

France after the Revolution

When Napoleon Bonaparte came to power in 1799, he began the process of coming back to terms with the Catholic Church. The Church was reestablished in power during the Bourbon Restoration, with the ultra-royalists voting laws such as the Anti-Sacrilege Act. The Church was then strongly counter-revolutionary, opposing all changes made by the 1789 Revolution. The July Revolution of 1830 marked the end of any hope of a return to the ancien regime status of an absolute monarchy, by establishing a constitutional monarchy. The most reactionary aristocrats, in favor of an integral restoration of the Ancien Régime and known as Legitimists, began to retire from political life.

However, Napoleon III's regime did support the Pope, helping to restore Pope Pius IX as ruler of the Papal States in 1849 after there had been a revolt there in 1848. Despite this official move, the process of secularism continued throughout the 20th century, culminating with the Jules Ferry laws in the 1880s and then with the 1905 law on separation of the Church and the state, which definitely established state secularism (known as laïcité ).

The Church itself remained associated with the Comte de Chambord, the Legitimist pretender to the throne. It was only under Pope Leo XIII (r: 1878-1903) that the Church leadership tried to move away from its anti-Republican associations, when he ordered the deeply unhappy French Church to accept the Third French Republic (1875–1940) ( Inter innumeras sollicitudines encyclical of 1892). However, his liberalising initiative was undone by Pope Pius X (r: 1903-1914), a traditionalist who had more sympathy with the French monarchists than with the Third Republic.

Catholicism in the United Kingdom and Ireland

Following William of Orange's victories over King James II, by 1691 the supremacy of Protestantism was entrenched throughout the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. The economic and political power of Catholics, especially in Ireland, was severely curtailed. This was reinforced by the introduction of the Penal Laws. The practice of Catholicism (including the offerings of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass) was made illegal as Catholic priests celebrated the sacraments at risk of execution by law.

However, towards the end of the eighteenth century a rapprochement began to develop between London and the Vatican. Britain's activities abroad and relations with Catholic countries were hampered by the tension that existed between it and the Church, and it was eager to persuade the Church to end its moral support for Irish separatism. Likewise, the Church was keen to send missionaries to the newly conquered colonies of the British Empire, especially Africa and India, and to ease the restrictions on its British and Irish adherents. Britain began to phase out the penal laws, and in 1795 it financed the building of St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, a seminary for the training of Catholic priests, in County Kildare. In return, the Church agreed to actively oppose Irish separatism, which it duly did in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. It continued this policy until the early 1900's, condemning each successive attempt by Irish republicanism to achieve independence from Britain through violence.


Catholic missions to Africa began early in the 1800s.

Pius IX and Italian unification

Over the course of the 19th century, Italian nationalism put increasing strain on the Pope's rule of the Papal States. Italian unification culminated in Garibaldi's capture of Rome in 1870, which ended the Catholic Church's temporal sovereignty and led Pope Pius IX to declare himself a prisoner in the vatican. The conflict between the Italian state and the Papacy continued with the state's regulation of the Church and the Pope's voting and parliamentary boycott, and was finally resolved in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty between Mussolini and Pope Pius XI, confirming the Vatican City-State.


Pope Leo XIII, responding to the rise of popular democracy, tried a new and somewhat more sophisticated approach to political questions than his predecessor Pius IX.

On May 15, 1891, Leo issued the encyclical Rerum novarum (Latin: "About New Things"). This addressed the transformation of politics and society during the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. The document criticised capitalism, complaining of the exploitation of the masses in industry. However, it also sharply reproved the socialist concept of class struggle, and the proposed solution of eliminating private property. Leo called for strong governments to protect their citizens from exploitation, and urged Roman Catholics to apply principles of social justice in their own lives.

This document was rightly seen as a profound change in the political thinking of the Holy See. It drew on the economic thought of St Thomas Aquinas, who taught that the "just price" in a marketplace should not be allowed to fluctuate due to temporary shortages or gluts.

Seeking a principle to replace the threatening Marxist doctrine of class struggle, Rerum Novarum urged social solidarity between the upper and lower classes, and endorsed nationalism as a way of preserving traditional morality, customs, and folkways. In effect, Rerum Novarum proposed a kind of corporatism, the organisation of political power along industrial lines, similar to the mediaeval guild system. Under corporatism, the individual's place in society is determined by the ethnic, work, and social groups which one was born into or joined. Leo rejected one-person, one-vote democracy in favour of representation by interest groups. A strong government should serve as arbiter among the competing factions.

Forty years later, the corporatist tendencies of Rerum Novarum were underscored by Pope Pius XI's May 25, 1931 encyclical Quadragesimo anno ("In the Fortieth Year"), which restated the hostility of Rerum Novarum to both unbridled competition and class struggle. Leo and Pius' precepts were espoused by the Catholic social movement of Distributism, which later influenced the Fascist and Christian Democratic movements.

The Church and the twentieth century

Early in the 20th century, the Catholic Church supported anti-democratic regimes, such as in Spain’s National Catholicism. By the end of the century, countries that had once been heavily influenced by the Catholic Church became more secular and democratic (e.g,, Spain, Italy, Ireland).


Ivan Grubišić, a Catholic priest and a member of the Croatian Parliament fought for termination or revision of the Treaties between the Republic of Croatia and the Holy See, which were deemed to unbalance the relations between the Church and the Croatian state.


In Spain, the Falange enjoyed the support of many in the Roman Catholic Church. Spain had a long history of contention between Catholic, largely monarchist, traditionalists and advocates of secular liberal democracy, or of more radical anticlerical views. Traditionalist Catholics, already alienated by the liberal secularism of the Second Spanish Republic whose democratically elected government imposed limitations and intrusions upon the Church, were moved to outright hostility by what they viewed as the government's failure to prevent or punish attacks on churches and the killing of priests and other religious by various Republican armed groups. Almost 7,000 clergy were killed, despite even though very few clergy actively engaged in the opposition to the Republic.

These attacks were frequent in the first months of the civil war, and radicalised a large number of Catholics, including clergy, who had previously tended to support the reformist right wing Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Right party. A number of Catholics decided that the liberal state could not (or would not) protect them or their Church and switched to supporting the rebel Nationalists, led by General Francisco Franco.

The Church’s association with monarchists was particularly clear in the case of Carlism, which sought to place monarchs from a rival lineage on the throne. Basque nationalism, on the contrary, saw the majority of Basque priests break ranks with the Church to support the Republican government. This led to Franco branding them as traitors and communists.

After taking power in 1936, Franco received political privileges from the Church similar to those accorded Spanish monarchs, such as the right to propose three candidates for each episcopal vacancy, from which the Pope would select a bishop. In processions, Franco was also covered by a pallium, a cloak conferred by the pope and usually indicating top ecclesiastical status.

During the 1960s and the 1970s, the movement of worker priests expressed the view of young priests unhappy with the hierarchy and the government. They organized parishes as social betterment centers. The contacts with Marxism led many to join leftist groups or to secularize. An agreement of Church and State turned one seminary into a special jail for prisoners who were priests.


The pro-Catholic movement Action Française (AF), campaigned for the return of the monarchy and for aggressive action against Jews as well as a corporatist system. It was supported by a strong section of the clerical hierarchy, eleven out of seventeen cardinals and bishops. On the other hand, many Catholics regarded the AF with distrust, and in 1926, Pope Pius XI explicitly condemned the organization. Several writings of Charles Maurras', the leading ideologist of AF and an agnostic, were placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum at the same time. However, in 1939 Pope Pius XII waived the condemnation. Maurras' personal secretary, Jean Ousset, later went on to found the Cité catholique fundamentalist organization along with former members of the OAS terrorist group created in defense of "French Algeria" during the Algerian War. Furthermore, the archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, one of the leading Catholic figures opposed to the reforms brought by the Second Vatican Council, created in 1970 the Society of St. Pius X. This finally led to the Ecône Consecrations during which Lefebvre consecrated four bishops without authority from the Vatican which was thought to have incurred automatic excommunications. However, these excommunications were nullified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. Since then, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has been in dialogue with the Society of St. Pius X to resolve matters of doctrine and discipline in question.


The Roman Catholic Church was granted "special recognition" in the Constitution of Ireland when it was drawn up in 1937, although other religions were also mentioned. This remained the case until 1972, when the constitution was amended by plebiscite. In 1950 the Church helped force the resignation of the Minister for Health Noel Browne over his controversial proposals to provide free healthcare to mothers and children. The Government of Northern Ireland gave the Church considerably more responsibility for education than they enjoyed in the Republic and this remains the case today.

The considerable influence of the Church over Irish politics since independence in 1922 declined sharply in the 1990s after a series of child-abuse scandals. In recent decades, the Church has lost ground to the secular movement in social issues such as divorce and abortion.

Elsewhere in Europe

The association of Roman Catholicism, sometimes in the form of the hierarchical church, sometimes in the form of lay Catholic organisations acting independently of the hierarchy produced links to dictatorial governments in various states.


For strategic reasons, it was desirable for the fascist movements of Benito Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany not to alienate Catholics en masse.

Modern researchers are divided the degree of the Church's connection to fascism. Most historians of the period reject most claims of active complicity or active resistance, painting a picture of a Catholic leadership who chose neutrality or mild resistance over an explicit ideological struggle with fascism.

The closest ties of Roman Catholicism to fascism may have come in the clerical fascism in wartime Croatia; see Involvement of Croatian Catholic clergy with the Ustasa regime.


In 1924, Pope Pius XI forbade the Catholic Popular Party to work with the Socialist Party against Mussolini's Fascist Party (whose politics at that time were a complex amalgam of left and right). The pope later dissolved the Catholic Popular Party .

Fear of communism, and a certain disdain for the liberal democracy that had revoked the long-standing privileges enjoyed by the Catholic Church, were made explicit in such papal documents as Quanta cura and the Syllabus of Errors . These documents have been interpreted by some as showing Church support for Fascism, or at least with leanings toward fascism. By the Lateran Treaties, Mussolini granted Pope Pius XI the crown of Vatican City as a nation to rule, made Roman Catholicism the state church of Italy, and paid the Pope compensation for the loss of the Papal States. This indicates at de facto recognition by the Pope of Mussolini's coup. The relationship to Mussolini's government deteriorated drastically in later years.


The division of Germans between Catholicism and Protestantism has implicated German politics since the Protestant Reformation. The Kulturkampf that followed German unification was the defining dispute between the German state and Catholicism.

In Weimar Germany, the Centre Party was the Catholic political party. It disbanded around the time of the signing of the Reichskonkordat (1933), the treaty that continues to regulate church-state relations to this day. Pius XI's encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (1937) protested what it perceived to be violations of the Reichskonkordat. The role of Catholic bishops in Nazi Germany remains a controversial aspect of the study of Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust.


During World War II, Jozef Tiso, a Roman Catholic monsigneur, became the Nazi quisling in Slovakia. Tiso was head of state and the security forces, as well as the leader of the paramilitary Hlinka Guard, which wore the Catholic Episcopal cross on its armbands. The Catholic clergy was represented at all levels of the regime and its corporatist were based on papal encyclicals.


Mile Budak, the Minister of Religion of Independent State of Croatia, said on 22 July 1941:

"The Ustashi movement is based on the Catholic Religion. For the minorities, Serbs, Jews and Gypsies, we have three million bullets. A part of these minorities has already been eliminated and many are waiting to be killed. Some will be sent to Serbia and the rest will be forced to change their religion to Catholicism. Our new Croatia will therefore be free of all heretics, becoming purely Catholic for the future years."

Notice the absence of a mention of Bosnian Muslims. Unlike Serbs, they were considered Croatian brothers whose ancestors converted to Islam.

Controversy surrounds the depths of the involvement of the Roman Catholic clergy with the Ustaše, a Croatian Fascist movement in the former Yugoslavia. According to Branko Bokun, a Roman Catholic priest made the following remarks on 13 June 1941:

"Brethren, up to now we have worked for the Holy Roman Apostolic Church with the cross and the missal. Now the moment has come to work with a knife in one hand and a gun in the other. The more Serbs and Jews you succeed in eliminating, the more you will be raised in esteem in the heart of the Roman Catholic Church".

The issue of clerical fascism in wartime Croatia is further discussed in the article Involvement of Croatian Catholic clergy with the Ustaša regime.


The Belgian Fascist movement Rexism arose out of a conservative Catholic movement and its publications. The full names of the Rexists was Christus Rex or “Christ the King”.

The United States

Prior to 1960, the U.S. had never had a Catholic president. Many Protestants were afraid that if a Catholic were elected president, he would take orders directly from the Pope. This was one reason why Al Smith, the Democratic governor of New York, lost the 1928 presidential election to Herbert Hoover. The surprise bestseller of 1949–1950 was American Freedom and Catholic Power by Paul Blanshard. [5] Blanshard accused the Catholic Church hierarchy of having an undue influence on legislation, education and medical practice. Years later, John F. Kennedy, spoke to a convention of Baptist pastors in Louisiana during his election campaign. He assured them that, if elected, he would put his country before his religion.

Since the late 1960s, the Catholic Church has been politically active in the U.S. around the "life issues" of abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia, with some bishops and priests refusing communion to Catholic politicians who publicly advocate for legal abortion. This has created stigma within the Church itself however. The church has also played significant roles in the fights over capital punishment, gay marriage, welfare, state secularism, various "peace and justice" issues, among many others. Its role varies from area to area depending upon the size of the Catholic Church in a particular region, also it depends on the region's predominant ideology. For example, a Catholic church in the Southern U.S. would be more likely to be against universal health care than a Catholic church in New England.

Robert Drinan, a Catholic priest, served five terms in Congress as a Democrat from Massachusetts before the Holy See forced him to choose between giving up his seat in Congress or being laicized. The Church forbids Catholic priests from holding political office anywhere in the world. [6]

Catholics currently active in American politics are members of both major parties, and currently hold many important offices. The most prominent include Chief Justice John Roberts, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, and former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger. Additionally, Democratic former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and Republican former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, both Catholics, sought the nomination for their respective parties in the 2008 presidential election. Five associate justices, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Brett Kavanaugh, are members of the Supreme Court, resulting in a Catholic majority on the court. Former Vice President Joe Biden is also a Roman Catholic.


Secularism became enforced in Argentina in 1884 when President Julio Argentino Roca passed Law 1420 on secular education. In 1955, the Catholics nationalists overthrewed General Perón in the " Revolución Libertadora ," and a concordat was signed in 1966. Catholic nationalists continued to play an important role in the politics of Argentina, while the Church itself was accused of having set up ratlines to organize the evasion of former Nazis after WWII. Furthermore, several important Catholic figures have been accused of having openly supported the "Dirty War" in the 1970s, including Pope Francis, then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Antonio Caggiano, Archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1959 to 1975, was close to the fundamentalist Cité catholique organisation, and introduced Jean Ousset (former personal secretary of Charles Maurras, the leader of the Action française)'s theories on counter-revolutionary warfare and "subversion" in Argentina. [7]



Traditionally, Catholics in Australia had been predominantly of Irish descent. They have also been traditionally in the working-class. As a result, for much of its early history, the Australian Labor Party had a significant proportion of Catholics as members and supporters. However, this historical link has eroded over time and Catholics are now present across the political spectrum. Prominent Archbishop Daniel Mannix was perhaps the most politically vocal Catholic figure, including in his opposition to conscription. This conscription debate was often framed in terms of a divide between Protestants and Catholics.

Links between the Catholic Church and Australian politics strengthened when the Australian Labor Party split and the Democratic Labour Party was founded, chiefly under the influence of Bob Santamaria. In one state, the Catholic Church threw its institutional support behind this party and the movements upon which it relied. However, after the Archbishop died, the party and the Industrial groups upon which it was based no longer had any Church support.

Prominent Catholics in the Liberal-National coalition, the main centre-right political force in Australia, include Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Christopher Pyne. Prominent Catholics in the Labor Party, the main centre-left party, include former Prime Minister Paul Keating.

International Law

In 2003, Pope John Paul II also became a prominent critic of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. He sent his "Peace Minister", Cardinal Pio Laghi, to talk with US President George W. Bush to express opposition to the war. John Paul II said that it was up to the United Nations to solve the international conflict through diplomacy and that a unilateral aggression is a crime against peace and a violation of international law.


Pope John Paul II offered support to the Polish Solidarity movement. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev once said the collapse of the Iron Curtain would have been impossible without John Paul II. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

Concordat of 1801 peace treaty

The Concordat of 1801 was an agreement between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII, signed on 15 July 1801 in Paris. It remained in effect until 1905. It sought national reconciliation between revolutionaries and Catholics and solidified the Roman Catholic Church as the majority church of France, with most of its civil status restored. The hostility of devout French Catholics against the state had then largely been resolved. It did not restore the vast church lands and endowments that had been seized upon during the revolution and sold off. Catholic clergy returned from exile, or from hiding, and resumed their traditional positions in their traditional churches. Very few parishes continued to employ the priests who had accepted the Civil Constitution of the Clergy of the Revolutionary regime. While the Concordat restored much power to the papacy, the balance of church-state relations tilted firmly in Napoleon's favour. He selected the bishops and supervised church finances.

Integralism political ideology according to which a nation is an organic unity; defends social differentiation and hierarchy with co-operation between social classes, transcending conflict between social and economic groups

Integralism or integrism as a political term designates theoretical concepts and practical policies that advocate a fully integrated social and political order, based on converging patrimonial (inherited) political, cultural, religious and national traditions of a particular state, or some other political entity. Some forms of integralism are focused on achieving political and social integration, and also national or ethnic unity, while others were more focused on achieving religious and cultural uniformity. In the political and social history of the 19th and 20th centuries, integralism was often related to traditionalist conservatism and similar political movements on the right wing of a political spectrum, but it was also adopted by various centrist movements as a tool of political, national and cultural integration.

Civil Constitution of the Clergy

The Civil Constitution of the Clergy was a law passed on 12 July 1790 during the French Revolution, that caused the immediate subordination of the Catholic Church in France to the French government.

Criticism of the Catholic Church

The Catholic Church has been subject to criticism throughout its history for its beliefs and practices. Criticisms of the Catholic Church's religious beliefs and practices have often led to breaks with other Christian groups, such as the schism with the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church has also been criticized for its active efforts to influence political decisions, such as the Church's promotion of the Crusades and its involvement with various 20th century nationalist regimes. More recent criticism focuses on alleged scandals within the Church, particularly alleged financial corruption and the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandals.

Catholic Church in France Roman Catholicism in France

The Catholic Church in France is part of the worldwide Catholic Church in communion with the Pope in Rome. Established in the 2nd century in unbroken communion with the bishop of Rome, it is sometimes called the "eldest daughter of the church".

Anti-clericalism is opposition to religious authority, typically in social or political matters. Historical anti-clericalism has mainly been opposed to the influence of Roman Catholicism. Anti-clericalism is related to secularism, which seeks to remove the church from all aspects of public and political life, and its involvement in the everyday life of the citizen.

Clerical fascism is an ideology that combines the political and economic doctrines of fascism with clericalism. The term has been used to describe organizations and movements that combine religious elements with fascism, support by religious organizations for fascism, or fascist regimes in which clergy play a leading role.

Quadragesimo anno is an encyclical issued by Pope Pius XI on 15 May 1931, 40 years after Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum novarum. Unlike Leo XIII, who addressed the condition of workers, Pius XI discusses the ethical implications of the social and economic order. He describes the major dangers for human freedom and dignity arising from unrestrained capitalism and totalitarian socialism/communism. He also calls for the reconstruction of the social order based on the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.

Catholic clergy involvement with the Ustaše

Catholic clergy involvement with the Ustaše covers the role of the Croatian Catholic Church in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), a Nazi puppet state created on the territory of Axis-occupied Yugoslavia in 1941.

Anti-Catholicism intense dislike or fear of Catholicism, hostility or prejudice towards Catholics

Anti-Catholicism is hostility towards Catholics or opposition to the Catholic Church, its clergy and its adherents. At various points after the Reformation, some majority Protestant states, including England, Prussia, and even Scotland made anti-Catholicism and opposition to the Pope and Catholic rituals major political themes, and the anti-Catholic sentiment which resulted from it frequently lead to religious discrimination against Catholic individuals. Historian John Wolffe identifies four types of anti-Catholicism: constitutional-national, theological, popular and socio-cultural.

Vehementer Nos was a papal encyclical promulgated by Pope Pius X on 11 February 1906. He denounced the French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State enacted two months earlier. He condemned its unilateral abrogation of the Concordat of 1801 between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII that had granted the Catholic Church a distinctive status and established a working relationship between the French government and the Holy See. The title of the document is taken from its opening words in Latin, which mean "we strongly".

Catholic Church and politics aims to cover subjects of where the Catholic Church and politics share common ground.


Clericalism is the application of the formal, church-based, leadership or opinion of ordained clergy in matters of either the church or broader political and sociocultural import.

The dechristianization of France during the French Revolution is a conventional description of the results of a number of separate policies conducted by various governments of France between the start of the French Revolution in 1789 and the Concordat of 1801, forming the basis of the later and less radical laïcité policies. The goal of the campaign between 1793 and 1794 ranged from the public reclamation of the massive amounts of land, power, and money held by the Catholic Church in France to the termination of Catholic religious practice and of the religion itself. There has been much scholarly debate over whether the movement was popularly motivated.

Catholic Church in Germany

The Catholic Church in Germany or Roman-Catholic Church in Germany is part of the worldwide Catholic Church in communion with the Pope, assisted by the Roman Curia, and with the German bishops. The current "speaker" of the episcopal conference is Cardinal Reinhard Marx, metropolitan Archbishop of Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. It is divided into 27 dioceses, 7 of them with the rank of metropolitan sees. All the archbishops and bishops are members of the Conference of German Bishops. Due to a church tax compulsory for those who register civilly as Catholics, it is the wealthiest part of the Catholic Church in Europe.

Croatian Catholic movement organization

Croatian Catholic movement (HKP) is a form of political Catholicism which was active in the first half of the 20th century in Croatia. The movement was a response to increasing liberalism, with a new, aggressive approach, as the Church and religion lost influence.

History of the Catholic Church in Germany

The history of the Catholic Church in Germany should be read in parallel with the History of Germany as the Church was progressively confused, in competition with, oppressed by and distinguished from, the state. The long history of Roman Catholicism in Germany can also explain much of the History of the Roman Catholic Church, especially in the period of the Middle Ages, under the Holy Roman Empire.

The Roman Catholic Church in the 20th century had to respond to the challenge of increasing secularization of Western society and persecution resulting from great social unrest and revolutions in several countries. It instituted many reforms, particularly in the 1970s under the Vatican II Council, in order to modernize practices and positions. In this period, Catholic missionaries in the Far East worked to improve education and health care, while evangelizing peoples and attracting numerous followers in China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan.

Germany–Holy See relations Diplomatic relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and Holy See

Formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the current Federal Republic of Germany date to the 1951 and the end of the Allied occupation. Historically the Vatican has carried out foreign relations through nuncios, beginning with the Apostolic Nuncio to Cologne and the Apostolic Nuncio to Austria. Following the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and the Congress of Vienna, an Apostolic Nuncio to Bavaria replaced that of Cologne and that mission remained in Munich through several governments. From 1920 the Bavarian mission existed alongside the Apostolic Nuncio to Germany in Berlin, with which it was merged in 1934.

Persecution of Eastern Orthodox Christians is the persecution faced by church, clergy and adherents of the Eastern Orthodox Church because of religious beliefs and practices. Orthodox Christians have been persecuted in various periods when under the rule of non-Orthodox Christian political structures. In modern times, anti-religious political movements and regimes in some countries have held an anti-Orthodox stance.


  1. "The First Christian Theologians: An Introduction to Theology in the Early Church", Edited by Gillian Rosemary Evans, contributor Clarence Gallagher SJ, "The Imperial Ecclesiastical Lawgivers", p. 68, Blackwell Publishing, 2004, ISBN   0-631-23187-0
  2. On Pagans, Jews, and Christians, Arnaldo Momigliano, p. 158, ISBN   0-8195-6218-1
  3. Summa Theologica on The power of human law
  4. Catholic Encyclopedia
  5. Catholicism and American freedom: a history By John T. McGreevy. WW Norton p. 166
  6. Code of Canon Law 285 §3; 287 §2
  7. Quoted by Horacio Verbitsky, in The Silence, extract transl. in English made available by openDemocracy: Breaking the silence: the Catholic Church in Argentina and the "dirty war" Archived 2006-11-22 at the Wayback Machine , July 28, 2005, p.4