S. For the reasons already put forward, liberalism would seem to be a sin?
T. It is. In the individual we must take account of good intentions, of lack of light, and of surroundings which lessen responsibility, but considered in itself liberalism is a sin of the mind.
S. Kindly explain to me in what sense you understand this sin of the mind.
T. Remember what was said in reply to the tenth question of the second chapter: The sin there pointed out is a sin of the mind, for it entails an injustice and a supreme insult to God---this is the sin of liberalism. In the "Declaration of the Rights of Man," and in the liberties that flow from it, man has put himself in the place of God.

Let us see how things have worked out. According to modem principles and modern law, man ought to be, and may in fact be, in the place where God---simply because He is God---has alone the right to be. By the very nature of things He, the Creator and absolute Master, is the God of the individual conscience, the God of society, of nations, and of the whole universe. He is suppressed, and in His place the human mind has set up man and man's ideas. Thus man is substituted for God, that is to say, deified, and becomes absolute and arbitrary master of his destiny---personal, domestic and social, national, international and world wide.

Man is, and has proclaimed himself master. If in his wisdom he judges it opportune as an, individual to submit to what he believes to be "God," "Christ," or "the Church," he will not be interfered with, because he is master of his own conscience. [1] But the introduction of this God and of His Church into the State or the social order will not be tolerated by him. As man has been officially substituted for God, anyone who desires to give God His true position becomes the enemy of man, who is master of the universe and of the social order. Of necessity God and the Church become usurpers. Every effort made by the Church to accomplish her mission in the social order is regarded as an attempt at clerical domination over society. General and universal secularisation necessarily follow. The individual is secularised, and is considered as enjoying only a human dignity, made up of the natural human principles of humanity, justice, goodness, etc. Every social institution must be secularised---States, the constitutions of nations and their legislation, governments, parliaments, senates, every official organism, public institutions and even private ones, having any contact with official organisms, must bear upon them the imprint of man alone. All traces of the supernatural are blotted out. The supernatural order must be considered as non-existent. If the Church survives owing to the desires of individuals, She must take her place, even in the most favourable conditions, as a private society, with no public rights. She can only enjoy from the social standpoint the rights and privileges which man thinks well to bestow on her. A government composed of Catholics may be favourable to her, but this favour depends necessarily on man, who has, the right to refuse it or concede it at his good pleasure.

This is the crowning injustice, for thus the Supreme Being is deprived of  His absolute right; it is the supreme insult, because, after having been unjustly despoiled, He is declared a usurper.

S. How do modern liberties issue in this fatal conclusion?
T. We have said that for the modern man the sole existent truth is man's thought. From this fact, every State or society and State built upon the principles of '89 is, by its very constitution, incapable of admitting or proclaiming any truth, of recognising or professing any form of worship. It is the logical consequence of the "great modern liberties." Let us explain, taking as an example freedom of instruction. One master teaches such propositions as these: "God exists," "Jesus Christ is God," "the exist," "Jesus Christ did not exist, or suffered from hallucination," "he Church is a great conspiracy," in virtue of the same principles, the State must let him go on. That is to say, the State does not hold any of these doctrines and must not recognise, any of them as true. It must protect both by the same constitutional rights and to the same degree.

The only thing it receives as true is that every person is free to teach. In strict logic it follows that the modern State is necessarily atheistic and freethinking, because the constitutions of States are freethinking, atheistic, or, more accurately, non-true, "without truth," which means in practice against truth and against God.

When the modern State is faced by an objective existent truth, such as the primary truth---God exists, what must be its attitude, if it is not to deny its principles? It must not know that in the proposition "God exists," truth is found. It must not adhere thereto. To act otherwise would be to express knowledge of truth, and the will to accept it. The modern State cannot do either the one or the other: It must have the same attitude towards the two doctrines "God exists," "God does not exist." Socially the modern State must not know if there is such a thing as truth. It must oppose the introduction of any teaching as true. For to introduce anything as truth would be to make truth superior to the State and the constitutions of a country---and this can never be.

States and national constitutions cannot but be opposed to the action of truth as long as they remain what they are, i.e., non-true, atheistic, opposed to every principle that does not leave them master and arbiter of their own destiny, and thus in practice opposed to God, to Christ and to the Church.

On the other hand, every idea, in so far as it is man's idea, has a right to be taught and has the support of the State for an imperative reason. The State knows only man. Human thought and all  ideas are the product of the human mind. In teaching them nothing superior to man is introduced into society.

The ideas "God exists," "the Catholic Church is Divine," have a right to be taught, not because they are the expression of objective truth, but because certain subjects of the State consider these ideas to be good and to be of private or public utility. The ideas "God does not exist," "the Catholic Church is a mass of trickery," have exactly the same right to be, taught.

Logically it must be the same thing with the teaching of theft, murder, immorality, assassination. A legislation, which, in fact, contradicts the principles of the State, condemns and executes the unfortunate men who put these things into practice, but does not forbid doctrines which lead directly to them. In short, the State teaches through its subjects the ideas of its subjects. This must be the case, since the State knows only man and whatever is merely human.

Thus modern principles and modern jurisprudence inevitably issue in supreme injustice towards God and insult Him in the most abominable fashion. [2]

This is how Leo XIII expresses himself in his letter to the Archbishop of Bogota (Letter of 6th April, 1900):----

"When the question arises of how to act in public affairs, Catholics are solicited in opposite directions by contrary interests and are disturbed by violent disputes, which generally arise from differences in the interpretation of Catholic doctrine on the subject of liberalism ...

"The Sovereign Pontiff teaches that the main principle and foundation of liberalism is the rejection of the Divine law: what Naturalists or Rationalists aim at in philosophy, that the supporters of liberalism, carrying out the principles laid down by naturalism, are attempting in the domain of morality and politics. The fundamental doctrine of rationalism is the supremacy of the human reason, which, refusing due submission to the Divine and eternal reason, proclaims its own independence, and constitutes itself the supreme principle and source and judge of truth. Hence these followers of liberalism deny the existence of any Divine authority to which obedience is due, and proclaim that every man is the law to himself; from which arises that ethical system which they style independent morality, and which, under the, guise of liberty, exonerates man from any obedience to the commands of God, and substitutes a boundless license. [3] This, is the first and most hurtful degree of liberalism. On the one hand, it rejects and completely destroys all authority and Divine law, whether natural or supernatural, on the other hand it declares that the constitution of society depends on the will of individuals, and that sovereign authority proceeds from the masses as from its first source."

S. I can clearly see that liberalism is a gross injustice towards God. But am I correct in saying that there is also in the attitude of liberalism a certain injustice towards man?
T. To give a complete answer, it would be necessary to examine in detail the doctrine of the Redemption, point out anew the rights of Jesus Christ over every intellect and every will, and show how, in usurping these undeniable Divine rights, liberalism sins against Christ. But this injustice exists and shows itself in another way. Christ, having, by His Redemption paid the price of man's freedom and acquired undeniable rights over man, these rights in Christ become the rights of man himself. To explain this: a certain thing is necessary for my salvation and sanctification; for example, it is necessary for my sanctification that Christ should be in theory and practice proclaimed King of the universe and King of souls. Accordingly, I have the right, because Christ has won it for me, that society should be placed under His direction. I have the right in Christ and by Christ that society should be Christian, and Catholic---that States should be Catholic. As Louis, Veuillot said in a famous phrase, "The nations have a right to Jesus Christ."

This right is all the more to be respected, because it belongs to man only in the measure in which Christ has Himself bestowed it on him.
S. What is the attitude of mind created in practice by principles of liberalism?
T. The direct result of liberalism is anarchy or tyranny. That anarchy should spring from liberalism, as a consequence flows from its proper principle, is plain, enough. Let us repeat it for the hundredth time---according to modern constitutions everyone has the right to think as he pleases and to live as he thinks. But if his thought is the guide of conduct for each one, without the restraints of objective truth, it is obvious that we are tending to a complete licentiousness of mind and of action. Moreover, the inevitable outcome of liberalism is tyranny. [Emphasis in bold by the Web Master.] This has been made clear more than once: to restrain all the excesses of mind, heart and will, recourse has been had to the general will, and laws have had to be made. Law alone is held to create justice and right, but if law represents the general will of the people and this people is directed by a will that is evil, atheistic, impious, immoral, what can be expected except tyranny? Governments rule in the name of the people, and in the name of the people the most incredible and fantastic injustices are imposed. Such are the consequences of liberalism. Anarchy and Bolshevism are its lineal descendants. Liberalism undermines the foundations of order in every society.

S. In a word, then, modern principles of liberty have a profoundly destructive influence.
T. Leo XIII expresses one consequence of liberalism as follows: "The number of souls lost (by reason of the conditions produced among the nations by the principles of modern Law) is incalculable" (Letter, "Sapientiae Christianae," on "The Chief Duties of Christians as Citizens," January 10th, 1890). [4] Look, for one example, at the evil resulting from the freedom of the Press. How many souls are corrupted by reading bad newspapers and the immoral and impious publications which abound in every country? How many souls are eternally lost on account of the protection by which all literary, scientific and other productions are legally surrounded? How many souls at this moment damned would not be so, if this accursed freedom of the Press did not exist? It is the same with freedom of teaching. What is it that allows the promoters of disorder to teach their doctrines and to corrupt minds except this absolute liberty which is so benevolently granted to them?

S. Does not what you have just said involve a fresh condemnation of the distinction between the "thesis" and the "hypothesis," the ideal and the actual state of things?
T. It certainly does. To become fully aware of the harm done by so-called Catholic liberalism, we have to look at it from the point of view explained above. Quieting consciences and putting them to sleep does not prevent evil from flourishing, but it does prevent good from being done.

S. I see then that the words liberty and freedom are very often wrongly used in our day?
T. Yes. Just as the overthrow of right order in the sixteenth century was styled reform and the revolt against God in 1789 was termed emancipation and progress, so now the abuse of liberty is termed exercise of freedom. Liberty is the power of adopting the means which lead to man's happiness, that is, the power of doing in unimpeded fashion what he ought to do. It cannot be too
often insisted upon that it is in doing what he ought to do that man lives as a man and by this attains his good. Man is free in proportion to his power to exercise his selective
capacity unhampered either by revolts within himself or by obstacles in his surroundings provocative of these revolts. Freedom does not mean absence of restrictions but the absence of restrictions that are unsuited to the nature of man.

1. A circular of the Marxian communists quoted by Léon de Poncins in his splendid work The Secret Powers Behind Revolution, p, 44, however, shows that deified man, as one would logically expect him to do, will aim at eliminating all worship of other gods. The worship of the True God must not be tolerated. The circular runs as follows: "In our decrees, it is definitely proclaimed that religion is a question for the private individual; but whilst opportunists tended to see in these words the meaning that the State would adopt the policy of folded arms, the Marxian revolutionary recognises the duty of the State to lead a most resolute struggle against religion by means of ideological influences on the proletarian masses."

  2. The legislation of the recently established Spanish Republic is an excellent illustration of the truth of these statements.

3. Encyclical Letter Libertas, on Human Liberty, quoted in Letter to the Archbishop of Bogota, The translation of this Encyclical is given as found in Benziger's Edition. The rest of the letter to the Archbishop has been translated from the original, as found in the Collection of La Bonne Presse, Paris.

4. The translation of this passage runs as follows in Benziger's edition: "For these reasons how great a multitude of men is involved in danger as to their eternal salvation surpasses belief." In the preceding passages the Pope has exposed the situation resulting from modern principles.