Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

4/23/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (

How does Jesus Christ affect religious freedom?

The State must in particular respect the religious freedom of the Church, as a perfect society, one whose existence, constitution, and mission is by divine warrant.  With respect to the Church, "[t]he duty to respect religious freedom requires that the political community guarantee the Church the space needed to carry out her mission." (Compendium, No. 424) 


By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (

4/23/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Religious Freedom, religious liberty, inalienable rights, Catholic Social Teaching, Natural Law, Andrew M Greenwell,

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - The issue of religious freedom is cleft into two.  There is the religious freedom and freedom of conscience that is part and parcel of the natural man who seeks the truth, the homo quaerens Deum.  We handled that issue in our last article.  But there is also the religious freedom and freedom of conscience that arise out of Jesus Christ, the Deus quarens in homine hominem, the "God who seeks man in man" as St. Augustine put it.

How does Jesus Christ affect religious freedom?

The Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ, and so we have to focus on who this Jesus Christ was, and what authority in heaven and earth was given him in order to understand what authority was given to the Church by him.  As the Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith puts it in Dominus Iesus, "The Lord Jesus, before ascending into heaven, commanded his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world and to baptize all nations . . . . The Church's universal mission is born from the command of Jesus Christ and is fulfilled in . . .  the mystery of the incarnation of the Son, as saving event for all humanity."

We have here two realities: Jesus and the Church.  We shall briefly treat of who Jesus is, and then what the Church Jesus established is.

In Jesus we confront what the Protestant theologian Gerhard Kittel called "das Ärgernis der Einmaligkeit," which been translated as "the scandal of particularity." The "scandal of particularity" in Jesus arises from the fact that he is God as well as man.  Among all religious figures he is unique and universal.  This "scandal of particularity" has a great effect upon the Church's understanding of her freedom vis-ŕ-vis the various States.

Relying on the teachings of Dominus Iesus, we see in Jesus Christ, "the full revelation of divine truth is given."  The Church is convinced that in Jesus "the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines forth," as he is "at the same time the mediator and the fullness of all revelation."  Jesus is "the new and definitive covenant," one which "will never pass away," and one which expects "no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ."  God's revelation to man is fully completed in Christ.  There is for man no other Savior.  There is for man no other Way.

"There is only one salvific economy of the One and Triune God, realized in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, actualized with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, and extended in its salvific value to all humanity and to the entire universe: 'No one, therefore, can enter into communion with God except through Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit.'"

This is the "scandal of particularity" in Jesus.

"The Lord Jesus, the only Savior," continues Dominus Iesus, " constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him.  Therefore, the fullness of Christ's salvific mystery belongs also to the Church, inseparably united to her Lord."  In short, just as there is one mediator, there is one Church. "[T]herefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him."

This is the "scandal of particularity" as it pertains to Christ's body, the Church.

The Church was given a mission by the God who revealed himself in Christ.  "With the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity."  "The mission of the Church is 'to proclaim and establish among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth, the seed and the beginning of that kingdom." 

Uniquely, the Church has been divinely appointed to proclaim and to establish, to say and to do.  With this duty come rights.

What rights, then do Jesus and his Church have against civil society, in particular against the political community which orders civil society?  The answer to that question is briefly treated in sections 424-27 of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

Like the State, the Church manifests itself in a "visible organizational structure."  It is, along with the State, a "perfect society" with all the means at its disposal for its function. (Compendium, No. 445)  To be sure, the "organizational structures" of the Church and of the State "are by nature different because of their configuration and because of the ends they pursue." (Compendium, No. 424).  Their respective ends principally determine their spheres of competence, although, since societies and the men which compose them are one and not divided, they may be some overlap.

"The Second Vatican Council," the Compendium states, "solemnly reaffirmed that, 'in their proper spheres, the political community and the Church are mutually independent and self-governing.'"  In some respects, they are autonomous.  "The autonomy and independence of these two realities is particularly evident with regards to their ends."  (Compendium, No. 424)

As we discussed in our last article, the State must respect the religious freedom of its citizens since they are under a duty under the natural moral law which impels them to seek truth, to accept it once recognized, and to live their life in accordance with their well-formed conscience as they travel--in full light or in partial shade--to the one True God. 

But the Church also has rights separate and apart from these.  The State must in particular respect the religious freedom of the Church, as a perfect society, one whose existence, constitution, and mission is by divine warrant.  With respect to the Church, "[t]he duty to respect religious freedom requires that the political community guarantee the Church the space needed to carry out her mission." (Compendium, No. 424) 

Failure to do so is against the will of God.

We might therefore craft a sort of "Bill of Rights" of the Church as summarized by the Compendium:

  • The right to the legal recognition of her proper identity
  • The right to express her moral judgment on "all of human reality," to the extent that it may be needful to "defend the fundamental rights of the person or for the salvation of souls."
  • The right to freedom of expression
  • The right to teach and to evangelize
  • The right to worship God in a public manner
  • The right to her own organization, her own internal government, without interference from the State, including the right to select, educate, name, and transfer ministers
  • The right to construct religious buildings
  • The right to acquire and possess sufficient goods for her activity
  • The right to form associations not only for religious purposes, but also for educational, cultural, health case, and charitable purposes
This is the "elbow room" that is the Church's right, by natural and divine law.

Communist governments (e.g., China) and Islamic governments (e.g., Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, etc.) grossly violate these rights, and so, in their laws which prevent the Church from exercising freely her mission, may be said to be acting manifestly against the will of God as revealed both in the natural moral law and in divine law as contained in the Gospels.  Unfortunately, we increasingly see the same kind of violations in liberal or secularist governments of the West.  Particularly offensive, however, are the actions of the Islamic countries which, ostensibly in name of God act against the will of God.

We must insist that the Church's rights be respected by all governments of the world.  This is based upon a preeminent law: salus animarum suprema lex.  The salvation of the souls is the supreme law.  In the words of the crusaders: Deus lo vult, God wills it.


Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More U.S.

What it was like to fly Pope Francis around America: American Airlines crew speaks out Watch

Image of The Pope blessed the crew, their families, and the plane during his tour.


Pope Francis' American Airlines flight crew has opened up about the spiritual experience, claiming the papal meeting was "like seeing God." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pilot George Griffin, his co-pilots and 15 cabin crew members were picked from a pool of ... continue reading

New ISIS video features a 'cub of the caliphate' directly threaten US President Barack Obama Watch

Image of A young ISIS member delivers a threat to US President Barack Obama (YouTube).


A young ISIS jihadi was featured in an ISIS video dressed in army fatigues and holding a rocket launcher as he  delivered a threat to US President Barack Obama. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A young boy who looks to be no more than 10-years-old was recorded ... continue reading

Did Clinton hide the discovery of the Khobar Towers bombers? Watch

Image of Former US President Bill Clinton (Brothersoft)


In order to reestablish diplomatic ties with Tehran, former U.S. President Bill Clinton hid the discovery of Iran's involvement of the Khobar Towers bombing which killed 19 U.S. servicemen in 1996. The allegations are not new, but in a recent report, heavy evidence ... continue reading

Terrorists can easily enter the U.S. through Texas/Mexico border Watch

Image of


Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Steve McCraw, warned the U.S. was vulnerable in terms of infiltration through the country's southern border. McCraw reported some people coming from countries flagged to have "terrorism presence."  LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading

STUDY: Arabic, Urdu the fastest growing secondary languages in the United States Watch

Image of The most recent census study shows that the fastest-growing foreign languages are languages spoken by immigrants from Muslim-majority countries.


The Census Bureau's 2014 American Community Survey reports that between 2010 and 2014, there was a 29 percent increase in Arabic spoken in the United States. There is also a 23 percent increase in Urdu, and a nine percent jump in Persian, the language spoken in ... continue reading

California mother punched in the face by police files lawsuit Watch

Image of The police officer allegedly pulled over Cindy Hahn moments later on an alleged seat belt violation and arrested Hahn as her children watched.


The one sure thing about cell phone technology is that authority figures will not be able to slip easily from the law. A 40-year-old mother is suing the city of Carlsbad, California after being physically assaulted by police officers in July of 2013. It was all ... continue reading

Cargo ship missing after sailing into Hurricane Joaquin Watch

Image of Katie and Keith Griffin (Facebook).


El Faro, a cargo ship, was caught in Hurricane Joaquin, leaving several American crew members missing. Worried friends and family of the missing staff members continue to hope for survivors. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The US Coast Guard announced that they ... continue reading

Oregon shooting hero still in recovery: Donations for his medical expenses surpass $700,000 Watch

Image of Chris Mintz.


Chris Mintz left a happy birthday message for his nonverbal autistic son on Thursday before going to his classes at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Later, he reportedly set off fire alarms as a gunman opened fire. Mintz charged the shooter, was ... continue reading

Two farmers in Michigan unearth woolly mammoth remains Watch

Image of Because of the tight harvest schedule, the farmers gave researchers a single day to unearth the find. Excavators worked intently last week until sundown.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Two farmers in Michigan made a momentous find while they dug a drainage ditch. The remains of a woolly mammoth, enormous tusks intact, was unearthed. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - James Bristle of Lima Township was digging in a soybean field early last week ... continue reading

President Obama shares how Pope Francis's visit to the U.S. makes him want to be better Watch

Image of President Obama with Pope Francis during the pontiffs visit to the U.S.


It has been a week since Pope Francis' historical visit to the U.S. However, his presence and inspiration continues to linger as President Obama revealed he wants to become better after his meeting with the Pope. WASHINGTON D.C. (Catholic Online) - The pope is back in ... continue reading

All U.S. News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Joel 1:13-15; 2:1-2
13 Priests, put on sackcloth and lament! You ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 9:2-3, 6, 16, 8-9
6 the enemy is wiped out -- mere ruins for ever -- ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 11:15-26
15 But some of them said, 'It is through Beelzebul, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 9th, 2015 Image

Sts. Denis, Rusticus, and Eleutherius
October 9: The first mention we have of these three martyrs who died around ... Read More