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.

BIGGER THAN ISIS - There's a hidden power behind ISIS and it's so big and so powerful, you won't believe this MASSIVE SHOCKING fact about it! Watch

Image of Obama is the titular head of the world's most nefarious terrorist organization, a title he may have inherited from his predecessor, and that will be passed to his successor.


If you were asked, what is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated in human history, how would you answer? Global warming? Vaccines? The Moon Landing? Entire religions?  (Not that we agree with these). But what would you say? In a moment, we're going to offer an answer ... continue reading

'Black Friday' leaving bruises as shoppers trample each other for best deals Watch

Image of Sales for pricey items such as electronic devices erupt into violence on


Everyone has had their turkey leftovers from the previous day's Thanksgiving Feast - and now it's out the door to the nearest "big box" store in a mad scavenger hunt called "Black Friday," where shoppers trample each other for the best deals then can get just before ... continue reading

President likens Syrian refugees to pilgrims on Mayflower in Thanksgiving address Watch

Image of The president then went on to say that, all Americans must open their neighborhoods, their homes, and hearts to Syrian refugees.


United States President Barack Obama called on Americans to welcome Syrian refugees this Thanksgiving season, who - like the pilgrims that set sail on the Mayflower, were likewise fleeing persecution in their native land. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - ... continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving Day: Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart Watch

Image of Around tables throughout America, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gather with mothers and fathers, Grandpas and Grandmas, extended family, neighbors and friends to thank God and one another. And then, we feast; not only on the food, but even more importantly, on the gift of the love which informs all family relationships and true friendships, the real source of lasting joy, the love of the God who gave us life and liberty.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Happy Thanksgiving Day. May it be a day for love and gratitude. No matter how difficult the challenges we face as a Nation, we have much to be grateful for. As we give thanks, we will find the strength we need to love even more fully. As we practice regularly ... continue reading

New ISIS video taunts United States to 'bring it on' Watch

Image of While the video is pumping up Islamist State, the fact of the matter is is the group is suffering heavy losses on the ground form allied bombardment, especially since Russia began bombing the group


A new video from the Islamic State is highlighting the high number of U.S. soldiers who commit suicide, in effect to tell the world's last remaining superpower to "bring it on." U.S. President Barack Obama has since dismissed ISIS as "a bunch of killers with ... continue reading

Horrific outrage erupts over proposed mosque in Virginia after Paris attacks Watch

Image of The Muslim community in Fredericksburg, Virginia has received support from the local Christian and Jewish clergy.


"Nobody wants your evil cult," declared a man at a zoning meeting in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was lobbing his invective at several American Muslims there over a proposed mosque to be built there. "Every one of you are terrorists. I don't care what you say. ... continue reading

The revealing truth behind the traditional presidential Thanksgiving turkey pardon Watch

Image of President Ronald Reagan was the first U.S. president to use the word


President Obama will pardon two turkeys - named Tom One and Tom Two - from a turkey farm in Modesto California on Thanksgiving Eve as part of an annual presidential tradition. Obama will make a few jokes with his family and then pardon the turkeys to live out ... continue reading

'Domestic terrorism': 5 People shot during Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis Watch

Image of Despite a shooting at a Minneapolis Black Lives Matter protest, the group plans to return to the precinct to continue their protests.


Protesters were standing outside the 4th Precinct in Minneapolis for Black Lives Matter in the case of 24-year-old Jamar Clark when gunshots rang out. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) -Five protesters were shot outside the police station Tuesday afternoon as one ... continue reading

Planned Parenthood sues the State of Texas: Find out why NOW Watch

Image of The complainants maintain that planned intervention of the government is a violation of the federal statute and the 14th Amendment, which ensures equal protection.


Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit this week against the State of Texas for blocking its Medicaid funding. Planned Parenthood says that the decision was motivated by politics - and not because of health care concerns. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The ... continue reading

Terror threats spark shocking WORLD WIDE TRAVEL ALERTS Watch

Image of In either case, travelers can expect beefed-up security at airports in the coming weeks - and longer lines.


It is the start of the holiday season in the United States - and with the world still thoroughly rattled after the attacks in Paris this past November 13, travel alerts are in high effect. Even worse, those who decide to stay home through Thanksgiving and ... 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

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • The Miracle Prayer HD Video
  • BIGGER THAN ISIS - There's a hidden power behind ISIS and it's so big ...
  • St. Catherine Laboure: Saint of the Day for Saturday, November 28, 2015
  • 'Black Friday' leaving bruises as shoppers trample each other for ...
  • President likens Syrian refugees to pilgrims on Mayflower in ...
  • Prayer For Courage HD Video
  • Daily Readings for Saturday, November 28, 2015

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Daniel 7:15-27
15 'I, Daniel, was deeply disturbed and the visions that passed through ... Read More

Psalm, Daniel 3:82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87
82 Bless the Lord, all the human race: praise and glorify him for ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:34-36
34 'Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 28th, 2015 Image

St. Catherine Laboure
November 28: St. Catherine Laboure, virgin, was born on May 2, ... Read More