Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 20, 1960
NUMBER 24, PAGE 1,12-13a

Truth Or Error?

Joe Neil Clayton, Noble, Oklahoma

I. Documentation Of Material About Catholic Doctrine Is Important.

It is not well to disparage the earnest and sincere efforts of anyone who is trying to prevent the occurrence of Roman Catholic domination of our free society. However, in recent weeks (since the Democratic Convention nominated a Roman Catholic for President), much space has been devoted in religious publications to the subject of separation of Church and State and other related topics. Much of this material has been accurately documented, but some of it has employed arguments that are trivial and quotations that are less than authentic. By the latter practice, the one who writes is endangering the success of his effort, because such information produces either prejudice or revulsion. If it is important to oppose Roman Catholic intervention into our free political system (and we surely believe that it is), then it is worth the effort to do it in a scholarly and factual manner.

A prime example of the loose tactics of some writers is the use of a quotation allegedly attributed to Abraham Lincoln, in which he is supposed to have severely castigated the Roman Catholic system. The quotation is taken from a book entitled Fifty Years in The Church of Rome, by a former priest named Chiniquy. This book is a hundred years old, making it contemporary with Lincoln, it the quotations are not very "Lincolnesque" in character. Paul Blanshard, the noted author of American Freedom and Catholic Power and Communism, Democracy, and Catholic Power, books which have commanded wide respect and interest because of their contemporary importance, states that it is unwise to use such quotations in dealing with this important subject. He answered my inquiry about this with the following letter:

September 2

Dear Mr. Clayton:

I would advise you not to use any quotations from Father Chiniquy. At this late date there is no fool-proof way to prove that he is unreliable, since most of his alleged conversations with Lincoln had no witness and in any case the witnesses would be dead, but the material in his book about Lincoln seems to me inherently doubtful.

I recently went through the book in the Library of Congress again — I had read it carefully before but this time I examined it more carefully. The quotations from Lincoln are not in Lincoln's style but in Chilliquy's style. Much of the alleged language of Lincoln is much too extreme to fit in with Lincoln's viewpoints. I do not know of any reliable Lincoln biographers who place reliance in the Chiniquy account.

Sincerely yours,

Paul Blanshard

Mr. Blanshard is very careful to document his writings from reliable sources, so as to escape the prospect of being challenged regarding his authorities. In the Prologue of American Freedom and Catholic Power, he says, "Wherever possible I have let the Catholic hierarchy speak for itself. There is a Catholic source for almost every major fact in this book, and the documents, dates, publishers and official Imprimaturs are all listed, with due acknowledgements, in the Notes at the end of the book" He amply fulfils this promise by using a tenth of the volume for bibliography and notes. We would do well to emulate his example in this.

It is a good rule to appeal, like Mr. Blanshard, to Catholic sources for proofs of statements, rather than to non-Catholic sources. Books by Catholic authors, which bear "Nihil Obstat" and "Imprimatur" signatures, are meant to be acceptable to Catholics. The "Nihil Obstat" (meaning "nothing hinders," a phrase defined by Webster as "a formula on title pages signifying the imprimatur of the official censor") is included so that Catholics may know that the book is approved reading by the hierarchy. The official censor's name follows the phrase. The "Imprimatur" is, according to Webster again, "A license to print or publish a book, paper, etc.; also, where censorship of the press exists, approval of that which is published. Hence sanction, approval." An example of this is the book entitled The Papal Encyclicals in Their Historical Context, by Anne Fremantle. It bears both the Nihil Obstat signature and the Imprimatur of Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York. These signatures are followed by this statement:

"The nihil obstat and imprimatur are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the nihil obstat and imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed."

In spite of the last statement of the paragraph, which clears the official of connection with the author's opinions, the first sentence indicates that the doctrine is free from error. It only remains for one to discover the Catholic attitude toward the authority of such doctrine.

II. When Is A Catholic Truth A Truth?

In reading Catholic documents, one often is confused about the authority of statements contained therein, for oftimes one author is seemingly contradicted by another. For instance, in the book on the Papal Encyclicals, mentioned above, there appear two statements by different Popes on the subject of Church and State. The first one is from the "Syllabus" of Pius IX (1846-78), a collection of prominent errors of the time. Reiterating the doctrine of his former address (Allocution "Acerbissimum," Sept. 27, 1852), he states that it is an error to contend that "The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church." However, in another place in the book, Pius X (1903-14) makes the following statement:

"In the same way, then, as faith and science are alien to each other by reason of the diversity of their objects, Church and State are strangers by reason of the diversity of their ends, that of the Church being spiritual while that of the State is temporal....The State must, therefore, be separated from the Church, and the Catholic from the Citizen." (Pascendi Dominici Gregis, September 8, 1907).

This latter statement seems to be contradictory to the former. Actually, research into other Catholic sources will show that the Church and the State must merely be recognized as distinct realms, rather than separated "in toto." Catholics still reserve the right to dictate to the State, and to force it to comply with its demands. Even the Catholic conception of the State has to be defined by Catholic teaching. In a statement about the Condition of The Working Classes, Pope Leo XIII (1870-1903) says,

"By the State we here understand, not the particular form of government prevailing in this or that nation, but the State as rightly apprehended; that is to say, any government conformable in its institutions to right reason and natural law, and to those dictates of the divine wisdom which we have expounded in the Encyclica on 'The Christian Constitution of the State'." (Rerum Novarum, May 15, 1891).

Thus, we observe the double-talk method of obscuring traditional Catholic dogmas, so that they will not be misinterpreted by anti-Catholic writers and commentators. In his book, American Freedom and Catholic Power, Paul Blanshard commended the rare frankness of Monsignor George B. O'Toole, Professor of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America, in clearing up the confusion on this important matter. Mr. O'Toole wrote:

"It is clear, then, that no Catholic may positively and unconditionally approve of the policy of separation of church and state. But given a country like the United States, where religious denominations abound and the population is largely non-Catholic, it is clear that the policy of treating all religions alike becomes, all things considered, a practical necessity, the only way of avoiding a deadlock. Under such circumstances separation of Church and State is to be accepted, not indeed as the ideal arrangement, but as a modus vivendi (Webster defines this term as "Mode of living; hence, a temporary arrangement pending settlement of a dispute." JNC). (Louis Veuillot, The Liberal Illusion, 1939, p. 10; translated by Monsignor O'Toole.)

In order, therefore, to discover the "truth" of a Catholic statement, it is necessary to uncover the semantic rule followed in the use of such terms as "Church," "State," and "separate."

This is also true in regard to the terms "faith" and "morals" when used in connection with the infallible or Ex Cathedra statements of Popes. A young denominational preacher recently declared to me that he would vote for a Catholic, in view of the fact that he had "discovered" that Catholics have changed their viewpoint on the subject of the relationship of Church and State. He said that they could change their opinions on this without appearing inconsistent, because that teaching did not fall under the class of either faith or morals, to which realms infallible doctrines are limited. His discovery convinced him that definition of the nature of the church did not fall under either faith or morals. In this he is sadly mistaken, for definition of the nature and prerogatives of the Catholic Church very definitely fails under the classification of "faith" as the Catholic understands "faith."

The superiority of the church over the state is recognized as a doctrine that cannot be refuted by all who embrace the New Testament as the only rule of faith and practice, but they also realize that Christ authorized no connection between church and state. Beginning with the statements "My kingdom is not of this world" and "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's," we build a mighty case from scripture in favor of the complete separation of Church and State. God intended for the church of the New Testament to be completely indifferent as to the form of government under which it labored. Thorough examination of the nature of the New Testament church will reveal that God designed that church to be inherently able to exist under any and all kinds of government, democratic or totalitarian. Catholic doctrine does make for separation after this order, but injects the church into temporal affairs with the object to control them to her own interest. No wonder, then, that recent international history has revealed a struggle to remove her from that temporal realm. Any thinking person would be doing an injustice to his forebears, if he now helped to restore the Catholic Church to her former position of power by supporting her representatives in high office.

We conclude from all of this that Catholics use a language of convenience, which is designed to lull the senses of honest spectators, and which is hard to pin down in commentaries. Nevertheless, scholarship and research will uncover the hidden meanings and obscure definitions of terms, and Catholic doctrine can be exposed in its true light. My denominational friend, mentioned above, said that he did not distrust the Catholics, but I answer that I do. I have no choice but to be suspicious of a system that talks out of both sides of its mouth, so I will continue to distrust them until they openly repudiate their traditional doctrines. When we oppose this totalitarian religio-political institution, let us document our writings with unimpeachable and scriptural authorities. By this means we will keep the fight on an intellectual plane. In this day and time all literary efforts will probably be condemned as bigoted, if they deal with this subject. Nevertheless, we feel compelled to speak against the bigotry that condemns others as bigots. We speak against intolerant attitudes in those who think that tolerance is a one-way street, always going their way. God grant that our voices may be heard and heeded by thinking people.