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Church History Forum: was religion embraced by kingdoms too....

by Catherine Frakas 26 Dec 2001

was religion embraced by kingdoms too.... QUESTION from zhivago June 20, 2001 what i want to know, is if you was king ,would you help spread a religion, to give your subjects morales and values to help control your people? I mean if you keep your working class embarced in a fear that if they do wrong they go to the underworld, this would be a great control to keep your working classes behave nicely to, which would in turn keep them happy so they continue to work and pay taxes.
ANSWER by Q & A Staff on June 21, 2001
Dear Dr. zhivago,
Your qustion is a little vague. On the one hand it sems to be a question of what one should think regarding the question of religious liberty. For a detailed account of what the Catholic Church teaches, please see the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom (DIGNITATIS HUMANAE)
This document gives the current teaching of the Church on this matter. I should add a couple of general points in regard to the document:
It addresses only the issue of religious freedom in the technical secuular sense, and does not concern itself with religious freedon within the Church.
It's use of the word 'conscience' is in the generic Latin sense of 'belief' and does not in any way base the right to freedom of religion on freedom of conscience (which would essentially be a form of subjectivism, meaning that one's conscience, and not objective truth, would determine right from wronng or truth from error). The basis for religious freedom as stated in the document is the dignity of man, and his right to be free from coercion in religious matters. It is not based on his right to be wrong.
To address you question a little more directly, in history, yes, many kingdoms had established the Catholic Church as the religion of the state. During the Protestant Revolt, many German and Scandinavian princes chose to establish Lutheranism as the religion of the state.
In paragraph 6 of the Declaration, the Catholic Church claims that she does not condemn establishment per se, but she also implies that establishment from the Catholic viewpoint is a matter of historical circumstance, and not theological necessity. All the Church claims and requres from the State is freedom. See also paragraph 9 of the Declaration.
The above are just some of my comments on what I think your question is asking. I suggest you read the Declaration in it's fullness, however, to get a complete picture. It might also be useful to read the Encyclical Pacem in Terris of Pope John XXIII, from which the Declaraion draws much insight.
On the other hand, your question seems to ask if it is ok for a ruler to spread a religion which he may or may not believe himself, in order to gain economically. I would say that the methods you suggest for a ruler would certainly not be consonant with preaching the Gospel, as a) it is simply utilitarianism, and b) it is a message of fear, rather than love.
I hope this answers your question.
God bless,
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