The Impossible Encyclical: Pacem in Terris turns 60.

Cardinal Roncalli receiving from the hands of the Socialist and Freemason French President Vincent Auriol the cardinal's bar in Paris, France, on January 1953.

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These days the Vatican is commemorating the 60th anniversary of the encyclical letter Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”) by Angelo Roncalli (‘Pope John XXIII’). Although officially dated Apr. 11, 1963 — Holy Thursday — it was actually signed and issued a day early.

Pacem in Terris came at the tail end of Roncalli’s usurped pontificate — less than two months later, he was dead. It was the height of the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis having occurred roughly six months before. The main architect of the text was Mgr. Pietro Pavan (1903-1994), who would later be named ‘cardinal’ by ‘Pope’ John Paul II. The Pillar has put together a brief guide to the encyclical, giving a general overview and situating it in its historical context.

The following video clips show the signing ceremony:

The encyclical marks a turning point of sorts because it contains John XXIII’s attempt to lay the groundwork for establishing religious liberty in the Catholic Church, a doctrine that had been condemned by various Popes as a pernicious error, especially Pius VII (Post Tam Diuturnas), Gregory XVI (Mirari Vos), Pius IX (Quanta Cura and Syllabus of Errors), and Leo XIII (Immortale Dei and Libertas Praestantissimum).

Furthermore, less than ten years before Roncalli’s magnum opus was issued, Pope Pius XII had reminded Italian Catholic jurists in an audience of the true Catholic doctrine concerning Church-state relations and religious toleration (see Address Ci Riesce of Dec. 6, 1953; see also Mgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton’s commentary here).

There are other problems with the encyclical, but for the purposes of this post we will confine ourselves to the issue of freedom of religion.

False Doctrine in Pacem in Terris

The troublesome passage of Pacem in Terris in which Roncalli, disguised as Pope, sneaks in the error of religious liberty (while at the same time trying to retain a tiny bit of plausible deniability), is paragraph 14. The offending sentence is:

In hominis iuribus hoc quoque numerandum est, ut et Deum, ad rectam conscientiae suae normam, venerari possit, et religionem privatim publice profiteri. (Antipope John XXIII, Encyclical Pacem in Terris, n. 14; official Latin text in Acta Apostolicae Sedis LV [1963], pp. 257-304.)

In the official English translation, published in The Pope Speaks, vol. 9 (pp. 13-48), and also on the Vatican web site, this sentence is rendered as follows:

Also among man’s rights is that of being able to worship God in accordance with the right dictates of his own conscience, and to profess his religion both in private and in public.

There is a two-pronged right being asserted here, namely, one that allows man (a) “to worship God in accordance with the right dictates of his own conscience” and (b) “to profess his religion both in private and in public”.

Before we go any further, let us look at the true Catholic doctrine.

The True Catholic Doctrine

It is the traditional teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that with regard to a true and proper right, man can only have the right to believe and practice the true religion, not any other.

In 1814, Pope Pius VII wrote to Bishop Etienne-Marie de Boulogne of Troyes, France:

…[W]hen the liberty of all “religions” is indiscriminately asserted, by this very fact truth is confounded with error and the holy and immaculate Spouse of Christ, the Church, outside of which there can be no salvation, is set on a par with the sects of heretics and with Judaic perfidy itself. For when favour and patronage is promised even to the sects of heretics and their ministers, not only their persons, but also their very errors, are tolerated and fostered: a system of errors in which is contained that fatal and never sufficiently to be deplored HERESY which, as St. Augustine says (de Haeresibus, no. 72), “asserts that all heretics proceed correctly and tell the truth: which is so absurd that it seems incredible to me.” (Pope Pius VII, Brief Post Tam Diuturnas; original Latin found in Sermons et Discours inédits de M. de Boulogne [Paris, 1830], pp. clxv-clxxi.)

In his 1832 encyclical against Liberalism, Pope Gregory XVI thundered:

This shameful font of indifferentism [the idea that it does not matter what religion one embraces] gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. “But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error,” as Augustine was wont to say [Epistle 166]. When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly “the bottomless pit” [Apoc 9:3] is open from which John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. Thence comes transformation of minds, corruption of youths, contempt of sacred things and holy laws — in other words, a pestilence more deadly to the state than any other. Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty. (Pope Gregory XVI, Encyclical Mirari Vos, n. 14)

Thus, in 1864, Pope Pius IX condemned the following proposition: “Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true” (Syllabus of Errors, n. 15).

This clear traditional Catholic doctrine does not mean, however, that all non-Catholics must be prevented from any and all public exercise or expression of their false religions in a Catholic state, it only means they have no right to practice their religion in public. It is up to the state authority, which is indirectly subject to the Church, to regulate the public practice of false religions, especially worship and proselytism. Very often, prudence suggests — sometimes it may even require — a path of toleration on the part of the Catholic state with regard to the non-Catholic population. But even a state’s generous toleration of public non-Catholic religious worship and practice does not translate into a right to religious liberty on the part of the non-Catholic.

The Sulpician theologian Fr. Adolphe Tanquerey (1854-1932) explains:

Hypothetically, if we posit the fact that the good of society demands that the various kinds of divine worship enjoy the same serenity as the true religion, then what today is called freedom of conscience and of worship can be tolerated.

Therefore, the Roman Pontiffs do not absolutely condemn these freedoms; but they do forbid that these liberties be considered as rights which must be granted to error or to false religion. (Rev. Adolphe Tanquerey, Manual of Dogmatic Theology, vol. 1, trans. by Mgr. John J. Byrnes [New York, NY: Desclee Company, 1959], n. 281.b.2; italics given.)

That is the traditional Catholic teaching: Toleration is possible, but toleration does not translate into a right.

Pope Pius XII himself affirmed this, less than 10 years before Pacem in Terris sought to overturn this doctrine:

First: that which does not correspond to truth or to the norm of morality objectively has no right to exist, to be spread or to be activated. Secondly: failure to impede this with civil laws and coercive measures can nevertheless be justified in the interests of a higher and more general good. (Pope Pius XII, Allocution Ci Riesce, sec. V)

What then do we make of John XXIII’s thesis that man has a right “to worship God in accordance with the right dictates of his own conscience, and to profess his religion both in private and in public”?

The ‘Right’ Interpretation

Does the fact that the encyclical speaks of the “right dictates of [man’s] own conscience” mean that he has a right only to practice the true religion? Or does it mean that man has a right to practice any religion that is in accordance with his upright (i.e. sincere) conscience, even if the religion is false?

In the American Ecclesiastical Review, the Redemptorist Fr. Francis Connell (1888-1967) answered the matter as follows:

This question revolves about the disputed problem whether or not one who sincerely believes a religion which is objectively false to be true has a real right to profess and to practice it. In recent times some have upheld the affirmative, and would like to see this opinion approved by the Second Vatican Council. However, the traditional view has been that an erroneous conscience (even when inculpably erroneous) gives no real right to profess or to practice a religion that is objectively false. Such a conscience can give only a subjective right (or a jus existimatum). As our correspondent points out, the English translation of Pacem in terris seems to support the former view, since it says that a person may follow the dictates of an upright conscience in his choice of religion, and one can be said to follow an upright conscience even when, through inculpable ignorance, he professes an objectively false religion. However, further investigation of the Encyclical clearly indicates that the English translation does not render correctly the Latin phraseology. In the Latin version we read that a person enjoys the right to practice religion according to the right norm of his conscience (ad rectam suae conscientiae normam). This is very different from saying that he is free to choose his religion according to his upright conscience. The word right, applied to conscience, may mean either true or in accord with one’s honest conscience (even though inculpably erroneous). In other words, the Encyclical uses a word that can be interpreted according to either of the views described above. Evidently, Pope John XXIII intended to leave unanswered the question whether a person has a real right to embrace in good faith a false religion, or has a real right to accept only the religion that is objectively true. (Fr. Francis Connell, “Freedom of Worship”, American Ecclesiastical Review CXLIX, n. 3 [Sep. 1963], pp. 201-202; italics given; underlining added.)

Thus we have established that Roncalli used ambiguous wording, resulting in multiple possible interpretations.

The Jesuit Fr. Richard Regan (1930-2020) provides the following background on this very issue:

On the specific question of interpreting the dictum on religious freedom in Pacem in terris, [Mgr.] Pavan claims that [‘Pope’] John did not commit himself. He was aware of the division of theological opinion on religious freedom but wanted to allow time for further study. … Nevertheless, the thrust of the whole encyclical favored a liberal interpretation of the dictum.
(Richard J. Regan, S.J., Conflict and Consensus: Religious Freedom and the Second Vatican Council [New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, 1967], p. 71, fn. 29)

While it may very well be that that is what Roncalli told theologians who asked him about the matter, we can give at least six concrete reasons for why it is reasonable to believe that John XXIII was deliberately trying to undermine the traditional doctrine condemning religious freedom and thereby provide an easy opportunity for it to be changed later on.

For one thing, Pacem in Terris is not addressed merely to the Catholic hierarchy, or even to Catholic laity, but to “all men of good will”. In other words, Roncalli was addressing all mankind, including Protestants, Jews, Zoroastrians, Freemasons, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, and so on. To think that all these people would understand the passage in question to mean that they have a right to practice Catholicism — and no other religion — is absurd.

Secondly, if John had wanted to say that it is the right of every man to embrace the Catholic religion only and profess it in private and in public, he could simply have said so. In fact, it would have been his duty to say so, for that is the Catholic teaching regarding genuine religious liberty: Only the true religion has the right, properly speaking, to be accepted, practiced, and spread freely. As ‘Pope’, it would have been his obligation to affirm and defend the timeless Catholic teaching.

Thirdly, the liberal interpretation of the passage in question (i.e. the one that departs from and contradicts the traditional understanding) is how the vast majority of people understood Roncalli’s “right to religious freedom”. One may assume that the entire world understood it that way, with the exception of a few academics and sticklers for a “hermeneutic of continuity”.

We will look at some evidence for that in a minute, but for the time being, suffice it to note that the liberal interpretation is given to the passage even in the official English translation of the ‘papal’ text found in The Pope Speaks (page 16). We can see this simply by looking at the subheading for par. 14, which does not exist in the original Latin text but was added by the editors of the translation:

Thus we see that the teaching is interpreted as simply “The right to worship God according to one’s conscience” in the very Vatican-authorized English translation of the encyclical!

Fourthly, if the liberal understanding were not the intended meaning of the text, why did the Vatican not clarify the matter after it became evident how virtually everyone was interpreting it? Would the Vatican not have an obligation to correct such a serious error and order the tainted translations withdrawn? Silence implies consent, at least when one has the obligation to speak.

Fifthly, the fact that this paragraph of Pacem in Terris in the 33rd edition of Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum (also known as Denzinger-Schönmetzer, published in 1965) added a footnote to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, art. 18 (see D.S. 3961), doesn’t exactly help to dispel the liberal interpretation. This footnote has been retained in subsequent editions and can now be found on page 831 of the English translation of the 43rd edition (Denzinger-Hünermann, published in Latin in 2010). (Purchase through Amazon link benefits Novus Ordo Watch, here and anywhere in this post.)

Furthermore, John XXIII himself endorses the U.N. Declaration in the encyclical itself: “A clear proof of the farsightedness of this organization is provided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. The preamble of this declaration affirms that the genuine recognition and complete observance of all the rights and freedoms outlined in the declaration is a goal to be sought by all peoples and all nations” (Pacem in Terris, n. 143).

Pacem in Terris and Vatican II

Lastly, the ultimate confirmation of the liberal interpretation of Pacem in Terris comes from Vatican II. In its Declaration on Religious Freedom the council taught:

This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself [2]. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.
(Second Vatican Council, Declaration Dignitatis Humanae, n. 2)

Notice it says nothing about whether these beliefs are true, conform to the law or revelation of God, or are even held sincerely.

Yes, elsewhere the declaration does acknowledge that every man is bound in conscience to search for the truth and assent to it when he finds it, but the right to religious liberty the council proclaims is not based upon people fulfilling that obligation. The right exists independently of it and, or so it is claimed, makes the (non-)fulfillment of the obligation possible.

In the quoted text from Dignitatis Humanae reference is made to footnote [2], which reads as follows:

Cf. John XXIII, encycl. “Pacem in Terris”, April 11, 1963: AAS 55 (1963), pp. 260-261; Pius XII, radio message, Dec. 24, 1942: AAS 35 (1943), p. 19; Pius XI, encycl. “Mit Brennender Sorge”, March 14, 1937: AAS 29 (1937), p. 160; Leo XIII, encycl. “Libertas Praestantissimum”, June 20, 1888: Acts of Leo XIII 8 (1888), p. 237-238. (underlining added)

Thus we see that the council interprets Pacem in Terris precisely in the liberal way, the way contrary to the prior teaching. Therefore, if John XXIII and Paul VI were true Popes, then the authoritative interpretation of par. 14 of Pacem in Terris is precisely that which contradicts the prior teaching.

But what about the other items referenced in the footnote? There we find the conciliar declaration hijacking the true Popes in service of religious liberty, and disingenuously so.

In his Christmas message of 1942, Pope Pius XII simply affirmed “the right to worship God in private and public” — he said nothing about it being according to one’s personal preferences or the dictates of one’s conscience. That the worship of God is only permitted in accordance with the laws of God, goes without saying, at least for a Catholic. The Pope spoke in the context of restoring such order to society “that the Star of Peace, the Star of Bethlehem, may shine out again over the whole mankind…” (see English translation in Vincent Yzermans, ed., The Major Addresses of Pope Pius XII, vol. 2 [St. Paul, MN: The North Central Publishing Company, 1961], p. 60).

The reference to Pope Pius XI’s 1937 encyclical against the Nazi ideology is likewise dead on arrival. The Holy Father wrote: “The believer has an absolute right to profess his Faith and live according to its dictates” (Mit Brennender Sorge, n. 31). Is this a slam dunk for Vatican II? Far from it.

The question about the meaning of Pius XI’s words had been raised in 1946 already: “Could not one conclude from this that no matter what religion a person may profess he has a genuine natural right to practice it, without being molested or impeded?” Fr. Francis Connell answered it as follows:

If Pope Pius XI meant to teach what our questioner concludes from his statement, he certainly departed from traditional Catholic belief and from the clear teaching of his predecessor, Pope Pius IX, who condemned the proposition: “Everyone is free to accept and to profess that religion which, under the guidance of the light of reason, he has judged to be true” [Denz. 1715]. It is incredible that Pope Pius XI intended to teach a doctrine so utterly at variance with Catholic tradition — a doctrine, moreover, which would lead to the strange conclusion that a person has an inalienable right to be wrong.

The only reasonable interpretation of the Pope’s words is that he was speaking of the inalienable right of Catholics to profess and to practice their faith in the manner suited to their religious needs. It must be remembered that the Pope was denouncing the Nazi government for its restrictions on the Catholic Church, so that it was most natural that he should proclaim the right of the Catholic to practice his religion. It should be remembered, too, that our English word “believer” is not an adequate translation of [the German] “Der gläubige mensch,” as used in a papal document. This latter phrase is the equivalent of the Latin “fidelis,” which in the language of the Church normally means “one who has the Catholic faith.” Similarly, the word “Christian,” when used in the Church’s official statements, does not [ordinarily] signify anyone who accepts Christ as his religious leader, as the word does nowadays in our land. A Christian, in the language of the Church, [ordinarily] means a Catholic. (Rev. Francis J. Connell, “Pope Pius XI and Religious Liberty”, American Ecclesiastical Review CXV, n. 2 [August, 1946], p. 139; italics given; underlining added. Reprinted with minor modifications in Father Connell Answers Moral Questions, ed. by Rev. Eugene K. Weitzel [Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1959], pp. 2-3.)

Lastly, the council references Pope Leo XIII’s 1888 encyclical Libertas Praestantissimum, and so does John XXIII further on in the same troublesome par. 14 of Pacem in Terris:

Hence, too, Pope Leo XIII declared that “true freedom, freedom worthy of the sons of God, is that freedom which most truly safeguards the dignity of the human person. It is stronger than any violence or injustice. Such is the freedom which has always been desired by the Church, and which she holds most dear. It is the sort of freedom which the Apostles resolutely claimed for themselves. The apologists defended it in their writings; thousands of martyrs consecrated it with their blood.” (Antipope John XXIII, Encyclical Pacem in Terris, n. 14)

The words of Pope Leo are found in par. 30 of his Libertas encyclical. The paragraph reads in full (the underlined portion is that quoted by John XXIII):

Another liberty is widely advocated, namely, liberty of conscience. If by this is meant that everyone may, as he chooses, worship God or not, it is sufficiently refuted by the arguments already adduced. But it may also be taken to mean that every man in the State may follow the will of God and, from a consciousness of duty and free from every obstacle, obey His commands. This, indeed, is true liberty, a liberty worthy of the sons of God, which nobly maintains the dignity of man and is stronger than all violence or wrong — a liberty which the Church has always desired and held most dear. This is the kind of liberty the Apostles claimed for themselves with intrepid constancy, which the apologists of Christianity confirmed by their writings, and which the martyrs in vast numbers consecrated by their blood. And deservedly so; for this Christian liberty bears witness to the absolute and most just dominion of God over man, and to the chief and supreme duty of man toward God. It has nothing in common with a seditious and rebellious mind; and in no tittle derogates from obedience to public authority; for the right to command and to require obedience exists only so far as it is in accordance with the authority of God, and is within the measure that He has laid down. But when anything is commanded which is plainly at variance with the will of God, there is a wide departure from this divinely constituted order, and at the same time a direct conflict with divine authority; therefore, it is right not to obey. (Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Libertas Praestantissimum, n. 30; underlining added.)

Thus it is evident that both John XXIII and Paul VI hijacked Pope Leo’s words in support of a false understanding of religious freedom. It is likewise clear that the other magisterial statements referenced by the conciliar declaration Dignitatis Humanae do not confirm its novel doctrine.

It is telling that Fr. John Courtney Murray (1904-1967), who helped draft the conciliar document, stated afterwards: “The course of the development between the Syllabus of Errors (1864) and Dignitatis Humanae Personae (1965) still remains to be explained by theologians” (in Walter M. Abbott, ed., The Documents of Vatican II [New York, NY: Guild Press, 1966], p. 673). So much for continuity!

Could one, then, not say that just as Vatican II misappropriated the teachings of Popes Pius XII, Pius XI, and Leo XIII, so it also misappropriated the teaching of John XXIII? In theory, yes, it would be possible; however, those who accept Paul VI as a true Pope must grant that he had the right and power to give an authoritative interpretation to the ambiguity in Pacem in Terris, an ambiguity we have seen was clearly deliberate on Roncalli’s part, and which was intended precisely to open the door to what would become the false religious liberty doctrine at Vatican II.

Thus, any initial attempts by some Catholics at a “hermeneutic of continuity” between Pacem in Terris and the prior magisterium were definitively shattered by the time Vatican II promulgated its own declaration on religious freedom, on Dec. 7, 1965.

Roncalli’s Revolution

The whole world understood John XXIII to be departing from the traditional Catholic doctrine in Pacem in Terris — and celebrated it. Not surprisingly, neither Roncalli nor his successor lifted a finger to do anything about it.

Fr. Regan terms the epochal doctrinal change a “Copernican revolution”, and he is not wrong:

In one sentence of one encyclical, John appeared to work a veritable Copernican revolution in the theology of religious freedom. … As a result of John’s revolution, limitations on religious freedom seemed to be henceforth required to assume the burden of proof hitherto demanded by the papacy of religious freedom. (Regan, Conflict and Consensus, p. 9)

Bringing about a theological revolution posed no problem of conscience for the proud Modernist Roncalli. As the English author Paul Johnson (1928-2023) explains:

In his teaching, John did not hesitate, if only by inference, to repudiate the views of predecessors. … When necessary, he simply contradicted previous popes. Thus, he rejected in toto such reactionary political encyclicals as Gregory XVI’s Mirari Vos and Singulari Nos, and the Quanta Cura of Pius XI [sic], to which was attached, as appendix, the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX. If we take [John XXIII’s 1961 encyclical] Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris together, they effectively demolish most of the internationalist, social, economic and political teachinges of the popes for the previous hundred years, with the exception of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (and other papal documents deriving from it)…. (Paul Johnson, Pope John XXIII [Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1974], pp. 143-144)

With regard to Pacem in Terris in particular, Johnson gets even more candid:

Where he was absolutely adamant was in his insistence on total liberty of conscience. Here he demolished orthodox and traditional Catholic teaching. Pacem in Terris states flatly that every human being has the right “to worship God in accordance with the right dictates of his own conscience, and to profess his religion both in private and in public.” … It is true that John defends his view by saying that freedom of conscience has always been the teaching of the church. But the authorities he cites in fact deal only with the freedom of Christians, and in particular of Roman Catholics. … John’s ruling effectively ended this double standard. He did not merely tolerate, of necessity, the religious rights of others, whether non-Catholic Christians, Jews, Muslims or other sects; he accepted and recognized them, fully and completely. Now this was a very important departure, which had a bearing on a much wider sphere than the freedom of worship and the liberty of conscience, fundamental though these were.

…As an advocate of freedom of worship, and liberty of conscience, Pope John would have been guilty, in an earlier age, of the heresy of “indifferentism.” In his more general views of international affairs, he would certainly have been condemned, by Pius XII, as an unconscious ally, if not an active agent, of the Communist conspiracy against the Catholic church. (Johnson, Pope John XXIII, pp. 153-155)

BAM! It is refreshing to see such candid analysis. As regards Communism, the Italian elections that followed soon after the release of Pacem in Terris saw the Italian Communist Party pick up a million votes:

Italian Communists win after John XXIII encyclical Pacem in Terris 03 Jun 1963, Mon The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) Newspapers.com

With regard to accusing Roncalli of overturning prior Catholic magisterial pronouncements, Johnson was by no means alone in his assessment. For example, Catholic historian E.E.Y. Hales (1908-1986) observed:

Since Pope John endorsed the political principles of the liberal Catholics they have at last become a part of the official attitude of the Church. It is a changed attitude, for Roncalli (implicitly) repudiated Gregory XVI and Pius IX when he asserted, in Pacem in Terris, the right of a man “to worship God in accordance with the right dictates of his own conscience, (ad rectam conscientiae suae normam) and to profess his religion both in private and in public”, and “to be accurately informed about public events” which involves some measure of freedom of speech, and of the Press. (E.E.Y. Hales, Pope John and his Revolution [London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1965], p. 30; italics given.)

Later on in the same work, the author elaborates:

When the French liberal Catholics in the nineteenth century urged the essential justice of allowing freedom of religion, they were accused by Gregory XVI and Pius IX of religious indifference; they were told they were putting truth and error on an equal footing. Yet all that most of them were claiming was the equal right of all men to follow their conscience; they were not saying that the different choices men might make were, in themselves, equally good, or equally true. Rome, however, was not prepared to concede that there could exist a right to bring up children in an erroneous idea of God, although she had for long agreed that, in practice, it was often necessary to accept such toleration.

Roncalli’s statement, in Pacem in Terris, greatly clarified the position because a man’s right to worship God in accordance with the right dictates of his own conscience, and to do so publicly, must certainly include his right to teach his children his own beliefs. For the first time the right to Protestant, or to any other worship, as distinct from toleration of it, was clearly recognized. (Hales, Pope John and his Revolution, p. 59)

Similarly, although a lot more briefly, the former Jesuit Peter Hebblethwaite (1930-1994) noted:

When John declared that ‘every human being has the right to worship God in accordance with the rights of his own conscience, and to profess his religion both in private and in public’ (No. 14), he was saying something new: in the nineteenth century Protestants were conceded no such liberty. (Peter Hebblethwaite, John XXIII: Pope of the Century, rev. ed. [London: Continuum, 2000], pp. 249-250; italics given.)

And author Jeanette Struchen wrote simply: “Pacem in Terris broke tradition when it recognized the rights of a man ‘to worship God in accordance with the right dictates of his own conscience, and to profess religion both in private and in public'” (Pope John XXIII: The Gentle Shepherd [New York, NY: Franklin Watts, Inc., 1969], p. 115).

Concluding Comments

In 1864, Pope Pius IX had called liberty of conscience and worship an “erroneous opinion, most fatal in its effects on the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls” (Encyclical Quanta Cura, n. 3). Just how fatal, the last 60 years have shown us.

In Pacem in Terris, n. 14, we have a perfect example of a false pope disseminating a false doctrine by means of ambiguous wording that deliberately obscures and obfuscates the prior teaching, thereby providing an opening to be exploited later. And exploited it was, especially by Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom, and all the theological sewage that has flowed from it. Here are some concrete examples:

Vatican II in Action: Nigerian Diocese builds Mosque for Muslim Refugees
‘Abrahamic Family House’ with Church, Mosque, and Synagogue opens in Abu Dhabi
Apostate Bergoglio endorses World’s Religions as “Different Ways of Coming to God”
Beyond All Religions: Syncretistic Prayer Service held in English Novus Ordo Parish
Francis boldly promotes One-World Religion in new “Pope Video”
Francis again affirms Non-Catholic “Martyrs”, says Monophysites Part of Body of Christ
Francis expands the “People of God”: Now it includes All Religions!
Francis: The Different Religions are an ‘Enrichment’ for Humanity
Seeking Peace in all the Wrong Ways: Interreligious Hug Fest in Assisi
The Vatican and the Ecumenical Movement: From Stern Condemnation to Enthusiastic Approval
Vatican hopes Hindu Idolatry will bring Light and Hope to World of Darkness and Despair
Voodoo You Trust? John Paul II’s Betrayal in Benin
Yes, John Paul II really did kiss the Koran: The Evidence

What began as an equivocation in a pseudo-encyclical 60 years ago has morphed not only into “diocesan mosques”, interreligious prayer gatherings, and “Abrahamic” houses of worship; it has now turned into the apostate idea that God wants there to be many different religions, indeed that religious differences among people “are necessary” — and that is precisely, nay it is even worse than, the very Indifferentism and Egalitarianism warned against and condemned by the true Popes of the past!

None of this could have happened without the Vatican II doctrinal revolution on religious freedom, which had its seed in Pacem in Terris; and so we can only conclude with the sower in the Gospel parable: “An enemy hath done this” (Mt 13:28).

Source: The Impossible Encyclical: 'Pacem in Terris' turns 60
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