freedom of worship

The Catholic Church naturally has the right to preach Christ's Gospel to every creature by speech and by writing, and she has the right freely to worship God. However, the Catholic Church admits the duty of the individual to follow his own conscience, and it would be unjust to force an external compliance that would be merely hypocritical. The individual's interior con- viction is the important thing, and that cannot be reached by material force. But such freedom of worship is not unlimited, and the most tolerant gov- ernments have from "time to time suppressed practises indulged in under the name of religion. Thus, Great Britain forbade the suttee in India, and the United States suppressed Mormon polygamy. In the past, Protestant countries have proscribed Catholic worship, and Catholic countries have proscribed Protestant worship. It is difficult for us now to see the justification of such measures, but it is probably true that at one time in Europe to have had any large number of Protestants in a Catholic country, or vice versa, would have endangered the civil peace. Religion and politics were unfortunately inextricably mixed. Church and State were so united that disloyalty to one was disloyalty to the other. One could not be a heretic without being a traitor. It is to be hoped that we have progressed beyond such a condition.

New Catholic Dictionary

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