The Liberty of the Church: Source, Scope, and Scandal

20 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2013

Date Written: October 2013


This article was presented at a conference, and is part of a symposium, on "The Freedom of the Church in the Modern Era." The article argues that the liberty of the Church, libertas Ecclesiae, is not a mere metaphor, pace the views of some other contributions to the conference and symposium and of the mentality mostly prevailing over the last five hundred years. The argument is that the Church and her directly God-given rights are ontologically irreducible in a way that the rights of, say, the state of California or even of the United States are not. Based on a careful reading of, among other sources, the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis Humanae (1965), the article articulates and defends the Church's self-understanding as a divine institution possessed of supernatural authority that has rightful consequences for the ordering of society and polity. Catholic doctrine upholds a rich concept of individual freedom of conscience and defends a regime of broad toleration, but it does so respectful of the demands of the common goods, natural and supernatural, both of which the Church serves in the exercise of her liberty. The Church anticipates that her claims on her own behalf will be a scandal to the world.

This article complements and, to a limited extent, overlaps the analysis in my recent article "Resisting the Grand Coalition in Favor of the Status Quo By Giving Full Scope to the Libertas Ecclesiae."

Keywords: freedom of the Church, liberty of conscience, religious freedom, First Amendment, toleration, state, groups, natural rights, modus vivendi

Suggested Citation

Brennan, Patrick McKinley, The Liberty of the Church: Source, Scope, and Scandal (October 2013). Journal of Contemporary Legal issues, Forthcoming, Villanova Law/Public Policy Research Paper No. 2013-3062, Available at SSRN:

Patrick McKinley Brennan (Contact Author)

Villanova University School of Law ( email )

299 N. Spring Mill Road
Villanova, PA 19085
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics