in: The review of politics, Volume 12, Issue 3, p. 321-340
The problem of Church-State relations—if under Church is understood the Church universal in its Catholic form—may be answered without too much difficulty on a high abstract level. But on the contingent level of concrete historical development the problem becomes not only highly involved, but almost inexhaustible. For every growth in the Church's doctrine, (for example, the decrees of the Vatican Council and every deeper-going change in the other partner's constitutional forms or in its philosophical and ethical justification or a change in its aims to greater comprehensive competencies) poses a new problem. No wonder, therefore, that in our era of restlessness, of dynamic social changes, of conflicting ideologies fighting for the baffled minds of the masses, of wavering traditions decomposed by the acid of nihilist skepticism, the Church-State problem arises in a new intensity and urgency. The external signs are there for everyone to see: the fury of a Hitler against the "Black International," the violent persecution of the Church in die satellite countries of the Russian orbit, and the complete subjugation of the Orthodox Church not to a "Christian" Czar but to die confessedly adieistic Politburo. In minor degree the problem is also bothering the people of the United States. A secularist outlook, indeed, may slur over the reality and intensity of the true problem. For the secularized outlook die Church in her essence—and even more so the churches and the sects—is not different in genere from odier numerous private organizations for die furtherance of more or less rational aims and longings in a constitutionally pluralist society. The secularist will, therefore, recognize only one pragmatic rule: tolerance unless the public order and the competency of the police power is directly concerned. Public order includes all too often for the secularist his reform ideas and his social ideals based on a relativist pragmatism in ethics and thus makes him highly sensitive to die criticism by a Church which bases ethics on revelation and on competencies which die secularist can only consider as unfounded and arrogant. Only if the Church remains in the private sphere of private individuals and stays in this "free" sphere where the secularist will tolerate any mass-idiosyncracies, only dius will he condescendingly tolerate the Church. His attitude may be explained to a degree by the fact of an exceedingly strong religious individualism and a subjective and emotional spiritualism, inimical to form and tradition (indigenous to this country and resulting in the easy dissolution of doctrinal unity into a multiplicity of sects). This spiritualist "formlessness" of religion, here, makes the emphasis on organically grown and established forms and on the objective institutions of religious life, so characteristic of the Catholic Church, a somewhat strange and suspicious thing. Yet there is no avoiding the nature and self-understanding of the Church, if the problem of Church and State should be approached. Otherwise the term "Church" would stand only for utterly private opinions by very private individuals in that sphere of irrational feeling and unscientific imagination which for the secularist agnostic is religion. And it is clear that upon such suppositions it would follow that the political authority has exclusive and plenary competency to judge about the compatibility of such a religion with the policy and the public order of the state. The consequence of such thinking is the abolition of the Church-State problem by the complete elimination of the Church.