How to Read "Dignitatis Humanae" on Establishment of Religion
Russell Hittinger


Revolution or Evolution?

At the ninth public session of Vatican Council II, on December 7, 1965, Pope Paul VI promulgated the Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis Humanae (DH). From the time that the first informal schema, the so-called “Fribourg Document,” was drafted two years before the Council until the vote on the sixth and final schema in November, 1965, the subject of religious liberty was controversial. Compared to the great conciliar constitutions (e.g. Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes), where the Council broadly spoke its mind and where it supplied exceedingly rich contexts for taking stock of things, DH is very short, terse, and anything but loquacious. In any event, in December, 1965, there were more non-placet votes registered for DH than for any other document approved by the Council.

Does DH represent a revolution or an evolution in Church teaching? Since 1965, the far left and right have been in heated agreement that this pamphlet sized document augers a revolution — or, as Hans Kung put it, a “mutation” — rather than an evolution. Archbishop Lefebvre, for example, refused to sign it. Since 1965, any number of prominent theological dissenters — Hans Kung, Richard McBrien, Charles Curran, Juan Luis Segundo — have appealed to DH in support of the position that because the Church changed its official teaching on religious liberty it is liable to do so on other issues as well. Even those who have not been interested in radicalizing DH have tended to make claims on its behalf which go well beyond what the document actually says.

Dignitatis presents us with two distinct sets of problems, each of which might trigger the question whether DH represents an evolution or revolution in the Church’s teaching. Roughly, they fall into what Americans would call issues of free-exercise of religion and establishment of religion. First, what is the nature and scope of the right to freely practice one’s religion without interference by human authority? Second, what are the duties of human communities, including the state, to recognize religious truth?

In this essay I will address the second of these questions. Does DH represent a “mutation” or “revolution” on the duties of societies to religious truth? The answer is, no. DH remains mostly silent on the issue of the confessional state. Its silence was deliberate. As I will explain, the drafters of DH had good reasons for putting the problem to one side. On the other hand, DH does address what could be called the obverse of establishment, namely, the reduction of the Church to an organ of the state. In so doing, the Council wanted to exorcise a ghost that had haunted the modern relations between the Church and states. Rather than a revolution or mutation of traditional teaching, DH brings to completion a fundamental principle undergirding the Church’s posture toward civil government.

Interpreting the Silence

In DH §1 we find a clear statement of the scope of the Declaration: “Religious freedom, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.” It might prove surprising, if not frustrating, that DH puts to one side any theoretical treatment of the complexus of issues which directly touch, in American terms, upon establishment of religion. Instead, DH treats the civil liberties required for the protection and fulfillment of man’s duty to worship God. Undoubtedly, the discussion of religious liberty will have implications for that other complexus of issues which we call “establishment.” One implication is mentioned, very briefly, at DH §6. In circumstances where one religion is given “special civil recognition,” the rights of other citizens and religious communities should be recognized and protected.

A reader might say to himself: After all these centuries of Church and society constituting a kind of corpus mysticum (in the East since the 4th century, in the West since the 8th), and after all the various and sundry establishments of religion, it hardly seems possible that the “official” reckoning with this history would be reduced to the disclaimer in §1 regarding what the Council leaves untouched and the rather terse sentence of §6 on the need for the state to respect the rights of minorities in situations where the Church is privileged in the constitution. The correct answer is that it isn’t possible because DH does not undertake such a reckoning. For the Vatican Council II, it was quite enough to tackle the problem of religious civil liberties of individuals, communities, and the Church Herself.

It is not always easy to respect the silence of a position, but here such discipline is necessary. DH should not be made to resolve every kind of theoretical or practical issue which might touch upon the relationship between the Church and governments. The relationship between church and state, and, more broadly between religion and society, is thrown across a vast historical, social, philosophical, and theological canvas. Even if DH represented a compendium of answers to every theoretical problem (which it does not), history will continue to entertain us with unanticipated and difficult problems in the sphere of application of principles to facts. My point is that DH should not be made to carry freight it wasn’t meant to bear.

Besides the fact that the drafters of DH could not agree on how to formulate and resolve every problem, other reasons can be given for their decision to emphasize religious liberty rather than establishment or disestablishment of religion: (1) It would have taken a Herculean effort to sort through 1500 years of history, with all its contingencies, for the purpose of identifying which governmental expressions of Catholicism, or for that matter, of religion, were good, merely acceptable, or unacceptable; (2) By the 1960s the pressing problem was how to induce secularist regimes to respect freedom of religion as well as how to use the Church’s resources to support constitutionally limited government in the wake of the World Wars; (3) Although it might come as a surprise to many American jurisprudents, the Catholic Church did not, and does not, believe that disestablishment is a principle superior to free exercise. I will have more to say about this point in just a moment.

Finally, (4) it should be said that both Vatican II and John Paul II have addressed the need for a theology of social liberty, especially as regards the laity and sacralization of culture. In a certain respect, this theological reflection has just begun. At least in hindsight we can see why in 1965 it would be precipitous to force DH to resolve the hypothetical issue of how religious liberty and governmental confession of religious truth might be authentically synthesized in a distinctly contemporary mode. Gaudium et Spes §43 invites the laity “to impress the divine law on the affairs of the earthly city.” [lex divina in civitatis terrenae vita inscribatur]. The Decree on Laity, Apostolicam actuositatem, similarly says: “The whole Church must work vigorously in order that men may become capable of rectifying the distortion of the temporal order and directing it to God through Christ. Pastors must clearly state the principles concerning the purpose of creation and the use of temporal things and must offer the moral and spiritual aids by which the temporal order may be renewed in Christ.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church (at 2105) asserts: “The social duty of Christians is to respect and awaken in each man the love of the true and the good. It requires them to make known the worship of the one true religion which subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church. [here, citing DH §1].Thus, the Church shows forth the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies [citing Immortale Dei and Quas Primas].” Thirty years after the Council, the role of the laity, in contrast to older notions of clerical rule, have hardly been digested. Perhaps we should wait to see how and whether culture is appropriately sacralized before we take up the other problem of how public authorites might reflect that sacralization.

Such is my understanding of why DH is, for the most part, discreetly silent on establishment of religion, specifically as to the problem of governmental exemplifications of religious truth. Is DH completely silent, however, on the posture of government toward truth? The answer is, no.

Government and the Veridical Order

DH 3 states that man has been made to participate in divine governance. The Eternal Law sweetly [suaviter] disposes man to fulfill his duty to know and to assent to the truth. Such reference to Wisdom 8:1 has a long history in Catholic theology. It was one of St. Thomas’ favorite biblical texts for describing divine governance (see Summa contra Gentiles III.97, and S.T. I 103.8). In recent times, e.g. in Mit Brennender Sorge (1937) and Summi Pontificatus (1939), popes have cited the passage in order to admonish governments to heed the divine exemplar. Before the state imposes its laws and sanctions, men are already moved by God, who does not work behind the back of his creature’s nature and freedom. Listen to Pius XI’s challenge to the Nazis: “Whoever follows that so-called pre-Christian Germanic conception of substituting a dark and impersonal destiny for the personal God, denies thereby the Wisdom and Providence of God who “Reacheth from end to end mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly” (Mit Brenn. §7). DH not only cites these encyclicals, but directly appeals to St. Thomas’ discussion of divine authority over the actus interior (S.T. I-II, 91.4), the interior act of human judgment and conscience. DH contends that “no merely human power can either command or prohibit acts of this kind.” So far forth, DH develops its case in terms which will be familiar to those who know a bit of Thomism, not to mention the Bible.

Then DH summarizes the duties of government. Negatively, government should not usurp the order established by God. Positively, government ought “to take account of the religious life of the citizenry and show it favor, since the function of government is to make provision for the common welfare.” DH §5-6 explicitly require government to foster conditions favorable to religious life. However, it would “transgress the limits set to its power were it to presume to take charge of or inhibit acts that are religious.” Here, then, is the proposition. Government should actively promote, but not usurp, religious acts.
On the face of it, such promotion of religion is exactly what the Americans courts have deemed a violation of the Establishment Clause. DH asserts that government can and ought to favor religion while, at the same time, making sure to respect the principles of nature and liberty which pertain to human dignity and to divine law. Since 1947, and especially since Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), American judge-made law forbids promotion or endorsement not only of a particular religion but religion in general. Because free exercise of religion would seem to favor religion (in contrast to, say, free exercise of sport), American courts increasingly are more comfortable reducing specifically religious claims to those of free speech or free expression. So, rather than a enjoying a right to a substantive good of religious liberty, citizens enjoy an all-purpose right to free speech which cannot be limited by restraint as to (religious) content. In effect, religious liberty is rendered completely subordinate to a doctrine of disestablishment, which itself has come to mean separationism and neutrality.

This is not the place to consider the confusions and dead-ends of American First Amendment jurisprudence. What matters, for our purposes, is that DH was wise to prescind from a full-orbed discussion of establishment. Establishment of religion means different things in different legal cultures. In some places, establishment means exactly the same thing that DH means by promotion of religious liberty. The United States is oldest constitutional republic in the West, but it fumbles all over itself trying to give ordinary legal precision to how religious liberty should fit into the theory of disestablishment.

The second point to be made is that, on the issue of the competence of government in DH §3, the second schema, the Declaratio prior, said that the “State is not qualified [ineptam esse] to make judgments of truth in religious matters.” After vigorous debate, this sentence was abandoned in the penultimate draft. And for good reason. First, it might have been construed to mean that government lacks even the epistemic warrant to judge that religion is good, thus undercutting the argument of DH itself; second, it could obscure the responsibilities of government on mixed matters, such as marriage and abortion; third, it almost certainly would have favored the neutralist and indifferentist doctrines which DH otherwise took such great pains to avoid. In Memorial and Remonstrance, James Madison insisted that, with respect to government, “Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance.” Dignitatis on the other hand does not remove government altogether from the veridical order — that is, the order of truth — in matters religious. While it is true that DH does not provide a detailed map of the acceptable range of government’s cognizance of religion, we know without doubt that it doesn’t take the Madisonian position. (Arguably, neither did the U.S. Constitution before courts decided to improve it).

Rejection of Cuius Regio

So far we have seen that DH remains silent about the confessional state, with the single proviso that a state that constitutionally endorses or privileges one religion must nevertheless protect the freedom of others. Then, we saw that DH does not remain totally silent on the competence of government vis-â-vis the veridical order. Even so, DH does not provide us with very much information about that issue. Now, we turn to a problem about which DH is unusually loquacious: the freedom of the Church. The most important passage is at DH §13.

Among the things that concern the good of the Church and indeed the welfare of society here on earth — things therefore that are always and everywhere to be kept secure and defended against all injury — this certainly is preeminent, namely, that the Church should enjoy that full measure of freedom which her care for the salvation of men requires. This is a sacred freedom, because the only-begotten Son endowed with it the Church which He purchased with His blood. Indeed it is so much the property of the Church that to act against it is to act against the will of God. The freedom of the Church is the fundamental principle in what concerns the relations between the Church and governments and the whole civil order. In human society and in the face of government the Church claims freedom for herself in her character as a spiritual authority, established by Christ the Lord, upon which there rests, by divine mandate, the duty of going out into the whole world and preaching the Gospel to every creature. The Church also claims freedom for herself in her character as a society of man who have the right to live in society in accordance with the precepts of Christian faith. This independence is precisely what the authorities of the Church claim in society. At the same time, the Christian faithful, in common with all other men, possess the civil right not to be hindered in leading their lives in accordance with their consciences. Therefore, a harmony exists between the freedom of the Church and the religious freedom which is to be recognized as the right of all men and communities and sanctioned by constitutional law.
Whereas DH proceeds very cautiously on other questions, here the wording is decisive: “this certainly is preeminent [certe praestantissimum est], namely, that the Church should enjoy that full measure of freedom which her care for the salvation of men requires.” Such freedom is called “sacred” [libertas sacra est] because it is endowed by Christ. Accordingly, the Council can speak without qualification of a “fundamental principle” [principium fundamentale] in the relation between the Church and governments — one that cannot be unseated by considerations of “prudence,” whether those considerations be introduced by the Church or by the state. In reaching this fundamental principle, it was crucial to distinguish it from the general right of religious liberty grounded in human nature moved suaviter by Divine Providence, that is to say, from the natural right. The Church’s “sacred liberty” stems from divine mandate, directly rather than via secondary causality. This is why DH §13 speak of a concordia but not a conflation of the two titles to freedom.

Unlike the question of whether the state should somehow manifest or exemplify the claims of the one, true Church — a question that DH declined to treat, even by way of historical survey — Dignitatis does indeed treat the obverse of that question. DH rules out the regalist doctrines which would make the Church an organ of the state. This is the problem that has haunted the modern history of church-state relations, mostly, but not exclusively, in Europe.

The Peace of Augsburg (1555) effected a settlement of religious conflict in Germany on the basis of the formula, cuius regio, eius religio (whoever rules, his religion). Far from being a flimsy legal device for a temporary modus vivendi, cuius regio enrooted itself as fundamental doctrine of state during the age of absolutism. In Catholic nations, cuius regio often vested itself in the titilature and claims of ancient Christendom (“the Most Christian Prince,” “Monarch, by the Grace of God”), when princes were sworn to a quite different ideal of service to the Church. In the actual flow of history, it was not always easy to distinguish where cuius regio meant princely service and protection of the Church and where it amounted to a thinly disguised hijacking of the Church by the temporal authority. In modern times, it was in the interest of the regalist party to obfuscate and to make the new doctrine look like the old one. The situation differed in both ideological and practical severity according to time, place, and regime. Significantly, even after the revolutions the doctrine was re-tooled to express the sovereignty of the new nation-states. In Bavaria, for example, Maximilian taught: “The doctrine of the two powers is a monstrosity of priestly ambition. The church is in the state and not the state in the church.”

Gradually, it became clear that cuius regio was a pagan doctrine. So claimed Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, Bishop of Mainz, whose thoughts on this subject were influential during the pontificates of Pius IX and Leo XIII. While giving due honor to the monarchies of old, Bishop von Ketteler contended that cuius regio was “nothing more than destructive idolatry.” Rather than looking to Rome for a model of independent spiritual authority, the nations wanted to revive the powers of the ancient Caesars. According to Seneca, Nero said: “Have I not been chosen to act on earth as vicar of the gods? I am the arbiter of life and death for the peoples.” (De clementia, I,1,2). Hence, von Ketteler’s accusation that monarchy (circa 1862) amounted to little more than “pagan ultramontanism.”

This is indisputably the background of DH 13 — though, undoubtedly, the totalitarian regimes of eastern Europe and Asia were in the foreground of the drafters’ minds. DH 13 recites practically verbatim important sentences of Leo XIII’s Letter to the Church in Bavaria, Officio Sanctissimo (1887). Bavaria had experienced what was called a “covert Kulterkampf,” along the lines of the sentiment we quoted above from Maximilian. Pope Leo wrote: “Of the rights of the Church that it is Our duty everywhere and always to maintain and defend against all injustice, the first is certainly that of enjoying the full freedom of action she may need in working for the salvation of souls. This is a divine liberty, having as its author the only Son of God, Who by shedding of blood, gave birth to the Church.” As John Courtney Murray pointed out, the phrase “freedom of the Church” occurs more than one-hundred times in the Leonine corpus. While Leo harbored a hope that there would be Christian princes who contemplate aright their duties to the Church, he never backed off the first and non-negotiable principle of the Church’s God-given liberty vis-a-vis temporal authorities.

At the Second Vatican Council it was no longer possible to avoid a formal and decisive resolution of what I dubbed obverse establishment. Vatican I might have done so, because the issue was clearly enough formulated by 1870. At that time, however, it was necessary to pronounce upon the unity of the Church ad intra, and thus to settle the ecclesiological question posed by neo-Gallicanism. Pastor Aeternus asserted that unity with the Bishop of Rome, rather than unity with local sovereigns or synods, is paramount. That Council, however, put to one side the knotty problems of the Church’s relationship to the powers ad extra. To be sure, some “conservatives” lobbied for a statement on the church-state problem, doctrinalizing the Syllabus of Errors. Given the taut emotions of that time, such a course was wisely avoided. At Vatican II it was time to put the problem to rest. So DH 13 should be read alongside the Decree on Bishops, Christus Dominus, which was issued five weeks before Dignitatis. Christus Dominus 20 states: “Since the apostolic office of bishops was instituted by Christ the Lord and pursues a spiritual and supernatural purpose, this sacred ecumenical synod declares that the right of nominating and appointing bishops belongs properly, peculiarly, and per se exclusively to the competent ecclesiastical authority.” The finishing touch was made in the 1983 Code of Canon Law: “For the future, no rights or privileges of election, appointment, presentation or designation of Bishops are conceded to civil authorities.” (Canon 377.5).

Misunderstandings of the Text

Critics of DH have complained that §13, despite its Leonine credentials, derogates from the tradition of the Church. For although it clearly states the obligation of the state not to absorb the Church, or to regard it merely as one private party among others, DH§13 does not speak of the state’s obligation (ideally) to confess the true religion. Archbishop Lefebvre, for one, protested that the line Libertas Ecclesiae est principium fundamentale is wrong, because the issue is not merely the state’s duty to the Church, but its duty to “recognize the social royalty of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” A complete response to this objection would entail a patient and thorough survey of where the conciliar documents take up the social ramifications of Christ as priest, prophet, and king. I might add that the work of John Paul II is critical in this regard. Here, it will suffice to reiterate the point I made earlier. DH §1 put the issue of corporate obligations to confess the truth to one side. Instead, the bishops investigated the more narrow issue of the civil liberty of human persons in matters religious, and then turned to the question of the liberty and mission of the Church. In this context, the principium fundamentale is clear, decisive, and perfectly in accord with the tradition of the Church. (See JPII, Redemptor Hominis §12, where the Pope reminds us to give proper weight to both the first and second part of Dignitatis.)

Still others have objected that the Church has claimed the wrong principle, even for Herself. Michael Davies, for example, writes: “Pope Paul VI made it clear that he certainly interpreted Dignitatis humanae as meaning that freedom alone for the Church can be considered normal in principle.” Mr. Davies refers to Paul VI’s homily at the close of Vatican II (Dec. 8, 1965). On this occasion, the message to rulers (Aux Gouvernants) was read by Achille Cardinal Lienart of Lille, France. Davies is perplexed by this sentence: “She asks of you only liberty, the liberty to believe and to preach her faith, the freedom to love her God and serve Him, the freedom to live and to bring to men her message of life.” Davies perhaps was mislead by John Courtney Murray, who quoted the same sentence in support of his personal thesis that DH renounces all special privileges and establishments for the Church, and that “her claim is freedom, nothing more.”

In this case, Murray was wrong. In the first place, Murray, who usually counseled narrow and focused readings of the issues under review, here tried to make DH (after the fact of its promulgation) resolve something that it expressly said it would not take up. In the second place, a doctrinal reading of “nothing more” (the original French text, elle ne vous demande que la liberté) cannot be supported by DH, which not only asks the state to preserve liberty within the context of an “objective moral order,” but also asks the temporal authorities to appreciate that, according to the Church’s own understanding, its liberty is grounded in a divine mandate (again, recall the opening words of DH§13: In societate humana et coram quavis potestate publica Ecclesia sibi vindicat libertatem, utpote auctoritas spiritualis, a Christo Domino constituta, cui ex divino mandato — “In human society and in the face of government the Church claims freedom for herself in her character as a spiritual authority”). Indeed, DH insists that the Church’s liberty derives first from Christ (hence, the principium fundamentale) and also (etiam) from her character as a society of men. After the Council, Murray voiced a different opinion: “This unique theological title, however, cannot be urged in political society and against government. The mandate of Christ to His Church is formally a truth of the transcendent order in which the authority of the Church is exercised and her life as a community is lived. Therefore it is not subject, or even accessible, to judgment by secular powers as regards its truth or falsity.” It must be noted, however, that this was Murray’s opinion, which, in my view is contradicted not only by DH and Gaudium et Spes, but also by some of Murray’s other writings. In the third place, the sentence that scandalizes Davies is taken out of context.

Here is the text Aux Gouvernants read by Achille Cardinal Lienart:

We proclaim publicly: We do honor to your authority and your sovereignty, we respect your office, we recognize your just laws, we esteem those who make them and those who apply them. But we have a sacrosanct word to speak to you and it is this: Only God is great. God alone is the beginning and the end. God alone is the source of your authority and the foundation of your laws.

Your task is to be in the world the promoters of order and peace among men. But never forget this: It is God, the living and true God, who is the Father of men. And it is Christ, His eternal Son, who came to make this known to us and to teach us that we are all brothers. He it is who is the great artisan of order and peace on earth, for He it is who guides human history and who alone can incline hearts to renounce those evil passions which beget war and misfortune. It is He who blesses the bread of the human race, who sanctifies its work and its suffering, who gives it those joys which you can never give it, and strengthens it in those sufferings which you cannot console. In your earthly and temporal city, God constructs mysteriously His spiritual and eternal city, His Church. And what does this Church ask of you after close to 2,000 years of experiences of all kinds in her relations with you, the powers of the earth? What does the Church ask of you today? She tells you in one of the major documents of this council. She asks of you only liberty, the liberty to believe and to preach her faith, the freedom to love her God and serve Him, the freedom to live and to bring to men her message of life. Do not fear her. She is made after the image of her Master, whose mysterious action does not interfere with your prerogatives but heals everything human of its fatal weakness, transfigures it and fills it with hope, truth and beauty. Allow Christ to exercise His purifying action on society. Do not crucify Him anew. This would be a sacrilege for He is the Son of God. This would be suicide for He is the Son of man. And we, His humble ministers, allow us to spread everywhere without hindrance the Gospel of peace on which we have meditated during this council. Of it, your peoples will be the first beneficiaries, since the Church forms for you loyal citizens, friends of social peace and progress.

As the text makes clear, Paul VI was not suggesting that the Church’s liberty consists only of a negative freedom, which is to be discussed ad extra only in procedural terms. Paul VI does not ask the states to establish or even to privilege Catholicism; rather, he asks them to respect its sanctifying mission and power in society. His remark about not crucifying Christ anew speaks for itself. It might not be the best rhetoric (although it certainly had a purchase when the bishops looked toward eastern Europe), but it certainly militates against the commonly received sense of this address, which is not surprising because the preceding and subsequent material is usually left out. Consider, too, Paul VI’s homily at the last general session of the Council (Dec. 7, 1965), the day before his message Aux Gouvernants. “The theocentric and theological concept of man and the universe, almost in defiance of the charge of anachronism and irrelevance, has been given a new prominence by the council, through claims which the world will at first judge to be foolish, but which, we hope, it will later come to recognize as being truly human, wise and salutary.”


To recapitulate my two main points. First, the beginning of wisdom in reading DH is to respect its silences. It should not be read as a treatise (even a small one) on establishment of religion. For reasons which I sketched out, the silence of DH on this matter evinces a prudence that should not be dismissed as a mere pragmatic resignation in the face of disagreement. The issue really was too complex to sort out properly at that point in time. It falls to the rest of us, working within the great resources of the Council, to develop a theology of social, cultural, and civil freedom. These, in turn, need a fully developed anthropology of freedom.

Nor can we suppose that the status quo of what people mean by “the state” is a stable thing. We are already witnessing a profound change in the industrial era, post-Napoleonic nation states. In the near future, we might be grateful that the Council declined to make its teaching on religious liberty a backward-looking resolution of 18th and 19th century church-state battles.

Second, we should pay attention to those issues which DH does settle. And DH §13 certainly puts to rest any notion of establishment drawn from the cuius regio tradition, where the Church is established “in” the state. Contra the People’s Republic of China, which ushered in the new millennium on Jan. 6 by ordaining state bishops, the Church’s liberty derives not from union with the temporal sovereign but from union with Christ and his apostles. And contra Marcel Lefebvre, the Church is perfectly entitled to assert this truth — the principium fundamentale — without having to settle every contingency of the historical past or every hypothetical of the historical future regarding how particular peoples recognize the kingship of Christ.

DH has put quite a bit on our plate. Yes, there has been an evolution of the Church’s teaching on establishment of religion. While not denying that societies have an obligation to acknowledge religious truth, the Council decided that this was not the chief issue of our time. Positively, the Council made two principal points. First, where the Church is privileged in a particular constitution, the rights of others are to be respected. While some believe this is a puny thought, the Council’s affirmation that public recognition of religious truth and free exercise of religion are not incompatible is quite important. Second, the cuius regio ideology of state supremacy is to be rejected tout court.

We have work and worry enough without obscuring the voice of the document by forcing it into unnecessary dead-ends and complications. There is no point in denying that there are many questions of a theoretical and practical nature which stand just off the main stage of DH. These will have to be taken up patiently, carefully, in due season.

Russell Hittinger is Warren Professor of Catholic Studies and Professor of Law, University of Tulsa

This article first appeared in Catholic Dossier