Should America Elect A Roman Catholic President? -- By: Ernest Pickering

Journal: Central Bible Quarterly
Volume: CENQ 03:2 (Summer 1960)
Article: Should America Elect A Roman Catholic President?
Author: Ernest Pickering


Should America Elect A Roman Catholic President?

Ernest Pickering

Professor, Central C. B. Seminary

Do the moral obligations which a devout Roman Catholic has to his church interfere in any way with his freedom to uphold the United States Constitution and to serve under it? This is the issue that confronts Americans at the present hour.

Certain things should be clearly understood. First, there are many Roman Catholics who are good and loyal Americans. This fact cannot be disputed. Second, Roman Catholics have a right to freedom of worship. America gives freedom to all to worship as they will. Third, many Roman Catholic politicians are very capable office-holders and have served the people well. The issue before us, therefore, is not one of the personal ability or character of Roman Catholic citizens or servants of the state. It is simply a question of whether or not the official Roman Catholic position on church-state relations in any way conflicts with the principle of separation of church and state as guaranteed by the United States Constitution in the First Amendment.

The only way in which this question can adequately be answered is to examine official Roman Catholic documents and pronouncements. The statements of Roman Catholic politicians, and even the public utterances of many Roman Catholic priests and bishops, do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Catholic Church regarding this issue. Such public statements may be highly colored or may be deliberately misleading in terminology. What is the official position of the Catholic Church? This is the touchstone.

I. The Teaching Of The Roman Catholic Church On Church-State Relations

In a recent article in a national magazine, James A. Pike, an Episcopal bishop, expressed the opinion that there are “two Roman Catholic views on Church-State relations.”1 He declares there is an “official view” and an “American view.” The “official view” militates against a strict separation of church and state while the “American view” allows for it. Such observations are completely misleading and reveal an appalling ignorance of the nature of the Roman Catholic Church. Within the framework of Rome there is no room for opinions which are contrary to the expressed will of the Church and the declaration of its leaders, especially the Pope. The Catholic Church is an autocracy. In matters of faith and morals the Pope is infallible. The doctrine of the church-state is basic to Roman Catholicism, as anyone with a knowledge of its history and practices will readily admit. The official Catholic doctrine regarding church-state relations can be stated in five propositions.

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