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and a religion of self-effort and ritual which continued for thousands of years and was exemplified both in pagan Rome and in "Christian" Rome following Constantine's "conversion." The "separation of church and state" is a concept of recent origin, largely since the Protestant Reformation, and one which the Roman Catholic Church, as the religious continuation of the Roman Empire, has consistently and even viciously opposed. Dr. Brownson, highly regarded nineteenth-century Catholic journalist, expressed Catholicism's position in the Brownson Quarterly journal:
No civil government, be it a monarchy, an aristocracy, a democracy. .. can be a wise, just, efficient, or durable government, governing for the good of the community, without the Catholic Church; and without the papacy there is and can be no Catholic Church.
The Vatican has consistently fought every democratic advance from absolute monarchies toward government by the people, beginning with England's Magna Carta (June 15, 1215), "the mother of European Constitutions." That vital document was denounced immediately by Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), who "pronounced it null and void and excommunicated the English barons who obtained it"2 and absolved the king of his oath to the barons.
Encouraged by the pope, King John brought in foreign mercenaries to fight the barons, bringing great destruction upon the country. Subsequent popes did all in their power to help John's successor, Henry III, overturn the Magna Carta, impoverishing the country with papal taxes (salaries to the numerous imported Italian priests were three times the crown's annual revenue). Nevertheless, the barons finally prevailed.
Pope Leo XII reproved Louis XVIII for granting the "liberal" French Constitution, while Pope Gregory XVI denounced the Belgian Constitution of 1832. His outrageous encyclical, Mirari vos, of August 15, 1832 (which was later confirmed by Pope Pius IX in his 1864 Syllabus Errorum), condemned freedom of conscience as "an insane folly" and freedom of the press as "a pestiferous error, which cannot be sufficiently detested."4 He reasserted the right of the Church to use force and like countless popes before him demanded that civil authorities promptly imprison any non-Catholics who dared to preach and practice their faith. One eminent historian of the nineteenth century, commenting upon the Vatican's denunciation of the Bavarian and Austrian constitutions, paraphrased its attitude thus:
Our absolutist system, supported by the Inquisition, the strictest censorship, the suppression of all literature, the privileged exemption of the clergy, and arbitrary power of bishops, cannot endure any other than absolutist governments ...
The history of Latin America has fully demonstrated the accuracy of that appraisal. In Catholic countries the popes' hatred of freedom and their partnership with oppressive regimes which they often succeeded in manipulating to their own ends is a matter of historical record. Whatever her true motives, history bears full witness to the fact that whenever she has been able to do so, the Roman Catholic Church has suppressed and openly condemned such basic human rights as freedom of the press, speech, religion, and even conscience.
Prior to the revolution led by Benito Juarez in 1861, Roman Catholicism had dominated the lives of the Mexican people and controlled the government for 350 years. It was the state religion and no other was allowed. As one author has stated after an exhaustive investigation of the records:
The oppression by Spain and the oppression by the Church of Rome were so intermeshed as to be indistinguishable by the people. The [Roman Catholic] hierarchy supported the Spanish regime and excommunicated, through its New World Inquisition, anyone resisting the power of the state.... The government in turn enforced Church laws and, as the "secular arm," functioned as disciplinarian and even as executioner for the Church.