By Father Salvany
Liberalism, whether in the doctrinal or practical order, is a sin. In the doctrinal order, it is heresy, and consequently a mortal sin against faith. In the practical order, it is a sin against the commandments of God and of the Church, for it virtually transgresses all commandments.
To be more precise: in the doctrinal order, Liberalism strikes at the very foundations of faith; it is heresy radical and universal, because WITHIN IT ARE COMPREHENDED ALL HERESIES.
In the practical order it is a radical and universal infraction of the divine law, since it sanctions and authorizes all infractions of that law.
Liberalism is a heresy in the doctrinal order because heresy is the formal and obstinate denial of all Christian dogmas in general. It repudiates dogma altogether and substitutes opinion, whether that opinion be doctrinal or the negation of doctrine.
Consequently, it denies every doctrine in particular. If we were to examine in detail all the doctrines or dogmas which, within the range of Liberalism, have been denied, we would find every Christian dogma in one way or another rejected—from the dogma of the Incarnation to that of Infallibility.
Nonetheless Liberalism is in itself dogmatic; and it is in the declaration of its own fundamental dogma, the absolute independence of the individual and the social reason, that it denies all Christian dogmas in general. Catholic dogma is the authoritative declaration of revealed truth—or a truth consequent upon Revelation—by its infallibly constituted exponent [the Pope].
This logically implies the obedient acceptance of the dogma on the part of the individual and of society. Liberalism refuses to acknowledge this rational obedience and denies the authority. It asserts the sovereignty of the individual and social reason and enthrones Rationalism in the seat of authority. It knows no dogma except the dogma of self-assertion. Hence it is heresy, fundamental and radical, the rebellion of the human intellect against God.
It follows, therefore, that Liberalism denies the absolute jurisdiction of Jesus Christ, who is God, over individuals and over society, and by consequence, repudiates the jurisdiction which God has delegated to the visible head of the Church over each and all of the faithful, whatever their condition or rank in life.
Moreover, it denies the necessity of divine Revelation and the obligation of everyone to accept that Revelation under pain of eternal perdition. It denies the formal motive of faith, viz., the authority of God revealing, and admits only as much of revealed doctrine as it chooses or comprehends within its own narrow capacity.
It denies the infallible magistracy of the Church and of the Pope, and consequently all the doctrines defined and taught by this divine authority. In short, it sets itself up as the measure and rule of faith and thus really shuts out Revelation altogether. It denies everything which it itself does not proclaim. It negates everything which it itself does not affirm. But not being able to affirm any truth beyond its own reach, it denies the possibility of any truth which it does not comprehend. The revelation of truth above human reason it therefore debars at the outset. The divinity of Jesus Christ is beyond its horoscope.
The Church is outside its comprehension. The submission of human reason to the Word of Christ or its divinely constituted exponent [the Catholic Church, especially the Pope] is to it intolerable. It is, therefore, the radical and universal denial of all divine truth and Christian dogma, the primal type of all heresy, and the supreme rebellion against the authority of God and His Church.
As with Lucifer, its maxim is, "I will not serve." Such is the general negation uttered by Liberalism. From this radical denial of revealed truth in general naturally follows the denial of particular dogmas, in whole or in part (as circumstances present them in opposition to its rationalistic judgment).
Thus, for instance, it denies the validity of faith by Baptism, when it admits or supposes the equality of any or all religious cults; it denies the sanctity of marriage when it sanctions so-called civil marriages; it denies the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff, when it refuses to accept as laws his official commands and teachings and subjects them to the scrutiny of its own intellect—not to assure itself of their authenticity, as is legitimate, but to sit in defiant judgment upon their contents.
When we come to the practical order, Liberalism is radical immorality. Morality requires a standard and a guide for rational action; it postulates a hierarchy of ends, and therefore of order, within whose series there is a subordination of means to the attainment of an ultimate purpose. It therefore requires a principle or fundamental rule of all action, by which the subject of moral acts, the rational creature, determines his course and guides himself to the attainment of his end.
In the moral order, the Eternal Reason alone can be that principle or fundamental rule of action, and this Eternal Reason is God. In the moral order, the created reason, with power to determine its course, must guide itself by the light of the Uncreated Reason, Who is the beginning and end of all things.
The law, therefore, imposed by the Eternal Reason upon the creature must be the principle or rule of morality. Hence, obedience and submission in the moral order is an absolute requisite of morality. But Liberalism has proclaimed the absurd principle of the absolute sovereignty of human reason; it denies any reason beyond itself and asserts its independence in the order of knowledge, and hence in the order of action or morality.
Here we have morality without law, without order, freedom to do what one pleases, or what comes to the same thing, morality which is not morality, for morality implies the idea not only of direction, but also essentially demands that of restraint and limitation under the control of law. Liberalism in the order of action is license, recognizing no principle or rule beyond itself.
We may then say of Liberalism: in the order of ideas it is absolute error; in the order of facts it is absolute disorder. It is, therefore, in both cases a very grievous and deadly sin, for sin is rebellion against God in thought or in deed, the enthronement of the creature in the place of the Creator.