Father Paul Aulagnier, who has never hidden that he would like to see the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X sign with Rome an accord destined to make it wholly take part in the coming reconstructions, has addressed to Mgr. Jean-Louis Tauran, Secretary of Relations with the States to the Secretariat of State, an open letter that we publish here. Father Paul Aulagnier criticizes the foundations of the conciliar doctrine of religious liberty and its consequences. It is also for him an opportunity to make a claim for an official place for the frank and constructive criticism of the most disastrous of conciliar doctrines.

Open letter


his Excellency

Monsignor Tauran


Dear Monsignor:


At the end of the month of May, 2003, from the 23 to the 24 of May, at the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Encyclical Pacem in terris, being held at Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University that you know so well having been a student there, a Congress has this for their theme: “The Church and international order”. You gave the closing conference there. This concerns you due to your important role as secretary for the relations of the Church with the States.

Your conference was public and was followed in all likelihood by a debate. This is the usual manner.


If Providence had led my feet to Rome on that day, no doubt I would have heard you. This subject interests me. To see you in the exercise of your functions would have been pleasing since we knew each other at Santa Chiara, in the French seminary. Your were licensed in Theology, I, in philosophy. The II Vatican Council end our work. Listening to you would have truly been pleasing to me.


Not having heard you, Monsignor, I did read you, in L’Osservatore Romano in French, the one of June 10, 2003. I had even been able to find the text of your communication on the site of the Vatican. Your text is in a good place. This is normal due to your functions. I have composed from it an analysis for the Roman Chronicle of my friends of ITEM, A Catholic site of Entraide et Tradition.


Since I was not able to participate, even in the debate, you will certainly accept that I ask you a few questions. Allow me to do this in this manner, in an open letter on the Internet.


You explain to your listeners the role of the Holy See in its international relations, the reasons for this role  and you pause a long time on the “political” themes which presently capture its attention. You re-unite them all under three great rubrics. You draw the attention of the States, in their political and social actions, to the central place of the human person and his rights, to the importance of peace between the Nations which can only have the respect for law and for justice as its foundation. And you conclude your intervention on the esteem that the Church has for democracy.


My attention has been, Monsignor, more particularly drawn by your exposé to the rights of the human person and to the esteem that the Church has for democracy. It is on these two subjects that I would like to interrogate you. To pursue the debate in some way. The Internet could well replace the round tables. And it is less costly than intercontinental travels.


A) about the first point: the rights of man.


a) their recognition by the Church.


After a long and beautiful exposé on the defense of the right to life - a right to life that the Holy See defends with a marvelous energy - you state, Monsignor:

“You are well aware of the insistence with which the Holy See has always defended freedom of conscience and religion... as well as freedom of worship”.

You make of this right of freedom of conscience, of religion and of worship a natural right, a right dependent on human nature itself, like the example of the right to life, the right to education, the right to work. And because these rights depend on human nature, not on the Nations, you make them into absolute, inalienable and sacred rights. Thus, the right to freedom of conscience, of religion and of worship. And you conclude your exposé, Monsignor, by this passage:

“To summarize, we can affirm that the Holy See is opposed to any uni-dimensional vision of man and proposes an open conception to his individual, social and transcendent dimension”.


My question, Monsignor, is simple: is all this true and just?


Are you sure that the Church has always defended the right of freedom of conscience, of religion and of worship as natural, absolute, inalienable and sacred rights?


Are you equally sure that the sole respect of the individual, social and transcendent dimension of the human person  bases absolutely, without other discerning and considerations, the right to freedom of conscience, of religion and of worship?


I am not so certain... But you can clarify this for me!



If I dwell a while only on the encyclical of Leo XIII, Libertas praestantissimum, I see, on the contrary, that it appears to condemn what you see. You speak furthermore in an absolute manner, without nuances, on what Leo XIII distinguishes and makes clear.


You will certainly ask for proofs. Here they are, Monsignor.


Freedom of worship


Pope Leo XIII condemns in this encyclical Libertas, the freedom of worship. He writes: “The freedom of worship, as it is called, a freedom which rests upon this principle that it is lawful for each one to profess whatever religion pleases him, or even to profess none. But, on the contrary, it is here without any doubt that among the greatest and most holiest duties of man is that which orders man to render to God a worship of piety and of religion. And this duty is only a consequence of this fact that we are all perpetually under the dependence of God, and that, coming from Him, we must return to Him”.


This is not, Monsignor, what one calls an approbation.


Freedom of conscience


A little further on, Leo XIII  equally condemns freedom of conscience. But, he distinguishes what you do not. He writes: “Another freedom which is also proclaimed so highly is that which is called freedom of conscience. If this is to be understood... (You see, Monsignor, the Pope distinguishes.) If this is to be understood that each person can indifferently, in his own way, render or not render worship to God, the arguments which were given above suffices to refute this”. This is not as well, Monsignor, what one calls an approbation!


And if this is the case, this means that man must “necessarily remain wholly in  real and ceaseless dependence with regard to God and that, consequently, it is absolutely impossible to understand the freedom of man without any submission to God and the subjugation to His will. To deny this supremacy of God and refuse to submit to it is not a freedom, it is an abuse of freedom and is a revolt”. (Libertas)


And the Pope in concluding shows that it is “hardly permitted to demand, to defend or grant without discernment any freedom of thought... and of freedom of religions as being rights that nature has conferred to man. If truly nature had conferred them, one would have the right to subtract oneself from the supremacy of God, and no law could moderate human freedom”.


You see that it is not true to purely and simply say, Monsignor, and in an absolute manner, that “the Holy See has always defended freedom of conscience, of religion... as well as freedom of worship”.


And one must distinguish.


This is what Pope Leo XIII did.


In fact, after having refuted freedom of conscience as a profession of religious indifferentism, “each person can indifferently, in his own way, render worship or not render worship to God”, the Pope clarifies: “If one means by freedom of conscience “in this sense, that man has in the State the right to act according to the conscience of his duty the will of God, and to accomplish His precepts without anything preventing this” well then, Monsignor, yes, the Church approves this way of seeing things and she supports and defends: “This freedom, writes Leo XIII, the true freedom, a freedom worthy of the children of God, one which protects so gloriously the dignity of the human person, is above all violence and every oppression, and has always been the object of the vows of the Church and of her particular affection. It is this freedom that the Apostles have claimed with so much constancy... And they are right, for the great and supreme might of God over men and, on the other hand, the great and supreme duty of men towards God finds, the one and the other, in this Christian liberty  a striking witness”.


 Who does not see, Monsignor, that this freedom of conscience, explained here by Leo XIII, is the freedom of conscience of the true religion, for the one that is true and good. Yes, then, the Holy See has always defended this freedom of conscience, this freedom of the Catholic religion, this freedom of worship due to the true God.

But, Monsignor, this is not explained in your conference. You speak in an absolute manner, without nuance, without distinction. It can be understood by your exposé that you allow for and acclaim the right of freedom for all religions, true and false. This is the present interpretation of political Liberalism. Your text maintains what is equivocal. However, you know well that the Church “only grants rights to what is true and honest”.


They are numberless today, Monsignor, those who refuse such a sentence.


One has to specify, something you should have done more of before your listeners.


Of tolerance of evil and error


If, in fact, the Church grants rights to what is true and honest and does not recognize any freedom of error or falsehood, she does not oppose, however, tolerance of evil and of error.


You know the doctrine, Monsignor: If the Church only grants rights to what is honest and does not recognize any freedom of error or falsehood, she accepts, she tolerates however evil and error. Leo XIII said it clearly. The Nations must imitate the government of God which “allows the existence of certain evils in the world” “for not preventing a more greater good” “or for preventing much more greater evil”. And it is thus that the State can tolerate evils and allow for a certain margin for errors, for false religions. But to do this is not to approve nor desire the evil for itself. For evil is opposed to the common good that the legislator has to desire and must defend the best he is able to.


Thus it is clear that never could the Church “give to what is good and what is evil the same rights”. From this fact, she has never been able to defend, purely and simply, no always or for a day freedom of conscience and of religion...as well as freedom of worship”, as your conference seems to be.


b) their foundation


Further, Monsignor, you seem to want to found this right of freedom of conscience, of religion and of worship on the sole dignity of the human person. This is what I understand when I read your concluding sentence: “To summarize (this subject of rights of freedom of conscience and the others), one can affirm, you say, that the Holy See is opposed to any uni-dimensional vision of man and proposes an open conception to his individual, social and transcendent dimension”.  


A reductionist philosophy of man


You rightly criticize as well any philosophical and political thought only seeing man in this uni-dimensional vision, which would be without reason. You refuse any  “reductionist” philosophy of man. Man is not only a means of production. And you put Marxist-Leninism and liberal Capitalism back to back. Man is neither a “citizen”, he cannot be only considered like “a part of a whole in the State”, forgetful of his transcendent dimension. You refuse as well al philosophical and political totalitarianism, no matter what its justification. You said this at the end of the conference. And this is all good. Who I say, would not agree with you? You even express nicely the doctrine of the church. The Church has another perspective, another view of the human person. A view otherwise open, open to the totality of the human person. The Church considers the human person it all his dimensions. She goes to consider his individual aspect as a person, sui juris, his social aspect: Man is a social and political animal. He is part of a city. But he is not only that: he has a transcendent dimension. As a creature of God, he comes from God only to return to God. The human person cannot be considered solely in a material order. One cannot ignore his transcendent aspect. All this is correct. And you express it clearly n your sentence: “The Holy See opposes a uni-dimensional conception of man and proposes a conception that is open to his individual, social, transcendent dimension”.


I am in agreement.


“Ontological” dignity of the human person.


But where I differ from you - tell me if I am in error - it is where you make of the dignity of the human person, considered in these three dimensions recalled above, that is, individual, social and transcendent, that is, considered in its ontological aspect, the sole foundation, the absolute foundation of the right to freedom of conscience, of religion and of worship.

One discovers here in your exposé the doctrine of Dignitatis humanae: the famous articles 2 and 3. This doctrine must be recalled. A brief quotation from paragraph 2 will suffice:

“The Vatican Council (...) declares moreover that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the dignity of the human person. (...) By virtue of their dignity, all men, because they are persons, that is, gifted with reason and free will (...). It is then not by a subjective disposition, but by his very nature which provides the foundation for the right for religious freedom. This is why the right to this immunity persists in those very ones who are not satisfied by the obligation to seek the truth and adhere to it”. (DH 2)


Here your thought is expressed, where you say that the Church, differing from any totalitarian philosophy, expresses “a conception open to the individual, social and transcendent dimension” of the human person.


Of the “intentional” aspect of the dignity of the human person


It is great, Monsignor, that you reminds us of the doctrine of the human person. But, here as well, it would be important to take into account of what is wholly real, of the ontological aspect, but also of the intentional aspect - acts that are done by the human person. You rightly insist on the dignity of the human person. You consider it in its “radicality”, in its root. It is true that the human person is noble because of being gifted with reason and free will. Saint Bernard has, on this topic, in his Treatise of the Love of God, in chapter 2, many beautiful considerations: “I cal dignity of man his free will, which allows him to be not only above other living creatures but yet to have the right to command them”.  (St. Bernard, Treatise of the Love of God, Seuil, p. 31). But it would be also important to consider that “the dignity of the human person adequately considered requires that one takes into account his acts”. “For by every proof religious freedom is proper to the human person not by following his radical dignity, but by following his operative one”.  And thus it is that “freedom cannot be the same for the child and for the adult, for the foolish and for the penetrating mind, for the ignorant and for the cultivated man”. (Father Berto).


Now, Monsignor, this dignity that with Father Berto I call “operative” does not belong to the physical being of the person, but rises, which is evident, from the intentional order. The negligence of this intentional element, namely “the knowledge of good and of evil”, runs in your thought, Monsignor, as well as in the thought of Dignitatis humanae, a grave error.

I reproach you, both you Monsignor and Dignitatis humanae - but tell me if I am in error, for considering “wrongly” “psychological freedom (...)as a constitutive element of the dignity of the human person”. I insist, Monsignor, for it is so important, that you would say with Father Berto, “free will is certainly a dignity of human nature”. Saint Bernard tells us this. “But in relation to the person who subsists in this nature, it (free will) proves indifferently his dignity or his indignity, according to his free good and bad choices. (...) Nuance? It is a nuance which places an abyss between Thomism and Kantism (...). (Father Berto, in Salt of the earth no. 45 p. 33).


This nuance, which has weight, Monsignor, undermines, in reality, your reasoning as well as the edifice of Dignitatis humanae. For you, Monsignor, t is because the right to religious freedom is bases upon an inadmissible dignity which is absolute and “persists even in those who are not satisfied with the obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it”.  And it is for the same reason that it is valuable even for the propagandists of false religions. For, for you as well as the Council, the proper and impending foundation of this freedom is in the ontological quality of the human person...while it should be situated in the acts themselves that the person will do, thus, in the intentional order. Saint Bernard says it so clearly, in his little treatise which I made allusion to awhile ago: “Dignity is useless without knowledge, and if without virtue will end up becoming nefarious”. This equally affirms: each dignity ontologically considered, in its free will, each dignity intentionally considered in its acts. And Saint Bernard goes to the point of saying that the person can no longer be worthy for anything: if they ignore what they are by the grace of reason, they can be “descend to the level of beasts”; if they “wrongly attribute the good that is perhaps in (them) - free will - to the detriment of God”, author of all good. “They can then be introduced to the world of demons. To use received goods like they were inherent to our nature, and to accept merits, assuming without right a merit which belongs to the benefactor is pride, the greatest of sins”. (Ibid. p. 34)


Thus, Monsignor, I would not be to far from telling you that you have built your thought on “an inadequate notion of the dignity of the human person”, by not distinguishing in it the ontological order and the intentional order. And my trouble is intense when I think that you and your collaborators would prepare a major part of the discourses of the Pope, those which spring more from the Secretariat of State, and more particularly from your services.


B) of the esteem that the Church brings to democracy.


You have concluded your exposé, Monsignor, on the esteem that the Church brings to democracy. You write: “In a globalized world...where solidarity and the principle of questioning are the order of the day, no one is astonished by the Church nourishing an esteem for democracy”.


John Paul II and totalitarian regimes


You rightly take note of the important work that the Supreme Pontiff has played in the disposing of totalitarian regimes of the preceding century, in the countries of central  and eastern Europe. Without any doubt, totalitarian regimes did not enjoy the pleasure of the Church. She did not appreciate them, whatever were their ideological bases: “the obsession for security”, are you saying “ideology” or “the search for privileges for a certain category of citizens”. Who would approve your words, Monsignor?


The esteem for a democratic regime


But, is it to say that the Church has chosen a democratic regime as the regime esteemed par excellence? This is what you allow to be understood. And you prove this by giving us two principle reasons drawn, you say, from the magisterium of John Paul II: “His magisterium has shown that this political system responds to the desires of individuals for participating in the political and social life of their country”. First reason.


“This system of government equally obliges those politically responsible to answer, before their citizens, for what they say and what they do. Democracy signifies always  participation and responsibility, rights and duties”. Second reason.


Truly, the Church “nourishes an esteem for democracy”.


Is this certain? The reasons appear to me, here again, more nuanced and subtle.


The true reasons for the esteem of a political regime.


While limiting myself to the study of Leo XIII and to his encyclical Libertas, I recognize, and gladly, that the Church approves regimes where “each (citizen) can unite their efforts for the common good”.  “It is praiseworthy, Leo XIII said, to take part in the management of public affairs”. “The Church even approves that (...) each one, according to their power, work for the defense, for the conservation and the growth of a public thing”. I want to find here the first reason expressed by Pope John Paul II. But Leo XIII does not so much as summon it forth, a particular esteem for democracy. And furthermore, this participation in a public thing is not the ironing out of a democratic regime. This is discovered and is discovered historically in many other political regimes, monarchical regimes, aristocratic ones, etc. And Leo XIII even goes to the point of  supplying an example of Pontifical States, where “Italian cities found (...) prosperity, power and glory”. And this pontifical regime was far from being a democratic regime, in the modern sense of the word. It was a monarchical regime in all of its power. This is why far from manifesting her great esteem for democracy, the Church would say, on the contrary, not to reject any forms of government. - This is better said. It is more realistic, more prudent and political - what the church especially takes into account in this affair of political regimes is the “aptitude of power” “to procure the good of its citizens”. And this is realized only if the power “does not violate the rights of the person respects particularly the rights of the Church”. Here is the right criteria for judging the subject, of the esteem that one has to have for such and such a regime and government. Monsignor, you who are French, would you support that the French Republic procures perfectly the good of its citizens, in the sense that it does not violate the person’s rights and particularly respects the rights of the Church! This is however the true criteria that the Church gives to us for judging such an affair. Is your esteem just as great for French Democracy?


Esteem, you say, for democracy! And how. But it is not so much democracy, the form of the regime, that the Church considers. She considers especially if the regime, whatever it is, respects the Catholic Church’s doctrine on “the origin and exercise of public power”.  Monsignor, would you claim that French Democracy particularly respects Catholic doctrine on the origin and of power and its exercise. On the one hand, the Church’s doctrine teaches that all power comes from God and not from the people. The people can designate whoever is to take up this power. This power will not depend, however, either in its essence, nor, moreover, in its exercise. Neither in its exercise, for example, legislative. The law that it promulgates will respect the natural order and then divine order. The political power in France, however democratic it is, affirms to you that its law is simply “the expression of the general will”, not the expression of the will of God. And this would be the regime that you tell us is particularly esteemed by the church! It appears to me that you falsify the thinking of the Church. It is something else. And for judging of this matter, you do not point out to us the right criterias, those expressed by Leo XIII,  for example, that I just recalled.




Here are, Monsignor, the remarks that I would ask you if I had been able to assist at your conference of last May 24, at Rome, at the PUG, as we call it, you and me, when each morning we left to pursue our courses of philosophy and theology, after having first piously saluted the “Tutela Domus”.

These are, monsignor, very evidently only some simple questions, some simple interrogations.

I believe that they are of the nature of being the object of a debate. They particularly interest the faithful of Tradition. They vividly wish to make the doctrinal contact with the Catholic hierarchy, and particularly with you. The Internet could be a modern means, that costs little, an easy and public one since public was your conference, public the affair of our disagreement with Rome. In fact, you or us, Monsignor!

Please see in this open letter, Monsignor, the expressed concern of a fidelity to the church and a love for her doctrine. Deign, Monsignor, receive and accept the expression of my filial respect in Our Lord Jesus Christ.




Father Paul Aulagnier. July 22, 2003