The Nuncio on Religious Freedom


When a Nuncio speaks publicly, it is safe to say that we are hearing the sentiments of the Holy Father himself.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano

An Apostolic Nuncio functions as an ambassador representing the Pope in countries that have diplomatic relations with the Holy See.  In certain countries the Apostolic Nuncio is de facto the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps.  For instance, Archbishop Charles Brown of our own archdiocese, who is a friend of our parish, has that role in Ireland.  A Nuncio must be circumspect in speech without compromising the Church's integrity.  When a Nuncio speaks publicly, it is safe to say that we are hearing the sentiments of the Holy Father himself.

The Vatican has been engaged in foreign diplomacy longer than any other institution in the world, and it knows from long experience how to press points with subtlety, so when a Nuncio uses strong words, the situation he is addressing must be of serious moment.

Never has a representative of the Holy See spoken about the state of the Church in the United States with such clarity and urgency as did Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, our new Nuncio, in an address on November 4 at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.  The whole text would be a proper subject for meditation in our difficult times.  His topic was Religious Liberty, and he explained that this involves more than "freedom of worship," which is a private exercise of faith.  "Freedom of religion" — guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution — is the more encompassing free exercise of religious beliefs in public life.  This freedom is threatened now in our nation and, the Archbishop said, "This is a tragedy not only for the believer, but also for democratic society."  Religious freedom is "a natural right which is not conferred by the state, because it subsists in the human person's nature."  Thus, religious freedom is to be protected by the government, and it is not something that the government has a right to limit or grant as though its source were the state and not God.

Archbishop Vigano said that there are those who would persecute the Church, and "martyrdom may not necessitate torture and death; however, the objective of those who desire to harm the faith may choose the path of ridiculing the believers so that they become outcasts from mainstream society and are marginalized from meaningful participation in public life."  Consequently, "From the public viewpoint, the believer remains, but the faith eventually disappears."  This is the intention of "important figures, some of whom hold high public office."  As one practical example, the Nuncio said, "If George Orwell were still alive today, he would certainly have material to write a sequel to his famous novel 1984, in which the totalitarian state, amongst other things, found effective means for distancing children from their parents and monopolizing the control of educational processes especially on moral issues."

In the words of Pope John Paul II: "A democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism."




Father George William Rutler. "The Nuncio on Religious Freedom." From the Pastor (November 25, 2012).

Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.


Father Rutler received priestly ordination in 1981. Born in 1945 and reared in the Episcopal tradition, Father Rutler was an Episcopal priest for nine years. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1979 and was sent to the North American College in Rome for seminary studies. Father Rutler graduated from Dartmouth, where he was a Rufus Choate Scholar, and took advanced degrees at the Johns Hopkins University and the General Theological Seminary. He holds several degrees from the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities in Rome, including the Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology, and studied at the Institut Catholique in Paris. In England, in 1988, the University of Oxford awarded him the degree Master of Studies. From 1987 to 1989 he was regular preacher to the students, faculty, and townspeople of Oxford. Cardinal Egan appointed him Pastor of the Church of Our Saviour, effective September 17, 2001. 

Since 1988 his weekly television program has been broadcast worldwide on EWTN. Father Rutler has published 17 books, including: Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Copyright © 2012 Father George W. Rutler

Subscribe to CERC's Weekly E-Letter



Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.