On this, the 1700th anniversary of Constantine's Edict of Milan, which granted toleration the the practice of and return of the property of the True Faith, here is Pope St. Pius X's address on this occasion, given one hundred years ago this day. rorate-caeli.blogspot.com
The Church has the mission of governing souls and administering the Sacraments; and since no one for no reason whatever can claim to enter the Sanctuary, She has the duty to rise up against those who claim to invade Her ground with arbitrary interference or unjust encroachments. The Church has the mission of teaching the observance of precepts and exhorting the practice of the evangelical counsels. Woe to those who would teach the contrary thus bringing disorder and confusion to society! The Church has a right to ownership, since it is a society of men and not angels and needs the material goods given to Her through the piety of the faithful. She safeguards legitimate ownership for the accomplishment of the duties of Her ministers, for the exterior exercise of worship, for the construction of churches and for works of charity, entrusted to Her in order that She may live and perpetuate until the end of time.
And such rights are so sacred, that the Church has always had the duty to sustain and defend them, knowing well that if She gave in an inch to the demands of Her enemies, She would not be obeying the mandate received from Heaven and would fall into apostasy. So history points to a series of protests and claims by the Church against those who wanted to render Her a slave. The first words by Peter and the other Apostles to Judaism were: “We ought to obey God, rather than men.” (Acts V, 29). These sublime words were always repeated by their successors and will be repeated until the end of time, perhaps even being confirmed in a baptism of blood.
And of this our adversaries themselves are persuaded, and repeat continuously that every sort of freedom exists under the shadow of their banners. But, in reality, freedom –or rather license – is for everyone, but not for the Church.
Freedom for everyone to profess their own faith and to manifest their own systems; but not for the Catholic, who, as such, is marked for persecutions and mockery as well as discouraged and deprived of those offices of which he has the sacred right.
Freedom to teach; but subject to the monopoly of Governments, who permit the propagation and the defense of every system and of every kind of error in schools. They even prohibit the study of the Catechism to the children.
Freedom of the press, and thus freedom to the most irascible journalism which dishonorably insinuates other forms of government into laws, in order to rouse the mob to revolt, to ferment hate and hostility, to impede the welfare of the workers and the tranquil lives of citizens through strikes and to revile the most sacred things and the most venerated people. By contrast, Catholic journalism, which defends the rights of the Church and champions the principles of truth and justice, must be put under surveillance, recalled to duty and is indicated as antagonistic towards free institutions as well as an enemy of the state.
Freedom to carry out the most rowdy public demonstrations to all of the most subversive associations is granted, but Catholic processions are not allowed out of the church, as they provoke the rival parties, upset public order and disturb peaceful citizens.
Freedom of ministries for all, schismatics and dissidents, but not for Catholics.
Freedom of ownership for all, but not for the Church and for Religious Orders, whose properties are tampered with and given to lay institutions by Governments.
This then, as you well know, is the freedom that the Church enjoys even in Catholic countries! And so We are right then to comfort Ourselves with you fighting for Her in the field of action which up until now is conceded to us. So, courage, beloved children; the more the Church is opposed from every part, the more the false maxims of error and moral perversion infect the air from their pestiferous miasma, the more merit will be acquired by you before God, if you will make every effort to avoid contagion and will not be diverted from your convictions in remaining faithful to the Church. And with your firmness you will work for a fruitful apostolate in persuading adversaries and dissidents that freedom for the Church will provide admirably towards the well-being and tranquility of the people, since in the exercise of the Magisterium divinely entrusted to Her, She will conserve intact and in vigor the principles of truth and justice, on which every order is based and from which springs forth peace, honesty and all culture. In this fight, difficulties, molestations and fatigue will certainly abound, but do not lose heart, because in this battle the Lord will sustain you, bringing you abundant assistance and divine favors.