A COMMON accusation made by Protestants against the Catholic Church, is that the latter adheres to the principle of the union of Church and State. It appears, however, that the Catholic position upon this point is, in this country at least, quite in harmony with that now maintained by the leading Protestant bodies. What the papal church would insist upon here is not a union of Church and State, but of religion and the State. This was authoritatively stated by the “Right Rev.” Bishop Montgomery, of Los Angeles, Cal., in a recent lecture on the “Basis of American Citizenship,” reported in the Catholic News (New York) of November 22.
“The trouble is,” he said, “that people have come to believe that citizenship is wholly and altogether secular; particularly in these last few years the question has been put in the shape of the separation of Church and State. That hobby, ridden so faithfully and so earnestly by so many, has come to mean, in the minds of a great number, that the separation of Church and State means the separation of religion and State. And though in this country we are under such circumstances that there must ever be a separation of Church and State in the ordinary acceptance of the words, there is not and cannot be a separation of religion and State, if we remain the republic that our forefathers left us.”
The Protestant churches do not favor a union of Church and State “in the ordinary acceptance of the words;” but they do advocate a union of religion with the State, and the papal church says that there must be no “separation of religion and State” if the republic is to be preserved. The papal church therefore takes fully as “enlightened” a stand in this important matter as do the Protestants. Her attitude to-day is no less “liberal” than is theirs.
But the truth is that the papal church never advocated anything more than a union of religion with the State; so that the position stated by the Catholic News, and endorsed by the leading Protestant bodies to-day, is the same that Rome has always held. For back in the days of papal supremacy, the clashing religious sects of the present day were not in existence, and “religion” meant, to the State, only the religion held by the papacy. United with that religion, the State was in the truest sense united with the papacy. Bearing in mind now that the papal religion is the only religion recognized by the papal church as being the true religion—Christianity—the identity of her present position with that held by her in former times is perfectly plain. Rome advocates a union of religion with the State, but her religion, she says, is the only true religion. Of course no false religion ought to be united with the State; hence a union of religion with the State, from the papal standpoint, means nothing more nor less than a union of the civil power with the papacy.
And from the standpoint of any Protestant church which maintains this same principle, the conclusion reached must be similar. For though the various Protestant sects count  each other as branches of the great Christian Church, and even recognize the papacy as such a branch, each one believes that she holds more Christian truth than any of the others, and hence that she is, in a fuller sense, Christian, than are the others. Therefore, of course, she is better entitled than the others to a union with the State; since the State ought not to be joined with religious error. So, from the Protestant standpoint no less than from the Catholic, a union of religion with the State means, in its last analysis, a union of Church and State, in the fullest sense. And this meaning will take on a very practical and tangible character when the principle upon which it stands is sought to be carried into effect. The movement to unite religion with the State, once started, will speedily develop into a controversy over a union of Church and State, even “in the ordinary acceptance of the words.” It cannot possibly lead to anything else.
Then is we would avoid a union of Church and State, it is absolutely necessary that the State should be kept separate from religion,—not separate from justice, from honesty, from integrity—but separate from religion, as the Christian men who established it ordained that it should be. There can be nothing more essential than this to our country’s welfare.