Separation of Church and State

Here is another post from Father Nix that was posted on his blog earlier today.

To view the original, please click here.

When Thomas Jefferson used the term “separation of Church and State” it was to assure a group of Baptists that the State would not trample the rights of their community. He wrote:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”

Jefferson’s insistence upon the “building [of] a wall of separation of Church and State” was to assure that the American government would make “no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This last quote is found both in Jefferson’s letter and the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. But the term “separation of Church and State” is found exclusively in the letter.

Recently, Hillary Clinton gave a talk to a pro-abortion group. Because Christians are the number one opposition to full-access abortion, Hillary said that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” We should note that not even communist leaders spoke so boldly fifty years ago. They were smart enough to first hide their intentions to begin a state-based religion (atheism.) Only later did governments disarm and kill any dissidents. In fact, governments killed a total of 170 million of their own people during the 20th century.

Few (if any) of these leaders blew their own anti-religion cover by stating that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” By argumentum a fortiori, we can be sure that Hillary Clinton will make good on her promise to Christians to eradicate any separation of Church and State. Remember, these are her words, not mine, that “religious beliefs…have to be changed.”

Is it my place as a Catholic priest to blog about this? We should consider history: Very few priestly saints refrained from getting involved in politics. St. Bernard of Clairvaux (a gentle Mary-loving monk) may have been the single most powerful influence on European politics in the 12th century. Or, consider St. Francis Xavier. He gave his life to baptize hundreds of thousands in the far East in the 16th century. But when Portuguese settlers threatened his beloved Indians with slavery, St. Francis Xavier asked King John of Portugal for intervention. Should the king fail to control his subjects, St. Francis mildly promised the king that he would stand a good chance at experiencing the flames of hell. Even St. Anthony of the Desert, the 3rd century desert hermit, had an enormous influence on secular politics. The deeper he went into the desert of Egypt for solitude, the more emperors found him for advice.


My alma mater, a Jesuit University, has produced Jesuits from my graduating class who are now working at America magazine. One even flew out for my ordination. I disagree with most of their political views, but I support their right as priests to speak out on politics. Why? Because we priests were not ordained to bless statues and then watch TV. We were ordained to be leaders.

Fr. Michael Orsi, former Ave Maria Law School chaplain, recently spoke at a National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children. He said: “Let me remind you: the Bible is a political document. The prophets, including John the Baptist, and Jesus, lost their lives because they spoke the truth to power…The Constitution is quickly being destroyed…Unless the right choice is made in November, we may not have a court that is fair and balanced in its interpretation of the Constitution.”

Does he have a right to say this? Fr. Orsi and every priest has two ways in which he can live the Holy Priesthood:

Option 1: Give the sacraments to everyone who is headed to heaven or hell.
Option 2: Derail the train to hell, and then give the sacraments.

The first option will save a few souls, ruffle no feathers, and gain much popularity. The second option will ruffle feathers, compromise the priest’s popularity, and then save a lot more souls—and possibly a country.

—Fr. David Nix,


Priestly Obedience

What does it mean to be an obedient priest?

Padre Pio said “Obedience is mission: I have come into this world to do the will of my Father, who has sent me. Where there is no obedience, there is no virtue; where there is no virtue there is no good; where good is wanting, there is no love, there is no God; where God is not, there is no Heaven.”

Obedience to the inspirations of God come from the Holy Spirit’s gift of counsel.  Counsel is a loving receptivity or supernaturalized prudence according to St. Thomas Aquinas. These are small inspirations that fill the baptized all day long. This is the road to sanctity because it is the highest pathway to loving God. However, the bare minimum of obedience for the priest includes issues moral, doctrinal and liturgical. For matters doctrinal and liturgical, the priest must be obedient in issues of…

Divine Law  to Scripture and Magisterium

Ecclesial Law  to Pope

Particular Law  to Bishop

Divine Law includes the following five things: Sacred Scripture, Councils, Creeds, the early Church Fathers (when they spoke unanimously) and Ex-Cathedra Statements. This list comes from Pope Leo XIII’s Providentissimus Deus, an encyclical on the Bible. There is a modern myth that the only thing that Catholics must believe are the two Ex-Cathedra Statements in history (Immaculate Conception of Mary and Assumption of Mary.)

Of course, the deposit of faith does include those two Marian statements, but it also includes so much more. In fact, Pope Leo XIII places the Bible at the highest level of Divine Revelation, since “all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true.”

If Scripture is so important, how then are we Catholics so different from Protestants?  For one, we Catholics are guaranteed an accurate interpretation of the Bible because of Church Fathers and Dogmatic Councils (like Chalcedon.)  Without these, the notion of “apostolic Christianity” is nothing more than a guessing game, producing 30,000+ denominations of Christians in the USA alone.  (Most of these claim to believe what the early Christians believed!)

Ecclesial Law (Pope) is the next level down.  It can never change the Bible, but they can set our discipline. Popes speak infallibly when they speak on matters of articulated faith and morals from the chair of Peter (very very rare.)  At a lesser weight but much more common are rulings on discipline.  For example, Pope Benedict XVI ruled in Summorum Pontificum (2007) that priests in good standing can offer the Traditional Latin Mass (in private) without any permission from their bishop.  When there is pastoral need, it should never be refused publicly.  (In point of fact, Pope St. Pius V said that this Mass could never be abrogated.)

Particular Law (bishops) is found at a lower level and it of course can never change doctrine.  It is found normally at the level of bishop.  It usually refers to diocesean discipline and decisions.  One example is that a bishop may remove a non-pastor priest from a parish. Whether stemming from a just or unjust decision, the priest must obey his bishop in any such matter. This is the power a bishop has in in his own diocese.




Divine Law can not be superseded by any Pope or bishop.  This includes matters of worthy reception of the Eucharist, for this topic is found in Scripture and the Magisterium. For example, the divorced and remarried can never receive Holy Communion, unless they have obtained annulment(s) and convalidation, or the couple has made a good confession to live in celibacy (and probably apart from each other, to avoid scandal.) This teaching is based on Luke 16:18 (“remarriage” being a serious sin) and 1 Cor 11:26-29 (worthy reception of Holy Communion.)  Notice that Scripture is the highest level of Divine Revelation, according to Pope Leo XIII. Thus, if a Pope tried to change the Bible, we would see that good priests would, and in fact must, resist. Why? Because the priest knows that a Pope functions at the level of Ecclesial Law, not Divine Law. We know that Pope can never change Divine Law (See above diagram with arrows.)


But what if a bishop told his priest that he could not deny Holy Communion to a divorced-and-remarried couple who had been respectfully warned to change their life? Would the priest have to obey?  Or that a priest is not allowed to say the Latin Mass? No, for this would be a conflation of the three levels of obedience outlined above. The 1983 Code of Canon Law states: “Those who are publicly unworthy are forbidden from receiving the Divine Eucharist” (can. 712) Some people retort: “Yes, but only the bishop can determine who is publicly unworthy.” The Vatican overruled this objection in the year 2000 stating that “the Priest who is responsible for the community” has the right to determine denial of Holy Communion, and this includes more cases than just the divorced and “remarried” who have not obtained an annulment. The Vatican preempted objections in even stating that “no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it.” In other words, the bishop can not make the priest go against Divine Revelation.  This would not be obedience.  Why?  Because protection of the Eucharist comes from Divine Law in Scripture (1 Cor 11) and it does not come from an ecclesiastical or even papal decree.

Saints who said extreme things like “Your superior’s voice is the voice of God” always left one caveat:  A command to sin from a superior is never binding on the inferior.

The above references to Scripture and the Vatican website reveal that obedience to the bishops and the Pope have limitations. Not so our obedience to God.


—Fr. David Nix,

The Heresy of Indifferentism

The heresy of indifferentism is the notion that all world religions have an equal chance at getting someone to heaven.  Pope Leo XIII taught that the main problem with this heresy is that it overturns the unique mission of Jesus Christ to save people of every nation.   In Satis Cognitum (AD 1896) Pope Leo XIII wrote, “The mission of Christ is to save that which had perished: that is to say, not some nations or peoples, but the whole human race, without distinction of time or place.”—Satis Cognitum, #4, emphasis mine.

Recently, the largest online journal of Pentecostals, Charisma News, claimed that Pope Francis’ first video of 2016 overturned the unique and exclusive mission of Jesus Christ.

Without weighing in on the Pentecostal’s implication of heresy and a One-World Religion of Pope Francis, I want to point to something that Bishop Athanasius Schneider recently said.  He noted that we have had four main crises in the Church over 2,000 years.  The first was the Arian crisis (fought by his namesake).  The second was when the papacy was occupied by immoral people of the Roman Mafia in the 9th and 10th century.  The third crisis was the great Western Schism (2 alleged Popes in the 14th century, resolved by St. Catherine of Siena.)  The fourth is current. Bishop Athanasius Schneider says that we now live in a time of “relativism,” especially “doctrinal and moral” as well as “liturgical anarchy.”

Relativism is the philosophical root of the heresy of indifferentism.  Relativism is reflected in phrases like “Whatever floats your boat” and “You have your truth and I have mine.”  The theological root, however, comes down to a denial of original sin.  Is each person born as a child of God?  This is reflected in questions like, “Do you think only Catholics go to heaven?” You immediately feel a dump of epinephrine in your system.  You understand very well they mean: “Does God hate everyone who is not-Christian?”

 I usually answer this question with an analogy.  Imagine an enormous ocean-liner where Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Christians are on the balcony enjoying the sunset.  Jesus Christ walks the balcony and throws anyone overboard who does not have the ticket of baptism.  This is the basic premise of the questioner who asks “Do you think all non-Catholics go to hell?” In other words, the secular person insists that everyone is born in union with God, but it is we Catholic/Christian fundamentalists want to present an angry Jesus who throws people overboard.

I like to present a different analogy that actually reflects the true doctrine of original sin.  Imagine Jesus Christ is walking the balcony of an ocean-liner and there are people from every nation already overboard and drowning:  Africans, Asians, Indians and Caucasians are drowning and surrounded by sharks.  Jesus Christ throws each person a life-preserver (baptism) and offers to bring them into His boat (the Catholic Church) if only they will accept His love and mercy.  The fact that they are already-overboard is the true teaching of original sin. Only when we understand original sin can we actually see Jesus the Savior of all nations…not the selectively-grumpy friend of Europeans.

Do you see the difference between the two analogies refers primarily to original sin?  When people say “Do you think all non-Catholics go to hell?” they really mean “Is God mean to all non-Christians?” But if we can show them that the status-quo of humanity begins with separation from God (in the ocean, unbaptized) then we can understand Jesus as the Savior who really wants to save even the worst sinner from any nation.

The Pentecostals in the above link may not use terms like “heresy of indifferentism,” but they do know this:  Jesus is not a savior of the human race.  Rather, he is the only savior of the human race.  This assumes that the status-quo of every person in humanity is separation-from-God.  In fact, the following drawing did not originally come from Protestants, but rather from St. Catherine of Siena:


 That chasm makes each of us a separated enemy of God. Even the greatest saint (except the Mother of God who herself was saved pre-emptively by the Passion of Christ before sin could set-in) was at one point an enemy of God through original sin.  Yes, literally an enemy, but by our decision, not God’s.  “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.”—Romans 5:10.  This is preceded by my favorite line in the Bible: “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”—Romans 5:8.

By the way, if you need a direct answer to that question on salvation, give them the answer of Pope Pius IX:   “By Faith it is to be firmly held that outside the Apostolic Roman Church none can achieve salvation. This is the only ark of salvation. He who does not enter into it, will perish in the flood. Nevertheless equally certainly it is to be held that those who suffer from invincible ignorance of the true religion, are not, for this reason, guilty in the eyes of the Lord.”—Pope Pius IX, Denzinger 1647 (Ott 312)

But if you have the time and ability to explain the love behind the theology of original sin, do that!  Then they will understand that “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”—John 3:17.  Then they will understand that it was not exclusivism but love that led the Apostles to proclaim that “there is no other name under Heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.”—Acts 4:12.  Pope Leo XIII adds, “The Church, therefore, is bound to communicate without stint to all men, and to transmit through all ages, the salvation effected by Jesus Christ.”

—Fr. Dave Nix.  See more writing at


  1. If you want some historical evidence as to why Jesus rose from the dead and why He is the only savior of the human race, read this book.
  2. If you want to know why the Catholic Church remains without error even during the occasional Pope-in-error, read this article.

Musing on the Apocalypse


I don’t know when Jesus is going to return in glory. I don’t even think that Satan knows when Jesus is going to return in glory. But the angelic intellect (even a fallen one) is probably better at recognizing the signs that will precede Christ’s second coming (cf. St. Matthew ch. 24.) Is Satan going to distract hearts in the same way for Jesus’ first coming as Jesus’ second coming?

Well, let’s consider what the enemy of human nature did to religion in the first century to divert minds from the coming of the Messiah. In short, Satan twisted the one true religion of the world (Judaism at the time) into a legalistic frenzy. The Pharisees desired the law more than love, and so Jesus says to them: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”—St. Matthew 23:23. Fear of the law made the complex people miss the Son of God. Only simple (not simplistic) hearts recognized Him.

As much as I hate the words “conservative” and “liberal” in terms of Our Catholic Faith, for sake of brevity, we can say that Satan prepared the world for Christ’s first coming by putting her into a state of extreme conservative legalism. Wouldn’t then it be the perfect trick of Satan to prepare the world for Christ’s second coming by putting her into a state of liberal legalism?

What would Satan’s liberal legalism look like? Excessive loopholes on moral theology would mean that nothing could possibly be a mortal sin. It could only be a grave sin because of a constant parsing down with so-called merciful terms like “reduced culpability.” Satan’s liberal legalism would destroy the simple faith of children. Simple people’s faith would be clouded by complex and clouded theological terms surrounding endless excuses on “conscience” under the guise of mercy. Mercy, for Satan, would imply that God arbitrarily turns His head from a rigorious, legalistic imputation of sin, making God the enemy.  (This is so different from what the Desert Fathers taught, namely, the medical view of a transformed life at the foot of the healing cross of Jesus Christ!)

Satan’s liberal legalism would twist the Gospel into a bare-minimum of human-centered legalistic loopholes that leaves nothing but social justice at the end of the day. Priests who preached the full truths of the Gospel would be told by others they have to remember that St. Thomas Aquinas said that “conscience is infallible” and “Does anyone really have the ability to commit a sin with full consent of the will?” We can never know. Alas, we can never know…

This would be the perfect way for Satan to distract the world for the second coming of Christ. My proposal is not a return to conservative legalism. Furthermore, I’m not saying we’re at the end of the world. My proposal is a simple return to the Gospel at its heart: Repent and Believe as little children, with unfeigned trust in Jesus Christ and the One Church that He has established. Stop playing games. Start adoring the Blessed Trinity with a pure heart.  Trust the full and traditional Magisterium of the Catholic Church without games.


—Fr. David Nix,

Princesses of Ireland

St. Catherine of Siena taught that there was only one infinite thing in our life.  We do not have the ability to love infinitely.  We do not have the ability to sin infinitely.  We do, however, have an infinite desire or an infinite longing.

When we respond to this in a positive way, this becomes an ability to love with God’s love, which is infinite.  When rejected, our time in hell is infinite.  But for now, it is enough to say that we have an infinite longing.  Only God can fill that infinite longing.

But we cover up that desire with sin.  When that desire is not fulfilled, we heap addiction upon addiction into our lives to distract us from that infinite longing. When a person turns to God, she begins a relationship with Jesus and is baptized and/or makes a good confession.

Even after initial conversion, it is a lifelong battle to go deeper into the human longing and divine fulfillment by the ascetical life (fasting or sacrifice) as well as mental prayer leading (hopefully to) Holy Liturgy.  This is not a casuistic formula, but rather the means to the end which is nothing short of Divine Union in charity, where the soul actually knows God via love (the classic definition of Wisdom, the ultimate of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost.)

This ascent to God is God’s initiative but our cooperation.  The union of charity that comes from the ascetical life and the prayer life is probably the main difference between a saint and a person who simply dies in sanctifying grace.

For the children of Christendom, an initial encounter of beauty in a parish was probably an important launching point into the making of saint, later to be a married or religious person.  And perhaps this is why the parents of Christendom put so much more than their tithe into the making of the physical Church buildings:  The art had to be equal to an infinite longing.

But most importantly, they believed that God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass deserved the best.  Building such beauty around liturgical splendor seems to us to be something relegated to the past, something relegated to Europe.

However, after spending a month in Louisiana this year, I saw that our forefathers in this country—simple French, German, Irish and African forefathers—were the workingmen who not only built glorious Cathedrals, but even small Catholic Churches on the Mississippi.

For instance, Convent, Louisiana (pop 711 souls) is home to a small parish called “St. Michael the Archangel.”


It has the jubilee doors for the year of mercy.  As I went through those doors, I saw what 19th century Catholics could do if they were true believers.  Most likely, this was built by very poor barge workers on the Mississippi (the river being only 100 meters away) who surely gave more than their tithe.  More important than the money, however, was the transcendent aspects of the Holy Mass that can be seen in the art they made, century unknown on the art but seen here:


Everything about that high altar and dome says “You are no longer on earth but in heaven.”  The eyes of even the simplest believer must look up to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.  It is no wonder that people wanted to be saints when they entered a Church like this.

About an hour away, in New Orleans, I was welcomed by a friendly pastor into his ante-bellum rectory.


This is St. Patrick’s parish in a busy part of New Orleans.  Father let me offer the Traditional Latin Mass on the high altar, where he himself offers the TLM:


Being an Irishman myself, I was moved that this building was built not only by Irishmen of the 19th century, but poor Irishman who gave their blood, sweat and tears to build something this beautiful and transcendent.  How many of them, in their daily lives, felt like St. Peter sinking?  This very old painting is found to the right of the altar, and the figures are larger than life size:


What especially struck me, however, was the picture of St. Patrick baptizing the princesses of Ireland.  This too was an old painting honoring the true Irish-Catholic heritage that probably meant a lot more to the 19th century Irish workers than Mardi Gras or the St. Patrick’s parade.  It too is larger than life, to the left of the high altar:


It should be no wonder that parishes more recently built, like St. Bernadette’s in France, can not bring the human heart (or eyes!) to the transcendent gaze of beauty that leads to grace.


To me, this looks like a face on Pixar’s Cars.

But back to the Irish Princesses.  The only thing that would convert these princesses of Ireland would be the grace and truth of Jesus Christ flowing through a saint like St. Patrick.  And the response of Ireland from the 6th to 10th centuries was one of love, a fire of love that could only be fueled by beauty.

Liturgical beauty and majesty was surely not the only part of Irish life, but the art of the country or city parish had to be focused on God in order to tap that infinite longing and desire.

My proposal is simple:  If we want a return of the princesses of Ireland (or the United States) to Christ and His one Church, then we need to return to building Churches with a transcendent and majestic beauty that honors the God who made heaven and earth, seen even outside St. Patrick’s in New Orleans:




Fr. Dave Nix