One of the more difficult relationships is that of Church and State. The reasons are many and must be explored from a variety of perspectives. In this article, Dr. Jeff Mirus presents a thoughtful understanding of this relationship, and its present difficulties, from a Catholic perspective.
He says, in part:
“The Catholic position has always been what Pope Gelasius described in the late fifth century as the doctrine of “the two swords”. The State (the temporal order) is a natural society over which government presides with a natural authority, exercising that authority for the common good of the community it rules. This is the “temporal sword”. The Church, on the other hand, is a supernatural society which presides with a supernatural authority over souls, exercising that authority for the spiritual welfare of the community, both as a contribution to the common good and so that all its members may attain their final end, which is eternal life with God. This is the “spiritual sword.”
It follows that the Church is our authority for defining moral truth (which is inscribed in natural reality by the Creator) and also the truth which God discloses to us solely through Revelation. To expound these truths is the purpose of what we call “Christian doctrine”. It also follows that the State is our authority for devising and implementing the measures necessary to enforce the moral law most effectively for the good of the commonwealth, as well as the many other measures which will be needed to secure and advance the common good of all under its jurisdiction.”…