Is Liberalism a Sin?

Many people have no trouble at all understanding that liberalism is an unwise philosophy on which to base a system of governing or a way of life.  But is it actually a sin?

The word liberal comes from the Latin word “liber”, i.e., “free”.  Up to the end of the eighteenth century, this word commonly meant “worthy of a free man”.  Thus, “liberal arts”, “liberal occupations”, and “liberal education” were desirable and good. 

The term “liberal” was applied also to those qualities of intellect and character which were considered becoming to those who were on a higher social scale because of their wealth or education.  Thus, “liberal” meant intellectually independent or broadminded, magnanimous, generous, frank, or open.[1]

In the way of our ever-changing language, though, liberalism has also come to mean a political system opposed to centralization and absolutism.  In this sense, liberalism is not necessarily in opposition to the spirit and teaching of the Catholic Church.[2]

However, for the past two hundred years or so,  the term “liberal” has been applied increasingly to certain tendencies in intellectual, religious, political, and economic life which implied a partial or total emancipation of man from the supernatural, moral, and Divine order.[3]  It is at this point precisely that liberalism’s opposition to God becomes sinful.

Think of what those last two sentences are saying: emancipation of man from God’s laws – freeing man from the obligation of obeying God!

The underlying principle (of liberalism) asserts an absolute, unrestrained freedom of thought, of religion, conscience, creed, speech, and politics.

The necessary consequences of this are … the abolition of the Divine right and of EVERY KIND OF AUTHORITY DERIVED FROM GOD.[4]

Indeed!  All authority comes from God.[5]  So liberalism denies all of God’s true authority over us.

So, yes, Liberalism is a sin mainly because it opposes God and the Truth.  Here is how this is summed up in the masterful work, Liberalism is a Sin:

We may then say of Liberalism: in the order of ideas, it is absolute error; in the order of facts, it is absolute disorder.  It is, therefore, in both cases a very grievous and deadly sin, for sin is rebellion against God in thought or in deed, the enthronement of the creature in the place of the Creator.[6]

There are a host of other exceedingly-injurious repercussions from sliding into liberalism.  But if one didn’t know anything else about the scourge of liberalism, the information above should be more-than-enough to make it clear that it is totally incompatible with Catholicism. 

Yet, understanding this error in principle is one thing, but recognizing this error in particular circumstances is another thing, and many Catholics are fooled here.

For example, unfortunately, most Catholics have accepted the extremely liberal teachings of Vatican II (such as the false idea that “everyone goes to heaven”).  They’ve “gone along to get along”.  It might make them feel more comfortable in mistakenly believing that there is safety in numbers, saying such things as: “Many of my friends think this way” – supposing therefore, that such thinking is correct.

They do not realize, right then and there, that by doing so, they are being liberal, and thus are ignoring God’s laws and rights.  

People have in mind that going along with the group consensus sometimes makes life a little easier, and that they can avoid criticism, stress in their social life, problems at work or with their families or friends.  These people might tell themselves that it is not their job or their “place” to question liberal priests and the leaders in the Catholic Church (e.g., the Pope and cardinals).  Such people tell themselves that fighting liberalism is the leaders’ duty.  Further, it is certainly easier to accept liberalism than to fight it. 

Maybe such people are not so different from the many SSPX parishioners who see no need to look too closely at various proposals and changes that the Society makes to conform with Rome’s demands.  

It is so much easier to accept what is said from the SSPX pulpit, beginning with just a liberal point or two – for example, that the Catholic Church is much the same as the VC II Conciliar church.  Accepting this false position is the “first stop” on the road to developing into an unqualified liberal who progressively comes to accept small liberal points of doctrine that gradually bring him in line with the average Novus Ordo church-goer. 

If this is you, then regardless of what the SSPX leaders maintain, you, too, are a liberal! 

Yet, if by God’s grace you suddenly have this epiphany (i.e., discovering your liberalism) and realize you have allowed yourself to be lulled by the comfort of frequent SSPX Masses and regular access to the Sacraments, you need to change now and find your way back to the traditional Catholic Faith. 

It will not become easier for you to do this by delaying.  Every month makes it harder.  God expects much effort and prayers from His friends, to fight evil and to earn salvation.  If you have confidence in God’s love, He will give you the help you need.

[1]           1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, The Catholic Encyclopedia Press, 1913, p. 212, col. 1.  

[2]           1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, The Catholic Encyclopedia Press, 1913, p. 212, col. 1.  

[3]           1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, The Catholic Encyclopedia Press, 1913, p. 212, col. 2.  

[4]           1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, The Catholic Encyclopedia Press, 1913, p. 212, col. 2 (emphasis added).

[5]           Here is how St. Paul teaches this truth:


[T]here is no power but from God:  and those [powers] that are, are ordained of God.  Therefore, he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.  And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation.  …  For [the ruler] is God’s minister.  …  Wherefore, be subject of necessity, not only for [the ruler’s] wrath, but also for conscience’s sake. 


Romans, ch.13, vv. 1-2 & 4-5 (bracketed words added).[17]


Pope Pius IX faithfully echoed St. Paul:


[A]ll authority comes from God. Whoever resists authority resists the ordering made by God Himself, consequently achieving his own condemnation; disobeying authority is always sinful except when an order is given which is opposed to the laws of God and the Church.


Qui Pluribus, November 9, 1846, §22.


[6]               Liberalism is a Sin, by Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany, 1886, ch.3.