Background to question raised: I have been reading old histories where as a background stage, there were various antipopes (sometimes even 3 competing popes at the same time). The complex relationships they had with civil powers, kings and influence in wars and judicial inquiries and resulting punishments is like a gigantic maze. The role of church and state becomes very confusing and messy to say the least. At times it seems impossible to figure out who the 'good guys' were amongst all the turmoil and politics among war and collecting of taxes, tithes, etc. which the kings and Pope wrestled with one another. This lead me to having an interest in the Catholic view of church and state.

Current understanding: Upon realizing that the Catholic church believes in a physical church I have further come to understand that it sees this physical church-state to have three functions. Kingly, Priestly and Prophetic. I was aware of the priesthood and teaching role but a 'literal' kingly role, making the Pope a kind of earthly Monarch, that is having some earthly right to power (pardon me if I'm not using the correct Catholic terms) is new to me. Upon considering this 'earthly' power it started to make sense of church history. First the church had no earthly power. Then after Constantine it obviously did start having a literal earthly power. But then as Kings naturally want to separate church and state, it seems the Pope tried to make agreements with other powers so as it maintain his power in a non warring fashion under the name of a 'concordat', or a treaty between states of literal power, so to speak. However as the idea of separation of church and state, which is the way the world seems to be going since the founding of America which had multiple church denominations trying to find a new life free of religious persecution; I cant see how any state would consider the pope to have enough literal 'kingly power' as to even consider such a thing as a 'concordat'? It would seem ridiculous to even imagine such a thing, otherwise states would need to make legal agreements with every religious leader?

Resulting immediate question: Are there any current states that still maintain some kind of official recognition of a literal state-like power of the Pope through a concordat?

  • The separation of church and state, as an idea, figured well before America was set up. An example is the infamous Defenestration of Prague. The political back drop to that event involved who had authority over what: church or state? This points to a growing feeling (over the years) that the two were separate domains. Jun 24, 2016 at 16:30

1 Answer 1


Concordats in the sense of a "treaty" were prominent in Pope Pius XI's papacy (cf. the Lateran Treaty) and in Pope Pius XII's also (Pope Pius XII was Pope Pius XI's secretary of state). See this list of concordats.

Also, there are some good books on the Catholic Church and State doctrine:

  • I see. so it seems 'yes' in a kind of much weaker manner, these few recent versions seem more along the lines of a formal license to set up shop as it were (along with other religious organizations of course) to ensure tax free status etc. While most 1st world countries already have legal provisions in their laws for mutiple religions to operate without needing any kind of formal diplomatic relations aside from being a registered charity or religious organisation to conduct legal marriages etc.
    – Mike
    Jun 24, 2016 at 16:08
  • @Mike The Church has the rightful jurisdiction over marriage, not the State; cf. Pope Leo XIII's encyclical on marriage, Arcanum Divinæ §§17-19. §19 ends: "As, then, marriage is holy by its own power, in its own nature, and of itself, it ought not to be regulated and administered by the will of civil rulers, but by the divine authority of the Church, which alone in sacred matters professes the office of teaching." The Church technically could stop participating in marriage licenses.
    – Geremia
    Jun 24, 2016 at 20:55

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