Find accurate definitions of over 5,000 Catholic terms and phrases (including abbreviations). Based on Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.
Until the eighteenth century the term generally meant whatever was worthy of a free man, e.g., as applied to the liberal arts or a liberal education. This meaning is still current, but at least since the French Revolution liberalism has become more or less identified with a philosophy that stresses human freedom to the neglect and even denial of the rights of God in religion, the rights of society in civil law, and the rights of the Church in her relations to the State. It was in this sense that liberalism was condemned by Pope Pius IX in 1864 in the Syllabus of Errors (Denzinger 2977-80).