Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On the socio-political Magisterium of Leo XIII


At his blog Sentire cum Ecclesia Mr. David Schütz has said that

Some might say the great watershed in Catholic Social teaching came with Vatican II, but it is undeniable that in fact Leo XIII marked the real turning point. I would contend that the turning point was not a change in the faith and morals of the Church, but a readiness on the part of the Church to address her faith and morals, for the first time, to that society which today we would call "modern". In fact, Leo is usually accredited with inventing the idea of a "social encyclical".
For my part, I find that Leo XIII, in Immortale Dei (1885) goes a very long way to providing the positive teaching with regard to the State which "connects the dots" between the condemnations of Pius IX in Quanta Cura and the seemingly opposite affirmations of the Second Vatican Council and the modern popes. Even Immortale Dei requires reading within its context, but it at least gives a measured foothold on which to carry out the dialogue between what goes before and what comes after.
So is the notion that the socio-political Magisterium of Leo XIII is some kind of ‘missing link’ between post-Concilar Vatican policy and the consistent teaching and practice of the previous sixteen hundred years supported by the key texts, such as Libertas, Immortale Dei and Longinqua Oceani? No, not at all, and what follows is a confutation of this notion:

In must firstly be noted that it was Leo XIII while still Cardinal Pecci who, it seems likely, proposed the very idea of a collection, or Syllabus, of contemporary errors, so we can say a priori that any 'break' between Bl. Pius IX and Leo XIII is unlikely. (Mr. Michael Davies says in The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty that it was Cardinal Pecci who conceived of the idea of the Syllabus , while the Catholic Encyclopedia says that it was "probably" moved by Cardinal Pecci: http://newadvent.org/cathen/14368b.htm) And I will go on to show that there is indeed perfect continuity and congruity between the teachings of Bl. Pius IX and his illustrious successor, evident in Immortale Dei, Libertas and Longinqua Oceani. The first of these three texts, and probably the most important one, is the Encyclical Immortale Dei of 1885. The following quotations come from it unless otherwise specified. Libertas draws heavily from it, so much so that Libertas’s §21 is a veritable summary of much of the teaching of Immortale Dei on the proper relations between the State and Christ the King and the State and the Church. In Immortale Dei, Leo XIII teaches that the State is a creature of God (§3, Libertas §21):
every body politic must have a ruling authority, and this authority, no less than society itself, has its source in nature, and has, consequently, God for its Author. Hence, it follows that all public power must proceed from God.
and that it must confess Christ and honour Him according to the forms of the true religion, Catholicism, which it may recognise as the true religion by its clear marks (§6, Libertas §21):
the State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion. … [M]en living together in society are under the power of God no less than individuals are, and society, no less than individuals, owes gratitude to God who gave it being and maintains it and whose ever-bounteous goodness enriches it with countless blessings. Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its reaching and practice-not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion -it is a public crime to act as though there were no God. [also §7: “Now, it cannot be difficult to find out which is the true religion, if only it be sought with an earnest and unbiased mind; for proofs are abundant and striking.”] So, too, is it a sin for the State not to have care for religion as a something beyond its scope, or as of no practical benefit; or out of many forms of religion to adopt that one which chimes in with the fancy; for we are bound absolutely to worship God in that way which He has shown to be His will. All who rule, therefore, would hold in honour the holy name of God, and one of their chief duties must be to favour religion, to protect it, to shield it under the credit and sanction of the laws, and neither to organize nor enact any measure that may compromise its safety. (§6)
So here Leo teaches that the State must not only avoid impeding the mission of the Church, but must positively assist it in this mission—favouring it, protecting it and establishing it in law (Libertas §21 as well). The State must not only favour Christ’s Church out of its duty to God and the common good, but also for the highest good of each individual, namely, his salvation:

civil society, established for the common welfare, should not only safeguard the well-being of the community, but have also at heart the interests of its individual members, in such mode as not in any way to hinder, but in every manner to render as easy as may be, the possession of that highest and unchangeable good for which all should seek. (§6, Libertas §21 as well)
But the imperative of promoting the Church follows not only from the eternal welfare, so to speak, of the State’s subjects, but also from their temporal welfare (§1, 19):

in regard to things temporal, she is the source of benefits as manifold and great as if the chief end of her existence were to ensure the prospering of our earthly life. (§1)

the abundant benefits with which the Christian religion, of its very nature, endows even the mortal life of man are acquired for the community and civil society. (19)
Naturally, Pope Leo teaches that there is a differentiation of the powers of Church and State (§10, 13, 14):

Whatever, therefore in things human is of a sacred character, whatever belongs either of its own nature or by reason of the end to which it is referred, to the salvation of souls, or to the worship of God, is subject to the power and judgment of the Church. Whatever is to be ranged under the civil and political order is rightly subject to the civil authority (§14).
and that the Church has exclusive competence in sacred matters (11):

In very truth, Jesus Christ gave to His Apostles unrestrained authority in regard to things sacred
but that ideally there should not be a separation of powers (§14, 21, 22):

But it would be most repugnant to them to think thus of the wisdom and goodness of God. Even in physical things, albeit of a lower order, the Almighty has so combined the forces and springs of nature with tempered action and wondrous harmony that no one of them clashes with any other, and all of them most fitly and aptly work together for the great purpose of the universe. There must, accordingly, exist between these two powers a certain orderly connection, which may be compared to the union of the soul and body in man. (14)
Note the powerful comparison to the union of body and soul, which Leo repeats in Libertas as well (§18):

This harmony has been not inaptly compared to that which exists between the body and the soul for the well-being of both one and the other, the separation of which brings irremediable harm to the body, since it extinguishes its very life.
Death is, of course, the separation of the soul from body, so Leo is not exaggerating when he speaks of the separation of Church and State as that “fatal theory” (Libertas §18), that “fatal principle” (Libertas §38). And as if all this were not explicit enough, he says quite clearly in the Encyclical of 1895 to the American Hierarchy Longinqua Oceani that

it would be very erroneous to draw the conclusion that in America is to be sought the type of the most desirable status of the Church, or that it would be universally lawful or expedient for State and Church to be, as in America, dissevered and divorced. (§6)
Some Catholics, then and now, sought to distinguish between the separation of the Church taken collectively/corporately from the State and the separation of the Church taken in her individual members from the State, but in Libertas Leo rejects both these errors together:

Many wish the State to be separated from the Church wholly and entirely, so that with regard to every right of human society, in institutions, customs, and laws, the offices of State, and the education of youth, they would pay no more regard to the Church than if she did not exist; and, at most, would allow the citizens individually to attend to their religion in private if so minded. Against such as these, all the arguments by which We disprove the principle of separation of Church and State are conclusive; with this super-added, that it is absurd the citizen should respect the Church, while the State may hold her in contempt. (§39)
The source of these two errors, writes the Holy Pontiff in the same Encyclical, is an error that has become quite current among Catholics in the present day: the idea that the State ought to legislate according to the Divine natural law but abstain from legislating in favour of the Divine positive law—the notion of abiding by natural truths while turning a blind eye to the question of supernatural truths. But Leo rejects this too:

Libertas §38. Next comes the system of those who admit indeed the duty of submitting to God, the Creator and Ruler of the world, inasmuch as all nature is dependent on His will, but who boldly reject all laws of faith and morals which are above natural reason, but are revealed by the authority of God; or who at least impudently assert that there is no reason why regard should be paid to these laws, at any rate publicly, by the State. How mistaken these men also are, and how inconsistent, we have seen above.
Related to this is the error of Catholics who want to abide by Catholic morality themselves but not see it ‘imposed’ on the State or non-Catholics:

Libertas §18. There are others, somewhat more moderate though not more consistent, who affirm that the morality of individuals is to be guided by the divine law, but not the morality of the State, for that in public affairs the commands of God may be passed over, and may be entirely disregarded in the framing of laws. Hence follows the fatal theory of the need of separation between Church and State. But the absurdity of such a position is manifest. Nature herself proclaims the necessity of the State providing means and opportunities whereby the community may be enabled to live properly, that is to say, according to the laws of God. For, since God is the source of all goodness and justice, it is absolutely ridiculous that the State should pay no attention to these laws or render them abortive by contrary enact menu. Besides, those who are in authority owe it to the commonwealth not only to provide for its external well-being and the conveniences of life, but still more to consult the welfare of men's souls in the wisdom of their legislation.
So the Sovereign Pontiff taught that while Church and State are differentiated in their respective powers, they should by no means be separated, but rather united. The ideal is that there should be “between these two powers a certain orderly connection, which may be compared to the union of the soul and body in man (§14)”, that Church and State should be “happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices (§21)”, that between the two there should be “complete harmony” (§35). This unity is demanded for the reasons already adduced and for the reason that, although the respective spheres of Church and State are differentiated, they frequently overlap (§14, §35, Libertas §18):

Even in physical things, albeit of a lower order, the Almighty has so combined the forces and springs of nature with tempered action and wondrous harmony that no one of them clashes with any other, and all of them most fitly and aptly work together for the great purpose of the universe. There must, accordingly, exist between these two powers a certain orderly connection, which may be compared to the union of the soul and body in man.(§14)

In matters, however, of mixed jurisdiction, it is in the highest degree consonant to nature, as also to the designs of God, that so far from one of the powers separating itself from the other, or still less coming into conflict with it, complete harmony, such as is suited to the end for which each power exists, should be preserved between them. (§35)

And, what is still more important, and what We have more than once pointed out, although the civil authority has not the same proximate end as the spiritual, nor proceeds on the same lines, nevertheless in the exercise of their separate powers they must occasionally meet. For their subjects are the same, and not infrequently they deal with the same objects, though in different ways. Whenever this occurs, since a state of conflict is absurd and manifestly repugnant to the most wise ordinance of God, there must necessarily exist some order or mode of procedure to remove the occasions of difference and contention, and to secure harmony in all things. This harmony has been not inaptly compared to that which exists between the body and the soul for the well-being of both one and the other, the separation of which brings irremediable harm to the body, since it extinguishes its very life. (Libertas §18)
And if anyone might imagine that the Holy Pontiff might have had in mind a kind of unity other than that which prevailed during the fifteen hundred year era of Christendom, listens to how he speaks lyrically of those times and identifies religion as the source of its achievements, and that it could have continued if not for the Protestant Revolution:
21. There was once a time when States were governed by the philosophy of the Gospel. Then it was that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people, permeating all ranks and relations of civil society. Then, too, the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, established firmly in befitting dignity, flourished everywhere, by the favour of princes and the legitimate protection of magistrates; and Church and State were happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices. The State, constituted in this wise, bore fruits important beyond all expectation, whose remembrance is still, and always will be, in renown, witnessed to as they are by countless proofs which can never be blotted out or ever obscured by any craft of any enemies. Christian Europe has subdued barbarous nations, and changed them from a savage to a civilized condition, from superstition to true worship. It victoriously rolled back the tide of Mohammedan conquest; retained the headship of civilization; stood forth in the front rank as the leader and teacher of all, in every branch of national culture; bestowed on the world the gift of true and many-sided liberty; and most wisely founded very numerous institutions for the solace of human suffering. And if we inquire how it was able to bring about so altered a condition of things, the answer is-beyond all question, in large measure, through religion, under whose auspices so many great undertakings were set on foot, through whose aid they were brought to completion.

22. A similar state of things would certainly have continued had the agreement of the two powers been lasting. More important results even might have been justly looked for, had obedience waited upon the authority, teaching, and counsels of the Church, and had this submission been specially marked by greater and more unswerving loyalty.
As well as expounding on the principles of the ideal relations between the State and Christ the King and between the State and the Church, Leo identifies the principles that work to undermine the moral development of society, namely the evils of democracy (when taken as a principle, not just a form, of government) and liberalism (meaning freely choosing to believe, say and do as one pleases). The former is so pernicious because it means that the populace, not God, is the principle of State authority, and so “it follows that the State does not consider itself bound by any kind of duty toward God” (§25), while the latter implies that the individual obeys no authority in religion but his own. These are condemned, not as mere slogans or buzzwords, but as principles, in sections 24, 25 and 26 (and the latter in 32 as well); in these sections we see how these principles harm the State and the individual, while in §27 the Holy Pontiff shows how they harm the Church (and we see this damage done even in the supposedly benign secularism of today):

27. Now, when the State rests on foundations like those just named - and for the time being they are greatly in favor - it readily appears into what and how unrightful a position the Church is driven. For, when the management of public business is in harmony with doctrines of such a kind, the Catholic religion is allowed a standing in civil society equal only, or inferior, to societies alien from it … They claim jurisdiction over the marriages of Catholics, even over the bond as well as the unity and the indissolubility of matrimony.
Leo is perfectly clear about how the State ought to regard false liberties: whatever “is opposed to virtue and truth may not rightly be brought temptingly before the eye of man, much less sanctioned by the favor and protection of the law” (§32) and

Again, that it is not lawful for the State, any more than for the individual, either to disregard all religious duties or to hold in equal favour different kinds of religion; that the unrestrained freedom of thinking and of openly making known one's thoughts is not inherent in the rights of citizens, and is by no means to be reckoned worthy of favour and support (§35)
The condemnations of all these sections are reinforced in Libertas, where he identifies them as the false liberties of worship, speech and conscience. Again, these are not mere slogans or buzzwords, but concrete principles whose respective meanings he explains:

Against liberty of worship, at the individual and then at the State level:
§20. But, assuredly, of all the duties which man has to fulfill, that, without doubt, is the chiefest and holiest which commands him to worship God with devotion and piety. This follows of necessity from the truth that we are ever in the power of God, are ever guided by His will and providence, and, having come forth from Him, must return to Him. … And if it be asked which of the many conflicting religions it is necessary to adopt, reason and the natural law unhesitatingly tell us to practice that one which God enjoins, and which men can easily recognize by certain exterior notes, whereby Divine Providence has willed that it should be distinguished

§21. This kind of liberty, if considered in relation to the State, clearly implies that there is no reason why the State should offer any homage to God, or should desire any public recognition of Him; that no one form of worship is to be preferred to another, but that all stand on an equal footing, no account being taken of the religion of the people, even if they profess the Catholic faith. But, to justify this, it must needs be taken as true that the State has no duties toward God, or that such duties, if they exist, can be abandoned with impunity, both of which assertions are manifestly false. For it cannot be doubted but that, by the will of God, men are united in civil society; whether its component parts be considered; or its form, which implies authority; or the object of its existence; or the abundance of the vast services which it renders to man. God it is who has made man for society, and has placed him in the company of others like himself, so that what was wanting to his nature, and beyond his attainment if left to his own resources, he might obtain by association with others. Wherefore, civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness-namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. Since, then, the profession of one religion is necessary in the State, that religion must be professed which alone is true, and which can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic States, because the marks of truth are, as it were, engravers upon it. This religion, therefore, the rulers of the State must preserve and protect, if they would provide - as they should do - with prudence and usefulness for the good of the community. For public authority exists for the welfare of those whom it governs; and, although its proximate end is to lead men to the prosperity found in this life, yet, in so doing, it ought not to diminish, but rather to increase, man's capability of attaining to the supreme good in which his everlasting happiness consists: which never can be attained if religion be disregarded.
Against free speech:
§23. We must now consider briefly liberty of speech, and liberty of the press. It is hardly necessary to say that there can be no such right as this, if it be not used in moderation, and if it pass beyond the bounds and end of all true liberty. For right is a moral power which - as We have before said and must again and again repeat - it is absurd to suppose that nature has accorded indifferently to truth and falsehood, to justice and injustice. Men have a right freely and prudently to propagate throughout the State what things soever are true and honorable, so that as many as possible may possess them; but lying opinions, than which no mental plague is greater, and vices which corrupt the heart and moral life should be diligently repressed by public authority, lest they insidiously work the ruin of the State.
Against liberty of conscience:
§30. Another liberty is widely advocated, namely, liberty of conscience. If by this is meant that everyone may, as he chooses, worship God or not, it is sufficiently refuted by the arguments already adduced.
So given that Pope Leo upheld the imperatives of the State’s profession of Christ and union with his Church, what was his teaching on the State’s relations with the false religions? The State is free to repress them simply because they are false. But the State’s higher purpose is not repression of error, but the common good, so it may permit the activity of false religions if it expects by this permission to procure a greater benefit to the common good or avert a greater damage to the common good: hence the Church does not

condemn those rulers who, for the sake of securing some great good or of hindering some great evil, allow patiently custom or usage to be a kind of sanction for each kind of religion having its place in the State (§36)
And again in Libertas:

§33. Yet, with the discernment of a true mother, the Church weighs the great burden of human weakness, and well knows the course down which the minds and actions of men are in this our age being borne. For this reason, while not conceding any right to anything save what is true and honest, she does not forbid public authority to tolerate what is at variance with truth and justice, for the sake of avoiding some greater evil, or of obtaining or preserving some greater good.
Presciently, the Holy Pontiff noted in the latter document that

to judge aright, we must acknowledge that, the more a State is driven to tolerate evil, the further is it from perfection; and that the tolerance of evil which is dictated by political prudence should be strictly confined to the limits which its justifying cause, the public welfare, requires. (§34)
So pluralism is something to be tolerated, not celebrated; the unity of the populace in the true religion is the ideal. Unfortunately many in the American Hierarchy failed to understand these truths; hence the necessity of Longinqua Oceani. And unfortunately, this error, the keystone of what is called Americanism, has resumed its popularity in the wake Vatican II.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Eusebius, Bishop, Martyr, 2008 A.D.

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