The Kingship of
THE PRINCIPLES OF ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
REV. DENIS FAHEY, C.S.SP., B.A., D.Pa., D.D.
Professor of Philosophy and Church History, Senior Scholasticate, Blackrock College,
With Nihil Obstat and Imprimi Potest
WHAT THE CHURCH HAS SAID ABOUT THE STATE'S PUTTING ALL RELIGIONS ON THE SAME LEVEL
A. -----PIUS VII
AFTER the restoration of the French Monarchy in the person of Louis VIII, Pius VII (1800-1823), faced with a proposed French Constitution, wrote his famous letter, "Post tam diuturnas," 29th April, 1814, to Mgr. de Boulogne, Bishop of Troyes. The following extracts are especially important: -----"We had hoped that, thanks to the happy change which has taken place, the Catholic religion would without any delay not only be delivered from all the shackles imposed on it in France in spite of our continual remonstrances, but that so faourable an occasion would be utilized to restore to it its ancient splendour and dignity. We have been struck, first of all, by the fact that in the Constitution in question no mention is made of the Catholic religion.
...You, Venerable Brother, will easily be able to understand what pain, suffering and bitterness this caused Us, to Whom Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has committed the charge of the supreme government of the Catholic Church. How can We view with equanimity that the Catholic religion, which France embraced even in the first centuries of the Church, which in that very realm so many glorious martyrs sealed with their blood, which is the religion of the great majority of Frenchmen, clung to by them with courage and constancy in the midst of the terrible calamities, persecutions and dangers of recent years, and which the family of the designated Sovereign itself professes and has always defended with so much zeal, is not only not declared the only one in the whole of France having a right to the favour of the laws and the protection of governmental authority, but is even completely left out of account in the very inauguration of the new reign!
"But Our heart is more grievously and even most vehemently afflicted by the 22nd Article of the Constitution, by which We confess that We are pained, oppressed and grieved. By this Article We see that liberty of worship and liberty of conscience, to use the words of the Article in question, are not only permitted, but that help and protection are promised to those who are called the ministers of the different forms of worship. There is certainly no need of a long discourse, when speaking to you, to get you to see clearly what a deadly blow is thus dealt to the Catholic Religion in France. By the fact that the freedom of all forms of worship without distinction is proclaimed, truth is confused with error, and the holy and immaculate Spouse of Christ, outside of which there can be no salvation, is placed on the same level as heretical sects and even as Jewish perfidy. Besides, when aid and protection are guaranteed to heretical sects and their ministers, not only are their persons tolerated and favoured, but even their very errors. This attitude involves that awful and ever lamentable heresy referred to by St. Augustine in the following terms: 'This heresy affirms that all heretics are on the right path and that all teach the truth. This is so monstrous an absurdity that it seems to me to be incredible'" (De Haeresibus, No. 72).
Certainly, the teaching of Pius VII on the attitude of a State which refuses to profess publicly the one True Religion and proclaims itself so completely indifferent to all forms of religion that it is ready to show favour equally to them all is quite clear and definite. This example of Catholic teaching on this subject is taken from the first twenty years of the nineteenth century. Let us now add to it another authoritative statement from the last twenty years of the same period.
B. -----LEO XIII
In the letter sent to the Archbishop of Bogota on April 6th, 1900, by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Rampolla, the Cardinal uses the words of Pope Leo XIII, when treating of the different degrees to be met with amongst those who do not profess integral Catholicism, and says of the third and last degree that to it belong those who affirm "that the life and conduct of private citizens should be regulated by the Divine Laws but not the life and conduct of the State. According to them, it is lawful in public affairs to depart from God's commands and to take no account of them in legislation. From this follows that pernicious conclusion that Church and State should be separated."
The Cardinal then quotes the Pope to the effect that "there are many who do not approve of the separation of Church and State, but, nevertheless, think that the Church should be got to yield to circumstances and bend to and accommodate herself to what prudence demands at the present day in the government of realms." This opinion is declared by the Sovereign Pontiff to be worthy and respectable "if it be maintained thereby, in a manner in conformity with truth and justice, that the Church in view of the hope of some great benefit should show herself indulgent and should concede to the circumstances of an epoch what it can do so without violating the sanctity of her mission. But, on the contrary, this opinion is to be held unworthy and productive of evil, if thereby it is maintained that the Church should practise dissimulation with regard to error or injustice or shut her eyes at what is harmful to religion." [Emphasis added by the Web Master.] The Cardinal then adds: "From these principles, which the Holy See has very often condemned as false and opposed to Catholic doctrine, follow naturally as from an impure source what are called modern liberties, namely, freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom of teaching and freedom of conscience. The Pope has treated of these liberties in the Encyclical "Immortale Dei," On the Catholic Constitution of States, Nov. 1st, 1885, and "Libertas," On Human Liberty (Libertas Præstantissmum, 20th June, 1888), in the clearest possible fashion." We shall therefore have recourse to these Encyclicals, so that we may be able to set forth Pope Leo's teaching in its purity.
After having in the beginning of the Letter "Immortale Dei" sketched the Catholic organization of society in opposition to that modern "plan which, it is maintained, is the outcome of an age arrived at full stature and the result of the evolution of liberty," the Pope goes on to say that in the Catholic "organization of State there is nothing that can be thought to infringe upon the dignity of rulers, and nothing unbecoming them; nay, so far from degrading the sovereign power in its due rights, it adds to it permanence and lustre." He then gives an outline of the course of history upon which has been based what has been written in these pages on the subject.
"There was once a time when States were governed by the principles of Gospel teaching. 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 even obscured by any craft of any enemies. ... 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 answering loyalty. [Emphasis added by the Web Master.] Sad it is to call to mind how the harmful and lamentable rage for innovation which rose to a climax in the sixteenth century, threw first of all into confusion the Christian religion, and next, by natural sequence, invaded the domain of philosophy, whence it spread amongst all classes of society. From this source, as from a fountain-head, burst forth all those later tenets of unbridled license, which, in the midst of the terrible upheavals of the last century, were wildly conceived and boldly proclaimed as the principles and foundation of that new jurisprudence which was not merely previously unknown, but was at variance on many points with not only the Christian, but even with the natural law."
Having thus outlined the origin of the principles based on the so-called Rights of Man and gradually embodied in the Constitutions of modern States in this, the post-revolutionary era, advanced, Pope Leo XIII proceeds to deal with some of these false principles of Rousseauist democracy in particular: "Amongst these principles the main one lays down that as all men are alike by race and nature, so in like manner all are equal in the control of their life; that each one is so far his own master as to be in no sense under the rule of any other individual; that each is free to think on every subject just as he may choose, and to do whatever he may like to do; that no man has any right to rule over other men. In a society grounded upon such maxims, all government is nothing more nor less than the will of the people, and the people being under the power of itself alone is alone its own ruler. It does choose, nevertheless, some to whose charge it may commit itself, but in such wise that it makes over to them not the right so much as the business of governing, to be exercised, however, in its name. The authority of God is passed over in silence, just as if there were no God. . . . And since the people is declared to contain within itself the spring-head of all right and of all power, it follows that the State does not consider itself bound by any kind of duty towards God. Moreover, it believes that it is not obliged to make public profession of any religion; or to inquire which of the very many religions is the only true one; or to prefer one religion to all the rest; or to show to any form of religion special favour; but, on the contrary, is bound to grant equal right to every creed, so that public order may not be disturbed by any particular form of religious belief. And it is a part of this theory that all questions that concern religion are to be referred to private judgment; that everyone is to be free to follow whatever religion he prefers, or none at all, if he disapproves of all. From this the following consequences logically flow: that the judgment of each one's conscience is independent of all law; that the most unrestrained opinions may be openly expressed as to the practice or omission of Divine worship; and that everyone has unbounded license to think whatever he chooses and to publish abroad whatever he thinks.
"Now when the State rests on foundations like those just named -----and for the time being they are greatly in favour-----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, ... to hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice, and this is the same thing as Atheism, however it may differ from it in name. Men who really believe in the existence of God must, in order to be consistent with themselves and to avoid absurd conclusions, understand that differing modes of Divine worship, involving dissimilarity and conflict even on most important points, cannot all be equally probable, equally good, and equally acceptable to God. [Ibid.]
"So, too, the liberty of thinking, and of publishing, whatever each one likes, without any hindrance, is not in itself an advantage over which society can wisely rejoice. On the contrary, it is the fountain-head and origin of many evils. Liberty is a power perfecting man, and hence should have truth and goodness for its object. [Emphasis added by the Web Master.] But the character of goodness and truth cannot be changed at option. These remain ever one and the same, and are no less unchangeable than nature herself. If the mind assents to false opinions, and the will chooses and follows after what is wrong, neither can attain its native fulness, but both must fall from their native dignity into an abyss of corruption. Whatever, therefore, is opposed to virtue and truth, may not rightly be brought temptingly before the eye of man, much less sanctioned by the favour and protection of the law. A well-spent life is the only passport to Heaven, whither all are bound, and on this account the State is acting against the laws and dictates of nature whenever it permits the license of opinion and of action to lead minds astray from truth and souls away from the virtue. ...
"From these pronouncements of the Popes Gregory XVI and Pius IX], it is evident ... 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... . Especially with reference to the so-called liberties which are so greatly desired in these days, all must stand by the judgment of the Apostolic See, and have the same mind. Let no man be deceived by the outward appearance of these liberties, but let each one reflect whence these have had their origin, and by what efforts they are everywhere upheld and promoted.
Experience has made us well acquainted with their results to the State, since everywhere they have borne fruits which the good and wise bitterly deplore. If there really exist anywhere, or if we in imagination conceive, a State, waging wanton and tyrannical war against Christianity, and if we compare with it the modern form of government just described, the latter may seem the more endurable of the two. Yet, undoubtedly, the principles on which such a government is grounded are, as we have said, of a nature which no one can approve." [Ibid.]
Not to lengthen these citations unduly, only a few passages from the Encyclical Letter, On Human Liberty, 26th June, 1888, will be quoted. The Pope deals first with the so-called modern liberties and says: "We have shown (in the Letter Immortale Dei) that whatsoever is good in these liberties is as ancient as truth itself, and that the Church has always most willingly approved and practised that good; but whatsoever has been added as new is, to tell the plain truth, of a vitiated kind, the fruit of the disorders of the age, and of an insatiate longing after novelties. Seeing, however, that many cling so obstinately to their own opinion in this matter as to imagine these modern liberties, cankered as they are, to be the greatest glory of our age, and the very basis of civil life, without which no perfect government can be conceived, We feel it a pressing duty, for the sake of the common good, to treat separately of this subject . . . Let us examine that liberty in individuals which is so opposed to the virtue of religion, namely, the liberty of worship, as it is called. [Ibid.] This is based on the principle, that every man is free to profess as he may choose any religion or none. 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. . . . Wherefore, when a liberty such as We have described is offered to man, the power is given him to pervert or abandon with impunity the most sacred of duties, and to exchange the unchangeable good for evil; which, as We have said, is no liberty, but its degradation, and the abject submission of the soul to sin. 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 to God, or that such duties, if they exist, can be abandoned with impunity, both of which assertions are manifestly false. . . . God it is Who had 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, engraven 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. [Ibid] 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. . . .
"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. But it may also be taken to mean that every man in the State may follow the Will of God, and from a consciousness of duty and free from every obstacle, obey His commands. This, indeed, is true liberty, a liberty worthy of the sons of God, which nobly maintains the dignity of man, and is stronger than all violence or wrong -----a liberty which the Church has always desired and held most dear. This is the kind of liberty the Apostles claimed for themselves with intrepid constancy, which the apologists of Christianity confirmed by their writings, and which the Martyrs in vast numbers consecrated by their blood. And deservedly so; for this Christian liberty bears witness to the absolute and most just dominion of God over man, and to the chief and supreme duty of man towards God."
We have given the teaching of Pope Leo XIII at some length, that it may be clearly seen how fundamentally opposed to the Divine plan for the organization of human life is the attitude of modern States to the Catholic religion, and therefore to the real progress of the world.
There is a further incongruous result of the State's putting itself above all forms of worship or all religious denominations, as they are usually styled, namely, that the state, of itself, claims to settle questions of morality, for the free profession and practice of religion are, subject to public order and morality, guaranteed to every citizen of the" modem State. In the Encyclical "Immortale Dei," Pope Leo XIII lays down that "the Church of Christ is the true and sole teacher of virtue and guardian of morals", while the condemned Proposition 44 of the Syllabus of Pius IX runs as follows: "The civil power can interfere in matters which belong to religion, morals and spiritual government." We have seen above the protest of Pius VII against a Constitution involving a similar attitude on the part of the French State at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It may be interesting for readers, who are not accustomed to following the evolution of State-action in this, the post-revolutionary period of the world's history, as it must be again and again called, to have a few instances of what the French State considers opposed to public order and immoral at the beginning of the twentieth century. On 7th June, 1917, therefore, during the terrible war, when France was fighting for her very existence, the French Minister for War, Painlevé, issued a confidential instruction to the general in command of the French army as follows:
"General -----I have been informed that ceremonies having for object the consecration of the Catholic soldiers of the allied armies to the Sacred Heart are to take place about 15th June, on the occasion of the Feast of the Sacred Heart. ... Now, by the terms of Article 357 of the Decree of 22nd August, 1913, the public manifestation in any form of political or religious opinions capable of injuring the general interests of the country, compromising discipline, or creating difficulties for the authorities is considered either as conduct unbecoming a soldier or as a breach of discipline. I, therefore, request you to remind the military authorities under your command that all religious propaganda of the kind in question is expressly forbidden, especially at the present time, when manifestations, calculated to lessen the existing close union of all the forces of the nation, should be carefully avoided." In accordance with this instruction a notice was issued by General Headquarters the following day. It is especially sad to learn that eight days before, on 31st May, 1917, the Minister for War gave detailed orders for arrangements to permit the Mohammedan troops to celebrate their great annual fast of Ramadhan, [Ibid] from from June 21St to July 21st. And the Minister for War, Maginot, on August 14th, 1930, carried on the tradition by issuing the following instruction to the generals commanding the different sections of the French army: "It has come to my knowledge that certain associations, counting on their organizing committees officers of high rank belonging to the Army Reserve, send circulars annually to the pupils of our military schools and to the officers who have passed through these schools, inviting them to come together for religious worship in common. This religious propaganda is absolutely opposed to the principles which should be observed in the army. In the army ... any act of proselytism in favour of any religion must be rigorously excluded. ... In the domain of religion, any constraint, any pressure, any invitation to collective worship cannot be tolerated. ... These principles inspired the circulars of July 5th, 1844, 20th February, 1845, etc." Of the process by which modern Constitutions, in spite of the lofty indifference professed by them with regard to all religions, have been used to justify persecution of the Catholic Church, something will be said further on.