The Kingship of

Professor of Philosophy and Church History, Senior Scholasticate, Blackrock College,
Dublin 1931

With Nihil Obstat and Imprimi Potest


THE Pope wants all Catholics to be of one mind with regard to the so-called modern "Liberties," and urges all to strive unceasingly for the return of the civil society to the acceptance of God's plan. A text already quoted is worth repeating here: "Especially with reference to the so-called 'liberties' which are so greatly coveted 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" (Encyclical Letter "Immortale Dei," On the Christian Constitution of States, November 1st, 1888).

Pope Leo called for a reaction against the so-called ("rights of man" in the Encyclical Letter "Tametsi," November 1st, 1900, On Christ Our Redeemer: "Think it the chief part of your duty to engrave in the hearts of your people the true knowledge, and We might almost say the Image, of Jesus Christ, and to illustrate in your letters, your discourses, your schools and colleges, your public assemblies, whenever occasion serves, His charity, His benefits and institutions. About the 'rights of man,' as they are called, the people have heard enough; it is time they should hear of the rights of God."

This reaction he again appealed for in the touching review of his Pontificate given in the Apostolical Letter of March 19th, 1902: "In point of fact, and there is no one who does not see it, liberty as it is no understood, wider to crime, to suicide, and to a multitude of the most degrading passions.  ... When an organism perishes and corrupts, it is because it had ceased to be under the action of the causes which had given it its form and constitution. To make it healthy and flourishing again it is necessary to restore it to the vivifying action of those same causes. So society, in its foolhardy effort to escape from God, has rejected the Divine order and revelation; and it is thus withdrawn from the salutary efficacy of Christianity, which is manifestly the most solid guarantee of order, the strongest bond of fraternity, and the inexhaustible source of all public and private virtue. This sacrilegious divorce has resulted in bringing about that trouble which now disturbs the world. Hence it is the pale of the Church which this lost society must re-enter, if it wishes to recover its well-being, its repose, and its salvation.

"Just as Christianity cannot penetrate into the soul without making it better, so it cannot enter in public life without establishing order. ...If it has transformed pagan society., after the terrible shocks which unbelief has given to the world in our days, it will be able to put that world again on the true road, and bring back 'to order the States and peoples of modern times. But the return of Christianity will not be efficacious and complete if it does not restore the world to a sincere love of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. In the Catholic Church Christianity is incarnate. It identifies itself with that perfect, spiritual, and, in its own order, sovereign society, which is the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, and which has for its visible head the Roman Pontiff, successor of the Prince of the Apostles. It is the continuation of the mission of the Saviour, the daughter and heiress of His Redemption."

Accordingly, insisting upon the vital necessity of returning to order in public life, Pope Leo XIII forbids the concession of  rights except to truth, but he does not refuse to tolerate what is at variance with truth. "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 to 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.  ... One thing, however, remains always true
-----that the liberty which is claimed for all to do all things is not, as We have often said, of itself desirable, inasmuch as it is contrary to reason that error and truth should have equal rights. And as to tolerance, it is surprising how far removed from the equity and prudence of the Church are those who profess what is called Liberalism. For, in allowing that boundless licence on which We have spoken, they exceed all limits and end at last by making no apparent distinction between truth and error, honesty and dishonesty" (Encyclical Letter, On Human Liberty). The Church is obliged to condemn such tolerance, the Pope continues, but no one has a right to accuse the Church of being wanting in gentleness or opposed to true liberty. " Nor is there any reason why anyone should accuse the Church of being wanting in gentleness of action or largeness of view, or of being opposed to real and lawful liberty. The Church, indeed, deems it unlawful to place the various forms of Divine worship on the same footing as the true religion, but does not, on that account, 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. And, in fact, the Church is wont to take earnest heed that no one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, for, as St. Augustine wisely reminds us, 'man cannot believe otherwise than of his own free will' " (Encyclical Letter "Immortale Dei").