Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Magisterial Invocation of Natural Law: Leo XIII and Diuturnum Illud, Part 1

THE RICHNESS OF THE NATURAL LAW shown forth in the thought of Pope Leo XIII, who "even more than Pius IX, based his teaching on the laws given by nature, meaning the Creator of nature." Fuchs, 5. Leo XIII's pontificate was a rich one indeed, and many things could be said of it. But with reference to the natural law, one has to focus on Leo XIII's contribution to Catholic social thought, in particular his groundbreaking encyclical on social questions, Rerum novarum, which fittingly means "On New Things." The world that Leo XIII confronted was saying new things, preaching new doctrines and new gods, based upon principles that were new, not perhaps in the sense that they were never known, for there is nothing new under the sun, and much of what was going under new thought was but paganism with a new sheen, but new in the sense that answers were being sought for new social and moral problems without reference to God or to the natural law. The number of Leonine encyclicals that address the applicability of the natural law and its principles to questions of government, slavery (In plurimis [On the Abolition of Slavery]) liberty and freedom (Libertas praestantissimum donum [On Liberty]), Christian democracy (Graves de Communi Re [On Christian Democracy], socialism (Quod Apostolici Muneris [On Socialism]), the relationship of Christianity to the State (Immortale Dei [On the Christian Constitution of the State], Sapientiae Christianae [On Christians as Citizens]), social justice [Rerum Novarum [On Capital and Labor]), marriage (Arcanum divinae sapientia [On Christian Marriage]), and so forth is remarkable.

Leo XIII, who was deeply influenced by the doctrines of St. Thomas Aquinas, and in fact promoted their importance in the life of the Church through his encyclical on St. Thomas Aeterni Patris,* applied these traditional Thomistic methods, including those relating to the natural law doctrine, to these new questions and arrived at remarkable refreshing answers to the social questions of the day. Alas, freemasons, socialists, communists, liberals, secularists, even "Americanists,"** all turned a deaf ear, and the world, or at least the West, continued to unravel.

Portrait of Pope Leo XIII

Confronting the extreme positions of political nihilists and anarchists, which were ultimately founded upon the false philosophical and political principles of Protestantism, the "so-called Reformation," and the Enlightenment, and spurred by the murder of the Russian emperor Alexander II (1818-1881) by the political group called Narodnaya Volya (Народная воля, the "People's Will"), a political terrorist organization, Leo XIII addressed the issue of civil power, its source, and the role of the civil power relative to the people and the common good in an encyclical entitled Diuturnum illud (On the Origin of Civil Power). The encyclical Diuturnum illud combines both the insights of Christian revelation as well as principles of natural law philosophy to arrive at the ultimate notion that all power comes from God. It rejects the notion that power is derived from the people and assigned, through some sort of social contract, to the ruler. In rejecting the political philosophy based upon social contract notions, it, however, does not reject the democratic process and the people's role in choosing a ruler if it accords with the customs, social, and political institutions of a people. Regardless of the procedural vehicles that relate to the selection of one's leader or leaders, however, the fundamental teaching of the natural law (as well as Revelation) is that all power--this includes priestly power, paternal power, and civil power--comes from God and is given to men for the purpose, not of private gain, but of promoting the public good. There is no power in the individual that he can convey to the ruler, for no man has the authority over any other man by virtue of their fundamental equality in nature.

The heart of the Encyclical would seem to be the principle, attested to both by Scripture and the natural law, that civil authority, though required as a result of man's natural disposition to live in common and so to that degree is natural, does not arise out from the people to be conveyed to the ruler. Rather, the only explanation for political power and the possible source of it is that it comes from God. If this principle is not fastly held, then there is no limit to what the civil authority can do in the name of the people, and there is, ultimately, no basis for power except raw power.
11. And, indeed, nature, or rather God who is the Author of nature, wills that man should live in a civil society; and this is clearly shown both by the faculty of language, the greatest medium of intercourse, and by numerous innate desires of the mind, and the many necessary things, and things of great importance, which men isolated cannot procure, but which they can procure when joined and associated with others. But now, a society can neither exist nor be conceived in which there is no one to govern the wills of individuals, in such a way as to make, as it were, one will out of many, and to impel them rightly and orderly to the common good; therefore, God has willed that in a civil society there should be some to rule the multitude. And this also is a powerful argument, that those by whose authority the State is administered must be able so to compel the citizens to obedience that it is clearly a sin in the latter not to obey. But no man has in himself or of himself the power of constraining the free will of others by fetters of authority of this kind. This power resides solely in God, the Creator and Legislator of all things; and it is necessary that those who exercise it should do it as having received it from God. "There is one lawgiver and judge, who is able to destroy and deliver." [James 4:12] And this is clearly seen in every kind of power. That that which resides in priests comes from God is so acknowledged that among all nations they are recognized as, and called, the ministers of God. In like manner, the authority of fathers of families preserves a certain impressed image and form of the authority which is in God, "of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named." [Eph. 3:15] But in this way different kinds of authority have between them wonderful resemblances, since, whatever there is of government and authority, its origin is derived from one and the same Creator and Lord of the world, who is God.

Et sane homines in civili societate vivere natura jubet, seu verius auctor naturae Deus: quod perspicue demonstrant et maxima societatis conciliatrix loquendi facultas et innatae appetitiones animi perplures, et res nëcessariae multae ac magni momenti, quas solitarii assequi homines non possunt, juncti et consociati cum alteris assequuntur. Nunc vero, neque existere neque intelligi societas potest, in qua non aliquis temperet singulorum voluntates ut velut unum fiat ex pluribus, easque ad commune bonum recte atque ordine impellat: voluit igitur Deus ut in civili societate essent qui multitudini imperarent. — Atque illud etiam magnopere valet, quod ii, quorum auctoritate respublica administratur, debent cives ita posse cogere ad parendum, ut his plane peccatum sit non parere. Nemo autem hominum habet in se aul ex se, unde possit huiusmodi imperii vinculis liberam ceterorum voluntatem constringere. Unice rerum omnium procreatori et legislatori Deo ea potestas est: quam qui exercent, tanquam a Deo secum communicatam exerceant necesse est. Unus est legislator et judex, qui potest perdere et liberare. Quod perspicitur idem in omni genere potestatis. Eam, quae in sacerdotibus est proficisci a Deo tam est cognitum ut ii apud omnes populos ministri et habeantur et appellentur Dei. Similiter potestas patrumfamilias expressam retinet quamdam effigiem ac formam auctoritatis, quae est in Deo, ex quo omnis paternitas in cœlis et in terra nominatur. Isto autem modo diversa genera potestatis miras inter se habent similitudines, cum quidquid uspiam est imperii et auctoritatis, eius ab uno eodemque mundi opifice et domino, qui Deus est, origo ducatur.
The encyclical finds the first seeds of false doctrine in the ideas of the Protestant reformers which were amplified and carried through by the philosophes of the Enlightenment. It was from first the rift and misunderstanding of civil power and the power of the sword, and then the full rejection of the notion that civil power comes from God, that required some alternative theory of justification. Most common was the notion of social contractism, the Hobbesian/Rousseauian notion that power is conveyed to the ruler by the people, and finds its fount and origin, and therefore its limits, if any there be, in the people. God is thus removed from question of power, all power is secular, material, and ultimately without any limiting principle, and certainly no spiritual limiting principle.
12. Those who believe civil society to have risen from the free consent of men, looking for the origin of its authority from the same source, say that each individual has given up something of his right [an allusion to, among others Rousseau], and that voluntarily every person has put himself into the power of the one man in whose person the whole of those rights has been centered. But it is a great error not to see, what is manifest, that men, as they are not a nomad race, have been created, without their own free will, for a natural community of life. It is plain, moreover, that the pact which they allege is openly a falsehood and a fiction, and that it has no authority to confer on political power such great force, dignity, and firmness as the safety of the State and the common good of the citizens require. Then only will the government have all those ornaments and guarantees, when it is understood to emanate from God as its august and most sacred source.

Qui civilem societatem a libero hominum consensu natam volunt, ipsius imperii ortum ex eodem fonte petentes, de jure suo inquiunt aliquid unumquemque cessisse, et voluntate singulos in ejus se contulisse potestatem, ad quem summa illorum iurium pervenisset. Sed magnus est error non videre, id quod manifestum est, homines, cum non sint solivagum genus, citra liberam ipsorum voluntatem ad naturalem communitatem esse natos: ac praeterea pactum, quod praedicant, est aperte commentitium et fictum, neque ad impertiendum valet politicae potestati tantum virium, dignitatis, firmitudinis, quantum tutela reipublicae et communes civium utilitates requirunt. Ea autem decora et praesidia universa tunc solum est habiturus principatus, si a Deo augusto sanctissimoque fonte manare intelligatur.
The notion that rulers derive their power from God means that citizens have a duty to respect it and obey it. But with that dignity comes limitation. Since the power of the ruler comes from God, and his not his own, it comes with limits which may not be exceeded.
15. The one only reason which men have for not obeying is when anything is demanded of them which is openly repugnant to the natural or the divine law, for it is equally unlawful to command to do anything in which the law of nature or the will of God is violated. If, therefore, it should happen to any one to be compelled to prefer one or the other, viz., to disregard either the commands of God or those of rulers, he must obey Jesus Christ, who commands us to "give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's," [Matt. 22:21] and must reply courageously after the example of the Apostles: "We ought to obey God rather than men." [Acts 5:29] And yet there is no reason why those who so behave themselves should be accused of refusing obedience; for, if the will of rulers is opposed to the will and the laws of God, they themselves exceed the bounds of their own power and pervert justice; nor can their authority then be valid, which, when there is no justice, is null.

Una illa hominibus causa est non parendi, si quid ab iis postuletur quod cum naturali aut divino jure aperte repugnet: omnia enim, in quibus naturae lex vel Dei voluntas violatur, aeque nefas est imperare et facere. Si cui igitur usu veniat, ut alterutrum malle cogatur, scilicet aut Dei aut principum iussa negligere, Iesu Christo parendum est reddere jubenti quae sunt Caesaris Caesari, quae sunt Dei Deo, atque ad exemplum Apostolorum animose respondendum: Obedire oportet Deo magis quam hominibus . Neque tamen est, cur abiecisse obedientiam, qui ita se gerant, arguantur; etenim si principum voluntas cum Dei pugnat voluntate et legibus, ipsi potestatis suœ modum excdunt iustitiamque pervertunt: neque eorum tune valere potest auctoritas, quae, ubi iustitia non est, nulla est.
The power of the ruler is not only limited by the natural law, it is also limited by the fact that it is ordered to the common good, and, by its nature, it is not ordered to any private good. It is a res publica, a public thing, and not a res privata, a private thing. Accordingly, any capture of that power by private interests is by definition an abuse of that power:
16. But in order that justice may be retained in government it is of the highest importance that those who rule States should understand that political power was not created for the advantage of any private individual; and that the administration of the State must be carried on to the profit of those who have been committed to their care, not to the profit of those to whom it has been committed.

Ut autem justitia retineatur in imperio, illud magnopere interest, eos qui civitates administrant intelligere, non privati cujusquam commodo politicam potestatem esse natam: procurationemque reipublicae ad utilitatem eorum qui commissi sunt non ad eorum commissa est, geri oportere.

*Leo XIII and his Aeterni Patris has been the subject of a prior post in Lex Christianorum. See The Disfigured Face: Pope Leo XIII to the Rescue.
**Americanism is a heresy that advocates, among other things, an extreme separation of Church and State, excessive notions of liberty and individualism, and particularism for the Church in America. Leo XIII addressed these issues in a letter in 1899 entitled Testem Benevolentiae.

No comments:

Post a Comment