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.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Magisterial Invocation of Natural Law: Leo XIII and Diuturnum Illud, Part 2

CONTINUING ON OUR REVIEW of Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Diuturnum illud which addresses the origin of government, and rejects social contractism, we ended our last blog posting with the notion that civil power is given to the ruler by God for the public good and for the purpose of promoting the common good of those assigned to his care. The ruler has not right to use the power he has been given by God for private gain. Government is thus a res publica, a public thing. In fact, its abuse by the ruler will expose him, as it does all men, to the judgment of God: "they are warned in the oracles of the sacred Scriptures, that they will have themselves some day to render an account to the King of kings and Lord of lords; if they shall fail in their duty, that it will not be possible for them in any way to escape the severity of God." DI, 16.

Portrait of Leo XIII

The other side of the coin of the concept that power and authority come from God is that the people have a duty to obedience to the State. The citizen is not to be seen as some sort of pawn or slave of the state, but one who submits himself to the divine will, thus fully retaining his dignity "even in obedience" and submission to their rulers because the rulers in a certain way "bring before them the image of God, "who to serve is to reign," cui servire regnare est.

This principle remains true even if "the Christian form of civil government may not dwell in the minds of men." DI, 18. Historically, the Church taught the faithful that they were obliged to give due obedience even to the Pagan emperors, as St. Paul states it "to be subject to princes and to powers, to obey at a word." DI, 18 (quoting Titus 3:1). Indeed, more than obedience was the practice, as Christians were enjoined to pray for "kings and all that are in a high station." DI, 18 (quoting 1 Tim. 2:1-3). And the early Christian obedience to the Roman authority was exemplary, and it provided a singular argument that laws against them were unjust. Thus the Christian lawyer Tertullian could argue:
The Christian is the enemy of no one, much less of the emperor, whom he knows to be appointed by God, and whom he must, therefore, of necessity love, reverence and honor, and wish to be preserved together with the whole Roman Empire.

Christianus nullius est hostis, nedum imperatoris, quem sciens a Deo suo constitui, necesse est ut et ipsum diligat et reuereatur et honoret et saluum uelit, cum toto Romano imperio, quousque saeculum stabit: tamdiu enim stabit.*
Yet though history shows that the obedience and docility of the Christians was exemplary, to the point that they could be a foundation for a plea for toleration, it is equally true that the obedience only went so far. The duty to obey properly constituted authority, even if secular or pagan, only goes as far as that authority--which comes from God--is used in accordance with the law of God. That is to say, no State has the authority to order any man to do something that contradicts the natural moral law or that contradicts divine positive law. DI, 20.

When Christians became head of States, there was cooperation between the Church and State, and the ends of both overlapped, both recognizing the Divine source of any power and authority, and hence the limits to it. "And, indeed, tranquility and a sufficient prosperity lasted so long as there was friendly agreement between these two powers." DI, 22. But the writings of recent political philosophers have injected into the mix a poison. That poison arises from "an unwillingness to attribute the right of ruling to God, as its Author," ius imperandi nolle ad Deum referre auctorem. Instead of finding the source of authority and power from God, they place it at the feet of the people, a doctrine which assures abuse and rebellions and dissatisfaction:
And they who say that this power depends on the will of the people err in opinion first of all; then they place authority on too weak and unstable a foundation. For the popular passions, incited and goaded on by these opinions, will break out more insolently; and, with great harm to the common weal, descend headlong by an easy and smooth road to revolts and to open sedition.

Quod autem inquiunt ex arbitrio illam pendere multitudinis, primum opinione falluntur; deinde nimium levi ac flexibili fundamento statuunt principatum. His enim opinionibus quasi stimulis incitatae populares cupiditates sese efferent insolentius, magnaque cum pernicie reipublicae ad caecos motus, ad apertas seditiones proclivi cursu et facile delabentur.
DI, 23.

Leo XIII places the fount and origin of these erroneous notions of authority at the feet of the "so-called Reformation." The attack by the Protestant Reformers on the foundations of religious and civil authority, particularly Luther, invited the Peasant Rebellion which required repression by the German princes. So also did it invite "an outburst of civil war and with such slaughter that there was scarcely any place free from tumult and bloodshed," DI, 23, which appears to be a reference to the Wars of Religion. It was from the Protestant heresy that there arose a philosophy that sought to justify civil authority, and which postulated its origin in the people, taking it away from God:
From this [Protestant] heresy there arose in the last century a false philosophy--a new right as it is called, and a popular authority, together with an unbridled license which many regard as the only true liberty.

Ex illa haeresi ortum duxit sœculo superiore falsi nominis philosophia, et jus quod appellant novam, et imperium populare, et modum nesciens licentia, quam plurimi solam libertatem putant.
DI, 23.

Placing authority at the feet of the people is not only wrong, but it leads to social and political horrors. And like a bad apple or an insidious lentivirus, this philosophy has led to a virtual wax house of political philosophies, where all philosophies are false, made of wax by human hands, and not are real, based upon nature and nature's God:
Hence we have reached the limit of horrors, to wit, communism, socialism, nihilism, hideous deformities of the civil society of men and almost its ruin. And yet too many attempt to enlarge the scope of these evils, and under the pretext of helping the multitude, already have fanned no small flames of misery.

Ex his ad finitimas pestes ventum est, scilicet ad communismum, ad socialismum, ad nihilismum, civilis hominum societatis teterrima portenta ac pene funera. Atqui tamen tantorum malorum vim nimis multi dilatare conantur, ac per speciem iuvandae multitudinis non exigua jam miseriarum incendia excitaverunt.
DI, 23.

*In the Encyclical, the cite is to Tertullian's Apologeticus, 35 (PL 1, 451), but I could not find this quotation in Tertullian's Apologeticus under this reference. Indeed, it is an apparent error, as the cite is to Tertullian's Ad Scapula, II.6.

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