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.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Natural Law Limits of State: Leo XIII's Sapientiae Christianae, Part 2

THE DESERT FATHERS TALK ABOUT WATCHFULNESS (νήψις or nēpsis) and "guarding the heart" in the spiritual life, and Leo XIII advocates just such an attitude on the part of the Christian who confronts a civil society headed by a State that has ostracized God from everyday life and law.
Under such evil circumstances therefore, each one is bound in conscience to watch over himself, taking all means possible to preserve the faith inviolate in the depths of his soul, avoiding all risks, and arming himself on all occasions, especially against the various specious sophisms rife among non-believers.

His igitur tam iniquis rebus, primum omnium respicere se quisque debet, vehementerque curare, ut alte comprehensam animo fidem intenta custodia tueatur, cavendo pericula, nominatimque contra varias sophismatum fallacias semper armatus.
SC, 13. This watchfulness is to be an informed and faithful watchfulness, and it requires a "deep study of Christian doctrine," an imbuing of the mind with a knowledge of "those matters that are interwoven with religion and life and lie within the range of reason." It requires, moreover, or perhaps principally, an increase in faith: "the suppliant and humble entreaty of the apostles ought constantly to be addressed to God: 'Increase our faith.'"* Adauge nobis fidem!

Adauge nobis fidem! God will give us faith if we pray for it. "And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened." Luke 11:9-10. God does not give stones when we ask for bread, or scorpions when we ask for an egg. The gift of faith which is sure to come upon the asking of it will increase commensurately our responsibilities: to show forth one's faith, to instruct and encourage others of the faithful, and to repel the attacks of unbelievers.** Then, in a remarkable statement, Leo XIII states: "Christians are, moreover, born for combat." Christiani ad dimicationem nati! Leo XIII thus enjoins Christians to close ranks, to bind themselves closer to the Church, to put aside their minor differences and strive toward a harmonious "union of minds and uniformity of action," so they may be more effective in confronting the enemies of the Faith and their strongholds. SC, 18.

Adauge nobis fidem! Reason has its place. But reason alone is not enough in confronting the principalities of this world. And if it ever was, it certainly is not now. One is reminded of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's statement in his The Idea of a University:

Quarry the granite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then may you hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and the pride of man.

Listen to the message of Leo XIII. It is the same:
In the case of those who profess to take reason as their sole guide, there would hardly be found, if, indeed, there ever could be found, unity of doctrine. Indeed, the art of knowing things as they really are is exceedingly difficult; moreover, the mind of man is by nature feeble and drawn this way and that by a variety of opinions, and not seldom led astray by impressions coming from without; and, furthermore, the influence of the passions oftentimes takes away, or certainly at least diminishes, the capacity for grasping the truth.
SC, 20.

Adauge nobis fidem! To have that unanimity in action which the unity of truth requires, Christians need to rely, with greater assurance, on the teachings of the Church, "by whose authority and under whose guidance they are conscious that they have beyond question attained to truth." SC, 21. There is required a "complete submission and obedience of will to the Church and to the Roman Pontiff, as to God Himself." SC, 22. This unanimity of Faith, assured by an intimate, deep, and abiding communion with the Church and the Church's magisterial authority, especially as found in the Pope, is "the saving principle whence proceed spontaneously one and the same will in all, and one and the same tenor of action." But more than mere submission to doctrine is required. Christians are to douse themselves, nay, immerse themselves in the Church: "it is necessary to enter more fully into the nature of the Church," a "divinely established and admirably constituted society." SC, 25. We ought to be governed by the Church, not only externally, but internally. The full breadth of our mind, heart, soul, and strength ought to be governed by the Church. We ought to sentire cum ecclesia!*** Ultimately, the State has no business in soulcraft separate and apart from the Church: In soulcraft, the Church is our mother: "No one can, however, without risk to faith, foster any doubt as to the Church alone having been invested with such power of governing souls as to exclude altogether the civil authority." SC, 27. We are therefore never linked or subordinate to party:
The Church, therefore, possesses the right to exist and to protect herself by institutions and laws in accordance with her nature. And since she not only is a perfect society in herself, but superior to every other society of human growth, she resolutely refuses, promoted alike by right and by duty, to link herself to any mere party and to subject herself to the fleeting exigencies of politics. On like grounds, the Church, the guardian always of her own right and most observant of that of others, holds that it is not her province to decide which is the best amongst many diverse forms of government and the civil institutions of Christian States, and amid the various kinds of State rule she does not disapprove of any, provided the respect due to religion and the observance of good morals be upheld. By such standard of conduct should the thoughts and mode of acting of every Catholic be directed.
SC, 28.

*Luke 18:5.
**Leo XIII cites to St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae, IIª-IIae q. 3 a. 2 ad 2: "ubi fides periclitatur, quilibet tenetur fidem suam aliis propalare, vel ad instructionem aliorum fidelium sive confirmationem, vel ad reprimendum infidelium insultationem."

***Leo XIII does not use the notion of sentire cum ecclesia, but it is implicit in what he is advocating in his encyclical. The notion of "sentire cum ecclesia" is a phrase that may be attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola. In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius provides "Eighteen Rules of Sentire Cum Ecclesia": (1) All judgment laid aside, we ought to have our mind ready and prompt to obey, in all, the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our holy Mother the Church Hierarchical. (2) To praise confession to a Priest, and the reception of the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar once in the year, and much more each month, and much better from week to week, with the conditions required and due. (3) To praise the hearing of Mass often, likewise hymns, psalms, and long prayers, in the church and out of it; likewise the hours set at the time fixed for each Divine Office and for all prayer and all Canonical Hours. (4) To praise much Religious Orders, virginity and continence, and not so much marriage as any of these. (5) To praise vows of Religion, of obedience, of poverty, of chastity and of other perfections of supererogation. And it is to be noted that as the vow is about the things which approach to Evangelical perfection, a vow ought not to be made in the things which withdraw from it, such as to be a merchant, or to be married, etc. (6) To praise relics of the Saints, giving veneration to them and praying to the Saints; and to praise Stations, pilgrimages, Indulgences, pardons, Cruzadas, and candles lighted in the churches. (7) To praise Constitutions about fasts and abstinence, as of Lent, Ember Days, Vigils, Friday and Saturday; likewise penances, not only interior, but also exterior. (8) To praise the ornaments and the buildings of churches; likewise images, and to venerate them according to what they represent. (9) Finally, to praise all precepts of the Church, keeping the mind prompt to find reasons in their defense and in no manner against them. (10) We ought to be more prompt to find good and praise as well the Constitutions and recommendations as the ways of our Superiors. Because, although some are not or have not been such, to speak against them, whether preaching in public or discoursing before the common people, would rather give rise to fault-finding and scandal than profit; and so the people would be incensed against their Superiors, whether temporal or spiritual. So that, as it does harm to speak evil to the common people of Superiors in their absence, so it can make profit to speak of the evil ways to the persons themselves who can remedy them. (11) To praise positive and scholastic learning. Because, as it is more proper to the Positive Doctors, as St. Jerome, St. Augustine and St. Gregory, etc., to move the heart to love and serve God our Lord in everything; so it is more proper to the Scholastics, as St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, and to the Master of the Sentences, etc., to define or explain for our times the things necessary for eternal salvation; and to combat and explain better all errors and all fallacies. For the Scholastic Doctors, as they are more modern, not only help themselves with the true understanding of the Sacred Scripture and of the Positive and holy Doctors, but also, they being enlightened and clarified by the Divine virtue, help themselves by the Councils, Canons and Constitutions of our holy Mother the Church. (12) We ought to be on our guard in making comparison of those of us who are alive to the blessed passed away, because error is committed not a little in this; that is to say, in saying, this one knows more than St. Augustine; he is another, or greater than, St. Francis; he is another St. Paul in goodness, holiness, etc. (13) To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it, believing that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride, there is the same Spirit which governs and directs us for the salvation of our souls. Because by the same Spirit and our Lord Who gave the ten Commandments, our holy Mother the Church is directed and governed. (14) Although there is much truth in the assertion that no one can save himself without being predestined and without having faith and grace; we must be very cautious in the manner of speaking and communicating with others about all these things. (15) We ought not, by way of custom, to speak much of predestination; but if in some way and at some times one speaks, let him so speak that the common people may not come into any error, as sometimes happens, saying: Whether I have to be saved or condemned is already determined, and no other thing can now be, through my doing well or ill; and with this, growing lazy, they become negligent in the works which lead to the salvation and the spiritual profit of their souls. (16) In the same way, we must be on our guard that by talking much and with much insistence of faith, without any distinction and explanation, occasion be not given to the people to be lazy and slothful in works, whether before faith is formed in charity or after. (17) Likewise, we ought not to speak so much with insistence on grace that the poison of discarding liberty be engendered. So that of faith and grace one can speak as much as is possible with the Divine help for the greater praise of His Divine Majesty, but not in such way, nor in such manners, especially in our so dangerous times, that works and free will receive any harm, or be held for nothing. (18) Although serving God our Lord much out of pure love is to be esteemed above all; we ought to praise much the fear of His Divine Majesty, because not only filial fear is a thing pious and most holy, but even servile fear—when the man reaches nothing else better or more useful—helps much to get out of mortal sin. And when he is out, he easily comes to filial fear, which is all acceptable and grateful to God our Lord: as being at one with the Divine Love.


  1. And a Greek Orthodox would say, one's loyalty and obligation and fidelity resides in his local bishop first and foremost. Ultramontanism is what is promoted here. Things out of proportion.

    Philosophy is not a "Roman" provenance. Romanitas is about complete obedience. Roman Christianity is absorbed by the culture and mentality of Latin Rome. Rome and Greece are two very different birds. Greek culture is philosophical while Roman culture was legalistic. Greeks operated on the "spirit" of things, and Romans operated on the line of things. Two very different concepts.

    Historically there has always been Roman prejudice and antagonism against the Greeks, q.v. Cato. This has also affected Christianity. Christianity's works are written in Greek. There is supposed to be a "Graeco-Roman" feel to Christianity but sometimes in Roman Christianity, the "Greekness" is obliterated.

    Going to extremes is the Roman Way. It is not Greek. A Greek seeks the Golden Mean. This hyper-inflation of the Patriarch of Rome, who is the local bishop of Rome, skewers the vision and practice of Christianity.

    Why the Patriarch of Rome does not set up other Western Patriarchs is beyond me. The Church is should be built on the paradigm of cells not as the Roman Empire.

  2. The exposure of the Donation of Constantine as a fake by Lorenzo Valla deeply scarred Renaissance men. Valla's expose deeply influenced Martin Luther and was one of the main causes of the Reformation.

    The natural law operates on dichotomy; i.e. a plurality in a unity. Allan of Lille explains it well, as you posted on. In this case it should be "Trust but Verify".

  3. I would have both bishop and Pope. Since they ought both to be in communion, there should be no disproportion. Interesting on whether there ought to be another Patriarch in the West. I suppose since Patriarchs have been supressed (Aquileia, Grado, Antioch) and made (Lisbon, Venice) that Rome can make another.

    Where would you place a Patriarchate?

  4. In every country. In large countries there should be, maybe, multiple patriarchs. England should have a Patriarch. Ireland its own Patriarch. France should have several. One in the south, one in the North, one in the central.

    There used to be 500 bishoprics in North Africa before the Muslim invasion. In America with 60 million Roman catholics, there is only 360 bishoprics. And the population of America is probably 5 times greater than at North Africa c. 600 A.D.

    Leadership can only be effective to the grade/amount it is supposed to lead. Too much quantity makes leadership non-existent.

    There should be a patriarchy for every 20 million or less Christians. There should be a bishop for every 5000 Christians. A bishop can Not oversee the needs of 100,000 people which is the size of most dioceses in America. The rebellion of Henry the VIII would not have happened if there was an English Patriarch established.

    The natural law is "nothing too much". The Golden Mean. Things can grow too large for their own good, and collapse of their weight. Establishing Patriarchiates for every 20 million people is about proportion and the effectiveness of leadership and sheparding.

  5. Patriarchiates are to be autonomous. I believe that in Roman Catholic practice, "patriarchiates" are still controlled by Rome.

    In the East there were many apostolic sees, Ephesus (which was moved to Constantinople), Antioch, and Alexandria. In the West, there was only one. This is how the difference of opinion arose between East and West. Since the end of the patriarchical age, the see of Constantinople has given Patriarchical status to Moscow, and other sites like Bulgaria. I believe now that there are 14 Patriarchs in the East.

    At Antioch, the Bishop of Rome, and I think during the Crusades, set up a Latin Patriarch against the Orthodox Patriarch already established there thus setting up a dual authority.

    The paradigm of Church government in the West subsumed the idea of the Roman Empire, it considers itself the carry over of this. It makes for unweildy governance.

    Efficiency and quality of leadership should be the qualifiers. Every large region, should have its Patriarchate, autonomous.

  6. Interesting ideas.

    It would have been different if, instead of the bishop's conferences, there would have been a series of patriarchates in the institutional reforms of the Church post VII. I guess collegiality rather than hierarchy was in vogue.

    I should think that more bishops would be more pastorally effective than more patriarchs.

    What's the bishop/laity ratio in the Orthodox or autocephalic churches?

  7. That I don't know. I think they have problems as well in that department.

    The idea of a bishop is one who is an "administrator". That happened due to the collapse of the Roman Empire and Church clergy stepped into civil leadership roles.

    The Bishop office needs to be restored to its teaching office. The bishop should be found either in the Church teaching, or in the classroom of the local school or seminary teaching. Not sitting behind a desk. That is for deacons.