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.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pope Leo XIII on Socialism: Quod apostolici muneris

THE NATURAL LAW ALSO PROVIDED the foundation for Pope Leo XIII's encyclical on socialism, Quod apostolici munerus which was issued in 1878. In that encyclical, Leo XIII set himself against "that sect of men, who under various and almost barbarous names, are called socialists, communists, or nihilists." QA, 1. Socialists, communists, and nihilists "leave nothing untouched or whole which by both human and divine laws (quod humanis divinisque legibus) has been wisely decreed for the health and beauty of life." Spurning, then, the influence of natural and divine law, socialists "proclaim the absolute equality of all men in rights and duties." shunning any differences between the ruler and the ruled. On the domestic, familial front, they "debase the natural union of man and woman," naturalem viri ac mulieris unionem . . . dehonestant, and weaken its bond, vinculum . . . infirmant. They therefore weaken if not altogether sever the authority of the father as head of the family, and relationship between husband and wife, and between parents and children. Driven by their materialistic philosophy, they "assail the right of property sanctioned by natural law," jus proprietatis naturali lege sanctitum impugnant, which leads them "seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by title of lawful inheritance, or by labor or brain and hands, or by thrift in one's mode of life." QA, 1. It is these three errors--a false egalitarianism, a false notion of marriage and family life, and the rejection private property--that Leo XIII addresses in his encyclical Quod apostolici munerus. It is these three errors that come in the wake of the "plague of socialism," pestis Socialismi advanced by this "abominable sect," secta abominata. Cf. QA, 10, 11.

Fundamental Tenets of Socialism Against the Natural Law

As with much of our modern philosophical ills, Leo XIII finds the seed of socialism in the 16th century, specifically in the error of philosophical rationalism. Socialism (with which term we will use to include communism and political nihilism) is nothing less that a form of political rationalism. Rationalism, which entails a false, materialistic notion of reason, is intended to subvert revelation and to "overthrown the supernatural order." QA, 2. Disdaining religion and disdaining God, rationalism in the political realm has sought to found political institutions on the will of the people alone, without regard to God or his order. Under the guise that supernatural truths are hostile to reason, political rationalists have sought to remove from any public institution--including universities, the lyceums, the gymnasia--any mention of God and the supernatural order. Their view of life is entirely here-and-now, "limited to the bounds of the present," and gives utterly no weight to the concept of eternity or to "the rewards and punishments of a future and eternal life." QA, 2. In fine, they live sub specie temporis, under the light of the here-and-now, and not sub specie aeternitatis, under the light of eternity. And this they do even while "stealing the very Gospel itself with a view to deceive more easily the unwary." QA, 5. Like the devil who quoted scripture to tempt Christ, so do socialists frequently invoke alleged evangelical values while actually subverting them.

Socialists advocate in a sense altogether false "that nature has made all men equal," and so reject any office or laws or relations that are not predicated on their radical egalitarianism. While Pope Leo XIII acknowledges that the Gospel teaches an equality among men, the Gospel's notion is different from the equality advocated by the socialist:
[I]n accordance with the teachings of the Gospel, the equality of men consists in this: that all, having inherited the same nature, are called to the same most high dignity of the sons of God, and that, as one and the same end is set before all, each one is to be judged by the same law and will receive punishment or reward according to his deserts.

Contra vero, ex Evangelicis documentis, ea est hominum aequalitas, ut omnes eamdem naturam sortiti, ad eamdem filiorum Dei celsissiman dignitatem vocentur, simulque ut uno eodemque fine omnibus praestituto, singuli secundum eamdem legem iudicandi sint, poenas aut mercedem pro merito consecuturi.
QA, 5. Outside of this equality among men--an equality of human nature and an equality of our supernatural calling--there are palpable inequalities among men: and indeed, the inequality among men in these other particulars is part of the plan of God, especially the inequalities arising out of the relationship between those who govern and those who are governed.
The inequality of rights and of power proceeds from the very Author of nature, "from whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named." (Eph. 3:15)

Inaequalitas tamen iuris et potestatis ab ipso naturae Auctore dimanat, ex quo omnis paternitas in caelis et in terra nominatur.
QA, 5. Depending upon office, station, relation, and right order there may be various duties and rights, and so one person (for example a ruler, a bishop, or a father) will have rights over as well as duties to another (e.g., his subject, a layman, or a son), even while the latter (e.g., the subject, the layman, or a son) has rights over as well as duties to the former (e.g., the ruler, or a bishop, or a father).
For, He who created and governs all things has, in His wise providence, appointed that the things which are lowest should attain their ends by those which are intermediate, and these again by the highest. . . . [God] appointed that there should be various orders in civil society, differing in dignity, rights, and power (plures esse ordines, dignitate, iuribus, potestate diversos), whereby the State, like the Church, should be one body, consisting of many members, some nobler than others, but all necessary to each other and solicitous for the common good."
QA, 6.

Rulers are answerable to God for the use of their power. So does the book of Wisdom warn us: "For a most severe judgment shall be for them that bear rule," should they judge rightly or fail to keep the law of justice. Wisdom 6:6. Rebellion against even a rash and tyrannical ruler must not be countenanced ordinarily since to "allow an insurrection on private authority" results in greater ills not only because public order would be "only the more disturbed," but also because society would run the risk of taking "greater hurt therefrom." Therefore, even patience toward tyranny befits concern for the common good. Insurrection is not something to be engaged in lightly. There is, however, one exception:
But, if the will of legislators and princes shall have sanctioned or commanded anything repugnant to the divine or natural law, the dignity and duty of the Christian name, as well as the judgment of the Apostle, urge that "God is to be obeyed rather than man." [Acts 5:29]

Quod si legislatorum ac principum placita aliquid sanciverint aut iusserint quod divinae aut naturali legi repugnet, christiani nominis dignitas et officium atque Apostolica sententia suadent obediendum esse magis Deo quam hominibus.
QA, 7.

With respect to marriage and family life, Leo XIII insists that civil society, in particular the State, must recognize the importance of the family:
Even family life itself, which is the cornerstone of all society and government . . . . [T]he foundation of this society rests first of all in the indissoluble union of man and wife according to the necessity of natural law, and is completed in the mutual rights and duties of parents and children, masters and servants.

[E]tiam domestica societas, quae omnis civitatis et regni principium est . . . . Rectam hujus societatis rationem, secundum naturalis juris necessitatem in indissolubili viri ac miilieris unione primo inniti, et mutuis parentes inter et filios, dominos ac servos offîciis iuribusque compleri.
QA, 8.

The socialists "strive almost completely to dissolve this union," this fundamental cell of society. In particular they seek to remove any religious element from it, rejecting both its natural order and the Church's authority over it. This necessarily weakens the headship of the father over his wife and family, the authority of the parents over their children, and the reciprocal duties of the children to their parents. QA, 8. The family is a subtle instance of hierarchy within love and love within hierarchy.
Wherefore, as the Apostle has it, [Eph. 5:23] as Christ is the head of the Church, so is the man the head of the woman; and as the Church is subject to Christ, who embraces her with a most chaste and undying love, so also should wives be subject to their husbands, and be loved by them in turn with a faithful and constant affection. In like manner does the Church temper the use of parental and domestic authority, that it may tend to hold children and servants to their duty, without going beyond bounds. For, according to Catholic teaching, the authority of our heavenly Father and Lord is imparted to parents and masters, whose authority, therefore, not only takes its origin and force from Him, but also borrows its nature and character. Hence, the Apostle exhorts children to "obey their parents in the Lord, and honor their father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise"; [Eph. 6:1-2] and he admonishes parents: "And you, fathers, provoke not your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and correction of the Lord." [Eph. 6:4] Again, the apostle enjoins the divine precept on servants and masters, exhorting the former to be "obedient to their lords according to the flesh of Christ . . . with a good will serving, as to the Lord"; and the latter, to "forbear threatenings, knowing that the Lord of all is in heaven, and there is no respect of persons with God." [Eph. 6:5-9] If only all these matters were faithfully observed according to the divine will by all on whom they are enjoined, most assuredly every family would be a figure of the heavenly home, and the wonderful blessings there begotten would not confine themselves to the households alone, but would scatter their riches abroad through the nations."
QA, 8.

Controversial as it may modernly be, Pope Leo XIII clearly promotes the continuing validity of the so-called Haustafel, the "Domestic Code" found in St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians (5:22-6:5) and also in St. Paul's Epistle to the Colossians (3:18-41) and in St. Peter's First Epistle (1 Pet. 2:18-3:7).*

From marriage and the family, Pope Leo XIII addresses the socialists' rejection of private property. Basing itself on "the precepts of natural and divine law," the Church's doctrine concerns itself with the public and private good regarding the duty of government and the distribution of the goods that are necessary for human life and its flourishing. Socialists reject the natural right to private property, finding it to be an invention of man, a mere convention:
For, while the socialists would destroy the "right" of property, alleging it to be a human invention altogether opposed to the inborn equality of man, and, claiming a community of goods, argue that poverty should not be peaceably endured, and that the property and privileges of the rich may be rightly invaded, the Church, with much greater wisdom and good sense, recognizes the inequality among men, who are born with different powers of body and mind, inequality in actual possession, also, and holds that the right of property and of ownership, which springs from nature itself, must not be touched and stands inviolate.

Cum enim Socialistae ius proprietatis tamquam humanum inventum, naturali hominum aequalitati repugnans, traducant et communionem bonorum affectantes pauperiem haud aequo animo esse perferendam, et ditiorum possessiones ac iura impune violari posse arbitrentur; Ecclesia multo satius et utilius inaequalitatem inter homines, corporis ingeniique viribus naturaliter diversos, etiam in bonis possidendis agnoscit, et ius
proprietatis ac dominii ab ipsa natura profectum, intactum cuilibet et inviolatum esse iubet.
QA, 9.

That private property is recognized by revelation is clear from the divine laws against stealing and robbery. But the right to private property ought not to be grounds or excuse for neglecting the poor. On the contrary, the Church insists that they ought to be cared for, and she is constantly enjoining upon the rich "that most grave precept to give what remains to the poor; and she holds over their heads the divine sentence that unless they succor the needy they will be repaid by eternal torments." QA, 9. There is, to be sure, "the old struggle between the rich and the poor," but it is not solved by rejecting private property. The best method would seem to be the Christian formula which demands that the rich, like Christ, become poor for the sake of their brothers, and the poor recognize the blessings that Christ has put upon the sufferings of the poor and the rewards of eternal life.
[I]f this method is rejected or disregarded, one of two things must occur: either the greater portion of the human race will fall back into the vile condition of slavery which so long prevailed among the pagan nations, or human society must continue to be disturbed by constant eruptions, to be disgraced by rapine and strife, as we have had sad witness even in recent times.
QA, 9.
*The Church continues to insist on the paternal headship of the family and the complementarity of the masculine (paternal) and feminine (maternal) roles in the family, but, especially during the pontificate of John Paull II, has elaborated the radical Christian concept of subjection, making it clear that "subjection" must not be understood as the world understands it. A good discussion of the Scriptural, Patristic, and Magisterial teaching on the headship of the father in the family may be found in the article The Authority of the Husband According to the Magisterium by Rev. Paul N. Check.


  1. But Socialists do claim that their system IS based on the natural law! It comes from the Stoics! French materialism from Decarte, Spinoza, Pierre Bayle, et. al, all talked of the laws of nature in their support.

    Which "Natural law" are you talking about?

  2. They may, and, if so, they are mistaken. The natural law they advocate is something entirely different from the natural law of tradition. The natural law of the Enlightenment and the philosophes (such as Rousseau or Locke) is not the natural law of tradition.

  3. For God's sake, would you please post on the difference!!!! Does any Catholic know them? Why are you posting on the Natural law without first separating the two? Where is the Original Natural law? Who said what? The Catholics all point to the Stoics---but the Stoics were materialists! They weren't metaphysicians like Plato. Even Plutarch had to write a discourse against Epicurus and the Stoics!

  4. "that most grave precept to give what remains to the poor; and she holds over their heads the divine sentence that unless they succor the needy they will be repaid by eternal torments."

    Remember the Hymn 'The Lord Hears The Cry of the Poor'.

    Then remember the Artists, modern Bachs or Michaelangelos who are unemployed because you all prefer Ikea, mass produced decor, 'Sing to the Mountains' hymns purportedly based on Psalm 118, and other bland fruits of post-modernism.

    We are also the poor, and to neglect our needs, heads the divine sentence, seen in the news and economic reports.

    If ten people working Tithe, they can employ one full time Michaelangelo or Bach, and win forth 1000-fold increase in membership and tithing revenue.

    That is the Law of Love. Nothing to do with socialism. But to neglect this law, is indeed, a form of atheism, discussed elsewhere...