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.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Brownson on Natural Law: The Church as Custodian and the State

THE CHURCH IS THE CUSTODIAN OF THE NATURAL LAW, and so it has a divinely appointed role in helping form, or undergird the secular law. The secular law, though it has its own area of competence, must in all regards be subordinate to the Natural Law. The notion of two separate and independent spheres of activity--one secular, the other sacred--is simply false. There is no bifurcation of the law in moral man and political man, though in the immoral political man there may be. The notion of pure separation of Church and State is, from a Catholic viewpoint, unacceptable. It presents a recipe for a schizophrenic polity, working at odds, much like the body politic with its corpus callosum severed, and so the left hemisphere of the brain is unable to communicate to the right hemisphere of the brain. Such a man, like such a body politic, operates under serious disadvantage or disorder.

A political philosophy of pure secularism, being practically atheist, is sinful and constitutes a state of rebellion against God. Likewise, the modern legal notion that human law need not be subordinate to, or validly deferent to, the natural law is a false, in fact evil, legal philosophy. The notion that positive laws can have authority or validity independent of, or even in conflict with, the content of the natural law is a false doctrine. The modern politician and legislator, not unlike the emperor of old, must acknowledge the teaching Church, the ecclesia docens, that is the priesthood. "For the Emperor," St. Ambrose wrote in his sermon against Auxentius, "is within the Church, not above it." Imperator enim intra ecclesiam non supra ecclesiam est. (Sermo contra Auxentium de basilicis tradendis, No. 36). The politician, the legislator, the judge, the governor or president--replace emperor with any civil or political office you wish--is within the Church, not above her, and, even if outside her, certainly has not right to act against her. Lift up your gates, you rulers and all peoples, and let the King of Glory into the halls where your laws are made and the courts where they are enforced. Anything else is bound to lead to injustice and to tyranny.

Lift up your gates,
O ye princes, and be ye lifted up,
O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in
Who is the King of Glory?
The Lord of hosts, he is the King of Glory.

Psalm 23 (24): 9-10.
This is Brownson's message in this excerpt taken from his writings.

"The priesthood, as Catholicity teaches, is the sole depository, guardian, and interpreter of the law of God, and therefore represents for us the sole and absolute legislature, not, of course, by virtue of the humanity of its members, but by divine constitution, appointment, and assistance. The authority of the priesthood, then, extends to the whole of practical life, and that practical life is moral, therefore good, only inasmuch as it is submissive or obedient to the law as they promulgate and declare it. There is, then, and can be, no order of life, individual or social, that has or can have any autonomy in the face of the Church, or that is or can be pronounced morally good, save in so far as subject to her and informed by obedience to her as representative of the authority of God as universal, absolute legislator. This, if we understand the author [Gioberti], is what his own dialectics require us to assert. Secular culture, then, in order to be moral, in order to have any right to be, must be the product of sacerdotal culture, receive its law and its informing spirit from the Divinely authorized priesthood, and be in all things dependent on it, and subject to it. Hence, the schism we spoke of in the beginning is not to be healed by a union of secular culture with the sacerdotal, but by the absolute subjection of the former to the latter, because the former, in so far as it does not proceed from the latter and depend on it, proceeds from human activity, not subject to the law of God, and therefore is not moral."

[From Brownson's Works, "Vincenzo Gioberti" (H. F. Brownson: Detroit, 1898), Vol. 2, p. 128.]

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