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, January 25, 2011

Leo XIII's In Plurimis: Natural Law and Slavery, Part 2

THERE MAY HAVE BEEN NO LEGAL OR SOCIAL INSTITUTION more affected by the Incarnation and Redemptive death of Christ and the proclamation of the Christian Gospel of these two mysteries than slavery, and yet one stubbornly resistant to that proclamation. Slavery is, and remains, a stubborn blot on mankind, and one so prevalent that pagans, including "the Philosopher" Aristotle, confused it as being a natural institution. But its universality has been checked and its prevalence diminished in large part because of the leaven of the Christian Gospel. When the Son of God became man and dwelt among men in Palestine, "[t]he greater part of humanity were toiling in this abyss of misery" which slavery was, a result, we may not doubt of the fact that man was "sunk in the darkness of superstition." IP, 6. The Redemption of Mankind by our divine Redeemer, however, was calculated to lift men out of the "slough and the distress of slavery," illi erecti sunt et caeno et aerumna servitutis, free them of their bondage to sin, and recall them to their high dignity as sons of God. IP, 6. There was something marvelously revolutionary, and yet not revolutionary but restorative, in the notion of St. Paul, which of course was not his but was a central kernel of the Gospel message:
There is neither Jew, nor Greek; there is neither bond, nor free; there is neither male nor female. For you were all one in Christ Jesus.

Non est Iudaeus, neque Graecus: non est servus, neque liber: non est masculus, neque femina. Omnes enim vos unum estis in Christo Iesu.
Gal. 3:28 (see also Col. 3:11; 1 Cor. 12:13; cf. IP, 6). So St. Paul to the Galatians. These, and like words by St. Paul in writings to the Colossians and to the Corinthians, and words announced, we may be sure, from Jesus to apostle, from apostle to disciple, from bishop or priest to layman, from catechist to catechumen, from from Christian slave to Christian master, and Christian master to Christian slave were "golden, honest, most noble" words that were surely intended to dissolve the bonds of slavery that prevented man from being brother to man:
Golden words, indeed, noble and wholesome lessons, whereby its old dignity is given back and with increase to the human race, and men of whatever land or tongue of class are bound together and joined in the strong bonds of brotherly kinship.

Aurea sane, honestissima, saluberrima documenta, quorum efficacitate non modo hominum generi decus redditur suum atque augetur, sed etiam, cujuscumque ipsi sunt loci vel linguae vel gradus, inter se consociantur et vinculis fraternae necessitudinis arctissime conlinentur.
IP, 6.

It is impossible for slavery's darkness to persist in the light of the Gospel: if God, who is absolute master over all men and all things, became man and thus linked himself "to be the brother of us all," and thereby "so ennobled men that they might become participators in the divine nature," how is it that men, who accepted this prodigy of the God who is Love, and the commandment that we ought to love our fellow men as this God loved us, could then be masters over other men? It was but a matter of time for this leaven to do its work on the dough of pagan thought:
Through this Christian charity the various races of men were drawn together under the divine guidance in such a wonderful way that they blossomed into a new state of hope and public happiness; as with the progress of time and events and the constant labor of the Church the various nations were able to gather together, Christian and free, organized anew after the manner of a family.

Ea ipsa non secus fuere ac divinitus insertae propagines, quae mirum in modum provenientes effloruerunt ad spem felicitatemque, publicam; quum, decursu rerum et temporum, perseverante opera Ecclesiae, societas civitatum ad similitudinem familiae renovata coaluerit, Christiana et libera.
IP, 6. The universal and common origin in faith and salvation--Christ--made man see, as if scales fell from his eyes, his common origin in nature. As all men were made, by grace, adopted children of God through Christ, they recognized likewise that they were, by nature, brothers through Adam.
And now through the new Adam, who is Christ, there is established a brotherly union between man and man, and people and people; just as in the order of nature they all have a common origin, so in the order which is above nature they all have one and the same origin in salvation and faith . . . .

Jam nunc per Adamum novum, qui est Christus communionem fraternam et hominis cum homine et gentis cum gente intercedere: ipsis, sicut unam eamdemque, intra naturae fines, originem, sic, supra naturam, originem unam eamdemque esse salutis et fidei . . . .
IP, 7. The incipient, infant Church, however, did not have the power to overturn this institution which plagued, and may always plague, mankind like a cancer. Instead, it sought first to ameliorate it. "[T]the Church, like a tender mother, went on to try to find some alleviation for the sorrows and the disgrace of the life of the slave; with this end in view she clearly defined and strongly enforced the rights and mutual duties of masters and slaves as they are laid down in the letters of the Apostles."* IP,8. Indeed, the seeds of reversal were manifestly present: the evil of the institution was implicitly abrogated, de facto if not de jure:
For he that is called in the Lord, being a bondman, is the freeman of the Lord. Likewise he that is called, being free, is the bondman of Christ.

ὁ γὰρ ἐν κυρίῳ κληθεὶς δοῦλος ἀπελεύθερος κυρίου ἐστίν· ὁμοίως ὁ ἐλεύθερος κληθεὶς δοῦλός ἐστιν Χριστοῦ.

Qui enim in Domino vocatus est servus libertus est Domini similiter qui liber vocatus est servus est Christi.
1 Cor. 7:22. What else does it mean that the slave, the doulos, the servus, is to become free in Christ, and the freeman, the eleutheros, the man in liberty, is to become a slave in Christ? We have here an absolute reversal of values.

There is, therefore, in the scriptural record a clear indication of change in the relationship between slave and master:
Whoever compare the pagan and the Christian attitude toward slavery will easily come to the conclusion that the one was marked by great cruelty and wickedness, and the other by great gentleness and humanity, nor will it be possible to deprive the Church of the credit due to her as the instrument of this happy change.

Utramqueagendi rationem in servos, ethnicam etchristianam, qui conferre velit, facile dabit, fuisse alteram inclementem et flagitiosam, alteram mitissimam plenamque honestatis, neque erit commissurus, ut Ecclesiam, tantae indulgentiae ministram, merita laude fraudare videatur.
PI, 9.

To be sure, the mustard seed was planted, and slavery would--if and when the Gospel took root, and if the cares of the world or the thinness of the soil did not prevent the Gospel's growth--become supplanted. Eventually, the shade of the Gospel was to crowd out and deprive slavery of all its light. Yet the Church recognized that outright preaching that slaves could consider themselves free of their chains, visible or invisible, that tied them to their masters would have "entailed tumults and wrought injury, as well to the slaves themselves as to the commonwealth." IP, 9. She therefore counseled patience and opposed herself to violence and sedition. The slaveowner and the slave, indeed the entirety of civil society, was burdened by this institution, so the slave could not oppose himself to the institution alone, without regard to its link to others. But while she counseled moderation, she also imposed limits. There were prudential reasons to counsel moderation with regard to the institution as a whole, to tolerate it while she worked silently to overcome it without injury to master or to the common good. But there were clear limits to her counsel to the slave to be obedient, and these were already radical. They were as much a challenge to the institution of slavery as they were to the power of the State. There were limits to which a master, like the State, could not go, there was submission that a Christian slave would refuse, like there were commands of the Emperor that would be rejected. So we have examples of slaves who refuse the commands of their masters that would have required the slave to trespass the natural law or the law of God. The pages of the Church historian Eusebius and other hagiographies are seasoned with such instances of which Pope Leo XIII picks one: The beautiful St. Potamiana († ca. 205 A.D.), who preferred being put in a cauldron of pitch than acceding to the lustful demands of her heathen master.**
Many other admirable examples abound of slaves, who, for their souls' sake and to keep their faith with God, have resisted their masters to the death. History has no case to show of Christian slaves for any other cause setting themselves in opposition to their masters of joining in conspiracies against the State.

Similia admirari licet servorum exempla, qui, dominis libertatem sibi animorum, fìdemque Deo obligatam oppugnantibus, firmissime ad necem repugnaverunt: qui vero, christiani servi, aliis de causis restiterint dominis, vel conjurationes turbasve civitatibus exitiosas concitarint, historia prodidit nullos.
IP, 10.

We find similar radical doctrine, yet also similar circumspection and prudence, among the Church Fathers: Saints Chrysostom, Ambrose, Lactantius. It is apparent that the institution of slavery within the embrace of the Church has become insipid, dissolved, almost practically non-existent. Witness Lactantius:
Should any one say: Are there not among you some poor, some rich, some slaves, some who are masters; is there no difference between different persons? I answer: There is none, nor is there any other cause why we call each other by the name of brother than that we consider ourselves to be equals; first, when we measure all human things, not by the body but by the spirit, although their corporal condition may be different from ours, yet in spirit they are not slaves to us, but we esteem and call them brethren, fellow workers in religion.

Nonne sunt apud vos alii pauperes, alii divites, alii servi, alii domini? Nonne aliquid inter singulos interest? Nihil: пес alia causa est cur nobis invicem fratum nomen impertiamur, nisi quia pares esse nos credimus; nam quum omnia humana, non corpore sed spiritu metiamur, tametsi corporum sit diversa conditio, nobis tamen servi non sunt, sed eos et habemus et dicimus spiritu fratres, religione conservos.
Div. Inst. I.V.6; IP, 11.

The leaven of the Gospel ultimately had its effect, and as it took root in pagan society the manumission of slaves becomes frequent and encouraged. Indeed, there were instances where Christians voluntarily became slaves by an exchange of persons so as to liberate some who were in bondage.*** Laws were slowly put in place and enforced that took the bite out of slavery, that eventually made it illegal.

Trinitarians Exchanging Captives

The Popes were no less solicitous in overcoming the plague of slavery and the related plague of captives and in advancing the foundational truth that all men are free by nature, and none are by nature slaves. For example, we have the medieval Pope Alexander III (1100/1105-1181) writing to Lupus, the moorish king of Valencia: "since nature created all free, no one by the condition of nature has become subject to servitude," cum autem omnes liberos natura creasset, nullus conditione naturae fuit subditus servituti.**** The teaching is absolute, and absolutely held. Aristotle's view is decisively rejected as false.

It took centuries to overcome this plague,***** and toward the end of the fifteenth century, the "stain of slavery" was "blotted out from among Christian nations."
Finally, monuments, laws, institutions, through a continuous series of ages, teach and splendidly demonstrate the great love of the Church toward slaves, whose miserable condition she never left destitute of protection, and always to the best of her power alleviated. Therefore, sufficient praise or thanks can never be returned to the Catholic Church, the banisher of slavery and causer of true liberty, fraternity, and equality among men, since she has merited it by the prosperity of nations, through the very great beneficence of Christ our Redeemer.

Monumenta denique leges, instituta, continuo aetatum ordine, docent et declarant magnifice summam Ecclesiae caritatem in servos, quorum conditionem afflictam nullo tempore vacuam tutela reliquit, omni semper ope allevavit. Itaque Ecclesiae catholicae, amplissimo Christi Redemptoris beneficio, expultrici servitutis, veraeque inter homines libertatis, fraternitatis, aequalitatis effectrici, satis nunquam, proinde ac de prosperitate gentium merita est, haberi potest vel laudis vel gratiae.
IP, 14.

But the plague was not so easily extirpated. And during the age of discovery, spurned by the greed that is ever prevalent among men, the institution was to arise again and become part and parcel of the New World, and the Popes set themselves against this institution, which though prevalent, is unnatural and against the law of God.

*Pope Leo XIII cites to 1 Pet. 2:18, Eph. 6:5-8, 1 Tim. 6:1-2, and Titus 2:9-10 as scriptural examples advocating slaves or servants to be diligent in serving their masters. For scriptural examples that impose obligations on masters, he cites Eph. 6:9, 1 Cor. 7:22, and Philemon 12, 18.
**Book VI, Ch. 6
***Compare the interesting history of the Trinitarians or members of the Order of the Holy Trinity founded by St. John de Matha, an order dedicated to the ransom of Christian captives during the Crusades. See also the parallel history of the Mercederians.
****Quoted by George Bancroft, History of the United States of America (London: George Routledge, 1854), Vol. I, 124 & 124 n. 1. (citing Historiae Anglicanae Scriptores, (London: 1652), i. 580). He also observes: "But the slave-trade had never relented among the Mahometans."
*****It also took centuries to overcome the pagan plagues of contraception, abortion and infanticide, pederasty and homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, and concubinage.

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