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.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Leo XIII's Immortale Dei: What is Caesar's? What is God's? Part 3

THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE GOSPEL had its hold on the governments of men since it had their allegiance, fed their imagination and informed their purpose. "Then it was," Leo XIII states, "that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom, the evangelica philosophia, the christiana sapientia, had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people, permeating all ranks and relations of civil society." ID, 21. Christ's teachings flourished among the people in Europe as those teachings received the ear and then the favor of those with the reins of civil power. Caesar had accepted Christ. Proud Caesar cast off the pretense to divinity, and the former divus bent his knee before the Lord and His Church. "Church and State were happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices," at least more than presently was the case in Europe. Europe's face . . . nay, Europe's heart changed and with it her face. "Christian Europe has subdued barbarous nations, and changed them from a savage to a civilized condition, from superstition to true worship." ID, 21. Not only did it conquer the internal enemies of superstition and barbarism, Christian Europe "victoriously rolled back the tide of Mohammedan conquest." It also "retained the headship of civilization," and in doing so was able to bestow on the world "the gift of true and many-sided liberty," and "numerous institutions for the solace of human suffering." ID, 21.

Portion of Stavelot Triptych showing
Conversion of Constantine

What more could have been wrought had the "agreement of the two powers been lasting," or had "obedience waited upon the authority, teaching, and counsels of the Church," and "submission been specially marked by greater and more unswerving loyalty"! How much human suffering, how much deracination, how much war could have been avoided! That the State should have parted ways from the Church was bound to bring with it evils in its wake. "When kingdom and priesthood are at one, in complete accord," the great canonist St. Ivo of Chartres* wrote to Pope Paschal II, "the world is well ruled, and the Church flourishes, and brings forth abundant fruit. But when they are at variance, not only small interests prosper not, but even things of greatest moment fall into deplorable decay."

The liberals and freethinkers scream progress, progress, progress, progress, when all there really is is decay, decay, decay, decay . . . . dilabuntur, dilabuntur, dilabuntur, dilabuntur . . . . The decay comes from rebellion, a rebellion that first roused itself against the authority of the Church and, "by natural sequence, invaded the precincts of philosophy," and from there trickled down to all classes of society entering into their mores and their hackneyed ways. This is the seed, not of the Gospel, not of the εὐαγγέλιον, the euangelion, but a seed of a rebellion, a badspel, a κακαγγέλιον or kakangelion. Like the mustard seed of the Gospel, it started small but soon germinated into a new plant that flowered into a "new conception of law," a novus ius, "which was not merely previously unknown, but was at variance on many points with not only the Christian, but even the natural law (et a iure non solum christiano, sed etiam naturali plus una ex parte discrepat)."

What is this new law, this novus ius, under which the novus ordo seclorum is guided? It is a law with the following distinguishing characteristics:
  1. All men are alike by race and nature, so that in like manner all are equal in the control of their life.
  2. Each man is "so far his own master as to be in no sense under the rule of any other individual," i.e., every man is autonomous, every man autonomos, αὐτόνομος, every man makes his own law (self-law), every man a law unto himself.
  3. Each is "free to think on every subject just as he may choose."
  4. Each is is free "to do whatever he may like to do."
  5. No man has any other right to rule over other men.
  6. Government "is nothing more nor less than the will of the people."
  7. The people, "being under the power of itself alone, is alone its own ruler."
  8. The leader selected by the people, has "not the right so much as the business of governing," which, in any event, is exercised in the people's (and not God's) name.**
ID, 24. This is the new law of the new regime. Notably absent is the mention of God:
The authority of God is passed over in silence, just as if there were no God; or as if He cared nothing for human society; or as if men, whether in their individual capacity or bound together in social relations, owed nothing to God; or as if there could be a government of which the whole origin and power and authority did not reside in God Himself. Thus, as is evident, a State becomes nothing but a multitude which is its own master and ruler. And since the people is declared to contain within itself the spring-head of all rights and of all power, it follows that the State does not consider itself bound by any kind of duty toward God.
ID, 25.

Leo XIII then addresses a modern shibboleth, and that is the what the liberals regard as a truism, and which really is not, and that is that religion is an issue of "private judgment," and that every person "is to be free to follow whatever religion her prefers, or none at all if he disapprove of all." ID, 26. We say that facilely, without any thought whatsoever for the inanity of the statement, and without regard to what it means to take that intellectual posture. Pope Leo XIII, however, puts his finger on the absurdity, nay, evil of this doctrine. It suggests, Pope Leo XIII points out, that our conscience is under no law, our conscience is exlex. It presupposes that we are, in the most interior part of our being, under no law, no governance. This is not absolute freedom under law, but an absolute vacuum of law. That is, in the area which is the most important and the most precious, the internal forum of man, there is no law: all is arbitrary, all is will, which of course means, that the internal forum is nothing since there is no ratio ordinis or ratio boni. Or what may be the same thing, we are gods, as out of nothing we make our own law: ex nihilo lex nostrum.
From this the following consequences logically flow: that the judgment of each one's conscience is independent of all law [exlex uniuscuiusque conscientiae iudicium]; that the most unrestrained opinions may be openly expressed as to the practice or omission of divine worship; and that every one has unbounded license to think whatever he chooses and to publish abroad whatever he thinks.
From mere makers of manners, we have become would-be makers of truth and right.

*The English translation in the Vatican website has a typographical error, identifying "Ivo" mistakenly as "No." St. Ivo, Bishop of Chartres (1040-1115), was and important canon lawyer. Leo XIII cites to Epistle 238 to Pope Paschal [PL 162, 246B] "Cum regnum et sacerdotium inter se conveniunt, bene regitur mundus, floret et fructificat Ecclesia. Cum vero inter se discordant, non tantum parvae res non crescunt, sed etiam magnae res miserabiliter dilabuntur."
**Compare the Prooemium of Justitian's Institutes and Digest which begin "In nomine Domini nostri Iesu Christi" ("In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ") with the United States Constitution which begins with the words "We the People." Public and private legal instruments (e.g., wills) commonly began with the words "In nomine Dei. Amen" (In the name of God, Amen). Now they begin with something like "Know all men by these presents." The Mayflower Compact retains the old usage, as it begins with the words, "In the name of God, Amen." Christians have noted the lack of reference to God in the U. S. Constitution. Like Pope Leo XIII, and in marked distinction with the Declaration of Independence, they noticed that "[t]he authority of God is passed over in silence. just as if there were no God." ID, 25. They have considered it a defect, and throughout our history, especially during the Civil War via a group called the National Reform Association, some efforts were made by Protestant denominations to try to amend the U. S. Constitution preamble to cure the perceived defect. See Christian Amendment in Wikipedia. The proposed amendment to the Constitution would have resulted in the following preamble: "We, the People of the United States [recognizing the being and attributes of Almighty God, the Divine Authority of the Holy Scriptures, the law of God as the paramount rule, and Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior and Lord of all], in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." Only part of the problem would be resolved by such amendment. The "new law" also believes that the State "is not obliged to make public profession of any religion; or to inquire which of the very many religions is the only one true; or to prefer one religion to all the rest; or to show to any form of religion special favour; but, on the contrary, is bound to grant equal rights to every creed, so that public order may not be disturbed by any particular form of religious belief." It is certain that a public profession or preference or special favor to Christianity in general, but to the Catholic Church in particular, even if it would not go so far as "establishment," would be considered to a clear violation of the "establishment" clause of the 1st Amendment of the U. S. Constitution under current jurisprudence which has stiffened the Constitutional Amendment so as to adopt a Jeffersonian-crafted "wall of separation between church and state," which, in practice appears to be a wall where only one party is kept out. Of course, the words "wall of separation" or "separation of church and state" are not found in the U. S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights. They come from Thomas Jefferson's letter (January 1, 1802) to the Danbury Baptist Association where he opined that the upshot of the First Amendment was to build "a wall of separation between Church & State." The letter has been cited by the United States Supreme Court several times and thereby incorporated into its First Amendment jurisprudence and certainly into the popular imagination. In Reynolds v. United States (1879), for example, the United States Supreme Court opined that Jefferson's statements "may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First] Amendment." In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), Justice Black, writing for the Court, stated, "In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state." In practice, of course, the wall has been construed in a one-way, diodic fashion almost always in favor of the State.

1 comment: