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.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tolerance of Evil: Pope Leo XIII's Libertas praestantissimum

LEO XIII'S ENCYCLICAL LIBERTAS Praestantissimum addressed the notion of liberty from a traditional natural law perspective. It also addressed the errors of liberalism, a liberalism that either rejects, on the basis of theory or dogma, the natural and divine law or seeks, on the basis of practical politics, to minimize or altogether exclude its importance or relevance in the public forum.

Leo XIII was realistic enough to read the signs of the times, to recognize the direction the straws was blowing in the prevailing winds. Pope Leo XIII knew well "the course down which the minds and actions of men are in this our age being borne." LP, 33. He recognized that strict enforcement of the moral norms that related to such liberties of religion, of speech, of teaching, and of conscience could easily be viewed as imprudent, and so he felt the need to address the issue of tolerance. To what degree could the state, or those in authority, tolerate the modern errors of liberalism?

Portrait of Leo XIII

Without conceding moral principle, the Church recognized that public authority could "tolerate what is at variance with truth and justice." However, such a tolerance is warranted only for two reasons. First error and injustice could be tolerated if the common good demands it "for the sake of avoiding some greater evil." Similarly, error and injustice could be tolerated if, with respect to the common good, thre is cause for "preserving some greater good." LP, 33. "One thing, however, remains always true - that the liberty which is claimed for all to do all things is not ... of itself desirable, inasmuch as it is contrary to reason that error and truth should have equal rights."
--Pope Leo XIII
This sort of toleration is, in fact, perceived to be in God who, in is providence, tolerates evil in the world so that greater good may not be impeded or greater evil may not result. "In the government of States it is not forbidden to imitate the Ruler of the world." In regendis civitatibus rectorem mundi par est imitari. LP, 33. Indeed, among the governments of men such tolerance is mandated as a matter of practical necessity, "as the authority of man is powerless to prevent every evil, it has (as St. Augustine says) to overlook and leave unpunished many things were are punished, and rightly, by Divine Providence."* LP, 33. But regardless if tolerance is purposefully pursued for a greater good or if practical limits demand tolerance, the evil must be tolerated only, and the state "may not and should not approve or desire evil for its own sake." LP, 33. In fact, evil, being a privation or lack of the good, "is opposed to the common welfare which every legislator is bound to desire and defend to the best of his ability." LP, 33. Therefore, "the tolerance of evil which is dictated by political prudence should be strictly confined to the limits which its justifying cause, the public welfare, requires." LP, 34. Indeed, if the common good or public welfare is injured by such tolerance, the justification for tolerance (avoidance of a greater evil or protection of a good) disappears, placing a duty on the state to suppress the evil. LP, 34.

Such a tolerance, of course, is not necessarily indicative of a healthy state of affairs. Indeed, "the more a State is driven to tolerate evil, the further it is from perfection." Finally, Leo XIII observes that the "tolerance" that Liberals demand is one essentially without moral boundaries, is in fact a tolerance that results in "boundless license," and ought to be condemned as "abandoned and criminal [in] character." LP, 35. The unbounded tolerance of the liberal seems to have one clear boundary: intolerance towards the Church: "[I]n spite of all this show of tolerance, it very often happens that, while they profess themselves ready to lavish liberty on all in the greatest profusion, they are utterly intolerant toward the Catholic Church." LP, 35.

At the conclusion of his encyclical Libertas praestantissimum, Leo XIII summarizes his teaching on liberalism: Broadly defined, liberalism is a denial, theoretical or practical, of God's authority:
To deny the existence of this authority in God, or to refuse to submit to it, means to act, not as a free man, but as one who treasonably abuses his liberty; and in such a disposition of mind the chief and deadly vice of liberalism essentially consists.

Quem quidem in Deo principatum aut esse negare, aut ferre nolle, non liberi hominis est, sed abutentis ad perduellionem libertate: proprieque ex animi tali affectione conflatur et efficitur Liberalismi capitale vitium.
LP, 36.

The forms of liberalism, and its sin, is manifold, "for in more ways and degrees than one can the will depart from the obedience which is due to God or to those who share in the divine power." LP, 36. It includes those who reject God wholesale, as well as those that reject only the role of "all laws of faith and morals which are above all natural reason, but are revealed by the authority of God." LP, 38. It also encompasses those who "impudently assert that there is no reason why regard should be paid to these [divinely revealed laws of faith and reason], at any rate publicly, by the State." LP, 38. Similarly, an advocacy of a clear separation of Church and State is mistaken "fatal principle" of political life. For Pope Leo XIII, it is "clear that the two powers, though dissimilar in functions and unequal in degree, ought nevertheless to live in concord, by harmony in their action and the faithful discharge of their respective duties."** LP, 38.

With respect to the liberals' coveted and overexapansive rights, Leo XIII summarizes his teaching thus:
From what has been said it follows that it is quite unlawful to demand, to defend, or to grant unconditional freedom of thought, of speech, or writing, or of worship, as if these were so many rights given by nature to man. For, if nature had really granted them, it would be lawful to refuse obedience to God, and there would be no restraint on human liberty.

Itaque ex dictis consequitur, nequaquam licere petere, defendere, largiri, cogitandi, scribendi, docendi, itemque promiscuam religionum libertatem, veluti iura totidem, quae hornini natura dederit. Nam si vere natura dedisset, imperium Dei detrectari insesset, nec ulla temperari lege libertas humana posset.
LP, 42.

Where necessary to the common good, such expansive notion of rights may be tolerated, but even so without conceding their validity or forgetting their essential immorality:
It likewise follows that freedom in these things may be tolerated wherever there is just cause, but only with such moderation as will prevent its degenerating into license and excess.

Similiter consequitur, ista genera libertatis posse quidem, si iustae caussae sint, tolerari, definita tamen moderatione, ne in libidinem atque insolentiam degenerent.
LP, 42.

Finally, when living in a country where such expansive rights are tolerated,and error and evil are around to usher about untrammeled, the Christian has an affirmative duty:
And, where such liberties are in use, men should employ them in doing good, and should estimate them as the Church does; for liberty is to be regarded as legitimate in so far only as it affords greater facility for doing good, but no farther.

Ubi vero harum libertatum viget consuetude, eas ad facultatem recte faciendi civos transferant, quodque sentit de illis Ecclesia, idem ipsi sentiant. Omnis enim libertas legitima putanda, quatenus rerum honestarum maiorem facultatem afferat, praeterea nunquam.
LP, 42.

Finally, rejection of the errors of the liberals, which cannot be accepted since they violate the natural law and the divine law does not mean the Catholic has to reject democracy as a form of government. "[I]t is not of itself wrong to prefer a democratic form of government, if only the Catholic doctrine"--that is to say the teachings of the natural law and divine Revelation--"be maintained as to the origin and exercise of power." LB, 44. The rights of men and the rights of the Church have to be respected regardless of the form of government a people choose. Catholics are encouraged to participate in public affairs, to contribute to the common good, and to do all he can "for the defense, preservation, and prosperity of his country." LP, 45.

*Leo XIII cites to St. Augustine's De libero arbitrio, I.6.14 (PL 32,1228)
**Though the issue of separation of Church and State are briefly addressed in
Libertas praestantissimum, they are more completely handled in Leo XIII's encyclical Immortale Dei.

1 comment:

  1. From Spinoza, The Young Thinker Who destroyed the Past by Dan Levin"

    pg 96 "The writings of Epictetus, and the other ancient Stoics and of Epicurus, were coming into their own again, now that the hold of the formal religion (which insisted on Plato and Aristotle) had loosened.

    "...This is important for a realistic estimate of Bento's coming role. What he would have to say, about all-embracing and inexorable Nature, would be no new thing under the sun. It was in the STOICS, and in the Epicureans, and in Thales and the Greek atomists. The time had merely come again for this kind of realism."

    pg 97 "Hooft "hated" the theologians' predestination, but "believed in a kind of philosophic predestination, the determinism of Montaigne". This dour belief in the determinism common to ancient Stoics and Epicureans, Democritus and Heracleitus and Montaigne, was itself a common mark of thinking men in that time and especially in Holland."

    Stoicism was part and parcel of the Greek Materialistic agenda. I've come to find out that the Third in line to head the Aristotelian school was Strato, (not Strabo), who was a Materialist! no less. Aristotle and Plato would not have approved! Also google the term "Mosaic atomism". This materialism became the "natural law".

    This led to the French Materialists and communism. This is a good book as well for Jonathan Israel's central thesises of his books is Baruch Spinoza. This book lays out the cultural milieu of Spinoza and how Protestantism descended into liberalism! which fed into the Jewish materialist strain of "Wissenschaft" which is connected, for me, to the Sadducees who were the non-Hellenized traditional Jewish sect. European atheists had common cause with Jewish atheists. That was the Enlightenment.

    Mara van der Lugt's, The True Toland (online and can be downloaded as pdf):

    Like Toland after him, Harrington was interested in the ancient Jewish commonwealth and its foundations in Mosaic law; furthermore, both were inspired by the writings of the Venetian rabbi Simone Luzzatto. In his Discorso circa il stato de gl'Hebrei (1683), Luzzatto had argued for the toleration of Jews by insisting on their role in the Venetian economic system. Such arguments had strongly influenced Toland in writing his Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews, and had contributed to Harrington's valuation of the Jews, which was perhaps connected to his admiration of the Republic of Venice (as noted by Toland). Hence, we witness, in the Appendix to Nazarenus, a close connection between Toland's political and 'Jewish' work, a connection that is strengthened by the Harringtonian link and rises to the fore in the announced project of a Respublica Mosaica.

    "Tolerance" as Eric Nelson in his book The Hebrew Republic points out, was a Jewish Biblical aspect. Non tolerance is from Plato. Plato, in accordance with the Spartans, denied access to atheists. Plato calls for a period of re-education for atheists and if that doesn't succeed, the death penalty.

    Christianity and Christendom are Platonic creations. Plato is the real founder of both Christianity and Christendom. Atheists glammed onto atomist theory to undermine both! This is the so-called "Enlightenment" which started in Northern Italy with the emergence of gnostic Hermes Trimegestus that had everybody fooled!!!

    In Christ.