Philosophy and the Papacy

Aug 21st, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

The Scripture readings for today’s liturgy provide a biblical basis for the papacy, as John Bergsma explains. But as a Protestant, I was not able to see those verses as providing that basis, until I read Plato’s Republic. Of the various philosophical factors that helped me become Catholic, one was teaching through Plato’s Republic. I had taught it a few times before, but this time, I was teaching it with an eye toward its implications regarding unity. My conclusion was that for philosophical reasons we could expect Christ to have established for the Church an enduring office for her government, an office occupied by one person at a time. That conclusion allowed me to be more open and receptive to the Catholic understanding of Matthew 16:18-19, Luke 22:32, and John 21:15-17. So how did Plato’s Republic help me reach that conclusion?

The School of Athens
The School of Athens
Raphael (1509)

In order to explain the role of Plato’s Republic in helping me become more open to the Catholic understanding of St. Peter’s unique office in the Church, I need to lay out the broader line of reasoning to which it contributed. That line of reasoning was as follows:

First, it is reasonable to expect that Christ, being God and therefore all-wise, would establish for His Church the best form of government, not a form of government faulty in some respect. That does not mean that the government that Christ established for His Church would never err, only that the form of this government would be the best one.

Second, the best form of government is one that is capable of preserving the unity of the society it governs. Consider how important unity is to the existence and continuation of a society. Plato writes:

Is there any greater evil for a polis than that which splits it and makes it many instead of one; or any greater good than that which binds it together and makes it a unity? (Republic, 462a9-b2)

Why is there no greater good for a society than its unity, and no greater evil than that which divides it? In other words, how is unity related to goodness? In order to answer that question, we need to consider the metaphysical relation between being and unity and goodness.

These three (and two more that I am not discussing) are called transcendentals, because they can be said of all categories of being. Consider the relation of being and goodness. The Manicheans had taught that there were two fundamental principles or sources of all things: a purely good deity called “the Father of Greatness,” and a purely evil deity called the “King of Darkness.” Neither deity was omnipotent, or created by the other. In this way the Manichean system was fundamentally dualistic. St. Augustine, drawing from the insights of the neo-Platonic tradition, argued against the Manicheans that evil is fundamentally a privation of good, not a parallel principle to good.1 Moreover, in this way the Manichean system fundamentally separated being and goodness, allowing for the possibility of a being having no goodness, i.e. a being that is purely evil.

St. Augustine argued against this, showing that because of the perfect unity of God, from whom all things that exist have their being and their goodness, goodness and being cannot be separated. Wherever there is being, there is goodness. Therefore, there can be no being that is purely evil. It follows that evil is not only a privation of goodness, but also a privation of being. St. Thomas says more about this in Summa Theologiae I Q.5 a.1, where he answers the question “Whether goodness differs really from being?”

Having considered the relation of being and goodness, notice the implications for the relation of being and unity. In Summa Theologiae I Q. 11 a.1, St. Thomas writes:

“Nothing which exists is not in some way one,” which would be false if “one” were an addition to “being,” in the sense of limiting it. Therefore “one” is not an addition to “being.”

I answer that, “One” does not add any reality to “being”; but is only a negation of division; for “one” means undivided “being.” This is the very reason why “one” is the same as “being.” Now every being is either simple or compound. But what is simple is undivided, both actually and potentially. Whereas what is compound, has not being whilst its parts are divided, but after they make up and compose it. Hence it is manifest that the being of anything consists in undivision; and hence it is that everything guards its unity as it guards its being.2

Seeing that being, unity and goodness are related in this way, as co-referential, it follows that wherever there is a privation of unity, there is a privation of goodness.3 But a privation of goodness is what evil is, as discussed above. Therefore privation of unity is evil, and the greater the privation of unity, the greater the evil. Likewise, the greater the unity of a thing in the fulfillment of its telos, the greater its goodness, all other things being equal. This explains why according to Plato there is no greater good for a society than its unity, and no greater evil than that which divides it, because unity and goodness are related in this way.

Third, given that Christ would not leave His Church with a faulty form of government, and given that there is no greater evil for a polis than that which splits it and makes it many instead of one, and no greater good than that which binds it together and makes it a unity, it follows that Christ would establish His Church with a government that by its very form would preserve the unity of the Church and protect it from division (i.e. schism), between the time of His Ascension and His future return in glory.

So what form of government, by its very form, preserves the unity of a society, and protects it from division? The answer is a government that is itself indivisible, that is, a government in which one person has a primacy of authority.

In Book VIII of Plato’s Republic, he describes a descent from the highest/best form of government (aristocracy, i.e. rule by the best) to the lowest/worst form of government (tyranny). This descent from aristocracy to tyranny passes through three intermediate forms of government:

Aristocracy
Timocracy
Oligarchy
Democracy
[anarchy]
Tyranny

It is not Plato’s purpose in Book VIII of the Republic to focus explicitly on unity. And it is easy to misunderstand what he is saying here, especially if we are not attentive to what he means by his terms. For example, he is not criticizing democracy in the sense of rule by the people, but rather democracy in the sense of rule by people of a certain moral character. For Plato, monarchy, as opposed to tyranny, would be a form of aristocracy, defined as rule by the wise and virtuous. But there is clearly something in this devolution of polities (from aristocracy to tyranny) that moves away from unity toward disunity, until finally out of the utter disunity of anarchy, there arises the occasion for tyranny, the perverse form of monarchy.

We can draw from Plato’s explication of these forms of government that all other things being equal, a unified form of government is a better government, because it is most capable of preserving the unity of the governed. And that form of government that is intrinsically most capable of being unified and preserving unity is that in which the highest political authority belongs to a single individual at a time. This is precisely why countries do not have multiple presidents at the same time, and companies do not have multiple CEOs at the same time, and Protestant congregations does not have multiple head pastors at the same time. Both natural societies and man-made societies require unified leadership. In Scripture we find that there are heads of families. The Church herself is described as “God’s household” (1 Timothy 3:15; Ephesians 2:19), the “family of believers” (Galatians 6:10) and the “family of God” (1 Peter 4:17). Hence it would be odd if this family (i.e. the Church) did not also have a primary visible head for its government. A body with multiple heads is divided (and potentially divisible) in a way that a body with one head is not.4 So we should expect there to be a visible head for the visible society which is the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” Christ founded.5

Aristotle presents a similar evaluation of the various forms of government in his Nicomachean Ethics VIII.10. (He discusses this also in his Politics.) In the Nicomachean Ethics he argues that tyranny is the contrary form of kingship (i.e. virtuous monarchy).

Kingship: corrupt form is Tyranny
Aristocracy: corrupt form is Oligarchy
Timocracy: corrupt form is Democracy

St. Thomas also discusses this in his work “On Kingship” (De Regno) and at Summa Theologiae I-II Q. 105 a.1, where the question is “Whether the Old Law enjoined fitting precepts concerning rulers?” There St. Thomas argues that the best form of government is one that provides the benefits of each of the other forms of government, through their mutual integration. Hence he argues that the best government should be partly democratic, in that all persons should take some share in the government, because there is a peace and stability intrinsic to the democratic form of government. He also argues that the best form of government should be partly aristocratic, in that those who know more about how best to rule should serve in the various ruling capacities. And he also argues that the best form of government should be partly monarchical, in that there should be a primacy of authority held by one person, because having one head provides for unity.

Earlier in the Summa, St. Thomas had addressed the question “Whether the world is governed by one?” He answered:

We must of necessity say that the world is governed by one. For since the end of the government of the world is that which is essentially good, which is the greatest good; the government of the world must be the best kind of government. Now the best government is the government by one. The reason of this is that government is nothing but the directing of the things governed to the end; which consists in some good. But unity belongs to the idea of goodness, as Boethius proves (De Consol. iii, 11) from this, that, as all things desire good, so do they desire unity; without which they would cease to exist. For a thing so far exists as it is one. Whence we observe that things resist division, as far as they can; and the dissolution of a thing arises from defect therein. Therefore the intention of a ruler over a multitude is unity, or peace. Now the proper cause of unity is one. For it is clear that several cannot be the cause of unity or concord, except so far as they are united. Furthermore, what is one in itself is a more apt and a better cause of unity than several things united. Therefore a multitude is better governed by one than by several. From this it follows that the government of the world, being the best form of government, must be by one. This is expressed by the Philosopher [Aristotle] (Metaphysics. xii, Did. xi, 10): “Things refuse to be ill governed; and multiplicity of authorities is a bad thing, therefore there should be one ruler.” (Summa Theologiae I Q. 103, a.3.)

The gist of his argument here is that the end (i.e. purpose) of the world is the greatest good, and therefore the government of the world must be the best kind of government in order to guide it to that greatest good which is its end, because the purpose of government is to direct the governed to their end. But the greatest good must include unity and peace, because of the co-referential relation of goodness and unity, as explained above. Therefore the best kind of government must be ordered to the unity and peace of the governed. However, the proper cause of unity and concord must itself be united, for nothing can give what it does not have. But what is one in itself is more suited to causing unity than what is several, since the former has unity intrinsically, while the latter only per accidens. As he says elsewhere, “Several are said to be united according as they come closer to being one. So one man rules better than several who come near being one.” This echoes Homer’s claim that “it is not good to have a rule of many” (Iliad II 204), where each is equal in authority and there is no one higher in authority. Therefore, a multitude is better governed by one than by several, since one ruler is more suited to bringing the ruled to the unity and concord which is their end. And therefore from these premises it follows that “the government of the world, being the best form of government, must be by one.”

What was fascinating to me about this argument (both in the Summa and in “On Kingship”) is that the term ‘world’ could be replaced by the term ‘church.’ The world is a natural society, but the Church is a supernatural society, and is therefore likewise ordered to the greatest good. Moreover, the Church is a visible society.6 So if St. Thomas’ argument provides good reason to believe that the world is governed by one, then it also in the say way provides good reason to believe that the Church is best governed by a single visible leader.

In his work “On Kingship” St. Thomas offered a similar argument for the thesis that monarchy is the most natural and suitable form of government. Here is a selection from his argument:

[W]e must now inquire what is better for a province or a city: whether to be ruled by one man or by many. This question may be considered first from the viewpoint of the purpose of government. The aim of any ruler should be directed towards securing the welfare of that which he undertakes to rule. The duty of the pilot, for instance, is to preserve his ship amidst the perils of the sea and to bring it unharmed to the port of safety. Now the welfare and safety of a multitude formed into a society lies in the preservation of its unity, which is called peace. If this is removed, the benefit of social life is lost and, moreover, the multitude in its disagreement becomes a burden to itself. The chief concern of the ruler of a multitude, therefore, is to procure the unity of peace. It is not even legitimate for him to deliberate whether he shall establish peace in the multitude subject to him, just as a physician does not deliberate whether he shall heal the sick man encharged to him, for no one should deliberate about an end which he is obliged to seek, but only about the means to attain that end. Wherefore the Apostle, having commended the unity of the faithful people, says: “Be ye careful to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). Thus, the more efficacious a government is in keeping the unity of peace, the more useful it will be. For we call that more useful which leads more directly to the end. Now it is manifest that what is itself one can more efficaciously bring about unity than several–just as the most efficacious cause of heat is that which is by its nature hot. Therefore the rule of one man is more useful than the rule of many.

Furthermore, it is evident that several persons could by no means preserve the stability of the community if they totally disagreed. For union is necessary among them if they are to rule at all: several men, for instance, could not pull a ship in one direction unless joined together in some fashion. Now several are said to be united according as they come closer to being one. So one man rules better than several who come near being one.

Again, whatever is in accord with nature is best, for in all things nature does what is best. Now, every natural governance is governance by one. In the multitude of bodily members there is one which is the principal mover, namely, the heart; and among the powers of the soul one power presides as chief, namely, the reason. Among bees there is one king bee and in the whole universe there is One God, Maker and Ruler of all things. And there is a reason for this. Every multitude is derived from unity. Wherefore, if artificial things are an imitation of natural things and a work of art is better according as it attains a closer likeness to what is in nature, it follows that it is best for a human multitude to be ruled by one person.

This is also evident from experience. For provinces or cities which are not ruled by one person are torn with dissensions and tossed about without peace, so that the complaint seems to be fulfilled which the Lord uttered through the Prophet: “Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard” (Jer 12:10). On the other hand, provinces and cities which are ruled under one king enjoy peace, flourish in justice, and delight in prosperity. Hence, the Lord by His prophets promises to His people as a great reward that He will give them one head and that “one Prince will be in the midst of them” (Ezek 34:24; Jer 30:21). (“On Kingship to the King of Cyprus” [De Regno Ad Regem Cypri], translated by Gerald B. Phelan (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1949) pp. 11-13.)

The welfare of the governed society depends upon the preservation of its unity, which is called peace. But the chief concern of the governor of a society must be the welfare of the governed society, and therefore must include the pursuit and preservation of that society’s unity and peace. The more effective a government is at keeping the unity of peace, the better that government is, all other things being equal. And since what is itself one can more efficaciously keep the unity of peace than can what is itself several, therefore the rule of one man is better than the rule of man, all other things being equal. According to St. Thomas even nature teaches us that governance by one is best, and he provides various examples. And in man-made societies, this same principle applies, as experience itself teaches us. Cities or provinces not ruled by one person are “torn with dissensions and tossed about without peace.” But provinces and cities having a form of government in which one person rules, enjoy peace, all other things being equal. In short, nature and experience teach that the rule of one man is more capable than rule by many of preserving the peace and unity necessary for the welfare of any society.

Fourth, given what we have seen above, we should expect Christ to have established for the Church an enduring office for her government, an office occupied by one person at a time, one which is invested with the highest governing authority, for the sake of the peace and unity of the Church. And St. Cyprian (Bishop of Carthage, d. 258) confirms that the Petrine office has that very role, as the source and principle of visible ecclesial unity. (See “St. Cyprian on the Unity of the Catholic Church.”) And so does St. Optatus (see “St. Optatus on Schism and the Bishop of Rome.”) In fact we see this notion over and over in the Church Fathers, in their repeated reference to the role of the Chair of St. Peter. (See my post titled “The Chair of St. Peter.”) Here’s one example, from St. Jerome. He writes:

The Church was founded upon Peter: although elsewhere the same is attributed to all the Apostles, and they all receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the strength of the Church depends upon them all alike, yet one among the twelve is chosen so that when a head has been appointed, there may be no occasion for schism. (Against Jovinianus 1.26)

The notion in the Church Fathers that one of the Apostles was chosen by Christ to be head, so that there would be no occasion for schism intrinsic to the form of ecclesial government, is what we would expect if Plato and Aristotle and Boethius and St. Thomas were right about the nature of the best form of government as one that includes a unified head, and if Christ did not fail to provide His Church with the best form of government. By contrast, an ecclesiology in which each person has highest interpretive authority for himself, and is thus essentially his own pope, goes against what reason itself teaches us regarding what is required for the peace and unity of a society. It is the ecclesial equivalent of what Plato referred to as political anarchy. In this way, the arguments from philosophy concerning the best form of government helped make me more open to the hypothesis that the evidence for the papacy I saw in the Church Fathers was not a symptom of ecclesial deism, but was the development of something that Christ Himself had established in Matthew 16 when He changed Simon’s name to “Peter,” promised to build His Church on this Rock, and gave to him the keys of the Kingdom, which is the Church.

Perugino's Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter
Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter
Pietro Perugino (1481-82)

(This is an updated version of an essay I wrote in April of 2008.)

  1. Note well that a ‘privation’ of good is not merely an absence of good, but an absence of a good where a good ought to be. []
  2. For additional explication of the relation between goodness, unity, and being, see also Book III of Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy, from page 89 to page 93. []
  3. Again, a ‘privation’ here is not merely an absence, but an absence of unity where unity ought to be, according to the teleology of a nature. []
  4. One need only think of the mythical Hydra. I am not denying the potential dangers of monarchy; I am only seeking here to show which form of government is most intrinsically united and therefore most capable of uniting and preserving the unity of the governed. The potential dangers of monarchy do not remove the need for a unified visible head of a visible society, in order to preserve the unity of that society. Even nature teaches that no society can function as a unity without a unified head. We can expect that if Christ established a visible Church, and if for the reasons explained in this post this Church needs a unified visible head, then Christ would establish some way of preserving that visible head such that this visible head preserves the faith entrusted to the Church by the Apostles. []
  5. See “Christ Founded a Visible Church.” []
  6. Ibid. []
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22 comments
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  1. I am not an expert on Church Government, but I am a protestant leaning towards Catholicism. However, in terms of civil government, I consider myself an Anarchist.

    I find it interesting that the societies where Christendom has visibly spread the most, the form of civil government has transformed from Aristocracy (kingdoms) to democracies or parliamentary governments (at least that is what I observe). In fact, most Christians would happily claim “no king but Jesus” – and prefer a government that is more decentralized.

    If my above observation is true, what does that say about the affect of the Gospel on these civil governments? Either they become worse (descending down Plato’s hierarchy) in reaction to the Gospel, or Plato’s hierarchy is incorrect.

    I happen to think that the hierarchy is incorrect. It is one thing to obey God (and by extension his church), where there is at least some assurance that the fruits of the spirit are present. When it comes to civil politics though, centralization of power bends the will of the many to the will of the few (or one in the case of a kingdom). At this point, we become enslaved not only to our own passions, but to the passions of the leaders.

    Lets not forget that power corrupts – and the more power an individual has, the more corrupt he will become. It would seem that decentralization of that corrupting influence would be a guard against such evils.

    It is much easier for a government with highly-centralized vast powers to be able to do horrible things (IE, go to war). It is the approval of 1 – who may be ruled by passions, that can command the lives of many. The whole purpose of decentralizing is to limit that influence. It was this very evil that republic’s attempted to avoid. One could argue that the lack of unity is a positive feature of a democracy – it keeps us from being lead into evil by a strong leader – and if we are lead there, we can be a dissenting voice without being schismatic (or breaking the law).

    All this to say, God may choose the “best” form of government for a church, and that “best” form might well be a strong magistrate with a visible head, but I find an argument from Plato (and the obvious parallels to civil government) unconvincing.

  2. Bob,

    Catholic social teaching supports the principle of subsidiarity. Concerning this principle, Pope Pius XI wrote in 1931:

    As history abundantly proves, it is true that on account of changed conditions many things which were done by small associations in former times cannot be done now save by large associations. Still, that most weighty principle, which cannot be set aside or changed, remains fixed and unshaken in social philosophy: Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them.

    The supreme authority of the State ought, therefore, to let subordinate groups handle matters and concerns of lesser importance, which would otherwise dissipate its efforts greatly. Thereby the State will more freely, powerfully, and effectively do all those things that belong to it alone because it alone can do them: directing, watching, urging, restraining, as occasion requires and necessity demands. Therefore, those in power should be sure that the more perfectly a graduated order is kept among the various associations, in observance of the principle of “subsidiary function,” the stronger social authority and effectiveness will be the happier and more prosperous the condition of the State. (Quadragesimo anno, 79-80)

    That’s not the same thing as anarchy, because it does not deny the need for government. It is a middle position between totalitarianism on the one hand, and anarchy on the other.

    Government is something established by God, and is an extension of the hierarchy of the family, because society is an extension of the family. Government is a natural institution ordered to the common good of human society. This is why Jesus says we are to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and why St. Paul writes:

    Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute His wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. (Rom 13:1-7)

    Yes, there can be (and have been) evil rulers, but the solution to that problem is not anarchy. See the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Anarchism, for an analysis of its philosophical and theological presuppositions. It is based on bad philosophy, and bad theology. I agree with you that absolute power can provide an occasion for corruption, but that is still compatible with the best form of government being what is in itself one, rather than multi-headed. We recognize that fathers can abuse their families, but that doesn’t nullify the good of the order in the family, or the truth that fathers are the heads of their home, and that children should submit to their parents in the Lord. We recognize that CEOs can abuse their authority, but again, that doesn’t nullify companies’ need for a leader. We recognize that presidents and rulers can abuse their authority, but that does not nullify our need for presidents and rulers. Man is a political animal, and naturally forms and flourishes in societies. And every such society needs leadership that preserves the peace and unity of that society. And the best form of leadership capable of fulfilling that function is a unified head. And the same is true of the Church, which is a visible society. Grace builds on nature, and perfects nature. So if a person has an incorrect notion of the nature and function of civil government, this will make it more difficult to grasp the true nature and function of ecclesial government. That’s why, in my opinion, it is important first to understand man’s natural need for government in any society, and the proper role and function of such government, in order better to understand ecclesiology.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  3. Bob B, check out tumbleweedjoe on YouTube. He’s an (orthodox) Catholic anarchist. He does a pretty good job on defending that position, I think. I am a big fan.

  4. What form of government did God choose for the nation of Israel? It was government by the rule of judges that were divinely appointed. But the nation of Israel rejected that form of government, and insisted that they be ruled by a king of their own choosing. In 1 Samuel 8:1-18, God tells Samuel that the request of the nation of Israel to be ruled by an earthly king is really nothing more than Israel’s rejection of God as their king. God isn’t objecting per se to the nation of Israel being ruled by a by a king, but to the nation of Israel being ruled by a king of their own choosing. God lets Israel have their way, and God spells out what the consequences will be for rejecting God as their King:

    And the LORD said to Samuel, “Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds which they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, hearken to their voice; only, you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

    So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your menservants and maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

    1 Samuel 8:7-18 RSV

    The earthly kings that ruled Israel took away the freedom and peace that Israel enjoyed under the rule of the Judges. The Catholic Encyclopedia Article on the Book of Judges has this to say about the office of Judge:

    Judges
    The seventh book of the Old Testament, second of the Early Prophets of the Hebrew canon.

    Title

    The Hebrew name of the book was transliterated by Origen Safateím, and by St. Jerome Sophtim

    The Hebrew verb meant originally “to act as a Divine judge”, and was applied to God (Genesis 18:25), and to Moses acting as the specially inspired lawgiver and judge of Israel (Exodus 18:13, 16). In time the elders of the people became the “judges” (vv. 25, 26). In this book the term judges (shôphatîm) is applied to the leaders of Israel, and would seem to indicate that their right was Divine (Judges 10:2, 3). The office of judge differed from that of king only in the absence of hereditary succession (xii, 7-15). ….

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08547a.htm

    The conclusion that I am drawing from scriptures is that the rule of earthly kings that depend on hereditary succession is inferior to government by judges that are divinely appointed.

    It seems to me that the Old Testament office of the Judges is a type that finds its fulfillment in its New Testament antitype, the office of the bishops. The Kingdom of God that is ushered in by Christ is the reestablishment of what OT nation of Israel rejected, namely, it is the reestablishment of government where God is the true King. The OT nation of Israel is the type that points to its antitype in the NT, the true Israel. The true Israel is found in the members of Christ’s church, which is composed of the Church Militant (the church on earth), the Church Suffering (the church in Purgatory), and the Church Triumphant (the church in Heaven).

    The Church Militant has God as its King, but is is ruled on earth through the divinely appointed “judges” that, is the divinely appointed men vested with the authority of the office of bishop. The Catholic Encyclopedia article referenced above mentions Moses as the first of the Judges (Exodus 18:13,16). In Exodus chapter 18 we see Moses acting as judge, but there is a problem with having Moses as the only judge. Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, and a priest in his own right, talks to Moses, through the counsel of Jethro the office of the Judges is established in the nation of Israel:

    And Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the LORD had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. … And Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh. Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because he delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians, when they dealt arrogantly with them.” And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, offered a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God. On the morrow Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from morning till evening.

    When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand about you from morning till evening?” And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between a man and his neighbor, and I make them know the statutes of God and his decisions.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you; you are not able to perform it alone. Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God, and bring their cases to God; and you shall teach them the statutes and the decisions, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover choose able men from all the people, such as fear God, men who are trustworthy and who hate a bribe; and place such men over the people as rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times; every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves; so it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”

    So Moses gave heed to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And they judged the people at all times; hard cases they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves.
    Exodus 18: 1 & 9-26

    Again, I see in Exodus chapter 18 that the office of the Judges that Moses establishes is an OT type that points to the NT antitype of the office of the bishops. Moses was a Judge, but he was not a Judge that held only a “primacy of honor” among the other Judges in the nation of Israel. Moses was a judge that held a primacy of authority among the other Judges. So Moses is like the Vicar of Christ, Moses is a judge, but he is a judge with a primacy of authority, just like the pope is a bishop, but as the holder of the office of the Vicar of Christ, he has a primacy of authority withing the Church Militant.

    After reading Bryan’s article, it really struck me when Jethro says that the type of government that he is counseling Moses to adopt will bring peace to the nation – “If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” Peace is what St. Thomas Aquinas says is the intention of a ruler:

    … the intention of a ruler over a multitude is unity, or peace. Now the proper cause of unity is one. For it is clear that several cannot be the cause of unity or concord, except so far as they are united. Furthermore, what is one in itself is a more apt and a better cause of unity than several things united. Therefore a multitude is better governed by one than by several.

    Thanks Bryan, for another great article!

  5. I found the quote from Pope Pius XI to be in-line (at least in principle) with what I would espouse, though history has never produced a state that lives up to that calling. However, I found the article from the Catholic Encyclopedia to be a bit of a straw man.

    Man is meant to be under authority. The authority of the church is one clearly appointed by God, and in the case of the Roman Catholic church, it appears to be maintained by God. If one withdraws from this authority, then one is sinning – by default. The position of authority, along with the divine maintenance grants the authority the position of being “right” in any dispute.

    The same cannot be said of civil earthly authorities. Does God appoint and maintain the despotic dictator (or the despotic president with a despotic congress)? Does withdrawing consent from such an authority (even if you are the only one) constitute a sin? How does one follow Jesus command to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” while opposing the evil that Caesar does (using the taxes given by the Christian)?

    Given that other earthly civil authorities that are not the Church ultimately fail (as all nations have done), it is obvious that God’s maintenance of any particular authority is temporary at best.

    The other question is the roll of government. It seems as though government is supposed to bring about “peace” and “unity”. I believe that Christians tend to be peaceful without government (submission to the church alone), and that unity with non-Christians is not something to be desired (other than to convert them). Just as Christ says “My kingdom is not of this world” – so our unity and citizenship should be in his kingdom.

    What purpose does “love of country” (taken from your Catholic Encyclopedia link) have in Christ’s kingdom? If anything, I see division as a result – love of country brings about war and strife, love of God brings peace and unity. Would Christians kill other Christians if it weren’t for the influence of their respective civil governments prompting them to war? Not likely.

    My position is that we should submit to the church. In doing so, we should inherently submit to the rule of law that civil authorities impose on us (walking two miles when only asked to walk one). At the same time, we should oppose force and violence used by governing authorities, recognizing that such force and violence represents its own consolidation of power, not the will of God. Aggressive force (either in war, or against it’s own citizenry) should be condemned. Withdrawing consent and throwing off the heavy yolk of oppressive authority (peacefully) is the duty of God fearing Christians, as an act of salt and light in the world.

  6. I think the best form of government is a Monarchy. Let me tell you, that gets some laughs around the water cooler at work. Could it easily become a tryanny? Yep. Can any other form of government also become a tryanny? Yep. But a Monarchy with a good king has the maximum potential for good. An added benefit is also that if the king goes sour and becomes a tyrant, it is perhaps easier to see that fact and do something about it than if the “king” is made up of 50 senators, hundreds of representatives, 12 judges, and a president. When the “king” gets that numerous, and supposedly is a direct representative of the people, who do the people get upset at? Ourselves? The people we elect? There are too many of them to really get upset at efficiently, and they all will point fingers at each other. At least a naughty king is only one guy.

    Hey Bob, nice seeing you at mass this past Sunday! you said:
    “I believe that Christians tend to be peaceful without government (submission to the church alone), and that unity with non-Christians is not something to be desired”

    I think you are presenting an impossible scenario by implying a situation “without government”. To my thinking, that is like saying there could be an educational system “without a religion”. Or a man “without a philosophy”. It is just not possible. In as much as I believe it is not possible, I believe anarchy to not even be a real option. Sort of a “let them eat cake” scenario. In the situation you mention where Christians are peaceful “without government”, I think it is aparent that they are not without government, but the Church is fulfilling the role of government. Lets call it an “Ecclesiocracy” since theocracy has bad conotations for some. Any society in human history has government. Anarchy is not the lack of government, but a temporary situation with thousands of small goverments on the family, community and perhaps city level. These mini-governments will either congeal into something bigger, -OR- there will just be many, many small governments. Some will be as small as 1 person. That one person may build a house on my property against my will. Is that land now his property or mine? His government says it is his, my government says it is mine. So you see there is not a lack of government, but a very small war between two very small governments. There will always be the situation of people owning property and having it violated by another. Be it land or whatever, even among Christians sadly. Under a so-called “anarchy” there is no lack of government, the “government” becomes whichever party is stronger in any given situation.

    “My position is that we should submit to the church.”

    I agree. And IF everyone did, and if everyone acted like Jesus, there would be no civil government (or it would be in ruins and forgotten). Alas, that is not happening anytime soon.

    “At the same time, we should oppose force and violence used by governing authorities, recognizing that such force and violence represents its own consolidation of power, not the will of God.”

    Force and violence can be a wonderful and merciful thing for a government to do in certain situations. And consolidating power is not inherently bad, it depends on who is doing the consolidating. The government bears the sword. Paul dosnt say they bear it but arent allowed to use it. He says the opposite in fact. Of course they can abuse that power, that is obvious. But it is not either/or.

    “Aggressive force (either in war, or against it’s own citizenry) should be condemned.”

    If I were in Poland in 1939, I certainly would condemn the aggressive force of the Nazis. But I would condemn it by putting on a uniform and putting bullets in Nazis. That might not be for everybody, but some members of society need to protect the inocent from agression. Aggression sometimes can only be met with the sword. So in order to condemn the aggression, one needs to use aggression. I don’t see any way around that fact on this side of heaven. There are certainly “just” wars.

    Having said all that, I am very much for more freedom and less intrusive government. The “nanny state” has gotten out of control. My ideal government is a Catholic monarchy. For any nut-bars out there who (like me) want to have one in your own lifetime, check out seasteading. As a matter of fact, if you want to experiment with anarchy try seasteading too.

  7. Bob, (re: #5)

    I think we (you and I) agree on certain points. I think we agree that we are never obliged to violate the moral law, in order to obey the civil authority; rather, when the civil authority commands that we do something contrary to the natural law, divine law, or ecclesial law (i.e. canon law), in such a case we must not obey the civil authority. Our highest authority is God, not the government.

    I think we also agree that there are situations in which it is right to resist political authority that is not legitimate. Concerning this, the Catholic Catechism teaches:

    Armed resistance to oppression by political authority is not legitimate, unless all the following conditions are met: 1) there is certain, grave, and prolonged violation of fundamental rights; 2) all other means of redress have been exhausted; 3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders; 4) there is well-founded hope of success; and 5) it is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution. (CCC 2243)

    And Pope Leo XIII wrote:

    But, if the laws of the State are manifestly at variance with the divine law, containing enactments hurtful to the Church, or conveying injunctions adverse to the duties imposed by religion, or if they violate in the person of the supreme Pontiff the authority of Jesus Christ, then, truly, to resist becomes a positive duty, to obey, a crime; a crime, moreover, combined with misdemeanor against the State itself, inasmuch as every offense leveled against religion is also a sin against the State. Here anew it becomes evident how unjust is the reproach of sedition [charged against Catholics]; for the obedience due to rulers and legislators is not refused, but there is a deviation from their will in those precepts only which they have no power to enjoin. Commands that are issued adversely to the honor due to God, and hence are beyond the scope of justice, must be looked upon as anything rather than laws. You are fully aware, venerable brothers, that this is the very contention of the Apostle St. Paul, who, in writing to Titus, after reminding Christians that they are “to be subject to princes and powers, and to obey at a word,” at once adds: “And to be ready to every good work.” [Titus 3:1] Thereby he openly declares that, if laws of men contain injunctions contrary to the eternal law of God, it is right not to obey them. In like manner, the Prince of the Apostles gave this courageous and sublime answer to those who would have deprived him of the liberty of preaching the Gospel: “If it be just in the sight of God to hear you rather than God, judge ye, for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” [Acts 4:19-20] (Sapientiae Christianae [On Christians as citizens], 10)

    Elsewhere he wrote:

    The one only reason which men have for not obeying is when anything is demanded of them which is openly repugnant to the natural or the divine law, for it is equally unlawful to command to do anything in which the law of nature or the will of God is violated. (Diuturnum, 15)

    And concerning the same thing, the Second Vatican Council wrote:

    But where citizens are oppressed by a public authority overstepping its competence, they should not protest against those things which are objectively required for the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and the rights of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority, while keeping within those limits drawn by the natural law and the Gospels. (Gaudium et Spes, 74)

    So, I agree with you that under certain conditions disobedience to political authority is both justified and morally imperative. And I agree with you that under certain conditions, resistance to oppression by political authority is legitimate.

    But, the Catholic teaching on our relation to political authority is broader than those two truths. It includes the truth that man is divinely ordained, by his nature, to live in civil society, and that such society requires legitimate political authority. It also includes the truth that the Church does not supplant the State. One of the fundamental Catholic principles is that grace perfects nature, and builds on nature, and does not destroy nature. The notion that grace destroys nature is Manichean, and Marcionite. It implicitly teaches that the Redeemer is a different God than the Creator. The Catholic idea is that because the God who created all things is the same God who redeems us, the grace given in redemption does not destroy what He created, but builds on it, and perfects it.

    Political authority is not a result of the Fall, but is part of the very nature of man as man. I addressed this in 2009, in a post titled “The Relation of Man’s Two Ends to Church and State.” There, I included a quotation from Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Immortale Dei [On the Christian Constitution of States]. Pope Leo XIII writes:

    The Almighty, therefore, has given the charge of the human race to two powers, the ecclesiastical and the civil, the one being set over divine, and the other over human, things. Each in its kind is supreme, each has fixed limits within which it is contained, limits which are defined by the nature and special object of the province of each, so that there is, we may say, an orbit traced out within which the action of each is brought into play by its own native right. But, inasmuch as each of these two powers has authority over the same subjects, and as it might come to pass that one and the same thing — related differently, but still remaining one and the same thing — might belong to the jurisdiction and determination of both, therefore God, who foresees all things, and who is the author of these two powers, has marked out the course of each in right correlation to the other. “For the powers that are, are ordained of God.” Were this not so, deplorable contentions and conflicts would often arise, and, not infrequently, men, like travelers at the meeting of two roads, would hesitate in anxiety and doubt, not knowing what course to follow. Two powers would be commanding contrary things, and it would be a dereliction of duty to disobey either of the two. (Immortale Dei, 13)

    There, Pope Leo XIII teaches that God has given charge of the human race to two powers, the ecclesiastical power and the civil power. The ecclesiastical power is set over divine things pertaining to man (i.e. the worship of God, preaching of the Gospel, questions concerning morality, religious education), and the civil power is set over human things and temporal welfare (i.e. enforcement of law and order, civil defense, collection of taxes, the flourishing of the society, etc.). They each have their own domain or sphere. As discussed above, in any area in which an ordinance of the State happens to contradict a requirement of the Church, we are to submit to the Church over the State. But that fact does not nullify the need for civil authority. The Church does not destroy the State or the need for the State, just as the Church does not destroy the headship of fathers in their families. The need for civil authority is not a result of the Fall, just as the headship of the father in the family is not a result of the Fall. It is part of the created order.

    St. Thomas addresses this in the Summa, when he answers the question “Whether in the state of innocence man would have been master over man?” He replies:

    But a man is the master of a free subject, by directing him either towards his proper welfare, or to the common good. Such a kind of mastership would have existed in the state of innocence between man and man, for two reasons.

    First, because man is naturally a social being, and so in the state of innocence he would have led a social life. Now a social life cannot exist among a number of people unless under the presidency of one to look after the common good; for many, as such, seek many things, whereas one attends only to one. Wherefore the Philosopher says, in the beginning of the Politics, that wherever many things are directed to one, we shall always find one at the head directing them.

    Secondly, if one man surpassed another in knowledge and virtue, this would not have been fitting unless these gifts conduced to the benefit of others, according to 1 Peter 4:10, “As every man hath received grace, ministering the same one to another.” Wherefore Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xix, 14): “Just men command not by the love of domineering, but by the service of counsel”: and (De Civ. Dei xix, 15): “The natural order of things requires this; and thus did God make man.” (Summa Theologica I Q.96 a.4)

    Given that political authority is not a result of the Fall, but is a natural office arising by divine ordination from the nature of man, and having its authority from God, and given that grace does not destroy nature but perfects it, it follows that political authority is not destroyed by grace, but is perfected. The purpose and mission of the Church is not to take the place and function of the State, but to lead men to eternal life and their supernatural end. So the Church comes into the world the way salt comes into water. It does not displace the State, but instead transforms the State. This is why Christians are to submit to the civil authority, and uphold it, because it performs a necessary function which is not taken over by the Church, or made unnecessary by the Church, but remains necessary because upon receiving grace, man remains man, and therefore remains in need of civil authority, just as families remain in need of the headship of fathers, even after the family is baptized. Hence, in 1873 Pope Pius IX wrote:

    Two kinds of powers must be distinguished on earth – one natural that looks to the tranquility and secular business of human society; the other, whose origin is above nature, which is in charge of the Church of Christ, divinely instituted for the salvation and peace of souls. The offices of these two powers are wisely coordinated so that things which belong to God are returned to God and, because of God, those of Caesar to Caesar, who “for this reason is great because he is less than heaven for he belongs to Him whom heaven and all creatures belong.” (Etsi Multa, 16)

    This is why it remains true that when the civil authority is not requiring us to violate either the natural law, divine law, or ecclesial law, we are to submit to the civil authority, according to Romans 13:1-7, quoted in comment #2 above. And we may not rebel against legitimate political authority, rightly exercised. Among the errors condemned in the Syllabus of Errors is the following:

    63. It is lawful to refuse obedience to legitimate princes, and even to rebel against them. — Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1864; Allocution “Quibusque vestrum,” Oct. 4, 1847; “Noscitis et Nobiscum,” Dec. 8, 1849; Apostolic Letter “Cum Catholica.”

    This is why Catholics make good citizens of the State, because we believe that the legitimate State’s political authority comes from God, and so we obey the State out of obedience to God, and only disobey the State when the State commands that we disobey God. The Christian Apologists of the first four centuries make this claim over and over, in response to the pagan charge that Christians were not faithful subjects of the State, because they would not worship the Emperor. The Christians, retorted the apologists, are the ones who make the best citizens, for by their virtue they contribute most to the common good, caring for the sick and the orphans, feeding the hungry, assisting the poor, instructing the ignorant, paying their taxes, living in justice and charity toward their neighbors, even to the point of giving their lives for others, ennobling art and music with virtue and transcendence, upholding the dignity of every person, etc. Christians believe that patriotism (to be distinguished from nationalism) is a virtue required by justice. In justice we should love and honor our country and its legitimate political authorities, because they have given to us the laws and governance and peace within which we have been raised and by which we have been able to flourish. (See Socrates’ argument regarding the piety we owe to our country’s laws, in Plato’s Crito.) Pope Leo XIII writes of this:

    This great modesty, this fixed determination to obey, was so well known that it could not be obscured by the calumny and malice of enemies. On this account, those who were going to plead in public before the emperors for any persons bearing the Christian name proved by this argument especially that it was unjust to enact laws against the Christians because they were in the sight of all men exemplary in their bearing according to the laws. Athenagoras thus confidently addresses Marcus Aurelius Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, his son: “You allow us, who commit no evil, yea, who demean ourselves the most piously and justly of all toward God and likewise toward your government, to be driven about, plundered and exiled.”[24] In like manner, Tertullian openly praises the Christians because they were the best and surest friends of all to the Empire: “The Christian is the enemy of no one, much less of the emperor, whom he knows to be appointed by God, and whom he must, therefore, of necessity love, reverence and honor, and wish to be preserved together with the whole Roman Empire.”[25] Nor did he hesitate to affirm that, within the limits of the Empire, the number of enemies was wont to diminish just in proportion as the number of Christians increased.[26] There is also a remarkable testimony to the same point in the Epistle to Diognetus, which confirms the statement that the Christians at that period were not only in the habit of obeying the laws, but in every office they of their own accord did more, and more perfectly, than they were required to do by the laws. “Christians observe these things which have obtained the sanction of the law, and in the character of their lives they even go beyond the law.”[27] (Diuturnum, 19)

    Hence Pope Pius XII teaches that Catholic youth are to be raised with the virtue of patriotism.

    “[Catholic] formation should aim as well at the preparation of youth to fulfill with intelligent understanding and pride those offices of a noble patriotism which give to one’s earthly fatherland all due measure of love, self-devotion and service.” (Summi Pontificatus, [On the Unity of Human Society], 67)

    This is part of fulfilling the Fourth Commandment (Honor thy Mother and Father), that we honor our country and its rightful leaders. The Catechism states:

    God’s fourth commandment also enjoins us to honor all who for our good have received authority in society from God. It clarifies the duties of those who exercise authority as well as those who benefit from it.

    Those subject to authority should regard those in authority as representatives of God, who has made them stewards of his gifts: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. . . . Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God.” Their loyal collaboration includes the right, and at times the duty, to voice their just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons and to the good of the community. …

    It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community.

    Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country:

    Pay to all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.
    [Christians] reside in their own nations, but as resident aliens. They participate in all things as citizens and endure all things as foreigners. . . . They obey the established laws and their way of life surpasses the laws. . . . So noble is the position to which God has assigned them that they are not allowed to desert it. (cf. Epistola ad Diognetum 5,5 and 10)

    The Apostle exhorts us to offer prayers and thanksgiving for kings and all who exercise authority, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.” (CCC 2234, 2238-40)

    We can examine this in more detail in two of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclicals: Diuturnum [On the Origin of Civil Power] (1881) and Immortale Dei [On the Christian Constitution of States] (1885).

    In Diuturnum he teaches that it is the Catholic doctrine that civil authority comes from God:

    But, as regards political power, the Church rightly teaches that it comes from God, for it finds this clearly testified in the sacred Scriptures and in the monuments of antiquity; besides, no other doctrine can be conceived which is more agreeable to reason, or more in accord with the safety of both princes and peoples.

    In truth, that the source of human power is in God the books of the Old Testament in very many places clearly establish. “By me kings reign . . . by me princes rule, and the mighty decree justice.”[4] And in another place: “Give ear you that rule the people . . . for power is given you of the Lord and strength by the Most High.”[5] The same thing is contained in the Book of Ecclesiasticus: “Over every nation he hath set a ruler.”[6] These things, however, which they had learned of God, men were little by little untaught through heathen superstition, which even as it has corrupted the true aspect and often the very concept of things, so also it has corrupted the natural form and beauty of the chief power. Afterwards, when the Christian Gospel shed its light, vanity yielded to truth, and that noble and divine principle whence all authority flows began to shine forth. To the Roman governor, ostentatiously pretending that he had the power of releasing and of condemning, our Lord Jesus Christ answered: “Thou shouldst not have any power against me unless it were given thee from above.”[7] And St. Augustine, in explaining this passage, says: “Let us learn what He said, which also He taught by His Apostle, that there is no power but from God.”[8] The faithful voice of the Apostles, as an echo, repeats the doctrine and precepts of Jesus Christ. The teaching of Paul to the Romans, when subject to the authority of heathen princes, is lofty and full of gravity: “There is not power but from God,” from which, as from its cause, he draws this conclusion: “The prince is the minister of God.”[9]

    The Fathers of the Church have taken great care to proclaim and propagate this very doctrine in which they had been instructed. “We do not attribute,” says St. Augustine, “the power of giving government and empires to any but the true God.”[10] On the same passage St. John Chrysostom says: “That there are kingdoms, and that some rule, while others are subject, and that none of these things is brought about by accident or rashly . . . is, I say, a work of divine wisdom.”[11] The same truth is testified by St. Gregory the Great, saying: “We confess that power is given from above to emperors and kings.”[12] Verily the holy doctors have undertaken to illustrate also the same precepts by the natural light of reason in such a way that they must appear to be altogether right and true, even to those who follow reason for their sole guide. (Diuturnum, 8-10)

    Because political authority comes from God, and not from man, it has a greater dignity. Hence “Whence it will behoove citizens to submit themselves and to be obedient to rulers, as to God, not so much through fear of punishment as through respect for their majesty; nor for the sake of pleasing, but through conscience, as doing their duty.” (Diuturnum, 13) The Apostolic injunction to obey political authorities was given during the time when the political authorities were opposed to the Church. And the Christians of the first three centuries demonstrated their obedience and submission to these political authorities, even while being harassed and persecuted for their faith. Hence Pope Leo XIII writes, “And the Christians of old left the most striking proofs of this; for, when they were harassed in a very unjust and cruel way by pagan emperors, they nevertheless at no time omitted to conduct themselves obediently and submissively.” (Diuturnum, 18)

    When the emperors became Christian (after Constantine), “the Church insisted much more on testifying and preaching how much sanctity was inherent in the authority of [political] rulers.” (Diuturnum, 21) The Church did not teach that the role or authority of the State was eliminated. Rather, the Church and State each continue to fulfill their distinct function, in their respective spheres, the Church urging its members to obey the State as unto God in all things that are of a civil nature. Pope Leo XIII writes:

    The Church of Christ, indeed, cannot be an object of suspicion to rulers, nor of hatred to the people; for it urges rulers to follow justice, and in nothing to decline from their duty; while at the same time it strengthens and in many ways supports their authority. All things that are of a civil nature the Church acknowledges and declares to be under the power and authority of the ruler; and in things whereof for different reasons the decision belongs both to the sacred and to the civil power, the Church wishes that there should be harmony between the two so that injurious contests may be avoided. As to what regards the people, the Church has been established for the salvation of all men and has ever loved them as a mother. For it is the Church which by the exercise of her charity has given gentleness to the minds of men, kindness to their manners, and justice to their laws. Never opposed to honest liberty, the Church has always detested a tyrant’s rule. This custom which the Church has ever had of deserving well of mankind is notably expressed by St. Augustine when he says that “the Church teaches kings to study the welfare of their people, and people to submit to their kings, showing what is due to all: and that to all is due charity and to no one injustice.” (Diuturnum, 26)

    In Immortale Dei [On the Christian Constitution of States] Pope Leo XIII lays out the manner in which the State must govern, when it is infused with Catholic principles:

    It is not difficult to determine what would be the form and character of the State were it governed according to the principles of Christian philosophy. Man’s natural instinct moves him to live in civil society, for he cannot, if dwelling apart, provide himself with the necessary requirements of life, nor procure the means of developing his mental and moral faculties. Hence, it is divinely ordained that he should lead his life — be it family, or civil — with his fellow men, amongst whom alone his several wants can be adequately supplied. But, as no society can hold together unless some one be over all, directing all to strive earnestly for the common good, every body politic must have a ruling authority, and this authority, no less than society itself, has its source in nature, and has, consequently, God for its Author. Hence, it follows that all public power must proceed from God. For God alone is the true and supreme Lord of the world. Everything, without exception, must be subject to Him, and must serve him, so that whosoever holds the right to govern holds it from one sole and single source, namely, God, the sovereign Ruler of all. “There is no power but from God.”[Rom 13:1]

    The right to rule is not necessarily, however, bound up with any special mode of government. It may take this or that form, provided only that it be of a nature of the government, rulers must ever bear in mind that God is the paramount ruler of the world, and must set Him before themselves as their exemplar and law in the administration of the State. For, in things visible God has fashioned secondary causes, in which His divine action can in some wise be discerned, leading up to the end to which the course of the world is ever tending. In like manner, in civil society, God has always willed that there should be a ruling authority, and that they who are invested with it should reflect the divine power and providence in some measure over the human race.

    They, therefore, who rule should rule with evenhanded justice, not as masters, but rather as fathers, for the rule of God over man is most just, and is tempered always with a father’s kindness. Government should, moreover, be administered for the well-being of the citizens, because they who govern others possess authority solely for the welfare of the State. Furthermore, the civil power must not be subservient to the advantage of any one individual or of some few persons, inasmuch as it was established for the common good of all. But, if those who are in authority rule unjustly, if they govern overbearingly or arrogantly, and if their measures prove hurtful to the people, they must remember that the Almighty will one day bring them to account, the more strictly in proportion to the sacredness of their office and preeminence of their dignity. “The mighty shall be mightily tormented.”[Wisd. 6:7] Then, truly, will the majesty of the law meet with the dutiful and willing homage of the people, when they are convinced that their rulers hold authority from God, and feel that it is a matter of justice and duty to obey them, and to show them reverence and fealty, united to a love not unlike that which children show their parents. “Let every soul be subject to higher powers.”[Rom. 13:1] To despise legitimate authority, in whomsoever vested, is unlawful, as a rebellion against the divine will, and whoever resists that, rushes willfully to destruction. “He that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation.”[Rom. 13:2] To cast aside obedience, and by popular violence to incite to revolt, is therefore treason, not against man only, but against God. (Immortale Dei [On the Christian Constitution of States], 3-5)

    Let’s examine those three paragraphs more carefully. In the first paragraph (which is paragraph 3 in the document), Pope Leo XIII shows that civil society is natural to man, and that no society can function without a ruling political authority, and that therefore political authority has been instituted by God, and has its authority from God. So whoever holds the right to govern (i.e. whoever holds legitimate political authority) has it from God. Therefore, we [Christians] must submit to legitimate political authority, except when this authority bids us violate a higher authority.

    In the second paragraph (which is paragraph 4 in the document), Pope Leo XIII shows that the right to rule is not bound up with any particular form of government (e.g. monarchy, democracy, etc.). In other words, the natural law does not require one form of government over another; it requires only that the political authority be capable of governing the society. The legitimate political ruler is a secondary cause by which and through which God governs the society, and for this reason, the political authority, because he has his authority from God, and because he is an instrument through which God Himself governs the society, reflects God’s power and providence.

    In the third paragraph (which is paragraph 5 in the document), Pope Leo XIII notes that political government should be administered for the well-being of the citizens, for the common good, not merely for the advantage of one individual or of some few persons. If they govern unjustly, God will punish them. But if they govern justly, for the common good, the citizens will recognize that their rulers hold authority from God, and that it is their duty in justice to obey them. To despise legitimate political authority, is to rebel against God Himself.

    So, in regard to your statement “unity with non-Christians is not something to be desired (other than to convert them),” we need to distinguish between different types of unity. Obviously we cannot be spiritually united with those who do not share our faith. And this is why we ought not marry unbelievers. But, we can and should strive for civil peace with unbelievers. St. Paul teaches us “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Rom 12:8) The author of the letter to the Hebrews similarly writes, “Pursue peace with all men” (Heb. 12:14). And civil peace is a kind of unity. We can and should pursue the common good in society, together with unbelievers. They too have the natural law, and the desire for the common good in civil society. They too want peace in our society, a clean environment, safe neighborhoods, order and beauty in society, just judges, etc. In other words, in the realm of the civil society, we have a great deal of common ground with unbelievers, as we pursue with them a civic unity, the unity of a civil society in its pursuit of the temporal welfare of that society. And again, that’s because grace builds on and perfects nature, grace does not destroy nature. So the same civic goods we rightly desired as unbelievers, we still desire as Christians, along with those who are still unbelievers.

    You wrote, “so our unity and citizenship should be in his kingdom.” Yes, but that does not mean that we can have no citizenship here on earth. Again that notion is Manichean, as though being inducted into Christ’s Kingdom necessarily requires a rejection of civic membership. Precisely because Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, it does not require us to reject membership in the political kingdoms of this world. Our conflict is not with the State, but with hatred of God, the temptations of the flesh, and with the devil and the angels who followed him. When we are baptized, we renounce not the State, but “Satan and all his pomps.” The Gospel comes into society like salt into water, by transformation, not by replacement.

    You wrote:

    What purpose does “love of country” (taken from your Catholic Encyclopedia link) have in Christ’s kingdom? If anything, I see division as a result – love of country brings about war and strife, love of God brings peace and unity. Would Christians kill other Christians if it weren’t for the influence of their respective civil governments prompting them to war? Not likely.

    Love of country is part of justice, as I explained above. We are to give to each his due, and that includes giving to our country the honor and love due to our country, for all the goods we have received from her. (Again, see Plato’s Crito.) It seems to me that you may not be distinguishing between patriotism (which is a virtue), and nationalism (which is a vice). Nationalism is a disordered love for one’s own country or people. Pope Pius XI addresses this when he writes:

    Patriotism — the stimulus of so many virtues and of so many noble acts of heroism when kept within the bounds of the law of Christ — becomes merely an occasion, an added incentive to grave injustice when true love of country is debased to the condition of an extreme nationalism, when we forget that all men are our brothers and members of the same great human family, that other nations have an equal right with us both to life and to prosperity, that it is never lawful nor even wise, to dissociate morality from the affairs of practical life, that, in the last analysis, it is “justice which exalteth a nation: but sin maketh nations miserable.” (Proverbs xiv, 34)” (Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio, On the Peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ)

    Rightly ordered love of country is like rightly-ordered love of parents; it doesn’t detract from our love from others. It is a rightful part of living justly in relation to the particular time and place and society (whether of the two persons who are our parents, or the many persons who constitute our country) into which we were born and by whom we were raised.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  8. David Meyer.

    “I think the best form of government is a Monarchy.”

    Oh, I agree and if memory serves, this is what St. Thomas Aquinas writes as well though he also has a ‘bad monarch’ as the worst kind of government.

  9. David Meyer: I think the best form of government is a Monarchy. … My ideal government is a Catholic monarchy. …

    We already live under a Catholic monarchy. Christ is the king of both heaven and earth. Christ the King is the Catholic monarch whose reign is sovereign over the whole world, and whether or not the whole world realizes that Christ is their king, or accepts Christ as their king, it does not change the reality that Christ is their king and they must submit to their king. Since the pope is the Vicar to the King of Kings, the authority of the pope is not just over the Catholic Church, but over the whole world too.

    ON THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING
    QUAS PRIMAS
    ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS Xl DECEMBER 11, 1925

    … It has long been a common custom to give to Christ the metaphorical title of “King,” because of the high degree of perfection whereby he excels all creatures. …He is King of hearts, too, by reason of his “charity which exceedeth all knowledge.” And his mercy and kindness which draw all men to him, for never has it been known, nor will it ever be, that man be loved so much and so universally as Jesus Christ. But if we ponder this matter more deeply, we cannot but see that the title and the power of King belongs to Christ as man in the strict and proper sense too. For it is only as man that he may be said to have received from the Father “power and glory and a kingdom,”since the Word of God, as consubstantial with the Father, has all things in common with him, and therefore has necessarily supreme and absolute dominion over all things created.

    … It would be a grave error, on the other hand, to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since, by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures committed to him by the Father, all things are in his power. … the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men. To use the words of Our immortal predecessor, Pope Leo XIII: “His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ.” Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ.

    [Christians] reside in their own nations, but as resident aliens. They participate in all things as citizens and endure all things as foreigners. . . .

    Amen!

    Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul. Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
    1 Peter 2:11-17

    Since I already live under a Catholic monarchy, I have no problem living in a country that embraces democracy. Would I be able to vote for an earthly king? Would I want to live under the rule of an earthly king that inherits his throne? I think not. I honor the men and women that gave their lives to free me from a life of bondage under an inherited monarchy. I think that George Washington was a great President because he accepted the office of the Presidency that was thrust upon him when he did not want to be President. He served as President because he because he felt it was his duty to his nation. Washington was a great man because he rejected becoming a king, when the people of the nation would have made him a king.

    If I remember correctly, Plato’s Republic argued for a meritocracy, not for a hereditary monarchy. I believe that the best form of government would be a meritocracy where the ruler sees himself (or herself) as someone subject to the teaching of the Catholic Magisterium on matters of faith and morals, and wants to imitate Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve. Perhaps some day I will be able to vote for a President that embraces these ideals. Until, then, I know where my real home is, and I know that I am an alien in a world that is passing away.

  10. David Meyer,

    I’m glad you brought up Nazi Germany – in this we have several examples of Government Gone Bad, and not all from the Axis side.

    You said

    I would condemn it by putting on a uniform and putting bullets in Nazis

    I would not. The Nazi’s came to power in large part because of the of the unjust way the victor governments from world war 1 treated the German people. The German people were not a bunch of Jew haters dreaming to work the gas chambers. The Party did that to them. It brought out their basest instincts, where they dehumanized and killed their fellow man.

    The same thing happened to America though. To end WW2, we dropped 2 bombs against a civilian population. In fact, to target the bomb against Nagasaki, they aimed for the Catholic Church there (largest structure around). We dehumanized the entire population of Japan and mercilessly slaughtered them. Our government did that to them, then convinced an entire generation of Americans it was the right thing to do.

    Is this the power of the Sword that Paul talks about? Are either of these governments worthy of our love? How do we know when God withdraws his favor, and our duty is to shun what we once loved, and love the “new boss”? When do we stop “Upholding” the failing state?

    I’m not asking rhetorically.

    The Catholic idea is that because the God who created all things is the same God who redeems us, the grace given in redemption does not destroy what He created, but builds on it, and perfects it.

    I’d be interested in a commentary on 2 Peter 3 where it explicitly talks about everything being destroyed, and a “new heaven and new earth”. I see redemption in humans as individuals, but nothing in the world around me convinces me that the earth, or governments, or corporations, or any other entity is being “redeemed”. This is the classic “are things getting better or worse”. I’m betting on worse.

    that notion is Manichean, as though being inducted into Christ’s Kingdom necessarily requires a rejection of civic membership.

    I did not say “requires”. Rather, I find division of Gods earth into separate kingdoms for the division of resources, the plundering of the subjects, and the exploitation of our passions (to go to war) anti-Christian. If we were to take all this talk about unity and monolithic governments to its logical conclusion, then you would find a “one world government” – in parody of the “one Catholic church”. After all, unity is best found under one head. How great would the unity be under one world leader?

    As to which form of Government is best, I think father Abraham had it right (be nomadic and avoid em all). You are correct though – there are no places where government is not. I believe it is because all governments seek to grow and conquer, rather than because of a “natural order”. Is our republic better than the Indians who’s governments we conquered? – Or the North by virtue of slaughter better than the South?

    My experience is obviously jaded as we head into this decline of America. Economically, Governments do not produce anything. They re-allocate wealth (while generously skimming the top). In fact, the things that it does “produce” are either the tools of war, or the rebuilding after – both done by whipping up the passions of its citizens.

    I do not believe that the love of justice has anything to do with love of country. I can appreciate the love and justice of a father, and that has nothing what-so-ever to do with his nationality. Even if I could love a country, it would be love for the land and people – not for some ruler living in a castle (or white house) thousands of miles away. It would be a great blessing to never see such a secular ruler, or have to fund their endless vacations or magnificent weddings – or even their great cathedrals.

    It seems to me that you may not be distinguishing between patriotism (which is a virtue), and nationalism (which is a vice). Nationalism is a disordered love for one’s own country or people.

    One man’s Patriot is another man’s terrorist. Forgive me for being blind, but I fail to see how adoration for a country can end up in a “good” way when it has proven time and time again to be used for evil.

    Rightly ordered love of country is like rightly-ordered love of parents; it doesn’t detract from our love from others.

    When a parent abuses a child, we take the child from them and place them under a new authority. Same goes for clergy, teachers, and most other authorities. You can’t do that with government… because they hold the “keys of the jail-cell”. That even begs the question of “who” would depose such an authority. I assume the Catholic answer is God – as it is He who appoints the authority in the first place. The reason I find the Catholic answer lacking on this topic is because they are putting the child back in the home with the abusive parent. It doesn’t matter how bad it gets – submit.

    I think the key to your argument is “rightly ordered” – but there is no such thing on this earth. You and I can dream about “rightly ordered” and “Anarchy” – and the two would be miniscule degrees apart… and far closer together than any government currently is.

    If I remember correctly, Plato’s Republic argued for a meritocracy, not for a hereditary monarchy

    Can you imagine a bloodline of Obama’s ruling this country?

  11. Although most of the above comments are about submitting to authority, I just want to drop a thought on the original thesis above – the issue of unity. It seems to me that most or all (I cannot think of any real-world exceptions off the top of my head) governments have had a single person as their “head”, so to speak. Whether monarch, president, prime minister, emperor, dictator etc. in each case, the visible unity of the state/country etc is found in this figure. The main differences between them are how each of them came to this position, how long they can hold this position and the extent of their authority (is it absolute or not). For example, a monarch comes to power through bloodline and can hold it for life; a president comes to power by the ballot and holds it for a term of office (however long that may be). The issue in the above thesis, however, is not about how a ruler comes to office, how long it is held for, or what is the extent of authority, but rather it is that unity is a source of good, and political or governmental unity is seen in a sinlge “head” … it seems to me that in the various forms of world governments, there always seems to be a “head” present, in one form or another … … since, I suspect, without a single “head”, a government or body politic would inevitably fall into disunity and thus could not function. I say this is inevitable because two (or more) heads means two (or more) minds and two (or more) wills, which, unless they are in complete agreement in ALL things, necessarily become a source of conflict and thus tears the body apart, ultimately destroying it.

  12. I think the best form of government is a Monarchy. Let me tell you, that gets some laughs around the water cooler at work.

    No doubt!

    Could it easily become a tryanny? Yep.

    And has many times. For in a monarchy, the king’s word is law. Given the sinful nature of man, do you seriously believe this the preferred type of govt? Aren’t you ignoring all the warnings God gave Israel when they demanded a king?

    Can any other form of government also become a tryanny? Yep

    “Possible” does not equal “as probable”. Democracies/republics have a far better historical record.

    .

    But a Monarchy with a good king has the maximum potential for good.

    And with an evil king maximum potential for evil. Given the sinful nature of man, I know where I’d place my bets, what about you?

    An added benefit is also that if the king goes sour and becomes a tyrant, it is perhaps easier to see that fact and do something about it than if the “king” is made up of 50 senators, hundreds of representatives, 12 judges, and a president.

    This doesn’t make any sense. Under a monarchy, there’s no way to remove a king. He rules for life. So if you get a stupid one or a tyrant, there’s nothing you can do. There’s no way to ” do something about it”. You’re stuck for life, unlike a democracy where bad leaders can and often are tossed out of office.

    If you’re hinting at, well, if he’s bad, the people can just rebel against him, do you really want to go down that road? Because in that case then, might makes right. You can have bad kings removed because they are bad, or good kings removed because someone claims they are bad and has the forces to remove him. Do you really want to take govt back to the Middle Ages?

    When the “king” gets that numerous, and supposedly is a direct representative of the people, who do the people get upset at? Ourselves? The people we elect? There are too many of them to really get upset at efficiently, and they all will point fingers at each other. At least a naughty king is only one guy.

    But a naughty guy with unlimited power who rules for life.

  13. Steve G,

    Thanks for the comments. This is a fun conversation. I am not very political, and when I was a Protestant, I described my political affiliation as radical Postmillenialist. (basically I realize that Christ rules the whole world)

    Democracies/republics have a far better historical record.

    Hmm. I’m no history buff, but I seriously doubt your claim. There have been kingdoms and empires that have lasted for centuries in relative peace and freedom. What is the longest running democracy/republic? I dunno, the US? Democracies end in a dictatorship anyway, so why not just plan for it and do it right instead of letting the mob rule.

    And with an evil king maximum potential for evil. Given the sinful nature of man, I know where I’d place my bets, what about you?

    I’ll put my bets on a Catholic Monarchy. I don’t see how it can be any worse than current western democracies, and I can see it being a lot better. Do you realize that our “advanced” government has sanctioned the mass murder of almost 60 million people (abortion) in the past 40 years? And that is JUST THE USA! What could be worse under a tyrant? Nothing. It really couldn’t be worse. Doing evil more cleanly and quietly and making sure everyone is fat and entertained is not the measure of a government. Godliness is. And it is far easier for a Godly King to lead a nation than a mob of hooligans all pointing fingers at each other. Who do I blame for abortion in the US? Which person is to blame? It is just mob rule so no one can be found to take the blame.

    As Bryan quoted the CCC:

    Armed resistance to oppression by political authority is not legitimate, unless all the following conditions are met: 1) there is certain, grave, and prolonged violation of fundamental rights; 2) all other means of redress have been exhausted; 3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders; 4) there is well-founded hope of success; and 5) it is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution. (CCC 2243)

    The inhabitants of a Catholic kingdom which ties it’s morality to the Magisterium, and perhaps even holds power by the word of the pope, would have the best chance to revolt against a tyrant. Because he is ONE guy, and his deeds are plain to all. In a democracy, we have the false notion that we can simply “vote” something to be evil or good. Why do we pretend this? It is sickening that we “vote” that marriage is between a man and woman. But that is what a democracy devolves to. “voting” to make black be white, and white be black. No thanks. I would prefer to opt out of the mob rule and live under a King who swears an oath to the magisterium.

    Under a monarchy, there’s no way to remove a king.

    Many kings in the history of humanity would disagree. And the worse tyrants in history came from republics, not monarchies.

    well, if he’s bad, the people can just rebel against him, do you really want to go down that road? Because in that case then, might makes right.

    Might does make right. Not that it will always be “right” in terms of morality of course, but governments rule by force. That is not a choice, it is just a reality. And my point is that a bad king is easier to overthrow than a bad republic. If there is one boy in the pool, it is easier to determine who peed in the pool than if there are 100 boys. And it is a heck of a lot easier to remove him from the pool. Reason tells us that a single leader is the best way to go. Even if we remove that spawn of Satan Nancy Pelosi today, what will have changed in our government? Almost nothing. We have created a multi-headed hydra that cannot be tamed.

  14. David and Steve,

    The debate you are having is not about the thesis of this article. So if you wish to debate that question, please take your discussion offline. Thanks!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  15. (Just trying to help….)

  16. Tried to close the italics tag there, never mind.

  17. Is the reasoning supposed to be something like this:

    If God established a Church, He would establish it with the best government.
    The best type of government is government type- G.
    God would establish His Church with government type G.
    Catholic ecclesiology really is the only existing Church with government type- G. (over course, the phrase ‘the Church’, only refers to one entity, but a more agnostic public approach might use the word ‘Church’ this way)
    God did in fact establish a Church.
    The Catholic Church is this Church.

    The conclusion won’t strictly follow logically, but this would be something like a set of reasons for inferring the conclusion. And the conclusion could be more strongly supported if we bring in some related relevant considerations.

    Let government type- G be the embodiment of what makes for the beast type of government, in general, but particularly for the Kingdom of God present in this world.

    BUT, what sort of reasons could support the conclusion that there is one such type of best government. Perhaps having an oracular pig, or a crystal ball that answered all our questions, would be a really good form of guidance for out beliefs and practice (insofar as crystal balls and pigs don’t have the sorts of obstacles to effective communication that humans have, or at least not in the same way- namely, vice and temptation to sin).

    Perhaps other such ‘effective’ methods of governing our beliefs and actions can be ruled out if we can find rational reasons, or theologically supportable reasons, for thinking that hierarchal human government just really is better than these other forms of governance.

    Best,
    Mark

  18. Mark, (re: #17)

    It wasn’t so much a “type” of government, but rather a necessary feature of any good government. A good government needs a unified visible head, for the reasons explained above. We recognize these reasons when we seek to organize companies, businesses, countries, cities, armies, local churches, even family reunions, etc. We recognize that we need a visible leader/coordinator/head. The more I came to understand the necessity of there being one visible head at any time for any society, the more it made sense that what I should expect to see, when looking for the Church Christ founded, is one with a unified visible head instituted by Christ Himself; and this was precisely what was claimed by the Catholic Church with regard to St. Peter, and claimed only by the Catholic Church. No other Christian society or organization claims that it is the Church that Christ founded, and that its visible head was established as the visible head of the Church by Christ Himself during His time on earth.

    There are a number of reasons why a talking pig or a crystal ball would not be better than a college of Apostles headed by one Apostle. First, it is not fitting for something lower than man to govern man. Such an upside-down arrangement would be an expression of a cursed world, in which that which is lower takes rebellious dominion over that which is higher. But the Church is the Kingdom of Heaven, so it is not fitting for it to be structured by the disorder of the curse. Second, the hierarchy of the Church must represent Christ. It would not be fitting for Christ to be represented by a pig, or by a mineral, when a human could more fittingly manifest the truth of the incarnation, by functioning as His appointed steward. Moreover, having a pig or crystal take this place would undermine the social nature of the Church. The Church is social the way a family is social, precisely by its organic hierarchy. But if the head were removed, and each man were to consult a pig or a crystal, then the Church would become individualistic and invisible; it would no longer be a visible unity. The hierarchy of men is precisely what makes the visible Church an actual visible unity, and not a merely invisible unity. See “Christ Founded a Visible Church” and “Why Protestantism has no visible catholic Church.” The key principle here is “grace builds on nature.” Man by nature is social and forms societies. And man by nature is visible, and the societies he forms are visible. Hence the society Christ founded likewise must be visible, not only because man is material, but because Christ really truly became man, and therefore Christ’s society (i.e. the Church) must be a visible society. (See “Among You Stands One Whom You do not Know” and “Corpus Christi and Ecclesial Docetism.”) And therefore, we should expect it to have a unified visible head.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  19. “First, it is not fitting for something lower than man to govern man. Such an upside-down arrangement would be an expression of a cursed world, in which that which is lower takes rebellious dominion over that which is higher.”

    Well, it wouldn’t be the lower ‘taking over’, it would just be a lower creature given a role (not sure if this would count as placed above in any real important sense) for the good of man. Kind of like how God could use natural causes for supernatural ends. Take, for example, the plagues.

    “It would not be fitting for Christ to be represented by a pig, or by a mineral, when a human could more fittingly manifest the truth of the incarnation, by functioning as His appointed steward.”

    Whether or not the method of transmitting truth necessarily involves anyone/anything representing Christ is a question we could ask, and people disagree about this. We’re not going to come up with the answer to this question through natural reason, I don’t think. Is there anything in Scripture that directly supports this thesis?

    “The hierarchy of men is precisely what makes the visible Church an actual visible unity, and not a merely invisible unity.”

    The existing hierarchy is that which makes (if the Catholic Church is The Church founded by Christ) the Church visible. But if it is not the Church, it doesn’t make ‘The Church’ visible, it just makes whatever it is (a human institution or something like that for protestants) visible. I don’t see any reason really for thinking that a pig couldn’t make the Church a visible entity. I could paint an elaborate tale about how this might go, but you have an imagination and so I don’t see any reason for rejecting the possibility (though there’s great reason for rejecting the actuality; but I wasn’t objecting to your denial of the actuality).

    The grace builds on nature principle, and the model of the Incarnation, are (I think) rich concepts that are worth thinking about. What exactly thinking about such principles provides by way of actual argument, however, for the ideal model of the Church, I have much to learn.

    I hate to sound like I’m just playing logic games here, trying to come up with crazy counter-examples. But, I think it’s good to think about such objections. If we can rule out these types of objections, and I’m sure you will find a way to, then you can probably state the case a bit more convincingly.

    Best,
    Mark

  20. […] need? Given that God’s miracles only rarely bind a Thomas to truth, how could Christianity succeed without these uniquely Catholic foundations? Imagine what harm an Anarchism of Many Popes does to […]

  21. […] of this thing reveals, in the satisfying click of a lightswitch, a wryness about God. Of course that’s the right way to do it, say the pagans, why didn’t anyone think of it before? Neither Hindus nor Romans ignored […]

  22. Mark (re: #19)

    Well, it wouldn’t be the lower ‘taking over’, it would just be a lower creature given a role (not sure if this would count as placed above in any real important sense) for the good of man. Kind of like how God could use natural causes for supernatural ends. Take, for example, the plagues.

    Having a role, and exercising authority, are not the same. It was good for the donkey to have a role in carrying Jesus into Jerusalem. It would have been entirely unfitting for Jesus to be raised by a donkey, or for Jesus to be taught by a talking donkey. It would be unfitting because it would be contrary to the hierarchy God has established. God has wisely and graciously given lower things a role in the activities of higher things, as a way of giving lower things greater dignity by participation in what is higher, and giving higher things greater dignity through imitating God in His generous and loving allowance of participation by creatures in His own Life.

    I said, “It would not be fitting for Christ to be represented by a pig, or by a mineral, when a human could more fittingly manifest the truth of the incarnation, by functioning as His appointed steward.” You replied:

    We’re not going to come up with the answer to this question through natural reason, I don’t think.

    I’ve already provided an answer to this question through natural reason. To place lower creatures over us as authorities would not be fitting, because the same God who created all things, and placed them in their order, is the same God who redeems us, and who thereby preserves and perfects the order He created. As explained above, this is the basis for the principle that grace perfects nature. A ‘gospel’ involving a “savior” who distorts or destroys the order God created would be an implicit denial of monotheism.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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