Time of Quadragesima
volume 14, no. 12
Catholicism and the State
by Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.
Part One: The Pagan, Liberal and Socialist State
"Father Cahill lists three essential types of states, admitting, obviously, that few nations fall neatly into one category or the other. The three types he identifies are the Pagan State, the Liberal State, the Socialist State, and the Christian State. I would lump the Liberal and the Socialist State into one category: the Modern State. However, Father Cahill's distinctions, made in the 1930s, are quite valid and prove to illustrate the fact that it is the post-Christian State that has corrupted the notion of the word "State" so much that it has become inexorably linked to systematic murder, theft, perversion, and all other manner of corruption."
The modern state has become a sort of secular church replete with its own creedal beliefs and possessing an insatiably voracious appetite to exercise a near total control over its citizens, who are subjected to a level of slavery by means of confiscatory tax powers. However, the modern state is a corruption of the true nature of the state, which is not the same thing as a particular form of government that happens to constitute its civil authority, which must be founded on right principles in order for it to work properly in the pursuit of the common good here on Earth and to aid the true Church in the promotion of a cultural environment in which its citizens can best save their souls.
Apart from the great papal encyclical letters of Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI, from which extensive excerpts will be included below, there are two very important works, both of them noted for their balanced consideration of the nature of the State and the areas in which Catholics can disagree legitimately, that are important to read. One is Father Denis Fahey's The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World and Father E. Cahill's The Framework of the Christian State. Both authors discuss that fact that man must live in the framework of three societies: the Church, the family, and the State. Both authors understand that all States must subordinate themselves to the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ as exercised by his true Church. However, both authors also recognize that there is a wide degree of latitude in which Catholic scholars may argue concerning the specific organization and operation of the Christian State. The Church has eternal, universal principles to offer man concerning the true nature of the State. She does not, however have, any specific models for men to adopt, leaving this matter to the reasoned judgment of men who find themselves living in specific circumstances at specific times in specific places.
What is inarguable, though, is the fact that there must be an entity called the State. Consider Father E. Cahill's summary of the matter at the beginning of Chapter XXIII in The Framework of the Christian State:
"We use the term State as meaning not merely the governing power, but the whole civic community organised with a view to the temporal good of its members.
"The State is in practice made up of three elements-its members, a certain territory, and the mutual rights and duties which unite the members into one whole. It is distinguished from other societies belonging to the temporal order by its greater extent and higher aims. It comprises, and within certain limits its central authority governs families, municipalities and townships, and all kinds of lesser institutions within it, such as professional and educational organisations, industrial and trading societies, social unions, and the literary and artistic associations.
"The object of the State is to secure and promote the temporal well-being or the common good of its members. We have already said that it is, like the Church, a perfect or supreme society in the sense that it is sovereign in its own sphere and does not depend in any way upon a superstate or any other higher power than God alone, although it has relations of inter-dependence with the Church and with other states. These relations are regulated by the divine law and the natural laws of Justice and Charity."
Father Cahill lists three essential types of states, admitting, obviously, that few nations fall neatly into one category or the other. The three types he identifies are the Pagan State, the Liberal State, the Socialist State, and the Christian State. I would lump the Liberal and the Socialist State into one category: the Modern State. However, Father Cahill's distinctions, made in the 1930s, are quite valid and prove to illustrate the fact that it is the post-Christian State that has corrupted the notion of the word "State" so much that it has become inexorably linked to systematic murder, theft, perversion, and all other manner of corruption.
The Pagan State
Herewith are Father Cahill's distinctions:
"The Pagan State. In the ancient Pagan State, the element of religion in public life, albeit the religion was a false one, and the dependence of the State upon the Deity were recognised. Indeed, the fundamental laws of the old Roman Republic were regarded as gifts or deposits from the gods. Hence they were divine, and no human authority could change them. Later on under the Roman Empire, while the same principle still remained in theory, it was in practice disregarded; for the Emperor's authority was absolute and not limited even by the fundamental laws of the old Roman Constitution. Since it was clear, however, even to the ancient pagans that a human authority which recognises no limitations to its competence, not even those set by a natural or a divine law, cannot logically be reconciled with the recognition of a Supreme Being distinct from that authority, the ancient Romans met the difficulty by the crude expedient of deifying the Emperor who was regarded as the sole source of all law, and who, therefore, was honoured as a god. Another consequence of the supposed all-competence of the governing power was that the essential dignity and rights of human personality were totally disregarded. Again, in the Pagan State, the privileges and rights of citizenship were a monopoly of a small ruling caste, the rest of the people being regarded almost as chattels."
We can see rather clearly that there are elements of the pagan state to be found in what I call the Modern State, especially here in the United States. Positivists view the United States Constitution, for example, as a source of law unto itself, rendering the plain meaning of the words contained therein so much child's play for their endless deconstructionist exercises. The government, therefore, becomes equivalent to the State, and all its pronouncements must be obeyed without dissent as more and more of legitimate human liberty, as that term is defined properly according the patrimony of the Church (which is the explicator of the natural law), is eliminated by the brute force of the coercive power of the government. The citizen has thus become the slave of the unjust exercise of government power, which is used almost exclusively to keep the ruling class of professional politicians in power. Pronouncements of non-elected judges and bureaucrats must be obeyed as though they had been delivered by Delphic Oracles. Thus, there are many similarities between the pagan state and the modern state.
Father Cahill himself notes this in The Framework of the Christian State:
"The Pagan State gradually disappeared under the influence of Christianity. Most of its objectionable characteristics, however, have reappeared in modern times under the influence of materialistic, pantheistic and rationalistic philosophy. Thus the teachings of Hegel, according to which man is identified with the Deity, and civil society, the highest and most perfect manifestation of the divinity, leads to the deification of the State and the denial of essential personal rights, as well as the rights and authority of a divinely constituted Church independent of the State. Again, the principle that the 'King can do no wrong' implying, as it does that the existing civil law is the norm of morality and is always essentially valid and binding, even when it clashes with divine law or essential personal rights is founded on the same pagan ideal of the deification of the ruler."
The deification of man, though having antecedent roots in the Protestant Revolt and the rise of Freemasonry during the so-called Enlightenment, was given expression par excellence in the French Revolution, the father, if you will, of all modern revolutions. Indeed, President Woodrow Wilson lionized the French Revolution in an attempt to explain why his administration would not intervene to help the Catholics who were being martyred by the Masonic revolutionaries in Mexico in 1915:
"I have no doubt but that the terrible things you mention have happened during the Mexican revolution. But terrible things happened also during the French Revolution, perhaps more terrible things than have happened in Mexico. Nevertheless, out of that French Revolution came the liberal ideas that have dominated in so many countries, including our own. I hope that out of the bloodletting in Mexico some such good yet may come."
The Liberal State
Father Cahill explained the Liberal State as follows:
"The Christian type of State prevailed over all Europe in medieval times, and down to the Protestant Revolt in the 16th century. As a result of the Revolt most of the governments of Europe gradually fell under the influence of Liberalism. Religion and everything supernatural were eliminated little by little from public life. The 'Rights of Man' were substituted for the rights of God. All social rights and duties were regarded as of purely human institution; and a materialistic individualism and egoism prevailed more and more in every section of the social organism.
"In the theory of the Liberal State, personal human rights are acknowledged, and indeed exaggerated, for they are regarded as paramount, the rights of God and the limitations set by the divine law being disregarded. In actual practice, however, all individual rights are merged in or made subservient to the power of the majority, by which the actual government of the State is set up. Hence the governing authority again becomes omni-competent, although the omni-competence is upheld in virtue of a title different from the title of a deified emperor or a civil body identified with the deity.
"Again, although in the Liberal theory of civil organisation, all the members of the social body have civic rights, these rights not being regarded as of divine institution may be over-ridden by a majority. Furthermore, seeing that the powerful frequently are able to secure in their own favour the decision of the majority, through the operation of finance and of the press, personal rights have in practice little more security in the Liberal State than under the old pagan regime. Thus arise the personal exploitation of the poor and the tyranny of the monied interest."
Some Catholics have tried to accommodate the traditional teaching of the Church concerning the nature of the State with modernity. Father John Courtney Murray, for example, provided what was considered to be the intellectual "muscle" that was used to hijack that traditional teaching at the Second Vatican Council by the drafting and issuance of Dignitatis Humanae in 1965. This has generated a good deal of debate even in orthodox Catholic intellectual circles. Some Catholic scholars contend that there has been a legitimate "development of doctrine" regarding the State. Others, however, such as Michael Davies, have demonstrated that a legitimate development of doctrine cannot contradict the tradition of the Church, as the late John Henry Cardinal Newman pointed out himself. Dignitatis Humanae, which makes an accommodation with the modern state, is a dramatically different document than either Quas Primas, issued just forty years before by Pope Pius XI, and Immortale Dei, issued in 1885 by Pope Leo XIII. Even the scholars who are more sanguine to the conciliar and postconciliar theories than those of us who hold to the tradition of the Church expressed by Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI recognize, however, that there must be an entity called the State. The fact that the modern State, founded as it is in the rejection of the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ as exercised by his true Church, has given rise to such nightmares is no accident. It is the natural result of its false premises.
The Liberal State identified by Father Cahill gives rise of its nature to the Socialist State. The inevitable failure of Lockean liberalism to effect authentic social reform by the use of structures created by and with the consent of the majority led of its nature to socialism. Why fool around with piecemeal solutions when one can have secular salvation in one fell swoop?
The Socialist State
Thus, Father Cahill's definition of the Socialist State:
"The Socialist type of State, which has arisen in modern times, is akin to the Liberal State in its repudiation of Divine authority; and to the Pagan State in its claim to subordinate personal and family rights to the unlimited authority of the governing power. In this latter particular it goes further even than the Pagan States; for it denies to its members the natural right to acquire or hold the ownership or productive property, "which lies at the root of real liberty and individual responsibility.
"Hence, in the Socialist State the omni-competence of the civil power is recognised in its most complete and tyrannical form. For the governing authority holding all the productive property, as well as the executive machinery under its control, can exercise an absolute despotism over the members who depend upon the government for the very necessaries of life. Moreover, in the Socialist State neither personal nor family rights, nor the rights of the Church, are recognised. Even the children belong to the State, which also claims the power to arrange the education and to regulate the work of each member, and to control everything connected with his spiritual as well as his material well-being."
As I have demonstrated in a number of protracted articles in the past few years (especially "Of Marx and Lenin, "To Mine for True Riches," "From Luther to Clinton to Gore," "The Fruits of Evolutionism," and "So Wrong for So Long"), both major political parties in the United States of America believe that we exist to enable them to rob us of our private property in order to make us utterly dependent upon them for what we could provide for ourselves if we would not held up by the coercive power they exercise as our agents in the government. We have a socialist government in fact if not in name, a government so concerned with political correctness and the exigencies of political expedience that it cannot even provide for the legitimate national security of its citizens, preferring to wage a needless war on a despot who poses no real threat to this nation while making our national borders a sieve through which passes hundreds of thousands of people intent on using the freedom found in this country to destroy her very existence.
A few years after Father Cahill wrote his book, Pope Pius XI issued a definitive examination of all forms of socialism, including Communism, in Divini Redemptoris, issued on the Feast of Saint Joseph, March 19, 1937. It is a pithy summary of how liberalism always leads to some form of communism. He had dealt with the issue as early as his first encyclical letter, Urbi Arcano, issued in 1922:
"In view of this organized common effort towards peaceful living, Catholic doctrine vindicates to the State the dignity and authority of a vigilant defender of those divine and human rights on which the Sacred Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church insist so often. It is not true that all have equal rights in civil society. It is not true that there exists no lawful social hierarchy. Let it suffice to refer to the Encyclicals of Leo XIII, already cited, especially to that on State power, and to the other on the Christian Constitution of States. In these documents the Catholic will find the principles of reason and the Faith clearly explained and these principles will enable him to defend himself against the errors and perils of a communist conception of the State. The enslavement of man despoiled of his rights, the denial of the transcendent origin of the State and its authority, the horrible abuse of public power in the service of a collective terrorism, are the very contrary of all that corresponds with natural ethics and the will of the Creator, Who has mutually ordained them one to the other. Hence neither can be exempted from their correlative obligations, nor deny or diminish each other's rights. The Creator Himself has regulated this mutual relationship in its fundamental lines, and it is by an unjust usurpation that communism arrogates to itself the right to enforce, in place of the divine law based on the immutable principles of truth and charity, a partisan political program which derives from the arbitrary human will and is replete with haste."
Pope Pius XI discussed the matter again in the aforementioned Divini Redemptoris, issued just two years before his death.
"In teaching this enlightening doctrine, the Church has no other intention than to realize the glad tidings sung by the Angels above the cave of Bethlehem at the Redeemer's birth: 'Glory to God and peace to men of good will.' True peace and true happiness, even here below as far as it is possible, in preparation for the happiness of heaven-but to men of good will. This doctrine is equally removed from all extremes of error. It maintains a constant equilibrium of truth and justice, which it vindicates in theory and applies and promotes in practice, bringing into harmony the rights and duties of all parties. Thus authority is reconciled with liberty, the dignity of the individual with that of the State, the human personality of the subject with the divine delegation of the superior; and in this way a balance is struck between the due dependence and well-ordered love of a man for himself, his family and country, and his love of other families and other peoples, founded on the love of God, the Father of all, their first principle and last end. The Church does not separate a proper regard for temporal welfare from the solicitude for the eternal. If she subordinates the former to the latter according to the words of her divine Founder, 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you,' she is nevertheless so far from being unconcerned with human affairs, so far from hindering civil progress and material advancement, that she actually fosters and promotes them even in the most sensible and efficacious manner. Thus even in the sphere of socio-economics, although the Church has never proposed a definite technical system, since this is not her field, she has nevertheless clearly outlined the guiding principles which, while susceptible of varied concrete applications according to the diversified conditions of times and places and peoples, indicate the safe way of securing the happy progress of society."
Pope John Paul II himself, not noted for the use of traditional papal bluntness in his critique of the modern State on the grounds of its antipathy to the Faith, nevertheless was scathing in his denunciation of the modern welfare State in Centesimus Annus in 1991:
"In recent years the range of such intervention has vastly expanded, to the point of creating a new type of state, the so-called 'Welfare State.' This has happened in some countries in order to respond better to many needs and demands by remedying forms of poverty and deprivation unworthy of the human person. However, excesses and abuses, especially in recent years, have provoke very harsh criticisms of the Welfare State, dubbed the 'Social Assistance State.' Malfunctions and defects in the Social Assistance State are the result of an inadequate understanding of the tasks proper to the State. Here again the principle of subsidiarity must be respected: a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.
"By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending, In fact, it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them who act as neighbors to those in need. It should be added that certain kinds of demands often call for a response which is not simply material but which is capable of perceiving the deeper human need."
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.
NEXT: The Christian concept of the State
Time of Quadragesima
volume 14, no. 12
CATHOLICISM AND THE STATE