Thursday, June 16, 2011

George Weigel vs. pre-V2 teaching on Social Kingship of Christ

This would be comical if it weren't so palpably painful to watch. Look at the body language of EWTN news anchor, Raymond Arroyo and George Weigel as they listen to the traditionalist caller. They are sooooo obviously, uncomfortably impatient.

Now granted, the traditionalist comes off sounding completely silly, by calling for a Constitutional Amendment declaring Christ King. But why does it sound silly?

NOT for the reasons that Joseph Bottum or George Weigel give, I would argue.

First Things editor, Joseph Bottum, referring to the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, former Editor of First Things magazine, says that Richard would have found such a prospect totally unacceptable and "un-American," ... "precisely because America is not a Catholic country." Jesus Christ "is King," he says, but over us "as individuals," and calling us to something "beyond the nation." But the idea that the state should declare Christ King is un-American.

So much for King Jesus. Jesus may be King over our hearts and King over the nation-transcending community of the Church, at least as long as His Kingship doesn't violate the rights of a woman to choose, etc., but He can't be King over the state, apparently.

George Weigel suggests that Neuhaus "would say, ... as John Paul II would say, ... as the Second Vatican Council would say, that that's simply not the business of the state; that the state is incompetent to make those sorts of judgments.... The state is incompetent to make theological judgments."

What??? This is absurd.

First, the question is not one of competency. This is not the sort of judgment that requires a degree in theology. The declaration that Christ is King can be made by any child, family, private college or state university, or government that wants to make it. In fact it was made repeatedly by monarchs in Western history since the conversion of Constantine, who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Second, the question is not one of overlooking the separation of church and state. The Church is not the state, true. Ceasar is not God. But Caesar owes God his obedience, whether he knows this or not. We still have "In God we trust" on our national coinage; we still have an official senate chaplain, whose office at one time in our history was overtly Christian; as was, not so long ago, the office of our state land grant universities, which used to require compulsory Christian chapel attendance at schools like Purdue University. No, the problem is not there.

The problem is not a difficult one to understand. This is not rocket science. The problem is the great apostasy of the political community, the mass rebellion of our contemporary society against the reign of Christ. This is what makes laughable nonsense of traditionalist caller's suggestion of a Constitutional Amendment declaring Christ Lord. Who would support it? President Barack Obama? John Kerry? Nancy Pelosi?

There is nothing wrong with the caller's perspective in principle. Nothing at all. It expresses the perennial teaching of the Church from the time of Constantine until the Second Vatican Council. The only problem with it is a practical one: there is nobody currently who could possibly implement it short of the parousia of King Jesus Himself.

For anyone interested, I have completed my commentary (on this subject) on Fr. Martin Rhonheimer's essay, entitled "The 'Hermeneutic of Reform' and Religious Freedom," about which I posted an article a couple of weeks ago (see "Who's Betraying Tradition: The Grand Dispute," Musings June 2, 2011). I've posted them as an update to the post linked immediately above, and also below:

My commentary on Rhonheimer (continued from original post):

One thing that is refreshingly clear in Rhonheimer's essay is the blunt admission that Vatican II broke with earlier Church teaching on the issue of religious liberty: that, in a profound sense, its position represents a "discontinuity," or, as Sandro Magister puts it, an "indisputable innovation." Rhonheimer is not exactly breaking new ground here, since Pope Benedict's address of 2005 suggested as much. The claim, of course, is that the innovation represents "renewal in continuity" (emphasis added), and that there are two distinct levels on which the dialectical hermeneutic of reform unfolds: (1) a perennial dogmatic level of unchanging principle and (2) a transitory historical level of changing cultural applications. "It is precisely in this combination of continuity and discontinuity at different levels," says Benedict in his address, "that the very nature of true reform consists." The claim, then, is that the break with earlier Church teaching is not on the first level of dogma and principle, but on the second level of historical application. Tidy. So far so good.

Yet Rhonheimer also suggests that one cannot "take refuge behind the argument that the condemnations of [political liberalism and religious liberty by] Pius IX were not doctrinal condemnations but only disciplinary." Why? Because Pius IX clearly regarded the question as doctrinal in nature and rejected as heretical the view that the Church does not have the right to the help of its "secular arm" (the state) in safeguarding the faith of the political community. Rhonheimer writes:
In effect, for Pius IX what was in danger was the very safeguarding of the essence of the Church, of its claim to be the only truth and cause of salvation. So for him, recognizing the freedom of religion meant denying these truths; it equally meant religious indifferentism and relativism. It is precisely in this that the greatness of this pope resides as well, who, on the basis of the theological positions of his time -- the historical character of which he was nonetheless unable to discern -- certainly acted in a spirit of heroic fidelity to the faith, and stood firm as a rock in the tempest of an unbridled relativism.
Now this is a bit of a sticky wicket. What is this, "damning with ebullient praise"? Pius IX reveals his "greatness" and "heroic fidelity to the faith" by standing "firm as a rock" in defense of a principle he (mistakenly) took to be settled doctrine and whose historical character he was "unable to discern"? And contemporary teaching on religious freedom, thanks to the mistaken assumption of Pius IX, does not count as a rupture on the level of perennial doctrinal principle, but merely on the historical level? So you do what you gotta do, it seems; but no longer quite so tidy.

I have a colleague who offers a more convenient and forthright solution: his way of smoothing over such unpleasant discontinuities is to pull out a list of relative levels of magisterial infallibility and to suggest that some earlier teachings, such as Pius IX's teaching on religious freedom, do not rise to the level of irreformable dogma and may therefore be dismissed as revisable. This, in effect, is what Rhonheimer also supposes. Whatever its merits, however, this approach is confronted by a number of other challenges that are not easily ignored.

In the first place, the chief canon of interpretation for magisterial documents is, as Peter A. Kwasniewski writes, in "Dignitatis Humanae: Interpretive Principles," Latin Mass: A Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Winter 2009), n. 4: "anything that has been repeatedly taught by the popes at a high level of authority and as pertaining to the essence of the Faith cannot, in principle, be contradicted by any later pronouncement." And traditionalists have typically made a cottage industry of endlessly republishing the repeatedly reiterated teachings of Catholic tradition on the social Kingship of Christ (see, e.g., Michael Davies, "The Reign of Christ the King"), or the Church's traditional rejection of the right to practice religious error (e.g., this random post comparing Dignitatis Humanae with pre-Vatican II teaching). The problem is that not merely Pius IX, but the whole tradition of Catholic social teaching since Constantine seems to have assumed that this was a matter of settled doctrine.

In the second place, it should nearly go without saying that the strategy of dismissing earlier teaching on the basis of questioning its sufficient level of magisterial infallibility is notoriously a major cottage industry, in turn, of liberal dissidents like Charlie Curran and like-minded doctrinal renegades. Not a promising association, certainly. While it does not follow logically from either of these considerations that the application of earlier doctrine is not in some way revisable, they do raise the bar considerably for anyone wishing to change our understanding of the traditional teaching.

It is simply not yet clear to me how the revisions suggested by Rhonheimer can be leveraged by the principles he claims to discern beneath the relative historical husks of earlier magisterial teaching. He suggests that "the rejection of religious indifferentism and relativism" is the abiding kernel of normative truth beneath the earlier teaching. Yet I do not see how such a view avoids being entirely compatible with a completely privatized, toothless, and emasculated Catholic faith. One could reject "religious indifferentism and relativism" personally, and go on to deny that the Catholic Faith has any business in the public square -- just as Catholic politicians like Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and the other usual suspects, who maintain that they are "privately opposed" to abortion as Catholics, while publicly defending a woman's "right to choose."

While the shift from state-backed Catholicism to state-backed pluralism in a liberal democracy describes an historical fait accompli, just how this fact serves to inform a normative "correction" in Catholic social teaching remains far from clear. Historical fact is one thing. Normative doctrinal principle is another.

Rhonheimer says that there is no "timeless dogmatic Catholic doctrine on the State." Fair enough. But then, by what standard does he claim that the teaching of Vatican II represents "a correction of [Church] teaching on the mission and function of the State" in the "clear break here in the teaching of Vatican II, which once and for all abandoned a historical burden"? (emphasis added) Does he think that earlier Catholic teaching erred by presupposing an historically relative doctrine of the state, while supposing that Vatican II successfully avoided presupposing one? He says that the Council's teaching is "a doctrine on the State's responsibility to encourage, in a neutral and impartial way, the creation of the necessary conditions in the public and moral order within which religious freedom can flourish and citizens can fulfill their religious duties." But does he not see that this "rejection of state religion," in a highly romanticized and indulgent gesture of embracing religious and ideological pluralism, is itself an expression of state religion -- the state religion of democratic liberalism which, given the cultural drift since the 1960s, increasingly threatens the religious liberties of Catholics themselves?

If the 20th century doctrine on religious liberty was truly a "correction" of earlier teaching, the only possible way this can be properly understood is in the sense of a navigational "correction" at sea -- a momentary adjustment after being blown off course in a gale -- not a "correction" of our heading, our port of destination, or our port of departure. It cannot be a correction of the perennial principle of the Social Kingship of Christ, but only a correction of our assessment of how that principle may or not be capable of being implemented in terms of the practical exigencies of changing times. What strikes me as beyond question is the perennial normativity in Catholic teaching of an often impracticable ideal: Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat. This is fact: Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ rules. He is King. He has conquered death, but His kingship is not merely a "spiritual" one. He is also returning -- C.S. Lewis says He will "invade" -- to claim His rightful Kingship over all the earth.

What makes this an "impracticable ideal" is not that it is anything less than fact, but that we occupy at present a probative post-lapsarian period in history between the creation of the pre-Fallen world and the eschaton, when Christ will return. This post-lapsarian period is marked by a Great Rebellion against the reign of Christ -- a rebellion He has purposed to allow for a time, though not forever. In the fullness of time, when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead, "He will rule [the nations] with a rod of iron, tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty," and will be revealed as "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19:11-16); and then once again every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11; cf. Rom. 14:10).

I sometimes think that this spiritual antithesis -- its reality and its gravity -- was nearly lost sight of by Catholic theologians like Jacques Maritain and Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J. following the Second World War, when nearly everyone placed such high hopes in the victorious American experiment in liberal democracy. It may have seemed reasonable then -- back in the halcyon days of the Kennedy presidency; back during the happy ascendancy of Catholic public image; back during the Camelot romance of Catholics with religious pluralism and the paradigm of Protestant denominationalism -- to hope for a post-Constantinian, secular ethos in which Catholics could go on forever with their non-Catholic co-religionists sharing basic civil liberties with the rest of the benign secular political community. Maritain, in his book, Man and the State, even proposed a "secular democratic faith" (emphasis added) that could be shared by Catholics and non-Catholics alike as a basis for their public commonweal.

But what these breakfast optimists did not anticipate was the unraveling of that political community and its ensuing polarization into entrenched positions in open culture wars that have led, not only to the effective privatization and marginalization of Catholic faith and practice, but to increasingly volatile attacks on the religious liberties of Catholics themselves. In other words, the dream of a happy pluralism of mutually tolerant diverse religions and ideologies has burst like a soap bubble and given way to the dawning realization of a yawning spiritual abyss separating uncompromising and irreconcilable foes locked in all-out spiritual warfare. Even Maritain (in The Peasant of Garonne) and Fr. Murray saw this in their darker moments in their latter years.

This does not mean that Catholics should abandon their efforts to use every means at their disposal in Western liberal democracies to roll back, or at least to thwart, the tide of the Culture of Death. Indeed, they should redouble their efforts to secure their religious liberties and the natural rights of everyone. But it does mean that they should entertain no illusions whatsoever about their détente with the secular democratic faith, about their aggiornamento since the sixties, constituting any sort of definitive normative "correction" in Catholic teaching concerning the state.

In this respect, Rhonheimer's analysis seems a trifle dated. Just as those Catholics holding forth for the Social Kingship of Christ after the fashion of Pius IX seem dated to those still wistfully enamored of the prospects of harmonious pluralism in a liberal democracy (like Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Joseph Bottum, and George Weigel) -- so apologists for a liberal democracy seem a bit dated to those who no longer see liberal democracy as the bastion of religious freedom it may have once appeared to be. And the claim that Christ's rule over the hearts of individuals in a pluralistic democracy more fully shows forth the Kingship of Christ than the public profession of confessional Catholic states of years past, looks like little more than making a virtue of hamstrung necessity.

In this light, Pope Benedict's allusion to the ethos of martyrdom and persecution in the early Church seems pastorally appropriate -- not because it in any way justifies democratic liberalism, but because it anticipates where democratic liberalism now seems to be headed. It may be that the Holy Father here appreciates, as others do not, just how far and how fast down that precipitous path we have slid towards a world like that inhabited by the early Christians under the Imperial Roman persecutions of Nero or Diocletian. The Church and her values are no longer esteemed, respected, or (at times) even tolerated by the state and the rest of the world. Catholics and other traditional Christians are much closer to the Church of the early Christian martyrs than they are to the Church of Popes Gregory VII or Innocent III, who dominated the secular monarchs of Europe.

Yet this fact does not in the least justify Rhonheimer's suggestion that the Vatican II interpretation of religious liberty serves as a "corrective" of the traditional Catholic doctrine concerning the "rights of truth" and the confessional state. Whatever the contingencies and exigencies of this probative interim period of history, these do not alter the plain fact that Heaven is not a pluralistic democracy but a "confessional kingdom," a fact whose implications we often unwittingly overlook when we pray: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." I am therefore unable to accept Rhonheimer's suggestion that the only abiding substance of earlier Catholic social teaching on religious freedom is "the rejection of religious indifferentism and relativism." Christ's kingship would seems to entail a trifle more than that.

Having said that, I think the basic distinction between a perennial dogmatic level of unchanging principle and a transitory historical level of changing cultural applications is basically sound. I would just want to be a bit more straightforward about the rationale for the latter: the reason why nobody seriously proposes a constitutional amendment declaring Christ King in the U.S. Congress is not because of any flaw in the perennial doctrine of a confessional government, but because the current revolt of the masses against Christ's reign would now render powerless any individuals interested in implementing such a proposal.

There is nothing in principle about the "separation of church and state" that would prevent the state from acknowledging God or Jesus Christ. The state is not the Church, true. Caesar is not God. But that does not mean that Caesar does not owe God obedience. And certainly there is nothing in principle preventing Caesar from publicly acknowledging Christ as King, as Constantine did after his conversion when he made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, and as numerous Catholic monarchs and rulers have done throughout history. We still have "In God we trust" on our coinage; we still have an official senate chaplain, whose office at one time in our history was overtly Christian; as was, not so long ago, the office of our state land grant universities, which used to require compulsory Christian chapel attendance.

The problem is not that government "lacks the competence" to declare Christ King (pace George Weigel), any more than a state university, a private college, a family, an individual, or even a child, lacks the competence to profess that Christ is King. It is not something that requires either a theology degree or the overlooking of proper distinctions between church and state (and school, family, and the individual). It is something, however, which assumes faith in Christ and a willingness to allow Him to extend His reign over every facet of life and every human institution (including the state), and that is something that can no longer be assumed in our time. That is why a public profession of faith by the state is now an "impracticable ideal." When the members of Congress one day stand before their King at the final Tribunal, I don't imagine their current protestations of "separation of church and state" will carry much weight (even in their own minds) against a public acknowledgement of Christ as King.

The situation, then, is this: (1) the question of religious liberty in the years of confessional Catholic states concerned principally the status of non-conformists to Church teaching; (2) the question during the Camelot years of the Kennedy administration concerned the liberty of Catholics to practice their Faith without infringing upon the rights of non-Catholics; (3) the question today concerns whether the state will permit the Church to survive at all. The meaning of the question of "religious liberty," therefore, has undergone a significant shift. In short, the progression has been from (a) a confessional state in which the bishops say: "Do not undermine Catholic faith and morals in our land or the state may hurt you"; to (b) a pluralistic liberal democracy in which the bishops tell the state: "Do not hurt us, and we will do nothing to question your authority"; to (c) an anti-Catholic state in which the bishops plead with the state: "Please, oh, please, don't hurt us!"

By way of conclusion, just one more comment. Partisans of the view espoused by Rhonheimer sometimes attempt to bolster their defense of a non-confessional state and religious pluralism by attacking traditionalist groups such as the SSPX, as though their views of religious liberty were somehow different from the views of Pius IX, Pius X, Pius XI, etc. In fact, they are not. There is an irony, therefore, when they write as though they stand to gain some advantage by making a whipping boy of such traditionalists. Sandro Magister writes, for example: "For Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his followers, this innovation [of Dignitatis Humanae] -- together with the others introduced by the Council -- led to nothing less than schism." Again, he writes: "The Lefebvrists persist in their schism, despite the lifting of the excommunication of their four bishops, done by Benedict XVI in 2009." For his part, Rhonheimer refers to "these traditionalists, for whom 'tradition as such' and 'the ecclesial traditions' are clearly more important than the apostolic Tradition ...."

It is perhaps incidental to our discussion here that this attribution of "schism" to the SSPX has been repeatedly denied by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission until 2009, Cardinal Edward Cassidy, Emeritus President of the Pontifical council for Christian Unity, and Monsignor Camille Perl, Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commision, and others. The Canonical status of Society priests is properly "validly but not licitly ordained." But the larger point here is that the views of these traditionalists, currently engaged with the CDF in seeing whether they may be granted a licit canonical structure for operating within the Church, differ not at all from the views considered settled Church doctrine in the time of Pio Nono. And it is disingenuous to suggest, as Rhonheimer does, that they -- any more than the popes of the late 19th century -- elevate "ecclesial traditions" above the "apostolic Tradition."

The bottom line, in my view, is that the traditional doctrine of the Social Kingship of Christ is longer practicable at this time, given the realities of our current historical situation, but that it remains irreformably normative. We find ourselves living, thus, under foreign occupation. Lord Jesus, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, invade quickly.



New Catholic said...

Excellent, excellent!

I do believe that some traditional-minded Catholics refuse to see the subtlety of the two-level problem on Religious Liberty, that the main question presented by the last Council on this matter was related to an assessment of the moment (I have cursorily commented on that).

In any event, you are absolutely right that it is ridiculous that Rhonheimer et al. simply dismiss the complete identity between the position of most traditional groups and that of, for instance, Pius IX. And that the latter certainly did not include these matters in the Syllabus because he was insane and confused "apostolic Tradition" with "ecclesial traditions" - another sign of the condescending anachronism of men like Weigel, who seem to believe that men like Pius IX, or Pius XI (the great promoter of the Kingship), were almost naïve in their view of the matter.


Roger said...

There is only one king, sovereign above all, and His name is above all other names, Jesus the Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, all glory, honor and thanksgiving I give to my King Jesus.

Anonymous said...

"Christus regnat, Christus vincit, Christus, Christus imperat!" about sums it up for me!

Steven Andrews

Anonymous said...

Should the state not also recognize Mary as Queen?

Anonymous Bosch said...

Queen? I suppose that would be very decent of anyone, as long as they don't take Oprah -- or some Anglican bishop -- to be Queen.

Bruno said...

I agree almost entirely with your post. However, it has not been shown that Rhonheimer's position is different from the one held by Pope Benedict XVI in his famous address on the hermeneutic of reform.

As for the distinction between principle and application, it seems as though you (Mr. Papist)are simply restating Pius XII's teaching on tolerance. No intelligent traditionalist would dispute the reasonableness of tolerating false religions in today's circumstance (hence the silliness of the caller's proposal). But it seems as though Dignitatis humanae and post-Conciliar Magisterial(?) statements go beyond this, touching on a matter of principle. If they do not, then the Pope needs to solemnly declare that Christ is King and the implications of this for societies. The fact that this has not happened since the Council (in fact, just the opposite) gives credibility to those who insist on some correction at the level of principles. In my opinion, the statements of Weigel and Bottum ought to be condemned and anathamatized because they are certainly heretical, denying as they do the Social Kingship of Christ. But these things have been said for so long with no response from the Magisterium that one wonders if those responsible for feeding the Lord's flock don't agree with them. This would be a very serious matter, a matter of principle because the Council is being interpreted by authorities in a manner that is inconsistent with tradition. Hence the present chaos.

George said...

I don't know that I would declare Weigel and Bottum "heretics." I think they are certainly pompous buffoons and terribly confused.

They bristle at the silliness of the traditionalist's proposal, but that is hardly problematic as such. What is problematic is the stupidity that comes out of their mouths, as PP suggests.

I am not sure what to make of the claim that clear magisterial teaching is lacking on the issue of the Social Kingship of Christ since the Council. I grant that references to the doctrine are hardly to be found.

But I wonder what sort of meaningful form such magisterial teaching could take in today's world. To press the envelope a bit, what would it have meant for one of the early popes, in hiding in the catacombs, to offer solemn teaching on the Social Kingship of Christ? Under such circumstances, it would seem that such teaching could assume only a rather limited scope of illustration, let alone application.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

American Catholics these days strike me as essentially rudderless and clueless in virtually all matters of faith. They have no idea of what it means to be a Catholic in a deliberately religionless liberal democracy. They are nominal "Catholics" who mainly want to get on with their lives of bourgeois, protestant acquisitiveness as they always have. And indeed, they can, with great justification, point to the documents of V2 as pastoral backing of their inclinations. This attitude, I believe, suits Catholic public voices (such as the insufferable Weigel, EWTN, and the maypoling bishops of the USCCB, the various voices of Catholic radio) to a "T". Furthermore, it fits snugly with the go along - get along attitude that has distinguished the Church leadership in my country since its earliest days.

The Rowland-MacIntyre "Augustinian" Thomists seem to have figured this out long ago. Rowland's book "Culture and the Thomist Tradition After Vatican II" presents the case thoroughly and with admirable clarity. But however great the diagnosis, I do not see much in that book in the way of a prescription. I am forced to accept Rahner's description of the present state of Catholics in society as "diaspora." However, I do not accept it with the insidious glee of Rahner, who no doubt saw it as grist for one of his hegelian inversions. To me it is a sad fact that, to the extent that we become aware of what is required of us as Catholics, we also become aware of the true price we as Americans are required to pay for the chimera of our "freedom."

But read Rowland's book. It is exceedingly well done as a diagnosis. And I look forward to her appearance on little Raymond's news program, which should happen about the time that the temperature in hell reaches absolute zero.

Bruno said...


The Church doesn't usually declare certain people heretics, and I never advocated this. Rather, propositions are condemned as heretical, "if anyone shall say ..." Bottum and Weigel stated that Christ's Kingship extends only to individuals and not to groups or societies. That is the proposition that is heretical because it directly contradicts revealed doctrine.

You wonder what sort of meaningful form reaffirmation of this teaching would take. This to me seems very simple. First, it would take the same form as previous Magisterial teaching, i.e., the clear condemnation of specific propositions. Second, accompanying the condemnations would be a concise (10 pages, not 110) explanation of the practical implications of the revealed teaching. It might show how the present crisis of society is primarily caused by the denial of Jesus Christ and His teaching (both privately and publicly) and that the only hope for the West is a return to Christendom, for Christendom was a concrete expression of what it means for societies to acknowledge Christ as King. It might also offer concrete steps that Catholics could take in the present circumstances to work towards this goal.

This is exactly what happened until Vatican Council II. Since then there has been no mention of Christendom and Christ's Kingship, but rather constant talk about religious liberty, freedom, the dignity of man, legitimate autonomy, etc. All of these concepts, properly understood, are legitimate. But it is hard to see how they provide the cure for the present crisis. Moreover, neo-conservatives (and probably the overwhelming majority in Rome) have adopted the liberalism of Courtney Murray and Maritain on these issues, ideas that I personally find impossible to reconcile with the tradition as well as the source of our confusion and the reason why Catholics are completely alienated from this teaching (hence the visible disgust of Weigel and Arroyo). These people will even equate the teaching of Vatican II with Murray/Maritain style liberalism. And this is the great problem because it gives the impression that the Church no longer believes what Pius IX clearly thought was Magisterial teaching. This is "rupture" and it disturbs the very fabric and life of the Church by giving the impression of a Council and Popes contradicting other Popes. And this is why it has to be addressed and clearly resolved in an authoritative manner.

JM said...


Confitebor said...

How do Weigel's comments not constitute the Americanist heresy?

Jesus is not merely King over us individually -- He is also King of the family, of the community, of the state, of the nation, of all the world, of the entire universe. He must be all, in all. Weigel obviously does not understanding Catholic social doctrine.

George said...

"Bottum and Weigel stated that Christ's Kingship extends only to individuals and not to groups or societies. That is the proposition that is heretical because it directly contradicts revealed doctrine."

Put this way, I would agree with you, if that's what they said and meant it. Here is what I mean, when I say I think they are simply if deeply confused.

Only Bottum outright says this. Weigel doesn't say it, but what he does say quite clearly implies it. But what do you think either of them would say if you posed them the explicit question: "Do you mean to state that Christ's Kingship extends ONLY to individuals and not to groups or societies?"

I think they would probably back off from the untenable implications of such a position by offering some mealy-mouthed pablum about how Christ is indeed King over groups and societies, but that Catholics should not expect to turn back the clock to the reign of King St. Louis IX of France.

In short, they would hedge and waffle. Why? Because they haven't thought through their position consistently.

I do agree that this sort of confusion is fostering the sort of heresy of which you speak. I do agree that post-Vatican II Catholics on all levels have been far too uncritical and bought into the reigning mythology of democratic liberalism.

Is there anything I am missing here?

Tony said...

Here's the problem. Weigel, the novus ordo Catholics, "acquisitive" Protestants, godless secular humanists, liberals, conservatives, neoconservatives, statists of all stripes and, yes, too many trad Catholics conflate society with the State. But society preceded the State and exists apart from the State. Indeed, society exists despite the best efforts of the State to thwart its spontaneously ordering ways.

Here's how natural-order anarchist and trad Catholic Lew Rockwell defines the State:

“What is the state? It is the group within society that claims for itself the exclusive right to rule everyone under a special set of laws that permit it to do to others what everyone else is rightly prohibited from doing, namely, aggressing against person and property.”

This says it all. The State steals and extorts ("taxes") and claims eminent domain. It enslaves ("conscripts") and commits mass murder (wages "war"). It lies and kidnaps ("incarcerates"). Small wonder St. Augustine likened this protection racket to a band of robbers.

The Social Kingship of Christ I loudly proclaim. Now tell me: why on earth should I give a rat's behind whether that brood of vipers infesting the banks of Potomac proclaims it?

Tony said...

"Whoever thinks they can resolve everything with bombs is mistaken."
~Bishop Giovanni Martinelli of Tripoli, Libya

Where does this so-called man of the cloth get off uttering such blasphemies? Does he doubt the efficacy of the American State's permanent regime of homicidal humanitarianism? Perhaps its proclamation of the Social Kingship of Christ would quiet his fears!

Sheldon said...

"... society exists despite the best efforts of the State to thwart its spontaneously ordering ways."

There may be some truth in this perspective, as cynical as it is -- and I'm actually quite sympathetic to aspects of it. But I am no less cynical about libertarianism's romantic infatuation with the myth of society's "spontaneously ordering ways," just as with Adam Smith's "invisible hand" that purportedly orders all things harmoneously as long as all parties are free to pursue their own interests with unfettered greed.

Since when is sin merely compartmentalized? Since when doesn't it go "all the way down"? Since when is the state all bad and contrived and society all good and natural? Isn't that about as naive as J.-J. Rousseau?

Tony said...

The State is "all bad" precisely because it is that entity within society claiming the right to do unto us that which we are barred from doing unto each other, as Rockwell incisively points out. It owes its very existence to the exemption it carves for itself from the natural law. Thus, it is not a question of libertarianism's "romantic infatuation" with the invisible hand; it is a question of the statists' romantic infatuation with the iron fist in the velvet glove.

It is the statists, moreover, who "compartmentalize" sin. Self-interest and unfettered greed go "all the way *up*" to those who claim to be exempt from it.

Society isn't "all good and all natural." But since individuals within society don't claim for themselves the rights the State claims for itself, the incidence of societal disorder tends to be sporadic and its ramifications localized. State disorder, by contrast, is as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. Not only do we accept it as as a fact of life--the price of civilization (such as it is); we cease to recognize the its intrinsic criminality.

Does the State otherwise prevent some societal disorder? Surely it must, if only by accident. The issue is whether it prevents more than it preserves.

James M. said...


I think Sheldon has a point. I am a visitor from a non-Catholic Reformed background in political philosophy. In the Kuyperian tradition, Reformed thinkers (under the influence of Vollenhoven) are in the habit of distinguishing "structure" and "direction." Structure refers, in the first place, to what Catholics would call the metaphysical dimension of creatures. If evil is "privation" of good/being, as Augustine maintained, then there is no evil in the structures that God created. In Reformed language, these structures refer also to the "creation ordinances," which include such things as marriage, family, and the civil government.

By contrast to "structure," "direction" refers to the response of individuals and groups, embodying the above structures, to what Catholics would call the "natural law," that is, to the normative principles rationally apprehended by human beings in these ordinances and institutions. Lucifer's impressive intellect would refer to "structure," while his sinful rebellion would refer to "direction."

On your construal of civil government, it sounds like "state" is "intrinsically sinful," like there is no room for civil government with positive effects, except "accidentally," as you put it. This view of civil government is entirely foreign to Aristotle's Politics, soundly critiqued even in the chapters on "Anarchism" in the decent popular treatment by Mortimer J. Adler, The Common Sense of Politics.

The insight of such libertarian anarchism is that world history and current events furnish ample examples of abusive power and coercion. The oversight is that "political science," as Eric Voeglin defines it and as Aristotle understood it, provides the only possible positive way for human society to relate in an organized constructive way, short of the Second Coming of Christ.

I have read some of the libertarian and anarchist classics too, including Lew Rockwell, and their strong suit is clearly their critique of statist abuse. Their error, I'm convinced, is that they throw out the baby with the bath water by assuming that abuse is evidence of the impossibility of non-abusive use. But even Aristotle's collection of Constitutions is amble evidence that numerous distinctions can be made between different forms of human government, and even if none are perfect (and, given the Fall, this should go without saying), some are clearly better than others.

Jordan Viray said...

"Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you who does it with a great fleet are styled emperor."

St. Augustine, City of God

James M, if you think that the strength of the anarchist position comes from its critique of state abuses, you don't know the position at all.

The very basis of the state (though I should speak more accurately of the individuals acting on behalf of) is that of aggression. Don't pay your taxes and force will be used against you.

Contrast this with society and the voluntary exchanges made between individuals.

Sheldon said...


I've read St. Augustine's Civitas Dei too, and I know what it says. Your quotation is well-known for comparing states with bands of pirates and robbers. And so many states are.

But it would be massively confused to confuse St. Augustine with Ludwig von Mises or with Murray N. Rothbard. Why? Because it was no other than this same St. Augustine who helped the Church to re-think her task in the world after the recently-converted Constantine brought the Church out of her marginalized and persecuted profile in the Roman Empire and put her at the levers of history and cultural power. How did he do this? For one thing, by generating a set of criteria for Catholic moral reasoning about coercive state power in warfare, known as the Just War Theory. Even if warfare is the result of sin, there can be responsible Catholic moral reasoning about the duty of governments to wage war under justifiable conditions -- where there is due authority, just cause, noncombatants are not targeted, and prospect of (re-)establishing a just peace is reasonably assured. St. Augustine reasoned that warfare in the service of defending or liberating the unjustly oppressed, for example, could be -- hold onto your seats now -- a LOVING and CHRISTIAN thing. While St. Augustine views human nature and culture as fallen, he does not view it as innately evil.

Whatever the likes of Rothbard and his kind may claim to the contrary, civil government is not based by nature on "aggression," as you maintain. Even in the absence of original sin, human society would have required civil administration (stop on red; go in green). Even after the sin of Adam and Eve, civil government is not by nature corrupt, even though it is eminently corruptible.

And the idea that "society and the voluntary exchanges made between individuals" may be viewed as a CONTRAST to an innately evil ("aggressive") state doesn't strike me as sustainable. Granted, the laissez-faire free market can sometimes yield fair and non-exploitative results -- just like civil government can. But the idea that it is essentially non-exploitative in contrast to the state seems as naive as the idea that the civil government is always fair. Wasn't St. Augustine's point to compare the performance of civil governments to that of bands of pirates and robbers precisely to underscore the fallen character of human nature anywhere -- in the state as well as outside it?

No, there is not magic pill that Anarchism has to offer anymore than any other utopian or "scientific" ideology. St. Thomas strikes the balance: human nature was created good and has been wounded by sin. That is the human condition, whether regarded in individuals or in states.

Jordan Viray said...


While you don't know me, I can assure you that most people know the difference between a North African bishop who lived over 1500 years ago versus two fairly modern economists. Just War theory is indeed a milestone of moral reasoning. The realization of the state as an unjust entity is another. Even without the state, Just War theory can provide excellent direction as to when force may be used. Keep the baby, not the bathwater.

Of course the premise of traditional Just War theory is that the state is legitimate. Deny the premise and the conclusions that flow from it are suspect. Now defending and liberating the oppressed are good things but of I think a situation merits lethal force, then it is I and others who should voluntarily risk our lives, money and time to that end. Do you think I should be forced to support the Libyan bombings which are ostensibly for the sake of the "oppressed" Libyan people? I do not believe that campaign to be warranted or just. And yet you would view the government appropriation of my taxes in support of the campaign as a loving and Christian thing. It is not.

Also, human nature and culture are not the same thing as the state.

The "likes of Rothbard and his kind" show that the state must be based on aggression. How else could it function but for taxes? Are taxes optional? No. If I do not pay will force be used against me? Yes. It's aggression.

"Even in the absence of original sin, human society would have required civil administration (stop on red; go in green). Even after the sin of Adam and Eve, civil government is not by nature corrupt, even though it is eminently corruptible."

You do not need a group of individuals claiming a monopoly in the use of force to manage traffic. Without the state, transportation would be handled by private *voluntary* contracts.

Society is made up of voluntary exchanges and actions between individuals. It's sustainable. The state is also sustainable but only as a parasite to productive society.

"Granted, the laissez-faire free market can sometimes yield fair and non-exploitative results ... But the idea that it is essentially non-exploitative in contrast to the state seems as naive as the idea that the civil government is always fair."

Laissez-faire does not mean things will be fair or people won't get exploited. I did not say or imply such a naive idea. The state, however, ensures that unfairness and exploitation (e.g. taxes) are not only institutionalized but seen as necessary.

"Wasn't St. Augustine's point to compare the performance of civil governments to that of bands of pirates and robbers precisely to underscore the fallen character of human nature anywhere -- in the state as well as outside it?""

It seemed his point was that a state without justice would literally just be a giant band of thieves. The fallen nature of man, from my impressions of the passage, was tangential. How can you make the state just? Well, for starters it should not steal. If it cannot steal, then it cannot tax. If it cannot tax then the state is unsustainable. If people voluntarily gave money to individuals in return for services, it would not longer be a state but ... a business.

"No, there is not magic pill that Anarchism has to offer anymore than any other utopian or "scientific" ideology. St. Thomas strikes the balance: human nature was created good and has been wounded by sin. That is the human condition, whether regarded in individuals or in states."

Anarchism does not promise utopia. That is a common misconception. The state is a collection of indiduals who must steal or aggress against the governed. Such is not the human condition.

James M. said...


Hmmmm. Your thoughts are a bit hard to follow here, unless they're just not consistent.

Do you deny the premise of the just war theory that the state is legitimate? Some of your statements suggest this: the state originates in "aggression," it is essentially "exploitative," since such things as taxes are not "voluntary" and therefore amount to "stealing." On the other hand, in one place you say that "a state without justice would literally be just a giant band of thieves," which SEEMS to imply that you accept the possibility of a JUST state. Do you?

Your example of the unauthorized Libyan incursion and taxes levied to support it are hardly fair to Sheldon. You say in response to Sheldon:

" would view the government appropriation of my taxes in support of the campaign as a loving and Christian thing. It is not."

But Sheldon says no such thing. What he does say is that St. Augustine's just war theory suggests that there are circumstances in which a state can wield coercive and lethal force JUSTLY, to protect/save the unjustly oppressed, and that this can be a loving and Christian thing to do.

Note: he did NOT say or imply anything about the Libyan adventure meeting just war theory requirements, much less being "loving" or "Christian."

Furthermore, it looks like words like "aggression" and "stealing" are being used in equivocal ways here, whether by you or the other guys (political economists) you apparently like. Is it governmental "aggression" and "stealing" when the board of a condominium association levies a monthly association fee to cover the maintenance of the grounds and bank away a reserve of funds for paving the driveway or replacing the roofing? It's not "voluntary" except insofar as it's your choice to buy a unit within the condominium. You might prefer to mow your own lawn and pave your own patch of the driveway, but that's a violation of association guidelines. Same with the state. Is it "stealing" when the state levies taxes to pave your roads? It's not strictly "voluntary," except insofar as it's your choice to remain a citizen of the country governed by that state. Seems to me you're stretching the semantic range of words like "stealing" or "aggression" here.

James M. said...


A few more things you say require qualification.

"You do not need a group of individuals claiming a monopoly in the use of force to manage traffic. Without the state, transportation would be handled by private *voluntary* contracts."

Was it a "voluntary contract" between God and Adam & Eve to not eat the fruit of that one fateful tree in the garden? Did God's imposition of that arbitrary law not assume a monopoly of force if it were not obeyed?

Sheldon's point was that administrative government would still be required in a world without sin. I agree. Force would not come into play unless someone broke the laws, which is what happened.

In a fallen world, even benign traffic laws like "stop on red, go on green" require some sort of monopolistic force to back them up, otherwise half the population would be violating traffic laws.

You seem to recognize the need for such state power when you admit: "Laissez-faire does not mean things will be fair or people won't get exploited. I did not say or imply such a naive idea." Who would enforce the laws against such exploitation otherwise?

On the other hand you seem to want also to deny the need for such enforcement when you write that the "state, however, ensures that unfairness and exploitation (e.g. taxes) are not only institutionalized but seen as necessary." Which seems to contradict your prior implicit admission that people will get exploited and have no recourse without state enforcement of just laws.

Wouldn't you avoid all these self-referential inconsistencies by just coming out and admitting that because we live in the society of fallen sinners, we need a just state to protect us from one another, and while the state is prone to abuse because it, too, is administered by fallen sinners, we cannot really do without it.

Here's a parting thought for you to tuck behind your ear:

Question: Who was the Roman Emperor when St. Paul wrote (in Romans 13:1-2) the following?

"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."

Answer: Nero.

Jordan Viray said...

Hi James.

My reply was to Sheldon's specific points. There's a 4000 character limit so I had to cut most of the sections I had quoted from his response. That makes it harder to follow I suppose.

Yes I deny the particular premise of the Just War theory that the state is legitimate.

If you read my response I hypothetically admit the existence of a just state only to demonstrate it as impossible.

Sheldon indeed does not mention taxes in support of American bombing in Libya but taxes are absolutely required for such actions to occur.

Even in war that meets the traditional Just War formulation, you cannot escape the necessity of taxes to fund it.

Note: taxes are theft

Unlike the state, an individual has made a *voluntary* contract with the condo association.

If I choose not to pay, the condo association can repossess the unit since that was presumably one of the terms I agreed to when I *voluntarily* signed the contract.

Of course if I thought such a levy, though contractually provided for, was excessive or whatever, I would probably sell the condo and move elsewhere.

If you do not pay taxes, you will go to jail. If I forcibly removed and confined someone against their will because they chose not to do a transaction with me, that is aggression. Any gains from such transactions are theft. Instead of kidnapping, we call it incarceration. Instead of theft, we call it taxation.

Unlike the state, the condo association does not claim a monopoly on force.

What appears to be "equivocation" is not upon the application of proper distinctions.

Now a commandment from God is quite different from a contract between humans. God's imposition of that law was not arbitrary, that is not His Nature. Poor analogy.

James, you talk about the supposed need for an administrative government but who will pay for it?

If it thought that my recognition of a laissez-faire society as imperfect was somehow a vindication of the state, think again. The state, on the whole, can *only* make things worse.

There is absolutely no need for an entity which claims monopoly on the use of force to enforce its own laws. Law, like many other services, is something that can be provided for without the state and can be done entirely voluntarily.

So there is no contradiction or need to "come out and admit" anything because your implication was incorrect.

"Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation."

If you believe these "higher powers" to be government authorities, then the whole government rules by Divine right and may never be defied. Yet Christians often defied civil authorities - look at St. Paul himself who fled from the authorities. Clearly then, these "higher powers" =/= the government.

James. M. said...


"Taxes are theft"? Well, then capital punishment must be murder, Capitalist profit must be theft, and the US Federal government must be a Masonic/Marxist/Zionist conspiracy.

Political anarchism was dispatched handily in the course of a single chapter by M.J. Adler in The Common Sense of Politics, ch. 8: "The Anti-Political Philosophers." Quite rightly, he refers to it as "anti-political," a concept he develops in the Aristotelian tradition of "political science."

Like conspiracy theories, however, reductionist theories (like these) are three feet above contradiction and irrefutable, because they confuse their major premise with their conclusion and end up ideological absolutists. Sorry.

Dark Horse said...


Jordan Viray said...

""Taxes are theft"? Well, then capital punishment must be murder, Capitalist profit must be theft, and the US Federal government must be a Masonic/Marxist/Zionist conspiracy."

Um, none of that follows.

"Political anarchism was dispatched handily in the course of a single chapter by M.J. Adler in The Common Sense of Politics, ch. 8: "The Anti-Political Philosophers." Quite rightly, he refers to it as "anti-political," a concept he develops in the Aristotelian tradition of "political science.""

I've read Adler and he's a fine philosopher but when it comes to political theory, Hoppe and Rothbard offer the superior argument. And I'm sure all of them could at least employ the parts and use of a syllogism more effectively than you (judging from your bizarre counterargument). Sorry.

Anonymous said...

How about we go right to the source on this one? From John 18:

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Jesus himself seemed awfully disinterested in whether or not the State officially recognized Him as King. Certainly, the Social Kingship of Christ is objective truth but it may be instructive to ask why then did Jesus himself not boldly proclaim it to be so.

Seems to me Weigel's point (not sure I can say the same for Bottum) is not to dispute this doctrine, but rather to object to the notion that the State's recognition as such is of primary importance.

Pertinacious Papist said...

I'm happy to see some good give and take here on the post and related issues; but let's try to avoid the ad hominems, if you please.

OutOfMyBoat, Scripture-interpretation isn't always as straightforward as it may seem, although Protestants sometimes give that impression and some Catholics have picked up that assumption.

Take for example the "Messianic secret" motif of some NT passages. In Mark 8:29-30, Jesus questions His disciples, asking them "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answers and says to Him, "You are the Christ [Messiah]." And the Evangelist Mark then adds: "And He [Jesus] warned them to tell no one about Him."

Now this is exceedingly puzzling, I grant; but I don't think one should conclude from this text or others like it that our Lord was disinterested in Evangelization, in others hearing and understanding the Gospel, in people coming to know Him as their Savior.

This isn't the place to pursue a discussion of Biblical hermeneutics, but it certainly is an interesting and important discipline.

There is something, too, about the difference between the First and Second Coming of Christ: the first time, He comes under cover of obscurity, born in an out-of-the way stable to low-income parents, and He's crucified as a criminal; the second time, He's coming in glory as THE KING Whom none will fail to recognize as their own, whether they want Him or not.

I can't guess Weigel's and Bottum's motives, but from what they SAY, it seems to me that they have no problem accepting the Kingship of Christ in a "spiritual" sense, but they don't consider the public recognition of this fact by the state, or for that matter any secular, non-ecclesial institution to be of any real importance.

I can't help but find this highly problematic, as it sounds like a compartmentalization and privatization of Christ's Kingship in classic dualist fashion.

Lest I be misunderstood, this calls for a bit of nuance. The distinction between the sacred and secular (or between Church and state) is not itself a problem. What is a problem is the view that the state is not accountable to God. The state cannot properly infringe upon the sphere of the Church; and the Church cannot properly infringe upon the sphere of the state. They have different job descriptions. But the fact that the state's job description is SECULAR does not mean that it should not acknowledge Christ as its King, anymore than the fact that the head of a family is a layman means that he should not acknowledge Christ as his family's King.

Bruno said...

Pertinacious Papist,

I'm not sure if you had me in mind, but just in case you did, here is the nuance. I in no way intend to obscure the distinction between the secular and sacred (or Civil Society and the Church). They are each perfect societies with their own ends (temporal, natural, or human good; spiritual good in the order of grace, i.e., salvation). The question at stake in this debate regards the relation between these ends. My understanding of tradition and Magisterial teaching is that they are subordinated in such a way that when there is conflict or overlap between the two the spiritual good has priority by way of right. Moreover, the temporal end must in some regard serve to foster the spiritual end. While the temporal end is not merely instrumental to the supernatural, as though it had no end proper to itself, it is nevertheless instrumental. This, as I understand it, is the indirect power, explained and defended by St. Robert Bellarmine. Societies acknowledge the Social Kingship of Christ when they acknowledge the indirect power of the Church in temporal affairs. They deny His kingship when they reject the indirect power. There are many concrete forms that acceptance or rejection of the indirect power can take, but the principle involved is absolute.

I do not see how the positions articulated by Weigel and Bottum (on numerous occasions, let it be known, for this is not the first time such things have been said, at least by Weigel) are compatible with the indirect power. My understanding is that the indirect power, while not solemnly defined, is revealed doctrine, for it is directly linked with the Social Kingship of Christ.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response. I agree -- interpretation of Scripture is never as simple as some of our Protestant brethren would make it seem, but as always it is important to include in the discussion alongside Tradition, which seems to have dominated the discussion on this topic. Just wanting to get God's Word on the page somewhere :) I appreciate also your distinction between the First and Second coming. That does seem very relevant in this case.

Re: the comments from Weigel and Bottum, I do agree that they seem rather flippant about the importance of the recognition of Christ's social kingship, but I can't help but sympathize with *something* in what they say. And I think that something is actually not dissimilar to what your original comments were. Perhaps the point is that our society is in such a place where proclaiming Christ's social Kingship on an institutional level seems silly precisely because the individual refuses to accept that truth. In other words, let us win the person and the society will naturally fall into place. Until the people that make up the society actually believe (and live) the pronouncements made by that society, is it not just a bunch of lip service, or worse a mockery? Based on your comments, it would seem that you agree with this proposition at least to a certain extent.

So perhaps it is simply a matter of Weigel and Bottum being more pessimistic about the willingness of the majority of individuals to accept Christ's kingship? In other words, the apostasy of the political community you spoke of might have been averted in your view, but is an inevitable part of a modern pluralistic democracy in theirs?

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's just a matter of Weigel (and Neuhaus by extension) or even the American Constitution. This is also the line the Vatican, including the current Pope has been putting out for some time now ("healthy secularity") which does not allow for anything close to "Jesus as King" nomenclature. It transcends the United States.

Pertinacious Papist said...


No, it wasn't you I had in mind, and your comment is well-taken.


Agreed. It's a fine line, as I tried to suggest in my post.

On the one hand, the traditionalist caller did sound silly, precisely because there's no place in the public square where such a Constitutional amendment would be sponsored today, let alone promoted. So Weigel and Bottom aren't wrong to find the suggestion ridiculous.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with the position taken by the traditionalist as a matter of principle, since it's embedded in the magisterial tradition, and it's at best misleading of Weigel and Bottum to suggest that it is ridiculous, even if it is not now practicable.

Tony said...

Even I, Heaven-bent as I am on defending natural-order anarchy against its statist-utopian critics, missed the elephant in the room here. It seems enthusiastic neocon George Weigel rightly proclaims the U.S. government competent neither to "fill potholes" nor to proclaim the Kingship of Christ. Waging four simultaneous wars on "terror" while running a worldwide military empire with 800 military bases and 575,000 troops in 160 different countries? Well, that's different. The U.S. government is fully qualified to manage quotidian tasks like that.

Bill McEnaney said...

Mr. Weigel needs to reread paragraph 21 in Pope Leo XIII's "Libertas Praestantissimum," his encyclical about the nature of liberty. Pope Leo writes, "Wherefore, civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness--namely, to treat various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. Since, then, the profession of one religion is necessary in the State, that religion must be professed which alone is true, and which can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic States, because the marks of truth are, as it were, engraven upon it. This religion, therefore, the rulers of the State must preserve and protect if they would provide--as they should do--with prudence and usefulness for the good of the community. For public exists for the welfare of those whom it governs and although its proximate end is to lead men to the prosperity found in this life, yet in so doing, it ought not to diminish, but rather to increase, man's capability of attaining to the supreme good in which everlasting happiness consists; which never can be attained if religion is disregarded."

Bill McEnaney said...

Professor Blosser, the social Kingship of Christ is no longer practicable? Brazil and Peru are Catholic countries. Although the U.S. Constitution forbids that country to adopt a State religion, I doubt that it forbids any state in the union to adopt one. Pope Paul VI told Catholic countries that their constitutions shouldn't mention Catholicism anymore. If that order is compatible with what Leo XIII teaches about the State's duty to acknowledge that Catholicism is the true religion, I need rethink dialethism because dialetheists believe that some self-contradictions are true. Please Graham Priest's writings about dialetheism if you want to.

Pertinacious Papist said...

Mr. McEnaney,

Perhaps it was not clear from my post that I meant de facto impracticable, not de jure impracticable. In my classes on political philosophy, I point out countries that clearly acknowledge their historic, Catholic identity, and some of which profess their national identity as Catholic. There is nothing in principle from preventing individual states in the United States from doing so, I agree; although it would likely be practically impossible these days.

I'm not sure that dialetheism applies to Pope Paul VI's proposition. I'm not sure what applies to Pope Paul VI's proposition.

Bill McEnaney said...

You're right, Dr. Blosser. Here in the U.S., Christ's Social Kinship is impracticable. After I posted my second comment, I remembered the difference between de facto practicability and de jure practicability, so I'm hoping that kingship be de facto practicable here when Our Lady of Fatima's Immaculate Heart triumphs. I'm also both hoping and praying that Our Lady's victory will abolish the Novus Ordo along with Vatican II's other novelties. Meanwhile, I thank God for my favorite priestly order, the SSPX and ask Our Lord to convince EWTN to join the Traditionalist Movement. Unfortunately, to me, that de jure possibility seems highly improbable.

I'm not an EWTN fan. Maybe you remember that during Mother Theresa's beatification Mass, a Mass including a Hindu puja, Mr. Arroyo told his viewers that he liked the way that Mass combined the traditional with the "indigenous." He's welcome to his opinion. But I would hate to think the network agrees with it.

Bill McEnaney said...

Professor Blosser,

I should have explained why I mentioned dialetheism. Maybe I misinterpreted what Mr. Weigel said about doctrinal development. But it seems to me that any "development" incompatible with the Church's teachings about Christ's social Kingship would be illegitimate because a doctrinal development needs to follow logically from the doctrine that develops.

In my opinion, the Holy Father and other somewhat progressive prelates have tried to redefine continuity. Say dialetheism is true. Then the Vatican can argue that since some contradictions be true, there can be continuity between, pre- and postconciliar teachings about Christ's social Kingship, even when either or both teachings imply a self-contradiction.

But my kind of doctrinal development assumes that the law of noncontradiction is a metaphysical truth, not a merely semantic rule logicians can change at will. In one version of the law of noncontradiction, Aristotle tells that nothing can both have and not have the same attribute in the same way at the same time. Truth and falsehood may be attributes. A rock can weigh ten pounds, and weighing-ten-pounds is an attribute. But no rock both weight that much and not weigh that much. The version of LNC I'm thinking of avoids some paradoxes, including the liar's paradox. It does that partly because it's about attributes, not about about truth and falsehood treated as merely semantic properties.

Pertinacious Papist said...

Mr. McEnaney,

I'm not sure the likes of George Weigel would reach for a notion such as dialetheism to try to resolve the apparent incongruities between their principled opposition to the idea of a confessionally Catholic state and the avalanche of Catholic social teaching supporting that very idea in the generations preceding the last Council.

My hunch is that Weigel would make the sort of move that Tom Woods makes to escape the binding force of pre-Conciliar encyclicals. That is, when faced with magisterial pronouncements from Leo XIII through John Paul II on the duty of employers to pay their employees a living wage, defined as sufficient to support a family, and allow time off for the fulfillment of their religious obligations, Woods dismisses these statements as non-infallible prudential judgments about economics, which have no binding force.

Likewise, Weigel, when faced with previous Church teaching on the duties of the state toward true religion and virtue, dismisses it as non-infallible and irrelevant erroneous private opinion about politics, about which no pope has any more expertise than economics.

Hence, those Catholics who are comfortable with the neo-conservative idea of privatized religion and pluralistic values with a naked ("value-free") public square do not see themselves as dissenting from historical magisterial teaching, even though I would agree they have a huge problem here.

There is a video on YouTube in which Weigel articulates a position that sounds nearly like Anabaptist Protestantism. That is, he refers to the 1700-year period from Constantine up to the 1960s as the "Babylonian Captivity of the Church," and views the Vatican II document on religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae as the end of that 'captivity' of Church entanglement in state power. Thereafter the Church was free to become the "great defender of the religious freedom of all."

This may be a common view these days even among some Catholics. It is certainly a traditionally Anabaptist-Protestant view. It is not a traditionally Catholic view, since the Church insisted traditionally that Christ is Lord not only over private individuals but over societies, and that the Catholic state is owes obedience to God, just as individual Catholics do, to defend true justice, virtue, and protect the interests of true religion.

Iratus said...

That first paragraph is notable in two ways:

1. It is an excellent example of trying to say that black is white and true and false: such a position is worthy of a contortionist, of Houdini himself. So much for "Let your "Yes" be "Yes", and your "No" be "No"...".

2. It makes a complete nonsense of the present Pope's claims that there is is no "rupture" in Tradition. It is a miracle of confusion of mind and intellectual dishonesty. The doctrine of Pius was clear, and traditional, and made excellent sense - & it is in agreement with the rest of the Faith, unlike the new-fangled nonsense Catholics are expected to swallow today.

BTW - if Pius IX & Pius XI were wrong: what possible reason (apart from wishful thinking) can ther be to suppose that the current Popes are not wrong ? If they can "correct" their predecessors, it is useless to pretend they are immune to correction by their successors. But if that is conceivable - there is no reason to treat the current teaching as anything more certain than a working hypothesis. They have succeeded in doing what no-one ever did: reducing the certainty of some of Catholic teaching to something entirely questionable. But why should any Catholic care a straw for highly fallible and uncertain hypotheses ? That is a confusion of modern nonsense & hypotheses with the teaching of Christ - a disgraceful confusion, and a gross abuse of the teaching authority conferred by Christ, the Sole Teacher.

It looks as if the powers of the underworld have indeed prevailed against the Church.

Iratus said...

To deny the universality & the particularity of the Kingship of Christ over all states in all they do, & His "dominion over all nations, peoples, and tongues" is to deny the universality of the Church as well.

It is however entirely consistent with the error that the Old Covenant is still in force - He is no longer the Messiah-King of all nations, but only of some people. This necessarily implies that His saving Death is not universal in its efficacy, and therefore, that the Atonement was not intended for all mankind, but for some only. Calvinism much ?

All these errors go together - and all are involved in denying the Universal Social Kingship of Christ. If He is not one saviour among others, His Saving Power must be intended for all mankind - to deny the USK of Christ is to imply He is just one saviour among others, no greater than they. No wonder the missions are dead - why bother preaching the Catholic God to those with whom He has no concern ?

There is a big difference between not yet having an explicit feast of the Universal Social Kingship of Christ, and weakening its force or denying it once it has been made explicit in the life of the Church. For the Church to deny the "rights of God" is not clever. What no dictator could do to the Church, the Church has done to herself.