Cardinal Zigliara on “liberty of conscience”

At The Josias, Timothy Wilson’s translation of excerpts from Cardinal Zigliara’s Summa philosophica is being rolled out. Hopefully, you’ve bookmarked The Josias to keep up with this fascinating series. Today, an especially important excerpt on the liberty of conscience. A brief, edited selection:

Liberty of conscience, considered in itself, is entirely impious. And indeed, man, by a most strict duty of nature, is held to think rightly of God, and of those things which look to religion, both speculative and practical (33, II). But voluntarily to make resistance to a most strict duty is license, not liberty; and if the discussion, as in our argument, is concerned with the voluntary transgression of a duty toward God, the aforementioned license is an impiety. Since, therefore, through liberty of conscience, a right is given to man of thinking of God as it more pleases him, this liberty, this right is a true impiety.


It is founded in political atheism alone. And indeed, as has been said in the preceding number, liberty of conscience is a right, conceded to individuals, of thinking of God as they should please, or of submitting those things which are of God and religion, and the duties following from these, to the definition and arbitration of individual conscience, which thus is constituted as the criterion of religion.

(Emphases in original.) Strong medicine, especially today, when we hear so much about liberty of conscience and the other foundational doctrines of the modern liberal state.

I decided to improve my social station

Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., has a very interesting piece about his Studentenverbindung, KAV Sanctottensis. Our attention was drawn to the piece because he cites our comment, “And he carries the reminders,” which touched briefly on German academic dueling. For the reasons set forth in that piece, Catholic Studentenverbindungen rejected academic dueling, and got sideways with other German associations, which, in the years of Kulturkampf, were not so bothered by Catholic teaching on bodily harm. But the piece is more broadly interesting than that.

At almost every four-year college in the United States, Greek-letter social fraternities and sororities are major institutions. (We exclude from this discussion Greek-letter honorary and professional fraternities, such as Phi Beta Kappa or Phi Delta Phi.) In fact, at most schools, fraternities and sororities are practically school-sanctioned entities, with the schools owning the houses, collecting dues and other bills, and providing physical-plant maintenance. Yet, despite this symbiotic relationship between colleges and Greek-letter fraternities, fraternities are almost always controversial. We will not review the controversies associated with fraternities in great detail; suffice it to say that critics allege all manner of licentious, sinful conduct against fraternities.

As an aside, we wonder whether Catholics are enjoined from joining Greek-letter social fraternities. The masonic origins of some of these societies is beyond dispute, though the extent to which freemasonry serves as the basis for their rituals and doctrine is, of course, up for debate. Thus, to that extent, one wonders if canon 1374, as clarified by the 1983 Declaration on Masonic Associations of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, applies. Moreover, one notes that these societies often involve elaborate, dreadful oaths of secrecy, which protect certain rituals and doctrine. One notes that secret societies have long been held in suspicion, to say the least, by the Church when one reviews Leo XII’s Quo graviora (which quotes Clement XII’s In eminenti and Benedict XIV’s Providas Romanorum at great length), to say nothing of Leo XIII’s Humanum genus. Thus, we wonder whether these Greek-letter fraternities are wholly consistent with the Church’s teaching about such organizations. However, that inquiry is best left to the moral theologians.

At any rate, Pater Waldstein’s post presents his Studentenverbindung in quite an appealing light:

The Sanctottensis organizes many different sorts of events throughout the year— some only for members, others where guests too are welcome. All of them are meant to promote the four principles of the CV: religio, patria, scientia, and amicitia. There are processions and Masses, academic lectures, political discussions, poetry readings, croquet matches, and especially there are the elaborate ceremonies of the Kneipe and the Commers. 

The Sanctottensis, being based in Heiligenkreuz, consists mainly of theology students, and is thus particularly suited to bringing solid theological thought into the wider ÖCV. Membership in a Studentenverbindung is life-long, and so the ÖCV is a an organization with something of the character of the Knights of Columbus in U.S.A. (not to mention certain fraternal organizations of active during the Enlightenment…), engaging in charitable and political action.

(Emphasis supplied and hyperlink omitted.) Given this background, it seems to us that Catholic students in the United States would do well to consider imitating the Catholic Studentenverbindungen.

Too often, Catholics are left to their own devices at universities and colleges, especially if the schools are not Catholic (even nominally). Certainly, the Newman Center or the university parish might provide some fellowship and the opportunity to deepen one’s faith. But not every college has a Newman Center or a university parish, and those that do may not have especially interesting or edifying programming. And, more than that, in our experience, the Newman Center does not always offer the sort of hearty fellowship that young men and young women enjoy. The Catholic Studentenverbindung as Pater Waldstein describes it, however, appears to offer not only spiritually edifying activities but also hearty fellowship. (But not so hearty that a Cistercian monk would feel uncomfortable!)

A few observations on Christ the King

Gabriel Sanchez has, at Opus Publicum, a very good piece, explaining the differences between the Feast of Christ the King as Pius XI originally intended it and as it exists today. In short, the collect was rewritten substantially, the hymns were hacked apart, and the selections from Quas primas at Matins were replaced with a reading from Origen of Alexandria on the Adveniat regnum tuum from the Pater Noster. The rewrite goes beyond that, in fact: the readings for the first nocturn of matins in the 1960 Breviary are taken from the first chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, verses 3–23. This has been replaced in the Liturgia Horarum with a composite selection from Revelation. And, of course, the feast was moved from the last Sunday of October to the last Sunday in Tempus Per Annum (i.e., the end of the Church’s year). The upshot of all these changes is to emphasize strongly the eschatological aspect of Christ’s kingship. In other words, the Feast of Christ the King serves to remind us today that at the end of time, Christ will reign as king. Just what Pius XI intended when he gave us Quas primas, no?

No. In Quas primas, Pius answered the suggestion that Christ’s kingdom was purely spiritual (and eschatological):

It would be a grave error, on the other hand, to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since, by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures committed to him by the Father, all things are in his power. Nevertheless, during his life on earth he refrained from the exercise of such authority, and although he himself disdained to possess or to care for earthly goods, he did not, nor does he today, interfere with those who possess them. Non eripit mortalia qui regna dat caelestia.

(Emphasis added.) In other words, Christ’s kingship extends to the civil realm, even to this moment in this place. And the sooner we recognize that, the happier we will be:

When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony. Our Lord’s regal office invests the human authority of princes and rulers with a religious significance; it ennobles the citizen’s duty of obedience. It is for this reason that St. Paul, while bidding wives revere Christ in their husbands, and slaves respect Christ in their masters, warns them to give obedience to them not as men, but as the vicegerents of Christ; for it is not meet that men redeemed by Christ should serve their fellow-men. “You are bought with a price; be not made the bond-slaves of men.” If princes and magistrates duly elected are filled with the persuasion that they rule, not by their own right, but by the mandate and in the place of the Divine King, they will exercise their authority piously and wisely, and they will make laws and administer them, having in view the common good and also the human dignity of their subjects. The result will be a stable peace and tranquillity, for there will be no longer any cause of discontent. Men will see in their king or in their rulers men like themselves, perhaps unworthy or open to criticism, but they will not on that account refuse obedience if they see reflected in them the authority of Christ God and Man. Peace and harmony, too, will result; for with the spread and the universal extent of the kingdom of Christ men will become more and more conscious of the link that binds them together, and thus many conflicts will be either prevented entirely or at least their bitterness will be diminished.

(Emphasis supplied and footnote omitted.) This is, of course, hugely interesting and hugely significant. Pius argues that if we accept Christ as our king here and now, the entire political order changes fundamentally. Rulers rule in Christ’s name, and subjects obey not flawed, partisan men, but Christ the King himself. This is what they might call in another context a “game-changer.” Given the exhausted, exhausting political scene in the United States (and many other countries, frankly) today, can anyone say that the blessings that flow from the proper ordering of the state would be unwelcome? Can anyone say that they prefer partisan hacks pursuing narrow, political objectives, while disgruntled subjects protest almost constantly? Of course not.

But it goes beyond that. Pius XI makes it clear that proclaiming Christ the King will be good medicine against what he calls anti-clericalism—a definite problem in the 1920s and 1930s—and what today could be called the soft, liberal indifferentism so popular in the educated West these days:

 If We ordain that the whole Catholic world shall revere Christ as King, We shall minister to the need of the present day, and at the same time provide an excellent remedy for the plague which now infects society. We refer to the plague of anti-clericalism, its errors and impious activities. This evil spirit, as you are well aware, Venerable Brethren, has not come into being in one day; it has long lurked beneath the surface. The empire of Christ over all nations was rejected. The right which the Church has from Christ himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied. Then gradually the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them. It was then put under the power of the state and tolerated more or less at the whim of princes and rulers. Some men went even further, and wished to set up in the place of God’s religion a natural religion consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart. There were even some nations who thought they could dispense with God, and that their religion should consist in impiety and the neglect of God. The rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences. We lamented these in the Encyclical Ubi arcano; we lament them today: the seeds of discord sown far and wide; those bitter enmities and rivalries between nations, which still hinder so much the cause of peace; that insatiable greed which is so often hidden under a pretense of public spirit and patriotism, and gives rise to so many private quarrels; a blind and immoderate selfishness, making men seek nothing but their own comfort and advantage, and measure everything by these; no peace in the home, because men have forgotten or neglect their duty; the unity and stability of the family undermined; society in a word, shaken to its foundations and on the way to ruin. We firmly hope, however, that the feast of the Kingship of Christ, which in future will be yearly observed, may hasten the return of society to our loving Savior. It would be the duty of Catholics to do all they can to bring about this happy result. Many of these, however, have neither the station in society nor the authority which should belong to those who bear the torch of truth. This state of things may perhaps be attributed to a certain slowness and timidity in good people, who are reluctant to engage in conflict or oppose but a weak resistance; thus the enemies of the Church become bolder in their attacks. But if the faithful were generally to understand that it behooves them ever to fight courageously under the banner of Christ their King, then, fired with apostolic zeal, they would strive to win over to their Lord those hearts that are bitter and estranged from him, and would valiantly defend his rights.

(Emphasis supplied.) Good medicine, indeed.

Cardinal Zigliara on political atheism

The Josias has made available a selection from Tommaso Maria Cardinal Zigliara’s Summa philosophica, dealing with political atheism. Timothy Wilson, a fine Latinist with a deep interest in the (now largely forgotten) scholastic and manualist tradition, translated the selection for publication. Cardinal Zigliara, a Dominican, was a noted Thomist of the late nineteenth century. A close collaborator of Leo XIII, Cardinal Zigliara was a contributor to Leo’s encyclicals Aeterni Patris, which restored the Common Doctor to his place of preeminence among the theologians, and Rerum novarum. This is the first of five selections, according to The Josias, and we will be following the series with great interest.

By the way, if you have not been following The Josias, you have been missing out. In addition to regular essays from the perspective of the Church’s traditional social teaching, the site makes available many important documents that have long been unavailable for linguistic reasons. For example, earlier this year, The Josias published a translation of Pius IX’s Maxima quidem, an allocution that ultimately served as the basis for several propositions condemned in his wonderful Syllabus Errorum. It is well worth checking from time to time.

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Gregory DiPippo has another very fascinating piece at New Liturgical Movement about the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The story of the feast itself derives from non-canonical gospels, and it is, for that reason, pretty interesting. (Especially if you are not very familiar with the non-canonical material out there. We are not.) However, we are particularly interested to note the tumultuous history of the feast. It appeared early in the eleventh century in England; then, in the late fifteenth century, Pope Sixtus IV added it to the Roman books (along with the Immaculate Conception); but, in the late sixteenth century, St. Pius V suppressed it as part of the Tridentine reforms; then, Pope Sixtus V reinstated the feast in 1585. (St. Pius suppressed several Marian feasts as part of the reforms of 1568/70; all of them were reinstated by 1622.)

“Il diritto della famiglia ad uno spazio vitale”

We have mentioned before that Pius XII’s 1941 radio address, La solennità della Pentecoste, is the missing link in the chain of the Church’s social teaching. (For now. We suspect that Benedict’s great Caritas in veritate, falling between John Paul’s Centesimus annus, so favored by those who contend, loudly if not convincingly, that John Paul was an American-style capitalist, and Francis’s Laudato si’, is going to be a missing link, too. Only time will tell.) Notwithstanding its incipit, La solennità is actually a speech marking the fiftieth anniversary of Rerum novarum. One point that the great Pius made was this:

Il nostro pianeta con tanti estesi oceani e mari e laghi, con monti e piani coperti di neve e di ghiacci eterni, con grandi deserti e terre inospite e sterili, non è pur scarso di regioni e luoghi vitali abbandonati al capriccio vegetativo della natura e ben confacentesi alla coltura della mano dell’uomo, ai suoi bisogni e alle sue operazioni civili; e più di una volta è inevitabile che alcune famiglie, di qua o di là emigrando, si cerchino altrove una nuova patria. Allora, secondo l’insegnamento della Rerum novarum, va rispettato il diritto della famiglia ad uno spazio vitale. Dove questo accadrà, l’emigrazione raggiungerà il suo scopo naturale, che spesso convalida l’esperienza, vogliamo dire la distribuzione più favorevole degli uomini sulla superficie terrestre, acconcia a colonie di agricoltori; superficie che Dio creò e preparò per uso di tutti. Se le due parti, quella che concede di lasciare il luogo natio e quella che ammette i nuovi venuti, rimarranno lealmente sollecite di eliminare quanto potrebbe essere d’impedimento al nascere e allo svolgersi di una verace fiducia tra il paese di emigrazione e il paese d’immigrazione, tutti i partecipanti a tale tramutamento di luoghi e di persone ne avranno vantaggio: le famiglie riceveranno un terreno che sarà per loro terra patria nel vero senso della parola; le terre di densi abitanti resteranno alleggerite e i loro popoli si creeranno nuovi amici in territori stranieri; e gli Stati che accolgono gli emigrati guadagneranno cittadini operosi. Così le nazioni che danno e gli Stati che ricevono, in pari gara, contribuiranno all’incremento del benessere umano e al progresso dell’umana cultura.

(Hyperlink omitted and emphasis supplied.)

Given recent events, we wonder whether it is time to expand on Pius’s concept of the right of the family to living space.

“Christian doctrine is not a closed system”

The Vatican has made the Holy Father’s enormously significant Florence speech available in English. After a quick scan, there appear to be some differences between the Vatican’s translation and the Zenit working translation we posted previously. Whether these differences are meaningful is, of course, an open question. As a taste, the Vatican’s translation of the portion that we have discussed a couple of times previously is:

A Church that presents these three traits — humility, disinterest, beatitude — is a Church that is able to recognize the action of the Lord in the world, in culture, in the everyday life of the people. I have said it more than once and I repeat it again to you today: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures” (Evangelii Gaudium, n. 49). However, we know that temptations exist; there are so many temptations to confront. I will present you with at least two of them. Do not be afraid, this will not be a list of temptations! Like the list of 15 that I recited to the Curia!

The first is that of the Pelagian. It spurs the Church not to be humble, disinterested and blessed. It does so through the appearance of something good. Pelagianism leads us to trust in structures, in organizations, in planning that is perfect because it is abstract. Often it also leads us to assume a controlling, harsh and normative manner. Norms give Pelagianism the security of feeling superior, of having a precise bearing. This is where it finds its strength, not in the lightness of the Spirit’s breath. Before the evils or problems of the Church it is useless to seek solutions in conservatism and fundamentalism, in the restoration of obsolete practices and forms that even culturally lack the capacity to be meaningful. Christian doctrine is not a closed system, incapable of raising questions, doubts, inquiries, but is living, is able to unsettle, is able to enliven. It has a face that is supple, a body that moves and develops, flesh that is tender: Christian doctrine is called Jesus Christ.

The reform of the Church then — and the Church is semper reformanda — is foreign to Pelagianism. She is not exhausted in the countless plans to change her structures. It instead means being implanted and rooted in Christ, allowing herself to be led by the Spirit. Thus everything will be possible with genius and creativity.

The Church of Italy lets herself be carried by his powerful — and thus, at times, restless — breath. She always takes on the spirit of her great explorers, who on ships were passionate about navigating the open sea and not frightened by frontiers and storms. May she be a free Church, open to the challenges of the present, never on the defensive out of fear of losing something. Never on the defensive out of fear of losing something. And, encountering the people along the way, she takes on St Paul’s aim: “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor 9:22).

A second temptation to defeat is that of gnosticism. This leads to trusting in logical and clear reasoning, which nonetheless loses the tenderness of a brother’s flesh. The attraction of gnosticism is that of “a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings” (Evangelii Gaudium, n. 94). Gnosticism cannot transcend.

The difference between Christian transcendence and any form of gnostic spiritualism lies in the mystery of the incarnation. Not putting into practice, not leading the Word into reality, means building on sand, staying within pure idea and decaying into intimisms that bear no fruit, that render its dyamism barren.

(Emphasis in original.)