Garrigou-Lagrange on Church and state

At the new blog Lumen Scholasticum, there is a special treat for American readers—well, any readers, but especially American readers—an excerpt from Garrigou-Lagrange’s manual on divine revelation touching upon the duties of the state to accept divine revelation. It is a very long, very tightly argued excerpt (as one might expect from a theological manual by the greatest Thomist of his age). But the importance of this material can scarcely be overstated, especially to an American audience; the right relationship of Church and state has been an especially vexing question in the United States for a very long time. While the Church seems to have adopted the view of Fr. John Courtney Murray and the First Amendment, the traditional thinking of the Church, admirably summarized by Garrigou-Lagrange, was altogether otherwise. A brief selection to whet your appetite for the whole thing:

To God, as creator, Lord, benefactor, and uncreated truth, there is owed, by the law of nature, the cult of natural religion and the obedience of faith, if He should manifestly reveal something supernaturally. – But God is no less the creator, Lord, and benefactor of society and civil authority than of any man whatsoever. – Therefore society and civil authority, by the law of nature, owe to God a social cult and obedience of faith, if He should manifestly reveal something supernaturally.

The major has been proved above, art. 2 and 3.

The minor is proved. God is the creator of man, who, by his very nature, is social or lives in society; hence God is the founder of civil society itself, and of the authority without which society does not have unity in being, nor in actuating or furthering the common good. Civil authority, therefore, depends upon God the author of our nature, otherwise it would not be able to oblige men; for no one properly is obliged by himself, nor by his equals. “For there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God;” all authority is from the first Authority, just as all causality is from the first causality. This is the subordination of agents so much in the moral as in the physical order.

Conclusion: Therefore civil authority is not able to reject the authority of God—in fact, it would deny itself. And, if there were not revelation, it would be obliged to recognize, defend, and foster natural religion. Concerning this matter, the consensus of the ancient philosophers is nearly unanimous, as may be seen in Plato (Laws 1.IV, VII, X), Cicero (Orat. pro Flacco), and Valerius Maximus (lib. 1).

And thus, civil authority is not able to reject the authority of God revealing, but is held to accept divine revelation sufficiently proposed to mankind. For if God determines a special form of religion and reveals positive precepts, societies and rulers are held to render obedience to it, just as are individual men. It would be absurd to contend that princes, in making laws, are able to act as if no revelation exists, when in fact it does exist, and are able to enjoin those things which perhaps are prohibited by it. This would be to say: the human legislator is greater than the divine legislator.

(Emphasis supplied.) Read the whole thing there. It is well worth your time.