Rick Yoder has a fine appreciation of Fr. Frederick Faber at his blog, The Amish Catholic. Yoder quotes liberally from Faber’s writings and comes to an interesting point, well worth considering, about the present state of the Church. Not having quite Yoder’s gift for a narrative, we confine ourselves to more mundane observations, including a quick look at pages 442 and 443 of Msgr. Ronald Arbuthnott Knox’s 1939 Westminster Hymnal, which sets forth the authors and translators of the hymns included in that indispensable volume. Obviously many translations of Knox and Caswall are included, but here’s a surprise: Faber is just as well represented. Indeed, one may say that the Westminster Hymnal is primarily the work of Knox, Caswall, and Faber. (Plus the old favorite, Anonymous.) And, if you know where to look, you can still find Faber’s 1854 Oratory Hymns. (While Faber may not have been the roughest, toughest clerk in England, read the third stanza of “Faith of Our Fathers,” published within a few years of the restoration of the English hierarchy and within living memory of the Relief Act 1829, and say that he had no courage.) Yoder also talks about Faber’s great devotion to Our Lady. Indeed, anyone fond of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Charles de Koninck’s masterful volume, Ego Sapientia, feels as though one has met a kindred spirit when encountering Faber. Or at least a spirit with whom one can converse on equal terms. We are reminded by an anecdote of John Hunwicke’s on the question of Faber’s Marian devotion. At any rate, take a moment and read Yoder’s fine essay and get to know Fr. Faber a little better.
Today, with little advance notice, the Holy Father issued his Apostolic Letter motu proprio data Magnum principium. The upshot of the letter is that bishops’ conferences now have the authority to prepare translations of liturgical books, subject to confirmation by the Holy See. In technical terms, canon 838 has been modified to reflect this order. We are told in an anonymous note on canon 838 “in the light of conciliar and post-conciliar sources” that
The “confirmatio” is an authoritative act by which the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments ratifies the approval of the Bishops, leaving the responsibility of translation, understood to be faithful, to the doctrinal and pastoral munus of the Conferences of Bishops. In brief, the “confirmatio”, ordinarily granted based on trust and confidence, supposes a positive evaluation of the faithfulness and congruence of the texts produced with respect to the typical Latin text, above all taking account of the texts of greatest importance (e.g. the sacramental formulae, which require the approval of the Holy Father, the Order of Mass, the Eucharistic Prayers and the Prayers of Ordination, which all require a detailed review).
(Emphasis supplied.) In other words, Magnum principium appears to imagine CDW rubber-stamping what the bishops approve. We are told that this is a more authentic implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium 22 § 2. Whether it is or not, this will be seen as a major victory for the progressives, who have, for fifty years, talked endlessly about adapting the liturgy to local conditions and doing away with the uniformity in liturgy that apparently scarred their youths. Now, the episcopal conferences will prepare translations, which the Holy See anticipates confirming “on trust and confidence” in the conferences’ judgments in the “faithfulness and congruence of the texts with respect to the typical Latin text.”
It is, of course, in our opinion a sort of strange sign for a pontificate that began with big gestures like Evangelii gaudium, Laudato si’, and even Amoris laetitia to turn to the project of making middle-aged felt-banner enthusiasts happy. That is to say that, so far, the Holy Father’s vision has seemed much grander than questions of which translation of the Mass of Paul VI is most pleasing to liberal liturgists. Additionally, the Holy Father has so far not seemed overly exercised about the endless struggles between progressives and more orthodox Catholics about Vatican II. Indeed, it is by no means clear that the Holy Father is hugely invested in the Vatican II question. At the same time, it is plain that retrenching the post-Vatican II liturgical order has been much on the Holy Father’s mind lately. Recall his speech to the Italian liturgists:
The direction traced by the Council was in line with the principle of respect for healthy tradition and legitimate progress (cf. SC, 23), in the liturgical books promulgated by Blessed Paul VI, well received by the very Bishops who were present at the Council, and now in universal use for almost 50 years in the Roman Rite. The practical application, supervised by the Episcopal Conferences of the respective Countries, is still ongoing, because reforming the liturgical books does not suffice to renew mentality. The books reformed in accordance with the decrees of Vatican II introduced a process that demands time, faithful reception, practical obedience, wise implementation in celebrations, firstly, on the part of the ordained ministers, but also of other ministers, of cantors and all those who take part in the liturgy. In truth, we know, that the liturgical education of Pastors and faithful is a challenge to be faced ever anew. Paul VI himself, a year before his death, said to the Cardinals gathered in the Consistory: “The time has now come to definitively leave aside divisive elements, which are equally pernicious in both senses, and to apply fully, in accordance with the correct criteria that inspired it, the reform approved by Us in the application of the wishes of the Council”.
And today, there is still work to be done in this direction, in particular by rediscovering the reasons for the decisions taken with regard to the liturgical reform, by overcoming unfounded and superficial readings, a partial reception, and practices that disfigure it. It is not a matter of rethinking the reform by reviewing the choices in its regard, but of knowing better the underlying reasons, through historical documentation, as well as of internalizing its inspirational principles and of observing the discipline that governs it. After this magisterium, after this long journey, We can affirm with certainty and with magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.
The task of promoting and safeguarding the liturgy is entrusted by right to the Apostolic See and to the diocesan bishops on whose responsibility and authority I greatly rely at the present moment; national and diocesan liturgical pastoral bodies, educational Institutes and Seminaries are also involved.
(Emphasis supplied.) Setting to one side the Holy Father’s decision to minimize Sacrosanctum Concilium 22 § 1 in favor of episcopal conferences and to minimize the responsibility and authority of individual diocesan bishops, this speech seems to reflect the standard narrative of Vatican II. That is, a reform moving ever forward toward some more or less poorly defined endpoint.
Of course, it is entirely possible that this reflects some sort of reaction to the response to the grander elements of the Holy Father’s program. Curia reform appears to be something better discussed than implemented. Despite the increasingly extreme weather observed in the United States and elsewhere, there seems to be little interest in Rome or Washington in taking up Laudato si’ and the environmental question again. Amoris laetitia has turned into an extremely complicated, unpleasant situation, with prelates and theologians debating seriously the implications of private letters and unanswered dubia, among other things. Indeed, recently the American bishops had an invitation-only conference in Orlando about Evangelii gaudium; they wanted to promote its reception and understanding by Catholic leaders. Whatever that means. It is a strange thing to do, over four years into a pontificate, to return to a “programmatic” document, as if the intervening priorities of the pontificate never happened. It is possible, we think, that the Holy Father has turned to the question of liturgy, so long a topic almost entirely controlled by party spirit, to accomplish some things broadly pleasing to his core constituency.
Candidly we were not surprised to see Magnum principium. It does not reflect the broad scope of the Holy Father’s vision, but even visionaries have to help their supporters. (Cf. p. 70 of Syme’s Roman Revolution.) We were, however, hugely surprised to read this in Magnum principium:
The goal of the translation of liturgical texts and of biblical texts for the Liturgy of the Word is to announce the word of salvation to the faithful in obedience to the faith and to express the prayer of the Church to the Lord. For this purpose it is necessary to communicate to a given people using its own language all that the Church intended to communicate to other people through the Latin language. While fidelity cannot always be judged by individual words but must be sought in the context of the whole communicative act and according to its literary genre, nevertheless some particular terms must also be considered in the context of the entire Catholic faith because each translation of texts must be congruent with sound doctrine.
It is no surprise that difficulties have arisen between the Episcopal Conferences and the Apostolic See in the course of this long passage of work. In order that the decisions of the Council about the use of vernacular languages in the liturgy can also be of value in the future a vigilant and creative collaboration full of reciprocal trust between the Episcopal Conferences and the Dicastery of the Apostolic See that exercises the task of promoting the Sacred Liturgy, i.e. the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, is absolutely necessary. For this reason, in order that the renewal of the whole liturgical life might continue, it seemed opportune that some principles handed on since the time of the Council should be more clearly reaffirmed and put into practice.
(Emphasis supplied.) What a startling admission from the Holy See. The Holy See has been, in its approach to translations of liturgical texts, defending the “entire Catholic faith” because “each translation of texts must be congruent with sound doctrine.” For some reason, “difficulties have arisen” between episcopal conferences and the Holy See in this work. That is, episcopal conferences and the Holy See have been at odds about whether or not liturgical texts are “congruent with sound doctrine”? What an extraordinary, unsettling admission. And what an extraordinary, unsettling solution: devolution of authority over liturgical translations to the same episcopal conferences that have been involved in “difficulties” with the Holy See.
In all of this, we cannot help but be reminded of Paul VI’s statement introducing his great Credo of the People of God. (It seems that Paul VI has been on our mind just as he has been on the Holy Father’s mind.) When he spoke, Paul said, in terms that are no less frank than the terms the Holy Father likes to use:
Likewise, we deem that we must fulfill the mandate entrusted by Christ to Peter, whose successor we are, the last in merit; namely, to confirm our brothers in the faith. With the awareness, certainly, of our human weakness, yet with all the strength impressed on our spirit by such a command, we shall accordingly make a profession of faith, pronounce a creed which, without being strictly speaking a dogmatic definition, repeats in substance, with some developments called for by the spiritual condition of our time, the creed of Nicea, the creed of the immortal tradition of the holy Church of God.
In making this profession, we are aware of the disquiet which agitates certain modern quarters with regard to the faith. They do not escape the influence of a world being profoundly changed, in which so many certainties are being disputed or discussed. We see even Catholics allowing themselves to be seized by a kind of passion for change and novelty. The Church, most assuredly, has always the duty to carry on the effort to study more deeply and to present, in a manner ever better adapted to successive generations, the unfathomable mysteries of God, rich for all in fruits of salvation. But at the same time the greatest care must be taken, while fulfilling the indispensable duty of research, to do no injury to the teachings of Christian doctrine. For that would be to give rise, as is unfortunately seen in these days, to disturbance and perplexity in many faithful souls.
(Emphasis supplied.) Despite Paul’s statement, perhaps intended to contradict the narrative of progress moving ever forward, eventually leaving behind the truths of the faith in favor of “a kind of passion for change and novelty,” it is clear that the progressive wing of the Church holds firm to the view the Church in the wake of the Council must move ever forward into change and novelty, even at the cost of increasing disquiet and disturbance and perplexity in many faithful souls.
The ratchet, dear reader, only moves one way.
Following the publication of Spadaro and Figueroa’s confused essay in Civiltà, critiquing, well, whatever it was they were critiquing, a secondary controversy sprang up. You see, dear reader, many of the initial critics of Spadaro and Figueroa’s essay—Matthew Schmitz at First Things and Ross Douthat at the New York Times—were converts. And the progressives pounced upon this fact. The converts were holier-than-thou reactionaries bent on accusing the Holy Father of heresy, resisting his agenda, and many other delicts besides. (It was a rare delight to see people for whom ultramontanism was a four-letter word between October 1978 and February 2013 rushing so gallantly to the defense of the rights of the Roman Pontiff.) However, a point has been overlooked. In many of the critiques of the converts, Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine was invoked. The argument, stated with the usual imprecision of the progressive, was that the converts want the Church to remain as it was when they converted—and they converted because the Church confirmed them in their prejudices—but any real Catholic knows, as Cardinal Newman tells us, that doctrine develops. The converts, then, are the ones out of step with the mind of the Church, as expressed by Cardinal Newman.
First, a biographical note. The controversy over converts struck us as bizarre to say the least. (Part of the reason we didn’t weigh in at the time is because we found it so bizarre. The other reason is that we were a minor, minor player in the original controversy. All in all, it seemed like a good time to take a little vacation.) For one thing, we are not a convert. We have, in fact, not wandered very far as such things go. We hear Mass in the sight of the font in which we were baptized. We often have business in the sacristy in which we made our first confession. And we often make our communion in exactly the same spot at which we made our first communion those many years ago. However, that ultimately does not much matter. In the Church, the question is whether one is baptized—that is, whether one has accepted God’s call to become through baptism His adopted son or daughter. The progressives’ emphasis on baptism seemed to be yet another example of identity politics; only those noble so-called cradle Catholics could understand the enormously subtle arguments offered in support of Spadaro and Figueroa’s farrago of invective. Because we are not a convert, we did not get our back up at the progressives’ insults.
But we did notice the occasional references to Cardinal Newman’s teachings in all these responses. (Almost as choice as the delight of watching a bunch of aging liberals take up the banner of ultramontanism is the delight of watching them use Newman, the greatest convert of his age, as a cudgel against other converts.) The progressives are good modernists, and, either through guile or ignorance, know or suspect that they’ll find no support in Pascendi or Lamentabili for their assertions about the development of doctrine. But they feel that the mere invocation of Cardinal Newman is enough to justify those assertions. (St. Pius X thought otherwise.) This is, as they imagine, a devastating own in the parlance of the day. Schmitz or Douthat or whoever is against Cardinal Newman, who says doctrine can develop! However, we shall see in a moment that the progressives cannot have understood Newman any more than Spadaro and Figueroa could have understood integralism. Indeed, the developments of which the progressives are so proud are not developments at all, but corruptions of doctrine.
How do we know that? Because Cardinal Newman tells us so.
In the Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (page 171 of the standard 1878 edition), Newman identified seven “notes”:
of varying cogency, independence and applicability, to discriminate healthy developments of an idea from its state of corruption and decay, as follows:—There is no corruption if it retains one and the same type, the same principles, the same organization; if its beginnings anticipate its subsequent phases, and its later phenomena protect and subserve its earlier; if it has a power of assimilation and revival, and a vigorous action from first to last. On these tests I shall now enlarge, nearly in the order in which I have enumerated them.
(Emphasis supplied.) That is, Newman sets forth seven features of authentic developments of doctrine; if a putative development has those notes, it just might be an authentic development. If not, well, that’s a problem. It occurs to us, in the wake of the fight over Spadaro, Figueroa, and the converts, that almost no one ever talks about these notes, least of all the progressives. Indeed, almost no one ever talks about the content of the Essay. It is bandied about largely in support of a broad assertion that doctrine can “develop,” which rather oversimplifies Newman’s actual argument in the Essay. And certainly no one ever talks about the notes in the context of the teachings—or supposed teachings—that are being defended against the onslaught of the conservatives.
And with good reason. The dog, dear reader, don’t hunt. Let us consider but one example. Newman’s “sixth note” (pp. 199–200) is as follows—it’s actually quite a beautiful passage separate and apart from the theological content:
As developments which are preceded by definite indications have a fair presumption in their favour, so those which do but contradict and reverse the course of doctrine which has been developed before them, and out of which they spring, are certainly corrupt; for a corruption is a development in that very stage in which it ceases to illustrate, and begins to disturb, the acquisitions gained in its previous history.
It is the rule of creation, or rather of the phenomena which it presents, that life passes on to its termination by a gradual, imperceptible course of change. There is ever a maximum in earthly excellence, and the operation of the same causes which made things great makes them small again. Weakness is but the resulting product of power. Events move in cycles; all things come round, “the sun ariseth and goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.” Flowers first bloom, and then fade; fruit ripens and decays. The fermenting process, unless stopped at the due point, corrupts the liquor which it has created. The grace of spring, the richness of autumn are but for a moment, and worldly moralists bid us Carpe diem, for we shall have no second opportunity. Virtue seems to lie in a mean, between vice and vice; and as it grew out of imperfection, so to grow into enormity. There is a limit to human knowledge, and both sacred and profane writers witness that overwisdom is folly. And in the political world states rise and fall, the instruments of their aggrandizement becoming the weapons of their destruction. And hence the frequent ethical maxims, such as, “Ne quid nimis,” “Medio tutissimus,” “Vaulting ambition,” which seem to imply that too much of what is good is evil.
So great a paradox of course cannot be maintained as that truth literally leads to falsehood, or that there can be an excess of virtue; but the appearance of things and the popular language about them will at least serve us in obtaining an additional test for the discrimination of a bonâ fide development of an idea from its corruption.
A true development, then, may be described as one which is conservative of the course of antecedent developments being really those antecedents and something besides them: it is an addition which illustrates, not obscures, corroborates, not corrects, the body of thought from which it proceeds; and this is its characteristic as contrasted with a corruption.
(Emphasis supplied.) In other words, a true development does not contradict what came before it. There is no moment in the development of doctrine at which point the doctors and masters in debate may say, “formerly all men were mad.”
A little later, Newman adds, by way of preface to some examples of his sixth note:
It is the general pretext of heretics that they are but serving and protecting Christianity by their innovations; and it is their charge against what by this time we may surely call the Catholic Church, that her successive definitions of doctrine have but overlaid and obscured it. That is, they assume, what we have no wish to deny, that a true development is that which is conservative of its original, and a corruption is that which tends to its destruction. This has already been set down as a Sixth Test, discriminative of a development from a corruption, and must now be applied to the Catholic doctrines; though this Essay has so far exceeded its proposed limits, that both reader and writer may well be weary, and may content themselves with a brief consideration of the portions of the subject which remain.
It has been observed already that a strict correspondence between the various members of a development, and those of the doctrine from which it is derived, is more than we have any right to expect. The bodily structure of a grown man is not merely that of a magnified boy; he differs from what he was in his make and proportions; still manhood is the perfection of boyhood, adding something of its own, yet keeping what it finds. “Ut nihil novum,” says Vincentius, “proferatur in senibus, quod non in pueris jam antea latitaverit.” This character of addition,—that is, of a change which is in one sense real and perceptible, yet without loss or reversal of what was before, but, on the contrary, protective and confirmative of it,—in many respects and in a special way belongs to Christianity.
(Emphasis supplied.) This, of course, is true. No heretic would ever openly admit that he is breaking definitively with the doctrine of the Church. Historically, the argument is that accretions of that much-discussed and little-loved (if hugely lovable) institution, the medieval Church, have distracted from the pure apostolic doctrine of the early Church. The modernist, however, finds that taste cloying—who wouldn’t after 400 or 500 years—and prefers instead to push the boundaries. But, as we noted, no one ever seems to get around to making the argument in terms of Newman’s notes.
Perhaps there is good reason for this strange silence. Could one, keeping particularly the sixth note in mind, make an argument that some of the innovations the modernists are so proud of these days are true developments of doctrine? Could they do it keeping in mind that an argument is more than a mere assertion? Could one, for example, defend the more extreme interpretations of Amoris laetitia (separate and apart from the text itself or the interpretations offered by some cardinals and bishops) as “conservative of the course of antecedent developments”? Could one defend the recent push to normalize the gay movement within the Church as “an addition which illustrates, not obscures, corroborates, not corrects, the body of thought from which it proceeds”? Or is it, perhaps, more natural to say that these interpretations of Amoris laetitia and these sudden calls for “dialogue” and “inclusions” are but contradictions and reversals of “the course of doctrine which has been developed before them”? Certainly the proponents of the putative developments have a view. But, against them, Cardinal Newman warns us that “a corruption is a development in that very stage in which it ceases to illustrate, and begins to disturb, the acquisitions gained in its previous history.”
Such a demonstration ought to be expected from the progressives who contend that their pet developments are entirely consonant with the apostolic faith of the Church. After all, it is they who have brought Newman into the debate in defense of the concept of development. They are not articulating mere points of theological or historical interest. Still less are they providing us with an introduction to Newman’s thought. They mean to justify their arguments as developments. It would be natural, therefore, for them to set forth an argument in Newman’s own terms that their putative developments have all the signs of a true development, rather than the absence of such signs indicating corruptions of doctrine. Yet we are unaware of any such demonstrations. Of course, we admit, as you may have guessed, that we think such a demonstration would be exceedingly difficult. And we suspect that the progressives are not hugely interested in demonstrating that their ideas are true developments.
In all of this, it seems awfully hard to avoid Newman’s statement that “overwisdom is folly.”
Of course, one hardly faults the progressives for their desire to transform the development of doctrine into the abrogation and redrafting of doctrine. It is always easier to find reasons to replace what is out of step with the world with what is in step with the world. It is always exciting to set to one side the beliefs of one’s father in exchange for something apparently new. But we must remember what Newman says, “This character of addition,—that is, of a change which is in one sense real and perceptible, yet without loss or reversal of what was before, but, on the contrary, protective and confirmative of it,—in many respects and in a special way belongs to Christianity.” That is, the Christian lives within tradition. We might deepen our understanding of doctrine, we might find an answer in the tradition to a new question, but we never leave the tradition. And we certainly do not abandon one part of it for something new.
It is little surprise, therefore, that we see Newman so often invoked and so infrequently quoted. One finds Pascendi and Lamentabili extremely inconvenient—and rightly so—when one wants to begin to recast the doctrine of the Church. The modernist wants Cardinal Newman on his side—needs Cardinal Newman on his side—but one, upon even cursory inspection, finds Newman to be very much not their man. And it seems to us that one could very profitably run the progressives’ pet doctrines through all of Newman’s notes in greater detail than done here, just to see what happens. We already know, of course, but sometimes such an étude is profitable for other reasons. And it might finally convince the progressives that there’s no future for them in solemnly telling us that Cardinal Newman is on their side.
With his 1892 encyclical on the Church and state in France, Au milieu des sollicitudes, Leo XIII instructed Catholics, who opposed the firmly anti-Catholic Third Republic, to begin cooperating with the regime. This new direction, known as ralliement, was based upon a distinction Leo drew between the civil power itself, which comes from God, and the political means of exercising and transmitting this power. As we shall see, Leo’s argument was based also on the common good. That is, Leo argued that the common good required French Catholics to cooperate with the Third Republic. In some respects, this is argument based upon a profoundly Thomistic understanding of government and the common good. However, it is not an argument without some perplexities, as we shall see. Most notable is the sense that engagement with liberalism will result in benefits to the Church. This is perhaps a departure from the Thomism otherwise on display in Au milieu and Leo’s follow-up letter to the French cardinals, Notre consolation. It is this sense that has been most strongly and most credibly criticized, as we shall see.
First, a historical note. The legacy of Au milieu des sollicitudes was almost immediately complicated. Roberto de Mattei has observed that Leo’s policy of engagement with the Third Republic failed disastrously. The French state, despite Leo’s encouragement to French Catholics to support the government, embarked on a vicious campaign against the Church. Indeed, the French government attacked directly even the Concordat of 1801. In response, St. Pius X made a series of allocutions condemning in the most stringent terms various actions by the French government. On November 14, 1904, he gave the allocution Duplicem on the Concordat. Then, on March 27, 1905, the allocution Amplissimum coetum. Then, on February 21, 1906, he condemned the law on the separation of Church and state in the allocution Gravissimum. He followed these statements up with a series of encyclicals beginning with his February 1906 encyclical on the law of separation, Vehementer nos. He followed it in the same year with his encyclical condemning the associations of worship, Gravissimo officii. Then, in 1907, Pius returned to the question of the French separation of Church and state in the encyclical Une fois encore, answering certain criticisms leveled against the Church by supporters of the French state. It is clear from this brief sketch of Pius’s statements that he was deeply concerned about the French question. But in all of it, Pius makes it clear that the depredations of the French state are to be resisted, come what may. De Mattei observes that Pius’s uncompromising resistance to the actions of the French government probably leavened the impact of the unjust laws on the Church. However, the impact on Au milieu was clear: as a policy, it failed.
Pater Edmund Waldstein has argued, following Petrus Hispanus, that ralliement was doomed to fail because it was an imprudent strategy. You can read Pater Waldstein’s argument at The Josias, but it ultimately boils down to this: cooperation with liberalism is a nonstarter because liberalism reduces everything to proceduralism. The idea behind ralliement was that Catholics, setting aside once and for all the dream of restoring the monarchy, could use the procedural machinery of the Third Republic to obtain a more favorable settlement for the Church instead of fighting the Republic itself. Indeed, according to Étienne Lamy, quoted at length by Pater Waldstein, Catholics could obtain a more favorable settlement for the Church using the very ideals of the Republic: Liberty, Fraternity, Equality. However, it did not work that way, and, De Mattei argues, it was only Pius X’s uncompromising insistence on Catholic truth that prevented the French state from enforcing its tyrannical laws.
In this, we see the value of the ralliement debate for Catholics today. The cry from liberals of all political persuasions is that machinery of liberalism can be harnessed and employed to the benefit of the Church. Just vote for the right candidate, just vote for the right ballot initiative, just demand the right judge, Catholics are told, and the tide can be turned back. But, Waldstein and Petrus Hispanus argue, that is not in the logic of liberalism. Cooperation invariably results in confinement to the liberal procedural norms that form the shared basis for discussion. In other words, ralliement did not prevent the French state from taking ever more anti-Catholic steps, and Catholic participation in liberalism today will not prevent a western state from taking ever more anti-Catholic steps. That is not how liberalism works. And to a certain extent, the argument has merit.
Nevertheless, Leo’s argument for ralliement deserves independent consideration, not least because of its fundamental connection to his other encyclicals on the Christian constitution of the state. Now, De Mattei argues that Au milieu represents at least a practical contradiction of Immortale Dei, Diuturnum illud, and Libertas praestantissimum. As De Mattei puts it, Leo might have been illiberal in his doctrine, but he was certainly a liberal in his praxis. This is not a cheerful prospect. At the very least, one cannot say that Leo did not know his own mind, and, therefore, if there is a contradiction between his great, illiberal political encyclicals and Au milieu, we must attempt to resolve the contradiction—one way or the other. To analyze the question, one ought, in fairness to such a great pope, consider his thought in full. To clarify Au milieu des sollicitudes, one should turn to Notre consolation, the letter Leo sent to the French cardinals shortly after his encyclical was issued. This letter, as far as we know, has never been issued in English. As usual, we will not translate it here, not out of a sort of showy erudition, but because our French is not up to the task and we think you can get a machine translation as well as we can. At any rate, Notre consolation is Leo’s response to the reception of Au milieu in France. It would be important for that reason alone. However it is also important because Leo clarifies the basis of the acceptance of the new regime in France set forth in Au milieu.
In Notre consolation, Leo says:
Nous l’avons également expliqué et Nous tenons à le redire, pour que personne ne se méprenne sur Notre enseignement: un de ces moyens est d’accepter sans arrière-pensée, avec cette loyauté parfaite qui convient au chrétien, le pouvoir civil dans la forme où, de fait, il existe. Ainsi fut accepté, en France, le premier Empire, au lendemain d’une effroyable et sanglante anarchie ; ainsi furent acceptés les autres pouvoirs, soit monarchiques, soit républicains, qui se succédèrent jusqu’à nos jours.
Et la raison de cette acceptation, c’est que le bien commun de la société l’emporte sur tout autre intérêt; car il est le principe créateur, il est l’élément conservateur de la société humaine ; d’où il suit que tout vrai citoyen doit le vouloir et le procurer à tout prix. Or, de cette nécessité d’assurer le bien commun dérive, comme de sa source propre et immédiate, la nécessité d’un pouvoir civil qui, s’orientant vers le but suprême, y dirige sagement et constamment les volontés multiples des sujets, groupés en faisceau dans sa main. Lors donc que, dans une société, il existe un pouvoir constitué et mis à l’œuvre, l’intérêt commun se trouve lié à ce pouvoir, et l’on doit, pour cette raison, l’accepter tel qu’il est. C’est pour ces motifs et dans ce sens que Nous avons dit aux catholiques français: Acceptez la République, c’est-à-dire le pouvoir constitué et existant parmi vous; respectez-la ; soyez-lui soumis comme représentant le pouvoir venu de Dieu.
(Emphasis supplied.) Leo connects ralliement with the common good. He reminds us that government is required to order society toward its common good. Where there is government, then, it has the authority to order society toward the common good, and for this reason, the government must be accepted. In the words, the supremacy of the common good requires that the government, which is responsible for ordering the state toward the common good, be accepted. Leo also reminds us of an important point from Au milieu,
Qu’on veuille bien y réfléchir, si le pouvoir politique est toujours de Dieu, il ne s’ensuit pas que la désignation divine affecte toujours et immédiatement les modes de transmission de ce pouvoir, ni les formes contingentes qu’il revêt, ni les personnes qui en sont le sujet. La variété même de ces modes dans les diverses nations montre à l’évidence le caractère humain de leur origine.
In other words, while the civil power is from God, this does not mean that the mechanism by which that power is transferred is necessarily of divine origin.
Leo expands this point in terms of history. The rise and fall of governments, Leo assures us, is proof that there is a separation between the civil power from God and the transmission of that power.
Il y a plus, les institutions humaines les mieux fondées en droit et établies dans des vues aussi salutaires qu’on le voudra, pour donner à la vie sociale une assiette plus stable et lui imprimer un plus puissant essor, ne conservent pas toujours leur vigueur conformément aux courtes prévisions de la sagesse de l’homme.
En politique, plus qu’ailleurs, surviennent des changements inattendus. Des monarchies colossales s’écroulent ou se démembrent, comme les antiques royautés d’Orient et l’Empire romain; les dynasties supplantent les dynasties, comme celles des Carlovingiens et des Capétiens en France ; aux formes politiques adoptées, d’autres formes se constituent, comme notre siècle en montre de nombreux exemples. Ces changements sont loin d’être toujours légitimes à l’origine : il est même difficile qu’ils le soient. Pourtant, le critérium suprême du bien commun et de la tranquillité publique impose l’acceptation de ces nouveaux gouvernements établis en fait, à la place des gouvernements antérieurs qui, en fait, ne sont plus. Ainsi se trouvent suspendues les règles ordinaires de la transmission des pouvoirs, et il peut se faire même, qu’avec le temps, elles se trouvent abolies.
(Emphasis supplied.) However, Leo argues that the “supreme criterion” of the common good and public order require the acceptance of governments after the rise and fall of governments. After all, the common good prevails over any other interest (“le bien commun de la société l’emporte sur tout autre intérêt”).
To a certain extent, Leo is reinforcing and distilling the central argument he made in support of ralliement in Au milieu des sollicitudes. Here is the relevant passage:
However, here it must be carefully observed that whatever be the form of civil power in a nation, it cannot be considered so definitive as to have the right to remain immutable, even though such were the intention of those who, in the beginning, determined it.… Only the Church of Jesus Christ has been able to preserve, and surely will preserve unto the consummation of time, her form of government. Founded by Him who was, who is, and who will be forever, she has received from Him, since her very origin, all that she requires for the pursuing of her divine mission across the changeable ocean of human affairs. And, far from wishing to transform her essential constitution, she has not the power even to relinquish the conditions of true liberty and sovereign independence with which Providence has endowed her in the general interest of souls . . . But, in regard to purely human societies, it is an oft-repeated historical fact that time, that great transformer of all things here below, operates great changes in their political institutions. On some occasions it limits itself to modifying something in the form of the established government; or, again, it will go so far as to substitute other forms for the primitive ones-forms totally different, even as regards the mode of transmitting sovereign power.
And how are these political changes of which We speak produced? They sometimes follow in the wake of violent crises, too often of a bloody character, in the midst of which pre-existing governments totally disappear; then anarchy holds sway, and soon public order is shaken to its very foundations and finally overthrown. From that time onward a social need obtrudes itself upon the nation; it must provide for itself without delay. Is it not its privilege – or, better still, its duty – to defend itself against a state of affairs troubling it so deeply, and to re-establish public peace in the tranquillity of order? Now, this social need justifies the creation and the existence of new governments, whatever form they take; since, in the hypothesis wherein we reason, these new governments are a requisite to public order, all public order being impossible without a government. Thence it follows that, in similar junctures, all the novelty is limited to the political form of civil power, or to its mode of transmission; it in no wise affects the power considered in itself. This continues to be immutable and worthy of respect, as, considered in its nature, it is constituted to provide for the common good, the supreme end which gives human society its origin. To put it otherwise, in all hypotheses, civil power, considered as such, is from God, always from God: “For there is no power but from God.”
Consequently, when new governments representing this immutable power are constituted, their acceptance is not only permissible but even obligatory, being imposed by the need of the social good which has made and which upholds them. This is all the more imperative because an insurrection stirs up hatred among citizens, provokes civil war, and may throw a nation into chaos and anarchy, and this great duty of respect and dependence will endure as long as the exigencies of the common good shall demand it, since this good is, after God, the first and last law in society.
(Emphasis supplied.) In other words, Notre consolation clarifies the point in Au milieu that the acceptance of a new regime is ultimately a question of the primacy of the common good.
Leo’s emphasis on the common good is profoundly Thomistic in many regards. Whatever the ultimate judgment on Leo’s ralliement policy, we must admit that his premises were, at least, consistent with the Common Doctor’s thought. We know from the De Regno (and Aristotle) that society necessarily implies government. We also know that government must direct the state toward its common good—that is, unity and peace. And the common good is the end toward which all elements of society must be ordered. Indeed, the society will collapse without something moving it toward the common good. Let us follow Thomas’s argument for a moment:
Si ergo naturale est homini quod in societate multorum vivat, necesse est in hominibus esse per quod multitudo regatur. Multis enim existentibus hominibus et unoquoque id, quod est sibi congruum, providente, multitudo in diversa dispergeretur, nisi etiam esset aliquis de eo quod ad bonum multitudinis pertinet curam habens; sicut et corpus hominis et cuiuslibet animalis deflueret, nisi esset aliqua vis regitiva communis in corpore, quae ad bonum commune omnium membrorum intenderet. Quod considerans Salomon dicit: ubi non est gubernator, dissipabitur populus.
Hoc autem rationabiliter accidit: non enim idem est quod proprium et quod commune. Secundum propria quidem differunt, secundum autem commune uniuntur. Diversorum autem diversae sunt causae. Oportet igitur, praeter id quod movet ad proprium bonum uniuscuiusque, esse aliquid quod movet ad bonum commune multorum. Propter quod et in omnibus quae in unum ordinantur, aliquid invenitur alterius regitivum. In universitate enim corporum per primum corpus, scilicet caeleste, alia corpora ordine quodam divinae providentiae reguntur, omniaque corpora per creaturam rationalem. In uno etiam homine anima regit corpus, atque inter animae partes irascibilis et concupiscibilis ratione reguntur. Itemque inter membra corporis unum est principale, quod omnia movet, ut cor, aut caput. Oportet igitur esse in omni multitudine aliquod regitivum.
(Emphasis supplied.) In English in Fr. Eschmann’s translation:
If, then, it is natural for man to live in the society of many, it is necessary that there exist among men some means by which the group may be governed. For where there are many men together and each one is looking after his own interest, the multitude would be broken up and scattered unless there were also an agency to take care of what appertains to the commonweal. In like manner, the body of a man or any other animal would disintegrate unless there were a general ruling force within the body which watches over the common good of all members. With this in mind, Solomon says [Eccl. 4:9]: “Where there is no governor, the people shall fall.”
Indeed it is reasonable that this should happen, for what is proper and what is common are not identical. Things differ by what is proper to each: they are united by what they have in common. But diversity of effects is due to diversity of causes. Consequently, there must exist something which impels towards the common good of the many, over and above that which impels towards the particular good of each individual. Wherefore also in all things that are ordained towards one end, one thing is found to rule the rest. Thus in the corporeal universe, by the first body, i.e. the celestial body, the other bodies are regulated according to the order of Divine Providence; and all bodies are ruled by a rational creature. So, too in the individual man, the soul rules the body; and among the parts of the soul, the irascible and the concupiscible parts are ruled by reason. Likewise, among the members of a body, one, such as the heart or the head, is the principal and moves all the others. Therefore in every multitude there must be some governing power.
(Emphasis supplied.) Leo is not wrong, therefore, in Notre consolation to observe that society implies government to order that society to the common good. Aristotle and Thomas tell us that man is a political animal; that is, it is natural for man to live in society. It is, therefore, necessary for some governing power to order that society toward the common good, otherwise the society would collapse.
And what is the common good toward which society must be ordered? As we have previously noted, it is peace—that is, unity and good order. Thomas teaches us:
Ad hoc enim cuiuslibet regentis ferri debet intentio, ut eius quod regendum suscepit salutem procuret. Gubernatoris enim est, navem contra maris pericula servando, illaesam perducere ad portum salutis. Bonum autem et salus consociatae multitudinis est ut eius unitas conservetur, quae dicitur pax, qua remota, socialis vitae perit utilitas, quinimmo multitudo dissentiens sibi ipsi sit onerosa. Hoc igitur est ad quod maxime rector multitudinis intendere debet, ut pacis unitatem procuret. Nec recte consiliatur, an pacem faciat in multitudine sibi subiecta, sicut medicus, an sanet infirmum sibi commissum. Nullus enim consiliari debet de fine quem intendere debet, sed de his quae sunt ad finem. Propterea apostolus commendata fidelis populi unitate: solliciti, inquit, sitis servare unitatem spiritus in vinculo pacis. Quanto igitur regimen efficacius fuerit ad unitatem pacis servandam, tanto erit utilius. Hoc enim utilius dicimus, quod magis perducit ad finem. Manifestum est autem quod unitatem magis efficere potest quod est per se unum, quam plures. Sicut efficacissima causa est calefactionis quod est per se calidum. Utilius igitur est regimen unius, quam plurium.
(Emphasis supplied.) In English:
This question may be considered first from the viewpoint of the purpose of government. The aim of any ruler should be directed towards securing the welfare of that which he undertakes to rule. The duty of the pilot, for instance, is to preserve his ship amidst the perils of the sea. and to bring it unharmed to the port of safety. Now the welfare and safety of a multitude formed into a society lies in the preservation of its unity, which is called peace. If this is removed, the benefit of social life is lost and, moreover, the multitude in its disagreement becomes a burden to itself. The chief concern of the ruler of a multitude, therefore, is to procure the unity of peace. It is not even legitimate for him to deliberate whether he shall establish peace in the multitude subject to him, just as a physician does not deliberate whether he shall heal the sick man encharged to him, for no one should deliberate about an end which he is obliged to seek, but only about the means to attain that end. Wherefore the Apostle, having commended the unity of the faithful people, says: “Be ye careful to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” Thus, the more efficacious a government is in keeping the unity of peace, the more useful it will be. For we call that more useful which leads more directly to the end. Now it is manifest that what is itself one can more efficaciously bring about unity than several—just as the most efficacious cause of heat is that which is by its nature hot. Therefore the rule of one man is more useful than the rule of many.
(Emphasis supplied.) Now this much we have discussed previously, and it’s relatively basic in terms of principle. The temporal common good is peace, and peace is unity and good order. Up to a point, Leo’s argument in Au milieu and Notre consolation is intuitive. If peace is the common good, then what serves peace—that is, unity and good order—will serve the common good. And resisting the temporal power, illegitimate or not, is not consistent with unity and good order.
Moreover, Thomas teaches us that there may be practical reasons to tolerate a tyrannical (or revolutionary) government. In the De Regno, he argues:
Et quidem si non fuerit excessus tyrannidis, utilius est remissam tyrannidem tolerare ad tempus, quam contra tyrannum agendo multis implicari periculis, quae sunt graviora ipsa tyrannide. Potest enim contingere ut qui contra tyrannum agunt praevalere non possint, et sic provocatus tyrannus magis desaeviat. Quod si praevalere quis possit adversus tyrannum, ex hoc ipso proveniunt multoties gravissimae dissensiones in populo; sive dum in tyrannum insurgitur, sive post deiectionem tyranni dum erga ordinationem regiminis multitudo separatur in partes. Contingit etiam ut interdum, dum alicuius auxilio multitudo expellit tyrannum, ille, potestate accepta, tyrannidem arripiat, et timens pati ab alio quod ipse in alium fecit, graviori servitute subditos opprimat. Sic enim in tyrannide solet contingere, ut posterior gravior fiat quam praecedens, dum praecedentia gravamina non deserit et ipse ex sui cordis malitia nova excogitat. Unde Syracusis quondam Dionysii mortem omnibus desiderantibus, anus quaedam, ut incolumis et sibi superstes esset, continue orabat; quod ut tyrannus cognovit, cur hoc faceret interrogavit. Tum illa: puella, inquit, existens, cum gravem tyrannum haberemus, mortem eius cupiebam, quo interfecto, aliquantum durior successit; eius quoque dominationem finiri magnum existimabam: tertium te importuniorem habere coepimus rectorem. Itaque si tu fueris absumptus, deterior in locum tuum succedet.
(Emphasis supplied). And in English:
Indeed, if there be not an excess of tyranny it is more expedient to tolerate the milder tyranny for a while than, by acting against the tyrant, to become involved in many perils more grievous than the tyranny itself. For it may happen that those who act against the tyrant are unable to prevail and the tyrant then will rage the more. But should one be able to prevail against the tyrant, from this fact itself very grave dissensions among the people frequently ensue: the multitude may be broken up into factions either during their revolt against the tyrant, or in process of the organization of the government, after the tyrant has been overthrown. Moreover, it sometimes happens that while the multitude is driving out the tyrant by the help of some man, the latter, having received the power, thereupon seizes the tyranny. Then, fearing to suffer from another what he did to his predecessor, he oppresses his subjects with an even more grievous slavery. This is wont to happen in tyranny, namely, that the second becomes more grievous than the one preceding, inasmuch as, without abandoning the previous oppressions, he himself thinks up fresh ones from the malice of his heart. Whence in Syracuse, at a time when everyone desired the death of Dionysius, a certain old woman kept constantly praying that he might be unharmed and that he might survive her. When the tyrant learned this he asked why she did it. Then she said: “When I was a girl we had a harsh tyrant and I wished for his death; when he was killed, there succeeded him one who was a little harsher. I was very eager to see the end of his dominion also, and we began to have a third ruler still more harsh—that was you. So if you should be taken away, a worse would succeed in your place.”
(Emphasis supplied.) In other words, prudence may require a people to endure a tyrant for fear of what will come after the tyrant. All these reasons, therefore, bolster Leo’s argument that the government must be accepted. Government is necessary for life in society, and there may be prudential reasons to accept and endure a bad government rather than seek a change in government.
And Leo, in Notre consolation, makes a gesture in the direction of endurance, observing that to accept a revolutionary government is not to accept every act of the government, especially those at variance with the divine and natural law: “Après avoir solidement établi dans notre Encyclique cette vérité, Nous avons formulé la distinction entre le pouvoir politique et la législation, et Nous avons montré que l’acceptation de l’un n’impliquait nullement l’acceptation de l’autre; dans les points où le législateur, oublieux de sa mission, se mettait en opposition avec la loi de Dieu et de l’Église.” (Emphasis supplied.) However, where Thomas counsels what amounts to an endurance turned toward God, Leo counsels engagement with the regime, in an attempt to persuade the government to withdraw from its wicked acts:
Et, que tous le remarquent bien, déployer son activité et user de son influence pour amener les gouvernements à changer en bien des lois iniques ou dépourvues de sagesse, c’est faire preuve d’un dévouement à la patrie aussi intelligent que courageux, sans accuser l’ombre d’une hostilité aux pouvoirs chargés de régir la chose publique. Qui s’aviserait de dénoncer les chrétiens des premiers siècles comme adversaires de l’Empire romain, parce qu’ils ne se courbaient point devant ses prescriptions idolâtriques, mais s’efforçaient d’en obtenir l’abolition?
(Remember Pater Waldstein’s extensive quotation of Lamy?) This points toward the fundamental problem, according to De Mattei and others, with Au milieu des sollicitudes and Notre consolation: whatever the Thomistic foundations of Leo’s argument, he still argues that Catholics should participate in liberal political processes in hopes of, as it were, persuading the regime to order itself the the divine and natural law, without which it will be impossible to pursue the common good. This, we think, is a sharp departure from Thomas’s thought. At the very least it is a point of difference.
And is in consequence of this difference that we find ourselves back to Pater Edmund Waldstein’s point: cooperation with the liberal regime invariably results in a reduction to liberal proceduralism. And we see, following De Mattei, from the historical example of France—the laws resisted by St. Pius X but a few years after Au milieu and Notre consolation—that participation in the liberal regime by Catholics does not necessarily dissuade the regime from acting contrary to God’s law. However, we can see that the Thomistic principles that motivated Leo’s great encyclicals on the Christian constitution of the state are present in large part in Leo’s teaching on the situation in France. One need not set Au milieu and Notre consolation against the others necessarily. One may instead acknowledge that in places Leo comes to different conclusions than Thomas.
Fr. Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa have a piece in Civiltà complaining about “the surprising ecumenism” between Catholic integralists and evangelical fundamentalists. As we are never not reminded, Civiltà is reviewed in the Secretariat of State before publication, and, more than that, Spadaro has been a leading hype man for the Holy Father’s projects. (He is also a devoted consumer of pop culture.) Figueroa is an Argentine protestant pastor whose primary claim to fame is that he is friends with the Pope. Spadaro and Figueroa write in some ways the standard left-liberal piece about politics and religion in America. In fact, every educated American has probably read this piece a thousand times over, as it was a very popular piece during the presidency of George W. Bush. That Spadaro and Figueroa feel the need to deliver themselves of it in 2017 betrays their fundamental ignorance of American politics, culture, and the intersection of both with religion. No American editor with half a clue would have accepted their pitch, unless he was trying to ingratiate himself with the Pope’s buddies.
It is hard to describe just how hackneyed this piece is, but, for you, dear reader, we will try. (Assuming you don’t want to read it, which is a perfectly reasonable reaction.) It begins with a potted history of Christian fundamentalism in the United States. It meanders into dominionism and apocalypticism. Next, we turn to the prosperity gospel; bizarrely they talk about Norman Vincent Peale but not Joel Osteen. Why do they mention the prosperity gospel? Who knows. Then we hear about the ecumenism between these protestants and some Catholics on the hot-button social questions of abortion and same-sex marriage. Of course, Spadaro and Figueroa omit to discuss the history of this relationship or some of its central figures, such as Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. Pastor Figueroa could perhaps be excused for not knowing the Church’s doctrine or history on these points, though the Pope has named him editor of the Argentine edition of L’Osservatore Romano, but it is less understandable why Fr. Spadaro is confused by the alliance. Or something. We then turn into a long discourse on spiritual war, which is not hugely clear, but the thrust of which seems to be that Michael Voris’s Church Militant is very bad.
Spadaro clarifies nothing in the interview he did with America about the piece. As we say, any educated American has read the article about fundamentalism and politicians a thousand times, the article about the prosperity gospel a thousand times, and the article about socially conservative Christians putting aside confessional differences to try to stop abortion and same-sex “marriage” a thousand times. What is new, other than the fact that Spadaro and Figueroa are seen as close collaborators of the reigning Pope, is the suggestion that Donald Trump, who is manifestly not hugely interested in religion nor even able to mouth the sorts of religious platitudes that American presidents are usually expected to mouth, somehow fits into this structure. They mention Steve Bannon, but only in passing and with no insight. And this is the primary problem with the essay: Spadaro and Figueroa plainly have no insight into the American political and religious scenes. They simply want to argue that Pope Francis and liberalism are good and integralism is bad.
Unfortunately, and even if you disagree that their piece has been done to death over the last seventeen years (and you’d be wrong), their argument is hamstrung by its mediocrity. For one thing, they never actually get around to discussing the Church’s historical position on the question of integralism. It is argued that Francis rejects it, but they make no effort to demonstrate that such a rejection is consistent with the Church’s social doctrine more generally. But that doesn’t really matter, since they never get around to defining “Catholic integralism.” All that matters for them is that it is extremely bad. It is probably unreasonable to expect them to engage with a tradition that they don’t even define. Moreover, they do not engage with the liberal tradition within American Catholicism, exemplified by the Jesuit John Courtney Murray, which might have provided an interesting strand in their argument—not least because it remains the dominant strand in American Catholicism. That article has itself been written many times, but not so many times as the article Spadaro and Figueroa turned in. It may even have been interesting.
However, even if they had made a halfway intelligent argument, grappling with the liberal tradition in Catholicism, they still would find themselves in opposition not only to the tradition of the Church but also to the pope they want to vindicate. The crux of their essay is this:
The religious element should never be confused with the political one. Confusing spiritual power with temporal power means subjecting one to the other. An evident aspect of Pope Francis’ geopolitics rests in not giving theological room to the power to impose oneself or to find an internal or external enemy to fight. There is a need to flee the temptation to project divinity on political power that then uses it for its own ends. Francis empties from within the narrative of sectarian millenarianism and dominionism that is preparing the apocalypse and the “final clash.” Underlining mercy as a fundamental attribute of God expresses this radically Christian need.
Francis wants to break the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church. Spirituality cannot tie itself to governments or military pacts for it is at the service of all men and women. Religions cannot consider some people as sworn enemies nor others as eternal friends. Religion should not become the guarantor of the dominant classes. Yet it is this very dynamic with a spurious theological flavor that tries to impose its own law and logic in the political sphere.
(Emphasis supplied and footnote omitted.) It would be impossible to unpack all of the errors contained in these two paragraphs. For example, Spadaro and Figueroa apparently intend to deny outright the doctrines contained in Leo XIII’s Libertas praestantissimum, Immortale Dei, and Diuturnum illud, to say nothing of St. Pius X’s Fin dalla prima nostra and Notre charge apostolique. They also intend to deny the authority of the Church to pronounce on matters of political economy set forth by Leo XIII in Rerum novarum, Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno, and Pius XII in La solennità della Pentecoste. They also apparently intend generally to deny the condemnations of liberalism contained in Gregory XVI’s Mirari vos and Bl. Pius IX’s Quanta cura and Syllabus. No doubt they see in Gaudium et spes, Dignitatis humanae, Nostra aetate, and Unitatis redintegratio the rejection of such tedious anti-liberal doctrines. We may say then that Spadaro and Figueroa oppose not only Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius X, Pius XI, and Pius XII, but also Benedict XVI, who taught that the Council could not be read in opposition to those good and holy popes.
More to the point, Spadaro and Figueroa set themselves against Pope Francis himself when they articulate a bizarre liberal atomization of man. According to Spadaro and Figueroa, in church, man is a believer; in the council hall, he is a politician, at the movie theater, he is a critic; and he is apparently supposed to keep all of these roles separate. The believer and the politician can never communicate, nor the critic and the believer, nor the politician and the critic. However, in April of this year, Francis gave an address to a conference in Rome on Populorum progressio in which he said:
It is also a matter of integrating in development all those elements that render it truly such. The various systems: the economy, finance, work, culture, family life, religion are, each in its own way, a fundamental circumstance for this growth. None of them can be an absolute, and none can be excluded from the concept of integral human development which, in other words, takes into account that human life is like an orchestra that performs well if the various instruments are in harmony and follow a score shared by all.
It is also a matter of integrating the individual and the community dimensions. It is undeniable that we are children of a culture, at least in the Western world, that has exalted the individual to the point of making him as an island, almost as if he could be happy alone. On the other hand, there is no lack of ideological views and political powers that have crushed the person; they have depersonalized the individual and deprived him of that boundless freedom without which man no longer feels he is man. There are also economic powers interested in this conformity; they seek to exploit globalization instead of fostering greater sharing among people, simply in order to impose a global market of which they themselves make the rules and reap the profits. The ‘I’ and the community are not in competition with each other, but the ‘I’ can mature only in the presence of authentic interpersonal relationships, and the community is productive when each and every one of its components is such. This is even more the case for the family, which is the first cell of society and where one learns how to live together.
It is lastly a matter of integrating among them body and soul. Paul vi previously wrote that development cannot be restricted simply to economic growth (cf. n. 14); development does not consist in having goods increasingly available, for physical wellbeing alone. Integrating body and soul also means that no work of development can truly reach its goal if it does not respect that place in which God is present with us and speaks to our heart.
(Emphasis supplied.) It is clear that Francis, like his predecessors, rejects the notion that the various aspects of human life can be atomized and compartmentalized. Instead, he sees human life as “an orchestra that performs well if the various instruments are in harmony and follow a score shared by all.” This is not the rhetoric of a pope who “wants to break the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church,” as Spadaro and Figueroa say. This is the rhetoric of a pope who understands the vital importance of this organic link and wishes to foster it.
Moreover, we are far from convinced that Francis is as liberal as Spadaro and Figueroa would have us believe. Consider Laudato si’. Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., a great friend of Semiduplex and a leading light among Catholic integralists, has argued conclusively that Laudato si’ is a deeply anti-modern, anti-liberal encyclical. Rusty Reno, editor of First Things, has likewise articulated the case that the Francis of Laudato si’ is deeply suspicious of modernity and liberalism. Indeed, the liberal atomization that Spadaro and Figueroa want to exalt is one of the central problems with modernity that Francis dissects brilliantly in Laudato si’. Francis teaches us:
A misguided anthropocentrism leads to a misguided lifestyle. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I noted that the practical relativism typical of our age is “even more dangerous than doctrinal relativism”. When human beings place themselves at the centre, they give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative. Hence we should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests. There is a logic in all this whereby different attitudes can feed on one another, leading to environmental degradation and social decay.
The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labour on them or enslaving them to pay their debts. The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests. It is also the mindset of those who say: Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and nature as collateral damage. In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted? This same “use and throw away” logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary. We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.
(Emphasis supplied and footnote omitted.) Francis sees what Spadaro and Figueroa do not: “the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church” is necessary for living well. The “objective truths and sound principles” provided by the Church ought to inform our lifestyle, our culture, and our political activities; indeed, these truths are necessary for our culture and our political activities, lest they fall into sickness and tyranny.
Spadaro and Figueroa, so far from expressing the mind of Francis, seek to articulate the misguided lifestyle Francis warns us about.
We have been reading John Paul’s 1981 encyclical on human labor, Laborem exercens, which was a commemoration of the 90th anniversary of Rerum novarum. There are interesting resonances with earlier thinkers that we will, we hope, have time to draw out later. However, for now, we present this lengthy excerpt on private property as, perhaps, a mere provocation:
The historical process briefly presented here has certainly gone beyond its initial phase, but it is still taking place and indeed is spreading in the relationships between nations and continents. It needs to be specified further from another point of view. It is obvious that, when we speak of opposition between labour and capital, we are not dealing only with abstract concepts or “impersonal forces” operating in economic production. Behind both concepts there are people, living, actual people: on the one side are those who do the work without being the owners of the means of production, and on the other side those who act as entrepreneurs and who own these means or represent the owners. Thus the issue of ownership or property enters from the beginning into the whole of this difficult historical process. The Encyclical Rerum Novarum, which has the social question as its theme, stresses this issue also, recalling and confirming the Church’s teaching on ownership, on the right to private property even when it is a question of the means of production. The Encyclical Mater et Magistra did the same.
The above principle, as it was then stated and as it is still taught by the Church, diverges radically from the programme of collectivism as proclaimed by Marxism and put into pratice in various countries in the decades following the time of Leo XIII’s Encyclical. At the same time it differs from the programme of capitalism practised by liberalism and by the political systems inspired by it. In the latter case, the difference consists in the way the right to ownership or property is understood. Christian tradition has never upheld this right as absolute and untouchable. On the contrary, it has always understood this right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone.
Furthermore, in the Church’s teaching, ownership has never been understood in a way that could constitute grounds for social conflict in labour. As mentioned above, property is acquired first of all through work in order that it may serve work. This concerns in a special way ownership of the means of production. Isolating these means as a separate property in order to set it up in the form of “capital” in opposition to “labour”—and even to practise exploitation of labour—is contrary to the very nature of these means and their possession. They cannot be possessed against labour, they cannot even be possessed for possession’s sake, because the only legitimate title to their possession—whether in the form of private ownerhip or in the form of public or collective ownership—is that they should serve labour, and thus, by serving labour, that they should make possible the achievement of the first principle of this order, namely, the universal destination of goods and the right to common use of them. From this point of view, therefore, in consideration of human labour and of common access to the goods meant for man, one cannot exclude the socialization, in suitable conditions, of certain means of production. In the course of the decades since the publication of the Encyclical Rerum Novarum, the Church’s teaching has always recalled all these principles, going back to the arguments formulated in a much older tradition, for example, the well-known arguments of the Summa Theologiae of Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Is there any publication today as consistently interesting as First Things? Example: today, they have a piece by Columbia Law professor Philip Hamburger about the Supreme Court case Trinity Lutheran of Columbia v. Comer. This may well be a significant Establishment Clause case, given the issues and the Justices’ positions. If you are legally inclined, the petitions and briefs briefs are, of course, available through SCOTUSBlog. The case has produced some interesting ecumenical alignments. For example, the amici brief of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is also signed by the Mormons, the Salvation Army, and the Reformed Church in America. Hamburger’s piece is not, actually, much of a discussion of the legal issues in play with Trinity Lutheran. Instead he offers readers some background on the so-called Blaine Amendments, which are at the root of the Trinity Lutheran case.
Hamburger demonstrates—conclusively, we think—that the Blaine Amendments were the product of a pervasive anti-Catholicism in the United States in the late 19th century. Indeed, as we shall see, Hamburger makes the case that there was a bias against organized Christianity generally in many quarters, though the Church of Rome was taken as the archetype of organized Christianity. Hamburger explains:
Maine Representative James G. Blaine (1830–93) was born to a Catholic mother and a father who later converted to Catholicism; as a child, he apparently was baptized in the Catholic Church. As an adult, however, he had presidential ambitions. He does not seem to have harbored anti-Catholic animosity, and he refused to be drawn into “any avowal of hostility or unfriendliness to Catholics.” But in an era of profound anxieties about Catholics, including fears about their voting power and about the danger of their introducing papal tyranny, he was eager to be elected. He therefore proposed a constitutional amendment in late 1875 that would have rewritten the First Amendment—applying it to the states, and adding that “no money raised by taxation in any State for the support of public schools … shall ever be under the control of any religious sect.”
Blaine’s amendment appealed to such fears by preventing tax money from coming under the control of any “religious sect.” Existing constitutional provisions against establishments of religion did not bar public spending on education from reaching schools with religious affiliations, and Blaine’s amendment did not propose to alter this arrangement except by excluding Catholics. The Catholic Church, being attached to its orthodoxies, had theological objections to cooperating theologically with Protestants, and it therefore could only operate schools that were distinctly Catholic or “sectarian.” In contrast, Protestants were willing to join with Protestants of other denominations in running schools. Thus, when the Blaine Amendment stated that public money could not go to institutions belonging to any one “sect,” it effectively proposed to prevent money from reaching Catholic institutions—without cutting off funds for institutions shared by Protestant denominations.
(Emphasis supplied.) Hamburger goes on to explain, however, that Blaine’s amendment was manifestly an effort to advance his presidential hopes in 1876. And it made some headway in the Republican Party: the 1876 platform supported Blaine’s amendment. But it was obvious that Blaine’s amendment would not succeed and that the 1876 platform’s anti-Catholicism was merely an attempt to catch votes. Hamburger notes that, when Blaine’s amendment, which had passed the House overwhelmingly, reached the Senate, Blaine did not even attend the vote. It failed.
However, as is often the case, the amendment had a life of its own. Hamburger observes that many states adopted amendments to their constitutions along the lines of Blaine’s failed amendment to the federal constitution. Some of these amendments are fairly specifically anti-Catholic, others are more broadly anti-religious. And this is where Hamburger’s essay is indispensable. He explains that the Blaine amendment fits into a broader context of liberal thought in the late 19th century:
In appealing to anti-Catholic prejudice, Blaine was reaching out not merely to the unwashed masses, nor even merely to narrowly anti-Catholic nativists, but more broadly to theological liberals. As a Jewish commentator observed in 1875, “this issue will unite the whole Liberal element in this country with the anti-Catholic element, and these two elements form a vast majority all over the land.” Blaine thus could capture the votes of both traditional Protestants and theological liberals.
Nativists were not as theologically traditional in their anti-Catholicism as one might suppose. Their animosity against the Catholic Church arose not so much from the doctrines of their particular churches as from their broader theologically liberal concerns about church authority. They complained that the Catholic Church’s assertions of authority (including its hierarchy, its creeds, and its dogmatic claims of truth) threatened the mental independence of individuals. Catholic claims of priestly and especially papal authority thus seemed to prevent individual Christians from choosing their own faith, as necessary for salvation; they also seemed to prevent citizens from thinking and voting independently, as necessary for democracy.
Many theological liberals thus found themselves aligned with nativism. Although theological liberals viewed the Catholic Church as the model of what they disliked in religion, they typically expanded upon this narrow animosity to develop a broader hostility toward all hierarchical churches, Catholic or Protestant.
(Emphasis supplied.) Hamburger’s point bears repeating: liberals and nativists alike shared anti-Catholicism in the late 19th century. Indeed, the liberals and the nativists were the same people in many cases, according to Hamburger. But for many liberals, especially those who identified as capital-L Liberals around the 1876 election, the Church of Rome was not the sole enemy, even if she was the most prominent. Hamburger explains that these “Liberals” opposed all hierarchical ecclesial bodies with definite Christian doctrine.
In this same vein, Richard Garnett, at Notre Dame, has a piece at SCOTUSBlog from August 2016 discussing this question in depth, and citing several scholars, including Hamburger, who have addressed the question of the Blaine Amendments in detail. Garnett wrote:
First, will the Justices acknowledge, and perhaps even engage, the actual history and purpose of no-aid provisions like the one invoked by Missouri in this case? The Eighth Circuit did not mention the term “Blaine Amendments” and instead gestured vaguely to, again, a “long history of maintaining a very high wall between church and state” and to Missouri’s embrace of a “more restrictive” version of separation. In fact, though – as Philip Hamburger, John McGreevy, Joseph Viteritti, Lloyd Jorgenson, and many others have shown – provisions like Missouri’s were adopted by states (and sometimes required by the federal government) not to implement an abstraction like “separation” but rather to marginalize and undermine Roman Catholicism in America. These provisions’ origins, regardless of how the laws are justified or described today, are not easily disentangled from nineteenth-century America’s pervasive anti-Catholicism and nativism or from a broader ideological, nationalist project of using state-mandated public schooling to inculcate “American” values and loyalties. Justice Thomas discussed this history in his 2000 opinion in Mitchell v. Helms and Chief Justice Rehnquist mentioned it in a footnote in Locke. Will the Justices, in Trinity Lutheran, deal with the elephant in the room?
(Emphasis supplied, but hyperlinks in original.) It is possible that the Supreme Court will hand down its decision in Trinity Lutheran on Thursday at 10 AM. However, whenever it does hand down its decision, it will be interesting to see the extent to which the Court grapples with the history of the Blaine Amendments.
But we can think about these questions before the Supreme Court makes its thoughts known. Hamburger points to a fundamental problem that all integralist Catholics—indeed, all orthodox Catholics—have to confront sooner or later: liberalism is incompatible with Catholicism. Consider Leo XIII’s teaching in Libertas praestantissimum:
What naturalists or rationalists aim at in philosophy, that the supporters of liberalism, carrying out the principles laid down by naturalism, are attempting in the domain of morality and politics. The fundamental doctrine of rationalism is the supremacy of the human reason, which, refusing due submission to the divine and eternal reason, proclaims its own independence, and constitutes itself the supreme principle and source and judge of truth. Hence, these followers of liberalism deny the existence of any divine authority to which obedience is due, and proclaim that every man is the law to himself; from which arises that ethical system which they style independent morality, and which, under the guise of liberty, exonerates man from any obedience to the commands of God, and substitutes a boundless license. The end of all this it is not difficult to foresee, especially when society is in question. For, when once man is firmly persuaded that he is subject to no one, it follows that the efficient cause of the unity of civil society is not to be sought in any principle external to man, or superior to him, but simply in the free will of individuals; that the authority in the State comes from the people only; and that, just as every man’s individual reason is his only rule of life, so the collective reason of the community should be the supreme guide in the management of all public affairs. Hence the doctrine of the supremacy of the greater number, and that all right and all duty reside in the majority. But, from what has been said, it is clear that all this is in contradiction to reason. To refuse any bond of union between man and civil society, on the one hand, and God the Creator and consequently the supreme Law-giver, on the other, is plainly repugnant to the nature, not only of man, but of all created things; for, of necessity, all effects must in some proper way be connected with their cause; and it belongs to the perfection of every nature to contain itself within that sphere and grade which the order of nature has assigned to it, namely, that the lower should be subject and obedient to the higher.
Moreover, besides this, a doctrine of such character is most hurtful both to individuals and to the State. For, once ascribe to human reason the only authority to decide what is true and what is good, and the real distinction between good and evil is destroyed; honor and dishonor differ not in their nature, but in the opinion and judgment of each one; pleasure is the measure of what is lawful; and, given a code of morality which can have little or no power to restrain or quiet the unruly propensities of man, a way is naturally opened to universal corruption. With reference also to public affairs: authority is severed from the true and natural principle whence it derives all its efficacy for the common good; and the law determining what it is right to do and avoid doing is at the mercy of a majority. Now, this is simply a road leading straight to tyranny. The empire of God over man and civil society once repudiated, it follows that religion, as a public institution, can have no claim to exist, and that everything that belongs to religion will be treated with complete indifference. Furthermore, with ambitious designs on sovereignty, tumult and sedition will be common amongst the people; and when duty and conscience cease to appeal to them, there will be nothing to hold them back but force, which of itself alone is powerless to keep their covetousness in check. Of this we have almost daily evidence in the conflict with socialists and members of other seditious societies, who labor unceasingly to bring about revolution. It is for those, then, who are capable of forming a just estimate of things to decide whether such doctrines promote that true liberty which alone is worthy of man, or rather, pervert and destroy it.
(Emphasis supplied.) We see in Leo’s discourse exactly what Hamburger was talking about in the passage we quoted above. The problem with Catholicism for the liberal of 1876 was that it denies the supremacy of the individual as judge of right and wrong, even in matters of religion. But Leo makes clear that it is—in addition to an affront to God’s sovereignty and to the authority that He has granted to the Church and the state in their spheres—a shortcut to tyranny and anarchy to grant the individual and his subjective reason the supremacy demanded by liberals.
Leo goes on to address squarely the question of church and state:
There are others, somewhat more moderate though not more consistent, who affirm that the morality of individuals is to be guided by the divine law, but not the morality of the State, for that in public affairs the commands of God may be passed over, and may be entirely disregarded in the framing of laws. Hence follows the fatal theory of the need of separation between Church and State. But the absurdity of such a position is manifest. Nature herself proclaims the necessity of the State providing means and opportunities whereby the community may be enabled to live properly, that is to say, according to the laws of God. For, since God is the source of all goodness and justice, it is absolutely ridiculous that the State should pay no attention to these laws or render them abortive by contrary enactment. Besides, those who are in authority owe it to the commonwealth not only to provide for its external well-being and the conveniences of life, but still more to consult the welfare of men’s souls in the wisdom of their legislation. But, for the increase of such benefits, nothing more suitable can be conceived than the laws which have God for their author; and, therefore, they who in their government of the State take no account of these laws abuse political power by causing it to deviate from its proper end and from what nature itself prescribes. And, what is still more important, and what We have more than once pointed out, although the civil authority has not the same proximate end as the spiritual, nor proceeds on the same lines, nevertheless in the exercise of their separate powers they must occasionally meet. For their subjects are the same, and not infrequently they deal with the same objects, though in different ways. Whenever this occurs, since a state of conflict is absurd and manifestly repugnant to the most wise ordinance of God, there must necessarily exist some order or mode of procedure to remove the occasions of difference and contention, and to secure harmony in all things. This harmony has been not inaptly compared to that which exists between the body and the soul for the well-being of both one and the other, the separation of which brings irremediable harm to the body, since it extinguishes its very life.
(Emphasis supplied.) In essence, Leo teaches that liberalism, whether it is extreme or moderated, is contrary to the divine and natural law. Indeed, Leo demonstrates with great clarity that the moderate liberal is incoherent at best and disingenuous at worst.
The Catholic should, therefore, be troubled by policies like the Blaine Amendments. As Philip Hamburger outlines brilliantly, they were proximately the product of anti-Catholicism deployed cynically to further James Blaine’s presidential ambitions. However, they fit into a broader context of liberal thought in the late 1800s. This liberalism has been squarely condemned by Leo XIII, who shows us that it is both contrary to the divine and natural law and incoherent on its own terms. The sort of liberal who concedes to Catholics (or any Christian committed to Christian teaching) the right to believe what they believe, provided they keep it out of the public square, is either confused about his liberalism or economizing with the truth.
Hamburger’s piece provides an excellent test case, since it deals with a policy unquestionably liberal and unquestionably anti-Catholic. It is hard to dodge the harder questions in the context of the Blaine Amendments, since they were explicitly motivated by liberal anti-Catholicism. But one cannot stop the analysis with the Blaine Amendments, not least since the policy they articulate is no less present today than it was in 1876. Indeed, if anything, liberalism has strengthened its hand since 1876. It is all around us, as ever-present as air. One can find it in other political contexts, in the workplace, in the popular press, and in entertainment. We live in a golden age of liberalism, as it were, and it is no less hostile to the Church than the world of 1876 that produced the Blaine Amendments. The Catholic must, sooner or later, confront this hostility.