Supranational government and the demographic question

Last night, we noticed on Twitter a discussion about our piece, The ghost at the Brexit feast, that seemed to focus on our assertion that supranational government has to be founded upon Catholic principles. Of course, that is not really our assertion; it is the inescapable conclusion of the teachings of St. Pius XSt. John XXIII, and Benedict XVI. Setting that to one side, the discussion included the fact that Catholics are only 17.8% of the world population. The implication being either that Catholics are not in a position to establish supranational government along Catholic lines because there aren’t enough Catholics to do it or that Catholics need to convert the nations. Either way, the implicit criticism is that supranational government founded upon Christ and His Church is not possible due to demographic problems.

Ordinarily we do not respond to Twitter discussion of our posts. (We recall that we promised to reconsider our comment policy here, which we are still doing, albeit very, very slowly.) However, this Twitter discussion seemed to raise some interesting points, not least since we did not consider the demographic angle when we wrote our original piece. However, the discussion was very interesting and led us to work through some of the implications of the demographic issue on the question of supranational government.

In short, we think the best response is along the lines of the point that Henri Grenier (and Pius XII, at the very beginning of the Second World War) made: all nations, Catholic or not, are bound together with mutual and reciprocal moral and juridical bonds. And, whether Catholics constitute a demographic minority or not, this interaction and interrelationship of all nations exists and is ultimately founded upon the divine law. Pius XII observed:

[I]t is indispensable for the existence of harmonious and lasting contacts and of fruitful relations, that the peoples recognize and observe these principles of international natural law which regulate their normal development and activity. Such principles demand respect for corresponding rights to independence, to life and to the possibility of continuous development in the paths of civilization; they demand, further, fidelity to compacts agreed upon and sanctioned in conformity with the principles of the law of nations.

The indispensable presupposition, without doubt, of all peaceful intercourse between nations, and the very soul of the juridical relations in force among them, is mutual trust: the expectation and conviction that each party will respect its plighted word; the certainty that both sides are convinced that “better is wisdom, than weapons of war” (Ecclesiastes ix. 18), and are ready to enter into discussion and to avoid recourse to force or to threats of force in case of delays, hindrances, changes or disputes, because all these things can be the result not of bad will, but of changed circumstances and of genuine interests in conflict.

But on the other hand, to tear the law of nations from its anchor in Divine law, to base it on the autonomous will of States, is to dethrone that very law and deprive it of its noblest and strongest qualities. Thus it would stand abandoned to the fatal drive of private interest and collective selfishness exclusively intent on the assertion of its own rights and ignoring those of others.

(Emphasis supplied.) All of this is to say, then, that there are connections between all nations that create a community of mankind. The common good of this community requires supranational government insofar as there are major issues confronting the community of nations that are too great for any one country to solve. Christ and His law, Pius XII teaches us, are the very foundation of these connections. This, of course, makes perfect sense in light of what St. Pius X teaches us in Notre charge apostolique: Catholic charity is the only foundation for meaningful, effective solidarity. Thus, Catholics may only constitute 17.8% of the world population, but that does not change the fact that Christ and His Church are the very bedrock of the international community and the only hope for effective international solidarity. The demographic issue is, strictly speaking, simply not relevant.

However, that is a profoundly unsatisfying answer, because, in concrete terms, demographics do matter. (Just ask anyone who ever lost an election.) It is, of course, important to think in concrete terms when considering questions like supranational government, especially a supranational government that challenges some of the assumptions currently governing supranational authorities. To put it another way: if Catholics are to think about what must be done, the consideration of how it must be done is hugely important. And, in politics, how it must be done often involves a serious consideration of demographics. Yet, at the same time, we must avoid giving the impression that the teachings of the good and holy popes of the modern age—indeed, the teachings of Christ and His Church more generally—are but one voice among many, competing in the marketplace of ideas. That is manifestly not the case.

Thus, we can say that the demographic consideration, while not strictly relevant to the basic doctrinal approach to the question of supranational government, is an important one in concrete terms. How one grapples with demographics is, of course, a different question altogether, and one somewhat more difficult. However, to propose a potential line of inquiry, we wonder whether it might not be more productive to consider Catholics as a percentage of a given country, rather than as a percentage of total population. When considering supranational government, a country either joins and submits to the authority’s jurisdiction or it does not. Thus, the number of Catholics as a percentage of a given country’s electorate is more important, we think, that the number of Catholics as a percentage of the world’s total population.

Following up on Brexit

We note, as a quick follow up to our piece today about Brexit, that The Josias ran, almost exactly a year ago, an excerpt from Henri Grenier’s Thomistic Philosophy regarding supranational government, which came to the conclusions subsequently identified by St. John XXIII and Benedict XVI. As Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., pointed out in his introduction, the Holy Father also took up this question in Laudato si’.

A final comment on St. Joseph the Workman

That these blessings may be abundant and lasting in Christian society, it is necessary that the kingship of our Savior should be as widely as possible recognized and understood, and to the end nothing would serve better than the institution of a special feast in honor of the Kingship of Christ. For people are instructed in the truths of faith, and brought to appreciate the inner joys of religion far more effectually by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries than by any official pronouncement of the teaching of the Church. Such pronouncements usually reach only a few and the more learned among the faithful; feasts reach them all; the former speak but once, the latter speak every year – in fact, forever. The church’s teaching affects the mind primarily; her feasts affect both mind and heart, and have a salutary effect upon the whole of man’s nature. Man is composed of body and soul, and he needs these external festivities so that the sacred rites, in all their beauty and variety, may stimulate him to drink more deeply of the fountain of God’s teaching, that he may make it a part of himself, and use it with profit for his spiritual life

History, in fact, tells us that in the course of ages these festivals have been instituted one after another according as the needs or the advantage of the people of Christ seemed to demand: as when they needed strength to face a common danger, when they were attacked by insidious heresies, when they needed to be urged to the pious consideration of some mystery of faith or of some divine blessing. Thus in the earliest days of the Christian era, when the people of Christ were suffering cruel persecution, the cult of the martyrs was begun in order, says St. Augustine, “that the feasts of the martyrs might incite men to martyrdom.” The liturgical honors paid to confessors, virgins and widows produced wonderful results in an increased zest for virtue, necessary even in times of peace. But more fruitful still were the feasts instituted in honor of the Blessed Virgin. As a result of these men grew not only in their devotion to the Mother of God as an ever-present advocate, but also in their love of her as a mother bequeathed to them by their Redeemer. Not least among the blessings which have resulted from the public and legitimate honor paid to the Blessed Virgin and the saints is the perfect and perpetual immunity of the Church from error and heresy. We may well admire in this the admirable wisdom of the Providence of God, who, ever bringing good out of evil, has from time to time suffered the faith and piety of men to grow weak, and allowed Catholic truth to be attacked by false doctrines, but always with the result that truth has afterwards shone out with greater splendor, and that men’s faith, aroused from its lethargy, has shown itself more vigorous than before

The festivals that have been introduced into the liturgy in more recent years have had a similar origin, and have been attended with similar results. When reverence and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament had grown cold, the feast of Corpus Christi was instituted, so that by means of solemn processions and prayer of eight days’ duration, men might be brought once more to render public homage to Christ. So, too, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was instituted at a time when men were oppressed by the sad and gloomy severity of Jansenism, which had made their hearts grow cold, and shut them out from the love of God and the hope of salvation.

Pius XI, Encyclical on the Feast of Christ the King Quas primas (Dec. 11, 1925) (emphasis supplied and footnote omitted). 

Reconsidering the comment policy

When we started Semiduplex last fall, we decided not to allow comments, believing that anyone who wanted to say something about one of our posts could take to Twitter, Facebook, or their own blog, or some other new social-media platform that has so far escaped our notice. However, we note today that we have had our six-thousandth page view and over twenty-five hundred unique visitors from all over the world. (Not exactly big-time stuff, we know, but impressive to us.) Since folks have been so kind as to read Semiduplex—and we really do appreciate your time and generosity, dear readers—we wonder if we ought to reconsider the comment policy. And so we are. Thus, we may start enabling comments on selected posts (with some mild moderation controls) in the near future. (We will indicate the posts on which comments are enabled.)

More on the Joint Declaration from Patriarch Sviatoslav

We recently quoted a statement by Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, on the Joint Declaration of the Holy Father and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. It seems that the full interview—or at least more of the interview—has been translated into English and made available. Of particular note, Patriarch Sviatoslav notes that:

It was officially reported that this document was the joint effort of Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) from the Orthodox side and Cardinal Koch with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from the Catholic side. For a document that was intended to be not theological, but essentially socio-political, it is hard to imagine a weaker team than the one that drafted this text. The mentioned Pontifical Council is competent in theological matters in relations with various Christian Churches and communities, but is no expert in matters of international politics, especially in delicate matters such as Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Thus, the intended character of the document was beyond their capabilities. This was exploited by the Department of External Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is, first of all, the instrument of diplomacy and external politics of the Moscow Patriarchate. I would note that, as the Head of our Church, I am an official member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, nominated already by Pope Benedict. However, no one invited me to express my thoughts and so, essentially, as had already happened previously, they spoke about us without us, without giving us a voice.

(Emphasis supplied.) This is all hugely interesting and very important business, and, for our part, that Patriarch Sviatoslav is so clear and precise the situation.

Update on Catholic Action

Updating our Link Roundup from yesterday, we note that, at The Josias today, “Petrus Hispanus” responds to Gabriel Sanchez. Notably, “Petrus Hispanus” argues,

Leo XIII and St. Pius X favored the strategy of Catholic Action because they came to believe, as a matter of strategy, that still-dominant Catholic majorities in many countries could be rallied under a single party in order to use democracy as a weapon against liberalism. The faithful majorities, it was hoped, would vote liberalism out of existence under the leadership of Catholic Action parties. From this miscalculation, possibly brought on by the success of German Catholics against Bismarck, would ultimately come that spectacle of progressive alignment of Catholic politicians with liberalism that was “Christian democracy.”

All of this, of course, is not to impugn on the many excellent things done by Catholic Action in many countries, or to judge the motives these saintly and venerable Popes had in favoring it. Indeed, under the circumstances they faced, it is difficult to imagine what alternative they had in most cases, seeing as the political links with the ancien régime had almost entirely vanished and a new way of “doing Catholic politics” needed to be implemented seriously, one to which the example of Germany and others gave true practical plausibility.  

(Emphasis supplied.) This is a fascinating debate, which we shall continue to follow with great interest.

A little more on socialism after Iowa

No sooner did we discuss whether a Catholic could support Bernie Sanders due to Sanders’s self-identification as a democratic socialist did Fr. Dwight Longenecker take up the question at Patheos. Ultimately, he argues that a Catholic could vote for a democratic socialist, but that Sanders’s standard-issue positions on abortion and marriage are serious problems for Catholic voters. (He cites a 2002 voter’s guide, which does not appear to have been updated to reflect Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2004 memorandum.) This is, of course, more or less what we said, but we still think that Sanders’s concept of socialism remains, by and large, too murky to make a clear up-or-down decision. As it stands—and notwithstanding Longenecker’s citations to Benedict XVI—it unclear to us what is distinctively socialist about Sanders’s position. Based upon some prepared remarks of his from November, it is far from clear that his concept of socialism is actually socialism as the Church has long understood it. (Cf. 3 Grenier, Thomistic Philosophy, nos. 1150–51.) But, as Paul VI noted, that does not mean that there are not connections between Sanders’s thought and more explicitly (actually?) socialist thinking, with all of its implications.