Rick Santorum and the Kingship of Christ, Part One

Let’s have Christ our President
Let us have him for our King
Cast your vote for the Carpenter
That you call the Nazarene

The only way we can ever beat
These crooked politician men
Is to run the money changers out of the temple
Put the Carpenter in.
—Woody Guthrie

 In his Rick’s Degrees of Separation, Stephen Klugewicz draws our attention to the latest attempt of an American politician to speak on matters of Church and State.  His article rightly demonstrates the shallowness of the media in their manner of reporting Senator Santorum’s recent remarks on Kennedy’s address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association during the latter’s 1960 bid for the presidency.   Yet Klugewicz, I would suggest, obscures the Catholic Church’s actual teaching with respect to church and state. But in so doing, he reveals one of the gravest challenges Catholics in the modern world face: how to act as responsible Christians in a pluralistic democracy.

Again, Klugewicz gives us some fine insights, especially his revelation of the difficulties Catholics will face in their attempt to find a political rhetoric effective in American society, while remaining true to their Catholic traditions and teaching.  This is particularly evident in an age of rapid social communication.  Still, his argument is hampered by an insufficient grounding in history and Catholic social thought.  The essence of the problem can be seen in the following remark: “Santorum must also remember that the separation of church and state is a good thing for the Catholic Church, and for people of faith in general. The concept has an honorable history within the Church.”  Here, Klugewicz is simply wrong.

The relationship between the Catholic Church and the various political powers of the last two millennia is thorny, to say the least.  Over the next few days, I will make a few observations on this important issue for provocation, conversation, and, hopefully, clarification.

We begin today with an overview of the relations between the Church and the Roman imperial State in late antiquity, since this established for Catholics the practical and theoretical foundations of the Catholic Social Teaching on this matter.  The second portion of the essay will treat the experience of Roman Catholics during the Founding era, since this period establishes the particular milieu in which American political rhetoric was forged and continues to find its orientation.  Finally, we will end with a survey of the Encyclicals and other Church documents on the issue of church-state relations.  Such contextualization, I will argue helps to us to understand, if not defend, Senator Santorum’s difficulties in accepting the common “separation of church and state” arguments made by both liberals and certain forms of conservatives in the United States.  My concluding remarks will call for a re-discovery of the Catholic teaching about the Kingship of Christ—in both spiritual and temporal matters.

Two Cities, Distinct but Mixed: St. Augustine

First, let us consider St. Augustine, who is invoked by Klugewicz in his account of the desirability of the separation of church and state.  We do well to recall that St. Augustine, in the City of God and elsewhere, assumes a State religion and likewise assumes that—from the emperor to the common magistrate—government officials will act according to the natural law, Church teaching, and, at times, clerical prompting.   The state officials of Augustine’s day were uneven in their application of Catholic teaching.  Nevertheless, Augustine is quite clear on what it would mean if the State fully embraced Catholicism.  He writes in one of his letters (ep. 138): “Were our religion listened to as it deserves, it would establish, consecrate, strengthen, and enlarge the commonwealth in a way beyond all that Romulus, Numa, Brutus, and all the other men of renown in Roman history achieved.”  This was no theocracy, but neither was it the later notion of the absolute separation of church and state.

Where and when imperial officials could be persuaded to govern, legislate, and act in accord with the Church’s teaching, Augustine averred they should, and he enlisted all of his rhetorical and moral weight to ensure they did.  In a long letter (ep. 93) to one of his brother bishops, Vincentius, Augustine even countered the criticism that no explicit example could be found in the New Testament of “anything being requested from earthly rulers on behalf of the Church against the opponents of the Church.”  St. Augustine is here speaking of the use of state force to protect public order, but also to protect the Catholic Church against schism.  Although Augustine views such force as unfortunate and a final measure, he does not flinch at using it, and grounding its use through Old Testament examples. Clearly for Augustine, error had no rights, and under certain conditions Roman imperial power could and should be used to defend the truths of the Church.

In Augustine’s view, it was normative for a Bishop to guide a magistrate.  This was the common view in the early Church. In Augustine’s day, the imperial government was funneling resources into the Church for the construction of basilicas, hospitals, orphanages, and monasteries, and had been for well over a century.  What we would now identify as “social services” were heavily financed through State subvention, but overseen by Church officials.  This is worth keeping in mind, in light of the recent sport of pillorying the Catholic hierarchy for their apparent aberrant cooperation with the government.  I am not suggesting that productive criticism cease, only that we need to recognize that when viewed in the light of Catholic tradition, “faith-based initiatives” have not been seen as an intrinsically unholy alliance between church and state.

St. Augustine’s magisterial Civitas Dei, with its depiction of two cities—the City of Man and the City of God—is, contrary to modern understandings, not a work about church and state relations.  Neither “the City of Man” nor the “earthly city” is equal to the State, but rather exists as a symbol for those who follow their own interest out of contempt for God.  The “City of God” is not the institutional Church, but rather those who rise above their own interests out of a love for God.  Augustine makes it clear that members of the government and indeed all lay vocations may ultimately be part of the City of God.  He also makes it clear that members of the institutional Church may ultimately, in fact, remain only citizens of the City of Man—and thus eternally damned.  This realization should be ever a source of sorrow and consolation to the Catholic.  The good and bad will receive their reward regardless of their vocation, title, office, or social status in this life.

While on earth, says Augustine, the two cities intermingle.  Men have a temporary “dual citizenship,” as it were, in both the earthly and the heavenly cities.  Good statesmen and state officials—from the emperor on down—“make their power the servant of God’s majesty by using it for the greatest possible extension of his worship” (City of God, 5.24).  A great part of Book 15 of the City of God speaks of the precarious peace that is established in this world when the two cities blend, while admitting that the temporal goods of the earthly city cause division, because these goods are not final goods of eternal happiness.  Without customs, laws, and institutions that direct men towards their final happiness with God, the earthly goods become a source of contention.  The need to guide men—in all parts of life—towards their final happiness explains why St. Augustine was willing to embrace a far greater use of temporal power than most Americans would countenance. As one of Augustine’s final works, then, The City of God provides Catholics with a sober account of how one should consider the institutional powers of the world.

St. Thomas Aquinas and the Renewal of Political Science

Although many minor figures struggle with both the theoretical and practical side of church-state relations throughout the early Middle Ages, St. Thomas Aquinas is the next major figure crucial for our examination.  Aquinas, of course, develops and refines Augustinian thought, arguing for greater integrity and autonomy for the temporal realm. In part, this enhanced place for the temporal order—in other words, for “the state”— comes from Thomas’ reflection on the contemporary struggle to work out what we now call “church-state relations.”  The Investiture Crisis, the sacred nature of medieval kingship, and the overlapping civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions in Aquinas’ day all made quite a work-shop for discovering and testing how the City of God and the City of Man could collaborate.   In part, Thomas’s brilliant insights are also due to the influence of Aristotle and the renewed interest in classical political theory.  In the prologue to his Commentary on Aristotle’s Politics, St. Thomas speaks of the political community as “the most perfect human association,” since the temporal realm gives men the place to work out their destiny: in the earthly sphere, the political community represents the highest association men form for bringing rational order to their lives. For that reason, Thomas concludes that a special science—the science of politics—must be studied and understood if men are to govern themselves under reason and in pursuit of virtue.

In his Commentary, St. Thomas closely follows and yet subtly purifies Aristotle. Aristotle had presented a virtue-based political theory well-suited for the temporal order, but, as Aquinas recognized, even the most naturally virtuous men are created for an end beyond this world.  As St. Thomas says in his work commonly called On Kingship: “because the man who lives a virtuous life is destined for an higher end, which we have stated before as the enjoyment of divine things—this higher end must be understood as the final end of human society.”  And so, St. Thomas explains that the two realms—temporal and spiritual—are established to help man in their respective ends: on earth, peace and virtue; ultimately in heaven, friendship and happiness with God.

Thomas never speaks of a “separation” between these two realms or their respective institutions; instead he speaks of collaboration where there is distinction but also hierarchy between the two: “Spiritual and earthly matters may be distinguished—the ministry of [the spiritual] kingship has been entrusted not to earthly kings, but to the priests, and most especially to the highest priest, the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ, the Roman Pontiff, to whom all kings over Christian peoples should be subject as to Christ himself. . . . Under the New Law there is a higher priesthood that directs men to the joys of heaven, so that under the law of Christ, kings should be subject to priests.”  The remark “over Christian peoples” is worth noting. In time, the chief challenge to implementing Catholic teaching on the role of the State with respect to religion would become extremely complicated with the emergence of Protestant sects.

St. Robert Bellarmine and the Roots of Modern Social Teaching 

Finally, we should consider in this brief survey of Catholic
thought on church and state relations the Jesuit St. Robert Bellarmine, who presents a kind of summation of Catholic social thought from Scripture to his own day.  In his work On the Laity, found among his mammoth study On Controversies, Bellarmine concluded his discussion of the temporal order by setting out the care magistrates and rulers must exercise with respect to religion, and the active steps they should take in fostering and protecting the Catholic Faith:

[T]he temporal and spiritual power… are not two separate and distinct things, as two political kingdoms, but they are united so that they form one body; or rather they exist as the body and soul in one man, for spiritual power is as the soul, and temporal power as the body…Therefore, temporal power ought to serve the spiritual and to protect and defend it from enemies.

It would be wrong to limit Bellarmine’s sphere of influence to the medieval worldview.  The Controversies were written purposely to deal with the fragmentation of Christianity in Europe.  Throughout his life, Bellarmine remained preoccupied with the question of how to express Catholic teaching in the face of a changing world.  In published and secret works, Bellarmine expended enormous energy considering the plight of Catholics under Protestant rule in British Isles and the German-speaking world.  Bellarmine’s greatest contribution to the issue of church-state relations was his understanding of the indirect power of the Papacy, that is the ongoing influence that the Church had over the temporal order—due to its higher mission.  As Bellarmine expressed it, there was a distinction to be observed between the Pope’s direct and indirect authority:

By the words ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ we do not mean, as it has been jokingly said, that the spiritual power is in the Pope directly, that is, lawfully and legitimately, and the temporal power indirectly, that is, unlawfully and by usurpation. Rather we mean that the papal power is of itself properly spiritual, and therefore directly regards as its primary object spiritual affairs; but indirectly, that is, by reason of their relation to spiritual things, reductively, and by necessary consequence it regards temporal things as its secondary object.

and

In regard of persons, the Pope as Pope cannot by ordinary jurisdiction depose temporal rulers even for a legitimate reason, after the manner in which he deposes bishops, as their ordinary judge; nevertheless as the supreme spiritual ruler, he can change the royal power, taking it away from one and conferring it on another, if this be necessary for the salvation of souls. . . .

In regard of laws, the Pope as Pope cannot by ordinary jurisdiction make a civil law or confirm or invalidate the laws of princes; for he is not himself a political ruler of the all Christians; nevertheless, he can do all these things, if a particular civil law is necessary for the salvation of souls and a ruler is unwilling to pass it, or if a particular law is harmful to the salvation of souls and the prince is unwilling to abrogate it. . . . .

In regard of judicial sentences, the Pope as Pope cannot by ordinary jurisdiction decide civil cases. . . . Nevertheless, in a case in which this is necessary for the salvation of souls, he can assume civil jurisdiction.

In many respects, Bellarmine provides the essential articulation for why the Church continues to speak with authority on social issues in a pluralistic world of fragmented Christianity (and non-Christian religions).  Spiritual and moral needs may demand, especially in a world of deficient political leadership, that the Church enter into the public debate and—in fact—intervene in political matters.

In the next section of this essay, we shall survey the development of church-state relations during the American Founding with attention to the challenges and opportunities met by Catholics in the Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries.

William Edmund Fahey

By

Dr. William Edmund Fahey is President and Fellow of the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

  • Mat

    Very informative. Thank you for this background and am looking forward to upcoming essays.

  • Cord_Hamrick

    Question:

    Does St. Robert Bellarmine argue (or is it a necessary consequence of his views) that the Pope as Pope may personally (or indirectly through a hireling) slay or imprison a man for non-violent, non-fraudulent, matter-of-conscience wrongdoing such as converting away from Catholicism to another faith?

    If so, does St. Robert Bellarmine argue that this authority is vested within the Pope as Pope by virtue of some special authority given validly only to the successors of the apostles?

    Or, does he argue that this authority is vested within the Pope as Pope merely by virtue of his being  Christian, and that it resides validly in all Christians, but that in order that it be exercised in a well-ordered way, it is only licitly exercised when the Pope approves it?

    I am trying to determine in what areas I am in direct disagreement with St. Robert Bellarmine, if any, and if so, what his reasons are.

    Certainly I do not deny for a moment that any Catholic, whether in Congress or on a streetcorner or as a schoolteacher in a government-subsidized classroom, has liberty under God to act according to his conscience and to verbally defend his faith and to decry immoral or erroneous ideas. Likewise any atheist.

    So the Church certainly ought to participate — verbally, persuasively — in civic affairs, and in the marketplace of ideas generally.

    But I don’t believe that individual Christians have a valid authority under God’s Moral Law to point guns against unbelievers merely for their unbelief. I think the unbeliever has to actually threaten or initiate violence against the Christian before the Christian has justification under God’s Moral Law to defend himself forcibly. Put another way: The Christian may defend the rights of innocent persons forcibly against an attack initiated by another (whether at the individual level, or in criminal law, or in a Just War) but he may not himself initiate force against someone who is currently doing no harm, not even to compel a righteous behavior.

    It is not that I believe Christians have valid authority to use force in such matters, and that the use is merely not licit; I believe that Christians do not have valid authority to initiate force against someone who, while in error, is doing no forcible harm themselves.

    And I would hold that even the Pope as a Christian would not have such an authority. I am open to the idea that he might have it as Pope by virtue of his office, but I’d need to see that proven.

    In all of this, the critical question is always this: For immoral act or opinion XYZ, is it morally permissible for us to oppose it forcibly, or does God’s Moral Law permit us only to oppose it through persuasion?

    I think the issue of force is always critical, because when one initiates force against a free willed person created in the Image of God, one is necessarily treating him as a thing to be manipulated rather than as a person to be persuaded. It is a denial of his intrinsic human dignity, and, I think, it is typically a serious sin.

    However, I am not a pacifist; I think that Double Effect allows us to justify the use of force in certain circumstances…mainly, in opposition to wrongful uses of force initiated by another.

    So I’d like to know how that jives with St. Robert Bellarmine.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      “he can change the royal power, taking it away from one and conferring it on another…”

      We have an example of this when, in 752, Pope Zachery deposed Childeric III, the last Merovingian King of the Franks and conferred the crown on Pepin Le Bref, the
      first of the Carolingian dynasty.

      Likewise, in 1076, Pope St Gregory VII deposed the Emperor, Henry IV and absolved his subjects from their allegiance.

      Now, in the first case, it appears obvious that Pepin could have used coercive power
      against those who resisted his authority, including Childeric and any supporters he might have and, in the second, had the pope not restored Henry, the Electors could have chosen a successor, again, invested with coercive power against Henry and his supporters.

      Perhaps, the most famous instance of this power was the bull, “Regnans in excelsis” of 27 April1570, whereby Pope St Pius V deposed Elizabeth I of England and absolved her subjects from their allegiance, leading some English Catholics to recognize Mary, Queen of Scots, the granddaughter of Henry VII’s daughter Margaret as their lawful sovereign.  No doubt, they would have been justified, in principle, in using force against the usurper, subject to the usual prudential principles.

      • Cord_Hamrick

         Right, yes, we’ve discussed those examples before, remember Michael?

        But those examples don’t directly address the question I asked Dr. Fahey.

        Granted that the Pope claimed authority from Christ to absolve Catholic subjects of their allegiance to Catholic rulers whose claim to ruling authority was based on an appeal to divine right and the blessing of the Catholic Church…

        Granted all that, what inferences can we draw about the just authority of the government of the United States to outlaw eating too much salt on one’s French Fries?

        For, even supposing that there was a declared/defined dogma underlying the claims listed above (and there isn’t);

        And even supposing the Ordinary Magisterium had taught in an unchanging and uniform way that such an authority existed  (they didn’t);

        And even supposing all the uses of compulsory power instituted by every Catholic monarch in every age were still today affirmed by the Magisterium as having been morally licit uses of state compulsion (they aren’t);

        And even were the divine right of kings not deeply morally suspect because of how the kings themselves are typically selected not by God through the prophetic voice and anointing of a bishop but by conquering a territory and eliminating all other plausible competitors, suggesting a “might makes right” kind of anti-Christian morality;

        …it’s still hard to see what that could possibly mean for the government of the United States, which has no king, whose government has no blessing apart from diplomatic recognition by (and cordial relations with) the Vatican, which explicitly states as the foundation of its own law that it exists by the consent of the people and only obtains any ruling authority by delegation “from the states, or the people.” (See Amendment 10 of the U.S. Constitution.)

        My own approach (that the government does in fact gain legitimate authority by delegation from the people, because the people themselves have that authority from God) makes the situation intelligible. There may be another approach, other than mine, which also makes the situation intelligible. But an appeal to divine right directly accorded to the government without any kind of intermediary delegation through the people is at odds with history, in the United States and many other countries. That approach gives us no insight and is unintelligible when applied to modern democratic republics.

        So we’re beyond that whole topic; it seems pretty clear that my objections on that score are unanswerable at least as regards the United States.

        But I wanted to know from Dr. Fahey whether the Pope claimed authority to use force against persons to personally punish non-forcible wrongdoing, and if so, whether that authority resided in the office of the Papacy (and if so, whether it was unique to the Papacy or extended to all bishops, or even to all Christians)?

        In other words, if the Pope judges it to be prudent to do so, is he exceeding the authority Christ gives him if he personally shoots a heretic dead because of his heresy, or not?

        What about if it’s not a heretic, but a person who refuses to stop looking at internet pornography? Does the Pope have just authority to force that person into a prison cell at gunpoint, or not?

        What if it’s not porn, but overeating or putting too much salt on one’s food? Does the Pope have just authority from Jesus Christ to fine a person (not necessarily a Catholic; just a person) for that?

        I’m asking what the limits are on a person’s inherent just authority to use force to achieve enforcement of God’s Moral Law, and how that authority changes according to whether he’s a layperson, or a bishop, or the pope.

        For, if God’s Moral Law gives me, as an individual, the moral right to point a gun at my neighbor to prevent him from eating too much salt, then it stands to reason that I can delegate that authority to my hireling, the government.

        But if God’s Moral Law tells me I am forbidden to use force for such purposes, then of course I’m just as forbidden to hire an employee to wield such force on my behalf. And in that case, the government is likewise forbidden: Such a use exceeds government’s legitimate authority, and is a usurpation.

  • schmenz

    What will always cause consternation in any discussion of Catholicism in America is the extent to which “Americanism”, that heresy decried by Pope Leo XIII in his Testem Benevolentiae, has permeated the thinking of the Church here.  The fast answer is that it has permeated it a lot, and that we still suffer from it.  From Carroll to England to Gibbons to Spellman to Cushing to now Wuerl we have prelates who put their loyalties to the country well above their loyalties to Mother Church and who, in the process, soften or refuse even to teach some of the dogmas of the Faith for fear of “not fitting in” well with their fellow citizens.  This is what Leo was worried about, and everything he warned of in that great encyclical has come to pass.  Even more than he imagined, to be precise.

    Interestingly the US Hierarchy refused to publish Testem Benevolentiae when it first appeared because they astutely realized that it was aimed squarely at them.  They would even go so far as to scoff at the tern “Americanism”.  But Americanism has most definitely taken deep root here and in fact has spread its tendrils even to Europe.  Indeed Vatican II was nothing if not the triumph of Americanism in the whole Church and a repudiation of Testem Benevolentiae.

    This polite ignoring of Church teaching so as not to “offend” our non-Catholic brethren, which is the essence of Americanism, has paved the way for the following: easy divorce (and its Catholic version, easy annullments), contraception (and its Catholic version, NFP), abortion and now the utter stench of homosexuality.  Another  perfect example of the triumph of Americanism is the general reaction in the Church to Humanae Vitae.

    With the tyranny that is slowly but unmistakably forming in this country I can only hope that the Bishops start to wake up and smell the coffee.  And that wakeup call applies to Rome, too.  

    • Brian A. Cook

      Are you implying that the Second Vatican Council is to be completely reversed?  What about the  new efforts to build friendships Jews after centuries of antagonism?   Didn’t the Church wake up and smell the gas chambers?  *sigh* I wish I could say more, but I’ve been seeing that trying to ask tough questions on Catholic websites is a losing battle. 

      • schmenz

        Hello Brian:

        Like everyone else, I recognize that Vatican II was a legitimate council of the Church, so let’s get that out of the way quickly.  Having said that, however, nothing that came from that Council was marked with the charism of infallibility – indeed the Council fathers went out of their way to state that there would be no binding, dogmatic definitions to come from it, and that it would be only “pastoral” in nature.  Ergo, Catholics are free to disagree with many aspects and pronouncements from that Council, legitimate though it may be.  Perhaps you might like to read some of the rather striking criticisms of that Council coming from eminent Churchmen today.

        Your remark that the Church woke up “and smelled the gas chambers” is really unworthy of comment, friend Brian.  

        As regards building friendships with Jews, by which I presume you mean the Council declaration Nostra Aetate,  I can only say that the Council Fathers who approved of this declaration committed a disastrous error of judgment, for by this Declaration and all that has followed since, the Church has officially abandoned the command of Jesus Christ to teach all nations and bring them to the truth.  Some Churchmen have so far abandoned this teaching that they will now monstrously claim that the Jews are NOT to be converted….worse, that their “covenant” will gain them eternal salvation.  Really?  What about Original Sin?  What about Baptism?  What about the necessity of belonging to the True Church in order to achieve salvation?  Should we throw all these dogmas  into the dustbin, and out of a sense of “niceness” allow the blind Jews to continue in their blindness?  How is it charity towards the Jews to let them continue on rejecting, even hating Christ which will prevent them from Heaven?  I want to see them become Catholics and eventually enter into the Beatific Vision.  Others apparently want them to die in their perfidy.

        It seems to me that the very first order of business for any Catholic today is to stop reading so-called theological books written by nonentities like von Baltasar, deLubac, Kreeft, etc. and start going back to great Catholic authors and thinkers, like Dom Geuranger, Archbishop Goodier, Dom Marmion, Belloc, Wyndham-Lewis, etc.  Start reading works by Catholics who lived and breathed the Faith.  When you do this you will start to reacquaint yourself with the collected wisdom of 2,000 years.  And read a few non-Vatican II declarations and encyclicals from the Popes, just to see how far that Council has strayed from the consistent teaching of the Church.  You know, Pentecost didn’t begin in October of 1962.

  • Carl

    Indivisible by Robison and Richards is excellent as it discusses how the Church and State are indivisible.  I wish someone would do a book review—I’d love to read the com box comments.

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