Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on the Christian Constitution of States
Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “You’ve got to remember, at the time he’s writing this in 1885, the great nation-states and the concept of the nation-state is just beginning. Previously there were empires. Empires were usually vast and far and wide. They weren’t typified by the geography of their boundaries, which is not to say that there weren’t boundaries in between countries. The nation-state is a modern contrivance. The nation-state is not an ancient contrivance.” Check out today’s transcript for the rest….
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: I’m going to quote Leo XIII because we have documentation – when the Vicar of Christ writes through the encyclical, and if he approaches part of what has been revealed as truth and what has been revealed as magisterial teaching, when he approaches it, reinforces it, or further clarifies it and applies it to what it is that’s going on, that is one of the rare sole instances where a pope, if he approached some part of the magisterium and clarified it and then attached it to a current scenario and said this is wrong and this is why, that’s an instance in which a pope is said to be infallible. That’s it. There are qualifications, but the encyclicals are all to guide the faithful. They’re to remind them of what the magisterium says and to apply it and chasten them to stop what it is they’re doing. This is quite a remarkable document. It’s not a very long one. It’s not hard to read. I’ve read it at least twice now. “Immortale Dei – Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on the Christian Constitution of States.” If you want to know more about what Chris Ferrara and I were talking about yesterday, about the basis upon which he based Liberty, the God That Failed, “Immortale Dei” is a great read. It’ll put you in the right frame of mind.
You’ve got to remember, at the time he’s writing this in 1885, the great nation-states and the concept of the nation-state is just beginning. Previously there were empires. Empires were usually vast and far and wide. They weren’t typified by the geography of their boundaries, which is not to say that there weren’t boundaries in between countries. The nation-state is a modern contrivance. The nation-state is not an ancient contrivance. There were nations, this is true. There were states, this is true. There were republics, this is true. There were kingdoms, this is true. The difference between the ancient and the modern is that the modern elevates, for the first time since Constantine, the secular state to a position not of parity, not even of equality, a position of superiority to the kingship of Our Lord. It’s as simple a definition as I can apply to it. This is as bad as it could get. This is what paved the way for the socialist states. It gave way to the communist regimes. This is what paved the way for the consolidation of power into central governments. This is what paved the way for all of this stuff that we live and deal with today. Many of the threats to our Christian lives and our Christian life come from the errors that Leo tried to correct in this encyclical.
I’ll link to it in today’s Pile of Prep. If you were to just word search the document for the term “constitution,” you’ll find Leo talking about what we say about constitutions, what we say when we apply constitutions to the states. As Leo says, if you scroll to the bottom – I should have done this first. If you go to paragraph 36, this is where we get the goodness. Before you hear Beck, let’s hear what you’re not supposed to do with hearing what you’re about to hear from Beck.
36. This, then, is the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the constitution and government of the State. By the words and decrees just cited, if judged dispassionately –
Mike: Let me set this up. He’s going to give a warning and say: This is what we can’t do. We’re not going to force anyone to convert. We’re not going to force anyone to adopt our point of view. We’re not going to forcibly invade any state or any secular institution that’s claiming its authority. We’re going to admonish them and tell them what the truth is. Then we’re going to exhort the faithful to conform their minds to the reality of what that truth is. First he’s going to give the disclaimer, which I think is a humble thing to do.
If you hear this, Leo was a man that actually stared down in a vision Beelzebub himself. He was so mortified when he came out of the trance of staring down the Devil that he fell into a state of contemplation where he composed what we have today, the Prayer of St. Michael. There’s a short form and a long form. The reason Leo wrote that prayer was because he was scared to death. He was told: This is going to come down to the angels who are not fallen in a major holy war against the angels who are fallen and are now devils. That’s why you call upon St. Michael the Archangel to defend you in battle and to be your safeguard against the demons that roam the world in search of the ruin of souls. Believe me, brothers and sisters, they are out there searching and apparently accomplishing the ruin of souls.
This, then, is the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the constitution and government of the State. By the words and decrees just cited, if judged dispassionately, no one of the several forms of government is in itself condemned, inasmuch as none of them contains anything contrary to Catholic doctrine, and all of them are capable, if wisely and justly managed, to insure the welfare of the State. Neither is it blameworthy in itself, in any manner, for the people to have a share greater or less, in the government [Mike: He’s saying: You can have a government, and you can even share. You can participate in the government, but it comes with a condition, my friends.] for at certain times, and under certain laws, such participation may not only be of benefit to the citizens, but may even be of obligation. Nor is there any reason why any one should accuse the Church of being wanting in gentleness of action or largeness of view, or of being opposed to real and lawful liberty.
Mike: What he’s saying here is: Look, I’m not talking about any one particular government, and I’m not telling you that you can’t have a secular government that organizes your day-to-day governmental lives and affairs. Again, it comes with a caveat. You’ve got to set the first up to get to the admonition.
The Church, indeed, deems it unlawful to place the various forms of divine worship on the same footing as the true religion, but does not, on that account, condemn those rulers who, for the sake of securing some great good or of hindering some great evil, allow patiently custom or usage to be a kind of sanction for each kind of religion having its place in the State. And, in fact, the Church is wont to take earnest heed that no one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, for, as St. Augustine wisely reminds us, “Man cannot believe otherwise than of his own will.”
37. In the same way the Church cannot approve of that liberty which begets a contempt of the most sacred laws of God, and casts off the obedience due to lawful authority, for this is not liberty so much as license, and is most correctly styled by St. Augustine the “liberty of self ruin,” and by the Apostle St. Peter the “cloak of malice.” Indeed, since it is opposed to reason, it is a true slavery, “for whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin.” On the other hand, that liberty is truly genuine, and to be sought after, which in regard to the individual does not allow men to be the slaves of error and of passion, the worst of all masters; which, too, in public administration guides the citizens in wisdom and provides for them increased means of well-being; and which, further, protects the State from foreign interference.
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38. This honourable liberty, alone worthy of human beings, the Church approves most highly and has never slackened her endeavour to preserve, strong and unchanged, among nations. And, in truth, whatever in the State is of chief avail for the common welfare; whatever has been usefully established to curb the license of rulers who are opposed to the true interests of the people, or to keep in check the leading authorities from unwarrantably interfering in municipal or family affairs; whatever tends to uphold the honour, manhood, and equal rights of individual citizens-of all these things, as the monuments of past ages bear witness, the Catholic Church has always been the originator, the promoter, or the guardian. Ever, therefore, consistent with herself, while on the one hand she rejects that exorbitant liberty which in individuals and in nations ends in license or in thraldom, on the other hand, she willingly and most gladly welcomes whatever improvements the age brings forth, if these really secure the prosperity of life here below, which is, as it were, a stage in the journey to the life that will know no ending.
End Mike Church Show Transcript