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HOW GOD’S EXISTENCE CAN BE PROVEN FROM POSSIBILITY AND NECESSITY

“We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to be corrupted, and consequently, it is impossible for them to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which can not-be at some time is not. Therefore, if anything can not-be, then at one time there was nothing in existence.

If anything can not-be, then at one time there was nothing in existence

Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist begins to exist only through something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence – which is absurd.

Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something in the existence of which is necessary.

But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but admit the existence of some being having of its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.”

– St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, in The Path from Science to God, Faith Pamphlets

 

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Posted by on August 1, 2015 in Words of Wisdom

 

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SPIRITUAL AND INTELLECTUAL ARTILLERY TO DEFEND THE FAITH

“Five hundred years ago this month, our holy father St Philip Neri was born in the early hours of 22nd July, the feast of St Mary Magdalene. Just hours later the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity were infused into his soul in Baptism. In the wretched heat and humidity that afflict Florence in high summer it was prudent to administer the Sacrament without delay.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed

Our Lord tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard which when it is sown is the tiniest seed in the field, but when grown it becomes a tree in the branches of which the birds of the air come and make their nests. The seed that was planted in St Philip’s heart in the famous Baptistery of St John, and which germinated and took root during his childhood in Florence, would eventually flourish into a mighty tree in Rome. His own room was the nest (he actually called it his ‘nido’) in which the fledgling first Oratory would become the base for an apostolic mission that would earn him the glorious title Apostle of Rome.

The purpose of an Oratory in the plan of salvation

As other Oratories began to be established, it was St Philip’s wish that each house remain autonomous, and this status is preserved to this day in the Church’s law. Nevertheless, every Oratory is to be like a branch that stems from and is animated by that supernatural life that was nurtured in St Philip’s ‘nido’ half a millennium ago. The purpose of an Oratory in the plan of salvation is to give encouragement and direction to anyone who seeks spiritual refreshment in the shade of its bough. An Oratory is supposed to provide a spiritual home, usually in an urban context, in which friendship with Our Saviour is nurtured under the gentle guidance of St Philip and the protection of Our Lady.

…where friendship with Our Saviour is nurtured

Mention of the Counter Reformation conjures up images of the Church rolling out all the engines of war. Established religious orders were to be reformed or suppressed; new congregations would be equipped with spiritual and intellectual artillery to defend the Faith and reclaim territories lost to schism. Jesuits were to be deployed around Europe to engage heretics in public dispute, or despatched to risk life and limb recruiting converts from the heathen New World. In contrast to this, St Philip’s mission within the Church Militant took place entirely on the home front. In the words of Bl. John Henry Newman, ‘He put away from him monastic rule and authoritative speech as David refused the armour of his king… His weapons should be but unaffected humility and unpretending love. All he did was to be done by the light and fervour and convincing eloquence of his personal character and his easy conversation. He came to the Eternal City and he sat himself down there, and his home and his family gradually grew up around him.” In other words, it was through personal contact and friendship that St Philip contributed to the success of the Catholic Reformation.

The Christian/spiritual meaning of friendship

Under the tyranny of sentimentalism that reigns supreme today, there is a danger that friendship can take on a shallow meaning and be understood mainly in terms of feelings and utility. To understand how friendship was so effective in St Philip’s apostolate, it is necessary to appreciate the classical and Christian traditions in which he had been formed by the Dominicans at San Marco, and through his later studies in Rome. In the Aristotelian understanding, friendship is a ‘settled disposition’ – a habit, based on virtue. It involves the recognition of an intrinsic good in the other, and a reciprocated commitment to serve that good and make it flourish. In a truly virtuous friendship, the parties will also work together for the common good. Whereas for Aristotele such friendship is only possible between equals (he said that the one good we must never desire for our friends is that they become gods because if our wish were fulfilled then we should immediately forfeit their friendship), St Thomas Aquinas’s teaching on Sanctifying Grace makes even friendship with God a reality, because God actually shares His Divine Life with us through Baptism.

The infectious spirit of generosity and charity

Saint Philip excelled in making men’s hearts receptive to this vocation to live as friends with God. His joyful influence fostered an ambience in which his spiritual children found pleasure in each other’s company and came to assist each other in living virtuously. A shy cobbler whom St Philip spotted sitting at the back of the Oratory was summoned to the front and hugged like a long-lost child returning to a family that included cardinals and princes. A watch-seller on the verge of bankruptcy found himself suddenly overwhelmed by eager customers at the Oratory, where St Philip’s friends had been primed to come to his assistance. This infectious spirit of generosity and charity was fostered by visits to attend to the poor in the Roman hospitals. Even those who came to the Oratory with unworthy motives were eventually captivated by the ‘Winning Saint’, and some found themselves taking Holy Orders or religious vows as a result.

This school of Christian friendship was the magnificent mustard tree which developed from that seed of the Kingdom planted in St Philip’s heart at his Baptism on 22nd July 1515. By his intercession, and under the protection of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin, may it continue to flourish in the Oratory today and in the years to come.”

– From: “The Oratory Parish Magazine – From the Provost”, London Oratory, Vol. 92, No. 1130 (subheadings in bold added afterwards)

 

 

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HOW GOD’S EXISTENCE CAN BE PROVEN BY MOTION

“It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is moved is moved by another, for nothing can be moved except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is moved; whereas a thing moves in as much as it is in act.

For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality.

Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it.

Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects.

For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold.

It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is moved must be moved by another. If that by which it is moved be itself moved, then this also must need be moved by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover, seeing that subsequent movers move only in as much as they are moved by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is moved by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.”

– St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1, 2, 3, in The Path from Science to God, by Roger Nesbitt (Faith Pamphlets)

 

 

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FOR YOUR DIARY: WORLD PEACE THROUGH THE WORKS OF FR PROF. EMMANUEL M.P. EDEH, LONDON, UK

“The MADONNA UNIVERSITY NIGERIA AND THE CATHOLIC PRAYER MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (CPM) LONDON
cordially invite you to attend their conference titled:

WORLD PEACE THROUGH THE WORKS OF
FR PROF. EMMANUEL M.P. EDEH

• On Tuesday 3rd June 2014

• At Brunei Gallery, The School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS)
University of London, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG
(nearest underground station is Russell Square, Piccadilly Line)

• From 17:30 (registration and refreshments) to 21:00

• Guest speaker: Very Rev. Fr Prof. Emmanuel Edeh
Founder of the Catholic Prayer Ministry of the Holy Spirit, Elele, Nigeria

Your attendance will be highly appreciated. So we can cater for you accordingly, please confirm your attendance by Friday 30th May 2014.

RSVP via: 07969 951731 or 07985 621207 or 07574 100156 .

The aim of the Conference will be to present the philosophy and long term versatile activity of Fr Prof. Emmanuel Edeh from Madonna University in Nigeria, on an international level.

The Peace Charity Model created by Fr Prof. Edeh has been developed on the basis of intercultural, existential, multidimensional, bioethical, scientific and holistic approach and is the result of many years of seminal work aimed at the development and establishment of new forms of human communication and empathy on the planetary scale:

a) Preservation of peace

b) Development of new research strategies with the aim of potential development.

(You are invited to submit proposals for papers, short video presentations or performances on the conference theme.)”

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2014 in For your diary

 

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“THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS LIKE TO LEAVEN WHICH A WOMAN TOOK…” (Mt 13:33)

“‘The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened’ (Matthew 13:33).

QUALITIES VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE

The Church, the kingdom which Jesus established in the world for the salvation of men, is endowed with many qualities, some visible and some invisible. It is visible in its hierarchy, in the distinction which exists between the Pope, bishops and priests and laity: the Pope, bishops and priests who teach the message of Jesus to the world and administer the sacraments whereby the grace of Jesus is communicated to men; and the laity who receive and believe the message and accept the sacraments whereby they are saved. But the Church is invisible in the grace which it communicates to men. The sacraments which communicate grace to men can be perceived by the senses of men, but the grace which they impart, since it is a share in the very life of God Himself, is as invisible as the divine life. Thus it is that the Church, which is a visible organism, visible in its hierarchy and its membership in this world, visible in the preaching and professing of the Gospel, visible in its sacraments and divine worship, is also through the grace it imparts invisible like leaven hidden in flour. The hidden leaven, however, does produce a visible effect: the loaf of bread into which it raises and expands the flour. Similarly the grace of God, which is the life of the Kingdom of Jesus, though it produces chiefly a spiritual invisible effect, also produces visible effects in the world of men, a raising and an expansion of the knowledge and the conduct of men. It is this latter effect of the life of the kingdom on the life of the world that we shall now briefly consider.

THE EFFECT OF THE LIFE OF THE KINGDOM ON THE LIFE OF THE WORLD

In the first place the Kingdom of God on earth, through the action of the Holy Spirit, thhe source of life, has raised the minds of men from ignorance to truth. It is through faith, the power to believe which the Holy Spirit gives to men, that men know the basic truths which explain the meaning of existence. Moved and guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church teaches men that there is one supreme God, Whose life is so intense that it is shared in its ineffable unity by three divine Persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This Triune God is absolute, infinite Love, and from the generosity of this Love there flows the creative act whereby God creates the world, gives existence to all that has been, is or will be. In this same infinite generosity God calls His intellectual creatures, angels and men who are created in His own image and likeness, to share most intimately in His own Trinitarian life, to live as children and friends with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But this call is to be answered freely by angels and men, for God has generously given them the freat gift and power of individual freedom.

TO CONVEY THIS GRACE TO MEN, JESUS CHRIST ESTABLISHED HIS KINGDOM ON EARTH, HIS CHURCH, THE ONE, HOLY, ROMAN, CATHOLIC CHURCH

Unfortunately some of the angels, through pride, rejected the divine call and have been condemned forever to the loss of the promised vision of God, a loss which is the principal element of the hell to which they have been condemned. One of them, their leader Satan, moved by the hatred and envy of good which sin engenders, seduced Adam and Eve, the first human beings. In Adam and Eve the whole human race lost the divine grace which would have ultimately brought all men to the blessed vision of God. But God, because of His infinite love and mercy for men, determined to give men another chance. In the fullness of time He sent His own Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, to save men. The Son of God became man, incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary, who thus became the Mother of God. This incarnate God, known in human history as Jesus the Christ, both Son of God and Son of Mary, gave to the world the message of hope and salvation whereby men are freed from ignorance of their own destiny, of the true meaning of their existence. By His saving death on the Cross, a death which He offered freely to His Father as a payment for the sins of men, He won from the Father the return of divine grace to men, the grace which enables men to share in the life of God in this present world and to grow into the vision of God which is their true destiny after death. To convey this grace to men, to inform men of the divine message of hope and salvation, Jesus established His kingdom, His Church, the One, Holy, Roman, Catholic Church [Mt 16:18]. The Church exists in the world as a visible sign of God’s call to men to share in His divine life [Mt 5:14-16;17-18], to escape from the monotonous, frustrating misery to which mankind is bound if it will not answer the call of God’s love. It is in and through the Church, in union with Christ, Who is the Head of His Body [Col 1:18; 1 Cor 12:12], which is the Church, that men offer to God the one true sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus [Mk 14:22-24; 1 Cor 10:16]. It is by uniting themselves with the sacrifice of the Body and the Blood of Jesus on the Cross, a sacrifice which is perpetually re-presented to God and to the world in the sacrifice of the Mass, that men offer to God the worship of adoration, thanksgiving, petition and reparation for sin which is alone pleasing to God. It is through the Mass and the sacraments, whose efficacy stems from the Cross, that God blesses man’s worship with the gift of His grace, molding men into the likeness of Jesus, His well-beloved Son, so that through this likeness they may be acceptable to God and may share in His life.

DOWN THROUGH THE AGES OF TIME THE CHURCH BRINGS THE MESSAGE OF JESUS CHRIST AND THESE MEANS OF SALVATION

Down through the ages of time, such time as it is still allotted to man, the Church will bring this message and these means of salvation. If men will heed the divine call and live in God’s grace, they will be rewarded with the vision of God, in which man’s true happiness is alone found, and at the end of time they will rise gloriously from the tomb to live forever even in the body. If they will not heed the call or remain faithful to it in God’s grace, at death they will forfeit forever the vision of God and at the end they will rise ingloriously in the body to suffer eternally even in the body.

THOSE WHO HEED THE CALL OF JESUS CHRIST SHARE IN HIS DIVINE LIFE

Those who heed the call of Jesus and enter into His kingdom in this world form with Him one Body, His Church. They live with Him, in Him and by Him. The bond of their union with Him is not only the external profession of faith by which they give their allegiance to Him and to His message but it is also the invisible bond of grace and charity by which they share in His divine life and by which they live in union with Him, with His Father and His Holy Spirit, and with one another in the Communion of Saints, which is His Church.

THE FINAL RESULT OF THAT LEAVENING ACTION WHICH THE CHURCH, THE KINGDOM OF GOD, IS NOW EXERCISING

At the end of time Jesus, the Son of God to Whom God the Father has given all judgment, will come with His angels and His Apostles to judge all men. When by His judgment the good have been separated from the wicked, then will all men see the true final dimensions of His kingdom. Then will all men and angels see the final result of that leavening action which the Church, the Kingdom of God, is now exercising, partly visibly and partly invisibly, in this present world.

LIVING SERENELY IN THE MIDST OF THE BEWILDERING AND FRUSTRATING COMPLEXITIES OF SINFUL HUMAN HISTORY

This, all too briefly and inadequately, is a summary of the great truths which God reveals to the world in and through His Church, His kingdom on earth. Those who receive it humbly and lovingly in faith are enriched intellectually, immeasurably beyond those who will not accept it. Through the revealed word and the incarnate Word of God they have learned the secrets of the innermost core of being, of existence. Though they live in the midst of the bewildering and frustrating complexities of sinful human history, they know, in faith, that beneath all apparent contradictions and beyond all hopelessness there lies the one Truth and Love which is God, the foundation of hope. In the golden age which flourishes in each civilisation which comes to be in human history, they are not so beguiled by the beauty and perfection of the world man has made as to forsake the God Who is the Author of man’s perfection. In times of barbarity and decadence, such as come at the decline of all purely human civilisations, they are not so disheartened as to hate and reject, or to hopelessness and despair. Armed with the saving Truth of God, with the knowledge of the hope-engendering Love of God, the member of Christ’s kingdom lives serenely in the midst of the calm or the turbulence of human history, knowing that the God Who underlies and permeates all history will in His own good time manifest the meaning of it all.

THE CHURCH IN THE WORLD

The Church, of course, is primarily interested in transmitting to men the knowledge of the divine revelation which Jesus, her Founder and Head, has entrusted to her. But, as a kingdom founded on universal charity, on love for all men and for all that is truly human, she has in the course of history interested herself in the discovery and transmission of all true knowledge.

In the beginning, as was natural, her interest was chiefly in theology, the application of human reason to the proper understanding of divine revelation and of the Sacred Scriptures (the Bible) in which the story of God’s revelation is contained.

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH COMPILED AND TRANSMITTED THE BIBLE

In the case of Sacred Scripture it is the Church herself who preserved these inspired books for the world. As early as 382 A.D. A Council of Rome under Pope Damasus drew up the list of the books of the Old and the New Testaments. The list was reaffirmed by the third Council of Carthage in 397, by Pope Innocent I in 405 and by Pope Gelasius I in 495. It was not until 1546 at the Council of Trent that the Church, faced with the attempts of some of the ‘Reformers’ to remove from the Bible texts which could not be reconciled with their new doctrines (Luther [threw out books ‘clashing’ with his brand new doctrine including] the Epistle of St James which said, ‘So also, faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself,’ a statement which contradicted Luther’s teaching that faith alone was necessary for salvation), reaffirmed both the divine inspiration of the Bible and the list of books of the Bible which the Church had accepted from the beginning.

A FULLER UNDERSTANDING

The first traces of this effort can be seen in the works of the early Christian apologists, especially Justin the Martyr and Tertullian. Justin, a pagan philosopher converted to Christianity, sought, even if not quite correctly, to show that the human wisdom of the pagans had been anticipated by and even perhaps drawn from the divine reveltions contained in the Bible. Tertullian, with a mind more legal than philosophical, sought to give more precision to the terms in which the Christian mysteries were to be affirmed. In the middle of the second century A.D. We find a theological school functioning at Alexandria in Egypt, a famous centre of Greek and Jewish learning. In the middle of the third century a new theological school was founded at Antioch. From this time on, the Church has never lacked schools of theology and theologians. Before the breakdown of the Roman Empire the Church had produced the enduring theological works of the Great Cappadocians, Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa, and in the Western Church the powerful theological understanding manifested in the works of the great St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in Africa.

LEARNING AND EDUCATION IN THE MONASTERIES

Even after the collapse of the empire in the face of the barbarian invasions of Europe and Africa, and in spite of the disruption of the Christian world by the Mohammedan conquests, ecclesiastical study and learning did not cease. Christian monks, especially the Benedictines, a monastic order founded at Monte Cassino in 529 by St Benedict, preserved in their monasteries copies of the books of the Bible, of the works of the Christian apologists and theologians, and even the works of pagan writers. They conducted schools for the education of the young and the training of clerics for the service of the Church and the civil authorities. In the seventh century Irish monks conducted schools in Ireland and sent teachers to the Continent to conduct schools there. Under the great Emperor Charlemagne a nnew impetus was given to learning by the founding of his famed Palace School under the guidance of a group of scholars drawn from all Europe. During the Carolingian Renaissance under the successors of Charlemagne interest in learning increased. The study of theology was furthered by the reintroduction of the use of Aristotele’s Logic. A new interest in classical Latin literature led even to a revival of works of poetry.

A GREAT SYNTHESIS OF ALL THEOLOGICAL LEARNING

By the twelfth century theologians were well on their way to a great synthesis of all theological learning. Peter Lombard composed his ‘Four Books of Sentences,’ in which he tried, with great success, to organise systematically all theology. Efforts such as this came to greater success in the thirteenth century, especially in the masterful Summa theologiae of St Thomas Aquinas, a theological synthesis whose influence has lasted until the present time.

MODERN ERRORS, RELATIVISM & CO.

After the Golden Age of Scholasticism (as it came to be called) in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, theology and philosophy declined in quality until the attacks of the ‘Reformers’ on the authority of the Church brought on a revival. At first, as circumstances dictated, the efforts of theologians. Were devoted to a defence of the Church as God’s mouthpiece in the world. But a more serious danger soon threatened the leavening action of the Church in the world. Under influence of the philosophical errors of Descartes, Locke, Hume and Kant, philosophy was corrupted and fell into the decadence of relativism, the theory that since nothing is absolutely true then anything and everything, even contradictory propositions and contradictory religious doctrines, can be simultaneously true. Moreover (according to relativist theory), since contradictory views can both be true, even in matters of religion, there can be no exclusively true divine revelation recognisable as such. According to this view then all religions are equally true or none is true, and since (as they say) there can be no rational justification of any particular religion, the ultimate foundation of any religion would have to be purely subjective and emotional.

ETERNAL TRUTHS

This is the modern religious error which the Church, the teacher of mankind, faces. Against it the Church at the Vatican Council reaffirmed its belief in the power of the human mind to discover the existence of God and to recognise as divine the revelation which the Church is divinely commissioned to teach to the world. This particular struggle is not yet over; the Pope and bishops and the philosophers and theologians of the Church are still labouring to effect a reconciliation of the spirit of the times with the eternal truths of God’s revelation.

THE CHURCH INITIATED EDUCATION FOR THE COMMON PEOPLE, A THING HITHERTO UNHEARD OF

As we have already suggested, the Church has not only fostered the pursuit of theological knowledge. She has also preserved and promoted general knowledge. The classical works of paganism, literary, historical, scientific, philosophical and theological, were preserved by the Church through the so-called Dark Ages of medieval Europe. They were learned and taught in conjunction with religious knowledge. Though for centuries learning was the privilege of the nobility or of the wealthy, the Church was always interested in the instruction of the poor. For centuries clerics of the Church were among the most learned men of their times, and the Church was always solicitous to give clerical training to the children of the poor. The great medieval universities (such as the Sorbonne at Paris and Oxford) were founded under the aegis of the Church and staffed by clerics of the Church. The Council of Trent in the sixteenth century urged the foundation of elementary schools. Great teaching orders, such as the Jesuits, the congregations of teaching brothers and sisters, have been founded to give the benefits of education to all. Like her Master, Jesus, the Church strives to bring to all men the truth which will make them free.

LIKE HER MASTER, JESUS, THE CHURCH STRIVES TO BRING TO ALL MEN THE TRUTH WHICH WILL MAKE THEM FREE

The leavening work of the Church has not been restricted to the field of knowledge. Through her influence and example the moral tone of mankind has also been elevated. In the pagan and corrupt world in which the Church was born, she appeared as the champion of a highly elevated moral code. She reprobated not only sinful external actions but even sinful internal desires and decisions. Not only was adultery forbidden, for example, but even the sinful lusting of the heart after forbidden impurities. Not only was chastity in marriage inculcated, but virginity (for both men and women) was extolled. As a consequence of original sin human beings are all too prone to forget God in the pursuit and enjoyment even of legitimate pleasures such as those of marriage. As an example of true dedication to God, man’s true destiny, the Church holds up to the eyes of the world its celibate priests, its consecrated monks and nuns. By their practice of virginity they are an example to the world of the utter dedication to God which is the fundamental duty of all men. Besides, by their faithfulness to their dedication they prove to the weak, the timid and the ungenerous that the grace of God, purchased by the Blood of Jesus, can really set men free from the tyranny of the devil, the world and the flesh. Moreover, from the beginning the Church has taught the world that heroic virtue is possible, not through human justice but through the supernatural charity, the supernatural love of God and man which God gives to men with His grace. Sin has begotten discord and hatred in the life of humanity. Grace and charity will not only restore men to union with God but also enable men to live in harmony and love with one another.

SAINTS OF THE CHURCH

The Church appeared in the world of men preaching this high moral ideal. Over the centuries it has succeeded in realising this ideal in varying degrees. On the level of the individual person it has had from the beginning startling successes. In the first three hundred years of its existence thousands of Christians publicly manifested their dedication to God to the extent of giving up their lives for Him during the Roman persecutions of Christianity. The leavening vitality of the Gospel, its power to lead men to prefer God to all else, is all the more noticeable in the fact that the early Christian martyrs are found not only among the nobility and the military forces (who might be expected by reason of their breeding, position or training to be brave in the profession of their faith) but also among the women, both rich and poor, and children. These early martyrs were the first Christian saints. Their example of preference for God even over life itself has been imitated by all the martyrs for Christ down to the present time.

THROUGH THE CENTURIES

Even in times and places where the Church has not been actively persecuted, the Church has never been lacking in examples of men and women totally dedicated to the love and service of God and man. From St Martin of Tours (the first non-martyr to be recognised as a saint by the Church) to St Maria Goretti in this present time (a young girl who preferred death to loss of chastity) the history of the Church shows a procession of saints choosing God rather than the seductive pleasures of the world. In addition to the canonised saints of the Church, from the very beginning of her life on earth the Church has inspired countless thousands to forswear the pleasures of the world and its power for the love of God in monasteries and convents.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD ONLY

In a world corrupted and debased by the indulgence of the flesh St Mary Magdalene and St Augustine give testimony to the power of God to convert and save the sinner. In a world torn by restless human ambitions and the marches and countermarches of military conquest, St Benedict and St Scholastica forsake worldly ambition for the peace and the love of God. In a world beginning anew to love money and wealth overmuch St Francis of Assisi gives up all his worldy possessions to the poor and embraces his Lady Poverty for the love of God and man. In a world in which nationalistic aims are seeking to divide and conquer the Church of Christ St Ignatius founds the Society of Jesus to defend and spread the Kingdom of God universally among men. In a world in which misguided men were trying to find God outside His own Church, insisting that no intermediary be interposed between the individual and God, God raised up a St Teresa of Avila and a St John of the Cross to show that true unity with God is to be sought in the fruitful bosom of His Church.

SOCIAL MORALITY IS RAISED THROUGH THE CHURCH

But it is not only in the lives of individual saints that the power of the Gospel has been manifest. Through the influence of the Church social morality in general has also been raised to higher levels. Even though the ignorance and weak wills of men have made the process slow and uncertain at times, the Gospel of Jesus has brought great benefits to mankind. From the beginning the Church has made no distinction between slaves and freemen. Over the centuries this has gradually led to the abolition of slavery in Christian nations. The Church’s doctrines and its reverence for Mary, the Mother of God, has likewise led many nations to raise the position of women in society. In a truly Christian society they cannot be regarded as either the slaves or the playthings of men. Even the horrors of war were mitigated under the influence of the doctrine of Christ. In the Middle Ages (the great ages of faith thus far in the history of the world) the Church even induced men to practise the Truce of God, whereby they abstained from battle on certain feast days. In modern times with the rise of capitalism and the industrial revolution the Church has fought for the rights of both capital and labour, for the right and necessity of labour unions to exist and to function for just wages. In large part the present world, even when expressly anti-Catholic, is living under the influence and heritage of the great elevation of morals brought to the world by the preaching and practice of Christian moral doctrine.

Of course the Church has not been completely successful in elevating the moral conduct of all men, even of all those nominally members of the kingdom of God. Nor does she ever expect in this present world to be completely successful. Jesus has told her more than once that she will always count among her members good and evil men. The Church He has told her is like a net which brings up both good and bad fish, or a field in which both good grain and weeds will grow. It is God Who will separate the good from the evil and manifest His judgement at the end of the world. So the Church is not dismayed at the scandalous behaviour of some Christians, even though at times they be in high places, perhaps as in the cases of some few Popes, even in the highest place of all. In spite of all individual defections the Church continues to preach Christian morality to the world.

TODAY’S TOTALITARIANISM

Today the Church faces the horror of totalitarianism, a godless totalitarianism which denies God, rides roughshod over the dignity of individuals, reduces men to statistics. Almost alone in the world she still cries out that God gave Himself on a Cross for the salvation of all men and that therefore each human being is in himself of inestimable value, a child of God, a brother of Jesus the Christ.

UNTIL THE END

How this present struggle of the Church with the power of the devil and the bad will of men will be resolved we cannot at present see. But, whether the Church grows or diminishes in the present world, it still remains true that she will be until the end a leaven in the world, secretly or openly building up the kingdom of heaven until it reaches the stature already determined by God. At the end of time with the general judgement of God the true proportions of the kingdom, the full extent of the leaven of the Church, will be revealed in the final Kingdom of God.”
– Martin J. Healy, S.T.D., 1959 (headings in capital letters added afterwards)

 

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“THOU ART PETER, AND UPON THIS ROCK I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH” – THE POPE, THE VICAR OF CHRIST

“‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also on heaven’ (Matthew 16:18-19).

JESUS MADE SIMON PETER THE FOUNDATION STONE OF HIS KINGDOM

Jesus made Simon Peter the rock or foundation stone of His kingdom. In the mind of Jesus all power in His kingdom, the power to teach the divine message, the power to rule men unto salvation, the power to sanctify men for salvation, all these powers were to be centralised in Simon Peter and his successors to the leadership of the apostolic college.

THE COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM

That the early Christian community recognised this is a historical fact. It was at Peter’s suggestion that the other Apostles elected Matthias to take the place left vacant in the apostolic college by the defection of Judas. It was Peter who first preached the establishment of the kingdom on Pentecost Sunday. It was Peter who worked the first miracle to testify to the power of Jesus Christ. It was Peter who punished Ananias and Sapphira for attempting to deceive the first Christian community at Jerusalem. It was Peter who admitted the first Gentiles into the new kingdom. At the Council of Jerusalem it was Peter who decided to what extent Gentile converts to the kingdom were bound by the old Mosaic Law. It was to Peter that St Paul went seeking confirmation of his own call to preach the Gospel. So great was his authority among the earliest members of the kingdom that even St Paul boasts of having induced Peter to accept his own position on a matter of discipline.

THE SUCCESSION

Peter died as Bishop of Rome, and the Bishops of Rome succeeded to his leadership of the whole Church. Thus it is that we see the Popes, the Bishops of Rome, exercising in the Kingdom of God through the centuries the authority which Jesus had entrusted to Peter.

ST CLEMENT’S LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS

So it was that Clement of Rome, at the end of the first century, sent a letter to the Christians at Corinth asking them to restore to office the priests whom they had illegitimately deposed. His wishes were fulfilled by the Corinthians. In fact, they held his letter in such esteem that it was read during liturgical celebrations just as the letters of the original Apostles. This recognition of the authority of the Bishop of Rome is all the more remarkable since St John, one of the original Apostles, was still alive at Ephesus, much nearer to Corinth than Rome.

‘MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH RECEIVE THE FULL TEACHING OF JESUS FROM THE BISHOPS OF ROME’

At the end of the second century Pope Victor threatened to excommunicate the Asian bishops who refused to celebrate Easter on the date used by the rest of the Church. On the urging of Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, Victor did not carry out the threat. But the very fact that Victor threatened to do so, and the fact that Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp of Smyrna, and therefore a man acquainted with the traditions of the Church both in the East and in the West, felt it necessary in the interests of concord to urge him not to do so, testify to the recognition of his power to rule the whole Church. It should be mentioned also that Irenaeus gives testimony to the fact that members of the Church receive the full teaching of Jesus from the Bishop of Rome.

‘IT IS ST PETER WHO SPEAKS THROUGH THE POPE’

In the third century two bishops of Spain who had been accused of loss of faith appealed to Pope Stephen I. Similarly Pope Dionysius asked Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria, who was suspected of adhering to the Sabellian heresy, to make a profession of true faith.

THE COUNCIL OF NICEA

Even though the Council of Nicea – in 325 the first general or ecumenical council of the Church – was summoned at the order of the Emperor Constantine, it was the two legates of the Bishop of Rome who presided. Toward the end of the same fourth century Pope Siricius reminded the bishops of Spain that it is St Peter who speaks through the Pope.

THE COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON

In the fifth century the General Council of Chalcedon accepted the famous dogmatic letter of Leo as a statement of the true faith against the Monophysite heresy and proclaimed, ‘Peter has spoken through Leo.’ And, as we have previously seen, it was Pope Gelasius who during this century pointed out to the emperors that the Church held its power to rule from God and, thus, independently of the civil authority.

POPE GREGORY THE GREAT

In the sixth century Pope Gregory the Great reorganised the Church in Italy and sought to promote the reform of the Church in Gaul. It was Gregory who sent Augustine of Canterbury to convert England to the true faith.

THE THIRD COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE

In the seventh century the third council of Constantinople accepted the teaching of Pope Agatho against the Momothelite heresy. In the eighth century Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor of the West. Nicholas I excommunicated the bishops of Trier and Cologne for sanctioning the second marriage of King Lothair. He also intervened in the Photian schism at Constantinople and restored Ignatius to the bishopric of Constantinople.

THE PAPACY WAS INVOLVED IN A LONG STRUGGLE WITH SECULAR RULERS FOR THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE CHURCH FROM CIVIL AUTHORITY

From the ninth century on, the Papacy was involved in a long and serious struggle with secular rulers for the independence of the Church from civil authority. This struggle reached a climax in the reforming efforts of Pope Gregory VII, who succeeded in freeing the Church from the ’emperor’ King Henry IV of Germany.

THE PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH THE BEGINNING NATIONALISM IN THE SECULAR SPHERE

From this time on, the power of the Popes was supreme in matters of religion and Western Christendom generally recognised the supremacy of the Church over the State. But the situation changed after the conflict between Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) and Philip the Fair of France. Philip, in an effort to strengthen the French monarchy, sought a great measure of control over the Church in France. Boniface resisted his efforts, but without success. In the fourteenth century the Popes made the mistake of taking up residence at Avignon, within the borders of France. This gave the Papacy the appearance of being too favourable with the French. When finally the Popes returned to residence at Rome after the death of Pope Urban V, the French King Charles V disputed the election of Pope Urban VI and induced some French cardinals to elect Robert of Geneva as Pope Clement VII. This was the start of the Great Western Schism. Until the election of Martin V in 1417 Christendom was troubled and confused at the sight of rival claimants to the See of Peter. In 1417 there were three claimants to the Papacy. This unfortunate situation gave rise to the ‘Conciliar theory,’ the idea that a general council is superior to the Pope. Though Jesus Himself had made Peter and his successors (the Bishops of Rome) the supreme heads of His Church, the schism, coupled with the beginning of nationalism and the consequent desire of some nations (at least on the part of their sovereigns) to achieve independence of the divinely constituted authority of the Popes, gave impetus to the theory that a general council was superior even to the Pope. As a consequence the Popes had to fight against this attempt to destroy the foundations of authority in the Kingdom of God on earth. Pope Eugene IV found it necessary to dissolve the Council of Basel, which pretended to have authority over the Pope himself.

SECULAR RULERS WITH THEIR NATIONALISTIC AMBITIONS SUCCEEDED IN CONTROLLING CHURCH AFFAIRS IN SOME AREAS VIA LUTHER AND ZWINGLI

In the sixteenth century the Popes faced the most dangerous threat to their authority up to that time. In 1517 Martin Luther, a German monk, revolted against the authority of Rome. This sparked a movement which has become known as the Protestant Reformation. Luther, and other reformers such as Zwingli, were aided by kings and princes who sought control of church affairs. Pope Leo X did not act with sufficient force. As a consequence roughly half the Christians of Europe – chiefly those in northern Europe – left the true Church and joined heretical sects. The Council of Trent, which was summoned toward the middle of the century by Pope Paul III, by its reforming measures in the area of Church discipline and by its authoritative statement of Catholic teaching helped to stem the tide. But too much damage had already been done. And so from then until now the world is faced with the spectacle of millions of men, claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ, who will not submit in matters of discipline, doctrine or worship to the vicar of Christ, the Pope of Rome.

THE POPE, HOWEVER, DID NOT SWAP CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OR MORAL PRINCIPLE FOR POLITICAL INFLUENCE

One of the results of the so-called Reformation, with the establishment of powerful Protestant states, was that by the seventeenth century the Papacy had been reduced to a state of political unimportance. But it is to the credit of the Papacy that even though the Popes were anxious to restore Christian unity to the world they did not compromise Christian doctrine or moral principle in the effort to do so.

But the decline of papal political influence was less unfortunate than the decline of spiritual and moral influence of the Papacy which accompanied it. Basically the political power of the Papacy was only a reflection of its enormous spiritual influence. Ultimately kings and princes, such as Pepin and Charlemagne, gave grants of land and political power to the Popes because the Popes wielded great spiritual influence over the Christian people of Europe and were a stabilising factor in a war-torn world. But in time this political influence, though only in appearance, came to overshadow the spiritual force which it reflected and bolstered.

But the ‘Reformation’ struck directly at the spiritual authority of the Papacy. Up to the ‘Reformation’ the Church itself, the Church centralised in the authority of the Popes, was the first and the ultimate source of all doctrinal and disciplinary decision. But the ‘reformers’ asserted that the faith and the religious practice of every Christian was based on the right of every Christian to interpret the Bible for himself. For the divinely instituted authority of Peter the ‘reformers’ substituted the authority of the individual mind of the individual man. Naturally those who embraced this individualistic rule of faith no longer looked to Peter, in the person of the Pope, for the teaching of the message of Jesus and its application to the ever-changing conditions of history.

IT BECAME EVIDENT THAT SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES AND STATE POWER DON’T MIX

The weakness, even the falsity, of this new principle became evident very quickly in the multiplication of Protestant sects, each differing from the others in one or more points of faith or religious discipline. Moreover many of these sects, in their efforts to survive, accepted the principle that the local prince or king was the head of the Church.

CONCESSIONS TO NATIONALISM BY PROTESTANTS

This was a concession to the growing principle of nationalism. But it was also a rejection of the real supranational character of the Christian kingdom, and it represented a betrayal of the principle enunciated by Jesus Himself: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’ It was in this spirit that the Lutherans in Germany recognised the right of the German princes to determine the religious views of their subjects and that Henry the Eighth made himself the supreme head of the Anglican Church. And so, at least for some time, what began as an emancipation of men from the authority of the Pope in the name of individual liberty became in fact an enslavement of religion to civil authority.

‘AN ENSLAVEMENT OF FAITH TO CIVIL AUTHORITY’

The loss of millions of members of the kingdom to the new heretical sects was in itself a great blow to the Church. But it had an even more insidious result. The princes of Catholic Europe were not slow to see the political advantages gained by the control which the Protestant sovereigns exercised over the Protestant churches in their domains. Anxious to make their own kingdoms as strong as possible in the face of growing nationalistic rivalries, Catholic princes also sought to control the Catholic Church within their own territories. Thus it was that in 1682 thirty-six French prelates, under the urging of Cardinal Richelieu, adopted the famous ‘Gallican Articles’ and sent them to the bishops in France. The ‘Articles’ held that the Pope is subject to a general council, the king is not subject to the Pope and that the Pope is not infallible. It is true that Pope Innocent XII succeeded in persuading Louis XIV of France to annul the ‘Articles.’ But the fact that they were disseminated at all shows that the spirit of anti-papism was to be found in Catholic France. The same tendency to reduce papal influence and enlarge the civil control of religion was shown also in the Febronianism and Josephinism which arose in Catholic Germany. All in all, these movements in Catholic countries coupled with state control of religion in Protestant countries were a concrete manifestation of the growing political theory of the absolute state, the state supreme in all the affairs of human life, even in the affairs of religion.

THE LOGICAL ‘NEXT STEP’ FOLLOWING THE PROTESTANT ‘REFORMATION’

To these religious and political counter-currents seeking to undermine the Church there was added in the eighteenth century the far more formidable adversary of rationalism in religion. The Kingdom of God is always a kingdom founded on faith, in fact on faith in mysteries which cannot be fully understood by the limited powers of the human mind. This faith is sustained in the world by the teaching authority of the Church, an authority sustained by and centralised in the Papacy. When Protestantism divorced the minds of men from this authority it was not long before these same minds were divorced from the divine revelation itself. Under the influence of Locke, Hume and Kant the message of Jesus was reduced to a purely natural religion, founded no longer on a divine revelation to man but now on the limited resources of the human mind. Since the philosophy of the time reduced the powers of the mind to the simple consideration and ordering, not of reality of real things but only of the ‘appearances’ of things, it became fashionable to hold that men could not prove the existence of God or the immortality of the human soul. In such an intellectual atmosphere men tended to become either atheists and irreligious or to found religious values purely on man’s emotions and the pragmatic necessity of supplying ease and satisfaction to these irrational emotions.

IN THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD…

Thus, in modern times the Papacy, seeking to preserve in the world the true Kingdom of God, has had to attempt to undo the ravages of the ‘Reformation,’ to preserve the independence of the Church [from secular power, also under the guise of Protestantism] and to assert the divine authority of the Christian revelation in the face of the attacks of rationalism. Through the General Council of Trent the Popes replied to the ‘Reformation.’ Through missionary efforts, especially under the central control of the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith (established in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV), the Papacy has carried on its divinely commissioned task to bring the Gospel to all the world. And so, in the providence of God, the losses occasioned by the ‘Reformation’ have been partly offset by the tightening of discipline within the Church and by the recruitment of members of the Kingdom in Africa, the Far East and the Americas.

THE CONTINUED INDEPENDENCE OF THE PAPACY OF ALL CIVIL STATES

In the face of attempts on the part of states to control the Church the Papacy has fought a long battle which is not yet, perhaps, over. The political power and prestige of the Papacy itself declined until in 1870 with the annexation of the Papal States by the newly founded kingdom of Italy it was eclipsed. Under Pius XI, in 1929, the ‘Roman Question’ was settled by the Lateran Treaty with the government of Mussolini. The tiny Vatican State was established and its rights recognised by Italy. In this way the independence of the Papacy of all civil states was formally recognised.

THE RIGHT OF THE CHURCH TO SPEAK IN THE WORLD FOR GOD IS STILL AN UNEASY ONE TO EXERCISE

But the right of the Church to speak in the world for God is still an uneasy one to exercise. This is shown by the fact that the Popes of the last few centuries have found it necessary to make concordats or agreements with modern states guaranteeing to the Church the right to function under certain limitations.

THE POPES CONDEMNED MANY INTELLECTUAL ERRORS OF MODERN TIMES

In the struggle with rationalism the Popes have found it necessary to condemn many of the intellectual errors of modern times. In this regard the Vatican Council convened by Pius IX stands out. The council affirmed clearly the ability of the human mind to discover the existence of God, and to recognise God’s message to men by the divine signs (especially miracles and prophecies) which accompany it in its journey through time. In addition it announced firmly to the world the supreme power of the Pope, the successor of St Peter, to teach, rule and sanctify men. In the face of scepticism it affirmed also the power of the Pope to teach infallible matters of faith and Christian morality.

THE HISTORY OF THE PAPACY SHOWS THAT THE WORDS OF JESUS ARE BEING FULFILLED

The history of the Papacy, then, shows that the words of Jesus are being fulfilled. The Papacy is the rock on which the kingdom is founded, founded so firmly that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Down through the centuries the Papacy has been the indefatigable defender of the independence of the Kingdom of God. Down through the centuries the Papacy has been the faithful guardian of Christian truth, protecting the kingdom against the loss of even the least element of the divine message entrusted to it by Jesus.

THE GATES OF HELL WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT (Mt 16:18b)

At the present moment the position of the Papacy as the Vicar of Christ is clear. In the face of political totalitarianism it stands out as the champion of the independence of the spiritual Kingdom of God. In the face of religious indifferentism, of intellectual scepticism and nihilism, the Papacy is the divinely appointed voice of supernatural religion, the champion of both reason and faith. Confronted with irreligious and misguided rationalism, the Church speaks to the world under the guidance of the Popes, the words of God, the divine revelation whose divine dimensions cannot be reduced to the narrow confines of unaided human reason, but whose mysterious depths of truth lie open to the humble eyes of faith.

NO ‘PRISONER’ HAS EVER, IN THE WORLD OF SPIRIT, BEEN MORE INFLUENTIAL IN THE WORLD AT LARGE

It is a remarkable fact that in our contemporary era, at a time when the political power of the Papacy is practically extinguished, the character of the Papacy as the rock on which Christ founded His Church can be seen with outstanding clarity. From Pius IX to Pius XI the Pope was popularly known as the ‘prisoner of the Vatican.’ Yet no ‘prisoner’ has ever, in the world of the spirit, been more influential in the world at large.

THE POPES HAVE STOOD HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE THE REST OF MEN IN THEIR STRUGGLE TO FOSTER WHAT IS BEST IN MAN

From Leo XIII to Pius XII the Popes have stood head and shoulders above the rest of men in their struggle to foster what is best in man, to safeguard and raise the spirit of man. In the midst of the political turmoil of the nineteenth century it was Leo XIII who freed the Church from allegiance to any particular form of government. It was Leo who, in the face of the Industrial Revolution and its creation of a landless, poverty-stricken proletariat, proclaimed the rights of the working man and the obligations of capital to provide decent working conditions and an adequate wage for workers. It was he also who revived the sane philosophy and theology of St Thomas Aquinas as an antidote to the intellectual errors of scepticism, naturalism and materialism.

THE PAPACY AFFIRMS THE LIBERTY OF THE INDIVIDUAL IN THE FACE OF THE ALL-POWERFUL STATE

Under his successor, Pius X, we see the Church strengthening itself within itself. He inaugurated a liturgical revival, urging the faithful to a greater personal understanding of and participation in the Church’s worship of God through the Mass and the Sacraments. The internal discipline of the Church was strengthened by the clarification and codification of Canon Law, the law which regulates Church discipline.

Pius XI, confronted with the attack on individual freedom by totalitarian philosophies of fascism, nazism and communism, affirmed the liberty of the individual in the face of the all-powerful state. Against the racial bias of these political philosophies, against the theories of racial superiority by blood, he affirmed the equality of all men in the sight of God. Conscious of the need of the Church to bring the message of the Gospel to all men, he encouraged the works of Catholic Action. He urged the Catholic laity to assist the bishops in the work of the apostolate, in the task of leavening an unbelieving world with the elevating yeast of Catholic doctrine and practice. Outside the Church the growth of the practices of divorce and birth control were destroying the moral fibre of society. Pius XI denounced the immorality of [artificial] birth control and asserted the sanctity and the indissolubility of marriage.

THE CHAMPIONS AGAINST THE PREVAILING MATERIALISM OF OUR AGE

During this period two great world wars showed how far the bonds of social and political action between the nations of the world had deteriorated. Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII spoke clearly for peace and the cultivation of virtues which maintain peace. Though the nations did not listen, the Popes carried on a worldwide work of bringing succour to those made homeless by the destruction of war.

But the one thing that has become increasingly evident in modern times is that the Church, under the leadership of the Papacy, is the great champion of the spiritual element in human life against the prevailing materialism of the age. This is evident both in the Papal defence of what we might call specific human spiritual values and in the Papal insistence on the validity of the divine mysteries which have been revealed to the Church and which constitute the only true basis of human hope for salvation.

‘MEN AREN’T SIMPLY THE TOOLS OF A MATERIALISTIC STATE’

Thus, under Pius IX, the Vatican Council insisted on man’s ability, as a creature composed of body and spiritual soul, to discover the great fundamental truths of the existence of God and of his divinely founded Church. Leo XIII defended the dignity of all men in an age which was seeking to make men simply the tools of a materialistic state. Pius XI and Pius XII defended man’s freedom as a spiritual being in the face of the encroachment of totalitarian materialism on the sphere of man’s free spirit.

IN A WORLD HAS RETURNED TO THE OLD ERROR OF ADAM, THE ERROR OF SEEKING SALVATION BY ITS OWN UNAIDED EFFORTS…

But, best of all, in a world which has returned to the old error of Adam, the error of seeking salvation by its own unaided efforts, the Popes have, with ever increasing vigour and courage, insisted on the great revealed mysteries which the Church possesses. The worldly prophets of the time preach a universal brotherhood of men founded on the tyranny of an absolute state. Pius XII held out to the world the only possibility of achieving a true human brotherhood of men, the super-union of all men in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. In the Mystical Body of Christ men may achieve that fraternal union with one another which grace and charity make possible. In a secularist world where false prophets seek to institute a world government totally divorced from religious principles Pius XI insisted that all nations must recognise the kingship of Christ. World unity is possible only if men and nations are motivated by truly religious principles. In a world deep in despair because it has been taught that man is only matter doomed to eternal extinction by death, Pius XII fearlessly proclaimed the dignity, the spirituality and the immortality of all men in the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary, the Mother of God, body and soul into heaven. To the world’s despair he proclaimed the hope of salvation, the hope of resurrection and immortality.

THE ROCK OF PETER STANDS UNMOVED AS A BEACON OF LIGHT, SET IN ITS PLACE BY THE REAL WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE

In this present age the Papacy stands out once again as the Rock of Peter, the Rock on which God founded His kingdom among men. The furious tides of political opinion and international disputes have stripped the Rock of political power. But this stripping has only served to reveal its essential character. In the midst of the rushing waters of materialism and barbarism, staunch against the breaking waves of war and despair, the Rock of Peter stands unmoved as the first and last champion of man and of God.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959 (headings in capital letters added afterwards)

 

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“RENDER THEREFORE TO CAESAR…” (Mt 22:21)

“The Kingdom of God which Jesus founded on earth is fundamentally a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom of the spirit. When Jesus acknowledged before Pilate that He was a king, He also said that His kingdom was not of this world. The objective of His kingdom was not worldly wealth or power but rather the salvation of men, the forgiveness of sin and the reunion of men with God both in time and eternity.

THE REUNION OF MEN WITH GOD BOTH IN TIME AND ETERNITY

But though His kingdom was primarily a kingdom of the spirit, the men who would compose it were not pure spirits. Men are spirits in bodies. As spirits men become conscious of the world and of themselves through the vital, sensitive activities of their bodies. Though it was theoretically possible for God to speak the message of salvation directly to the spirit of each individual man, He did not choose to do so. Instead He chose to speak to a few and commission them to transmit the message to the rest of men. In so doing God chose to respect and work with man as he is, a unit composed of body and spirit. It is through the human body and its senses, through human language, whether spoken, written or by gesture or sign, that men communicate with each other. God chose to use this normal means of human communication to transmit His message to all men.

GOD CHOOSES TO ACT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE NATURE OF MAN, HIS CREATURE

Similarly God could, if He had so chosen, give His grace to men, the grace which carries with it forgiveness of sin and a share in His kingdom in a purely spiritual way, operating secretly and invisibly in the interior of men’s souls. But God chose to act in accordance with the nature of man. He chose to enable men to know His invisible gifts to their souls by external visible signs, the Mass and the sacraments.

‘DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME’

Now therefore the external transmission of the divine message of salvation and the sensible means of salvation instituted by God make His kingdom on earth a visible kingdom. The necessity of safeguarding the integrity of His message and the need of preserving the sacramental means of salvation were provided for by Jesus. To His Apostles, under the leadership of Peter, He gave the power to teach His message without error and to bring to men the sacramental means of salvation. Consequently, though His kingdom on earth is primarily a kingdom of the spirit, it is also a visible kingdom; visible in the evident distinction between the Apostles, who possess the authority to teach, to sanctify and rule the members of the kingdom for eternal salvation, and the members, who receive this teaching, partake of the sacraments and follow the apostolic rule to their salvation; visible in the administration of the sacraments which can be seen and heard; visible and audible in the teaching of the Apostles; recognisable in the obedience in spiritual concerns which the members give to the Apostles and their successors, the Pope and the bishops of the Church.

SPIRITUAL AND VISIBLE

As a visible, organised society, with the most important mission in the world – the salvation of all men – the Church of God has the right to preach its divine message in the world, the right to administer the means of salvation to men and the right to rule the moral and spiritual behaviour of men for their salvation. Now, if all men were perfect, both in knowledge and in moral behaviour, if all men recognised at once the divine character of the Church of Christ, and if all men had at once the good will to recognise the divine authority of the Church to sanctify and rule men for salvation, the Church would experience no difficulty in the world of men. But men are not perfect, neither in knowledge nor in behaviour. It was to be expected therefore that the appearance in the world of a new society claiming the freedom and the right to teach, rule and sanctify men in the name of God would be neither unnoticed nor unhindered in its efforts to exercise this freedom and right. Over the centuries the weakness of men, both within and without the Church, would occasion not only misunderstanding but also conflicts between the Church and human states. Jesus Himself had given His disciples the general principles to follow: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s.’ It is our intention now to trace briefly the working-out of this principle in human history.

CHURCH AND STATE

The Church, the Kingdom of God, was born in the Roman Empire. In matters of religion the Roman State was eclectic and tolerant. The Romans allowed all subject-peoples to retain and practise their own religions. They asked only that all the subject-peoples (except the Jews) acknowledge the Roman Emperor as a manifestation of the divinity. Since the conquered peoples were generally polytheists, believing in the existence of many gods, and since many of them were accustomed to the idea that kings or emperors were either gods or manifestations of gods, this practice caused no difficulty. On the other hand, it was a powerful symbol of the unity of the empire. The Jews, since they were monotheists, were not asked to worship the emperor. Besides, since they showed no very active inclination to convert the peoples of the empire to monotheism, they were not a threat to the worship of the emperor, nor to the symbol of imperial unity.

THE CHURCH’S OBJECTIVE OF UNITING ALL MEN TO GOD THE FATHER, SON AND THE HOLY SPIRIT IN JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, CLASHED WITH THE ROMAN EMPIRE’S EMPEROR-WORSHIP

But the Kingdom of God founded by Jesus proclaimed itself to the world as a society with a world mission. Its objective was to reunite all men to God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As men came to believe in Jesus, as they freely began to worship the Trinity which He preached, they ceased to worship the many gods of the empire. Most significantly they ceased to worship the emperor. And the more numerous the followers of Jesus became, the more evident it became to the imperial authorities that the Christian Church was a threat to the symbol of imperial unity, the symbol which helped to sustain that unity.

THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH WAS A THREAT TO THE SYMBOL OF IMPERIAL UNITY

Thus it was that the Church attracted the unfavourable notice of the Roman authorities. Viewed with suspicion, as a possible threat to the well-being of the Roman State, it could not escape persecution by the imperial authority. In the first three centuries of its existence therefore the Church was subject to persecution by the civil authority. The profession and practice of Christianity were forbidden by the State. Those who refused to give up their faith in Christ could be deprived of their titles and property, imprisoned, forced to work in mines, tortured and put to death. It was a time when, as Jesus had said, men would think they were doing God a favour by putting the disciples of Christ to death.

THE TENDENCY OF THE EMPERORS TO EXERCISE CONTROL OVER CHURCH MATTERS PREVENTED THE TRUE ECCLESIASTICAL AUTHORITY FROM REALISING ITS PROPER FREEDOM IN MATTERS OF FAITH

The imperial persecution of the Church ceased with the advent of Constantine in the first quarter of the fourth century. Although Constantine himself was baptised a Christian only at the close of his life, he favoured the Church of Christ. But, as a Roman Emperor, he regarded himself as possessed of power over the Church, even in spiritual matters. Unfortunately for the Church in the eastern half of the empire, Constantine established his capital at Byzantium (Constantinople). The tendency of the emperors to exercise control over Church affairs prevented the true ecclesiastical authority from realising its proper freedom in matters of religion. The real dependence of the Eastern bishops on the power of the emperors and the human weakness and ambitions of the bishops made the Eastern Church unduly subservient to the civil power.

THE FACT THAT THE IMPERIAL POWER WAS CENTRED ELSEWHERE GAVE THE POPE, THE BISHOP OF ROME, A GREATER MEASURE OF FREEDOM FROM INTERFERENCE BY THE CIVIL RULERS

On the other hand, the removal of the capital from Rome to Constntinople proved fortunate for the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St Peter, the supreme authority on earth in the Kingdom of God. The fact that the imperial power was centred at Constantinople in the East and at Milan or Ravenna in the West gave the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, a greater measure of freedom from interference by the civil rulers than that enjoyed by the bishops of the East. As a result the supreme authority to teach, rule and sanctify which Jesus had entrusted to Peter and his successors, the Bishops of Rome, not only became more clearly recognised in the Western Church but it also developed in greater freedom. The barbarian invasions of the empire, which began toward the close of the fourth century, also served to increase the freedom and prestige of the Popes. As the imperial organisation of the empire in the West began to break up under the successive waves of invasion, the Popes appeared to be not only the authoritative heralds of the religion of Christ [James 1:27] but also the champions [of fairness to all,] of the law and order which the old empire had realised.

OVER FOUR CENTURIES OF HARMONISING MAN’S DUTIES BOTH TO GOD AND TO CAESAR FOLLOWED

Thus, from the beginning of the fourth century to the end of the eighth century, two different ways of harmonising man’s duties both to God and to Caesar were being developed. In the Eastern empire, while the state became Christian, the bishops became too dependent on the civil power and the emperors gained too great authority over the Church in matters of religion. In the West the true and divinely given power of the Papacy was able to develop more freely according to its inner nature. The acceptance of the authority of the Popes also safeguarded the authority of bishops generally from the tendency of civil authority to encroach upon Church affairs.

HOW THE STATE TRIED TO INTERFERE TO MAKE PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT JESUS CHRIST WAS NOT GOD

The tendency of the emperors to assume control of the Church was given free play during the rise and fall of the Arian heresy. The Arians denied that Jesus was God equally with the Father. Through the efforts of Eusebius, the Bishop of Nicomedia, they gained the favour of Constantine and of his son Constantius II (337-361). In the Church in the East the power of the emperor was used to depose the true bishops and impose Arian bishops in their place. The Pope and the Western bishops generally resisted these imperial attempts to make the Church Arian. With the advent of the Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395) the imperial patronage of the Arian heresy ceased. But, in the East, it had already become customary for the emperors to interfere at will in the affairs of the Church. The bishops there were also accustomed to such interference.

THE WEST AVOIDS UNHEALTHY DEPENDENCY ON SECULAR POWERS

The influence of the emperor in ecclesiastical affairs was also responsible for the increase in power and prestige of the Bishop of Constantinople. At the time of the Council of Constantinople (381) the bishop of the imperial capital was a simple suffragan bishop of the Archbishop of Heraclea. But at the Council through the influence of the Emperor Theodosius, it was decreed that the Bishop of Constantinople was to hold a primacy of honour over all the bishops of the world except the Bishop of Rome. The Council granted the Bishop of Constantinople only a primacy of honour. It did not give him any added powers. But the granting of this honour was based on the principle that the presence of the emperor (or the imperial power) at Constantinople added prestige to the bishop of the see. In this way there was established between the Church in the East and the state a link that was to prove the downfall of the Eastern Church.

THE TENDENCY OF THE STATE TO LORD IT OVER THE CHURCH WAS MET WITH RESISTANCE

In the West the tendency of the state to lord it over the Church was met with resistance. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan (where the Western capital of the empire was then located), gave an example to the rest of the Western bishops. When, with the support of Justina, the mother of the Emperor Valentinian II, the Arians asked that one of the Catholic churches of Milan be handed over to them, Ambrose refused, saying that ‘palaces are the concern of the emperor, but Churches belong to the bishop.’ He also pointed out that the ’emperor is within the Church, but not over the Church.’ It is worth noting that St Ambrose in this tilt with the imperial power, appealed constantly to the principle laid down by Jesus Himself: ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ In the year 494 Pope Gelasius I, in a letter to the Emperor Anastasius, laid down the principle that the world is ruled by two powers, the sacred power of the Popes and the royal power. The power of the priesthood is more important because the priest must give an account to God even for the kings of men. In the West, then, both in principle and in fact, the Pope and the bishops maintained the independence of the Kingdom of God from the civil power. In matters affecting the conduct of the civil affairs of the state, the Church and its members would obey the laws of the state. But in matters of religion the Church is independent, subject only to God.

‘IN MATTERS OF FAITH THE CHURCH IS INDEPENDENT, SUBJECT ONLY TO GOD’

This teaching of Pope Gelasius was a clear re-affirmation of the principle laid down by Christ Himself. It helped to guard the Church of the West from the dangers of Caesaropapism. But the bishops of the Eastern Church were already too accustomed to subservience to the civil power. Moreover, the tendency of the peoples of the East to become embroiled in theological and liturgical controversies, coupled with the human ambitions of the bishops of Constantinople, helped to bring about the triumph of Caesaropapism and ultimately a rupture between the Eastern and the Western Church.

‘A CLEAR RE-AFFIRMATION OF THE PRINCIPLE LAID DOWN BY CHRIST HIMSELF’

The first open signs of this rupture are found in the story of the Photian schism. In 847 Ignatius, a son of the Emperor Michael I, was elected Patriarch of Constantinople. His opposition to Bardas, guardian of the emperor, brought about his deposition as Patriarch. Photius, a layman, was chosen in his place. Pope Nicholas I sent legates to Constantinople to mediate the dispute between the followers of Ignatius and those of Photius. His legates took the dide of Photius, but the Pope himself decided in favour of Ignatius. With the support of the emperor, Photius remained in power. But he had been alienated from the Papacy by the decision of Nicholas I. In his anger he wrote a number of works against the See of Rome. These have provided ever since an arsenal of arguments used by Eastern theologians against the Western Church. Even though, ultimately, Photius died in communion with the Pope at Rome, the seeds of the schism had been sown.

THE PRESERVERS OF THE CULTURE THAT WAS HANDED DOWN

In 1053 the Patriarch Michael Caerularius began an active campaign against the Church of the West. In 1054 he was solemnly excommunicated by the papal legates. This brought about the rupture between the Eastern and the Western Church. At the general councils of Lyons, in 1274, and Florence, in 1438, unsuccessful attempts were made to reunite the churches of the East and the West. But the schism remains to this day. Now and then, in the course of succeeding centuries, some bishops and peoples of the East have been reunited to Rome. But the majority of the Christian Churches of the East are still in schism. Thus Caesaropapism – the attempt of civil authority to dominate in a sphere where it has no real authority – helped to remove many of the followers of Christ from the unity of His sheepfold which He so ardently desired.

THE CHURCH AND CHARLEMAGNE

In the West the relations between Church and the state followed a different course. At that time when the Eastern Church was coming under the domination of the civil power, the activity of St Ambrose and the statement of Christian principle by Pope Gelasius, aided by the breakdown of the western empire, preserved the Church from the danger of Caesaropapism. The prestige of the Church in western Europe was greatly increased by the fact that the Church, in the persons of the Pope and the bishops, emerged from the chaos of the barbarian invasions as the symbols of law and order and the preservers of the ancient culture. The conversion of the Franks improved the position of the Popes as the leaders of the Church. Pepin, the founder of the Corolingian dynasty, gave Pope Stephen III a donation of lands in Italy for the protection of the Roman See. In the year 800 Charlemagne, by accepting coronation as Emperor of the West at the hands of the Pope, consolidated the position of the Pope. Though Charlemagne himself had tendencies toward Caesaropapism, his great empire broke up after his death and the Western Church was temporarily relieved of this embarrassing situation.

SOME BAD NEWS FOR THE CHURCH

But this relief was productive of its own embarrassments. The Mohammedans had begun a series of sea raids on the coasts of Italy and France. The Danes had begun their raids on Ireland, England and the continent itself. The breakdown of Charlemagne’s empire, with the consequent rivalry between kings and princes, helped to increase the chaos which spread through Europe. In these conditions the Papacy became subject to the intrigues of the nobles of Rome and Italy. In the tenth century, under three German emperors, Otto I, Otto II and Otto III, order was restored and the Papacy rescued from the local intrigues of the Roman nobility. But the Ottos tended to make the Church dependent on the imperial authority. Under Otto I the empire founded by Charlemagne was re-established. But, unfortunately for the Church, the emperors sought to nominate Popes or control their election. In addition it had become customary for emperors, kings and princes to nominate bishops and abbots. In the development of feudal Europe bishops and abbots had often become great landowners and feudal allies of the civil sovereigns. Thus it seemed just to the princes that they should have the disposal of ecclesiastical offices and dignities. But such a system of providing successors for the Apostles was extremely bad for the Church.

THE CONCORDAT OF WORMS, A.D. 1122

A movement of reform began during the reign of Pope Leo IX, who had been named Pope by the emperor in 1049. The aim of the reform movement was to liberate the Church from the dominance of the secular princes. The movement came to a climax in the reign of Pope Gregory VII. Gregory forbade laymen to appoint men to ecclesiastical offices and threatened anyone who did so with excommunication from the Church. The Emperor Henry IV disobeyed the decree. Gregory excommunicated Henry and deposed him. The deposition of Henry from the rule of his kingdom was the first case in which a Pope actually attempted to depose a king. In the actual struggle which ensued, Gregory did not obtain a victory. But his action was a manifestation of his own view on the meaning of the Christian principle ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’ Gelasius had recognised that there are two divinely instituted powers in the world, the civil authority and the authority of the Church. Gregory showed that in his mind the civil authority was ultimately subject to the power of the Church, since the Church had to render to God an accounting for the actions of princes. At any rate, the action of Gregory set the tone for the policy of the Church in relation to the state for the succeeding centuries. The particular question of laymen appointing and investing ecclesiastical officers – bishops and abbots – was settled at the Concordat of Worms (in 1122) under Pope Calixtus II. By the concordat it was agreed that in future all bishops and abbots should be elected by the proper ecclesiastical authorities. It was thus agreed that the civil authority should not control the Church by its custom of appointing bishops.

BECAUSE THE CHURCH STRIVED TO MAINTAIN INDEPENDENCE OF WORLDLY POWERS, THE KING SENT HIS ARMY TO ARREST THE POPE

In the twelfth century the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa attempted again to subject the Church to the imperial power. His efforts were opposed by Pope Alexander III. It was not until 1177 at the peace of Venice that the struggle ended. Under Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) the Papacy reached the height of its power in both spiritual and temporal affairs.

The struggle was renewed during the reign of Emperor Frederick II. It did not end until Charles of Anjou defeated Conradin, the last of the Hohenstaufen emperors, in 1268.

Philip the Fair of France (1285-1314) quarreled with Pope Boniface VIII. Philip, seeking to increase the royal power in France, levied taxes on the French clergy. Boniface held that the Church could not be taxed without its own consent. Later Philip arrested the Bishop of Pamiers. Boniface threatened to depose him. Then, in the Papal Bull ‘Unam Sanctam’ the Pope reaffirmed the doctrine that the temporal authority ‘should be subjected to the spiritual.’ But Philip dealt a severe blow to the prestige of the Papacy by sending his army into Italy to arrest the Pope. Through the loyalty of the people at Anagni the Pope escaped. But the violent action of the king helped to reduce the awe in which the people had held the Pope.

THE POPES, IN THEIR EFFORTS TO MAINTAIN THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE CHURCH FROM THE STATE, WERE SUBJECTED TO MUCH HARASSMENT

From this point on the power and prestige of the Popes declined. Pope John XXII was denounced by Louis of Bavaria. Marsilio published a book ‘Defensor pacis’ in which he proposed the theory that everything was subject to the emperor. The Papacy was subject to a general council and councils were subject to the emperor. In 1378 there began the Great Western Schism. Some cardinals, contesting the election of Urban VI, elected Robert of Geneva as Clement VII. In 1409 a so-called general council at Pisa elected a third Pope, Alexander V.

The existence of rival claimants to the Papacy gave impetus to theories that the Church generally, especially as represented by general councils, was superior to the Pope. Practically, the schism was settled at the Council of Constance. Two of the rival Popes resigned their office. The council elected Martin V Pope. While this action of the council provided a practical solution to the schism, the council itself claimed power over the Papacy. This claim was later renewed at the Council of Basel. Thus the Popes, in their efforts to maintain the independence of the Church from the state, now found themselves compelled to resist the theory that a general council is superior to the Pope.

THE SUPREME AUTHORITY WHICH JESUS HAD GIVEN TO THE PAPACY IN THE PERSON OF PETER AND HIS SUCCESSORS AT ROME WAS ATTACKED

The dissensions within the Church occasioned by the Great Schism enabled the princes of Europe to strengthen their own authority over the Church. In 1438 Charles VII of France promulgated the Pragmatic Sanction whereby all papal nominations of clergy in France were forbidden. The German princes were not slow to imitate this action. Meanwhile there developed the tendency to appeal from Papal decisions to a future general council, as if such a council was superior to the Pope. In this way, through the so-called Concilliar Theory, the supreme authority which Jesus had given to the Papacy in the person of Peter and his successors at Rome was attacked and weakened.

THE PRINCES FINALLY SUCCEED IN BRINGING A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF CHRISTIANS INTO THEIR WORLDLY POWER

This weakening of papal authority paved the way for the great disaster which befell the Church in the sixteenth century – the Protestant Reformation. Whatever faults of the Church needed correction, whatever the numerous and interwoven causes which led to this so-called Reformation, one thing is clear – the ‘Reformation’ destroyed the religious unity of Europe and separated from the true Church of Jesus many nations. Parts of Germany, Denmark, sweden and Norway, England and Scotland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and a small but influential group in France, were separated from Christian unity of belief and practice. The princes of these nations, anxious to assert their independence of the Popes and to gain complete domination over religious affairs, aided the so-called reform movement. The reformers, for their part, anxious to establish their own interests against the Popes, accepted the idea that civil princes had authority over the Church in their own domains and could dictate the kind of religion which would be practised there. Thus, in the new Protestant lands the Caesaropapistic tendency finally triumphed.

For centuries the Popes had fought the tendency of princes to rule the Church. But the secession of the reformers from the Church, while it freed them from the exercise of papal authority, subjected them to the sovereignty of the civil power. Unfortunately through conquest and colonisation, the influence of the new religious views spread to the American continent.

WHERE WORLDLY POWER HAD TRIUMPHED, CATHOLICS WERE EITHER PERSECUTED OR FORCED TO EMIGRATE

The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 was a recognition of the division of Europe into a Catholic and a Protestant sphere. The concurrent rise of nationalism made matters even more difficult for the Church. In non-Catholic countries Catholics were either persecuted or forced to emigrate. Even in Catholic countries the kings found it expedient to gain control of the Church for their own nationalistic purposes. At this time the theory of the ‘divine right of kings’ came to the fore. Monarchs claimed that their authority came to them directly from God and they could be held to account by God alone. Since royal power was now much more stable than heretofore this claim could be made with greater success. This reinforced the claim of civil rulers to determine the religious views and practices of their subjects. In non-Catholic countries it meant the outlawing of Catholicism, the true Kingdom of God. In Catholic countries it signified the intention of Catholic monarchs to control the Church.

THE PROPERTY OF THE CHURCH WAS CONFISCATED BY THE WORLDLY POWERS AND DISCRIMINATORY LAWS PASSED AGAINST THE MEMBERS OF GOD’S KINGDOM ON EARTH

Thus in Switzerland, Holland, the Scandinavian countries and England the property of the Church was confiscated and discriminatory laws were passed against Catholics. It was not until Frederick the Great of Prussia (1740-1786) granted religious toleration to the Catholics of Silesia that the rigour of non-Catholic religious intolerance began to abate. This move toward toleration was not an unmixed blessing. If it had been the result simply of a due regard for the sanctity of individual consciences it might have been truly a step forward in the relations between Church and state. But it was also the result of the new intellectual atmosphere generated by what was called the ‘Enlightenment.’

THE SO-CALLED ‘ENLIGHTENMENT’

The cardinal principle of the Protestant Reformation was ‘private judgement.’ The reformers, in seceding from Rome, had repudiated the authority of the Pope and bishops to teach and interpret infallibly the teaching of Christ. Instead they claimed that each individual believer, by reading the Bible, could judge for himself the content of God’s revelation to man. If God’s revelation had been concerned only with natural truths easily accessible to human reason, such a principle might have worked. But, as we have seen, God’s message is concerned chiefly with supernatural mysteries which man could not discover for himself and which he cannot completely understand even after he has learned them from the Church. In history therefore the principle of private judgement broke down. As men began to read the Bible with only their own talents and prejudices to guide them, they began to question more and more the content of the divine message.

MEN BEGAN TO READ THE BIBLE WITH ONLY THEIR OWN TALENTS AND PREJUDICES TO GUIDE THEM

It was easier to reject mysteries than to accept them in submission to the wisdom of God. From the rejection of divine mysteries to the rejection of reason itself – a philosophical position known as scepticism – was not a difficult step.

IT WAS EASIER TO REJECT MYSTERIES THAN TO ACCEPT THEM IN SUBMISSION TO THE WISDOM OF GOD

Nor did it take the sceptics long to question even the existence of God Himself. In such an intellectual atmosphere – generated remotely by the ‘Reformation’ with its principle of private judgement, and proximately by the scepticism of the ‘Enlightenment’ – the tolerance of Frederick the Great reflects not so much a tenderness toward the rights of the individual religious conscience as a supercilious attitude toward all forms of religion. Since all religion, as he held, is simply a matter of questionable opinion it matters not what form of religion the subjects of a state may embrace as long as all forms are subject to the power of the absolute monarch.

MARTIN LUTHER’S CAN OF WORMS: THE CARDINAL PRINCIPLE OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION, ‘PRIVATE JUDGEMENT’, IS SUBSEQUENTLY APPLIED TO THE QUESTION THE EXISTENCE OF GOD HIMSELF

In Catholic states at this same period the Church also experienced difficulty. In Austria Joseph II, imbued with the same absolutist tendency which motivated Frederick in Prussia, attempted to place the Church completely under the control of the royal power. His rules and regulations for the governance of the Church were so minute – descending even to the details of the appointments of a Church altar – that he became known to his fellow-monarchs as ‘Joseph the Sacristan.’ In France, under Louis XIV, this tendency to gain control of the Church was also manifested. In 1682, under the urging of Louis, there was promulgated a ‘Declaration of the Gallican Clergy.’ It declared that the power of the Pope was restricted to spiritual affairs; that kings and princes were not subject to any ecclesiastical authority in temporal affairs. To protect and strengthen his monarchy Louis felt it necessary to maintain complete control of the Church within France itself.

IN PRACTICE THIS MEANT THAT WORLDLY POWER WERE NOT TO BE HAMPERED NOR GUIDED IN THEIR ACTIONS BY THE PRINCIPLES OF EITHER RELIGION OR MORALITY

The combination of growing nationalism, of absolute monarchies and of scepticism made it difficult for the Church, by nature an international organism [Jesus Christ: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ etc.], to preserve its proper independence of civil authority. Absolute monarchs (whose minds were often tinged with religious scepticism), intent upon strengthening their own powers and extending the borders of their kingdom, found it expedient to seek to control even the affairs of religion within their own borders. This tendency was a threat to the international, in fact the supra-national, character of the Kingdom of God on earth.

‘THE WORLD HAS HATED THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT OF THE WORLD, JUST AS I AM NOT OF THE WORLD’ (Jn 17:14)

In the nineteenth century the forces of nationalism and scepticism combined to produce an even more hazardous situation for the Church. The French Revolution of 1789 was the first of a series of revolutions against the absolute monarchies in Europe. The first French Republic sought to eliminate papal influence in the French Church by insisting that bishops and priests should be chosen by the people. In addition the properties of the Church were confiscated.

THE SEEDS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

Throughout the century the philosophy of liberalism propagated the idea that faith had nothing to do with politics. In practice this meant that politicians were neither to be hampered by nor guided in their political actions by the principles of either religion or morality. On the other hand, politicians, moved (even, if not fully conscious of the fact) by the idea of the Absolute State, felt it quite proper to interfere in matters of religion. Thus, in Italy, after the unification of Italy under the House of Savoy, monasteries were suppressed and ecclesiastical property was secularised. In Germany in 1872 the ‘Kulturkampf’ sought to impose state control of all religious schools and expelled religious orders. In France at the end of the century similar measures were taken and religious orders were not allowed to teach in the schools and many of them were expelled.

STATE VERSUS THE BODY OF CHRIST: THE MENACE OF TOTALITARIAN STATES

In the twentieth century the Church found herself confronted with the menace of the ‘totalitarian states.’ Communism, nazism and fascism, each sought to control the Church for its own advantage. In Italy fascism accepted the existence of the Church and came to a kind of uneasy peace by the settlement of the Roman Question in 1929. In Germany nazism, even though it made a concordat with the Church, persecuted all forms of religion. In Russia (and in the countries subject to or allied to Russia after the Second World War) communism [was] the overt enemy of all religion. Its avowed object [was] to destroy all religion.

THE SITUATION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH IS DEFINITELY NOT HOPELESS

The far-reaching extent of communist domination – [which reached all the way] from China in the East to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Jugoslavia in the West – [had] made it difficult for the Kingdom of God to function or exist in a great part of the world. But the situation of the Church is not hopeless. In Western Europe and the Americas the movement of religious tolerance has grown. England, by the Emancipation Act of 1829, restored Catholics to equal rights with the other citizens of England and the British Isles. In 1850 Prussia also granted equality to Catholics. In Central and South America, while liberalism and communism for a time sought to exterminate the Church, there are signs that a more tolerant policy is being adopted. In the United States and Canada the Church is [nominally] allowed to function freely.

CATHOLICS WERE [NOMINALLY] RESTORED TO EQUAL RIGHTS WITH THE OTHER CITIZENS

It can be seen that the existence and functioning of the Kingdom of God on earth has not been easy. As a divine supra-national organism it must surpass the particular interests of individual nations, states and empires. As an independent, autonomous organism of the spiritual order it must possess the freedom necessary for the accomplishment of its own goal, the salvation of all men. On the other hand, nations and states possess their own, though lesser, goals, the common welfare of their members in this world. The Church has sought always to employ the principle given it by Jesus – “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s’ – in the solution of the problems of the relation between states and the Church.

AS AN INDEPENDENT, AUTONOMOUS ORGANISM OF THE SPIRITUAL ORDER THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH MUST POSSESS THE FREEDOM NECESSARY FOR THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF ITS OWN GOAL, THE SALVATION OF ALL MEN

While at times it may seem that difficulty arises between the Church and the state because individual churchmen have sought or obtained an excessive influence in temporal affairs, the chief cause of difficulty has always been the tendency of states to control the spiritual world of the Church; to control it either to the advantage of the state or to the extermination of the Church.

THE CHIEF CAUSE OF DIFFICULTY BETWEEN INDIVIDUAL STATES AND THE SUPRA-NATIONAL CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE TENDENCY OF STATES TO CONTROL THE SPIRITUAL WORLD OF THE CHURCH

The Church, of course, is not surprised to encounter this difficulty. Its divine Master, Jesus Himself, told it it would meet suspicion, hatred and persecution. The servant is not greater than her Master. She represents God, God stooping down from eternity to the world of time, seeking to save men, to invite men to enter freely into the Kingdom of God. But she knows that men must enter freely into God’s kingdom. She knows that the sinful wilfulness of men cannot be changed completely in all men in a day or in centuries. Her task is universal not only in space but in time. In each generation she must repeat the divine invitation to salvation and in each generation she must meet the same wilful, sinful tendencies of the free human will.

IN EACH GENERATION THE CHURCH MUST REPEAT THE DIVINE INVITATION TO SALVATION, AND IN EACH GENERATION SHE MUST MEET THE SAME WILFUL, SINFUL TENDENCIES OF THE FREE HUMAN WILL

So in divine patience, if not always in peace, she seeks to exist and to function among all nations, in all states, applying as circumstances suggest the divine principle regulating her relation to human temporal states: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.'”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959 (Headings in capital letters added afterwards)

 

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