The Great Encyclical Letters of Pope Leo XIII/The Christian Constitution of States
Encyclical Letter Immortale Dei, November 1, 1885.
The Catholic Church, that imperishable handiwork of our all-merciful God, has for her immediate and natural purpose the saving of souls and securing our happiness in heaven. Yet in regard to things temporal she is the source of benefits as manifold and great as if the chief end of her existence were to ensure the prospering of our earthly life. And in truth, wherever the Church has set her foot, she has straightway changed the face of things, and has attempered the moral tone of the people with a new civilization, and with virtues before unknown. All nations which have yielded to her sway have become eminent for their culture, their sense of justice, and the glory of their high deeds.
And yet a hackneyed reproach of old date is levelled against her, that the Church is opposed to the rightful aims of the civil goverimient, and is wholly unable to afford help in spreading that welfare and progress which justly and naturally are sought after by every well-regulated State. From the very beginning Christians were harassed by slanderous accusations of this nature, and on that ac- count were held up to hatred and execration, for being (so they were called) enemies of the empire. The Christian religion was moreover commonly charged with being the cause of the calamities that so frequently befell the State, whereas, in very truth, just punishment was being awarded to guilty nations by an avenging God. This odious cal- umny, with most valid reason, nerved the genius and
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sharpened the pen of St. Augustine, who, notably in his treatise On the City of God, set forth in so bright a hght the worth of Christian wisdom in its relation to the public weal, that he seems not merely to have pleaded the cause of the Christians of his day, but to have refuted for all future times impeachments so grossly contrary to truth. The wicked proneness, however, to levy the like charges and accusations has not been lulled to rest. Many, indeed, are they who have tried to work out a plan of civil society based on doctrines other than those approved by the CathoHc Church. Nay, in these latter days a novel scheme of law has begun here and there to gain increase and influence, the outcome, as it is maintained, of an age arrived at full stature, and the result of liberty in evolution. But though endeavors of various kinds have been ventured on, it is clear that no better mode has been devised for the building up and ruling the State than that which is the necessary growth of the teachings of the Gospel. We deem it, therefore, of the highest moment, and a strict duty of Our Apostolic oflftce, to contrast with the lessons taught by Christ the novel theories now advanced touching the State. By this means We cherish hope that the bright shining of the truth may scatter the mists of error and doubt, so that one and all may see clearly the imperious law of life which they are bound to follow and obey.
It is not difficult to determine what would be the form and character of the State were it governed according to the principles of Christian philosophy. Man's natural instinct moves him to live in civil society, for he cannot, if dwelling apart, provide himself with the necessary requirements of life, nor procure the means of developing his mental and moral faculties. Hence it is divinely ordained that he should lead his life â€” be it family, social, or civil â€” with his fellow-men, amongst whom alone his several wants can be adequately supplied. But as no society can hold together unless some one be over all,
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directing all to strive earnestly for the common good ; every civilized community must have a^ru ling authority, and this authority, no less than society itself, nas its source in nature, and has, consequently, God for its author. Hence it follows that all public power must proceed from God. For God alone is the true and supreme Lord of the world. Everything, \vithout exception, must be subject to Him, and must serve Him, so that whosoever holds the right to govern, holds it from one sole and single source, namely, God, the Sovereign Ruler of all. There is no power but from God.
The right to rule is not necessarily, how^ever, bound up with any special mode of government. It may take this or that form, provided only that it be of a nature to insure the general welfare. But whatever be the nature of the government, rulers must ever bear in mind that God is the paramount ruler of the world, and must set Him before themselves as their exemplar and law in the admin- istration of the State. For, in things visible, God has fashioned secondarj'- causes, in which His divine action can in some wise be discerned, leading up to the end to which the course of the world is ever tending. In like manner in civil society, God has always "wdlled that there should be a ruling authority, and that they who are invested with it should reflect the divine power and prov- idence in some m^easure over the human race.
They, therefore, who rule should rule with even-handed justice, not as masters, but rather as fathers, for the rule of God over man is most just, and is tempered always with a father's kindness. Government should, moreover, be administered for the well-being of the citizens because they who govern others possess authority solely for the welfare of the State. Furthermore, the civil power must not be subservient to the advantage of any one individual or of some few persons, inasmuch as it was established
' Rom. xiii. 1.
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for the common good of all. But if those who are in authority rule unjustly, if they govern overbearingly or arrogantly, and if their measures prove hurtful to the people, they must remember that the Almighty will one day bring them to account, the more strictly in proportion to the sacredness of their office and pre-eminence of their dignity. The mighty shall be mightily tormented} Then truly will the majesty of the law meet with the dutiful and willing homage of the people, when they are convinced that their rulers hold authority from God, and feel that it is a matter of justice and duty to obey them, and to show them reverence and fealty, united to a love not unlike . that which children show their parents. Let every soul be' subject to higher powers? To despise legitimate authority, in whomsoever vested, is unlawful, as a rebellion against the divine will, and whoever resists that, rushes wilfully to destruction. He that resisteth the power resisteth thej ordivMnce of God, and they that resist, purchase to themselvesi damnation.^ To cast aside obedience, and by popular! violence to incite to revolt, is therefore treason, not against- man only, but against God.
As a consequence, the State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to aot up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion. Nature and reason, which command every individual devoutly to worship God in holiness, because we belong to Him and must return to Him since from Him we came, bind also the civil community by a like law. For men living together in society are under the power of God no less than individuals are, and society, not less than indi- viduals, owes gratitude to God, who gave it being and maintains it, and whose ever-bounteous goodness enriches it with countless blessings. Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its teaching
' Wisd. vi. 7. ^ Rom. xiii. 1. Â« Ibid. xiii. 2.
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and practice â€” not such religion as they may have a prefer- ence for, but the reUgion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion â€” ^it is a public crime to act as though there were no God. So, too, is it a sin in the State not to have care for religion, as a something beyond its scope, or as of no practical benefit; or out of many forms of reUgion to adopt that one which chimes in with the fancy; for we are bound absolutely to worship God in that way which He has shown to be His will. All who rule, therefore, should hold in honor the holy name of God, and one of their cliief duties must be to favor rehgion, to protect it, to shield it under the credit and sanction of the laws, and neither to organize nor enact any measure that may compromise its safety. This is the bounden duty of rulers to the people over whom they rule. For one and all are we destined by our birth and adoption to enjoj^ when this frail and fleeting hfe is ended, a supreme and final good in heaven, and to the attainment of this every endeavor should be directed. Since, then, upon this depends the full and perfect happiness of mankind, the securing of this end should be of all imaginable interests the most urgent. He nce civil society, establishe d for the co mmon welfare, should not only safeguard the well- being j^~th(? community, but hav e also at heart the inter- est s^ of its indJAddual mem bers, i n such mode as not in an y way to hinder, but in every manner to render as easy as ma y, be, the possession of that highest and unchangeable gQod-JQLJv faich all should seek. Wherefore, for this pur- pose, care must especially be taken to preserve unharmed and unimpeded the religion whereof the practice is the link connecting man ^vith God.
Now, it cannot be difficult to find out which is the true religion, if only it be sought with an earnest and unbiassed inind; for proofs are abundant and striking. We have, for example, the fulfilment of prophecies; tniracles in great number; the rapid spread of the faith in the midst
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of enemies and in face of overwhelming obstacles; the witness of the martyrs, and the like. From all these it is evident that the only true rehgion is the one established by Jesus Christ Himself, and which He committed to His Church to protect and to propagate.
For the only-begotten Son of God estabUshed on earth a society which is called the Church, and to it He handed over the exalted and divine office which He had received from His Father, to be continued through the ages to come. As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you} Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world? Consequently, as Jesus Christ came into the world that men might have life and have it more abundantly^ so also has the Church for its aim and end the eternal sal- vation of souls, and hence it is so constituted as to open wide its arms to aU mankind, unhampered by any limit of either time or place. Preach ye the Gospel to every creature.*
Over this mighty multitude God has Himself set rulers with power to govern; and He has willed that one should be the head of all, and the chief and unerring teacher of truth, to whom He has given the keys of the kingdom of heaven.^ Feed My lambs, feed My sheep.^ I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not.
This society is made up of men, just as civil society is, and yet is supernatural and spiritual, on account of the end for which it was founded, and of the means by which it aims at attaining that end. Hence it is distinguished and differs from civil society, and what is of highest moment, it is a society chartered as of right divine, perfect in its nature and in its title, to possess in itself and by itself, through the will and loving kindness of its Founder, all needful provision for its maintenance and action. And just as the end at which the Church aims is by far the
- John XX. 21. * Mark xv-i. 15. * John xxi. 16, 17.
^ Matt, xxviii. 20. ^ Matt. xvi. 19. ' Luke xxii. 32.
- John X. 10.
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noblest of ends, so is its authority the most exalted of all authority, nor can it be looked upon as inferior to the civil power, or in any manner dependent upon it.
In very truth Jesus Christ gave to His apostles un- restrained authority in regard to things sacred, together with the genuine and most true power of making laws, as also with the twofold right of judging and of punish- ing, which flow from that power. All poiver is given to Me in heaven and on earth: going therefore teach all na- tions . . . teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. ^ And in another place, // he will not hear them, tell the Church? And again. In readiness to revenge all disobedience} And once more. That . . . I may not deal more severely according to the power which the Lord hath given me, unto edification and not unto destruction.* Hence it is the Church, and not the State, that is to be man's guide to heaven. It is to the Church that God has assigned the charge of seeing to, and legislating for, all that concerns religion; of teaching all nations; of spreading the Christian faith as widely as possible; in short, of administering freely and without hindrance, in accordance with her own judgment, all matters that fall within its competence.
Now this authority, perfect in itself, and plainly meant to be unfettered, so long assailed by a philosophy that truckles to the State, the Church has never ceased to claim for herself and openly to exercise. The apostles them- selves were the first to uphold it, when, being forbidden by the rulers of the Synagogue to preach the Gospel, they courageously answered, We must obey God rather than men.^ This same authority the holy Fathers of the Church were always careful to maintain by weighty arguments, accord- ing as occasion arose, and the Roman Pontiffs have never shnink from defending it with unbending constancy.
- Matt, xxviii. 18-20. * 2 Cor. xiii. 10.
matt. x\'iii. 15. 6 Acts v. 29.
3 2 Cor X 6
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Nay more, princes and all invested with power to rule have themselves approved it, in theory alike and in prac- tice. It cannot be called in question that in the making of treaties, in the transaction of business matters, in the sending and receiving ambassadors, and in the inter- change of other kinds of official dealings, they have been wont to treat with the Church as with a supreme and legitimate power. And assuredly all ought to hold that it was not without a singular disposition of God's provi- dence that this power of the Church was provided with a civil sovereignty as the surest safeguard of her inde- pendence.
The Almighty, therefore, has appointed the charge of the human race between two powers, the ecclesiastical and the civil, the one being set over divine, and the other over himian, things. Each in its kind is supreme, each has fixed limits within which it is contained, limits which are defined by the nature and special object of the prov- ince of each, so that there is, we may say, an orbit traced out within which the action of each is brought into play by its own native right. But inasmuch as each of these two powers has authority over the same subjects, and as it might come to pass that one and the same thing â€” related differently, but stiil remaining one and the same thing â€” might belong to the jurisdiction and determina- tion of both, therefore God, who foresees all things, and who is the author of these two powers, has marked out the course of each in right correlation to the other. For the powers that are, are ordained of God} Were this not so, deplorable contentions and conflicts would often arise, and not infrequently men, like travellers at the meeting of two roads, would hesitate in anxiety and doubt, not knowing what course to follow. Two powers would be commanding contrary things, and it would be a derelic- tion of duty to disobey either of the two.
' Rom. xiii. 1 . '
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But it would be most repugnant to deem thus of the wisdom and goodness of God. Even in physical things, albeit of a lower order, the Almighty has so combined the forces and springs of nature with tempered action and wondrous harmony that no one of them clashes with any other, and all of them most fitly and aptly work together for the great purpose of the universe. There must, accordingly, exist, between these two powers, a certain orderly connection, which may be compared to the union of the soul and body in man. The nature and scope of that connection can be determined only, as We have laid down, by having regard to the nature of each power, and by taking account of the relative excellence and nobleness of their purpose. One of the two has for its proximate and chief object the well-being of this mortal life; the other the everlasting joys of heaven. What- ever, therefore, in things human is of a sacred character, whatever belongs either of its own nature or by reason of the end to which it is referred, to the salvation of souls, or to the worship of God, is subject to the power and judgment of the Church. Whatever is to be ranged under the civil and political order is rightly subject to the civil authority. Jesus Christ has Himself given command that what is Csesar's is to be rendered to Caesar, and that what belongs to God is to be rendered to God.
There are, nevertheless, occasions when another method of concord is available for the sake of peace and Hberty: We mean when rulers of the State and the Roman Pontiff come to an understanding touching some special matter. At such times the Church gives signal proof of her motherly love by showing the greatest possible kindliness and in- dulgence.
Such then, as We have briefly pointed out, is the Chris- tian organization of civil society; not rashly or fancifully shaped out, but educed from the highest and truest prin- ciples, confirmed by natural reason itself.
In such an organization of the State, there is nothing
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that can be thought to infringe upon the dignity of rulers, and nothing unbecoming them; nay, so far from degrad- ing the sovereign power in its due rights, it adds to it permanence and lustre. Indeed, when more fully pon- dered, this mutual co-ordination has a perfection in which all other forms of government are lacking, and from which excellent results would flow, were the several component parts to keep their place and duly discharge the office and work appointed respectively for each. And, doubt- less, in the constitution of the State such as we have described, divine and human things are equitably shared; the rights of citizens assured to them, and fenced round by divine, by natural, and by human law; the duties incumbent on each one being wisely marked out, and their fulfilment fittingly insured. In their uncertain and toilsome journey towards the city made without hands, all see that they have safe guides and helpers on their way, and are conscious that others have charge to pro- tect their persons alike and their possessions, and to obtain or preserve for them everything essential for their present life. Furthermore, domestic society acquires that firm- ness and solidity so needful to it, from the holiness of marriage, one and indissoluble, wherein the rights and duties of husband and wife are controlled with wise justice and equity ; due honor is assured to the woman ; the author- ity of the husband is conformed to the pattern afforded by the authority of God; the power of the father is tempered by a due regard for the dignity of the mother and her offspring; and the best possible provision is made for the guardianship, welfare, and education of the children. In political affairs, and all matters civil, the laws aim at securing the common good, and are not framed accord- ing to the delusive caprices and opinions of the mass of the people, but by truth and by justice; the ruling powers are invested with a sacredness more than human, and are withheld from deviating from the path of duty, and from overstepping the bounds of rightful authority; and
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the obedience of citizens is rendered with a feeling of honor and dignity, since obedience is not the servitude of man to man, but submission to the will of God, exer- cising His sovereignty through the medium of men. Now, this being recognized as undeniable, it is felt that the high office of rulers should be held in respect; that public authority should be constantly and faithfully obeyed; that no act of sedition should be committed ; and that the civic order of the commonwealth should be maintained as sacred.
So, also, as to the duties of each one towards his fellow- men, mutual forbearance, kindliness, generosity, are placed in the ascendant; the man who is at once a citizen and a Christian is not drawn aside by conflicting obligations; and, lastly, the abundant benefits with which the Christian religion, of its very nature, endows even the mortal hfe of man, are acquired for the community and civil society. And this to such an extent that it may be said in sober truth: "The condition of the commonwealth depends on the religion with which God is worshipped: and between one and the other there exists an intim.ate and abiding connection." ^
Admirably, according to his wont, does St. Augustine, in many passages, enlarge upon the potency of these advantages; but nowhere more markedly and to the point than when he addresses the Catholic Church in the fol- lowing words: "Thou dost teach and train children with much tenderness, young men with much vigor, old men with much gentleness; as the age not of the body alone, but of the mind of each requires. Women thou dost subject to their husbands in chaste and faithful obedience, not for the gratif}dng of their lust, but for bringing forth children, and for having a share in the family concerns. Thou dost set husbands over their wives, not that they may play false to the weaker sex, but according to the
- Sacr. Imp. ad Cyrillum Alexand. et Episcopos Metrop. Cfr.
Labbe, Collect. Cone, T. iii.
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requirements of sincere affection. Thou dost subject chil- dren to their parents in a kind of free service, and dost estabUsh parents over their children with a benign rule, . . . Thou joinest together, not in society only, but in a sort of brotherhood, citizen with citizen, nation with nation, and the whole race of men, by reminding them of their common parentage. Thou teachest kings to look to the interests of their people, and dost admonish the people to be submissive to their kings. With all care dost thou teach all to whom honor is due, and affection, and reverence, and fear, consolation, and admonition and exhortation, and discipline, and reproach, and punish- ment. Thou showest that all these are not equally in- cumbent on all, but that charity is owing to all, and wrong- doing to none." * And in another place, blaming the false wisdom of certain time-saving philosophers, he observes: "Let those who say that the teaching of Christ is hurtful to the State, produce such armies as the maxims of Jesus have enjoined soldiers to bring into being; such governors of provinces; such husbands and wives; such parents and children; such masters and servants; such kings; such judges, and such payers and collectors of tribute, as the Christian teaching instructs them to become, and then let them dare to sa)^ that such teaching is hurt- ful to the State. Nay, rather will they hesitate to own that this discipline, if duly acted up to, is the very main- stay of the commonwealth?"^
There was once a time when States were governed by the principles of Gospel teaching. Then it was that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people; permeating all ranks and relations of civil society. Then, too, the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, estab- lished firmly in befitting dignity, flourished everywhere, by the favor of princes and the legitimate protection of
' De moribus Eccl. Cathol., xxx. 63.
^ Epist. 138, al. 5, ad Marcellinum, ii. 15,
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magistrates; and Church and State were happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices. The State, constituted in this wise, bore fruits important beyond all expectation, whose remembrance is still, and always will be, in renown, witnessed to as they are by countless proofs which can never be blotted out or even obscured by any craft of any enemies. Christian Europe has subdued barbarous nations, and changed them from a savage to a civilized condition, from superstition to true worship. It victoriously rolled back the tide of Moham- medan conquest; retained the headship of civilization; stood forth in the front rank as the leader and teacher of all, in every branch of national culture; bestowed on the world the gift of true and many-sided liberty; and most wisely founded very numerous institutions for the solace of human suffering. And if we inquire how it was able to bring about so altered a condition of things, the answer is â€” Beyond all question, in large measure, through religion; under whose auspices so many great under- takings were set on foot, through whose aid they were brought to completion.
A similar state of things would certainly have con- tinued had the agreement of the two powers been lasting. More important results even might have been justly looked for, had obedience waited upon the authority, teaching, and counsels of the Church, and had this sub- mission been specially marked by greater and more un- swerving loyalty. For that should be regarded in the light of an ever-changeless law which Ivo of Chartres wrote to Pope Paschal II.: "When kingdom and priest- hood are at one, in complete accord, the world is well ruled, and the Church flourishes, and brings forth abun- dant fruit. But when they are at variance, not only smaller interests prosper not, but even things of greatest moment fall into deplorable decay." ^
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Sad it is to call to mind how the harmful and lamentable rage for innovation which rose to a climax in the sixteenth century, threw first of all into confusion the Christian religion, and next, by natural sequence, invaded the precincts of philosophy, whence it spread amongst all classes of society. From this source, as from a fountain- head, burst forth all those later tenets of unbridled Ucense which, in the midst of the terrible upheavals of the last century, were wildly conceived and boldly proclaimed as the principles and foundation of that new jurisprudence which was not merely previously unknown, but was at variance on many points with not only the Christian, but even with the natural law.
Amongst these principles the main one lays down that as all men are alike by race and nature, so in like manner all are equal in the control of their life; that each one is so far his own master as to be in no sense under the rule of any other individual; that each is free to think on every subject just as he may choose, and to do whatever he may like to do ; that no man has any right to rule over other men. In a society grounded upon such maxims, all government is nothing more nor less than the will of the people, and the people, being under the power of itself alone, is alone its own ruler. It does choose nevertheless some to whose charge it may commit itself, but in such wise that it makes over to them not the right so much as the business of governing, to be exercised, however, in its
The authority of God is passed over in silence, just as if there were no God; or as if He cared nothing for human society; or as if men, whether in their individual capacity or bound together in social relations, owed nothing to God; or as if there could be a government of which the whole origin and power and authority did not reside in God Himself. Thus, as is evident, a State becomes nothing but a multitude, which is its own master and ruler. And since the populace is declared to contain within itself
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the spring-head of all rights and of all power, it follows that the State does not consider itself bound by any kind of duty towards God. Moreover, it believes that it is not obliged to make public profession of any religion; or to inquire which of the very many religions is the only one true; or to prefer one religion to all the rest; or to show to any form of religion special favor; but, on the con- trary, is bound to grant equal rights to every creed, so that public order may not be disturbed by any particular form of religious belief.
And it is a part of this theory that all questions that concern religion are to be referred to private judgment; that every one is to be free to follow whatever religion he prefers, or none at all if he disapprove of all. From this the following consequences logically flow: that the judg- ment of each one's conscience is independent of all law; that the most unrestrained opinions may be openly ex- pressed as to the practice or omission of divine worship; and that every one has unbounded license to think what- ever he chooses and to publish abroad whatever he thinks.
Now when the State rests on foundations like those just named â€” and for the time being they are greatly in favor â€” it readily appears into what and how unrightful a posi- tion the Church is driven. For when the management of public business is in harmony with doctrines of such a kind, the Catholic religion is allowed a standing in civil society equal only, or inferior, to societies alien from it; no regard is paid to the laws of the Church, and she who, by the order and commission of Jesus Christ, has the duty of teaching all nations, finds herself forbidden to take any part in the instruction of the people. With reference to matters that are of twofold jurisdiction, they who administer the civil power lay down the law at their own will, and in matters that appertain to religion defiantly put aside the most sacred decrees of the Church. They claim jurisdiction over the marriages of Catholics, even over the bond as well as the unity and the indissolu-
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bility of matrimony. They lay hands on the goods of the clergy, contending that the Church cannot possess property. Lastly, they treat the Church with such arrogance that, rejecting entirely her title to the nature and rights of a perfect society, they hold that she differs in no respect from other societies in the State, and for this reason possesses no right nor any legal power of action, save that which she holds by the concession and favor of the government. If in any State the Church retains her own right â€” and this with the approval of the civil law, o"^dng to an agreement publicly entered into by the two powers â€” men forthwith begin to cry out that matters affecting the Church must be separated from those of the State.
Their object in uttering this cry is to be able to violate unpunished their plighted faith, and in all things to have unchecked control. And as the Church, unable to aban- don her chiefest and most sacred duties, cannot patiently put up with this, and asks that the pledge given to her be fully and scrupulously acted up to, contentions fre- quently arise between the ecclesiastical and the civil power, of which the issue commonly is, that the weaker power yields to the one which is stronger in human re- sources.
Accordingly, it has become the practice and deter- mination under this condition of public polity (now so much admired by many) either to forbid the action of the Church altogether, or to keep her in check and bondage to the State. Public enactments are in great measure framed with this design. The drawing up of laws, the administration of State affairs, the godless education of youth, the spoliation and suppression of religious orders, the overthrow of the temporal power of the Roman Pontiff, all alike aim at this one end â€” to paralyze the action of Christian institutions, to cramp to the utmost tK^ freedom of the Catholic Church, and to curtail lier every single prerogative.
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Now, natural reason itself proves convincingly that such concepts of the government of a State are wholly at variance vnth the truth. Nature itself bears witness that all power, of every kind, has its origin from God, who is its chief and most august source.
The sovereignty of the people, however, and this without any reference to God, is held to reside in the multitude; which is doubtless a doctrine exceedingly well calcu- lated to flatter and to inflame many passions, but which lacks all reasonable proof, and all power of insuring pubhc safety and preserving order. Indeed from the prevalence of this teaching, things have come to such a pass that many hold as an axiom of civil jurisprudence that seditions may be rightfully fostered. For the opinion prevails that princes are nothing more than delegates chosen to carr}-- out the ^\^ll of the people; whence it necessarily follows that all things are as changeable as the \\all of the people, so that risk of public disturbance is ever hanging over our heads.
To hold therefore that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name. Men who really believe in the existence of God must, in order to be consistent with themselves and to avoid absurd conclusions, under- stand that differing modes of divine worship involving dissimilarity and conflict even on most important points, cannot all be equally probable, equally good, and equally acceptable to God.
So, too, the liberty of thinking, and of publishing, whatsoever each one likes, without any hindrance, is not in itself an advantage over which society can 'wisely rejoice. On the contrary, it is the fountain-head and origin of many evils. liber ty is a pow ^r perf ecting man , and henp ^ should have tnith an d goodness for its objer^.t.
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But the character of goodness and truth cannot be changed at option. These remain ever one and the same, and are no less unchangeable than Nature herself. If the mind assents to false opinions, and the will chooses and follows after what is wrong, neither can attain its native fulness, but both must fall from their native dignity into an abyss of corruption. Whatever, therefore, is opposed to virtue and truth, may not rightly be brought temptingly before the eye of man, much less sanctioned by the favor and protection of the law. A well-spent life is the only pass- port to heaven, whither all are bound, and on this account the State is acting against the laws and dictates of nature whenever it permits the license of opinion and of action to lead minds astray from truth and souls away from the practice of virtue. To exclude the Church, founded by God HimseK, from the business of life, from the power of making laws, from the training of youth, from domestic society, is a grave and fatal error. A State from which!.'^ religion is banished can never be well regulated; and,*! already perhaps more than is desirable is knowTi of the nature and tendency of the so-called civil philosophy of life and morals. The Church of Christ is the true and sole teacher of virtue and guardian of morals. She it is who preserves in their purity the principles from which duties flow, and by setting forth most urgent reasons for virtuous life, bids us not only to turn away from wicked deeds, but even to curb all movements of the mind that are opposed to reason, even though they be not carried out in action.
To wish the Church to be subject to the civil power in the exercise of her duty is a great folly and a sheer in- justice. Whenever this is the case, order is disturbed, for things natural are put above things supernatural; the many benefits which the Church, if free to act, would confer on society are either prevented or at least lessened in number; and a way is prepared for enmities and con- tentions between the two powers, with how evil result
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to both the issue of events has taught us only too fre- quently.
Doctrines such as these, which cannot be approved by human reason, and most seriously affect the whole civil order, Our predecessors the Roman Pontiffs (well aware of what their apostolic office required of them) have never allowed to pass uncondemned. Thus Gregory XVT. in his EncycUcal Letter Mirari vos, of date August 15, 1832, inveighed \\ith weighty words against the sophisms, which even at his time were being publicly inculcated â€” â€¢ namely, that no preference should be sho^vn for any par- ticular form of worship; that it is right for individuals to form their own personal judgments about religion; that each man's conscience is his sole and all-sufficing guide; and that it is lawful for every man to publish his own views, whatever they may be, and even to conspire against the State. On the question of the separation of Church and State the same Pontiff v/rites as follows: "Nor can We hope for happier results either for rehgion or for the civil government from the wishes of those who desire that the Church be separated from the State, and the concord between the secular and ecclesiastical authority be dissolved. It is clear that these men, who yearn for a shameless hberty, Hve in dread of an agreement which has always been fraught with good, and advantageous alike to sacred and civil interests." To the hke effect, also, as occasion presented itself, did Pius IX. brand publicly many false opinions which were gaining ground, and afterwards ordered them to be condensed in sum- mary form in order that in this sea of error CathoUcs might have a light which they might safely follow.^
- It will suffice to indicate a few of them :
Prop. xix. The Church is not a true, perfect, and wholly inde- pendent society, possessing its ow7i unchanging rights conferred upon it by its Di\'ine Founder; but it is for the ciAal power to determine what are the rights of the Church, and the limits within which it may use them
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From these pronouncements of the Popes it is evident that the origir;.of Â£ubljc powfir i&iaÂ»ha.aQUgJbLti^ Himself, and not in the multitude, and that it is repugnant to reason to allow free scope for sedition. Again, that it is not lawful for the State, any more than for the individual, either to disregard all religious duties or to hold in equal favor different kinds of religion; that the unrestrained freedom of thinking and of openly making known one's thoughts is not inherent in the rights of citizens, and is by no means to be reckoned worthy of favor and support. In like manner it is to be understood that the Church no less than the State itself is a society perfect in its own nature and its own right, and that those who exercise sovereignty ought not so to act as to compel the Church to become subservient or subject to them, or to hamper her liberty in the management of her own affairs, or to despoil her in any way of the other privileges conferred upon her by Jesus Christ. In matters, however, of mixed jurisdiction, it is in the highest degree consonant to na- ture, as also to the designs of God, that so far from one of the powers separating itself from the other, or still less coming into conflict with it, complete harmony, such as is suited to the end for which each power exists, should be preserved between them.
This then is the teaching of the Catholic Church con- cerning the constitution and government of the State. By the words and decrees just cited, if judged dispas- sionately, no one of the several forms of government is in itself condemned, inasmuch as none of them contain
Prop, xxxix. The State, as the origin and source of all rights enjoys a right that is unlimited.
Prop. Iv. The Church must be separated from the State, and the State from the Church.
Prop. Ixxix. ... It is untrue that the civil liberty of every form of worship, and the full power given to all of openly and publicly manifesting whatsoever opinions and thoughts, lead to the more ready corruption of the minds and morals of the people, and to the Bpread of the plague of religious indifference.
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anything contrary to Catholic doctrine, and all of them are capable, if wisely and justly managed, to insure the welfare of the State. Neither is it blameworthy in itself, in any manner, for the people to have a share, greater or less, in the government: for at certain times, and under certain laws, such participation may not only be of benefit to the citizens, but may even be of obhgation. Nor is there any reason why any one should accuse the Church of being wanting in gentleness of action or largeness of view, or of being opposed to real and lawful liberty. The Church, indeed, deems it unlawful to place the various forms of divine worship on the same footing as the true religion, but does not, on that account, condemn those rulers who, for the sake of securing some great good or of hindering some great evil, allow patiently custom or usage to be a kind of sanction for each kind of religion having its place in the State. And in fact the Church is wont to take earnest heed that no one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, for, as St. Augustine udsely reminds us, "Man cannot believe other- wise than of his own free will."
In the same way the Church cannot approve of that | liberty which begets a contempt of the most sacred laws ^ of God, and casts off the obedience due to lawful authority, for this is not liberty so much as license, and is most correctly styled by St. Augustine the "hberty of self- ruin," and by the apostle St. Peter the cloak of malice} Indeed, since it is opposed to reason, it is a true slavery, for whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin} On the other hand, that liberty is truly genuine, and to be sought after which in re^jard to the individual does not allow men to be the slaves of error and of passion, the worst of all masters; which, too, in public administration guides the citizens in wisdom and provides for them increased means of well-being; and which, further, protects the State from foreign interference.
' 1 Peter ii. 16. ^ John viii. 34.
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This honorable Hberty, alone worthy of human beings, the Church approves most highly and has never slackened her endeavor to preserve, strong and unchanged, among nations. And in truth whatever in the State is of chief avail for the common welfare; whatever has been usefully established to curb the license of rulers who are opposed to the true interests of the people, or to keep in check the leading authorities from unwarrantably interfering in municipal or family affairs; â€” whatever tends to uphold the honor, manhood, and equal rights of individual citi- zens; â€” of all these things, as the moniunents of past ages bear witness, the Catholic Church has always been the originator, the promotor, or the guardian. Ever there- fore consistent with herself, while on the one hand she rejects that exorbitant liberty which in individuals and in nations ends in license or in thraldom, on the other hand, she willingly and most gladly welcomes whatever improvements the age brings forth, if these really secure the prosperity of life here below, which is as it were a stage in the journey to the life that will know no ending.
Therefore, when it is said that the Church is jealous of modern political systems, and that she repudiates the discoveries of modern research, the charge is a ridiculous and groundless calumny. Wild opinions she does repu- diate, wicked and seditious projects she does condemn, together with that habit of mind which points to the beginning of a wilful departure from God. But as all truth must necessarily proceed from God, the Church recognizes in all truth that is reached by research, a trace of the divine intelligence. And as all truth in the natural order is powerless to destroy belief in the teachings of revelation, but can do much to confirm it, and as every newly discovered truth may serve to further the knowledge or the praise of God, it follows that whatsoever spreads the range of knowledge will always be willingly and even joyfully welcomed by the Church. She will always en- courage and promote, as she does in other branches of
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knowledge, all study occupied with the investigation of nature. In these pursuits, should the human intellect discover anything not known before, the Church makes no opposition. She never objects to search being made for things that minister to the refinements and comforts of life So far indeed from opposing these she is now, as she ever has been, hostile alone to indolence and sloth, and earnestly wishes that the talents of men may bear more and more abundant fruit by cultivation and exer- cise. Moreover she gives encouragement to every kind of art and handicraft, and through her influence, directing all strivings after progress towards virtue and salvation, she labors to prevent man's intellect and industry from turning him away from God and from heavenly things.
All this, though so reasonable and full of counsel, finds little favor nowadays when States not only refuse to conform to the rules of Christian wisdom, but seem even anxious to recede from them further and further on each successive day. Nevertheless, since truth when brought to light is wont, of its own nature, to spread itself far and wide, and gradually take possession of the minds of men. We, moved by the great and holy duty of Our apostolic mission to all nations, speak, as We are bound to do, with freedom. Our eyes are not closed to the spirit of the times. We repudiate not the assured and useful improvements of our age, but devoutly wish affairs of State to take a safer course than they are now taking, and to rest on a more firm foundation without injury to the true freedom of the people; for the best parent and guardian of liberty amongst men is truth. The tiuth sfiall make you free}
If in the difficult times in which our lot is cast. Catholics will give ear to Us, as it behooves them to do, they will readily see what are the duties of each one in matters of opinion as well as action. As regards opinion, whatever
Â»John viii. 32.
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the Roman Pontiffs have hitherto taught, or shall here- after teach, must be held with a firm grasp of mind, and, so often as occasion requires, must be openly professed.
Especially with reference to the so-called "Liberties'* which are so greatly coveted in these days, all must stand by the judgment of the Apostolic See, and have the same mind. Let no man be deceived by the outward appear- ance of these liberties, but let each one reflect whence these have had their origin, and by what efforts they are every- where upheld and promoted. Experience has made us well acquainted with their results to the State, since everywhere they have borne fruits which the good and wise bitterly deplore. If there really exist anywhere, or if we in imagination conceive, a State, waging wanton and tyrannical war against Christianity, and if w^e compare with it the modern form of government just described, this latter may seem the more endurable of the two. Yet, undoubtedly, the principles on which such a government is grounded are, as We have said, of a nature which no one can approve.
Secondly, action may relate to private and domestic matters, or to matters public. As to private affairs, the first duty is to conform life and conduct to the gospel precepts, and to refuse to shrink from this duty when Christian virtue demands some sacrifice difficult to make. All, moreover, are bound to love the Church as their com- mon mother, to obey her laws, promote her honor, defend her rights, and to endeavor to make her respected and loved by those over whom they have authority. It is also of great moment to the public welfare to take a prudent part in the business of municipal administration, and to endeavor above all to introduce effectual measures, so that, as becomes a Christian people, public provision may be made for the instruction of youth in religion and true morality. Upon these things the well-being of every State greatly depends.
Furthermore, it is in general fitting and salutary that
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Catholics should extend their efforts beyond this restricted sphere, and give their attenton to national politics. We say in general, because these Our precepts are addressed to all nations. However, it may in some places be true that, for most urgent and just reasons, it is by no means expedient for CathoUcs to engage in public affairs or to take an active part in politics. Nevertheless, as We have laid down, to take no share in public matters would be equally as wrong (We speak in general) as not to have concern for, or not to bestow labor upon, the common good. And this all the more because Catholics are admon- ished, by the very doctrines which they profess, to be upright and faithful in the discharge of duty, while if they hold aloof, men whose principles offer but small guarantee for the welfare of the State will the more readily seize the reins of government. This would tend also to the injury of the Christian rehgion, forasmuch as those would come into power who are badly disposed towards the Church, and those who are willing to befriend her would be deprived of all influence.
It follows therefore clearly that Catholics have just reasons for taking part in the conduct of public affairs.
For in so doing they assimie not the responsibility of approving what is blameworthy in the actual methods of government, but seek to turn these very methods, so far as is possible, to the genuine and true pubUc good, and to use their best endeavors at the same time to infuse, as it were, into all the veins of the State the healthy sap and blood of Christian wisdom and virtue. The morals and ambitions of the heathens differed widely from those of the Gospel, yet Christians were to be seen living undefiled everywhere in the midst of pagan superstition, and, while always true to themselves, coming to the front boldly wherever an opening was presented. Models of loyalty to their rulers, submissive, so far as was permitted, to the sovereign power, they shed around them on every side
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a halo of sanctity; they strove to be helpful to their brethren, and to attract others to the wisdom of Jesus Christ, yet were bravely ready to withdraw from public life, nay, even to lay down their life, if they could not without loss of virtue retain honors, dignities, and offices. For this reason Christian ways and manners speedily found their way not only into private houses but into the camp, the senate, and even into the imperial palaces. " We are but of yesterday," wrote Tertulhan, "yet we swarm in all your institutions, we crowd your cities, islands, villages, towns, assemblies, the army itself, your wards and corporations, the palace, the senate, and the law courts." So that the Christian faith, when once it be- came lawful to make public profession of the Gospel, appeared in most of the cities of Europe, not Kke an infant crying in its cradle, but already grown up and full o\ vigor.
In these our days it is well to revive these examples ot our forefathers. First and foremost it is the duty of aii Catholics worthy of the name and wishful to be knowix as most loving children of the Church, to reject without swerving whatever is inconsistent with so fair a title; to make use of popular institutions, so far as can honestly be done, for the advancement of truth and righteousness; to strive that liberty of action shall not transgress the bounds marked out by nature and the law of God; to endeavor to bring back all civil society to the paitern and form of Christianity which We have described. It is barely possible to lay down any fixed method by which such purposes are to be attained, because the means adopted must suit places and times widely differing from one another. Nevertheless, above all things, unity of aim must be preserved, and similarity must be sought after in all plans of action. Both these objects will be carried into effect v/ithout fail if all will follow the guid- ance of the Apostolic See as their rule of life and obey the bishops whom the Holy Ghost has placed to rule the
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Church of God.^ The defence of Catholicism, indeed, necessarily demands that in the profession of doctrines taught by the Church all shall be of one mind and all steadfast in believing; and care must be taken never to connive, in any way, at false opinions, never to withstand them less strenuously than truth allows. In mere matters of opinion it is permissible to discuss things with moderation, with a desire of searching into the truth, without unjust suspicion or angry recriminations.
Hence, lest concord be broken by rash charges, let this be understood by all, that the integrity of Catholic faith cannot be reconciled with opinions verging on Natural- ism or Rationalism, the essence of which is utterly to sterilize Christianity, and to instal in society the supremacy of man to the exclusion of God. Further, it is unlawful to follow one line of conduct in private and another in public, respecting privately the authority of the Church, but publicly rejecting it; for this would amount to joining together good and evil, and to putting man in conflict with himself; whereas he ought always to be consistent, and never in the least point nor in any condition of life to swerve from Christian virtue.
But in matters merely political, as for instance the best form of government, and this or that system of adminis- tration, a difference of opinion is lawful. Those, therefore, whose piety is in other respects known, and whose minds are ready to accept in all obedience the decrees of the Apostolic See, cannot in justice be accounted as bad men because they disagree as to subjects We have mentioned; and still graver wrong will be done them, if â€” as We have more than once perceived with regret â€” they are accused of violating, or of wavering in, the Catholic faith.
Let this be well borne in mind by all who are in the habit of publishing their opinions, and above all by journahsts. In the endeavor to secure interests of the highest
^Acts XX. 28.
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order there is no room for intestine strife or party rivalries; since all should aim with one mind and purpose to make safe that which is the common object of all â€” the main- tenance of Religion and of the State. If, therefore, there have hitherto been dissensions, let them henceforth be gladly buried in oblivion. If rash or injurious acts have been committed, whoever may have been at fault, let mutual charity make amends, and let the past be redeemed by a special submission of all to the Apostolic See.
In this way CathoUcs will attain two most excellent results: they will become helpers to the Church in preserving and propagating Christian wisdom ; and they will confer the greatest benefit on civil society, the safety of which is exceedingly imperilled by evil teachings and bad passions.
This, Venerable Brethren, is what We have thought it Our duty to expound to all nations of the Catholic world touching the Christian constitution of States and the duties of individual citizens.
It behooves Us now with earnest prayer to implore the protection of heaven, beseeching God, who alone can enlighten the minds of men and move their will, to bring about those happy ends for which We yearn and strive, for His greater glory and the general salvation of mankind. As a happy augury of the divine benefits, and in token of Our paternal benevolence, to you. Venerable Brothers, and to the clergy and to the whole people committed to your charge and vigilance, We grant lovingly in the Lord the Apostolic Benediction.