A Thesis Submitted to

The Faculty of Thomas Aquinas College In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Bachelor of Arts


Thomas P. Waldstein, Cando o. Cist.

Advisor: Dr. Sean Collins

March 12, 2006

Everything else in the world is related to [the Church] as a copy of her; a sketch for her, and an analogy to her.

-Hans Drs von Balthasar


IT IS characteristic of our age to consider modern liberal democracy to be a form of

government patently superior to all others, and to regard with amazement and suspicion

those who disagree with this sentiment. Among those who, in the years since the

Enlightenment, tended to disagree with this idea, and thus cause scandal to the world, were

devout Catholics from their tendency to mistrust modern democracy and prefer traditional

hereditary monarchy.' But in recent times it seems that this tendency has been reversed.

After the fall of the last Christian Monarchies in the First World War there was a kind of

rapprochement between the church and the modern political order, which was strengthened by

the struggle against the totalitarian regimes of National Socialism and Communism. This

rapprochement culminated in the Second Vatican Council, which appears to take a very positive

view of modern liberal democracy." In Gaudium et Spes) for example, the Sacred Council says

the following:

It is in full accord with human nature that juridical-political structures should, with ever better success and without any discrimination, afford all their citizens the chance to participate freely and actively in establishing the constitutional bases of a political community, governing the state, determining the scope and purpose of various institutions, and choosing leaders."

In the light of such statements many Catholics have accepted the current view of modern

liberal democracy, and given arguments for it. An example is Mr. Ryan Burke who has

argued that modern governments need not be understood as based on principles taken from

the Enlightenment, but rather can be understood in terms of traditional Catholic political

1 Obviously this is not the only reason for which they were a cause of scandal.

2 In his recent Christmas address to the Roman Curia the Holy Father commented on this process. Vide:

"Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia Offering His Christmas Greetings." (Rome: www.vatican.va, December 22, 2005).

3 § 75.


thought. Basing himself on the writings of St. Robert Cardinal Bellarmine and St. Thomas Aquinas, he has argued that the modern view of popular sovereignty, central to the selfconception of modern liberal democracy, is true, and in conformity with the tradition. And that the form of government which modern democracies have is-"the most useful form of government a people can adopt.?"

The purpose of the present essay is to attack the position exemplified by Mr. Burke.

In it I will argue that in the light of Catholic teaching about the nature of man and of political community, as reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council, it is more reasonable to hold that traditional hereditary monarchy is a form of government superior to modern liberal democracy. In order to show this I will, in part I, consider the traditional Catholic view of the political order, a view based on an account of the nature of man illumined by the light of Divine Revelation. And I will point out deficiencies with the understanding of this view exemplified in Mr. Burke. In the second part I will give a kind of impressionistic sketch of modern history, suggesting why one might look on modern liberal democracy as connected to certain aspects of modernity that are not fully reconcilable with Catholicism. Next, in part III, I will consider modern liberal democracy in itself, and argue that it is not well proportioned to the end of government. Part IV will contain a positive argument for the excellence of traditional hereditary monarchy. Finally, in part V, I will consider how one ought to act now in the present political situation of the world. I will do this principally by looking at how the Church teaches about politics in these times.

Given the nature of the subject one ought not to expect apodeictic certainty about the conclusion. In the science of politics principles are few, simple, general, and certain, but as soon as one descends to more particular considerations things become rather complicated

4 "In Defense of Popular Sovereignty and Contemporary Democracies," in Demiurgus, Easter 2005, p.5.


and murky. Accordingly part I, being about principles, will have a much greater degree of

certainty than the other parts.


Ut sint unum sicut nos. (loan. 17:11)

IN considering what it is to be man the Christian philosopher has a distinct advantage:

Divine Revelation. God, in revealing himself to us, shows us who we are. In a book written

while still a professor in Regensburg the Holy Father puts it this way:

Just when we seem to have reached the extreme limit of theory the extreme of practicality comes into view: talking about God discloses what man is; the most paradoxical approach is at the same time the most illuminating and helpful.'

The "extreme limit of theory" to which then Father Ratzinger refers is the Doctrine of the

Blessed Trinity-as revealed in the Person of Our Lord. Let us take a look at how he sees

this illuminating what man is.

Taking as his point of departure the texts in the Gospel of John that describe Jesus

as "the Word," "the Son," and "the One Sent," and the formula of the Creed,

"Consubstatialem Patri," he argues that for Jesus to be is to be relative to the Father. He

concludes thus:

When it thus becomes clear that the being of Jesus as Christ is a completely open being, a being "from" and "towards," that nowhere clings to itself and nowhere stands on its own, then it is also clear at the same time that this being is pure relation (not substantiality) and, as pure relation pure unity."

In other texts of John especially the famous "ut unum sint" prayer of Our Lord in chapter

17 the great theologian sees this mystery connected to us:

5 Introduction to Christianity, (New York: Herder and Herder, 1970), p. 137. 6 Ibid. p.134.


This fundamental statement about Christ becomes, as we have seen, at the same time the explanation of Christian existence. To John, being a Christian means being like the Son, becoming a son; that is, not standing on one's own and in oneself, but living completely open in the "from" and "towards.i"

On this account, man is called to be at the deepest level related to, and united with, God,

and with the rest of rational creation in God. Unity is thus the final cause of man.

An important concept in this regard is order. Let us turn to a sermon of the

venerable Cardinal Newman's to illuminate this idea. In Order, the Witness and Instrument of

Unity) Cardinal Newman begins with a discussion of the order in God:

All the works of God are founded on unity, for they are founded on Himself, who is the most awful, simple, and transcendent of possible unities. He is emphatically One; and whereas He is also multiform in His attributes and His acts, as they present themselves to our minds, it follows that order and harmony must be of His very essence. To be many and distinct in His attributes, yet, after all, to be but one,-to be sanctity, justice, truth, love, power, wisdom, to be at once each of these as fully as if He were {18S} nothing but it, as if the rest were not,-this implies in the Divine Nature an infinitely sovereign and utterly incomprehensible order, which is an attribute as wonderful as any, and the result of all the others [ ... J Moreover, the very idea of order implies the idea of the subordinate [ ... J Thus God's power, indeed, is infinite, but it is still subordinate to His wisdom and His justice; His justice, again, is infinite, but it, too, is subordinate to His love; and His love, in turn, is infinite, but it is subordinate to His incommunicable sanctity. There is an understanding between attribute and attribute, so that one does not interfere with the other, for each is supreme in its own sphere; and thus an infinitude of infinities, acting each in its own order, are combined together in the infinitely simple unity of God.8

The venerable prelate sees this order again in the Blessed Trinity:

How strong, {186} how severe, how infinitely indivisible, must be that Unity of God, which is not compromised by the truth of His being Three! How surpassing is that Unity of substance which remains untroubled and secure, though it is occupied and possessed wholly and unreservedly, not only by the Father, but also by the Son; not only by Father and Son, but by the Holy Ghost also! And, moreover, as there is a subordination, as I have said, of attribute to attribute, without any detriment to the infinitude of each of them individually, and this is the glory of the God of Nature; so

7 Ibid.

8 Sermons Preached on Various Occasions (Westminster, Md.: Christian Classics, 1968; 1857), Sermon XI: Order, the Witness and Instrument of Unity (Preached Nov. 9, 1853, in St. Chad's, in the first Diocesan Synod of Birmingham).


also does an order, and, as I may say, a subordination exist between Person and Person, and this is the incommunicable glory of the God of Grace.9

Further, he sees this in God's relation to man: "He voluntarily made promises and put

Himself under engagements, from it being of His very nature to love order, and rule, and

subordinationfor their own sake. {lSS}"1O The Cardinal next considers the order in Material

creation, in the angels, in the society of men, and finally in the Sacramentum Unitatis, the

Church. For our purposes it is enough to see the idea of order as the instrument of unity,

which is, "so dear to Almighty God."!! "[T]he rule of the Apostle is to be verified: 'non est

dissensionis Deus sed pacis.",!2

If we take what has been said about unity as man's goal together with the idea of

order as the instrument of unity, it seems that order is intimately connected with the good of

man. In light of this we can approach what St. Augustine says in The City of God about peace.

Augustine defines peace as "tranquility of order.,,!3 He claims that peace is "the end of our

good.,,!4 It is our end because it is the end of the City of God:

[T]he end or supreme good of this city is either peace in eternal life, or eternal life in peace. For peace is a good so great that even in this earthly and mortal life there is no other word which we hear with such pleasure, nothing we desire with such zest, or find to be more thoroughly gratifying.!S

For this reason the heavenly city is called Jerusalem) which means "Vision of Peace.,,!6 But, is

it not true that our end is the vision of God? Emphatically yes, for that is specifically what

the peace of the heavenly city is, as Augustine defines it, "the perfectly ordered and

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid (the emphasis is mine). 11 Ibid.

12 Ibid.

13Augustine, Civitate Dei, Bk. 19, ch. 13; trans. M. Dods. It ought to be noted that this definition has been taken up by the tradition, and the church has made it her own: "Peace, longed for so hopefully, which should signify the tranquility of order ... " (Pius XII, Optatissima Pax (1947), §1).

14 Ibid. ch. 11.

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid.


harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God."17 The point is precisely that

our good is the good of the Heavenly Jerusalem-as Ratzinger said we are not to stand in

ourselves, but rather live completely in the "from" and "toward." In fact, this good cannot

even be had in any other way:

The possession of goodness is increased in proportion to the concord and charity of each of those who share it. In short he who is unwilling to share this possession cannot have it; and he who is most willing to admit others to a share of it will have the greatest abundance himself.18

St. Thomas describes the attitude that we ought to have towards this good:

Thus to love the good in which the blessed participate in order to acquire it does not make a man well disposed towards it, for even the evil envy this good also; but to love it in itself, in order that it be conserved and spread, and so that nothing be done against it, this is what makes a man well disposed to this society of the blessed; and this is what charity consists of, to love God for himself, and the neighbor who is capable of beatitude as oneself."

That is to say the good of beatitude is not the private good of individuals, but rather the

common good of the City of God.

The whole point of our existence is to order ourselves to this great common good. It

is from our ordering to this good, precisely as a common good, that we derive our dignity.

Charles De Koninck explains this:

Hence the rational creature, insofar as it can itself attain to the end of God's manifestation outside Himself, exists for itself. The irrational creatures exist only for the sake of this being which can by itself attain an end which will belong to irrational creatures only implicitly. Man is the dignity which is their end. But, that does not mean that rational creatures exist for the dignity of their own being and that they are themselves the dignity for which they exist. They draw their dignity from the end to which they can and must attain; their dignity consists in the fact that they can attain to the end of the universe, the end of the universe being, in this regard, for the rational creatures, that is for each of them. Still, the good of the universe is not for rational creatures as if the latter were the end of the former. The good of the

17 Ibid. ch. 13.

18 Ibid. Bk. 15, ch. 5.

19 Q. D. de Caritate, a2, c.


universe is the good of each of the rational creatures insofar as it is their good as common good.20

Because our dignity is derived from the order to this common good it is something that can

be lost:

God's dignity is the only dignity which is identical to his being and hence infallible. Because no other agent is its own ultimate end, and because the proper end of all other beings can be ordered to a higher end, the rational creature is fallible and can lose its dignity; its dignity is not assured except insofar as it remains in the order of the whole and acts according to this order. Unlike irrational creatures, the rational creature must keep itself in the order which is established independently of itself; but to remain in this order is to submit oneself to it and allow oneself to be measured by it; dignity is thus connected to order, and to place oneself outside of it is to fail of

'di . 21 one s gmty.

Concretely the way in which we submit ourselves to the order to the final good is by uniting

ourselves to the Holy Catholic Church-in which the heavenly city is already among us in its

pilgrim state. The common good of the unity of peace that we shall enjoy perfectly in the

heavenly Jerusalem, is participated in to some extent already here on earth. As our Lord says,

"peace I leave with you; my peace I give to yoU.,,22 The Sacred Liturgy quotes this text before

petitioning God to grant his Church peace and unity.23

The Church has the care of all that relates directly to the supernatural end of man.

However, grace builds on nature, and therefore it is necessary that man live a natural life that

is ordered to his supernatural life. As the supernatural life to which man is ordered is a

community life, God fittingly decreed that his natural life should be a community life also.

As Mr. Burke points out, and proves by the authority of Pope Leo XIII, God did this by

200n the Primacy of the Common Good: Against the Personalists, (Aquinas Review Vol 4, No 1,1997), pp. 39-40 21 Ibid. p. 42.

22 John, 14:27.

23Vide: Missale Romanum, (Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2002), p.599.


means of the natural law. 24 That is, man by necessity and inclination forms societies. The end

of societies is the good life ordered to the eternal life-St. Thomas explains this thus:

It is, however, clear that the end of a multitude gathered together is to live virtuously. For men form a group for the purpose of living well together, a thing which the individual man living alone could not attain, and good life is virtuous life. [ ... ]

Yet through virtuous living man is further ordained to a higher end [ ... ] [1] t is not the ultimate end of an assembled multitude to live virtuously, but through virtuous living to attain to the possession of God.25

This virtuous life to which society is ordered is, of course, a common good26; thus St.

Thomas describes the proper attitude towards it in similar terms to those in which he

described the proper attitude towards the final good:

To love the good of a city in order to appropriate it and possess it for oneself is not what the good political man does; for thus it is that the tyrant, too, loves the good of the city, in order to dominate it, which is to love oneself more than the city; in effect it is for himself that the tyrant desires this good, and not for the city. But to love the good of the city in order that it might be conserved and defended, this is truly to love the city, and it is what the good political man does, even so that, in order to conserve or augment the good of the city, he exposes himself to the danger of death and neglects his private good.27

It is because the good of society is a common good that individuals are ordered to society as

parts to the whole and as the imperfect to the perfect-as even the pagan philosopher

Aristotle realized. This means that in our natural life, as well as in our supernatural one,

Ratzinger's teaching applies: we are not to stand in ourselves, but rather to live completely in

the "from" and "towards." This does not mean that we lose ourselves, for, as the Second

Vatican Council put it, "man can only find himself in a sincere gift of himself.,,28 The

24 Vide: Defense of Popular Sovereignty and Contemporary Democracies; p.5. 2S On Kingship, Bk. II, ch. 2.

26 "[T]he political community exists for that common good in which the community finds its full justification and meaning, and from which it derives its pristine and proper right. (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 74.).

27 Q. D. de Caritate, a2, c. 28 Gaudium et Spes, 24.


common good does not relate to us as a bonum alienum, "it reaches the singular more than the

singular good: it is the greater good of the singular.,,29

The living of the good life in the state requires the unity of order, harmony, and

concord among its members:

For just as a man can do nothing well unless unity within his members be presupposed, so a multitude of men lacking the unity of peace will be hindered from virtuous action by the fact that it is fighting against itself."

Just as the peace of the heavenly city consists in the ordered and harmonious enjoyment of

God, so the peace of the earthly city consists in the perfectly ordered and harmonious living

of the good life ordered to the heavenly city. Thus, although in the text cited St. Thomas

speaks of this peace as a means to the end of the living of the good life, it is clear that it is

not separable from that life. This peace is a good in itself. Let us recall the text already cited

from St. Augustine, "there is no other word which we hear with such pleasure, nothing we

desire with such zest, or find to be more thoroughly gratifying." It is therefore not surprising

that Pope Leo XIII wrote that the tranquility of the public order is the immediate purpose of

civil society."

In fact peace is in some way constitutive of a society, and is what distinguishes it

from a multitude of individuals. Pope Pius XII explains this:

The State is not a distinct entity which mechanically gathers together a shapeless mass of individuals and confines them within a specified territory. It is, and should be in practice, the organic and organizing unity of a whole people. The people and a shapeless multitude (or, as it is called, the masses) are two distinct concepts.

The people lives and moves by its own energy; the masses are inert of themselves and can be moved only from the outside. The people lives by the fullness of life in the men that compose it; each of whom-in his proper place and in his own way-is a person conscious of his own responsibilities and his own views.

29 The Primacy of the Common Good: Against the Personalists, p.16. 30 On Kingship, Bk II, ch. IV.

31 Vide: Sapientiae Chistianae (1890) §30.


The masses, on the contrary, waiting for the impulse from outside, become an easy plaything in the hands of anyone who seeks to exploit their instincts and impressions. They are ready to follow, in turn, today this flag, tomorrow another.Y

In order for a society to be a 'people' in this sense it is necessary that there be some

principle of order and unity in them. This principle is the ruling authority, which is mandated

by the natural law:

But now, a society can neither exist nor be conceived in which there is no one to govern the wills of individuals, in such a way as to make, as it were, one will out of many, and to impel them rightly and orderly to the common good; therefore, God has willed that in civil society there should be some to rule the multitude.i"

With this in mind we can understand the claim of St. Thomas in On Kingship about

the end of the ruler:

Now the welfare and safety of a multitude formed into a society lies in the preservation of its unity which is called peace. If this is removed the benefit of social life is lost, and, moreover, the multitude in its disagreement becomes a burden to itself. The chief concern of the ruler of the multitude, therefore, is to procure the

. f 34

umty 0 peace.

In order to procure true peace, the ruler must always keep the end in mind:

Now anyone on whom it devolves to do something which is ordained to another thing as to its end is bound to see that his work is suitable to that end [ ... J Therefore, since the beatitude of heaven is the end of that virtuous life which we live at present, it pertains to the king's office to promote the good life of the multitude in such a way as to make it suitable for the attainment of heavenly happiness, that is to say, he should command those things which lead to the happiness of Heaven and, as far as possible, forbid the contrary."

This beautiful teaching of the Angelic Doctor fits with the words of Blessed John XXIII:

The peace, then, which we must seek, which we must strive to achieve with all the means at our disposal, must-as We have said-make no concessions to error, must compromise in no way with proponents of falsehood; it must make no concessions to vice; it must discourage all discord."

32 Christmas Message, 1944 (emphasis added). 33 Leo XIII, Diuturnum Illud (1881), 11.

34Bk I, ch. II.

3S Ibid., Bk. II, ch. IV.

36 Ad Petri Cathedram (1959), §95.


This peace that the ruler is called to work for is thus not a superficial external sort of peace;

it is a peace which is fitted to beings which are made in the image of God; one which

disposes them to the eternal peace where they will become, like Christ, beings entirely

"from" and "towards." The ability to procure such a peace is the chief criterion by which all

rulers and governments should be judged. This vocation is also the source of the great

dignity of rulers since it makes them like the eternal ruler, God, who orders all things for

unity: "The greatness of kingly virtue also appears in this, that he bears a special resemblance

to God, since he does in his kingdom what God does in the world.":" In this we see once

again the beautiful work of the God of order, who makes lesser orders imitate the higher.

[I]n this way different kinds of authority have between them wonderful resemblances, since whatever there is of authority, its origin is derived from one and the same creator and Lord of the world, who is God.38

This passage brings me now to the first point where my reading of Catholic tradition

differs from that of thinkers such as Mr. Burke-the source of ruling authority. Not that the

fact that the authority of rulers comes from God is disputed by him, for that is clear." But I

see difficulties in what he takes this to mean. Mr. Burke, following St. Robert Bellarmine,

seems to think that authority is given by God to the people as a whole, the rulers being

merely their delegates. And this seems to fit with the words of the Second Vatican Council:

[T]he political community and public authority are based on human nature and hence belong to an order of things divinely foreordained. At the same time the

37 Ibid. ch. IX.

38 Diuturnum Illud, 11.

39 Pope Leo XIII reminds us that this has always been the teaching of the Church:

"The teaching of St. Paul to the Romans, when subject to the authority of heathen princes, is lofty and full of gravity: "There is no power but from God," from which, as from its cause he draws this conclusion: "He [the prince] is God's minister to thee." (Rom. 13:1,4).

The Fathers of the Church have taken great care to proclaim and propogate this very doctrine in which they had been instructed. "We do not attribute," says St. Augustine, "the power of giving government and emperors to any but the true God." (Civitate Dei, V, 21). On the same passage St. John Chrysostom says: "That there are kingdoms, and that some rule, while others are subject, and that none of these are brought about by accident or rashly ... is, I say a work of divine wisdom." (In Epist. Ad Rom., homil. 23, n.l.). (Diuturnum Illud, 10).


choice of the political regime and the appointment of rulers are left to the free decision of the citizens."

But we must be careful not to misinterpret the Sacred Council. Pope Leo XIII gives us the

key to interpret this passage:

Indeed, very many men of more recent times, walking in the footsteps of those who in former ages assumed to themselves the name of philosophers, say that all powers come from the people; so that those who exercise it in the State do so not as their own, but as delegated to them by the people, and that by this rule, it can be revoked by the will of the people by whom it was delegated. But from these Catholics dissent, who affirm that the right to rule is from God, as from a natural and necessary principle.

It is of importance, however, to remark in this place that those who may be placed over the State may in certain cases be chosen by the will and decision of the multitude, without opposition to or impugning Catholic doctrine. And by this choice, in truth, the ruler is designated, but the rights of ruling are not thereby conferred. Nor is authority delegated to him, but the person by whom it is to be exercised is determined upon."

Thus while Mr. Burke and Cardinal Bellarmine are right to point out that, "individual forms

of governments in specific instances derive from the law of nations,,,42 they are wrong to

assert that authority is delegated to those governments by the people. And therefore we

must read the words of the Sacred Council, "the choice of the political regime and the

appointment of rulers are left to the free decision of the citizens," as speaking only of how

rulers are designated, not authority delegated-remembering, of course (since each

magisterial text must be read in the light of every other one), to add Pope Leo's qualification,

"in certain cases."

The doctrine that rulers are the delegates of the people, who hold the supreme

authority, seems to strike at the very notion of the authority of the ruler:

In a society grounded on 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 however choose, nevertheless, some to whose charge it may

40 Gaudium et Spes, 74 §3.

41 Diuturnum Illud (1881),5-6. 42 De Laicis, ch. 6.


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 name. [ ... J Thus, as is evident, a state becomes nothing but a multitude which is its own master and ruler. 43

Where is the "wonderful resemblance" to God in this "ruler," who is nothing more than the

hired man of the multitude? What reverence is due to him?

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 rightfully be fostered. For the opinion prevails that princes are nothing more than the delegates chosen to carry out the will of the people; whence it necessarily follows that that all things are as changeable as the will of the people, so that the risk of public disturbance is ever hanging over our heads.44

If this principle is really acted on, the people do not have a principle of order-there is no

people, in Pius XII's sense, there is only a shapeless, inert multitude-the "masses" at the

mercy of every rascal who knows how to exploit their passions. Now, Mr. Burke and

Cardinal Bellarmine do not hold to the principle of popular sovereignty in its most radical

form-as Pope Leo presents it in Immortale Dei:

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 calculated to flatter and inflame many passions, but which lacks all reasonable proof, and all power of ensuring public safety and preserving public order."

Mr. Burke and Cardinal Bellarmine always preserve the ultimate derivation of authority from

God, but it seems that they err in seeing this authority as resting in the people who then

delegate it.

Where does my examination of the Catholic tradition leave me? It has not shown

what particular form of government is best-whether monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, or

some mixture of these. And this is fitting, since the church does not declare for any

particular form, but lets her children prefer any of them, as long as they are consistent with

43 Leo XIII, Immortale Dei (1885), §24, §25. 44 Ibid. §31.

4S Ibid. (emphasis added).


the general principles of government. The examination has, however, thrown some light on the general principles. It has shown, at least in a general way, the source and end of government and the nature of its authority. I shall now use these principles as a measure to make a judgment about the most useful form of government. But before this I shall determine to what extent the governments under which men in the West now live ought to be understood as based on these principles or on the principles of "those who in former ages assumed to themselves the name of philosophers." To that purpose it is necessary to make a brief examination of those men and what they held. To which examination I now



Quare fremuerunt gentes) et populi meditati sunt inania? (Psalm. 2: 1)

I AM now to consider the Op1nlOnS of the modern philosophers, preparatory to showing their connection to the form of modern political reality. This is because it was suggested, by Mr. Burke, that the theory of popular sovereignty, so central to the self-conception of modern liberal democracies, ought not to be understood in the light of the "social contract" theory of philosophers such as Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, but rather in the light of a Bellarminian account of the nature of man and government. The implication was that there is no necessary connection between modern liberal democracy and modern philosophy, and that hence we can be in favor of the former without fear of harm from the latter. Against this view I intend to show that the connection between modern political reality and modern philosophy runs much deeper than a particular proof for the sovereignty of the people. That particular proof is merely a sign of a wider conception of reality which posits a radically different account of man's nature, or rather denies the very existence of "nature." This


conception of reality leads to a different account of the good for man. Man is no longer to

become the completely open being, living in the "from" and "towards," whose goal is the

unity of order, which was shown to be the Catholic position; but rather he is to become a

perfectly independent being, who stands on and in himself. It is my claim that modern liberal

democracy is in a deep wayan expression of this conception of reality, and thus, just because

of what it is, it tends to pursue the goods valued in this conception of reality, and inclines

men toward the errors which it expresses.

Blaise Pascal in a celebrated passage expresses the misery of modern man, putting in

his mouth a kind of cry of horror at his world:

I see those frightful spaces of the universe which surround me, and I find myself tied to one corner of this vast expanse, without knowing why I am put in this place rather than in another, nor why the short time which is given me to live is assigned to me at this point rather than at another of the whole eternity which was before me or which shall come after me. I see nothing but infinites on all sides, which surround me as an atom and as a shadow which endures only for an instant and returns no more."

This is the universe of Cartesian man. Descartes's consideration of man arises from his

celebrated method which is to doubt everything he can until he comes to the one thing

which he considers indubitable. The notion of himself that Descartes arrives at by this

method is of a "thinking thing," and of nothing else. This thinking thing knows only itself

directly; everything else it knows afterwards by proceeding from itself, and thus its relation

to everything else has a profoundly external character. This is true even of the thinking

thing's own body. The body and all other sensible things become for Descartes the

"extended thing," which is totally alien to the thinking thing. The extended thing is not a

thing in the way that the thinking thing is (non cogitat). Therefore, the extended world comes

to be understood in a purely mechanical way---differentiated only by motion and magnitude.

The idea of nature as an intrinsic principle of motion in things is completely lost, and replaced

46 Pensees, 194.


by blind general "laws." In this world there can be no order that embraces at once the

thinking thing and the extended thing. The only thing that the thinking thing can do with the

extended thing is manipulate it-that is impose its will upon it. Knowledge of "natural"

things is therefore ordered to power over them. This is the man of Pascal's passage-totally

isolated in an unintelligible world.

Because of all this, for Descartes man's dignity cannot be seen as connected to order

and relation; order becomes something imposed from outside which has no real connection

to the essence of the "thinking thing." For Descartes man must therefore go inside himself

to find his dignity. Unsurprisingly Descartes finds man's dignity in the exercise of free will,

since there man appears most to stand on his own. In a letter to the Queen of Sweden he

expressed this concept very clearly:

Now freewill is in itself the noblest thing we can have[,] because it makes us in a certain manner equal to God and exempts us from being his subjects [semble nous exempter de luy estre suiets]; and so its rightful use is the greatest of all the goods we possess, and further there is nothing that is more our own or that matters more to us. From all this it follows that nothing but freewill can produce our greatest contentments."

Thus man's dignity is seen as absolute in the same way as God's. Lucifer's words in the

Garden of Eden spring to mind, "you will be like God.,,48 Indeed Lucifer's own fall can be

seen very much in this light, as St. Thomas put it:

Every aversion towards God has the character of an end insofar as it is desired under the notion of liberty, as according to the words of Jeremiah (2:20): For a long time you have broken the yoke) you have broken bonds) and you have said, 'I will not serve. >+9

Descartes was not, of course, openly at war with God, as Lucifer is; but the affinity of his

speculative error with Lucifer's very practical crime explains its Promethean glamour, while

47 Adam and Tannery 5.85; quoted and translated in: Taylor, Sources of the Self (Cambridge, Massachusetts:

Harvard University Press, 1989), 147. 48 Genesis, 3:5.

49 Summa Theologiae, Tertia Pars, q. 8, a. 7, Respondeo.


simultaneously manifesting how far he has come from the Catholic understanding of the

good for man.

While Descartes's estrangement from the traditional view is perhaps more clear and

radical than one will find in most-he is certainly part of a wider movement. A brief

historical review might be helpful in understanding this movement. According to Hegel the

history of the world is the history of the development of freedom-by which he means the

realization of the "world spirit."so This claim can be reinterpreted in the light of the Christian

meaning of the term "world," and the teaching about the spirit who is the "prince of this

world." After all, every agent tends to make something like himself ...

When the medievals looked at the universe around them they did not see the

terrifying abysses of which Pascal writes. They were rather inclined to see a world of beauty,

intelligibility, and order. From the beginning of the eleventh century to the middle of the

thirteenth, the century of St. Thomas, Europe experienced what Christopher Dawson has

called a "centripetal movement.Y" Despite the many contradictions that were inherent in the

Medieval World, there was a real effort to bring about a truly Christian culture. That the

attempt was at least somewhat successful is manifested, for example, by the gothic cathedrals

where we see a vast order all converging on God. Medieval society was characterized by

what Monsignor Giussani has called a "unitary mentality,,,s2 in which the view of the political

life that we explained was an integral part. The church was the main agent of this centripetal

movement, and it was carried forward mostly by "waves" of church reform. Two forces of

great importance in bringing about these "waves" were the super-political authority of the

Holy See and the reforming activity of the ecclesial movements which periodically

50 c.F. The Philosophy of History, (Mineola: Dover, 1956), p.456.

51 The Dividing ofChvistendom (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1965), p.19.

52 Luigi Giussani, Why the Church? (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001), ch. 3.


appeared-first the various monastic orders, and then the Franciscans and Dominicans, and

so on. But, from the middle of the thirteenth century we see an opposite "centrifugal"

movement. Wars, plagues, declining populations, and economic depression had a

demoralizing effect on Christendom. Then came the Avignon Papacy and Western Schism,

which seriously weakened the Holy See. When the Western Schism ended the energies of the

papacy became more and more concentrated on the complicated politics of Italy, where a

revival of the ancient Mediterranean system of city states was in progress. This led to an

estrangement between the Holy See and the periodically arising ecclesial reform movements

with which it had traditionally been allied. These movements which had previously been the

champions of the medieval ideals came to be increasingly "unmedieval" in their spirit. Thus

the two chief factors that were the key to the building up of Medieval Christendom were no

longer effective.

As the centrifugal motion progressed we see a process of the "disarticulation" of the

unitary mentality. As Christendom declined, men's hearts became estranged from her ideals.

Dante (1265-1321), who writes during the first century of decline, is still suffused with the

unitary mentality-in fact the Commedia is probably the most beautiful description of the

Medieval World, in which everything is marvelously ordered by and for God. Nothing could

be farther from Pascal's abysses than the perfect sphere's through which Dante ascends.

However, Dante is also the poet who has more than any other immortalized the strife

between Ghibellines and Guelphs, and it was on account of the ignoble role that many of

the popes played in this struggle that we even find a certain ambiguity in Dante's view of the

proper order between the Church and the srare." If one compares Dante's poem to the

S3 In the De Monarchia he spends the whole third book arguing a rather suspect position on the relation of the Holy See to the emperor---exaggerating the emperor's independence. But then, on the very last page, he shows


verses ofPetrarch (1304-1374), the next great poet in Italy, only one generation after Dante,

one sees in him already a certain loss of the unitary mentality. Petrarch's verses capture a

man who lives in a discordant world that does not offer any assistance to him in his search

for God:

What grace, what love, or what destiny Will give me wings like a dove

That I may rest and lift myself up from earth?54

While for Dante man could be led to God by an order that included the totality of creation,

including nature and grace (Virgil, Beatrice, Lucy etc.), for Petrarch man is stuck in a world

in which God is a remote being who once intervened, but is now out of sight.

For man in this situation his greatness could no-longer consist in submitting to the

order established by God; it had to be sought elsewhere. Humanism arose as a response to

this need, and became the ideological basis for the revival of the ancient Mediterranean

system of city states, which has been mentioned. In humanism the ideal is to become great

as an individual-to rise above the mundane to be a genius, or a demi-god. For the humanist

life is understood most fundamentally in terms of achievement. The humanists turned to the

literature of classical antiquity for much of their inspiration, finding there a spirit akin to

their own. Life for the humanists was sad, but man could raise himself above this cruel fate

by his own nobility.

As the revival of the city-states proceeded, humanism lost some of its bitterness, and

in the Italian renaissance we see the notion of an ordered and intelligible cosmos again given

more weight in the account of reality, but this cosmos is now considered in a less vertical,

more pantheistic way, and man is still at the centre.

that he is of two minds about this problem in a beautiful passage, which was later two be quoted with approval by Pope Benedict XV.

S4 Rime Sparse n. 81, in Petrarch's Lyric Poems, (Harvard University Press, 1976). Monsignor Giussani offers a brilliant analysis of this passage in W0; the Church, pp. 35-36.


In Niccolo Machiavelli we have a man who represents all that is most perverse in his time. For Machiavelli the ultimate end of man is not a category that has relevance for his life here on earth. Everything is judged in terms of the "expedient," that is, what tends to increase power and glory. The city is no longer seen as part of a more complete order, but rather it is looked at in the same way as the individual-purely in terms of what it can achieve. Machiavelli shows most clearly what the consequences of the humanist position are, but, partly because of that fact, he was "ahead of his times" in some sense.

While the Renaissance was in its flower in Italy, in Germany one of the most important events of history was beginning: the Protestant Reformation. As was noted above, the religious reform movements which periodically appear in Western Europe had been becoming less medieval in character as time progressed and their traditional alliance with the Holy See was broken. In consequence, more and more, they were becoming hereticalwitness the Wycliffites and Hussites. The Reformation was the most successful of these movements because the evils which it attacked had become far more pernicious. It succeeded in tearing Christendom apart. The Reformation inclined men against the view of the political order that we have examined. Let us see how it did this.

Like Humanism, the Reformation arose partly from the fact that conditions of life no longer matched the medieval ideal. Immediately it was a response to the flagrant abuse of Holy Religion represented by the sale of indulgences etc., which abuses were largely due to the factors that have been mentioned (e.g. economic depression, and the increasing concentration of the Holy See in the internal affairs of Italy-for which it exploited its power in other countries). What is perhaps most characteristic of the Reformation is separation. The first and most fundamental separation is from the Roman Church and her authority. For the Protestants the infallibility of the Church with regard to faith and morals is


replaced with the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Thus the Christian life is seen much less with

reference to submission to the Church. There is less emphasis on the Christian's relation to

God in the spousal relation of the whole Church to Christ, and more emphasis on the

individual's relation to God qua individual. The notion of the Mystical Body is no longer at

the centre. The relation of the Christian to God is separated from the rest of reality. Grace is

separated from nature, and faith from reason. The Lutheran doctrine that works do not avail

to salvation is symptomatic of this tendency. God's work of salvation is no longer seen as

something involving the whole of reality, and for the sake of the common good of the

whole. Protestantism is (or tends to be) un-incarnational-it does not concede to creatures

any real role in God's redemptive work.55 The aversion which the Protestants tend to have

toward the veneration of the saints is a clear manifestation of this un-incarnational character.

This is especially true of veneration for the Blessed Mother of God. For Catholics the

Blessed Virgin has a key role in God's work; she is the Janua Caeli, through which God enters

creation; and by which he draws us back to Himself; in her her Divine Son is most active;

and she is the exemplar to us of the essence of Christianity. Fiat mihi secundum Verbum Tuum56

she says, and thereby teaches us what it is to be Christian; not to stand on ourselves but to

submit entirely to God in a most interior way, so that He does not act on us in an exterior

way, but sanctifies our inmost selves; does not cover us like a whited sepulcher, but really

transforms us so that it is no longer we who act, but Christ who acts within us. In

Protestantism this is lost. This reveals the paradox of "Reformed" Christianity, which while

it estranges man from the sensible, and from the visible Church, and professes to

SS Karl Adam expresses what is being said here very well in his book, The Spirit of Catholicism. E.g. in ch. VII, (Image Books Edition, pp. 115-116).

S6 Luke, 1:38.


concentrate on man's real interior relation to God, ends by destroying the true interiority of Christianity, and replacing it with a fundamentally extrinsic and arbitrary relation to God.

This profound fragmentation of man that we have described, while present to some extent in Lutheranism, becomes much deeper in Calvinism with its explicit teaching that the Spirit does not act through means. For the Calvinist man's goodness comes only from his arbitrary election by God.

Protestantism became the religion of the new bourgeoisie that was coming to the fore in the years following the Reformation. The famous 'protestant work ethic' of the bourgeoisie is connected to the separation of which we are speaking. Since the temporal order is no longer ordainable to the spiritual-except perhaps negatively-the temporal order is seen mostly as being for the sake of the necessities of life which must be acquired in a moral way, consistent with the character of the elect of God. Thus just as in the Spiritual order the good is no longer seen as much as a common goo~ so also in the temporal order the private good of individuals-increasingly the private good of bourgeois material prosperity-comes to be seen as primary.

The Wars of Religion that followed the Reformation brought about an isolation at the level of the state similar to that which we have seen at the level of the individual. After

the Reformation the various protestant nations took on "state religions." The rupture of religious unity brought about the situation where the state was no-longer included in any super-political order as it had been before, but rather states opposed each other as atomic entities that related to each other in purely extrinsic fashion. This is the origin of the balance of power system of absolutely sovereign states produced by the peace of Westphalia in 1648.57

57 Vide: Thomas Waldstein, "The Achievement of Robert Schuman;" In Demiurgus, Advent, 2004.


Cardinal Richelieu's principle of "raison dBta0,,58 underlying the new order of things

was Machiavellian in nature, positing that the state could do anything that was expedient. In

fact in England, Machiavelli began to be read with great avidity already in Elizabethan times.

England and France already before the Reformation had been developing towards the

absolutely sovereign Peace-of-Westphalia style nation-state, on somewhat different lines, but

with points of similarity. Henry VIII broke with Rome in order to subordinate the Church of

England to the state. The divine right of kings was a theory that was developed first by the

flatterers of Henry VIII and James I, and later by those of Louis XIV in France. This

perversion of the Catholic doctrine that authority is from God was of one piece with the

other ideas of the time. The kingly families were arbitrarily and directly chosen by God (like

the souls of the elect in Protestant theology); and the king was the vice-gerent of God in all

matters that were of concern in the self-contained world of his nation-state-including, of

course, religion. Gone in this theory is any idea of a larger order in which the state is

contained, and the role of man's creaturely prudence in determining the rulers of the

particular community, ideas that are so important in the medieval view. Although this view

quickly gave way to others, something of it is preserved in later political thought.

The wars of religion were also one of the principle causes of the secularization of the

culture of the West. England and France are the countries where this process is most

manifest. The religious disunity of England, which a latitudinarian church was unable to

surmount, led to a kind of disgust with religious zeal that led to the great attractiveness that

Enlightenment "rational religion" (in which human reason is the measure of all things) was

to have. But the real origin of the Enlightenment is France. Although nominally a Catholic

country, France had a much larger proportion of Protestants than for instance Spain or

58 Vide: e.g. Ibid; also: Frans A. M. Alting von Geusau, Highlights from Recent History: A Reader for 'The New West and the New Europe" Course III-a, (phoenix Institute Europe), (Nijmegen: Wolf, 2003), pp. 17-18.


Austria (where the Counter Reformation was able to revive Catholic culture). Louis XIV's revocation of the edict of Nantes brought about an apparent reestablishment of the religious unity of the country, but the divisions were too deep to be glossed over, and "the eldest daughter of the Church" was unable to really embrace Baroque culture. Instead, French culture became increasingly secular, preparing the way for the Enlightenment through which F ranee was to influence the whole world.

Now we have arrived at the point when we can see how Descartes' views are part of a wider movement. While in the state everything was being reduced in Machiavellian terms to the expedient, Francis Bacon, the Machiavelli of natural science, had prostituted human knowledge to utility-a key component of Cartesian philosophy. We have already examined Descartes' view of reality, consisting of the mechanical material world to be dominated, and the world of isolated spirits asserting there free will. The philosophers who followed Descartes developed both aspects of his teaching: the theories of the ancient Epicureans were revived-everything was composed purely of atomic particles only accidentally united into only apparent wholes. Man also was an atom, and the state a purely accidental whole. For the more materialist philosophers, like Hobbes, the only goods were seen as material possessions. The more spiritual philosophers, like Descartes himself, saw the good for man coming primarily from human freedom.

The theory of the divine right of kings was the first attempt to explain the political order in modern terms. Hobbes' social contract Leviathan was a more successful attemptfinding the source of government in atomistic man rather than arbitrary God. The liberal social contract theories of Locke and Rousseau, which Mr. Burke has analyzed, are an even more successful attempt. The great advantage of the kind of "free" society that they envision is that it is palatable both to materialists who see the state as being for man's material


possessions, and the rationalists and idealists who see the state as being also for the sake of human freedom.

In the intellectual climate that we are dealing with here the political order is seen more and more in terms of "rights." For the materialists this view comes about because man relates to other men as whole to whole for the sake of his private material goods, and therefore he has a right not to be interfered with by them in the enjoyment of his property, in so far as that is consistent also with everyone else enjoying their property. For the idealist, on the other hand, rights take on importance also from the absolute dignity of man. Each man has absolute dignity from the freedom of his will-which makes him "in a certain manner equal to God"-therefore he is entitled to determine himself without external compulsion, insofar as this is consistent with the self-determination of others.

The materialists tend to have a negative understanding of rights-the "don't tread on me" view. The idealists tend to have a more positive conception of rights: since all men have the same kind of absolute dignity they ought to have an equal share of the good things of the earth. On this view it is an injustice for one to have more of anything than another. The first view can be called liberal, the second egalitarian.

Thus a vocabulary was developed by which to understand the state as ordered to the individual as individual.


Mala autem arbor fructus mal os facit. (Matt. 7: 18)

Now having considered the development of modern doctrines I come to the claim about the connection between those doctrines and modern political form. It would be easy to point to the genesis of modern liberal democracies and see the theories of the moderns at work there.


One could look at the people of the West, the conditions of their life so opposed the old

order, in Protestant countries their very religion inclining them away from the truth. One

could see them embracing the ideas of liberty and equality proposed by the philosophers,

beginning in a few places and gradually spreading everywhere. One could note that it was

especially in traditionally Protestant countries that liberal democracy flourished and became

stable, while in Catholic countries it has become more stable only in proportion as they have

become more secular.i" One could look at the most solemn expressions of the basis of the

new governments. For example, the French National Assembly's Declaration of the Rights of

Man and of the Citizen (1789)-which was one of the main inspirations for the subsequent

democratization of the West. There one would find, very explicitly, the view of the political

order which we have just examined. The end of the state is asserted to be the assurance of

the rights of individuals.60 The first of these is liberty-understood thus: "Liberty consists in

the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural

rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the

society the enjoyment of the same rights.,,61 It is explicitly stated that all authority rests with

the people and is exercised in their name.f Law is seen in Rousseau's terms as the expression

of the "general will," and, "every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his

representative, in its foundation."63 One could also look at the idolization of freedom and of

"human rights" in the modern world, and so on.

It would be easy to do all this. But, this will not prove the point. For, will it not be

objected that God brings good out of evil, and that while the reasons originally offered as

S9 Vide: Hegel's Philosophy of History p. 453; Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, LibertY or Equality (Caldwell: Caxton, 1952), ch. V.

60 "The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man." (Declaration, (www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon), Section 2).

61 Ibid. 4.

62 Ibid. 3.

63 Ibid. 6.


justification for the modern form of government, though in themselves deeply flawed, have brought about a form of government which is good? In fact, was not the whole point of Mr. Burke's article to prove that the modern form of government can be grounded on principles other than those from which it sprang, and that it in fact fits with the kind of mixed form advocated by St. Thomas? Can one not decry the individualistic ideas through which modern democratic government is looked at in the modern world, but hope to replace them with an idea of a democracy ordered to the common good?

It might further be argued that in at least one modern democracy, namely the United States of America, this ideal is at least partly realized. The United States, as many are fond of pointing out, was founded before the French Revolution. One might argue that the American founders were influenced not only by "Enlightenment" thought, but also by the medieval English tradition of mixed government, and the scholastic tradition-especially Bellarmine and Suarez (perhaps indirectly through other thinkers). One might even hold that the elements of Enlightenment thought which they synthesized with the older tradition happen to be those elements which are in fact valid insights into human nature, and one might point to some recent magisterial documents (e.g. Gaudium et Spes) which seem to prove the validity of those elements. A similar argument, though not identical, can be made for some other countries also.

Let us examine these matters more closely. It was said above that the purpose of temporal government is the common good of the unity of the peace of a society ordered to the higher good of the city of God. I claim that modern liberal democracy, despite some positive aspects, is a form of government that is not very well suited to attaining this end, and inclines men rather to seek the ends proposed by modern philosophy. It inclines men away from the good of order by its intrinsic instability, and egalitarianism, and inclines them


toward a false love of liberty. It engenders faction, the opposite of unity. It tends to make

men subordinate the common good of the state to private goods, so that the whole people

becomes "as a single tyrant.,,64 The peace which it does bring about tends toward a kind of

"concord in discord" in which autonomous individuals balance their private interests so that

each achieves the maximum fulfillment of his individual goods: in short it is the kind of

peace which the enlightenment philosophers wished to see. This kind of government does

not tend to dispose men well toward the Heavenly City. It tends to foster the virtues which

are least helpful and the vices which are most dangerous to Christian life. It tends to

engender a false notion of authority that disposes men away from the true religion towards

empty imitations. There are ways in which various modern states try to counteract these

tendencies, but they are all, more or less, inadequate.

In modern governments everyone has an equal share in the sovereign acts of the

people. Moreover, everyone has an equal opportunity to rise. These facts help to foster the

development of the famous democratic love of equality. Now as we have seen above (part I)

the very idea of order implies subordination. Thus the very love of equality estranges men

from the love of order. "Behold, how good and pleasant it is,!" says the Psalmist, "when

brothers dwell in unity!/ It is like the precious oil upon the head,! running down upon the

beard,! upon the beard of Aaron,! running down on the collar of his robes."(psalm 132

(133):1-2). The peace of a society is like this precious oil descending from superior to

subordinate. De Tocqueville says the following of aristocratic centuries:

[A]ll citizens are placed at a fixed post, some above the others, it results ... that each of them always perceives higher than himself a man whose protection is necessary to him, and below he finds another whom he can call upon for cooperation.

64 On Kingship, I, 1.


Men who live in aristocratic centuries are therefore almost always bound in a tight manner to something that is placed outside of them, and they are often disposed to forget themselves."

Contrast this with what he says of democratic societies:

Men who inhabit democratic countries, having neither superiors nor inferiors nor habitual and necessary associates, willingly fall back on themselves and consider themselves in isolation.66

The built-in egalitarianism of modern states, therefore, inclines men away from the love of

order. In a democratic system men can easily change their position. This leads to a kind of

instability of the society in which everyone is constantly trying to change the position in

which he originally found himself. This tends to a further estrangement from the love of

order, since the order of the society is always changing. Tocqueville goes on to describe an

effect of such elements:

It is therefore never effortless for these men to tear themselves away from their particular affairs to occupy themselves with common affairs; their natural inclination is to abandon the care of the later to the sole visible and permanent representative of collective interests, which is the state."

This inclination leads to a kind of centralization of government, which although it gives the

illusion of the unity of order is really contrary to it. The unity which such a government

brings about is an empty and hollow unity. It is not the organic form of the society, but

rather an extrinsic and despotic limitation on society. Such a government produces the

greatest possible equality among the citizens. Hence, the state in such a situation opposes

itself to the individual citizens a vast abstract quasi individual. The good of this state is not a

common good communicable to many, but rather an abstract private good which is really

the good of no one. However, the deceptive appearance that this gives of being a common

6S Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, (University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 483. 66 Ibid. p.643.

67 Ibid. p.643.


good explains the strangely great attraction which such collectivist ideologies as nationalism

and communism (which are based on this notion of the good) have had in democratic times.

Now Tocqueville claims that these negative tendencies are not insurmountable, and

points out means that can be used to counteract them." One of these means is necessarily

already given in the form of modern democratic states. This is the election of officials by the

people. The argument is that when the way to power is through election ambitious men

must seek the favor of their countrymen in order to achieve their ambitions. This leads to

alliances between men which combat individualism.

The problem with this remedy is that the evils which it leads to are almost as great

the ones it is supposed to combat. The first and most obvious evil is faction which election

engenders-the evil most clearly contrary to the good of the state.

The different parties which the electoral system naturally brings into existence must

strive against each other to bring their candidates to power. To do this they portray

everything proposed by the opposing party as wrong. The parties which do not rule at any

given time declare that the laws and policies of the ruling party are defective and propose

new ways of doing everything. This is one of the causes of the mutability of the laws-a

problem which Tocqueville sees as one of the chief disadvantages of the democratic form of

government.69 The opposition parties generally also attack the persons of the rulers in order

to persuade the people to reject them. Thus a certain contempt for rulers is engendered.

The ambitious man in this system is brought to power by persuading one or more

factions to support him. Since, however, men are more inclined to pursue their own private

good than the common good, it is easier for him to persuade them by assuring them that he

will help them achieve their private good. And in fact this is what we see. It is true that since

68 Vide: e.g. Ibid. pp. 486-488. 69 Vide e.g.: Ibid. pp. 238-239.


the private good of individuals depends on the common good of the city, politicians

persuade by promising common goods, but they subordinate these common goods to the

private good of the men whose votes they need." The evidence of this evil is everywhere in

modern states. For example, modern political discourse is dominated by economic concerns,

and the central question in these discussions tends to be: how can the state be ordered in

such a way that everyone can get the maximum amount of wealth. Thus the common good

of the order of the state is subordinated to the material private goods of the individual

citizens." Charles De Koninck described such a state as follows:

A society constituted by people who love their private good above the common good, or who identify the common good with the private good, is a society not of free men, but of tyrants-"and thus the entire people becomes as a single tyrant.,,72

Recall what was stated in Part I: the good of society being a common good, men are ordered

to it, as parts to a whole, and the imperfect to the perfect. The whole point of government is

to order men to the common good. But the electoral system, by its very nature, tends to

order the common good to the private good. Therefore, it tends to subvert the end of


Another remedy, which Tocqueville mentions, is also built into the form of most

modern states: the principle often called "subsidiarity," or, in its democratic form,

"federalism." The principle of subsidiarity is that every portion of the state ought to be given

a local government to regulate its own affairs. Thus, each village, township, province etc. has

its own government to regulate its own affairs. This is a much more promising remedy than

70 Admittedly, this problem is greater in parliamentary governments, such as England and Germany, than in governments where the officials are elected for fixed terms of several years duration, such as the United States; but this is a matter of degree, not kind.

71 I do not wish to claim that this obsession of modern politics with wealth is due only to the form of government-it is also due to a myriad of other causes (some of which should be clear from Part II of this essay); however, if nothing else, the form of government at least aggravates this problem.

72 On the Primacy of the Common Good, p.2S. De Koninck's quotation is from On Kingship, I, 1.


election. Indeed every well ordered state will make use of this principle. This kind of

hierarchical structure of different levels of government seems to be one of the chief

properties of the peace of a society. The principle of federalism, in those countries where it

is used, has had a certain degree of success in remedying some of the evils that flow from

equality, especially, of course, the evil of the kind of centralization discussed above.

The problem with this remedy is the way in which it is used in democratic societies.

It functions there just as the national governments do. In a better political order such a

hierarchy of governments would be an image of God's rule of the world, in which, "he

orders the lower things through the higher, and the bodily things through the spiritual.Y'"

Modern democratic federalism is much more horizontal in character. The lower

governments oppose themselves to the higher in a kind of competition. Since they are more

successful than the national governments at producing the illusion of self-government, the

local governments are also more successful in inclining men toward a false love of liberty-

and against a love of submission and subordination for their own sake. They are supposed to

make men see their dependence on others and cure them of individualism, but they produce

individualism themselves. They tend to give the impression that what is more common is for

the sake of what is less common. Tocqueville describes well how this system interests people

in the common good:

Only with difficulty does one draw a man out of himself to interest him in the destiny of the whole state, because he understands poorly the influence that the destiny of the state can exert on his lot. But should it be necessary to pass a road through his property he will see at first glance that he has come across a relation between this small public affair and his greatest private affairs, and he will discover, without anyone's showing it to him, the tight bond that here unites the particular interest

h I· 74

to t e genera interest.

73 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book III, Part I, ch. 83.

74 Democracy in America, p.487.The emphasis is mine. Notice, a road is not a common good, but it is ordered to the common good.


Men left to themselves are more likely to pursue the private good than the common good;

this is why they need rulers to impel them to the common good-to "show" it to them.

Rather than impelling men toward the common good as common the modern system tries to

make men pursue the common good of their own accord, because they see it as subordinate

to, or confused with, their private good. The doctrine of "self interest well understood" is

the principle most operative in modern politics. It is the gospel of selfishness and tyranny:

'let us all be tyrants together, each ordering the common good to his private good, and thus

each shall achieve the maximum of private goods.' Such a doctrine seems most reasonable to

the city of man, which, as Augustine says, is defined by the love of self to the contempt of


These difficulties, having to do with the fitness of modern democracies to produce

the proper end of government, seem to have a certain weight; however they are perhaps still

not entirely convincing. For one can object that these difficulties have to do mostly with

tendencies rather than with necessities, and that a great statesman will always be able to

order men properly toward the common good, irrespective of the form of government. 76

Further it can be argued that all government has evil tendencies and that even if modern

government tends towards tyranny it is the gentlest kind of tyranny. For, as St. Thomas

remarks, the private good of many is closer to the common good than the private good of a

few, therefore the kind of government that is ordered to the private good of practically

everyone is the least tyrannical." Government is not very important, after all, and even if a

gentle tyranny prevents the common good of the city from being well pursued it does not

7S Vide: Civitate Dei, 14,28.

76 Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill are often mentioned as examples of this. I do not know enough about these men to know whether it is true or no, but it is at any rate interesting to note that many people see Lincoln as subverting the principles of popular government.

77 Vide: De Regno, ch. 3.


prevent men from seeking the common good of the family, and most importantly that of the

city of God. Therefore, the objections that are taken from how well the modern form of

government is ordered to the higher end of the city of God seem much more forceful, since

it is in relation to the final end that all human action must be absolutely judged.

Man is a creature of custom and habit. The way he thinks in one realm affects the

way he thinks in other realms. Tocqueville touches on this in regard to the relation between

the temporal and the eternal city:

Allow the human mind to follow its tendency and it will regulate political society and the divine city in a uniform manner; it will seek, if I dare say it, to harmonize the earth with Heaven.78

The main difficulty that I have with modern democracy is that the errors which it tends to

lead men into in their attitude toward the political order are naturally carried over by them to

the spiritual order."

We have shown how modern liberal democracy inclines men toward a Cartesian

view of man as a self-contained thing relating to others only in an extrinsic way. This is

carried over into the spiritual realm with disastrous consequences. People see their relation

to God not in the way we explained above, as a deeply intrinsic order of their very being, but

rather they see themselves as autonomous individuals who relate to God in an extrinsic and

secondary manner. The Pelagian heresy follows immediately from this view; and it is sadly

the case that even most Catholics today are material Pelagians. Pelagianism is wonderfully

attractive to people in our society because in this heresy man is seen as 'achieving' his

78 Democracy in America, p. 275.

79 This is equally true of other orders, such as the family. Since people see the good of the state as for the sake of the private good of individuals they are inclined to see marriage as ordered to their private good, rather than the common good of the family. This is, perhaps, part of the explanation of the scourge of divorce in modern society.


salvation on his own with only extrinsic help from God-this is precisely the view of human

activity that modern man is used to at the level of politics.

Since men are inclined to see the good of political community in terms of the good

of the individual as individual the same thing happens in the spiritual order. Men are inclined

to see the good of eternal beatitude not as the common good of the body of Christ, but as a

good only accidentally common, in so far as many possess it; but really private, insofar as

each one enjoys it for himself. A sign of this perverse love of the Divine good is the

universalism to which modern men are so inclined. They cannot see how God could ever

allow someone to go to hell, for they see each person to have been created for the sake of

his own private enjoyment of the Divine good, and therefore a damned soul must have been

made in vain. They are almost unable to see that persons are made for the common good of

the city of God, and that it might pertain to the good of that city for some people to

manifest the punitive justice of God.80

The problem of disobedience in the church today is certainly not an unusual one in

church history. But what is unusual is the self-righteous and defiant pride that so many

people take in their very disobedience. Is this not at least in part due to their political life

which strongly inclines them against seeing subordination as a good in itself and exalts

liberty and "self determination?" How many times have we heard the hierarchy of Our Holy

Mother the Church berated as an outmoded and tyrannical system? In these circumstances

80 I do not wish this point to be understood as in any wayan attack on the great theologian of our time, Hans Urs von Balthasar, whose name is often associated with the kind of position I am attacking. Whatever von Balthasar's position finally comes to-I am not going to judge it here-he at least starts at the right place. The epigraph to his controversial book Dare We Hope-That All Men Be Saved? (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988) is a quotation from Cardinal Danielou which makes the essential point, what so many of those who use von Balthsar's authority as a cover for their own folly miss, the good of heaven is a common good:

To often we think of hope in too individualistic a manner as our personal salvation. But hope essentiallY bears on the great actions of God concerning the whole of creation. It bears on the destiny of all humanity. It is the salvation of the world that we await. In reality hope bears on the salvation of all men-and it is onlY in the measure that I am

immersed in them that it bears on me. 0. card. Danielou S.]., Essai sur le de l'histoire (1953), p. 340).


the bishops find it more and more difficult to rule their flocks, because they know that their

rule will not be accepted. In a letter to the Cardinal Secretary of State the Apostolic Nuncio

to Austria describes the situation of the bishops in Austria:

The bishops themselves have bound their own hands-especially through synods of the seventies-they have created democratic structures, to which they are now enslaved, and in which they find the excuse for their own resignation."

What His Excellency says of the Austrian bishops is almost equally true of the bishops in all

the other parts of the West.

The principle of active participation, which the Second Vatican Council was so right

to insist on, has been nearly everywhere misunderstood and misapplied. This is because in

modern democracy participation in the political order is understood in terms of being one of

the rulers. We see this understanding of participation taken over so that active participation

in the life of the Parish or Diocese is understood as participation in "pastoral councils" and

similar tom-foolery. In the Sacred Liturgy active participation is taken to mandate all kinds of

laypeople messing around in the sanctuary as lectors, 'introducers,' extraordinary ministers of

the Eucharist, etc. This banal caricature of true active participation and the priesthood of

the faithful persists despite all efforts of the Magisterium to correct it.

The problem is that when political government ceases to be what it should be the

"wonderful resemblance" that it bears to God's government, of which Pope Leo XIII

speaks, is destroyed. But grace builds on nature and men ought to be disposed to the higher

by the lower.

I could continue to elaborate on this subject ad infinitum, but I think that what I have

already said is enough to give the general idea and that my readers will easily be able to think

of other adverse effects on the spiritual order that the habits of mind which modern political

81 Archbishop Mario Cagna, Apostolic Nuntio in Austria to Agostino Cardinal Casaroli, Secretary of State, 1985, (p.2).


reality tends to engender in men's minds. Before movlng to the next part of my essay,

however, I would like to examine briefly one of the vices to which the modern political

order chiefly inclines men. Every political system inclines men more toward some vices than

others. Some vices are more dangerous in inclining men away from the good of the heavenly

city than others. Since the whole point of man's existence is the good of the heavenly city,

one ought to choose a political system that inclines men away from the vices most

dangerous to his eternal salvation.

Now every sin occurs when a lesser good is sought against a higher. St. Thomas

explains this:

Just as there is an order in active causes, so also in final causes, such that the secondary end depends on the principal end, as the secondary agent depends on the principal agent. But a defect occurs in active causes when the secondary agent falls out of the order fixed by the principal agent; thus, when the leg, from being bent, fails to execute the motion that was commanded by the appetitive virtue, this fault causes defective walking. Therefore likewise for final causes, each time the secondary end recedes from the order of the principal end, the will is at fault.82

Since everything desires its own perfection and cannot desire the contrary, and God's good

is the highest end, God cannot sin. The angels can desire the proper good of their nature

more than the higher good which is God Himself, and this is what happened to the demons

(who consequently lose even the proper good of their nature).83 In the case of men, not only

can they desire the proper good of their nature more than God, like the demons, but there is

another way in which they can fail. Charles De Koninck explains this:

The union of intellectual and sensible nature subjects man to a certain contrariety. Sensible nature takes us towards the sensible and private good, while intellectual nature has as its object the universal and the good under the very notion of good, which is principally found in the common good.84

82 Summa Contra Gentiles, Book III, ch. 109.

83 Vide: On the Primacy of the Common Good, p.44. 84 Ego Sapientia, XIX.


Thus man is able to pursue sensible goods even above the goods of his rational nature. And,

indeed, unless he is corrected by acquired virtue, he will do so because in man the sensible

life is first-for it is only through it that we attain to the acts of reason. Man is therefore in

need of community to incline him away from the goods which are lower, and therefore more

private, to the higher and more common goods.

Now St. Thomas teaches us what are the lowest of the lower goods: "the good of

external things is the lowest of human goods: since it is less than the good of the body, and

this is less than the good of the soul, which is less than the Divine good." 85 From a material

point of view, therefore, avarice is the worst sin.86 In the light of this we can understand

what St. Paul says about the danger of avarice with regard to eternal salvation:

There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

With these words of Sacred Scripture in mind it seems that we ought to choose the form of

government which is best suited to inclining men away from the love of money. But modern

democracy inclines men toward the love of money. There are many reasons for this; I will

mention a few only. In the aristocratic society of medieval Europe the majority of the people

was fairly poor and had very little opportunity to become wealthy. In modern democratic

societies everyone has an equal opportunity to pursue and attain wealth. Seeing the

attainability of wealth it is easy for men to pursue it above other things. The more they

acquire the more their love increases, for the more one has wealth-especially self-acquired

8SSumma Theologiae, Secunda Secundae, Q. 118, A. 5.

86 There are two ways in which the magnitude of sin is measured. The first is the greatness of the good against which the sin is opposed, and this is the formal magnitude of a sin. The second is the lowliness of the good towards which the sin inclines, and this is the material magnitude. (C.F. Ibid.).


wealth-the more one loves it. Almost the only source of power in a democracy is wealth.

The ambitious men therefore seek money, and their love of it is very great. The leaders of

aristocratic societies were wealthy, but their wealth was generally not self-acquired, and their

power did not come exclusively from it, therefore their love of it was less developed.

For all these reasons I disagree with Mr. Burke when he claims that, "most

contemporary democracies" have, "the most useful form of government a people can



Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum Habitare fratres in unum. (psalm. 133 (132): 1)

MR. BURKE has suggested that modern states have a mixed form of government similar to

the one described by St. Thomas in the Treatise on Law.88 However, the resemblance is

deceptive. For St. Thomas the best form of government was a monarchy (rule by one)

moderated by democratic and aristocratic elements. Modern liberal democracy is essentially a

polyarchy (rule by many) with monarchical and aristocratic elements. The polyarchical

character of modern government is imbedded in the idea of popular sovereignty which is

central to it, and which we showed to have certain difficulties in Part 1.

"~e call that more useful which leads more directly to the end,,,s9 St. Thomas says

at the beginning of his argument for the superiority of monarchy over polyarchy. We have

seen indications of why one might say that the polyarchical nature of modern liberal

87 In Defense of Popular Sovereignty and Contemporary Democracies, (Demiurgus, Easter 2005), p.9, p.5.

88 Vide: "In Defense of Popular Sovereignty and Contemporary Democracies" (Demiurgus, Easter 2005), and "The Political thought of St. Thomas Aquinas" (Demiurgus, All Saints 2005).

89 On Kingship, Bk. I, Ch. 2.


democracy makes it a not-so-perfectly-direct road to the end of the unity of peace. Let us

now consider the argument that monarchy is a more direct route and give reasons why one

might think that what I have called "traditional hereditary monarchy" is the best way of all.

In the chapter just cited from On Kingship St. Thomas gives four closely related

arguments for the superiority of monarchy. I shall take them here in reverse order, beginning

with the last one. The last argument is that experience shows us that monarchy is the most

direct route to the unity of peace. St. Thomas explains as follows:

For provinces or cities which are not ruled by one person are torn with dissensions and tossed about without peace, so that the complaint seems to be fulfilled which the Lord uttered through the Prophet: "Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard." On the other hand, provinces and cities which are ruled under one king enjoy peace, flourish in justice, and delight in prosperity. Hence, the Lord by His prophets promises to His people as a great reward that He will give them one head and that "one Prince will be in the midst of them.T"

It has been claimed, with a certain amount of justice, that the monarchical element which is

mixed into modern polyarchies has a certain amount of success in some parts of the world in

attaining this good for modern democratic society. However, part III of this essay has given

reasons to think that the peace of these societies is perhaps not so great as one might

suppose. A hereditary monarchy insofar as it avoids elections is free of some of the effects

of those dangerous institutions discussed in part III.

The third argument is perhaps the most difficult. "Whatever is in accord with nature

is best [ ... J Now every natural governance is governance by one.'?" Therefore, the best

governance of the state is by one. As examples of natural government St. Thomas cites the

heart governing the bodily organs, the king bee governing the bees, and God governing the

universe. "And there is a reason for this. Every multitude is derived from unity.,,92

90 Ibid. 91 Ibid. 92 Ibid.


It has been objected to St. Thomas's examples in this argument that there is a natural

inequality between the different members a body, the insects of a hive, and above all,

between God and the universe, while among men there is a natural equality insofar as all

men have the same nature and differ only in number. The objectors claim that the superior

should rule the inferior, but that it is not just for someone to rule his equals. The objection is

based on false premises, since it is just for one with authority to rule over equals or even

superiors who do not have the same authority. However, this objection points to an

important advantage of the hereditary system.

When men come into the world they are equal in many respects (though differing in

talents, dispositions, temperaments, etc.), but society is able to bring about important

inequalities. The son of a farmer will be superior to the son of a fisherman in farming; the

son of a philosopher will be superior to the son of a charcoal-burner in education; the son of

a nobleman will be superior to the son of a peasant in manners, culture, and material

fortune; the son of the king will be superior in power to the son of a dentist etc. In this way

a society which is ruled by an hereditary monarch imitates nature more perfectly than one in

which the monarch is chosen by lot or by popular election."

The second argument runs like this: if there is not some unity among rulers they

cannot rule-"several men, for instance, could not pull a ship in one direction unless joined

in some manner.?" Since, however, they are united insofar as they come closer to being

one-it is best if the ruler is literally one. (Along with the fourth argument this seems to be

the main argument which Mr. Burke uses to argue for a Monarchical element in

93 It imitates nature better in other ways also: "Monarchy is an organic form of government, in which reason can harmoniously be joined to the the Gefuhlswelt [ ... J Monarchy is not a 'thought out,' artificial, arithmetical form of government, rather in the strictest sense of the word "natural," proportioned to the nature of man. Begetting and birth are contrasted to poster-covered walls and computer-nights after election battles." (Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Die rechtgestellten Weichen (Wien: Karolinger Verlag, 1989), p.94.

94 On Kingship, Bk. I, Ch. 2 ..


government95). This is perhaps the most obvious of the four, and needs little comment. It

might be good to mention in passing, however, that in hereditary monarchies the unity of

purpose sought here is had not only in the now, but also over time-since the crown-prince

being raised by his father, and constantly at his side, is likely to sympathize with his father's

purposes and carry them to conclusion when he himself ascends the throne.

The first argument is the most scientific: "what is itself one can more efficaciously

bring about unity than several.,,96 Since the end of the ruler is unity, it follows that he should

be himself one.

"[I]t is manifest that what is itself one can more effectively bring about unity than

several-just as the most efficacious cause of heat is that which is by its nature hot." This is

a very general principle that St. Thomas seems to take as per se notum. The other three

arguments can be taken almost as other ways of manifesting that this general principle

applies in the political order. I think that a consideration of St. Thomas's account of the

good sheds further light on how this principle is operative in the political community.

People are apt to see the common good of political society as something abstract,

and therefore it can be difficult to love. This is a reason why thinkers such as Tocqueville

suggest that the love of the common good ought to be joined to the love of one's own

private interest. A position close to this one is brought up by an objector in the De Caritate.

St. Thomas responds:

[S]ince love looks to the good, there is a diversity of love according as there is a diversity of the good. There is, however, a certain good proper to each man considered as one person, and as far as loving this good is concerned, each one is the principal object of his own love. But there is a certain common good which pertains to this man or that man insofar as he is considered as part of a whole; thus there is a certain common good pertaining to a soldier considered as part of the army, or to a citizen as part of the state. As far as loving this common good is concerned, the

9S Vide: "The Political Thought of St. Thomas Aquinas," p. 15. 96 Ibid.


principal object of love is that in which the good primarily exists; just as the good of the army is in the general, or the good of the state is in the king. Whence, it is the duty of a good soldier that he neglects even his own safety in order to save the good of his general.97

I think one can see rn this passage part of a solution to the difficulty of the apparent

abstraction of the common good. The good of a state exists in the rulers in a preeminent

way because they are principles of that good. In a polity where the people are "sovereign," to

love the common good in the rulers can easily be a fairly vague and abstract notion. The

advantage of a truly monarchical form of government is that the ruler is an individual man.

One of the most beautiful virtues of the great monarchies of the past was the great devotion

that many subjects showed their kings. Who has not admired the countless acts of heroic

self-sacrifice of subjects for their kings which have been immortalized by historians and

poets? Monarchies where the kingly office descends hereditarily seem particularly blessed in

this regard, because the man whom one loves is the descendent of the men for whom one's

fore- fathers spilled their blood.

The great exemplar of the idea of loving the good in the head is the Church and her

Head. Christ, Our Lord, Son of God and son of David, is not only the extrinsic common

good of the Church, but also the One in whom the intrinsic good of the Church exists in a

primary way. The love of the good is fundamental to what it means to be man. And it is

most human to love the good in a concrete individual. Thus, in His infinite goodness God

has deigned to send us His only Son to become a man and a king for us so that we can be

drawn more perfectly into the mystery of His Love.

Here we have an important way in which the universal principle which St. Thomas

bases his argument is manifested in the political life, and it leads us to favor monarchy-

even hereditary monarchy.

97 Q.D. De Caritate, a, 4 ad.2. (emphasis added).


In his book Christendom Awake) Father Aidan Nichols makes the following claim:

The significance of a religiously sanctioned monarchy lies in the fact that it alone of all possible State forms represents the essential notion that authority descends. A me reges regnant ('By me kings reign') is the subscription of the Christ image on the crown made in c. 962 for the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II and still preserved in the Viennese Hofburg.98

Monarchy manifests the true nature of authority in a special way. This is especially true in

hereditary monarchy, because in it the ruler is not chosen by any human power. I have

indicated in part III some of the problems that a political community with a form of

government that does not reflect the nature of authority very well will have. These included

problems with how well the form of government disposed its members to the supernatural


The best form of government is one which disposes men best toward that good. It is

one which preserves the "wonderful resemblance't'" of the earthly to the heavenly. This is

why I have taken as the epigraph to this essay the saying of von Balthasar, "Everything else

in the world is related to [the Church] as a copy of her; a sketch for her, and an analogy to


I have proposed "traditional hereditary monarchy" as the best form of Government.

This is, however, a term that refers to a number of different arrangements of the governing

power. I have used it to signify in a general way the Christian kingdoms of Medieval Europe.

But even among those governments there was a certain amount of variation. Therefore, I

will propose, in a general way, the arrangement which seems best.

98 Aidan Nichols, O.P., Christendom Awake: On Reenergi'\Jng the Church in Culture, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 84.

99 Vide: p.12.

100 Quoted in: David L. Schindler, Heart of the World, Center of the Church: Communio Ecclesiolo!!J, Liberalism and Liberation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), p. i.


It would be a government which was truly monarchical-i.e. the monarch would not

be subordinate to any of the other offices in the state or to the people. It would be

hereditary-i.e. each king would be succeeded by his oldest son. It would not, however, be

an absolute monarchy. The king would rule through a many-tiered aristocracy. The aristocrats

would each have the authority necessary for the charge of his particular sphere. This would

prevent the kind of over-centralization that is so characteristic of democracy; and be in large

measure constitutive of the organic form of the society. The king would be bound by his

coronation oath not to usurp the offices of the aristocrats to himself. His oath would also

bind him to respect the established laws of the kingdom. Perhaps there would be room also

for some democratic institutions, for example in the small towns.

One might object to this arrangement that the king being subordinate to no one in

the state would be tempted to fall into tyranny. With no one to punish him if he breaks his

coronation oath why would he not break it? On account of this many hold that the ruler

ought to be able to be deposed by the nation when he becomes tyrannical. Given the danger

that such a solution has of leading to polyarchy, I think that a better solution to the difficulty

can be found in another quarter. Pope Leo XIII has written:

[T]he divine power of the Christian religion has given birth to excellent principles of stability and order for the State, while at the same time it has penetrated into the customs and institutions of States. And of this power not the least nor last fruit is a just and wise proportion of mutual rights and duties in both princes and peoples. For in the precepts and example of Christ our Lord there is a wonderful force for restraining in their duty as much those who obey as those who rule; and for keeping between them that agreement which is most according to nature, and that concord of wills, so to speak, from which arises a course of administration tranquil and free from all disturbance.i'"

The Church is always ready to remind rulers of their duty, and admonish them when they go

wrong with wondeiful force. The Church would of course be the witness of the king's

101 Diuturnum Illud, § 3.


coronation oath, and in the final instance, if he turned utterly against God and his subjects,

would have the power to dispense his subjects from their allegiance to him. Ideally, the Holy

Roman Emperor would also be able to lead Christendom against tyrants.

St. Thomas teaches that all should have a share in the government. One reason

which he gives is this:

[I]t frequently happens that men living under a king strive more sluggishly for the common good [ ... ] but when they see that the common good is not under the power of one man, they do not attend to it as if it belonged to another, but each one attends to it as if it were his own.102

A related point is made by Mr. Burke about the good of rational participation in the political


All men are rational, and made to order their lives by reason. [ ... ] As a single citizen identifies the good in his own life and deliberates how best to achieve it, so the society through its government identifies the common good it will pursue and deliberates how best to achieve it. However, the citizen who has no share in this government may in his own affairs pursue the good with due deliberation and thereby act freely as a rational agent, but does not do the same in public affairs, which concern him as part of the whole society. Thus the problem of such citizens coming to consider the government as a master relying on its own rational power and not theirs. By giving every citizen some share in the government, each is brought into the state as a rational creature; and because the government's actions are in a some way [sic] influenced by the people's deliberation, the people at large may consider those actions (which are directed to the common good) almost as they consider the results of their own private deliberations, and take a greater

. bill' 1: h 103

responsl ty tor t em.

Considerations such as this on the goodness and utility of giving all the people a share in the

government have a certain strength. It is certainly possible that a people can be drawn to a

greater identification with a regime by being rulers in it. And it is certainly true that there is a

good in participating in the rational governance of the state. And again this seems to fit with

the passage from Gaudium et Spes cited at the beginning of this essay. To me such

102 On Kingship, Bk. I, ch. 4.

103 Ryan Burke, "The Political thought of St. Thomas Aquinas" in Demiurgus, All Saints 2005: pp. 15-17, at pp. 16-17.


considerations form the strongest objection to the position of this essay. However, one

might ask whether giving the people a share is the only or even the best means of making

them identify with the regime; and whether participation as rulers is the only or even the best

way for a people to rationally participate in the government of the state. In the answer to this

question lies what is, perhaps, the strongest argument for monarchy that I know.

In discussing the natural law St Thomas brings up the following point:

[L]aw, being a rule and measure, can be in a person in two ways: in one way, as in him that rules and measures; in another way, as in that which is ruled and measured, since a thing is ruled and measured, in so far as it participates in the rule or measure.i'"

Since law is an ordinance of reason, rational creatures can participate rn it more than

irrational creatures they are more ruled by it. Obedience to the rule of another can be a fully

rational act, and as such fully free. ios It is rational not because one's own reason is the origin

of the law, but because by one's reason one comprehends and assents to the law. Pope Leo

XIII writes:

The dignity also of the citizen is best provided for; for to them it has been permitted to retain even in obedience that greatness which conduces to the excellence of man. For they understand that, in the judgment of God, there is neither slave nor free man; that there is one Lord of all, rich "to all that call upon Him," (Rom. 10:12) but that they on this account submit to and obey their rulers, because these in a certain sort bring before them the image of God, "whom to serve is to reign.,,106

This is the kind of participation that "conduces to the excellence of man:" to obey the ruler

as an instrument of Divine Authority. 107

Recall what was established in part I of this essay. Man is destined to become like the

Divine Son to be "a being from and towards." Everything he has is received from God, to

104 Summa Theologiae, Ia-IIae, Q. 91, a. 2, c. lOS Vide: Leo XIII, Libertas.

106 Diuturnum Illud, § 17.

107 [O]bedience is not the servitude of man to man, but submission to the will of God, exercising His sovereignty through the medium of men. (Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, § 18).


whose "very nature" it belongs "to love order, and rule, and subordination for their own

sake." Everything which He has done for us conforms to His purpose. We have received the

gift of God's Son and are called to be His imitators: imitators of Him who was "obedient

unto death-even death on a cross" (Romans) 2:8); whose food was to do the will of the One

who sent Him (john) 4:34). Obedience, submission, and receptivity toward God are at the

heart of what it means to be human. Fiat mihi secundum Verbum Tuum) we pray three times a

day, echoing the words of Our Blessed Mother-the perfect model of absolute submission

to God, "whom to serve is to reign."

In part I we examined how the end of the state images the end of the Church. Pope

Leo has shown us how the temporal community can be a kind of school for the spiritual.

One of the greatest advantages of monarchy of the sort that I am advocating is that it is

most suited to being this kind of school. When describing the Christian Middle ages Pope

Leo XIII writes the following:

[W]hen people thought of princedom, the image of a certain sacred majesty would present itself to their minds, by which they would be impelled to greater reverence and love of rulers. And on this account she [the Church] wisely provides that kings should commence their reign with the celebration of solemn rites. lOB

Here we have a way of interesting the people in the regime without trying to make them

rulers. What form of government could be so beautiful and exciting as one which the

emphasis is on each person playing his role in an order that descends from his superiors who

"bring before [him] the image of God?" 0 quam bonum et quam iucundum!

In the light of such a view of obedience how are we to take Mr. Burke's reference to,

"the problem of such citizens coming to consider the government as a master relying on its

own rational power and not theirs?" Are we not inclined to respond with St. Pius X's

question to "Le Sillon?"

108 Diuturnum Illud. § 21.


Can one teach that obedience is contrary to human dignity and that the ideal would be to replace it by "accepted authority"? Did not St. Paul the Apostle foresee human society in all its possible stages of development when he bade the faithful to be subject to every authority? Does obedience to men as the legitimate representatives of God, that is to say in the final analysis, obedience to God, degrade Man and reduce him to a level unworthy of himself? Is the religious life which is based on obedience, contrary to the ideal of human nature? Were the Saints - the most obedient men, just slaves and degenerates? Finally, can you imagine social conditions in which Jesus Christ, if He returned to earth, would not give an example of obedience? 109


Estote ergo prudentes sicut serpentes et simplices sicut columbae. (Matt. 10: 16)

THE RELATION to the divine is central to the life of a community, as men have seen since

ancient times. Accordingly, Aristotle places public religion as one of the essential offices of

the state, and indeed the first.110 "When those in whose charge the common good lies do not

order it explicitly to God," writes Charles De Koninck, "is society not corrupted at its very

root?"lll "It [is] a sin for the State not to have care for religion," writes Pope Leo XIII, or to

offer false religion, "for we are bound absolutely to worship God in that way which He has

shown to be His Will.,,112 The development of modern times, however, as was indicated in

part II, is to move away from this duty of the state to arrive at an entirely "secular" and

anthropocentric notion of society. "Why do the nations conspire? ... The rulers take counsel

together, against the Lord and his anointed. (Psalm 2: 1-2)." At the heart of modernity lies

the rejection of the sovereignty of God and the kingship of his Christ.

109 Pope St. Pius X, Notre Charge Apostolique.

110 "Fifthly, or rather first, there must be a care of religion, which is commonly called worship." (Aristotle, Politics, Bk. VII, ch. 8, 1328b 13 (lowett translation)).

IlIOn the Primacy of the Common Good, p. 69.

112 Immortale Dei, § 6.


Small wonder then that the peace of society has been deeply compromised. What

could be more contrary to true peace than the slaughter of innocents that takes place in the

abortion clinics? The spread of the plague of Sodomy is a particularly appropriate penalty,

"they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man." (Rom.


In part II we saw that what has happened at the political level is part of a wider

movement: the ideology of Enlightenment, which has triumphed everywhere. In this

situation the Church is in a very difficult position. Archbishop Martinez calls it, "one of the

greatest challenges Christianity has had to face in the twenty centuries of our history,

comparable only in scope and in danger to the Gnostic or the Arian crises.,,113 How ought

the Catholic to act with regard to political matters in this situation? The Church points the

way to us.

In the nineteenth century in Immortale Dei Pope Leo could still try to call the nations

back in an explicit way to the ideal of the Christian State. At that time there were still nations

whose people were Catholic enough for the appeal to be intelligible. This is no longer really

the case. In this situation, as Archbishop Martinez points out, the Church cannot seek

political influence.114 According to Vatican II,

[The Church] does not lodge her hope in privileges conferred by civil authority. Indeed, she stands ready to renounce the exercise of certain legitimately acquired rights if it becomes clear that their use raises doubts about the sincerity of her witness or that new conditions of life demand some other arrangement.i"

At the beginning of this essay I mentioned a sort of rapprochement between the Church and

the modern world. The very triumph of Enlightenment ideology has in certain way opened

113 Javier Martinez Archbishop of Granada, "Beyond Secular Reason: Some Contemporary Challenges for the Life and the Thought of the Church, as Seen from the West" (www.secondspring.co.uk).

114 "I do not believe, therefore, that any strategy to conquer influence or power in our societies will do any good to the Church or to the cause of Christianity in any sense." (Ibid.)

115 Gaudium et Spes, Part II, Ch. IV, § 76.


up a new opportunity for dialogue between the Church and the Modern World.

Enlightenment is accepted by now without question, and many people who are immersed in

it do not have any clear idea of where it comes from or where it is going. The more

reasonable among its proponents no longer have any idea of rebellion against the Church.

In her dialogue with the world in political matters the Church encourages those

tendencies in the modern world which are not opposed to her. In commenting on this the

Holy Father notes,

It was becoming clear that the American Revolution had offered a model of the modern state that was different from that theorized by the radical tendencies that had emerged from the second phase of the French Revolution.116

The American model of the secular state, insofar as it is less anti-clerical than the French, is

preferable. In this dialogue the Church emphasizes the primacy of the Common Good,1I7

and encourages all that is consonant with it. An example of this is the passage quoted at the

beginning of this essay:

It is in full accord with human nature that juridical-political structures should, with ever better success and without any discrimination, afford all their citizens the chance to participate freely and actively in establishing the constitutional bases of a political community, governing the state, determining the scope and purpose of various institutions, and choosing leaders.i"

That all should share in the government is, in a sense, "in accord with human nature," and

even brings about certain goods as is clear from the discussion of St. Thomas's position on

the matter discussed above. The Church encourages it insofar as in the present climate it is

the only feasible means to certain ends, and restrains the totalitarian tendency of modern

society. But this does not imply that she has become blind to its dangers.

116 "Adress of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia Offering His Christmas Greetings." (Rome: www.vatican.va, December 22, 2005).

117 For example: "[T]he political community exists for that common good in which the community finds its full justification and meaning, and from which it derives its pristine and proper right." (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 74.).

118 § 75.


"This Council exhorts Christians, as citizens of two cities, to strive to discharge their

earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit.,,119 The Christian is called

to engage in activity in the world, guided by the Church. However, there is a grave danger in

this project that he will allow himself to absorb the assumptions of the world. Archbishop

Martinez speaks of the danger that the ideology of Enlightenment (which he also calls

liberalism and secular reason) poses by its hidden character.l'" David Schindler explains this

danger very well in his fascinating book Heart of the World Center of the Church. He shows how

liberalism plays a kind of "con game" in which it conceals under a false neutrality "enough

theology and anthropology" to exclude the Catholic view of the world. 121 Archbishop

Martinez gives as one example the following:

[T]he sexual morality and the so-called "bioethics" of the advanced capitalistic societies is obviously tied up with and depends in many ways on the economic interests of particular industries, and on very deep assumptions about the meaning of human lifo common in capitalistic mentality. It is pathetic to see some Christians renting [sic] their clothes about the propositions about sexual life that come from secular society while at the same time defending wholeheartedly the moral autonomy of modern

. Iiti 122

economies or po tics.

Sadly, many people have been taken in by the "con game" of liberalism in their efforts to

apply the teaching of Vatican II.

Vatican II itself warns against such a difficulty.123 The real answer is found in the

Council's call to return to the center of Christian life. If we really live the life of the Church

in its full radicalism we will not be taken in-"seek first the kingdom of God-and all else

119 Ibid. § 43.

120 Vide: "Beyond Secular Reason."

121 David Schindler, Heart of the World center of the Church: Communio Ecclesiolo!!J, Liberalism, and Liberation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), p. 34. c.F. Cardinal Ratzinger's famous "Subiaco Speech," Part 2 (www.zenit.org). 122 "Beyond Secular Reason." Emphasis added.

123 "Nor, on the contrary, are they any less wide of the mark who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone and in the discharge of certain moral obligations, and who imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life. This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age." (Gaudium et Spes, § 43).


will follow." It is by concentration on the essentials that we are most effective in the un-

essential. Martinez puts it thus:

[This is] the only "politics" that is needed in the present situation, and the only one [which] can really make a difference in the world: being the body of Christ, living in the communion of the Holy Spirit in this concrete hour of history. 124

He then continues to offer a very beautiful reflection on the life of the Church, concluding

as follows:

The experience of life in that community is a human experience that, because it is an experience of Christ, becomes a way of looking at all reality, that is, it becomes a source for rationality, and it refers to all dimensions of human experience and human practice (knowledge, art, and all kinds of human relationships, including the political

. ) 125 or economic .

It is from this experience of Christ that the Church is able to ennoble the world from

within-relating to it, as Pope Leo XIII says, as the soul to the body.126 Henri de Lubac, one

of the most important theologians at the Council, describes this as follows:

The law of the relations between nature and grace, in its generality is everywhere the same. It is from within that grace seizes upon nature, and, far from diminishing nature, raises it up, in order to make it serve its (grace's) own ends. It is from within that faith transforms reason, that the Church influences the state. As a messenger of Christ the Church is not the guardian of the state; on the contrary she ennobles the state, inspiring it to be a Christian state and thereby more human.l'"

In the universal call to holiness is implicit the call to participate with the Church also in this

work, to bring to the world the peace which is, "an irrepressible yearning present in the heart

of each person.,,128 The whole thrust of what I have been saying is summed up in these

words from our Holy Father:

124 "Beyond Secular Reason." 125 Ibid.

126 Vide: Immortale Dei, § 14.

127 "Le Pouvoir de l'eglise en matiere temporelle," Revue de Sciences Religieuses 12, (1932): 329-354, at 343-344; quoted in Schindler, Heart of the World, Center of the Church, p. 78.

128 Pope Benedict XVI, "Message for the World Day of Peace, 2006" (www.vatican.va). 6. The Holy Father is echoing the words of his predecessor,John Paul II, in the "Message for World day of Peace, 2004." The emphasis is added.


Seen in this way, peace appears as a heavenly gift and a divine grace which demands at every level the exercise of the highest responsibility: that of conforming human history-in truth, justice, freedom and love-to the divine order.129

This peace will never be fully realized until the second coming, but may be at least

partially realized before then. Traditional hereditary monarchy would be a very useful means

for bringing it about. Before it can be used, however, much work will have to be done, "at

every level."

129 Ibid. 4.



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