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Reflections: Catholic Basics Sectn. (Civil Matters)

Jesus Speaking From Boat

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Civil Matters

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Civil Matters

 

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Quotation

Note: History proves that being a faithful Christian may sometimes be dangerous to one's bodily health (e.g. when confessing the faith before enemies, when persons are forced to disobey unjust laws, etc.). Consult appropriate, competent authorities for assistance in interpreting / applying items herein. Note that we do not advocate unlawful / immoral civil disobedience and we are not responsible for anything which may occur due to use of this site.

"Then the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, 'Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone's opinion, for you do not regard a person's status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?' Knowing their malice, Jesus said, 'Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.' Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, 'Whose image is this and whose inscription?' They replied, 'Caesar's.' At that he said to them, 'Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.' When they heard this they were amazed, and leaving him they went away." (Mt. 22:15-22)

"Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear to good conduct, but to evil. Do you wish to have no fear of authority? Then do what is good and you will receive approval from it, for it is a servant of God for your good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword without purpose; it is the servant of God to inflict wrath on the evildoer. Therefore, it is necessary to be subject not only because of the wrath but also because of conscience. This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due." (Rom. 13:1-7)

"We await, then, without fear, the verdict of history. History will tell how We, with Our eyes fixed immutably upon the defense of the higher rights of God, have neither wished to humiliate the civil power, nor to combat a form of government, but to safeguard the inviolable work of Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ." (Pope St. Pius X, "Une Fois Encore", 1907 A.D.)

"Therefore, the true liberty of human society does not consist in every man doing what he pleases, for this would simply end in turmoil and confusion, and bring on the overthrow of the State; but rather in this, that through the injunctions of the civil law all may more easily conform to the prescriptions of the eternal law." (Pope Leo XIII, "Libertas Praestantissimum", 1888 A.D.)

"In short, where the Church does not forbid taking part in public affairs, it is fit and proper to give support to men of acknowledged worth, and who pledge themselves to deserve well in the Catholic cause, and on no account may it be allowed to prefer to them any such individuals as are hostile to religion." (Pope Leo XIII, "Sapientiae Christianae", 1890 A.D.)

"No one can, however, without risk to faith, foster any doubt as to the Church alone having been invested with such power of governing souls as to exclude altogether the civil authority. In truth, it was not to Caesar but to Peter that Jesus Christ entrusted the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. From this doctrine touching the relations of politics and religion originate important consequences" (Pope Leo XIII, "Sapientiae Christianae", 1890 A.D.)

"The Church does not desire, neither ought she to desire, to mix up without a just cause in the direction of purely civil affairs. On the other hand, she cannot permit or tolerate that the state use the pretext of certain laws of unjust regulations to do injury to the rights of an order superior to that of the state, to interfere with the constitution given the Church by Christ, or to violate the rights of God Himself over civil society." (Pope Pius XI, "Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio", 1922 A.D.)

"These [great realities of life] are - that man is in the world to save his soul and that he stands before the tremendous alternative of eternal bliss or eternal damnation. There is no middle course. Now we know what God demands: to be saved man must die in the state of grace. There is no greater or more real cruelty than to make it easier for a man to lose his soul; there is no higher charity than to help him to win eternal happiness. Now the modern constitutions of nations which permit and make holy every perversion of the mind and heart give every facility to people to damn themselves." (Fahey) 

"There was once a time when States were governed by the philosophy of the Gospel. Then it was that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people, permeating all ranks and relations of civil society. Then, too, the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, established firmly in befitting dignity, flourished everywhere, by the favor of princes and the legitimate protection of magistrates; and Church and State were happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices. The State, constituted in this wise, bore fruits important beyond all expectation, whose remembrance is still, and always will be, in renown, witnessed to as they are by countless proofs which can never be blotted out or ever obscured by any craft of any enemies." (Pope Leo XIII, "Immortale Dei", 1885 A.D.)

"The Church, therefore, possesses the right to exist and to protect herself by institutions and laws in accordance with her nature. And since she not only is a perfect society in herself, but superior to every other society of human growth, she resolutely refuses, promoted alike by right and by duty, to link herself to any mere party and to subject herself to the fleeting exigencies of politics. On like grounds, the Church, the guardian always of her own right and most observant of that of others, holds that it is not her province to decide which is the best amongst many diverse forms of government and the civil institutions of Christian States, and amid the various kinds of State rule she does not disapprove of any, provided the respect due to religion and the observance of good morals be upheld." (Pope Leo XIII, "Sapientiae Christianae", 1890 A.D.) 

"Now while it is true that no man is refused temporal blessings, be he good or bad, and while misfortunes can overtake all, the virtuous as well as the wicked, yet we may not doubt that benefits and adversities are allotted by God for the furtherance of the eternal salvation of souls and for the well-being of the heavenly city. Therefore the leaders and rulers of the nations have received their authority from God for his end, that in the regions subject to them they should - as His associates - lend their efforts to promoting the designs of Divine Providence. Clearly, then, it is their duty to keep their gaze riveted on the supreme end set for man's attainment, and while active for the earthly prosperity of their citizens, to do and command nothing in abatement of the laws of Christian justice and charity, but rather to make it easier for those under them to recognize and pursue the prizes that never fail." (Pope Pius XI, "Ad Salutem", 1930 A.D.)

"And, in truth, whatever in the State is of chief avail for the common welfare; whatever has been usefully established to curb the license of rulers who are opposed to the true interests of the people, or to keep in check the leading authorities from unwarrantably interfering in municipal or family affairs; whatever tends to uphold the honor, manhood, and equal rights of individual citizens - of all these things, as the monuments of past ages bear witness, the Catholic Church has always been the originator, the promoter, or the guardian. Ever, therefore, consistent with herself, while on the one hand she rejects that exorbitant liberty which in individuals and in nations ends in license or in thralldom, on the other hand, she willingly and most gladly welcomes whatever improvements the age brings forth, if these really secure the prosperity of life here below, which is, as it were, a stage in the journey to the life that will know no ending." (Pope Leo XIII, "Immortale Dei", 1885 A.D.) 

"There will be no peril to or lessening of the rights and integrity of the State from its association with the Church. Such suspicion and fear is empty and groundless, as Leo XIII has already so clearly set forth: 'It is generally agreed,' he says, 'that the Founder of the Church, Jesus Christ, wished the spiritual power to be distinct from the civil, and each to be free and unhampered in doing its own work, not forgetting, however, that it is expedient to both, and in the interest of everybody, that there be a harmonious relationship... If the civil power combines in a friendly manner with the spiritual power of the Church, it necessarily follows that both parties will greatly benefit. The dignity of the State will be enhanced, and with religion as its guide, there will never be a rule that is not just; while for the Church there will be at hand a safeguard and defense which will operate to the public good of the faithful.'" (Pope Pius XI, "Casti Connubii", 1930 A.D.)

"The Church has always impressed on the minds of her children that declaration of the Divine Redeemer: 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's.' We call it a declaration because these words make certain and incontestable the principle that Christianity never opposes or obstructs what is truly useful or advantageous to a country. However, if Christians are bound in conscience to render to Caesar (that is, to human authority) what belongs to Caesar, then Caesar likewise, or those who control the state, cannot exact obedience when they would be usurping God's rights or forcing Christians either to act at variance with their religious duties or to sever themselves from the unity of the Church and its lawful hierarchy. Under such circumstances, every Christian should cast aside all doubt and calmly and firmly repeat the words with which Peter and the other Apostles answered the first persecutors of the Church: 'We must obey God rather than men.'" (Pope Pius XII, "Ad Apostolorum Principis", 1958 A.D.)

"Moreover, the highest duty is to respect authority, and obediently to submit to just law; and by this the members of a community are effectually protected from the wrong-doing of evil men. Lawful power is from God, 'and whosoever resisteth authority resisteth the ordinance of God'; wherefore, obedience is greatly ennobled when subjected to an authority which is the most just and supreme of all. But where the power to command is wanting, or where a law is enacted contrary to reason, or to the eternal law, or to some ordinance of God, obedience is unlawful, lest, while obeying man, we become disobedient to God. Thus, an effectual barrier being opposed to tyranny, the authority in the State will not have all its own way, but the interests and rights of all will be safeguarded - the rights of individuals, of domestic society, and of all the members of the commonwealth; all being free to live according to law and right reason; and in this, as We have shown, true liberty really consists." (Pope Leo XIII, "Libertas Praestantissimum", 1888 A.D.)

"For, when this point has been settled and recognized by common agreement, that, whatsoever the form of government, the authority is from God, reason at once perceives that in some there is a legitimate right to command, in others the corresponding duty to obey, and that without prejudice to their dignity, since obedience is rendered to God rather than to man; and God has denounced the most rigorous judgment against those in authority, if they fail to represent Him with uprightness and justice. Then the liberty of the individual can afford ground of suspicion or envy to no one; since, without injury to any, his conduct will be guided by truth and rectitude and whatever is allied to public order. Lastly, if it be considered what influence is possessed by the Church, the mother of and peacemaker between rulers and peoples, whose mission it is to help them both with her authority and counsel, then it will be most manifest how much it concerns the commonweal that all nations should resolve to unite in the same belief and the same profession of the Christian [Catholic] faith." (Pope Leo XIII, "Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae", 1894 A.D.)

"We intend to fulfill parts of Our duty through this letter, announcing to all to whom this matter pertains, and to the whole Catholic world, that those laws are invalid, namely, which are utterly opposed to the constitution of the divine Church. For, the Lord of holy things did not place the powerful of this world over the bishops in these matters which pertain to the holy ministry, but blessed Peter to whom he commended not only His lambs but also His sheep to be fed [cf. John 21:16, 17]; and so by no worldly power, however elevated, can they be deprived of their episcopal office 'whom the Holy Ghost hath placed as bishops to rule the Church of God' [cf. Acts 20:28]. Moreover, let those who are hostile to you know that in refusing to pay to Caesar what belongs to God, you are not going to bring any injury to royal authority, nor to detract anything from it; for it is written: 'We ought to obey God, rather than men' [Acts 5:29]; and at the same time let them know that everyone of you is prepared to give tribute and obedience to Caesar, not for wrath, but for conscience [cf. Rom. 13:5 f.] in those matters which are under civil authority and power." (Bl. Pope Pius IX, "Quod Nunquam", 1875 A.D.)

"This power of teaching and governing in matters of religion, given by Christ to His Spouse, belongs to the priests and bishops. Christ established this system not only so that the Church would in no way belong to the civil government of the state, but also so that it could be totally free and not subject in the least to any earthly domination. Jesus Christ did not commit the sacred trust of the revealed doctrine to the worldly leaders, but to the apostles and their successors. He said to them only: 'Whoever hears you, hears Me; whoever rejects you, rejects Me.' These same apostles preached the Gospel, spread the Church, and established its discipline not in accordance with the pleasure of lay authority, but even in spite of it. Moreover, when the leaders of the synagogue dared command them to silence, Peter and John, who had used the evangelical freedom, responded: 'You be the judge of whether it is right in the eyes of God to listen to you rather than to God.' Thus, if any secular power dominates the Church, controls its doctrine, or interferes so that it cannot promulgate laws concerning the holy ministry, divine worship, and the spiritual welfare of the faithful, it does so to the injury of the faith and the overturning of the divine ordinance of the Church and the nature of government." (Pope Gregory XVI, "Commissum Divinitus", 1835 A.D.)

"That is the one reason for men not obeying, if something is demanded of them which is openly at odds with natural and divine law; for it is equally wrong to order and to do anything in which the law of nature or the will of God is violated. If, then, it ever happens to anyone to be forced to choose one or the other, namely, to ignore the orders either of God or of princes, obedience must be rendered to Jesus Christ who orders, 'the things that are Caesar's, to Caesar; the things that are God's to God' [cf. Matt. 22:21], and according to the example of the apostles the reply should be made courageously: 'We ought to obey God, rather than man' [Acts 5:29]... To be unwilling to refer the right of ordering to God, the author, is nothing else than to wish the most beautiful splendor of political power destroyed, and its nerves cut... In fact, sudden tumults and most daring rebellions, especially in Germany, have followed that so-called Reformation, whose supporters and leaders have utterly opposed sacred and civil power with new doctrines... From that heresy a falsely called philosophy took its origin in an earlier time, and a right, which they call 'new,' and a popular power, and an ignorant license which many people consider only liberty. From these we have come to the ultimate plagues, namely, to communism, to socialism, to nihilism, most loathsome monsters and almost destroyers of man's civil society." (Pope Leo XIII, "Diuturnum illud", 1881 A.D.)

"[T]he fatherland must be loved, from which we receive the enjoyment of mortal life; but we must love the Church more to whom we owe the love of the soul which will last forever, because it is right to hold the blessings of the spirit above the blessings of the body, and the duties toward God are much more sacred than those toward man. But, if we wish to judge rightly, the supernatural love of the Church and the natural love of the fatherland are twin loves coming from the same eternal principle, since God himself is the author and the cause of both; therefore, it follows that one duty cannot be in conflict with the other... Nevertheless, the order of these duties, either because of the troubles of the times or the more perverse will of men, is sometimes destroyed. Instances, to be sure, occur when the state seems to demand one thing from men as citizens, and religion another from men as Christians; and this, clearly, for no other reason than that the rulers of the state either hold the sacred power of the Church as of no account, or wish it to be subject to them... If the laws of the state are openly at variance with divine right, if they impose any injury upon the Church, or oppose those duties which are of religion, or violate the authority of Jesus Christ in the Supreme Pontiff, then indeed to resist is a duty, to obey a crime; and this is bound with injury to the state itself, since whatever is an offense in religion is a sin against the state." (Pope Leo XIII, "Sapientiae Christianae", 1890 A.D.)

"Yet, no one doubts that Jesus Christ, the Founder of the Church, willed her sacred power to be distinct from the civil power, and each power to be free and unshackled in its own sphere: with this condition, however - a condition good for both, and of advantage to all men - that union and concord should be maintained between them; and that on those questions which are, though in different ways, of common right and authority, the power to which secular matters have been entrusted should happily and becomingly depend on the other power which has in its charge the interests of heaven. In such arrangement and harmony is found not only the best line of action for each power, but also the most opportune and efficacious method of helping men in all that pertains to their life here, and to their hope of salvation hereafter. For, as We have shown in former encyclical letters, the intellect of man is greatly ennobled by the Christian [Catholic] faith, and made better able to shun and banish all error, while faith borrows in turn no little help from the intellect; and in like manner, when the civil power is on friendly terms with the sacred authority of the Church, there accrues to both a great increase of usefulness. The dignity of the one is exalted, and so long as religion is its guide it will never rule unjustly; while the other receives help of protection and defense for the public good of the faithful." (Pope Leo XIII, "Arcanum", 1880 A.D.)

"But not only in regard to temporal goods, Venerable Brethren, is it the concern of the public authority to make proper provision for matrimony and the family, but also in other things which concern the good of souls. Just laws must be made for the protection of chastity, for reciprocal conjugal aid, and for similar purposes, and these must be faithfully enforced, because, as history testifies, the prosperity of the State and the temporal happiness of its citizens cannot remain safe and sound where the foundation on which they are established, which is the moral order, is weakened and where the very fountainhead from which the State draws its life, namely, wedlock and the family, is obstructed by the vices of its citizens. For the preservation of the moral order neither the laws and sanctions of the temporal power are sufficient, nor is the beauty of virtue and the expounding of its necessity. Religious authority must enter in to enlighten the mind, to direct the will, and to strengthen human frailty by the assistance of divine grace. Such an authority is found nowhere save in the Church instituted by Christ the Lord. Hence We earnestly exhort in the Lord all those who hold the reins of power that they establish and maintain firmly harmony and friendship with this Church of Christ so that through the united activity and energy of both powers the tremendous evils, fruits of those wanton liberties which assail both marriage and the family and are a menace to both Church and State, may be effectively frustrated." (Pope Pius XI, "Casti Connubii", 1930 A.D.) 

"Modern law is based on man. Catholic law is based on God. Catholic law looks at things from the angle of man's supreme and last end - that is to say, God in Three Divine Persons; modern law from that of man as his own self-sufficing end. Catholic law begins by taking account of the dependence upon God of every created thing, and especially of every community and every State. Modern law bases that union of wills on which a community is founded, merely on the will of each of the component individuals, independent of the Divine Will. Catholic law is the establishing of the reign of God by His own right over the individual and over society. Modern law is the practical negation of Catholic truth and of all divine truth. It is the official establishment, sanctioned by law, of laicism, atheism, and all other errors. In short, Catholic law is justice; it is the power and authority which spring from justice put at the service of truth, which alone can save men and nations. Modern law is the authority and power of justice put at the service of man to degrade legally - and, therefore, it is thought, legitimately - intelligence and wills, communities and societies to the level of deified man, that is to say, of man considered as the beginning and the end of all things. Compare the constitutions of nations proceeding from modern principles, with those proceeding from Catholic principles, and you will get some slight idea of the disasters produced by modern law." (Fahey) 

"The Almighty, therefore, has given the charge of the human race to two powers, the ecclesiastical and the civil, the one being set over divine, and the other over human, things. Each in its kind is supreme, each has fixed limits within which it is contained, limits which are defined by the nature and special object of the province of each, so that there is, we may say, an orbit traced out within which the action of each is brought into play by its own native right. But, inasmuch as each of these two powers has authority over the same subjects, and as it might come to pass that one and the same thing - related differently, but still remaining one and the same thing - might belong to the jurisdiction and determination of both, therefore God, who foresees all things, and who is the author of these two powers, has marked out the course of each in right correlation to the other. 'For the powers that are, are ordained of God.' Were this not so, deplorable contentions and conflicts would often arise, and, not infrequently, men, like travelers at the meeting of two roads, would hesitate in anxiety and doubt, not knowing what course to follow. Two powers would be commanding contrary things, and it would be a dereliction of duty to disobey either of the two. But it would be most repugnant to them to think thus of the wisdom and goodness of God. Even in physical things, albeit of a lower order, the Almighty has so combined the forces and springs of nature with tempered action and wondrous harmony that no one of them clashes with any other, and all of them most fitly and aptly work together for the great purpose of the universe. There must, accordingly, exist between these two powers a certain orderly connection, which may be compared to the union of the soul and body in man." (Pope Leo XIII, "Immortale Dei", 1885 A.D.)

"On this account let them consider how injurious to Christian unity is that error, which in various forms of opinion has oft-times obscured, nay, even destroyed the true character and idea of the Church. For by the will and ordinance of God, its Founder, it is a society perfect in its kind, whose office and mission it is to school mankind in the precepts and teachings of the Gospel, and by safeguarding the integrity of moral and the exercise of Christian virtue, to lead men to that happiness which is held out to every one in heaven. And since it is, as we have said, a perfect society, therefore it is endowed with a living power and efficacy which is not derived from any external source, but in virtue of the ordinance of God and its own constitution, inherent in its very nature; for the same reason it has an inborn power of making laws, and justice requires that it its exercise it should be dependent on no one; it must likewise have freedom in other matters appertaining to its rights. But this freedom is not of a kind to occasion rivalry or envy, for the Church does not covet power, nor is she urged on by any selfish desire; but this one thing she does wish, this only does she seek, to preserve amongst men the duties which virtue imposes, and by this means and in this way to provide for their everlasting welfare. Therefore is she wont to be yielding and indulgent as a mother; yea, it not infrequently happens that in making large concessions to the exigencies of States, she refrains from the exercise of her own rights, as the compacts often concluded with civil governments abundantly testify. Nothing is more foreign to her disposition than to encroach on the rights of civil power; but the civil power in its turn must respect the rights of the Church and beware of arrogating them in any degree to itself." (Pope Leo XIII, "Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae", 1894 A.D.)

"Therefore, when it is said that the Church is hostile to modern political regimes and that she repudiates the discoveries of modern research, the charge is a ridiculous and groundless calumny. Wild opinions she does repudiate, wicked and seditious projects she does condemn, together with that attitude of mind which points to the beginning of a willful departure from God. But, as all truth must necessarily proceed from God, the Church recognizes in all truth that is reached by research a trace of the divine intelligence. And as all truth in the natural order is powerless to destroy belief in the teachings of revelation, but can do much to confirm it, and as every newly discovered truth may serve to further the knowledge or the praise of God, it follows that whatsoever spreads the range of knowledge will always be willingly and even joyfully welcomed by the Church. She will always encourage and promote, as she does in other branches of knowledge, all study occupied with the investigation of nature. In these pursuits, should the human intellect discover anything not known before, the Church makes no opposition. She never objects to search being made for things that minister to the refinements and comforts of life. So far, indeed, from opposing these she is now, as she ever has been, hostile alone to indolence and sloth, and earnestly wishes that the talents of men may bear more and more abundant fruit by cultivation and exercise. Moreover, she gives encouragement to every kind of art and handicraft, and through her influence, directing all strivings after progress toward virtue and salvation, she labors to prevent man's intellect and industry from turning him away from God and from heavenly things." (Pope Leo XIII, "Immortale Dei", 1885 A.D.)

"A family, no less than a State, is, as We have said, a true society, governed by an authority peculiar to itself, that is to say, by the authority of the father. Provided, therefore, the limits which are prescribed by the very purposes for which it exists be not transgressed, the family has at least equal rights with the State in the choice and pursuit of the things needful to its preservation and its just liberty. We say, 'at least equal rights'; for, inasmuch as the domestic household is antecedent, as well in idea as in fact, to the gathering of men into a community, the family must necessarily have rights and duties which are prior to those of the community, and founded more immediately in nature. If the citizens, if the families on entering into association and fellowship, were to experience hindrance in a commonwealth instead of help, and were to find their rights attacked instead of being upheld, society would rightly be an object of detestation rather than of desire. The contention, then, that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error. True, if a family finds itself in exceeding distress, utterly deprived of the counsel of friends, and without any prospect of extricating itself, it is right that extreme necessity be met by public aid, since each family is a part of the commonwealth. In like manner, if within the precincts of the household there occur grave disturbance of mutual rights, public authority should intervene to force each party to yield to the other its proper due; for this is not to deprive citizens of their rights, but justly and properly to safeguard and strengthen them. But the rulers of the commonwealth must go no further; here, nature bids them stop. Paternal authority can be neither abolished nor absorbed by the State; for it has the same source as human life itself. 'The child belongs to the father,' and is, as it were, the continuation of the father's personality; and speaking strictly, the child takes its place in civil society, not of its own right, but in its quality as member of the family in which it is born. And for the very reason that 'the child belongs to the father' it is, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, 'before it attains the use of free will, under the power and the charge of its parents.' The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice, and destroy the structure of the home." (Pope Leo XIII, "Rerum Novarum", 1891 A.D.)

"The Apostolic voice did not thunder forth in vain. On the contrary, not only did the obedient children of the Church hearken to it with marveling admiration and hail it with the greatest applause, but many also who were wandering far from the truth, from the unity of the faith, and nearly all who since then either in private study or in enacting legislation have concerned themselves with the social and economic question. Feeling themselves vindicated and defended by the Supreme Authority on earth, Christian workers received this Encyclical with special joy. So, too, did all those noble-hearted men who, long solicitous for the improvement of the condition of the workers, had up to that time encountered almost nothing but indifference from many, and even rankling suspicion, if not open hostility, from some. Rightly, therefore, have all these groups constantly held the Apostolic Encyclical from that time in such high honor that to signify their gratitude they are wont, in various places and in various ways, to commemorate it every year. However, in spite of such great agreement, there were some who were not a little disturbed; and so it happened that the teaching of Leo XIII, so noble and lofty and so utterly new to worldly ears, was held suspect by some, even among Catholics, and to certain ones it even gave offense. For it boldly attacked and overturned the idols of Liberalism, ignored long-standing prejudices, and was in advance of its time beyond all expectation, so that the slow of heart disdained to study this new social philosophy and the timid feared to scale so lofty a height. There were some also who stood, indeed, in awe at its splendor, but regarded it as a kind of imaginary ideal of perfection more desirable then attainable... Nor is the benefit that has poured forth from Leo's Encyclical confined within these bounds; for the teaching which On the Condition of Workers contains has gradually and imperceptibly worked its way into the minds of those outside Catholic unity who do not recognize the authority of the Church. Catholic principles on the social question have as a result, passed little by little into the patrimony of all human society, and We rejoice that the eternal truths which Our Predecessor of glorious memory proclaimed so impressively have been frequently invoked and defended not only in non-Catholic books and journals but in legislative halls also courts of justice... The Encyclical On the Condition of Workers, without question, has become a memorable document and rightly to it may be applied the words of Isaias: 'He shall set up a standard to the nations.'" (Pope Pius XI, "Quadragesimo Anno", 1931 A.D.)

"But Catholic wisdom, sustained by the precepts of natural and divine law, provides with especial care for public and private tranquility in its doctrines and teachings regarding the duty of government and the distribution of the goods which are necessary for life and use. For, while the socialists would destroy the 'right' of property, alleging it to be a human invention altogether opposed to the inborn equality of man, and, claiming a community of goods, argue that poverty should not be peaceably endured, and that the property and privileges of the rich may be rightly invaded, the Church, with much greater wisdom and good sense, recognizes the inequality among men, who are born with different powers of body and mind, inequality in actual possession, also, and holds that the right of property and of ownership, which springs from nature itself, must not be touched and stands inviolate. For she knows that stealing and robbery were forbidden in so special a manner by God, the Author and Defender of right, that He would not allow man even to desire what belonged to another, and that thieves and despoilers, no less than adulterers and idolaters, are shut out from the Kingdom of Heaven. But not the less on this account does our holy Mother not neglect the care of the poor or omit to provide for their necessities; but, rather, drawing them to her with a mother's embrace, and knowing that they bear the person of Christ Himself, who regards the smallest gift to the poor as a benefit conferred on Himself, holds them in great honor. She does all she can to help them; she provides homes and hospitals where they may be received, nourished, and cared for all the world over and watches over these. She is constantly pressing on the rich that most grave precept to give what remains to the poor; and she holds over their heads the divine sentence that unless they succor the needy they will be repaid by eternal torments. In fine, she does all she can to relieve and comfort the poor, either by holding up to them the example of Christ, 'who being rich became poor for our sake', or by reminding them of his own words, wherein he pronounced the poor blessed and bade them hope for the reward of eternal bliss. But who does not see that this is the best method of arranging the old struggle between the rich and poor? For, as the very evidence of facts and events shows, if this method is rejected or disregarded, one of two things must occur: either the greater portion of the human race will fall back into the vile condition of slavery which so long prevailed among the pagan nations, or human society must continue to be disturbed by constant eruptions, to be disgraced by rapine and strife, as we have had sad witness even in recent times." (Pope Leo XIII, "Quod Apostolici Muneris", 1878 A.D.)

"This society is made up of men, just as civil society is, and yet is supernatural and spiritual, on account of the end for which it was founded, and of the means by which it aims at attaining that end. Hence, it is distinguished and differs from civil society, and, what is of highest moment, it is a society chartered as of right divine, perfect in its nature and in its title, to possess in itself and by itself, through the will and loving kindness of its Founder, all needful provision for its maintenance and action. And just as the end at which the Church aims is by far the noblest of ends, so is its authority the most exalted of all authority, nor can it be looked upon as inferior to the civil power, or in any manner dependent upon it. In very truth, Jesus Christ gave to His Apostles unrestrained authority in regard to things sacred, together with the genuine and most true power of making laws, as also with the twofold right of judging and of punishing, which flow from that power. 'All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth: going therefore teach all nations...teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.' And in another place: 'If he will not hear them, tell the Church.' And again: 'In readiness to revenge all disobedience.' And once more: 'That...I may not deal more severely according to the power which the Lord hath given me, unto edification and not unto destruction.' Hence, it is the Church, and not the State, that is to be man's guide to heaven. It is to the Church that God has assigned the charge of seeing to, and legislating for, all that concerns religion; of teaching all nations; of spreading the Christian faith as widely as possible; in short, of administering freely and without hindrance, in accordance with her own judgment, all matters that fall within its competence. Now, this authority, perfect in itself, and plainly meant to be unfettered, so long assailed by a philosophy that truckles to the State, the Church, has never ceased to claim for herself and openly to exercise. The Apostles themselves were the first to uphold it, when, being forbidden by the rulers of the synagogue to preach the Gospel, they courageously answered: 'We must obey God rather than men.' This same authority the holy Fathers of the Church were always careful to maintain by weighty arguments, according as occasion arose, and the Roman Pontiffs have never shrunk from defending it with unbending constancy. Nay, more, princes and all invested with power to rule have themselves approved it, in theory alike and in practice. It cannot be called in question that in the making of treaties, in the transaction of business matters, in the sending and receiving ambassadors, and in the interchange of other kinds of official dealings they have been wont to treat with the Church as with a supreme and legitimate power. And, assuredly, all ought to hold that it was not without a singular disposition of God's providence that this power of the Church was provided with a civil sovereignty as the surest safeguard of her independence." (Pope Leo XIII, "Immortale Dei", 1885 A.D.)

"To wish the Church to be subject to the civil power in the exercise of her duty is a great folly and a sheer injustice. Whenever this is the case, order is disturbed, for things natural are put above things supernatural; the many benefits which the Church, if free to act, would confer on society are either prevented or at least lessened in number; and a way is prepared for enmities and contentions between the two powers, with evil result to both the issue of events has taught us only too frequently. Doctrines such as these, which cannot be approved by human reason, and most seriously affect the whole civil order, Our predecessors the Roman Pontiffs (well aware of what their apostolic office required of them) have never allowed to pass uncondemned. Thus, Gregory XVI in his encyclical letter Mirari Vos, dated August 15, 1832, inveighed with weighty words against the sophisms which even at his time were being publicly inculcated - namely, that no preference should be shown for any particular form of worship; that it is right for individuals to form their own personal judgments about religion; that each man's conscience is his sole and all-sufficing guide; and that it is lawful for every man to publish his own views, whatever they may be, and even to conspire against the State. On the question of the separation of Church and State the same Pontiff writes as follows: 'Nor can We hope for happier results either for religion or for the civil government from the wishes of those who desire that the Church be separated from the State, and the concord between the secular and ecclesiastical authority be dissolved. It is clear that these men, who yearn for a shameless liberty, live in dread of an agreement which has always been fraught with good, and advantageous alike to sacred and civil interests.' To the like effect, also, as occasion presented itself, did Pius IX brand publicly many false opinions which were gaining ground, and afterwards ordered them to be condensed in summary form in order that in this sea of error Catholics might have a light which they might safely follow. From these pronouncements of the Popes it is evident that the origin of public power is to be sought for in God Himself, and not in the multitude, and that it is repugnant to reason to allow free scope for sedition. Again, that it is not lawful for the State, any more than for the individual, either to disregard all religious duties or to hold in equal favor different kinds of religion; that the unrestrained freedom of thinking and of openly making known one's thoughts is not inherent in the rights of citizens, and is by no means to be reckoned worthy of favor and support. In like manner it is to be understood that the Church no less than the State itself is a society perfect in its own nature and its own right, and that those who exercise sovereignty ought not so to act as to compel the Church to become subservient or subject to them, or to hamper her liberty in the management of her own affairs, or to despoil her in any way of the other privileges conferred upon her by Jesus Christ. In matters, however, of mixed jurisdiction, it is in the highest degree consonant to nature, as also to the designs of God, that so far from one of the powers separating itself from the other, or still less coming into conflict with it, complete harmony, such as is suited to the end for which each power exists, should be preserved between them. This, then, is the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the constitution and government of the State." (Pope Leo XIII, "Immortale Dei", 1885 A.D.)

"The fact that God has given the earth for the use and enjoyment of the whole human race can in no way be a bar to the owning of private property. For God has granted the earth to mankind in general, not in the sense that all without distinction can deal with it as they like, but rather that no part of it was assigned to any one in particular, and that the limits of private possession have been left to be fixed by man's own industry, and by the laws of individual races. Moreover, the earth, even though apportioned among private owners, ceases not thereby to minister to the needs of all, inasmuch as there is not one who does not sustain life from what the land produces. Those who do not possess the soil contribute their labor; hence, it may truly be said that all human subsistence is derived either from labor on one's own land, or from some toil, some calling, which is paid for either in the produce of the land itself, or in that which is exchanged for what the land brings forth. Here, again, we have further proof that private ownership is in accordance with the law of nature. Truly, that which is required for the preservation of life, and for life's well-being, is produced in great abundance from the soil, but not until man has brought it into cultivation and expended upon it his solicitude and skill. Now, when man thus turns the activity of his mind and the strength of his body toward procuring the fruits of nature, by such act he makes his own that portion of nature's field which he cultivates - that portion on which he leaves, as it were, the impress of his personality; and it cannot but be just that he should possess that portion as his very own, and have a right to hold it without any one being justified in violating that right. So strong and convincing are these arguments that it seems amazing that some should now be setting up anew certain obsolete opinions in opposition to what is here laid down. They assert that it is right for private persons to have the use of the soil and its various fruits, but that it is unjust for any one to possess outright either the land on which he has built or the estate which he has brought under cultivation. But those who deny these rights do not perceive that they are defrauding man of what his own labor has produced. For the soil which is tilled and cultivated with toil and skill utterly changes its condition; it was wild before, now it is fruitful; was barren, but now brings forth in abundance. That which has thus altered and improved the land becomes so truly part of itself as to be in great measure indistinguishable and inseparable from it. Is it just that the fruit of a man's own sweat and labor should be possessed and enjoyed by any one else? As effects follow their cause, so is it just and right that the results of labor should belong to those who have bestowed their labor. With reason, then, the common opinion of mankind, little affected by the few dissentients who have contended for the opposite view, has found in the careful study of nature, and in the laws of nature, the foundations of the division of property, and the practice of all ages has consecrated the principle of private ownership, as being preeminently in conformity with human nature, and as conducing in the most unmistakable manner to the peace and tranquillity of human existence. The same principle is confirmed and enforced by the civil laws - laws which, so long as they are just, derive from the law of nature their binding force. The authority of the divine law adds its sanction, forbidding us in severest terms even to covet that which is another's: 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife; nor his house, nor his field, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is his.' The rights here spoken of, belonging to each individual man, are seen in much stronger light when considered in relation to man's social and domestic obligations... That right to property, therefore, which has been proved to belong naturally to individual persons, must in like wise belong to a man in his capacity of head of a family; nay, that right is all the stronger in proportion as the human person receives a wider extension in the family group. It is a most sacred law of nature that a father should provide food and all necessaries for those whom he has begotten; and, similarly, it is natural that he should wish that his children, who carry on, so to speak, and continue his personality, should be by him provided with all that is needful to enable them to keep themselves decently from want and misery amid the uncertainties of this mortal life. Now, in no other way can a father effect this except by the ownership of productive property, which he can transmit to his children by inheritance... The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man; and the State has the right to control its use in the interests of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether. The State would therefore be unjust and cruel if under the name of taxation it were to deprive the private owner of more than is fair." (Pope Leo XIII, "Rerum Novarum", 1891 A.D.)

Also See: Government (Catholic Life Reflections) | Religious Liberty (Trad.) (Catholic Life Reflections) | Separation of Church & State Condemned (Catholic Life Reflections) | Wealth / Poverty / Social Classes (Catholic Life Reflections) | Obedience / Disobedience (Catholic Life Reflections) | Classic Encyclicals: Economics / Government / Social Order / Liberty

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