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FEBRUARY 12, 2005

The Time is Always Right to Proclaim the Social Reign of Christ the King

by Thomas A. Droleskey

We live at a time in salvation history quite similar to that of the first few centuries of the Church. We are governed civilly by virtual demigods who view any criticism of them to be tantamount to acts of disloyalty. Pagan superstitions are practiced by the multitudes. Emotion and illogic take the place of rational thought. Bread and circuses have become expressions of an unofficial civic liturgy of sorts. Murder and mayhem are endorsed under cover of law. The stability and the integrity of the family are undermined in practically every sphere of popular culture. And it appears to many that the only thing that we can hope for, humanly speaking, in these troubled times is to be governed by civil leaders who are less evil than others.

The Catholics of the first few centuries Church who lived in the Roman Empire discharged their civic duties that did not conflict with the binding precepts of the Divine positive law and the natural law without complaint, understanding that their duties to the Emperor were such that they had to obey all just laws and to provide for the upkeep of the civil government. They nevertheless understood that it was their duty to upbraid the Emperor and his minions when the occasion necessitated it, going so far as to denounce him and to refuse to render unto him the worship that belongs to the true God alone.

Consider this passage from Father A. J. O’Reilly’s The Martyrs of the Coliseum:

When the Emperor Gordianus III ascended the throne, he was but a young man, under the guidance of his preceptor, Misithes. He had a prosperous reign of six years. His docility, natural probity, and amiable disposition, united with the skill and prudence of this virtuous preceptor, made him dear to the whole Empire. Even the success and triumph which fortune had given to his military enterprises, made his reign a real sunshine in those days of revolt and trouble. In the year 243, whilst away on an expedition against the Goths, and the ever restless and unsubdued Persians his good preceptor died, and Julius Philippus succeeded Misithes in the praceptorship, one of the most important offices in the state. Ambition entered the heart of Philip, and he determined to obtain the command of the Empire. He knew Gordian was too much beloved by the soldiers to make them betray him, and he resolved upon his assassination. For this purpose he lured a wretch, and the bloody deed was effected. Philip was declared Emperor in 244. On Easter Eve, the same year, Philip was in Antioch with his wife, Severa, and they repaired to the Catholic church to join in the public prayers in preparation for the great festival. The holy Bishop Babilas was at the time in the see of Antioch; and having heard that the Emperor was coming to the church, he stood at the porch, and refused him admission. With the courage and zeal of an apostle, he bade the Emperor go and do penance, for the blood of his murdered victim called to heaven for vengeance. The holy Bishop repulsed him with his own hand, and would not permit him to enter except in the garb of a public penitent of the Church. Philip humbled himself before the aged Bishop; he confessed his crimes, and voluntarily accepted the penance which the minister of God imposed on him, and thus was permitted to enter the Church of the true God, before whom the crown and tattered garment are alike. . . .

We cannot pass over the authority, much less the beautiful and powerful eloquence, of the great Chrysostom, in his panegyric on Babilas. Speaking of his brave and intrepid reproof of the sinful Emperor, he compares him to the Apostle St. John; and alludes to the Emperor in words that leave no doubt of the tradition of the time in which he flourished: “Nor was he the mere tetrarch of a few cities,” says St. Chrysostom, speaking of Philip, “nor the king of one nation only, but the ruler of the greater portion of the world–of nations, of cities, and a countless array, formidable on every side, from the boundless immensity of the empire and the severity of his power; yet he was expelled from the church by the intrepid pastor, like a bad sheep that is driven from the flock. The subject becomes the ruler, and pronounces sentence of condemnation against him who commanded all. Alone and unarmed, his undaunted soul was filled with apostolic confidence. With what zeal was the ancient Bishop fired! He commanded the satellites of the Emperor to depart. How fearlessly he spoke, and placed his right hand on that breast that was still glowing and bleeding with the remorse of recent guilt! How he treated the murderer according to his merits!”

It was apostolic courage of this sort, recounted throughout the pages of The Martyrs of the Coliseum, that built Christendom, an era which saw such saintly rulers of States as Saint Edward the Confessor, Saint Stephen of Hungary, Saint Louis IX, and Saint Henry, among scores of others. These rulers understood that there were limits that existed in the binding precepts in the Divine positive law and the natural law that they could not transgress legitimately, and that they had the positive obligation to help to root out those conditions in society that bred sin and thus were harmful to the sanctification and salvation of their subjects and thus to the common good of their States.

Pope Leo XIII commented on this era in Immortale Dei, issued in 1885:

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. Christian Europe has subdued barbarous nations, and changed them from a savage to a civilized condition, from superstition to true worship. It victoriously rolled back the tide of Mohammedan conquest; retained the headship of civilization; stood forth in the front rank as the leader and teacher of all, in every branch of national culture; bestowed on the world the gift of true and many-sided liberty; and most wisely founded very numerous institutions for the solace of human suffering. And if we inquire how it was able to bring about so altered a condition of things, the answer is -- beyond all question, in large measure, through religion, under whose auspices so many great undertakings were set on foot, through whose aid they were brought to completion.

A similar state of things would certainly have continued had the agreement of the two powers been lasting. More important results even might have been justly looked for, had obedience waited upon the authority, teaching, and counsels of the Church, and had this submission been specially marked by greater and more unswerving loyalty. For that should be regarded in the light of an ever-changeless law which Ivo of Chartres wrote to Pope Paschal II: "When kingdom and priesthood are at one, in complete accord, the world is well ruled, and the Church flourishes, and brings forth abundant fruit. But when they are at variance, not only smaller interests prosper not, but even things of greatest moment fall into deplorable decay.

The period of Christendom was not without problems. It was far from perfect. However, it was an era in which Church and State cooperated with each other in the furtherance of their respective ends, mindful that the common temporal good of men and their nations was intricately bound up with man’s identity as a redeemed creature and the Last End for which the God-Man shed every single drop of His Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross. Pope Pius XII described this in his first encyclical letter, Summi Pontificatus, issued in 1939:

It is true that even when Europe had a cohesion of brotherhood through identical ideals gathered from Christian preaching, she was not free from divisions, convulsions and wars which laid her waste; but perhaps they never felt the intense pessimism of today as to the possibility of settling them, for they had then an effective moral sense of the just and of the unjust, of the lawful and of the unlawful, which, by restraining outbreaks of passion, left the way open to an honorable settlement. In Our days, on the contrary, dissensions come not only from the surge of rebellious passion, but also from a deep spiritual crisis which has overthrown the sound principles of private and public morality.

It was the specific mission of two of Pope Pius XII’s predecessors, Pope Leo XIII and Pius XI, to reiterate the necessity of restoring the cooperation that existed between Church and State in the Middle Ages. The entire corpus of the encyclical letters of these two great popes bears a telling witness to the binding, immutable teaching of the Catholic Church on the State. Indeed, Pope Leo XIII had done such a masterful job of summarizing the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church on the State and of exhorting Catholics to work for the restoration of this teaching as the foundation of all social order that his successor, Pope Saint Pius X, did not have to devote a great deal of time to the matter except to stamp as Modernist anything and everything that specifically rejects that Social Teaching as the foundation of social order. Consider this passage from Pascendi Domenici Gregis, issued on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, September 8, 1907:

But it is not only within her own household that the Church must come to terms. Besides her relations with those within, she has others with those who are outside. The Church does not occupy the world all by herself; there are other societies in the world., with which she must necessarily have dealings and contact. The rights and duties of the Church towards civil societies must, therefore, be determined, and determined, of course, by her own nature, that, to wit, which the Modernists have already described to us. The rules to be applied in this matter are clearly those which have been laid down for science and faith, though in the latter case the question turned upon the object, while in the present case we have one of ends. In the same way, then, as faith and science are alien to each other by reason of the diversity of their objects, Church and State are strangers by reason of the diversity of their ends, that of the Church being spiritual while that of the State is temporal. Formerly it was possible to subordinate the temporal to the spiritual and to speak of some questions as mixed, conceding to the Church the position of queen and mistress in all such, because the Church was then regarded as having been instituted immediately by God as the author of the supernatural order. But this doctrine is today repudiated alike by philosophers and historians. The state must, therefore, be separated from the Church, and the Catholic from the citizen. Every Catholic, from the fact that he is also a citizen, has the right and the duty to work for the common good in the way he thinks best, without troubling himself about the authority of the Church, without paying any heed to its wishes, its counsels, its orders -- nay, even in spite of its rebukes. For the Church to trace out and prescribe for the citizen any line of action, on any pretext whatsoever, is to be guilty of an abuse of authority, against which one is bound to protest with all one's might. Venerable Brethren, the principles from which these doctrines spring have been solemnly condemned by Our predecessor, Pius VI, in his Apostolic Constitution Auctorem fidei.

The antidote to these particular tenets of Modernism is to proclaim the Social Reign of Christ the King. There is no “practical” program that will provide an infallible guarantor of success. There is no guarantee that any of our efforts will ever bear fruit in our lifetimes, if at all. Nevertheless, we have the same apostolic duty to try to plant the seeds for the restoration of Christendom no matter the seeming futility of the task or the fact that our very shepherds at this point in time have accepted the premises of Modernity condemned by Pope Saint Pius X. The Apostles themselves would have stayed in the Upper Room in Jerusalem following the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon them and Our Lady on Pentecost Sunday if they were “practically” minded. Fortified by the gifts and fruits imparted upon them in tongues of flame by the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Apostles went out to proclaim the truths of Truth Himself, Truth Crucified and Resurrected, no matter the seeming impossibility of their efforts in human terms.

The late Michael Davies stated in his pamphlet on the Social Reign of Christ the King that one of the reasons that errors of Modernity and Modernism had made such an inroad among Catholics is that the doctrine of Christ the King was not preached in most instances in the wake of the great encyclical letters of Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI. The seeming impossibility in our own day of realizing a new Christendom should never deter us from speaking out as Catholics and from judging the positions of our civil leaders solely on the basis of how well they conform to the binding precepts of the Divine positive law and the natural law. Even before the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII (1878- 1903), Orestes Brownson, who converted to the Faith in 1845, wrote article after article to advance the truth that Catholicity is the only basis of social order, providing over thirty years of commentaries on precisely this point before he died in 1876. Brownson did not flinch from criticizing the civil leaders of his day on the grounds of Catholic truth. Neither should we.

Some very good and faithful Catholics who understand and accept the doctrine of the Social Reign of Christ the King have taken the view that we should concentrate on the building up of our own families and not expect much from the political realm. This is certainly true. Each one of our own sins hinders the reign of Christ as the King of our own hearts and souls, thus making us instruments that wound the Mystical Body of Christ and the social order, which is why we must be earnest during this season of Lent to do extra penances to make reparation for our sins, offering all to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We must indeed be serious about our daily conversion away from sin and selfishness in order to let our hearts, consecrated as they must be to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, beat for the joys of Heaven that await the souls of those who die in states of sanctifying grace. Indeed, Pope Leo XIII’s Mirare Caritatis, contained a wonderful explication of the absolute necessity of pursuing Eucharistic piety as a foundation of clear thinking and right acting:

Indeed it is greatly to be desired that those men would rightly esteem and would make due provision for life everlasting, whose industry or talents or rank have put it in their power to shape the course of human events. But alas! we see with sorrow that such men too often proudly flatter  themselves that they have conferred upon this world as it were a fresh lease of life and prosperity, inasmuch as by their own energetic action they are urging it on to the race for wealth, to a struggle for the possession of commodities which minister to the love of comfort and display. And yet, whithersoever we turn, we see that human society, if it be estranged from God, instead of enjoying that peace in its possessions for which it had sought, is shaken and tossed like one who is in the agony and heat of fever; for while it anxiously strives for prosperity, and trusts to it alone, it is pursuing an object that ever escapes it, clinging to one that ever eludes the grasp. For as men and states alike necessarily have their being from God, so they can do nothing good except in God through Jesus Christ, through whom every best and choicest gift has ever proceeded and proceeds. But the source and chief of all these gifts is the venerable Eucharist, which not only nourishes and sustains that life the desire whereof demands our most strenuous efforts, but also enhances beyond measure that dignity of man of which in these days we hear so much.

Our daily conversion, founded on the twin pillars of Eucharistic piety and Total Marian Consecration, is meant to make us instruments, despite the debt we owe for our forgiven sins, of confounding the powerful and the mighty when the need arises, just as Bishop Babilas did with Emperor Philip in the year 243 A.D. We must remonstrate with civic officials who do things that are injurious to the rights of Christ the King and thus to the whole of social order, domestically and internationally. Those of us, for example, who criticize the policies of President George W. Bush do so not because we “hate” him or because we are heedless of the evils promoted by most of his political opponents. No, we criticize the forty-third President of the United States precisely because he holds the highest elected office in this country and nothing less than our duties to God and the filial love we must have for the good of country demand that we call to correction those who are in error. Our efforts may fall on deaf ears. Fine. We must nevertheless make the effort to do, speaking frankly and without equivocation as Catholics.

I have addressed myself to President Bush a number of times, posing a series of over twenty questions to him in early 2003 that went unanswered. If I had the opportunity to address him again, I would ask him to stop doing things that hinder the Social Reign of Christ the King, admitting that each of us hinder that reign by means of our sins. These are some of the things I would implore of President Bush:

1. Convert to the fullness of the Catholic Faith; get yourself, Mr. President, to Father Ronald Ringrose in Vienna, Virginia, for convert instructions.

2. Stop supporting abortion in cases of rape, incest and alleged threats to the life of a mother.

3. Stop appointing pro-abortion politicians to the highest posts in your administration.

4. Stop supporting pro-abortion politicians in the Republican Party.

5.Stop funding the chemical executions of children by means of abortifacient contraceptives both in this country and internationally.

6. Stop calling yourself "pro-marriage" while you support "civil unions" while opposing sodomite "marriages."

7. Stop dropping bombs on innocent human beings abroad.

8. Stop repeating the lie that "Islam" is a religion of peace.

9 . Stop your monstrous spread of the power of the Federal government over our daily lives.

10 . Stop the promotion and mainstreaming of sodomy by agencies that are under the direct control of your administration.

11. Issue an Executive Order to countermand the Food and Drug Administration's September, 2000, decision to market the human pesticide, RU-486.

12. Dear Mr. President, read Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio. Pope Pius XI condemns as madness your Wilsonian view of how to build peace in the world.

These are just a few things, among many others, that Bush could do to stop hindering the Social Reign of Christ the King, admitting that we are not going to see this until some pope actually consecrates Russia to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. We are required to plant seeds to point out that false friends, such as Bush, are worse than open enemies, trusting that Our Lady will use those efforts as she sees fit without worrying about the results.

We must understand and come to accept this truth: there is no secular, religiously indifferentist way to retard the evils of our day. We must confront the evils of our day as Catholics. Consider the words of Pope Leo XIII in Tametsi, issued in 1901:

We are told that society is quite able to help itself; that it can flourish without the assistance of Christianity, and attain its end by its own unaided efforts. Public administrators prefer a purely secular system of government. All traces of the religion of our forefathers are daily disappearing from political life and administration. What blindness! Once the idea of the authority of God as the Judge of right and wrong is forgotten, law must necessarily lose its primary authority and justice must perish: and these are the two most powerful and most necessary bonds of society. Similarly, once the hope and expectation of eternal happiness is taken away, temporal goods will be greedily sought after. Every man will strive to secure the largest share for himself. Hence arise envy, jealousy, hatred. The consequences are conspiracy, anarchy, nihilism. There is neither peace abroad nor security at home. Public life is stained with crime.

So great is this struggle of the passions and so serious the dangers involved, that we must either anticipate ultimate ruin or seek for an efficient remedy. It is of course both right and necessary to punish malefactors, to educate the masses, and by legislation to prevent crime in every possible way: but all this is by no means sufficient. The salvation of the nations must be looked for higher. A power greater than human must be called in to teach men's hearts, awaken in them the sense of duty, and make them better. This is the power which once before saved the world from destruction when groaning under much more terrible evils. Once remove all impediments and allow the Christian spirit to revive and grow strong in a nation, and that nation will be healed. The strife between the classes and the masses will die away; mutual rights will be respected. If Christ be listened to, both rich and poor will do their duty. The former will realise that they must observe justice and charity, the latter self-restraint and moderation, if both are to be saved. Domestic life will be firmly established ( by the salutary fear of God as the Lawgiver. In the same way the precepts of the natural law, which dictates respect for lawful authority and obedience to the laws, will exercise their influence over the people. Seditions and conspiracies will cease. Wherever Christianity rules over all without let or hindrance there the order established by Divine Providence is preserved, and both security and prosperity are the happy result. The common welfare, then, urgently demands a return to Him from whom we should never have gone astray; to Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life,-and this on the part not only of individuals but of society as a whole. We must restore Christ to this His own rightful possession. All elements of the national life must be made to drink in the Life which proceedeth from Him- legislation, political institutions, education, marriage and family life, capital and labour. Everyone must see that the very growth of civilisation which is so ardently desired depends greatly upon this, since it is fed and grows not so much by material wealth and prosperity, as by the spiritual qualities of morality and virtue.

Pope Leo XIII issued warnings that went unheeded by most Catholics. Pope Pius XI issued an Encyclical Letter, Quas Primas, that was, as the late Michael Davies and the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre pointed out, effectively vitiated by Dignitatis Humanae. Indeed, the great Social Teaching of the Church has been redefined to the suit the purposes of the conciliarist agenda. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has endorsed the American model of pluralism. Pope John Paul II himself had a statement issued in his name on February 12, 2005, that praised the separation of Church and State in France, if "understood correctly" in light of the Church's social doctrine. The fact that Pope Saint Pius X condemned the very thing praised by Pope John Paul II is simply ignored (and is the subject of a companion piece to be posted with this article.)

In spite of all of this, however, the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church on the State and the Social Reign of Christ the King must be proclaimed no matter the lack of fruit that may result therefrom and no matter the opposition from individuals seeking the approval of the "conservative" intelligentsia in this country or the opposition of the Holy See itself. The “only” fruit that might result from a fidelity to this doctrine might be the salvation of our own immortal souls. As my three year-old daughter, Lucy Mary Norma says, “That’s a good deal.” Indeed.

There was a short period of tranquility in the Roman Empire following the confrontation of Emperor Philip by Bishop Basilus of Antioch. Catholics began to live in the same worldly ways that seem to plague us so much today. As is described in The Martyrs of the Coliseum:

The hour of sunshine and peace is now drawing to a close, and the year 250 opened, even on its first day with one of the most terrible persecutions that the Church had suffered. The blessings and repose of peace had relaxed the morals of the Christians, and it pleased Almighty God to purify them once more by the fire of persecution. The great Bishop of Carthage, who was secreted in exile during the few months that the storm raged, describes the sad causes that drew once more the terrible sword over the Christian community. “Almighty God,” says the great doctor, “wished to prove His family; for the blessings of a long peace had corrupted the divine discipline given to us; our sleeping and prostrate faith roused, if I may so to speak, the celestial anger. And although we deserved more for our sins, yet the clement and merciful Lord so acted that what has passed has been more a probation than a persecution. The whole world was wrapt in temporal interests, and the Christians forgot the glorious things that were done in the days of the apostles; instead of rivalling their brilliant example, they burned with the desire of the empty riches of the world, and strained every nerve to increase their wealth. Piety and religion were banished from the lives of the priests, and fidelity and integrity were no longer found in the ministers of the altar; charity and discipline of morals were no longer visible in their flocks. The men combed their beards, and the women painted their faces; their very eyes were tinted, and their hair told a lie. To deceive the simple, they used fraud and subtlety, and even Christians deceived each other by knavery and underhanded dealing. They intermarried with unbelievers and prostituted the members of Jesus Christ to pagans. They scoffed at their prelates in their pride, and they tore each other to pieces with envenomed tongues, and seemed to destroy each other with a fatal hatred. They despite the simplicity and humility demanded by faith, and permitted themselves to be guided by the impulses of worthless vanity; they contemned the world only in words. Did we not deserve, then, the dreadful horrors of persecution that have burst upon us?”

Imploring Our Lady, the Seat of Wisdom and the Help of Christians, to give us a spirit of simplicity and humility to accept and to defend at all times the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church and the rights of Christ the King, may we come to understand that the seeming impracticality of the Faith in our perilous times, so very similar to that described above, was the foundation of Christendom itself. May we be inspired by the examples of the martyrs whose blood made Christendom possible to renew in our own lives the saintly witness of those who upheld the glories of Christendom in the Middle Ages.

It is thus always the right time to proclaim and to defend the Social Reign of Christ the King and of Mary our Immaculate Queen.

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