Ask your local novus ordo priest or Bishop about the Social Kingship of Christ. Seriously. Do it. Chances are you’ll be greeted with a blank stare looking back at you. Such is the sad reality of living in a post-Dignitatis Humanae world, a world where seemingly everyone thinks that man has a God-given right to reject the religion God himself said was the only way to eternal salvation.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of Catholic prelates a) don’t know b) don’t care c) despise or d) are too lacking in courage to preach about the Social Kingship of Christ, Jesus Christ remains the sovereign ruler of all the universe.
Fr. Brian Harrison, an Australian-born priest whose name should be familiar to readers of Michael Davies’ books, is clued in on this, and in a recent essay for One Peter Five he set out to remind Pope Francis about it.
Recall that in his wide-ranging, utterly heterodox interview with La Croix on May 9th, the Holy Father said the following:
States must be secular. Confessional states end badly. That goes against the grain of history. I believe that a version of laicity accompanied by a solid law guaranteeing religious freedom offers a framework for going forward. We are all equal as sons (and daughters) of God and with our personal dignity.
I wrote about the Pope’s remarks in this space a couple weeks ago. I encourage you to read my thoughts in their entirety here. Fr. Harrison said something similar to what appeared in my essay. His words:
Over a century ago, Pope Leo XIII already acknowledged that American-style church-state separation (then fairly benign) was acceptable in countries with predominantly non-Catholic populations. However, he and all the popes taught that, as a matter of doctrinal principle, the nation or state has no more right than the individual to proclaim its independence from God and his revealed word. It is not morally entitled to say, “As a civic community we have no duty to worship and honor God, or to follow any specific religious creed in our laws and policies.”
Pope Leo XIII, by the way, made those comments in his 1895 letter Longinqua Oceana. Check out this post by my friend Gabriel Sanchez at his blog Opus Publicum to read more on what Longinqua has to say.
Fr. Harrison continues:
In response to the growing secularization of Western society, this doctrine of Christ’s social kingship was classically expounded by Pope Leo XIII in Immortale Dei (1885), “On the Christian Constitution of States”, and by Pius XI in his 1925 encyclical Quas Primas, instituting the liturgical Feast of Christ the King. Both these encyclicals are referenced in their entirety in the final (1997) edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in its exposition of the First Commandment (cf. last footnote to #2105). In this sub-section, headed “The Social Duty of Religion and the Right to Religious Liberty”, the CCC also cites two affirmations of Vatican Council II. One is that a just religious liberty leaves intact “the traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of individuals and societies to the true religion and the one Church of Christ”. (Just before they voted on this text, the Council Fathers were told by the official relator that these words from article 1 of the Declaration on Religious Liberty were to be understood as reaffirming the duty of the “public power” [potestas publica] to recognize Catholicism as the true religion.) The other citation comes from the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, #13, affirming that citizens should strive to “infuse the Christian spirit into the mentality and mores, laws and structures, of the communities in which [they]live” (#2105, emphasis added in both citations).
While the good Fr. is certainly right to highlight the fact that Vatican II mentions, at least in passing, the Social Kingship of Christ, I would quibble with the way Fr. seems to claim that there is continuity with pre- and post-Vatican II teaching on the matter.
The portion of Dignitatis Humanae where it says the traditional teaching has been “left intact” was inserted into the document at the last minute by Paul VI. It was more or less a throwaway line that didn’t change the fact that once DH was approved, the Church, from that point on, would hold that every man, in the name of his dignity, has a right to publicly proclaim blasphemy, even in Catholic nations.
The reality is that if you read DH and its various components in their proper context, you realize that it says even in countries where an established religion reigns (i.e. where the Kingship of Christ is recognized) false religions also have a right to be publicly professed. In essence, if Christ gets to reign, so does Mohammed, Luther, etc. This inevitably leads to the dissolution and undermining of the Social Kingship of Christ, does it not? I’ll address that question more in a future post. For now, let’s revisit Fr. Harrison’s essay:
It’s true that the historical record of confessional Catholic States has been far from stainless: it has often been marred not only by excessive intolerance of minorities, but also by harmful government interference in church affairs. But in this fallen world, disestablishment eventually turns out to be worse, as we are now finding out the hard way in the apostate West. For once the Catholic Church is no longer legally recognized as the authentic interpreter of morality, even the natural moral law becomes perverted and finally jettisoned. Media-driven propaganda leads public opinion to accept grave injustices that undermine families and menace both temporal and eternal life: abortion, euthanasia, immoral sex education, ‘gay marriage’, gender ideology, artificial procreation, and so on.
He continues by saying:
Taken in their most natural sense, the Pope’s first four words cited above go directly against the Catholic doctrine of Christ’s social kingship. Francis doesn’t merely say that in today’s pluralistic and secularized Western society it may now sometimes be more pastorally prudent for the Church, even in traditionally Catholic countries, not to insist on the exercise her divinely-bestowed right to be legally recognized as the true religion (cf. Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, #76). No, his assertion that States have a duty to disavow any religious confession is unqualified.
It would therefore be pretty hard to give a ‘hermeneutic-of-continuity’ reading to these words – one that would plausibly harmonize them with the doctrine of Christ’s Social Kingship that we’ve summarized above. Indeed, this doctrine has been so neglected and forgotten in recent decades that I wonder how much the Holy Father knows about it. His view, unfortunately, seems to be that the Church simply got it wrong when she promoted Catholic confessional states right through the post-Constantine era; and that only in the late 20th century has she finally learned that Church/State separation, along the lines pioneered by the U.S.A., is really the best arrangement for all nations – even those with large Catholic majorities.
This is precisely what I wrote a couple weeks ago. See here:
The core idea behind [the Pope’s] naive theory is that of Integral Humanism – the belief that a society infused by a wide assortment of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and all sorts of “religious” values is all that is needed for a country to flourish.
How wrong this view was. And is. The aggressive state secularism we experience in much of the West today is due to the fact that the Church went silent on the Social Kingship of Christ and turned over the public square to men who had no understanding (hatred?) of original sin, spiritual warfare and sanctifying grace. The entire idea of “Integral Humanism” is a fiction. History has proven that a state always has an established religion. Today, that religion is secular humanism (i.e. Liberalism). Pope Francis is living in the past. It is secular states that end badly.
The Pope is beyond confused about this issue. Pray for him.