Peter Kwasniewski and Aelianus of Laodicea on Temporal Kingship and the Kingship of Christ

In a brilliant essay on the Social Kingship of Christ, Peter Kwasniewski discusses the effect that the organization of temporal political life has on the way in which the doctrine is received. He writes of,

the Catholic vision of society as a hierarchy in which lower is subordinated to higher, with the private sphere and the public sphere united in their acknowledgment of the rights of God and of His Church.

And he writes of how this vision is undermined by the modern, horizontal, secular conception of politics. He argues, quite rightly to my mind, that royal government has a peculiar suitability to communicating a hierarchical vision of social order, and the majesty of temporal kings is help in understanding Christ the King.

My favorite Catholic republican, Aelianus of Laodicea, has responded with a sharp attack on Prof. Kwasniewski’s piece. Aelianus points out that the question of the  political recognition of the Social Kingship of Christ, is separate from the question of the best form of government. The Church has always been content to allow various forms of political rule— monarchical, aristocratic, democratic, or mixed— as long as they are “integralist” in the sense of recognizing the superiority of the spiritual power. Aelianus as is right as far as the argument goes. But he does not thereby disprove Kwasniewski’s point. Kwasniewski was not arguing that the Social Kingship of Christ demands a Christian monarchy as the form of temporal power, but rather that such a monarchy “lends itself most readily to collaboration and cooperation with the Church.” And this seems to be primarily because of the “image of sacred majesty” that it presents to the minds and hearts of its subjects. This image calls to mind the “wonderful resemblances” that according to Pope Leo XIII’s teaching in Diuturnum illud, are to be found in the different levels of authority that are all derived from the authority of the one God.

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The Josias Podcast

The Josias has started a podcast, in which I and two other Josias writers talk about ethics and politics and Catholic social teaching. In the first episode we discuss the common good— what it is, what it isn’t. The conversation touches on many things including the relation of practical and speculative virtue, Alexander the Great’s complaining of Aristotle’s publishing decisions, and an esoterically anti-Nazi book published by a German professor under the nose of the National Socialist censors.

Sancrucensis in the Catholic Herald and First Things

The cover story of this week’s Catholic Herald is something that I wrote on Angela Merkel and Pope Francis (but more the former). I briefly refer to the  influence of Jacques Maritain on post-war, European, Christian democracy. For a fuller account of the shift in Catholic politics that Maritain and others helped bring about I recommend a paper by Tom Pink, and Alan Fimister’s book.

I also have a book-review in the current issue of First Things of A.W. Jones’s brilliant Before Church and State. I mean to write more on Jones in future— right now I am working on something on his interpretation of St. Thomas’s account of law in the Summa.

When Josef Pieper Asked Carl Schmitt About the Common Good.

On the very first evening I asked him why, in his book on “the concept of the political” he had not written a syllable about the bonum commune, since the whole meaning of politics surely lay in the realization of the common good. He retorted sharply: “Anyone who speaks of the bonum commune is intent on deception.” Of course it was no answer; but it had the effect of initially disarming his opponent. (From Josef Pieper’s autobiography, via Incudi Reddere)

Ralliement! Ralliement! Ralliement! 

Over at The Josias, we have just posted a thought-provoking essay on Leo XIII policy of ralliement and its implications for our situation today by Felix de St. Vincent. Yesterday, Patrick Smith had posted a reflection on the same topic at Semiduplex, with some interesting quotes from Leo XIII’s letter Notre consolation, in which Pope Leo defended the policy against its critics. (Notre consolation has yet to be translated into English; we hope to offer a translation at The Josias soon). On Wednesday I had myself offered a reflection on ralliement in the form of an introduction to Pope Benedict XV’s letter Celeberrima evenisse. Continue reading

Online Reading Group: Before Church and State

I have been reading— almost devouring— Andrew Willard Jones’s new book new book, Before Church and State: A Study of Social Order in the Sacramental Kingdom of St. Louis IX.  Having been thinking about the relation of temporal and spiritual power for a long time now, I have found it highly illuminating, and therefore also highly exhilarating and exciting. Jones describes is own exhilaration on discovering John Milbank’s Theology and Social Theory, and Before Church and State has had a similar effect on me.  Wanting to go through it again more slowly, I have decided to start an online reading group, with some friends from The Josias, and anyone else who would like to join us. We will go through the book slowly, one chapter a week. The discussion of the introduction will start on Thursday, June 1st. To sign up, fill out the following form:

The Spirit of Burke

In a post on Brexit I had asked the following rhetorical question: “Can much of the spirit of either Burke or Cobbett be found anywhere in practical politics today?” As far as the spirit of Cobbett goes, the question remains rhetorical. But Theresa May’s new Conservative Manifesto has more of the spirit of Burke than one would expect from a successor of Margaret Thatcher. For instance: Continue reading

Maria Theresia

The Studentenverbindung in Heiligenkreuz recently organized a guided tour of the exhibition marking the 300 birthday of the Empress Maria Theresia in the State Hall of the Austrian National Library. Photos of the tour by our Consenior can be found on the Facebook page of the Verbindung. The tour guide was the delightfully amusing and informative Albert Pethö, editor of the Viennese monarchist newspaper Die Weiße Rose Continue reading

Meador, Feil, and Smith on Integralism and Dyarchy

In an intelligent piece on six different Christian responses to political liberalism, Jake Meador,  the energetic editor of Mere Orthodoxyvice-president of The Davenant Trustproper football blogger, and old-fashioned Magisterial Protestant, gives serious attention to Catholic Integralism. He also features Catholic Integralism in an amusing quiz: What Political Theology Are You?

It pleases me that the term “Integralism” has caught on a little in the blogosphere in recent years. The term had fallen somewhat out of use after Vatican II in languages other than French, but its German equivalent was used in an essay of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s, from which David Schindler adopted the English form for his classification of different Catholic responses to political liberalism in Heart of the World, Center of the Church. Balthasar and Schindler had used the term in a pejorative sense, but I adopted it with commendatory sense first in an obituary on Ronald McArthur and then in a long essay in defense of the idea. I have unfolded the idea of Catholic Integralism further with other writers over at The Josias.

One reason that serious, Magisterial Protestants like Meador are glad to see work being done on Catholic Integralism is that they agree with much of the Integralist critique of liberalism. But another reason, I think, is that Protestant political theology was largely developed in polemical Abgrenzung to the Catholic Integralist tradition. Thus, having Catholic Integralist to whom they can point helps them expound their own position.

Predictably, Meador agrees with one of the standard objections that has always been brought against Integralism. Namely, that it does not preserve the distinction between spiritual and temporal power; that it does not render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Integralism, so the objection has gone for centuries, pays lip-service to the dyarchy of powers, but really it is monarchical, striving for a universal monarchy of the Pope over all other powers. JA Feil at The Josias and P.J. Smith at Semiduplex have both posted responses to Meador, defending Integralism against that objection. They both argue that Integralism does really preserve the distinction of the two powers. The temporal end is indeed subordinate to the spiritual end, but the Integralist tradition, even in its strongest formulation by Pope Boniface VIII, never took this to mean that the temporal power is subordinate to the spiritual power the way a lesser officer is subordinate to the general in an army. There is nothing that a lesser officer does that is outside the authority of the general. But Integralists have always accepted the teaching that by the will of Christ, the spiritual power only judges the temporal when the temporal acts directly contrary to the supernatural end. They have always upheld Pope Gelasius’s teaching in Tractate IV that the reason for this limitation is that Christ wanted to give a remedy to human pride:

For Christ, mindful of human frailty, regulated with an excellent disposition what pertained to the salvation of his people. Thus he distinguished between the offices of both powers according to their own proper activities and separate dignities, wanting his people to be saved by healthful humility and not carried away again by human pride, so that Christian emperors would need priests for attaining eternal life, and priests would avail themselves of imperial regulations in the conduct of temporal affairs. In this fashion spiritual activity would be set apart from worldly encroachments and the ‘soldier of God’ (2 Tim 2:4) would not be involved in secular affairs, while on the other hand he who was involved in secular affairs would not seem to preside over divine matters. Thus the humility of each order would be preserved, neither being exalted by the subservience of the other, and each profession would be especially fitted for its appropriate functions.

The actual application of this teaching was the cause of a great deal of tension in the Middle Ages, and in part the Reformation was born out of the desire of doing away with that tension. And what was the result of the Reformation? It was thought by some that a more perfect independence of Christian magistrates would actually make Europe more Christian.  But the “human pride” of the Protestant magistrates, unchecked by a superordinate spiritual power, had free reign. At first many of them tried to promote spiritual ends. But eventually, contrary to their intention, those magistrates (and their Catholic imitators) contributed to the rise of the secular culture of the modern West that only recognizes temporal ends.