09 November 2008

The State and the Kingship of Christ

For the first time in years a signifcant number of our Bishops have stood together and publicly proclaimed the moral teaching of the Church and its relevance in the recent elections. Although ignored by many Catholics who preferred the unjust moral equivalence of several law and other professors to the teaching authority of the Church's Bishops it was encouraging for many us to see them acting as true shephards. Many were criticized for becoming too involved in politics and violating a fictitious idea of the separation of Church and State. While certainly each operates in a distinct role it is wrong to deny the Church its legitmate place in preserving right order in society through its mission to preach the Gospel.

Thomas Storck wrote an article in The Catholic Faith originally published in 1996 and now available at The ChesterBelloc Mandate. Below is an excerpt of that article. It is a common error particularly among our Catholic politicians to deny the Kingship of Christ while elevating "The State" to His place.

This is the encyclical Quas Primas, on the Kingship of Christ, issued on December 11, 1925. To try to understand Catholic social teaching apart from the Kingship of Jesus Christ is to have only a partial and one-sided view of the matter. For "all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ." Moreover, "It would be a grave error...to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures commited to Him by the Father, all things are in His power."9 If we develop these points we can see that, looked at as part of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, nothing that mankind does, either individually or corporately, can be alien to Christ's law and his kingly rule.

Therefore the Church, as the mystical extension of the Incarnation, is not doing anything foreign to her mission when she provides guidance for bringing about the realization of Christ's Kingdom in the affairs of men. We are all Christ's subjects, and as such we are bound to make our institutions and our customs reflect him. Catholics should not dare to have a conception of business or economic life that is based either on practical atheism or on a deism that sees God as simply a distant Creator, who left a kind of clockwork universe that runs by itself, as in Adam Smith's "invisible hand." Just as we would not allow the sexual appetite to rule itself, on the grounds that since it was created by God somehow it would ultimately work everything out for the good, so we cannot allow the appetite for economic gain to have free rein.

For as Pius XI taught, "Just as the unity of human society cannot be built upon 'class' conflict, so the proper ordering of economic affairs cannot be left to the free play of rugged competition."10 For to do so would be to think and act as if, whenever men gathered into societies or groups, including nations, somehow they could forget the kingly law of Jesus Christ. If it is wrong to hurt the person living in the next house, it is likewise wrong to hurt my employee or even my competitor, for are we not brothers and are we not all subjects of our common King? And if we cannot see how it is possible not to hurt them in order for myself to survive in the business world, then we need to rethink our approach to economic life and change the demands that our economic system makes upon each of us. For more basic and more demanding than any of its strictures are the moral law and the fundamental principles of justice and charity.

The laws of physics describe how particles of matter move and react under certain conditions. Because these particles do not have free will, they have no choice about their behavior and they cannot be blamed for what they do. The so-called laws of economics, however, are about the actions of free human persons.11 Because of this freedom they can yield or refuse to yield to their various concupiscible appetites. The laws of economics are descriptions of what human beings will generally do if they yield themselves fully to their concupiscible appetite for gain. But whenever this appetite for gain runs counter to the law of Christ, it is entitled to no more respect than when the sexual appetite similarly runs out of bounds. And just as with the sexual appetite, we must curb our appetite for gain if our activity is likely to bring harm or disruption to a social order that supports a civilization of love.

If the Kingship of Christ Jesus over all men and over every aspect of human affairs is a fact, not merely a fancy which we use to decorate our piety at appropriate times, then this fact requires our utmost attention, and all the other activities and institutions of human existence must be shaped to recognize that Kingship. Thus we see that far from being something extra added onto Catholic dogma, the social teachings are integral parts of the realization of the Lordship of Jesus Christ the King. Every year we celebrate the feast of the Kingship of Christ and thus every year we have a new opportunity publicly to reaffirm these truths. But every single day we have the opportunity not just to reaffirm them, but to try to see how they can be put into practice. Otherwise, how can we avoid the condemnation of that Supreme Pontiff, who said of social modernism, "We condemn it as strongly as We do dogmatic Modernism?"

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