You might, if you pleased, have profited of our example, and have given to your recovered freedom a correspondent dignity. Your privileges, though discontinued, were not lost to memory. Your constitution, it is true, whilst you were out of possession, suffered waste and dilapidation; but you possessed in some parts the walls, and, in all, the foundations, of a noble and venerable castle. You might have repaired those walls; you might have built on those old foundations. Your constitution was suspended before it was perfected; but you had the elements of a constitution very nearly as good as could be wished. In your old states you possessed that variety of parts corresponding with the various descriptions of which your community was happily composed; you had all that combination, and all that opposition of interests, you had that action and counteraction, which, in the natural and in the political world, from the reciprocal struggle of discordant powers, draws out the harmony of the universe. These opposed and conflicting interests, which you considered as so great a blemish in your old and in our present constitution, interpose a salutary check to all precipitate resolutions. They render deliberation a matter not of choice, but of necessity; they make all change a subject of compromise, which naturally begets moderation; they produce temperaments preventing the sore evil of harsh, crude, unqualified reformations; and rendering all the headlong exertions of arbitrary power, in the few or in the many for ever impracticable. Through that diversity of members and interests, general liberty had as many securities as there were separate views in the several orders; whilst by pressing down the whole by the weight of a real monarchy, the separate parts would have been prevented from warping, and starting from their allotted places.
You had all these advantages in your ancient states; but you chose to act as if you had never been moulded into civil society, and had everything to begin anew. You began ill, because you began by despising everything that belonged to you. You set up your trade without a capital. If the last generations of your country appeared without much lustre in your eyes, you might have passed them by, and derived your claims from a more early race of ancestors. Under a pious predilection for those ancestors, your imaginations would have realized in them a standard of virtue and wisdom, beyond the vulgar practice of the hour; and you would have risen with the example to whose imitation you aspired. Respecting your forefathers, you would have been taught to respect yourselves. You would not have chosen to consider the French as a people of yesterday, as a nation of low-born servile wretches until the emancipating year of 1789. In order to furnish, at the expense of your honour, an excuse to your apologists here for several enormities of yours, you would not have been content to be represented as a gang of Maroon slaves, suddenly broke loose from the house of bondage, and therefore to be pardoned for your abuse of the liberty to which you were not accustomed, and ill fitted. Would it not, my worthy friend, have been wiser to have you thought, what I, for one, always thought you, a generous and gallant nation, long misled to your disadvantage by your high and romantic sentiments of fidelity, honour, and loyalty; that events had been unfavourable to you, but that you were not enslaved through any illiberal or servile disposition; that in your most devoted submission, you were actuated by a principle of public spirit, and that it was your country you worshipped, in the person of your king? Had you made it to be understood, that in the delusion of this amiable error you had gone further than your wise ancestors; that you were resolved to resume your ancient privileges, whilst you preserved the spirit of your ancient and your recent loyalty and honour; or if, diffident of yourselves, and not clearly discerning the almost obliterated constitution of your ancestors, you had looked to your neighbours in this land, who had kept alive the ancient principles and models of the old common law of Europe meliorated and adapted to its present state-by following wise examples you would have given new examples of wisdom to the world. You would have rendered the cause of liberty venerable in the eyes of every worthy mind in every nation. You would have shamed despotism from the earth, by showing that freedom was not only reconcilable, but, as when well disciplined it is, auxiliary to law. You would have had an unoppressive but a productive revenue. You would have had a flourishing commerce to feed it. You would have had a free constitution; a potent monarchy; a disciplined army; a reformed and venerated clergy; a mitigated but spirited nobility, to lead your virtue, not to overlay it; you would have had a liberal order of commons, to emulate and to recruit that nobility; you would have had a protected, satisfied, laborious, and obedient people, taught to seek and to recognise the happiness that is to be found by virtue in all conditions; in which consists the true moral equality of mankind, and not in that monstrous fiction, which, by inspiring false ideas and vain expectations into men destined to travel in the obscure walk of laborious life, serves only to aggravate and embitter that real inequality, which it never can remove; and which the order of civil life establishes as much for the benefit of those whom it must leave in an humble state, as those whom it is able to exalt to a condition more splendid, but not more happy. You had a smooth and easy career of felicity and glory laid open to you, beyond anything recorded in the history of the world; but you have shown that difficulty is good for man
Compute your gains: see what is got by those extravagant and presumptuous speculations which have taught your leaders to despise all their predecessors, and all their contemporaries, and even to despise themselves, until the moment in which they became truly despicable. By following those false lights, France has bought undisguised calamities at a higher price than any nation has purchased the most unequivocal blessings! France has bought poverty by crime! France has not sacrificed her virtue to her interest, but she has abandoned her interest, that she might prostitute her virtue. All other nations have begun the fabric of a new government, or the reformation of an old, by establishing originally, or by enforcing with greater exactness, some rites or other of religion. All other people have laid the foundations of civil freedom in severer manners, and a system of a more austere and masculine morality. France, when she let loose the reins of regal authority, doubled the license of a ferocious dissoluteness in manners, and of an insolent irreligion in opinions and practices; and has extended through all ranks of life, as if she were communicating some privilege, or laying open some secluded benefit, all the unhappy corruptions that usually were the disease of wealth and power. This is one of the new principles of equality in France.
April 3, 2017
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January 19, 2017
The Ecumenical Councils of Trent and Vatican I and the Creed of Pius IV all require us to:
…accept the Holy Scripture according to that sense which holy mother the Church hath held, and doth hold, and to whom it belongeth to judge the true sense and interpretations of the Scriptures [and] never take and interpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.
If is often said that the Church has, in fact, only very rarely defined the precise meaning of a biblical passage. Whether or not that is true one clear instance of such a definition is the Bull Unam Sanctam which has very precise teaching concerning Luke 22:35-38 and John 18:11. In ordering the disciples to buy a sword if they had not one already, and in telling them that two swords are enough, and in ordering Peter to sheath his sword Our Lord laid out the precise nature of the jurisdiction of the sacramental hierarchy and the Supreme Pontiff over the temporal power.
Both the temporal and the spiritual power are intrinsic to the Church. The spiritual sword is to be exercised for the specific ends for which the Church was instituted and by the members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. In contrast, the temporal sword must be exercised by members of the Church but cannot be wielded by the members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy (although they may confiscate it if it is misused and assign it to another) because it is not a means by which the specific ends of the Church may be advanced.
What rarely seems to attract much notice is the reason Our Lord gave for this arrangement:
And he said to them: When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, did you want anything? But they said: Nothing. Then said he unto them: But now he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a scrip; and he that hath not, let him sell his coat, and buy a sword. For I say to you, that this that is written must yet be fulfilled in me: And with the wicked was he reckoned. For the things concerning me have an end. But they said: Lord, behold here are two swords. And he said to them, It is enough.
The apostles are told to obtain a sword because Christ will be treated as a criminal. As Our Lord also said at the Last Supper “the servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also.” The opposition between the Church and the world is such that the Apostles (and their successors) need to have the protection of force in order to function. Yet, a short time later when Peter uses his sword to try to defend the Lord he is rebuked. “Put up thy sword into thy scabbard”. The Apostles have two swords but they are permitted to wield only one. The word of God is in the power of the clergy the state is to be in the power of the laity.
How does this fit with the prohibition on coercive conversion? The temporal sword of Christendom is essentially defensive. It is not ‘for’ the Church as Boniface VIII insists, it is wielded ‘by’ the Church (the lay faithful). The essential purposes of the Church cannot be advanced by violence but the non-ordained members of the Church can use the temporal sword to defend the Church from external persecution. Once the state is no longer in the hands of the Church this is not possible. So long as the state is non-Christian the Church’s business lies in buying the sword (bringing the temporal order by consent into the possession of the Church). Once it is purchased the sword may be drawn – but only by the laity – to stave off temporal impediments to the operation of the spiritual sword. We do not live by the sword. The life of Christendom is established and maintained by the peaceful spreading of the Gospel. However, once that life has reached the highest temporal level of social organisation the temporal sword can and should be drawn in its defence.
As St Cyril of Alexandria teaches:
He says sell his cloak, and buy a sword: for henceforth the question with all those who continue in the land will not be whether they possess anything or not, but whether they can exist and preserve their lives. For war shall befall them with such unendurable impetuosity, that nothing shall be able to stand against it.
At the beginning of the Song of Roland Charlemagne (in deference to his council) seeks to negotiate a temporal peace with Islam. He seeks to keep his cloak instead of buying a sword. He forgets the truth that he remembers later in the midst of battle with the Emir of Babylon: “Never to Paynims may I show love or peace.” The Lord tells us “the things concerning me have an end” there is no new revelation to dispense us from the unremitting opposition of the world. As Leo XIII teaches “Christians are born for combat”. The faithful must sell their cloaks and buy a sword because the state cannot simply be left in the hands of the pagans if the Church is to survive. This is why the Song ends with a weary Emperor roused from his bed by St Gabriel to carry on the war. He sought not first the Kingdom of God and His justice and so earthly peace is taken from him until he learns his lesson.
April 17, 2016
August 23, 2015
Is the United Kingdom a legitimate state? I should argue that it is not, since 17th July 2013. This was the day when the queen gave royal assent to the ‘Same-Sex Marriage Bill’. This act of parliament is in fact, even if not in the explicit intention of all the legislators, a rejection of the very notion of marriage and therefore of the family. They have denied not just a property of marriage, as happened with the introduction of divorce, but the very essence of marriage. They have replaced marriage by something else which is not marriage – since it can be entered into by two people of the same sex – while keeping the name of marriage. It is exactly as if the local council were to send round a man with a bull-dozer to knock down your house and replace it with a full-size cardboard model of a house, and then tell you that it was the same thing.
They have rejected marriage. In rejecting marriage they have also rejected the family, since the family is marriage with its fruitfulness.
But “the family is the original cell (cellula) of social life” (CCC 2207). I take this to mean that according to natural law, the family is both anterior in its rights to society and the place in which a child is trained to live in society.
So those who claim power over the land mass of Great Britain and northern Ireland have rejected the very institution in which the State is rooted and by which it endures. It is as if a bishop were to deny the existence of baptism; or as if a doctor were to deny that nature and art have any power to heal; or as if a professor were to deny that the young can learn or remember truth. Or since by ancient metaphor we speak of the ship of State, it as if a pilot were to deny that men can build a craft able to carry them over the waves.
What should we naturally say in such cases? I think we should say, not that the bishop was necessarily deposed from his see, the professor from his chair, or the doctor or pilot from their guild; this would seem to be the task of some higher authority to accomplish; but rather, that they no longer had the right actually to govern those hitherto subject to their authority. The bishop who denied baptism would have no right to move his presbyters from place to place; the doctor who denied that sickness can be healed would have no right to order his apprentices to serve him; the professor would have no right to be listened to with attention while he lectured; the pilot could no longer legitimately command his crew. For after the depositions had duly taken place, no one would blame the priests, apprentices, students and sailors for ignoring the bidding of their former superiors.
Likewise those who deny the family, and enforce this denial by the policeman and the gaol, have no right to govern any men and women among whom they live. Elizabeth II may still be the queen, David Cameron her prime minister, and members of parliament still members of parliament (for the pope has not deposed them) but they have no right to legislate or govern. That is what I mean by saying that the United Kingdom has not been a legitimate state for two years, one month and six days.
June 17, 2015
The former Labour Education Secretary Charles Clarke has called on the government to legislate to have the state determine the religious content of all teaching in all schools in Britain whether private or state, denominational or not. I heard him propose this on the Today Programme a few days ago. He sounded oh so reasonable and the sweeping and draconian nature of his proposals was glossed over by both ‘statesman’ and interviewer. It is not surprising that Mr Clarke should seek to wipe out Christian education as he has already advocated the airbrushing of Christendom from the minds of the nation’s students. This is the man who said the concept of education for its own sake is “a bit dodgy” and that Mediaeval history should not be funded in universities. The university exists, his then official spokesman explained, “to enable the British economy and society to deal with the challenges posed by the increasingly rapid process of global change.” It is interesting that it was Mediaeval history that particularly revolted Mr Clarke. In this week when we are supposed to be remembering the liberties established by our mediaeval Catholic forebears it is fitting that this particularly banal representative of modernity should manifest the contempt in which freedom is ultimately held by him and his kind. The thirteenth century, the apogee of Christendom is the century that gave us universal isonomia – liberty under the rule of law. It is particularly interesting that the parliamentary system of government, which inherited the liberties of Runnymede is a transposition of the Constitutions of the Order of Preachers. It is often forgotten that the First English Parliament of 1258 was summoned by Simon de Montfort who knew St Dominic personally and met in Blackfriars Oxford. The author of parliamentary democracy is thus also the apostle of the Rosary and the founder of the Holy Inquisition. Stephen Cardinal Langton Archbishop of Canterbury and probably the author of the Magna Carta (who imposed obedience to the Charter upon all Englishmen under pain of excommunication in 1225) is also responsible for the chapter divisions in the Bible, the elevation of the Host and Chalice at Mass and the Golden Sequence. No wonder an atheist like Clarke doesn’t want us studying Mediaeval history. Were we not ignorant of our history we might chose to repeat it.