It is not self-evident that political parties are a good thing.  The ancient Greeks would, I think, have called them ‘factions’, and considered it self-evident that they were a bad thing: a cause of disunity for the city, and therefore of instability and weakness.

Let us consider the possibilities.  Two parties must either differ or not differ on what are called matters of principle.  Now, if they do not differ on principles, but only about minor or passing matters, for example, about what the national anthem should be, or whether a minimum price should be assigned to bread this year, or whether we should enter a temporary trading or military alliance with another state, this does not seem sufficient to justify the establishment of separate parties.  A party is a stable body, established for an indefinite future, and so cannot be based on an agreement about something transient; it is a body which claims to hold opinions that peculiarly fit it for office, and so it cannot be united by agreement on something minor.

Therefore, they differ in their principles.  This must be either because their principles are incompatible, or else simply because they pertain to different areas of life.  If the principles of the two parties are not incompatible, but simply pertain to different areas of life, then there is as such no reason why they should be two parties and not one.

If the principles of the two parties are incompatible, then these principles must be either eternal truths, for example, on whether natural law is the basis of positive law, or what the contents of natural law are, or whether it is per se desirable that all citizens have some share in the governance of the state; or else they may be principles which go to constitute this polity, for example, whether such-and-such a dynasty should reign, or whether one region of the country should become independent, or how the principal offices are to be assigned. 

If they differ about eternal truths, then at least one of the parties has false principles: and since to possess and seek to propagate false principles is a bad thing, it would be to that extent good for this party not to exist.

If they differ not about eternal truths but about great and abiding matters of state then it seems that the Greeks were right, and parties are a cause of grave disunity.  If the Blues are loyal to the reigning dynasty, while the Greens look to the prince over the water, how does that not harm the commonweal? 

If political parties have nevertheless come to be seen as a normal part of life in a free, democratic and law-governed state, this is, I presume, due to the fact that in the 19th century, the two-party system in Great Britain allowed the country to make changes peacefully which elsewhere were effected through revolutions and civil war: the widening of the franchise and the partial secularisation of society.  The existence of one party committed more to a general ideal of ‘stability’ rather than to any very definite theory of society, and of another party committed to the goals just mentioned, meant that these goals could be obtained slowly and securely.  Trollope in one of his novels has a character (was it Plantagenet Pallister, the young Whig Duke of Omnium?), sketch just such a theory of British political life.  Both through its empire and through the bloody counter-examples of its neighbours, the British two-party system came to seem like a model to be followed.

It may seem that one role for political parties remains: keeping watch over the competence and probity of the executive.  This role is suggested by the title of “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition”, given to the largest party in the Westminster Parliament which is not in office.  This function is essential, yet apparently it does not require a separate party; indeed, insofar as a separate party possesses different principles from that to which the ministers belong, it will desire the ministers to be incompetent, rather than competent, in applying them.  There seems no reason why select committees appointed by the sovereign should not fulfil this task.


Remember, O Lord, our most devout and faithful Emperor Charles, whom you have set to rule on the earth. Crown him with a weapon of truth, a weapon of good will; let your shadow fall upon his head in the day of war; strengthen his arm, exalt his right-hand, establish his empire; subdue beneath him all barbarous nations that desire to make war; grant him deep and enduring peace; speak good things to his heart for your Church and for all your people; so that by his tranquility we may lead quiet and peaceful lives, in all piety and purity.

He seeks always to abase the powerful in order to secure his own position; he kills or causes misfortunes to befall those most distinguished for their possessions or nobility or intellect or other virtues; the wise he considers without reputation and makes mock of them to destroy their fame so that they will not be followed. He wants to have the citizens for his servants, not his partners; he prohibits them from convening and gathering together so that they will not make alliance together for fear that they might plot against him […]

He has the friendship of lords and great foreign dignitaries because he considers his own citizens to be his adversaries and is always afraid of them; therefore, he seeks to fortify himself against them by means of these foreigners. He wants his own government to be behind the scenes, seeming outwardly not to govern at all and making his accomplices say that he does not want to alter the city’s government but to preserve it; therefore, he seeks to be trusted as the protector of the common good and shows mercy in small matters, sometimes giving audience to boys and girls or to poor people […]

He raises up evil men who would be punished by justice without his protection so that in defending him they defend themselves, but if perchance he should elevate some good and wise man, he does so to show the people that he is a lover of virtue; nonetheless, he always keeps an eye on such good and wise men and does not place any trust in them but handles them in such a way that they cannot do him any harm. […]

All good laws he cunningly seeks to corrupt because they are contrary to his unjust government, and he constantly makes new laws to suit his own aims. In every office and magistracy within the city as well as without, he has someone who watches and reports to him everything that is said and done, and who, on his own part, gives direction to certain officials as to how they are to act; thus he is the refuge of all evildoers and the exterminator of the just. Above all else he is vindictive […]

To uphold his reputation he rarely gives audiences, and many times he attends to his own pleasures and makes the citizens stand outside waiting for him, and when he does come, he gives them short shrift and ambiguous responses. He want to be understood by gestures, because it seems that he is ashamed to want and to ask for things which are evil in and of themselves or to reject the good, and so he speaks in clipped phrases which have the appearance of good, but he wants their underlying meaning to be understood […]

He tolerates sodomy (Savonarola, ‘Treatise on the Rule and Government of the City of Florence’, II.2)


“[T]he principle of the separation of the State and Church … is equivalent to the separation of human legislation from Christian and divine legislation. We do not care to interrupt Ourselves here in order to demonstrate the absurdity of such a separation; each one will understand for himself. As soon as the State refuses to give to God what belongs to God, by a necessary consequence it refuses to give to citizens that to which, as men, they have a right; as, whether agreeable or not to accept, it cannot be denied that man’s rights spring from his duty toward God. Whence if follows that the State, by missing in this connection the principal object of its institution, finally becomes false to itself by denying that which is the reason of its own existence. These superior truths are so clearly proclaimed by the voice of even natural reason, that they force themselves upon all who are not blinded by the violence of passion; therefore Catholics cannot be too careful in defending themselves against such a separation.”

– Leo XIII, Au Milieu Des Sollicitudes (1892)

The recent furore over the Polish supreme court brought to mind the general question of  Denazification. One of the justifications offered by PiS  for the clean-out of the court is the fact that this process was not properly undertaken in the early nineteen nineties. If a general restoration were to occur in a given country what measures would be necessary? It seems essential (and many people privately agree) that on the Nuremberg principle abortionists should be prosecuted and, where appropriate, given the death sentence for their crimes. This would not exclude the possibility of commutations or pardons for those who have renounced ‘choice’ in favour of life. What is less often observed is that those who have advocated abortion need to be disqualified from holding public office and the advocacy of abortion, euthanasia etc. in future must be prosecuted as incitement to murder. The procuring of an abortion by a mother cannot coherently not be recognised as a criminal offence but given the social pressures and evidential difficulties this should not (unlike the surgical act itself) be prosecuted retrospectively. Those who have performed ‘sex-change’ operations should be prosecuted even retrospectively for GBH.

When therefore the choice of the chief priest is taken in hand, let him be preferred before all whom the unanimous consent of clergy and people demands, but if the votes chance to be divided between two persons, the judgment of the metropolitan should prefer him who is supported by the preponderance of votes and merits: only let no one be ordained against the express wishes of the place: lest a city should either despise or hate a bishop whom they did not choose, and lamentably fall away from religion because they have not been allowed to have whom they wished.

  1. Catholicism alone shall be recognised as the true religion and putative laws solemnly condemned by spiritual power shall be ipso facto suspended and putative laws solemnly condemned by the highest authority in the Church ipso facto declared null and void. Citizenship shall be dependent upon baptism and the rights of citizenship upon communion with the Roman Pontiff.
  2. False monotheistic cult by the non-baptised shall be tolerated in private insofar as it does not in the abstract conflict with the natural law and in public insofar as it does not conflict with the common good.
  3. All Sundays and holy days of obligation shall be public holidays and commercial activity forbidden. The sale of meat on days of abstinence shall be forbidden.
  4. The civil courts shall have no direct jurisdiction over minors who are subject to the jurisdiction of their families unless those families forfeit that jurisdiction through actions intrinsically incompatible with the good of the child.
  5. No person shall be deprived of his life by public or private action from conception until natural death unless pursuant to a sentence of death pronounced after a criminal trial upon the verdict of a jury of his peers for crime which threatens the maintenance of the rule of law. All other homicide shall be punished by law under the severest penalties.
  6. No true marriage may be dissolved by any human power. The civil power has no jurisdiction over the marriage bond which is exclusively subject to the jurisdiction of the spiritual power. Unnatural unions shall be punishable by criminal law.
  7. The lending of money at interest to individuals with unlimited recourse shall be punishable by criminal law. Only the income and not the assets of the citizenry may be taxed. Inheritance may not be taxed.
  8. The propagation of false accounts of Christian doctrine (as identified by the spiritual power) shall be forbidden and punishable by law. The testimony of persons refusing to take oaths in the name of God shall not be heard. The propagation of atheism or polytheism shall be forbidden and punishable by law.
  9. All forms of pornography shall be forbidden and punishable by law.
  10. Commercial advertisements outside of commercial premises in which the goods advertised are sold shall be forbidden and punishable by law.

augustus-pontifex-maximus“‘Upon the heads of the Beast are names of blasphemy’ for the ungodly say that their kings are gods after they are dead, and so to speak translated into heaven amongst the other gods, and even on earth they are called ‘Augustii’, which is a name of godhead, or so they hold.”

(Translated by Richmond Lattimore)

Why are we all assembled and waiting in the market place?

It is the barbarians; they will be here today.

Why is there nothing being done in the senate house?

Why are the senators in session but are not passing laws?

Because the barbarians are coming today.

Why should the senators make laws any more?

The barbarians will make the laws when they get here.

Why has our emperor got up so early

and sits there at the biggest gate of the city

high on his throne, in state, and with his crown on?

Because the barbarians are coming today

and the emperor is waiting to receive them

and their general. And he has even made ready

a parchment to present them, and thereon

he has written many names and many titles.

Why have our two consuls and our praetors

Come out today in their red embroidered togas?

Why have they put on their bracelets with all those amethysts

and rings shining with the glitter of emeralds?

Why will they carry their precious staves today

which are decorated with figures of gold and silver?

Because the barbarians are coming today

And things like that impress the barbarians.

Why do our good orators not put in any appearance

and make public speeches, and do what they generally do?

Because the barbarians are coming today

and they get bored with eloquent public speeches.

Why is everybody beginning to be so uneasy?

Why so disordered? (See how grave all the faces have

become!) Why do the streets and the squares empty so quickly,

and they are all anxiously going home to their houses?

Because it is night, and the barbarians have not got here,

and some people have come in from the frontier

and say that there aren’t any more barbarians.

What are we going to do now without the barbarians?

In a way, those people were a solution.

Next Page »