The Catholic Church, that imperishable handiwork of our all-merciful God, has for her immediate and natural purpose the saving of souls and securing our happiness in heaven. Yet, in regard to things temporal, she is the source of benefits as manifold and great as if the chief end of her existence were to ensure the prospering of our earthly life. And, indeed, wherever the Church has set her foot she has straightway changed the face of things, and has attempered the moral tone of the people with a new civilization and with virtues before unknown. All nations which have yielded to her sway have become eminent by their gentleness, their sense of justice, and the glory of their high deeds.

– Leo XIII

Once upon a time I was reading a book about the English Civil War* and I came across the soldier’s prayer offered by Jacob Astley at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642 “O Lord, Thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget Thee, do not forget me.” I thought this rather splendid and I read it out to a rather saintly individual who was on the other side of the room at the time. To my surprise she thought it a very wicked prayer. I know the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, but we do cease and it seems reasonable to ask God that He not forget us when we do. Of St Dominic it is said he only ever spoke to God or of God, but he is a very great saint. My interlocutor is not a native English speaker so perhaps she gave ‘forget’ a stronger sense than one normally would. But then the psalmist does exclaim “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten.” The repetition of the key word  is uncomfortable in this context. Perhaps there is something inherently Protestant in Astley’s prayer, an implication that – human nature being entirely depraved – temporal activity is irreducibly secular. Perhaps, if there is not a holy joy in battle one ought not to be engaged in that battle.

As if in answer to Astley the preacher says, indeed “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” This is a worrying thought. One is reminded of the strange phenomenon whereby Christian civilisation in itself prevails over its rivals in the temporal sphere, but those whose good fortune it is to live within it and yet who do not believe, prosper temporally more than those who do believe because they pursue temporal glory with more singleness of mind. As Our Lord puts it “the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” Yet the Saviour also promises “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” It is venial sin that convinces us of a conflict between the temporal and the spiritual. The Kingdom of God is without frontier, it demands the whole person and every recess of our intellectual, moral, social and political existence must be subjected to it. As the Apostle teaches,

Many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself.

The ‘other things’ that come with the kingdom are not outwith its sovereignty and scope. They are entrusted to the laity not given over to be trampled upon by the gentiles. The religious show the way, the clergy maintain the crossing, but the laity must hold the bridge. As Blessed John Henry Newman insists,

…it is only in proportion as things that be are brought into this kingdom, and made subservient to it; it is only as kings and princes, nobles and rulers, men of business and men of letters, the craftsman, and the trader, and the labourer, humble themselves to Christ’s Church, and (in the language of the prophet Isaiah) ‘bow down to her with their faces toward the earth, and lick up the dust of her feet,’ that the world becomes living and spiritual, and a fit object of love and a resting-place to the Christian.

If our task is fitting then remembrance of the Lord should enflame us and spur us not distract us.

And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: Looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God.

* Aka the British Civil War or the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

And there were concerns about violence before…

Part 1 is here.

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Part 1 is here.

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The Texas Attorney General has issued an opinion supporting officials who refuse to grant marriage licences to same-sex couples in defiance of the SCOTUS ruling. See here.

Having been an independent republic prior to entering the USA, Texas flies its state flag at the same hight as the US national flag. Its current (1876) constitution, which vests sovereignty in the population, reserves to them the right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient. When asked about secession in 2009 the then governor of Texas replied “Texas is a unique place. When we came in the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that. You know, my hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention. We’ve got a great union. There is absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may come out of that?”

Texas is the only US state that maintains its own gold reserves (5,600 gold bars worth around $650 million kept in a vault in Manhattan). Texas has now decreed that all its gold must be brought inside its own borders. See here and here.

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CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF TEXAS.

Humbly invoking the blessing of Almighty God, the people of the State of Texas do ordain and establish this Constitution.

ARTICLE I.

That the general, great and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and established, we declare:

§1. Texas is a free and independent State, subject only to the Constitution of the United States; and the maintenance of our free institutions and the perpetuity of the Union depend upon the preservation of the right of local self-government unimpaired to all the States.

2. All political power is inherent in the people and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit. The faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient.

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According to wikipedia, as of 6th July 2015, the following Texas counties are not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples: Anderson, Austin, Bailey, Baylor, Bowie, Brown, Burleson, Calhoun, Cass, Castro, Cherokee, Cochran, Collingsworth, Coke, Coleman, Comance, Concho, Cooke, Cottle, Crane, Crockett, Dallam, Dawson, Delta, Dimmit, Fannin, Fayette, Floyd, Freestone, Gaines, Garza, Gillespie, Glassock, Goliad, Gray, Grimes, Hamilton, Hardin, Henderson, Hill, Hockley, Howard, Hutchinson, Irion, Jack, Jackson, Jasper, Jeff Davis, Jim Wells, Karnes, Kendall, Kenedy, Kent, Kerr, Kimble, King, LaSalle, Leon, Lipscomb, Live Oak, Llano, Lubbock, Marion, Mason, Matagorda, Maverick, McCullough, Medina, Mills, Moore, Ochiltree, Palo Pinto, Parker, Pecos, Rains, Randall, Real, Refugio, Roberts, Runnels, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Shelby, Sherman, Somervell, Taylor, Terrell, Terry, Throckmorton, Tyler, Van Zandt, Walker, Waller, Washington, Wharton, Wilbarger, Wise, Zapata, and Zavala.

This comic was originally made for Berenike. It is a first attempt.

Dash it, Jim. I’m a doctor, not an artist.

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Reform in Our Time

The idea that Germany has been wearily but nobly ‘bailing out’ the feckless Greeks stubbornly refuses to go away. The Greeks, one must admit, have been feckless, but their real problem is not sloth but pride. They want to stay in the Euro from some misconceived notion of national prestige. They can’t pay their debts and the Euro is poisonous to them. They need to accept this and move on. Anyone urging them to do anything else has some other agenda and most certainly does not have Greek interests at heart. A currency is worth the value of the goods and services available within the jurisdiction issuing that currency divided by the number of units in circulation. If Germany had its own currency it would be worth vastly more than the Euro, if Greece had its own currency it would be worth vastly less. The consequence of their union is that, for anyone outside the Eurozone, Greek products are vastly more expensive than they should be and German products vastly cheaper. Greek misery weakens the Euro and stimulates German exports. This in turn stops the Euro falling too far and increases Greek misery, keeping the Euro down and helping the Germans further. No wonder the German government is keen to avoid Grexit. The weary but noble thrifty Germans pose is an act (although ordinary Germans doubles believe it). The Greeks needed to get out years and years ago. They obviously should never have gone in. Schadenfreude is nasty and pointless, this is very bad for Britain as well. Our main (albeit declining) export market (the Eurozone) is depressed and our competitor Germany is artificially stimulated at our expense. People forget we are still one of the world’s largest manufacturers. After the crash everyone was wisely taking about strengthening British manufacturing exports and rebalancing the economy. One of the key reasons why this has not happened is the dreadful situation in the Eurozone, a situation we subsidise. The one advantage for Britain of this nightmare for Greece is that it might cause Germany to decide it needs a new EU treaty which could give us the opportunity to obtain the kind of semi-detached status in the EU we need. On the other hand, it is not at all clear that Cameron is the man to win this. So he he might obtain far less than he could and than Britain needs from a new treaty and then use the botched deal to lend plausibility to his ‘Yes’ campaign in 2016/17. In that scenario, from a selfish perspective, the more chaos the better. That way it will be harder for the FCO, the BBC and CBI to con the British people into voting to stay in.

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In his 1888 Encyclical Libertas Leo XIII proposes the Italian civic republics of the Middle Ages as models of the Church’s zeal for civil liberty.

Neither does the Church condemn those who, if it can be done without violation of justice, wish to make their country independent of any foreign or despotic power. Nor does she blame those who wish to assign to the State the power of self-government, and to its citizens the greatest possible measure of prosperity. The Church has always most faithfully fostered civil liberty, and this was seen especially in Italy, in the municipal prosperity, and wealth, and glory which were obtained at a time when the salutary power of the Church has spread, without opposition, to all parts of the State.

Not only did these glorious republics arise in the benign conditions fostered by the Church, they were also the direct product of the Church’s own divinely established character. Even so hostile a witness as Edward Gibbon was forced to concede that when the Roman Republic’s ideals and legal infrastructure lay in ruins they lived on in the Church their youth renewed like the eagle’s.

The freedom of elections subsisted long after the legal establishment of Christianity, and the subjects of Rome enjoyed in the church the privilege which they had lost in the republic, of choosing the magistrates whom they were bound to obey. As soon as a bishop had closed his eyes, the metropolitan issued a commission to one of his suffragans to administer the vacant see, and prepare, within a limited time, the future election. The right of voting was vested in the inferior clergy, who were best qualified to judge of the merit of the candidates; in the senators or nobles of the city, all those who were distinguished by their rank or property; and finally in the whole body of the people, who on the appointed day flocked in multitudes from the most remote parts of the diocese … it was everywhere admitted, as a fundamental maxim of religious policy, that no bishop could be imposed on an orthodox church without the consent of its members. The emperors, as the guardians of the public peace, and as the first citizens of Rome and Constantinople, might effectually declare their wishes in the choice of a primate; but those absolute monarchs respected the freedom of ecclesiastical elections, and, while they distributed and resumed the honours of the state and army, they allowed eighteen hundred perpetual magistrates to receive their important offices from the free suffrages of the people.

The Fathers did not accept that a bishop could be legitimately imposed upon a diocese without the consent of the faithful. “He who rules over all must be chosen by all” as St Leo the Great declared. Lactantius, the tutor of Constantine, protested at the end of his Divine Institutes that he who cooperated in the assumption of royal airs by the Emperors was a traitor to Christ. “For whosoever shall cast away the conduct becoming a man, and, following present things, shall prostrate himself upon the ground, will be punished as a deserter from his Lord, his commander, and his Father”. St Gregory the Great (vainly) reminded a later Emperor in Byzantium that “the kings of the nations are the masters of slaves but the Emperor of the Republic is the lord of free men”. In De Libero Arbitrio St Augustine confirmed that a virtuous people should elect their own rulers from among their own number.

When all the institutions of the Roman state had fallen into ruin and the rule of law scarcely existed in the West, the Bishop alone remained of the ancient offices of a free people. The markets which preserved the existence of the Italian towns were also the piazze where the people gathered to elect their shepherd. There the citizens of the Italian towns would gather to make other determinations concerning their common life and defence, until eventually they created permanent institutions: a council and consuls and other officers of the republic. In the clarity afforded by the Gregorian reform movement the frontiers of temporal and spiritual jurisdiction were slowly delineated by the bishop and his people. The republics fought to forge a new dominion over the territory of their diocese. Eventually, piece by piece, this development of public law was confirmed by the western emperors seeking safe passage to Rome for their coronation by the Pope or the Imperial rights were bartered away in vain attempt to set one commune against another and reassert imperial authority over Italy. The baptistry established in a place of honour in the centre of the piazza, symbol of the equality of the faithful in Christ, became the shrine of the republic and its banners were lodged within.

Pope Benedict taught that every Catholic insofar as he is a Catholic is a Roman citizen. Not just the spiritual power but the temporal also is within the the Church and within her power. Surely the Roman people have the right to be ruled according to their own laws and liberties. The name of king is hateful to the Roman people. As the admiring ambassadors of Judas Maccabaeus reported, “none of all these wore a crown, or was clothed in purple, to be magnified thereby … they made themselves a senate house, and consulted daily three hundred and twenty men, that sat in council always for the people, that they might do the things that were right.” In the beginning it was for natural reasons that they put not their trust in princes in mortal men in whom there is no hope. When the people of Israel sought from their judge Samuel a king like the other nations, God told Samuel,

Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to thee. For they have not rejected thee, but me, that I should not reign over them. According to all their works, they have done from the day that I brought them out of Egypt until this day: as they have forsaken me, and served strange gods, so do they also unto thee.

Now we have a perfect King, the Son of God and son of David, Who reigns over us from heaven. As of old, so also today, there is a certain idolatry in seeking an earthly king. As St Thomas teaches,

Since society must have the same end as the individual man, it is not the ultimate end of an assembled multitude to live virtuously, but through virtuous living to attain to the possession of God. If this end could be attained by the power of human nature, then the duty of a king would have to include the direction of men to it. We are supposing, of course, that he is called king to whom the supreme power of governing in human affairs is entrusted. Now the higher the end to which a government is ordained, the loftier that government is. Indeed, we always find that the one to whom it pertains to achieve the final end commands those who execute the things that are ordained to that end. For example, the captain, whose business it is to regulate navigation, tells the shipbuilder what kind of ship he must construct to be suitable for navigation; and the ruler of a city, who makes use of arms, tells the blacksmith what kind of arms to make. But because a man does not attain his end, which is the possession of God, by human power but by divine according to the words of the Apostle (Rom 6:23): “By the grace of God life everlasting”—therefore the task of leading him to that last end does not pertain to human but to divine government. Consequently, government of this kind pertains to that king who is not only a man, but also God, namely, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who by making men sons of God brought them to the glory of Heaven.

As, after Christ, it is the monk and the presbyter (rather than the abbot or the bishop) who are most naturally called prophet and priest, so it is the pater familias not the temporal ruler who after Christ is most properly called king. “On that day the LORD will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, going before them.” As it was the religious orders (Cluny, Cîteaux and the Order of Preachers) who devised the mechanisms by which the freedoms of the ancient world might be transposed onto vaster geographical expanses bearing fruit at last in the Engish Parliament, it is fitting that every day at Lauds the monk should sing:

The high praise of God shall be in their mouth: and two-edged swords in their hands:
To execute vengeance upon the nations, chastisements among the people:
To bind their kings with fetters, and their nobles with manacles of iron.
To execute upon them the judgment that is written: this glory is to all his saints. Alleluia.

  

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