Molina on Civil and Ecclesiastical Power

The term “integralist” was originally applied to Catholic anti-liberal and anti-modernist movements in the 19th and early 20th centuries— such as Ramón Nocedal’s party in Spain, and the Sodalitium Pianum, based in Rome. One of the main goals of such movements was to defend traditional Catholic political teaching against liberalism. Liberals have ever pretended (even to themselves) to separate politics with concern for the end of human life, hence their demand for the so-called “separation of Church and state.” In practice, however, they have ever ordered politics to the false and individualistic conception of the human good implicit in liberalism itself. Hence integralists were always particularly opposed to the liberal demand for the separation of Church and state. Integralist movements took various contingent positions on indifferent matters, on which Catholics are free to disagree with them. But on the central points of Catholic political teaching they were merely defending the perennial and infallible teaching of the Church.

It is this essence of the integralist programs that we defend at The Josias. What we mean by integralism is merely this: Political action is naturally and inevitably directed towards what we take to be good for human beings, and ought therefore to be directed towards the true human good, which is a common good. But the common good of human life is twofold: a temporal common good proportioned to human nature, and the eternal common good proportioned to the divine nature in which human beings participate by grace. Hence there are two authorities directing human beings towards these two common goods: a temporal authority and a spiritual authority. The former is subordinate to the later, just as the temporal common good is subordinate to the spiritual common good. On account of the danger of human pride, it is necessary that these two kinds of authority be placed in the hands of different persons—temporal authority in lay hands, and spiritual authority in the hands of bishops.

Integralism in this basic sense has always been taught by the greatest theologians of the Church— from St. Augustine to St. Bernard to St. Thomas. Apart from a few regalist special pleaders it was universally held by the scholastic theologians. In later scholasticism it was held not only by Thomists such as Cajetan, but also by opponents of Thomism. This is shown by the following translation of a passage from the De iustitia et iure of Luis de Molina, S.J. (1535-1600). Molina was the great opponent of Thomists in the controversies on grace and predestination. “I am convinced,” wrote Charles De Koninck, “that in philosophy the most extreme limits of opposition have been reached by Thomism and Molinism.” And yet, so basic to Catholic tradition is the integralist thesis that on this even Thomists and Molinists agree. — The Editors

Translated by Timothy Wilson

Luis de Molina, S.J.
De iustitia et iure, tract. II, disp. xxi
What power is, and regarding the civil and ecclesiastical power

Having explained dominion in general, in order that we might descend to the parts subject to it, it is necessary that we begin from the dominion of jurisdiction—as much because it is more noble, as because knowledge of it conduces to a better understanding of the titles of the dominion of property. It is also the case, that explicating it is a less involved task than that of explaining the dominion of property. But because the dominion of jurisdiction is a certain kind of power, we shall have to begin from the explication of power.

As regards the present design, therefore: power, according to Vitoria in Relectio de potestate Ecclesiæ, q. 1, at the beginning, and Navarrus, c. Novit. de iudiciis, nota. 3. corol. 16. in accordance with St. Thomas in 4. d. 24. q. 1 art. 1. quæstiunc. 2 ad 3, is the faculty of one having authority and eminence over others for their rule and government. This is consonant with Paul, Rom 13, Let every soul be subject to higher powers. In this place, rulers, who have the faculty and authority for the governance of others and thus have superiority and eminence over them in this respect, are called powers, the name of the abstract thing being transferred to signify the suppositum in which that faculty is found, but so that the suppositum is endowed with that faculty. The power, therefore, of which we speak, is only in those who have intellect and free will for ruling and governing others, and thus, amongst all corporeal things, it is in men alone.

Power is twofold, namely, Lay, and Ecclesiastical. Here it should be noted, that albeit man were not fitted for a supernatural end, to be achieved through supernatural means, but only for a natural end, yet still this twofold power could be distinguished. Though both would be natural, and could be more easily conjoined in one and the same supreme chief and head, from whom power—which would be ecclesiastical in its own mode—could be derived from him to others. This is explained thus: albeit man had been made for a natural end only, still, men would recognize that there is one first principle, supremely good, from whom they have received and await their being and other goods, and hence is worthy of being shown obedience and honor. For this reason, just as those gathered to establish one Republic would be able to choose a common ruler, who would restrain them in peace and justice, and defend them, and procure their common temporal good: thus they could also choose another who would preside for the purpose of showing worship and due service to God, and who would be, in that function, superior to the secular ruler. They could also choose at will one common ruler, who would be supreme in both functions, and who either would exercise both kinds of regime by himself, or, if one were insufficient for both, or could be exercised less fittingly by the same, for that different mores and demeanor seem to befit each function; he would substitute for himself another to carry out the functions of the other, who would do so through the power received from him. Wherefore history shows, that sometimes, amongst the gentiles there were priests and ministers of idols, distinct from kings and secular princes, and meanwhile the supreme priesthood was conjoined with the royal office. Even today amongst the Japanese, and other unbelievers, the priests are distinct from the secular princes, whether these depend upon, are promoted by, or deposed by them, or not, according to the custom of the diverse regions. And in a similar way, resting upon only the natural light and end of men, they could be instituted for the worship of the true God, as Vitoria rightly notes, De potestate Ecclesiæ relectio 1, q. 3, n. 3, and relectio 2, q. 1, n. 2.

But now, since man is made for a supernatural end to be attained through supernatural means, the ecclesiastical power is distinguished from the lay power. The lay power, of itself, is established to govern in a manner suitable to the natural end to which it is ordained by its nature. But the ecclesiastical power is instituted to govern in a manner suitable to the supernatural end, namely, by inducing to means accommodated to the supernatural end. In this way it happens, that these two powers are distinguished on the part of diverse ends subordinated one to the other: in a way similar to that by which the equestrian art is distinguished from the art of bridle-making: and this kind of distinction is a familiar one amongst the practical skills. Wherefore, just as it is for the equestrian art to command the bridle-making art, in order that the latter apply its work in a manner suitable to the superior end of the former: so also is it the concern of the ecclesiastical power to command the lay power, in order that the latter administer suitably to the supernatural end of the former, to which end the natural end of the lay power is ordered.[1] But since the nobility and eminence of any faculty is to be considered most of all from its object and end, the nobility and eminence of the ecclesiastical power above the lay power will have to be judged according to the degree that the supernatural end exceeds the natural, and the soul’s spiritual salvation does the temporal interests, and the peaceful and tranquil state of this life.

But now, since in the state of innocency every one would be conceived in grace, and hence would be born furnished with the principles sufficient to obtain by himself the fact of the supernatural end, and would easily be instructed in those things in which he would need to be instructed, and would not require coercion for it: certainly in that state, both powers, namely the ecclesiastical and the lay, would be without coercive force, the superiors directing the inferiors to their ends, as we have shown in our commentary on the Prima pars, in the treatise De opere sex dierum: and it would be expedient for both to be conjoined in the same suppositum, and, granting that supernatural state, neither in this sense would be supernatural, inasmuch as men, directed by the natural light and the illumination of faith, would not be able to set up both by themselves. But since men of that state were composed of body and soul, they would have worshiped God, not otherwise than as we do, not only with an internal but also an external and corporeal worship, and their worship would be uniform, as Vitoria rightly teaches in the cited relectio, q. 4, n. 1.

With nature having been damaged by sin, and grace having been lost, both powers have coercive force, their subjects requiring coercion in order that they might be led by direction to their ends. But it is necessary to distinguish three times, or three states, of the universal Church: namely, of the law of nature, of the written law, and of the law of grace. And indeed, in the law of nature, the faith and supernatural knowledge then necessary for salvation having been granted, and likewise the remedy instituted for that state against the sin of origin, which was of positive divine law, since the men of that state were held only to the natural law, they would have been able to institute by themselves both civil and ecclesiastical power, by which they would be directed to the natural and supernatural end. And they would have been able either to divide them, so that the one would be in one suppositum, and the other in another: or to conjoin them in one and the same suppositum. In this way was Melchisedech at once king of Salem, and priest of God the most high, as is read in Heb 7 and Gen 14. Many weighty authors think, that the firstborn in the law of nature, especially after the flood, were priests; and that Melchisedech was Sem, the firstborn of Noah. And this is the right, which Esau, as the firstborn, sold to Jacob: for which reason Paul calls him profane, in Heb 12. Vitoria, in Relectio 1 de potestate Ecclesiæ, q. 4, n. 2 and 3, and Relectio 2, q.1, n. 2, justly says, that ecclesiastical power was in the law of nature immediately after sin. Indeed I should add, that in order to institute it, in the form it then had, the natural and supernatural knowledge which remained in Adam from the state of innocency was sufficient, being joined with the knowledge of the Fall, and of the promise of a redeemer immediately made to him, and the knowledge of original sin, and of the remedy against it which God revealed to him. Yet I do not think, that there was anything of positive divine law, other than the application of the remedy against original sin, or any ecclesiastical power, or any other sort of oblation or sacrifice instituted by God by divine positive law: but the mode of ecclesiastical power and divine worship was left to men themselves, that they would institute it: and it was instituted in great part by Adam, and by Noah after the flood, who both lived for a long time, and were much illuminated by God.

At the time of the written law, when God chose a people peculiar to himself, from which would be born a redeemer, and in which he would foretell and presignify, what things were to come in the law of grace, inasmuch as in this way they would be rendered more credible, and would prepare a way for the coming of his only-begotten son, he himself instituted the ecclesiastical power, namely, the high priesthood of the Synagogue, and the other grades and ministries of that power, and the sacrifices, rites, and worship by which he would worshiped, all of which were of positive divine law. And he willed the whole ecclesiastical power to be the tribe of Levi only. All these things are plain from the sacred scriptures. Yet that power was not supernatural such as would obtain a supernatural effect, in the way that the ecclesiastical power of the law of grace instrumentally obtains the supernatural effects of the remission of sins, the granting of grace, the confection of the Eucharist, etc. Although in the old law there was the sacrament of circumcision, at whose presence grace was conferred, just as it was also conferred in the law of nature at the presence of the remedy against original sin. Because, therefore, that power obtained no supernatural effect, as Vitoria says, Relectio 1 de potestate Ecclesiæ, q. 3, n. 6, and certain others, that whole power could have been instituted by human law: although men would not have known to institute all those things so that they would be symbols of things to come in the law of grace, nor would they have known to adapt them to the ends to which they were instituted by God in that manner.

That power could have been conjoined in the same suppositum with lay and civil power. No indeed, in very fact it was conjoined in Moses, who both administered the Commonwealth in temporal things, and was a priest, and offered sacrifices, according to Psalm 98:  Moses and Aaron among his priests. It was also conjoined in Samuel, who was a priest, and governed the Commonwealth in spiritual and temporal things, as is clear from 1 Kings. Likewise afterward in the Maccabees, who were high priests, and had supreme care of the Commonwealth in temporal things, as is manifest from the books of the Maccabees. But in the time of the kings, the ecclesiastical power was disjoined from the civil and temporal: for, according to the prescript of the law, the high priest, and other priests could not be otherwise than from the tribe of Levi: but the kings were of the tribe of Benjamin, and of the tribe of Juda. Whence it was that Saul, in 1 Kings 13, offering holocausts and peace offerings, so displeased God, that his degradation from the kingdom drew its origin from that act, as is clear from the words of Samuel: Thou hast done foolishly, and hast not kept the commandments of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee. And if thou hadst not done thus, the Lord would now have established thy kingdom over Israel for ever: but thy kingdom shall not come. The Lord hath sought him a man, etc. And Ozias, in 2 Para 26, was stricken a leper, because by burning incense, he had wished to usurp the office of the priests.

But now, the ecclesiastical power, which in the time of the law of grace is in the Christian Church, since it is wholly supernatural for the most part, inasmuch as it obtains the supernatural effects of the remission of sins, the granting of grace, the confection of the Eucharist, the creating of priests, and the conferring to these of power for doing those things, the granting of indulgences, by which sins are remitted as regards punishment, excommunication, and other similar things; indeed, of itself and on the whole, it could take its origin neither from the State, nor from human or natural law, but only from positive divine law. In truth, this power was, and is, in Christ as man, according to excellence, and not at all bound to the sacraments. For to him was given all power in heaven and on earth, as it is said in Matt 27, and he was appointed by God the Father as high priest, head, and king of the Church, according to Psalm 2: But I am appointed king by him over Sion, his holy mountain, that is the Church, preaching his commandment. And Heb 2: So Christ did not glorify himself, that he might be made a high priest, but he that said unto him, Thou art my son, this day I have begotton thee: as he saith in another place: Thou art a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedech, and in ch. 7: For the others indeed were made priests without an oath: but this with an oath, by him that said unto him: The Lord hath sworn and he will not repent: Thou art a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedech. Finally, the reason for that letter which Paul wrote to the Hebrews, is to show the excellence of the priesthood of Christ in the new law according to the order of Melchisedech, over the priesthood of the old law according to the order of Aaron: which has been set aside, and has ceased to be, by the priesthood and death of Christ. Now this power Christ left in the Church, yet bound by the sacraments, and by certain sure laws. But he left it, not to all of the Church, but to Peter his vicar, and the rest of the successors of Peter, as to the head in place of himself, upon whom the whole depends. For in Matt 16, to Peter especially he promised the keys of the kingdom of heaven, which keys imply this power. Likewise he promised in the same place that he would found his Church upon Peter, as upon the head and vicar in place of himself, against which Church the gates of the underworld would not prevail: which he fulfilled after the resurrection, John 21. He left it also to the other Apostles, and to the Bishops their successors, to whom he also promised the power of the keys in Matt 18, though he conferred it partly at the time of the Last Supper, and partly after the resurrection. And he instituted seventy-two disciples as their ministers and helpers, to whose place the parish priests succeed, and the other priests, inferior to the Bishops, who have a certain part of this supernatural power. And thus it happens, that just as Christ did not have ecclesiastical power from the Church, according to John 15: You have not chosen me: but I have chosen you; rather, he had it from the Father: thus also the power which today is in the Church, as much in the Supreme Pontiff as in the Bishops and inferior priests, is not from the Church, but committed by Christ to Peter, to the Apostles, and to the other disciples, and their successors: although Christ committed the future elections by which this power is applied to the Church, and to the ordinance of the Supreme Pontiffs, as has been explained broadly in the discussion on faith.

It is not our design in this place to dispute on the ecclesiastical power in itself, and the comparison of its acts and effects, since we have said many things commenting upon IIaIIæ, q. 1, a. 10,[2] especially regarding that power which resides in the Supreme Pontiff, and upon which the rest depends. The other disputations concerning the ecclesiastical power are concerned with the matter of the sacraments, and other places. What we intend in this place is nothing else, than to distinguish the ecclesiastical power from the lay, and to compare the one, as it resides in the Supreme Pontiff, with the lay power as regards the dominion of jurisdiction, concerning which we now treat.

Regarding the present matter, therefore, in the first place we have it, that the power of the Christian Church which resides in the Supreme Pontiff as in the head of the Church, is distinct from the lay and civil power of secular princes: which Gelasius affirms, capit. Duo sunt, dist. 96, saying: Two there are, emperor, by which this world is principally ruled. Which is confirmed with many things by Soto, In IV Sent., dist. 25, q. 2, a. 1, concl. 1; Vitoria, Relectio 1 de potestate Ecclesiæ, q. 1, from n. 3; Durandus, De origine iurisdictionum, q. 2; John of Paris, De potestate regia et papali, from c. 2; Castro, De potestate legis poenalis, c. 1; Navarrus, on the cap. Novit de iudiciis, from coroll. 16, n. 80, and others: but we have touched upon the chief resources in what has been said thus far.

We have it, then, that the same power of the Supreme Pontiff differs from the power of secular princes subject to him. First, on the part of the end: for the former regards the supernatural end, and the means proportionate to that end; while the latter is concerned with the natural end, and the means accommodated to it. For this reason, since the natural end is ordered to the supernatural end, and since a faculty which concerns a superior end ought to command and order the faculty which concerns an inferior and subordinate end; it happens, that it is for the Supreme Pontiff to command and order the secular princes subject to him (that is, those who are within the bosom of the Church) so that they accommodate themselves to the supernatural end, when they deviate from it in their government. It differs secondly, because the power of the Supreme Pontiff is supernatural, extending itself to supernatural effects: while the power of secular princes is merely natural. Thirdly, because the power of the Supreme Pontiff is instituted, not by the Church, but by Christ in the Church; although its application to this or that person depends upon the election of the Church: for which reason it is of positive divine law. However, the lay power of secular princes is of human law, instituted by the Commonwealth, and committed to the prince, as shall be manifest in the following disputation. It differs fourthly, in that the power of the Supreme Pontiff is one throughout the whole world: while the power of secular princes, unless there be many who, by right of war, or legitimate succession, or the consensus of the commonwealths themselves, have one common ruler, is multiplied according to the diversity of commonwealths choosing for themselves a prince. For as Christ is the single head of the whole universal Church: thus it is fitting, and expedient, that there be appointed a single Supreme Pontiff, whom Christ left on earth as head and his vicar. Moreover, since the faith is one, admitting no variety, it was most expedient, with the multiplication of things to be believed, that a single head be established, which would settle controversies which have arisen concerning the faith, from a chair having for this purpose the infallible assistance of the Holy Spirit, so that the unity of faith and the Church, and peace among the faithful would be better preserved. And this is the reason why when, in the state of the law of nature, when only a very few things were proposed to man to be believed explicitly, one high priest was not established, who would preside over the Church; yet in the Synagogue, and much more in the Church of Christ, with the things to be believed explicitly having increased, one high priest was established, to whom the others would be subject, and would be bound to obey. Finally, it differs in that, although the power of the Supreme Pontiff was instituted posterior in time to the royal power, yet as Gelasius relates from Ambrose, in c. Duo sunt, dist. 96, the former exceeds the latter in nobility as much as gold does lead. Innocent III, cap. Solitæ, de maior. et obedientia, compares these two powers to those two great lights placed in the firmament of heaven: and he says that the power of the Supreme Pontiff is the greater light, which presides over the day of spiritual things: while the power of the Emperor is the lesser light, which presides over the night of temporal things. Nor is it only from the excellence of the end, common to the Ecclesiastical power in the time of the law of nature and of the written law, that the excellence of the Supreme Pontiff’s power over the royal and imperial power is to be considered, but also from the nobility and excellence of the means which it uses for that end, and of the supernatural effects which it obtains. Concerning this matter, see Vitoria, Relectio 1 de potestate Ecclesiæ, q. 3, at the beginning; Soto, In IV Sent., dist. 25, q. 2, a. 1, concl. 2; and John of Paris, c. 5.

[1] This particular similitude is somewhat common amongst the Scholastics of this time; but see the criticism which Bellarmine levels against it, in De Romano Pontifice, lib. V, c. vi. — Trans.

[2] Molina’s commentaries upon the Secunda Secundæ of St. Thomas remained in manuscript form until only very recently, when in the later part of the 20th century they were published in the Archivo teológico granadino; in particular, his commentary De fide (In IIamIIæ, qq. 1-16) was brought out by Eduardo Moore in 1976. Cf. Alonso-Lasheras, Luis de Molina’s De Iustitia et Iure: Justice as Virtue in an Economic Context, p. 14, fn. 14. — Trans.