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Domingo de Soto (1494—1560) was a prominent Dominican of the 16th century in Spain. One of the foremost Thomist philosophers and theologians of his time, he occupied a chair of theology at the famous University of Salamanca from 1532 to 1545, and then held the principal chair of theology there from 1552 to 1556. In 1545 he was selected by Emperor Charles V as imperial theologian to the Council of Trent, where he labored much in the drawing up of decrees and in answering the principal heresies of that age. He is perhaps best known for his treatise De natura et gratia in three books, which he composed during the Council of Trent and in which he expounded the Thomist doctrine regarding original sin and grace; but he left a great many other able works, including the large and worthy treatise De iustitia et iure in ten books, commentaries upon several of the works of Aristotle, a commentary upon St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, and two volumes of commentary upon the fourth book of Peter Lombard’s Liber Sententiarum. The translation presented here is from this latter work.

Translated by Timothy Wilson

Domingo de Soto, In IV Sent., dist. 25, q. 2, a. 1


On the Ecclesiastical power, and the exemption of clerics.


Whether the ecclesiastical power is supreme in such wise, that the civil power depends upon it, as its delegate.

We have considered it worthwhile to treat, at the end of this matter of orders, the question of the Ecclesiastical power in respect of the civil, divided into two articles.

The first of which is, whether the Ecclesiastical power is supreme, in such a way, that the civil power depends upon it as its delegate. It is argued from the affirmative part.

Christ instituted the Church as the best commonwealth: but the best commonwealth is that which, after the manner of a kingdom, is governed by one supreme head, as the Philosopher says in the Politics, lib. II: but there cannot be a supreme head in the Church, unless the civil power be wholly subject to the Ecclesiastical, so that the pope is the lord of all, as much temporal as spiritual. Otherwise there would be two heads, which the Philosopher condemns in the Metaphysics, lib. XII. And it is confirmed from Rom 12 and 1 Cor 12, where Paul says, that Christians are all one body consisting of diverse members: and there must be a single head of one body, lest it be monstrous. Jerome declares this with the example of bees, can. In apibus. 7. q. 1.

It is argued secondly. Christ left to his vicar that power which he himself had: but he, even insofar as he is man, not only was Lord of the kingdom of heaven in spiritual things, but also king of temporal things: for he says, in the final chapter of Matthew, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth: for which reason in Apoc 19 he is called the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Thirdly, it is gathered from Canon law, for in any cause whatsoever, one may appeal from any secular judge to the apostolic see, 11. q. 1. can. Quicumque litem, and the Pope can depose kings: for Pope Zachary deposed the king of the Franks as harmful to the kingdom, 15. q. 6. can. Alius, and Innocent deposed Frederick, dist. 96. can. Duo sunt.[1]

But to the contrary, there is the authority of Pope Pelagius[2] in the same cited can. Duo sunt, where he says: Two there are, emperor Augustus, by which this world is ruled, the sacred authority of the Pontiffs, and the royal power.

Concerning this dispute, as Turrecremata says in lib. 2. cap. 113, there are two diametrically opposed opinions, between which there is a middle opinion, which shall be established as the catholic. For there are those who, out of an enthusiasm and (as they think) a zeal for religion, attempt to extol the apostolic dignity, so that they think the Roman Pontiff to be the supreme judge as much in spiritual as in temporal matters, and thus it pertains to him to institute kings and secular princes, who thus are as his vicars delegate. Augustinus de Ancona partakes of this opinion in his Tractatus de potestate ecclesiastica, whom Sylvester followed, at Papa §2. Panormitanus is also a patron of this opinion, as well as many other jurists. Others, having sunken to the other extreme, withdraw from the Supreme Pontiff absolutely any temporal power; no indeed, in temporal matters they subject him entirely to the civil power, and permit no exemption of clerics to be of divine law. Concerning this latter heresy, we shall speak at greater length in the following article.

To the present question, therefore, a response is made in five conclusions. The first is: the ecclesiastical power and the civil are two and distinct. This assertion is from Pelagius in the cited can. Duo sunt. But because this matter touches upon divine law, it is to be gathered from the testimonies of sacred scripture. For, because (I plead your good indulgence) it has not been granted to the interpreters of the sacred Canons to treat of the divine and natural law with precision, it is no wonder that they prate idly in this present matter. For the sacred Canons which speak of this matter shall have to be elucidated through sacred scripture, from which they are collected. Thus the conclusion is proved: as the Philosopher says in Ethics, lib. II, potencies and arts differ through actions, and actions through the objects and ends whither the actions are directed: but in the mystical Christian body there are two ends, the one natural, whither civil administration tends, namely, the peace and tranquility of the republic: and the other supernatural, which is occupied in the divine consideration, which, as Paul says, neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard: therefore there are diverse powers for pursuing those ends. The reason is that of Hugo, part. 2 de sacramen., where he says, that since there are two lives, the one terrestrial and the other spiritual, in order that both be preserved in justice, and that utility prosper, there is necessary a twofold power for the conservation of justice: one, which presides over terrestrial things to govern the civil life, and the other, which presides over spiritual things to order the spiritual life. Now the same truth is proved, secondly. The ecclesiastical power is the faculty of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, as is clear from Matt 16 and 18, and likewise of the remission of sins, as is had in John 20, and moreover, the power of consecrating the true body and blood of Christ: but this faculty has not been conceded to the civil power: therefore there are two powers. Thirdly, because in order to move men to ends of this sort, there are diverse laws, namely, in respect of the temporal end there are laws entirely human and civil, but in respect of the supernatural end, the supernatural mandates of the sacraments are also used: likewise there are also diverse swords: namely, diverse punishments: for civil punishments are consummated in the death of the body, nor are they extended further: while the ecclesiastical power uses a sword moreover spiritual: namely, excommunication, and other censures. Fourthly, and finally: the spiritual power is referred proximately to souls, and it is incumbent upon it to examine and consider the divine laws, and is concerned with divine worship, and thus it institutes pontiffs and priests, which functions do not belong to kings, but the rights of emperors are to treat, to create praetors, and other magistrates: there are diverse hierarchies, therefore, and thus diverse powers; and moreover, not only in the Mosaic law but also in the law of nature, the priests were different than the other magistrates, and to them was entrusted the summit of religion and divine worship. For as we have demonstrated in dist. 1 q. 2, in every law there was always some supernatural and necessary revelation of faith, which pointed out the necessary worship of God. No indeed, even in the state of nature these two powers would have flourished, although in that case no sacraments would have been necessary. But it is not proper to this place to discuss this further.

But perhaps one might argue to the contrary. The end of the civil commonwealth is, as Aristotle says in the same place, to make the citizens good, and well-instructed: now none is good but he who would be a friend of God, which friendship suffices for eternal life: whence it is gathered, that civil laws suffice for the obtaining of eternal life. And it is confirmed from Matt 22, If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments, where he was speaking of the commandments of nature, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, etc., which if it be true, the end of the civil and ecclesiastical power is one, and not many, and thus there is but one power. But the heretics of this age gather, that the spiritual power, along with the civil, lies with Kings and the civil republic. This heresy, though it is the most recent of all, never heard of before our age, yet is the most pestilential.

It is responded, therefore, that although the commands of the natural and civil law be referred to the order of eternal felicity, still they are not sufficient for obtaining it: for where Aristotle says that it is the purpose of the ruler to make the citizens good, he spoke only of moral goodness, but the moral duties do not suffice for the friendship of God without infused charity, without which no man is either called or is good, nor any work good. For this reason, beyond the natural and civil law, there is required, in the first place, the special help of God, and the laws of the sacraments, which are supernatural: for unless a man be reborn of water and the holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God: and except you eat the flesh of the son of man, it is said, you shall not have life in you. This power, therefore, which Christ committed in the first place to his vicar and through him to the Church, is more exalted than the civil.

But if you should ask again, surely God could have comprehended both through a single power and a single head: namely, that the king (just as has been imagined recently amongst the English) would administer all things pertaining as much to divine worship as to the civil commonwealth, or that the Pope would do both alone? It is responded, that it is not our concern to dispute on the absolute power of God; yet because, as it says in Wis 7, [wisdom] ordereth all things sweetly, and it is the task of wisdom, as Aristotle says in the Metaphysics, to order and govern all things in an orderly and apposite manner according to their ends, it was not seemly to commit such diverse offices to one power alone, for the ecclesiastical and civil administrations are very much different: indeed, the one is administered by secular magistrates, who have wives and children: while the other is appropriate to none but men free from the burden of a wife: for as the Apostle says in 1 Cor 7, he who has a wife seeks how he may please her, and they who are without a wife, seek how they may please God. If, therefore, the same power were to lie with the same supreme governor, it would be impossible for everything not to be jumbled, and thus subject to many perils. For this reason it was necessary that diverse heads be determined for matters so diverse, and that the Church would be as a queen seated at the right hand of the ruler, clothed round about with variety, and that the mystical body of Christ be compacted from various members, as Paul says in 1 Cor 10.

The second conclusion. The spiritual power is more excellent than the civil. Their very names declare this conclusion, as Innocent says in the capit. Solitæ de maior. et obedien. The Pontiff in that place reprehends the Emperor of Constantinople, who, on account of the testimony in 1 Pet 2: Be ye subject therefore to every human creature for God’s sake: whether it be to the king as excelling; or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, etc., opined that the royal power was more excellent than all others. He reprehends him, I say, objecting that in that place the Apostle only signifies the excellence of Kings in temporal matters, in respect of dukes and others, who receive those offices from him. But nevertheless, the pontiff prevails in spiritual matters, which are as much worthier than temporal matters, as the soul surpasses the body. And so, just as the soul is that which vivifies the body, and the spirit is the commander of the body: so also the spiritual power ought to be preeminent over temporal things. To this he also joins another and most apt similitude, that God instituted the pontifical and regal authorities as two great lights, namely the Sun and the Moon, for just as the Sun presides over the day, so also the Pontiff over spiritual things: and just as the Moon presides over the night, so also the King over temporal things, which take the likeness of the night. Moreover, just as the Moon receives light from the Sun, so also does the civil power receive light from the spiritual: for the king ought so to rule and govern temporal matters, that they serve spiritual religion.

This is proved secondly from the end of both powers: for as the Philosopher says in the Ethics, lib. I, the order between ends is such as that between faculties and arts, which have them as their set ends. On account of this, the equestrian art is more excellent than the bridle-making art, and the nautical art more excellent than the art of making ships, because the ends of the former are superior to the ends of the latter: and thus the equestrian art commands to the bridle-making art how it ought to fabricate the bridle, and the nautical art to the ship-making art how it ought to make a ship: since therefore the end of the spiritual power is, as we have said, eternal beatitude, and the end of the secular power is the tranquil state of the republic, which is referred to that supernal beatitude, it happens that the ecclesiastical power is higher.

Furthermore, this is proved by the example of Paul in Heb 7, where he proves, that the priest Melchisedech was superior to the secular Abraham, because, as it is read in Gen 14, Melchisedech blessed Abraham, and (says Paul) without doubt he who blesses, is greater than he who is blessed.

The third conclusion. The excellence of the ecclesiastical power, in respect of the civil, is not of this sort, that the pope is the lord of the whole earth in temporal things. We do not speak of a particular kingdom, whether the Supreme Pontiff is truly the temporal King of those cities and provinces of which he holds supreme dominion in temporals, since in these he knows no superior on earth. So much do we not deny this, that we think it pertains to his defense and splendor. But we speak of the universal kingdom of the world, whether the whole world, or the Christian world. This conclusion follows from the first: for if the Pope were supreme lord of all things, there would not be two powers, but one: for then, just as all prelates are subject to the supreme pontiff, and dukes to the king, by the same reason and in the same manner, kings would be subject to the supreme Pontiff, and would depend upon him entirely in the same way: for this reason, just as the ecclesiastical power is one, and the whole civil power one, in like manner then the two would be simultaneously one.

So that this conclusion and those subsequent might be known through their first foundation, it should be noted, that Christ left no other power to his vicar, than that which he himself received insofar as he was man, and redeemer of the world: yet he took up no temporal kingdom, but that precise dominion of temporal things, which was necessary for the end of  redemption. I have said, insofar as he was man: for inasmuch as he was God, it is entirely acknowledged and accepted by all mortals, and not merely Christians, that he is by right of creation the absolute Lord and king of the world. For, as the Psalm has it, the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: and as it is read in Prov 8, by him kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things. For this reason, John Faber, who in his commentary upon c. de summa Trinitate attempts to show that Christ was a king because he was God, produces nothing of relevance. For we dispute of him insomuch as he was man. But insofar as he was man, he could indeed, if he had wished, have taken up even universal secular dominion of the world. And yet it is the case, as we have asserted, that he did not accept a dominion and kingdom of this sort, but only spiritual, and accepted of temporals only so much as was necessary for that spiritual dominion. For the spiritual kingdom is that which, as we have said above, has eternal life for its proximate end: and the temporal kingdom is that which is concerned with the peaceful status of the Republic. The conclusion is therefore proved, firstly. In the whole of the gospel, there occurs no mention of the temporal kingdom of Christ: it is therefore vain, lest I say temerarious, to assert it: for if a thing of such importance were true, the Evangelists never would have been silent upon it: but they pay heed only to the spiritual kingdom, which is called the kingdom of heaven. For this reason, the protheme of the preaching of John the precursor, and then of Christ, was, as in Matt 3, Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and Matt 5, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and many other things of that sort.

Secondly, it is confirmed by plain reason. Christ, who, since he was God, as David says, had no need of our goods, put on our humanity for that reason and end only, that he might bring about our redemption: for this reason, he preached the faith to us, and instituted laws, and created Apostles and Pontiffs, who would be our shepherds, that they might lead us to that beatitude: therefore, since Christ took up nothing superfluous, and the temporal power of a kingdom, so broadly and absolutely patent in secular kings, was not necessary to him for that end, the consequence is, that he by no means took it up.

But the patrons of the contrary opinion say, that Christ seized royal power of the whole world on account of his outstanding excellence and dignity. Yet reason stands to the contrary, because this pertained not at all to that same excellence of his. For, I ask, what increase of honor would accrue to Christ, since he was God per se, and, insofar as he was man, king also of the kingdom of heaven, if he had taken up temporal dominion and kingdoms, that is, their power? None, certainly. No indeed, how much more loftily is his majesty then commended, that, aside from that which was necessary for his office, he scorned the whole world: for he lived in poverty, and chose for Apostles men abject and humble, and ever preached against the glory and pomp of the world: poverty, and humility, and repudiation of the world he both taught and extolled with praise. Life of this sort, after the fall of Adam, is best, and suffers fewer perils. Whence Paul says, Phil 3, that he considers all these things as dung.

It is argued thirdly. Christ never discharged this office of royal power, no indeed, he always removed himself from the use of the same, which the partisans of the contrary opinion are unable to deny: for as he himself says, John 3: God sent not his son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by him. And when the adulterous woman was brought before him [in John 8], whose cause he would judge, he passed no sentence as judge, by which he would either condemn or absolve her, but he only explicated the natural and divine law, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And when the coin of the census was offered to him, he refused to judge whether or not the tax was due to Caesar, but left that to their judgment: only commending the natural and divine law, that if something be owed to Caesar, it be rendered to him, just as to God that which is his. And when others came to him, that he would sit as judge between them, he disparaged it as something lesser, saying, Who hath appointed me judge over you? Therefore, if he never discharged the office of King, it happens that he never took up such power: for that power is redundant and vain, which is never reduced to act. Sight or hearing accrue no dignity to man, except on account of their use. For this reason, if Christ was never to use that power, no dignity accrued to him from thence. Moreover, since power is made known through its acts, if the Gospel teaches us that he had neither the use nor the splendor of royal power, it is asserted without foundation that he took it up. For if he had taken it up on account of his dignity, he would have had to make it visible to men through its use. This was so far from his intent, that when the crowds set off to make him King, he withdrew himself from their attempt. A futile device, then, is that charming opinion of some, who say that in Christ there was royal power, but not its use.

Fourthly, it is also argued more evidently. Christ, as we are taught by the evangelical testimony, was naught but king of the Jews: but the king of the Jews was not to be a king of temporal goods, but of a spiritual and sempiternal inheritance: therefore he was not a king in temporals, as are secular kings. This is plainly confirmed from John 18, where, when Christ, who had been accused by them before Pilate of making himself a king, was asked by the governor whether he was a king, he asked him in turn whether he had said so from himself, or whether others had told it of him: as if to ask, of what kingdom he meant it: of that secular kingdom, by which the Romans and other nations rule, or another and higher? And when Pilate responded that he had said it not from himself, but from the relation of the Jewish nation: Christ, conceding that he is the king whom they awaited, adds, that his kingdom is not of this world, that is, of that sort which are temporal and perishable kingdoms. Hence the governor, not understanding that mystery, absolved him of the crime presented. And afterward, as if by a prophetic spirit, he affixed that epitaph to the Cross, Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.

And if we consult the ancient testimonies of the prophets, they plainly manifest this. For he himself says through the prophet, Psalm 2: But I am appointed king by him (namely, God) over Sion his holy mountain (namely, the Church), preaching his commandments. Behold, he established his kingdom in the preaching only of the faith of the celestial kingdom. This is consonant with Matt 28, where he says: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them, etc., where he affirms, that no other power was given him, than that which pertains to the celestial kingdom. And Jer 23: Behold the days come, saith the Lord, and I will raise up to David a just branch: and a king shall reign, and shall be wise…In those days shall Juda be saved, that is, there will only be a king in order to save Juda. And Isaias 9: He shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it…from henceforth and forever. Thus David speaks of his offspring, Psalm 144: Thy kingdom is a kingdom of all ages: because it is not brought to an end, as the secular kingdom is, through the elapsing of mortal life, but without interruption endures forever. But the Angel expounded this to Mary, saying: The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.

Some have imagined that he was a king by paternal right: for Joseph descended from David through Solomon, and the blessed Virgin through Mathan; but this is not pertinent. Firstly, because that kingdom was peculiar only to that province: but we speak of a universal kingdom of the whole world. Moreover, that temporal kingdom of David was entirely extinguished in Sedecias, as is written in 4 Kings 24, according to the prophecy of Jer 22. Wherefore Ambrose, in lib. 3 super Lucam says, that although Christ the king descended from Jechonias, to whom it was threatened by the prophet, that none of his offspring was to be king, yet (he says) there is no contradiction: because he did not rule with secular honor, nor sit in the seat of Jechonias, but in the seat of David. No indeed, although Jechonias had sat in the seat of David, yet not in the same seat as Christ: the latter had an eternal kingdom, which sort David himself did not have.

Finally, the same truth is confirmed by the testimony of all the holy fathers, for whom the thing was ever undoubted, that Christ took up no other kingdom, than the spiritual kingdom of heaven. Whence Augustine, lib. 83, q. 61, and wherever else he discusses this matter, says nothing but that Christ was our king, for that he gave to us an example of battling and conquering, by whose leadership we are liberated from Egypt, and brought into the heavenly Jerusalem, as into the land of promise.

But if someone should object to us blessed Thomas, in opusculum 20, lib. 3, cap. 13, where it appears to some that he taught the contrary opinion, it is responded, that it shall be clear to no one reading him attentively that he was of such an opinion. For there he establishes only that Christ was monarch of the whole universe, which he deduces from Psalm 8, Thou hast subjected all things under his feet, and from Malachi, From the rising of the sun to its setting, great is his name. Now these testimonies are understood only of his heavenly kingdom, in respect of which all things are subject to him. Which St. Thomas himself acknowledges, adding, that that dominion and kingdom of Christ is ordered to the salvation of the soul, and to spiritual goods, although it is not excluded from temporals insofar as they are ordered to spiritual things. He does not, therefore, affirm that he was a king in temporals except precisely in the order to spiritual things. And thus to be understood are his final words in II Sent.

But Burgensis, addit. 2 super Matt 1, contrives the contrary opinion, namely, that he was king in temporals, although he admits that it cannot at all be gathered from the testimonies of the prophets, who ascribe only an eternal kingdom to him. But he says, that because the Jews were anticipating him to be a temporal king also, God ordained, that Christ would have the same dignity. Now this conjecture is so tenuous, that it rather confirms our opinion. For that opinion of the Jews was false and erroneous: for aside from the testimonies cited, they had the clear witness of Zacharias, Behold thy king will come to thee, the just and savior: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, by whom they were taught that he would come without royal pomp. It was not fitting, therefore, that Christ take up a temporal kingdom on account of that error.

Let the good reader consult whether I have confirmed this foundation of truth with so many things. We now turn to the confirmation of the third conclusion. And indeed, should Christ have taken up a temporal kingdom: yet it would not immediately follow thence, that he committed an equal power to his vicar, for we could say that such pertained to his power of excellence, just as does his power to institute sacraments, and to confer grace without these, which function he did not commit to the Pope. But since neither did he take up royal power, it is most plain, that neither did he commit it to his vicar.

But furthermore, the same truth shines forth from what Christ says, Matt 20 and Luke 22, You know that the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that are the greater, exercise power upon them. It shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be the greater among you (namely, Peter, who was to be the head of the Church), let him be your minister. Even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many. Which place Bernard introduces, De consideratione lib. 2, and says: “For what else has the Apostle given to you? What I have, he says, I give thee. What is that? One thing I know, it is not gold or silver. Albeit you claim these things to yourself for any other reason: but not by Apostolical right; for he could not give to you that which he had not: that which he had, he gave, as I have said, the solicitude over the church[es].[3] Can it be that he says domination? Hear him. Neither as lording it over the clergy, he says, but being made a pattern of the flock. And lest you think this said in mere humility, and not truth also, it is the words of the Lord in the Gospel, The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that have power over them, are called beneficent: and he continues, But you not so. It is plain: mastery [dominatus] is forbidden to the Apostles. Go you therefore, venture to seize for yourself, being one who either lords it over the Apostolate, or an Apostle over the mastery. Plainly you are prohibited from one or the other. If you should wish to have both at once, you shall lose both. Do not think yourself excepted from the number of those of whom God speaks thus: They have reigned, but not by me; they have been princes, and I knew not. This is the apostolical pattern: mastery is forbidden, ministry is enjoined.” And below: “Go out into the field (the field is the world): go out not as a master, but as a servant.” Thus Bernard. With Bernard as interpreter, Christ could not have removed this temporal dominion from the apostles in a more splendid manner. Hence it is a fiction to say that the Pope has the power of this dominion without its use. For that a power is vain which cannot be reduced to act, is proven much more efficaciously of this, than of Christ.

Likewise. If he had such a power, the Pope would also be able to usurp the jurisdiction of Princes without injury, and to remove and institute Kings even outside of causes of faith: which the most holy pontiffs, whatever their flatterers should say, certainly have never dared to attempt. Indeed Innocent,[4] in the cited can. Duo sunt, recognized that the two powers of the emperor and the Pope are distinct. Nor does he attribute any power of the Pope over Kings other than that of a pastor, such that he can excommunicate them, and remove them by reason of the faith.[5] And the can. Si imperator says, that the Emperor has the privileges of his power, which he has obtained divinely for the sake of administering the public laws. And in the cap. Per venerabilem. qui filii sunt legitimi, he frankly says, that he does not have power in temporals over the King of France. And whatever others might dream up, he understood that of all Kings. And in can. Cum ad verum, Nicholas expressly says, that neither has the Emperor seized the rights of the pontificate, nor the pontiff the Imperial name: since the mediator of God and man Christ Jesus has divided the offices of both powers with their own proper acts and distinct dignities.

Moreover, these things are more clearly confirmed. The administrations of the ecclesiastical and the civil republic are so different, that the ecclesiastical is impeded most of all by secular business: for this reason all the canon laws admonish the clerical order, not to mix themselves up in secular affairs. Because of this, it was most just, that they be most removed from marriage: for as Paul says, they who have wives, seek how they may please the wife. Certainly for this reason, in the same can., Nicholas says that just as the Emperor ought not to mix himself up in divine affairs, so also the Pope, soldiering for God, ought not to entangle himself in secular business, lest he seem to preside, not over divine things, but secular.

But in order that these things might become even clearer, it is argued, again. Power, as much civil as ecclesiastical, is divinely instituted: for there is no power but from God, as the Apostle says in Rom 13: and those that are, are ordained of God: and therefore, he that resisteth the power whether civil or ecclesiastical, resisteth the ordinance of God. Yet God wisely has appointed these in different ways: for he has granted to each and every republic the civil power through the law of nature, of which he is the author, as we have demonstrated copiously in De iustitia et iure, lib. IV, q. 4. a. 1: for to each and every republic there pertains the governance of itself, as it belongs to all things to preserve themselves: namely, that they rule themselves either by the power of optimates, or of the people, or of a king: for which reason the people voluntarily transfer to the ruler all their authority and power, as is read in l. Quod principi de constitu. principum. ff. But Christ by himself conferred the ecclesiastical power to his vicar. The royal power, therefore, is derived from God through the republic: in which sense the text of Prov 8 is understood, Through me kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things: but the ecclesiastical and evangelical power was committed by Christ to Peter: therefore, the secular dominions of kingdoms were not simply committed either to Peter, or to his successors.

According to these it is then plainly argued. The law of faith does not destroy the law of nature, but perfects it: but kings ruled prior to the coming of Christ by the law of nature and the law of nations, which derive from the eternal law of God: whence it is read in Daniel 2, that the God of heaven gave to Nabuchodonosor power and a kingdom: and Christ responded to Pilate, Thou shouldst not have any power against me, unless it were it were given thee from above: therefore Christ did not change the kingdoms, whence the Apostle says in Romans 13, speaking universally of the potentates even of the infidels, Let every soul be subject to higher powers: to which he urges that tribute be paid. And in 1 Peter 2, Peter commands all Christians to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake, whether to the king, he says, as excelling. And after: Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward: whence it is gathered, that Christians ought to obey even infidel Kings, so long as they rule without peril to the faith and injury to the savior: much more freely, therefore, do the Kings of Christians enjoy their power by themselves independently from the Pope, so long as they inflict no injury upon the faith.

It is therefore an unvarnished invention, to constitute the Pope thus as the ordinary judge of temporal kingdoms, and of kings, just as he is the supreme judge of the things of the church, and its prelates, or as the secular king is the judge of his dukes, and counts, and other vassals. Hence not all jurists hold to that opinion. For Ioannes Andreæ, Hugo, and others think with us. Nor should have Sylvester adhered to the contrary opinion, since blessed Thomas (whose disciple he was), although he was a most studious defender of the Apostolic see, nowhere left such an opinion.

On that account, the aforementioned patrons of this opinion provide even less reason for its probability, saying that the donation made to Sylvester by Constantine (if such existed) or by king Philip, was not a donation, but a restitution. And vice versa, that Sylvester, for the good of peace, gave to Constantine the eastern empire. Likewise that the Pope, if he does not use the administration of temporal goods in the whole Christian world, does so not from a lack of power which he truly has, but for the sake of confirming tranquility and peace with his sons. No wonder, therefore, if others, being more sensible, reject these as trifling nonsense. For if he had simply and absolutely the right of all temporals, he could have the use thereof without injury, which none of them dares to assert.

The fourth conclusion. Not only is the Pope not the lord of temporal kingdoms, no indeed neither is he their superior such that he can institute kings: indeed, someone could perhaps say, that although he is not the lord simply speaking of temporal kingdoms, yet he can in an ordinary way institute kings everywhere, just as he institutes Bishops, although he is not the lord simply speaking of Episcopates, or just as a king institutes dukes and magnates, although he is not simply speaking the lord of their patrimonies: but this conclusion of ours asserts the contrary. Hence he cannot act as judge between kings in an ordinary way absent causes of faith, just as between ecclesiastical prelates, or between dukes. Unless perchance their quarrels incline to the detriment of the faith or of religion: for then he can very rightly do so, not only by way of fraternal correction, as Innocent says, cap. Novit. de iudic., but also with coercive judgement. This is gathered from what was said above: for either power is sufficient of itself, and divinely instituted in a different way, such that any king is, in temporals, made by his commonwealth the supreme judge in his own kingdom. Hence in the same cap. the same Pontiff protests that he does not involve himself in order to usurp the judgment of kings. And Alexander III, cap. Causam. in 2. qui filii sunt legitimi, declares that judgment regarding possessions pertains, not to the church, but to the king.

From these, finally, the consequence is, that though the king were to break out into tyranny: absent injury to the faith, it is incumbent upon, not the Pontiff, but the republic to expel him from the kingdom.

In sum, in the Pope there is no merely temporal power, as there is in kings, except in the lands secularly subjected to him. This is what Cajetan, that loyal defender of the apostolic See, asserted in his Apologia de potestate papæ, cap. 6. And the reason is, that temporal power of this sort is not merely necessary for the government of the church.

Yet for greater clarity and firmness regarding these things, a fifth and likewise catholic conclusion is given against the heresy of those who deny all temporal power to the Pontiff. Any civil power whatsoever, is so subject to the ecclesiastical in the order to spiritual things, that the Pope can, through his own spiritual power, as many times as regard for the faith and religion should require, not only act against kings by means of the buffets of ecclesiastical censures, and coerce them, but also deprive Christian Princes of their temporal goods, and even proceed to their deposition. I have said, through his own spiritual power: because the power of the Pontiff, insofar as he is Pontiff, is not merely temporal, but he uses the temporal as minister of the spiritual. But this conclusion is not the same as the second: the latter only asserted, that the ecclesiastical power is superior. Wherefore perhaps someone would merely conclude, that the secular Prince is bound to measure his laws and acts according to the spiritual end, and to obey the pontiff in spiritual censures. But this [fifth] conclusion asserts moreover, that the Pope can use temporal goods for his end and spiritual purposes, and can coerce Princes by temporal punishments. To elucidate this, it should be noted, that the ecclesiastical power is not only more excellent than the civil, for that its end, which is eternal beatitude, is more perfect and more exalted than civil felicity: but also for the reason that civil felicity is not sufficiently perfect in itself, and thus it is per se ordered and related to celestial beatitude. I wish to say, that there are not two commonwealths, entirely distinct and diverse, neither of which depends upon the other, of which sort are those of the French and the Spanish, or of which sort were the Roman and Athenian, for of these, although one were more excellent and more perfect than another, yet neither was bound to serve the other. I say that the spiritual and civil powers are not to be compared thus: but the civil, whatsoever it be, is referred to the spiritual, which is unique to all Christians, because human felicity is of itself ordered to the divine. They are not as two arts wholly different, namely, as ironworking and woodworking, but as armor-making is ordered to the military art, and ship-making is ordered to the art of navigating: the inferior of which is bound to make arms and ships in such a way, that they not deviate from the end of the superior art, and thus, as the Philosopher says in I Ethic., the superior artisan commands the inferior artisans how they ought to work, because he is the judge of the inferior arts. In like manner, the civil commonwealth is referred to the spiritual: for both are simultaneously bound together into one mystical body, which is composed of both, as Paul luculently declares in Romans 12 and 1 Cor 12; but now in one body, all the members ought to be referred to one head, but spiritual things are not ordered to temporal things, which latter are less perfect, therefore on the contrary, temporals ought to be subject to the judgment of spirituals. Whence the same Apostle, in 1 Cor 2, comparing the temporal faculty to the spiritual, says that the animal man perceiveth not these things which are of the Spirit of God, but the spiritual man judgeth all things, and he himself is judged of no man. Nor is this opposed by what we have said above: namely, that the king has supreme power in temporals, because it lies with [the temporal power] to be subordinate to the spiritual in such a way, that it must not deviate from it.

This foundation having been laid down, it is argued thus. For the due government and administration of the spiritual commonwealth, it is necessary that all secular power obey it: therefore, also necessary thereupon, in the spiritual ruler, is the faculty of using temporals, insofar as they are necessary for his end, and thus of coercing princes when it should be needed, even to the point of their deposition, as of members which are now putrid and pestiferous. Now Christ was not lacking in those things which were worthwhile to his church: therefore not only did he take up in himself this sort of temporal power related to the spiritual, but also thereafter committed it to his vicar.

It is argued secondly for the same truth. The chief Pontiff was constituted by Christ as the supreme and universal shepherd of the whole Christian flock: now it is the office of the shepherd to recall to the way errant sheep, of whatever order and dignity they be, and to compel them in any regard: therefore, through that pastoral power, he can use temporals when there is need for it. And Innocent equipped himself with this reason against the Emperor of Constantinople, in the cap. Solitæ de maior. & obedi. in order to coerce him. He says, “To Us in blessed Peter have the sheep of Christ been committed,” with no difference placed between these [sheep] and those: and excepting nothing, as Christ said to Peter, Whatsoever thou shalt bind, etc. And in the same sense must Pope Nicholas be understood, cap. Omnes. 22 distin. where he says, that Christ “committed to blessed Peter, the key-bearer of eternal life, at once the laws of earthly and celestial authority.” By the laws of earthly authority, he means the earthly power of temporal goods and princes, not absolutely, as the authors cited above falsely think, but in the order to spiritual things. And thus is the Gloss to be understood, so that it be in agreement with the truth which it thence collects, that the Pope has both swords: because he can depose kings, as in 15. q. 6. can. Alius, and 96 dist., can. Duo sunt.[6] And with the same moderation should the text of Boniface be taken, in Extravag. Unam sanctam, de maiorit. & obedien. where he says, that the two swords, namely, the spiritual and the temporal, are in the power of the Roman Pontiff. Although, when he ascribes this sense to that word of the apostles in Luke 22, Behold, here are two swords, he does not mean to make such a sense an article of faith: for perhaps there Christ, when he said, He that hath not, let him buy a sword, meant nothing other than the calamity which threatened them. Hence Peter, who, taking it to be about the material sword, cut off the ear of Malchus, was reprehended. Nevertheless, it is still rightly adapted to our proposal. For this reason, kingdoms have never been changed by the pontiff except by reason of the faith: for this reason Pope Stephen transferred the empire from the Greeks to the Germans, as is clear in cap. Venerabilem. de electione, and cap. Licet, de foro competenti. And Innocent IV prohibited to the King of Portugal the administration of the kingdom, as in cap. Grandi. de supplenda negligentia prælatorum libro sexto.

But it is necessary to explain the difference between this conclusion and the two prior ones by way of examples. For however much the king administers the government of the kingdom in other kinds of offenses outside of peril to the faith, nothing falls to the Pope, except by way of fraternal correction. But if, for example, the Christian King were to make laws to the detriment of the faith: namely, laws adverse to the sacraments, or to the Christian religion in any way, or if the Pope were to call a Council, which the King impeded wrongly and contrary to right, or if he were to furnish aid to heretics, and infidels opposing our faith, or to schismatics, or move any other sort of mischief against the Apostolic see or the Church, then the Pope would be able to act against him, not only with the spiritual sword, but with the temporal also.

But you might argue the contrary, firstly. Would it not be enough to hurl at them the fulminations of the spiritual sword, namely, of anathema and other censures? For [the Church] seems to have no other arms: for as Paul says in 1 Cor 10, The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but are spiritual. It is responded, that the church would not have been sufficiently provided for unless, when she is afflicted in her affairs by secular potentates, and spiritual arms do not suffice, she be able to compel them with the temporal sword also: because otherwise she would not have wholly coercive force, of the sort which is necessary for her.

But again, someone might ask, whether in events of this sort the Pope, omitting the spiritual sword, would be able to employ the temporal? For it seems that he could, because he has both equally. It is responded, that it neither befits him, nor is it licit, unless there were imminent peril, since the ordinary way of the Pontiff is the pastoral rod: while the secular sword is extraordinary. Now the ordinary way ought to precede, nor ought he to use the temporal sword, unless there be urgent need that requires it: namely, when, having attempted spiritual force, he recognizes that these are not sufficient for the matter at hand. No indeed, unless it were in his own lands, of which he is the temporal lord, in order to defend them, but in others it does not befit the Pope to wage war by himself, but when there is a prince of the Church rebellious and injurious to the faith, he ought to present the business of arms to another Prince. For so far is what Paul says true, that the arms of Christian warfare are not carnal. Although the legitimate sense is of the combat which each man sustains against the demons and his own flesh.

But because we have said, that the Pope can abrogate laws which would be harmful to the faith, it should be understood to mean, when they would cause manifest destruction. For that law of Princes, that a testament is not valid unless confirmed by five witnesses, contradicts absolutely no word of sacred scripture in Matthew 18 and John 8, That in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand: for that is understood where the sincerity of the human race flourishes: since, where human trust is so corrupted, it is not repugnant to those words to require more witnesses: because that Evangelical law does not forbid it. Likewise, the law which, in matters of cheating within a half of the just price, does not permit action, as in l. 2. C. de rescinden. venditio. and cap. Cum dilecti and cap. Cum causa de emptione et venditione, is not contrary to justice: because it does not absolve the one cheated in the forum of conscience, but it only intends to put quarrels to rest. But if the King were to make a law, so that a possessor malæ fidei prescribes, that would be both contrary to conscience and the nurse of many frauds and deceits: which would thus have to be abrogated by the pontiff: just as one reads it was abrogated in cap. Vigilanti and cap. ult. de præscriptionibus.

The solution to the first argument, therefore, is gathered from the foregoing. The civil and ecclesiastical power are two and distinct, as has been said: but Christ established only the ecclesiastical under one head of the whole earth: while he left the civil derived from the divine and natural law, so that each kingdom would have its own head: but he willed the civil to subordinated to the ecclesiastical such that its laws would not be opposed to the faith and the law which he himself preached: and in this manner is the Pontiff the unique head of all Christian kings. And that is the sense of Paul when he says, that all Christians are the one mystical body of Christ. For nothing concerns the pope in regard to the infidels, other than to send preachers to them, who convince them of the faith in a legitimate manner and order. But this does not concern the present discussion, nor does the question of whether there is one emperor of the whole world: which we have discussed at length in De iustitia et iure, lib. IV.

To the second, a sufficient response is, that Christ assumed naught but a spiritual kingdom, and of temporals, only so much as was necessary for the former. And this is what the cited sacred testimonies teach.

To the third, finally, it is responded, that that canon, Quicumque litem, 11. q. 1, has been abrogated, as the Gloss says, which it proves with many decrees, such as cap. Si duobus, de appellationibus, and 2 quæstione sexta, can. Non ita, and many others. Indeed, that text is not a sacred determination of the church, but of the emperor Theodosius, who wished to show his great affection toward the Apostolic see. At present there is no need of appealing from civil causes to the church.

But if you should argue: the pope is the judge of all sins: it is responded, that this is true in the spiritual forum, but in the exterior forum he is only the judge of ecclesiastical causes, while civil causes are to be judged by the civil laws; unless no agreement could be reached between kings after all civil laws had been consulted: for then, the Pope could interpose himself by way of fraternal correction, according to the tenor of cap. Novit. extra de iudiciis.

[1] An obvious error; evidently Soto refers here to Innocent IV’s Ad apostolicæ, de sent. et re iud. in 6. — Trans.

[2] Another obvious error; but this error seems to have been somewhat common around that time. One finds a similar attribution of the can. Duo sunt to Pelagius in Turrecremata, Guarnieri, and Marchese, to name a few. Tom. I of the 1578 Venetian edition of Turrecremata’s commentaries on the Decretum of Gratian, in a marginal note, observes that “a more modern codex ascribes this capitulum to Gelasius.” — Trans.

[3] The 1560 edition of de Soto’s commentary, from which we translate, here reads super ecclesiam in his quotation of Bernard; the 1538 Lyon edition, and the 1701 Paris edition, read super Ecclesias. — Trans.

[4] Here de Soto seems once again to misattribute the can. Duo sunt to Pope Innocent IV; cf. supra, note 1. — Trans.

[5] This is the conclusion that may be drawn, not from the can. Duo sunt of Gelasius, but from the cap. Ad apostolicæ of Innocent IV; cf. supra, note 1. — Trans.

[6] Cf. note 5 above. — Trans.

The Josias Podcast, Episode XXVIII: Socialism (Part 2) Thu, 13 May 2021 12:04:29 +0000 Continue reading "The Josias Podcast, Episode XXVIII: Socialism (Part 2)"

The debate on socialism continues, with Pater Edmund playing the socialist and Alan Fimister taking the anti-socialist side. Joel is joined by Chris to moderate the discussion.

Bibliography and Links

Leo XIII, Rerum novarum (1891)

Pius XI, Quadragesimo anno (1931)

Ernest Fortin, “Sacred and Inviolable: Rerum Novarum and Natural Rights

Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, ch. 9

Beatrice Freccia, “Aristotle’s Account of the Relationship of the Household to the State

Charles De Koninck, “The End of the Family and the End of Civil Society

Jacques de Monléon, “Short Notes on the Family and the City

Scott Meikle, “Aristotle and Exchange Value

Tři oříšky pro Popelku

Music: Prokofiev – Cinderella Suite – Cinderella’s Waltz

Header Image: “Das ist eine wunderschöne Wiese

If you have questions or comments, please send them to editors(at)

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Many thanks to our generous supporters on Patreon, who enable us to pay for podcast hosting. If you have not yet joined them, please do so. You can set up a one-time or recurring donation in any amount. Even $1 a month would be splendid.

The debate on socialism continues, with Pater Edmund playing the socialist and Alan Fimister taking the anti-socialist side. Joel is joined by Chris to moderate the discussion. Bibliography and Links Leo XIII, Rerum novarum (1891) Pius XI, The debate on socialism continues, with Pater Edmund playing the socialist and Alan Fimister taking the anti-socialist side. Joel is joined by Chris to moderate the discussion.

Bibliography and Links

Leo XIII, Rerum novarum (1891)

Pius XI, Quadragesimo anno (1931)

Ernest Fortin, “Sacred and Inviolable: Rerum Novarum and Natural Rights

Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, ch. 9

Beatrice Freccia, “Aristotle’s Account of the Relationship of the Household to the State

Charles De Koninck, “The End of the Family and the End of Civil Society

Jacques de Monléon, “Short Notes on the Family and the City

Scott Meikle, “Aristotle and Exchange Value

Tři oříšky pro Popelku

Music: Prokofiev – Cinderella Suite – Cinderella’s Waltz

Header Image: “Das ist eine wunderschöne Wiese

If you have questions or comments, please send them to editors(at)

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Many thanks to our generous supporters on Patreon, who enable us to pay for podcast hosting. If you have not yet joined them, please do so. You can set up a one-time or recurring donation in any amount. Even $1 a month would be splendid.
The Editors clean 1:14:23 4816
John Zmirak’s Liberalism Mon, 10 May 2021 15:54:46 +0000 Continue reading "John Zmirak’s Liberalism"

In a piece written a number of years ago and in another more recent offering John Zmirak purports to explain the folly of integralism and to propound instead a doctrine fit for ‘patriotic Christians’ which reconciles liberalism in its true sense with the creed of Catholics. The first objection to Zmirak’s patriotic Christianity is his overt endorsement of liberalism. No Catholic is free to embrace liberalism. Zmirak does not mean by liberalism support for democratic institutions but he very explicitly means by the term precisely the error condemned by the Church’s magisterium. Liberalism purports to advocate a public sphere and constitutional order which prescinds from questions of revealed truth and rests solely upon reason. This posture is disingenuous and is firmly condemned as nothing less than Satanic by Leo XIII in his great encyclical Libertas. For, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains  “every institution is inspired, at least implicitly, by a vision of man and his destiny, from which it derives the point of reference for its judgment, its hierarchy of values, its line of conduct.” In rejecting its obligations of public worship the liberal state becomes necessarily totalitarian in form and hedonistic in content. As St John Paul II observed “the rights of God and man stand or fall together” and as he said of the teaching of Leo XIII in Libertas it “called attention to the essential bond between human freedom and truth, so that freedom which refused to be bound to the truth would fall into arbitrariness and end up submitting itself to the vilest of passions, to the point of self-destruction.” This is the social order that reigns today and for which Zmirak insists, contrary to the teaching of John Paul II and Leo XIII, liberalism cannot be held accountable. Let there be no doubt it is the Satanic doctrine condemned in Libertas which John Zmirak expressly espouses.

The basis for the exclusion of divine revelation as a principle of public policy and public law is that it is inherently subjective and impossible to vindicate in the public sphere. It is therefore tyrannical to make it the principle of public action to the detriment of those who do not recognise it. This exclusion would not apply to policy built upon, say, a conviction that the square of the hypotenuse of a right angle triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. Such a conviction would be based upon self-evident principles of natural reason that cannot be mentally denied. Nor would it apply to a conviction that global temperatures are climbing due to human action. This conviction would be based upon findings in the hypothetico-deductive sciences and therefore admissible as a basis for policy and law. The exclusion of divine revelation from public policy and public law is based on the assumption that it’s claims are essentially subjective like the claim that Beethoven is a superior composer to Mozart. This is expressly Zmirak’s doctrine. He writes: “Natural law is the only proper basis for legislation [n]ot the Bible, [n]or the teachings of the Church”.

The Church, in contrast teaches that, “Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives. Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.” Thus our adherence to divine revelation is more absolute than our recognition not just that global temperatures are climbing due to human action but more even than our recognition that the interior angles of a plane triangle equal two right angles. Zmirak rightly points out that this degree of certainty is available only to those to whom God gives the gift of faith and that He gives this gift with sovereign freedom and no human agency not even the Church may seek to coerce it. This is true, but those to whom we know it has been given i.e. the baptised can be required even coercively by the ecclesiastical hierarchy to discharge the obligations they received in virtue of this gift. This is not simply a theological opinion it is a dogma of the Catholic Church.

“If any one shall say, that those who have been thus baptized when infants, are, when they have grown up, to be questioned whether they will ratify what their sponsors promised in their name when they were baptized; and that, in case that they answer they will not, they are to be left to their own will; and are not meanwhile to be compelled to a Christian life by any other penalty, save that they be excluded from the participation of the Eucharist, and of the other sacraments, until they repent; let him be anathema.”

Zmirak’s liberalism consists essentially in the rejection of this dogmatic canon of the nineteenth ecumenical council. Furthermore, this coercive power over her own children possessed by the Church and upheld by the 1983 Code of Canon Law [“Can. 1311 The Church has the innate and proper right to coerce offending members of the Christian faithful with penal sanctions.”] is, in ideal circumstances, applicable to the faithful by the Ecclesiastical authorities by means of the coercive power of the Temporal polity as an instrument. And this too is not a theological opinion but a dogma of the Catholic Church. For all the children of the Catholic Church are obliged to hold “as reprobated, proscribed and condemned” that “that is the best condition of civil society, in which no duty is recognized, as attached to the civil power, of restraining by enacted penalties, offenders against the Catholic religion, except so far as public peace may require.”

Indeed, without the gift of faith none may know with greater certainty than the Pythagorean theorem the revealed truths of divine law but they may be known with much greater certainty than the existence of anthropogenic global warming. Thus, just as it would be outrageous for a state to demand on oath acceptance of anthropogenic global warming from its subjects and yet entirely reasonable for it to legislate on the basis that such a phenomenon exists, so a formally Catholic state may not impede the attempted worship of non-baptised persons who adhere to a form of monotheism which can certainly be known to be wrong only by the light of faith but it may take actions such as making Sunday a public holiday or banning the sale of meat on Fridays which are indirectly inconvenient to erring monotheists but not for the sake of inconveniencing them.

As Leo XIII explains, “the State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion. Nature and reason, which command every individual devoutly to worship God in holiness, because we belong to Him and must return to Him, since from Him we came, bind also the civil community by a like law. For, men living together in society are under the power of God no less than individuals are, and society, no less than individuals, owes gratitude to God who gave it being and maintains it and whose ever-bounteous goodness enriches it with countless blessings. Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its teaching and practice-not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion—it is a public crime to act as though there were no God. So, too, is it a sin for the State not to have care for religion as a something beyond its scope, or as of no practical benefit; or out of many forms of religion to adopt that one which chimes in with the fancy; for we are bound absolutely to worship God in that way which He has shown to be His will.”

This is the “traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ” which Vatican II expressly leaves “untouched”. This is the teaching upheld by John Paul II in section 2244 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Indeed the Catechism expressly teaches that societies failing to recognise divine revelation will become ‘totalitarian’ just as Pius XI taught in 1931: “Liberalism is the father of this Socialism that is pervading morality and culture and Bolshevism will be its heir.”

The idea that this doctrine is rejected by the Second Vatican Council or Paul VI or John Paul II is quite false. Nor is their maintenance of it ‘esoteric’. Paul VI was very famously a follower of the political theory of Jacques Maritain so much so that he personally penned the introduction to the Italian translation of Maritain’s central political treatise and entrusted the message of the Second Vatican Council to scholars like Maritain at the closing ceremony. He wept upon hearing of the Frenchman’s death and took the bulk of the text of his own Credo of the People of God from a draft drawn up by Maritain at the pope’s request. Maritain expressly held that the full range of those powers whose existence Zmirak denies belong essentially to the Church and held that they should not be used in the twentieth century, not because they have lapsed or are evil, but because it is imprudent to do so. Furthermore, he did not hold this transformation to be necessarily permanent or irreversible. The ‘New Christendom’ for which he hoped in which the Church did not make use of her right to employ the temporal power in the exercise of her coercive power over the baptised could certainly, he held, be succeeded by another in which she did:

“The fecundity of analogy in this domain is, moreover, clearly not exhausted by the historical ideal whose main outlines I have tried to sketch. Others still could arise, under historical climates of which we have no idea. And there is even nothing to prevent minds attached to a Christian sacral conception from admitting the hypothesis of an eventual cycle of culture in which it would prevail anew, under conditions and with characteristics which we cannot foresee.”

Far from this doctrine being esoteric what has happened instead is that Zmirak and others like him consumed with a superfluous, parochial and futile desperation to reconcile the enlightenment doctrines of Thomas Jefferson and John Locke with the teaching of the Church have attempted to foist a liberal account of the religious obligations of the state onto the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Liberty and thereby to set up an irresolvable conflict between it and the solemnly defined teaching of previous popes and councils. Whether Maritain and Paul VI’s prudential judgments were sound or not, their clear and declared intention was to reject any such conflict and work within the infallibly defined doctrine of the Church to imagine “some way of uniting what is free in the new structure of society with what is authoritative in the old, without any base compromise with ‘Progress’ and ‘Liberalism’.”

It is clear that Zmirak is a liberal in both the theological and the political sense (two halves of the same coin) for he holds both that the “Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization” and that “Modern Catholicism can be reconciled with true science only if it is transformed into a non-dogmatic Christianity; that is to say, into a broad and liberal Protestantism.”

From Steam Engines to the Singularity: How the Technological Spirit of (Classical) Liberalism Remakes Man in its Own Image Fri, 19 Mar 2021 10:24:19 +0000 Continue reading "From Steam Engines to the Singularity: How the Technological Spirit of (Classical) Liberalism Remakes Man in its Own Image"

by Deion A. Kathawa*

“God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.  Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.’ ”

–Gen. 1:28

“For just as in affairs of state we see a man’s mettle and the secret sense of his soul and affections better when he is under pressure than at other times, so nature’s secrets betray themselves more through the vexations of art than they do in their usual course . . .  I also think that it does not matter much for mankind’s well being [sic] what abstract opinions you hold about nature and the principles of things . . .  On the contrary, my object is to see whether I can really lay firmer foundations for human power and prestige, and to extend their bounds yet wider.”

–Francis Bacon

In the last few years, a debate about the desirability and sustainability of classical liberalism—the West’s regnant governing ideology—has migrated from obscure corners of the internet into the edges, at least, of the general public’s consciousness.[1]  Since, much ink has been spilled assessing whether various sorts of “post-liberal” systems[2] are compatible with what many take to be classical liberalism’s core—and highly desirable—features: “constitutionalism, the rule of law, rights and privileges of citizens, separation of powers, the free exchange of goods and services in markets, and federalism.”[3]  But because those things “are to be found in medieval thought,”[4] we are free to retain and refine them while simultaneously identifying and rejecting classical liberalism’s errors and excesses.[5]  At its core, “[classical] liberalism is constituted by a pair of . . . anthropological assumptions that give liberal institutions a particular orientation and cast: 1) anthropological individualism and the voluntarist conception of choice, and 2) human separation from and opposition to nature.”[6]  These assumptions are properly understood as “revolutions in the understanding of human nature and society.”[7]  And yet, relatively little effort has been expended to trace and understand the effects of classical liberalism’s second core feature—i.e., Man’s alienation from the natural world, driven by a technological mindset—on the human soul.

I propose that to truly understand this dimension of classical liberalism, and how we might begin to reverse its impact, we must “begin at the beginning.”[8]  That is, we must first understand: (1) how God’s command to mankind in the Garden of Eden to have dominion and to exercise stewardship over Creation transmogrified into a libido dominandi, an overweening desire to dominate nature for our own material advantage; and, relatedly, (2) how our innate thirst for knowledge of the Good—God Himself—was perverted into something baser, narrower, and more instrumental and fleeting—merely securing “the relief of man’s estate.”[9]

So, we begin with Francis Bacon, the 17th century English philosopher and statesman, and the avatar of classical liberalism’s technological mindset—one that aims to overcome our material deficiencies and limitations through ruthless, rational control of nature, and one in which “nature” is conceptualized, for the most part not consciously nowadays, as meaningless matter.[10]  However, we cannot understand Bacon’s impact until we understand that of liberal modernity’s godfather: Niccolò Machiavelli.[11]

For Machiavelli, the driving force behind our actions ought to be necessity: seeing the verita effettuale,[12] the effectual truth of things, i.e., the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be, and then acting accordingly to secure congenial outcomes—even if that means transgressing Christian morality.[13]  Machiavellianism is thus both a rejection of Platonic idealism—an effort to drag us back down into the Cave, a lowering of our moral gaze—and an assault on the Catholic Church’s anthropology, ethics, and metaphysics. Machiavelli wrote at a time when the Church’s perceived spiritual authority had waned and was about to be further undermined by Martin Luther’s devastating revolt in 1517.[14]  This gave the “teacher of evil”[15] an opening to found “new modes and orders”[16]—an alternate understanding of reality.

Bacon seized upon Machiavelli’s project and applied it to technology.[17]  The fruits of this paradigm shift—“the passing away of one world and the coming-to-be of another”[18]—are all around us.  Man’s control over nature has never been more obvious, complete, or marvelous.  We with ease fly around the world, consume without a second thought exotic foods about which our ancestors could only dream, enjoy millions of hours of robust digital entertainment, communicate with anyone instantaneously, live comfortably in once-lethal climes, and cure deadly diseases.

We also, however, pillage the environment, produce obscene amounts of addictive pornography, are on the cusp of putting millions out of work through various forms of automation, and can, in an afternoon, annihilate our species with nuclear weapons.  Thus, our technological prowess is a double-edged sword that has far outstripped our moral faculties.  In this way, to use a trite metaphor, we are like a toddler who has stumbled upon his father’s loaded handgun.

But technology per se is not malum in se; rather, the danger lies in our relationship to man-made tools and processes—i.e., how our mindset affects what we build, yes, but also what we do with what we build.  This must be so; otherwise, we would need to be prepared to question Christ the carpenter, Who used hammers to build tables.[19]  In fact, I submit that it is right and good for Man’s intellectual powers to ease his traversal of this “vale of tears” because doing so properly actualizes God’s command to our first parents to “subdue” and “[h]ave dominion” over the earth and all that is in it.  The real task, then, is to discern precisely which technological developments are of God—because they are in accord with human flourishing and the common good—and which are, at bottom, expressions of our pride and should therefore be rejected—because it was only in becoming “liberal men” that we discovered them.  And we know that this is the relevant inquiry because, ceteris paribus, we agree that a world where we are adequately fed and have the benefits of modern medicine is better than a famine-wracked and disease-ridden one.[20]

However, our inability to recognize the line that separates good from bad technology, to make technology serve and ennoble rather than enslave and debase us, threatens our very existence in ways subtler—but no less dangerous for that subtlety—than a fiery, nuclear holocaust.  We can see this quite clearly in assessing our societies’ crazed response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which, stunningly, is ongoing more than a year after the first lockdown was instituted in the United States.[21]  To eradicate this threat to our physical well-being, we shuttered the country and suspended activities necessary to human flourishing and the common good: birthday parties, weddings, visiting relatives, dinner parties—in a word, play.[22]  And for what?  It would seem the mere appearance of safety—because not even full, airtight lockdowns could have stopped the spread of the virus.[23]  That should have been blindingly obvious to everyone, including the public-health “experts,” but it wasn’t, and so we acted out our blind faith in our absolute control over the natural world, consistent with Bacon’s worldview.  Thus far, thankfully, reality has reasserted itself; even President Biden has conceded, though only after he had taken up residence in the White House, that “there’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.”[24]

But I fear that we will not be able to count on such welcome, back-to-sanity pendulum swings for much longer.  Up to this point, science has largely been focused on achieving increased “health” for human beings as they have long existed,[25] not on transforming human beings themselves.  But no longer.[26]  Our mastery over nature via our technology has birthed twin “trans” movements—transgenderism and transhumanism—that attack a foundational reality: embodied humanness.  Thus, many have understandably likened these movements, focused as they are on the body, to one of the earliest heresies faced by the Church—Gnosticism—and have attacked them on those grounds.[27]  However, Gnosticism is not the right hermeneutic by which to understand, criticize, and resist these modern phenomena.

Rather, they are better understood as offspring of classical liberalism’s technological gaze, which has alienated Man from the natural world; that is, we should understand them as by-products of the classically liberal desire to exercise rational, domineering control over the natural world.  In other words, they are the result of a worldview that is closed off to the supernatural. Because we have lost our reverence for nature-as-gift, we instead see material reality as something to be subordinated to our materialistic prerogatives.[28]  And because we no longer conceive of ourselves as anything more than material creatures inhabiting a material world—one which is often deadly to our (physical) well-being—we have decided that the only logical thing to do is to overcome it—and ruthlessly so.  Our intense fear of the world around us causes us desperately to cling to the comfort of screens rather than to God and His sacraments because the former are amenable to our learned overreliance on sensory data while the latter require faith in things unseen.[29]  And for modern Man, tragically, “seeing is believing.”[30]

So, because pain, infertility, an internal sense of “gender identity” (irrespective of biological sex), unborn children, hired laborers, or desire to engage in non-marital sexual encounters seem to stand in the way of “health,” they must be destroyed, disposed of, embraced, transcended, or otherwise made to serve us.  The noble desire to relieve Man’s estate by progressively more powerful technological means carries within it seeds of a tyranny so powerful that it threatens to eliminate Man as he has long understood himself, namely, as a sexed, embodied creature, born in community and radically dependent on others.[31] These radical “trans”-techno movements—marked by their cross-hormone therapies, surgical interventions, wild fantasies of uploading people’s consciousnesses into computers after their bodily deaths, and fervent desire to meld with the Singularity—are not zombie Gnosticism but, rather, the apotheosis of the Enlightenment-era lust for technological domination of nature—homo sapiens very much included.[32]  Ultimately, the goal is to transcend humanity altogether, our fleshly, intransigent givenness—and the “intolerable” limitations it implies.[33]

But that goal has not been realized.  At least not yet.  The wave of technologizing “liberation” that we have unleashed—liberation from material wants and from many earthly dangers—has turned ‘round to enslave us. If we are not careful, we will be effaced from the earth completely.[34]  We have created an idol, and the reason that God forbids idolatry[35]—beyond just the fact that He alone is worthy of our worship—is because idols invariably ensnare, debase, and, ultimately, destroy us.  And while our attraction to this particular idol—technology—is understandable given that it has done us enormous collective good,[36] it is nonetheless foolish to think that the only way to have achieved 21st-century levels of material progress is to have prostrated ourselves before this strange, modern-day golden calf.[37]

Made in the imago Dei and with a divine command to steward Creation, but grievously wounded by the Fall, we have aspired to stride about the world and control it as gods, to put into practice Marx’s somewhat obscure adage: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”[38]  In our immense pride, ratified and given form and effect by classical liberalism, in jealously trying to imitate God’s sovereign power over all things visible and invisible[39]—most precisely, in trying to be “like gods”[40]—we have, predictably, distorted ourselves.  Soon, we will no longer recognize ourselves.  Tragically, we have lost the virtue of hope, grounded in faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, and have instead yoked ourselves to a false vision of “moral progress,” actualized by ever-expanding, and dangerous, techne over nature[41]—an idol of the heart’s gaze which now, just as in Eden, tempts us with self-deification[42] but, necessarily, death.[43]

* Deion A. Kathawa is an attorney who hails from America’s heartland.  He holds a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.  For their helpful feedback on earlier drafts, I thank Andrew Beddow, Suzanne Beecher, Timothy Bradley, Alex Ehler, Judah Maxwell, Justin North, Hailey Vrdolyak, and Garrett Ziegler.

All biblical citations are to the New American Bible.

Bacon, Novum Organum, Bk. 1, Aphorisms 98, 116, trans. Graham Rees and Maria Wakely (Oxford 2004).  Cf. Carolyn Merchant, The Violence of Impediments: Francis Bacon and the Origins of Experimentation, 99 Isis 731, 732 n. 2 (2008).

[1] IASC News, Barack Obama Recommends Why Liberalism Failed, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture (December 2018, 2018),

[2] For a primer on a particular post-liberal—though the author would probably call it “pre-liberal”—political arrangement, see Pater Waldstein, O.Cist, What is Integralism Today?, Church Life Journal (October 31, 2018),  As to whether, as an orthodox Roman Catholic, I am bound to confess that an “integralist State” is desirable and/or theologically necessary, I must confess that I have not made up my mind, in large part because I harbor some reservations about the project’s orientation and commitments—namely integralists’ seeming lack of concern for representative government, specifically republicanism; for a corrective, see, e.g., Waller, Quirks in the Neo-Integralist Vision, Church Life Journal (February 4, 2021),  At present, my own view is probably something like the following, see Klavan, A Shot in the Arm for Liberalism, American Mindset (February 26, 2021), (arguing that “liberalism of the original sort was what you might call a secondary philosophy.  That is, it was a philosophy for how to live once the old truths were taken for granted.  After all the religious wars had been fought, after Aristotelian virtue ethics and Christian charity had guided the formation of that “moral and religious people” which John Adams celebrated, then the West could proceed within the parameters of that consensus to ask, ‘how then shall we live?’  This was never intended to serve as an answer to the deeper questions—‘what is man?’ ‘how shall he be saved?’—because the answers to those questions were considered, very broadly speaking, to have been agreed upon.”).  All of that being said, however, what I can say without hesitation is that I recognize the force of the integralists’ position, rendered all the more compelling given the ready evidence of the present order’s decay.  Even so, I remain, at present, quite fond of the system of republican self-government bequeathed to us by our Founders, refined and saved by Lincoln, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, and actualized by the Constitution; moreover, I do not think America is “classically liberal” in the sense her detractors assert she is—at the very least based upon the degree to which classical political philosophy influenced the Founding.  See Richard, The Classical Roots of the American Founding (Ch. 3) in The American Founding: Its Intellectual and Moral Framework, Robinson and Williams, eds. (2014); see also Stewart, Virtue at the Origin: The Classical Foundations of the American Republic, Public Discourse (March 6, 2021),  Nonetheless, our relationship to nature is clearly broken, and I believe that rupture can be traced back to “classical liberalism”—and regardless of whether there is a “necessary transition from classical liberalism (understood to be good) to progressive liberalism (understood to be bad).”  See Vermeule, Some Confusions about “Classical Liberalism,” Progressivism, and Necessity, Mirror of Justice (June 15, 2018), (expounding on that point).

[3] Deneen, Unsustainable Liberalism, First Things (August 2012), (Deneen, Unsustainable Liberalism).

[4] Id.

[5] And besides, there is no reason to think we must accept either all of classical liberalism or none of it—because politics is the art of public prudence, not some elaborate mathematical theorem that hangs all together or not at all.  In other words, we need not throw out the baby with the bathwater; like normal people, we can choose to keep the baby, even without some airtight, perfectly-internally-coherent theory as to why—and, importantly, despite various purists’ shrieks to the contrary.

[6] Deneen, Unsustainable Liberalism, supra note 3.

[7] Id.

[8] Carroll, Alice in Wonderland (1865).

[9] Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, Bk. I (1605), available online at

[10] Or, “an inert mechanistic mass without inner teleology, a mere object for arbitrary manipulation by human power.” See Pater Waldstein, Religious Liberty and Tradition III, The Josias (January 2, 2015),

[11] Conversations with Bill Kristol, Harvey Mansfield on Niccolò Machiavelli and the Origins of Modernity, YOUTUBE (Dec. 6, 2015), (from 31:21–31:46) (noting that Bacon was alone among his peers in even daring to cite Machiavelli, which he did—approvingly so).

[12] Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter VX (1532).

[13] See, e.g., Machiavelli, Mandragola (1526) (detailing the story of a young man, Callimaco, who wants to have sexual relations with a young, beautiful, and chaste woman, Lucrezia, who is married to an older man, Nicia; she and Nicia cannot have children, however, and the lesson Machiavelli wants to impart is as straightforward as it is subversive: The upright path is one of failure, but if one is daring enough to choose the immoral path—adultery—then everyone wins, for Callimaco gets to possess his love, and the married couple gets a child).

[14] Of course, Lutherans specifically and Protestants more generally are of the view that Luther’s cry of, “Here I stand, I can do no other . . .” was both necessary and salutary—not a “revolt.”  It is a view to which they are entitled.  But as a Catholic, I do not share it.

[15] Dubbed thusly by political philosopher and classicist Leo Strauss.

[16] Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy 5 (1531), available online at

[17] This essay explains how classical liberalism came to express a technological mindset. However, the problem probably runs deeper than Bacon and Machiavelli, with its source in the heart of Man which has been wounded by Original Sin. See, e.g., Kass, Farmers, Founders, and Fratricide: The Story of Cain and Abel, First Things (April 1996), (noting that, post-Fall, there at least two primordial orientations that Man has toward his lot, namely, to be like Cain the farmer, who seeks to possess and have mastery over the earth, or to be like Abel the shepherd, who is humbled before forces beyond his comprehension or control and grateful for their beneficence).

[18] Hanby, A False Paradigm, First Things (November 2018),

[19] But see Barnes, Christians Shouldn’t Use Smartphones, Medium (January 31, 2019), (“The followers of Jesus Christ are supposed to be free from the machinations of earthly principalities and powers.  The use of the smartphone [and other, similar technology] seems to be the symbol and sacrament of increased, unnecessary dependence on earthly power. For this reason, I do not think that Christians should use smartphones.”).

[20] Leibovitz, Against Convenience, Tablet (August 10, 2018), (“It’s one thing to wish away the dozens of automated interactions that have replaced face-to-face conversations and that have robbed us of so much of our sense of community; it’s another to decide which of these actually liberate us from needless labor and give us the time to pursue loftier goals. The village well was likely a swell place of gathering, but no one laments the advent of running water.”).

[21] But see Whitcomb, Texas governor lifts state’s mask mandate, business restrictions, Reuters (March 2, 2021),

[22] Various, Mini-Feature: The Importance of Play, American Mindset (January 25, 2021), [shortened URL].

[23] On the FAQ page of the “Great Barrington Declaration”—a statement by leading infectious-disease epidemiologists and public-health scientists arguing for “focused protection” of the vulnerable against COVID-19 rather than crushing lockdowns, see Drs. Martin Kulldorff, Sunetra Gupta, and Jay Bhattacharya, Great Barrington Declaration (2020),—the following question appears: “Do lockdowns have a successful history against infectious diseases?”  The answer provided is: “Basic epidemiological theory indicates that lockdowns do not reduce the total number of cases in the long run and have never in history led to the eradication of a disease.  At best, lockdowns delay the increase of cases for a finite period and at great cost.”  The underlying view that causes those in our public-health “expert” class to doubt that obvious truth is, basically, that human beings are essentially chess pieces to be manipulated by the diktats of well-meaning government technocrats rather than free persons who act in accord with their moral education and retain the ultimate authority, free of experts’ meddling, to decide questions of their common life.  See, e.g., Klavan, You Can’t Tell Me What to Do, American Mindset (March 17, 2021), (as to a plumber who told you that you should wallow in your own filth because of a blocked toilet, you “would fire that plumber, and rightly so.  No matter how much knowledge he has which [you do] not, [you] ha[ve] authority to say whether his knowledge is producing the results it should.  [You are] the last word in [your] house on good and bad results—not the expert. . . .  Expertise has no authority to tell flourishing it is misery, or misery that it is flourishing. To do so is a gross perversion of the sciences and an affront to human dignity.”).

[24] President Biden, Remarks by President Biden on the American Rescue Plan and Signing of Executive Orders, White House (January 22, 2021),

[25] Yuval Levin, The Moral Challenge of Modern Science, The New Atlantis (Fall 2006),

[26] See, e.g., Fr. Pacholczyk, The Foxes and the Henhouse, Catholic Sentinel (January 10, 2020), (“a Chinese scientist . . . employed a new technology called CRISPR/Cas9 to produce the world’s first gene-edited babies.  [He] made genetic changes to two little girls, Lulu and Nana, when they were early-stage embryos, attempting to modify a receptor for HIV to confer resistance to a possible future infection from the virus.”).

[27] See, e.g., George, Gnostic Liberalism, First Things (December 2016), (Gnosticism, as “[a]pplied to the human person, . . . means that the material or bodily is inferior—if not a prison to escape, certainly a mere instrument to be manipulated to serve the goals of the ‘person,’ understood as the spirit or mind. . . .”).

[28] Properly understood, Man’s dominion extends to “all operations which he exercises by his intellect and will, by his external senses, and by his power of locomotion, for these are subject to his free will.”  But it does not include dominion over his body, whose internal senses, sensitive appetite, organs, and vegetative faculties are not within his control.  Only God has independent, absolute, and universal sovereignty over all created things because He creates and sustains them in being.  See Grenier, Thomistic Philosophy (vol 3, Moral Philosophy) 186-187 (1949), available online at

[29] Heb. 11:1 (“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”).

[30] An older, better way of knowing posits the converse: “believing is seeing.”  That is, what we believe about the world causes what we see to take on this significance or meaning rather than another.  See, e.g., Fish, Why We Can’t All Just Get Along, First Things (February 1996),

[31] See generally MacIntyre, Dependent Rational Animals (2011).

[32] Lest anyone fall into the trap of thinking that the Enlightenment—marked by its cold, calculating rationalism—bears all the blame for this development, I submit that even Romanticism, which followed on its heels, is not innocent.  For what began as a no-doubt welcome aesthetic-emotional reaction ultimately fed into and re-enforced the Enlightenment-era lust for domination.  See, e.g., Tausz, Revolution of the Self: A Conversation with Carl Trueman, First Things (November 25, 2020),

[Q:] You end your fourth chapter, on the nineteenth-century Romantic poets, with a provocative line: “While he would no doubt have retched at the thought, William Wordsworth stands near the head of a path that leads to Hugh Hefner and Kim Kardashian.”  What role do Blake, Shelley, and Wordsworth play in the evolution of the modern self?

[A:] In their individual ways they each hold to the notion that man is born free and yet corrupted by society and its mores and must therefore recover that inner voice of nature in order to be authentic.  And art in all of its forms—poetry, painting, music—is a means by which the poet can help his audience reconnect with that inner voice.  Here they touch on something very important: Aesthetic experience does shape our moral sense, how we imagine the moral order.  Today it is pop culture that shapes that moral sense.

[33] Brague, Necessity of the Good, First Things (February 2015), (“Today, the dreams—or nightmares—of a posthuman endpoint of history are deeply rooted in the desire modern man feels to escape the passivity of his birth, . . . that [which] can’t be turned into a project or enterprise, that can’t be made good.”).

[34] Salisbury, New Optimism Ignores our Potential for Catastrophe, Palladium (November 13, 2020), (arguing that “while our material well-being has generally improved, it has come at the cost of us bearing an unprecedented degree of risk that, in the extreme, threatens to unravel the entire human endeavor.”  That is, Man’s position is like that of Damocles: “our material abundance is undermined by a sword hanging precipitously over us: a sword that is becoming increasingly detached as the day progresses.”).

[35] See Exod. 20:1-6.

[36] See generally

[37] See Exod. 32:7-8 (“With that, the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down at once to your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, for they have become depraved.  They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out, “This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” ’ ”).

[38] Marx, Theses on Feuerbach (1845), Thesis XI, available online at

[39] Matt. 8:23-27 (“The Calming of the Storm at Sea”).

[40] Gen. 3:5.

[41] See Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi (2007) § 17.

[42] “The Lord God gave man this order: ‘You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad.  From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.’ ” (Gen. 2:16-17).

[43] “For the wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23a).

The Josias Podcast, Episode XXVII: Socialism (Part 1) Wed, 13 Jan 2021 19:35:30 +0000 Continue reading "The Josias Podcast, Episode XXVII: Socialism (Part 1)"

Alan Fimister comes on the podcast to debate socialism with Pater Edmund. For the purposes of the debate, Pater Edmund takes the socialist side, arguing that the injustices of modern capitalism, which orders all things to the private interests of capitalists, requires the adoption of socialism to subordinate economic matters to the common good of the political community. Alan Fimister takes the anti-socialist side, arguing that the individual and the family are prior to the state, and have the antecedent duty and right to provide for their subsistence, which requires private property. The debate is moderated (not entirely impartially) by Joel: There are no rules.

Bibliography and Links

Leo XIII, Rerum novarum (1891).

Pius XI, Quadragesimo anno (1931).

W. Borman, “Thomism and Private Property,” The Josias (2017).

Thomas Crean and Alan Fimister, Integralism: A manual of political philosophy (2020).

David Graeber, Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011).

Henri Grenier, “The Lawfulness and Social Character of Private Ownership,” The Josias (2015).

C.W. Strand, “A Catholic Socialism,” Tradinista! (2016).

Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., “Use Values and Corn Laws, Aristotelian Marxists and High Tories,” Sancrucensis, 2015.

Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., “Dialogue with a Catholic Leftist,” Sancrucensis (2016).

Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., “Robin Hood Economics: How should the wealth of the world be distributed?Plough, 2019.

Music: Дми́трий Шостако́вич, Jazz Suite No.2 – 6. Waltz II.

Header Image: New Harmony, Indiana, as proposed by Robert Owen. Engraving by F. Bate, 1838.

If you have questions or comments, please send them to editors(at)

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Many thanks to our generous supporters on Patreon, who enable us to pay for podcast hosting. If you have not yet joined them, please do so. You can set up a one-time or recurring donation in any amount. Even $1 a month would be splendid.

Alan Fimister comes on the podcast to debate socialism with Pater Edmund. For the purposes of the debate, Pater Edmund takes the socialist side, arguing that the injustices of modern capitalism, which orders all things to the private interests of capit... Alan Fimister comes on the podcast to debate socialism with Pater Edmund. For the purposes of the debate, Pater Edmund takes the socialist side, arguing that the injustices of modern capitalism, which orders all things to the private interests of capitalists, requires the adoption of socialism to subordinate economic matters to the common good of the political community. Alan Fimister takes the anti-socialist side, arguing that the individual and the family are prior to the state, and have the antecedent duty and right to provide for their subsistence, which requires private property. The debate is moderated (not entirely impartially) by Joel: There are no rules.

Bibliography and Links

Leo XIII, Rerum novarum (1891).

Pius XI, Quadragesimo anno (1931).

W. Borman, “Thomism and Private Property,” The Josias (2017).

Thomas Crean and Alan Fimister, Integralism: A manual of political philosophy (2020).

David Graeber, Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011).

Henri Grenier, “The Lawfulness and Social Character of Private Ownership,” The Josias (2015).

C.W. Strand, “A Catholic Socialism,” Tradinista! (2016).

Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., “Use Values and Corn Laws, Aristotelian Marxists and High Tories,” Sancrucensis, 2015.

Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., “Dialogue with a Catholic Leftist,” Sancrucensis (2016).

Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., “Robin Hood Economics: How should the wealth of the world be distributed?” Plough, 2019.

Music: Дми́трий Шостако́вич, Jazz Suite No.2 – 6. Waltz II.

Header Image: New Harmony, Indiana, as proposed by Robert Owen. Engraving by F. Bate, 1838.

If you have questions or comments, please send them to editors(at)

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Editors clean 30:02 4787
St. Thomas Becket, Integralist Tue, 29 Dec 2020 22:07:05 +0000 Continue reading "St. Thomas Becket, Integralist"

On December 29, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury and martyr.

St. Thomas Becket, like all true saints, endorsed the Gelasian proposition that the civil authority has no right to interfere in matters conferred exclusively by Christ to the Catholic Church.  Although the saint is often commemorated as a defender of “religious liberty,” he was martyred specifically for defending the libertas Ecclesiae, or the liberty of the Catholic Church.

In a statement to King Henry II, St. Thomas asserted that “God willed . . . that those things which must be administered by his Church pertain to his priests, not to secular powers, which if they are faithful, he willed rather to be subject to the priests of his Church.” Furthermore, he declared that the “Christian religion [is] to be ordered and examined” by bishops and priests, not by secular powers. Temporal rulers, he went on, ought to subject their own policy preferences to the bishops of the Church in matters of spiritual jurisdiction. In support, he cited Gratian’s Decretum which set forth that civil authorities “ought not give judgment concerning bishops.”

For St. Thomas, the purpose of the distinction between temporal and spiritual power was to allow the Catholic Church to exercise, without impediment, its jurisdiction over spiritual matters and to direct civil power toward its perfective end, the common good, and to censure its bearers with spiritual and temporal punishments should they deviate from this proper ordering.

The saint was ultimately martyred for defending Gelasian Dyarchy, that is Integralism, from an overreaching civil authority. St. Thomas Becket’s example is critical for us today in a time when liberal regimes worldwide seek to regulate the administration of the sacraments and even define the nature of authentic worship. Just think of all the judges and governors—effectively banning the Mass—telling us that private worship is the same as public worship whilst exempting various secular purposes.

As the Trump administration’s proclamation commemorating St. Thomas’s feast day put it: “A society without religion cannot prosper. A nation without faith cannot endure—because justice, goodness, and peace cannot prevail without the Grace of God.” On this feast day, Catholics, adherents of the true religion and faith, should imitate the example of St. Thomas Becket, who died defending the rights of the Church and subjecting all things, including the political order, to Christ.

Dan Whitehead

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The Need for an Integral Approach to Music Thu, 10 Dec 2020 18:48:41 +0000 Continue reading "The Need for an Integral Approach to Music"

By Vincent Clarke

What would art look like in a society that had successfully revived true Christian culture? To answer this question is, in a sense, to begin a long process of confirming the speculation. Answering this question orients us toward creating the very art that we wish to see. Music seems to be the best medium to approach. Unlike, say, painting it has become more, not less prevalent in the modern world than it had been in the past. It is at once the most instinctual and the most complex of the artforms, and for this reason it is both popular and infinitely diverse.

One key problem facing us when we ask this question is: whose music? In Christianized culture music has typically fallen into three categories: highbrow, liturgical, and popular. Often these have overlapped. J. S. Bach is both highbrow and liturgical; John Dowland is both liturgical and popular. But the distinctions are sufficient to draw something of worth out of the material. They will guide us in what follows.

Liturgy, Avant Garde, and the Merely Christian

To ask what a revival of liturgical music might look like requires little imagination because it is already taking place. In October 2016, Pope Francis sat for an Aramaic interpretation of the Our Father sung by a priest and a small girl to reflect the pain of the Syrians and the Iraqis. This was one of the most profound musical events in recent memory. The video on YouTube has over 5 million views. The Pope fell into a deep meditation. The whole event was enveloped by a sort of spirit of the ancient. This is striking to the viewer, who feels that they are being sucked back in time to a small, newly formed Christian sect in the fifth century. Yet if you listen to the singing there is something strangely modern about it. Perhaps it is the effective use of drone that makes it at once old and modern—a technique that found favor with some of the better avant garde artists in the 20th century. 

This seems the most promising path for new developments in liturgical music: to embrace forgotten musical techniques and, rather than simply aspiring to European medievalism, seeking to fuse various developments, various taproots in the Christian canon into a harmonious whole. That goes for Protestant developments too; if the Catholic Church has always been willing to take what is good in pagan culture and develop it, then the likes of Bach should not be off limits.

Likewise, Christianized highbrow music is already with us. The modernist movement in highbrow music has totally collapsed. ‘Sophisticated people,’ it would seem, could only pretend that the onanism of Schoenberg and his followers was impressive for so long. A video from a decade ago of an aged Yoko Ono screaming into a microphone in front of an audience of gullible people also has over 5 million views on YouTube. It also has 50,000 dislikes against 26,000 likes, and the comments are mostly people making fun of the video. As the baby boomers age, their cultural products rapidly become self-parodies. Their most devoted children, the under-40s who are trying to maintain their crumbling establishment, still pay lip service to this muck but when they get home from their climate summit, they typically turn on the latest hits. Or, if they have a semblance of taste, possibly some classical standards.

Unfortunate young people who study music under those that promote modernism typically turn to contorted fusionist attempts to incorporate ‘underground’ popular ‘music’ like Dubstep into the highbrow repertoire. No one pays attention, although the grants keep flowing. At best, these crossovers into subcultural garbage produce YouTube sensations. But these show up clearly the severe limits of the musical forms that we are dealing with. Consider a dubstep rendition of Beethoven’s Für Elise by the ‘artist’ Klutch. It is almost comical to listen to—although the YouTube video has attracted over 49 million people who either have fantastic senses of humor or awful musical taste. Mr. Klutch has chosen Für Elise for the simple reason that it has a catchy hook. Since dubstep is basically the repetition and modulation of an underlying hook, the crossover just about “works” in a technical sense. But the piece loses everything else that makes it interesting. It is not allowed to develop or to go anywhere. The hook is simply repeated over and over again. 

Since these crossovers are obviously unproductive a priori, and creative people have realized the dead-end of Schoenbergian modernism, true artists seem to have shunted back onto the Christian track. From the haunting hymns of Arvo Pärt to the exotic rhythms of Jordi Savall, the motifs are familiar to anyone accustomed to classical and renaissance canons. Pärt’s rendition of Salve Regina has nearly 3 million views on YouTube, although from the comments it seems that many listeners are not aware that they are listening to a prayer rather than film music. His Fratres is unspeakably brilliant and is recognizably of our time. This is not a simple throwback or a nostalgic recreation; a Renaissance-era listener would have found Fratres baffling. It’s oscillation between violent, jolting assaults of violin and ephemeral, spiritually uplifting landscapes is utterly strange and perfectly modern and suited to the modern world. If anything in highbrow music has a chance of developing, it is this.

No Masses Breed Suffering Masses

The most difficult genre to imagine in a Christianized society is undoubtedly popular music. Yet it is, in a sense, the most important. Popular music forms popular consciousness. It promotes the virtues of the population or, in sadly decadent societies like our own, the vices. Music hits the mood directly and uplifts or degrades us accordingly. 

Contemporary rap and hip-hop music, for example, are designed to degrade. Whereas earlier iterations mixed upbeat rhythms with degrading lyrical content, contemporary iterations drop the upbeat rhythms in favor of dreary and repetitive beats. One of the most popular songs in this new genre is Gucci Gang by Lil Pump (1 billion views on youtube!). The song is hilarious—a real bellyacher—and the video puts it well over the top. There is no point in highlighting here the infantile simplicity of its lyrics or its borderline self-parody of crude consumerism. What is fascinating is that it performs a sort of reductio ad absurdum on pop music itself. Pop music, of course, relies on crude hooks to catch the attention of listeners. Trap music pushes this to the next step where it inserts strange vocal utterances that sound like they are from a child’s cartoon—I would almost advise the listener to try it out for themselves, no description can capture it—and uses these as additional catches. But this ‘gagagoogoo’ is presented against a dark and bleak backdrop, where the music sounds like it is pulling the listener into a depressive spiral. This is not the melancholy of Schubert’s Der Doppelganger—and, take caution, even such Romantic excesses are (at least in the opinion of this writer) dangerous for the soul— no, this is degradation pure and simple. This is not the melancholy of the frustrated lover; this is the suicidal nihilism of the opium-eater, mixed with the morality of the mugger.

This aspect of the music is perhaps best considered with reference to one of the better—although I use the word with trepidation—iterations in this new popular music subgenres: Mask Off by Future (440 million views!). This is a piece of culture worth taking more seriously than the dross of Gucci Gang, but it is not much the better for it. Whereas Gucci Gang is almost humorous in its unselfconscious self-parody of itself, Mask Off is quite honest about what it is. Mask Off discusses a life that comprises using opiates, hitting the gym, and sleeping with women. The limited, almost hellishly repetitive lifestyle described (completely uncritically) in the song is perfectly accompanied by the musical content. The song uses a repeating flute hook to pull the listener in. But behind it is an extremely downbeat sublayer that, as with Gucci Gang, leaves the listener feeling lost and despondent—as if he or she has fallen into a blackhole. The effect is impressive. If you allow yourself, you will certainly be moved by the song. But you will not be tapped into a deeper emotional substratum. If you listen closely, you will just feel dirty and hopeless.

It is remarkable that this music is truly popular. It sounds more like a subgenre for depressed teens or avant garde oddballs rather than the ‘Top Ten’ content it apparently is. But its popularity shows the almost infinite malleability of popular consciousness; something that has become increasingly apparent with the spread of bizarre ideologies in television shows and on streaming services. People, it would seem, really will swallow anything—even if it makes them feel ill. The rampant use of disgusting pornography and the increasingly popular consumption of certain drugs that, until recently, would have been the preserve of only hardened junkies is almost certainly behind this willingness to consume poison and slop.

Pray for the Conversion From Russia

It makes sense that liturgical music is seeing a revival. True Christianity is seeing a revival, as evidenced by the very medium that I am publishing in. So, it is not hard to see why the same people revising true Christianity are also interested in liturgical revival. The revival of highbrow music is less immediately obvious. But the impulse that is giving rise to the return to true Christianity is likely driving the changes in highbrow music. The alternative is simply clapped out. No intelligent person could possibly go to Yoko Ono’s art exhibit and not feel a pang of self-doubt.

Likewise, it is obvious why popular music is not seeing a revival. Good popular music cannot thrive in a degraded culture. Highbrow and liturgical music can separate them from the cultural surroundings. In that sense, both are elite. But popular music cannot. It is an organic outgrowth, a sort of mirror, of the state of the society at any given moment in time. This means that to catch a glimpse of what a revived popular music might look like we must turn to a culture that is trying, no matter how pathetically or slowly, to revive its Christian heritage. The most obvious example in this regard is perhaps Russia, which has been seeing such a revival for at least a decade. 

It seems likely that Russia is seeing this revival before the West because, in the 20th century, they experienced the result of the liberal project in fast forward. In the West, liberal modernity hid its true intentions for the whole 20th century. It pretended that it wanted compromise with its Christian past. Now it is obvious to all but the most devout National Review reader that this is not the case. In 1917, Russia got a shot of liberal modernity straight to the heart. Catalyzed, the liberal modernist project collapsed much faster. And so, the revival inevitably began sooner. In theory, this should mean that there are some younger people who will start to recreate decent popular music.

We are seeing some rumblings. Although you must look hard. But what we can see developing in Russia may have a lot to teach us in the West. The best representative of revived popular music in Russia is the Russian pop folk group Белое Злато or White Gold. The group is composed of a rotating group of young women and appears to have been around for at least 6 years. They are distinctly a ‘girl group’ in the modern sense, and this seems thought out and coordinated. The girls are pretty, good singers and would not be out of place in a standard pop group in the West. Their image is self-consciously opposed to the sexualized image of Western pop music. Sometimes this entails dressing up in traditional Russian outfits, but most of the focus seems to be on dressing modestly and doing street performances as can be seen from their YouTube channel. They seem to be relatively popular within Russia. Their English-language channel has almost 62,000 subscribers and there is evidence of them playing concerts in Germany and France. But Russian commentators have complained about their inability to get broad exposure and the crudity of their marketing attempts. Their recorded album, released in 2019, is available on Spotify, however. It is well-varied and does not disappoint.

Their music is a sort of folk revivalism. But it has a distinctly modern flavor. It is very distinct from the hippyish attempts at folk revival we saw in the West in the 1960s and 1970s. That movement was always going to be countercultural and the use of the music was twisted from its original context; by contrast, White Gold clearly aspires to being a true pop group. 

Their music does not suffer for it. In fact, it is excellent. Some of it is comprised of upbeat Russian folk songs like Young Cossack Girl, one of their most popular songs. The version of the song on YouTube suffers from some slightly wanting production values, but it is rich and complex. The lyrical content is standard folk fare, about a young man courting a young woman. Other songs are slower and more reflective. One of their best is Beyond a Calm River. This song does have explicitly Christian content and imagery, but one gets the sense that this derives from the fact that the song is Russian, and Russia is Christian. That is, the Christianity is secondary, not primary.

This probably speaks to what popular music in a Christian society must necessarily be like. As Catholics know, culture precedes Christianity and is receptive of it. Culture is a sort of base metal or prime matter which is then formed by Christianity. While highbrow and liturgical music can be focused and Christian, it seems more likely that popular music will always be more of a baseline cultural product, generated out of the specific soil that it grew up in.

Der Musikgeist and the Beginning of History

Music speaks to the deepest recesses of our soul. No doubt. And the repulsive world we live in is creating truly repulsive music. We should not doubt the impact that the sounds and songs that people listen to have on their character. They are profound. Much more profound than painting or literature or architecture. We march to the beat of a drum, as the metaphor states, not to the wave of a brush or the placement of a brick. Music is not in truth a simple reflection of culture, but its essence. Hegel spoke of a Weltgeist and tried to glean it through newspaper clippings and Napoleonic marches. Perhaps we would be better off trying to grasp at the essence of the Musikgeist.

The question of popular music in a Christian society is then likely to be tied up with the question of the relationship between Christianity and local cultures more generally. This in turn raises questions about the relationship between an integralist political program and specific national cultures more generally. It seems likely that an integralist state will find itself at war with degenerate corporate music. Perhaps it could have accommodated the American popular music of the 1940s and the 1950s, but today’s corporate music is actively geared toward corruption and degradation, not just of the morals, but also of the mood and the senses. This will likely require some sort of national cultural revival to restore solid prime matter for Christian culture to work with. Christ may have turned filthy water into wine; in the city of man we must be more practical.

Short Notes on the Family and the City Wed, 18 Nov 2020 20:59:32 +0000 Continue reading "Short Notes on the Family and the City"


by Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist.

The following article is the first in a series of translations from the works of Jacques de Monléon (1901-1981). Along with his friend Charles De Koninck (1906-1965), de Monléon was a key figure in Laval School Thomism. So much so, in fact, that the school was sometimes called the “de Monléon-De Koninck School.”[1]

De Monléon was born in 1901 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera. He was sent to the Catholic boarding school Collège St. Jean in Fribourg, Switzerland (where Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a fellow pupil). He then studied at the university of University of Aix-Marseille, earning degrees in law (1922/1923) and philosophy (1924). He then moved to Paris to continue his philosophical studies. In Paris he became close to Jacques Maritain.[2] But after a few years he began to diverge from Maritain. One point on which he disagreed with Maritain was the question of “moral philosophy adequately considered” (that is, on whether moral philosophy can be properly scientific without being subalternated to theology).[3] De Monléon was moving towards what he saw as more consistently Thomistic position. He was therefore happy to be invited to the Universty of Laval in Quebec in 1934.

Thomism of the strict observance was established in Quebec by Msgr. Louis-Adolphe Pâquet (1859-1942), who had studied under Cardinal Satolli in Rome. Paquet wrote a commentary on the Summa in Latin,[4] and an intransigently ultramontane-integralist treatise on ecclesiastical public law, written in French.[5] As dean of the faculty of theology at the University of Laval, Pâquet steadily expanded the teaching of philosophy, until it was possible to establish a full pontifical faculty of philosophy.[6]

It was during the expansion of the teaching of philosophy that Laval hired De Koninck and de Monléon. Through a miscommunication they both arrived to fill the same position. In the end, both were retained—De Koninck as professor of natural philosophy, and de Monléon to lecture in political philosophy and ethics. De Monléon was, however, to split his time between Quebec and the Institut Catholique in Paris. Pâquet was originally skeptical of the two laymen, since he thought scholastic philosophy should be taught by clerics, but he was soon won over by their love of St. Thomas.[7]

De Koninck and de Monléon became dear friends. They wrote many letters to each other during the months of each year that de Monléon spent in France. Florian Michel has analyzed their correspondence, showing how they developed the typical theses of Laval School Thomism in the philosophy of science and in political philosophy together.[8]

When De Koninck was appointed dean of the philosophy faculty in 1939, he and de Monléon also began to develop the pedagogical approach that was to become typical of the Laval School. It was an approach that emphasized the importance of learning step by step and in the proper order. The role of the teacher was to lead the students by the hand from the common conceptions of the truth naturally known to all to the first principles of reality. Thus de Monléon wrote to De Koninck:

We [have hitherto] certainly not [been] Thomistic in the way we teach. […] It is indisputable that we proceed in the manner of mathematicians and idealists. […] We immediately plunge poor little immature minds into the dark depths of being and non-being. […] One must lead such minds by the hand if one is allowed to forge such a twisted image. Manuducere. Sicut Zoé (my dear little Zoé[9]) manuducit pueros suos.[10]

This emphasis on the order of learning seems also to have led indirectly to less emphasis on publication in the Laval School, since “leading by the hand” was felt to be something that required personal contact. And, as it turned out, they were to feel that their few publications were often misunderstood. They did, however, begin the Journal Laval théologique et philosophique.

It was in Laval théologique et philosophique that the following “Short Short Notes on the Family and the City” were first published. Later they were included in the volume: Personne et Société, Overtture Philosophique (Paris: Editions L’Harmattan, 2007). Many thanks to Alessandra Fra of L’Harmattan for permission to publish this translation. The translation was originally made by a group of tutors at Thomas Aquinas College for a seminar on Catholic Social Teaching. Many thanks to Anthony Andres for permission to publish the translation on The Josias.

The nature and scope of political authority, and its relation to the incomplete community of the family, is a key issue in recent debates among integralists.[11] I am convinced that de Monléon’s profound reflections can contribute key insights to this debate. A printable version of the essay can be found here.

Short Notes on the Family and the City

Jacques de Monléon

1. – We know that many very eminent authors do not recognize the essential difference between domestic society and political society. Plato, for example, writes: “Well, then, surely there won’t be any difference, so far as ruling is concerned, between the character of a large household, on the one hand, and the bulk of a small city on the other? – Not at all. – So, in answer to the question we were asking ourselves just now, it’s clear that there is one sort of knowledge concerned with all of these things, and whether we call it the science of kingship or political science or household management makes no difference.”[12] The nineteenth century political philosopher, Louis de Bonald, writes in a similar vein: “Such is the likeness, or rather the complete identity that everyone recognizes between domestic and public society, that from the most ancient times kings have been called the fathers of their peoples.”[13] And the same idea is found in Fustel de Coulanges’s The Ancient City, and this opinion is the one of its directive principles: “Family, brotherhood, tribe, city, are societies in exactly the same way, and are born one from another by a succession of federations.”[14]

2. – Plato studies this issue using the same method that he uses everywhere in his study of reality. This dialectical method, that is, the method of logic, consists in comprehending objects, not by seeing their place in the order of reality, but by seeing their place in the logical order, that is, their place in the universality of our concepts, such as in the composition of subject and predicate in a proposition. The dialectical method is not necessarily illegitimate; not only can it be useful, but it is often the only good way to study some real thing. But we can abuse it, and its abuse begins when we suppose that things exist in reality in exactly the same way in which they exist in the mind. Its abuse begins, for example, when we suppose that the universality of the concept in our thought corresponds to some universal nature in realm of real being. And here is an example of what follows from such a supposition: since the logical genus is the principle, the foundation, and even the substance of our knowledge of things (after all, specific differences are imposed upon the genus to which they are added), it would then follow that the genus is also the substance or essence of the object in the order of reality, in such a way that the specific differences which are joined to the genus end up being accidental determinations of it. But this is false; the genus and the specific difference together express an essence which in reality is essentially one and indivisible. We can also be led to think of the genus as if it were the whole essence when we consider its relation to the subjects of which it is predicated. We can come to see the genus as a superior attribute, since it is more universal and extends to more subjects than the species. Then we might think that the genus is superior because it represents that which is more perfect in reality. Here we have the genus monopolizing the essential and reducing the specific difference to a mere accessory. We have imposed the properties of the logical order, in which the predicate is superior, upon the real order. Even though the genus is superior to the difference in universality, it does not really tell us that what it names is more perfect: on the contrary, it expresses what is indeterminate and potential in the notion of a thing.

Of course, we need to see that the city and the family are two species which fit under a more common notion.  But how can we avoid abusing this dialectical method? How can we resist the temptation to think that the genus expresses the whole substance? How can we avoid thinking of the specific difference as if it were merely accidental? Moreover, how can we know that there is a difference between the two kinds of societies, the city and the family, and what that difference is? To achieve these goals, it is necessary to follow a natural method, that is, it is necessary to try to grasp these things insofar as they are real beings.  That is, we cannot just consider the genus, the starting point of logic, and the logical modalities which exist only in the soul; we must also grasp the parts which compose the whole of the thing in its real existence. And so, to know the nature of this whole which is called the household, we must examine its distinctive parts, the elementary associations that form it in reality: the partnerships of husband and wife, of parents and children, of masters and servants. We must do the same for the city, since the distinctive parts of these two societies are truly and essentially different.  We must raise our minds up to their real foundations, proper, complex and living, the irreducible differences which distinguish them.

3. – Because it starts with facts, history might seem immune to the abuse of the dialectical method. But what do we actually find in Fustel de Coulanges’s History of the Ancient City? Of course, the author does insist on the growing strife between the city and the family, and on the final victory of the city against the family and the tribe; but by itself this does not prevent him from asserting that there is an exact likeness between these diverse societies. And that makes sense: it is not unlikely that beings of the same species fight among themselves and that the greater and stronger wins. – Again, one of the fundamental themes of his book is that religion, according to the ancients, has been the chief inspiration and the principal organizer of society. Fustel emphasizes the opposition between one kind of religion, a kind which worships domestic divinities, and another kind, which worships political divinities.[15] He neatly indicates the subjective allure of the first, the objective character of the second, and we can appreciate this contrast. But in fact Fustel is not as surprised as he should be. He does not appreciate enough the importance and the reason for this difference. His starting point, the likeness of societies in a common genus, is insufficient for understanding the progression between these things.

In truth, the facts of history cannot be deduced from logical relationships. It is neither the essence, nor the nature, nor the specific difference which form the object of history, but the singular, the contingent and the accidental insofar as they appear in time.  But these latter make up a fabric that unfortunately is torn by irrationality. How can we repair this fabric? The following might seem to work: let the historian, in place of simply telling everything that happens in the course of a particular time, also order it as unified and illuminated by a logical conception. Let him consider the accidental relations of events to each other as if they were an accidental relation of differences added to a logical conception. For example, the historian might look at the city not just as something which happens to come after the household temporally; rather, he might consider the city as an accidental variation, the same in kind as the family and the tribe. The advantage in basing historical accident upon a logical accident is that we infuse the events of history with a seductive rationality; we gather everything that happens in history under the same logical conception, just as the method of limits leads us from the square to the circle under the logical conception of the polygon. Moreover, since historical realities slowly emerge in time, and things that change little by little do not differ except in terms of “more and the less,” the use of a dialectical method in history does not appear to abandon its foundation in historical fact – but only if we gloss over the abrupt changes (for example, the joining of villages) that tear into the slow and continuous evolution of life. The dialectical method uses history in its attempt to discover a “more and the less” compatible with our thinking that the genus is in itself permanent, and that ultimately this “more and less” should clarify everything. Taken all the way to its logical conclusion (we cannot actually accuse Fustel of going all the way here), the historical-logical method which we have spoken of explains history as the development of just one substance. It should remind us of the Hegelian method, here used so brusquely by Karl Marx:

If from real apples, pears, strawberries and almonds I form the general idea “Fruit”, if I go further and imagine that my abstract idea “Fruit”, derived from real fruit, is an entity existing outside me, is indeed the true essence of the pear, the apple, etc., then in the language of speculative philosophy — I am declaring that “Fruit” is the “Substance” of the pear, the apple, the almond, etc. I am saying, therefore, that to be a pear is not essential to the pear, that to be an apple is not essential to the apple; that what is essential to these things is not their real existence, perceptible to the senses, but the essence that I have abstracted from them and then foisted on them, the essence of my idea — “Fruit”. I therefore declare apples, pears, almonds, etc., to be mere forms of existence, modi, of “Fruit.” My finite understanding, supported by my senses, does of course distinguish an apple from a pear and a pear from an almond, but my speculative reason declares these sensuous differences inessential and irrelevant. It sees the same thing in the apple as in the pear, and the same thing in the pear as in the almond, namely “Fruit”. Particular real fruits are no more than semblances whose true essence is “the substance” — “Fruit”.[16]

This way of thinking, moreover, has the effect of annulling all genuine evolution in history: since it eliminates essential specific differences, the uniformity of the genus allows only apparent or accidental changes.

But now let us suppose that the healthy desire to escape from this last consequence makes us decide to reintroduce the specific difference into the substance, instead of leaving it out. But let us also suppose that, fearing to lose the benefit of dialectical rationality, we refuse to let go of the ancient postulate, that what is substantial in the order of logical predication, the genus, is purely and simply substantial in reality. We can immediately see that trying to satisfy these two conditions simultaneously forces us to incorporate contradiction into the very substance of things. For if, on the one hand, the genus society constitutes the whole substance of both domestic and political society, and yet on the other hand these two societies are substantially different, it follows that they are, at the same time, essentially the same and essentially different.

And then we could take this substantial contradiction and make it the primary motivation in the soul which causes the movement of history. – We could also think, and this would be even better, that a contradictory essence is really not an essence; and thus that neither essence nor substance really exist; and in particular, that man has no nature, but only a history. And if we then dismissed the next world as an “illusion,” we could transfer all of our being into the accidentality of our actions. – But what this line of reasoning finally amounts to is a critique of the postulate which treats the genus and the logical substance as if it were the substance of things in reality.

4. – In contrast, Bonald refuses to accept the fundamental difference between the domestic and political societies because he deliberately contradicts those who base civil society upon a human and free convention. Society is necessary; it is natural. It is natural because it is necessary for the production and conservation of man. And since the society that is most clearly necessary for the production and conservation of man is the family, he reduces civil society to the family. But his error comes, not in saying that the family is necessary to the production and conservation of man, nor in holding that political society is natural and necessary to man. His error is not to see that the words ‘natural’ and ‘necessary’ have different meanings, and that we cannot apply these terms to the family and to the city in the same way. The family is necessary for the formation and preservation of the very being of man, while the city is natural and necessary for him to achieve his end: For the end of the generation of man is the human form; still, the end of man is not his form, but through his form it is fitting for him to work to an end.[17]

Such a serious mistake leads to unsettling consequences. For example, Bonald generalizes from the fact that in the family the subject proceeds from the sovereign (the child from the father) to infer that it will be the same in every society. He says that “subjects, insofar as they are subjects, proceed from sovereign and his ministers, just as the child proceeds from his father and mother.”[18] If we too argued this way, we might think that we have enlarged the family. We might also think that in (clumsily) establishing civil society upon this basis we further assure the solidity of the family. What we have actually done, however, is to justify beforehand and in principle the dissolution of the family into the State.  In fact, it is one of the pretensions, or if we wish, one of the ideals of the totalitarian State, that its subjects proceed from its power.

But these are not just the consequences of the kind of philosophy which we encounter in our day. In fact, these are its principles. It frequently happens that the most implacably opposed philosophical systems actually stem from a common principle, a common major premiss. By adding to that major premiss two different minor premisses, each in itself quite true, they ultimately arrive, by rigorous deductions, at two contrary conclusions that are equally and dangerously false. Isn’t this the case here? Let us take as our major premiss that the society which is concerned with the substance of man is the most perfect, and all others are reduced to it. If we add to this principle a minor premiss which is incontestable: the family is the society that is concerned with the substance of man, the traditionalist conclusion inevitably follows: the family is the most perfect society, and all others are reduced to it. But if, on the contrary, confronted by a conclusion so doubtful, I assume (always under the same major premiss) this other premiss: the most perfect society is the political society, the totalitarian conclusion is now imposed upon us: The State is essentially concerned with the substance, form, preservation, and betterment of man.

Of course, in an argument in which the minor premisses are true and the inferences are irrefutable, but the conclusions are false, our only recourse is to doubt the major premiss. But it is often difficult to track that major premiss down, above all when it is common to opposed systems, and all the more when it represents a very profound metaphysical principle. In the present case the major premiss implies nothing less than this: substance, being primary in the order of being, is also primary in the order of finality and action. That is, this premiss entirely confuses and even identifies the ontological primacy of substance with its teleological perfection. But neither in man nor in any creature are these two things the same: it is obvious that we are not perfectly good merely from the fact of our existing. Rather we are good only because our actions are properly ordered to our end. Being and action are identical only in God, and only God is absolutely good through his very being. Thus, the confusion of the city and the family implies, at its root, whether we like or not, consciously or unconsciously, that man has claimed for himself the Divine prerogative. And vice versa, every philosophy which makes action (thinking or any action, it does not matter) the substance or being of man posits a first principle which causes us to confuse the family with the city.

5. – Generation is the primary object of the association between a man and a woman. But generation is not something belonging to man according to his proper nature, that is, according to reason. Rather, it is common to him and to the other living things, and even to merely physical beings. The desire to leave behind another being that resembles himself is not, in man, an effect of a deliberate determination: nature itself inspires this desire in both animals and plants. As a tendency, it is as natural as it is universal. Nothing is more certain than that generation, as we have taken it, is rooted in the world of nature, is spontaneous, and stirs up the most vehement, the most impatient, and the most profound of desires. Nothing better shows us how we are natural. We must not forget this when we discuss the family. Now, while the first intention of nature is the preservation of the species, nature also universally intends to conserve and to guarantee the individual being which it brings into being. Still, this is a less primary intention which nature leaves to the care of the individual engendered. For, although the individual cannot be the principle of his own generation, in the end he is always reckoned to be the principle of his own conservation. He nourishes himself, nutrition being the most fundamental of the functions through which he assures his own preservation. What follows is that nature is responsible all by itself for generation; we see that generation does not make use of any art except the extrinsic and accidental. In contrast, the conservation of the individual requires more directly the help and the completion provided by art and reason. Thus, man preserves his own existence by building houses and making clothes and preparing food in the kitchen. Often among the animals, an art participates in instinct, each contributing to the preservation of the individual. These arts even demand specialized workers who are placed, as it were, on the edge of nature, since they do not reproduce themselves. All of this shows that the conservation of the individual, even if it is understood as encompassed in the intention of nature, even if it has its principle in nature, and in the vegetative nature which man has in common with other living things, is not so profoundly and exclusively natural as generation. We can see this last thing to have been well-understood by Maeterlinck  in his book, The Life of Bees:

Here again nature has taken extraordinary measures to favor the union of males with females. If she had devoted half the genius she lavishes on crossed fertilization and other arbitrary desires to making life more certain, to alleviating pain, to softening death and warding off horrible accidents, the universe would probably have presented an enigma less incomprehensible, less pitiable, than the one we are striving to solve.[19]

Nature’s “. . . constant cry on all sides is, ‘Unite and multiply; there is no other law, or aim, than love,’ while she mutters under her breath: ‘and exist afterward if you can; that is no concern of mine.’”[20]  The full meaning of the passage is this: the art which provides for the conservation of the offspring is marvelously displayed and used in the hive; but the union of the male and the queen happens far from the hive, in the depths of space, as if nature wished to show that she is self-sufficient for generation. And we are the bees.

Of course nature calls upon art and reason for the preservation of the individual most urgently and clearly in man. In the case of man, nature both intends the preservation of the species and is entirely charged with the execution of that intention. But, although nature intends the preservation of the individual man, she requires the prolonged and multiplied aid of reason for the execution of the intention. The first foundation of marriage is here. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman who are deliberately and determinately tied to one another. But mere generation does not require such a union because generation occurs in every species by the simple momentary joining of the sexes. The problem is that, left to herself, the female would not be able to fittingly provide for the nourishment, protection and education of the child.  The man must remain with the woman after generation, and this occurs only by a deliberate determination.[21]  Thus, nature first has recourse to reason in order to nourish the engendered individual.

It would be interesting to compare Hobbes and Rousseau with Bonald, on the subject of the preservation of the individual. All three would agree with an idea meriting careful consideration, that the conservation of the individual is taken up in political society, if not only there. But this is how they disagree: Bonald always links generation and conservation together; both are for him absolutely natural, natural in the same way. Hobbes and Rousseau, on the contrary, think that the conservation of the individual is the concern of reason and liberty. Isn’t the foundation for this divergence in what we have come to see? We have seen that conservation is natural in the sense that nature inclines to it, but it still requires the assistance of reason. We are here touching upon the principle of the distinction and relation between economics and politics.

6. – A thing is natural because nature produces it. But nature can produce a thing in many ways.

1. First, because this thing fits the nature of man in this, insofar as his nature has something in common with animals, with plants, or more generally yet, with all physical beings. This is the sense in which nature is inclined both to the generation and preservation of the individual. It is according to this meaning of the term that generation and preservation are called natural and are called more and less natural. Now, the inclination that is common to more different kinds of beings will be to that degree ‘more natural’ in each of them. But in some cases, in order to be fully satisfied, the inclination derived from what man has in common with other beings must have recourse to that which is proper to the nature of man, reason. This latter is the sense in which the conservation of the individual in the human species is natural, and in this way it differs from generation which, we have seen, requires nothing, so to speak, from reason.

2. In the second place, a thing is natural because it fits man in what is proper to his nature, reason. But even here we must make distinctions.

a) In some cases rational nature can be inclined towards acts which nature guides from beginning to end. It is in this way that nature produces in us from their very beginnings the most universal judgments, such as that the whole is greater than the part, or that we must do good and avoid evil. etc.

b) In other cases rational nature is inclined to something which can only be accomplished by the application of reason and will. If something is called natural in this sense, it is because it conforms to a thing’s nature, because it corresponds to its ultimate desire, which is its perfection. This is something that is not provided by nature alone. Knowledge, virtue and political society are ‘natural’ in this sense and in this sense only. In such things the natural inclination varies in degree in different individuals; nature only provides a beginning, a spontaneous tendency, more or less vague and confused, toward something that can only come about by an extended and laborious application of art, reason and the will.

These are the principal senses of the word ‘natural,’ although there are others. We see how the word ‘nature’ hides equivocations and that it can be the source of fallacious reasoning. We see also the vigilance and dexterity which is needed when we use it. Otherwise, we speak in vain about the ‘natural’ character of the family and society. To understand anything we must distinguish.

These necessary distinctions help us discern between the contrary positions, of Hobbes and Rousseau on the one hand, and of Bonald on the other. It is true, as the first two posit, that political society is not natural; it is not natural because it cannot be formed unless reason and freedom are applied to establish it, although of course it is natural in that it corresponds to the inclination and perfection of man. And it is true to say with Bonald that political society is natural, in the sense that it corresponds to the inclination, the desire and the perfection of human nature, although it is not natural as if reason and free will do not need to intervene in order to institute it.

7. The third object of the family is the education of children, their apprenticeship in human life. But what do the words ‘human life’ signify in the sense in which it is now necessary to take them? “Life” does not designate being but acting. Human life is made up of specifically human acts, i.e., acts which proceed from a deliberate will. Thus education is something so different from generation and conservation that it seems at first difficult to assign it to the family along with them. Insofar as it generates and conserves children, the family as a cause ought to provide for the being of children. Insofar as it educates children, it regards them, on the contrary, as principles of action. But since the milieu par excellence of properly human acts is political society, ought not education pertain to it? Education is inevitably contested terrain, a sort of perpetual Gran Chaco[22] where the two communities, the family and political society, face each other.

At this point we must lay down a general principle: As soon as man is seen as a principle of his own actions, it follows that there must be a concurrence between the family and public society. Already on the economic level, with respect to man’s conservation and maintenance, the two communities interfere with each other. However trivial the claim may seem, let us not forget that the living being is itself the active principle of the assimilation of its food, even if not always a principle of the production.

Can we call the family a ‘natural’ association with respect to education? The very question implies another: is it natural that a principle of action, above all when it acts by reason and will, when it is causa sui [cause of itself], depends in its action on some prior principle? On the contrary, doesn’t its nature demand that it act by itself? We know that certain educators rely on the principle of letting the child move himself. That it conforms to the nature of a principle made for self-movement that it move itself is obvious, but nothing can move itself unless it has first been put into act. A car doesn’t start on its own; the driver has to start it. And this is the nature of every agent outside of God, whose being is action. This is a universal law, transcendental within creation: in order to act a creature must first of all have been acted upon by another; and the creature is subject to this law even when it is of itself a cause by reason and by will. Now the role of education is exactly this: to put man on track, to put him in act in the order of human action, and to elevate him to the status of a principle which is a movens seipsum [self-mover].

Nature demands more: it demands that that the generated be set going and put into act by its generator. To the degree that we follow the thread of generation and heredity, our access to the soul of the child is more intimate, easy, and natural. In fact, we see very clearly that the same is true here. Being is the root of doing, and doing is the end of being. The father is, then, the natural educator of the child.

Still, nature seems perplexed and hesitant on this point. It inspires certain kinds of generators to restrict themselves pretty strictly to generation.  In these cases, they have hardly put their offspring into the world before they lose interest in them. They say to them something like: “We have begotten you; our job as far as you go is done. You are living; it’s up to you to move yourself; it’s up to you to keep out of trouble.” Fish, for the most part, and often men too, end their association there. For others the reverse is true: they seem to more or less forget that the limit of their activity in regard to their offspring should almost be a refutation of their activity; that the goal to be attained is to enable their descendants spontaneously to move themselves well. There are parents who tend to bind their children to themselves indefinitely; to exaggerate and prolong their causality. “I want my daughters. I made them. They’re mine,” says Pere Goriot.[23] The root of this tendency is found in generation, the first basis of paternal behavior. My daughters, I made them; thus, the daughters do not belong to themselves. Poor Goriot reasons very formally once the principle is posited. What has been engendered, as such, is entirely an effect. It is not the cause nor the master of its own life: it owes that to its parents. So it is that, rather than sustain and animate from within, the voice of the generator can, in the father, overmaster the voice of the educator. It is difficult, indeed, for the cause of something to see it otherwise than as an effect; to know, when the time comes, to treat its effect as a principle; more: to exercise its causality so as to make its effect itself be a cause.

8. From the principle posited, “I have made them,” Goriot logically infers that his daughters are his. But must we not question the principle itself and ask whether a father pronounces it from within the plentitude of fatherhood? In fact, neither Goriot nor Grandet[24] represent the father in his absolute and complete idea, in his Platonic essence. What Balzac depicts in these characters is rather, in the twilight of a fading day, the disparagement of human paternity. Speaking as he does, Goriot sinks far below the perfect Father of whom one cannot admit that He uses the word make with regard to his Son: genitum non factum. And even with regard to human generation we sense something trivial, inelegant about using the word make. In truth, the physical generation of living things, adequately grasped, encloses a conflict which the story of Oedipus symbolizes in a striking way. The destiny of Oedipus is, among other things, a paternity which sinks from its royal, almost divine heights:

Children, young offspring of ancient Cadmos…,[25]

into the ambiguous and pitiful obscurity of the lower regions:

But today the gods have abandoned me. I am the son of impure beings, and I, miserably, have seeded the womb whence I came.[26]

Should we erase this immanent antithesis between grandeur and misery, all the tension of the drama is released. Whence comes the conflict? What importance does it have? We will do well if we get just a glimpse of the answers to these difficult questions.

We are not subsistent life, but corporeal living things. Our life is a participated life, existing in a matter which is its subject. Consequently, the propagation of life for us is tied to the generator’s transmutation of the matter from which the generated being is made. From this point of view, the father can in a certain sense be compared to an artist or a worker, and he can say that he ‘makes’ a child as they make their works. The base, vulgar, ambiguous, and sordid connotations, everything miserable or repugnant which can be met with in physical generation is attached to the material cookery which is its precondition. Without conceding anything at all to the morose repulsion of the Manicheans on this issue, their attitude is explained by this condition. However much the shadowy regions of generation contrast with its sublime heights, the shadowy regions still have their mystery.

If the physical generation of the living is imperfect insofar as it is physical, it owes its grandeur to the fact that, all the same, it is the generation of something living, i.e., a communication of life, the production of something living from a conjoined living thing according to a similitude of nature. Considered in itself, what could be more wonderful than to propagate life, to communicate to another the perfection which consists in self-movement? In itself, this includes no imperfection and we find it in God. The shadows and contrast appear when the communication of life is complicated by the subjection of a matter, a subjection more profound to the degree that the perfection to be communicated is higher and more interior. For there is an opposition between the perfection communicated, which is to be moved by oneself, and the mode of communication, which implies that a matter, a subject, is moved ab alio [by another].

At bottom, isn’t this the antithesis between life and subject? If we agree to call ‘subject’ that which receives or possesses in itself a determination, a movement, and act, every life is a victory over subjectivity. For the living is not such because it receives an act in itself, or because it possesses it in itself, but rather because it moves itself, applies itself, and determines itself to action. This feature of the living thing led Bergson by extrapolation to deny that any coming to be demands a subject. “There are changes, but there are not, under the change, things that change: change has no need for a support.”[27] Bergson goes too far, first of all because change demands a subject, and then also because life has consented to being participated in by a subject. We find the right manner of thinking about and saying these things in these lines from John of St. Thomas: “The vitality of an act does not belong to it precisely due to its inherence in a living subject (for this only implies passivity, and what is passive as such has nothing vital about it); the vitality of an act belongs to it insofar as it proceeds actively from a living thing, for the most formal notion of the living thing is that it moves itself, not that it undergoes something.”[28]

Because it is a transmutation,  an alteration of a subject, biological generation is a signpost of becoming. It is in itself a riotous movement, a paroxysm of life. It is transitory and repeats itself indefinitely. Entirely concerned with bringing things into existence, but not with conserving them in existence, it pursues multiplication in an unlimited becoming. But all of this is not sufficient for achieving the full perfection of paternity. No one can really lay claim to the title of father except by the care which he gives to the preservation and the development of those whom he begets. There are peoples for whom the legal father is the one who takes charge of the children, and not simply the procreator.[29] This is because to preserve something in being is more perfect and demands a higher and more universal causality than it does to bring things into existence. To nourish is, in a sense, more noble than to beget. To nourish is to procure food. Food presupposes a being which is already able to move itself, since the one being fed must vitally assimilate its food, and in fact food is the very object for this vital power of assimilation. Now every movere seipsum [self-mover] confronts an object, while the moveri ab alio [things moved by another] is completed by an efficient cause. For living things, food is the first object which they have the ability to make use of themselves. Finally, as we have already noted, food presupposes the cooperation of reason. Let us add to this the protection and education of the offspring and we will begin to see that it is in going beyond mere generation that paternity develops its true greatness. It is by this sort of extension and enlargement that paternity is elevated unto a royal dignity, even unto divinity, as we find in Egypt, where the Pharaohs were fundamentally the food suppliers of the people.

9. Of the three essential functions of the family, generation, nourishment, and education, the first two concern the substance of man, the third, his action. Moralists and sociologists as a rule do not think much about substance, and this is quite understandable, for they are concerned with human acts, which, as we have noted, are accidents. Let us look into this further. If men who are concerned with human action easily turn away from the substance, the essence, or the nature of man and if they even come to deny it, the first reason for this attitude is the dislocation in the creature of the order of being and the order of good. A man has being, in the absolute sense of the word being, not because he is good, but because he is a man. On the contrary, a man is good, in the absolute sense of good, not because he is a man, but because he acts well. We have being absolutely in virtue of our substance, which is not good except in a relative way, radically, that is, as the first ‘root’ of our acts. And we are good absolutely by our actions, which are not being except in a relative and , as it were, secondary way, since they are no more than accidents of our substance. This great divergence between being and good certainly does not make us feel completely comfortable, nor perfectly secure, and we always try to mask or reduce the divergence. Recall in passing two contrary philosophies on this point: that of Leibniz, who turns substance into an at least virtual action, and Existentialism, which suppresses substance to reduce all our being to the accidentality of our acts.

Even if it is normal that the moralist and the sociologist do not take any time to think about the human substance, it would nevertheless be good if they took a little more interest than they are wont to do. The simple recollection of what a substance is already brings in some serious clarifications on the question of the family and the city. We call a ‘substance’ a thing to whose nature it belongs to exist by itself. This is not to say that a substance cannot have a cause of its existence. With the exception of God, all substances exist because of one or more causes which produce them. The words ‘by itself’ do not exclude a cause, but rather a subject in which the substance would exist and which would sustain it: a substance cannot be received into something else. Existing by itself, maintaining and retaining its existence in itself, substance cannot be specified by anything exterior to itself, in the way sensing, thinking, willing are specified by their objects. Not existing in another thing, it is not open to another thing: it is interior to itself, shut in on itself, enclosed on itself. It is ‘in itself.’

Now, it is remarkable that the family, whose primordial occupations concern the engendered and conserved substance, also tends to shut in on itself. Where the family is strong, it has trouble opening up. Where men open themselves up too easily or too quickly to their circle of friends or to the world, the family loses its cohesion. The old Sabine families opposed Romulus when he wanted to make Rome an asylum for all comers. We can multiply observations of this kind with regard to peasant families, provincial ones, etc. However hackneyed the subject, we know that reality does not lag behind imagination. Experience shows us how varied, comic, refined, or violent are the lives of families. Further, many men find their vital support there: domestic bears who love their cage, who decorate it to their taste, who see irresistible pleasures there and refuse to leave; owls who indeed have their wisdom, but whom the light of day dazzles and who prefer their hole; and also delicate plants: in the open field they can only vegetate and die: they need a greenhouse and a planter.

But for other temperaments the family is soon too narrow; they need the open air. Close them in and they get jumpy. You can put a geranium in a vase, but not an acorn, which will break it when it becomes an oak. This is how the family, when it yields to its demon of isolation, works for its own destruction: it makes those who do not find their fulfillment in it displaced persons, vagabonds. We send young men into the world because the permanence of the domus [home] is unable to assure their livelihood; their attachments are broken, and when they return the family no longer knows them or hardly recognizes them for its own. Here colonization can be a safety-valve, except that colonial life is not generally very favorable to the solidity and stability of families. Relations with the metropolis are developed and multiply, resulting in an ebbing of mores, while new customs corrode traditions. The Roman patres were well guarded against the influence of those returning home. Rome did not swarm off like the Greek cities: it constituted provinces; it organized the universe around itself. If time permitted, it would be worthwhile to consider all this more thoroughly, taking the notion of empire as our frame of reference.

Do not forget, moreover, that it is not only because it is self-enclosed, but also because it is stable that substance reverberates with the behavior of the family and that it provides here a healthy antidote to the city, whose bent, on the contrary, leans somewhat dangerously in the direction of the indeterminate mobility of action.

10. To the degree that substance is self-sufficient in the line of being, of esse, since it exists in and by itself, to that same degree it is insufficient in the line of action and of bene esse, of well-being. For action is specified by an object, that is, it is turned toward an end extrinsic to substance. This profound antinomy of the ‘in itself’ and the ‘of the other’ is not simply a matter of metaphysical speculation. It finds expression in human behavior. It provokes differences of attitude, disagreements, misunderstandings, antipathies secret or declared, and sometimes implacable combat. Is this not one of the sources of the permanent antagonism between Athens and Sparta? In The History of the Peloponnesian War, the people of Corinth declare:

Lacedaemonians…you do not show much comprehension of foreign affairs…. Alone among the Greeks do you remain inactive…You have no idea, moreover, of the adversaries you have in hand with the Athenians. How completely different from you! They love innovations, are prompt to conceive and to realize what they have resolved; even if you intend to safeguard the way things are, you lack invention, and you do not even do what is necessary. They show themselves audacious even beyond their strength, bold beyond any expectation, full of hope even amidst dangers. Your line of conduct consists in doing less than you might…. They act and you temporize; they travel abroad while you are the most domestic of men…. Rest without occupation burdens them more than laborious activity. In brief, in saying of their nature that they are as incapable of remaining quiet as they are of leaving others in peace, we would be speaking the absolute truth.[30]

But precisely because it inclines first of all to the being of substance, the family is incapable of being completely self-sufficient in the order of human acts. It does not belong to the family to assure the full per se sufficientia vitae [self-sufficiency of life], the full development of life in action. This is not to deny that it is good for certain men (and in certain cases which are in fact frequent) to be enclosed in a strongly familial society. It is so among primitive peoples, and in civilizations in decay, i.e., every time men are not ripe enough or end up being too ripe to live a perfect human life. To the degree that man is too imperfect to be up to the standard of the city, it is necessary that the family maintain or firmly reestablish its controls. Whence the benefit of the middle ages: coming after a used up and defeated civilization, it recovered and rejuvenated its seeds in a natural and life-giving family climate and so prepared new developments.

We cannot exaggerate the concrete, the practical importance of these reserves. Nevertheless, this should not hide the deep-seated incompleteness of substance and thus the insufficiency of the family. This insufficiency can again be seen from the following perspective: to act, a created substance must be surrounded, armed, equipped with powers or faculties like intelligence, will, etc. The development of these faculties of man relative to action for the sake of the perfect human good finds its perfection in political life. Thus, philosophies which propose to relieve substance of these encumbering faculties and which make of substance itself an immediate principle of action – all philosophies of this sort posit a principle of confusion between domestic and public society. Those who give everything to the family, like Bonald (a great admirer of Leibniz), and those who pretend to remove everything from it, like the totalitarian state, can together lay claim to this principle and these philosophies. Doesn’t the Marxist solution to the human problem also express the same viewpoint? Isn’t it finally a question of inverting these two, the faculties and actions of man as superstructure of a nature, and the substance which the faculties presuppose? Of integrating our action into our essence, so that the former no longer depends on the latter, but the latter on the former? Isn’t this, in fact, the true end of the quarrel between man and his nature? The true end of the quarrel between essence and existence? The second coming of freedom?

11. But have we now made such a sharp distinction between substance on the one hand and faculties and action on the other, that we are inclined to make a definitive argument that education does not belong to the family? How can we escape this conclusion if the city is the place par excellence of human action and if human actions are the object of education? Or maybe this distinction really supports the opposite: civil society must not intervene in education if it will not aid the family and subordinate itself to the family?

But since being is the root of action and acting well is the end of being, society naturally has a responsibility even for being. Thus we cannot purely and simply deny that it has a responsibility for action and acting well. Man does not receive only his being from his causes. They must set a man in motion, give him his start, otherwise he would not be in a position to move himself. The role of familial education is precisely to begin us in life, in human acts, by putting us in act in such a way that we can in the end act and act well on our own. This beginning is a long and laborious affair. For the angel it needs only an instant; for the animal it sometimes demands a certain length of time; but in the case of man it needs a very long time, for he can only slowly acquire the formation and the necessary experience to face the indefinite and shifting sea of life.[31]

But the family does not secure a man’s entire education. Familial education always implies that the child is moved to some degree by his causes, increasingly less so as the child grows up. Thus, the aptitude to move oneself cannot be perfected without being exercised in the city. On the other hand, familial education is accomplished in a certain way by impressed motions, by undergoing impulsions. In the family there is always a kind of “inculcation.” We may recall here the observations of Plato on the role and mode of familial education in the acquisition of good order, on the δοκοὖντα νόμιμα [apparent laws], the πάτριοι νόμοι [paternal laws]. In the family there are all kinds of prescriptions that resemble law: Remain quiet, stand up in the presence of your elders, etc. It would be ridiculous to make ‘laws’, in the proper sense of the term, for all the little matters and uncertainties. It is necessary however to immerse children in them, to provide them the sense of what is right, what is legitimate, and thus prepare them to obey the legal. But this immersion proceeds by way of νουθέτησις, “putting yourself in the mind, in the head . . .”[32]

Now the properly and fully human act requires that man, instead of acting under a impulse received from outside, brings himself to one end or another by particular means that he has deliberately chosen. These are the modes of objectivity and finality that establish the character and specific excellence of the education received in the city. It is easy to make a mistake on this point because we often have a debased idea about the political completion of education, and because that education is confused with education or teaching by the State. For good or ill, the State can make itself a teacher and take over the part of education that normally is left to the family. The terms public or national education may deceive us: we do not thereby know what the goal of education must be in the city as such.

In the funeral speech that Thucydides puts in the mouth of Pericles, one of the reasons for loving Athens is its shows and festivals.[33] To offer to the eyes of men the objects that affect, open and form them is in fact a very important part of public education. We cannot explore this here since the details are endless. Let us say simply that in every matter and every order, from monuments to displays, and from landscaping to hats, the city must thoroughly maintain an atmosphere such that the things surrounding the citizens are not crude but are presented with the quality, harmony and excellence commensurate with the good life of man. Bread, for example, consists not only of carbohydrates, proteins and vitamin B; its nutritive power must be flush with true flavor and harmonious with the first degree of wisdom, namely, the first discernment of order that is the sensation of taste. Wine, too, should have its bouquet. Men should not allow themselves to be buried in a materiality that is scientific and brutish, the funeral of comfort, but convenience should raise itself up to a little of true and free beauty. The city watches over language, which is not simply a kind of exchange but an incomparable means of formation through its phonetics, through the expressive power and intelligence of which it is objectively full. The city must attend to public performances, music, theater, cinema, contests, matches, races, Olympiads, ball games, fireworks, festivals, fairs, broadcasting and bullfights. It must not only sustain artists but also protect and promote a certain quality in the works themselves, even if it must act contrary to the artists themselves. It should abandon neither the artists nor the public to the mercy of snobbery, clique, ambition, or moneyed interests. Clear the air, as much as possible, above the marshes of literature. All this is not easy. It requires neither edicts nor bureaucrats nor the nationalization of the arts and letters, but a kind of superior and free judgment and a sense of life. But how can this be accomplished?

We must look for those craftsmen who have the gift of following the trail of true beauty and grace, so that like the inhabitants of a healthy country, the young may receive benefit from all things about them, whence the influence that emanates from works of beauty may waft itself to eye or ear like a breeze that brings health from wholesome places, and so from earliest childhood that influence must insensibly guide them to friendship, to imitate the beautiful and to establish between it and them a perfect harmony.[34]

Moreover, all this formation which comes from the city must begin at childhood and surround and bathe familial education.

Finally, it is through the law that the education of man is truly achieved. There are no laws in the family, except in an imperfect manner. Law is objective and universal, an order emanating from reason in view of the end which is the common good. But reason, objectivity, universality, and finality make it that the law speaks to men only to the degree that they can move themselves deliberately, and therefore it speaks not to children but to citizens.

12. Just as art presupposes matter and the gifts of nature, so the city presupposes men. Receiving them from nature by way of the family, the city has for its object not to make men, but to perfect them, to give them a sufficiency of those means necessary for attaining by reason and will the end of human life: Homines non facit politica, sed sumens a natura, utitur ipsis.” “Political [science] does not make men, but taking them from nature it uses them.”[35]

Moreover, when a society, a political regime meddles with generation (for example, with the intention of maintaining purity of race and blood), it admits its impotence and resigns as a regime, as a political society: for the object, purpose and greatness proper to politics is to bring to the highest possible degree of perfection the human matter that nature furnishes. It is more difficult to lead a man than to beget him. As Joseph de Maistre said: “The great difficulty is not to make children, but to make men.” Even the greatest artist does not produce the matter that his art works upon; rather, he receives it “as is” from nature, and knows how to pull off a great work, notwithstanding how inconsistent or rebellious the matter may be. The greatest marvel of the divine art is not creation, but the elevation of the creature to the supernatural order. This is not to say that the city must be purely and simply uninterested in generation. On the contrary, the city must take it into account, but only in order to assure that the family can do it well: as city, its object lies elsewhere.

13. The distinction between domestic and public societies becomes even clearer when we consider it from the viewpoint of causality. In the family the efficient cause manifests quite clearly, whereas the final cause plays a more implicit role and within the context of nature. The parent is the efficient cause of the offspring and of the nourishment he provides for it, and the education proper to the family is conducted to a great degree by a kind of “pushing.” But the end is always present in the life of the city, which has as its express goal the happiness of man, the ultimate end to which it tends through its deliberate action. Moreover, there is a great difference between the way an end works and the way an efficient cause works. The end does not trigger the will; it causes action only if it is presented in the guise of object: ignoti nulla cupido (there is no desire for what is not known). There is no parallel in the case of efficient cause, which acts by a thrust that the patient undergoes obscurely. In the family there is often a compulsion that is felt and often very compellingly, but often it is more instinctive than objective. Traditions are received without examination, accepted and handed down simply because they descended from previous generations. Justice in patriarchal societies assumes the appearance of Themis: an oracle given by the father, by the king, under some inspiration come down from on high. Law is not what one reads, but what binds us as a holy, traditional matter, for which one does not have to advance reasons. Contrary to this, the more the city rises and the more men know and want to know the reasons behind their actions, the more the final end affirms its role in their life: justice becomes Judgment [Gr.: Dike]. Law will then proceed from deliberation and be established upon principles and written down for all to see.

14. Whatever corrections they might require, the considerations found in Fustel’s The Ancient City concerning religion and the family provide much to ponder. Without a doubt the first issue concerns the basis of the family’s sacred character, once so widely recognized. If nature aims at generation with such a strong impulse, it is because by generation corruptible beings imitate, as much as they are able to, the eternity of God. The individual passes, but the species abides. What pushes these beings to reproduce themselves is the divine desire in nature to resemble its own indefectible principle. To participate in God’s immutability and eternity through succession, through the decay of time and individuals, is the end that nature pursues by means of generation.

For in all things, as we affirm, Nature always strives after ‘the better’. Now ‘being’ . . . is better than ‘non-being’: but not all things can possess being, since they are too far removed from the principle. God has therefore adopted the remaining alternative, and fulfilled the perfection of the universe by making ‘coming-to-be’ uninterrupted, . . . because, ‘that coming-to-be’ should itself be perpetual, is the closest approximation to eternal being.[36]

Let us note here a few points:

a) In accomplishing a task divine in the way we have just spoken of, it is normal that the family in all its vigor (that is, especially before the appearance or clear development of the city) feels instinctively its existence and its permanence as something divine. It puts itself above the individual, who is reduced in a way to being only its support, its transitory and unceasingly replaced instrument. It tends, in the manner of monism, to absorb all human life, leaving the individuals, its proper members, to be hardly more than modes or accidents of its own being. Fustel felt all that deeply and perhaps even exaggerated it a little.

b) But Fustel constantly opposed religion and nature with respect to the family. Let us distinguish: if we think of nature insofar as it is made real and concretized in this or that individual, then it is true that the family can, in the name of its own existence, neglect nature, or even oppose it, for example, in breaking certain bonds of natural affection. But if one thinks of nature as the divine wish of always maintaining itself across the passing individuals, then there is nothing more strongly natural than domestic religion.

c) Imitation of divine permanence is the end of nature and generation. But this end is not an object that nature must know in order to reach it. This is why the atmosphere of domestic religion is so dark, peopled with ghosts and shadows, with shades and household gods in indistinct outline, with occult influence. These divinities do not give rise to a true mythology, which is something more luminous and objective. Rather, the household gods are honored by superstitious practices or magic. And the rites and formulas are repeated long after anyone understands them.

There remains much more to examine in the relation between the family and religion. Thus, let us consider religion according to its precise definition. Religion is an incomplete form of justice and has for its object the worship rendered to God insofar as he is the first principle of being and of the government of the world. In other words, religion looks to God principally as the Creator and Sovereign Mover. If it reaches out for him under the title of Last End of the Universe, it does so less openly, so to speak, and in a secondary, implicit and indirect way; in fact, in such a way that we find in religion the predominance of the efficient cause that we find in the family. Isn’t this one of the foundations of the close affinity between the family and religion?

Now it is true that domestic religion is at first very closed in, and that each household is jealous for its particular divinities. Then one day, when the idea of a Single God, the Principle of All Things, was affirmed, domestic religion opened up, enlarged itself and became related to the universality of the first cause. God is adored and entreated as the Father par excellence and the source of all fatherhood. Parents and ancestors are now venerated as ministers of God in his communication of being. But this enlargement of religion does not require it to rise above the reference point of efficient causality. Narrower or wider, the divinity is always manifested as the source of being. In sum, religion does not lose its profound affinity with the family just because it understands and has recourse to a higher and more universal deity.

Also, the religion of the city is not a simple expansion on domestic religion, in such a way that there is an historical continuity which leads from the second to the first. Rather, when we pass from one to the other, we enter a different order of things. Fustel himself insinuates this using excellent terms which we wish to emphasize: “On the other hand, man applied his idea of ​​the divine to the exterior objects that he beheld, that he loved or feared, to the physical agents who were the masters of his happiness and his life.”[37] The political religion is turned towards its own objects and its own ends.

15. Thus, the family is spontaneously religious, first because of the divine end which nature pursues by means of generation, but also because of the primacy of efficient cause and the mode of this kind of causality. In contrast, the family is less fully in harmony with the supernatural. If the evolution of the life and religion of the city had not displaced the ancient religion of the household, would the Gospel and Revelation have been able to capture the ancient world as they did? The paradox is clear. Religion and the supernatural are very much connected, but they are different and it would be erroneous to confuse them. There are societies and governments which are very hostile to the supernatural and yet which invoke God religiously. Moreover, if a religion has for its object the worship which is owed to God as First Principle of reality, that religion can be purely natural.

Of course, the supernatural supposes that the creature depends upon God as the cause of its being. But to discern what religion consists in essentially, we cannot stop there. The lowliest student of theology clearly sees that if he limits himself to considering God as an efficient cause, as the cause of being as being and the proper and universal cause of existence, he can discover nothing about the intimate life of God in the Trinity of Persons. Considered from the point of view of efficient causality, the actions of God proceed ad extra [towards what is outside] from the divine omnipotence in its essential unity. No effect of God, as effect, would manifest the mystery of the Trinity. An effect as such, that is, in its reference to the efficient cause, does not have any connection to the divine Persons insofar as these are distinct relations, but only insofar as these are one self-same God. The mystery of the Trinity is the mystery of divine life, interior and transcendent, and nothing of its secrets is made known through the conduit of efficient causality alone.

But the supernatural is precisely a participation in the nature and the intimate life of God. It confers on us a likeness to God so particular and appropriate that the creature is seen to be associated with the knowledge and the joy which God has in Himself. The supernatural order is not at all defined by God in his function as creator, nor by creatures insofar as they descend from their principle. We must leave behind the consideration of Him as efficient cause. The supernatural order is formally defined by the return of the creature to God.  He makes his intimate life, considered as object and end, as happiness, the eternal life of angels and men.[38] If I  consider grace only as an effect which God brings into existence – which in truth it is – I manifest it only under an aspect common to all created things and I am incapable of seeing it as a participation in the divine nature. How could we hold onto a univocal participation in deity while staying within the limits of efficient causality? An effect of God as such can only have an equivocal and extended likeness to Him.

We often criticize Aristotle because in the Metaphysics he only sees God as the end, not as the author of the universe. But perhaps he has very serious reasons to do what he does in this oft-criticized book. May I stammer out some brief remarks on a subject so large and which none should be allowed to discuss lightly? The intention of Aristotle is to rise up to the perfection of God as pure act, absolutely immobile. “As pure act”: what does this mean? We can understand by this that God possesses in Himself all the perfection of being, and consequently that He is the source of being for all other things. Such a meaning is certainly not excluded from the text of which we speak. But the intention of Aristotle goes further, is more profound and more daring. “As pure act” can signify not only all of the perfection which pure act possesses, but also the manner in which pure act possesses all perfection. But the manner in which pure act possesses all perfection is as an act which cannot be made determinate by any other, by any act which is before any other, outside of any other, and more ultimate than any other. But, between the two orders of causality, efficient and final, it is only the latter that by its very formality entirely excludes being made determinate by something other than itself. An efficient cause must be made determinate by the end, but the end in itself is an immobile mover. Thus with wonderful certainty Aristotle adheres to final causality in his effort to rise up to the supereminent mode of divine perfection. And thus he approaches, insofar as man’s unaided reason is able, not only to God as a being or substance containing all perfection, but also to God as a nature, that is, as an interior principle of operation, a nature which is the actuality of life, a life which is thought, and a thought which is thinking itself. All this is a more and more rigorous and ascending expression of pure act considered under the mode most determining its own perfection: non determinatur ab alio [it is not determined by another].[39] At least we cannot honestly take away from Aristotle the conspicuous merit of having brought to bear, with respect to God, the notions of nature and of end. Without these notions, taken up and elevated by Revelation, it is impossible to discern what the supernatural is. It is really arrogance on our part to hastily blame the insufficiency of Aristotle’s doctrine, because we ourselves have forgotten the insufficiency, in this matter, of considering only efficient causality. But let me close this Aristotelian digression and return to our main subject.

There is an affinity between religion and the family, but there is also an analogy between the supernatural order and the political order, in both of which the object and end are primary. To corroborate our reflection on this point, it is fitting to make a further examination of the theme of substance. Man can only participate univocally in the divine nature by taking his actions for his object and his end. This is because it is impossible to conceive of a creature which would be supernatural in its substance. For, insofar as it is a creature, it would be other than God; but insofar as it is a substance, it would not be specified by anything other than itself. Thus, it is always in relation to God as object and end, it is always in relation to the actions which allow the creature to reach this object and this end, that the creature participates in the supernatural order. As in the political life, the supernatural life presupposes the created substance, of which it is only an accident. Grace does not have the task of producing this substance any more than the city does. We can say of grace what Aristotle said about the city: it receives things generated by nature and uses them.  We maintain that, on the contrary, the family, insofar as it furnishes the human substance, keeps itself at a distance from the supernatural order.

There still remains this considerable difference between the supernatural order and the political order, that the first allows us to participate in the divine nature by making us children of God. In this higher order, the political and domestic orders are combined: citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. Also, the Virgin Mary, is invoked near the beginning of the Litany as Mother of Divine Grace, but near the end as Queen of All Saints. Which of these two titles is greater? And which of these other two, Queen and Mother of Mercy?

16. The specific difference between the family and the city, and the preeminence of city should not, however, make us forget the intimacy of their relationship, nor the necessary transfusion of the influx of the family in political life. The city is the ultimate sphere of human action, which proceeds from a deliberate will. It is the sphere where man moves himself to an end that he knows objectively as the end, that is, as the principle and the measure of his actions. But, we can now see clearly how much, because of its very perfection, the causality of the end finds itself compromised. While the efficient cause only needs passivity in the subject that it moves, the causality of the end can only bloom in the secret of the appetite. Without the interior and living response of willing, the end remains ineffective, inactive, and powerless. If someone pushes you, you will move. But will you move if someone calls you? In this way, political life presupposes an intimate fulfillment in man. The city cannot profitably welcome in a man it if he has not been sufficiently raised and has not actually acquired the correct interior dispositions. Such dispositions enable him, when entering into the “kingdom of ends,” to properly answer its call. The family is necessary for bringing about this interior formation. Without the family it is impossible to work out in a connatural fashion the subministratio virtutis [the development of virtue], because only the family approaches, in the process of the generation, to the substantial and subjective regions of the individual, to his very marrow. Mitte radices.[Go to the root.]

Moreover, this intimate formation not only has the role of tracing for us determinate ways for choosing means, since these choices depend on our deliberations; it affects us more secretly. It is about animating in us this first affective and effective love of the end that is the principle of all our actions. It belongs to the family to awaken the first infused, but diffuse, inclination to want the right thing. It belongs to the family to ensure this profound apprenticeship of the heart.

However, this sort of infusion does not proceed only from the immediate family, but more largely from all that composes the mysterious, mystical, and concrete reality of the homeland. The homeland, the fatherland, is an intermediary between the family and the city. In it, the constraining environment of the family is relaxed, to mingle in the sea of political life. We need this widening. Without cutting us off from our roots, it frees us from the narrowness and the inevitably prosaic tedium found in the family. At the same time, the fatherland establishes and immerses the material of the political life in the current of heredity and tradition. Outside of our family, it is in our fatherland that we are formed, incubated, ripened, so that so many enduring sensible and spiritual goods, slowly developed by the multitude of our ancestors, are naturally transmitted to us in a warm, constant, gentle, maternal humoral symbiosis. And this is necessary to dispose us to move, to move well, to move with ease, naturalness, and freedom in the environment of the city. The fatherland brings about an intimate and living harmony between the subjective and the objective, the instinctive and the deliberate, the moveri ab alio [to be moved by another] and the movere seipsum [to move one’s self].

At the same time that it forms us from the side of the subjective interior response which such objects and the ends require, it also tempers the excess of autonomy that is a danger to what is essential to the life in the city. The fatherland reminds us that, while in some way we ourselves are principles, there are nevertheless principles from which we come. It reminds us that we cannot place ourselves above such principles and detach ourselves from them under the insolent and juvenile pretext that we are beyond them, or that everything is not rationally evident to us about them. It demands of us an attitude of piety with regard to our fathers and their descendants. This is exactly the contrary of what Rousseau recommends in these lines from the Emile:

For by a right which nothing can abrogate, every man, when he comes of age, becomes his own master, free to renounce the contract by which he forms part of the community, by leaving the fatherland in which that contract holds good. It is only by sojourning in that fatherland, after he has come to years of discretion, that he is supposed to have tacitly confirmed the pledge given by his ancestors. He acquires the right to renounce his fatherland, just as he has the right to renounce all claim to his ancestral domain.[40]

It is very certain that the original principles of man, his dependence on them, the transmission of what he receives from them, cannot be reduced to clear and distinct ideas. There are too many obscure things in generation, too much hidden grandeur in paternity. In this sense, we cannot see so deeply into the principles of our being that we could justify them geometrically.  Our adherence is something natural, instinctive, mystical and deeply interior. There is also the filial acceptance of our dependence with respect to these causes, which are prior to us and superior to us, without which we would not even exist and without which we would not be what we are. In the atmosphere of the fatherland one accepts this obscurity and this dependence, but they do not seem entirely compatible with perfect freedom, full self-control by reason and will. Hence we are tempted to free ourselves, and in particular to replace the fatherland with the nation, and to replace the piety that one owes to the fatherland with nationalism. For the nation is still a community of birth, but now it claims that it possesses a revelation, a luminous and transparent self-consciousness. In the nation we no longer feel the weight of darkness and dependence. The feeling of piety disintegrates. The causes from which we come may either be left behind or will only take their meaning and their value through the gradual revelation of the national community. Nationalism, at least in the most basic and most fierce forms, is the opposite of the fatherland and tradition.


I will begin with our ancestors because it is fair and just, in such circumstances, to pay tribute to their memory. This country without interruption has been inhabited by people of the same race and, thanks to their valor, it has been handed down free until today. Our ancestors deserve praise, but our fathers deserve more still.  To the heritage that they received, they added, and have bequeathed to us, at the price of a thousand labors, the power that we possess. We have increased it, we who are still living and who have reached full maturity. It is we who have put the city in the position of being sufficient unto itself in everything, in wartime as in peace.[41]

These words of one citizen to other citizens manifest a balance between the mind of tradition and the mind of progress. The Athenians remain attached to their origins, to their principles; they venerate the springs and submerge themselves there. However, the man of the city cannot simply stand still even among the holiest sources. He must not be frozen in the cult of ancestors, in the preservation of ancient mores. The city and the complete human life are undertakings of active reason, of art, and of freedom. Without turning away from our causes nor avoiding their impulses, we must look to their ends and achieve them by our own initiatives. In this lies an attitude of wisdom and salvation.

In fact, history teaches us that the epochs in which the authority of tradition and autonomy of reason happily conspire are exceptional and brief. To leave the conservative status quo and achieve the fullness of life, men and the city launch out. However, as paradoxical as it sounds, by entering into the order of the deliberate pursuit of the end, man arrives at the infinite, the infinity of possibilities, of circumstances and contingencies, means, and movements of life. The call of purpose, of happiness is thus combined with the almost irresistible attraction that the infinite has to reason, freedom, and desire. And soon the determined and determining course of tradition is submerged by the sea of promises, of resources, of unlimited roads.

The city carries in itself this principle of infinity. To ensure the full sufficiency of life, the city must contain a certain number of men and also a whole apparatus of resources, a variety of occupations: the army and navy, industrial and commercial organizations, communication systems, etc.—all this in incessant movement, ever in the process of becoming. In this complex situation the devil of the infinite both strolls and attends to his work. Gradually from the city rises a whisper, and then a whole rumor of ideas, works, business, passions, pleasures, pains: the aura of concupiscence, of endless traffic. It looks like a nebula in limitless expansion, expanding from its own resources. Once its movements have taken too much acceleration and amplitude, it becomes humanly impossible to subordinate them to the purpose that should govern them: the good of human life. The only thing that can now be established is a sort of Leibnizian equilibrium: forces and beings struggle for life within their capabilities. The symbols of goals and ends, the acropolises of the purest design, the best-cemented capitols fade, dissolving slowly in the smoke of the city.

The city looks a little like an angel: she is sufficient unto herself in all that is necessary for the perfection of life. But the fall of cities and civilizations also resembles the fall of an angel. When man turns away from both his causes and true purpose, he acquires a sort of freedom, the freedom to move in the infinite. Then there is a tumultuous, intoxicating, and proud effervescence of life. This is not scarcity, but prosperity, even abundance. In numerous fields, discoveries and conquests indeed go their pace. And then one day civilization and the city die, exhausted, suffocated in their excessive exuberance. They have consumed themselves with their own fire. The city and civilization have wanted to conquer the infinity of the sea by their traffic, but that very sea advances to engulf them:

Thou wast replenished, and made very glorious in the midst of the seas.

Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters: the east wind hath broken thee in the midst of the seas.

Thy riches, and thy fairs, thy merchandise, thy mariners, and thy pilots, thy calkers, and the occupiers of thy merchandise, and all thy men of war, that are in thee, and in all thy company which is in the midst of thee, shall fall into the midst of the seas in the day of thy ruin…

What city is like Tyre, like the destroyed in the midst of the sea?[42]

And here, correspondingly, the fall of the angel:

Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.

Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.

By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.

Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.

All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.[43]

18.—Theology shows us that the Holy Spirit necessarily proceeds from the Father and from the Son, not only for this reason, that if He only proceeds from the Father, He would not be distinguished from the Son, but also for a reason taken from His definition, from His proper character: the Holy Spirit necessarily proceeds from distinct persons because he proceeds from a love that is friendship.[44] It seems here that theology applies a principle like that which Aristotle opposes to Platonic communism: too much unity corrupts the city. In denying the Filioque, we would make the error of exaggerating unity in the procession of the Holy Spirit, and at the same time we could no longer maintain the bond of a union of friendship. Likewise, in exaggerating unity in certain forms of communist or totalitarian societies, we would distort and make difficult, even impossible, the strictly political union of citizens.

To make my meaning clear, let me remind you that a single essential and substantial will animates God the Father and the Son. But for a love of friendship to spring forth, it is necessary for distinct persons to be friends in active communication with one another. Likewise, a sole and common will must animate all the citizens: the conservation of the common good, the salvation of the city, etc. But this one and common will does not suffice to form the unity characteristic of society, whose living immanent link is an active communication among the citizens, in other words, a friendship.

The unity of society is not attained simply by an attitude of respect for the laws and for the rights of other members of the community. If this were enough, the Arcadians, who lived separately, each in his own home without disturbing each other, would have been real citizens.[45] But conversely, to react against the centrifugal  tendencies or isolationists tendencies of the individuals, sometimes we crowd the multitude elbow to elbow, so that we form one single mass carried by a single movement. In this way great unity is clearly achieved, but this is not a city at all, but the very opposite. Bringing about a will common to all and tending towards the same goal is one thing, but the birth of an active and communicative, vitally unifying friendship  between distinct and different persons who have this common will is another thing entirely. In a mass, individuals are unified and uniform, but also very isolated: each person can only think of himself and can only love himself. The mass, in itself, is not necessarily more than an association of tyrants diligentes seipsos magis quam civitatem [each loving himself more than the city]. This is actually the complete dissolution of the city, of the political order. But this dissolution is not opposed at all to a very compact unity: thirty tyrants and plenty more can be vigorously unified, like wolves.

When the connection between the elements of the multitude and the coherence of the political machine no longer emanates from distinct parts that organically make up the whole; when the connection of the parts and their consensus no longer comes from these various parts insofar as they are diverse, but mutually and amicably communicating in the common good; when the genius of the city is no longer living in these parts, each being in its place in the heterogeneous whole according to legal justice: then political life ceases to be in the parts, it becomes a stranger to them; political life becomes transcendent and the parts only passively receive its effects. In sum, the city is replaced by The State.

Yet, in order for the friendship that is the intrinsic bond of the city to be living, it is necessary that the citizens order themselves to the common good. The common good is not only the good in which the citizens take part, or may take part, or must take part; it is the good from which they must receive or take their part, to the distribution of which they have the right. It is true that I have the right to take my turn to sit for a certain time on a bench in the Jardin des Plantes.[46] It is true, but this is not enough to justify my pretention to citizenship. To consider the common good under this light is to consider it from a social perspective and not a political one. It is certain that this participation in the common good and this distribution of goods must be assured by society and assured in justice. But as long as we rest in this, we see in the member of the community nothing more than the subject of this good, a good in which he ought to participate. But the citizen as such is more than a subject. And to be more than a subject, he must turn towards the common good insofar as it is diffusive or communicative of itself; in other words the citizen must be the source of the communication of the good. The citizen helps himself, but he must pass the plate. It is not the subjective participation in the good that defines the activity of the citizen as a principle of the city. This subjective participation does not imply in itself any specifically political activity. When the State gets to providing all the good to each of the atoms of the uniform mass, we will no longer have anything to spontaneously communicate to each other; we will be the society of glutted subjects; we will no longer be citizens at all. This is how society curdles into the State, and how well-being ceases to be the good life.

[1] Florian Michel, La pensée catholique en Amérique du Nord (Paris : Desclée de Brouwer, 2010), p. 200.

[2] Michel, La pensée catholique, pp. 204-205.

[3] Michel, La pensée catholique, p. 206. For the controversy on Maritain’s view of “moral philosophy adequately considered” cf. Ralph McInerny, The Very Rich Hours of Jacques Maritain: A Spiritual Life (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), pp. 109-118. Maritain’s position was that, given that man’s final end is the first principle of moral philosophy, and given that in this order of providence man’s final end is supernatural, moral philosophy must be subalternated to theology to be fully scientific.

[4] Michel, La pensée catholique, pp. 199.

[5] Droit public de l’Eglise, 4 vols. Principes généraux; L’Eglise et l’éducation à la lumière de l’histoire et des principes chrétiens; L’Organisation religieuse et le pouvoir civil; L’Action religieuse et la loi civile (Québec, 1908–15). Cf. John R. Shook, “Pâquet, Louis-Adolphe (1859–1942),” in: The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers, vol. 3 (Bristol: Thoemmes Continuum, 2005).

[6] Laval University developed out of the seminary of Laval (founded by Bishop Laval in 1663) it was chartered as a University in 1852. The Faculty of Philosophy was established in 1935 (until then philosophy had been under the Faculty of Arts). See: Michel, La pensée catholique, pp. 198-199.

[7] Michel, La pensée catholique, pp. 207-208.

[8] Michel, La pensée catholique, pp. 208-215.

[9] Zoé was De Koninck’s wife.

[10] “Leads her children by the hand.” Quotation following: Michel, La pensée catholique, p. 223.

[11] See, for example: Andrew Williard Jones, “What States Can’t Do,” New Polity, July 24th, 2020 (accessed November 18th, 2020).

[12] Statesman, 259b.

[13] Constitutive Principle, c. 6.

[14] Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, III, c. 3.

[15] Ibid., c. 2.

[16] Karl Marx, The Holy Family, (taken from Selected Writings, Paris, Gallimard, 1934, p. 44).

[17] St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Physics of Aristotle, Book II, lesson 11, n. 2.

[18] Op. cit., c. 6.

[19] The Life of Bees, I.

[20] Ibid., II.

[21] St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, IIaIIae, q. 154, a. 2.

[22] Area is South America claimed by several countries.

[23] A character in a novel by Balzac.

[24] Another character from a Balzac novel.

[25] Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, 1.

[26] Ibid., 1360.

[27][27] H. Bergson, La Pensee et le Movant, p. 185.

[28] John of St. Thomas, Cursus Theologicus, disp. 32, a. 5, n. 32 (ed. De Solemnes, T. IV, p. 79)

[29] Encyclopedie Francaise, T. VII, 7’14-1ss.

[30] Thucydides, Peloponnesian War, I, 68-70.

[31] John of St. Thomas, op. cit., disp. 23, a. 2.

[32] Cf. Souilhe, La Notion d’intermediaire, pp.146ff.

[33] Thucydides, op. cit., II, 38.

[34] Plato, Republic 401c.

[35] Aristotle, Politics 1258a21.

[36] Aristotle, Generation and Corruption 336b27.

[37] Op. cit., III, c. 2.

[38] John of St. Thomas, op. cit., Disp. 37, art. 2, nn. 1 and 2. (T. VI, p. 353).

[39] Illud, cuius sua natura est ipsum eius intelligere, et cui id quod naturaliter habet non determinatur ab alio, hoc est quod obtinet summum gradum vitae. [That, whose very nature is its very act of understanding, and to which it naturally belongs not to be determined by another, reaches the highest level of life.]  – S. Thomas, Summa Theologica, Ia q. 18, art. 3; John of St. Thomas, op. cit., disp. 16, art. 2 (T. II, p. 336).

[40] J.-J. Rousseau, Emile, V, Des Voyages.

[41] Pericles to the Athenians. Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War II, 36.

[42] Ez. 27: 25-27, 32 (KJV)

[43] Ibid, 28: 13-19

[44] John of St. Thomas, op. cit., disp. 35, art. 4 (T. IV, p. 227).

[45] Aristotle, Politics II, c. 1, 1261b29.

[46] The main botanical garden in France.

Integralizm w trzech zdaniach Mon, 16 Nov 2020 04:40:05 +0000 Continue reading "Integralizm w trzech zdaniach"

Integralizm katolicki to tradycja myśli która, odrzucając liberalne oddzielenie polityki od troski o końca ludzkiego życia, utrzymuje że władza polityczna musi kierować człowieka do jego ostatecznego celu. A ponieważ jednak człowiek ma zarówno doczesny i wieczny cel, integralizm utrzymuje że rządzą nim dwie siły: doczesna i duchowa. Ponieważ doczesny cel człowieka jest podporządkowany jego wiecznemu celowi, władza doczesna musi być podporządkowana władzy duchowej.

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Building a Common Life Mon, 02 Nov 2020 19:39:23 +0000 Continue reading "Building a Common Life"

It is almost, if not absolutely, impossible for people who view each other with deep suspicion concerning morality to build a common life. And this is completely rational. A difference in moral orientation means that the normal trust in a community that members will not harm each other is not present. Not only physical harm, but intellectual harm. When there is disagreement about how to live morally with each other, children will be morally confused. As intellectual and moral habits form, these children will either act in ways that some approve and others disapprove, or else their confusion will lead to chaotic moral habits that destroy any chance that the community will continue unharmed.  To avoid this, parents may choose to isolate them from opposing moral standards (and thus isolate them from their neighbors.) But unless they live in a community agreed on morality, these children will not benefit from the natural and good diversity of perspective on practical and prudential matters that comes from living in a community of people with different talents and occupations. Instead of either self isolation or a live and let live attitude which hides the deep divides in our communities, we must meet this moral division head on and seek to convince each other to reject the immoral and live together in unity. It does us no good to hide the seething repressed disagreements that occasionally surface on social media behind the thin facade of “basic community goods” which renders our cities essentially shared utilities rather than places for a shared life.