Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Politics and a People: Finding a Modus Vivendi in Diversity

THE CONCEPT OF "A PEOPLE" is an interesting one, and the unusual nature of the concept as a unit in plurality is betrayed by the fact that in some contexts "a people" is used as a singular count noun, yet in others a plural count noun. It is as if this word has an ambiguous count. "We are a real people," the Palestinians may insist against Newt Gingrich's assertion that they are an invented people. Here we have a plural noun ("we") magically transformed into a singular count noun ("a people"). "The American people are a free people," we might hear a political candidate say, suggesting people is a plural noun. And yet, Alexis de Tocqueville in his Democracy in America can write: "Republicans . . . profess the opinion that insofar as a people is free, it must be moral, religious, and moderate." So why does this word sometimes tolerate different subject verb agreement, sometimes taking a singular verb, other times a plural? Curiously, even the word "a people" may itself be plural, yet it has a plural form to boot. Churchill could write a history of the English speaking peoples, yet the Venerable Bede wrote a history of the English people. Both were writing of the same people(s).

A people--whether as a demos or as an ethnos--is an aggregate of persons who somehow become "organically" united into a unit, and this unity in a people is something moral, even spiritual in character. A people, then, is more than a simple aggregate of individuals, they become one, a one-in-many and a many-in-one. This explains the grammatical curiosity of the word "a people." It reflects the subtle complexity of the concept.

A people is not formed through positive law or through a forced or artificial communion, since this communion is something that cannot be forced or created out of whole cloth. There must be a "sharing of life and values," and an "organizing unity" prior to a people, one which the positive law enshrines, is a formal expression of, and which it preserves. It is the "sharing of life and values" which, on the spiritual or moral level "is the source of communion" of a people. (Compendium, No. 386)

Perhaps in theory, a perfect overlap between a people qua demos and a people qua ethnos is ideal. Here a people's political reality is perfectly aligned with a people's cultural, religious, ethnic, linguistic, and racial reality. In such an instance, the demos is composed of a perfectly homogenous ethnos.

There are few nations that can be cited where there was near homogeneity (or monoculturalism) and the people qua ethnos were essentially one with a people qua demos. Perhaps ancient Israel approached this ideal. The twelve Semitic tribes of Israel were united under one law, one culture, one religion, and language. Saudi Arabia may be a modern day example of a country whose people qua demos and people qua ethnos overlap to a large degree. Of course, the fact that a people qua demos and a people qua ethnos are substantially identical does not remove all friction or conflict. However, when differences in religion, culture, and language are removed from the possibility of social conflict, it lends itself to greater harmony and solidarity. Hence the ever-present impetus to impose religious, cultural, or linguistic uniformity.

But even in ancient Israel, a polity put together by God, there was "the other," the person who was not one of the people of Israel. There was that person who was an alien, a stranger, a sojourner (Hebrew: ger [גר]). And the people of Israel were constantly reminded to treat the stranger, the alien, the sojourner who lived among them justly. E.g., Ex. 22:21, 23:9; Lev. 19:33-34, 25:35; Deut. 10:19; Zech.7:10.*

There is in practice no place where the limits of a nation will be perfectly coterminous with the limits of a people qua demos or a people qua ethnos. Most countries have a variety of peoples qua ethne within their borders. Perhaps one of the most ethnically diverse States in history was the Habsburg Empire. It included within its political boundaries such diverse ethnic groups as Germans, Czechs, Poles, Ruthenians, Slovenes, Italians, Magyars, Slovaks, Rumanians, Croats, Serbs and Szekels.

Although the United States, the world's "melting pot," has numerous ethnic groups, these tend to lose their identity over time, become Americanized and thereby become part of the greater American people, a people qua demos. A residue of their prior condition as a separate people, however, remains, and for that reason we seem to speak of "hyphenated Americans," of Hispanic-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Muslim-Americans and so forth. In the past, such epithets were considered disparaging, and both Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson advocated the notion of "unhyphenated Americanism."** Modernly, however, with the emphasis on multiculturalism and rejection of monoculturalism, we seem to relish in them. Roosevelt and Wilson were insisting that the citizens, regardless of their prior condition as a people qua ethnos, had become part of a larger people, the American people, a people qua demos. In other words, they believed in enculturation or assimilation.

Modernly, with the rise of the concept of normative multiculturalism, there has been an emphasis on maintaining one's ethnic or cultural inheritance as primary, even against the ethnic or cultural inheritance of the ethnic or cultural inheritance of the majority of the people qua demos. The notion of Leitkultur, where there is a leading culture to which the minorities must in some sense acclimatize or into which they ought to integrate, was rejected for a multiculturalism (Multi-Kulti)

In the desire to preserve the integrity of the various peoples qua ethne, even the substantive values of the majority people qua ethnos is rejected as the basis for the political life of the entire political group, the people qua demos. This sort of secularism, for example, is what the sociologist and philosopher Jürgen Habermas advocated. He suggested that no one worldview of any people qua ethnos ought to govern the body politic. Instead, substantial values of the various peoples qua ethne must be bracketed, and the values of the people qua demos should be governed by a rather insipid "constitutional patriotism" (Verfassungspatriotismus) something akin to, but broader than, what Bellah called a "civil religion."

In some cases, multiculturalism is viewed as a positive good, and heterogeneity of a people as demos is seen as better than homogeneity. Such people advocate increasing the role of, and the diversity of, various peoples qua ethne.*** Sometimes the multiculturalism that is advocated is so extreme that it risks making the content of the "constitutional patriotism" or "civil religion" so thin, that it risks the unity of a people qua demos by minimizing the shared values or by bringing in values that are in fundamental conflict.***

Most countries fall in between the homogeneity of Saudi Arabia and the heterogeneity of the Habsburg Empire. For a variety of reasons, "national boundaries do not always coincide with ethnic boundaries." And as a result there will always be "minorities" with Nation States, the modern analogue of the Scriptural alien or stranger.

In a nation with a multicultural society, the people qua demos (of which there is one) and the people qua ethnos (of which there can be many) are separated by design. The proponents of a multicultural society insist that there ought to be no effort to strive for a homogeneity, unity, or even greater overlap (enculturation or assimilation) between a people qua demos and the people qua ethnos. This of course also means that the substantive values of any people qua ethnos, including a people qua ethnos who may be the majority, ought not to be set up as the substantial values of the greater people qua demos. The reasoning behind this is that such an imposition by a people qua ethnos who are in a majority would infringe upon the rights of a different people qua ethnos who are in the minority.

So the advocate of multiculturalism loves heterogeneity, and tends to reject any kind uniformity, certainly religious uniformity and racial uniformity, but even cultural, linguistic, or moral uniformity. The advocate of multiculturalism resists the need for assimilation and encourages diversity. In practice, this means that the values of the people qua demos becomes highly insipid or very thin, to the point that the substantive values that are shared among the people qua demos end up being almost nothing other than some sort of procedural agreement. The people qua demos, then, share nothing but process, political or positively-derived (legal) values and certain political or civil rights, entirely free from traditional culturally-based or religiously-based values. When the shared values of a people qua demos becomes so thin, there is a risk of political separation. Additionally, when a people qua ethnos reject the notion that their values ought to be bracketed for the sake of a modus vivendi with the people qua demos, the result is one where that group refuses to integrate and becomes ostracized or even hostile.†

The Compendium does not address these issues except by certain broad principles that recognize that minorities, or what we have called a people qua ethnos, have certain rights to preserve their culture, yet they also have a duty to assimilate, to contribute to the common good of the greater people, what we have called a people qua demos, of which they are a part. They also have a duty to allow freedom within their ethnic groups, so that they are not closed to the thoughts and values of others.

The Compendium's message regarding the treatment of minorities (a people qua ethnos that are in the minority) is not unlike the Scriptural message regarding the alien among the ancient Israelites: "The Magisterium affirms that minorities constitute groups with precise rights and duties." Most basically, minorities have "the right to exist," and this right is violated in its most extreme form in genocide, but it may also be violated by other forms of oppression, including legal and social burdens or restrictions. (Compendium, No. 387)

Minorities also have "the right to maintain their culture, including their language." They have the right "to maintain their religious beliefs, including worship services." In some cases, minorities may legitimately seek "greater autonomy or even independence," from the nation state of which they are a part. It is hoped that any legal separation between one people and another is done through "dialogue and negotiation," and through peaceful means. Terrorism as a means to achieve independence is entirely proscribed. (Compendium, No. 387)

Minorities may have rights, but they also have duties. Foremost among the duties of the minorities to the nation of which they are part is to work for the common good. "In particular, 'a minority group has the duty to promote the freedom and dignity of each one of its members and to respect the decisions of each one, even if someone were to decide to adopt the majority culture.'" (Compendium, No. 786) (quoting JP II's Message for the 1989 World Day of Peace.)

*This is quite different from traditional Islam, where non-Muslims are treated to an unjust dhimmitude (if they are a tolerated "people of the book," the Ahl al-Kitāb (أهل الكتاب‎)) and to even more severe injustice if they are outside of this category (e.g., pagans or atheists).
**John Hingham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925 (Rutgers University Press 2002), 198.
***This was the impetus that gave rise to a radical change in immigration policies as reflected in the The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (Hart-Celler Act) in the United States. Prior law had a quote system which showed a preference for European immigration, and a hostility toward Asian, Middle Eastern, and African immigrants. The importance of assimilation and enculturation, and not normative multiculturalism, is what drove the old policy. Depending upon their political philosophy, some have criticized the change in policy, and others praise it.
†One of the best examples of this is the problem of Muslim communities in Europe. Here, the Islamic shari'a is at odds with not only Christian freedom and notions of justice, but with liberal and secular values of modern Western democracies. Whether Muslims as a people
qua ethnos can be incorporated into the peoples as demoi of Western democracies is dubious. In fact, the problem has become so serious, that many European political thinkers, including UK's Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkl, Australia's former prime minister John Howard, Spain's ex-premier José María Aznar, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have expressed the fact that multiculturalism is a failure.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Politics and a People: Demos and Ethnos

“THE POLITICAL COMMUNITY FINDS ITS AUTHENTIC dimension in its reference to people, and should in practice be the organic and organizing unity of a real people," states the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. (Compendium, No. 385) Indeed, the Compendium goes further: "For every people there is in general a corresponding nation, but for various reasons national boundaries do not always coincide with ethnic boundaries."* (Compendium, No. 386)

Drawing from Pope Pius XII's Christmas Radio Message in 1944,* the Compendium defines what it understands as "a people" (un popolo).

The term 'a people' does not mean a shapeless multitude, an inert mass to be manipulated and exploited, but a group of persons, each of whom--'at his proper place and in his own way'--is able to form its own opinion on public matters and has the freedom to express its own political sentiments and bring them to bear positively on the common good. A people 'exists in the fullness of the lives of the men and women by whom it is made up, each of whom . . . is a person aware of his own responsibilities and convictions."

(Compendium, No. 385)

The immediate context of these quotes from Pope Pius XII's Radio Message is in his discussion of the contrast between a "genuine spirit of democracy" and a "specious mirage of democracy, naively taken for the genuine spirit of democracy." For Pius XII, the distinction between an authentic democracy and an ersatz democracy seems to stem from a proper understanding of what "a people" is, and a people's relationship to the organs of governance. It may be fruitful to look at that message further in understanding the message of the Compendium.

What is "a People?

In his discussion of the meaning of a people, Pius XII clearly rejected a people as an artificial aggregation of individuals coerced or controlled through the power of a state. "[T]he state does not contain in itself and does not mechanically bring together in a given territory a shapeless mass of individuals." Simply stated: the State does not make a people.

Rather, a people is something "organic," something that "lives and moves by its own life energy," or by its own life (per vita propria). "In a people worthy of the name, the citizen feels within him the consciousness of his personality, of his duties and rights, of his own freedom joined to respect for the freedom and dignity of others." This feeling is spontaneous, a deeply felt and real urge that one is part of some organic whole. One connaturally feels solidarity with one's people, as one does one's family, or one's team. This membership or citizenship in one's people is natural, and is something that is not externally imposed by a constitution or by law.

Because of this connatural feeling of solidarity, when one is part of a people, one accepts that people's customs, its classes, its inequalities, in short, the "givenness" of things. It is as if one's people is a body in which one lives, and breathes, and has his civil or social being. Or perhaps better, it is as if one's people is one's larger home, whose arrangement, furnishings, and members--for all their quirks--are one's own. And these givens, even those natural inequalities that are not intrinsically unjust or against charity, are accepted with equanimity--indeed with solidarity and love--as they are part of one's very self since one could not think of being something other than part of one's people:

In a people worthy of the name all inequalities based not on whim but on the nature of things, inequalities of culture, possessions, social standing -- without, of course, prejudice to justice and mutual charity -- do not constitute any obstacle to the existence and the prevalence of a true spirit of union and brotherhood.

On the contrary, so far from impairing civil equality in any way, they give it its true meaning; namely, that, before the state everyone has the right to live honorably his own personal life in the place and under the conditions in which the designs and dispositions of Providence have placed him.

A State does not make a people; rather, a people make a State. The State--its constitution, its organic documents, its governing organs, and its laws and institutions--will reflect the characteristics of the people which form it. "From the exuberant life of a true people," Pius XII explains, "an abundant rich life is diffused in the state and all its organs, instilling into them, with a vigor that is always renewing itself, the consciousness of their own responsibility, the true instinct for the common good."

In the United States, "we the people" existed before the Constitution existed. The Constitution did not forge the people, the people forged the Constitution.

In other words, in an authentic democracy, the people--and its organic values, structures, and customs which pre-exist the State--are not formed by the State. Rather, the State and its laws are an expression of the people's customs, values, and traditions. The people are not a product of the State's laws and organs of enforcement. The State is at the service of the people, and not the people at the service of the State. The people and their customs and values, so long as not against the natural law or against charity, ought not therefore violated by the State, but, on the contrary, ought to be given expression and supported by the State. The people are not formed by the State top-down, but the State is formed by the people, from the bottom up.

In rejecting what one which may be called the "Statist" view of a people, Pius XII also rejects the Marxist or Communist notion of "a people." Both the more general Statist notion, as well as the more particular Marxist or Communist notion of a people, are corrupt. These notions really view the people as what should be understood as "the masses." As he succinctly states: "The people, and a shapeless multitude (or, as it is called, 'the masses') are two distinct concepts." The "masses," in contrast to "a people," "wait for the impulse from outside," and as a result are "an easy plaything in the hands of anyone who exploits their instincts and impressions; ready to follow in turn, today this flag, tomorrow another."

Pius XII continues:
The elementary power of the masses, deftly managed and employed, the state also can utilize: in the ambitious hands of one or of several who have been artificially brought together for selfish aims, the state itself, with the support of the masses, reduced to the minimum status of a mere machine, can impose its whims on the better part of the real people: the common interest remains seriously, and for a long time, injured by this process, and the injury is very often hard to heal.

For Pius XII, "the masses" are therefore "the capital enemy of a true democracy and of its ideal of liberty and equality." True democracy, true liberty, true equality (which is something different than faceless egalitarianism) can never be achieved through the tyrannous recipe of combining external force over "the masses" in a manner which ignores, trivializes, or suppresses what really has existence, namely, "a people."

The moment one suppresses an organic people with a view of forcing some ideal of a people on the masses, even in the name of "democracy," one sins against both liberty and true equality. Instead of being the field of moral duty of the individual, liberty becomes a "tyrannous claim to give free rein to man's impulses and appetites"--so-called civil "rights"--to the detriment of others." Instead of being an expression of "true honor, of personal activity, or respect for tradition, of dignity--in a word [of] all that gives life its worth," equality "degenerates to a mechanical level, a colorless uniformity," in short, a vicious egalitarianism. The result is a "specious mirage of democracy," a far cry from the "genuine spirit of democracy." What these false notions usher in is not something organic, a government that is an expression of a people. Rather what these false notions engender is a system where there are elites in power are willing to exploit the masses who are uprooted from their relationship to a people, and so become the unhappy victims of the ruling elite.

Now in both the Compendium's use of the term "a people," as well as Pius XII's use of the term "a people," there is a certain vagueness. The term "a people" contains at least two different concepts. These two concepts are apparent in our everyday use of the term "people."

For example, we use the word people in a different manner when we say, as we do in our Constitution, "We the people" or when we refer to ourselves as the "American people," than when we refer to the "Slavic people" or the "Jewish people." Borrowing from the Greek, the sociologist Emerich Francis usefully separated the notions of "a people" into concepts of a demos and an ethnos.*** There is a people qua demos, i.e., a people understood as a demos, and a people qua ethnos, a people understood as an ethnos.

What, more precisely, is the difference between a people qua demos and a people qua ethnos? A people understood as a "demos" is a people understood in terms of a political concept, a people formed by a political constitution, under common laws, and bound by the ties of citizenship. The American people are a people qua demos. On the other hand, a people understood as an "ethnos" are a people understood as an organic and not political concept, a concept which uses ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic, or even racial bases for distinguishing one people from another. Used in this manner, a people qua ethnos are bound together by some ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic, or racial tie. A people qua ethnos are similar to, but broader than, notions of tribes, of clans, for there can be many tribes or clans within the boundaries of a people understood as ethnos.† The Kurdish people are clearly a people qua ethnos, and not a people qua demos, bound as they are exclusively by racial, linguistic, cultural, and historical ties.

*A good example of this phenomenon may be the Kurdish people, who, though certainly "a people" approximately 30 million strong, find themselves divided in that they (organically referred to as "Kurdistan," though Kurdistan is not a state, but an ethnic boundary) fall primarily under the governance of the states of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Obviously, this creates the potential for social friction as the natural desire of this ethnic people for self-determination is frustrated by the fact that they exist under the authority of another people. "Thus the question of minorities arises, which has historically been the cause of more than just a few conflicts." (Compendium, No. 387)
**The 1944 Christmas Message of Pope Pius XII may be found in Italian on the Vatican website as Radiomessagio de sua Santità Pio XII ai Popoli del Mondo Intero, and an English translation may be found at
***Emerich K. Francis, Ethnos und Demos: Sociologische Beiträge zur Volkstheorie (Berlin: Duneker und Hublot 1965).
†An excellent example of this might be the Arabs, who constitute a people qua ethnos, but whose tribal component is extremely important.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Politics is Grounded in Personhood

THE CHURCH'S SOCIAL DOCTRINE as it relates to the foundation and the purpose of political community, is personalist. "The human person is the foundation and purpose of political life." (Compendium, No. 384). At once, this personalist vision rejects several things. First, it rejects any materialistic--that is, non-spiritual, non-Transcendental--vision of the world. Second, it rejects any political theory that rejects the human as a person, with a particular nature (a nature which he makes not himself, but one which is "given"), and with a particular final end, and ultimate destiny (not one which he makes himself, but again one which is "given").
The political community originates in the nature of persons, whose conscience "reveals to them and enjoins them to obey" the order which God has imprinted in all his creatures: "a moral and religious order; and it is this order--and not considerations of a purely extraneous, material order--which has the greatest validity in the solution of problems relating to their lives as individuals and as members of society, and problems concerning individual States and their interrelations."
(Compendium, No. 384) (quoting Pope John XXIII, Pacem in terris, 258 and Mater et magistra, 450)

The Church's political vision clearly is founded on the natural law, on an order that is part of reality, of what is, an order which is given and is part of our creaturehood and createdness, and order which we do not make for ourselves, an order to which conscience prompts us to conform. This natural order, which is a moral one and is to be distinguished from a mere physical order, is part and parcel of God's creation, of which we are part, and it reflects the divine order. Drawing on the philosophical insights of Plato, Platonists, and Stoics, theologians put it this way: the natural law is nothing but an expression of, a participation in, the Eternal Law insofar as it relates to the human person, a rational creation.**

This natural law is, in its most fundamental expression, found in the two-fold commandment to love God and to love one's neighbor as one's self. The Golden Rule is at the heart of politics. As the Compendium expresses it:

Being open to both the Transcendent [that is the God who is "beyond" him, "outside" of him, "above" him] and to others is [man's] distinguishing trait. Only in relation to the Transcendent and to others does the human person reach the total and complete fulfillment of himself. This means that for the human person, a naturally social and political being, "social life is not something added one" but is part of an essential and indelible dimension.

(Compendium, No. 384)

Because this order is found all about us and within us, and is part of the natural order of things, it is something that we "discover," not something we "invent."* Since it is principally founded upon the use of practical reason, which of course is limited, created faculty, it should not surprise us that there may be some development in our understanding of the natural law. It should not surprise us that we may--from time to time, as individuals or even as cultures--get it wrong.

Though the order in which the natural law inheres and which it reflects is a posteriori, that is, it exists prior to, and independent of, our existence, the natural moral law is not something which we know a priori. It is something which we learn a posteriori. It is something we learn through the use of our practical reason, particularly the faculty of conscience, as it is informed with the reality that is both in us (especially our inclinations, what I have called our "intellectual feltness"), and around us (especially the existence of others of our kind as equally "intellectors of being" and "willers of good"). For this reason, the Church recognizes that this "order must be gradually discovered and developed by humanity." (Compendium, No. 384)

The fact that we "discover" the natural moral law means that there may be progressive "discovery" of it, i.e., development in our understanding of it. This development occurs not only in the individual (we learn about right or wrong as we grow and develop and confront experiences following the age of reason; hence the notion of wisdom coming with age), but also in societies as a whole as they develop in time, confront situations to which they have to adapt and from which they learn, and develop their particular mores, traditions, and customs.***

Man, a political animal, does not go about implementing this natural law on his own. To be sure the natural law ought to guide his individual acts. But it is also the basis of political life, of social life, of his life in common:

The political community, a reality inherent in mankind, exists to achieve an end otherwise unobtainable: the full growth of its members, called to cooperate steadfastly for the attainment of the common good, under the impulse of their natural inclinations toward what is true and good.

(Compendium, No. 384)

That is to say, in forming their political institutions and their social life, in coming together and cooperating for the common good, human persons are to give priority to the good over the right. In the Church's view, which is one based upon man as he is, the entire modern liberal construct--which gives priority to the right over the good--is ill-conceived.

*I use scarequotes because we may be said to "invent" the natural law in the original sense of that word. In Latin, the word invenire (from which our word "invent" obviously comes) means to "come upon," to "stumble upon," "to find," or "to discover." The modern denotation and connotation of the English word "invent," however, is to come up with something, to contrive, produce, or fabricate it, for and by one's self. The natural law is not something we "invent" in this latter sense.
**E.g., St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, IaIIae, Q. 91, a. 2.
***It should be stressed that this development is not always progressive. While generally there is progress in man's knowledge, including his knowledge of the natural law (what Yves Simon calls the "law of progressivity"), it is not something assured, and there are times where regress is possible. For example, two generations ago, contraception, abortion, premarital sex, homosexual sexual acts, and divorce and remarriage would have been recognized for what they were: moral enormities. Modernly, we view these as goods or rights. There has been a huge regress in this area. There is also a "law of regressivity."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Priority of the Good over the Right

THE CHURCH, RELYING ON REASON AND GUIDED BY REVELATION, has her own political philosophy, or perhaps better, principles of political philosophy. The Church rejects the political visions of Machiavelli, of Hobbes, of Locke, of Hume, of Kant, of Rousseau, of Marx, of Rawls. Instead, against these thinkers of modernity, she offers a personalist vision of politics and a personalist theory of authority. The Church's personalist political philosophy is based upon the nature of man, i.e., the natural law. It therefore holds to a theory that good has priority over right, and not that right has priority over the good.* It is the good that defines right. It is not the right that defines the good.**

The ethical world is divided into two: those who give priority to the good over the right, and those who give priority to the right over the good. Classical ethics and political philosophy emphasizes good over right. Modern ethics and political philosophy emphasize right over good. The classical view is virtue-based. The modern view is duty based (e.g., Kant), utilitarian-driven (e.g., Mills and Bentham), contractrarian (Locke, Rousseau), value-based (Scheler), or based on emotivism (e.g., Hume, Moore, Ayer).

The Church's understanding is classical, not modern. The Church teaches that the modern penchant of holding the priority of right over good is wrong.

According to this classical vision [of the priority of the good over the right], determinations of what is just are dependent upon a prior conception of the good of humanity, of a thick or substantive conception of the good that embraces both the community and individuals. In other words, agreement on what justice is is only possibly subsequent to agreement on what constitutes the proper end or good of humanity. Furthermore, this account entails an hierarchical ordering of goods and merit. What is due person is "not same" but correlates instead with one's role and function, and corresponding excellences [virtue], in the community. Fairness, one could say, is not a matter of strict equality in the modern egalitarian sense but of proportion. Like are treated alike, but unlike are treated differently and this is just.

Bell, 198.***

Frontispiece to Nicole Oresme's translation of The Ethics of Aristotle.
Brussels, Bibl. Royale, MS 9505-6, fol 2v
Upper left: Charles V receives his translation from Nicole Oresme;
Upper Right: Charles V and his family;
Lower Left: A king and his counselors attend a lecture;
Lower right: The expulsion of a youth from a lecture.

The classical construct fell apart for a variety of reasons, including the religious divisions caused by the Reformation, the thinking of the thinkers of the Enlightenment, and the rise of Liberalism which viewed society as a group of individuals, each of whom had interests, ends, and conceptions of the good that were equally valid, and among which visions government had no business of choosing. The abandonment of the notion that man had and end (telos) and that man's good was defined by his nature and its inclinations (good) led to a prioritization of the right over the good and a re-definition of justice.

[I]n contemporary parlance, now the right is given priority over the good. What constitutes justice is arrived at apart from any substantive agreement about what constitutes the good or telos of humanity. Justice in modern liberal social orders becomes essentially procedural. Under the sign of modernity, justice is a matter of arriving at a procedure for securing effective cooperation between and security among discrete individuals pursuing an irrepressibly diverse plethora of self-determined interests and private goods. In this situation, justice is no longer conceived as a unitive force. Indeed, with the arrival of modernity, the general virtue of justice is invariably reduced to "legal justice" and equated simply with following the positive laws of the state, or it is discarded altogether. Henceforth, the particular virtue of justdice moves to center stage and increasingly takes on the fundamentally distributive hue that is commonplace today. Correlatively, "right" becomes a matter of discrete "rights" and these rights, instead of being anchored in a (common) good that is external and prior to the individual, adhere to sovereign individuals who possess them prior to (and frequently over against) any communal bonds. The result is a justice that functions essentially as a police force, as a procedural power that attempts to supervise the competition of rival interests struggling for access to society's resources for the sake of the pursuit of private ends.

Bell, 198-99.

Ultimately, the notion of the priority of the right over the good is self-defeating. It is a slogan intended to avoid the hard thinking that is required to know the good. It is a cowardly retreat into skepticism, into moral agnosticism. As Charles Taylor put it in his Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, "the good is always primary to the right" if for no other reason because "the good is what, in its articulation, gives the point of the rules which define the right."†

As Professor Breen summarizes it:
[C]ontemporary Catholic social thought, as well as the historic Western moral tradition prior to the Enlightenment, rejects the lexical priority of the right over the good proposed by Rawls and others. From this historical perspective, the right and the good are distinct but related. Indeed, the right should be seen as a constitutive part of the good.[1] That is, the reason why the right is desired—the reason why the principles of justice are inviolable and so earnestly sought in social life—is because recognition and enforcement of the right itself is good,[2] not because it is somehow independent from the good.[3]

The modern refusal to face "the good," that is, what man is made for, what is his end, and what inclinations and order is built within the nature that is given to him by his Creator is what is at the heart of its reversal of the classical and Christian principle that the good has priority over the right, and not that the right has priority over the good.

*John Rawls somehow thought that giving right the priority over good would end the interminable squabbles over what was good. Besides, Rawls despaired of man's ability to know the good, whether through reason or revelation. But in addition to create a political theory based upon indifferentism to truth and moral relativism (and one biased in favor of liberalism and against natural law), it simply results in an interminable squabbling over rights.
**Another way of putting the "right over good" notion is that it is based upon deontological ethics (e.g., Kant), whereas "good over right" is based upon teleological, eudaemonistic ethics (e.g., Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas). Yet another way of trying to distinguish may be borrowed from Sidgwick, who called those theories that prioritize right over good
imperative (duty or command defining what is good), and those that proritize good over right, attractive (the good attracting us and defining the right). Theories that stress right over good are typical of modernity. Theories that stress good over right are classical and more adaptably Christian. One's political theory is affected by one's ethical presumptions.
***The reference to Bell is to Daniel M. Bell, Jr., "Deliberating: Justice and Liberation," in eds., Stanley Hauerwas and Samuel Wells, The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2011) (2nd ed.).
†Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modernity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 238.
††John M. Breen, "Neutrality in Liberal Legal Theory and Catholic Social Thought," 32 Harvard J. Law & Policy 555-56. The footnotes are re-numbered from the original text. [1] See AQUINAS, supra note 173, at II-II, Q. 58, arts. 3, 5, 6; see also MORTIMER J. ADLER, SIX GREAT IDEAS 136 (1981) (arguing that justice is in "the domain of the idea of goodness" and that "[t]o act rightly or justly is to do good"). [2] See Smith, supra note 187, at 316 (arguing that "rights are valuable only insofar as they are related to our conceptions of what is good"). [3] Rawls’s rhetoric would seem to suggest that the right refers to a moral quality that is somehow separate, or in Rawls’s words, “defined independently” of the good. RAWLS, A THEORY OF JUSTICE, supra note 230, at 24. Indeed, in stressing that “[i]t is essential to keep in mind that in a teleological theory the good is defined independently from the right,” Rawls seems to suggest that the right could be defined wholly apart from the good. Id. at 25. Likewise, by refusing to “interpret the right as maximizing the good” and by insisting that “there is no reason to think that just institutions will maximize the good,” Rawls seems to suggest that the right and the good are not merely distinct but radically different sorts of values. Id. at 30. Rawls, however, recognizes that the putative priority of the right over the good cannot be the priority of one independent category of moral value over another. He concedes that the right is dependent upon a conception of the good. He also admits that to establish the principles of right, “it is necessary to rely on some notion of goodness.” Id. at 396. Still, he attempts to minimize the importance of this concession by asserting that only a “thin theory” of the good, limited to “the bare essentials,” is needed to formulate the principles of justice in the original position. Id. As Charles Taylor has made clear, however, the principles of justice that Rawls articulates are appealing precisely “because they fit with our intuitions.” CHARLES TAYLOR, SOURCES OF THE SELF: THE MAKING OF THE MODERN IDENTITY 89 (1989). Rawls makes no attempt to move beyond the level of intuition. In large part, that is the method and goal of his book—to set forth a theory of justice that eschews metaphysical commitments. Yet, something else lies beneath the surface. As Taylor rightly cautions: "If we were to articulate what underlies these intuitions we would start spelling out a very “thick” theory of the good. To say that we don’t “need” this to develop our theory of justice turns out to be highly misleading. We don’t actually spell it out, but we have to draw on the sense of the good that we have here in order to decide what are adequate principles of justice. Id. Thus, from the Catholic point of view, the so-called "priority of the right over the good" shows itself to be more of a slogan than a serious principle of moral and political philosophy. It is a rhetorical means of overtly claiming to avoid metaphysical commitments regarding the nature of the good while, in fact, surreptitiously employing those very same sorts of commitments.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Caesar and Christ: The Example of the Early Christian Church

THE BUDDING CHRISTIAN CHURCH found itself in unenviable circumstances, though we may believe it was all providentially determined to be in the fullness of time. Nevertheless, the young Church was persecuted by the Jewish religious authorities. More significant perhaps were the threats that the infant Christian community presented to the Roman empire, its allegedly "divine" emperor and his false pretensions to divinity.

To be sure, the Christian Gospel was revolutionary in a manner of speaking, particularly in its central doctrines--the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Redemption, the Resurrection, to name a few. These were a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles. (1 Cor. 1:23)

Some of its practices, particularly some of its moral doctrines, were equally revolutionary. Perhaps this revolutionary mindset is best described by Tertullian in his Apologeticum: "All things are common among us but our wives."* The early Church had a countercultural notion of marriage and sexual morality. It also had a countercultural notion of solidarity, of community. With respect to private property it had what the Compendium has called the "universal destination" of goods. (Compendium, No. 178)

But when it came to civil authorities, the early Christian Church lived out the notion of the two kingdoms taught by Christ. Christ was her ruler, but she rendered those things to Caesar that were Caesar's. (Mark 12:17) But she rendered to Caesar not those things Caesar demanded, but only those things that were Caesar's. And the Church was the one who defined those limits,not Caesar. Incipient in this formula therefore were the seeds of persecution, inasmuch as the imperial Caesar resisted any limits on his power, especially limits imposed by what he viewed as an upstart Church. The divine Caesar would grow to hate the religion brought by the "Pale Galilean."

Nevertheless, the "party line" in the Church was submission to properly constituted authority. Not passive submission, and certainly not unthinking submission, but submission "'for the sake of conscience' (Rom.13:5) to legitimate authority," inasmuch as this was seen as responding "to the order established by God." (Compendium, No. 380)

Martyrdoms of Sts. Andrew, Paul, and Peter

If Ephesians Chapters 5 and 6 contains a Haustafel or rule for domestic order, then Romans 13:1-7 might be said to contain the Staatstafel or rule for relationship with civil authorities.
Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear to good conduct, but to evil. Do you wish to have no fear of authority? Then do what is good and you will receive approval from it, for it is a servant of God for your good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword without purpose; it is the servant of God to inflict wrath on the evildoer. Therefore, it is necessary to be subject not only because of the wrath but also because of conscience. This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

This is a frequent theme in St. Paul. We find it, for example, as part of his instructions to his friend and fellow bishop, St. Titus. "Remind them [his flock] to be under the control of magistrates and authorities, to be obedient, to be open to every good enterprise." (Tit. 3:1) He suggests, further, that St. Timothy have his flock offer "prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings . . . for kings and for all in authority." (1 Tim. 2:1-2)

St. Peter likewise stresses obedience to authority. "Be subject to every human institution for the Lord's sake," St. Peter states in his first epistle, "whether it be to the king as supreme or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the approval of those who do good." (1 Pet. 2:13-14) He gives a short motto to guide the faithful, clearly adverting to the two kingdoms, the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of Caesar. "Fear God, honor the king," τὸν θεὸν φοβεῖσθε, τὸν βασιλέα τιμᾶτε, Deum timete regem honorificate. (1 Pet. 2:17)

There is already in germ in the notions of St. Peter and St. Paul, a Christian political philosophy. Praying for those of authority--even an unfriendly authority--"implicitly indicates what political authority ought to guarantee: a calm and tranquil life led with piety and dignity." (Compendium, No. 381) Moreover, the "biblical message provides endless inspiration for Christian reflection on political power, recalling that it comes from God and is an integral part of the order that he created. This order is perceived by the human conscience and, in social life, finds its fulfillment in the truth, justice, freedom, and solidarity that bring peace." (Compendium, No. 383) Statecraft is soulcraft.

It is significant that St. Paul invokes conscience, and not principally fear of punishment, as a reason for obedience to civil authority. Similarly, St. Peter enjoins obedience, propter Dominum, "for the Lord's sake." Neither St. Peter nor St. Paul, however, must be seen as advocating the "passive obedience" doctrine which was advanced by 17th century "divine right" political theorists in Scotland and England, and certainly not the "active obedience" doctrine of Hobbes.** Recall that it is the same Peter who stated that he was compelled to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29) What they are advocating is "free and responsible obedience to an authority that causes justice to be respected, ensuring the common good." (Compendium, No. 380)

Both St. Peter and St. Paul, then, understood that there a limits to the authority and power of the State. "When human authority goes beyond the limits willed by God, [and] it makes itself a deity and demands absolute submission," it "becomes the Beast of the Apocalypse, an image of the power of the imperial persecutor 'drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus' (Rev. 17:6)." (Compendium, No. 382)

This is visionary language, but it is not simply a dream. It is meant to inform the Christian:

This vision is a prophetic indication of the snares used by Satan to rule men, [the Beast] stealing his way into their spirit with lies. But Christ is the Victorious Lamb who, down the course of human history, overcomes every power that would it[self] absolute. Before such a power, St. John suggests the resistance of the martyrs; in this way, believers bear witness that corrupt and satanic power is defeated, because it no longer has any authority over them.

(Compendium, No. 382)

Though the New Testament has a positive view on human authority, it also issues forth something entirely new. As Voegelin puts it, Christianity "de-divinized" the temporal sphere and "de-divinized" the State. Politics was no longer the highest art. Man was meant for an eternal destiny, and this spiritual destiny, and the authority and power that related to it, was not in the hands of the State, but in the hand of the Church, to whom Christ, Lord of heaven and earth to whom all authority had been given, had given it. (Acts 17:24; Matt. 28:18)
Christ reveals to human authority, always tempted by the desire to dominate, its authentic and complete meaning as service. God is the one Father, and Christ the one Teacher, of all mankind, and all people are brothers and sisters. Sovereignty belongs to God.
(Compendium, No. 383) It should be however obvious that until Christ's second coming, that sovereignty, that authority, is exercised by representatives.

The Lord,however, "has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence."***

(Compendium, NO. 383) (quoting CCC, § 1884)
*Tertullian, Apologeticum, 39.11 ("Omnia indiscreta sunt apud nos praeter uxores.")
**Passive obedience is the political doctrine that held that it was not lawful, under any condition whatsoever, to take arms against the king or his agents, even if the King's law was believed to contradict the law of God. Though internal assent need not be given to an act considered against the law of God, and in extreme situations it could be disobeyed, it was always wrong to resist enforcement of the law, punishment, and incite rebellion. It was a central tenet of the Tory parties and the Jacobites in the 17th and 18th centuries. Hobbes would not even allow for passive obedience, and advanced the idea that a citizen owes active obedience to the absolute power of the states irrespective of the situation. See De Cive, xiv.23. St. Thomas Aquinas, who deals with the issue in his Commentary on the Sentences II, dist. 44, q. 2, art.2--distinguishes between authority, how it is acquired how, once acquired, it is used. Authority may be acquired legitimately or illegitimately (e.g., violence, bribery). Authority acquired unjustly or illegitimately may be resisted if there is an "opportunity," i.e., if prudent, at least up until such time as the authority becomes regularized through consent of the people or a higher authority. Legitimate authority may misuse its power because it acts "contrary to that for which the authority was ordained" (
contrarium ejus ad quod praelatio ordinata est). If it orders obedience against the law of God, it must be disobeyed. If that authority acts ultra vires or beyond the scope of its authority (quia cogunt ad hoc ad quod ordo praelationis non se extendit), then "the subject is not held to obey, but neither is he held to disobey" (non tenetur obedire, nec etiam tenetur non obedire).
***This notion of political authority participating in Providence and having something of "its own" given to it by God is quite beautiful. It might be compared to Islam's negative and constraining view. Borrowing from Aristotle's Politics, St. Thomas Aquinas distinguishes between despotic and political rule in his Summa Theologiae: "For a power is called despotic whereby a man rules his slaves, who have not the right to resist in anyway the orders of the one that commands them, since they have nothing of their own. But that power is called political or royal by which a man rules over free subjects, who, tough subject to the government of the ruler, have nevertheless something of their own, by reason of which they can resist the orders of him who commands." S.T., Ia, q. 81, a.3, ad. 2. A Muslim is a slave of Allah: he is to submit to the law, the Shari'a which governs all areas of his life, no questions asked. Under St. Thomas Aquinas's distinctions, Allah is a despot, and his slave, the Muslim, has nothing of his own. There is no freedom even to participate in the Providence of Allah. Allah holds the reins of all power, and gives none to man. There is no discretion in the Shari'a, and it leaves no part of life to the human. On the other hand, Christians view God as quite different. God's Providence involves "political or royal" power, a power which rules over "free subjects," subjects who, though under God's governance, "have nevertheless something of their own." God, in other words, has given man something of his own, the ability to participate in law-making, so that the laws that human societies pass participate in the natural law, which in turn is the eternal law as it relates to God's governance of man. Muslims have nothing of their own. They are not free. They are ruled by a despot. Christians have something of their own--granted that something is a gift of God, but it remains something of their own. They are free. They are ruled by royal and political power, a power which seeks obedience of its subjects--not through violence--but through persuasion, through reason, through grace, through love.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Christ's Third Temptation: The Two Kingdoms and Two Loves

THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW tells us that a scholar, one of the party of the Pharisees, was sent to Jesus in order to stump him with a question on which was the greatest of all commandments:
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
(Matt. 22:36-40; see also Mark 12:28-32; Luke 10:25-27)

According to Jesus, there are therefore two great loves which should govern our lives: love of God and love of neighbor. It is an error to collapse them into one. It is as much an error to ignore or minimize the former as it is to ignore or minimize the latter. "If anyone says, 'I love God,' but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." (1 John 4:20)

It is also an error to suggest there is a contradiction or even tension between the two loves. As Dom Jean Leclercq puts it in his classic Seul avec Dieu (Alone with God), "The soul that loves God in God participates in the love by which God unites all the creatures that He loves . . . . Thus the love of God in God extends to all the creatures loved by God but flows into each of them according to its property capacity."* These two loves are entirely consistent since the former orders the latter.

We live in a world, however, and perhaps always have and always will, in which these two commandments--these two loves--are opposed, are set one against the other as if inconsistent. Either that or the two loves are conflated so that one disappears into the other sort of like the Monophysites say what happened to Christ's human nature as it got completely absorbed into his divine nature. Secularists, for example, seem to stress love of neighbor (as they understand it) at the expense of love of God, and so the love of God becomes absorbed into love of man, and disappears. The product is secular humanism. Islamists, on the other hand, seem to stress love of God (understood more along the lines of submission or slaveship) at the expense of love of neighbor.** For Islamists, the love of neighbor becomes absorbed into the love of God, and essentially disappears. The product may be called theoism, or perhaps Allah-ism.***

In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict XVI suggests that the divine ordering of the two commandments is somehow related to the divine ordering in between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. We cannot ignore this divine ordering, for he observes that "without heaven, earthly power is always ambiguous and fragile." (p. 39) In the same way, without heaven, earthly love is always ambiguous and fragile.

"Only when [the earthly] power [of the kingdoms of this world] submits to the measure and the judgment of heaven--of God, in other words--can it become power for good. And only when power stands under God's blessing can it be trusted." (pp. 39) This would appear to be true for the love of neighbor. It is only when the love of neighbor "submits to the measure and judgment of heaven--of God, in other words," that it can become a power for good.

Christ's Temptation, by James B. Janknegt (1990)

There are two kingdoms, really distinct, with one subordinate to the other. There are two loves, really distinct, with one subordinate to the other.

It seems that Western history, and really the history of the world, is jam packed with a tendency of forgetting the real distinction between the two loves--and so conflating the love of God with the love of neighbor or conflating the neighbor with the love of God. In terms of kingdoms, the tendency is to forget the real distinction between the two kingdoms, and so conflate the kingdom of God with the kingdoms of this world. In such instances, a kingdom of the world becomes confused with the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of God becomes confused with a kingdom of this world.

There is a constant temptation to conflate, to confuse, to collapse distinctions between the things of God and the things of man, and thereby reduce religion to politics or economics, or promote economics or politics to the level of religion. So men traveling through history are constantly confronted--like Christ--with a third temptation of their own:
The temptation to use power to secure the faith has arisen again and again in varied forms throughout the centuries, and again and again faith has risked being suffocated in the embrace of power. The struggle for freedom of the Church, the struggle to avoid identifying Jesus' Kingdom with any political structure, is one that has to be fought century after century. For the fusion of faith and political power always comes at a price: faith becomes the servant of power and must bend to its criteria.
(p. 40). It is true that historical circumstances have made the notions of Christian empire or the secular power of the Papacy obsolete, and so the temptation that was particular to that historical setting "is no longer a temptation today." (p. 42) And yet we ought not to fool ourselves that the temptation is still not with us. This temptation "is constantly take on new forms," (p. 39) and so it is like the Hydra, a monster which grows another head or two if one is chopped off.

In fact, this Hydra-like temptation simply shows itself in another way, in a way proper to the historical circumstances we face. Modernly, the temptation is to conflate the love of God into the love of neighbor, so that religion becomes a force by which political, economic, or social progress or justice is fanned, and the God whom we do not see becomes secondary, irrelevant.

[T]he interpretation of Christianity as a recipe for progress and the proclamation of universal prosperity as the real goal of all religions, including Christianity--this is the modern form of the same temptation. It appears in the guise of a question: "What did Jesus bring, then, if he didn't usher in a better world? How can that not be the content of messianic hope?
(p. 42-43)

But as the Pope reminds us in his encyclical on hope, Spe salvi:
Christianity did not bring a message of social revolution like that of the ill-fated Spartacus, whose struggle led to so much bloodshed. Jesus was not Spartacus, he was not engaged in a fight for political liberation like Barabbas or Bar-Kochba.
Spe salvi, 4.†

The devil is actually much more wilely and subtle than as presented in the third temptation as narrated in Scripture. "The tempter is not so crude" Benedict XVI states, "as to suggest to us directly that we should worship the devil. He merely suggests that we opt for the reasonable decision, that we choose to give priority to a planned and thoroughly organized world, where God may have his place as a private concern but must not interfere in our essential purposes." "Religion thus conceived," says James V. Schall who reflects on this passage, is one that is not so much at the service of God, but "at the service of our own world reconstruction."

The Pope continues his reflections and ties in the modern misinterpretations of Jesus as a sort of political or social messiah as nothing other than forms of the "third temptation." We must understand Christ's messiahship as Christ understood it, within the context of the suffering servant of Isaiah, and not as we want it. And the only way to understand Christ's messiahship is to set it within the context of what Jesus rejected in his third temptation.

Jesus' third temptation proves then to be the fundamental one, because it concerns the question as to what sort of action is expected of a Savior of the world. It pervades the entire life of Jesus. It manifests itself openly again at a decisive turning point along his path. Peter, speaking in the name of the disciples, has confessed that Jesus is the Messiah-Christ, the Son of the Living God. In doing so, he has expressed in words the faith that builds up the Church and inaugurates the new community of faith based on Christ. At this crucial moment, where distinctive and decisive knowledge of Jesus separates his followers from public opinion and begins to constitute them as his new family, the tempter appears--threatening to turn everything into its opposite. The Lord immediately declares that the concept of the Messiah has to be understood in terms of the entirety of the message of the Prophets--it means not worldly power, but the Cross, and the radically different community that comes into being through the Cross.

But that is not what Peter has understood. "Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, 'God forbid Lord, this shall never happen to you.'" (Mat. 16:22) Only when we read these words against the backdrop of the temptation scene--as its recurrence at the decisive moment--do we understand Jesus' unbelievably harsh answer: "'Get behind me Satan. You are a hindrance to me for you are not on the side of God, but of men.'" (Mat 16:23)

(p. 42)

What does this say to us? Those that reject the kingdom of God and opt only for the kingdoms of the world, such as the secularists, and those who confuse the kingdom of God with the kingdoms of the world, such as the Islamists or Allah-ists, deserve the "unbelievably harsh answer" that Jesus gave to Peter: Vade retro me Satanas.

Jesus . . . repeats to us what he said in reply to Satan [in the third temptation], what he said to Peter, and what he explained further to the disciples of Emmaus: No kingdom of this world is the kingdom of God, the total condition of mankind’s salvation. Earthly kingdoms remain earthly, human kingdoms, and anyone who claims to be able to establish the perfect world is the willing dupe of Satan and plays the world right into his hands.

(p. 43-44)

If Jesus does not bring us a political program or an economic program, what did he bring us? The answer is simple: Jesus brought us what we really need, for he knew that man does not live by bread alone:
The answer is very simple: God. He has brought God. He has brought the God who formerly unveiled his countenance gradually, first to Abraham, then to Moses and the Prophets, and then in the Wisdom Literature - the God who revealed his face only in Israel, even though he was also honored among the pagans in various shadowy guises. It is this God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the true God, whom he has brought to the nations of the earth. He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love. It is only because of the hardness of hearts that we think this is too little.
(p. 44)

So let us not worry and say, "What are we or our neighbor to eat? What are we or our neighbor to drink? What are we and our neighbor to wear?" All these things the pagans seek without regard to God. God knows we and our neighbor need them all.

What then are we to worry about? We are to worry about seeking "first the kingdom of God and his righteousness"--which is to say, loving the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength." (Matt. 6:31-33; Mark 12:30) Only after being informed by that love of God are we then to concern ourselves with the "kingdoms of this world," with politics and economics and social questions. Things then are added unto us. Only within that love of God, in other words, are we to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31) There can be no social justice, in other words, without the love of God first.

As Schall so eloquently summarizes it:
The affirmation of the first three commandments of the Decalogue about the worship of God is also an affirmation to the second seven, the love of God and neighbor. But the second commandment comes about only by knowing the first and its primacy. This is what the third temptation was about. Jesus is the Son, "the new Jacob, the Patriarch of a universalized Israel." The conclusion remains, behind everything that we think and do, "God is the issue."
In his Urbi et orbi message of Christmas 2010, Pope Benedict XVI referred to priority that must be given to the Kingdom of God--that is, the love of God--as a condition of understanding our role of the kingdoms of the world--that is, the love of neighbor:

We know that his Kingdom is not of this world, and yet it is more important than all the kingdoms of this world. It is like the leaven of humanity: were it lacking, the energy to work for true development would flag: the impulse to work together for the common good, in the disinterested service of our neighbor, in the peaceful struggle for justice.
Love God. Love your neighbor for love of God. Do not fall victim to the Third Temptation. Give preeminence to the first, or you will sour or spoil the latter. Do not confuse the two loves, and do not collapse them into one. Remember, there are two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world. Do not fall victim to the Third Temptation. Give preeminence to the first, seek it first, and then, and only then, attend to the latter. Do not confuse the two, and do not conflate them. In a nutshell, that is the heart of Catholic social doctrine.
*Dom Jean Leclercq, Alone with God (Ercam, 2008), 127.
**Qur'an 3:31("If ye love Allah, follow me.") Love of God represents a submission to, or following of, Muhammad and his dualistic teachings which call for struggle and indeed war (jihad) against non-Muslims and which reject a universal love of neighbor. There is nothing similar to the two great commandments of Jesus in Muhammad's Qur'an or in the Sunnah.
***"[T]here is a certain cryptic relation between the notion that we can construct our own world [secularism] and the notion that God, if He chooses, can will evil to be good or good to be evil [Islam]." (Schall) "Both the thesis that God is pure will and that he does not exist end up in the same place, as the Pope indicated in the "Regensburg Lecture." They allow us to do what we want and to justify it on theoretic grounds." (Schall) In terms of moral duty, the Islamist, theoist, or Allahist kingdom is starkly dualist. There is one moral law for the Muslim, there is another moral law for the non-Muslims. So Islam suffers from a moral dualism imposed, the Islamist or Allahist would say, positively by Allah. The Jew, the Christian, and Infidel, and the Muslim "hypocrites" (the kuffar, the mushrikun, and the munafiqun) are a different category of neighbor from the Muslim. So the two commandments of Christ become--under the teachings of Muhammad--something akin to love Allah, and love your fellow Muslim, but the Jew, the Christian, the infidel, and the hypocrite you shall not love. This is the upshot of such ayat of the Qur'an such as Qur'an 5:51 ("O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people"). See also Qur'an 3:10, 28, 85, 118; 5:80; 9:23; 53:29.
†Spartacus (ca. 109–71 BC) was a Thracian gladiator/slave who became a famous military leader of his fellow slaves in the Third Servile Was, an ultimately unsuccessful slave rebellion against the Roman Republic. Spartacus is frequently cited as an example of an oppressed people fighting for their freedom against their oppressors. Notably, he was an inspiration to modern revolutionaries such as Karl Marx (who mentions him as his "hero" in his Confession at Zalt-Bommel, April 1, 1865) and Fidel Castro's comrade-in-arms, the guerillero Che Guevara. Barabbas, of course, was the Jewish revolutionary who was released during the Passover season at the behest of the crowd when given an option by Pilate on whether to release Barabbas or Jesus based upon legal custom. (e.g., Matt. 27:15-26) Simon bar Kochba was a 2nd century Jewish leader who successfully spearheaded the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 A.D. He was head of a short-lived Jewish state, which eventually was re-conquered by the Romans in 135 A.D. As to those whose "struggle led to so much bloodshed" and those who "fight for political liberation," Pope Benedict XVI may have cited Muhammad, a self-acclaimed "prophet" who, more than anyone in the history of the world, fell into the temptation of advocating "the fusion of faith and political power," failing thereby to recognize the price that in such instances "faith becomes the servant of power and must bend to its criteria." (p. 40) But surely his recollection of the violent Muslim reception of his 2006 "Regensburg Lecture" and its tangential reference to Muhammad by quoting the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaeologus (1455-1512) ("Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.") suppressed any inclination at pointing out the obvious.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Christ's Third Temptation: Introduction

IN THE PAST TWO POSTINGS we have reviewed the Old Testament notion of Yahweh Malak, Yahweh as the real or final king or ruler of Israel. We also looked at the New Testament understanding of Jesus who announces the kingdom of God, and who is, himself, and seminally and mysteriously through the the New Israel,* i.e., the Church which He founded on Peter, the kingdom or ruleship of this Yahweh. We spent some time looking at the Scriptural references to the kingdom of God or, what is the same thing in typically Matthean language, the kingdom of heaven. With this background we are ready to look at the third temptation of Christ as related in the Gospels.* (Matt. 4:8-10; Luke 4:5-8) The version of the Gospel of Matthew is given first. The version in the Gospel of Luke is given next.
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, "All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me." At this, Jesus said to him, "Get away, Satan! It is written: 'The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.'"

Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, "I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me." Jesus said to him in reply, "It is written: 'You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.'"
The versions are essentially identical, and it seem little can be gained by contrasting them. What does yield some interesting fruit is the contrast between Christ's assumption of kingship, his preaching of the kingdom of God, and his insistence, immediately prior to his Ascension, that all power under heaven and earth had been given him (Matt. 28:18), with His rejection of the temptation of Satan presented in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Christ rejects ruleship of all "kingdoms of this world," but plainly accepts ruleship of the "kingdom of heaven" or the "kingdom of God." But Christ's rejection of the "kingdoms of this world" is not absolute. Ultimately, as those revelations in Scripture that point to the culmination of history, the eschaton, make plain, all nations, that is, all kingdoms of this world, will be placed under the ruleship of Christ. But this culmination is by God's proffer and in God's time, not through Satan's proffer and Satan's time. "The kingdoms of the world now belongs to our Lord and to his Anointed, and he will reign forever and ever." (Rev. 11:15; cf. Matt. 8:11; Daniel 2:44; 7:27)

The Third Temptation of Christ, by Duccio de Buoninsegna (ca. 1308-11)

While Jesus clearly rejected ruleship over the "kingdoms of this world" in the manner offered by Satan--one of which surely included the imperium of the Roman Emperor Augustus, the divinized "Caesar" of the Gospels--he did not for all that "directly oppose himself to the authorities of his time." (Compendium, No. 379) "Render to Caesar that which is Caesar's, and to God that which is God's." (Matt. 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25). Indeed, Christ insisted that all authority and the power of the "kingdoms of this world" are ultimately derived from God. (John 19:11; Rom. 13:1) He submitted himself to both religious and civil authorities as being part of the Father's plan, knowing that if he wanted he could easily call in heavenly aid. (Matt. 26:52)

How then are we to fit all this together? A kingdom of God for which we ought to sell all, the "kingdoms of this world," the temptations of which we are to shun, and yet whose authority we are not generally directly to oppose because it comes from God?

In contrasting these two kingdoms, we seem to confront what St. Augustine in his work De civitate Dei called the "two cities," "formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self." Indeed, St. Augustine uses the full talents of his Roman rhetoric to contrast the difference between these "two cities," which is nothing other the contrast between the "kingdoms of this world," the keys of which seem to be on Satan's keyfob, and the "kingdom of God" or the "kingdom of Heaven," the keys to which seem to be with the Lord but lent for a time to Peter, His Vicar:

Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, "Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head." In the one, the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princes and the subjects serve one another in love, the latter obeying, while the former take thought for all. The one delights in its own strength, represented in the persons of its rulers; the other says to its God, "I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength." And therefore the wise men of the one city, living according to man, have sought for profit to their own bodies or souls, or both, and those who have known God "glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened; professing themselves to be wise,"--that is, glorying in their own wisdom, and being possessed by pride,--"they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." For they were either leaders or followers of the people in adoring images, "and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever." But in the other city there is no human wisdom, but only godliness, which offers due worship to the true God, and looks for its reward in the society of the saints, of holy angels as well as holy men, "that God may be all in all."***

To take this exploration between Christ's kingdom and the kingdoms of this world a littler further, we might turn to the insights of Pope Benedict XVI's private reflections on Christ's third temptation in his book Jesus of Nazareth.† What Benedict XVI suggests in his reflections is that what is involved in the interrelationship between the "kingdom of God" and the "kingdoms of this world" is the proper interrelationship between the two great commandments, which, of course, are a synopsis of the natural moral law in the light of Revelation.


*cf. Rom 9:6, Col. 2:11-12; see also CCC § 877, Vatican II, Ad gentes, No. 5.
**It is given as the second temptation in the Gospel of Luke.
***St. Augustine, De civitate Dei, XIV.28. The text is rich with scriptural references, including Ps. 3:4, 17:2, Rom.1:21-23, 25, and 1 Cor. 15:28. The text in Latin: Fecerunt itaque civitates duas amores duo, terrenam scilicet amor sui usque ad contemptum Dei, caelestem vero amor Dei usque ad contemptum sui. Denique illa in se ipsa, haec in Domino gloriatur. Illa enim quaerit ab hominibus gloriam; huic autem Deus conscientiae testis maxima est gloria. Illa in gloria sua exaltat caput suum; haec dicit Deo suo: Gloria mea et exaltans caput meum. Illi in principibus eius vel in eis quas subiugat nationibus dominandi libido dominatur; in hac serviunt invicem in caritate et praepositi consulendo et subditi obtemperando. Illa in suis potentibus diligit virtutem suam; haec dicit Deo suo: Diligam te, Domine, virtus mea. Ideoque in illa sapientes eius secundum hominem viventes aut corporis aut animi sui bona aut utriusque sectati sunt, aut qui potuerunt cognoscere Deum, non ut Deum honoraverunt aut gratias egerunt, sed evanuerunt in cogitationibus suis, et obscuratum est insipiens cor eorum; dicentes se esse sapientes, id est dominante sibi superbia in sua sapientia sese extollentes, stulti facti sunt et immutaverunt gloriam incorruptibilis Dei in similitudinem imaginis corruptibilis hominis et volucrum et quadrupedum et serpentium: ad huiuscemodi enim simulacra adoranda vel duces populorum vel sectatores fuerunt: et coluerunt atque servierunt creaturae potius quam Creatori, qui est benedictus in saecula. In hac autem nulla est hominis sapientia nisi pietas, qua recte colitur verus Deus, id exspectans praemium in societate sanctorum non solum hominum, verum etiam angelorum, ut sit Deus omnia in omnibus.
†We shall also rely on the keen insights of Fr. James V. Schall, who wrote a series on Benedict XVI's book, including one piece that specifically reflected on this third temptation, and which also incorporates Pope Benedict XVI's "Regensburg Lecture." See James V. Schall, "God Is The Issue” The Temptation in the Desert and the Kingdoms of This World" in

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Kingdom of God and His Christ

IN THE MIND OF HIS DISCIPLES, Jesus was and is and ever shall be King. That is why we pray in the Te Deum:
Tu Rex gloriae, Christe.
. . . .
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo,
aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.

You are the King of Glory: O Christ.
. . . .
When you had overcome the sharpness of death:
you did open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
But Jesus not an ordinary King with an ordinary kingdom. The kingdom or ruleship Christ claimed for himself was not an ordinary kingdom. Christ's kingdom was a kingdom not of this world. (John 18:36) It was invisible, spiritual, internal, eternal one--though it was among us, about us, around us, and within us in time until the end of time when it would reach its fulfillment. "The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed," Jesus told the Pharisees, "and no one will announce, 'Look, here it is,' or, 'There it is.' For behold, the kingdom of God is among you." (Luke 17:20-21)

It is a strange kingdom whose King finds His earthly manifestation not on a throne, with gold crown, and lush raiment. But rather whose glory is to be nailed to a cross--a cross which St. John Eudes called the thronus amoris igneus, the wooden throne of love--with a crown of thorns, essentially disrobed and naked, and a sign, intended to be mocking, but which, ironically, declares his hidden kingship in the three sacred languages:

ישוע הנצרי מלך היהדים

Crucifixion of Christ by Matthias Grunewald (Detail)

The kingdom of God, St. Paul further explains, "is not a matter of food and drink." Rather, it is a matter of "righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit." (Rom. 14:17) This means it is a moral, and even more importantly, a spiritual and supernatural reality, and not a bodily, temporal, or social one. It is not something flesh and blood will inherit, like some sort of human realm or human property. (1 Cor. 15:50) It is not just talk, vain hope, empty words, since there is a real power behind it. (1 Cor. 4:20) Words don't allow us admittance; it requires something internal--repentance, a conversion, a "re-turn" to God--and a fixed intention on only doing the will of God the Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 7:21) This means, keeping the commandments and teaching others to keep the commandments is what this kingdom is all about. (Matt:5:19) It is a secret, a mystery, the knowledge of which has been imparted to to Christ's intimates, (Mark 4:11; Luke 8:10) and yet one which must be proclaimed to the world.

But what a precious secret which is to be proclaimed to the world and, as it were, made unsecret! It is one for which one should sell all he has. It is like a a field one discovers contains treasure, and one covers it up, sells all he he has, and buys it, so as to become rich in the bargain. (Matt. 13:44) It is the pearl of great price, one for which the spiritual merchant will sell all he has to acquire. (Matt. 13:46)

And yet that secret which is to be unsecreted is silent, inexplicable, marvelous, and has an organic tendency to grow and bear fruit. And so the kingdom of God is like the mystery of the seed sown by a farmer, which grows, whether tended or not, and which ultimately reaps a huge harvest. It is like a mustard seed, a tiny seed, but one which grows into a huge tree. It is like yeast which is mixed with dough and which makes it rise. (Mark 4:26-32; Luke 13:19-21)

In a sense, the kingdom of God was present in Christ, and is Christ, since he drove out demons and explained that this was a sing that the kingdom of God had come to us. (Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20) It, in fact, is also mysteriously, intimately, and indissolubly linked to Christ's Church, which is Christ's body, "the kingdom of Christ now present in mystery," (VII, Lumen gentium, No. 3), the "seed and the beginning of that kingdom," (CCC § 768 quoting LG, No. 5), a "sign and instrument of the kingdom." (Dominus Iesus, No. 18) "In fact, the kingdom of God which we know from revelation, 'cannot be detached either from Christ or from the Church . . . yet while remaining distinct from Christ and the kingdom, the Church is indissolubly united to both." (Dominus Iesus, 18) There is a "unicity" in the "relationship which Christ and the Church have with the kingdom of God." (Dominus Iesus, No. 19)

Because this kingdom exists with us in the Church, so the good wheat grow with the tares in the kingdom's field, there is good fish and bad fish in the kingdom's net, which might confuse us or cause scandal. (Matt. 13:24-30, 47-49) We must however remain faithful to Christ and his Church, as those who reject Christ are not part of a the kingdom of God. (Matt. 21:43) And yet, it is open to admission for those who, at the last moment of their lives, repent, for the first shall be last, the last shall be first.

The kingdom of God though akin to a secret, however, is something for which is preached, for we work for, for which we suffer and experience hardship, even persecution, and the coming of which we wait. (Acts 8:12; 14:22; 28:31, 2 Thess. 1:5, Col. 4:1, Matt. 5:10; Mark 15:43) It is something that sometimes requires the sacrifice of leaving home, wife, family. (Luke 18:29) It is something that requires preparation, wise custody, effort and planning. (Cf. Matt. 25:1-11) It is something which we enter by baptism, so it is closely linked, if it is not in fact equated, with the Church. (John 3:5) It is a difficult acquisition, hard to enter, and difficult to stay in. (Mark 10:24) We do not inherit it without condition, since we are banned from it if we are wicked. (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:21) "Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Gal. 5:19-21)

We are therefore to act forcefully to avoid any sin that threatens to keep us from entering it. (Mark 9:47) The rich whose heart is in their earthly treasure, and who focus upon acquiring riches in gold rather than riches in spirit, have a difficult time accessing the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:23) The selfish, self-regarding, self-sufficient rich are not our model. Rather, we must become innocent, poor in spirit, dependent, receptive, and full of wonder like little children. (Matt. 18:4; 19:14; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:17; Matt. 5:3) It is something that, once being in, we ought not to look back, for no one who "set his hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62) The keys to that kingdom were given to Peter, the Rock, and it will be with us until the end of time, for the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18-19)

The kingdom of God, though present even in Christ when he walked on earth, and though present in us even now, and always near (Luke 10:11), will not be fully realized until the end of time, when, according to Scripture, an angel will blow his trumpet and voices in heaven will sing: "The kingdom of the world now belongs to our Lord and to his Anointed, and he will reign forever and ever." (Rev. 11:15; cf. Matt. 8:11; Daniel 2:44; 7:27) It is something the consummation of which ought devoutly to be wished, and indeed, the Lord taught us to pray to the Lord God, "thy kingdom come," adveniat regnum tuum." (Matt. 6:10; Luke 11:2) And St. Paul prays impatiently: Lord come! Maranatha! (1 Cor. 16:22)

The Kingdom of God was one that did not rely on violence, even justifiable violence, against properly constituted authority. (John 18:36) It was not one that relied upon the sword. It was not one that relied upon "oppressive and despotic power," such as the power "wielded by the rulers of nations." (Compendium, No. 379) And yet the Kingdom of God offered a huge challenge to the kingdoms of this earth.

The kingdom of God ushered in by Christ was one that operated above and beyond and around and within existing kingdoms and kings, those who claimed, falsely in an absolute sense, to have final authority over, and be the real benefactors (euergetai) of, their people, and thereby approach divinity.* (Luke 22:25) Such claims were false because Jesus knew that there was no authority exercised by any magistrate except that it was given to him by God. (John 19:11; cf. Rom 13:1) Such claims were also false because Jesus knew that the only real benefactor of men is God, the God who feeds the birds of the air who store not goods in barns, and who sees to it that the lilies, who neither labor nor spin, have beautiful raiment.
So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.
(Matt. 6:26-33)

The Kingdom of God operated on a model entirely different from those under which the rulers of the world operated. In a sense it is topsy turvy. The model of leadership was service (diakonos), youth (neōteros), even slavery (doulos). (Luke 22:26; Mark 10:43-44) In this way, the leader was to imitate Christ, the "Son of Man [who] did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many." (Cf. Mark 10:42-45) That is why the Pope, heir to St. Peter's keys, is called the servant of the servants of God, servus servorum Dei.
*Interestingly, this is the only instance in the entire scriptures where the word benefactors (euergetai) is used. In Hellenistic thought, "For a man, to benefit others is a way to be divine." For a ruler to adopt the term "euergetai" was for that ruler to imply "an almost supernatural personality," since he gave without receiving. Following Alexander the Great's example, who saw himself as a great benefactor by freeing people from the barbarians and introducing them into Hellenistic culture and governance, many rulers called themselves benefactors of their people, euergetai. Significantly, the benefits given the euergetai were "welfare benefits," in the form of corn, food, shelter, and water. Gloria Vivenza, "Classical Roots of Benevolence," in B. B. Price, ed, Ancient Economic Thought (New York: Routledge, 2005), Vol. 1, 190-91. This seems almost an implied criticism of what we could call a nanny state where we put too much reliance upon the state, and not enough reliance upon God.