Saturday, 26 March 2011

A traditional Catholic theologian on the Church and the State

This is the latest post in a series on Counter-Enlightenment Catholicism.  In it, I want to disinter the view put forward by Cardinal Camillo Tarquini on the proper relationship between the Church and the State in his Iuris ecclesiastici publici institutiones (1887).

Tarquini essentially follows the orthodox approach, associated with St Robert Bellarmine, of arguing that the Church and the State are each supreme in their own spheres - spiritual matters and temporal matters respectively - but that the Church is ultimately superior to the State and has an indirect or extraordinary power to intervene where appropriate in civil affairs.

His general approach is summed up in the following three propositions:

"Proposition 1.  In temporal matters, and with respect to temporal ends, the Church has no power in civil society."

"Proposition 2.  The Church can lawfully exercise her power in matters in which, either inherently or in practice, there is some reason or necessity relating to spiritual ends (that is, to the Church), even though such matters are temporal in nature, and civil society must defer to her."

"Proposition 3.  The governance of civil society should not be atheistic, in such a way that it presents itself as being completely indifferent in those matters which pertain to religion.  In doubtful matters, the right of the Church is reserved to define what truly pertains to religion."

Here is what he has to say in more detail:

"The nature of civil society is not to be defined in such a way that its duty pertains purely to seeking for worldly happiness, so that it should be (as they say) passive towards all matters which relate to religion and morality.  Some people express this in a more stringent, albeit a simpler and open way, saying: "the law should be atheistic".  It is relevant to worldly happiness for civil society to have concern for religion and morality, since if the latter things are neglected the former will also be subverted.  This is because if religion and morality are banished, human faithfulness itself, by which the bonds of society are forged, must be banished too.  Everyone recognises that civil society is bound to have this concern for religion and morality in accordance with the order established by God - that is, in a subordinate capacity to the Church, to which such concern has been committed in the first instance."

"From what we have said, it follows that our conclusion on the authentic nature of civil society is that it has only a direct concern for worldly happiness, but that it also has an indirect duty to defend morality and religion.  Moreover, in this duty it is subordinate to the Church because the Church is the society to which concern for religion and morality is directly committed."

Here is an interesting passage on the Church's relationship with non-Christian societies, which would include most of modern Euro-American culture:

"On the power of the Church as regards Infidels

By infidels, we mean those who have never entered the Church through baptism.  With respect to these matters, in order not to linger more than is appropriate, it is enough to say this: the Church has no jurisdiction over them, and this principle is contained in sacred scripture (1 Cor 5.12) and the common teaching of all the experts.  It follows from this:
I.  A society of infidels is a society which is entirely foreign to the Church.
II.  Such a society, insofar as it is religious, is inherently illegitimate.  This is because only one form of religious society can be legitimate, and that is that of the Church of Christ, to which such a society is foreign.
III.  There is perpetual war between the Church and a society of infidels.  This is waged by the Church through its ministers of the Gospel and its sacred expeditions, since the Lord orders that the Gospel be preached to every creature (Mk. 16.15).
IV.  Infidels can without blame resist the Church and harry her ministers insofar as they are in good faith, they have minimal doubts and they have minimal culpability.  If they exceed these limits and come into any doubt, they are bound to enquire into the truth and to adhere to it when they discover it."