I started this blog because I feel called by God to use the knowledge I obtained during my time with Fr. DePauw, and my many years as a Traditionalist (since 1981), to help others as we make our best Catholic way we can through this time of the Great Apostasy. I write to expose the Vatican II sect, as well as to educate and inform my readers about the Faith and warn of modern dangers. I have seen much good fruit that God has produced through my labors and I wish this to continue. I can research and put out a post quicker than most due to my large library of books, and my research/writing skills from being a lawyer and teaching. Nevertheless, it takes several hours of time, the one commodity that is becoming more and more scarce. I also make no money off my writing, it is a work of love, and it shall ever remain so.
I was seriously thinking of reducing the number of posts by skipping one Monday each month, but sometimes God steps in to show us a solution when we least expect it. For some time now, there's been a young man commenting here who goes by the moniker "A Simple Man." His comments were notable for the quality of writing and a concomitant erudition. He holds the Integral Catholic Faith and is convinced of the state of sedevacante in which we find ourselves. I posted a response to one of his comments in which I said he would make a good "fill-in" for me if I needed a break. To my surprise, he wrote back that he would be interested if I were serious. We began exchanging emails.
A young man in his 30s, he is well-educated and has a sizable library. He offered to research and write posts at his leisure (so there is no pressure or deadlines on him), and send them to me for final review and publication when I need to take a break. I will still be writing the large majority of posts each year. However, about six to ten weeks per year, Simple Man will be my "guest poster." In this way, you, my readership, continue to get 52 posts per year, and I get the break I need to continue writing 42 to 46 of those posts. This week is his first guest post.
It was nice to enjoy Thanksgiving with extra time for my family, friends, and prayer. I hope you will enjoy the "from time to time guest posts" of Simple Man and feel free to comment and let him know what you think, just as you do with me. I will also continue to respond to comments and questions during those weeks, especially if specifically addressed to me. Of late, I have been responding to all comments and queries in the late afternoon or evening, because my work became more demanding than ever. So please don't think I won't answer if you don't get a response right away; I will always write back before I go to sleep for the night.
I will always give attribution to my guest poster as A Simple Man when he writes. Otherwise, what is posted here comes from yours truly. Thank you, Simple Man! You are indeed a godsend!
God Bless you all, my dear readers---Introibo
On the Subject of Lawful Authority
By A Simple Man
At the time of this writing [November 22, 2020], the United States of America is still consumed by the confusion and chaos related to the 2020 Presidential Election and its ongoing aftermath. Regardless of how it turns out, media coverage of the alleged improprieties has all but guaranteed a significant portion of the country will not accept the final result as legitimate. Ignoring the hypocrisy of those saying that the current “results” – namely, that Joe Biden is the President-Elect – should not be questioned (when the same often spent much of the past four years questioning the legitimacy of the 2016 election), a question that may be on the minds of many is with regards to political authority, and the extent of one’s obedience to it. This is all the more pertinent in light of the increasing arbitrariness with which civil and criminal law have been applied in these days.
In response to this line of thought, certain Christians may reply with the lessons of Romans 13, wherein St. Paul discusses the subjection that every soul owes to higher powers; or perhaps with the lessons of Matthew 22, wherein Our Lord refutes the Pharisees and Herodians with regards to the question of tribute to Caesar (“[…]Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s.” – Matthew 22:21). However, there was no question that Caesar (and the Roman Empire in general) was the lawful secular authority; would the lessons of St. Paul and Our Lord have been different if the secular authority’s identity were a matter of public dispute? What is the extent of a Christian’s obedience to political authority if the authority in question were in doubt, or if that authority had been seized by seditious and unlawful means?
This blog has already covered the subject of a Christian’s duty to the state, but it is worthwhile to delve into it with greater detail. Our first source will be St. Robert Bellarmine, canonized in 1930 by Pope Pius XI, and a most noteworthy Doctor of the Church; in particular, we shall cite numerous sections from On Temporal and Spiritual Liberty (sourced from the edition hosted by the Online Library of Liberty, edited and translated from the Latin by Stefania Tutino. All italics, punctuation, and spelling are as cited). Our second source will be St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor; in particular, we shall review a few citations from the Second Part of the Second Part of the Summa Theologiae.
Chapter 6: [Political authority] is defended with a reason drawn from the efficient cause [Author’s note: Philosophically, the efficient cause of any object is the agent which causes change and drives transient motion. For example, the efficient cause of a marble statue is the sculptor who acts on the marble.]
"…as it is certain that political authority comes from God, from Whom nothing proceeds but the good and lawful, which Augustine proves throughout books 4 and 5 of De civitate Dei. […] But here some things have to be noted. First, political authority considered in general…comes immediately from God alone, since it follows necessarily from the nature of man and therefore it comes from Him Who made the nature of man. Moreover, this authority is of the natural law, as it does not depend upon men’s consent. In fact, whether or not they want to, men must be ruled by somebody unless they want human-kind to perish, which is against the inclination of nature…
"...note that this authority immediately resides in the entire multitude as its subject because this authority is of divine law. But divine law did not give this authority to any particular man; therefore it gave it to all. Moreover, once we remove the positive law, there is no good reason why among many equals one rather than another should rule. Therefore this authority belongs to the entire multitude…
"…note that the individual kinds of government stem from the law of nations, not from the law of nature, for the appointment of kings, consuls, or other magistrates clearly depends on men’s consent. And, if there is a legitimate cause, the multitude can change a monarchy into aristocracy or a democracy, and vice versa, as we read was done in Rome.
"…note that from what we said it follows that while this particular authority certainly derives from God, it is by means of human deliberation and decision, like everything else that pertains to the law of nations. In fact, the law of nations is more or less a conclusion deduced from the law of nature through human elaboration. From this, two differences between political and ecclesiastical authority follow…namely that political authority resides in the multitude, while ecclesiastical authority is directly over one man as its subject; the other from the point of view of the efficient cause, namely that political authority considered in general comes from divine law, and political authority considered in particular cases comes from the law of nations, but ecclesiastical authority is in every respect of divine law and stems immediately from God.
"On this basis I reply to the fourth argument of the Anabaptists. [Author’s note: a Protestant sect founded in 1521, notable for denying the validity of infant baptism and professing a vision of society which bore many elements that would belong to Communism in subsequent centuries. It is their radical theories on authority which Bellarmine is disputing; in particular, their argument that political authority introduced by God has nonetheless been usurped by tyrannical men, and thus is not good or lawful for Christians.] First, this argument is proved only insofar as a specific government is concerned, not regarding general political authority itself. But here we want to establish political authority in general, not a specific form of government. Add, second, that very often kingdoms are just and unjust, from God and not from God. If we look at the people who occupy and invade kingdoms, we can get the impression that kingdoms are nothing but robber bands and unjust and therefore they do not come from God. If, by contrast, we consider that divine providence makes use of the evil intention of men and arranges it either to punish sins or to reward good works or to other good ends, then those same kingdoms are just and legitimate. In fact God sometimes by the wonderful reason of His providence takes away kingdoms from somebody and gives them to other people; and as a consequence in those cases, the one who falls from the kingdom falls most justly and the one who invades the kingdom does not possess it justly, and God Himself at the appropriate time will mete out the most just punishments for that invasion.
"But God gave Palestine to the sons of Israel for a very different reason than that for which He later gave it to Salmanzar or Nebuchadnezzar. On the one hand, the sons of Israel, led by Joshua, fought against the people of Palestine with commendable obedience and, having killed them, claimed their lands for themselves. Salmanzar and Nebuchadnezzar, on the other hand, led the people of God into captivity by an execrable sacrilege, and they did not want to yield to the command of God but to their evil greed; nevertheless God used them toward that outcome which He wanted most rightly to be attained even if they did not know it.
"St. Augustine in his work De gratia et libero arbitrio, chapters 20 and 21, and Hugh of St. Victor in book 1 of De sacramentis, section 1, chapter 29, explain this issue accurately, and testimonies from the Scriptures are not lacking, as in Isaiah 10 we read: “O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few, etc.” There it speaks of Salmanzar and Sennacherib, who with evil intent occupied the lands of Israel; nevertheless God without their knowledge used their work to punish the Israelites.
"Likewise in Isaiah 45: “Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.” From this passage it is clear that Cyrus acquired for himself the monarchy out of lust for domination, not in service of God, and yet God helped him and gave him the monarchy that he wanted, so that he might free the people of Israel from the Babylonian captivity.
"In Jeremiah 27: “And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him. And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son’s son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him. And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.” And yet who doubts that Nebuchadnezzar submitted to himself so many kingdoms with evil intent?
"[…]Likewise the Romans wanted to enlarge their empire not for God, but for lust of glory, as blessed Augustine shows extensively in De civitate Dei, book 5, chapter 12. Nevertheless God allowed them to enlarge their empire, both to reward them for their good morals, as St. Augustine teaches in book 5, chapter 15, of De civitate Dei, and to prepare the path for preaching the Gospel through the union of all peoples under one government, as blessed Leo says in his first sermon on Peter and Paul.
"Add also that even if at the beginning those who established kingdoms were for the most part invaders, in the course of time they or their successors become legitimate princes, since the peoples little by little give their consent. In this way the kingdom of the Franks, by everybody’s consent, is now legitimate, even though at the beginning the Franks occupied Gaul unjustly. And the same can be said of the Hispanic kingdom, which began with the invasion of the Goths, and of the English kingdom, which began with the unjust occupation of the Anglo-Saxons, and of the Roman Empire itself, which was established by Julius Caesar, oppressor of his country, but which nevertheless later began to be legitimate to the point that the Lord said in Matthew 22: “Render therefore unto Caesar, etc.” "
To summarize, St. Robert Bellarmine fully acknowledges the historical existence of unjust rulers; however, rather than refusing the prerogatives of political authority as is their due from the natural and divine law, he brings to mind the supernatural perspective with which we must view the affairs of this world: in all matters where lawful obedience to political authority is due, regardless of the just or unjust means by which that authority gained its power, we are still called to follow the example of Christ and the saints (even to the point of martyrdom, should that political authority give unlawful or sinful commands that we must thereafter refuse). The rest of On Temporal and Spiritual Liberty is well worth reading in its entirety.
What of tyrannical governments? Some may retort that a political authority which obtains governmental power contrary to the ordinary means particular to that society (especially if the methods were by force of fraud or chicanery) is per se tyrannical, at which point it becomes lawful to resist. St. Thomas Aquinas, with regards to the subject of sedition, seems to support this viewpoint: "A tyrannical government is not just, because it is directed, not to the common good, but to the private good of the ruler, as the Philosopher states (Polit. iii, 5; Ethic. viii, 10). Consequently there is no sedition in disturbing a government of this kind, unless indeed the tyrant's rule be disturbed so inordinately, that his subjects suffer greater harm from the consequent disturbance than from the tyrant's government. Indeed it is the tyrant rather that is guilty of sedition, since he encourages discord and sedition among his subjects, that he may lord over them more securely; for this is tyranny, being conducive to the private good of the ruler, and to the injury of the multitude. " - ST II-II, q. 42, a. 2, ad 3.
This view seems to have additional support from St. Thomas’s overview of the subject of Obedience (bold is emphasis mine): "Man is bound to obey secular princes in so far as this is required by order of justice. Wherefore if the prince's authority is not just but usurped, or if he commands what is unjust, his subjects are not bound to obey him, except perhaps accidentally, in order to avoid scandal or danger." – ST II-II, q. 104, a. 6, ad 3.
However, the threshold of tyranny is an extremely high bar to clear. Consider the rulers of the Roman Empire: starting with Caligula in 41 A.D., over twenty claimants to the imperial seat (be they emperor or co-emperor) were murdered over the next few centuries prior to Christianity’s legalization by Constantine I. Quite a few more of Constantine’s successors would also be murdered. However, despite the constant usurpation of power by unjust force, Christian obedience to the civil authority remained (even in the face of persecution, torture, and death). Has the situation facing traditional Catholics within modern America reached that point of political turmoil, wherein extraordinary disturbance of the government would not be seditious as a result? I would argue that it clearly has not.
Likewise, when it comes to determining whether the current electoral results in America are the result of usurpation (in the sense that a re-election victory for Trump was “stolen” by allies and supporters of Joe Biden, as is alleged by many within conservative circles, and there is currently a case to be made for this allegation), that is a matter currently undergoing legal proceedings. (I do acknowledge that there are legitimate concerns regarding improprieties by lesser authorities with respect to certain states and municipalities as of the time of writing; however, the subject of this post is with regards to the general morality of obedience to political authority, in light of the teaching of two of the Church’s greatest approved theologians.) As St. Thomas argues in ST II-II, q. 60, a. 3, forming a judgment on nothing more than suspicion (which, in context, is defined as thinking evil of another on nothing more than a slight indication) is a sin (though he does elaborate on degrees of suspicion and their corresponding levels of sinfulness).
As such, I would argue that the following observations from St. Thomas still hold for our current circumstances: "Sedition is a special sin, having something in common with war and strife, and differing somewhat from them. It has something in common with them, in so far as it implies a certain antagonism, and it differs from them in two points. First, because war and strife denote actual aggression on either side, whereas sedition may be said to denote either actual aggression, or the preparation for such aggression. Hence a gloss on 2 Corinthians 12:20 says that "seditions are tumults tending to fight," when, to wit, a number of people make preparations with the intention of fighting. Secondly, they differ in that war is, properly speaking, carried on against external foes, being as it were between one people and another, whereas strife is between one individual and another, or between few people on one side and few on the other side, while sedition, in its proper sense, is between mutually dissentient parts of one people, as when one part of the state rises in tumult against another part. Wherefore, since sedition is opposed to a special kind of good, namely the unity and peace of a people, it is a special kind of sin. " – ST II-II, q. 42, a. 1
"As stated above (II-II, q. 42, a. 1, ad 2), sedition is contrary to the unity of the multitude, viz. the people of a city or kingdom. Now Augustine says (De Civ. Dei ii, 21) that "wise men understand the word people to designate not any crowd of persons, but the assembly of those who are united together in fellowship recognized by law and for the common good." Wherefore it is evident that the unity to which sedition is opposed is the unity of law and common good: whence it follows manifestly that sedition is opposed to justice and the common good. Therefore by reason of its genus it is a mortal sin, and its gravity will be all the greater according as the common good which it assails surpasses the private good which is assailed by strife. Accordingly the sin of sedition is first and chiefly in its authors, who sin most grievously; and secondly it is in those who are led by them to disturb the common good. Those, however, who defend the common good, and withstand the seditious party, are not themselves seditious, even as neither is a man to be called quarrelsome because he defends himself, as stated above (II-II, q. 41, a. 1). " – ST II-II, q. 42, a. 2
To summarize, St. Thomas Aquinas acknowledges that sedition is a grievous sin, and that there are scenarios wherein force may be lawfully used to defend the common good against such nefarious actors who would instigate it. However, as seen from history, the Catholic view of submission to political authority runs far beyond our natural inclinations, for the Church’s primary concern is with the salvation of our souls. As seen throughout the Old Testament, unjust and power-hungry rulers were often used as instruments of God’s righteous Justice against the disobedient Israelites. It would not be beyond the pale for similar governments to be used against the faithful in these days, as a means to increase our faith in God, reduce our trust in manmade solutions, and to restore our reliance on Divine Providence.
In conclusion, it can be very easy to get swept up in the furor regarding the political fate of our country, and to despair at the seeming sight of fraud being used to subvert electoral outcomes. However, we are still called to obedience in all things which are lawfully due to the state (even if we may have honest and well-founded concerns with the means by which they seized power), while still championing the rights of God and rendering to Him all that is His due. The temporal struggles we endure are but a blink in the eyes of eternity; take comfort and work out your salvation with righteous fear, knowing that everyone will one day get their due as well. After all, “…he that taketh authority to himself unjustly shall be hated.” – Ecclesiasticus 20:8
There will be more to come on this subject (perhaps on civil disobedience, and the extent to which such actions are permissible?), for the Church of Christ has answers in the face of every problem facing mankind throughout the ages. The problems of political authority, as they have manifested throughout the centuries, are no different.