Catechism of the Crisis in the Church, Pt. 7

Fr. Matthias Gaudron

Our serialization continues with the next chapter of the Catechism, devoted to questions of civil society. The novel notion of "religious liberty," introduced at Vatican II, has caused a great deal of confusion in regard to these questions.


32) Is Jesus Christ the king of civil society?

Jesus Christ is not only king of the Church or of the faithful, but also of all men and of all nations. He said so before His Ascension: "All power is given to me in heaven and in earth" (Mt. 28:18). He is king of the whole world; nothing can escape His rule.


l What are the foundations of Christ's kingship?

Pope Pius XI teaches in the Encyclical Quas Primas that Christ has a twofold claim to kingship: 1) He is king by nature, by an innate right (He is Man-God); and 2) He is king by conquest, by an acquired right (by redeeming the world, He acquired all men by His blood).


l Doesn't Christ's kingship extend only over the baptized?

In reply to this objection, Pope Pius XI cites his predecessor Leo XIII:

His empire extends not only over Catholic nations and those who, having been duly washed in the waters of holy baptism, belong of right to the Church...; it comprises also all those who are deprived of the Christian faith, so that the whole human race is most truly under the power of Jesus Christ.1


l Why does the current hierarchy put so much stock in Vatican II, since at the same time they acknowledge that it was not an infallible council?

In fact, from the beginning, Vatican II has been the object of a ruse. During the Council, its pastoral character was emphasized so that the use of precise theological language could be dispensed with; but afterwards, those who insisted upon its pastoral nature ascribed to conciliar teaching an authority equal, if not superior, to that of previous councils. This trick was denounced by one of the participants at the Council, Archbishop Lefebvre, in 1976:

It is imperative, therefore, to shatter the myths which have been built up around Vatican II. This Council had wished to be a pastoral Council because of its instinctive horror for dogma, and to facilitate the official introduction of liberal ideas into Church texts. By the time it was over, however, they had dogmatized the Council, comparing it with that of Nicaea, and claiming that it was equal, if not superior, to the Councils that had gone before it.2

33) Didn't Jesus Christ say that His kingdom is not of this world?

Christ affirmed before Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 18:36). He meant by this that His kingdom does not originate in this world, and that its nature is superior to that of all earthly kingdoms; but it is exercised on earth. The kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world, but it is indeed in this world.


l Is this interpretation certain?

Christ's words are so clear that they scarcely need interpreting. Just as our Lord declared that He was not of the world,3 but that He was sent into the world by the Father,4 He declared before Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world, but that, being king, He came into the world to give testimony to the truth.5


l What do the Fathers of the Church say about it?

The Fathers of the Church point out that our Lord did not say "My kingdom is not here," but rather "My kingdom is not from here."6 His kingship indeed has its exercise in the world.


l Why then did Jesus Christ affirm that His kingdom is not of this world?

Jesus Christ refused to allow Himself to be proclaimed king (Jn. 6:15) in order to dissociate His kingdom from the false messianic pretensions of the Jews (liberation from the Roman yoke and world dominion). Speaking to a Roman governor, He indicates that His kingdom, essentially supernatural, does not threaten the emperor; it does not compete against the kingdoms of the earth, whose limits, vulnerability, and petty ambitions it does not share. Christ's kingdom encompasses all the world's kingdoms, as the second antiphon of the Vespers for the Feast of Christ the King proclaims: "His kingdom is a kingdom of all ages, and all kings shall serve and obey Him."


l Isn't Christ's kingship essentially spiritual?

Indeed, Pius XI teaches in Quas Primas that the kingdom of Christ "is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things" (§15).


l If it is essentially spiritual, does Christ's kingship extend over temporal affairs?

In the same encyclical, Pius XI continues to say:

It would be a grave error, on the other hand, to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since, by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures committed to Him by the Father, all things are in His power (§17).


l Even if He has this power, didn't our Lord manifest that He is not interested in temporal power and desired to reign only over souls?

Our Lord desires first and foremost to save souls and to reign in them by His grace. To turn men heavenwards, during His life on earth He refused any exercise of temporal authority. He carefully distinguished the religious society He founded (the holy Catholic Church) from civil society. He left to the kings of the earth their power. But Christ's kingship nonetheless exists, and temporal authorities have the duty to acknowledge it publicly once they become cognizant of it.


l Why must rulers recognize Christ's kingship?

For heads of state, the public recognition of Christ's kingship is first of all a duty in justice to our Lord (His kingship is the source of their authority). It is also a duty to their subjects, whom they strongly help to save their souls, and upon whom they draw down the Savior's particular blessing. Lastly, it is a duty to the Church, which must be sustained in its mission.


l Why insist so much upon Christ's social kingship? Isn't it enough to be occupied with the main thing: His reign in souls?

Man is not a pure spirit. Pope Pius XII teaches: "Souls are affected for better or for worse by the form given to society, depending on whether it is in harmony with divine law or not."7

34) Does the State, then, have duties in regard to our Lord Jesus Christ and to religion?

Just as all men have the duty to honor God their Creator, and, in order to do so, to embrace the true faith once they know it (their personal salvation depends upon their acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ), so too the State.

The happiness of the State flows from no other source than that of individuals, since a city is nothing else than the ensemble of particular individuals living in harmony.8

l Must political society itself honor God publicly? Isn't it enough that individuals do so?

Leo XIII teaches:

...the State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion.9


l Where does this duty to honor God publicly come from?

Leo XIII explains:

For men living together in society are under the power of God no less than individuals are, and society, no less than individuals, owes gratitude to God who gave it being.... Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its teaching and practice (not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion), it is a public crime to act as though there were no God. So, too, is it a sin for the State not to have care for religion as something beyond its scope, or as of no practical benefit; or out of many forms of religion to adopt that one which chimes in with the fancy.10


l To honor God publicly, must civil society necessarily profess the Catholic religion?

Jesus Christ, who is the unique mediator between men and God, is never optional. And the Catholic Church, which is the unique Church of Christ, is not any more so. Leo XIII teaches:

...We are bound absolutely to worship God in that way which He has shown to be His will.11


l But is the State competent in religious matters?

The State is not competent to legislate in religious matters according to its lights. But it is competent to recognize the true religion by certain marks, and to submit to it. Leo XIII affirms:

Since, then, the profession of one religion is necessary in the State, that religion must be professed which alone is true, and which can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic States, because the marks of truth are, as it were, engraved upon it. This religion, therefore, the rulers of the State must preserve and protect....12


l Has the State other religious duties besides the public worship of God?

Yes, the State, while staying within its own domain, must foster its citizens' eternal salvation.


l Isn't it the Church's affair, and not the State's, to aid people to reach eternal happiness?

God willed to create a specifically religious society (the holy Catholic Church), distinct from civil society. Man, then, must belong to both of these societies, yet man has only one last end. He cannot go in two directions simultaneously: his temporal life is given him to prepare his eternity. The State, whose proper domain is the temporal order, cannot organize society independently of its last end. It is not directly responsible for the eternal happiness of its citizens, but it must contribute to that end indirectly. If the State should neglect to do so, it would be ignoring the most important part of the common good. Such is the teaching of the Fathers of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the popes.


l What do the Fathers of the Church have to say about this?

St. Augustine asserts:

For a man serves God in one way in that he is man, in another way in that he is also king. In that he is man, he serves Him by living faithfully; but in that he is also king, he serves Him by enforcing with suitable rigor such laws as ordain what is righteous, and punish what is the reverse. Even as Hezekiah served Him, by destroying the groves and the temples of the idols... (II Kings 18:4), or even as Josiah served Him, by doing the same things in his turn (II Kings 23:4-5..., or as Darius served Him, by giving the idol into the power of Daniel to be broken... (Dan. 3:29). In this way, therefore, kings can serve the Lord, even in so far as they are kings, when they do in His service what they could not do were they not kings.13

Elsewhere he teaches:

It is by acting thus that kings serve God in their royal capacity: if in their kingdom they command the good and prohibit evil, not only in the things pertaining to human society, but also in those that pertain to the true religion.14

And elsewhere:

But we say that [rulers] are happy if they rule justly; ...if they make their power the handmaid of His majesty by using it for the greatest possible extension of His worship; if they fear, love, worship God....15


l What do the other Fathers of the Church say?

St. Ambrose begins a letter to the Emperor thus:

As all men who live under the Roman sway engage in military service under you, the Emperors and Princes of the world, so too do you yourselves owe service to Almighty God and our holy faith.16

St. Leo the Great wrote to the Emperor Leo I:

...the kingly power has been conferred on you not for the governance of the world alone but more especially for the guardianship of the Church....17

St. Gregory the Great affirms that:

For power over all men has been given from heaven to the piety of my lords to this end, that they who aspire to what is good may be helped, and that the way to heaven may be more widely open, so that an earthly kingdom may wait upon the heavenly kingdom.18

St. John Chrysostom explains:

For there are a duller sort, upon whom things to come have not such a hold as things present. He then who by fear and rewards gives the soul of the majority a preparatory turn towards its becoming more suited for the word of doctrine, is with good reason called "the Minister of God."19


l And what did St. Thomas Aquinas teach?

In his treatise on politics, the De Regno, he wrote:

Since the beatitude of heaven is the end of that virtuous life which we live at present, it pertains to the king's office to promote the good life of the multitude in such a way as to make it suitable for the attainment of heavenly happiness, that is to say, he should command those things which lead to the happiness of Heaven and, as far as possible, forbid the contrary.20


l Are the Doctors of the Church unanimous on this point?

Yes, the Doctors of the Church are unanimous on this point. On the brink of the French Revolution of 1789, the great doctor of moral theology, St. Alphonsus de Liguori, employed the same language as St. Augustine:

An individual will save his soul by keeping the divine laws; a king, to save his soul, must keep them and make his subjects keep them, that is to say, reform bad morals and uproot scandal. He must fulfill this duty courageously and unflinchingly....He must not hesitate to banish from his realm every preacher of impiety, nor to seize works infected with bad doctrine at the border. This is their imperious duty, and it is for failing to accomplish it that princes have lost their crown.21


l Have recent popes dealt with this question?

After the Revolution of 1789, when the temporal powers ceased to fulfill their function, the popes had to treat explicitly of the matter at length. Gregory XVI reminded the princes that

their power has been given them, not only for the government of the world, but especially for the support and defence of the Church....let them be convinced that the cause of faith should be far dearer to them than that of their kingdom....Set up as fathers and guardians of their nations, they will secure their true and constant happiness, with peace and plenty, if they make it their principal care to make religion flourish with piety towards God, Who bears written on His thigh: "King of kings, Lord of lords."22


l Did Gregory XVI's successors employ the same language?

All the popes until Vatican II are unanimous. Leo XIII explains:

For one and all are we destined by our birth and adoption to enjoy, when this frail and fleeting life is ended, a supreme and final good in heaven....Hence, civil society, established for the common welfare, should not only safeguard the well-being of the community, but have also at heart the interests of its individual members, in such mode as not in any way to hinder, but in every manner to render as easy as may be, the possession of that highest and unchangeable good for which all should seek. Wherefore, for this purpose, care must especially be taken to preserve unharmed and unimpeded the religion whereof the practice is the link connecting man with God.23


l So then, Church and State must not be separated?

The Church and the State are two distinct societies, but their strict separation is absurd and unnatural. Man is not divided into a Christian and a citizen. He must be a Christian not only in his private life, but in every facet of his life. Thus he must pursue a Christian politics by striving to bring civil laws into accord with the divine laws.


l Was the separation of Church and State condemned by the popes?

Pius IX condemned the proposition that "the Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church,"24 and St. Pius X wrote:

That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error. Based, as it is, on the principle that the State must not recognize any religious cult, it is in the first place guilty of a great injustice to God; for the Creator of man is also the Founder of human societies, and preserves their existence as He preserves our own. We owe Him, therefore, not only a private cult, but a public and social worship to honor Him. Besides, this thesis is an obvious negation of the supernatural order. It limits the action of the State to the pursuit of public prosperity during this life only, which is but the proximate object of political societies; and it occupies itself in no fashion (on the plea that this is foreign to it) with their ultimate object which is man's eternal happiness after this short life shall have run its course.25


Translated exclusively for Angelus Press from Katholischer Katechismus zur kirchlichen Kriese by Fr. Matthias Gaudron, professor at the Herz Jesu Seminary of the Society of St. Pius X in Zaitzkofen, Germany. The original was published in 1997 by Rex Regum Press, with a preface by the District Superior of Germany, Fr. Franz Schmidberger. This translation is based on the second edition published in 1999 by Rex Regum Verlag, Schloss Jaidhof, Austria. Subdivisions and slight revisions made by the Dominican Fathers of Avrillé have been incorporated into the translation.


1 Leo XIII, Encyclical Annum Sacrum (May 25, 1899), §3, quoted by Leo XI in Quas Primas (December 11, 1925). [Except where otherwise noted, English versions of papal writings are taken from the Vatican Web site.–Tr.]

2 Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, I Accuse the Council (Angelus Press, 1982), p. v.

3 Jn. 17:16–Ego non sum de mundo. In Latin, the preposition de indicates origin, point of departure.

4 Jn. 17:18–Tu me misisti in mundum. The preposition in followed by the accusative indicates the destination of a motion.

5 Jn. 18:36-37–Regnum meum non est de hoc mundo....Rex sum ego. Ego in hoc natus sum, et ad hoc veni in mundum, ut testimonium perhibeam veritati.

6 Jn. 18:36–Regnum meum non est hinc. The Latin adverb hinc indicates the provenance (it answers the question unde, whence). The adverb hic indicates present location. This fact is explicitly underscored by St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, and Theophylactus (quoted by St. Thomas in the Catena Aurea on Jn. 18).

7 Pius XII, Radio Message of June 1, 1941.

8 St. Augustine (354-430), Letter 155 to Macedonius, 3, 9, PL 33, 670.

9 Leo XIII, Encyclical Immortale Dei (Nov. 1, 1885) on the Christian Constitution of States, §6.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 Leo XIII, Encyclical Libertas (June 20, 1888), §21. The same teaching is given in Immortale Dei.

13 St. Augustine, Letter 185, Chap.5, §19, PL 33, col. 801 [on line at].

14 St. Augustine, "Four Books in Answer to the Grammarian Cresconius," Retractations, Chap.51, §56.

15 St. Augustine, The City of God, Book 5, Chap. 24.

16 St. Ambrose, Letter 17, PL, col.961 [online at].

17 St. Leo the Great (Pope from 440-61), Letter to Leo Augustus, PL 54, col.1130 [online at].

18 St. Gregory the Great (Pope from 590–604), to Mauricius Augustus, PL 77, col.663, [online at].

19 St. John Chrysostom, Homily XXIII on the Epistle to the Romans [online at fathers].

20 St. Thomas Aquinas, On Kingship, tr. by Gerald B. Phelan and revised by I. Th. Eschmann, O.P. (Toronto: Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1949) [online at].

21 St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Fedelta dei Vassali (June 1777), quoted by Augustin Berthe, C.SS.R., St. Alphonse de Liguori 1696-1787 (Paris: Reteaux), II, 440-41.

22 Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos (Kansas City: Angelus Press, n.d.), §29.

23 Immortale Dei, §6. The Pope develops the same idea in Libertas.

24 Condemned Proposition 55 from the Syllabus of Errors (Dec. 8, 1864).

25 St. Pius X, Encyclical Vehementer Nos, on the French Law of Separation (Feb. 11, 1906), §3.