Saturday, October 04, 2014

The old church was different

Was the Catholic Church always in favour of an anti-national universalism? The answer is clearly no. Bonald, for instance, has found an encyclical of Pope Pius XII from 1939 in which there is a harmonising of the claims of patriotism and universalism. Bonald has posted a longer transcript (worth reading), but I'll try a summary.

Pope Pius begins with a reminder of the basis of the unity of humankind:
that law of human solidarity and charity which is dictated and imposed by our common origin and by the equality of rational nature in all men, to whatever people they belong, and by the redeeming Sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ on the Altar of the Cross to His Heavenly Father on behalf of sinful mankind.

But this doesn't mean that nations don't have an important place:
And the nations, despite a difference of development due to diverse conditions of life and of culture, are not destined to break the unity of the human race, but rather to enrich and embellish it by the sharing of their own peculiar gifts and by that reciprocal interchange of goods which can be possible and efficacious only when a mutual love and a lively sense of charity unite all the sons of the same Father and all those redeemed by the same Divine Blood.

There is no contradiction between the unity of the human race and our membership of nations - that is what Pope Pius is emphasising here.

To further underline the point Pope Pius goes on to say:
The Church of Christ, the faithful depository of the teaching of Divine Wisdom, cannot and does not think of deprecating or disdaining the particular characteristics which each people, with jealous and intelligible pride, cherishes and retains as a precious heritage.

And then this:
The Church hails with joy and follows with her maternal blessing every method of guidance and care which aims at a wise and orderly evolution of particular forces and tendencies having their origin in the individual character of each race, provided that they are not opposed to the duties incumbent on men from their unity of origin and common destiny.

The balance here is good. We cannot treat those not of our tradition in any way we like, as we share a common humanity; however, the church blesses the effort to wisely develop the unique tradition we belong to.

Pope Pius then goes on to speak about the proper role of the state:
Hence, it is the noble prerogative and function of the State to control, aid and direct the private and individual activities of national life that they converge harmoniously towards the common good. That good can neither be defined according to arbitrary ideas nor can it accept for its standard primarily the material prosperity of society, but rather it should be defined according to the harmonious development and the natural perfection of man. It is for this perfection that society is designed by the Creator as a means.

The state should not be "something ultimate to which everything else should be subordinated and directed". In particular, the state should not usurp the role of the family. Parents have an important and independent role in guiding the formation of their children:
Undoubtedly, that formation should aim as well at the preparation of youth to fulfill with intelligent understanding and pride those offices of a noble patriotism which give to one’s earthly fatherland all due measure of love, self-devotion and service.


  1. The late Lawrence Auster wrote a great article about how modern liberal Christianity has promoted open-borders and universalism at the expense of traditional Western nation-states.

    As Auster concluded:

    "That the Christian churches have nevertheless urged this universalist project on the West leads us to a terrible paradox. On the one hand, Christianity is the historic and spiritual foundation of Western civilization and of the nations that have constituted it. On the other hand, much of organized Christianity as it actually exists today—Christianity infused with liberal One‑Worldism—is the avowed enemy of the West and its historic peoples. This One-World Christianity is a distortion of true Christianity, it is what Christianity has become under the influence of left-leftist ideology. A more sane and balanced Christianity is possible, which gives due regard to the subsidiary values of culture and nation.

    An example of this healthier Christian attitude was the reverence that Pope John Paul II expressed toward the Polish nation during his epochal first papal visit to that country in 1979. During that extraordinary journey, which played a key role in the ultimate defeat of Soviet Communism, he spoke of Poland, not as a political and economic project or as an abstract idea, but as a distinct historical and spiritual entity, as a collective personality whose life has extended over centuries. Unfortunately, the Pope throughout the rest of his papacy gave such recognition only to his native Poland, and, apparently, only because Polish culture was struggling to survive under Communist oppression. When it came to the United States, he took the opposite tack. America as the Pope saw it (and indeed as American liberals and mainstream conservatives themselves see it) has no national culture of its own, but exists only as a charity service for the world (the left view) or as the generator of a global democratic-capitalist ideology (the neoconservative view).

    Nevertheless, John Paul II's magnificent, if too narrowly applied, evocation of national culture as the vehicle through which a historical people express their relationship with God can be seen as the model for a restored, pro-Western Church. Liberal Christianity's denial of the identity and sovereignty of the historical Western peoples has led many Western patriots to be deeply suspicious of Christianity, even to reject it altogether, when what is most needed is a comprehensive renewal of the Christian faith, the religion which glorifies God and his truth, not man and his desires, and which provides a place under God for all peoples."

    1. This and your original post are both very enjoyable, Mark.

      I really appreciate the more intellectual and thoughtful air of this blog. It's refreshing when so many other 'outlets' feel like partisan shouting matches.

  2. Mark, there is an interesting article by Edwin Dyga in the latest edition of Quadrant about the future of Australian conservatism. You get a mention.