In recent times you frequently hear people, including Christians, and even amongst Catholics talk about religious liberty and the radical and secular idea of the separation of church and state. What many people fail to realize is that religious liberty and the separation of church and state as in the modern liberal sense has never been taught by the Church, but actually condemned by many Popes. It is true that Vatican II mentions religious liberty to some extent, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church, however the traditional Catholic teaching has always put a strong emphasize on the Social Kingship of Christ in both our private as well as our public lives.
What the Church does not teach
It is best that we start by showing what the Church does not teach regarding Church and society. First and foremost the first of “the modern errors that we see in the modern secular sense is an embracing of false ideas of religious liberty and the radical separation of Church and State (as opposed to recognizing them as two distinct spheres, the secular being informed by but not controlled by the religious)”.1
Blessed Pope Pius IX stated in his Syllabus of Errors that it is erroneous to think that “In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship”.2
The Catholic Church has also never supported the idea of a theocracy, that is, that both ecclesiastical and secular authority are vested in the same individuals, so that a priestly class also holds the reins of government. Rather, the Church has always taught that the Church and the State are separate powers and each has its own legitimate sphere of influence, although, as Pope Leo XIII noted, “their subjects are the same, and not infrequently they deal with the same objects, though in different ways”.3
Another misconception is that the Church has before advocated forced conversion and using the state for that means. This is completely untrue as this would undermine the Catholic belief of free will and thus “the right of being immune to coercion, or rather the fact that the Church does not impose the Catholic Faith on anyone, but requires the freedom of the act of faith, does not arise from a presumed natural right to religious freedom or a presumed natural right to believe in any religion whatever, but it is founded on the fact that the Catholic Religion, the only true one, must be embraced in complete freedom without any constraints”.4Thus the Church has never taught that she nor the state can be used to coerce religious belief.
Lastly the Church has never declared Monarchy to be a perfect form of government. St. Robert Bellarmine states that although a monarchy has superiority and a lot of benefits, it is only true when monarchial power is wielded by an ideal monarch.
Monarchy theoretically and in the abstract, monarchy in the hands of God who combines in Himself all the qualifications of an ideal ruler, is indeed a perfect system of government; in the hands of imperfect man, however, it is exposed to many defects and abuses. A government tempered, therefore, by all three basic forms (i.e., monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy), a mixed government, is, on account of the corruption of human nature more useful that simple monarchy.5
What the Church does teach
Many Catholics believe that because the Church does not believe in forced conversions and thus in using the state as a means of doing that, and that at the same time because the Church doesn’t support a theocracy, therefore that the solution is for the State to be completely separated from the Church and should therefore treat all religions equally. To believe that because the State is forbidden to coerce belief, that it must declare itself completely separated from the Church and to treat all religions equally runs contrary to the Church’s teaching.
The Church throughout its history has always taught contrary to this radical belief of religious liberty and the separation of Church and State as we understand them in a liberal context.
The Church therefore teaches that the Church and the State are two distinct spheres, where the secular is informed but not controlled by the religious. This is not too different than what Jesus said in Matthew when asked about paying taxes to Caesar. He stated that Faith and the Church are distinct but not fully separated from civil authority.
Render therefore to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s: and to God, the things that are God’s. (Matthew 22:21)
Authority comes from God
The Church as well as the Holy Scriptures have always stated that all authority comes from God. In Romans Paul tells the converted Jews that they are to pay obedience to Just authority, since all authority and power is from God.
Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is not power but from God and those that are, are ordinaed of God. Therefore he that resist the power, resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation. (Romans 13:1-2)
St. Chrysostom takes notice that St. Paul does not say that there is no prince but from God, but only that there is no power but from God, meaning no lawful power, and speaking of true and just laws.
Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Immortale Dei states that the source of authority is clear and defined.
Every civilized community must have a ruling authority, and this authority, no less than society itself, has its source in nature, and has, consequently, God for its Author. Hence, it follows that all public power must proceed from God. For God alone is the true and supreme Lord of the world. Everything, without exception, must be subject to Him, and must serve him, so that whosoever holds the right to govern holds it from one sole and single source, namely, God, the sovereign Ruler of all. “There is no power but from God7
Similarly Pope Leo in another encyclical called Libertas further states that all authority comes from God.
Wherefore, civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness-namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. 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, engravers upon it. This religion, therefore, the rulers of the State must preserve and protect, if they would provide – as they should do – with prudence and usefulness for the good of the community. For public authority exists for the welfare of those whom it governs; and, although its proximate end is to lead men to the prosperity found in this life, yet, in so doing, it ought not to diminish, but rather to increase, man’s capability of attaining to the supreme good in which his everlasting happiness consists: which never can be attained if religion be disregarded.8
Pope Saint Pius X similarly states that it is wrong to think that since authority comes from God that it is lawful to think that society should be completely separated from the true religion. Although it is true that religion including Catholicism does not have the right to use the state to coerce belief upon anyone, society itself still has the obligation to form itself upon the truth found in God’s laws.
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… Hence the Roman Pontiffs have never ceased, as circumstances required, to refute and condemn the doctrine of the separation of Church and State.9
The current Catechism of the Catholic Church itself states that we have a duty to give God genuine worship, and because of this to form society with His laws and not separated from them.
Only the divinely revealed religion has clearly recognized man’s origin and destiny in God, the Creator and Redeemer. The Church invites political authorities to measure their judgments and decisions against this inspired truth about God and man…The Church, because of her commission and competence, is not to be confused in any way with the political community. She is both the sign and the safeguard of the transcendent character of the human person. “The Church respects and encourages the political freedom and responsibility of the citizen…It is a part of the Church’s mission “to pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it. (CCC 2244-2246)
The duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both individually and socially. This is “the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ.” By constantly evangelizing men, the Church works toward enabling them “to infuse the Christian spirit into the mentality and mores, laws and structures of the communities in which [they] live.”31 The social duty of Christians is to respect and awaken in each man the love of the true and the good. It requires them to make known the worship of the one true religion which subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church. Christians are called to be the light of the world. Thus, the Church shows forth the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies”.(CCC 2105)
Christ the King privately and socially
Christ is obviously king from within before he can be king from without. This means that before we can re-institute or even bring forth the Social Reign of Christ the King in society, he must reign within the heart. This includes us knowing the Catholic faith, as well as having a deep prayerful life. This means that we must institute and consecrate ourselves to Christ, specifically in the Sacred Heart devotion. When he reigns from within, and is the focal point of our lives we take him everywhere we go. This means that we take Christ throughout all our daily lives, whether it is work, school, the voting booth, the parish, and everywhere else. When we begin to do this, we can bring forth the Social Reign of Christ the King to public life.
This is the only way we can ever truly get Catholic politicians, not those who profess to be Catholics, but much more those who actually put it into practice. This would do away with a Catholic type of president who shows up to Mass on Sundays for example, but keeps his faith only privately. Much more so it would do away from so called Catholics such as Joe Biden and company who support things that would appall Catholics just over a century ago. Religion and the Catholic faith is not to be a private thing, but is to be public and that means taking the Kingship of Christ first by forming it within the heart, and then making it public.
In a nutshell the Kingship of Christ is a phrase that points to the doctrine that Christ is the King of Kings and that all authority comes from God. This means that temporal rulers are subject to the same God and truth as everyone else is. The teachings of Christ including the gospel and everything else that God has Divinely revealed to His Church is meant for public and not only private life.
It means first taking Christ into our hearts by fully living out the Catholic faith in its entirely. This includes first knowing the Faith through catechizes, and then applying it to everything else. Going to Mass as much as possible, recreating the family, by praying the rosary, reading the bible, having a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Once we start to do this privately, it does not stop there, rather we ought to be moved to take Christ wherever we go, and that means to public life. If this happens, we can as stated before get truly Catholic politicians, judges, cops, and so on.
In regards to the Church and the State we have to ask ourselves by what right could we follow a morally unjust law such as legal abortion. By what right for example can a faithful Catholic police prosecute someone trying to defend the rights of the unborn? By what right can a layer destify against their behalf? By what right can a Catholic judge prosecute them? Let none of these men state that they have sworn to uphold the law. Because any legal law that is contrary to both the natural law as well as the Divine and Eternal laws are null and void to begin with.
It should also be stated that it is not the clergy but the laity whom should take the first step so that the clergy would follow as the great bishop Fulton Sheen once said. Let no one say that it is impossible to transform society or bring about the social kingship of Christ. Tell that to the culture of death, the gay lobby, the radical feminists, the LGBT community and a host of other powerful groups who have sworn to do the same thing, but for other sinister means. They have changed society, they have corrupted it, dehumanized it, but they knew what they wanted and they were prepared to fight for it, and they are still prepared to fight for it. Shall the children of light show less zeal than the children of darkness?
Long Live Christ the King! Viva Cristo Rey! Vive Christus Rex!
1) Traditional Catholicism 101
2)Syllabus of Errors
3)Seattle Catholic (Separation of Church and State)
5)CERC (Catholic Sources and the Declaration of Independence
6)Michael Davies (The Reign of Christ the King)
7)Leo XIII (Immortale Dei)
8)Leo XIII (Libertas)
9)Saint Pope Pius X (Vehemeter Nos)
10) Davies (Reign of Christ the King pg20-21)