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Friday, May 2, 2008

The Social Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ

What is meant by the Social Kingship of Christ?

As Our Lord Jesus Christ is both God and Man, it is His right to rule over all of creation and also to rule over all of Mankind. Furthermore, having created Man to be a social being, God is the creator of both Man and society. Hence, Our Lord has the right to rule over each individual human person and also over all human social and political institutions. Of course, this implies that Holy Mother Church, being founded by Christ Himself to perpetuate His mission on earth, should have the authority to instruct the nations of the world. Since the Pope is the Vicar of Christ and the Visible Head of the Church, he has certain powers over the princes or governments of each and every nation, in order to teach, admonish and correct them.

Where can we find the basis for this doctrine?

This doctrine is preached in both the Scriptures and Tradition. In the Scriptures, one often finds passages in the Old Testament mentioning that all the nations of the world will render praise to God and worship Him. Even before His Ascension, Our Lord instructed His Apostles to “teach ye all NATIONS; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt 28:19)
The Popes had always taught this doctrine and it was even expounded in pontifical documents. Pope Boniface VIIIth explicitly mentions it in his encyclical Unam Sanctam in the year 1302. The Doctors of the Church (St. Augustine, St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas, etc) had also unanimously taught the same.

Was this ideal ever implemented in history?

Yes. In the Middle Ages, the Church converted many princes which in turn led to the conversion of their whole countries. Some prominent examples:
1) Clovis, king of the Franks, baptised in 496 A.D.
2) St. Ethelbert, king of Kent, baptised in 597 A.D.
3) Boris, king of the Bulgars, baptised in 864 A.D.
4) St. Wenceslas, duke of Bohemia, martyred in 929 A.D.
5) Mieska, duke of Poland, baptised in 966 A.D.
6) St Wladimir, grand prince of Kiev, baptised in 989 A.D.
7) St Stephen, baptised in 985 A.D. and crowned “Apostolic” king of Hungary on Christmas day 1000 A.D. by Pope Sylvester II.

This union of Church and State, which we call Christendom, reached its apex during the Carolingian Dynasty, the second Frankish Dynasty (751-987 A.D.), during the reign of the emperor Charlemagne. In fact, the Western Roman Empire was restored only when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as Roman Emperor on Christmas day of the year 800 A.D.
Unfortunately, many later emperors and kings refused to acknowledge the Pope’s teaching authority over them and sought to rule their own lands as if they had absolute power. They resented the popes’ interference when they erred and some have even tried to establish national churches. The 12th and 13th centuries witnessed a new and perhaps greater apex of the union of Church and State in Europe where political and social institutions and customs were permeated by the Faith. The Council of Trent made an attempt to restore Christendom in the 16th and 17th centuries but never really succeeded due to the partitioning of Europe into Catholic and Protestant factions.

Why should the Church intervene with secular affairs when Our Lord Himself said to “render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”?

That statement is frequently misunderstood, especially by modern man. If the state enacts bad laws that either force or encourage its citizens to sin, how then can it claim to have rendered to God what belongs to God since every human person owes perfect obedience to God? Therefore, the laws and customs of the state must be made in harmony with the Law of God. Since the Church is the sole infallible guide to True Faith and Morals, she has the right to intervene particularly through the person of the Supreme Pontiff.

Is this doctrine therefore advocating theocracy for all nations?

No. A theocracy would be a confusion between Church and State. A good example of such regimes would be fundamentalist Islamic states where religious leaders themselves hold the reins of power. The proper Catholic view is that Church and State are distinct but not separated. An analogy would be the body and soul of a human person. The soul and the body are distinct entities but they are not separated. In fact, we all know that a separation of body and soul implies death. The state has the right to enact laws and implement policies for the acquisition of her citizens’ material needs, but these must be subordinated to the Laws of God since it is Faith and Morals that directly determine the final ends of each of her citizens. Once again, this reflects the fact that a human person can legitimately pursue material gain provided that such a pursuit does not lead to the detriment of his soul.

In such a country, what happens to people of other religious persuasions? Will it lead to persecution of the other religions?

When the state accepts the Laws of God and is obedient to the Church, it is declaring that it recognises the Catholic religion to be the One, True Religion. Surely, only Truth has rights while Falsehood does not. God, however, has given mankind the psychological freedom (not moral freedom) to choose to accept or reject Him. Therefore, the followers of false religions cannot be coerced into accepting the True Religion through violence. However, the state cannot allow the public expression of these false religions nor lend its support to them in any way. In other words, these false religions are tolerated out of charity towards their believers even though they do not have the right to exist.

How can the average layperson contribute to the establishment of the Social Kingship of Our Lord?

Besides doing his best to lead an exemplary life in accordance with the Commandments of God and the Church, a Catholic should try as far as possible to infuse good habits and customs, inspired by the Gospels and Catholic Tradition into every social institution and environment of which he belongs to. This includes his family, workplace, school, clubs or associations, etc. It is also beneficial to set up Catholic professional associations, Catholic citizens’ associations, Catholic press, formations sessions or even parents’ organisations.

It is also important that one should, in a legitimate manner, resist or act against currents within society that seek to promote bad or sinful customs and laws. Legitimate actions should also be undertaken against public expressions that blaspheme against the honour of God and the Saints.

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