The doctrinal issue between the Church and democracy.
Such an approach implies pragmatic postulations that bar the understanding of any issue in which Catholic doctrine is involved. In Catholicism the maintenance of the true principles in dogma and morals is always the most urgent of all tasks. Believers and unbelievers as well must recognize that the prudent management of historical situations never can supersede or render unnecessary the statement of principles and the clear definition of irreducible antinomies. In the long run lucidity is more beneficial to all than confusion. Let it be said that the need for cooperation between the Church and democracy makes it more necessary than ever that troublesome problems of doctrine be examined with entire frankness.
Between the Church and the modern state the doctrinal issues of major significance are three: (1) the general relation of the state to religion (will Church and state be united in some way, or entirely separated?); (2) freedom of belief and expression; (3) the origin and ultimate meaning of temporal power. With regard to the first two points, the positions generally held by democratic thinkers are not connected with democracy in specific fashion. The doctrine of the religious neutrality of the state and that of unqualified freedom of expression can be asserted and put in practice by a monarchical or an aristocratic polity as well as by a democracy. They are, in essence, liberal rather than democratic. In fact, their first and most effective promoters were oligarchically-inclined bourgeois. But the problem of the origin and meaning of temporal power concerns the specific essence of democracy. The thing which is discussed (most of the time, in extreme confusion) under such headings as "origin of power," "government by consent of the governed," and "sovereignty of the people versus divine right," pertains directly to the differentia of democratic government. The literature on this subject is huge. It is often perverted by the deliberate purpose of vindicating historical appetites in terms of eternal truth. Its level is generally very low. The really valuable documents are few and not commonly read.
The main purpose of this paper is to set forth, in comparative fashion, the Catholic teaching on civil authority and a certain interpretation of democracy which, both on the side of its upholders and on the side of the Church, has many times been described as unacceptable to Catholic conscience. Whether this interpretation expresses the essence of democracy or a perversion of it is a question that nobody has a right to beg.
Less than one year after the first meeting of the Estates General, less than six months after the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the Church expressed her disapproval of the theory of political authority to which the French Revolution seemed to be dedicated. At the secret Consistory of March 29, 1790, Pius VI spoke with anguish of things that were being done by the Constituent Assembly; he deplored attacks against religion and broken pledges; he traced these events to erroneous doctrines among which he mentioned the theory that none is bound by any laws except those to which he gave his consent. (1) Similar expressions were used in a number of Church documents, the most important of which are the Encyclicals of Leo XIII, Diuturnum (June 29, 1881) and Immortale dei (November 1, 1885), and the Letter of Pius X on the Sillon (August 25, 1910). On the basis of these documents many hold that the Church has proclaimed the incompatibility of her notion of authority with the very essence of democracy. They, therefore, regard Christian democracy and a reconciliation or alliance between the Church and the forces of democracy as implying a doctrinal situation of dubious character.
Among the groups which interpreted Christian democracy in terms of doctrinal compromise, the first place belongs to free thinkers. Their mood, according to the circumstances, was either bellicose, inasmuch as they resented and distrusted what they considered crafty diplomacy, or pacific, inasmuch as they imagined that the Church was giving up a part of her doctrine for the sake of tranquility. Not long ago, the same interpretation was commonly held by traditionalists; for these, the religious and Catholic notion of society was inseparable from traditional forms of government and Leo XIII was a betrayer of eternal verities. Finally, the view that Christian democracy requires some sort of doctrinal adjustment, compromise, or evolution has been popular among the Christian democrats themselves. At the time of the great modernistic crisis early in this century, Christian and democratically inclined circles showed steady interest in the evolutionary theory of dogma which constituted the core of modernism. A number of years after the acute phase of the crisis was over--say, in the 1920s--it was often possible to observe, among Christian democrats, a certain uneasiness and an unhappy restlessness when questions of basic attitudes toward dogma were discussed; many of these men felt that unless a minimum of dogmatic evolution was tolerated they might have to give up their political ideal. The origin and the meaning of temporal authority were among the burning topics.
It is important to notice that the whole argument started in connection with the French Revolution; throughout the nineteenth century it remained a French affair; the statements of Leo XIII, as well as those of Pius VI and Pius X, were aimed at theories erected by French thinkers into a universal pattern of democratic thought and accepted as the genuine formula of democracy all over the Latin world.
The problem that these theories claim to solve can be stated as follows. So far as common observation goes, civil societies are divided into two groups of persons, the governed, who are the great majority, and the small minority of the governing personnel. This division is not absolutely necessary, for some civil societies have no distinct governing personnel and practice government by majority vote. Although direct democracy constitutes a political type of particular importance, the more frequent case of a society governed by distinct persons should be considered first. Any such society contains a paradox which habit causes to remain unnoticed under ordinary circumstances, but is intensely felt in periods of crisis: the multitude of the governed do obey the few that govern. Disobedience is not rare in civil relations, but the striking thing is that it retains the character of an exception and of a disorderly happening, while obedience takes place with such regularity that broad and enduring things, like cities, states, empires, and civilizations are comprised among its effects. How should this immense fact of civil obedience be accounted for? Schools of political science are not short of cynics who would answer that every act of civil obedience is traceable to constraint or to fear or to the calculations of interest. But the cynic is just as poor an observer as the idealist. Phases of extreme disintegration show that when constraint and fear, either alone or helped only by calculation, command obedience, they soon become powerless and obedience is no longer obtained with any kind of regularity. Constraint, fear, and calculation can do no more than supplement the effects of ethical persuasion. They deal successfully with unruly characters so long as most citizens habitually consider that they ought to obey the orders of persons publicly described as their superiors. In short, everything takes place as if the multitudes of the governed felt morally obliged to obey the persons in government. All happens as if persons in government had the power and the right to bind the conscience of the governed. But how can a man bind the conscience of another man? Here lies the great paradox. To suppress it, many primitive and traditional societies mythologically attribute to governing persons a superhuman essence. The social thinkers of modern times claim to resolve the same paradox, in more up-to-date fashion, by a theory of their own, often called, with dubious propriety, the theory of popular sovereignty or the theory of democracy.
True, this theory explains the problem away; in it, obedience is interpreted as an appearance and an illusion. Let the last effects of the traditional myths concerning the dignity of the ruling person be dissipated: men in government are reduced to the capacity of agents, managers, secretaries, instruments that are traversed by power but have no power of their own. They take orders, yet, in spite of appearances, are not entitled to give any order. Apart from the violent state of affairs which constitutes the tyrannical society, all their actions are relative to aims assigned by the governed; the ways of their action are chosen by the governed. They are leaders by order of the led. Their leadership involves no authority. Even though the governing person is allowed to utter sentences grammatically indistinguishable from commands, the governed acknowledge no duty of obedience. Rather, the government, like hired and paid servants, takes the orders of the governed and leads them where they want to go. To call this the theory of democracy is philosophically absurd, since democracy, as a form of government, cannot have any necessary connection with a theory which explains away the essence of government. To call it "the theory of popular sovereignty" is exceedingly ambiguous, since the same expression is commonly used to designate doctrines which preserve integrally the notions of government and obedience.
As already mentioned, this theory is historically connected with the French Revolution and has been particularly prevalent where French influence has been strong. No wonder that its proper name is found in the work of a French liberal. Paul-Louis Courier (1773-1825) was a humanist, a fine Greek scholar, a skillful writer of light prose, a Voltairean, a rebel, an uncompromising adversary of Church and state (though not an anarchist), an unflinching and vainglorious defender of the little man against men of wealth and men of authority. For him the government, in a normal state of affairs, is like a cab-driver who leads his patrons where they want to go and by ways of their own choice. (2) The expression needed to designate in unmistakable fashion the political theory with which we are concerned is now available: let it be called the cab-driver theory. The important thing is to convey unambiguously the notion of a leadership devoid of authority: this is done by bringing the cab-driver into the picture. He is a leader, he is expected to be an effective one, but his leadership is merely instrumental and amounts merely to the fulfillment of decisions which are not, in any sense, his own. There is no question of attributing to a cab-driver the power, right, and duty to bind the conscience of his patrons. This theory can also be called the theory of government as mere instrument of the governed or, by abbreviation, the instrumental theory of government.
In the philosophy of Rousseau, the cab-driver theory is marked by a richness and a subtlety which strongly contrast with the simplicity of its more popular expressions. Rousseau's major concern is to remove any system which would imply the moral submission of a man's will to the reason and will of another man. In upbringing, natural necessity replaces authority and obedience. The perfect tutor would merely provide the child with the opportunity of being taught--without being too badly hurt--by the inflexible energies of nature. In politics, the way out of relationships involving authority is the theory of the general will. Like a force of nature, the general will is impersonal and incorruptible; on the other hand, it is mysteriously identified with the will of each, so that by obeying the general will, man simply obeys himself. The essence of obedience is eliminated. Authority, as power of binding the conscience of man, has disappeared. Is real liberty adequately guaranteed by the theory of the general will? This can be doubted. The transcendent character of the general will, its superhuman infallibility, the very peculiar way in which it combines the privileges of natural necessity and those of human initiative arouse the suspicion that government, no longer protected by its traditional vindication, has been given a new and more effective guaranty of overwhelming power. "Tyranny, claiming divine right, had become odious; he [Rousseau] re-organized it and makes it respectable, by making it proceed from the people, so he says." (3)
The system of scientific government initiated by Saint-Simon was indifferent or hostile to most aspects of liberalism, and it soon came to have little use for liberty. Yet it is easy to recognize in early Saint-Simonism an unexpected outgrowth of current liberalism. In a colorful passage Saint-Simon proposed to demonstrate that the scientific management of society procures both efficient leadership and freedom from authority. People who pursue happiness without being clear and positive about what it consists in deliver themselves, inevitably, to the judgment and the whims of the governing persons. "Imagine a large caravan saying to its leaders: Take us where we shall be best. From then on the leaders are everything, the caravan is nothing." Unlimited confidence and passive obedience necessarily prevail.
Suppose, on the contrary, that the caravan says to its leaders: "You know the way to Mecca, lead us there." In this new state of affairs, leaders are no longer chiefs, they are merely guides, their functions, though very important, are merely subordinate; the principal action springs from the caravan. (4) Each traveler retains his right to make, whenever he thinks fit, critical remarks on the road which is being followed and to suggest, according to his lights, the changes that he believes indicated. Since the discussion never can be concerned with anything else than a very positive and very decidable question (are we wandering away from, or coming closer to Mecca?), the caravan--provided it is somewhat enlightened--no longer obeys the will of its guides; its members obey their own convictions which result from the demonstrations that were proposed to them. (5)
Here, the cab-driver theory achieves the elimination of authority in a system of salvation through scientific enlightenment. Elsewhere, in closer relation to Rousseau, the same elimination is effected by the same theory in the more openly romantic context of a belief in the quasi-divinity of the people, as for example, the following statement made by a Paris club in 1848: "The people is the sovereign; the government is its work and its property; public functionaries are its employees. The people can, whenever it pleases, change its government and revoke its delegates. ... Every institution which does not presuppose that the people is good and the governors corruptible is basically wrong." (6)
1. As to the sources from which the cab-driver theory derives its influence, there is in the first place the universally human desire to escape the humiliations and other hardships that obedience involves. The duty to obey another person often seems to conflict with the normal urge toward autonomy; obedience, then, seems to presuppose the mendacious attribution, to the person in command, of a dignity that no man can have, or the loss, on the part of the subject, of a dignity that, all non-criminals possess by natural right. Radical opposition to the concept of authority may lead to anarchy. But outright anarchism does not suit the taste of every rebel: such a doctrine clashes badly with our habits, puts a heavy strain on our imagination, renders history unintelligible, and drives its upholders into isolation. The cab-driver theory is a handy substitute offered to whoever indulges in an anarchistic disposition but refuses to face the paradoxes and the frightening features of outright anarchy. It is, according to the felicitous expression of Maritain, a theory of masked anarchy. Thanks to this theory, a rebellious petty bourgeois can lead a respectable life, untroubled by any sense of tragedy and out of the range of police action.
2. Moreover, the cab-driver theory has the advantage of accounting clearly, easily, and cheaply for a number of democratic practices. Indirect or representative democracy is understood to take the place of direct government by the people's assembly when circumstances make the latter impossible. We would not elect legislative bodies, presidents, and governors if our community were, like a New England town, so small and so closely integrated that the whole citizenry could act both as a legislative body and as an executive committee. True, even direct democracy uses a distinct personnel in the administration of public affairs. But the secretaries, managers, and hog-reeves that the popular assembly uses are known to all for what they are: instruments of the people, with no right except that of carrying out the decisions of the people. When circumstances make direct democracy impossible, appearances change, but should it not be said that the essence of political relations remains the same? The men who make up the government are elected on the basis of their ideas and of their records; the principles at work in their election seem to imply that they are given orders by their electors and that they are not expected to do anything else than to carry out these orders. In democracy, positions obtained through election are temporary; the person who solicits re-election submits to a verdict whose meaning seems to be best expressed by the supposition of a purely instrumental role. Re-election, or failure to obtain re-election, are naturally interpreted as evidence of satisfaction or dissatisfaction on the part of those who hold real authority. The governing person who seeks re-election very much resembles a hired servant who tries to convince the employer that his service has been satisfactory. Thus, the cab-driver theory sums up the basic facts of democratic practice, in direct democracy and in representative democracy as well. The theory also derives apparent support from the part played by public opinion in democratic government. In a democratic polity it is considered normal that a ruling assembly, elected two years ago on the basis of a certain program, should change its policies and act at variance with its initial program because public opinion in the meantime has changed. Such practices as sending petitions to the government and bombarding a Congressman with special delivery letters and telegrams seem also to be best accounted for by the notion that we, the governed, are the real power and that the government is related to us as a cab-driver to his patrons.
3. The lure of symmetry, operating in a comprehensive picture of human relations, gives additional verisimilitude to the cab-driver theory. Between efficient cause and final cause there is necessarily a proportion; every cause is not related to a particular end, and everything is not capable of being an end for a particular agent. Following the line of least resistance, our mind is often led to construct, between the cause and the end, symmetrical relations that the principle of proportion does not imply. An illustration may be provided in the association of the master and slave, assuming, further, that this association is interpreted, not as sheer violence, but as a normal state of affairs. This is a system primarily defined by a relation of finality: the end of the master and slave association lies not in the slave but in the master. If slaves are many, the picture is that of a governed multitude teleologically subordinated to a governing person. This is a dominion of servitude in the sense of Aristotle and St. Thomas. (7) Here finality lies where power resides, i.e., in the ruler. The person called master is both the one who exercises power and the one for the sake of whom power is exercised. Clearly, a civil government is not and cannot be a dominion of servitude. Even if it is granted that relations of servitude once had a normal part to play in the household, it is certain that they do not have, and never have had, any part to play in civil society. After having considered a household of the ancient type, that is, one equipped with slaves, let us direct our attention to the state, which is a community of free men. Here the temptation is great to safeguard symmetry by assuming that there is, in the latter case as well as in the former, unqualified co-incidence of power and final causality. According to the precise expression of St. Thomas, there is dominion over free men when power is exercised not for the sake of the governing person but for the common good and for the sake of the governed. Should it be said that real power belongs, in civil government as well as in servitude, to those for the sake of whom government is exercised? When government is exercised for the sake of a master, the governed are servants and authority resides entirely in the master. When government is exercised for the sake of the governed should it not be said, correspondingly, that authority belongs to the governed and that the governing personnel are merely hired servants?
In the history of many nations this lure of pleasurable symmetry was strengthened by an accident of the first magnitude. The association of civil power with master-slave relations is a common occurrence in the early phases of political entities. The king, who is supposed to rule for the sake of the common good and in no sense for the sake of his private welfare, emerges confusedly and, for a long time, uncertainly, from the landlord, that is, from the chief executive of a business enterprise using the methods of slavery or serfdom. When the citizenry become aware of the qualitative distance that separates the dominion of freedom from the dominion of servitude, when they come to realize vividly the character of civil government as dominion over free men, they soon demand that all remnants of servitude be eliminated from civil organization. Relations of servitude, situations in which the labors of a man are institutionally directed not toward his own good or toward the common good, but toward the private good of the one who rules him, may, for a long time, enjoy a great amount of tolerance, provided that they do not affect the civil government. The owner of the land will be allowed to remain the beneficiary of much unpaid labor. But the thing which will no longer be tolerated is that the king should treat the kingdom as a private estate. Many phases of the French Revolution embody a burning vision of civil society as a community of the free. Philosophers had known, for many centuries, that the state is a dominion over free men and cannot take over the character of a dominion of servitude without undergoing the most radical kind of corruption. However, these basic truths had been veiled, in a number of cases, by abusive usages and popular myths. In the earliest phase of the French Revolution the veils were suddenly lifted. A whole nation declared to the world that the state is a community of free men and cannot retain any feature reminiscent of the master and servant relationship. There was a great temptation to extend the contrast beyond the limits of its genuine significance. In an atmosphere saturated with hope and fear it seemed that the Revolution would be more complete if what was said of the final cause was also said of the efficient cause. Thus, the proposition that the purpose of government is the welfare of the governed was supplemented with the proposition that the government is the will of the governed. Pius VI was right. In the French Revolution (and in the numerous movements which followed its pattern) the principle that political government is a dominion over free men constantly trespasses the boundaries of its proper meaning and develops into the theory that government belongs to the governed as such. The revolutionary people needed continual reassurance against the danger of a confusion between civil government and dominion of servitude. Nothing could quiet their worries, short of the dogma that the governed are subjected to no authority and obey only their own will. The nightmare of a political organization directed toward the private welfare of the governing persons could be dissipated only by placing in the governed the efficient cause as well as the end of government action. Unless the citizens were declared free from genuine government and bound only by their own consent, people were not ready to believe that the government would consistently behave as dominion over free men.
Hilaire Belloc wrote: "It is impossible for the theologian, or even for the practical ecclesiastical teacher to put his finger upon a political doctrine essential to the Revolution, and to say: This doctrine is opposed to Catholic dogma or to Catholic morals. Conversely, it is impossible for the Republican to put his finger upon a matter of ecclesiastical discipline or religious dogma and to say: This Catholic point is at issue with my political theory of the State." (8) Some uncertainty and some arbitrariness inevitably attach to the expression "essential to" in relation to things which are not, in any proper sense, essences, such as an historical event like the French Revolution. In reference to such historical aggregates, essential can hardly mean anything else than both important and constant. If "essential" is so defined, Belloc's statement is false. There at least one doctrine, describable as essential to the French Revolution, which is opposed to Catholic morals: it is the cab-driver theory of government. There is at least one "Catholic point" which is at issue with the political theory of the French Revolution: it is the very definite teaching of the Church on the meaning of political authority.
For the understanding of Christian democracy it is important to remark that religious souls may be exposed in peculiar fashion to the lure of symmetry between the end and the cause of government. Christians learned from Christ himself that among them rulers should be the most humble of all and consider themselves the servants of their brethren. The Vicar of Christ is called the Servant of the servants of God. In the contrast described by Christ himself between the pagan notion of authority and the new one, the problem, again, is one of the final causality. Governing positions are commonly sought for the advantages that they bring to their holders, above all, for the satisfaction of pride and of the lust for power; Christ states that it should not be so among his followers: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. Not so is it among you. On the contrary, whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; even as the Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (9) Symmetry, in this evangelical context, may produce the same kind of confusion as in the altogether temporal context of a society becoming aware of its being, by right, a community of free men. If the character of final cause is transferred, according to the Gospel, from those who govern to those who are governed, should not efficient causality be transferred correspondingly? If the governing person is required to become a mere servant of the governed, is he not required, correspondingly, to become a mere instrument of their will? The governing person would be the servant of his brethren in two senses: (1) in that he repudiates his own interests and his own lust and endeavors to be nothing else than a thing useful to his brethren; (2) in that he strips himself of his proper will and takes orders from his brethren. Everything looks more harmonious and the wish of Christ seems to be more completely fulfilled if the person in authority humbles himself twice: first, by considering himself as a means rather than as an end, then by renouncing his own will and becoming a mere instrument of the governed. The cab-driver theory, in spite of its conspicuous connection with free-thought, crept into Christian democracy at the beginning of this century. One of the main parts of the letter of Pius X on the Sillon is directed against the progress of a purely instrumental theory of government in circles that were intensely religious, Christian, and Catholic. (10)
In order to understand in what sense the opposition of the Church to the cab-driver theory of government concerns democracy we shall consider the meaning of authority in a community which governs itself by majority vote, without any distinct governing personnel. Direct democracy extended to all government functions is an exceptional occurrence, but it is the archetype of democratic government and, in a way, of all government. Rebellious democrats see in it an ideal as well as an archetype, for it seems to achieve the elimination of authority. A people which does without a distinct governing personnel seems to have much in common with the system of the cab-driver. Whether the resemblance is essential or accidental can be decided by considering what it means to abide by the law in a direct democracy. Take the case of a citizen who, having belonged to the majority for some time, no longer does. As long as his views were supported by most of his fellow-citizens he could boast of obeying no laws and no decrees except those that he had made for himself. Until the change of majority occurred, nothing, apparently, prevented him from feeling that, through the operation of democracy, he was bound only by his own power of decision. Whatever distinct personnel is employed by the people's assembly has but the character of an instrument. Men who were no more than instruments of the people have always led him where he wanted to be led. But then his views are defeated by the majority. He may go into outright rebellion and challenge the coercive power of the community. He may also prefer the hardships of detested laws to those of open rebellion; in this case his conduct will conform to the new regulations, but his inner disposition will remain one of refusal. In either case he is a rebel. Merely external compliance, elicited by fear and calculation without any sense of obligation, is not obedience. By the same token we understand that rebellion is nothing new in his civic career. He never was a law-abiding citizen. He always has been a rebel. His rebellious disposition did not become manifest earlier because of the sheer accident of his being in the majority. In contrast, the law-abiding citizen of a direct democracy does not think that his attitudes toward promulgated laws are affected in any way by his own vote. The important thing is that the law was passed by the competent authority, viz., the majority of the people; the fact that he has voted for or against it appears to him altogether incidental. When he was in the majority, he obeyed the law not because he had voted for it but because it was the law. It is natural for him to obey in spite of his own choice, for his obedience has always been genuine. This implies that it never was conditioned by his own choice. We thus come to understand that the principle of authority is as certainly realized in a direct democracy as it is in any lawful form of government.
Those functions of authority which would have no raison d'etre in a society free from deficiencies may be called substitutional. If authority had only substitutional functions to exercise, it would still be a factor of decisive importance in civil society as well as in the family. But ecclesiastical documents go far beyond the deficiency theory of government, so popular in the golden age of liberalism: emphasis is placed on the naturalness of the need for civil government.
Man's natural instinct moves him to live in civil society, for he cannot, if dwelling apart, provide himself with the necessary requirements of life, nor procure the means of developing his mental and moral faculties. Hence it is divinely ordained that he should lead his life--be it family, social or civil--with his fellow-men, amongst whom alone his several wants can be adequately supplied. But as no society can hold together unless some one be over all, directing all to strive earnestly for the common good; 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. For God alone is the true and supreme Lord of the World. (Leo XIII, Immortale Dei)
I have tried elsewhere to analyze those functions of authority which transcend all needs born of ill-will, ignorance, or immaturity. (11) Let it be said, in rough outline, that a society may and may not involve the pursuit of a common good through common action. A craftsman and a money-lender make up a mere partnership whose bond is the inter-dependence of private interests; there is no question of either of them ruling over the other; contract is the normally sufficient form of such a society; if authority is needed, it is merely on accidental grounds, namely, inasmuch as one of the partners fails to discharge his contractual obligations. In contrast with mere partnership, a community is a society whose raison d'etre lies in a good of such nature as to demand common desire and common action. The Church supports the theory that civil society is a community and that its purpose is to procure a common good characterized by completeness and supremacy in temporal life. Now, wherever there is common action there arises a problem concerning unity of action. This follows from the laws of the one and the many. Unity of action cannot be taken for granted when the agent is a multitude; it has to be caused, and if it is to be steady it requires a steady cause. In the multitude made up of rational agents, unity of action implies unity of judgment about what ought to be done, and unity of judgment can be procured only in two ways, namely, by way of unanimity and by way of authority. Experience shows that unanimity, in practical matters, is a casual and precarious thing. But it is of great relevance to transcend the data of common experience and to consider the meaning of unanimity in a society free from deficiencies. (12) If we all pursue the same common good in a disposition of perfect good will and perfect enlightenment, we shall be unanimous with regard to ways and means of common action whenever ways and means leading to the common good are uniquely determined. If circumstances are such that we have really no choice, if the common good admits of no more than one course of action, whoever loves the common good and knows about the circumstances adheres to this course of action. In an ideally perfect community unanimous adherence to the rule of common action would be steadily obtained when and only when there is but one means to the common good. But why should we have no choice? In most cases the common good can be attained in various ways. In most cases several means lead to the common good. It should even be said that if all particulars and modalities are taken into consideration the means to the common good is never uniquely determined. Yet the common good requires that the unity of common action be steadily procured. There is not, in the nature of things, any reason why we should drive on the right side of the road rather than on the left as they do in Great Britain; the common good, security, speed, and order in highway traffic, can be attained either by driving on the right or by driving on the left. If, prior to any settlement of the issue, some drivers prefer the right and some the left, no one should be blamed for ill-will or unsound judgment. Yet it is necessary that all should drive on the same side. In such a case and in any case involving a plurality of means unanimity cannot be a steady cause of united action. If we are all well-intentioned and enlightened we shall unanimously proclaim that one and the same rule of action ought to be followed by all, regardless of private preference. Thereby the principle of authority is posited as a necessary and natural factor of human salvation. The necessity of this principle proceeds chiefly not from deficiencies in men and in social organizations, but from the nature of man and from the wholly-good nature of community relations.
The requirements of common action make it easy to see that the principle of authority transcends the division of government into government with and government without a distinct governing personnel. When the question is to procure the steady unity of common action, all that is essential is that all should follow,--again, regardless of private preference,--the one practical judgment elicited by the power of the community (ordinare autem aliquid in bonum commune est vel totius multitudinis, vel alicujus gerentis vicem totius multitudinis, Sum Theol I-ll, 90.3); whether this power resides in the majority or in one person or in the majority of a definite minority is a particular issue which concerns the ways and modes of authority, not the principle of authority itself.
The problem of united action evidences with particular clarity the naturalness of authority in every society which is not a mere partnership. However, procuring the unity of common action in ways and means toward the common good is not the most essential function of authority. Every problem of means presupposes the settlement of problems relative to the end. The volition and the intention of the common good are necessarily anterior to any issue concerning the ways and means to the common good. We would not consider methods of unifying our common action if we had not, previously, willed and intended an object of common action. We are thus led to ask whether the virtue and the enlightenment of all suffice to procure the volition and intention of the common good. Some forms of idealistic anarchism thrive on the assumption that, if all members of a community are free from sin and ignorance, the common good is unflinchingly intended by all.
It is true that moral virtue necessarily implies a relation to the common good; virtuous persons, as a proper effect of their virtue, love the common good and are eager to sacrifice their private interest whenever the common good demands such sacrifice. But disaster follows upon failure to see the difference between the common good formally understood and the common good understood in a material sense. Virtue procures the subordination of the private welfare to the common good considered as common good and independently from that in which it consists. I would not, for instance, act virtuously in the pursuit of economic success if I did not steadily subordinate this private purpose to the welfare of the Republic and were not ready to give up my financial ambitions at any time, in case they happen to conflict with the common welfare. In an emergency, the needs of the nation may be such as to make private prosperity impossible or unlikely to law-abiding citizens. But who is going to determine, will, and intend the thing in which the common good consists, the content or matter of the common good, in other words, the common good materially understood? Who is going to fix the amount of taxes that I shall pay? Referring to a text of St. Thomas which should be singled out as the most profound thing ever written on the foundation of authority (Sum Theol I-II, 19.10), let us ask whether every honest person is bound to strive for the punishment of every criminal, regardless of kinship or friendship. St. Thomas wants the son of the criminal, or his wife, to oppose the death of the criminal, even though the common good demands capital punishment. These particular persons are in charge of a particular good; desiring the things that the common good demands, desiring the common good materially understood is none of their business: it is the business of the community.
Obstinately, we imagine that the common good would be more completely served and dedication to it more complete if every person willed and intended not only the common good formally understood but also the content or matter of the common good, the things in which it consists. It is hard to remove the feeling that a volition relative to the forms of the common good but not to its matter constitutes only one half of a genuine dedication and that virtue would be more complete, and society better off in all respects, if every person, in each of his actions, intended both the form and the matter of the common good. Yet it is easy to recognize here a well-known error in the metaphysical treatment of the one and the many. Since the one is an absolute perfection of being we feel that unity is absolutely desirable, and this feeling is sound in itself; it becomes misleading, however, if it is not supplemented by the realization that the ways and modes of unity are proportional to the ways and modes of being. When a thing is a multitude, forcing upon it the kind of unity that would suit an individual is a highly destructive enterprise. Such is the meaning of the famous page where Aristotle, criticizing in Plato such features of forcible unity as community of goods and wives, says that if unity is held to be the greatest good, the state should give way to the family and the family to the individual. "So we ought not to attain this greatest unity even if we could, for it would be the destruction of the state." (13) Proudhon, who was not a student of Aristotle, discusses in similar terms the communism of Cabot.
M. Cabot creates everywhere immobility; he outlaws spontaneity and fancy. The art of the milliner as well as those of the jeweller and the interior-decorator are anticommunitarian: M. Cabet, like Mentor, prescribes invariability in dress, uniformity in furniture, simultaneity of exercises, community of meals, etc. Whereupon we no longer understand why there should be in Icaria, (14) more than one man, more than one couple. Why not only good old Icar, or M. Cabet and his wife? What is the use of all these people? What is the use of this never-ending repetition of puppets, all carved and dressed in like fashion? (15)
Unnecessary uniformity is forcibly imposed unity; it is not the kind of unity that the nature of a multitude admits of and demands; unity so misconceived is no longer a perfection of being. Discrepancy between the pattern of unity and the pattern of being means sheer privation. Now, of all the kinds of forcible unity that the spirit of utopia may construct, the most disorderly and redoubtable consists precisely in the volition and intention, by private persons, of the common good materially understood. That we should all dress alike, eat the same mass-produced food, live in homes of similar design, and entertain ourselves with the same motion pictures would be bad enough; yet such unnatural uniformity would affect only the more superficial part of human and social life. If the intention of the common good materially considered were demanded of each particular person, if the very matter of the common good should become an object and a form for the love and the action of each, death-like uniformity would reach the heart of men. My father would no longer be more of a father to me than any other gentleman of the same age group, my brothers would become indistinguishable from other men of my own age group, my children would disappear, together with all other children, into an undifferentiated pool; none would be more of a friend to me than the stranger who passes by, no piece of land would have a particular claim on my labor and I should not be more dedicated to my function than to any other function. Society would lose, all at once, all the goods that attach to the uniqueness of filial love, brotherly love, paternal love, selective friendship, dedication to one's homestead and to one's task. Particularity would disappear; the forms of the parts would be swallowed into that of the whole, whose very substance would thereby suffer destruction. Clearly, the common good demands that confusion be removed from human communities. The law of love extends to all men, but all would be worse off if no one were loved with preference by anyone. The land will be fruitful if each dedicates his labor to the fertility of his own piece of land and tasks will be well fulfilled if each considers his the most important of all. True, in relation to me, the task that is mine has unique significance from the standpoint of the common good itself. Commenting on the above cited article of St. Thomas, John of St. Thomas says that if God wanted my father to die tomorrow and if I should know about his will by special revelation, God would still want me to fight for my father's survival. The welfare of my father is my own responsibility: this is how things are divinely ordered. The common good of the universe may require that my father should die tomorrow: this is none of my business. Materially considered, the common good of the universe is the business of God alone, and likewise, the common good of a human community is the business of the community. We thus come to understand that beyond the requirements of united action toward the common good, the first and most essential function of government or authority is the volition and intention of the common good materially considered. Without authority, the matter of the common good would not be willed and striven for, or would have to be willed and striven for by particular persons. In the first case, community is purely and simply annihilated, in the second case it disappears into confusion. In the relation between authority and autonomy the aspect of complementariness ultimately outweighs the aspect of opposition. So far as its most essential function is concerned, authority has a root in the excellence of autonomy. The volition and intention of the common good would not require a power of direction if such volition and intention were procured by the virtue of particular persons; but, again, if the matter of the common good became the object and form of particular wills, particularity would actually be abolished; neither persons nor minor groups would be allowed to remain themselves, to retain any life of their own, to exist and grow according to their own forms and laws. Should anarchy endeavor to preserve the meaning of community life and the primacy of the common good, it would have to become totalitarian: a paradox which may throw light on certain aspects of political history in modern times.
Against the background of a general theory of authority, discussions about the origin of civil power become clearer, simpler, more independent of accidental circumstances and passions. Obedience is no longer a paradox. Men are really bound in conscience to obey other men, although no man can bind the conscience of his neighbor. God alone can bind man's conscience, and he can bind a man to obey another man. In order to know with entire certainty that men are actually bound by God to obey other men in civil relations, we merely need to understand that the existence and the perfect operation of the civil community are things demanded by nature. A natural requirement is a divine intention. (16) If we know that man's nature requires civil community and civil authority, we also know that civil authority derives its power from God. This implies, first, that civil authority cannot be explained away, as in the cab-driver theory, and second, that no man and no group of men can claim the right to give, by an act of will, a power that belongs to God alone. On the basis of these propositions, should it be said that civil powers govern by natural right, by divine right, or by a right both natural and divine? In the language of St. Robert Bellarmine, a right which is natural is also divine, and this language is not absurd, since, again, a nature is a divine intention; (17) but much confusion will be avoided if the expression "divine right" is used only in reference to dispositions possessing some sort of supernatural character. (18) So far as civil authority is concerned, this expression has an historic meaning which would never have been lost sight of, if it were not for the amateurishness which generally characterizes the discussions of such issues.
Briefly: the question that the so-called divine right theory claims to answer does not concern the ultimate origin of civil power but the way in which power comes to reside in a distinct governing personnel. The theory of "government by divine right" in its more common form, holds that power is directly handed by God to the ruler, even though men designate the ruling person. In the system of Filmer, (19) designation itself is effected without the cooperation of men; God appointed Adam first ruler and the God given powers of Adam went down to kings according to the laws of hereditary transmission. Referring to Cajetan's analysis, (20) let it be said that the problem under consideration involves (a) the person of the ruler, say, James, (b) his power, say, royal authority, (c) the conjunction of person and power. Filmer holds that man does not cause the conjunction of power and person, and much less power itself. The more moderate interpretation of the divine right theory is free from historical extravagance: power is held not to be caused by men in any sense whatsoever, but the conjunction of power and person is ascribed to human causes. This theory, fittingly called the designation theory inasmuch as it restricts the role of men to the designation of the ruling person, suffices to give the temporal ruler a strong position in his dealings with the Pope. Owing to hereditary transmission, which in most cases places the act of designation in the remote past, the king may even feel that the divine origin of power is more obvious in his case than in the case of the Pope (with the exception of St. Peter). No wonder that the designation theory first obtained currency in an historical context marked by nationalism, absolutism, and protestantism. (21) The fact that it was taken over, in the nineteenth century, by some Catholic theologians, in spite of a firmly established theological tradition, should be described as an accident in the campaign led by Catholic thought, under emergency circumstances, against the theory of government as mere instrument of the governed.
Much evil was done by the ambiguous expression "sovereignty of the people." In countless books of history, political philosophy, political science, constitutional law, etc., the theory of the sovereignty of the people is described as the soul of modern democracy and its opposition to religious tradition is strongly emphasized. Then a brief paragraph or a footnote recalls that St. Thomas, Bellarmine, and Suarez also supported the theory of the "sovereignty of the people." The reader is left to his bewilderment. St. Thomas, Bellarmine, and Suarez are no supporters of the cab-driver theory. It is shockingly absurd to designate any doctrine of theirs by an expression which commonly conveys the purpose of eliminating obedience and authority.
The essence of authority and that of obedience are entirely preserved in a community which governs itself without any governing personnel: this was easily established, above, by an inquiry into the relation of a citizen to the majority in a direct democracy. Such a form of government is seldom possible. That it is not a particularly good form of government is, to say the least, tenable. Yet, government exercised directly by the civil community is a distinguished form of government inasmuch as an essential phase of all civil government finds in it a typical realization. Suarez's expression "natural democracy" (22) is certainly foreign to the vocabulary of St. Thomas, but there is no doubt that for St. Thomas as well as for Suarez civil authority resides primarily in the civil community, not in any distinct person. (23) Petty rebels who lack the sort of fortitude needed for a profession of outright anarchism and cherish the system of masked anarchy described above can draw no comfort from what St. Thomas, Cajetan, Bellarmine, and Suarez have to say on this subject. The duty to obey laws to which I have not assented, and the duty to obey men who, contingently, lead me where I do not like to go, are not called into question. At all events, men remain bound in conscience to obey other men and God alone can bind man's conscience. The controversial issue is whether the God-given power to claim obedience for the sake of the civil common good resides primarily in the civil community as a whole. The four theologians just referred to hold that it does. They hold, accordingly, that the designation of rulers--whenever there is need for a distinct governing personnel--is accompanied by a transmission of power. The duty of civil obedience is not explained away and the power to bind the conscience of men is not taken away from God. (24) Designation and transmission admit of a great variety of forms, the clearest of Which--though not necessarily the most certain--is election by universal suffrage. When, in a democratic polity, the people vote, their act of choice does not create the duty to obey civil authority, (this duty already existed, and was not created by man), but the power which comes from God and primarily belongs to the community is transmitted--more or less completely--to persons designated by the choice of the people. (25) Even though the acts of designation and transmission may have taken place in the remote past and under obscure circumstances, there remains a world of difference between the conditions proper to spiritual authority and those of temporal authority. The king is vicar of the people, the Pope is vicar of Christ and is not, in any sense whatsoever, vicar of the Church. The power of the Pope is caused by God and is not in any sense caused by men; the power of the King is caused by men inasmuch as there is transmission of power by the community to a distinct person. If the King misbehaves gravely, he can be deposed by the people as by a power greater than his. But there is not in this world any power superior to that of the Pope. (26)
This theory has often been described as a "democratic" interpretation of the origin of power. Yet its supporters never thought that it was connected with democracy in any specific fashion. It holds for kingdoms as well as for democratic polities. In fact the examples and case-histories borne in mind by the theologians who worked it out were supplied principally by medieval and Renaissance monarchies. If this theory can be called democratic with any kind of propriety, it is only insofar as there is something democratic about every organization that is civil and political in the full sense of these words. On the other hand democracy impresses upon the transmission of power a distinctive mark, inasmuch as it never allows it to be complete. Every democracy remains, in some important respects, a direct democracy. Constitutions may and may not provide that certain issues will be decided by popular vote. More important than such constitutional methods as the plebiscite is the unwritten law of democracy, which gives great power to the opinions and desires of the people as expressed by newspapers, petitions, street demonstrations, polls, etc. In the United States of America there are actually three political assemblies; one of them never meets formally but never adjourns: it is the people of the United States.
A wise polity is always, in some measure, a mixed polity, and there is no reason to question the normality and the wisdom of constitutional practices which combine the principle of government by representatives and that of direct democracy. However, this state of affairs is greatly susceptible to the accident of ungenuine transmission.
Let it be recalled once more that the principle of authority contains no requirement that cannot be fully satisfied in direct government by majority vote. In almost all cases, however, the common good demands that there be some transmission of power to a distinct personnel. Either method agrees with the universal requirements of community life, and choice between the two--an extremely important issue indeed--is entirely conditioned by the circumstances. However, the joint use of both methods may favor confusion with regard to power transmitted and power retained. People may think and behave as if power actually transmitted were still in their hands. Then, the governing persons are treated, in spite of the constitution, as mere instruments of the governed. The fundamental act of transmission becomes illusory, deceitful, fraudulent, treacherous. Authority is no longer firmly established either in the people--because of constitutional transmission--or in the governing personnel, since the implications of constitutional transmission are no longer recognized. According to the Constitution of the United States, the duty of making laws, confirming the nomination of high ranking public servants, etc., belongs to the Congress. Under other circumstances, the inhabitants of North America might have formed small communities governing themselves by majority vote. But they did bring forth a great nation whose government requires the transmission of power. When a pressure group undertakes to destroy the conscience of Congressmen through promise, threat, and bombardment by telegrams, telephone calls and special delivery letters, transmission of power becomes ungenuine, the Constitution is violated and the principle of authority ignored. Congress is treated as a merely instrumental leader whose duty it is to take the orders of the led. Such corruption of democracy into the masked anarchy of the cab-driver system takes place at the uncertain point where the increased intensity of a process and its more audacious style bring about a change in its ethical and political nature. Again, it is normal that elements of direct democracy should be preserved, even if they were not mentioned by the constitutional law, in a system of government by distinct personnel. It is normal that the whole people should be like a permanent assembly, entitled to voice opinions and wishes. And there is nothing abnormal about letting our Congressman know that if the Congress follows a certain course of action it can not only rely upon our loyalty but also expect us to go far beyond the measure of strict obligation. Anarchy begins when there is an attempt to force a policy upon the government. Such an attempt implies that the assembly of the people possesses a power of decision incompatible with the act of transmission. Except in cases explicitly defined by the constitutional law, the people cannot retain, in a system of indirect government, more than a power of consultation. Accordingly, letters to Congressmen ought to be few, in order that the maddening effects of repetition be avoided, and they ought to be phrased in terms of respectful wishes, since those who send them have a right to be heard, a duty to obey, and no right to give orders.
In most concrete situations no clear line can be traced between the normal operation of democracy and practices directly opposed to the very essence of authority. At this point, some will despise a theory which ultimately seems to bring forth a picture of confusion. Such attitude is a perfect demonstration of unfamiliarity with the mystery of human realities. Let us call recognition the act by which we know that a certain essence, already defined and present in our mind, is actually embodied in particular experience data. Recognition can be assured at comparatively low cost in the area of technique and in related areas, but when it depends intrinsically upon virtue its cost is just as high as that of virtue. The really good citizen does not complain about the failure of the philosophers to supply him with handy criteria: the inclinations and repugnances of his virtue enable him to distinguish from each other, with great accuracy, the liberties of civic life and the conspiracies of disobedience. But virtue is rare, and the case would be hopeless if it were not that the lasting embodiment of an idea in a group may give this idea a great deal of historic weight in spite of the weakness of men. Correspondingly, everything can be expected to go wrong if the groups in which an idea is historically embodied loses sight of its own mission. When the faithful make concessions to the spirit of rebellion, the world is tempted to forget what the Church does for democracy by fighting indefatigably democracy's most familiar enemy. Other forms of government contain other threats: democracy is particularly exposed to the evil of masked anarchy.
(1.) Sanctissimi Domini nostri Pii divina Providentiae Papae VI allocutio habita in eonsistorio secreto die XXIX Martii MDCCXC, De aerumnis regni Galliarum, in Augustin Theiner, Documents inedits relatifs aux Affaires Religieuses de la France, 1790 a 1800, extraits des archives secretes du Vatican (Paris, Firmin Didot, 1857), Vol. 1, p. 2.
Per decreta, quae a generalibus nationis comitiis prodierunt, ipsa impetitur perturbaturque religio; hujus apostolicae sedis usurpantur jura; solemnia pacta, et conventa violantur. Et quemadmodum hujusmodi mala ex falsis emanarunt doctrinis, per infectos venenatosque libros, qui in manus omnium diffundebantur, ita quo imposterum etiam latius, securiusque evulgari, imprimique possent ea opinionum contagia, inter prima comitiorum decreta illud exstitit, quo libertas asseritur cogitandi etiam de religione prout cuilibet libeat, suaque cogitata impune proferendi; nec quemque aliis obstringi legibus statuitur, quam quibus ipse consentiat.
(2.) Paul-Louis Courier, Lettres au redaeteur du Censeur, Lettre X, 10 mars 1820, OEuvres (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1845), pp. 62-63. The writer describes in humorous fashion the evils that conservatives expect of a system in which the press would enjoy actual freedom:
If this abuse [i.e., the freedom of the press] should endure, every undertaking of the court would be controlled beforehand, examined, judged, criticized, estimated. The public would consider all business as their own; everything would arouse their contemptible interest; they would check the records of the treasurer, supervise the police, and scoff at the diplomatic service. In one word the nation would manage the government after the fashion of a cab-driver whom we hire and who is supposed to lead us, not where he wants, nor how he wants, but where we intend to go and by the way that we find convenient. This is a thing horrible to imagine, contrary to the divine right and the capitularies.
(3.) Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, tr. by J.B. Robinson (London: Freedom Press, 1923), p. 118. Benjamin Constant remarked in Principes de politique (Paris 1815), pp. 18-21:
There is a part of human existence which necessarily remains individual and independent. ... Sovereignty is limited and relative by essence. Where individual independence and existence begin, the jurisdiction of this sovereignty comes to an end. Rousseau failed to recognize this truth and, an effect of his error, his social contract, so often cited in favor of freedom, has become the most dreadful accomplice of all kinds of despotism. The contract between society and its members is defined by him in such a way as to mean that each individual surrenders the whole of his self, with all his rights and without any reservation, to the community. In order that we should not worry about the consequences of such an unqualified surrender of all parts of our existence to an abstract entity, he tells us that the sovereign, that is, the social body, can harm neither the totality of its members nor any one of them. ... But, as soon as the sovereign must use his force, in other words, as soon as authority must be organized in practical fashion, the sovereign delegates the authority that he cannot exercise by himself, and all these attributes disappear. Since the action exercised in the name of all is necessarily--whether you like it or not--in the hands of one or in those of a few, it is not true that by delivering one's self to all one does not deliver one's self to anybody; on the contrary one delivers one's self to those who act in the name of all. ... Rousseau himself was frightened by these consequences; filled with terror at the sight of the immense power that he had created, he did not know in whose hands this monstrous power should be placed, and, against the danger, inseparable from such a sovereignty, he found no other protection than a trick which renders its exercise impossible. He declared that sovereignty could neither be alienated, nor delegated, nor represented. This is another way of saying that it cannot be exercised; the principle which he had just proclaimed was actually annihilated.
(4.) Notice the philosophical precision of this expression, "the principal action." If the principal action springs from the caravan, the causality exercised by the leaders is merely instrumental. This is the core of the issue.
(5.) H. Saint-Simon, L'Organisateur, in Euvres de Saint-Simon et d'Enfantin (Paris, 1865-78), Vol. 20, pp. 195-196.
(6.) Quoted by J. Belin-Milleron in "L'idee de peuple en 1848 et la psychologie collective du raisonnement," Revue socialiste, Vol. 45 (Paris, March 1951), 337-338.
(7.) Politics, 3.6.1278b33; Summa theologiae, I.96.4.
(8.) The French Revolution (New York: Henry Holt and Co.), 223.
(9.) Matthew 20:25.
(10.) Pius X, Letter on the "Sillon," Aug. 25, 1910.
Le Sillon place primordialement l'autorite publique dans le peuple de qui elle derive ensuite aux gouvernants, de telle facon cependant qu'elle continue a resider en lui. Or, Leon XIII a formellement condamne cette doctrine dans son encyclique Diuturnum "Du principat politique". ... Sans doute le Sillon fait descendre de Dieu cette autorite qu'il place d'abord dans le peuple, mais de telle sorte qu'elle remonte d'en bas pour alter en haut. ... Mais outre qu'il est anormal que la delegation monte, puisqu'il est de sa nature de descendre, Leon XIII a refute d'avance cette tentative de conciliation de la doctrine catholique avec l'erreur du philosophisme. ... Du reste, si le peuple demeure le detenteur du pouvoir, que devient l'autorite? une ombre, un mythe. Il n'y a plus de loi proprement dite; it n'y a plus d'obeissance.
(11.) Philosophy of Democratic Government (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951).
(12.) A community consisting only of virtuous and enlightened persons is not sheer fiction; such communities exist, but they are very small; their size never equals that of the smallest state or city.
(13.) Politics, 2.2.1261a15ff.
(14.) The utopia of Cabet (1788-1856) is expounded in a novel entitled A Journey to Icaria (1840).
(15.) Systeme des contradictions economiques (Paris: Riviere, 1923), Vol. 2.
(16.) St. Thomas, Commentary on Aristotle's Physics, 2 les. 14 "Nature is nothing else than an idea of a certain art--viz., of the divine art--given to things in such a way as to be immanent in them and by which things arc moved toward a determinate end."
(17.) Bellarmine, Controversiarum de membris Ecclesiae. Lib. 3, "dc laicis sive saeeularibus," Ch. 6. Opera (Paris: Vives, 1870), III, pp. 10-12.
(18.) See St. Thomas, Sum theol, II-II.10.10.
(19.) Robert Filmer, Patriarcha, published in 1680.
(20.) Thomas de Vio Cardinalis Caietanus, Scripta Theologica, Vol. I: De comparatione auctoritatis papae et eoncilii cum apologia eiusdem tractatus, Vincentius M. lacobus Poffet editionem curavit (Rome: Apud Institutum "Angelicum," 1936), No. 283.
(21.) See Emile Chenon, Le role social de l'Eglise (Paris: Bloud et Gay, 1924), pp. 102 ff. Bossuet has often been described as a theorist of the "divine right" of kings. In fact, he proves anxious to retain traditional views concerning the consent of the governed; see: Politique tiree des propres paroles de l'Ecriture Sainte, II, a. 1, 2. At the same time he vindicates the theory that the king does not have to render accounts to any man, but to God alone; see Ve Avertissement aux Protestants, Euvres completes (Paris: Lefrvre et Didot, 1836), VI, 222. Whether he achieves consistency remains to be seen.
(22.) Suarez, Defeerie fidei catholicae et apostolicae adversus anglicanae sectae errores, Lib. III: "De summi pontificis supra temporales reges excellentia, et potestate," Cap. 2: "Utrum principatus politicus immediate a Dee, sit, seu ex divina institutions," Opera, XXI (Venetiis, 1749), pp. 114ff.
(23.) See in particular: Sum. Theol., I-II. 97.3, ad 3.
(24.) Leo XIII, Diuturnum illud, On Civil Government, June 29, 1881, tr. presented by Joseph Husslein, SJ, in Social Wellsprings (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1940), p. 50: "Indeed, very many men of more recent times, walking in the footsteps of those who in a former age assumed to themselves the name of philosophers, say that all power comes from the people; so that those who exercise it in the State do so not as their own, but as delegated to them by the people, and that, by this rule, it can be revoked by the will of the very people by whom it was delegated. But from these Catholics dissent, who affirm that the right to rule is from God, as from a natural and necessary principle."
(25.) Immediately following the text just quoted: "It is of importance, however, to remark in this place that those who may be placed over the State may in certain cases be chosen by the will and decision of the multitude, without opposition to or impugning of the Catholic doctrine. And by this choice, in truth, the ruler is designated, but the rights of ruling are not thereby conferred. Nor is the authority delegated to him, but the person by whom it is to be exercised is determined upon." It has been said that Leo XIII and Pius X rejected the transmission theory, in spite of a well established theological tradition, and gave the sanction of their authority to the theory of mere designation. Among the texts which may seem to substantiate such interpretation, this quotation from Diuturnum is probably the most impressive. Now, we find in it (1) a thorough repudiation of the cab-driver theory, (2) a vindication of election by the people as a method of designation, (3) a new repudiation of the cab-driver theory, obviously motivated by the fear at designation by popular vote should seem to imply that the people has the power to bind the conscience of men (Quo sane delectu designatur princeps, non conferuntur iura principatus ...) or that the rulers are mere instruments of the ruled (neque mandatur imperium, sed statuitur a quo sit gerendum). There is, indeed, a resemblance between the instrumental theory of government and the transmission theory. Without some sort of resemblance, these theories would never have been identified, as they so often were, under the confusing expression "sovereignty of the people." No wonder, then, that a criticism of the former may have seemed to be aimed at the latter. The theory of government as mere instrument of the governed is what the Church opposes. Whether the role of the people is only one of designation or whether the designation of political rulers involves a transmission of authority is a question that Leo XIII and Pius X, apparently, have not treated. On this, see E. ChEnon, op. cit., and Heinrich Rommen, The State in Catholic Thought (St. Louis, B. Herder, 1945). Pius XII seems to favor the traditional transmission theory in these words: "La fondazione della Chiesa come societa si e effettuata, contrariamente all'origine dello stato, non dal basso all'alto, ma dall alto al basso" (address for the inauguration of the new legal year of theTribunal of the Rota, Oct. 2, 1945, reported in Osservatore Romano, Oct. 3, 1945; quoted by J. Maritain, Man and the State (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press,, 1951), p. 185). These words of Pius XII would seem to conflict with some statements of Pius X in the Letter on the Sillon (see above) if we did not know that Pius X speaks of the cab-driver theory and Pius XII of something altogether different.
(26.) This brief exposition is principally derived from Cajetan.
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|Author:||Simon, Yves R.|
|Publication:||Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2011|
|Previous Article:||An introduction to Yves R. Simon's "the doctrinal issue between the church and democracy".|