A collection of personal reflections. Copyright © 2005-2011 K. Gurries

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

FAQ's On Church and State

1. How are the origins of the Church and the State distinct?
The Church has its origin by way of divine positive law. The State, on the other hand, has its origin by way of the natural law: “The origin of the Church, unlike that of the State, does not arise from natural law. . . The Church derives from a positive act of God which is beyond and above man's social character but in perfect harmony with it.” (Cf. Pope Pius XII, Allocution to the Auditors of the Rota, 2 October 1945; Acta Apost. Sedis, 1945, pp. 256-62)

2. How is authority transmitted differently to each power?
In the Church, authority is transmitted directly from above. In the State, however, authority is transmitted by way of the people – that is, indirectly from below: "If we consider the favourite thesis of democracy (a thesis constantly defended by great Christian thinkers)—that is, that the subject of the political power that derives from God is, first and foremost, the people (not, indeed, the "masses"), the distinction between Church and State, even a democratic State, becomes ever clearer. . . Ecclesiastical power is in fact essentially different from civil power. . . This fundamental difference is manifest at one point above all. Unlike the foundation of the State, the foundation of the Church, as a society, was carried out not from below but from above. (Cf. Pope Pius XII, Allocution to the Auditors of the Rota, 2 October 1945; Acta Apost. Sedis, 1945, pp. 256-62)

3. What is the distinct end or purpose of each society?
The Church and the State are a complement to each other in view of man’s supernatural and temporal welfare: “This last difference between the two societies, based upon their respective ends, undoubtedly excludes that violent subjection of the Church to the State…But it does not exclude every kind of union between the two societies…Such a view would…leave out of consideration the fact that the Church and the State both have their origin in God and that both are concerned with the same subject – human beings…All this could not and did not escape the attention of Pope Leo XIII when, in his encyclical Immortale Dei…he defined clearly the limits of the two societies in terms of their ends, observing that the proximate and special end of the State is to care for man’s earthly prosperity, while that of the Church is to procure their heavenly and eternal welfare.” (Pius XII, Allocution to the Roman Rota, October 29, 1947)

4. What is the respective scope of authority for each power?
The respective scope of authority for the spiritual and temporal powers was summed up by Pope Leo XIII as follows: "The Almighty, therefore, has given the charge of the human race to two powers, the ecclesiastical and the civil, the one being set over divine, and the other over human, things. Each in its kind is supreme, each has fixed limits within which it is contained, limits which are defined by the nature and special object of the province of each, so that there is, we may say, an orbit traced out within which the action of each is brought into play by its own native right.” (Leo XIII, Immortale Dei)

5. Why did Christ initiate the separation of powers?
Cardinal Ratzinger, in contrasting Eastern and Western traditions, quotes Pope Gelasius I who explains why Christ had not consolidated and delegated all authority, both spiritual and temporal, to a single human power: "In Byzantium, the empire and the Church were virtually identified with each other, and the emperor was also the head of the Church. He understood himself as the vicar of Christ and bore the official title "king and priest" from the sixth century onward, following the example of Melchizedek, who was both king and priest (Gen, 14:18). After Constantine left Rome and the emperors no longer resided in the earlier imperial capital, it was possible for the autonomous position of the bishop of Rome as successor of Peter and head of the Church to develop there, and the doctrine of the dual authority was taught in Rome from the beginning of the Constantinian epoch. The emperor and the pope each had an authority of his own, and neither of them possessed the totality of power. Pope Gelasius I (492-496) formulated the Western view in his famous letter to Emperor Anastasius, and even more clearly in his fourth treatise, in which he responds to the Byzantine use of the typology of Melchizedek by emphasizing that it is only in Christ that the two authorities are united: 'It is Christ himself, because of human weakness (superbia!), who separated the two offices for the subsequent ages, so that no one might exalt himself' (chap. 11). The Christian emperors require the priests (pontifices) for things pertaining to eternal life. In turn, the priests adhere to the ordinances promulgated by the emperor for the temporal course of affairs. In secular matters the priests must follow the laws of the emperor, who is installed in office by God's decree, but in divine matters the emperor must submit to the priests. This introduced a separation and distinction of powers that was to be immensely important for the subsequent development of Europe, laying the foundation of that which is typically Western. Since such demarcations did not suppress the desire on both sides to possess the totality of power or the yearning to subordinate the other side to its own authority, this principle of separation was also the source of unending suffering." (Cf. Cardinal Ratzinger, Address to the Italian Senate in Rome, May, 2004)

6. In what manner is the State indirectly subordinate to the Church?
The State is indirectly subordinate to the Church - not in the sense of "domination" or "hegemony" - but by virtue of the primacy of the spiritual over the temporal according to the hierarchy or scale of values (Cf. Maritain, Man and the State, CUA Press, p. 153). Yet the “supremacy” of the Church remains “indirect” insofar as each power retains direct supremacy within its own sphere of competence (i.e., temporal or supernatural). The “doctrine of the two swords”, therefore, signifies that the Church has a right of intervention in the temporal sphere insofar as higher spiritual ends are concerned. In this sense Suarez notes the following: “There are not two powers in the Supreme Pontiff, but one only relating directly to spiritual things and by way of consequence to temporal things” (Vivex ed., vol. v, p. 366, No. 3). What this means is that the State must recognize the superior value of spiritual and moral goods over merely temporal concerns. It also implies that civil rulers ought to take heed of the Church when she teaches on matters pertaining to the spiritual and moral welfare of individuals and society. For example, Church teaching on moral issues (e.g., just war doctrine, living wage, bioethics, etc.) ought to influence actions taken by civil authorities. It is not a direct superiority insofar as the moral principles must still be properly applied within the proper sphere by the competent authorities (e.g., political leaders, military leaders, economists, doctors, etc.). For example, political and military leaders have the duty to apply the just war principles to particular cases – just as political and economic advisors have the duty to apply just wage principles to particular cases. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, the Church does not directly invade this space that rightly belongs to other spheres of authority – even if they are of a lower dignity.

7. What does the Church rightfully demand from the State?
While direct recourse to the State as "secular arm" of the Church is not essential to her divine constitution or mission, she does demand, however, that temporal rulers respect her essential freedom and rightful autonomy. Bishop Ketteler states: “Freedom of the Church means the right of the church to manage her own affairs according to her own principles and to be subject only to the general laws of the state. We distinguish between freedom of the Church and privileges. In earlier times, the Church enjoyed various privileges which developed spontaneously because unity of Faith prevailed. Those are virtually extinct in our time, but the Church is able to survive without them. Nevertheless, let us not confuse privileges with legitimate rights, as often happens nowadays. The Church is entitled to the protection of her legitimate rights, just as any other legal personality” (Cf. Ketteler, Freedom, Authority and the Church). In his 1953 “Ci Riesce” Address to Catholic Jurists, Pope Pius XII stated that Concordats are an "expression of collaboration between the Church and State...The Concordats, therefore, must assure to the Church a stable condition in right and in fact in the State with which they are concluded, and must guarantee to her full independence in the fulfillment of her divine mission." This implies a "right of intervention" even in temporal matters for the sake of higher spiritual concerns or as required in the pursuit of her divine and supernatural mission.

8. In what sense is the “separation" of Church and State erroneous?
There always ought to be a moral unity between the Church and State – a necessary mutual support and cooperation in view of the common good as well as the spiritual and temporal welfare of their common subjects. The “separation" of Church and State is condemned in the sense that would exclude such a necessary mutual cooperation by setting the two powers in opposition to one another. Pope Pius XII stated that Concordats are an "expression of collaboration between the Church and State” (Cf. Pius XII, Ci Riesce), however, mutual cooperation can also exist in the absence of formal concordats. One recent example is the Joint Declaration of the Holy See and the United States on the occasion of the Papal visit of Benedict XVI to the United States: “During their meeting, the Holy Father and the President discussed a number of topics of common interest to the Holy See and the United States of America, including moral and religious considerations to which both parties are committed: the respect of the dignity of the human person; the defense and promotion of life, matrimony, and the family; the education of future generations; human rights and religious freedom; sustainable development and the struggle against poverty and pandemics…” (Holy See – U.S. Joint Statement, April 16, 2008)

9. In what sense is the “separation" of Church and State properly understood?
The proper understanding of the “separation" of Church and State involves recognizing each as an individual and perfect society that is ontologically distinct – each with its own particular nature, origin, means and end. This proper distinction is opposed to the Protestant notion of the “divine right of kings” following the principle "cuius regio, eius religio" or any ideology that would effectively deny the "separation" of the two powers or offices according to the teaching of the Popes (Cf. Gelasius I, Leo XIII and Pius XII referenced above).

10. How is the rightful autonomy of the Papacy ensured?
In order to ensure that the office of the Papacy is completely free and uninhibited in the fulfillment of its universal mission the Pope is entitled to both spiritual and temporal sovereignty including the right to a civil principate. In former times this right was made manifest in the form of the Papal States. Pope Pius XI comments on the modern realization of this right that has taken the form of the current Vatican City State – a solution that he considers well adapted to the circumstances and needs of our time: "People do not sufficiently reflect perhaps on how troublesome and dangerous it would be—We speak of the situation today—to unite the civil administration of a population, no matter how small, to the universal government of the Church. The smallness of the territory guarantees Us against all inconvenience of this kind…So then, a minimum of territory, enough for the exercise of sovereignty; the needful territory without which it could not subsist because it would have nothing to stand on. We seem to see things as they were to be seen in the person of St. Francis; he had just enough body to keep his soul united with it. Thus it was with other saints: the body reduced to what is strictly necessary to serve the soul, to support human life, and, with life, beneficent action. It will be evident to all, We hope, that the Sovereign Pontiff will have just that material territory indispensable for the exercise of the spiritual power entrusted to men for the benefit of men. We do not hesitate to say that We rejoice in this state of things. We are glad to see the material domain reduced to such narrow limits that one can speak of it and consider it as spiritualized by the immeasurable and truly divine spirituality which it is destined to sustain and serve." (Pope Pius XI, A.A.S., 1929, pp. 108-109; Cf., Journet, op. cit., p. 466)



Blogger Cardinal Pole said...

"9. In what sense is the “separation of Church and State” properly understood?"

But it is improper to speak of "separation and Church and State" since Church and State are to be united as body and soul, as Leo XIII stressed. Why use the terms at all, when they are mentioned in the Syllabus of Errors, and hence there is risk of confusion, or even scandal? It suffices to say that there is a distinction between the Ecclesiastical and the civil powers.

"10. How is the mutual cooperation between Church and State manifested?"

Ideally, though, there would be legally-established unity and true, direct co-operation, not just concordats, which are a second-best solution "available for the sake of peace and liberty" (Immortale Dei, Section 15), and even less appealing than concordats are mere expressions of shared values. (And of course the American plan for Church-State relations is by no means the best one, as Leo XIII made clear in Longinqua Oceani, Section 6).) Surely we ought to begin by explaining the best plan for society in general before proceeding to what might be best in a particular situation, just as maths teachers begin by teaching unconstrained optimisation in calculus before they teach constrained optimisation?

July 01, 2009 10:19 AM  
Blogger K Gurries said...

Pole, I think there are two extremes to be avoided regarding separation of Church and State. It is legitimate and useful only to rule out those ideologies that more or less deny that the two powers are ontologically distinct or separate -- in the sense that Pope Gelasius spoke of the two "separated" offices. The phrase is true and legitimate in this sense.

July 01, 2009 3:20 PM  
Blogger Cardinal Pole said...

"The phrase is true and legitimate in this sense."

Not necessarily--the Papal States and the various Prince-Bishoprics united Church and State not only in the sense of which Leo XIII spoke, but also in a personal union, the one person holding both offices. That is why it suffices to speak of a distinction of the two powers.

Mr. Gurries, I find it rude of you not to give me at least some answer to my question at the "Religious Freedom FAQ's" post. What is it about those three first comments which made you refuse to publish them?

July 02, 2009 9:40 AM  
Blogger K Gurries said...

Pole, certainly there are historical cases where the same person was the holder of both offices. But this is by way of exception (temporary accidents of history) rather than the rule established by Christ. Pope Gelasius was explicit that it is only in the person of Christ that the two offices are united -- but that He "separated" these for the subsequent ages "so that no one might exalt himself".

Also, I am happy to answer any specific question regarding the post on Religious Freedom. Your initial posts came across as wholesale rejection rather than sincere questions -- and I simply don't have the time or the patience for that.

July 02, 2009 1:21 PM  
Blogger Cardinal Pole said...

Mr. Gurries,

As you know I am not objecting to the substance of your notion of ‘separation’, just the terms; both popular and Magisterial usage of the term ‘separation of Church and State’ has changed greatly during the more than a millennium from Gelasius I to the modern era, to the extent that the terms ‘that the State should be separated from the Church, and the Church from the State’ were condemned in the Syllabus of Errors. Given that that is the present-day usage, does what you have written not attract the censure of “evil-sounding”, i.e., using improper words to express otherwise acceptable truths (cf. the article “Censures, theological” in The Catholic Encyclopedia)?

Furthermore, your citation is of the then-Cardinal Ratzinger, but the man now reigning gloriously as Pope did not use the term ‘separation’ of Church and State when he had the opportunity to do so, at His Holiness’s December 13, 2008 visit to the Italian Embassy to the Holy See, the misrepresentation in a Zenit report notwithstanding:

"“This brief visit allows me to reaffirm that the Church is very aware that the distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God, that is to say, the distinction between State and Church, is a part of the fundamental structure of Christianity. ... This distinction and autonomy are respected and recognized by the Church which is happy with them, considering them a great progress for humanity and a fundamental condition for its freedom and for fulfilling its universal mission of salvation among the peoples".”
[my emphasis,
VIS 081215 (600)]

Given that the term ‘distinction’ is clearly sufficient for the Holy Father, and use of the term ‘separation’ is at best imprudent, why your insistence on the latter?

Regarding “Religious Freedom FAQ’s”, I have condensed my objections into five questions, each no more than a paragraph when taken with its accompanying explanation, and I have submitted them at that post. You are free, of course, to publish as many or as few of them as you please, and to respond to them, if you wish to respond, at your leisure.

July 07, 2009 12:23 PM  
Blogger K Gurries said...

Pole, I have tried to explain both the true and false notions of "separation" in order to avoid any possible risk or danger or imprudence. The [distinction] between the two societies is an ontological one and denotes two distinct [i.e., separate] realities at a metaphysical level. On the other hand, I would have to agree with you if the distinction were only a logical one -- in which case it would not be appropriate to speak of separation (e.g., as in the distinction of Persons in the Holy Trinity) In thise sense, there is no opposition between what Cardinal Ratzinger said later as Pope Benedict.

Also, I will take a look at your other comments and questions and respond when I can...

July 07, 2009 4:07 PM  

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