Thursday, February 9, 2017

Philosophies at War, II: The “Reign of Christ the King”?


Pius XI, who saw the rise of the dictatorships and the global situation that led up to World War II during which Fulton Sheen wrote Philosophies at War, took as his motto, “the Peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ.”  Naturally, despite Jesus’s explicit assurance that “[His] kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), and his insisting that “king” isn’t even the right word for what He is (Matt. 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 22:70, 23:3; John 18:37), many people took it to mean precisely that, for good or for ill.
"King" isn't exactly the right word. . . .
What they really meant, of course, was that their version of “the Kingdom of Christ” — the Kingdom of their own egos — should be established as the iron law binding all humanity, which in turn necessitates the principle that “might makes right.”  The problem with that (ignoring, for the sake of the argument, the egomania involved as well as the contradiction of Jesus’s own words) is it goes directly contrary to what Pius XI clearly meant, as expressed in his completed social doctrine that was the focus of his entire pontificate.
And that means . . . what?
The “Reign of Christ the King” is not a temporal sovereignty at all.  Nor does it mean that a nation as a nation must explicitly or implicitly acknowledge the divinity of Christ.  That would be impossible in any event, for a “nation” is an abstraction, a human construct, not something made by God.
As we have pointed out a number of times before on this blog, God is a perfect being, all-powerful and all-knowing.  We know this by definition, that is, by reason.
"Through a glass in a dark manner."
An abstraction, however, is an imperfection that permits imperfect and limited human persons to grasp “as through a glass in a dark manner” (1 Cor. 13:12) the immensity of creation and the infinite perfection of God.  To say that God deals in abstractions is to say that He is not truly God.
God, therefore, is only really concerned with individuals.  At the same time, He made people (as Aristotle put it) “political animals” by nature.  That is, human beings, although quintessentially individuals, each unique and valued as such by the Creator, associates by nature with other unique and valuable individuals in political units, the “pólis.”
Did God, therefore, make the pólis?  By no means.  Pólis” (like “nation”) is an abstraction, a human construct made for human purposes, not divine.  “Christ the King” can only rule the political unit — or any organized group — by ruling the individual human beings who make it up.
That brings in another issue.  How does Christ rule individual human beings and yet not rule at all in the usual sense?
This is something of a trick question.  If we say that Christ rules each and every human being by everyone becoming a Catholic, we have just offended against essential human dignity.  No one can be compelled against his or her will to become a member of any religion — not legitimately, anyway.  It is contrary to nature to force anyone to convert to a religion.
Then how can Christ be said to reign over the whole world — and yet at the same time (His kingdom being not of this world) be said to reign at all?
We find the answer by human reason — and thus by nature.  Given that (as Catholics believe) Jesus is “true God and true man,” and the natural law is written in the hearts of all men (again, women and children are included, as “all men” signifies “members of the human race”), it necessarily follows that anyone and everyone can — and, to be fully human, must — conform themselves to their own perfectible human nature (and thus to Jesus’s perfect human nature) by obeying the precepts of the natural law, the chief of which is “good is to be done, evil avoided.”
"Even the Pagans do as much."
We heard this language before — from the pagan Aristotle, who claimed that “all things seek the good” and that “good” is what is in conformity with one’s nature.
But only God is good!  (Mark 10:18)
For Christ, however, “I know Him because I am from Him.” (John 7:29; cf. Matt. 11:27, John . . . you get the idea.  Plus, it gets tiring citing Bible verses when most people already know what they are, and those that don't find it meaningless.)
The obvious conclusion we necessarily draw is that, if all things seek the good, and good consists of conformity with nature, yet only God is good . . . then all people by nature seek God, and thus His rule over them.  And since all people do this, we necessarily admit that — strictly speaking — it is not absolutely essential that anyone be a Catholic or even Christian for Christ to reign in his or her heart.
Denial of reason a great danger.
This, not unnaturally, causes outrage among many Catholics.  They insist that everyone must explicitly acknowledge and have faith in the divinity of Christ and His sovereignty over the entire world, or we are all doomed.
And yet the Catholic Church states that reason alone is absolutely essential for Christ to rule the world as an infallible teaching quite clearly and most emphatically.  Pius XII even identified the single greatest danger to Catholic doctrine in the world today the claim that faith is essential to establish and maintain the Reign of Christ the King.  As he said in the opening passage of Humani Generis, his encyclical “Concerning Some False Opinions Threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine”:
[A]bsolutely speaking, human reason by its own natural force and light can arrive at a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God, Who by His providence watches over and governs the world, and also of the natural law, which the Creator has written in our hearts. (Humani Generis, § 2.)
The question then becomes, How can this be done?
#30#

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