Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why I Love Nobility

Objections to Nobility Come From the Egalitarian Spirit of the French Revolution 

Nobility, elites.

Why does this book only deal with them?

Such will be, no doubt, the objection raised by egalitarian readers, who are ipso facto hostile to the nobility.


Contemporary society is saturated with radically egalitarian prejudices. Sometimes these are consciously or unconsciously harbored even by people belonging to sectors of opinion where one would expect to find unanimity in the opposite vein.

Such is the case with members of the clergy who are enthusiasts of the revolutionary trilogy, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, heedless of the fact that it was originally interpreted in a sense frontally opposed to Catholic doctrine.[8]

If such egalitarian dissonance is found in clerical circles, one should not be surprised that it also occurs among nobles and members of other traditional elites. With the recent bicentennial of the French Revolution fresh in our memories, these reflections readily recall the revolutionary noble par excellence, Philippe Egalité, Duke of Orleans.

To this day, his example has not ceased to inspire emulators in more than one illustrious lineage.

In 1891, when Leo XIII published his famous encyclical Rerum novarum on the condition of the working class, certain capitalist circles objected that relations between capital and labor, being a specifically economic matter, were no concern of the Roman Pontiff. They suggested that his encyclical encroached on their domain.

Today, some readers might wonder why a Pope should concern himself with the nobility and elites, traditional or otherwise. Their mere survival in our changed times might seem to these readers an archaic and useless outgrowth of the feudal era. From this perspective, the nobility and contemporary elites are nothing more than the embodiment of certain ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that man can no longer appreciate or even comprehend.

These readers deem that the few who still value elites are inspired by empty aesthetic or romantic sentiments, and that the people who pride themselves on being part of the elites have succumbed to arrogance and vanity.

These readers, convinced that nothing will prevent the inevitable march of history from eradicating such obsolete malignancies from the face of the earth, conclude that if Pius XII would not foster the march of history thus understood, at least he ought not put obstacles in its way.

Why, then, did Pius XII address this subject so extensively and in a way so agreeable to Counter-revolutionary minds, such as that of this author, who has assembled these teachings, annotated them, and now offers them to the public? Would it not have been better for the Pontiff to have remained silent?

The answer to such egalitarian objections imbued with the spirit of 1789 is simple. People who wish to know the answer can do no better than to hear it from the authoritative lips of Pius XII himself. In his allocutions to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility, Pius XII points out, with an extraordinary gift for synthesis, the profound moral significance of his intervention in the matter, as we shall see.[9] He also highlights the legitimate role of the nobility according to social doctrine inspired by Natural Law and Revelation.

At the same time, he describes the richness of soul that became their hallmark in the Christian past. Confirming their continued guardianship of that treasure, the Pontiff proclaims their lofty mission of affirming and radiating this rich legacy throughout the contemporary world. This remains the case despite the devastating effects of the ideological revolutions, world wars, and socioeconomic crises that have reduced many nobles to modest circumstances. Repeatedly the Pontiff reminds them that, much to their honor, their situation is similar to that of Saint Joseph, at once a Prince of the House of David, a simple carpenter, and, above all, the legal father of the Word Incarnate and chaste spouse of the Queen of all Angels and Saints.[10]

By Plinio Correa de Oliveira

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