The Christian ideal of social perfection
If we suppose that most of the individuals in a certain population practice the Law of God, what result can we expect thereof for the society? This is the same as asking if in a watch each part works according to its nature and its purpose, what result may we expect from the watch? Or if each part of a whole if perfect, what must be said of the whole?
It is always risky to resort to mechanical examples for human cases.
Let us stick to the image of a society where all members are good Catholics, as described by Saint Augustine: Let us imagine “an army composed of soldiers as Jesus Christ’s doctrine forms them, of governors, husbands, spouses, parents, children, teachers, servants, kings, judges, taxpayers, tax collectors as the Christian teaching require them to be! And let them (the heathen) still dare to say that this teaching is contrary to the interests of the State! On the contrary, they have to admit unhesitatingly that it is a safeguard for the State when faithfully followed” (Epist. CXXXVIII, al. 5, ad Marcellum, Cap. II, n. 15).
In another of his writings the holy Doctor, addressing himself to the Catholic Church, exclaims:
“Thou leadest and teachest children with tenderness, young people with vigor, old people with calm as not only their body but also their soul requires. Thou submittest the wives to their husbands, for a faithful and chaste obedience, not to gratify passion but for the propagation of the species and the constitution of the family. Thou givest authority to the husbands over their wives, not in order to abuse the fragility of their sex, but to follow the laws of a sincere love. Thou subordinatest the children to their parents for a kind authority. Thou unitest, not only in a society but in a kind of brotherhood, citizens to citizens, nations to nations, and men one to another through the memory of their first parents. Thou teachest kings to care for their people and thou ordainest the people to obey the kings. Thou teachest solicitously to whom honor is due, to whom affection, to whom respect, to whom fear, to whom comfort, to whom rebuke, to whom encouragement, to whom a scolding, to whom a reprimand, to whom a punishment; and thou tellest in what way, if everything is not due to everyone, charity is due to everybody, injustice to nobody” (De Moribus Ecclesiae, Cap. XXX, n. 63).
It would be impossible to describe better the ideal of a totally Christian society. Could order, peace, harmony, perfection be brought to a higher level in a community? A short remark will be enough for us to conclude the matter. If nowadays all men were practicing the Law of God, would not all political, social, and economic problems that beset us be quickly solved? What solution can we hope for them, however, while men live in the usual non-observance of the Law of God?
Did human society once achieve this ideal of perfection? Undoubtedly. The Immortal Pope Leo XIII tells us so: once the Redemption was accomplished and the Church founded, “man, as if he were awakening from an old, long, and mortal lethargy, saw the light of the truth he had looked and longed for during so many centuries; above all he recognized that he was born for much higher and much more magnificent possessions than the fragile and perishable things attained by the senses and to which he had until then limited his thoughts and his concerns. He understood that the whole constitution of human life, the supreme law, and the end to which everything must submit is that, coming from God, we must return to Him one day.
“From this beginning and on this foundation consciousness of human dignity was restored and lived again; the sense of a common brotherhood took possession of men’s hearts. In consequence, their rights and duties were perfected or established anew, and virtues beyond the conception of ancient philosophy were revived. So men’s purposes, tenor of life, and characters were changed, and the knowledge of the Redeemer having spread far and wide and His power having penetrated into the very life-blood of the nations, expelling their ignorance and ancient vices, a marvelous transformation took place, which, originating in Christian civilization, utterly changed the face of the earth” (Leo XIII, encyclical Tametsi Futura Prospicientibus).
by Plinio Correa de Oliveira