Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Revolution and Legitimacy

There is a higher legitimacy, characteristic of every order of things in which the Royalty of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the model and source of legitimacy for all royalties and earthly powers, is effectuated.

A. Legitimacy Par Excellence
In general, the concept of legitimacy is focused on only in the context of dynasties and governments. Though heeding the teachings of Leo XIII in the encyclical Au milieu des sollicitudes, one cannot ignore the question of dynastic or governmental legitimacy, for it is an extremely grave moral matter that upright consciences must consider with all attention.

However, the concept of legitimacy applies to other problems as well.

There is a higher legitimacy, characteristic of every order of things in which the Royalty of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the model and source of legitimacy for all royalties and earthly powers, is effectuated. To fight for legitimate rulers is an obligation, indeed a grave one. Yet it is necessary to see the legitimacy of those in authority not only as a good, excellent per se, but also as a means to an even higher good, namely, the legitimacy of the entire social order, of all human institutions and ambiences, which is achieved through the disposition of all things according to the doctrine of the Church.

El Cid, Rodrigo DĂ­az de Vivar

To fight for legitimate rulers is an obligation, indeed a grave one.

B. Catholic Culture and Civilization
Therefore, the ideal of the Counter-Revolution is to restore and promote Catholic culture and civilization. This theme would not be sufficiently enunciated if it did not contain a definition of what we understand by Catholic culture and Catholic civilization. We realize that the terms civilization and culture are used in many different senses. Obviously, it is not our intention here to take a position on a question of terminology. We limit ourselves to using these words as relatively precise labels to indicate certain realities. We are more concerned with providing a sound idea of these realities than with debating terminology.

A soul in the state of grace possesses all virtues to a greater or lesser degree. Illuminated by faith, it has the elements to form the only true vision of the universe.

Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria taking part in the Corpus Christi procession at Stephansplatz in Vienna.

Catholic civilization is the structuring of all human relations, of all human institutions, and of the State itself according to the doctrine of the Church.

The fundamental element of Catholic culture is the vision of the universe elaborated according to the doctrine of the Church. This culture includes not only the learning, that is, the possession of the information needed for such an elaboration, but also the analysis and coordination of this information according to Catholic doctrine. This culture is not restricted to the theological, philosophical, or scientific field, but encompasses the breadth of human knowledge; it is reflected in the arts and implies the affirmation of values that permeate all aspects of life.

Catholic civilization is the structuring of all human relations, of all human institutions, and of the State itself according to the doctrine of the Church.

C. The Sacral Character of Catholic Civilization

Undoubtedly, it is the Church that possesses the proper means to promote the salvation of souls

It is implicit that such an order of things is fundamentally sacral, and entails the recognition of all the powers of the Holy Church, particularly those of the Supreme Pontiff: a direct power over spiritual things, and an indirect power over temporal things whenever they have to do with the salvation of souls.

Indeed, the purpose of society and of the State is virtuous life in common. Now, the virtues man is called to practice are the Christian virtues, and the first of these is the love of God. Society and the State have, then, a sacral purpose.[1]

Undoubtedly, it is the Church that possesses the proper means to promote the salvation of souls, but society and the State have instrumental means for the same end, that is, means which, set in motion by a higher agent, produce an effect superior to themselves.

On the way home from the Baptism Painting by Heinrich Ewers

Given these conditions, and since there can be no Christian order without the knowledge and observance of the Law of God, civilization and culture par excellence are only possible within the fold of the Holy Church.

D. Culture and Civilization Par Excellence
From the foregoing it is easy to infer that Catholic culture and civilization are the culture and civilization par excellence. It must be noted that they cannot exist save in Catholic peoples. Indeed, even though man may know the principles of Natural Law by his own reason, a people without the Magisterium of the Church cannot durably preserve the knowledge of all of them.[2] For this reason, a people that does not profess the true religion cannot durably practice all the Commandments.[3] Given these conditions, and since there can be no Christian order without the knowledge and observance of the Law of God, civilization and culture par excellence are only possible within the fold of the Holy Church. Indeed, as Saint Pius X stated, civilization is all the more true, all the more lasting, all the more fecund in precious fruits, the more purely Christian it is; it is all the more decadent, to the great misfortune of society, the farther it withdraws from the Christian ideal. Thus, by the intrinsic nature of things, the Church becomes also in fact the guardian and protector of Christian Civilization.[4]

Plinio CorrĂȘa de Oliveira, Revolution and Counter-Revolution (York, PA: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, 1993), pp. 43-46.


[1] Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, De Regime Principum, 1, 14-15.

[2] Cf. First Vatican Council, sess. II, chapter 2 (Denzinger 1786).

[3] Cf. Council of Trent, sess. VI, chapter 2 (Denzinger 812).

[4] Saint Pius X, encyclical Il fermo proposito, June 11, 1905, Bonne Presse, Paris, vol. 2, p. 92.

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