The State might be denned as an institution having for its end the promotion of the temporal well-being of its members. Church and State have similar ends in view, but the Church looks mainly to the eternal welfare of its members. Both have their power from God, the Church holding hers from Christ, while the State receives its powers, not from an assembly of men, but from God (Leo XIII). There are various points of difference between Church and State: the Church is one, while States are many; the State includes one or more nations, the Church embraces all the nations of the earth; States grow up and pass away, the Church remains forever. The Church recognizes every form of existing government, for there is nothing in the various forms that contradicts Catholic teaching (Leo XIII.). Hence Leo XIII. has frequently enjoined on the French monarchists to recognize and support the existing republic. Christ Himself taught that what was Caesar’s should be given to Caesar (Matt. xxii. 21).
1. The Church is, in its own department, absolutely independent of the State, for Christ left the teaching and government of His Church to the apostles and their successors, not to any temporal sovereign.
Hence the State has no claim to dictate to Christians what they are to believe and reject, nor to instruct priests what they are to preach, nor how and when they are to give the sacraments, say Mass, etc. Such interference has always been resented by the Church; thus Hosius, at the Council of Nicea, addressed the Roman emperor when the latter was meddling in matters of faith: “Here you have no right to dictate to us; it is rather your duty to follow our commands.” The State, too, is in its own affairs independent of the Church. “The power of the State as well as that of the Church is circumscribed by limits within which it can work uncontrolled” (Leo XIII.). There are many points however where these limits touch; hence a mutual agreement is necessary on both sides. If contrary orders were given in the same matter strife would arise, and the subject would not know where his duty lay (Leo XIII.). Between the two powers there should be some such union as there is between the body and soul in man (Leo XIII.). Agreements between State and Church are of frequent occurrence in his tory: they are called Concordats. These are often conspicuous proofs of the tender love of the Church in pushing her mildness and toleration as far as is consistent with her duty (Leo XIII.).
2. The Church is an essential factor in promoting the welfare of the State, for she teaches obedience to authority, prevents many crimes, incites men to noble endeavor, and unites together various nations.
Plutarch speaks of religion forming a better protection for a city than its walls. The Church teaches that the civil authority has its power from God (Rom. xiii. 1), and that even wicked rulers are to be obeyed (1 Pet. ii. 18). How many sinners have been rescued by the Church and changed into saints and benefactors of mankind! How many have been restrained from crime by the teaching of the Church, or God’s judgments! How much unjustly acquired property has been restored, and how many enemies reconciled! More than this, the Church teaches that salvation depends on works of mercy, and makes it a point of duty for her members to assist their suffer ing brethren. How many institutions for orphans, for the sick and blind and deaf-mutes, etc., owe their foundation to the servants of the Church! Indeed, the needy are the Church’s first care. Moreover the Church binds the nations together in the bonds of brotherhood, both by a common profession of faith and by the precept of charity. Hence it is that as far as possible the priests of the Church should keep aloof from all strife between nations.
In consequence of this all good rulers and statesmen have supported the Church to the best of their power.
Such was the policy of Constantine the Great, of Charlemagne, of St. Stephen, King of Hungary, and St. Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia. Rulers who reject the Church saw at the branch which supports them; the people see in them no longer the representatives of God but merely the elected of the people removable at the people’s will.
The States which have persecuted the Church have always sooner or later experienced the evil results of so doing.
Our Lord’s words are very apt here: “Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation” (Luke xi. 17). Religion is to the State what the soul is to the body. “The nation and the kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish” (Is. Ix. 12). “The surest sign of ruin in a State,” writes Machiavelli, “is when religion is neglected.” The fall of the great Roman empire and the horrors of the French revolution may be traced to the same cause. Even Napoleon confessed that no nation could be governed without religion. The absence of religion means the introduction of crime: “There is no knowledge of God in the land. Cursing, and lying, and killing, and theft, and adultery have overflowed” (Osee iv. 1, 2). Our prisons are filled with people who for the most part neglect religion.
3. The Church was, from the earliest times, the patron of true education and culture.
It is to the interest of the Church to promote culture. Ignorance and immorality are usually close companions. The world is a book displaying the wisdom of God; the more we know of this book, the more we shall know of God, and the more will our love for Him be increased. Hence it is the duty of the Church to encourage scientific research (Leo XIII.). It was Christianity which tamed the wild nations of Europe, civilizing them and making them the rulers of ether peoples (Leo XIII.) “Had the Church been established with the view of ministering to the temporal wants of man, it could not have conferred greater benefits than it has done,” is the judgment of St. Augustine on the work of the Church.
It was the Church which first charged itself with the education of the young and founded the first schools.
The schools of the monastery, cathedral and parish in the time of Charlemagne owed their origin to the Church. Most of the universities owe their existence to the Pope. Whole Orders of Religious, such as the Benedictines, Jesuits, Christian Brothers and others de vote themselves to the education of youth. The success of the Jesuits was acknowledged even by their enemies, and in spite of their suppression in 1773 Frederick of Prussia, and Catherine of Russia, neither of them Catholics, retained them to instruct the youth of their kingdoms.
It was the Church which rescued the great works of antiquity from destruction.
The monks of the Middle Ages transcribed the works of the heathen philosophers and historians, thus preserving them to posterity. The great libraries of the monasteries, as well as the museums and libraries of the Popes, preserved many treasures. We might remark, too, that the Benedictines have produced sixteen thousand authors and the Jesuits, in their comparatively short existence, twelve thousand.
It was the Church which, from early times, raised the noblest buildings.
Such a structure, for instance, as St. Peter’s in Rome, which was one hundred and ten years in building, or the Cathedral at Cologne, begun in 1249 and finished in 1880. Not to mention the glorious structures to be seen all over the Continent, in Germany, France, Spain, Italy. England is filled with magnificent buildings like Westminster, Lincoln, York, Durham, etc. A large proportion of the finest edifices in the United States are Catholic churches.
It was the Church which from the earliest times gave the greatest encouragement to the fine arts.
We owe Plain Chant or Gregorian to St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (397 A.D.) and St. Gregory the Great (604 A.D.), and its developments to many other artists. It was the Popes who encouraged men like Palestrina (1594). Twice in its history the Church resisted the Iconoclast (or image-breaking) movement, at Nicea in 787, and at Trent in 1563. Artists of world-wide fame, such as Leonardo da Vinci (1519), Eaphael (1520), Michael Angelo (1564), Correggio (1564), Canova (1822), etc., owed much of their success to the support of the Popes. It was the cloister which produced some of the finest artists and their works.
It was the Church which made whole tracts of land fertile and habitable.
The work of the Benedictines and Cistercians in the way of clearing and draining land and developing agriculture was especially conspicuous in the German forests. The same work is carried on in savage countries now by the Trappists and other religious Orders.
It is to priests and monks that we owe some of the greatest discoveries.
The Deacon Flavio Gioja discovered the magnet and compass in 1300; Veit, a monk of Arezzo, discovered the scale, the rules of music and harmony; the Dominican Spina the use of spectacles; the Franciscan Berthold Schwarz gunpowder (1300); the Jesuit Kircher exhibited the first burning glass (1646); Copernicus, a canon of Frauenberg discovered his famous system (1507); the Jesuit Cavaliere the components of white light (1647); the Spanish Benedictine Pontius invented a method of teaching deaf-mutes (1570); the Jesuit Lana a way of teaching the blind to read (1687); and the Jesuit Secchi (1878) made many discoveries with regard to sun-spots. Only lately the Dominican Calandoni invented a type-setter to replace the compositor. The enemies of the Church are always crying her down as opposed to progress, enlightenment and freedom.
« Previous Section
8. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ALONE GIVES SALVATIONNext Section »
10. THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS
This article, 9. THE RELATIONS BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.