+ A.M.D.G. +


1. God has appointed two powers, the spiritual and the secular, for the direction of human society. To the spiritual power He has committed the guidance of souls, to the secular the maintenance of peace and order.

Throughout the whole of creation we observe the existence of a certain mutual dependence; the moon is a satellite of the earth, the earth and the other planets of our solar system revolve round the sun; the mineral kingdom supplies nourishment to the vegetable kingdom, the vegetable to the animal, while each and all are for the service of man. Among animals we find the same subordination of some to others; the bees are governed by a queen; the birds, the wild beasts of the forest, the fish in the seas have their leaders, and obey a kind of military rule. In our own bodies we see how one member commands, the others obey. In the spiritual world the same law of dependence exists as in the natural order; there are angels of higher and lowlier rank. In like manner it is the will of God that some men should rule and others be subject, In consequence of original sin, without rulers human society would soon resemble an army without commanders, a disorderly rabble. Governors are to the State what beams are to a wall; without beams the building would collapse; so society would without rulers. When, after the Fall, men began to rage against each other like wild beasts, and the son of the first man slew his brother, God set rulers over men, to restrain them. Our rulers ought in some measure to reflect as in a mirror the divine power and providence watching over mankind. Just as there are two lights in the firmament of heaven, the sun to shine by day, and the moon by night, so two powers are instituted to govern mankind. The spiritual, like the sun, is the superior because it guides man to his eternal goal; whereas the secular authority is primarily concerned with the temporal welfare of its subjects. The earthly interests of the people are entrusted to the ruler, their spiritual interests to the priest. Although the two powers have separate aims, they mutually complete each other. They are like the two golden cherubim, shadowing the Ark of the Covenant with their wings.

2. The highest spiritual authority was given by God to the Pope, the highest secular authority to the monarch of the land; in most countries the people have a share in the secular government.

Both Pope and king receive their power from God. Our Lord said to St. Peter: “Feed My lambs, feed My sheep” (John xxi. 17). Thus the Apostle Peter was constituted Prince of the Apostles, and visible Head of the Church Militant by Christ Himself. The chief rank and spiritual supremacy conferred on St. Peter, is vested, by Christ’s appointment, in the person of the Bishop of Rome for the time being. That the head or governor of the State also derives his power from God we learn from the words Our Lord addressed to Pilate: “Thou shouldest not have any power against Me, unless it were given thee from above” (John xix. 11). “By God kings reign and lawgivers decree just things” (Prov. viii. 15). “Hear, ye kings, for power is given you by the Lord” (Wisd. vi. 4). “There is no power but from God” (Rom. xiii. 1). Monarchs usually add the words “By the grace of God” to their title. In all European countries except Russia and Turkey the sovereign consults the will of the Parliament, or representatives of the people.

3. Our duties towards Pope and king are similar to our duties towards God, for they are both His representatives.

The vicegerents of God, both spiritual and temporal, are often called ministers of God (Wisd. vi. 5), or the Lord’s anointed (1 Kings xxiv. 7); they are even spoken of as “gods” (Exod. xxii. 28), just as one who fills the place of the king is called the viceroy. The Pope terms himself the servant of the servants of God. We owe to almighty God: Worship and fidelity (First Commandment); reverence (Second Commandment); and service (Third Commandment). We owe to His vicegerents obedience and loyalty, respect and service.

Our duties towards the Supreme Pontiff are these: We are bound to obey him in spiritual matters, to be loyal to him, to respect his authority, and by prayers and offerings assist him in the arduous duties of his office.

We are under the obligation to obey the Pope in all spiritual matters. All the pastors of the Church and the faithful of every rank and rite are subject to the Pope, and bound to yield him perfect obedience. What the head is to the other members of the human body, that the Pope is to the body of Christ; i.e., the Church (1 Cor. xii. 27). As he is the representative of Christ (2 Cor. v. 20), he declares to us the will of God; he can say: “We are ambassadors for Christ, God, as it were, exhorting by us.” The words Christ ad dressed to the apostles: “He that heareth you, heareth Me” (Luke x. 16), unquestionably apply above all els to St. Peter and his successors. He, therefore, who disobeys the Pope, or turns a deaf ear to his admonitions, cannot please God. Leo XIII has repeatedly urged upon the faithful the frequent recitation of the Rosary; what is our duty in this respect? We ought, furthermore, to be true and faithful to the Holy Father, for he is not only the Head of the visible Church, but the rock whereon it rests. Those who cast off their allegiance to the See of Rome, as the Greeks did (1053), fall away from God. To them (whom we call schismatics) the words God spoke to Samuel are applicable: “They have not rejected thee, but Me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Kings viii. 7). We must also reverence the Pope We know that it is Christ’s will that we should revere His ministers as Himself; now as the Holy Father is the chief of Christ’s ministers, the greatest respect is due to him. On this account the title; “His Holiness” is given to him. It is moreover our duty to assist the Pope by our prayers and oblations; the early Christians prayed for St. Peter when he was in prison (Acts xii. 5), and in the present day his successors are not free from persecution. Let us therefore follow the example of the early Christians. The Pope has, besides, to provide for the many needs of the Church, for the propagation of the Gospel in heathen lands, for the maintenance of ecclesiastical institutions, etc. Thus he requires our pecuniary assistance, and requires it all the more since his temporary possessions have been wrested from him. The alms collected for the Holy Father are called Peter’s pence. Catholics are too apt to underrate or overlook the importance of contributing to this object. The enemies of the Church are wont to apply the epithet ultra montane to Catholics who are firm adherents of the Holy See, to imply that they are want ing in patriotism, because they recognize as their spiritual sovereign one who is “beyond the mountains” (ultra montes); but as a matter of fact good Catholics are good patriots. Origen says: “The more a Christian fears God, the more loyal he is to the emperor.” Our duties towards our pastors are the same as towards the Holy Father; we are bound to contribute towards their support. “The Lord ordained that they who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel” (1 Cor. ix. 14); “The laborer is worthy of his reward” (1 Tim. v. 18).

Our duty towards the ruler of our country requires us to obey all just laws which are issued in his name, to be loyal to him, to hold him in respect, and to support him by our prayers, by the payment of taxes, and by military service if required of us.

We are not only bound to obey the laws of the State because of the penalty incurred by disobedience, but also for conscience sake, because the commands of the secular authority are the commands of God (Rom. xiii. 2, 5). Remember how willingly Joseph and Mary conformed to the decree of Augustus, and journeyed to Bethlehem to be enrolled (Luke ii.). But if the temporal power commands something which God forbids, we must recall to mind the apostles words: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts v. 29). The three Hebrew youths in the fiery furnace and the seven Machabees obeyed this precept, likewise St. Maurice and the Theban legion. We are however seldom called upon to do this in the present day. It is our bounden duty to be loyal to our ruler, especially in time of war. Soldiers are required to take the military oath. It is never allowable to rebel against the sovereign authority in the land, for whoso resists the higher powers, resists the ordinance of God (Rom. xiii. 1). We are to be “subject not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward” (1 Pet. ii. 18). Bad rulers are generally sent by God as a chastisement for the sins of the nation. If the monarch should be tyrannical, we must implore the help of God, and His help will be granted when the people forsake their evil doings. We are also to honor the ruler of our country. “Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Pet. ii. 17). A king is spoken of as “His Majesty,” and a royal reception is prepared for him wherever he goes. We ought, moreover, to pray for our rulers. It is acceptable to God that prayers and supplications be made for all that are in a high station (1 Tim. ii.). Besides prayer for our rulers brings a blessing on ourselves, for by it we obtain the passing of decrees beneficial to their people. At High Mass the priest prays for the sovereign ruler. Christ sanctioned the payment of taxes, when He said: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matt. xxii. 21). He paid for Himself and St. Peter the tax levied on every head for the service of the Temple; and in order to do so, He bade St. Peter go to the sea and cast a hook, and in the mouth of the first fish he caught he would find the piece of silver required for the tax (Matt. xvii. 26). It is only just that those who enjoy the peace and welfare which it is the object of the Government to secure, should contribute towards defraying the expenses thus incurred. Besides, the money obtained by taxation is laid out for the good of the nation on public works, the erection of schools and hospitals, the maintenance of the army, of government officials, etc. Thus the members of the body supply food to the digestive organs, whence nourishment is afforded to the whole. It is not right to defraud the State in the matter of taxation. Military service, as required in some lands, is for the maintenance of domestic peace and for the protection of the country from foreign foes. Those who in time of war offer their lives for their fellow-countrymen, receive a great reward from God. Our duty towards the representatives of the sovereign are similar to those towards himself. “Be subject to the king as excelling, or to governors as sent by him; for so is the will of God” (1 Pet. ii. 14).

In addition to all this, the citizens ought to assist their ruler in the government of the country, by choosing as their representatives men of experience and Christian principles.

Not only the representatives of the people, but the electors of those representatives, have a weighty responsibility in God’s sight. The former are responsible for the laws they make, the latter for the men they choose to make the laws. In the exercise of his civil rights, it is incumbent on the citizen to obey the will of his Lord and God, for he will one day have to answer for the manner in which he exercised that right. In all human affairs the truths of Christianity must be our guiding light. Let no one therefore assert that religion has nothing to do with politics. Statesmen, public functionaries, senators, members of Congress, Cabinet officers, will all have to give an account of every word they have spoken, every vote they have given. And electors will be responsible for the men they have returned to Congress or the Senate; consequently they should elect men of experience, acquainted with the law, and above all, possessed of Christian principle; for those who are destitute of all religious beliefs cannot be expected to act conscientiously, or adhere to their promises. And since matters closely connected with the essentials of religion are often the subject of debate, it is the duty of Catholics to vote for such candidates as will act justly in dealing with ecclesiastical questions, and have the interests of the Church at heart.

If a Catholic, by giving his vote to a candidate who is hostile to the Church, or by abstaining from voting, makes himself in part responsible for the success of that candidate, he has much to answer for.

Catholic electors ought not to return as their representative one who is only a nominal, not a practical Catholic, who regards with indifference or contempt the teaching and ministers of the Church. Before going to the ballot they should ascertain the views of the candidate upon education, marriage, the observance of Sunday, etc.; better not to vote at all than vote for one who is hostile to religion. It is, however, a duty to vote if thereby one can avert evil and promote what is good. Let no man say: My vote is of no consequence; it might turn the scale, and if not, at any rate it lessens the defeat of the non-successful candidate. Those who are not entitled to vote ought to pray that the result of the election may be favorable to the cause of religion and of the country in general.

4. He who grossly offends against either the ecclesiastical or secular authorities has to expect the severe chastisement of God on earth, and punishment in the world to come.

Core and his companions, who rose up against the Jewish priest hood, were swallowed up by the earth, as an example to the people (Numb. xvi.). Remember the deplorable fate of Absalom, who rebelled against the king his father (2 Kings xviii.). Also that of Semei, who not only insulted King David, but disobeyed the man date forbidding him to cross the brook Cedron (3 Kings ii. 46). High treason is now punished with a long term of imprisonment. “They that resist the power resist the ordinance of God and purchase to themselves damnation” (Rom. xiii. 2).


This article, 2. OUR DUTY TOWARDS THOSE IN AUTHORITY is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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