Month of Christ the King: The Dogma of Christ the King and Catholic Politics (XXXI)

Detail of the polyptych of The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, by Jan van Eyck.

*** After having published throughout the month the original article by Professor Juan Fernando Segovia divided into 30 daily points, we now reproduce it in full. ****

1. We are all familiar with the 1925 Encyclical of Pius XI, Quas primas, on the social kingship of Christ.

I would say that it is a concretion of his first encyclical, Ubi arcano, from 1922, on the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of God; and also a continuation of the program of Saint Pius X and Benedict XV of establishing everything in Christ. And in truth, Quas Primas begins by recalling what was said in Ubi Arcano: the way to restore the reign of Jesus Christ is to recognize His kingship and this is achieved especially by the liturgical worship of Christ the King

2.The greatest importance of Quas Primas in the teaching of Pius XI is very simple: Quadragessimo Anno of 1931 renews the teaching of a just social order in a world shaken by injustice, and Divini Redemptoris of 1937 condemns the communist system as the most abominable and unjust regime. Unlike these, Quas Primas establishes the first principle and the primordial cause of the Catholic political and social order. For this reason, I believe, it is the most important document of Catholic teaching of the 20th century.

3.In my opinion the main point the main point of Quas primas, is not always remembered: the reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ is a dogma of faith.

In a metaphorical sense (ut translata verbi) it is said that Christ is King of the intelligence, of the will and of the hearts of men, since He is Truth itself and charity to an eminent degree. Pius XI invites us to pass from this to another more real meaning, to the proper meaning (propria quidem verbi signficatione) because the Kingship of Christ is not metaphorical, it is not a literary license, it is not a poetic designation transferred, taken from another reality (like the wife who says to her husband: «you are my king»), but a dogmatic truth.

Pius XI proves that it is a dogma of faith by resorting to Sacred Scripture: both the Old Testament and the New, recognize the Messiah as: the Christ, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Prince and possessor of all power and of all kingdoms. It is not a figure of speech, it is not a literary concept without a real counterpart, it is not an affirmation of past times or dark ages. Christ the King is a truth of the faith, which has been said at all times because it has been believed since it was revealed.

4.Therefore, we proclaim that we proclaim that, after ascending to heaven, Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father (we confess it in the Creed: sedet ad dexteram Patris, and we read it in Mk. 16, 19), which means that He reigns and judges, because being seated at the right hand of the Father is the same as «sharing together with the Father the glory of divinity, beatitude, and judicial power; and this in perpetuity and as a king», as Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches (S. th., III, q. 58, a. 1 resp; a. 2 resp)

5.What does it mean to «be King»?

Royalty, which is a form of dominion, of lordship, necessarily involves the power of the king. When one studies the meaning of Dominis dominorum, which Pseudo Dionysius attributes to God as His own name, Saint Thomas Aquinas points out three qualities of this dominion: first, superiority in degree or supreme hierarchy; second, the abundance and excellence of the goods that the Dominus transmits; and finally, the potestas, the power by which the Dominus preserves and restrains, perfects, His subjects (Expositio Super Dyonisium De Divinis Nominibus, c. 12, single reading).

We would say, in other words: the majesty, the excellence of the common good and the perfection of life that it offers.

6.Up to this point, Pius XI has exposed a doctrine that, because it is traditional, is not only imperishable, it is also a teaching that every Catholic should accept without question: Christ reigns spiritually over every man, governs man in His heart and in the fullness of His life; and He does it through His Church, of which He is head and high priest.

7.But the Pontiff immediately adds another dimension to the Kingdom of Christ. He says it in these words:

«It would be a serious mistake to deny the humanity of Christ the royal power over each and every one of the social and political things of man, since Christ as a man has received from the Father an absolute right over all creation, in such a way that all of it is subject to His will.»

This affirmation is crucial: the royal power of Our Lord extends to all temporal business of men, to all things of civil life. It is the classic distinction between the spiritual and the temporal, which is immediately transferred to the distinction between the ecclesial/divine/religious and the civil/temporal/secular.

Distinction is not separation. The Pope –unlike the Protestants– distinguishes the kingdoms without separating them, submits both to the same and only King, in such a way that, although differentiated, the two fall under the dominion of the same Lord and King, Jesus Christ.

8.The conclusion is evident: the kingdom of the spiritual extends to the kingdom of the temporal, because whoever has all power does not steal anything or rob anyone, as the Hymn Credulis Herodes Deum that the Pontiff transcribed says, «He who gives the heavenly kingdom does not take away the temporal kingdom.» But immediately afterwards comes another affirmation of Pius XI that can cause astonishment:

«However, while He lived on earth, Christ totally refrained from the exercise of this power, and just as He then despised the possession and administration of humans, so He permits and continues to permit the use of these to the possessors.»

9.I wonder. How is it that Christ allowed men to continue ruling civil matters? How is it that the almighty Christ the King leaves the determination of political affairs in other hands? In spiritual matters, which make up the ultimate end of man, Christ governs by himself as head of His Church, to no one has He entrusted (except Peter, the apostles and His heirs) the salvation of souls, the administration of sanctifying grace.

It is the “end” to which all other aspects of human life are ordered as the “means.” It is, if the expression is allowed, “the final end”, that is why it is said last, because all the others lead to it.

10.We know that God governs each thing according to the nature that He Himself has given it when creating it, and He has made us men rational and consequently free; therefore we are masters of our acts, and thus we can «be the cause».

This particularity of the human being allows us to know God and believe in His Church; and that we freely dispose of human things that are means to the end, that is to say that in the government of earthly matters, we men must govern ourselves by abiding by the Kingship of Christ and ordering such matters to the King who is our end and chief, to whom we will be held accountable. The order of temporal things is governed by a created cause (man), dependent on the order of the First Cause, and that  extends to all things that are achieved by this cause (Summa Contra Gentiles, III, 98).

11.Governing through men –second causes–, Christ governs temporal things, and governs them all, whether they are private or individual, whether public, social or political; the same as He governs individuals, families and social groups, and also nations, peoples, kingdoms or republics.

How can a ruler –second cause– seek the common good without submitting to the First Cause, to Christ the King, the Common Good par excellence? Conclusion: Pius XI says that temporal authority will be stable and human rights firm and respected when the secular ruler recognizes and affirms his dependence on Christ the King; when human law merges with divine natural law.

12.There are two very Catholic analogies that say: the temporal king (every civil ruler) is a minister of Christ the King (De Regimine Principum, I, 8: rex autem, populum gubernando, minister Dei est). It could also be argued that since the temporal authority is a kind of father, all fatherhood, in heaven and on earth, comes from God (Eph. 3, 15).

And there are also two Catholic ways of ignoring this: hierocracy and communitarianism.

13.In the political doctrine of the Church there is no place for hierocracy, for priestly government. Analogies or metaphors (the sun and the moon, the soul and the body) are not valid here except as such, metaphors nothing more. Nor are certain interpretations of the doctrine of the two swords valid (such as that the Pope of Christ has both) or the claim that the political community is a body within the Church.

From this it follows that those forms of communitarianism in which the flock is separated so that the priests may rule are unnatural. It is not surprising that communitarianism favors hierocracy, which is why hierocrats seek forms of communitarianism: that is the only way they can govern.

And we know from Saint Paul (I Cor. 5, 10) that if we were forbidden to deal with every sinner we could not live in the world, we would have to leave it (debueratis de hoc mundo exisse). But that is not what the King ordered.

14.I would like to insist on this point. Hierocracy and communitarianism are clerical forms that condition the kingship of Jesus Christ. In hierocracy, because Christ is not truly King except when the priests govern the political community. In communitarianism, because the idea of a Catholic castle of exclusively Catholic citizens, it is important to exclude time from political life and exclude Jesus Christ as temporal King.

Communitarians see time («this current time») as an enemy that causes us harm and promises us greater harm; stopping it or abandoning it is the temptation: to leave time and isolate yourself in a city in which human time no longer has a strong influence. And the hierocrats only seem to accept sacred time, not secular time, a time in which only God reigns without His civil ministers. But that divine time is nothing but the time of priests.

15.To these doctrines it is necessary to impute, first, a serious metaphysical error: the political community corresponds to the nature of man, it is not an accident of the Church but of the human being.

That naturalness of the political community and its authorities, seen from the dogma of Christ the King, acquires a new resonance. The royalty of politics –through the order of created things– is linked to the «royalty» of Christ, Creator of things and Orderer of them, since He participates in it. It is determined, for the same reason, by His royalty (Danilo Castellano, «Christian politics: theory and practice», Verbo, Madrid, no. 417-418, 2003, pp. 639-647).

16.All the causes of the political community concur to this conclusion.

Royaly of politics by order of efficient and formal causes, because all power comes from God, as the Apostle teaches (Rom. 13); and the power of temporal government is due to the participation of the divine potestas that governs the created universe.

Royalty of politics by order of the exemplary cause, since the government of the political community emulates, and must emulate, and imitate, the government that God has of the universe (De Reg. Pr., I, 13).

Royalty also by order to the end: the human good according to its nature, which insofar as it is good is common, and because it belongs to man it belongs to all men. Temporal common good ordered to the supernatural common good, because it is good in function of the ultimate good of man, happiness, which does not depend on the political community but on the Church (De Reg. Pr., I, 14).

17.Communitarians and hierocrats forget that the human good cannot be achieved without the political good, without the political community; that this good cannot be achieved by lesser societies (as communitarianism wants), nor by denying the specificity of politics (as hierocracy wants).

Let us remember the Thomist doctrine: social life is necessary for every man (lay or religious) to reach perfection, because only the perfect man can live in solitude (S. th., II, II, q. 188, a. 8 resp.).

18.The feast of Christ the King, Pius XI hoped, would be the medicine for the ills of our century. Therefore, he placed it at the end of the liturgical year, crowning it, he consecrates the last Sunday of October to the celebration of this Feast (No. 16).

The Feast of Christ the King would come to repair the public apostasy that results from secularism. Pius XI has in mind that Christ is «King of all humanity» (No. 15), so he orders the cult to be equally universal, not metaphorically but truly and actually: the King of the Universe must be recognized by the entire universe. And then he writes:

«Because the greater the unworthy silence with which the sweet name of our Redeemer is silenced in international conferences and in Parliaments, the higher must be the proclamation of that name by the faithful and the energy in the affirmation and defense of the rights of His royal dignity and power» (no. 13).

19.Pius XI had hoped that the Feast of Christ the King would become the universal proclamation of the royal dignity and the supreme majesty of the Word, breaking the silence of the indifferent and breaking the insults of the apostates, bending the arm of the proud temporal sovereigns and encouraging timid Catholics. But, what happens if, despite the contempt of the public powers, the dismay of the Catholics follows? What happens if their Church abandons the King or forgets Him?

The Church authorities have not only turned the feast of Christ the King into just another ceremony, moving the date of its celebration and changing the texts of the Mass. In addition, they have silenced that Christ is King. In the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, written under John Paul II in 2004, the Kingship of Jesus Christ is not mentioned even once, nor is the encyclical Quas Primas cited.

20.Cause forgotten, cause betrayed. Today our King seems to have no soldiers. Is it that we no longer boast «of being a soldier under the banner of Christ the King?» Do we not hope «that we may reign with Him forever in heaven?» («Post-Communion Prayer» of the Mass of Christ the King instituted by Pius XI, and removed in the Missal of Paul VI).

One case is that of the faint-hearted who flee from the battle. An army that does not fight is a herd of traitors. We are won over by the prudence of the flesh. What penalty does the deserter receive according to human laws? What punishment will he receive according to God’s laws? They are cowardly Catholics.

21.In addition to the cowards, there are those who believe that Christ is King only by half or in portions. They are the Catholics who fight when the issue suits them: some do it against abortion, others for Catholic teaching; those for the family, these for their chapel, those over there for their corporation, etc. There is no longer a universal kingdom. It is Catholic oportunism.

22.There are those who believe that royalty is out of step with the times, that it could have been a problem of Pilate, or a claim of David, but that it no longer is. Therefore, it is imprudent to gather wills under the banner of Christ the King, because it is unattractive to contemporary man and it is necessary to accommodate him, to conform to what men want today, to acquiesce to democracy, to freedom of religion.

Which is like saying that dogmas evolve and their content varies throughout history, which is repugnant to the «eternity» and «universality» of Christ’s kingship. These are liberal and progressive Catholics.

Que es como decir que los dogmas evolucionan y su contenido varía en la historia, lo que repugna a la «eternidad» y la «universalidad» de la realeza de Cristo. Son los católicos liberales y progresistas.

23.Others have understood that the kingship of Christ is manifested in the reign of man, because, by dint of imposing the personalist thesis according to which the human person is the ultimate end of everything that exists, they end up concluding, as Le Guillou does, that the The Reign of Our Lord has become a manifestation of the work of man (Marie-Joseph Le Guillou, Le visage du Ressuscité, Saint Maur, Parole et Silence, 2012). This is the belief of humanist Catholics

24.There are finally Catholics who take refuge in an otherworldly Christ the King, because His Kingdom is not of this world, it is a kingdom beyond time, a cosmological Kingdom, if you will. It is also messianic, parousiac, expected, and not actual. It is the promised Kingdom of the end of times when the Messiah in His second coming will have judged men and nations (Rev. 11, 15).

25.Yes, it will be so; but not only then, as if the kingship of the Word were conditional or suspended; it is also the current Kingdom, unknown by atheists and fought against by apostates, but always established in His Church. It is the eternal Kingdom that is prayed in Psalm 144, 13: Your kingdom is a kingdom of all centuries, and your lordship from generation to generation.

That messianic kingdom, therefore, is developing, it already is, although we do not see the Lord reign over all things yet (Heb. 2, 8); but when the Lord returns in glory and majesty, His completion will take place, until His culmination, and, as Isaiah 33, 17 says: the King will be seen in His splendor.

26.Let us return to Saint Paul. We should not run away from the world, we are in it. What we do have to do is honor Him, to serve Him. It is a great paradox of Catholic life (Etienne Gilson, “L’intelligence au service de Christ-Roi“, in Christianisme et philosophie, Paris: Vrin, 1949, pp. 142 et seq.).

We know that the world is doomed, because it is the denial of grace. The world separates nature and God. It is naturalism, which damages our intelligence and dents our will.

27.Our obligation par excellence is to know and to love God, and thus we will achieve salvation. The Catechism says so. But we must do so using the intellectual nature that God has given us, and that is strengthened and perfected by grace.

Because the Church does not despise nature, nor does it despair of it like the Protestants do. Grace, which repairs us and raises us from our condition to divine life itself, it relies on nature, it is inherent to nature.

28.This is how intelligence is put at the service of Christ the King, whatever the place that the Catholic occupies and the task she has.

In other words: let us open our intelligence to the Bride of Christ, the Church, whom the Bridegroom has embellished with the best jewels and enriched with His own inexhaustible treasure of Truth.

Let us not make the mistake, so widespread today, of disdaining the teaching of the Church because we understand that the Pope is bad or because we know that Vatican II is a melting pot of errors.

We must return to tradition.

29.Very brief conclusion: in time, we men, secondary causes, must make Christ reign.

Our motto should be: «Do your duty. Make Him King. Make Him reign.»

30.Final warning: let us not make the mistake, we traditionalists, of putting Hispanicism before Christ the King. To think that Hispanidad exhausts and consumes the kingdom of Christ.

Let us not take the means for the end. Hispanidad is an excellent environment, in addition to being our environment, the one in which we live. But the cause of Hispanidad only has the value of «service», service to the cause of Christ the King.

Christ the King has no substitutes.

Juan Fernando Segovia, Consejo de Estudios Hispánicos Felipe II

Translation by Alférez Matthew ScullinCírculo Carlista Camino Real de Tejas