The doctrine behind the Jihad
The Viganò controversy that we dissected in Part I requires a further explanation, a deeper level of explanation. The archbishop himself has pointed to it, by appealing in self-defense to the so-called “Social Kingship doctrine” in which both Schneider’s provocation and his own intervention are grounded. This appeal took the form of a retreat address to the LifeSite staff on the Feast of the Transfiguration. It was published on their site under its own title, Te Adoret Orbis Subditus, which is drawn from the Vexilla Christus inclita composed by Fr. Vittorio Genovesi and used at Lauds in the extraordinary form on the Solemnity of Christ the King. The stanza in question is rendered here in English, with the requisite poetic liberty, by Fr. Joseph Husslein:
Optata nobis splendeat
Lux ista, Rex dulcissime:
Te, pace adepta candida,
Adoret orbis subditus.
Then may Thy reign in splendor come,
O King, most true and sweet!
Till all the earth by love subdued,
Shall worship at Thy feet.
The stanza with which Viganò begins his address, however, is another:
O ter beata civitas
cui rite Christus imperat,
quae jussa pergit exsequi
edicta mundo caelitus!
Thrice happy city, basking fair
beneath His royal sway,
where at the mandates from His throne
all hearts with joy obey!
This “basking fair” is just what he sees lacking in the Church itself, as it is lacking in society at large. What Viganò is looking for, then, is a reaffirmation of the authority of King Jesus, manifested in a restored papal monarchy, until ultimately appears that longed-for “triumph of the Divine King in society and in nations.” It is the denial, and hence the delay, of this triumph that he fixes on as lying at the heart of the battle he believes himself to be fighting. I will now quote him at length, that his view of things may be made clear in his own words (or those of his collaborator, if Fr. Weinandy’s suspicions are not unfounded).
“The fury of the Enemy,” he writes, “who hates the human race, is unleashed primarily against the doctrine of the Kingship of Christ.” The nineteenth-century “denial of the royal rights of the Redeemer” has been extended “not only to civil society but also to the Body of the Church,” where the heavenly King has been dethroned in a sneak attack by his duplicitous servants.
This attack was consummated with the renunciation by the Papacy of the very concept of this vicarious Kingship of the Roman Pontiff, thereby bringing into the very heart of the Church the demands for democracy and parliamentarianism which had already been used to undermine nations and the authority of rulers. The Second Vatican Council greatly weakened the papal monarchy as a consequence of the implicit denial of the Divine Kingship of the Eternal High Priest, and by doing so inflicted a masterful blow against the institution which until then had stood as a wall of defense against the secularization of Christian society. The sovereignty of the Vicar was diminished, and this was progressively followed by the denial of the sovereign rights of Christ over His Mystical Body. And when Paul VI deposed the triple royal diadem with an ostentatious gesture, as if he was renouncing the sacred vicarious Monarchy, he also removed the Crown from Our Lord, confining His Kingship to a merely eschatological sphere.
“The proof of this,” adds Viganò, as if competing with Dan Brown or Daniel Silva, “is the significant changes made to the Liturgy of the Feast of Christ the King and its transfer to the end of the liturgical year… With the liturgical reform approved by Paul VI in 1969, the Feast of Christ the King was moved to the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, erasing the social dimension of the Kingship of Christ and relegating him to the merely spiritual and eschatological dimension.” Then comes the question, and its unequivocal but fatal answer:
Did all these Council Fathers, who voted for Dignitatis Humanae and proclaimed religious freedom with Paul VI, realize that they in fact ousted Our Lord Jesus Christ, stripping him of the Crown of his social Kingship? Did they understand that they had very concretely dethroned Our Lord Jesus Christ from the throne of his divine Kingship over us and over the whole world? Did they understand that, making themselves the spokesmen of apostate nations, they made these execrable blasphemies ascend towards His Throne: “We do not want this man to be our king” (Lk 19:14); “We have no king but Caesar” (Jn 19:15)? But He, faced with that confused rumor of senseless men, withdrew his Spirit from them.
A prosecutorial recapitulation follows: “Having dethroned Christ not only from society but also from the Church was the greatest crime with which the Hierarchy could have been stained, failing in its role as the custodian of the Savior’s teaching. As an inevitable consequence of this betrayal, the Authority conferred by Our Lord on the Prince of the Apostles has substantially disappeared.”
There is no accounting for Viganò’s schismatic view of Vatican II without this. But what exactly are we to make of it?
Social Kingship as worldly glory
Now, some will know that I am among those who have lamented the marginalization of the doctrine of the kingship of Christ and that, through attention to his ascension and parousia, I have sought to help bring that doctrine back into focus. In this very connection, I have also attacked the secularist myth of neutrality and reaffirmed the relevance of Christian teaching to the just conduct of our common life. So I am in principle sympathetic to the archbishop’s concerns. But one must not conflate “the eschatological dimension” (which requires reckoning both with the absence of Jesus and with the sacramental nature of his presence) with “mere spirituality,” as if attending to the former meant confining the rule of Christ to the inner man. And one must not confuse the Church’s doctrine of the lordship of Christ with the LeFebvrist doctrine of Social Kingship to which Viganò gives allegiance.
I have explained in several places (most concisely in the fifth chapter of Desiring a Better Country) that the complaint made by those of his allegiance about an under-realized or futurist eschatology must be met with a critique of their own over-realized eschatology. Do their opponents fail to reckon with the full authority that, even now, has been delivered over to our ascended Lord? Perhaps so. But they themselves misrepresent that authority when they insist that it be realized here and now in the political sphere. They misconstrue the eucharistic situation of the Church and the politics proper to the Eucharist, which take place in the world without being of the world. They fail to grasp the essentials of Christian eschatology, supposing that God’s purpose for the age includes establishing on earth, under papal direction, the kingdom our Lord prayed would come. They conflate John’s vision of the new creation in the final chapters of the Apocalypse with the new heaven on earth they mean to erect. So let us attend more closely to this feature of the controversy, and to the Social Kingship movement.
We may begin by agreeing that the criticism directed at their modernist or progressivist opponent is basically sound. For the latter still fails to understand, as Pius X put it in Notre Charge Apostolique, that “there is no true civilization without a moral civilization, and no true moral civilization without the true religion.” The modernist is indeed engaged in “a vast and quite hopeless neo-Pelagian project,” as the Lake Garda Statement has it, to achieve (under auspices other than those of the Church) the kind of universal brotherhood of man that is not directed “upward toward Heaven for the salvation of souls, but forward in history toward a godless, hopeless, and painfully trite City of Man falsely lauded as a ‘civilization of love’ or a ‘renewal of humanity.’” Against all that, the Social Kingship enthusiasts of the Roman Forum (from which the statement emerged) affirm what Pius affirms in his dispute with the Sillon:
The City cannot be built otherwise than as God has built it; society cannot be set up unless the Church lays the foundations and supervises the work; no, civilization is not something yet to be found, nor is the New City to be built on hazy notions; it has been in existence and still is: it is Christian civilization, it is the Catholic City. It has only to be set up and restored continually against the unremitting attacks of insane dreamers, rebels and miscreants. OMNIA INSTAURARE IN CHRISTO.
They affirm this because they know what Pius knows, namely, that if “the highest possible peak of well being for society and its members is to be attained through fraternity or, as it is also called, universal solidarity, all minds must be united in the knowledge of Truth, all wills united in morality, and all hearts in the love of God and His Son Jesus Christ.” They know that “this union is attainable only by Catholic charity,” which “alone can lead the people in the march of progress towards the ideal civilization.” They know (to shift from his words to theirs) that “the Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is the renewal of humanity, a renewal made possible only by the translation of fallen men into the state of sanctifying grace and the consequent elevation of human society to heights it could never attain by any purely human effort.” On this foundation, they demand that Church leaders today reverse course – that they stop trying to contribute their meagre and largely unwelcome bit to the world, which is marching only towards the tyranny of the godless, and instead announce to the world its obligation “to contribute to the work of the Church,” which brings genuine justice and indeed salvation.
I admire and applaud their courage, as well as agreeing with much of what they say. Yet I am skeptical of what they make of Pius, who indulges a certain romanticism when he claims (against the laicizing and secularizing Sillon) that “the Church and the State, at all times and in happy concert, have raised up fruitful organizations” to the end of improving the human condition, and “that the Church, which has never betrayed the happiness of the people by consenting to dubious alliances, does not have to free herself from the past; that all that is needed is to take up again, with the help of the true workers for a social restoration, the organisms which the Revolution shattered, and to adapt them, in the same Christian spirit that inspired them, to the new environment arising from the material development of today’s society.” This Church that has never – or rather only in the most recent times, Vatican II times – “betrayed the happiness of the people by consenting to dubious alliances” is not a Church I have heard of from any other reliable source. This Church that has no need to disavow any of its past actions or correct its own political course is not a Church I know.
Pius and his predecessors, let it be said with all frankness, left openings here that had better been closed, openings our “integralist” and Social Kingship friends have enthusiastically entered while fleeing the council. They are quite right to seek the unity of the human and the divine, the temporal and the eternal; for that unity is no mere ideal, but a reality already established in and through the incarnation. They need to be reminded, however, that the incarnate one has gone where we cannot yet go; that he has departed from us to his Father; that we cannot behold him as he is until he comes again in glory; that his kingdom does not appear in this world, in politically concrete fashion, before he comes in glory.
In a limited sense, yes, the kingdom of God and his Christ appears in the Church, which knows an apostolic – that is, a provisional – unity between messianic auctoritas and potestas. But the integralists, as Michael Hanby persuasively argues, seem like their secularist counterparts to have lost sight even of the distinction between authority and power, with the consequence that they covet a quite mundane, unregenerate political power in and for the Church. They do not attain to the authentic integralism, the eucharistic integralism, “that reveals a truly Catholic order, and thus reveals man to himself, not by imposing its truth forcibly upon the world, but by suffering even unto death its apparent absence.”
I fear it is worldly glory they seek for Christ, a glory belonging as much to the present saeculum or world-order as to that of the age to come. They pine for a glory that is manifested, not only in the rites of the Church – hence their disgust for the less than luminous Novus Ordo – but also in the rites of the nations. They pine for the reappearance of Christendom, as the Muslim pines for Al-Andalus, and for roughly the same reasons. Without it Christianity, as they understand it, lacks evidence and must in the end lack conviction.
While I am not, where Dignitatis is concerned, of the John Courtney Murray persuasion – Desiring a Better Country makes that clear – I worry that they, more than he, have badly misunderstood the nature of the saeculum and the mission of the Church in the saeculum. And that this, as much as the advance of their modernist or progressivist opponents, the successors of the Sillon if you please, has made it difficult for them to receive what the Holy Spirit has to say through the Second Vatican Council.
Difficult to receive? The longer they have ruminated on it, the greater their resentment has grown. And it is grown now to the point where many of them are ready to break with the council altogether, and so with the Church.
The cues and miscues of Pius X
If you ask me what I mean by “what they make of Pius,” I will answer by saying that they misread Pius as he reads Paul, or (if they insist) that they misread Paul with Pius. The latter’s motto, Omnia instaurare in Christo, is drawn from Ephesians 1:10. In English we say: “a plan for the fulness of time, to sum up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Paul’s own word for “sum up” is ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι, of which Irenaeus made so much with his doctrine of recapitulation. The Vulgate’s instaurare is capable of capturing the twin ideas of restoration or renewal, and unifying or perfecting, that Paul has in mind. But Sarto, who deliberately took up the mantle of Pius IX when he called himself Pius X, seems to have had in view “restoration” above all.
The Social Kingship people, who take their cue from both Piuses, like to read instaurare both in that backward-looking sense and in the forward-looking sense of which that Latin word, building on its literal meaning, is especially able: to erect, ordain, establish. That indeed suits their philosophy of history quite nicely, since it also, like that of their opponents’, is gradualist or progressivist. It is not utopian, or altogether triumphalist, but there is more of that in it than they care to admit. They look for the emergence of a Catholic City, for the society that “cannot be set up unless the Church lays the foundations and supervises the work,” and they are not happy that Dignitatis, at least for the time being, looks for something less.
Pius X, I dare say, would have done better to answer the Sillon with a proper lesson in Augustine, if not in Paul, rather than providing such openings for theocratic convoys to rumble through. Yes, it belongs to the Church’s witness to Christ to tell the city of man that it can, if it is willing, join the city of God in benefiting from Christ and pointing to Christ and waiting for Christ. But it does not belong to the Church to tell the city of man that it really must do so; only that it should do so. In the end, we know from our Lord’s own teaching, which Paul and Augustine both elaborate, that it will not do so.
Pius, however, can sound very like those worthies, and indeed very like Dignitatis. It is the libertas ecclesiae with which he is most concerned. ”Certainly,” he says in the same document, “it is not the Church that has gone into the political arena: they have dragged her there to mutilate and to despoil her.” That being the case, it is “the duty of every Catholic … to use the political weapons which he holds” in order to defend her. But this means, first of all, “a duty to confine politics to its own domain and to leave the Church alone except in order to give her that which is her due.” Moreover, our Lord “did not announce for future society the reign of an ideal happiness from which suffering would be banished; but, by His lessons and by His example, He traced the path of the happiness which is possible on earth and of the perfect happiness in heaven: the royal way of the Cross.”
Just so! And quite true that “these are teachings that it would be wrong to apply only to one’s personal life in order to win eternal salvation; these are eminently social teachings, and they show in Our Lord Jesus Christ something quite different from an inconsistent and impotent humanitarianism.” But the Social Kingship advocates wish to go further. In doing so they resemble those with whom Pius is remonstrating: those who sow division among Catholics and “in an attempt to justify their social dreams … put forward the Gospel, but interpreted in their own way,” calling to witness “a diminished and distorted Christ.” For their Christ is diminished, or so Viganò thinks, when the sovereignty of his Vicar is diminished, or even when a feast (a new feast at that) is moved from one spot in the calendar to another.
On such grounds they would have us believe that the challenge now faced by the Church is essentially this: to deal decisively with those miscreants and dreamers who have steered Christian civilization off course; which entails dealing first with those who have steered the Church off course by denying Christ’s social kingship. Everything thus hinges on the struggle for the papacy, and on repudiation of what Viganò calls “the demythologization of the Papacy, pursued by Bergoglio as a theme of his pontificate.” According to Lake Garda:
The ecclesial crisis and the intimately related civilizational crisis will end only when the Church’s offer of social metanoia is renewed once again. But only the Vicar of Christ can effectively extend that offer to the world. Only he can end what amounts to an unprecedented de facto suspension of the Church’s true mission in the name of a Council whose restless “spirit,” moving far beyond even the problematical conciliar texts, has produced what Benedict XVI, speaking just days before his mysterious abdication of the papacy, described as “so many disasters, so many problems, so much suffering” in the Church.
For Viganò himself, it hinges on undoing the work of that council through a pontiff who will both declare Christ’s social kingship and behave as if he believed it.
What shall we say in reply? They have understood well enough what is happening to our civilization, and what Bergoglio is doing with his pontificate. But they have mistaken the real challenge. For erecting a Christian civilization is not the Church’s proper goal and papal monarchy (whether political or, as in Dante, spiritual) is not the means to its goal. Some demythologization of all that would be quite helpful. The integralists should go back to reading Paul, and Augustine for that matter, if they want to sort out what has gone wrong and effect an instauratio in their own thinking, which has brought them to the brink of schism!
The doctrine that never was
No one, I trust, will suppose that I am denying the intimate relation between the ecclesial crisis and the civilizational crisis, or the possibility of approximating in the present age a Catholic city shaped by civilizational principles brought to light by the gospel; still less the fact that both individuals and societies owe fealty to Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, both in this life and (should they in consequence have part in it) the life of the world to come. I wholeheartedly affirm what the Catechism says at §2105, to which the Lake Garda Statement appeals:
The duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both individually and socially. This is “the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ.” By constantly evangelizing men, the Church works toward enabling them “to infuse the Christian spirit into the mentality and mores, laws and structures of the communities in which [they] live.” The social duty of Christians is to respect and awaken in each man the love of the true and the good. It requires them to make known the worship of the one true religion which subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church. Christians are called to be the light of the world. Thus, the Church shows forth the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies.
I make two observations, however. First, the concluding sentence of that paragraph makes clear that the kingship of Christ is something the Church manifests or shows forth simply by being the Church. How does it do that? It invites individuals and societies in all the world, beginning in Jerusalem, to lift up their gates to the King of Glory. It announces his coming; that is, it evangelizes in advance of his coming. It provides evidence that it is possible to live under his lordship even before he arrives, and proposes to others that they realize that possibility themselves. It fulfills its Great Commission, which extends to every place and time. It does not acknowledge that there are by right any closed or putatively neutral spheres. But it only proposes, as John Paul II said; it does not impose. The gospel is an invitation to “him who desires,” to “whosoever wills.”
Meanwhile, “let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” When the King does come, his authority will be imposed, backed by all the hosts of heaven. But that is for then, not for now. It is for him, not for us. We may take authority in his name over demons, for demons are not being invited to anything; it is otherwise with men and their societies. That the King has come the first time, that he is already in session at the right hand of God, does not change the fact that, until his second coming, God has deliberately withheld the manifestation of his power and glory until the minds of men are made up. It is for the making up of minds that the present age exists, as I have argued in the “The Secret of the Saeculum” and in my commentary on Thessalonians. In this light, the present location of the feast of Christ the King – at the conclusion of the liturgical year, in anticipation of Advent – is entirely fitting.
My second observation is this: The Catechism nowhere mentions what the Lake Garda Statement calls “the Church’s venerable teaching on the Social Kingship of Christ” or “the Church’s traditional teaching on the Social Reign of Christ the King,” which the signatories of that Statement seek to recover. When they say it was never repealed, they are right, because there never was such a doctrine in the first place. What do they mean by “social reign”? If they mean no more than what §2105 says, well and good, but what then needs to be recovered? Boniface VIII’s notion of the plenitudo potestatis? Now there is a doctrine (not a dogma) that was, and is not. When it appears again it will appear in support, not of Christ, but of antichrist, as I intimated in “The Church’s One Foundation”.
What then? Pius XI’s much more refined, indeed quite different, teaching in Quas primas? Christ, most certainly, is the savior of societies as of their citizens, for he saves them through their citizens, than which they are never any better. He is the savior also, by extension, of states. It is always timely – at present it is urgent – to remind rulers that neglect of “the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ” does not conduce to the prospering of peoples or of nations but rather to their destruction, as does active resistance to the announcement of the true King from whom all human authority ultimately derives and without whom its legitimacy necessarily erodes and finally collapses, having “no longer a secure and solid foundation.” Again, if this is all that is meant by social kingship (this and what is said in §2105) there is nothing to quarrel about. But if this is all that is meant, must we not admit that it was said at Vatican II – said in the beginning, in the middle, at the end, in the Catechism that followed, and consistently in the pontificates that followed, with the exception of the present one?
Archbishop Viganò says Christ has been dethroned, first in the world, then in the Church. This is for him the problem at the root of all our problems. No doubt, in some sense, it is; for the children of disobedience have again risen to prominence in both and the dire vision of Ezekiel 9 begins to creep back into mind, darkening the optimism of the council. But the root problem in the Viganò controversy itself is something else. It is a distorted Social Kingship doctrine that has skewed his view of Vatican II, darkening his own counsel, because it has first skewed his vision of the Church and its mission. That doctrine is what has led to the Viganò solution – to talk of a conciliabolo and hence of a sedevacantism that begins with Roncalli, with the false comfort that there remains no hierarchy to which obedience or disobedience can be rendered.
The Viganò solution, thankfully, is not yet the solution of all Social Kingship adherents. Moreover, we may hope that Viganò himself, being a man of admirable courage, will repent, together with those who are following him into schism. (I speak of those who “sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed” in the city of God and the house of God, not of those who are party to those abominations or to the sins of anti-Semitism that have plagued Social Kingship circles.) Repentance will not deprive them of their concerns about the direction of the present pontificate or about its manifestation at Abu Dhabi. It will, however, deprive them of their cherished romanticism, of their longing for the revival of Christendom and of Boniface’s vainglorious fancies about the secular dominium of the papacy. It will require them to dispense with the doctrine that never was and to adhere to the doctrine that always was: the doctrine that no one can hold “except by the Holy Spirit,” the doctrine proper to the Church rather than to the world, though its echoes (whether more or less distorted) may sometimes be heard in the world. For it is not the world and not the state, but rather the Spirit and the Bride, who say “Come,” and who testify that Jesus, the Coming One, is Lord. To the world and the state it falls only to be blessed by receiving that testimony, or to be cursed by refusing it.
If the Second Vatican Council failed to make this clear, it was not by underestimating but by overestimating the Pius factor. May we not applaud, however, the balance for which it strives in the opening section of Ad Gentes?
Divinely sent to the nations of the world to be unto them “a universal sacrament of salvation,” the Church, driven by the inner necessity of her own catholicity, and obeying the mandate of her Founder (cf. Mark 16:16), strives ever to proclaim the Gospel to all men. The Apostles themselves, on whom the Church was founded, following in the footsteps of Christ, “preached the word of truth and begot churches.” It is the duty of their successors to make this task endure “so that the word of God may run and be glorified” (2 Thess. 3:1) and the kingdom of God be proclaimed and established throughout the world.
In the present state of affairs, out of which there is arising a new situation for mankind, the Church, being the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Matt. 5:13-14), is more urgently called upon to save and renew every creature, that all things may be restored in Christ and all men may constitute one family in Him and one people of God.
Therefore, this sacred synod, while rendering thanks to God for the excellent results that have been achieved through the whole Church’s great-hearted endeavor, desires to sketch the principles of missionary activity and to rally the forces of all the faithful in order that the people of God, marching along the narrow way of the Cross, may spread everywhere the reign of Christ, Lord and overseer of the ages (cf. Ecc. 36:19), and may prepare the way for his coming.
In other words, the mission of the Church is precisely to pronounce and to live the “whosoever will,” in anticipation of the kingdom that will come when our Lord comes. For it is the narrow way of the cross that leads directly to the broad and beautiful avenues of the kingdom, which is not of this world though it is already in it.
Memorial of St Pius X, 2020
(Part 1 of this two-part essay can be read here.)
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