A Saintly President? Part 1
December 1, 2016
We live in such an age that when one thinks of civil rulers you would laugh at the idea of the person being a saint. In a country such as the United States, in recent years it seems as though candidates to the highest offices are also the most corrupt. It wasn’t always this way.
There have been a number of rulers of nations who have become canonized saints. St. Louis of France, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Stephen of Hungary, St. Edward the Confessor, St. Elizabeth of Portugal and St. Ferdinand of Spain are the best known among Catholic monarchs. They clearly proved that it is possible to lead a nation and sanctify oneself at the same time.
For the individual who seeks a high office, a basic question must be asked. Why do seek this office? Are your motives selfless or selfish? Whose interest do you have at heart? What is your plan of action if elected?
Although the ideas would be laughable to many, there ought to be two basic purposes for all candidates to high offices. The first of these is to promote the Kingship of Christ throughout the land. The second is to rule principally through the virtues of charity and justice.
The first of these purposes, the Kingship of Christ is fundamental to ruling a nation according the Divine Will. Fr. Denis Fahey, C. S. Sp., in his book The Mystical Body of Christ and the Reorganization of Society, explains in great detail the union which ought to exist between Christ the King and His subordinate rulers of nations in this world. My apologies for the log quote.
“Though Our Lord’s Kingship is primarily spiritual, and as such, specially concerned with the diffusion and safeguarding of the Supernatural Life of men, yet He is also King of the Universe. His Temporal Royalty is Universal, not particular, that is, not restricted to any one race or nation. Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XI insist both on the reality of Christ’s Temporal Sovereignty and on its universality. In the Encyclical Letter, On the Kingship of Christ, we read: “That Christ’s kingdom is in a special manner spiritual and concerned with things spiritual, is quite plain from the extracts from Scripture above quoted: and Christ’s own line of action confirms this view. For on many occasions when the Jews, and even the Apostles themselves, wrongly supposed that the Messiah would emancipate the people and restore the kingdom of Israel, He effectively rejected that idle hope and fancy. When the admiring throng surrounded Him and would have proclaimed Him king, He refused that title and honour by taking flight and lying in concealment. In presence of the Roman governor, He declared His kingdom was not of this world …. He, however, would be guilty of shameful error who would who would deny to Christ as man authority over civil affairs, no matter what their nature, since by virtue of the absolute dominion over all creatures He holds from the Father, all things are in His power.”
“Nevertheless, during His life on earth He refrained altogether from exercising such dominion, and despising the possession and administration of earthly goods, He left them to their possessors then, and He does so today. It is well said: Non eripit mortalia qui regna dat caelestia – He does not seize earthly kingdoms Who gives heavenly kingdoms. And so, the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men. To quote the words of Our immortal Predecessor, Pope Leo XIII: ‘His Empire manifestly includes not only Catholic nations, not only those who were baptized and belong to the Church by right, though error of doctrine leads them astray or schism severs them from her fold: but it includes also all those who are outside the Christian faith, so that truly the human race in its entirety is subject to the power of Jesus Christ.’”
“Nor in this connexion, is there any difference between individuals and communities, whether family or State, for collectivities are just as much under the dominion of Christ as individuals. The same Christ assuredly is the source of the individual’s salvation and of the community’s salvation: “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.” … If rulers, therefore, of nations wish to preserve their own authority and to promote and increase their country’s prosperity, let them not refuse, themselves and their people, to give public observance of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ. … If men recognized, both in public and private life, Christ’s royal power, wonderful blessings would immediately be vouchsafed to all society, such as, true liberty, discipline, tranquility, concord and peace. For Our Lord’s royal dignity, just as it invests the human authority of princes and rulers with a religious significance, ennobles the citizen’s duty of obedience. … If princes and magistrates duly elected be convinced that they rule not by their own right, but by the mandate and in the place of the Divine King, assuredly they will exercise their authority holily and wisely, and, in making laws and administering them, they will take into consideration the common good, and also the human dignity of their subjects. The result will be order and stable tranquility, for there will be no cause of discontent remaining. Men may see in their king or in other rulers of the State, beings like themselves, unworthy perhaps and open to blame, but they will not for that reason deny their right to command if they see reflected in these rulers the authority of Christ, God and man.” – (Encyclical Letter, Quas Primas)
“All authority is from God, “for there is no power but from God. … he that resisteth the power, resisteth the order willed by God.” Christ “holds absolute dominion over all creatures from the Father,” therefore all authority on earth is a participation of Christ’s authority. Of course, it is in itself and in its essential nature that authority comes from God. The mode of accession to power may be either legitimate or illegitimate; in the former case, it comes from God, in the second, from the perverted ambition of human beings. Finally, the exercise of power may be in conformity with or contrary to God’s laws. When a Government has been declared legitimate by the Church, that does not mean that the Church guarantees that all the actions of such a Government are in accordance with the moral law. Just as a father who is lawful head of a household may act wrongly, so also a legitimate Government may act wrongly toward its subjects.”
Our Lord, then, as the Sovereign Ruler and Supreme Judge of all Kings and Rulers, has the right to rule them as a body, to dictate His laws to them, to reward or punish them for the good or bad use of their power. To the rulers of the earth it belongs to legislate in civil affairs, to determine sanctions for their laws and to judge their subjects guilty of transgressions of these laws. Our Lord reserves to Himself the right of pronouncing the final judgment on the Last Day on the purely civil administration of all earthly rulers as well as on their attitude to the Supernatural Life. All Temporal Rulers will have to render an account of their subjects in matters purely political. All will, in addition, by judged on the manner in which they behaved towards the Divine Plan for order, in proportion to their knowledge of it.
“The objective order of the existing world demands that the temporal prosperity of society should be sought in such a way as to favour the development of the true personality of the members by the advance of their Supernatural Life and love. Temporal Rulers must seek the natural Common Good of the States subject to them in a manner calculated to aid their subjects in the development of supernatural charity as members of Christ, so that they (the subjects) may advance steadily in love of God in Three Divine Persons, and attain the goal of eternal life. “Civil society,” writes Pope Leo XIII, “established for the common welfare, should not only safeguard the well-being of the community, but have also at heart the interests of its individual members, in such wise as not in any way to hinder, but in every way to render as easy as possible the possession of that highest and unchangeable good for which all should seek.””
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Source of Supernatural Life of which the effect is resemblance to Himself, will judge, not only the subjects of rulers themselves, on their attitude towards Him. ‘The very celebration of the Feast (of the Kingship of Christ),’ writes Pope Pius XI, “by its annual recurrence, will serve to remind nations that not only private individuals but State officials and rulers are bound by the obligation of worshipping Christ publicly and rendering Him obedience. They will be thus led to reflect on that last judgment, in which Christ, who has been cast of public life, despised, neglected and ignored, will severely revenge such insults; for His kingly dignity demands that the constitution of the whole State should conform to the Divine commandments and Christian principles, whether in the making of laws, the administration of justice, or in the moulding of the minds of the young on sound doctrine and upright morals.” “Christ Our Lord must be reinstated as the Ruler of human society. It belongs to Him, as do all its members.” St. Thomas teaches that “kings are anointed at their coronation to acknowledge the fact that they receive from Christ the gift of their powers and that they are meant to reign under Christ over a Christian people.”
To be continued
Fr. Joseph Noonan, OFM