Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira



Chapter IV
Nobility in a Christian Society The Perennial Character of Its Mission and Its Prestige in the Contemporary World

The Teaching of Pius XII



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1. Clergy, Nobility, and People

In the Middle Ages, society consisted of three classes, the clergy, the nobility, and the people, each of which had special duties, privileges, and honors.

Besides this tripartite division, a clear distinction existed between rulers and those ruled, a distinction inherent to every social group and principally to a country. Not only the king, however, but also the clergy, the nobility, and the people participated in the country’s government, each one in its own way and measure.

As is well known, both Church and State constitute perfect societies, each distinct from the other and sovereign in its respective field, that is, the Church in the spiritual realm and the State in the temporal. Nonetheless, this distinction does not prevent the clergy from participating in the government of the State. In order to clarify this point, it is fitting to recall in a few words the specifically spiritual and religious mission of the clergy.

From the spiritual point of view, the clergy is the ensemble of people in the Church who have the mission to teach, govern, and sanctify, while it is for the faithful to be taught, governed, and sanctified. Such is the hierarchical order of the Church. The documents of the Magisterium establishing this distinction between the teaching Church and the learning Church are numerous. For example, Saint Pius X affirms in his encyclical Vehementer nos:

"Scripture teaches us, and the tradition of the Fathers confirms the teaching, that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, ruled by the Pastors and Doctors—a society of men containing within its own fold chiefs who have full and perfect powers for ruling, teaching and judging. It follows that the Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of persons, the pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful. So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members toward that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the pastors".35

This distinction between hierarchy and faithful in the Church, between rulers and those ruled, is also affirmed in more than one document of the Second Vatican Council.

Therefore, by divine condescension the laity have Christ for their brother…. They also have for their brothers those in the sacred ministry who, by teaching, by sanctifying, and by ruling with the authority of Christ so feed the family of God” (Lumen Gentium, 32).

With ready Christian obedience, laymen as well as all disciples of Christ should accept whatever their sacred pastors, as representatives of Christ, decree in their role as teachers and rulers in the Church (Lumen Gentium, 37).

The individual bishops, to each of whom the care of a particular church has been entrusted, are, under the authority of the Supreme Pontiff, the proper, ordinary and immediate pastors of these churches. They feed their sheep in the name of the Lord, and exercise in their regard the office of teaching, sanctifying, and governing (Christus Dominus, 11).36

Through the exercise of the sacred ministry, the clergy bears the lofty and specifically religious mission of providing for the salvation and sanctification of souls. This mission produces a supremely beneficial effect on temporal society, as it always has and always will until the end of time, since sanctifying souls amounts to imbuing them with the principles of Christian morals and guiding them in the observance of the Law of God. Peoples receptive to this influence of the Church are ipso facto ideally disposed to direct all their temporal activities to the attainment of a high degree of competence, efficacy, and prosperity.

Saint Augustine’s famous image of a society whose members are all good Catholics speaks for itself.

Therefore, let those who say that the teaching of Christ is contrary to the State provide such an army as the teaching of Christ orders soldiers to be; let them provide such governors, such husbands, such wives, such parents, such children, such masters, such servants, such kings, such judges, and lastly such taxpayers and tax collectors as Christian teaching admonishes them to be; and then let them dare to say that this teaching is opposed to the welfare of the State, or, rather, let them even hesitate to admit that it is the greatest safeguard of the State when faithfully observed37

Under this perspective, it is proper for the clergy to firmly establish and maintain the moral foundations of the perfect civilization, the Christian one. By a natural connection, in the Middle Ages, education and works of public assistance and charity were entrusted to the Church. The Church performed these services, normally the purview of the departments of education and public health in contemporary secular states, without burden to the public coffers.

It is understandable then that the clergy was recognized as the first class in the Middle Ages, due to the supernatural and sacred character of its spiritual mission, and also to the beneficial effects its proper exercise produced in temporal society.

On the other hand, the clergy, in the exercise of its sublime mission, apart from any temporal or terrestrial power, is an active factor in the formation of the nation’s spirit and mentality. Between clergy and nation, there normally exists an exchange of understanding, trust, and affection that apportions to the former unmatched possibilities to know and orient the aspirations, concerns, sufferings, in short, the spiritual life of the population, as well as the temporal affairs that are inseparable from it. To accord the clergy a voice and a vote in the great and decisive national assemblies is, therefore, an invaluable way for the State to ascertain the yearnings of its people.

Hence it is understandable that throughout history clerics, although maintaining their alterity in relation to the political life of the country, have frequently been heeded and respected counselors of the public power and valuable participants in the development of certain legislative matters and governmental policies.

But the picture of relations between the clergy and the public power is not limited to this.

The clergy is not a group of angels living in Heaven, but of men who exist and act concretely on this earth as God’s ministers. The clergy comprises part of the country’s population, before which its members have specific rights and duties. The protection of these rights and the proper fulfillment of these duties are of utmost importance for both Church and State, as Leo XIII eloquently stated in the encyclical Immortale Dei.38

All this indicates that the clergy is distinct from the other elements of the nation. It is a perfectly defined social class that is a living part of the national body and, as such, has the right to a voice and a vote in its public life.39

After the clergy, the second class was the nobility. Essentially it had a military and warrior character. The nobility was responsible for defending the country against external aggression and for keeping the political and social order. Besides that, in their respective domains, the feudal lords cumulatively exercised, without cost to the Crown, functions somewhat analogous to those of our judges, police chiefs, and city council presidents.

Thus, these two classes were essentially ordained toward the common good and, in compensation for their weighty and important charges, they were entitled to corresponding honors and privileges, among which was exemption from taxes.

Lastly, there was the people, a class devoted specifically to productive work. It had, by right, a much lesser participation in war than the nobility and, in most cases, exclusive right to the exercise of the most profitable occupations, such as commerce and industry. Normally its members had no special obligation toward the State. They worked for the common good only in so far as it favored their own personal and familial interests. Thus, this class was not favored with special honors and had to carry the burden of taxes.

Clergy, nobility, and people. This trilogy naturally brings to mind the representative assemblies that characterized many monarchies of the Middle Ages and the Ancien Régime: the Cortes of Portugal and Spain, the Estates General of France, the Parliament of England, and so forth. In these assemblies, there was an authentic national representation that faithfully mirrored social organicity.

During the Enlightenment, other doctrines of political and social philosophy began to conquer several leading sectors of Europe. Under the effects of a mistaken notion of liberty, the Old Continent began to destroy the intermediary bodies and to completely secularize the State and nation. In this way inorganic societies arose, based on a purely quantitative criterion: the number of votes.

This transformation, extending from the last decades of the eighteenth century until our days, perilously facilitated the degeneration of peoples into masses, as Pius XII so wisely pointed out.

2. The Deterioration of the Medieval Order in Modern Times

As explained in Chapter II, the feudal organization of society—at once political, social, and economic—deteriorated in modern times (from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries). From then on, the successive political and socioeconomic transformations have tended to meld all the classes and entirely, or almost entirely, deny a special juridical status to the clergy and nobility. This is a difficult contingency to which these classes should not pusillanimously close their eyes, since this would be unworthy of true clerics, as of true nobles.

Pius XII, in one of his masterful allocutions to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility, describes this state of things with noteworthy precision.

“First of all, you must look fearlessly, courageously, at the present reality. It seems superfluous to insist on recalling to your mind what, three years ago, was the object of Our considerations; it would seem vain and unworthy of you to veil it in prudent euphemisms, especially after the words of your eloquent representative have given Us so clear a testimonial of your adhesion to the social doctrine of the Church and to the duties stemming therefrom. The new Italian Constitution no longer recognizes you as possessing, as a social class, in the State and among the people, any particular mission, quality, or privilege.40

This situation, the Pontiff observes, is the outcome of a chain of events that creates the impression of following an “irresistible course.”41

In view of the “very different lifestyles”42 now emerging in modern society, members of the nobility and traditional elites should not engage in futile lamentation, nor should they ignore reality. Rather, they should take a strong attitude toward it. This is the conduct proper to courageous people: “While the mediocre can only wear a frown in the face of ill fortune, superior spirits are able, according to the classic expression, to prove themselves ‘beaux joueurs,’ imperturbably maintaining their noble and untroubled bearing.”43


3. The Nobility Should Remain a Leading Class in Today’s Greatly Changed Social Context

According to Pius XII, “one may think as one wishes”44 about the new lifestyles. One is not at all obliged to applaud them, but one must accept that they constitute the palpable reality in which we are obliged to live. Just what, then, is the objective and manly acknowledgment of these lifestyles?

Have the nobility and the traditional elites lost their reason for being? Should they break with their traditions and their past? In a word, should they dissolve among the common people, mixing with them, extinguishing everything the noble families preserved in the way of lofty values of virtue, culture, style, and education?

A hasty reading of the allocution to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility of 1952 would seem to lead to an affirmative answer. This answer, however, would be in patent disagreement with the teachings of analogous allocutions in previous years, as well as with passages from more than one allocution of later pontiffs. This apparent disagreement results especially from the passages quoted above, as well as from others that follow.45 Yet this is not the teaching expressed by the Pontiff in his 1952 allocution. In his view, the traditional elites should continue to exist and have a lofty mission.

“It may well be that one thing or another about the present conditions displeases you. Yet for the sake and for the love of the common good, for the salvation of Christian civilization, during this crisis which, far from abating, seems instead to be growing, stand firm in the breach, on the front line of defense. There your special qualities can be put to good use even today. Your names, which resonate deeply in the memories even of the distant past, in the history of the Church and of civil society, recall to mind figures of great men and fill your souls with echoes of the dutiful call to prove yourselves worthy.46

This teaching is made still clearer in the allocution to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility of 1958, a passage of which was already cited.47

You, who at the start of each new year have never failed to come visit Us, must surely remember the careful solicitude with which We endeavored to smooth your way toward the future, which at that time promised to be harsh because of the profound upheavals and transformations in store for the world. We are certain, however, that when your brows too are framed with white and silver, you will yet be witnesses not only to Our esteem and affection, but also to the truth, the validity, and the timeliness of Our recommendations, which We hope are like fruits that have come to you and to society in general.

You will recall to your children and grandchildren how the Pope of your childhood and adolescence did not neglect to point you toward the new responsibilities that the new circumstances of the age imposed on the nobility; that, indeed, he explained many times how industriousness would be the surest and most worthy way of ensuring yourselves a permanent place among society’s leaders; that social inequalities, while they make you stand out, also assign you certain duties toward the common good; that from the highest classes great boons or great harm could come to the people; that transformations of ways of life can, if one so wishes, be harmoniously reconciled with the traditions of which patrician families are the repositories”.48

The Pontiff does not desire, then, the disappearance of the nobility from the profoundly transformed social context of our day. On the contrary, he invites its members to exert the necessary effort to maintain their position as the leading class among the groups that direct the present world. In expressing this wish, the Pontiff includes a singular nuance: The persistence of the nobility among these groups should have a traditional meaning, that is, a sense of continuity, of permanence.

In other words, the Pontiff desires fidelity to one of the founding principles of the nobility of former times: the correlation between the “social inequalities” that made them “stand out” and their “duties toward the common good.”

Thus, “transformations of ways of life can, if one so wishes, be harmoniously reconciled with the traditions of which patrician families are the repositories.”49

Pius XII insists on the nobility’s permanence in the post-war world, so long as it truly distinguishes itself in the moral qualities it should manifest.

Sometimes, in alluding to the contingency of time and events, We exhorted you to take an active part in the healing of the wounds caused by the war, in the rebuilding of peace, in the rebirth of the life of the nation, and to refuse all “emigration” or abstention. For in our society there still remained an ample place for you if you showed yourselves to be truly elites and optimates [aristocrats], that is, exceptional for serenity of mind, readiness to act, and generous adhesion.”50

4. Through a Judicious Adaptation to the Modern World, the Nobility Does Not Disappear in the General Leveling

In accordance with these observations, an adaptation to the modern world—so much more egalitarian than pre-World War II Europe—does not mean that the nobility should renounce its traditions and disappear in the general leveling. Rather, it means that it should courageously continue a past inspired by perennial principles. The Pontiff emphasizes the highest among these, namely, fidelity to the Christian ideal.

“Also do not forget Our appeals to banish from your hearts all despondency and cowardice in face of the evolution of the times, and Our exhortations to adapt yourselves courageously to the new circumstances by keeping your gaze fixed on the Christian ideal, the true and indelible entitlement to genuine nobility.51

Such is the courageous adaptation that befits the nobility in face of the evolution of the times.

In consequence, the nobles should not renounce their ancestral glory. Instead, they ought to preserve it for their respective lineages and, even more, for the benefit of the common good as the worthwhile contribution they are still capable of making.

Yet why, beloved Sons and Daughters, did we express then and do we now repeat these admonitions and recommendations if not to fortify you against bitter disillusionments, to preserve for your houses the heritage of your ancestral glories, and to guarantee for the society to which you belong the valid contribution that you are still capable of making to it?”52


5. To Fulfill the Hopes Placed in It, the Nobility Should Shine in the Gifts Specific to It

After emphasizing once again the importance of the nobility’s fidelity to Catholic morals, Pius XII outlines a fascinating picture of the qualities that the nobility should manifest in order to correspond to the hopes he places in it. It especially interests the present study to note that these qualities should shine in the nobility as a fruit of long family traditions. These traditions are clearly hereditary and comprise something unique to the noble class.

And yet—you may ask Us—what exactly must we do to achieve so lofty a goal?

First of all, you must maintain an irreproachable religious and moral conduct, especially within the family, and practice a healthy austerity in life. Let the other classes be aware of the patrimony of virtues and gifts that are your own, the fruit of long family traditions: an imperturbable strength of soul, loyalty and devotion to the worthiest causes, tender and generous compassion toward the weak and the poor, a prudent and delicate manner in difficult and grave matters, and that personal prestige, almost hereditary in noble families, whereby one manages to persuade without oppressing, to sway without forcing, to conquer the minds of others, even adversaries and rivals, without humiliating them. The use of these gifts and the exercise of religious and civic virtues are the most convincing way to respond to prejudices and suspicion, since they manifest the spirit’s inner vitality, from which spring all outward vigor and fruitful works”.53

Here the Pontiff shows his illustrious listeners an adequate way of responding to the invectives of today’s vulgar egalitarian, who is opposed to the survival of the noble class.

6. Even Those Who Show Disdain for the Old Ways of Life Are Not Totally Immune to the Splendor of the Nobility

Pius XII emphasizes vigor and fertility of works as characteristic of genuine nobility and encourages the nobles to contribute such qualities to the common good.

Vigor and fruitful works! Behold two characteristics of true nobility, to which heraldic symbols, stamped in bronze or carved in marble, are a perennial testimony, for they represent as it were the visible thread of the political and cultural history of more than a few glorious cities of Europe. It is true that modern society is not accustomed by preference to wait for your class to “set the tone” before starting works and confronting events; nevertheless, it does not refuse the cooperation of the brilliant minds among you, since a wise portion thereof retains an appropriate respect for tradition and prizes high decorum, whatever its origins. And the other part of society, which displays indifference and perhaps disdain for ancient ways of life, is not entirely immune to the seduction of glory; so much so, that it tries very hard to create new forms of aristocracy, some worthy of respect, others based on vanity and frivolity, satisfied with merely appropriating the inferior elements of the ancient institutions”.54

In this paragraph, Pius XII seems to be refuting an objection possibly raised by discouraged aristocrats appalled by the egalitarian wave already spread throughout the modern world. According to these aristocrats, the world scorns the nobility and refuses to collaborate with it.

Regarding this objection, the Pontiff reasons that one can distinguish two tendencies in modern society in face of the nobility. One “retains an appropriate respect for tradition and prizes high decorum, whatever its origins,” by which “it does not refuse the cooperation of the brilliant minds among you.” The other tendency, which consists in exhibiting “indifference and perhaps disdain for ancient ways of life, is not entirely immune to the seduction of glory.” Pius XII notes expressive evidence of this disposition of spirit.

7. The Specific Virtues and Qualities of the Nobility Imbue Its Work

The Pontiff continues:

"It is clear, however, that vigor and fruitful works cannot still manifest themselves today in forms that have been eclipsed. This does not mean that the field of your activities has been reduced; on the contrary, it has been broadened in the total number of professions and functions. The entire range of professions is open to you; you can be useful and excel in any sector: in areas of public administration and government, or in scientific, cultural, artistic, industrial, or commercial activities”.55

The Pontiff alludes here to the fact that in the political and socioeconomic regime prevalent before the French Revolution certain professions generally were not exercised by nobles, since these were deemed beneath nobility. Their exercise implied, at times, the loss of noble status. One example was the exercise of commerce, reserved in many places to the bourgeoisie and the common people. These restrictions gradually diminished during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and have entirely disappeared today.

In this passage, Pius XII seems to have in mind that the disturbances resulting from the two world wars had economically ruined a significant number of noble families. Their members were thereby reduced to exercising secondary activities, inappropriate not only for the nobility but for the high and middle bourgeoisie as well. One could even speak of the proletarianization of certain nobles.

In view of such harsh realities, Pius XII encourages these families not to dissolve in a prosaic anonymity, but rather to practice their traditional virtues and act with vigor and fruitfulness, thus communicating a specifically noble note to any work they exercise either by choice or under the harsh sway of circumstances. In this way they will make the nobility understood and respected, even in the most painful situations.

8. A Sublime Example: The Couple of Royal Lineage in Whose House the God-Man Was Born and Dwelt

This elevated teaching takes examples from the public administration of government and from other offices usually held by the bourgeoisie. But it also brings to mind the couple of the royal line of David in whose house, at once princely and working-class, the God-Man was born and lived for thirty years.56

Such a reflection is found in the allocution of Pius XII to the Noble Guard in 1939:

"You were already noble, even before serving God and His Vicar under the gold and white standard. The Church, in whose eyes the human social order rests fundamentally on the family, however humble it may be, does not disdain that family treasure that is hereditary nobility. Indeed, one may even say that Jesus Christ Himself did not scorn it: The man to whom He entrusted the task of protecting His adorable Humanity and His Virgin Mother, was of royal stock: “Joseph, of the house of David” (Luke 1:27). And this is why Our Predecessor Leo XII, in his brief on reform of the Corps of February 17, 1824, attested that the Noble Guard is “consecrated to render the most proximate and immediate service to Our very Person and constitutes a Corps, which, as much for the end for which it was instituted as for the quality of the individuals composing it, is the first and most respectable of the arms of Our Princedom.”57

9. The Highest Social Function of the Nobility: To Preserve, Defend, and Spread the Christian Teachings Contained in Its Distinctive Noble Traditions

In his 1958 allocution, the Pontiff mentions the moral duty to resist modern corruption as a general charge to the upper classes, which include the Roman Patriciate and Nobility:

"We would like, finally, for your influence on society to save it from a grave danger inherent in modern times. It is well known that society progresses and raises itself up when the virtues of one class are spread to the others; it declines, on the other hand, if the vices and abuses of one are carried over to the others. Because of the weakness of human nature, more often it is the latter that are spread, with all the more rapidity nowadays, given the greater facility of means of communication, information, and personal contacts, not only among nations, but from one continent to the next. What happens in the realm of physical health is now happening in the realm of morals as well: neither distances nor boundaries can any longer prevent an epidemic germ from quickly reaching faraway regions. The upper classes, of which yours is one, could, because of their multiple relations and frequent sojourns in countries with different and sometimes inferior moral conditions, become easy conveyers of aberrations in customs".58

The Holy Father defines this duty of the nobility more specifically: It is a duty to resist, above all in the field of doctrine but also in that of morals. “As for your own task, you must be vigilant and do your utmost to prevent pernicious theories and perverse examples from ever meeting with your approval and sympathy, let alone using you as favorable carriers and hotbeds of infection.” This duty is an integral element of “that profound respect for tradition that you cultivate and hope to use to distinguish yourselves in society.” These traditions are “precious treasures” that it is important for the noble to “preserve…among the people. This itself may be the highest social function of today’s nobility; certainly it is the greatest service that you can render to the Church and to your country.”59

To conserve, defend, and spread the Christian teachings contained in its distinctive noble traditions: What loftier use can the nobility make of the splendor of past centuries that still illuminates and distinguishes it today?60

10. The Nobility’s Duty: To Avoid Sinking into Anonymity; To Resist the Influence of Modern Egalitarianism

Pius XII paternally insists that the nobility not let itself be diluted in the anonymity into which the indifference and hostility of many, spurred on by crude modern egalitarianism, seek to drag it. He likewise points out another relevant mission: By cultivating and disseminating its living traditions, the nobility should help preserve the values of each people from a cosmopolitanism that erodes their distinctiveness. “To practice virtue and use the gifts proper to your class for the common good, to excel in professions and activities promptly embraced, to protect the nation from external contaminations: These are the recommendations We feel We must make to you at the start of this New Year.”61

As he closes this expressive allocution with paternal blessings, the Pontiff makes special mention of the continuity of the nobility. He reminds the noble families present that the grave and honorable duty of continuing the most worthy traditions of the nobility lies with their children: “That the Almighty may strengthen your resolve and fulfill Our desires, answering the prayers We have thus made to Him, We impart to all of you, to your families, and especially to your children, future successors to your worthiest traditions, Our Apostolic blessing.”62

11. The Nobility: A Particularly Distinguished Order in Human Society—It Will Have Special Accounts to Render to God

An application of these rich and solid teachings to the contemporary condition of the nobility may be found in the allocution of John XXIII to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility on January 9, 1960.

The Holy Father is pleased to note that the distinguished audience is a reminder of what human society is as a whole: a multiple variety of elements, each with its own personality and efficiency like flowers in the sunlight, and each worthy of respect and honor, regardless of its importance and size.

The fact of belonging to a particularly distinguished order of society, however, while requiring due consideration, is a call to its members to give more, as befits those who have received more, and who will one day have to render accounts to God for everything.

By acting in this manner, you cooperate in the wondrous harmony of the kingdom of Our Lord, with the profound conviction that the things that made the fame of each family in the past must now strengthen its commitment—precisely as dictated by its particular social condition—to the sublime concept of Christian brotherhood and to the exercise of special virtues: sweet and gentle patience, purity of customs, humility, and above all, charity. Only thus will great and undying honor be conferred on individuals!

And from this it follows that, tomorrow, the young scions of today will bless their fathers and demonstrate that Christian thought has been an ideal inspiration and rule of conduct, generosity, and spiritual beauty.

These same dispositions will serve as comfort even in the face of inevitable misfortunes that are never wanting, since the cross resides in every dwelling, from the humblest country house to the most majestic palace. It is nevertheless quite clear and natural that one must pass through this school of pain, of which Our Lord Jesus Christ is the unequaled Teacher.

To fortify the most excellent dispositions of those present the Supreme Pontiff imparts his blessing to each and every family, invoking divine assistance especially where there is suffering and greater need. He adds the paternal wish that you should act in such a manner as not to live alla giornata [from day to day] as they say, but should feel and express, in everyday life, thoughts and works in accordance with the Gospel, which has pointed the way along the luminous roads of Christian civilization. He who acts in this way now knows that in the future his name too shall be repeated with respect and admiration”.63

The specific role of the contemporary nobility is remembered by John XXIII in the allocution to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility of January 10, 1963:

"The resolution, expressed on behalf of those present by their authoritative representative, is very reassuring, and its enactment will bring peace, happiness, and blessings.

He who has received most, he who has risen highest, finds himself in the most propitious conditions for setting good example; each must make his contribution: the poor, the humble, the suffering, as well as those who have received numerous gifts from the Lord and enjoy a situation that brings with it particular and serious responsibilities”.64 


(35) American Catholic Quarterly Review, Vol. 31, no. 122 (April 1906), pp. 213-214.

(36) The Documents of Vatican II (New York: America Press, 1966), pp. 59, 64, 403. Reprinted with permission of America Press, Inc., 105 West 56th St., New York, N.Y. 10019, copyright © 1966 All Rights Reserved.

(36) American Catholic Quarterly Review, Vol. 31, no. 122 (April 1906), pp. 213-214.

The Documents of Vatican II (New York: America Press, 1966), pp. 59, 64, 403. Reprinted with permission of America Press, Inc., 105 West 56th St., New York, N.Y. 10019, copyright © 1966 All Rights Reserved.

(37) Epist. 138 ad Marcellinum, Chap. 2, no. 15, Opera Omnia, Vol. 2, in J.P. Migne, Patrologia Latina, col. 532.

(38) “There was once a time when states were governed by the principles of Gospel teaching. Then it was that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people; permeating all ranks and relations of civil society. Then, too, the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, established firmly in befitting dignity, flourished everywhere, by the favor of princes and the legitimate protection of magistrates; and Church and State were happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices. The State, constituted in this wise, bore fruits important beyond all expectation, whose remembrance is still, and always will be, in renown, witnessed to as they are by countless proofs which can never be blotted out or even obscured by any craft of any enemies” (Rev. John J. Wynne, S.J., ed., The Great Encyclical Letters of Pope Leo XIII [New York: Benziger Brothers, 1903], pp. 118-119).

(39) Another aspect of the clergy’s legitimate participation in public life in feudal times was the existence of dioceses and abbeys whose titulars were, at the same time and by the very fact, lords of the respective feudal domains. For example, by virtue of being bishops and regardless of their social origin, the Bishop-Princes of Cologne and of Geneva were princes of their respective cities. Among the latter was Saint Francis de Sales, an eminent Doctor of the Church. Along with the Bishop-Princes there were other ecclesiastical dignitaries on whom titles of lesser rank were conferred. Two examples in Portugal were the Archbishops of Braga, who were also lords of that city, and the Bishops of Coimbra, who were ipso facto Counts of Arganil (ever since Dom Afonso V graced the 36th Bishop of Coimbra, Dom João Galvão, with this title in 1472), whence the title Bishop-Count of Coimbra.

(40) RPN 1952, p. 457; see Chapter II, 1.

(41) Ibid.

(42) Ibid.

(43) Ibid., pp. 457-458. The Pontiff’s French expression may be rendered as “good sports.”

(44) Ibid.

(45) See Chapter VI, 2 a.

(46) RPN 1952, p. 459.

(47) See Chapter I, 6.

(48) RPN 1958, p. 708.

(49) Ibid.

(50) Ibid.

(51) Ibid.

(52) Ibid.

(53) Ibid.

(54) Ibid.

(55) RPN 1958, pp. 709-710.

(56) See Chapter V, 6.

(57) PNG 1939, p. 450.

(58) RPN 1958, p. 710.

(59) Ibid.

(60) Concerning nobility as a factor that facilitates and encourages the practice of Christian virtues, see especially the admirable sermon of Saint Charles Borromeo transcribed in Nobility and Analogous Traditional  Elites, Documents IV, 8.

(61) RPN 1958, pp. 710-711.

(62) Ibid.

(63) RPN 1960, pp. 565-566. The Poliglotta Vaticana edition contains only a summary of the allocution.

(64) RPN 1963, p. 348.


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