Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The previous chapter considered the teachings of Pius XII with respect to the mission of the nobility in our day. We shall now analyze the Pontiff’s doctrine concerning the role of traditional elites—the most important being the nobility—in preserving tradition and thereby contributing to progress. We shall also analyze his thinking on the continuity of these elites and their complete compatibility with true democracy.
1. The Formation of Elites Even in Countries Without a Monarchical or Aristocratic Past
The formation of traditional elites with an aristocratic note is so profoundly natural that it occurs even in countries without a monarchical or an aristocratic past.
"Even in democracies of recent date that have no vestiges of a feudal past behind them, a kind of new nobility or aristocracy has been forming by force of circumstances. It consists of the community of families that by tradition place all their energies at the service of the State, its government, its administration, and whose loyalty it can always count on".65
This splendid definition of the essence of nobility reminds us of the great lineages of colonizers, pioneers, and planters who for centuries contributed to the progress of the Americas, and who, remaining faithful to their traditions, constitute a precious moral resource for their societies.
2. Heredity in Traditional Elites
There is, before all else, a natural fact linked to the existence of traditional elites that needs to be remembered, namely heredity.
"The nature of this great and mysterious thing that is heredity—the passing on through a bloodline, perpetuated from generation to generation, of a rich ensemble of material and spiritual assets, the continuity of a single physical and moral type from father to son, the tradition that unites members of one same family across the centuries—the true nature of this heredity can undoubtably be distorted by materialistic theories. But one can, and must also, consider this reality enormously important in the fullness of its human and supernatural truth.
"One certainly cannot deny the existence of a material substratum in the transmission of hereditary characteristics; to be surprised at this one would have to forget the intimate union of our soul with our body, and in what great measure our most spiritual activities are themselves dependent upon our physical temperament. For this reason Christian morality never forgets to remind parents of the great responsibilities resting on their shoulders in this regard.
"Yet of greater import still is spiritual heredity, which is transmitted not so much through these mysterious bonds of material generation as by the permanent action of that privileged environment that is the family, with the slow and profound formation of souls in the atmosphere of a hearth rich in high intellectual, moral, and especially Christian traditions, with the mutual influence of those dwelling under one same roof, an influence whose beneficial effects endure well beyond the years of childhood and youth, all the way to the end of a long life, in those elect souls who are able to meld within themselves the treasures of a precious heredity with the addition of their own merits and experiences.
"Such is the most prized patrimony of all, which, illuminated by a solid faith and enlivened by a strong and loyal practice of Christian life in all its demands, will raise, refine, and enrich the souls of your children".66
3. Elites: Propelling Forces of True Progress and Guardians of Tradition
There is a link between nobility and tradition. The former is the natural guardian of the latter. In temporal society, the nobility is par excellence the class entrusted with keeping alive the link whereby the wisdom of the past guides the present without, however, paralyzing it.
a. Are elites enemies of progress?
Revolutionary spirits often raise the following objection against the nobility and the traditional elites: Being traditional, they are constantly turned toward the past and have their backs to the future, where true progress lies. They thus constitute an obstacle for any society wishing to pursue progress.
Pius XII teaches us, however, that authentic progress lies only in tradition. Progress is real only if it constitutes a harmonious development of the past, and not necessarily a return to it.67 Were progress to break with tradition, society would be exposed to terrible risks.
"Things of this earth flow like a river in the course of time: Of necessity the past gives way to the future, and the present is but a fleeting instant joining the former with the latter. This is a fact, a motion, a law; it is not in itself an evil. There would be evil if this present, which should be a tranquil wave in the continuity of the current, became a billow, upturning everything in its path like a typhoon or hurricane and furiously digging, by destruction and ravage, a gulf between what has been and what must follow. Such chaotic leaps as are made by history in its course constitute and mark what is called a crisis, in other words, a dangerous passage, which may lead to salvation, but whose solution is still wrapped in mystery amid the smoke of the conflicting forces".68
Societies avoid stagnation, as well as chaos and revolt, through tradition. The guardianship of tradition, to which Pius XII alludes in this passage, is a specific mission of the nobility and the analogous elites.
Some elites neglect this mission by distancing themselves from contemporary life. Others sin by the opposite excess, becoming absorbed in the present and renouncing everything of the past.
Through heredity, the noble prolongs on earth the existence of the great men of the past. “Remembering your ancestors, [you] relive their lives in a way; and your ancestors live again in your names and in the titles they left you through their merits and their greatness.”69
This confers a very particular moral mission on the nobility and the traditional elites. It is up to them to assure that progress has continuity with the past.
"Is not human society, or at least should it not be, like a finely tuned machine, in which all the parts work together toward the harmonious functioning of the whole? Each part has its own role, and each must apply himself toward the best possible progress of the social organism; each must seek to perfect it, according to his strengths and virtues, if he truly loves his neighbor and reasonably strives for the common good and welfare.
"Now what part has been assigned in a special way to you, beloved Sons and Daughters? What role has been allotted particularly to you? Precisely that of facilitating this natural development, the role that in the machine is fulfilled by the regulator, the fly-wheel, the rheostat, which take part in the common activity and receive their part of the motive force so as to ensure the operational movement of the apparatus. In other words, Patriciate and Nobility, you represent and continue tradition".70
b. Significance and value of true tradition
Respect for tradition is a very rare virtue in our day. On the one hand, the Revolution71 turned the craving for novelties and the disdain for the past into common attitudes. On the other hand, the defenders of tradition sometimes understand it in an entirely false manner. Tradition is not merely a historic value, nor is it simply a theme for romantic yearnings for bygone days. It must be understood as an indispensable factor for contemporary life, and not in an exclusively archaeological way. The word tradition, says the Pontiff,
"resounds disagreeably in many ears, and it is justifiably unpleasant when pronounced by certain lips. Some misunderstand it, others make it the mendacious label of their inactive egotism. Amid this dramatic dissent and confusion, more than a few envious voices, often hostile and in bad faith, more often ignorant or deluded, ask you bluntly: What are you good for? To answer them, you must first come to understand the true meaning and value of this tradition, of which you must of necessity be the principal representatives.
"Many minds, even sincere ones, imagine and believe that tradition is nothing more than memory, the pale vestige of a past that no longer exists, that can never return, and that at most is relegated to museums, therein preserved with veneration, perhaps with gratitude, and visited by a few enthusiasts and friends. If tradition consisted only of this, if it were reduced to this, and if it entailed rejection or disdain for the road to the future, then one would be right to deny it respect and honor, and one would have to look with compassion on those who dream over the past and those left behind in face of the present and future, and with greater severity on those who, spurred by less pure and respectable motives, are nothing but derelict in the duties of the now so very mournful hour.
But tradition is something very different from a simple attachment to a vanished past; it is the very opposite of a reaction mistrustful of all healthy progress. The word itself is etymologically synonymous with advancement and forward movement—synonymous, but not identical. Whereas, in fact, progress means only a forward march, step by step, in search of an uncertain future, tradition also signifies a forward march, but a continuous march as well, a movement equally brisk and tranquil, in accordance with life’s laws, eluding the distressing dilemma: “Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait!” [If youth knew, if the aged could]; like that Lord of Turenne of whom it was said: “Il a eu dans sa jeunesse toute la prudence d’un âge avancé, et dans un âge avancé toute la vigueur de la jeunesse” [In his youth he had all the prudence of advanced age and in his advanced age all the vigor of youth].72 By virtue of tradition, youth, enlightened and guided by the experience of elders, moves forward with a surer step, and old age can confidently pass on the plow to stronger hands, to continue the furrow already begun. As the word itself implies, tradition is a gift handed down from generation to generation, the torch that at each relay one runner places in and entrusts to the hand of the next, without the race slowing down or coming to a halt. Tradition and progress complement each other so harmoniously that, just as tradition without progress would be a contradiction in terms, so progress without tradition would be a foolhardy proposition, a leap into darkness.
"The point, then, is not to go against the stream, to backstep toward lifestyles and forms of activity already eclipsed, but rather to take and follow the best of the past and go out to meet the future with the vigor of unfailing youth".73
c. The traditional elites: their importance and legitimacy
The demagogic breath of egalitarianism blowing on the contemporary world creates an atmosphere of antipathy toward traditional elites. This is due, in great measure, to their fidelity to tradition. There is, therefore, a great injustice in this antipathy, so long as these elites understand tradition correctly.
"In this manner, your vocation, grand and laborious, is already radiantly defined, and should win you the gratitude of all and raise you above the accusations that might be leveled at you from either side.
"As you prudently seek to help true progress advance toward a saner, happier future, it would be unjust and ungrateful to reproach you and dishonorably brand you for the cult of the past, the study of history, the love of sacred customs, and unshakeable loyalty to eternal principles. The glorious or unhappy examples of those who preceded the present age are a lesson and a light to guide your steps; and it has already been rightly stated that the teachings of history make humanity a man forever moving but never growing old. You live in modern society not like immigrants in a foreign country, but rather as exemplary and illustrious citizens, who want and intend to collaborate with their contemporaries toward the recovery, restoration, and progress of the world".74
4. God’s Blessing Illuminates, Protects, and Caresses All Cradles, but Does Not Equalize Them
Another factor in the hostility toward the traditional elites lies in the revolutionary preconception that any inequality of origin is contrary to justice. It is generally admitted that one may stand out due to personal merit, but descent from an illustrious family is deemed inadmissible as a special title to honor and influence. In this respect the Holy Father Pius XII teaches us a precious lesson.
"Social inequalities, even those related to birth, are inevitable: Benign nature and God’s blessing to humanity illuminate and protect all cradles, looking on them with love, but do not make them equal. Look, for example, at the most inexorably leveled societies. No art has ever been able to work things so that the son of a great chief, the son of a great leader of the masses, should remain in the same condition as an obscure citizen lost among the common people. Yet, although such ineluctable disparities may appear, in a pagan light, to be the inflexible consequence of the conflict between social forces and the power acquired by some people over others, according to the blind laws believed to rule human activity and to make sense of the triumph of some and the sacrifice of others, on the other hand, to a mind instructed and educated in a Christian way these disparities can only be considered a disposition willed by God with the same wisdom as the inequalities within the family. Hence, they are destined to bring men more closely together on the present life’s journey toward the Kingdom of Heaven, with some helping others in the way a father helps the mother and children".75
5. The Paternal Notion of Social Superiority
The Christian glory of the traditional elites lies in serving not only the Church but also the common good. Pagan aristocracy boasted exclusively of its illustrious lineage. Christian nobility adds to this title another still higher: the exercise of a paternal mission vis-à-vis the other classes.
"The name “Roman Patriciate” awakens in our mind even greater thoughts and visions of history. If the term patrician in pagan Rome, patricius, signified the fact of having ancestors and of belonging not to stock of common rank but to a privileged and dominant class, in a Christian light it takes on a more luminous aspect and deeper resonance in that it associates the idea of social superiority with that illustrious paternity. It is a patriciate of Christian Rome, which had its highest and most ancient splendors not in blood but in the honor of protecting Rome and the Church: patricius Romanorum, a title carried over from the time of the Exarchs of Ravenna to Charlemagne and Henry III. Through the centuries, successive Popes also had armed defenders of the Church, drawn from the families of the Roman Patriciate; and Lepanto marked and eternalized a great name in the annals of history".76
This body of concepts certainly conveys an impression of the paternality permeating the relations between the highest and lowest classes.
Two objections against such an impression readily arise in “modern” minds. First, someone can always be counted on to affirm that frequent oppressive acts committed in the past by the nobility or the analogous elites invalidate this whole doctrine. Others hold that any affirmation of superiority eliminates Christian gentleness, sweetness, and amenity from social relationships. They argue that superiority normally arouses feelings of humiliation, sadness, and sorrow in those over whom it is exercised, and that to arouse such feelings in one’s neighbor is opposed to evangelical sweetness.
"If this paternal conception of social superiority has sometimes, in the clash of human passions, driven souls to deviations in the relations between persons of higher rank and those of humbler station, it is no surprise to the history of fallen humanity. Such deviations in no way serve to diminish or obscure the fundamental truth that, for the Christian, social inequalities merge in the great human family; that therefore relations between unequal classes and ranks have to remain regulated by a fair and righteous justice and at the same time be informed by mutual respect and affection, which, while not abolishing the disparities, should diminish the distance and temper the contrasts between them".77
Typical examples of this aristocratic gentleness are found in many noble families who know how to be extraordinarily kind toward their subordinates without consenting in any way that their natural superiority be denied or abased.
"In truly Christian families, do we not see perhaps the greatest of patricians being careful and solicitous to maintain toward their domestics and all those around them a comportment which, while surely in keeping with their rank, is always free of haughtiness and expressive of kindness and courtesy in words and actions that demonstrate the nobility of hearts that see these men as brothers and Christians and united to them in Christ by the bonds of charity, of that charity which, even in their ancestral palaces, between the great and humble, always comforts, sustains, gladdens, and sweetens life".78
6. Our Lord Jesus Christ Consecrated the Condition of a Noble as well as that of a Laborer
Considering the condition of a noble or a member of the traditional elites in this manner, it is understandable that Our Lord Jesus Christ hallowed it, as was already said,79 by becoming incarnate in a princely family.
"Although it is true that Christ Our Lord chose, for the comfort of the poor, to come into the world bereft of everything and to grow up in a family of simple laborers, He nevertheless wished to honor with His birth the noblest, most illustrious of the lines of Israel, the House of David itself.
"Therefore, loyal to the spirit of Him whose Vicars they are, the Supreme Pontiffs have always held in high consideration the Patriciate and the Roman Nobility, whose sentiments of unalterable devotion to this Apostolic See are the most precious part of the heritage they have received from their forebears and will pass on to their children".80
7. The Perennial Character of the Nobility and the Traditional Elites
The dead elements of the past are bound to be blown away by the winds of the Revolution, just like dead leaves caught by the wind. Nevertheless, the nobility, as a species within the genus “elites,” can and should survive because it has a permanent reason for being.
"The furious currents of a new age envelop the traditions of the past in their whirlwinds. Yet, more than this, these winds show what is destined to die like withered leaves, and what instead tends with the genuine force of its interior life to stand firm and live on.
"A nobility and a patriciate that would, as it were, grow stiff and decrepit by regretting times gone by, would consign themselves to an inevitable decline.
"Today more than ever, you are called upon to be an elite, not only by blood and by stock, but even more by your works and sacrifices, by creative actions in the service of the entire social community.
"And this is not just a duty of man and citizen that none may shirk with impunity. It is also a sacred commandment of the faith that you have inherited from your fathers and that you must, in their wake, leave whole and unaltered to your descendants.
"Banish, therefore, from your ranks all despondency and faint-heartedness; all despondency in the face of the age’s evolution, which is bearing away many things that other epochs had built; and all faint-heartedness at the sight of the grave events accompanying the novelties of our age.
"Being Roman means being strong in action, but also in support.
"Being Christian means confronting the sufferings, the trials, the tasks, and the needs of the age with that courage, strength, and serenity of spirit that draws the antidote to all human fear from the wellsprings of eternal hope.
"How humanly great is Horace’s proud dictum: Si fractus illabatur orbis, impavidum ferient ruinae [Even if the world crumbles to pieces, its ruins would strike him without, however, unsettling him] (Odes, III, 3).
"Yet how much greater still, how much more confident and exalting is the victorious cry that rises from Christian lips and hearts brimming with faith: Non confundar in aeternum! [Let me not be confounded eternally—from the Te Deum]".81
8. The Law Cannot Abolish the Past
Thus we understand why, despite the proclamation of the republic in Italy in 1946, the Holy Father Pius XII upheld the Roman Patriciate and Nobility as a noteworthy remembrance of a past of which the present should conserve elements to assure the continuity of a beneficial and illustrious tradition.
"It is quite true that in the new Italian Constitution “titles of nobility are not recognized” (except, of course, in accordance with Article 42 of the Concordat, as pertains to the Holy See, those titles granted or to be granted by the Supreme Pontiffs);82 yet not even the Constitution can annul the past, nor the history of your families".83
There is no moral judgment in Pius XII’s explicit and direct reference to the abolition of nobiliary titles by the Italian Republic. The Pope simply acknowledges the fact. But pari passu he affirms with noble agility that, far from following the example of republican Italy, the Church vindicates the validity of the titles of nobility She has hitherto granted or may come to grant in the future. These titles continued to be valid even in the Republic of Italy in virtue of Article 42 of the Lateran Treaty.84 This is evident, since an article of the Italian Constitution cannot unilaterally suspend the validity of pontifical titles recognized by a bilateral act such as the Concordat of 1929.85
So, the Roman Patriciate and Nobility still have a momentous and magnificent duty, resulting from the prestige that friends and foes alike must acknowledge.
"Therefore even now the people—whether they are favorable toward you or not, whether they feel respectfully loyal or hostile toward you—look at you and see what sort of example you set in life. It is thus up to you to respond to such expectations and show how your conduct and actions are in keeping with truth and virtue, especially in the matters We have just discussed in Our recommendations.86
Considering the past of the Roman Nobility and finding therein not something dead but an “impetus for the future,” Pius XII, “moved by feelings of honor and loyalty,” reserved for it a treatment of special distinction and invited his contemporaries to do likewise.
"In you We hail the descendants and representatives of families long in the service of the Holy See and the Vicar of Christ, who remained faithful to the Roman Pontificate even when it was exposed to outrages and persecutions. Without doubt, over the course of time the social order has been able to evolve, and its center has shifted. Public offices, which once were reserved for your class, may now be conferred and exercised on a basis of equality; nevertheless, such a testimonial of grateful remembrance—which must also serve as an impetus for the future—must also command respect and understanding in modern man as well if he wishes to possess just and fair sentiments".87
9. Democracy According to the Doctrine of the Church— Archaeologism and False Restoration: Two Extremes to Be Avoided
One might ask if Pius XII with these teachings, uttered in an epoch of overwhelming desire for equality, was attempting to react against this egalitarian tendency by condemning democracy.
In this respect, further considerations may be useful.
The social doctrine of the Church always affirmed the legitimacy of the three forms of government: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. It always refused to accept that democracy is the only form of government compatible with justice and charity.
Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches that, in principle, monarchy is a form of government superior to the rest. But this does not mean that particular circumstances may not render aristocracy or democracy more appropriate in one state or another.
Saint Thomas views with singular satisfaction those forms of government in which elements of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy are harmoniously combined.88
Leo XIII, in turn, when explaining the Church’s social doctrine on the forms of government, declares: “By giving oneself up to abstractions, one could at length conclude which is the best of these forms, considered in themselves.”89 However, the Pontiff does not affirm which form it is.
Nonetheless, we must note the categorical nature of his affirmation, although it seems at first glance to be conditional: “one could conclude.”
In fact, the Pontiff affirms that it is possible to determine which form of government is intrinsically better so long as the thinker remains in the realm of abstractions. And so he adds:
"And in all truth it may be affirmed that each of them is good, provided it lead straight to its end—that is to say, to the common good for which social authority is constituted; and finally, it may be added that, from a relative point of view, such and such a form of government may be preferable because of being better adapted to the character and customs of such and such a nation".90
One question remains. According to the Pontiff’s reasoning, which form of government would be considered better in the realm of mere abstraction?
To answer this we must recall the encyclical Aeterni Patris of August 4, 1879, concerning the restoration of Scholasticism according to the doctrine of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Among many other tributes to the work of this great Doctor of the Church we find the following:
"It is well known that almost all the founders and lawgivers of religious orders enjoined upon their members to study and adhere religiously to the doctrines of St. Thomas, warning them that no one of them should with impunity recede, even in the slightest degree, from the teachings of so great a master….
"But what is of more importance, the Roman Pontiffs, Our predecessors, extolled St. Thomas with the highest encomiums and distinguished praise….
"To the opinions of the greatest Pontiffs, Innocent VI, as if raising a monument to St. Thomas’s memory, adds the declaration: “His teaching above all others, the canonical writings excepted, has such an accuracy of expression, such an arrangement of subjects, such a correctness of conclusions, that those who held to it have never been found to depart from the path of truth, and those who opposed it have always been suspected of unsoundness” (Sermon on Saint Thomas).
"And it was an honor reserved to St. Thomas alone…that the Fathers of Trent in their Hall of Assembly decided to place upon the altar, side by side with Holy Scripture and the Decrees of the Roman Pontiffs, the Summa of St. Thomas, to seek in it counsel, arguments, and decisions for their purpose".91
We must not suppose that in this matter the thinking of Leo XIII would differ from that of Saint Thomas. In this regard, the following sentence of the same Pontiff is worthy of special attention:
"We never intended to add anything either to the opinions of the great scholars on the value of different forms of government, or to Catholic doctrine and the traditions of this Apostolic See on the degree of obedience due to the constituted powers".92
Democracy being the government of the people, and the Church’s concept of people being profoundly different from the current neopagan concept—which equates people with mass—it follows that the Catholic concept of democracy differs profoundly from what democracy is generally understood to be.93
In view of the egalitarian avalanche, and refraining from political preferences, Pius XII seeks to consider the democratic tendency as it exists and to guide it in order to prevent damage to the sociopolitical body.
He discloses this design when, during the reorganization of post-war Italy, he gave the Roman Nobility the following counsel:
"Everyone generally admits that this reorganization cannot be conceived as a pure and simple return to the past. Such a step backward is not possible. The world, despite its often disorderly, disconnected, fragmented, and incoherent movements, has continued to move ahead; history does not stop, it cannot stop; it is forever advancing, following its course, whether straight and orderly or twisted and confused, toward progress or toward an illusion of progress".94
When reconstructing a society, as when reconstructing a building, there are two extremes to avoid: one, merely archaeological reconstruction; the other, construction of an entirely different edifice, in which case it would not really be a reconstruction. The Pontiff says:
"Just as one could not conceive of reconstructing a building required to serve modern-day needs in the same manner as one would conceive of an archaeological reconstruction, likewise such rebuilding would not be possible following arbitrary designs, even if these were theoretically the best and most desirable. One must always bear in mind inescapable reality, the entire sweep and scope of reality".95
10. Highly Aristocratic Institutions Are Also Necessary in Democracies
Now, if the Church does not intend to destroy democracy, she certainly does desire that it be well understood and that the distinction between the Christian and revolutionary concepts of democracy be clear. It is timely to remember, in this vein, what Pius XII teaches about the traditional character and the aristocratic tone of a true Christian democracy.
"On another occasion, We spoke of the conditions necessary for a people to be ripe for a healthy democracy. Yet who can raise and nurture this state of ripeness? No doubt the Church could draw many lessons in this regard from the treasury of its experiences and its own civilizing activities. Yet your presence here today brings to mind one particular observation. As history will testify, wherever true democracy reigns, the life of the people is permeated with sound traditions, which it is not legitimate to destroy. The primary representatives of these traditions are the ruling classes, or rather, the groups of men and women, or the associations, which set the tone, as we say, for the village or the city, for the region or the entire country.
"Whence the existence and influence, among all civilized peoples, of aristocratic institutions, aristocratic in the highest sense of the word, like certain academies of widespread and well-deserved renown. And the nobility is in that number too. Without claiming any privilege or monopoly, it is, or ought to be, one of these institutions. It is a traditional institution, founded on the continuity of an ancient education. Of course, in a democratic society, which our own wishes to be, the mere title of birth no longer suffices to command authority or esteem; therefore, in order to preserve in worthy fashion your elevated station and social rank, indeed to increase it and raise it, you must truly be an elite, you must meet the conditions and fulfill the indispensable demands of the epoch wherein we live".96
The milieu of a true nobility or traditional elite is as it were a breeding ground where elevated qualities of intelligence, will, and sensibility are formed, thereby increasing its prestige with the merit of each successive generation. For Pius XII, this type of nobility or traditional elite is not a heterogeneous and contradictory element within a truly Christian democracy, but rather a precious element of it. Thus we perceive how different an authentically Christian democracy is from the egalitarian democracy proclaimed by the Revolution. For the latter, the destruction of all elites—and especially the nobility—is deemed an essential condition for democratic authenticity.97
(65) RPN 1947, pp. 370-371.
(66) RPN 1941, p. 364.
(67) See Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites, Documents VI.
(68) RPN 1944, pp. 177-178.
(69) RPN 1942, p. 345. In this regard, Rivarol, the brilliant French polemicist who opposed the Revolution of 1789, of which he was a contemporary, affirmed, “nobles are like ancient coins that time made into medals” (in M. Berville, Mémoires de Rivarol [Paris: Baudouin Frères, 1824], p. 212).
(70) RPN 1944, p. 178.
(71) The term Revolution is used in this book in the sense attributed it in the study Revolution and Counter-Revolution, by the present author. It designates a movement initiated in the fifteenth century which aimed to destroy Christian civilization and to implant a state of things diametrically opposed to it. The Pseudo-Reformation, the French Revolution, and Communism—in its many variations and in its current subtle metamorphosis—are the stages of this process.
(72) Fléchier, Oraison funèbre, 1676. The Pope refers to Henri de la Tour d’Auvergne, Viscount de Turenne, Marshall of France (1611-1675).
(73) RPN 1944, pp. 178-180; see Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites, Documents VI.
(74) Ibid., p. 180. The reader should not imagine that with this wise counsel Pius XII overlooks the grave dangers stemming from overrating modern technology. Consider what he has to teach in this respect: “It seems undeniable that technology itself, which has attained its apogee of splendor and fruitfulness in our century, is in actual circumstances being transformed into a grave spiritual danger. It seems to communicate to modern man, who bows before its altar, a sense of self-sufficiency and satisfaction of his boundless thirst for knowledge and power. With its manifold uses, the absolute confidence it inspires, the inexhaustible possibilities it promises, modern technology unfolds before men of today a vision so vast that it is taken by many to be infinity itself. It is consequently believed to possess an inadmissible autonomy that in turn is transformed, in the mind of some, into an erroneous conception of life and the world that is called the ‘spirit of technology.’ But of what, precisely, does this consist? It consists in considering that what is of the highest value for humanity and life is the most advantageous exploitation of nature’s forces and elements; in setting all the technically possible methods of mechanical production as a goal above all other human activities; and in seeing in these the perfection of earthly culture and happiness” (Christmas message of 1953, Discorsi e radiomessaggi di Sua Santit… Pio XII, Vol. 15, p. 522).
(75) RPN 1942, p. 347.
(76) Ibid., pp. 346-347. The Pope refers at the end of this passage to Marcantonio Colonna, the Younger, Duke of Paliano (1535-1584). Saint Pius V entrusted him with the command of twelve pontifical ships that participated in the battle. He fought with such heroism and ability that he was received triumphantly in Rome.
(77) Ibid., pp. 347-348. By “fallen humanity,” the Pontiff alludes to mankind’s decadence due to Original Sin.
(78) Ibid., p. 348.
(79) Chapter IV, 8.
(80) RPN 1941, pp. 363-364; see Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites, Documents IV.
(81) RPN 1951, pp.423-424.
(82) See Chapter II, 1.
(83) RPN 1949, p. 346.
(84) See Chapter II, 1.
(85) Regarding the summary abolition of institutions as old and meritorious as the nobility under the impact of the radical egalitarianism that spread throughout many countries after the two world wars, it is lamentable that Saint Thomas Aquinas’ wise teachings were not taken into account. In the Summa Theologica (I-II, q. 97, a. 2) under the title “Whether human law should always be changed, whenever something better occurs?” he wrote: “It is stated in the Decretals: It is absurd, and a detestable shame, that we should suffer those traditions to be changed which we have received from the fathers of old. As stated above, human law is rightly changed, in so far as such change is conducive to the common weal. But, to a certain extent, the mere change of law is of itself prejudicial to the common good: because custom avails much for the observance of laws, seeing that what is done contrary to general custom, even in slight matters, is looked upon as grave. Consequently, when a law is changed, the binding power of the law is diminished, in so far as custom is abolished. Wherefore human law should never be changed, unless, in some way or other, the common weal be compensated according to the extent of the harm done in this respect. Such compensation may arise either from some very great and very evident benefit conferred by the new enactment; or from the extreme urgency of the case, due to the fact that either the existing law is clearly unjust, or its observance extremely harmful. Wherefore the Jurist says that in establishing new laws, there should be evidence of the benefit to be derived, before departing from a law which has long been considered just.“
(86) RPN 1949, p. 346.
(87) RPN 1950, p. 357.
(88) For a better understanding of the Church’s doctrine and Saint Thomas’s thinking on the various forms of government, it is of capital importance to read the pontifical texts and the texts of the Angelic Doctor transcribed in Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites, Appendix IV along with the author’s commentaries.
(89) Encyclical Au milieu des sollicitudes, in Wynne, Great Encyclical Letters, p. 255.
(91) American Catholic Quarterly Review, Vol. 4, (October 1879), pp. 753-755 passim.
(92) Letter to Cardinal Mathieu, March 28, 1897, in La paix intérieure des Nations (Desclée & Cie., 1952), p. 220.
(93) See Chapter III.
(94) RPN 1945, p. 274.
(96) RPN 1946, pp. 340-341.
(97) On the legitimacy and necessity of the nobility’s existence in an authentically Catholic society, see the substantial outline published under the title “Aristocracy” in an important homiletic work elaborated under the direction of Angel Cardinal Herrera Oria. It is transcribed and analyzed in Appendix V of Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites.