Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira



Chapter VI
The Meaningful Contribution of the Nobility and Traditional Elites to the Solution of the Contemporary Crisis
The Teaching of Pius XII



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Having seen the legitimacy and necessity of the existence of traditional elites, we shall now present Pius XII’s teachings on how these elites should act as leaders of society through the qualities and virtues proper to them. Indeed, they have no right to exempt themselves from this responsibility. 


St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Duchess of Thuringia, washes and heals the wounds of the ringworm patients - Murillo, 1672, Hospital of the Holy Charity, Seville

1. Christian Virtue: The Essence of Nobility

Today’s noble should be, above all, a man in whom spiritual qualities shine. Christian virtue and the Christian ideal are part of the very essence of nobility.

"Lift your gaze and keep it fixed on the Christian ideal. All those upheavals, those evolutions and revolutions, have left it untouched. They can do nothing against what is the inner essence of true nobility, that which aspires to Christian perfection, the same that the Redeemer pointed to in the Sermon on the Mount. Unconditional loyalty to Catholic doctrine, to Christ, and to His Church; the ability and the will to be also models and guides for others…. You must present to the world, even to the world of believers and of practicing Catholics, the spectacle of a faultless conjugal life, the edification of a truly exemplary domestic hearth".98

Pius XII then calls the nobility to a holy intransigence.

"You must build a dike against every infiltration, into your home and your circles, of ruinous ideas, pernicious indulgences and tolerances that might contaminate and sully the purity of matrimony and family. Here indeed is an exemplary and holy enterprise, well suited to ignite the zeal of the Roman and Christian nobility in our times".99

a. The spiritual qualities of the contemporary noble

To overcome the grave obstacles that hinder the perfect fulfillment of his duty, a member of the nobility or traditional elites should be a man of valor. This is what the Vicar of Jesus Christ expects of him.

"Therefore, what We expect of you is above all a strength of soul that even the harshest trials cannot vanquish; a strength of soul that should make you not only perfect soldiers of Christ for yourselves, but also, as it were, instructors and supporters for those who might be tempted to doubt or give in.

"What We expect of you is, secondly, a readiness to act that is not daunted nor discouraged by any anticipation of sacrifice that might be required for the common good; a readiness and a fervor that, in making you swift to carry out all your duties as Catholics and citizens, should keep you from falling into an apathetic, inert “abstentionism,” which would be a grievous sin at a time when the most vital interests of religion and country are at stake.

"What We expect of you, lastly, is a generous adhesion—not under your breath and for the mere sake of formality, but from the bottom of your hearts and carried out without reservation—to Christian doctrine and the Christian life, to the precept of brotherhood and social justice, the observance of which cannot fail to ensure you spiritual and temporal happiness.

"May this strength of soul, this fervor, this brotherly spirit guide every one of your steps and reaffirm your path in the course of the New Year, which has been so uncertain in its birth and almost seems to be leading you toward a dark tunnel".100

The Pontiff develops these concepts even more in his allocution of 1949.

"All are in need of strength of soul, but especially so in our times, in order to bear the suffering bravely, to overcome life’s difficulties victoriously, to constantly perform one’s duty. Who does not have some reason for suffering? Who does not have some cause for sorrow? Who does not have something to fight for? Only he who surrenders and flees. Yet your right to surrender and flee is much less than that of others. Suffering and hardship today are commonly the lot of all classes, all social stations, all families, all persons. And if a few are exempt, if they swim in superabundance and enjoyment, this must spur them to take the miseries and hardships of others upon themselves. Who could find contentment and rest, who, rather, would not feel uneasy and ashamed, to live in idleness and frivolity, in luxury and pleasure, amid almost universal tribulation?

"Readiness to act. In this moment of great personal and social solidarity, everyone must be ready to work, to sacrifice oneself, to devote oneself to the good of all. The difference lies not in the fact of obligation, but in the manner of fulfilling it. Is it not true that those who have more time and more abundant means at their disposal should be more assiduous and more solicitous in their desire to serve? In speaking of means, We are not referring only nor primarily to wealth, but to all the gifts of intelligence, culture, education, knowledge, and authority, which fate does not grant to certain privileged individuals for their exclusive advantage or to create an irremediable inequality among brothers, but rather for the good of the whole social community. In all that involves serving one’s neighbor, society, the Church and God, you must always be the first. Therein lies your true rank of honor, your most noble preeminence.

"Generous adhesion to the precepts of Christian doctrine and the Christian life. These are the same for all, for there are not two truths, nor two laws; rich and poor, big and small, noble and humble, all are equally expected to submit their intellects through faith in the same dogma, their wills through obedience to the same morals. Divine justice, however, will be much more severe toward those who have been given more, those who are better able to understand the sole doctrine and to put it into practice in everyday life, those who with their example and their authority can more easily direct others onto the road of justice and salvation, or else lose them on the fatal roads of unbelief and sin".101

These last words show that the Pontiff does not accept a nobility or a traditional elite that is not effectively and unselfishly apostolic. A nobility living for profit and not for Faith, without ideals and like the bourgeois (in the pejorative sense sometimes attributed to this word), is not a true nobility but a mere corpse thereof.102

b. Aristocratic chivalrousness: a bond of charity

The effective and enduring possession of these virtues and spiritual qualities naturally breeds chivalrous and distinguished manners. Does a noble, gifted with such qualities and manners, constitute an element of division among the social classes?

No. Far from being a divisive factor, a well-understood aristocratic chivalrousness is truly an element of union that gracefully penetrates the relationships between the nobles and the members of the other social classes with whom they deal because of their occupation or activities.

This chivalrousness maintains the distinction of classes “without confusion or disorder,”103 that is, without egalitarian leveling. Quite the contrary, it establishes friendly relations among them.

2. The Nobility and the Traditional Elites as Guides of Society

2. The Nobility and the Traditional Elites as Guides of Society

The spiritual qualities and chivalrous manners that derive from Christian virtues qualify the noble to exercise the mission of guiding society.

a. Guiding society: a form of apostolate

Today’s multitudes need competent guides.

"The numberless, anonymous multitude is easily provoked to disorder; it surrenders blindly, passively, to the torrent that carries it away or to the whims of the currents that divide and divert it. Once it has become the plaything of the passions or interests of its agitators, as of its own illusions, it is no longer able to take root on the rock and stabilize itself to form a true people, that is, a living body with limbs and organs differentiated according to their respective forms and functions, yet working all together for its autonomous activity in order and unity".104

It is the responsibility of the nobility and the traditional elites to guide society, thereby accomplishing a brilliant apostolate.

"You could well become this elite. You have behind you an entire past of age-old traditions that represent fundamental values for the healthy life of a people. Among these traditions, of which you are rightfully proud, you number religiousness, the living and working Catholic faith, as the most important of all. Has history not already cruelly proved that any human society without a religious foundation rushes inevitably toward its dissolution and ends up in terror? In emulation of your ancestors, you should therefore shine in the eyes of the people with the light of your spiritual life, with the splendor of your unshakeable faith in Christ and the Church.

"Among these traditions is also the inviolate honor of a profoundly Christian conjugal and familial life. In all countries, or at least in those of Western civilization, there rises now a cry of anguish about marriage and the family, a cry so piercing it is impossible not to hear it. Here too, with your exemplary conduct you must put yourselves at the head of the movement for the reform and restoration of the domestic hearth.

"And among these same traditions you also count that of acting for the people, in all the facets of public life to which you might be called, as living examples of an unwavering performance of duty, as impartial, disinterested men who, free of all inordinate lust for success or wealth, do not accept a post except to serve the good cause, courageous men unafraid of losing favor from above, or of threats from below.

"Lastly, among these traditions there is also the calm, loyal attachment to all that which experience and history have validated and consecrated, that spirit unmoved by restless agitation and blind lust for novelty so characteristic of our time, but also wide open to all social needs. Deeply convinced that only the doctrine of the Church can provide an effective remedy to the present ills, set your hearts upon paving the way for Her, without reservations or selfish suspicions, with words and with works, and especially by guiding, in the administration of your estates, true model businesses from an economic as well as social point of view. A true gentleman never lends his participation to enterprises that can only sustain themselves and prosper at the expense of the common weal and to the detriment and ruin of persons of modest condition. On the contrary, he will put his virtue at the service of the small, the weak, the people—of those who, practicing an honest trade, earn their daily bread by the sweat of their brow. Only thus will you be truly an elite; thus will you fulfill your religious and Christian duty; thus will you nobly serve God and your country.

"May you then, beloved Sons and Daughters, with your great traditions, with care for your progress and your personal, human, and Christian perfection, with your loving good works, with the charity and simplicity of your relations with all the social classes, may you then strive to help the people reestablish themselves on the foundation stone, to seek the kingdom of God and His justice".105

b. How the nobility should exercise its mission of leadership

In the exercise of this directive mission, the nobility should bear in mind that there is a vast variety of leadership functions.

"In an advanced society like our own, which will have to be restored and reordered after the great cataclysm, the responsibilities of the leaders are rather diverse: the leader is the man of State, of government, the politician; the leader is the worker, who, without resorting to violence, threats, or insidious propaganda, but through his own worth, is able to gain authority and standing among his peers; the leaders are all those in their respective fields, the engineer, the jurist, the diplomat, the economist, without whom the material, social, and international world would go adrift; the leaders are the university professor, the orator, the writer, all of whom aim at molding and guiding spirits; the leader is the military officer who infuses the hearts of his soldiers with a sense of duty, service, and sacrifice; the leader is the doctor carrying out his mission of restoring health; the leader is the priest who directs souls onto the path of light and salvation, providing them assistance for advancing safely along that road".106

The nobility and the traditional elites must participate in the leadership, not just of one sector of society, but of any worthy sector, and always with a traditional and proper spirit and in a thorough way.

"And what, in this multitude of leaderships, is your place, your function, your duty? It presents itself in dual form: the personal function and duty of every one of you individually, and the function and duty of the class to which you belong.

"Personal duty requires that you, with your virtue and diligence, endeavor to become leaders in your professions. Indeed, we all know well that today the youth of your noble class, aware of the dark present and the even more uncertain future, are fully convinced that work is not only a social duty, but also a personal guarantee of livelihood. And We use the word professions in its broadest, most comprehensive sense, as we had occasion to point out last year—that is, technical or humanistic professions, but also political and social activities, intellectual occupations, works of every sort: the prudent, vigilant, hard-working administration of your property, your lands, following the most modern and tested methods of cultivation, for the material, moral, social, and spiritual good of the peasants or other populations who live on them. In every one of these situations you must make every effort to succeed as leaders, whether because of the trust placed in you by those who have remained faithful to the wise and still living traditions, or because of the mistrust of so many others, which you shall have to overcome by winning their esteem and respect, by dint of excelling in everything in the positions in which you find yourselves, in the activities you pursue, regardless of the nature of the position or the form of the activity".107

More precisely, the noble should transmit to everything he does the relevant human qualities that his tradition affords him.

"In what, then, should this excellence of life and action consist, and what are its principle characteristics?

"It manifests itself above all in the perfection of your work, whether it be technical, scientific, artistic, or anything else. The work of your hands and your spirits must bear that imprint of distinction and perfection that cannot be acquired from one day to the next, but rather reflects a refinement of thought, of feeling, of soul, and of conscience, inherited from your forebears and ceaselessly nurtured by the Christian ideal.

"It also shows itself in what can be called humanism, that is, the presence, the intervention of the complete man in all the manifestations of his activities, even if specialized, in such a way that the specialization of his ability should never hypertrophy, should never atrophy, never becloud the general culture, just as in a musical phrase the dominant should never break the harmony nor burden the melody.

"It is also made manifest in the dignity of one’s entire bearing and conduct—a dignity that is not imperious, however, and that, far from emphasizing distances, only lets them appear when necessary to inspire in others a higher nobility of soul, mind, and heart.

"Lastly, it manifests itself above all in the sense of lofty morality, or righteousness, honesty, and probity that must inform every word and every deed".108

Aristocratic refinement, so inherently worthy of admiration, would be useless and even harmful were it not based on a higher moral sense.

"An immoral or amoral society that no longer distinguishes between right and wrong in its conscience or in its outward actions, that no longer feels horror at the sight of corruption but rather makes excuses for it, adapts to it indifferently, woos it with favors, practices it with no misgivings or remorse, indeed parades it without blushing, thereby degrading itself and making a mockery of virtue, is on the road to ruin….

True nobility is another matter altogether: In social relations it lets shine a humility filled with greatness, a charity untouched by any egotism or concern for one’s own interest. We are not unaware of the tremendous goodness, gentleness, devotion, and self-abnegation with which many, and many among your number, have in these times of endless suffering and anguish bent down to aid the unfortunate and have been able to radiate about themselves the light of their charitable love, in all its most progressive and efficacious forms. And this is another aspect of your mission".109

Humility filled with greatness:” What an admirable expression, so opposed to the vain style of the jet set and to the vulgarity of today’s supposedly democratic and modern manners, lifestyles, and way of being!

c. Elites with a traditional upbringing are profound observers of reality

A noble, gifted with a profoundly traditional spirit, can find in the experience of the past that lives in him the means to understand current issues better than many other people. Far from being on the fringes of reality, he is a subtle and profound observer of it.

"There are ills in society, just as there are ills in individuals. It was a great event in the history of medicine when one day the famous Laennec, a man of genius and faith, anxiously bending over the chests of the sick and armed with the stethoscope he had invented, performed auscultation, distinguishing and interpreting the slightest breaths, the barely audible acoustic phenomena of the lungs and heart. Is it not perhaps a social duty of the first order and of the highest interest to go among the people and listen to the aspirations and malaise of our contemporaries, to hear and discern the beatings of their hearts, to seek remedies for common ills, to delicately touch their wounds to heal them and save them from the infection that might set in for want of care, making sure not to irritate them with too harsh a touch?

"To understand and love in Christ’s charity the people of your time, to give proof of this understanding and love through actions: This is the art and the way of doing that greater good that falls to you, doing it not only directly for those around you, but also in an almost limitless sphere. Then does your experience become a benefit for all. And in this area, how magnificent is the example set by so many noble spirits ardently and eagerly striving to bring about and spread a Christian social order!"110

Moved by Faith, the authentic and, therefore, genuinely traditional aristocrat, while preserving himself as such, can and must love the people, over whom he should exercise a truly Christian influence.

d. The authentically traditional aristocrat: an image of God’s providence

But, someone might ask, will not the nobility belittle itself by assuming today’s leadership posts? And will its love of the past not constitute an obstacle to the exercise of present activities? In this respect Pius XII teaches:

"No less offensive to you, and no less damaging to society, would be the unfounded and unjust prejudice that did not hesitate to insinuate and have it believed that the patricians and nobles were failing in their honor and in the high office of their station in practicing and fulfilling their duties and functions, placing them alongside the general activity of the population. It is quite true that in ancient times the exercise of professions was usually considered beneath the dignity of nobles, except for the military profession; but even then, once armed defense made them free, more than a few of them readily gave themselves over to intellectual works or even manual labor. Nowadays, of course, with the changes in political and social conditions, it is not unusual to find the names of great families associated with progress in science, agriculture, industry, public administration, and government—and they are all the more perceptive observers of the present as well as confident and bold pioneers of the future, since with a steady hand they hold firm to the past, ready to take advantage of the experience of their ancestors but quick to be wary of the illusions and mistakes that have been the cause of many false and dangerous steps.

"As custodians, by your own choosing, of the true tradition honoring your families, the task and honor of contributing to the salvation of human society falls to you, to preserve it from the sterility to which the melancholy thinkers jealous of the past would condemn it and from the catastrophe to which the reckless adventurers and prophets dazzled by a false and mendacious future would lead it. In your work, above you and as it were within you, there shall appear the image of Divine Providence which with strength and gentleness disposes and directs all things toward their perfection (Wis. 8:1), as long as the folly of human pride does not intervene to thwart its designs, which are, however, always above evil, chance, and fortune. By such action you, too, shall be precious collaborators of the Church, which, even amid the turmoil and conflict, never ceases to foster the spiritual progress of nations, the city of God on earth in preparation for the eternal city".111

e. The aristocracy’s mission among the poor

One aspect of the traditional elites’ participation in the direction of society is their educational and charitable action. This is admirably described by Pius XII.

"But, like every rich patrimony, this one brings with it some very strict duties, all the more strict as this patrimony is rich. There are two above all:

"1) the duty not to squander such treasures, to pass them on whole, indeed increased, if possible, to those who will come after you; to resist, therefore, the temptation to see in them merely the means to a life of greater ease, pleasure, distinction and refinement;

"2) the duty not to reserve these assets for yourselves alone, but to let them generously benefit those who have been less favored by Providence.

"The nobility of beneficence and virtue, dear Sons and Daughters, was itself conquered by your ancestors, and bearing witness to this are the monuments and houses, the hospices, asylums, and hospitals of Rome, where their names and their memory bespeak their provident and vigilant kindness to the needy and unfortunate. We are well aware that in the Patriciate and the Roman Nobility this glory and challenge to do good, inasmuch as they have been in a position to do good, has not been lacking. Yet at this present, painful hour, in which the sky is troubled by watchful, suspicious nights, your spirit, while maintaining a noble seriousness, indeed a lifestyle of austerity that excludes all trifles and frivolous pleasures, which for every genteel heart are incompatible with the spectacle of so much suffering, feels all the more keenly the urge for charitable works impelling you to increase and multiply the merits you have already achieved in the alleviation of human misery and poverty".112

3. The Absent Leaders—The Harm of Their Absence

a. Absenteeism and omission: sin of the elites

Unfortunately, not a few members of the nobility and the traditional elites have a tendency to isolate themselves from contemporary life. Imagining themselves to be protected from the uncertainties of life by a secure patrimony and absorbed in memories of bygone days, some of them estrange themselves from real life. They shut themselves off from the outside world and let the days and years elapse in a careless, quiet life with no definite earthly objective.

Search for their names in apostolic works, in charitable activities, in diplomacy, in academia, in politics, in the arts, in the armed forces, in the financial world. It will be in vain. Save for some exceptions, they will be absent. Even in social life, where it would be natural for them to shine, their role is at times null. We may even witness the situation of a country, province, or city where everything happens as if they did not exist.

Why this absenteeism? The cause lies in a mixture of qualities and defects. If we were to examine closely the lifestyle of these elites, more often than not we would find it dignified, honest, even exemplary, because it is inspired by noble reminiscences of a profoundly Christian past. This past, however, seems not to have any meaning except for themselves. They cling to it with exacting obstinacy and alienate themselves from contemporary life. They do not perceive that among those reminiscences, there are elements that are no longer applicable to our day.113 Nevertheless, that past still holds certain values, inspirations, propensities, and directives that could favorably and deeply influence the “very different lifestyles” of the “new chapter [that] has begun.”114

This precious ensemble of spiritual, moral, cultural, and social values—of great importance both in the public and private spheres—is tradition, a life born of the past to lead the future. Upholding the permanence of tradition, the nobility and the analogous elites should exercise a profound and co-directive action of presence in society for the common good.

b. The absence of leaders: a virtual complicity

One thus comprehends even better the moral irresponsibility implicit in the omissions of the perpetually absent elites.

"Less difficult, on the other hand, is the task of determining, from the various options open to you, what should be your mode of conduct.

"The first of these modes of conduct is unacceptable: that of the deserter, of him who was incorrectly called the “emigré à l’intérieur“;115 it is the abstention of the angry, resentful man who, out of spite or discouragement, makes no use of his qualities or energies, participates in none of his country’s and his epoch’s activities, but rather withdraws—like Achilles in his tent, near the swift-moving boats, far from the battles116—while the destinies of the fatherland are at stake.

"Abstention is even less appropriate when it is the result of an indolent, passive indifference. Indeed, worse than ill humor, worse than spite and discouragement, would be nonchalance in the face of a ruin into which one’s own brothers, one’s own people, were about to fall. In vain would it attempt to hide behind the mask of neutrality; it is not at all neutral; it is, like it or not, complicit. Each light snowflake falling softly on the mountain’s slope and adorning it with its whiteness plays its part, while letting itself be dragged along, in turning the little clump of snow that breaks away from the peak into the avalanche that brings disaster to the valley, crushing and burying peaceful homes. Only the solid mass, which is one with the rock of the foundation, can victoriously resist and stop the avalanche, or at least diminish its destructive course.

"In this same way the man who is just and firm in his desire for good, the man of whom Horace speaks in a famous ode (Carmen Secularae, III, 3), who does not let himself be moved in his unshakeable thought by the furor of the citizens who give criminal orders nor by the tyrant’s menacing scowl, but remains undaunted, even should the universe crumble over his head: “si fractus inlabatur orbis, impavidum ferient ruinae.” Yet if this just and strong man is a Christian, he will not content himself with standing erect and impassive amid the ruins; he will feel duty-bound to resist and prevent catastrophe, or at least to limit its damage. And if he cannot contain its destructive force, he will be there again to rebuild the demolished edifice, to sow the devastated field. That is what your conduct should rightly be. It must consist—without having to renounce the freedom of your convictions and your opinions on human vicissitudes—in accepting the contingent order of things such as it is, and in directing its efficiency toward the good, not of a specific class, but of the entire community".117

With these last words the Pope insists on the principle that, as long as it fulfills its duty, a traditional elite benefits the whole social body.

4. Another Way to Shirk One’s Mission: To Allow Oneself to Be Corrupted and Debased

The nobility and the traditional elites can also sin against their mission by allowing themselves to deteriorate through impiety and immorality.

"The French high society of the eighteenth century was one tragic example of this, among so many others. Never was a society more refined, more elegant, more brilliant, more fascinating. The most varied pleasures of the mind, an intense intellectual culture, a very refined art of pleasure, and an exquisite delicacy of manners and language predominated in that outwardly so courtly and gracious society, and yet everything in it—books, stories, images, furniture, clothing, hair-styles—encouraged a sensuality that penetrated one’s veins and one’s heart, and even marital infidelity scarcely surprised or scandalized anyone anymore. Thus did that society work toward its own downfall, rushing headlong toward the abyss it had dug out with its own hands".118

When they become corrupt like this, the nobility and the traditional elites exert a tragically destructive action upon society, which should see in them an example and an incentive for the practice of virtue and goodness. In the contemporary crisis, they therefore have the duty of making reparation for their destructive action in the past and at present.

History is forged principally by the elites. Because of this, if the action of the Christian nobility in the past was highly beneficial, the paganization of the nobility was one of the sources of the catastrophic contemporary crisis.

"It is useful, however, to recall that this movement toward unbelief and irreligion found its starting point not from below but from above, that is to say, in the ruling classes, in the upper tiers of society, the nobility, the thinkers and philosophers. We do not, mind you, mean all the nobility, much less the Roman nobility, which has greatly distinguished itself for its loyalty to the Church and to this Apostolic See—and the eloquent and filial expressions We have just heard are yet another luminous demonstration thereof—but rather, the nobility of Europe in general. Does one not clearly perceive in the Christian West in the last few centuries a spiritual evolution which, horizontally and vertically, breadthwise and lengthwise, so to speak, has been progressively undermining and demolishing the Faith, leading to that devastation visible today in the multitudes of men without religion or hostile to religion, or at least animated and confused by a profound and ill-conceived skepticism toward the supernatural and Christianity?

"The vanguard of this evolution was the so-called Protestant Reformation, during whose vicissitudes and wars a large part of Europe’s nobility broke away from the Catholic Church and appropriated her possessions. But unbelief properly speaking spread in the age that preceded the French Revolution. Historians note that atheism, even in the guise of deism, had become widespread at that time in high society in France and elsewhere; belief in a God who was Creator and Redeemer had become, in that world given over to all the pleasures of the senses, something almost ridiculous and unseemly for cultivated minds avid for novelty and progress. In the greater number of the salons of the greatest and most refined ladies, where the most arduous questions of religion, philosophy, and politics were tossed about, literati and philosophers, champions of subversive doctrines, were considered the finest, most eagerly sought ornaments of those worldly meeting-places. Impiety was fashionable in the high nobility, and the writers most in vogue would have been less audacious in their attacks on religion if they had not enjoyed the approval and incitement of the most elegant high society. Not that all the nobility and all the philosophers set their sights on the immediate de-Christianization of the masses. On the contrary, religion was supposed to remain, for the simple people, as a means of governance in the hands of the State. They, however, felt themselves and thought themselves to be above faith and its moral precepts, a policy that very quickly proved to be deadly and shortsighted, even when considered from a purely psychological perspective. With inexorable logic, the people, powerful in goodness and terrible in evil, always know how to draw practical conclusions from their observations and judgments, however well-founded or mistaken they may be.

"Take the history of civilization of the last two centuries: It clearly reveals and demonstrates the damage to the faith and morals of nations wrought by bad examples being set and handed down from above, the religious frivolity of the upper classes, the open intellectual struggle against the revealed truth".119

5. For the Common Good of Society: Preferential Option for the Nobility in the Field of Apostolate

Much is said about the apostolate on behalf of the masses and its corollary, preferential action in favor of their material needs. But it is important not to be one-sided in this matter and never to forget the great importance of the apostolate to the elites and, through them, to the whole social body. It is likewise necessary never to lose sight of the importance of a related apostolic preference for the nobles. In this way, with great benefit to social concord, a preferential option for the poor will be harmoniously complemented by a preferential option for the nobles and for the analogous elites. Pius XII states:

"Now, what conclusion are we to draw from these lessons of history? That today salvation must begin there, at the place where the perversion had its origin. It is not in itself difficult to maintain religion and sound morals in the people when the upper classes set a good example and create public conditions that do not make a Christian education immeasurably onerous, but rather promote it as something sweet and to be imitated. Is your duty not the same, beloved Sons and Daughters, you who, by the nobility of your families and the offices you often hold, belong to the ruling classes? The great mission which to you and to very few others has been assigned—that is, first to reform and perfect private life in yourselves and in your homes, and then to apply yourselves, each in his place and in his share, to bring forth a Christian order in public life—does not admit postponement or delay. It is a most noble mission, rich with promises, especially at a moment when, in reaction to a devastating, demoralizing materialism, a new thirst for spiritual values has been emerging in the masses, and minds are opening up to religious things, in a move away from unbelief. These developments allow one to hope that the lowest point of spiritual decline has by now been left behind. To all of you, therefore, falls the glory, by the light and appeal of good examples raising themselves above all mediocrity, of working together to make these initiatives and aspirations to religious and social good achieve their happy fulfillment".120

The specific apostolate of the nobility and of the traditional elites continues, therefore, to be of the greatest importance. 


(98) RPN 1952, p. 458.

(99) Ibid.

(100) RPN 1948, pp. 423-424.

(101) RPN 1949, pp. 346-347.

(102) In this regard, see Saint Charles Borromeo’s homily in Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites, Documents IV, 8.

(103) RPN 1945, p. 277.

(104) RPN 1946, p. 340; See Chapter III.

(105) Ibid., pp. 341-342.

(106) RPN 1945, pp. 274-275.

(107) Ibid., pp. 275-276.

(108) Ibid., p. 276.

(109) Ibid., pp. 276-277.

(110) RPN 1944, pp. 180-181.

(111) Ibid., pp. 181-182.

(112) RPN 1941, pp. 364-365.

(113) “A page of history has been turned; a chapter has ended. A period has been placed, indicating the end of a social and economic past” (RPN 1952, p. 457).

(114) Ibid.

(115) “Emigrant to the countryside”: The Pontiff borrows the French political expression of the 1830s used to designate the nobles who left Paris after the accession of the Duke of Orleans to the throne as “King of the French.” Not agreeing with his accession, in which they saw a revolutionary usurpation, these nobles went to live in their respective castles in the countryside. The expression highlights the contrast between the attitude of these aristocrats, who “emigrated” without leaving the national territory, and their predecessors of 1789, who preferred to rally outside the country, in order to prepare an attack against the French Revolution.

(116) According to the narration in Homer’s Iliad, Achilles, the most famous hero of the Trojan War, enraged with Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek army, withdrew to his tent, thus nearly causing the loss of the war.

(117) RPN 1947, pp. 368-369.

(118) RPN 1945, pp. 276-277.

(119) RPN 1943, pp. 358-360.

(120) Ibid, pp. 360-361.


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