by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
“We do not want Him to reign over us!” “We have no king but Caesar!” Behold, these are the terms by which the Jews repudiated the Kingship of Our Divine Saviour.
Today, the struggle still unfolds in these terms: “The enemy is the paganism of modern life. Our weapons are media publicity and the clarification of papal documents. The time of battle is the present moment. The battlefield is the opposition between reason and sensuality, between the idolatrous whims of fantasy and the true Revelation of God, between Nero and Peter, between Christ and Pilate. The fight is not new; only the time in which it unfolds is new.”1
The adversaries of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ are not only those who directly oppose His plan of redemption. The chorus of these ungodly and renegade voices is echoed by Catholics who distort the words the Divine Master uttered before Pilate when he said that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). They restrict the meaning of these words and make it seem that His kingship is an exclusively spiritual kingship over souls and not a social Kingship over peoples, nations and governments.
When Our Lord says that His kingdom is not of this world, the great ultramontane Cardinal Pie clarifies.2He means that it does not come from this world but from heaven and thus cannot be snatched away by any human power. His kingdom is not like those on earth that are limited and subject to the vicissitudes of the things of this world.
Thus, the expression “of this world” is linked to the origin of the Divine Kingship and does not mean in any way that Jesus Christ denies His Sovereignty or the character of a social kingdom. If His kingdom were limited to a strictly spiritual sphere or the interior life of souls, Our Lord would have blatantly contradicted Himself when, among other references, He clearly states that “all power is given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).
As Vladimir Soloviev3 affirms, “If [Our Lord’s] words about the coin had robbed Caesar of his divinity, this new statement robs him of his absolute power. If Caesar wishes to reign over the earth, he cannot do so of his own will: he must do so as a delegate of the One to whom all power was given on earth.”
One main characteristic of the revolutionary spirit is precisely the intention to divide the religious and civil life of peoples. The express will of God is not what prevails in legislation, which should come from the dictates of right reason promulgated by legitimate authority for the sake of the common good. Instead, law comes from the expression of the majority or fully sovereign general will. The common good’s efficient cause is not found outside and above man but in the free will of individuals.
Thus, public authority draws its primary origin from the multitude. Leo XIII claims this leads to the erroneous notion that “just as every man’s individual reason is his only rule of life, so the collective reason of the community should be the supreme guide in the management of all public affairs. Hence the doctrine of the supremacy of the greater number, and that all right and all duty reside in the majority.” 4
Thus, modern society “refuses any bond of union between man and civil society, on the one hand, and God the Creator and consequently the supreme Law-giver, on the other.”5
Before the eighteenth century and the French Revolution, all countries had political and social institutions based on the force of Christian customs. Afterward, an artificial and revolutionary “new system of law” was despotically implanted all over the world.
These pre-modern institutions were not created by assemblies elected by the fraudulent sovereignty of the people. As Joseph de Maistre says, “the civil constitution of peoples is never the result of deliberation.” A simple act of the will should not dictate the fundamental law that will govern a nation, but rather the guiding principle of law should be precepts of right reason that cannot be ignored and much less run contrary to the Divine command. Human laws must flow from the eternal law. According to Leo XII, if the law establishing what must be done and excluded is left to the discretion of eventual majorities or the largest crowd, this will pave the way for leading a people to tyranny.
Thus, liberalism prepared the modern world for the chains that bind it to the totalitarian Leviathan. It did this by shifting law from its natural source (which is the will of God expressed by natural law and Revelation, of which the Church is the infallible guardian and interpreter) to political sectarians who took over legislative bodies through the alchemy of universal suffrage and by dint of political coups.
For this reason, Napoleon declared he was prouder of the legal code that bears his name than all his military victories as a soldier. By codifying the whole flood of laws emanating from revolutionary assemblies, this consolidator of the French Revolution accomplished more than on the battlefields.
Napoleon’s legal expert, Jean-Jacques Cambacèrès and his cronies managed to give a semblance of order to the chaos of revolutionary rationalist legislation concerned only with appearances of the natural order and utterly ignorant of the supernatural order.6 While this naturalism alone would suffice to separate this revolutionary legislation from the eternal law, many articles in the Napoleonic Code directly opposed Jesus Christ and His Church.
Thus, this Caesarist code established “civil marriage” and allowed divorce. It attacked family property, inheritance laws and the right to make one’s will. It refused to recognize religious orders and denied the Church’s right to acquire and own property freely. It maintained the revolutionary suppression of guilds and the freedom of association. It affirmed the false principle of civil and political equality of all citizens. The family was dealt yet another death blow by insisting on the false principle that prescribes the equal sharing of inheritance. This revolutionary code became the legal model that all modern States would adopt. It effectively banned Christ the King from the governments and laws that govern peoples.
Hence one can say, with Antoine Blanc de Saint-Bonnet7, that “the empire was the crowning achievement of liberalism, or, in other words, the installation of Caesarism: the perfect substitution of God with man, of the Church with the State that ever took place outside the Roman Empire, or, if you prefer, the Ottoman Empire.”
Under such conditions, the gates are open to socialism and communism because liberalism inevitably leads there. Communism does not take over because liberalism is a reaction that provokes its own suppression, as some haphazard theories of sociologists claim. Its essence and characteristics take society to communism.
Liberalism spawns atheism through contempt for the Faith and the unbridled freedom granted to religious and social errors. It then profoundly undermines property by its way of treating the rights of the nobility, expropriating Church property, arbitrarily disposing of family inheritance, consenting to economic abuses and favoring the exploitation of man by man. Finally, liberalism installs itself in states with the brutal force of the masses, handing over authority bound hands and feet to universal suffrage. Thus, Blanc de Saint-Bonnet concludes, “communism is based on atheism, the appropriation of capital, and the force employed by the masses.”8
Indeed, the focal point of this entire revolutionary effort is the radical denial of the Divine Savior’s Social Kingship. “We do not want Him to reign over us!” “We have no king but Caesar!”
Accordingly, Cardinal Pie states that “the dominant error, the capital crime of this century, is the pretense of extracting society from the government and law of God… Atheism in law and institutions is the principle that serves as the foundation of the entire modern social order. Whether disguised under [different] names, . . . the principle of freeing human society from religious direction remains at the bottom of things; it is the essence of what is called the new times.”9
To avoid deserting the Faith, a Catholic must, therefore, as a member of the Church Militant, fight for the restoration of the Kingdom of Christ as the only way to restore the only true civilization, which is Christian civilization or the Catholic city.
If Jesus Christ is the King of all Creation, His Blessed Mother is the Queen of heaven and earth. Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort says that Jesus Christ came into the world through the Blessed Virgin and must reign in the world through her. Devotion to the humble Virgin Mary, so despised by the proud puffed up with vain worldly science, is so closely bound to Catholic doctrine that one can call it the last link of a chain of truths. The first link is the dogma of God the Creator. This last link prevents society from plunging into the abyss of naturalism and communism. The most crucial questions with the farthest-reaching consequences on the human and social order hinge upon these articles of Faith and points of dogma now relegated to church premises.
In this month of the Rosary and the Feast of Christ the King, let us make our fervent supplications rise to the throne of the Mother of God to hasten the complete restoration of the Kingdom of Her Divine Son for suffering humanity.
The preceding article was originally published in the October 1952 issue of Catolicismo. It has been translated and adapted for publication without the author’s revision. -Ed.
- Cardinal Eugene Pacelli’s address to the Congress of the Catholic Press in the United States, 1936.
- Cardinal Louis-Édouard-François-Desiré Pie (1815-1880), was the French Catholic bishop of Poitiers. He was known for his outspoken ultramontanism and defense of the social reign of Christ the King.
- Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov (1853—1900) was a Russian philosopher, theologian, poet, pamphleteer, and literary critic. He favored the return of the Russian Orthodox Church to Rome.
- Leo XIII, Encyclical Libertas, June 20, 1888 @ https://www.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_20061888_libertas.html.
- Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès (1753-1824) was a French statesman and legal expert who was second consul with Napoleon Bonaparte and served as his legal adviser on all juridical matters. He was instrumental in formulating the Napoleonic Code, or Civil Code of 1804 and subsequent codes.
- Antoine-Joseph-Elisée-Adolphe Blanc de Saint-Bonnet (1815-1880) was a highly esteemed French legitimist, counterrevolutionary and ultramontane thinker whose ideas were a precursor to modern sociology.
- Blanc de Saint-Bonnet, in La Legitimité.
- Louis-Edouard Cardinal Pie, Oeuvres, tome 7.