Under Every Green Tree
Democracy and the Spirit of Antichrist
“Never to have known Jesus Christ in any way is the greatest of misfortunes, but it involves no perversity or ingratitude. But, after having known, to reject or forget Him, is such a horrible and mad crime as to be scarcely credible.”
“Do away with the obstacles to the spirit of Christianity; revive and make it strong in the State, and the State will be recreated ….The security of the State demands that we should be brought back to Him from whom we ought never to have departed, to Him who is the way, the truth, and the life, not as individuals merely, but as human society through all its extent. Christ our Lord must be reinstated as the Ruler of human society. It belongs to Him, as do all its members. All the elements of the commonwealth; legal commands and prohibitions, popular institutions, schools, marriage, home-life, the workshop, and the palace, all must be made to come to that fountain and imbibe the life that comes from Him….About the “rights of man,” as they are called, the multitude has heard enough; it is time they should hear of the rights of God.”
Pope Leo XIII – Encyclical Tametsi (On Christ Our Redeemer), 1900)
The U.S. Constitution is founded upon two errors which have consistently worked to erode and destroy the faith of Catholics for over two centuries. In Part I of this series, I explored the first of these errors, which is to be found in the First Amendment (the first article of the Bill of Rights): “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….” This fundamental rule of American jurisprudence is a direct denial of the Social Kingship of Christ – which entails that only the Catholic Church can build Christian civilization, and that all nations will only be blessed to the extent that they embrace this Kingship under the spiritual guidance of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Catholic Church. For a nation to declare neutrality towards this Kingship is to call down upon itself eventual total chaos and dissolution, which is precisely the fate that now hovers over our nation. For a Catholic to be involved (including voting) in any way in the political life of such a nation involves a kind of continual dialogue and compromise with much that is in direct and indirect denial of his faith, and therefore almost necessarily results in intellectual, moral, and spiritual prostitution.
As examined in Part I, the eroding effect of this error upon the intellect and will finally devolved upon a situation in which Catholics en masse voted last November either for a candidate who is militantly pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, and anti-Catholic, on the one hand, or one who through his words and actions during the campaign defined himself as profoundly duplicitous in his pretensions of being Christian, and as a “man of lawlessness” beyond all moral prescriptions and decency.
There is, however, a second error, deeply imbedded in the American system of government, which has a history of deception and captivation of the Christian mind over the past 7 centuries which deserves close examination if we are ever to return as Catholics to an integral understanding of Christ’s Kingship over all individuals and nations. It consists, quite simply, in the formula that government is “of the People, by the People, and for the People”, and is rightly given the name “democracy”, which literally means “people rule” – from the Greek demos (the people), and kratia (rule). Many Americans have the erroneous notion that this phrase is to be found in either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. It actually is to be found only in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. But the principle – government of the people and by the people – is certainly the foundation for the Declaration of Independence, and therefore also of the American Constitution: Thus, in the former:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government….” (Declaration of Independence, second paragraph).
There are of course always deficiencies and injustices in government, and the Declaration of Independence does indeed contain a list of grievances against England and her rule of the colonies. When I was a schoolboy, the main grievance of the colonists was always considered to be “taxation without representation”. I remember later in my adult life reading a news story during the Bicentennial Celebration in Boston in 1976 about a man, dressed as King George III, who jumped upon the stage and cried out, “How do you like taxation with representation?” The same story went on to point out that at the time of the Revolution the tax paid by the average American was one-half of 1%, while now it borders upon 50%. Accurate or not, this story points to the fact that there is always excuse for Revolution under democratic forms of government. We need also point out that the Declaration of Independence does indeed have at least one thing right. Governments are certainly instituted for the good of all its citizens, and among the equal rights of all its citizens is the right to life. Under its prescriptions, therefore, there is now a massive amount of justification, in the form of millions of murdered unborn children, for violent Revolution. This does not entail that you or I advocate such Revolution, but rather that the Declaration of Independence does so itself.
It will be the purpose of this article to prove that it is the fundamental principle of democracy – “the rule of the people” – which actually defines the principle of Revolution which has virtually destroyed Christian Civilization, that it has a long history reaching back into the latter Middle Ages, and that it is a heresy which is responsible not only for the decay of nations, but now also threatens the continuing existence of the Church, and the Papacy upon which it is founded.
I realize that this is a rather large undertaking. And since deception in regard to this subject runs so deep, I believe that a rather unusual approach is required in examining this subject.
It is very difficult for most Americans to believe that there is not something almost sacred about democracy. This, in turn, is intimately tied to a reverence not only for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but also for what is termed the “Founding Fathers”. There is something almost Biblical about this reverence – almost as though they were Patriarchs of some sort of New Revelation concerning human rights and freedom.
In order to penetrate through this miasma of false reverence, I therefore intend the following structure to this article: 1) To examine the specific errors of democracy in the light of Catholic doctrine and Papal teachings; 2) To penetrate through the myths concerning the Founding Fathers, including the Catholic “Fathers” of the American Church; 3) To then jump back approximately 700 years in order to examine the origin of and growth of this heresy; 4) Finally, to analyze our present crisis in the light of what we have learned.
Catholic Doctrine Concerning Democracy
There are numerous encyclicals issued by many Popes, especially since the time of the French Revolution, which condemn certain principles integral to democracy. But it is Pope St. Pius X’s encyclical to the French Bishops titled Notre Charge Apostolique (On the Sillon), and a number of encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII, which contain the most direct examination of the errors of democracy, and the Catholic doctrines which are denied by this form of government. These doctrines are all centered upon a true understanding of the source of authority in all civil societies. The reader should keep in mind that in speaking of the errors of “The Sillon”, Pope Pius X is equating these errors with a false democracy, especially as practiced and promoted by Catholics. The two quotations immediately below are from The Sillon:
“Admittedly, the Sillon holds that authority – which it first places in the people – descends from God, but in such a way: “as to return from below upward…. But besides its being abnormal for the delegation of power to ascend, since it is in its nature to descend, Leo XIII refuted in advance this attempt to reconcile Catholic Doctrine with the error of philosophism. For, he continues: ‘It is necessary to remark here that those who preside over the government of public affairs may indeed, in certain cases, be chosen by the will and judgment of the multitude without repugnance or opposition to Catholic doctrine. But whilst this choice marks out the ruler, it does not confer upon him the authority to govern; it does not delegate the power, it designates the person who will be invested with it.’ For the rest, if the people remain the holders of power, what becomes of authority? A shadow, a myth; there is no more law properly so-called, no more obedience.”
“We do not have to demonstrate here that the advent of universal Democracy is of no concern to the action of the Church in the world.”
Perhaps the most powerful condemnations of the principles of democracy are to be found in Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Immortale Dei (On the Christian Constitution of States). I think it worthwhile to offer several passages from this marvelous work:
“Sad it is to call to mind how the harmful and lamentable rage for innovation which rose to a climax in the sixteenth century, threw first of all into confusion the Christian religion, and next, by natural sequence, invaded the precincts of philosophy, whence it spread amongst all classes of society. From this source, as from a fountain-head, burst forth all those later tenets of unbridled license which, in the midst of the terrible upheavals of the last century, were wildly conceived and boldly proclaimed as the principles and foundation of that new conception of law which was not merely previously unknown, but was at variance on many points with not only the Christian, but even the natural law.
“Amongst these principles the main one lays down that as all men are alike by race and nature, so in like manner all are equal in the control of their life; that each one is so far his own master as to be in no sense under the rule of any other individual; that each is free to think on every subject just as he may choose, and to do whatever he may like to do; that no man has any right to rule over other men. In a society grounded upon such maxims all government is nothing more nor less than the will of the people, and the people, being under the power of itself alone, is alone its own ruler. It does choose, nevertheless, some to whose charge it may commit itself, but in such wise that it makes over to them not the right so much as the business of governing, to be exercised, however, in its name.
“The authority of God is passed over in silence, just as if there were no God; or as if He cared nothing for human society; or as if men, whether in their individual capacity or bound together in social relations, owed nothing to God; or as if there could be a government of which the whole origin and power and authority did not reside in God Himself. Thus, as is evident, a State becomes nothing but a multitude which is its own master and ruler. And since the people is declared to contain within itself the spring-head of all rights and of all power, it follows that the State does not consider itself bound by any kind of duty toward God. Moreover, it believes that it is not obliged to make public profession of any religion; or to inquire which of the very many religions is the only one true; or to prefer one religion to all the rest; or to show to any form of religion special favor; but, on the contrary, is bound to grant equal rights to every creed, so that public order may not be disturbed by any particular form of religious belief.
“And it is a part of this theory that all questions that concern religion are to be referred to private judgment; that every one is to be free to follow whatever religion he prefers, or none at all if he disapprove of all. From this the following consequences logically flow: that the judgment of each one’s conscience is independent of all law; that the most unrestrained opinions may be openly expressed as to the practice or omission of divine worship; and that every one has unbounded license to think whatever he chooses and to publish abroad whatever he thinks.”
“Now, natural reason itself proves convincingly that such concepts of the government of a State are wholly at variance with the truth. Nature itself bears witness that all power, of every kind, has its origin from God, who is its chief and most august source.
“The sovereignty of the people, however, and this without any reference to God, is held to reside in the multitude; which is doubtless a doctrine exceedingly well calculated to flatter and to inflame many passions, but which lacks all reasonable proof, and all power of insuring public safety and preserving order. Indeed, from the prevalence of this teaching, things have come to such a pass that many hold as an axiom of civil jurisprudence that seditions may be rightfully fostered. For the opinion prevails that princes are nothing more than delegates chosen to carry out the will of the people; whence it necessarily follows that all things are as changeable as the will of the people, so that risk of public disturbance is ever hanging over our heads.”
I don’t think that we need to elaborate beyond the very evident conclusion that after approximately 225 years of the fruits of democracy in this country, “the risk of public disturbance is ever hanging over our heads.”
We conclude this section therefore with a statement of the two central principles of democracy which are in direct contradiction to Catholic doctrine:
1) Nations (and individuals) have no absolute obligation to embrace the one true religion of Jesus Christ, which is to be found only in the Catholic Church. Religion should in fact be separated from the State, and have no authority over public affairs. This is the heresy commonly called Indifferentism.
2) Political sovereignty and power rests in the people (expressed usually through the Vote). When any of these powers are delegated to be exercised by others , (through, for example, an electoral process), the ultimate power and authority continues to rest in the people, and therefore submission to such authorities can be refused and withdrawn by them.
These principles constitute a direct denial of the Kingship of Christ. They are blasphemy against the universal Sovereignty of God over all of His Creation. It should not therefore seem an exaggeration to see democracy as the spirit of Antichrist incarnated in the political life of nations. Nor should it be surprising to us that Secret Societies long ago perceived that it was the vote, and especially the guilt associated with not voting, which would function as a primary means for lowering minds and hearts into this spirit. I believe that never in the history of this nation has this seduction produced more fruit than in this past election.
Having established clearly the direct opposition of the fundamental principles of democracy to Catholic doctrine, it yet remains to penetrate through a myth which still might hold minds and hearts in darkness in regard to the evils of democracy. This myth is centered upon the beginnings of this nation, and the views of what are called the “Founding Fathers”. It has been common opinion in this country to consider men such as Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, Hamilton, etc. as virtually on par with Biblical prophets, just as the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are venerated as virtual modern extensions of Biblical Revelation.
Let us begin with some generalities. In twelve out of thirteen of the original colonies the practice of the Catholic faith was outlawed. When the British government passed a law in Canada called the Quebec Act which granted religions freedom to Catholics, it was publicly denounced by John Adams, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Samuel Adams, and Alexander Hamilton. On 21 October 1774, the Continental Congress addressed an open letter to the British people admonishing them for passing this law which tolerated a religion which “has deluged your island in blood, and dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellion through every part of the world.”
Some of the “Fathers” stand out not only as anti-Catholic, but also as universally anti-Christian. We must remember that most of them, being products of the Enlightenment, were Deists. They might have nominally believed in a creator God, but they emphatically did not believe in His direct concern or intervention in human affairs. This means, of course, that they vehemently rejected the Incarnation and the Divinity of Christ. Thomas Jefferson gives profound witness to this rejection in his book called The Jefferson Bible. In this work, he had the audacity to edit the entirety of the Gospels, eliminating all reference to Christ’s Divinity, and also expurgating all of His miracles, including His Resurrection. Jefferson, despite recent revelations regarding his moral integrity, has been almost universally venerated as a man of great wisdom and moral integrity. I would ask the reader to obtain a copy of this book, examine its contents, and then question the integrity of a man who would do this to any other man’s work, not to mention that this is the Work of God. Many of the Deists, including Jefferson, claimed to honour Christ as a great moral teacher, while at the same time rejecting all claims to His Divinity. Jefferson detested St. Paul and viewed him as the major villain in what he considered as the idolatrous divinization of the man, Jesus.
One of Thomas Jefferson’s friends and correspondents was Thomas Paine, who is famous for having written the pamphlet Common Sense, which was a powerful piece of propaganda intended to sway public opinion in favour of the American Revolution. Many people do not know that there was at the time a deep division in the colonies over this issue, and that possibly even the majority in the beginning considered this course of action to be highly immoral and treasonous. Paine’s pamphlet, however, worked very effectively to neutralize this opposition, to the extent that virtually all historians today admit that the Revolution would not have occurred without its having been written and widely diffused. Few people also know that Thomas Paine also wrote a book titled The Age of Reason, the expressed purpose of which was to prove that Christianity was false and the Bible deeply self-contradictory. The following passage is taken from Book Two of this work:
“But the belief in a God is so weakened by being mixed with the strange fables of the Christian creed, and with the wild adventures related in the Bible, and the obscurity and obscene nonsense of the testament, that the mind of man is bewildered as in a fog ….
“Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying, to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid, or produces only atheists and fanatics. As an engine of power it serves the purpose of despotism and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests; but so far as respects the good of man in general, it leads to nothing here or hereafter.”
It would, of course, be unfair to say that all of the founding fathers were as vehemently or fanatically anti-Christian as were Jefferson and Paine. It would be quite accurate to conclude, howev¬er, that the vast majority were not Christian, and were vehemently anti-Catholic. In other words, those who claim that the solution to the present problems of our country is a return to the Christian roots of our founding fathers and the Constitution are somewhat like the man who shoots himself in the foot, and then does it again because it hurt the first time, and he now wants to do it right. He needs desperately to realize that there was no right in the thing from the beginning. In the case under consideration, he needs to admit that this was not a Christian country to begin with, and we are not in need of re-establishment but of primary evangelization.
Nor do we find integrity in regard to Catholic doctrine concerning the Kingship of Christ when we turn to those who might be viewed as the “Fathers” of American Catholicism.
Every bishop in this country, since the Constitution’s ratification, should have known that from that moment onward this nation would be in an accelerating state of falling away from God; and that this in turn would produce that inevitable decay in the spirituality and psychology of its citizenry which would finally descend to those barbarities which seem to be the end point of all such historical degenerations of nations – the destruction of the family, sexual license, homosexuality, and the sacrifice of one’s own children. The corollary of this understanding, of course, is that such a state of social emergency should have produced a militancy in our bishops, all priests, and the laity which fervently pursued the conversion of every soul in this country to Christ and to His Catholic Church.
In fact, just the opposite happened.
From their very first presence in this country (we speak here of the 13 colonies, and exclude the Catholic population of Spanish origin from this generalization), Catholics largely saw no conflict between their faith and the dominant culture. Lord Baltimore proclaimed religious freedom for the original Catholic settlement of Maryland. Charles Carroll signed the Declaration of Independence, and cast the vote that separated Maryland from England. Daniel Carroll helped draw up the Constitution, called it “the best form of Government that has ever been offered to the world”, and was responsible for its adoption by the state of Maryland. John Carroll, ordained a Catholic priest and later the first bishop of the United States, was sent as an agent of the American Revolutionaries to try to convince Canada and Catholic Quebec to support the American Revolution (which support was refused by Bishop Briand of Quebec), despite the fact that there was such strong anti-Catholic sentiment in this country that the Continental Congress officially and vehemently protested to England against the passage of the Quebec Act, by which England granted religions freedom to Catholics in Canada.
Archbishop (later Cardinal) Gibbons (who has been called the “Prince of Democracy”) stated in his Pastoral Letter accompanying the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884) that “there is no antagonism between the laws, institutions and spirit of the Catholic Church, and the laws, institutions, and spirit of this country”; and further, “that our country’s heroes were the instruments of the God of Nations in establishing this home of freedom,” and that it is illogical to think that “there is aught in the free spirit of our American institutions incompatible with perfect docility to the Church of Christ.”
Cardinal Gibbon’s close friend and contemporary, Bishop John Ireland of St. Paul, was even more rapturous in his unqualified endorsement of the American view of freedom:
“God gives the power; but the people choose those that hold it, and mark out the conditions under which they do hold it. This is supreme democracy: it is the dogma of Catholicism. In America the government is the Republic – the government of the people, by the people, for the people. With you, fellow Catholics, with you fellow Americans, I salute the Republic: I thank God that the people of America are capable of possessing a government of this form. The Republic – it is the fullest recognition of human dignity and human rights, the fullest grant of personal freedom, that due respect for the rights of others and the welfare of the social organism may allow. Alter it to empire or monarchy! Never, so long as our lips may praise it, or our hands wield arms in its defense (address delivered in Milwaukee, Aug 11, 1913).”
This historical betrayal of our bishops, now stained with the blood of many millions of unborn children through the abortion holocaust, and the spiritual rape of those already born through sex-education and the destruction of orthodox catechetical instruction, is still with us. It has now come down to the pathetic point where we are now supposed to consider our hierarchy in this country as heroic for standing up for “religious freedom”, when it is in fact religious freedom and Indifferentism which got us into our present mess to begin with. And behind it all was the cowardice of Silence – the silence which feared proclaiming the rights of God and of His Church to a society immersed in democratic errors.
Finally, it must be said, that the Church certainly recognizes and demands that man can come to the fullness of truth only through the exercise of his free will, and it also possesses a corpus of teaching concerning a legitimate “toleration” of error, especially when the suppression of such error would cause more evil than it would prevent. But such toleration does not lessen the obligation of confronting error “in its face”, and working diligently for the conversion of souls to the freedom which is only to found in the fullness of Catholic truth. It is this Catholic heroism which men like the Carrolls, Cardinal Gibbons, and Archbishop Ireland surrendered to the Republic.
Democracy: The History of Revolution in Church and State
In his analysis of the false principles of democracy in Immortale Dei, Pope Leo XIII spoke of the harmful and lamentable rage for innovation which rose to a climax in the sixteenth century”. The Protestant Revolution was not just an accident or anomaly of history, but rather the clima of an historical process, the origins of which must be sought in the 13th and 14th centuries.
It is of course true that the basic principles of Revolution among mankind are as old as Original Sin, and it is also true that democratic forms of Government reach back to the Greeks (Athenian democracy in the 5th century B.C.). But it is equally true that democracy in relation to Christian civilization possesses it own unique history, and it is here we shall begin our analysis.
It has been my position (and that of many others, including Popes) that Christian civilization reached its highest attainment in the Thirteenth Century. I further believe that this was due especially to two very great graces – St. Francis and St. Thomas Aquinas – given by God, with the power to effect what could have been a new beginning (a kind of New Pentecost) in the Christian world. The gift of St. Francis was designed to effect a return to living the Beatitudes. The gift of St. Thomas provided an intellectual vision of virtually the entirety of Christian Revelation and philosophical understanding, which was designed to be an unprecedented light for the liberation of both individual souls and nations. Both were betrayed. I would recommend my article St. Francis of Assisi: They Pretended to Love You So That They Might Leave You, and The Restoration of the Supernatural According to the Teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, for further understanding these gifts and their rejection.
Much of what follows is indebted to Dr. Ludwig Von Pastor’s work The History of the Popes Since the Close of the Middle Ages. It spans a period of time from the beginning of the 14th Century (the Avignon Papacy) to Napoleon’s entrance into Rome in 1799, and comprises 16 volumes. It is a work immensely important for the understanding of the momentous historical events involving both Church and State during this period, especially considering the fact that Pope Leo XIII, for the first time, gave Von Pastor privileged access to the Secret Vatican Archives, and therefore many hitherto unavailable documents, for his labors.
Von Pastor chose well that point in time in which he was to begin his monumental work. It was at this juncture of time that the Church largely turned its back upon the purity of life and thought to be found in St. Francis and St. Thomas, and opened itself up to that massive influx of Greek and Roman culture through what is called the Renaissance. The Renaissance is usually considered to have its beginning in the 14th Century, but as Von Pastor notes the evil fruit which it produced in State and Church grew from seed planted in the rotting soil of the end of the 13th:
“The period was in many ways a most melancholy one. The prevailing immorality exceeded anything that had been witnessed since the tenth century. Upon a closer inquiry into the causes of this state of things, we shall find that the evil was in a great measure due to the altered conditions of civilized life. Commercial progress, facilities of intercourse, the general well-being and prosperity of all classes of society in Italy, France, Germany and the Low Countries, had greatly increased during the latter part of the thirteenth century. Habits of life changed rapidly, and became more luxurious and pleasure-seeking. The clergy of all degrees, with some honourable exceptions, went with the current.” (Vol. I, p. 97-98 – unless otherwise noted all future references will be from Volume I).
The Way of the Beatitudes (especially Lady Poverty) of St. Francis had been betrayed, and the “Flies” of Renaissance-inspired corruption found ample rot upon which to swarm. This was especially true of everything which touched upon matters relating to the flesh (including ,of course, art and literature), but it was also true in the intellectual realm. Most prominent among the latter was the Greek idea of the autonomy of individual man, and the belief in that sovereignty of the people which in the social realm is termed democrac, and in the spiritual realm ultimately produced such phenomena as Concilliarism and the Protestant Revolution.
It is extremely difficult for anyone living in the 21st Century to realize what a radical effect upon the depths of the Catholic soul was produced by any triumph of democratic principles, whether in the realm of the Church or the State. We can, of course, never speak of total unanimity in human affairs, even in the affairs of Catholics. But we may nevertheless say that there certainly was an integral Catholic spirit which, up until this historical point, had simply accepted as a matter of fact the words of St. Paul:
“Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation.” (Romans 13: 1-2).
And then there are the words of St. Peter:
“Be ye subject therefore to every human creature for God’s sake: whether it be to the king as excelling; Or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of the good: For so is the will of God, that by doing well you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not as making liberty a cloak for malice, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if for conscience towards God, a man endures sorrows, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if committing sin, and being buffeted for it, you endure? But if doing well you suffer patiently, this is thankworthy before God. For unto this are you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. Who, when he was reviled, did not revile: when he suffered, he threatened not: but delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly.” (1Pet 2:13-23).
The Church has always qualified such obedience as to make it applicable “in all things but sin”, and it has also recognized that such obedience might be coupled with respectful criticism, etc. But it has always condemned any notion that power and authority of government, whether of Church or State, lies in the people themselves.
It is precisely this latter principle which burst forth in the first half of the 14th Century in relation to both Church and State. It has been with us ever since. Sometimes it has come in the fullness of violent Revolution against both Church and State, as was the case with the French Revolution or the Spanish Civil War. At other times it might focus such violence mainly upon the Church, as in the Protestant Revolts in many countries. Or it might seem to be a revolution almost entirely in the political realm, as in the case of the American Revolution. And, finally, at other times it infiltrates its principles into the consciousness of millions of people through more deceptive and peaceful means, and executes its immense damage not outwardly through physical violence, but by means of ideas, philosophies, theological aberrations, and political ideologies and forms of government which profoundly undermine the sovereignty of God over individuals and nations, and over Church and State.
The Tract Defensor Pacis (The Defender of Peace), which laid the foundations of the modern idea that sovereignty resides in the people, was published in 1324. Its authors were both Professors at the University of Paris: Marsiglio da Padova (English: Marsilius of Padua), and Jean de Jandun. It is often exclusively attributed to Marsiglio.
It would not be appropriate here to enter into discussion of all the factors in Church and State during this period, which immediately provided this document with so powerful a fecundity in the minds and hearts of large segments of people. But two of these deserve special mention.
Defensor Pacis was published under the auspices and protection of Emperor Louis of Bavaria, who was then in a virtual state of war with a severely weakened and compromised Papacy residing in Avignon. He was also protector of that band of Franciscans called “minorities” who refused to submit to Pope John XXII’s condemnation of the doctrine of “the Absolute Poverty of Christ” proposed by St. Bonaventure, and who now produced a good deal of violent literature claiming the Pope to be an antichrist. Add to this a Papacy subject to the good will of the French Monarchy, and a Church living under the aura of corruption and opulence of the French Court, it took little effort to severely undermine whatever claims she made as to to her Divine origins and hierarchical structure.
Secondly, the views expressed in Marsiglio’s Tract were not without recent precedence. Also under the protection of the Emperor during this period was the English Franciscan Friar, William of Occam (also Ockham) who, according to Von Pastor, “was deeply imbued with the political ideas of the ancients”. Following is Von Pastor’s summary of his positions:
“…the Emperor has a right to depose the Pope should he fall into heresy. Both General Councils and Popes may err, Holy Scripture and the beliefs held by the Church at all times and in all places, can alone be taken as the unalterable rule of Faith and Morals. The Primacy and Hierarchical Institutions in general are not necessary or essential to the subsistence of the Church; and the forms of the ecclesiastical, as of the political, constitution ought to vary with the varying needs of the tim.” (p. 76).
But it is Marsiglio’s work which would provide the main source of fuel for these errors down through subsequent centuries. It also is full of violent invectives against John XXII, among them being “the great dragon and the old serpent”. The following summary of his positions is taken from Von Pastor:
“[Marsiglio] asserts the unconditional sovereignty of the people. The legislative power which is exercised through their elected representatives, belongs to them, also the appointment of the executive through their delegates. The ruler is merely the instrument of the legislature….If the ruler exceeds his authority, the people are justified in depriving him of his power, and deposing him.
“Still more radical, if possible, are the views regarding the doctrine and government of the Church put forth in this work. The sole foundation of faith and of the Church is Holy Scripture, which does not derive its authority from her, but, on the contrary confers on her that which she possesses. The only true interpretation of Scripture is, not that of the Church, but that of the most intelligent people, so that the University of Paris may very well be superior to the Court of Rome. Questions concerning faith are to be decided, not by the Pope, but by a General Council.
“This General Council is supreme over the whole Church, and is to be summoned by the State. It is to be composed not only of the clergy, but also of laymen elected by the people. As regards their office, all priests are equal; according to Divine right, no one of them is higher than another. The whole question of Church government is one of expediency, not of the faith necessary to salvation. The Primacy of the Pope is not founded on Scripture, nor on Divine right. His authority therefore can only, according to Marsiglio, be derived from a General Council and from the legislature of the State; and for the election of a Pope the authority of the Council requires confirmation from the State.” (p. 76-78).
One of the things that should impress us most in the above passages is the way in which the principle of the “sovereignty of the people” flows like molten lava between State and Church, equally dissolving all claims of Divinely established power as residing anywhere else other than in the people. It is, in other words, a myth to believe that such a view of authority and power can be confined to the State, while at the same time preserving a separation between the State and the Church which leaves the latter to possess a form of government which is in diametrical opposition to the former. Human hubris, of which the first is a product, simply will not long endure the existence of the latter. It was a case of incredible obtuseness on the part of American Catholics, and especially the educated hierarchy, to believe such a delusion could be long maintained.
It is equally important to understand that when we confront such proposals as the superiority of a General Council over the Pope, or as having the power to judge a Pope or declare him deposed, we are in reality dealing with the same democratic principle in regard to the affairs of the Church – in the words of Pope Pius X, “power ascending from below, rather than from above”. In other words, Concilliarism is simply another form of thinly-disguised democracy in application to the Divine Constitution of the Church.
So let us proceed with an examination of the effect of such democratic principles upon the Church during the 14th, and into the 15th Centuries.
As the Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) states, “The influence of the “Defensor pacis” was disastrous, and Marsilius may well be reckoned one of the fathers of the Reformation”. We know that Wycliffe was directly influenced by Him, and that 1n 1535 Thomas Cromwell had Defensor Pacis translated into English in order to offer proof and justification for Royal Supremacy over the Church. The following evaluation as to the historical importance of this work is offered by Harvard Professor (Emeritus) of Ecclesiastical Studies Ephraim Emerton in his Critical Study of Defensor Pacis:
Marsiglio’s work penetrates every attempt at church reform made during the five generations between Wycliffe and Luther. It came to be one of the stock charges made against every leader of reform that he was repeating the heresies of Wycliffe and through him those of Marsiglio. Even though the reformer [Luther] himself made no allusion to his fourteenth century predecessor, and may, indeed, have been more or less unconscious of the debt he owed him, the sure instinct of the still dominant but now thoroughly frightened Church pointed unerringly to the essential continuity of ideas from Marsiglio onward.”
The Great Western Schism
The Avignon Papacy (including seven French Popes) endured from 1309 until 1377, at which time St. Catherine of Sienna finally managed to persuade Pope Gregory XI to return the Papacy to Rome. Gregory died the following March. On April 8, the Cardinals elected Cardinal Prignano (Italian), who took the name Pope Urban VI. As Von Pastor writes, “It cannot, indeed be denied that the election of Urban VI was canonically valid. The most distinguished lawyers of the day gave their deliberate decisions to this effect.” (p. 120).
Pope Urban was intent upon reform, and he proved to be quite extraordinarily harsh upon the Cardinals who elected him – a harshness which Catherine of Sienna frequently counseled him to temper. Finally, the Cardinals (with the exception of one Italian) could stand it no longer, and while in summer residence at Anagni held another (illegal) conclave and declared the election of Urban VI to be invalid. Thirteen days later (August 22), the eleven French Cardinals, and the Spanish Cardinal Pedro de Luna (who would later become Antipope Benedict XIII) – all of whom had originally elected Urban – now elected Cardinal Robert of Geneva Antipope. He took the name Clement VII. The three Italian Cardinals, who had originally voted for Urban, abstained from this vote, but later that day accepted his Papacy. The Great Western Schism had begun. The Papacy had been somewhat “normal” – without either being in exile in Avignon, or racked by Schism and Antipopes – for approximately one and one-half years.
The Great Western Schism would last 39 years. It divided not only the Church, but also nations. France, Scotland and Spain were allied with the series of Antipopes, while Italy, England, Flanders, Hungary, Poland, and most of Germany were allied with the succession of true Popes. It also divided Saints – Catherine of Sienna of course supported the true Pope, while St. Vincent Ferrer for years was allied with the Spaniard Pedro de Luna who became Antipope Benedict XIII. The false Council of Pisa in 1409 attempted to declare both successors (Pope Gregory XII and Antiope Benedict XIII) of these two lines of Papal claimants deposed, and then proceeded to elect a third – Antipope Alexander V (Alexander V died this same year, and the Cardinals immediately elected Antipope John XXIII as his successor). The schism was finally ended at the Council of Constance, when for the good of the Church, the true Pope Gregory XII, along with Antipope John XXIII, resigned (Pedro de Luna – Antipope Benedict XIII – never did resign, but largely lost his support, including that of St. Vincent Ferrer). Gregory also legitimized the Council, which then proceeded to elect a new Pope, Martin V. All of this history is examined in much greater detail in my article The Religion of Abandonment: Sedevacantism and the Heresy of Concilliarism.
All during this time, however, the heresy of Concilliarism (and worse) cultured and grew in the minds and hearts of Catholics. In 1381, a work was published by Heinrich von Langenstein titled Proposition of Peace for the Union and Reformation of the Church by a General Counci. Its proposals are summarized by Von Pastor:
“No especial weight is to be attached to our Lord’s institution of the Papacy. The Church would have had a right to appoint a Pope if He had not done so. If the Cardinals should have chosen a Pope who does not suit the Church, she had the right to revise the work of her agents, and even to deprive them of her commission. For the power to elect the Pope rests originally in the Episcopate, and reverts to it if the Cardinals cannot, or will not elect; or if they abuse their right of election. The criterion, by which all acts of Church and State are to be judged, is whether they do, or do not promote the general good. A prince who, instead of preserving the State, would ruin and betray it, is to be resisted as an enemy; the same course should be pursued in the Church. Necessity breaks the law; indeed, even renders its breach a duty….To apply these general notions to the present case, it is not of the essence of a General Council that it should be summoned by the Pope; in extraordinary cases this may be done by temporal princes. The authority of the Council stands higher than that of the Pope and the Sacred College, for of the Church alone is it said that the gates of hell should not prevail against her. These theories, by which Langenstein broke with the whole existing system, soon became widely diffused. Henceforward this most dangerous doctrine of the natural right of necessity was the instrument used in all efforts to put an end to the Schism.” (p. 183-185).
It is worth noting that it was precisely this principle – “necessity breaks the law” – *which provided the justification for Archbishop Lefebvre’s ordaining four bishops expressly against a Papal mandate not to do so.
During this period leading up to the Council of Constance, these sort of tracts proliferated. The celebrated Canonist Zabarella, who afterwards became a Cardinal, wrote a treatise which, according to Von Pastor brought to fullness the Concilliarist heresy. In regard to the Pope, Zabarella wrote, “Should he err, the Church must set him right; should he fall into heresy, or be an obstinate schismatic, or commit a notorious crime, the Council may depose him.” (p. 187).
Nor was this all ended with the Council of Constance, which ended the schism. The Council actually passed a Decree titled Frequens which bound Popes not only to the decisions of General Councils, but also to a kind of constant state of being subject to the vigilance and superior authority of these same Councils. Nine times it uses the word “bound” in reference to such Papal subjections to General Councils. It also declared that in any further instance in which there is a disputed Papacy, all claimants, including the legitimate Pope, are called to judgment by a General Council, are suspended from all administration of Church affairs, and that obedience is not to be given by the faithful to any such claimants until the question has been settled by the Council. This decree was not confirmed by the newly elected Martin V, and flatly contradicted in further documents by Martin and subsequent Popes.
It is enormously important to understand, however, that Concilliarism was not dead, but in fact formed the thinking of the majority of the Council Fathers of Constance. This was especially true of the French faction. Concilliarism would persist over the centuries and would coalesce in a conglomerate of heresies associated with what is called Gallicianism. It would then be this heresy which formed the opposition to the definitions of Papal Primacy and Infallibility at the First Vatican Council.
It would, of course, be possible to do an exhaustive study of these democratic principles, and their increasing corrosive effect upon Church and State, through the past five centuries. But I think that what has already been provided above in terms of historical analysis should be enough to convince any perceptive reader of the basic thrust and intensity of what has come down to us in the many-faceted forms which incarnate the basic errors of democratic thinking.
However, considering what is happening in regard to the Papacy of Pope Francis, and the increasing attempts to find justification for his being declared a heretic and deposed, I do believe one more stop along the historical timeline to be worthy of our consideration.
The writings of four theologians – Thomas Cajetan, Robert Bellarmine, Francisco Suarez, and John of St. Thomas – whose writings on this subject all occur within a one-hundred year period, from the beginning of the 16th to the first half of the 17th centuries – form the central locus of current efforts to justify Papal deposition.
In light of all that has been written above, it would therefore seem legitimate to question the influence of erroneous democratic principles upon these men’s thinking:
In De Clericis, Ch. VII, Bellarmine writes:
“In a commonwealth all men are born naturally free; consequently, the people themselves, immediately and directly, hold the political power so long as they have not transferred this power to some king or ruler.”
And, in De Laicis, Cap. VI, he teaches:
“Political power resides immediately in the whole multitude as in an organic unit. The divine law has not given this power to any particular man; therefore, it has given it to the multitude. There being no positive law to this effect, there is no more reason why, among equals, one should have a greater right to rule than another. Therefore, the power belongs to the whole multitude.” (both quotes are taken from “Democracy and Bellarmine,” John C. Rager, S.T.D.,1926).
An important feature of Suárez’s view is that political power does not just reside in the community initially. It always remains there. As he puts it, “after that power has been transferred to some individual person, even if it has been passed on to a number of people through various successions or elections, it is still always regarded as possessed immediately by the community.” (DL 3.4.8). Suárez is, of course, aware that the needed stability of political communities would be in question if communities could withdraw their transfer of power to the government at every whim. So even though in some sense the power always remains in the community, Suárez argues that the transferred power may not ordinarily be withdrawn (De legibus 3.4.6). Suárez recognizes exceptions, however. Should the government become tyrannical, the door may be opened to legitimate revolt and even tyrannicide (Defensio fidei catholicae 6.4 and De charitate 13.8). This is the doctrine that gained Suárez the ire of James I of England.
As I said early, the corrosive principles behind the principle of “Popular Sovereignty” flow easily between views of Church and State. We might justly conjecture that these men’s thinking in regard to Papal deposition are intimately connected to their thinking on secular authority, and are simply a diluted form of the poison which originally formed in the mind of such men as Marsiglio da Padova..
As to the positions of Thomas Cajetan and John of St. Thomas, I have examined their Concilliarist errors in my article A Tower of Babel: The Rush to Depose a Pope.
Our Lord asks his disciples an extraordinary question: “”But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?” (Luke 18: 8))
We tend, I think, to take this as a purely rhetorical question. We might reply, “Of course there will be faith. There will always be a Remnant – Scripture promises such.” And yet we are obliged to take Our Lord’s question seriously.
Our Lord’s question comes as the conclusion to a short parable concerning the widow who continually “wearies” an unjust judge in order to receive justice. It ends with the following: “And will not God revenge [a metaphor for God’s justice] his elect who cry to him day and night: and will he have patience in their regard? I say to you, that he will quickly revenge them.”
It may at first seem quite extraordinary that the virtue of faith is here identified with the incessant crying of a widow for justice. We tend to think of faith solely in terms of an intellectual possession. We believe the Truths revealed by God, or we do not. The first constitutes us as being faithful, the second as reprobate.
But both Scripture and Church teaching reveal to us that there is a very real distinction to be made between a dead faith and a faith that is alive: “Faith without charity is dead”. (James 2:20).
We tend to think of this charity, without which faith is dead, exclusively in relation to our neighbor. St. John is clear in his teaching that we cannot claim love of God if we do not also love our brother. But St. John also teaches the reverse: “In this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God, and keep his commandments”. (1 John 5:2). In other words, we cannot possess charity towards our neighbor unless we are first established in the charity of God, which requires obedience to His Commandments.
The First Commandment of God is:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength. And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart.”
It is the “heart” which is the organ of human integrity because it is here where human intellect and will meet, where Truth becomes incarnate and faith becomes alive, and therefore where the duplicity, hypocrisy, and the lies of Satan are defeated.
Absolutely central to this love of God is that it be whole, which simply means that we seek first the establishment of the kingdom of God in all things, and not compromise, or be in any way duplicitous, in this work: “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33).
It is the most fundamental characteristic of democracy to secrete a corrosive spirit of duplicity which dissolves this wholeness of the human heart, both on individual and collective levels. It does so because the firstborn child of democracy is pluralism. And pluralism, when it is the fundamental principle of a nation and its Constitution, entails that we are immersed in a culture which is quite literally a spiritual ocean of error. Every moment of our lives in this culture is therefore surrounded by a call, and even demand, to compromise in the pursuit of the work of God. First, it demands of us silence in relation to the hard Truths of Christ. Second, it demands of us a participation in the life of this culture which by its very nature is demanding of compromise itself, and therefore a duplicitous life as regards our relationship to God. Such is the act of voting, especially in any national election.
We must always realize that democracy, the first principle of which is the sovereignty (the power and authority) of the people, is always an attack upon the sovereignty of God over all his creation. And this is true whether its principles are proposed and implemented in the political realm, or in the spiritual. It is no wonder therefore that Secret Societies, in pursuit of their ultimate goal, which is the dethronement of God, rightly perceived the vote as the most effective means of injecting their poison into whole peoples. It is the spirit of Antichrist made palpable for the people.
The word vote has its origins in the Latin votum, which means an oath, a vow, or even a prayer (e.g. votive candle). It is meant to express the wholeness of not only the words which come out of our mouth, but also the integrity and depth of our desires. Any duplicity engaged in through the act of voting falsifies the word which comes forth from our heart, and in so doing changes our soul.
As I pointed out in the beginning of Part I, this process of decay is pre-eminently exemplified by the Pro-Life movement. We are silent on contraception, which almost certainly murders many more of God’s little ones than surgical abortion. We vote for a man who is for abortion in the cases of life of the mother, rape, and incest, and we call him “Pro-life, except in the cases of the life of the mother, rape, and incest”. We vote for a man who says he now accepts the legality of so-called gay-marriage, and we call him Pro-Life. We vote for a man who says he supports the work of Planned Parenthood with the exception of their doing surgical abortions, and we call him Pro-Life. We call those who are for the killing of unborn babies “Pro-Choice”, when in fact such a term is simply a euphemism for Pro-Abortion. After all, no one is for killing all babies – it is always a question of choice. If I were to say that I was personally not for killing black people, but for the right of everyone else to do so, I would not be called Pro-Choice, but rather someone who advocates the murdering of black people. And yet “Pro-Lifers” will engage in such duplicity in relation to the unborn, who they allegedly believe have equal dignity and right to life with all other human beings.
The Pro-Life issue is only one area in which Catholics have been chiseled down to mere stumps of Christians. Again, using the metaphor repeatedly used by the Prophet Jeremiah, under every green tree they have been prostituted. And now we find so-called traditional Catholics lying under the Tree of Trump.
The entire message of Fatima consists in turning our votum away from the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Trumps of this world and crying to Christ, through the Immaculate Mary, for deliverance. There can be no deliverance, but only chaos and destruction, if we do not return with great intensity to fulfilling Our Lady’s requests.
– James Larson