The Separation of Church and State: The Forgotten Error of Modern Society

Catholic Apologetics #2

We often hear the phrase “separation of Church and State” spoken of with words of elation from politicians, historians, and average voters.  On the contrary, a Catholic must understand that the separation of Church and State is a modern assault on the Dignity of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingship which we all universally celebrate.  Perhaps no other modern idea is so falsely praised as is this erroneous one.

We can learn much by reading the noble words of Cardinal Pie who lived from 1815 – 1880:

“The main error, the capital crime of this century is the pretension of withdrawing public society from the government and the law of God… The principle laid at the basis of the whole modern social structure is atheism of the law and of the institutions. Let it be disguised under the names of abstention, neutrality, incompetence or even equal protection, let us even go to the length of denying it by some legislative dispositions for details or by accidental and secondary acts: the principle of the emancipation of the human society from the religious order remains at the bottom of things; it is the essence of what is called the new era.” (Cardinal Pie, Pastoral Works, vol. VII, pp. 3, 100)

“The time has not come for Jesus Christ to reign? Well, then the time has not come for governments to last.” (Cardinal Pie, meeting with Emperor Napoleon III)

Cardinal Pie explained most concisely this error in the following excerpt:

“Jesus Christ has been constituted king, and the true dignity, the true liberty, the true emancipation of modern nations is to have the right to be governed in a Christian manner. Would per chance the nations have been falling from their glory? Would their fate have been less noble, less happy since the scepters to which they obey are bound to submit to the scepter of Jesus? Let us repeat it, my brethren: Christianity does not reach its full development, its full maturity, where it does not take on a social character. Such is what Bossuet expressed in this way : ‘Christ does not reign if his Church is not mistress, if the peoples cease to pay to Jesus Christ, to his doctrine, to his law, a national homage.’ When the Christianity of a country is reduced to the bare proportions of the domestic life, when Christianity is no longer the soul of public life, of public power, of public institutions, then Jesus Christ deals with this country in the manner he is there dealt with. He continues to give his grace and his blessings to the individuals who serve him, but he abandons the institutions, the powers which do not serve him; and the institutions, the kings, the nations become like shifting sand in the desert, they fall away like the autumn leaves which are gone with the wind.” (Cardinal Pie, Works, vol. II, pp. 259–260)

The Union between Church and State (i.e. Doctrine of the Two Swords), between the Priesthood and the Empire, was never stronger than during the Carolingian Dynasty, the second Frankish ruling dynasty (751-987 A.D.), founded by Pepin the Short, but named after his son, Charlemagne (Charles the Great). This Union and cooperation between the Church and Christian Princes continued during the Ottonian Saxon Dynasty (936-1024 A.D.), ruled successively by Otto I, Otto II, Otto III, and Saint Henry II. Pope Leo III restored the Western Roman Empire, when he crowned Charlemagne Roman Emperor on Christmas Day in 800 A.D. In 962 A.D, Pope John XII restored the Roman Empire again, when he crowned Otto I as Emperor. The actual term “Holy Roman Empire” dates from 1254 A.D.

The Doctrine of the Two Swords teaches us that Christ, being both God and man, is King of the Universe, and as such, His Kingship, which includes both individual souls, as well the whole of society, should be officially recognized by all nations. Accordingly, His Spouse, Holy Mother Church, is Queen, while the Sovereign Pontiff exercises that Kingship on His behalf. He does so in two ways:

  1. He exercises a Direct Power in the Spiritual Field, by means of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy (bishops and priests);
  2. He may apply an Indirect Power in the Temporal Field, which is entrusted to lay people, particularly to the natural leaders of men, such as emperors, kings, knights, heads of state, political leaders, magistrates, chiefs of tribes, heads of families. The Hierarchy doctrinally guide these natural leaders, but will admonish them, and even condemn them, if necessary, as they did to erring princes in past ages. By this Authority, and because Catholic leaders once respected this Indirect Power, past popes were able to depose the two above-mentioned German Roman Emperors. This power was last used by Pope St. Pius V, when he excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I, thereby relieving the English of all allegiance to her.

Each year in October the Church celebrates the Feast day of Christ the King and gloriously acknowledges the Kingship of Jesus Christ. “The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to secularism, a way of life which leaves God out of man’s thinking and living and organizes his life as if God did not exist. The feast is intended to proclaim in a striking and effective manner Christ’s royalty over individuals, families, society, governments, and nations” (Rt. Rev. Msgr. Rudolph G. Bandas).

For Jesus Christ is not just King of the saints or of Catholics. Jesus Christ is King of all creation from eternity to eternity. For not only did He create all that exists, He also redeemed all mankind to restore creation to a greater glory. He deserves all glory, honor, and praise. As we read frequently in the Divine Office: “O Lord our God, you are worthy to receive glory and honor and power” (Apocalypse 4:11)

As the King of Glory mounted His Cross with a crown of thorns, He redeemed the world. We are subjects of that same king.  And we have a duty to help spread His kingdom to all facets of society.

We as Catholics believe Christ to be the true King of all the world.  He is the king of all individuals but also the king of all nations.  Thus, not only should individuals honor Christ and the Catholic Church but all nations, societies, families, and communities should consecrate themselves to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts. Today, let all of us consecrate ourselves and our families to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.


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