Restoring the Kingship of Christ in Great Britain

The Social Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Article taken from Issue 1 of the magazine Civitas (June 2001): La mission des laïcs dans la reconquête, translated by Civitas Great Britain.

Our ailing society prides itself on reducing exclusions… With the exception of the most important one: the exclusion of the reign of God over our institutions. Among those who deplore the current drift, few understand that this is the origin of our ills; and our contemporaries are in the process of proving by absurdity the necessary authority of God in the management of world affairs.

Yet the solution is close at hand, wonderfully summarised in Pius XI’s 1925 encyclical Quas Primas. This doctrine can be summed up by the adage: “the peace of Christ through the reign of Christ”.

Hence the urgent need to know well the doctrine of the Social Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the purpose of this article.

His Holiness Pius XI

The sources of Christ’s kingship are the Incarnation and the Redemption.

Christ is King, because He is God and man, and because He is Redeemer. Being God, He is king; being man, He is a human king, and His reign is therefore the reign of a man. The human nature of Christ is invested with kingship, for that nature is that of a god, and therefore of a king. But the kingship of Christ is not only that of a god: it is the kingship of a true man with a body and a soul. It is the kingship of a man who can say in all truth: “All power has been given to me in heaven and on earth”; for, even if He possesses absolute power like God, by His human nature He can say that this power has been given to Him.

His kingship is therefore not only spiritual, but also temporal, for man lives in time, man is not pure spirit. The kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ extends over the whole field of human life: individual, personal life, but also social and political life. Since man is subject to the authority of God, and society is connatural to man, it follows that society is also subject to the Kingship of Christ.

Christ is also king because he is Redeemer. He is Redeemer, that is, man can only be saved through Jesus Christ; man can only attain supernatural life, eternal life, through Jesus Christ, the only mediator. Man can only be saved from eternal death and sin by recourse to Jesus Christ; nature can only be healed by grace; man needs Jesus Christ to fight evil and do good.

Consequently, social life, like political life, in imitation of human life, cannot do without Jesus Christ. This is of  what Cardinal Pie reminded Emperor Napoleon III: “Sire, I do not know if the time has come for Jesus Christ to reign, I am not a politician, and you are a politician; I cannot answer you, but what I do know is that if the time has not come for Jesus Christ to reign, then the time has not come for governments to endure”.

So Christ is the King of society because He is God and because He is Redeemer; this is the source of the Church’s political doctrine, because the Church has a political doctrine.

The Church does not have a political programme; she does not have a concrete solution to propose to present-day problems. Still less can she give electoral instructions. But she does have a doctrine, which is to say fundamental principles concerning the nature and purpose of society and government. And this doctrine does not date, as one might think, from Leo XIII; the Church did not wait for the nineteenth century to concern herself with justice, economics, capitalism, liberalism and the government of peoples. The whole rebirth of civilisation after the barbarian invasions, the whole work of the magisterium and theologians, the whole construction carried out by monks and bishops, are all there to testify to the existence, the fruitfulness and the vitality of the Church’s political doctrine, a doctrine that was lived even before it was made explicit.

Pope Leo XII’s tomb in Vatican

But what is this doctrine? Let us try to grasp two essential points, relating to the state and to authority. What is the influence of the Church on the State? As we have seen, Christ reigns over society, so the State is subject to the reign of Christ; in practice, this means that the Catholic religion, the religion of Christ, is the official religion of the state. The state is Catholic, its princes are not Catholic in a purely private capacity (which is not absolutely necessary) but they are Catholic in the exercise of their functions. The Decalogue is the charter and the foundation of the State; its fundamental law is therefore not the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The State ensures that natural morality is respected, and the laws are the concrete and particular application of the Decalogue. The economy, work, the family, in a word, public morality, must be in conformity with the requirements of justice and the law of God. The State represses immorality and facilitates the practice of good.

This is why the Catholic State does not allow immoral and anti-Catholic propaganda; it opposes the propagation and public proclamation of error, and even of heresy and infidelity. False religions and false philosophies are public enemies, enemies of the Church as well as of the state. Error has no rights, neither do false religions; there is no natural right to religious freedom for all religions indiscriminately: only the Catholic Church possesses this right to religious freedom. Many documents of Tradition and the Magisterium demonstrate this.

Does this mean that the Catholic State will persecute other religions? First of all, it should be noted that the intimacy of conscience and the private life of the family are not the responsibility of the State, and it cannot therefore intervene in them. But it is true that the propagation or public profession of heresies or false philosophies has no right to exist, and if the Catholic State tolerates them, it is in order to avoid the greater evils of civil war or the breakdown of society. The State can accept the public manifestation of heresy or false religions, but it can tolerate them only as an evil; it tolerates them as it might tolerate some brothels. It is then political prudence that intervenes, not natural law.

And if the State protects true religion, the Church in turn ensures the good of society. It is the Church and grace that engenders the virtues without which the state cannot exist: honesty, piety, patriotism, sacrifice, justice, all of this is ultimately founded on Christ and the Church. The fairness of judges, the fidelity of soldiers, the mutual aid and solidarity between citizens, this is what the Church brings to the state.

Christian Emperor Heinrich IV before Pope Gregory VII in Canossa

The State and the Church, though distinct, are not separate, and the first victim of secularism and separation will be the state, for it is the Church that is at the origin of civilisation.

Authority also rests with the Church. Not that the clergy has to exercise political authority; Catholic does not mean clerical, and the clergy is, with some exceptions, rather incompetent in such matters. But it is the Church which gives authority its sacred character, for authority, even civil authority, is exercised in the name of God. “Nihil potestas nisi a Deo”, says Saint Paul, there is no power that does not come from God.

Authority, that of the prince as well as that of the father of the family, is sacred, and this is what the Church has always recognised; the Church makes authority sacred and legitimate. Power is of divine right, whether this power is monarchical, aristocratic or democratic. It is always exercised in the name of God, always in the name of the Almighty God Whom the Church represents. Even in a democracy, therefore, power is sacred; this is why, if the choice of rulers and political programmes can be the object of election (which is in no way opposed to the doctrine of the Church); on the other hand, the political doctrine itself and religion cannot be the object of election. Democracy, which the Church accepts, is that which recognises the kingship of Christ1. If, therefore, the doctrinal unity of a country is insufficient, then democracy becomes a scourge, for it is no longer men and programmes that are elected – which they should be – but it is Our Lord Who is made the equal of false prophets, and of false doctrines. If it is Catholic, democracy can be made sacred in a sense; if not, it is perverse.

The medieval city was united in the construction of cathedrals. Today, it is not a cathedral of stones that must be built, because the political cathedral must first be built before the cathedral of stones. May we have in us the energy of the great builders, that strength, that charity, which is the principle of the divinisation of the world! Personal charity, no doubt, but also political charity, which will make the earthly city the preparation of the heavenly city.


1   St Thomas, in particular in the “De regno”, distinguishes between regimes where the people govern: “democracy”, which is opposed to the common good, and “politia”, which pursues it.