THERE. is a certain political sense in which the great Least of Christ the King. celebrated this Sunday, is of special relevance this year. It occurs Just before the American presidential election in which one of the candidates is Senator Jack Kennedy, a man who has not striven to hide or underplay the fact that be is a Catholic.
We read in the epistle of the feast that in Christ "all created things took their being, heavenly and earthly, visible and invisible; what are thrones and dominions, what are princedoms and powers? They were all created through him and in him; Ise takes presidency of all, and in him all subsist.
"He too is that head whose body is the Church; it begins with him, since his was the first birth out of death; thus in every Way the primacy was to become his. It was God's good pleasure to let all completeness dwelt in him, and through him to win back all things, whether on earth or in heaven, into union with himself. making peace with them through his blood, shed on the cross, by Christ Jesus our Lord."
So writes St. Pau!.
READING these words, one may be surprised that they were not taken by the early Christians in a theocratic sense—in the sense that the successors of St. Peter and of the Apostles, commissioned by Christ the King, were given authority and power in temporal as well as spiritual matters, a concept natural enough at the time.
But it was Christ Himself who made the distinction between what was due to God and what was due to Caesar, and in the early Western Church there could not be any doubt about the distinction of authority as between the Pope where divine law was concerned and Caesar where the State was concerned.
In the Middle Ages, however, when the position of the Church and the prestige and authority of the Pope were at their highest in Christendom, complex distinctions had to be drawn. The fullest claims of the Church were made in Pope
Boniface 1302 Bull, Unam Sanctatn, in which it was stated that spiritual power was in the hands of the Church, while temporal power, exercised by kings and princes, was for the Church (i.e., for Christ) and by the will and permission of the Church.
The actual meaning of this was not that princes and States are subject to the Church in temporal matters; they are however indirectly subject to the Church where the spiritual and moral law conflict in particular cases with the State or temporal Iaw.
In effect, this means that both are perfect societies, the Church in spiritual matters, the State in material and temporal matters. They are both independent of one another. But because the Church's mission is a higher one, the glory of God and the salvation of souls. the duty of the State is to aid the Church in her mission and not to interfere with it.
TODAY it is quite evident
that in many ways the whole situation has changed. What we once called the civilised world, the world of Western Christendom. has expanded and radically altered. It is not a Catholic world, nor is it even a Christian world. It contains men and women of all religions and none. and it has become one with immense lands and peoples where Christianity is a comparatively recent arrival with not very great influence.
It would obviously be a travesty of the Church's mind today to interpret it as seeking to maintain an application of the mediaeval concepts either to countries where Christian (as distinguished from Catholic) values remain spiritually or morally basic or to the countries of Asia and Africa. where such specifically Christian values are meaningless except for small minorities.
There is hardly a country more Catholic than Ireland, vet its constitution is much nearer to the contemporary acceptance of the sovereignty of the State than to the mediaeval division.
This does not, of course, mean that the Church renounces its right and duty to declare and pronounce on what is right and true, not only where its doctrinal teaching is concerned, but in moral matters also. Christ the King cannot be other than king over the whole. world in terms of His revelation to His Church in all matters of faith and morals which, of course, cover all human action, whether public or
'TOR is this ulaiin completely
I. a dead letter. For example, we find in practice that when an anti-God power arises, such as the Communist power, it is not Catholics only. but most Christians and other religious peoples — and indeed many who would not claim any definite religion — who find themselves co-operating on basically the same spiritual and moral grounds against the danger. The clarity and definiteness of the Church's lead on such occasions witness in the eyes of many to ,a spiritual moral authority which is outstanding. It is, in fact, the authority of Christ the King.
In the Christian countries of the Western tradition much of the spiritual and moral values, taught by the Church alone for more than a thousand years, still remains today the basic charter of spiritual and moral values, however incom
PleTch.is is very much the case in America. There the distinction helween Church and State has long been defined and accepted, and any serious reflections would make It obvious that it is far more in the interest of the Kingdom of Christ that a Catholic President should strive to preserve the traditional spiritual and moral values of the country than to impose the dictates of his own minority faith.
Hence it is that an American Jesuit can declare: "Officially and really American Catholics do not want now or in the future a law that would make Catholicism the favoured religion of this land. They do not want the religious lreedorri of American nonCatholics to be curtailed in any way. With a note of desperation I ask: what more can we say?"
.In expeessing the moral ideals of his country. a Catholic President would not differ from a nonCatholic. except, maybe, in doing it more seriously and earnestly.