As we approach “Christ the King” on the new calendar, Mike Turner’s talk today (at the Dominican meeting) on the history of St Dominic is timely. In St Dominic's time, the Holy Father called a crusade against the Albegensians of southern France. In that time, the Catholic world had a very different understanding of the relationship between Church and state. The “social kingship of Christ” was an acknowledged and integral part of the civil order, and had been since Constantine. The civil authority recognized that the Church provided peace in the civil order, and a pope could depose a king, and a king could not go to war without the permission of the pope. It was understood by all that how one thought affected the entire civil order; and that heresy was destructive of the civil order. St Thomas taught that social evil be tolerated when to eradicate it would be a greater evil than the target evil itself. For example, divorce has traditionally been proscribed by law and thus kept under control; but when law fails to proscribe a social evil, it expands its grip on society, with resulting social disintegration. Hence the Church in Dominic’s time had “tolerated” heresy until the evil of the heresy was greater than the cost of suppressing it. Hence the crusade against the Albegensians, who were destroying the civil order in southern France. A response was warranted, to prevent the moral and social destruction of the culture.
The American notion of separation of church and state makes it hard to grasp the understanding that once was how everyone thought. In the American experiment, the American Founders did not share the notion of the Social Kingship of Christ, and instead had a view that the state should view all religions then present equally, enshrining the error of religious indifferentism. In our history, we see that Maryland was established by Catholic refugees, who tolerated the Puritans, who then took over the colony and outlawed the Catholic religion and put a death penalty on Catholic Priests.
My point is that St Thomas taught a well-reasoned approach to the civil order in toleration of evil. A Dominican Friar who failed to follow this and who gained fame (infamy) was Savonarola, who tried to create a Catholic enclave of perfection, creating effectively a police state to rat out people who sinned in such minor ways as playing cards at home. He opposed the Holy Father’s order to desist (forever gaining the adulation of liberals by opposing the Holy Father), but in an act of charity, surrendered himself to save his brethren.
Intolerance, then, is the extreme which brooks no opposition to the received faith. This was seen in England, with the violent suppression of the Catholic Faith under a series of ascendant protestant sects and rulers (see Cranmer’s Godly Order by Michael Davies). This played out across protestant Europe, and as I mentioned, even in the North American colonies, where “freedom of religion” meant that a formerly repressed sect could have the ascendancy and suppress all the others.
Michael’s mention of the Albegensian Crusade gave me the thought that the modern “cancel culture” is a return to a way of thinking that is not modern, but ancient; the total intolerance of thought that is against the prevailing order; in this case, the zeitgeist. The world saw this under the totalitarianism of Nazi Germany and the USSR, and all the attempted “perfect societies” that were spawned by the “errors of Russia” warned against at Fatima. To even think against the prevailing authority is considered subversive, because it is. Hence the intolerant intuitively understand that the very thought of truth is potentially dissolving of the “perfection” that they seek to impose by force, and hence must be “canceled” by whatever means necessary.
So while we may not grasp the traditional teaching of the "Social Kingship of Christ", the enemy does.
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