Many of us become quite exercised about the condition of our countries. Quite understandably so. A Catholic cannot rise in the morning and go through his daily round without arriving home in the evening feeling his sensibilities have been violated in a hundred ways, and we cannot help but ask ourselves: how did our country become such a godless wasteland. The answer that readily comes to mind is that our nations have turned their back on Christ. The remedy, then, is for the nations to face Christ and acknowledge His social kingship.
But much of the talk about the social kingship of Christ is just that – talk. It doesn’t go anywhere. A speaker at a Traditional Catholic conference can give a rousing oration in which he presents incontrovertible proof that rulers of nations, as well as individuals, are obliged to acknowledge Jesus Christ not only as the head of the one true Church but as the head of humanity. None of us would argue with that claim, but where does it leave us? How do we establish this kingship?
St. Thomas tells us that we don’t have to be constantly proclaiming our faith, but there are times when we must. Should the faith be denied or denigrated in a public setting when we are present, we ought to rise in its defense, but our actions should be proportioned to the circumstance and tempered by charity. Of course, not everyone is a gifted polemicist and an incompetent apologia might do more harm than good. We should realize our limitations. Most importantly, we should avoid anger. This can be very difficult, for there is much to be angry about. Yet, there are few displays of human emotion less attractive than anger. You may succeed in intimidating someone through anger, but you will not win his mind or heart. Quite the reverse. You will engender resentment.
Some traditional Catholics are very angry at their governments which they denounce as a cabal of freemasons and atheists. They want to insist on the social kingship of Christ, and they see the governments as the agents of those who would deny this kingship, and so they rail at the governments. I am in sympathy with their general cause, but I don’t think that cause is advanced through these fomentations.
So what should be our attitude toward the state? As in all things, we should look at where we are, not at where we would like to be, then look to our tradition.
What was our Lord’s attitude? We find no denunciation of the civil power in the Gospels. Our Lord never gave voice to any condemnation of imperial Rome. Of its paganism, its brutality, its lust for domination, no mention is made. A trap was set for Him, an inducement to seditious talk, but Our Lord responded with words that we might well ponder: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”. And then He told Peter to pay the tax for both of them with the coin found in the mouth of a fish.
And let’s recall that before we receive communion, we repeat the words of a Roman centurion, a detested agent of the evil state but a man who had greater faith than anyone in Israel. Our Lord showed no interest in politics – He was interested in men, in their individual salvation, no matter what party they belonged to.