The Christian Constitution of the States
A review of Miguel Ayuso's 'Constitución Cristiana de los Estados'
by JuanFernando Segovia
Taken from: http://almenablog.com.ar/libro2.html
Translated from the Spanish by Roberto Hope
What sense is there in wondering about the Christian constitution of the States when the pontifical magisterium seems to have abandoned the doctrine for half a century already; when Catholic philosophers and jurists consider it antiquated vis-a-vis the incontrovertible benefits of liberal democracy? Is this doctrine a relic of the past, a museum piece, outdated, sterile, inoperative? To the apparent «yes» that a hurried reader would readily blurt out, we respond with a firm «no.» Not because we may be collectors of antiques, or have a taste for the exotic, but because the problem has unquestionable validity and actuality: the Catholic religion is now seen by many as a threat to democratic pluralism and to the secular State, and this is why a «healthy laicism», the separation of Church and State, religious pluralism and the fundamentalist base of religions are debated unendingly. A case in point is the Habermas-Ratzinger dialogue, the echoes of which still rumble.
Miguel Ayuso's book is welcome for reviving the question and for presenting it in the proper terms for current discussion. Because what is at play is the eternal link between «Religion and society» (chapter 1) and the anti-Christian intentions of the revolution, with the systematic de-Christianization of societies, just as the magisterium had denounced it all throughout the nineteenth century and later up to Pius XII. But these convictions — the mandate to build a Christian society and the historical coming about of the anti-Christian revolution — have been called into question by the post-conciliar teaching, so that it is necessary to ask ourselves again. «Does a Catholic political doctrine exist?» (chapter 2), that is, shall we go back to the foundations of the social and political doctrine of the Church and observe their evolution, to re-found the doctrine, re-establish it on its bases, which are no other than those of the Christian political order. Which is tantamount to recalling the jurisdictional rights of the Church on political matters, the natural and Catholic rights (pages 48-49), sustained on the general principles of the natural order which affirm the necessary cooperation between the Church and the State (pages 51-53) and the Catholic impossibility of grounding societies on vanities or heresies.
On reviewing the traditionally maintained foundations which support a Catholic doctrine of the State, and contrasting them with the post-conciliar teaching of the Church, another question strikes us: «Has the Catholic political doctrine changed?» (chapter 3). Penetrating inquisitively in a disturbing terrain, full of unease for the tradition and its faithful, because of that firmness and obligatoriness which Pius XII had preached (page 55) little has been left. Ayuso reconstructs the history, concurrently with the appearance of the so-called «sociological Christianity» and the militant advance of laicism which, in order to save its faith in the society of masses — if you wish to put it that way — reneges of Christian civilization, detaching the moral solution from the political solution (page 62). How can there be a Christian society without a Christian State? how can the separation of the Church and the State on the one hand, from Christianity and society on the other be avoided? Such are the inconveniences which Ayuso finds in the doctrine of the Church after Vatican Council II, with its primacy of the pastoral (the prudential), the tactics and strategies, over the principles; which produces a confusion of the thesis with the hypothesis of the Catholic State, of the doctrine with the practice; all that dressed up in a new demo-liberal language which lets Maritain's influence shine through, and is confirmed by the loss or renunciation of the pontifical power to correct and penalize the error.
This is how «The problem of the Catholic State, today» (chapter 4) would seem not to be a real problem, rather, it is presented to us as a political and intellectual anachronism; Catholic unity has been liquidated, as modernists had intended to do, as Maritain proposed; and instead of a Christian society we ended up with a «counter- Christendom», term coined by Marcel Clement (page 86). To rescue the foundations of the Catholic political doctrine is the task undertaken next by Ayuso: theologically, founded on the tendency to unity, which is the hope of the Church, and is contained in the theology of Christ the King; philosophically, as the liberal (and democratic) interpretation of religious liberty is in contradiction with the need of a public orthodoxy to affirm the pillars of any society; and sociologically, as it is necessary to establish the social conditions that allow men to live the faith; that is, without a Christian society a Christian nation is impossible: From any of these arguments, the moral and religious pluralism contradicts the traditional Catholic teaching, which affirms an «invariable morality of the political order», that is, the moral law and its religious dimension as «internal constituent of civil society» (pages 100-101).
Particularly painful is the breakdown of the Catholic State tradition in Spain (chapter 5); that Christianitas minor which gave America the Faith as a unique distinction of evangelization, and the constitution of a political community. The struggles of the nineteenth century and the civil war of the twentieth failed to deprive Spain of its unique Catholic profession, until the 1978 constitution, as Ayuso demonstrates, liquidated this heritage, introduced religious pluralism, and with it democratic immanentism and consensualism. The case of Spain now shows what Europe exemplified since 1789, that religious breakdown leads to moral disarming and, after this, to the dissolution of the common good and the dismantling of any kind of communal living (page 115).
To conclude the book, Ayuso adds a chapter to analyze the passage «from laicism to secularism»; that is, the image, the sensation, the ideological impression that the era of aggressiveness against the Church has passed, and that we, in post-modern times, have entered a benign, respectful, ecumenical, tolerant, picturesquely agnostic laicism: what we call secularism. The problem provides the occasion to recall that, beyond the swerves and massaging of the modern State, popular sovereignty and democracy are nothing other than «casting the original sin into the plural» as per Jean Madiran's brilliant expression (page 121), and then ratify that the social doctrine of the Church, above a merely worldly doctrine, is a response to the modern world, which reacts or replies as it affirms «the Kingdom of Christ over human societies as the single condition for its just ordering and its progressing and pacific life», as Ayuso affirms (page 122). If the Church seems not to recognize this truth of the magisterium, it is because it is part of the problem, not of the solution; that is, secularism has taken a hold in the Church itself, as is demonstrated in the 2005 letter from John Paul II to the French bishops, which completely subverts the doctrine expressed in the Encyclical Vehemente nos of Saint Pius X, very near the centenary of its issuance.
After this quick reading, passing from chapter to chapter, the opening question returns at each moment, almost confirmed in one answer: the doctrine of the Catholic state is pretended to be antiquated and irremediably moth-eaten. Its sociological necessity and its philosophical truth have yielded to the demands of the present time, to the point that the Church no longer sustains it, and John Paul II erased it from his Compendium. Why, then, insist upon it? Well, for the same reason. Because it has been forgotten, and, on erasing it from memory, societies and the Church itself have gone astray. And ultimately, which is no small matter, because it has been mandated by Our Lord; because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Old and the New Testament affirm the kingship of Christ, it is a truth of faith to which we cannot renounce.