Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Social Kingship of Christ: Metaphysical, not Political*

I'm not sure if this makes me a neo-con or a classical liberal or something else, but my friend and colleague Patrick Brennan already knows that I do not think that the doctrine of the Kingship of Christ--which we will celebrate this weekend--has the political implications with respect to the competence of the state that Patrick implies it does in his post. What Patrick regards as a "contingently incompetent" constitutional arrangement in our American regime seems to me an essentially sound basis for limiting the jurisidiction of the state with regard to religious doctrine and was affirmed by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council in Dignitatis Humanae that it is "completely in accord with the nature of faith that in matters religious every manner of coercion on the part of men should be excluded" (Para. 10). The state must, of course, foster religious freedom, and the coercive power of the state does extend to public order (including public morality). But (only) the temporal common good is the end of political society, a Catholic via media between the alternatives of secularism and theocracy.

* A play on John Rawls's claim that his theory of "justice as fairness" was "political, not metaphysical."


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Cutting to the chase, is "the state" per se incompetent to recognize that the Church has rights -- e.g., the right to preach the truth to all peoples -- that other societies do not?

Again, no one here is arguing that the Church can or should coerce non-Christians.

Posted by: Patrick Brennan | Nov 17, 2011 10:35:03 PM

"Cutting to the chase, is "the state" per se incompetent to recognize that the Church has rights -- e.g., the right to preach the truth to all peoples -- that other societies do not?"

Also, is the state per se incompetent to recognize that Christ is King at metaphysical and political levels?

Can this be answered by a few historical examples? Two states that had been arguably competent to affirm the Gospel at both the metaphysical and political level are the rule of St. Louis IX and the rule of the Hapsburgs. Further, in the Westphalian and modern example of the Hapsburgs, can we say that this was a regime that not only affirmed the Kingship of Christ and the authority of Holy Mother Church, but also did so in a tolerant, liberal, and cosmopolitan manner? I recognize that there were flaws in the Hapsburg Empire, as in all human institutions, such that we don't want to overstate its competence. Nevertheless, the Hapsburg regime seems to be a counterpoint against an argument of per se incompetence of the state to recognize the above.

Posted by: CK | Nov 18, 2011 8:25:26 AM


What could it mean for a state to grant special rights to one denomination, but to simultaneously reject that "the Church can or should coerce non-Christians"?

What is a state-recognized right unless the state is willing to force all subjects/citizens to respect the boundaries of that right? If one brand of Christians has the exclusive state-recognized right to proselytize, what does the state do when someone else stands up to preach?

(Despite the wording of you comment, I expect that you do NOT believe that your "no-coercion rule" applies only to immediate agents of the Church and that the Church's hands could remain clean if state agents are the ones suppressing the wrong sort of believers.)

Posted by: brennan (not Patrick) | Nov 18, 2011 9:58:49 AM