The Catholic Church in World Politicsby Eric O. Hanson
"[The book's] great merit is that it informs a Catholic public, and any others interested in the role of the Catholic Church in modern society, of much they may not have taken note of. There are excellent sections on the Lefebvre movement, on Opus Dei, on liberation theology, on the vicissitudes in recent years of the Society of Jesus, on the Vatican's policy toward Eastern Europe. . . .It is the best study of its kind that has so far appeared."--J. M. Cameron, New York Review of Books "[Hanson's] is a well-written, lively narrative which puts together a staggering mass of recent research on Catholicism as an international system of action, political influence, and belief. . . . Buy it! You will learn more about Catholicism and world politics from it than from any other competing source." --John A. Coleman, Commonweal "[A]n important, eminently readable book. [Hanson] has contributed substantially to the critically significant study of religion and politics in general and of Roman Catholicism and its diverse relationships to national governments in particular." --George E. Saint-Laurent, Journal of the American Academy of Religion
"[The book's] great merit is that it informs a Catholic public, and any others interested in the role of the Catholic Church in modern society, of much they may not have taken note of. There are excellent sections on the Lefebvre movement, on Opus Dei, on liberation theology, on the vicissitudes in recent years of the Society of Jesus, on the Vatican's policy toward Eastern Europe. . . .It is the best study of its kind that has so far appeared."--J. M. Cameron, New York Review of Books
"[Hanson's] is a well-written, lively narrative which puts together a staggering mass of recent research on Catholicism as an international system of action, political influence, and belief. . . . Buy it! You will learn more about Catholicism and world politics from it than from any other competing source."--John A. Coleman, Commonweal
"[A]n important, eminently readable book. [Hanson] has contributed substantially to the critically significant study of religion and politics in general and of Roman Catholicism and its diverse relationships to national governments in particular."--George E. Saint-Laurent, Journal of the American Academy of Religion
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The Catholic Church in World Politics
By Eric O. Hanson
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESSCopyright © 1987 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
A Brief Political History of the Catholic Church in Europe
THE DIVISION OF EAST AND WEST
On May 30, 1980, all the bells of Paris pealed to welcome John Paul II as he descended in a blue and white helicopter into the heart of the city. President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing greeted the pope, who then reviewed the blue, crimson, and silver Garde Républicaine. From the Place de la Concorde Giscard and John Paul rode down the Champs-Elysées, providing Associated Press with an effective photo of the two leaders with the Arc de Triomphe in the background. The pope had come to visit "the church's eldest daughter" for the first time since Napoleon held Pope Pius VII prisoner at Fontainebleau in 1814. Giscard and John Paul proceeded to the 800-year-old cathedral of Notre Dame, where French government leaders, members of the clergy, and a large choir sang a Te Deum. The pope then said mass for a crowd of five thousand on the steps of the cathedral.
On his way to Notre Dame John Paul passed along the Boulevard St.-Germain, where crowds thinned out. St.-Germain's "bohemian and leftist" character symbolized the major challenge of this particular papal visit. While 85 percent of the French are baptized, less than 20 percent of the population could be classified as "practicing Catholics." Before leaving Rome for Paris John Paul had spoken of a French national "crisis of belief." Thus the central papal message to France came in the form of a question that served as a keynote the pope's sermon to half a million Catholics at Le Bourget airport, "France, eldest daughter of the Church, are you being faithful to the promises of your Baptism?" This question later became a heading for a section of the French episcopal letter on peace. On the last day of his visit John Paul addressed a strong plea for peace to UNESCO.
Cardinal Marty of Paris invited the various French political parties to send representatives to the ceremony at Notre Dame. The French Communist Party (PCF) sent official representatives, while the Socialist Party (PS) did not. Certain Socialist supporters remain particularly sensitive to the historical legacy of the bitter separation of church and state in 1905. Hence, Socialists could participate in the Te Deum and other ceremonies as individuals but not as representatives of the party. Socialist leader François Mitterand attended the government reception the following day at the Elysée Palace, but a Socialist spokesman insisted that members of his party did so in their official government, not party, capacities.
The New York Times (June 1, 1980) lead photo (front page, three columns at the top) showed Giscard introducing John Paul and PCF leader Georges Marchais at the Elysée. Communist spokesmen emphasized the importance of papal initiatives to the entire French nation, as well as the presence of Catholics within their own party and the PCF's desire to unite the entire working class, regardless of their philosophical or religious convictions. Desiring to show concern for the French working class, John Paul chose to celebrate mass at the Basilica of Saint-Denis. The mayor of Saint-Denis and other PCF leaders expressed their satisfaction that the pope had chosen one of their strongholds to meet the workers. Also, as another PCF mayor remarked, the pope was a pilgrim of peace in an anxious world, just as Khrushchev had been in his time.
The AP news photo of John Paul and Giscard riding down the Champs-Elysées stirred French memories of an earlier time when the sword of the pope and the sword of the Frankish king cooperated to establish the political-religious basis of Western civilization. The great gothic cathedrals like Notre Dame reflect the historical glories of French Catholicism. France, as no other nation, epitomizes in her history the rise and subsequent disintegration of medieval Christendom. St. Thomas Aquinas and other great medieval philosophers and theologians gathered at Paris. The Protestant Reformation came to France, but in the end Catholicism triumphed because "Paris was worth a mass" to the Huguenot Henry of Navarre. The glorious French monarchy then established that state control over national Catholicism that gave historians the term "Gallicanism." The French Revolution decimated an ecclesiastical institution closely linked to the ancient regime. Subsequent French governments, even the most anticlerical, valued the church principally for its rural clerics who could be sent forth as missionary shock troops for colonial expansion. The 1905 separation of church and state expressed in law the bitter division of French society, with practicing Catholics associated with the political right. French anticlericalism remains particularly strident when compared to the anticlericalism of such Catholic countries as Italy. The French church today inspires little allegiance among the working class or intellectuals. The clergy grows older and older with few replacements. The great cathedrals stand empty. From the Enlightenment to the present time, France best embodies the Catholic Church's failure to respond to the challenges of modern civilization.
Despite the general weakening of French Catholicism, however, individual French Catholic thinkers have pioneered missionary, theological, and organizational experimentation within the church. Nineteenth-century French missionaries set the tone for the political and social development of the Latin American church. Missionary history also demonstrates the importance of the nineteenth-century French church to Asia. In the same century French Catholic liberals such as Fr. Félicité de Lamennais and Count Charles de Montalembert sought to link Catholicism with the values of the Enlightenment. In the twentieth century the French philosophers Jacques Maritain and Emmanuel Mounier have articulated the general Catholic principles that underlie Christian Democracy. And the postwar Nouvelle Théologie of Yves Congar, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Henri de Lubac, and Jean Danièlou strongly influenced the international church, including papal nuncio to France, Angelo Roncalli (later John XXIII). French postwar Catholicism also stimulated the first postwar intellectual stirrings of the American church.
An understanding of the establishment of Western Christendom through the cooperation of the pope and the Frankish king is essential to the understanding of Catholic politics and East-West relations. The West initially defined itself in reaction against the Eastern empire with its capital at Constantinople (Byzantium). As the historian Walter Ullman has emphasized, "In more than one direction the history of the medieval papacy is co-terminous with the existence of the Byzantine empire. In brief, it was very largely the challenge by Constantinople and the response and reaction by the papacy which in vital and basic respects determined the path of this institution." Some of the major cultural differences which persist between East and West, especially with regard to politics and religion, have roots deep in the period between the fourth and eighth centuries. Hedrick Smith reminds his readers that Russia did not pass through the Renaissance, the Reformation, and Constitutional Liberalism, but "absorbed Eastern Orthodox Christianity from Byzantium, endured Mongol conquest and rule, and then developed through centuries of czarist absolutism with intermittent periods of opening towards the West followed by withdrawal into continental isolation."
Constantine's Edict of Milan (A.D. 313) guaranteed toleration to the Christian religion and allowed its adherents to emerge from the catacombs and to claim ecclesiastical goods confiscated during earlier persecutions. At this time the Roman church "had a somewhat superior but purely moral authority in comparison with other churches, just as Rome itself carried greater weight than, say, Milan or Marseille." The church took on a legal corporate personality under the emperor according to Roman law. In fact, in the following year, the pagan emperor Constantine summoned the Council of Arle. In A.D. 325 Constantine, who took the traditional title of pontifex maximus (supreme priest) very seriously, presided over the great Council of Nicaea to put an end to the theological wrangling among Christian factions that was disturbing the empire. The Council condemned Arius and his followers. While over three hundred bishops attended, the Western contingent consisted of not more than four bishops with a fifth, Hosius of Cordova, an imperial appointee. The bishop of Rome was represented by two of his priests.
The vast majority of bishops came to Nicaea from Greek-speaking lands, where theological controversy over such questions as the nature of Christ marked the Christian tradition. The Eastern tradition also focused on the local churches and the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist. The Eastern emperor maintained a strong religious role, and the patriarch of Constantinople who resided in the "New Rome" of this Eastern emperor gained increasing importance. The final religious split between East and West occurred in 1054. The fall of Constantinople (1453) and the subsequent development of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state increased the prestige of the Russian Orthodox Synod, so that at times the rivalry for precedence between the "Second Rome" and the "Third Rome" exacerbated relations with other autonomous national Orthodox churches. These religious questions became part of the essential fabric of Russian and Eastern European history and politics.
In the West, however, the removal of the imperial capital from Rome to Byzantium left Italy in the charge of the exarch at Ravenna with the resulting imperial neglect and political-religious vacuum of power. The barbarian Alaric sacked Rome in A.D. 410, and the city's security remained problematic for several centuries. Pope Leo I (440-461), whom tradition represents as stopping Attila at the gates of Rome, adopted the title of pontifex maximus. Leo combined the various preexisting juristic, theological, and biblical arguments to set the foundation for the Roman primacy (principatus) during the Middle Ages. St. Peter, according to Leo's argument, had bestowed the power "to bind and to loose" (expressed in Roman legal terms) to his successor Pope Clement I and to succeeding bishops of Rome, thus separating the power of the office from the sanctity of the individual pope. The traditional binding force of Roman church decretals merely reflected this fact as they imitated the ruling style of imperial rescripts. This papal doctrine received another authoritative statement at the close of the fifth century in a letter from Pope Gelasius I to the emperor at Constantinople.
Having an ideological base, of course, does not automatically create a great bureaucratic organization. The Roman church had been well-organized in the third century, but it was the superb administrator Pope Gregory I (590-604) who built the beginnings of the medieval papal bureaucracy. Gregory imposed order on the far-flung papal economic interests, imported grain to feed the Romans, and sent soldiers against the Lombards. Finally, the eighth-century alliance between the papacy and King Pippin of the Franks established the Papal States and arranged papal support for the political legitimacy of Pippin's family. In 754 Pippin promised to restore to the patrimony of St. Peter the territories, including the old imperial exarchate at Ravenna, which had been seized by the Lombards. In return Pope Stephen III promised to excommunicate any Frankish king not from Pippin's family, and a little later anointed Pippin king at St. Denis. Pippin then crushed the Lombards and donated the conquered lands to the papacy in a solemn document deposited at St. Peter's tomb in Rome in the early summer of 756. The papacy had definitively escaped the political sphere of Constantinople and the insecurity of periodic barbarian invasions through the military prowess of the Franks.
At the end of the century, however, the popes began to fear that they had merely exchanged the interference of Constantinople for the intervention of the Franks. Pippin's son Charlemagne was planning a "Second Rome" at this new capital, Aix-la-Chapelle, where he, like the rival emperor of the East, would have his "chief priest" at his beck and call. In reaction, Pope Leo III hit upon a magnificent and unexpected political and symbolic act to establish the independence and primacy of the papacy at Rome. On Christmas Day in A.D. 800, Leo crowned Charlemagne "Emperor of the Romans," thus transferring that title from the East to the West. In doing so the pope signified that the ultimate legitimacy to bestow and to withdraw that title lay with the papacy in Rome. "Charlemagne's coronation was, so to speak, the final and solemn and public act by which the papacy emancipated itself from the constitutional framework of the Eastern empire."
The Carolingian vision of a "Second Rome" at Aix substituted a Western imperial captivity for an Eastern one. In defending papal prerogatives against both challenges, the popes made skillful use of a forged document called The Donation of Constantine, which had been fortuitously "discovered" by the papal chancery for Pope Stephen III in his negotiations with Pippin. According to the Donation, when Constantine left Rome for his new capital at Byzantium, he offered to relinquish his crown and imperial authority to Pope Silvester I. He also gave the papacy the right to rule Rome and "all provinces, localities and towns in Italy and the Western hemisphere." Since the Eastern emperors had infringed upon papal rights and thus forfeited the right to be considered Christian emperors, the pope could bestow that trust (beneficium) on a more worthy candidate. The Donation relied on an earlier Legend of St. Silvester, composed between 480 and 490, at a time when Pope Gelasius I (492-496) as assistant to Pope Felix II (483-492) was articulating the basic ideological principles of the papal legitimacy.
THE MEDIEVAL SYNTHESIS: CHRISTENDOM
Leo Ill's crowning of Charlemagne established the new political-religious relationship of Christendom in the West. This universal vision had its first great thematic presentation in the City of God, written by St. Augustine to rebut the pagan charge that the spread of Christianity had led to Alaric's sack of Rome in 410. Augustine related earthly and heavenly spheres by arguing that man always remains a citizen of two cities, the city of his birth and the city of God. While neither city could be precisely identified with existing institutions, Augustine presented the visible church as closely related to the city of God. He thus emphasized the reality of the church as an organized institution with a universal mandate.
The church's universal mandate to include all humanity within its scope imposed rights and duties on the heads of the spiritual and political institutions of Christendom. All matters affected salvation, and thus concerned the church even though different functions belonged to the pope and the emperor. The principal political-religious conflict during the Middle Ages concerned the demarcation of these responsibilities and the sources of legitimacy for these two offices. While nearly everyone accepted the general legitimacy of both pope and emperor, tension arose over their specific rights and duties. This dual organization and control of society in the interest of two great sets of related values became the point of departure for the great medieval struggle between pope and emperor, the investiture controversy of the latter half of the eleventh century. This battle between Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry IV occasioned a flood of sophisticated political literature reflecting the rising culture of the time.
The conflict began when Gregory prohibited lay investiture, the participation of secular rulers in the choice of the clergy. In supporting Gregory, the Papalists argued from the concept of the church as a monarchy in the imperial Roman tradition. The pope alone could create and depose bishops, call a General Council, and issue religious and moral decrees. If the pope excommunicated a ruler, that ruler stood outside the Christian body, and, therefore, could not be a ruler in Christendom. This independence of the church had been expressed much earlier by the courageous St. Ambrose of Milan in the fourth century. Ambrose had written the Eastern Emperor Valentinian that in matters of faith "bishops are wont to judge of Christian emperors, not emperors of bishops." Ambrose refused to celebrate the Eucharist in the presence of the Emperor Theodosius because of the latter's guilt in a massacre. He also refused to surrender one of his churches to the Arians upon the order of Emperor Valentinian. The most ambitious statement of papal political power came in the bull Unam sanctam (1302) by Boniface VIII, who claimed that the church was the direct source of both spiritual and temporal powers. Papal apologists continued to cite the Donation of Constantine until Nicholas of Cusa and Lorenzo Valla exposed it as a forgery in the fifteenth century.
Excerpted from The Catholic Church in World Politics by Eric O. Hanson. Copyright © 1987 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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