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Christ's Faithful People

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CHAPTER 24 A Liberal Sophism and the Church's Diplomacy

Liberals often urge as an objection to Ultramontane vigor the fact that the Church herself enters into amicable relations with Liberal governments and personages, or what comes to the same thing, with Liberalism itself.

If the Church can take such a position, surely Ultramontanes, who are looked upon as the vanguard of the Church, may find an example in this her policy worthy of imitation.

We reply. We are to consider these relations as official amities, and nothing more. They by no means suppose any particular affection for the persons who are their object, much less approbation of their actions, and infinitely less any adhesion to their doctrines or the approval of them.

In the first place, we must remember that there are two ministrations in the Church of God: one which we may call apostolic, relative to the propagation of the Faith and the salvation of souls; the other, which we may very properly term diplomatic, having for its subject human relations with the powers of the world.

The first is the most noble; properly speaking, it is the principal and essential ministration. The second is inferior and subordinate to the first, of which it is only the auxiliary. In the first, the Church is intolerant and uncompromising; in this she goes straight to her end and breaks rather than bends: frangi non flecti. Witness in this respect the persecutions she has suffered. When it is a question of divine rights and divine duties, neither attenuation nor compromise is possible.

In the second ministration, the Church is condescending, benevolent and full of patience. She discusses, she solicits, she negotiates, she praises, that she may soften the hard; she is silent sometimes, that she may better succeed; seems to retreat, that she may better advance and soon attain a better vantage. In this order of relations, her motto might be: flecti non frangi ["to bend not to break"]. When it is a question of mere human relations, she comports herself with a certain flexibility and admits the usage of special resources.

In this domain, everything that is not declared bad and prohibited by the law common to the ordinary relations of men is lawful and proper.

More explicitly, the Church deems that she may properly make use of all the resources of an honest diplomacy.

Who would dare reproach her for accrediting ambassadors to bad and even infidel governments, and on the other hand, in accepting ambassadors from them; for honoring their noble and distinguished families by her courtesies and enhancing their public festivities by the presence of her legates?

"But why," interrupt the Liberals, "should you manifest such detestation for Liberalism and so vehemently combat Liberal governments, when the Pope thus negotiates with them, recognizes them, and even confers distinctions on them?" We can best answer this foolish thrust by a comparison.

We will suppose you are the father of a family. You have five or six daughters, whom you have brought up in the most scrupulous and rigorous virtue. Opposite to your house, or perhaps next door, we will imagine, dwell some neighbors of blemished reputation. You command your daughters, without cessation, under no circumstances to have aught to do with these people. They obey you strictly. But suppose now that some matter should arise relative to both you and your neighbor's interest in common, such as the paving of a street, the laying of a water main, etc. This obliges you to consult and advise with your neighbors as to this common interest. In your intercourse with them, you treat them with the usual courtesies of society and seek to conclude the business on hand in an harmonious way. Would your daughters, therefore, be justified in declaring that, as you their father had entered into certain relations with these neighbors and extended to them the usual courtesies of society, so should they be allowed to associate with them; as long as you their father had thus entered into relation with them, so they had a right to conclude that they were people of good morals? The Church is the home of good people (or of those who ought to be and desire to be), but she is surrounded by governments more or less perverted, or even entirely perverted. She says to her children: "Detest the maxims of these governments; combat these maxims; their doctrine is error; their laws are iniquitous." At the same time, in questions when her own and sometimes their interests are involved, she finds herself under the necessity of treating with the heads or the representatives of these governments, and in fact she does treat with them, accepts their compliments, and employs in their regard the formula of the polished diplomacy in usage in all countries; she negotiates with them in relation to matters of common interest, seeking to make the best of the situation in the midst of such neighbors. In thus acting does she do anything wrong) By no means. Is it not ridiculous then for a Catholic, availing himself to this example, to hold it up as a sanction of doctrines which the Church has never ceased to condemn, and as the approbation of a line of conduct which she has ever combatted?

Does the Church sanction the Koran when she enters into negotiations, power to power, with the sectaries of the Koran? Does she approve of polygamy because she receives the presents and embassies of the Grand Turk? Well, it is in this way that the Church approves of Liberalism when she decorates its kings or its ministers, when she sends her benedictions, simple formulae of Christian courtesy, which the Pope extends even to Protestants. It is a sophism to pretend that the Church authorizes by such acts what she has always condemned by other acts. Her diplomatic can never frustrate her apostolic ministration, and it is in this latter that we must seek the seeming contradictions of her diplomatic career.


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