A sharing miracle

Liberal Catholics have this weird fetish for saying that the miracle of the loaves and fishes/feeding of the multitude was actually a “sharing miracle”.  That is, Jesus didn’t actually make food multiply/appear out of nowhere; he just inspired people in the crowd to share what they already had, and it was enough for everybody.  (There are variations.  I went to college at the University of Illinois, which has a pretty orthodox Newman center, and their line was that there were two miracles:  sharing and multiplication of loaves and fishes.  Such a convoluted position can only be explained as a compromise between factions.  Liberals want their sharing story, and orthodox want what the evangelists actually wrote.)

This is such a bizarre claim to make, it must be a clue into the liberal Catholic mindset.  I mean, I understand that if you don’t believe in miracles, you’re not going to believe the gospel story as written.  But in that case, shouldn’t you just dismiss the whole thing as legend?  Why imagine that the feeding of the crowd happened in any way at all?  After all, the thousands gathering to listen to Jesus and get hungry is just a setup for the miracle.  And why make up something (the sharing) that’s not in the written narrative at all?  There’s a weird residue of inerrancy inside liberal Christians, that they dismiss most biblical narratives as legends fabricated centuries after the supposed events, and yet they insist on believing little details in these same narratives.  For example, every priest I’ve ever heard preach on this topic has belabored the point that Jesus had the leftovers collected–so don’t forget to reduce, reuse, recycle kids!

The whole sharing thing doesn’t make sense anyway.  We must believe either that most people brought enough for themselves to eat, which would mean very little sharing took place, or that a minority of people brought ridiculously more than they could possibly eat, so that there were leftovers even after sharing with everyone else, which makes no sense at all.

Or actually it does, if you’re a liberal Catholic.  These guys are all socialists.  They think that sharing makes stuff appear out of nowhere.

100 Responses

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the collection of the scraps turned into a point about recycling – when it’s been mentioned at all in preaching that I’ve heard, it’s been connected to the care we take with particles of the Blessed Sacrament, “ne pereant”. I don’t think I live in an area known for particularly good preaching, either.

  2. […] A sharing miracle […]

  3. The main Gospel message must not have been “share”, “feed the poor”, etc. or else Jesus would have worked sharing food miracles, clothing bums miracles and housing the homeless miracles constantly and everywhere he went. As God he could have done these things.

    The message must be about something else.

  4. Peasant,

    I guess to me it always sounded like an incidental or relatively meaningless detail. The type of detail that makes the Gospels seem more authentic – not created/constructed.

  5. The last homily I heard about it was basically along the lines of “don’t think that what you can do is not enough, because God can take your capabilities and make them sufficient. So pretty good, it affirmed the miracle.

    Really, I can’t see any reason for believing the “sharing” version, other than a lack of belief in miracles. That’s aside from the fact that it doesn’t make any sense.

  6. Have you considered a SSPX-managed church? Your sermons might have less liberal nonsense.

    It’s rather tiring to not be able trust most of what the hierarchy is pushing.

  7. While the Holy See has ruled that it technically does fulfill the Sunday obligation, I do not think it wise to habitually attend SSPX masses. The fact of the matter is that they do not correctly understand obedience to authority.

  8. The pope has come very, very close to endorsing the “sharing” version on at least three occasions, most recently last month in Bolivia (emphasis in original):

    Those words of Jesus have a particular resonance for us today: No one needs to go be excluded, no one has to be discarded; ‘you yourselves’, give them something to eat. Jesus speaks these words to us, here in this square. Yes, no one has to be discarded; ‘you’, give them something to eat. Jesus’ way of seeing things leaves no room for the mentality which would cut bait on the weak and those most in need. Taking the lead, he gives us his own example, he shows us the way forward. What he does can be summed up in three words. He ‘takes’ a little bread and some fish, he ‘blesses’ them and then ‘gives’ them to his disciples to share with the crowd. And this is how the miracle takes place. It is not magic or sorcery. With these three gestures, Jesus is able to turn a mentality which discards others into a mindset of communion, a mindset of community. I would like briefly to look at each of these actions. […] The hands which Jesus lifts to bless God in heaven are the same hands which gave bread to the hungry crowd. We can imagine now how those people passed the loaves of bread and the fish from hand to hand, until they came to those farthest away. Jesus generated a kind of electrical current among his followers, as they shared what they had, made it a gift for others, and so ate their fill. Unbelievably, there were even leftovers: enough to fill seven baskets. A memory which is taken, a memory which is blessed and a memory which is given, always satisfies people’s hunger. (Holy Mass in Christ the Redeemer Square, Santa Cruz de la Sierra – Bolivia, July 9, 2015)

    Of all the troubling things in this passage–the weird Scriptural exegesis about “a mentality which excludes others”, the quotes around ‘takes’, ‘blesses’, and ‘gives’, the “Unbelievably”, the impenetrable remarks about memories satisfying people’s hunger–it’s the “magic” comments that baffle me the most. Who ever claimed the feeding was a magic trick? Why bother to tell us (on each occasion) that it wasn’t a magic trick, unless the purpose is to conflate miracles with magic, and thus implicitly deny the former?

  9. It wouldn’t make any sense EXCEPT as a miracle of food appearing seemingly out of thin air, if you take it as a culminating of some earlier OT incident (e.g. God producing manna for the Israelites as they wandered in the desert–in which the Israelites were actually commanded to discard anything that was left over, not reuse and recycle it!). This kind of culminating is a pretty sound way to interpret NT stories, for example Jesus’s crucifixion as a culmination of the Passover story.

  10. I disagree! They understand it perfectly, in that it is primarily obedience to God – not to symbols of hierarchy that have been cuckolded by liberal politicians and sinful men. Papal Infallibility in no way protects against the vast anti-Catholic abuses which have occurred within the church.

    The “new spirit” moving through the church was not the Holy Spirit, but a desire to modernize and accept the tenants of liberal humanism. God often gives us what we want, for better or worse, even if it is not what He wants.

  11. God isn’t commanding them to operate their own de facto hierarchy outside the governance of the legitimate ecclesiastical authorities. There is no reasonable way to interpret divine revelation or the natural law to be compelling them to rebel.

  12. I honestly believe you have your notion of rebellion reversed. The 60’s hierarchy largely rebelled against tradition and previous Popes (e.g. Pius X) who explicitly declared modernism and its notions as heresy.

  13. AR’s past comments have had some influence on my thinking on that topic. Are we being compelled to do something that is disobedient to God?

    I’ve heard from in-the-Church traditionalists that marriages performed by SSPX clergy are not valid. Is this true?

  14. Bruce,

    Canon 1108-1123 appear to me to rule out the validity of marriages witnessed by clergy of the FSSPX excepting the case where one or both of those who intend to marry are in danger of death or where it is foreseen that a clergyman with faculties to assist at marriage is unavailable in the area for at least a month.

  15. @Thomas

    Even if the hierarchy is full of heretics, that doesn’t remove our duty to obey them. They haven’t commanded us (or the SSPX) to do or believe anything that is in rebellion to God. Even if they did command us to do or believe something that was against God, that still would not remove our obligation to obey them in everything else.


    That is correct, the impediment of lack of form invalidates marriages between two Catholics or between a Catholic and a non-Catholic which were not witnessed by a person with faculties to witness them, unless one of the parties was in danger of death or where it is foreseen that a person with faculties will not be available for a month.

  16. My understanding is that the way the law is written, two Protestants could be married by an SSPX priest and the marriage would be presumed valid but if two Catholics were married by the same priest, the marriage would be invalid. This was suggested on Father Z’s site.

  17. Correct. Marriages between Protestants are valid as long as they are recognized by the law of their own community (canon 781 CCEO). The impediment of defect of form applies only to Catholics.

  18. AR – I don’t think that makes sense. One has a duty to ignore what evil men say, even a specific command isn’t against God’s well, not a duty to obey evil insofar as it isn’t specifically commanding evil.

    If a wolf has shed its costume, one should run, not feed it your children.

  19. I don’t know where your understanding of obedience to authority comes from, but it’s certainly not Catholic.

    We are obliged to obey evil rulers insofar as they do not command evil. This holds true for the state (we are obliged to obey our government, even though it is evil), so it certainly holds true for the Church.

    Note that this all holds true without even asking whether the entire hierarchy is in fact evil.

  20. Back to the original comment that prompted this diversion – one could seek out an FSSP parish – their priests are supposed to be very good.

  21. AR…

    Our “system” of governance doesn’t have one “obey” the civil servant. Your Catholicism is not relevant in the American context.

  22. A liberal “Catholic” is just a liberal. And a liberal in the modern context REJECTS all singularities. It is in this rejection of all singularities that the ultimate “truth” of reality is redundancy. “Sharing” is a type of redundancy. So the liberal “Catholic,” who is really just a liberal, is being entirely consistent in his interpretation when he rejects singularities and asserts redundancy, ie, rejects miracles and asserts sharing. The ONLY FLAW are the “good Catholics” who provide the radical liberals with a Catholic cloak.

  23. “We are obliged to obey evil rulers insofar as they do not command evil. ”
    But then why hue and cry about abortion? After all, you are not being commanded to perform abortions.
    And why hue and cry about same-sex marriage. After all, you are not being commanded to engage in same-sex marriage.

  24. I’m commanded to subsidize abortion. I’m commanded to recognize same-sex “marriages.” Both of these things are done at my expense and more generally at the expense of the vulgarization and barbarization of the society I have to live (and raise children) in.

  25. It’s funny, Bonald, that you posted this the day before the feast of the Transfiguration, arguably the most “socially useless” of the miracles and presumably the one least possible to deform to some liberal agenda. If you attend Mass today, I’d love to hear what your priest says about it.

  26. Dear God, this went off-topic surprisingly fast.


    ArkansasReactionary is right, I’m afraid. You seem to hold a rather modern (and by modern I mean Hobbelockean) view of authority, where moral corruption in an authority figure automatically absolves us of our duty to him. On the contrary, we are compelled to obey authority even if we find said authority personally morally corrupt, up till the point where obedience would constitute sin. We are no more justified in rebelling against Pope Francis than a Papal subject would be against the Borgias on account of their corruption. We are to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, after all. Our ecclesiastical and temporal sovereigns both have a claim on our loyalties, and we are to oblige them insofar as we would not commit sinful acts in doing so, and even then our rebellion is to be confined to refusal to engage in sinful acts.

    In fact, Bonald did a piece on this very topic just a few months back.

    This post from Zippy Catholic talks about related issues; most of the points he makes about fatherly authority carry over to Papal and civil authority too. See also the biblical quote in the first comment, which is of particular relevance.


    As I said to Thomas above, the only license for civil disobedience is an order for us to commit a sinful act, and even then the only civil disobedience warranted is disobedience with respect to that command. The “hue and cry” about abortion and gay marriage really has very little to do with authority; our opposition is not a petulant, adolescent show of defiance against the authority of the wicked men placing these laws on us, but rather an attempt to push back against the decadence that we are drowning in. If these laws are passed and they really do not compel us to commit sinful acts, there isn’t actually any act of civil disobedience we’d be justified in engaging in.

  27. Sorry if I got off-topic with my personal understanding of obedience and duty, but so far I think history has shown the SSPX’s actions valid:

    They disobeyed by not suppressing the TLM, which Benedict later recognized as invalid suppression. Same with the excommunications.

    My understanding is that the spirit of the 60’s was positively anti-Catholic, engaged in active attack on Catholic truths, and Archbishop Lefebvre honestly felt his actions were essentially forced onto him. It was a big event, as the Archbishop was deeply involved in the hierarchy and well respected.

  28. Thomas,

    I don’t see how that absolves Abp. Lefebvre. Jacob had a prophecy on his side saying he would gain his brother’s birthright and that didn’t make the way he and his mother used trickery (lied) to steal Esau’s birthright right, and he was repaid for his sin with separation from his beloved mother and by having trickery visited on him by others. God made good out of evil, but the sin was still a sin and thus punished.

  29. I suppose we’re commanded to subsidize lots of evil things with our taxes but I’m sure taxes to Caesar would have subsidized some evil things. Somehow, the fact that a little bit of our tax dollars might go to planned-parenthood seems different than having an abortion if the government commanded it. Paying taxes isn’t a sin, aborting is. I personally haven’t been asked to recognize sodo-matrimony – If I am asked I’ll tell whoever asks that two queers can’t really be married-that’s acceptable civil disobedience.

  30. We don’t have any post-resurrection Biblical examples of evil clergy and how Christians responded to them. I guess the closest is Peter didn’t want to eat with Gentiles and was rebuked by Paul –that’s not a good example.

  31. @Bruce

    Yes, that is an excellent suggestion.


    Because it is wrong for the state to allow abortion and same sex “marriage”. Additionally, plenty of people are obliged by law to participate in these evils. Insurance providers, employers, clerks, police officers, and so on.


    They didn’t disobey by saying the TLM, they disobeyed by ordaining bishops without a Papal mandate.

  32. Forgive me if I sound like I’m waffling back and forth but this is all hard for me to grasp.

    How does the social Kingship of Christ work if obedience to secular authorities is seen as a hard and fast rule as opposed to a spiritual state /state of mind?

    There are always evil people in every society that will oppose Christian goals. Unless the highest person or group in the hierarchy is Catholic, how can the social Kingship ever exist? No one believes in the divine right of hereditary monarchy to rule any more. Inevitably there will be conflict with those in an equal or higher position who are not Catholic and oppose Catholic goals. Heck it’s not even always clear in modern technocratic societies as to who is of an equal or higher position. Barak Obama works for me, right? Some level of disobedience then has to occur if the social Kingship is to be established or maintained. Are we (as the Church with more responsibility on the part of the bishops no doubt) merely confined to winning their hearts and minds?

    The early Christians were powerless oppressed minorities but then they didn’t seem to talk much about the social Kingship.

  33. I’ll be honest and say I have never encountered this particular ‘re-telling’ of the story. There are ‘Liberal Orthodox’ Christians, but this isn’t one that I’ve heard them roll out. If anyone believes this, they are not Christians. It is a denial of a miraculous event brought forth by Christ, and it is essentially to call the apostles liars.

    It seems one of the worst crimes would be to lie about Christ, to deliberately distort the account of His life. There was no ‘sharing’. Sharing implies some kind of limit of resource, but the division of the bread and fish was endless, with the miracles producing as much as required.

  34. I’ll be a contrarian on the comment about obeying the government as well. I don’t see this as applicable since the toppling of monarchies. You would have a duty to the sovereign, the king, the tsar, but loyalty to their killers?

    I don’t think it’s a particularly good way to look at legitimacy to consider it predicated on mere power. In this case there could be no illegitimate authorities apart from those who claimed power without having it.

    As far as I am concerned, the death of monarchy and the institution of democratic rule nullifies any loyalty to Modern civil authorities beyond pragmatism. (note: this isn’t special pleading because I’m tying it to an institution which is not explicitly necessarily Christian). Sure, don’t get yourself thrown in prison if you can avoid it, but let’s imagine the following scenario:

    I live in a country where the powerful secular government persecutes and humiliates Christians along with a whole host of other injustices.

    A foreign king invades the country in order to restore monarchical Christian rule to my people. Am I really expected to aid the secular government rather than the invaders just because they are in charge? I don’t think so.

    We may make a very consequential error when we give protections to Modern governments that existed for Traditional governments. In fact, it’s very possible to see there having been no legitimate leaders following the rise of democracy, that we in fact exist in an ongoing ‘revolutionary’ period, with real leaders yet to come. President Obama, in this paradigm, is no more an authority to obey than Maurice Bishop ever was in Grenada.

  35. The sharing part is definitely a common spin – Bonald mentioned the “both” narrative – this is how they maintain a minimal orthodoxy – the miracle is in multiplying AND sharing. My Bishop is quite liberal and probably heterodox – he knows that I know it – but careful to maintain a minimal appearance of orthodoxy. The laity can have some degree of practical power in keeping watch on clergy whether we should or not.

    I assume the recycling part of bonald’s post was somewhat tongue in cheek.

  36. Actually, I’ve more than once seen the homily come to be about not being wasteful. Homilists really jump on that collection of leftovers detail.

  37. @Bruce

    Insofar as a law is just, it does not contradict the social kingship of Christ. Insofar as a law is unjust, we need not obey it.

    @Mark Citadel

    Republican government is stupid on a level larger than a small city, but it’s not inherently illegitimate. Heck, Ceasar (as in “render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s”) ruled over a (on paper at least) republican regime. He did not call himself a king.

    Of course during a revolution one should support the legitimate government, but after a revolution, one should still work for order. To give an example that is concrete, the King of Great Britain and Ireland recognized the government of the United States in 1784. So from that point onwards the American government was legitimate. It gets a bit murkier with cases like the Russian Revolution, where the Tsar never recognized the new regime, but I think that once the civil war ended and the Reds were victorious, one had a duty to obey them when they issued just* commands.

    And regarding your scenario, it would be treasonous to aid the enemy. If the war were waged explicitly on the grounds of your country’s secularism, I think you could justify refusal to fight for it, but in no case could I see aiding the enemy as justified.

  38. ArkansasReactionary: in what way was the British government itself legitimate after 1688 when a foreigner was illegitimately installed as king? Any way I can think of to square that circle makes the American government legitimate at least by 1781.

  39. The Catholics inside America can say that they must “obey” the civil authority all they want, but because America is not governed by a civil authority and instead managed by civil SERVANTS then this dogma is simply not relevant to this time and place. Although, it may still be a fundamental principle held by Catholics without incident. But to then set about to impose this dogma on non-Catholics AS THOUGH American’s were to obey its “civil authority” IS INCREDIBLY SUBVERSIVE considering the practical result.

  40. As with the case of the Russian revolution, I think that once the “glorious” revolution was complete, and James’s supporters in Ireland and the colonies were defeated, that the new regime became legitimate. The difference being that James had lost all of his territory whereas George had not.

    Note that even if the American government was legitimate before 1784, it wouldn’t impair my point.

  41. ArkansasReactionary,
    Your position appears to be
    “What Govt exists, is legitimate”.
    The word “legitimate” then is redundant.

    Classical political thought had this term “tyrant” and broadly admiited the rights of a people to depose him. I believe this was carried into Catholic thought as well.
    So, would you agree that people have a right to depose tyrants?

    Citations of Zippy recall me the question I had posed to him which he would not answer.
    “Were the Jews of Warsaw Ghetto morally obliged to obey Germans”
    1) In January 1942, the Jews were ordered to surrender their furs. Was it immoral for a Jew to disobey this particular order?
    2) Was the food smuggling into Ghetto immoral?

    And if you say, as did a Zippy acolyte, that the Nazis were an illegitmate govt, then I will ask you Why and how the Nazis were not legitimate.
    They won the elections and were appointed by usual process. They were recognized by all the nations, even by Vatican.

  42. John K,
    “the only license for civil disobedience is an order for us to commit a sinful act, and even then the only civil disobedience warranted is disobedience with respect to that command.”

    So, you will only be concerned with yourself. And not with the Nation.
    If this be the extent of political thought, then the Orthosphere itself is not required. Why all the fulminations aganist liberalism?

  43. I think the disagreement does find its root in how we define legitimacy, and in the societal sense, you seem to define it as ‘real’ or ‘genuine’, as in the antonym to ‘faux’.

    I’d probably agree with Vishmehr there is more to legitimacy than this.

    I have three legitimacy criteria

    1) Structural Legitimacy
    2) Moral Legitimacy
    3) Theological Legitimacy

    A government doesn’t have to have all three to be legitimate in the general sense, nor even two of them. But they generally describe how we can separate governments into two categories rather than using the term ‘legitimate’ in a redundant way, which seems to be what you are describing.

    Structural Legitimacy stems from the question of Tradition vs. Modernity. Are we talking about a state that is structured according to the precepts of Modernity or of Tradition? You make a good point about Caesar, and the same could be said about the Greek city states during their short tenure, however even though they exhibited some degenerate elements, they would still be classed as Traditional governments (i.e ‘unenlightened’), like the Pagan tribal rule in northern Europe (degenerate, but still Traditional). All Modern states have in fact EXPRESSLY denied Traditional justification for their existence, with the separation of church and state. America does not claim that the Divine forces ordain its ruler. This is a clear expression of defiance and can give rise to the opinion that the revolution is in fact ongoing, even if there are no gunshots.

    Moral legitimacy stems from what the state actually does morally. Is it a state engaged in gross acts of immorality? How serious are these violations and what are their underlying causes? Is there justification for overthrow on these grounds, as Vishmehr gives example to? Can this concern trump the first test of legitimacy? According to the early Christians, probably not.

    Theological legitimacy stems from one’s own religious tradition. For an Iranian, the state will likely lose legitimacy if it ceases to be Shi’ite and instead becomes Sunni, though this may not justify an overthrow.

  44. AR,
    Back to the SSPX vs Protestant marriage thing. Can you explain further? A sacrament is an objective reality.
    The canon law can create/effect objective reality e.g. in the case of Protestants even though it can change with the stroke of a pen (not literally of course)? This is the power of the Church to bind and loose? It sounds like what you’re describing with Protestant marriage is the Church delegating that power to Protestants at least in this case.
    Someone stated at Father Z’s site that a marriage between two Protestants performed by an SSPX priest would be presumed to be valid and that this outcome, though ridiculous, was binding.

  45. Bruce,

    If you’ll forgive my butting in, my understanding is roughly this:

    1) In a vacuum, practically any exchange of consent to marry between two Christians who are free to marry constitutes a sacramental marriage – the matter, form, intent and ministers are all there.

    2) #1 includes two teenagers sneaking off into the woods, promising lifelong fidelity, and sleeping together.

    3) On account of an epidemic of #2 in high and low places (and disputed accusations of it happening) especially in German-speaking areas in the early middle ages (some of these woods marriages and their attendant problems are discussed by Cdl. Brandmueller in his chapter in “Remaining in the Truth of Christ”), holy Mother Church used her power to bind and loose to impose the requirement of a canonical form on the faithful for their marriages so that there would be no confusion as to whether any particular marriage had occurred. This canonical form includes the requirement that a marriage must not be performed in secret (need two witnesses, who can attest that it did in fact occur), and the requirement that it be witnessed by a minister with faculties to marry.

    4) Heretics and schismatics are not members of the Church and thus are not bound by the laws she creates (they are still bound by divine law, of course). They are in the “state of nature” described in #1.

  46. Thanks Peasant, I’m still learning so any input is welcome.

    On #4 I wonder then why they have sacramental marriages and not mere natural/pagan marriages.

    Are there any other sacraments where the validity of the sacrament is effected by current canon law? All of them?

    Sorry to all for the distraction.

  47. Well, heretics and schismatics may be subject to the laws of the Church. It depends on whether they were ever received into it at any point. If not, then they are not bound.

    Bruce, it is impossible for marriage to exist between two baptized persons without it being thereby a sacrament. As for other sacraments, yes, any sacrament which confers positive juridical status in the Church require faculties to celebrate validly — hence marriage, confession, and confirmation.

  48. Thanks Proph.

  49. @vishmehr24

    The order to submit to execution was itself an unjust order. Thus it was not obligatory too obey. It would on the other hand still have been incumbent on the Germans to pay taxes to their government.

    @Mark Citadel

    The problem is that you’re ascribing to liberalism some sort of special moral status, such that it is distinct from everything which has existed before. You should note that this is exactly the claim that liberalism makes of itself.

    Yes the people can overthrow a tyrant, but until that happens, he’s still the legitimate ruler, and we are bound to obey his lawful commands.


    The Church can establish impediments to the validity of marriages between Christians. Of course, the Protestant communities have no native authority to establish impediments for anyone, so any authority they do have is delegated.

  50. “The problem is that you’re ascribing to liberalism some sort of special moral status, such that it is distinct from everything which has existed before”

    I’m not sure why this is controversial. This is a pretty basic tenet of Reactionary thought from De Maistre to Guenon. Liberalism affirms it, but they think this change was good, I think it was bad. How could what we see today be accurately described in continuity with the societies of antiquity. It is thoroughly unique in its debasement and character which has reduced man to his lowest level. To see Liberalism as identical to the decline of pre-Enlightenment civilizations is to make a mistake. It is a phenomena all of its own. The ‘Enlightenment’ was indeed a hugely important historical epoch.

  51. AR…

    A “government” that vigorously pushes nondiscrimination and tolerance as its “highest principles” on its citizens is, by definition, illegitimate. Meaning, a “government” that MANDATES an all-accepting indiscriminancy in its population DEMANDS illegitimacy all around. In the case of “governments,” mere existence does not confer instant legitimacy. America has a standing “government” THAT DEMANDS radical autonomy from its citizens AND ITSELF. Ergo, America’s standing “government” DEMANDS from its people an insurrection and an annihilation of the illegitimate “head.”

  52. A normal who protests the degenerates in the public sphere cannot then be seen as acting in a civilly disobedient manner (nonsensical). Only when the degenerate acts out in public and receives a “civil” response from the normals do acts of civil disobedience manifest. This reframe is another MORE PARTICULAR step for the Christian converting to wS to take.

  53. Thordaddy makes a lot of sense behind his unconventional terminology. The point is the Govts are set-up to pursue common good and they are legitimate to the extent and only to the extent they do pursue the common good. The question of legitimacy is not restricted to the ‘govts ordering us to do immoral acts.

  54. vishmehr24…

    And if we use your definition of “government” as that system which pursues the common good then America really has no standing government to “obey.” “Our” system seeks only radical autonomy for itself and any degenerate willing to join the collective of radical autonomists.

  55. If the government orders a Christian to do immoral acts, this alone is not enough to negate any legitimacy it may have in other areas. However, the Christian must be willing to die before submitting to such edicts.

  56. @Mark Citadel

    Yes, liberalism is distinct in the sense that it’s unique and new, I should have phrased my comment better.

    What I meant was, liberal states do not occupy their own moral category, separate from other types of tyrannies. The moral law does not change, so the same moral principles which applied to tyrannies in the past, apply to liberal states today.

    As you admit, a tyrant’s decrees which are not themselves unjust are binding.


    Liberal states can and do have laws that promote the common good. They also have laws which attack the common good. One type should be obeyed and the other should not be.

    Note that whether an ordinaryindividual should obey the government is a distinct question from whether people with the capacity to overthrow it should do so.

  57. AR says,

    “Liberal states can and do have laws that promote the common good. ”

    This is false. The Liberal State pushes nondiscrimination and tolerance, ie., indiscriminacy and masochism. The onlY GOOD to be found under this “umbrella” is the illiberal act.

  58. As the late Lawrence Auster might have said, “The only goodness to be found in the Liberated State is the unprincipled exception.”

  59. AR,
    Sin seems pretty clear to me but ”unjust laws” sounds pretty subjective. Who has the prerogative to decide if a law is unjust? YOur parish priest, the conference of catholic bishops, the pope?
    I suppose taxes that support abortion might be unjust to babies. I definitely think some states’ homeschooling laws are unjust and could effect my children’s salvation. Can I decide that they are unjust?

  60. Arkansas – The moral calculation does not change, no. A Modern Republic slaughtering unborn infants is just as morally atrocious as a king doing it!

    This is why I put it in a category of ‘structural legitimacy’. This is to say there is a legitimate general state of politics for man that is correctly hierarchical, patriarchal, theonomic etc., which is no accident and is a reflection of the Divine Realm shown through our own civilization-building instincts. Then, there is the antithesis of this, Modernism, which rejects our healthy in-built known truths and societal preferences. Because these two worlds, Tradition and Modernity, are so radically opposed and different as well as huge in consequence to both individuals and peoples, the question of legitimacy becomes inescapable.

    The issue is, I think any society which fails the test of structural legitimacy, will fail both tests of moral and theological legitimacy as well. I cannot off the top of my head name a single Modern state which I would consider to have moral or theological legitimacy. Perhaps there is one, but I’m missing it.

  61. @Bruce

    An unjust law is one that violates divine or natural law

    @Mark Citadel

    So then you’re saying that tyrannical republics are illegitimate, but tyrannical kings aren’t (legitimate meaning one has a moral obligation to obey their just commands, not necessarily meaning an overthrow would be unjust)?

    Would you extend this to tyrannical republics of the past?

  62. It would be tempting to say that we grant the secular state no authority it doesn’t claim for itself, and since it claims no divine sanction, we grant it none. This idea leads to unacceptable consequences, such as Jody Bottum’s bizarre argument against the death penalty. Bottum argued that, although traditional governments believed they had authority from God to impose justice, the secular state only understands itself to be in the business of social peace, and therefore it lacks the authority of a traditional ruler. This is basically a surrender to the heresy of the “social contract”, that idea that government’s powers are a matter of mere human agreement, that political order is artificial rather than natural. Even apart from Christ’s social kingship, this cannot be. For example, could a people create a political body with police power only for enforcing contracts but one that, say, doesn’t bother outlawing murder? No, as soon as a political body has state-like coercive power, it is morally obliged to suppress murder. And many other things besides. We are confronted with a real essence; as soon as an entity becomes state-like, it is obliged (if it is not to remain objectively defective) to proceed to being an actual state with the full battery of traditional authority.

    So we cannot simply appeal to a state’s official ideology to determine its moral status. We may call civil authorities “civil servants” as a harmless fiction (just as the pope once called himself the “servant of the servants” of God), but the authority asymmetry between me and the police and judges is still real. It is obvious to everyone who is ruler and who is subject.

    What relief can there be from tyrannical government? Not trusting myself in these matters (I admit to being attracted to the “only what authority they claim” school before people like Bottum showed me where it leads), I appeal to past illiberal thinkers. ArkansasReactionary has reviewed the traditional teaching that we should obey legitimate authority unless its commands are sinful and that a settled, established power with care of the community is always to be presumed legitimate. Each individual must judge if his orders violate the moral law (note: not whether they are wise or are obliged by the moral law) by applying the teachings of God’s infallible Church.

    This would seem to leave little hope of relief from tyrants, but granting a right of resistance invites anarchy. Joseph de Maistre pointed the way out. The pope has the authority to release a people from their obligations to an abusive ruler. This allows a people to revolt without compromising the principle of legitimacy.

    We might need to make another exception for physical self-defense. Surely General Franco’s rebellion was the most clearly just war of the twentieth century, even though it never received explicit papal endorsement, because it was an act of self defense by Catholic Spain against the anarchist-communist animals.

  63. As it is always 1938 for neo-cons, it appears it is always 1789 for certain reactionaries. The whole of 20C have by-passed them.
    Consider that the Govt exists to advance common good. Now the 20C
    should have taught us that the “common” in “common good” is very non-trivial word. Each person needs to ask himself Am I the part of common that the Govt considers?
    IF I am, then I am morally obliged to obey the Govt.
    If I am not, then I am not morally obliged to obey the Govt in ANYTHING.
    Thus, the black slaves were not morally obliged to obey the Slave powers,
    And the German Jews were not obliged to obey the German Govt when ‘it became clear that they were not considered as a part of the Common whose good the German Govt was advancing. That is, certainly by the time Nuremberg racial decrees were issued.

  64. @ArkansasReactionary – No, although the reason is hard to discern without hindsight. If we review the time of ancient democracy, both in the Roman Republic and the Greek city states, we find that while these represent local degenerations of the Traditional ideal, we were not observing the kind of deep cyclical change into a true dark age, the evidence being that these were largely isolated phenomena and also were relatively short-lived, coming to an end in the collapse of Rome and then the long period of total monarchical dominance. Today, Modernity is almost inescapable. The comparison is like a patch of eczema vs. necrotizing fasciitis. I don’t think these democratic experiments were degenerate or deeply rooted enough to warrant resistance to just commands, but then we must ask what commands are just?

    @Bonald – I’m having a hard time understanding this.

    “Bottum argued that, although traditional governments believed they had authority from God to impose justice, the secular state only understands itself to be in the business of social peace, and therefore it lacks the authority of a traditional ruler.”

    I agree with this in vague terms, but I think it’s too simplistic. The state doesn’t necessarily need to think it has authority from God in the way that Christian kings did. What I would say is that the state must officially acknowledge the Divine Realm. It may indeed believe in some deistic forms which cannot ‘grant’ them authority. I don’t see the legitimacy of the state being wrapped up in God on the structural level. On the theological level, much more so, but the structural test of legitimacy is more to do with what form the government takes, what forces shape its movements?

    “This is basically a surrender to the heresy of the “social contract”, that idea that government’s powers are a matter of mere human agreement, that political order is artificial rather than natural.”

    I’m not entirely sure how this follows. A state being in the business of social peace IS what the “social contract” is all about. And I agree the social contract is bunk. I see the natural form of government to be one which is hierarchical and has the facets common to all Traditional governments. Modern forms of government deny and eschew such realities.

    “For example, could a people create a political body with police power only for enforcing contracts but one that, say, doesn’t bother outlawing murder?”

    This provides a way to maybe explain my position to more effect. I describe the Modern state as akin to this! I don’t view the raw essentials like outlawing murder to be the only tests of a state in this regard. The state has a duty not to rebel against the natural ways of men in their societal preferences. If it does, it ceases to truly be a human state. It becomes something alien that merely has the dominion over human beings. This is not a high bar for a state to clear! States have been doing so for 5000 years with ease all over the world. Bonald, if a state did exist which only enforced contracts and did not punish murder, would this state lose legitimacy in your eyes? I am only coming from the standpoint that I have a slightly more severe criteria of what the legitimate state has to do.

    Let me be clear and say that I do think revolt and revolution is generally a failure. You have to let Modern societies overthrow themselves. You should obey commands that are not unjust, for practical reasons My feeling however is that once these practical reasons expire, the government in question has lost almost all protections. I do not see a president or a prime minister having the same kind of protections that a monarch does.

  65. AR, that’s a good dictionary definition. Can I disobey mandatory schooling laws if I want to keep my children out of anti-Christian schools?

  66. “Thus, the black slaves were not morally obliged to obey the Slave powers”

    vishmehr, I thought slaves were supposed to obey their masters. And I don’t know if I agree that American slaves weren’t part of the common.

  67. @Bonald

    Exactly. Saying that because the state is of a certain form, it lacks the proper qualities of the state is a concession to social contract.

    Regarding the matter of tyrants, Aquinas admitted a right to overthrow tyrants, but said that as long as they do exist, they must be obeyed. So Franco’s rebellion would have been justified, but an ordinary person living under the Spanish republic would have been obliged to obey its just laws.

    @Mark Citadel

    The Roman Republic existed for nearly one thousand years and ruled up to a quarter of the world’s population. I don’t see how this was short-lived or isolated. You admit that hindsight is required to say it was legitimate, which basically means that because it ended it was just an anomaly and therefore legitimate. But our system will end too, no?

  68. @Bonald

    Surely General Franco’s rebellion was the most clearly just war of the twentieth century, even though it never received explicit papal endorsement, because it was an act of self defense by Catholic Spain against the anarchist-communist animals.

    Pope Pius XII’s radio message on 16 April 1939 seems to me quite an explicit papal endorsement. It’s available in Spanish in the Vatican website, but I couldn’t find an English translation.

    Here’s my quick translation of the opening paragraphs:

    “With immense joy

    We turn to you, dearly beloved sons of Catholic Spain, to express our paternal congratulation for the gift of peace and victory, with which God has decided to crown the Christian heroism of your faith and charity, which has been proved by so many and so generous sufferings.

    With hope and trust Our Predecessor awaited this providential peace, without doubt the result of that fecund benediction, which in the very beginning of the struggle he sent ‘to those who tasked themselves with the difficult and dangerous task of defending and restoring the honor and rights of God and Religion’ […].

    The designs of Providence, dearly beloved sons, have manifested themselves again over heroic Spain. The Nation selected by God as the main instrument for the evangelization of the New World, and as an inexpugnable bastion of the Catholic Faith, has just given the followers of our century’s atheistic materialism the greatest proof that over everything are the eternal values of religion and of the spirit”.

    Here’s the ending:

    “In thanks for the manifold graces, that the Immaculate Virgin and St James the Apostle, patrons of Spain, shall give you, as well as those which the great Spanish Saints have deserved, we give Our Apostolic Benediction over you, Our dearly beloved sons of Catholic Spain, over your Head of State and his illustrious Government, over the zealous Episcopate and the self-sacrificing Clergy, over the heroic soldiers and over all the faithful.

    (Take this translation with a grain of salt, neither English nor Spanish are native languages to me).

    Spanish text:


    PS. Translating this, my mind kept coming back to Francis receiving the hammer and sickle crucifix in Bolivia, and the explanation he gave afterwards. O tempora,,,

  69. Eh, after my meager efforts, I found Rorate Caeli has already translated it in full, here


    Please disregard my previous post.

  70. The notion of the social contract is hardly heretical. Although Locke and company’s more secular versions might be incompatible with Catholicism, great scholastics such as Suarez viewed political obligation as being basically based on consent. (From what I understand, Suarez’s view was that the consent of the people is what causes a government to be legitimate and to thereby receive delegated authority from God. Note that he favored a monarchy with Catholicism as the State religion, unlike secular social contractarians.) In addition, he espoused a fairly broad view of tyrannicide.

    Suarez was hardly an un-influential radical: he was commissioned by the pope to use his political philosophy to polemicize against King James of England (and the divine right of kings more generally), for which he was awarded the title “Doctor Eximius et Pius”. Over on the Josias site there’s a quote (somewhere) from some 20th century neoscholastic manual stating that Suarez was generally considered to have the deepest and most satisfying account of political obligation.


    And on the subject of obedience, recently Rorate published an investigation into how Catholic theologians throughout the ages viewed the possibility of a heretical pope, and concluded that the overwhelming majority thought that a heretical pope was possible and that a council deposing him would be legitimate.

    I think it isn’t really accurate for reactionaries to present their views on obedience as established Catholic orthodoxy, rather than one legitimate view among several.

  71. @Arkansas Reactionary – I am no historian on Rome, but I think a more accurate dating for a true Roman Republic is between 510 BC at the earliest when the King of Rome was overthrown, and 27 BC when Octavian became Princeps. This can be further narrowed if you only count the time between the Twelve Tables (449 BC) and the era of coup-happy generals in the final century BC. The period of the Roman Republic’s expansionist height as well, only occurs in the latter half of this timeline, and expands greatly under the period of coups.

    So, this diminishes the actual Republic’s significance somewhat. It’s not because it ended that it was an anomaly. It’s that it clearly did not represent a change on the cyclical macro level of human civilization, hence why afterwards we saw monarchy and aristocracy flourish again so quickly as if nothing had happened, and not a lot of people had to die. Let us remember, while Rome ended with a bang, the Roman Republic ended with much more of a whimper, the victim of ambitious generals who were masters at stagecraft and power play that eventually rendered the democratic institutions meaningless. We didn’t see a ‘collapse’ in this regard, which would be a sign of a system that fell victim of ‘entropy’ which is a necessary companion of a total deterioration. Roman society apparently wasn’t degenerating at a deep level, so much as outgrowing democratic constraints it wasn’t prepared to fine-tune.

    I think we also have to acknowledge the resilience of the aristocratic ideal in the Roman Republic as well, in that it saw as anathema the Greek concept of Eleutheria which girded old Greek democracy. Rome still valued hierarchy and order.

    It is for these reasons that I see it as a rather bizarre anomaly not of an endemic type which we witness today in which it seems that the entirety of humankind has become infected with a virus. I guess a way to sum it up would be to say I don’t think the people who overthrew the King of Rome were of the same spiritually degenerative character as those men of the French Revolution and all their later mutative iterations. I could be wrong, but that’s my read of it.

  72. @roepke

    The theory that the state is established by consent is wrong but not heretical. The idea that it is based on continuing consent or that it is the prerogative of humans to redefine the nature of the state’s authority is heretical. Conciliarism is also heretical.

    @Mark Citadel

    The assertion that the Republic ended in the 1st century BC seems to me to be an example of the No True Democracy fallacy. Rome after this period still considered itself a republic, still had elections, and still had a paranoid fear of monarchy.

    Besides, even if you define the Republic as ending in the first century BC, it lasted much longer than our modern democracies have. The French and American Revolutions were just over two hundred years ago.

    Yes, it’s true that they preserved aristocracy, but our societies have preserved many good elements as well. Would you say that the Greek city states that abolished aristocracy were not legitimate states? If not, then again, why not? Basically, the problem seems to be that you’re asserting that if the state becomes sufficiently twisted from its natural form, it ceases to be a state, but you say that this had never happened before the modern age. The problem with that is that you’re asserting that modern people are capable of something no one else ever was capable of.

  73. “Rome after this period still considered itself a republic, still had elections, and still had a paranoid fear of monarchy.”

    North Korea could also fall into this category. The fallacy has its limits. There’s a no-true-scotsman, and then there is just labeling your state a ‘peoples republic’ for the hell of it.

    The Greek city states (note that this is not all of them) come closer to illegitimacy than the Roman Republic did. Whether they cross the threshold would depend on where a line is drawn. I don’t typically acknowledge them, but then there isn’t much need to.

    Capability is not really the word I’d use for it. This implies that the people are somehow the root cause of the problem, and I don’t think they are. If society degenerates because people degenerate then you have to ask why do the people degenerate? I follow Evola’s line of thinking on this, that we are observing a cyclical age pattern from pinnacle to low, and it is a bumpy descent for sure. The people are in the civic life animated by the ‘spirit of the age’, and they don’t so much control what this looks like as much as it controls them. Such is how no matter where we are on the globe, almost without exception, the same spirit that is most prevalent in Europe and America rears its ugly head in some form. It doesn’t give much regard for race, creed, or religion. It must swallow and consume all.

    Some may choose to dismiss any claims that there is a macro-degeneration, and instead posit only local micro-degeneration. It is all about individual societies going through stages of rise and fall. I however, see the situation as Guenon saw it, that in addition to the rise and fall of various specific civilizations throughout history, we are seeing a general decline in civilization, an overarching decline. This is ripped from the Vedic Doctrine of the Ages, observing that civilization as a whole is headed for utter ruin, beyond the trivial collapse of individual states. Once this enters the stage where the degeneration manifests itself, then we see ‘Modernity’. It is then that the craziness truly begins and where man rejects Tradition altogether. He sets about annihilating all vestiges of it. When Guenon wrote ‘the Crisis of the Modern World’, he did not mean the Crisis of France, or the Crisis of America. He was identifying the close proximity of the entire human civilization to destruction. The first view is fine to take, and I’d guess from what you say that you hold it. I think the second hypothesis is just as valid though.

  74. AR,
    “Yes the people can overthrow a tyrant, but until that happens, he’s still the legitimate ruler, and we are bound to obey his lawful commands.”

    This is illogical and even impossible. The only reason to overthrow a ruler is because he is illegitimate. And if you are generally obeying a ruler, it is impossible to overthrow him.
    So your position is,–let others take responsiblity to deal with tyrants. I will only act when I am commanded to do something immoral per se.

    This is not Reaction but quietism. It is wholesale abandonment of one’s political responsiblities.

  75. AR,
    “An unjust law is one that violates divine or natural law”

    The Jews of Warsaw Ghetto were ordered to surrender their furs in January 1942. Was this order just or unjust and why?

  76. Bruce,
    “I thought slaves were supposed to obey their masters”
    Says who? Could you cite from Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says so?

    Suppose you along with your family are enslaved by armed raiders, would you say that once I have been enslaved, I am morally obliged to obey my masters? Why would anybody say so? What is the source of the moral authority of the enslavers?

  77. There is real inexplicable Catholic submissiveness that has become apparent to me over the last few years.

    Our “state” MANDATES “equality.” The logical consequence to which a State becomes anti-State, ie., State = anti-State. This “equality” then manifests a state/anti-state entity where “it” can tap into the dualistic mindset of the high IQ white male mass. For one half of that white male population is a legitimate state to “obey” and for the other half is a illegitimate regime. Either perspective ultimately advances the radical autonomy of this state/anti-state entity either through the brute force of the mob or a preemptive action to stifle the revolutionary. Catholic doctrine, subordinating God-ordained free will to ritual and tradition, simply CANNOT reach a viable solution to this state/anti-state entity born of “equality” and unrivaled in radical autonomy. He speaks of “tribal Christianity,” but he is NOT DISCUSSING wS.

  78. “Says who”

    Ss. Peter and Paul.

  79. Bruce,
    And you don’t trust the interpretation that the Catholic Church makes of Sts Peter and Paul?
    Does the Catholic Church teach that slaves should obey their masters?

  80. vishmehr24,

    Says who?


    More generally, as regards that point, your “common good” litmus test is…iffy. Arguably liberalism considers us to be part of its common good – it genuinely considers us mistaken about the basic structure of reality, and seeks to correct us, and punish us when we transgress upon their vision of the good of the rest of the commons. Now I’m sure we all agree the liberal vision of the common good is false, but the Roman Empire and Greek city-states also had false visions of the common good. What kinds of visions of the common good are required to compel obedience from us?

    And no, that civil disobedience is not warranted under these circumstances is not a way of divesting ourselves of concern for the state of the polis. That I do not think we are (given the state of things at present) justified in taking up arms against the government does not mean I should not use all other means available to correct its errors and injustices.


    When Bonald referred to the social contract, the aspect he was objecting to was the idea that the state’s obligations and authority was determined entirely by a contract, which would essentially be a heretical nominalism with regard to the nature of states.

    I don’t quite have the time to peruse Suarez at the moment, but from a brief check on Wikipedia, his ideas sound dangerously close to heresy (I once again mention Bonald’s excellent piece which shows Papal support even for obedience to a conquering power, which Suarez rejects, if I read him right). Polemic against the divine right of kings in the era where absolutism and Protestantism were being used in tandem to revolt against Papal authority was pretty much a necessity considering the situation; it is not necessarily a wholesale Papal approval of Suarez’s ideas.

  81. I’m sorry – I should be clear – I’m not Catholic, I’m Anglican. I just hang around here because Catholicism and tradition interest me. If I write “we” here I don’t mean “we Catholics.”
    Your original comment seemed to be about whether black slaves (I assume you mean pre-1865 North American slaves) should have seen the government as legitimate. I assume the relevant document for Catholics of the time was whatever Catechism was being used (pre-Baltimore, I assume it was Bellarmine’s or various translations for the various ethnic Catholics). Not the CCC. I don’t imagine any of the Catechisms addressed slaves’ obligations to their government but maybe someone else knows.
    The history of the Church’s teaching on slavery seems complicated to me but in recent history Pius IX (?) seems to have distinguished between just slavery and unjust slavery. JPII, of course, apologized for the Church’s tolerance of it.
    Ss. Peter & Paul seem pretty clear. Slavery is neither sanctified nor vilified. It just is.

  82. The mandate for slave to obey Master is understood correctly ONLY in its absolute relation where “Master” is defined as “one always ‘under’ control” and “slave” is defined as “one always succumbing to temptation.”

  83. Thordaddy point about “slavery” is interesting and needs to be explored. Let me add that it conforms to Aristotle’s notion of what a slave is.

  84. John K,
    Civil disobedience is NOT taking up arms against the Govt. Your statements are unclear on this point.

    I have said NOTHING absolutely regarding liberal govts. My point regarding “common” of “common good” was quite the reverse–specifically the Nazi Govt.

    Any proposed political theory of legitimacy and obedience must be able to provide answers to the Nazi question. Otherwise the theory is simply useless. It would not do to shift the topic to liberal govts.

  85. Bruce,
    “I assume the relevant document for Catholics of the time was whatever Catechism was being used Not the CCC.”

    The Church does not change its moral teachings. And the question is not whether Catholics at that time should have thought but the timeless question whether a black slave was morally obliged to obey his ‘owner’.

  86. The Civill War was about self-annihilation first and foremost and not the morality or immorality of slavery. In fact, it could be said that the false victory of black emancipation post-Civil War is the very narrative used to perpetuate a far more pernicious and far-reaching slavery than ever existed in the South. There is an argument to be made that says “we” walk amongst more actual slaves and less real Masters than ever before. This is the proof of Modernity and Liberation.

  87. The conditions for legitimate rebellion against the state are laid out under just war theory.

  88. John K,
    1) I did not ask an abstract question whether slavery is legitimate generally speaking. My question was specific to American blacks pre-1865.
    2) “What kinds of visions of the common good are required to compel obedience from us?”
    If my vision of Common Good is too different from the State’s, then naturally I would not think that the State is pursuing common good, rather the reverse. In that case, I am justified in removing my allegiance from the State. I am alienated from it. Thus, I have removed myself from the “Common” that the State claims to be serving. And as I am not in the “Common”, I am morally justified in not obeying the State.

    That is, I must disengage with the State. I can not claim bebefits from it and simualtenously withholding obedience.
    The disobedience has a price.

  89. Proph…

    What if the “State” is actually the anti-State? The SINO… State in name only… That radically autonomous “entity” that enFORCES “equality” through the mechanisms of nondiscrimination and tolerance, ie., all-accepting indiscriminacy? The anti-State MANDATES rebellion, by conception, due the IMPOSSIBILITY of consistently being indiscriminate and tolerant and not facing annihilation.

    “We” operate in an anti-State. “It” is JUSTLY egging “us” on to topple it!!!

  90. John K,
    “Bonald’s excellent piece which shows Papal support even for obedience to a conquering power,”
    You might note the following discussion in which I had raised the question of what made the Tsar legitimate ruler of Poles. How could mere conquest give rise to legitimacy?
    Also, the Papal political support is not infalliable. It is not a matter of dogma.

  91. Proph,

    I agree, although I’d caution that the number of “good and just causes” for rebellion against one’s sovereign is very small. As an added note, although it may seem the condition of proper authority for waging such a war cannot be met in some cases, Aquinas argued that tyrannicide was justified as a last resort, including such cases:

    When there is no recourse to a superior by whom judgment can be made about an invader, then he who slays a tyrant to liberate his fatherland is [to be] praised and receives a reward.


    Apologies; I made a mistake here. No, civil disobedience is not armed rebellion. But it includes things like refusing to pay taxes or obey the state’s non-immoral laws because it has acted unjustly or made immoral laws. This sort of behaviour is unjustified.

    The Jews would have been justified in resisting or rebelling because Hitler was literally trying to kill them.

    If having a sufficiently different view of the common good is enough to justify disobedience, then anyone who opposes his state on ideological grounds is justified in disobedience. If this isn’t clear to you, consider a devout Catholic teenager whose parents are atheist utilitarians. He disagrees with their vision of his good, but this does not make him justified in refusing to obey them when they tell him to do chores etc. You could say that a view of the common good too far from the truth is required for obedience to no longer be required, but even in this case the example stands. I agree with your stand to a certain extent, honestly (if we are so excluded from the common whose good the state serves that the state is trying to kill us, for example, by all means start rebelling), but you need to furnish and justify the bright line which separates “different enough to justify rebellion” from ‘not different enough”.

    Well, if you think about it, Judea was a conquered Roman province, yet Our Lord Himself commanded the Judeans to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. I’d advance the preliminary hypothesis that authority is transferred through the peace treaty that is signed following conquest. Aggression is sinful, but this does not mean it cannot confer rights or legitimacy. Donating to Planned Parenthood is sinful, but money donated to them is actually theirs.

  92. “The Church does not change its moral teachings.”

    The Church used to teach that capital punishment is licit. Now it teaches that capital punishment is immoral.

    The first pope taught that slaves should obey their masters.

  93. Bruce,
    It is not true that the Church teaches that capital punishment is immoral.

    2004 Letter from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to Cardinal McCarrick:

    ‘3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. … There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.’

  94. John K,
    “I agree with your stand to a certain extent, honestly , but you need to furnish and justify the bright line which separates “different enough to justify rebellion” from ‘not different enough”.

    No bright line can be drawn. It is a matter of individual judgment.
    You did provide a bright line yourself-when the State is trying to kill you.
    Note that ‘you’ here is not really individual-the State is justified to execute and the individual unjustified to rebel when the individual has been sentanced to die after a due process.

    The thing is when your group is not recognized to be a part of the Common whose common good the State is pursuing then you and your group are released from any obligation to it. This, at least, seems very basic and common sensical to me.

  95. John K,
    “Aggression is sinful, but this does not mean it cannot confer rights or legitimacy”

    A wrong can not give you a Right. Logically impossible.
    It indicates a certain lack in the concept of ‘legitimacy’.

    To me, ‘legitimacy’ is a relative concept.It must be qualified by ‘legitimate to whom?’. I do not think there is any ‘legitimacy’ in an absolute sense,.

  96. Boanld can not argue simulatenously for Obedience Above All and Carl Schimitt’s politics as friend/enemy distinction. For Schmitt, there is no question of obedience to any rulers but a war unto dealth with enemies.

  97. vishmehr
    A wrong can not give you a Right. Logically impossible.

    The medieval canonical law recognized rights of prescription in goods. A good faith buyer of a good owns it even if it turns out that it was stolen. Though the thief cannot acquire rights in a good he steals, the innocents whom he sells the good to can. It would render uncertain all property rights if we could argue that we should own a good because it was stolen from our great-grandparents several generations ago.

    Something similar probably applies to political legitimacy. If a conqueror overthrows the legitimate government, you should restore that legitimate government if you can during the conqueror’s lifetime. But during the second or third generation of the new dynasty, you should accept that it has become the new legitimate power.

  98. There seems to be this mental blockage concerning the existence of an anti-State. If the regress is something akin to State –> anarchy –> anti-State –> ??? Where EXACTLY are “we” within this regress? A State whose “highest values,” “first principles” and/or “universal morality” IS A MANDATED “equality” per the FORCED APPLICATION of nondiscrimination and tolerance, ie., an all-accepting indiscriminacy, IS the anti-State. It does not seek a “common good.” It seeks a radical autonomy and seeks a radical autonomy FOR ALL within the anti-State. Taking about the “legitimacy” of the abstract State HAS NO RELEVANCE at this time and place called America. The only relevant question surrounds the necessity of separation and the LEGITMATE MOTIVATION behind this separation from the anti-State.

  99. No bright line can be drawn. It is a matter of individual judgment.

    This is extremely problematic. This is basically the political equivalent of letting women divorce their husbands because they “feel” unhaaaaappy.

    Once again, I agree that there comes a point where the rights of the citizen are so violated by the state that the citizen would be justified in resisting the state. But I do not think our present situation qualifies, and that the threshold lies more in the vicinity of the state actively trying to kill you than the present situation.

    Do note however that even during the Roman persecution, Christians would only engage in civil disobedience when directly commanded to blaspheme (or in a handful of other related cases; I remember a story about a priest who stole the body of a martyred Christian to bury).

    Once again, it is not true that a wrong cannot give you a right. *Our Lord Himself* has stated that conquest does grant authority. To give another example, an unmarried couple has the right to a child conceived by fornication, even though the act of conceiving the child was wrong.

  100. John K…

    If through nondiscrimination and tolerance is the surest path to self-annihilation then “our” anti-State is actively seeking the demise of its most ardent adherents.

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