Duties to civil authority

Quo Primum
ON THE RIGHT USE OF PRIVATE PROPERTY & TAXES QUADRAGESIMO ANNO PIUS XI 49. It follows from what We have termed the individual and at the same time social character of ownership, that men …More

49. It follows from what We have termed the individual and at the same time social character of ownership, that men must consider in this matter not only their own advantage but also the common good. To define these duties in detail when necessity requires and the natural law has not done so, is the function of those in charge of the State. Therefore, public authority, under the guiding light always of the natural and divine law, can determine more accurately upon consideration of the true requirements of the common good, what is permitted and what is not permitted to owners in the use of their property. Moreover, Leo XIII wisely taught "that God has left the limits of private possessions to be fixed by the industry of men and institutions of peoples."[32] That history proves ownership, like other elements of social life, to be not absolutely unchanging, We once declared as follows: "What divers forms has property had, from that primitive form among rude and savage peoples, which may be observed in some places even in our time, to the form of possession in the patriarchal age; and so further to the various forms under tyranny (We are using the word tyranny in its classical sense); and then through the feudal and monarchial forms down to the various types which are to be found in more recent times."[33] That the State is not permitted to discharge its duty arbitrarily is, however, clear. The natural right itself both of owning goods privately and of passing them on by inheritance ought always to remain intact and inviolate, since this indeed is a right that the State cannot take away: "For man is older than the State,"[34] and also "domestic living together is prior both in thought and in fact to uniting into a polity."[35] Wherefore the wise Pontiff declared that it is grossly unjust for a State to exhaust private wealth through the weight of imposts and taxes. "For since the right of possessing goods privately has been conferred not by man's law, but by nature, public authority cannot abolish it, but can only control its exercise and bring it into conformity with the common weal."[36] Yet when the State brings private ownership into harmony with the needs of the common good, it does not commit a hostile act against private owners but rather does them a friendly service; for it thereby effectively prevents the private possession of goods, which the Author of nature in His most wise providence ordained for the support of human life, from causing intolerable evils and thus rushing to its own destruction; it does not destroy private possessions, but safeguards them; and it does not weaken private property rights, but strengthens them.
50. Furthermore, a person's superfluous income, that is, income which he does not need to sustain life fittingly and with dignity, is not left wholly to his own free determination. Rather the Sacred Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church constantly declare in the most explicit language that the rich are bound by a very grave precept to practice almsgiving, beneficence, and munificence.
51. Expending larger incomes so that opportunity for gainful work may be abundant, provided, however, that this work is applied to producing really useful goods, ought to be considered, as We deduce from the principles of the Angelic Doctor,[37] an outstanding exemplification of the virtue of munificence and one particularly suited to the needs of the times.

Democracy in the doctrine of the Church.

Below is a text from the great book Iota Unum,

Change in doctrine concerning democracy.

In his Christmas message for 1944, Pius XII drew a contrast between democracy and dictatorship: he recalled the sorrows and outrages that Europe was experiencing at that period, and said that democracy was a necessary condition for peace between peoples, for the restoration of authority and for the respecting of the divine image in man. The Pope did not say that popular representation is essential for every just political order, but he did say it was essential for democracy. But then, having touched lightly on the traditional doctrine that democracy is one species of political organization but not the very genus of all political life, he launched that change that post-conciliar thought has turned into an accepted nostrum, namely that participation by all individuals in the government of the community is part of natural justice, and that in consequence monarchy, which is the exercise by one person of the right to govern society in accordance with the requirements of justice, ceases to be a legitimate species or form of government, and is to be regarded as illegitimate on the sole ground that it is at odds with an allegedly obligatory popular system.

It is worth noting in passing the enormous abuse of the word democracy that has now become common: every conceivable sort of existing government, de jure or de facto, legitimate or illegitimate, claims to be democratic. But the main point to be made here is that there has been a change in the Church's political philosophy whereby one species of government, namely democracy, has come to be treated as the sole legitimate form of civil organization.

It is true that authority, which is a right to direct and to make rules, should be distributed among the different members of society, whether in families, or within a single society, or within the family of nations as a whole. Pius XII teaches that without this distribution of authority throughout society, the bulk of the population remains an unstructured mass, and that it can only be formed into a true people by some such organization. But modern democratic theory implies that everyone should form an opinion about the common good as a whole, and about the means that should be used to attain it. Consequently, given that it is impossible for everyone to govern society as a whole, democratic theory necessarily involves a representative system whereby one person's will is held to be represented by somebody else's.

In the traditional doctrine, a judgement about the merits of a democratic system depended upon the historical circumstances affecting a particular society; what used to be taught was that the three systems of government, namely monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, or government by the one, the few or the many, were not to be judged appropriate by reference to their own features, but by reference to circumstances, which might make one or other, or some combination of them, opportune, appropriate or useful in a given historical situation. It would therefore seem to be a major departure from tradition to teach now that wherever citizens are not held to share in the supreme governing authority, the system of government is illegitimate.

To realize the change in teaching, and indeed the crudeness of the change, it is useful to refer to the Catholic position as given in the collection of essays published by the Catholic University of Milan in 1940 entitled Cento cinquant'anni dopo la Rivoluzione Francese. In it, the immortal principles of the revolution are declared "absurd", the revolution is presented as something that brought forth a host of evil consequences, and the fault of the ancien regime is said to have been not that it was too tough but that it was too feeble. As a matter of fact, the essays go to the opposite extreme and assert that a monarchical government is the only legitimate sort, and a clumsy assertion is made to the effect that "the people, the mob, needs a master and a ruler capable of restraining its passions". The author also asserts that the aspirations of the revolution can be seen as legitimate if replanted in the Christian soil which is connatural to them, but even he fails to make the point that when uprooted from their native revolutionary soil they, like every other plant, are unlikely to flourish elsewhere: com 'ogni altra semente, fuor di sua region fa mala prova.

227. Examination of the democratic system. Popular sovereignty. Competence.

The problems of democratic government have been debated from the beginning by the various currents of scholastic theology, including the school of Suarez, Bellarmine and Mariana, which elaborated the first philosophical statement of popular sovereignty; but it is not my intention to discuss the matter in detail here. It should be noted, however, that the theory of the three writers mentioned differs profoundly from modern views of democracy. Their theory maintained that authority was lodged in the whole body of society, but derived from God and subject to divine law; they did not see authority as ultimately stemming from the will of the majority, as the moderns do.

The difficulties with democracy vary in kind and in importance, but they stem from a single root: the denial of the truth that all political action depends on a principle of justice more fundamental than public opinion and which should even prevail against public opinion. The doubtful premises of the modern democratic system are somewhat as follows.

Firstly: it is asserted that a greater wisdom is attained by getting everyone to participate, that is, by summoning a greater number of minds to deliberate on a matter. But politicians themselves know this is not necessarily the case. Guicciardini makes Antonio da Venafro say: "If you put six or eight wise men together they all go mad, because through their failure to agree they are more likely to launch a debate than find a solution". The theories of Gustave Le Bon on crowd psychology also show that the average individual gets worse when acting as part of a mass.

Secondly: it is assumed that deliberating on all matters concerning government is something that all people are capable of doing. That is, a right to a voice in policy making is alleged to stem from the fact that men are free spiritual beings, when in fact it stems from knowledge that particular men have …