The Divine Autocrat

In regards to how a faithful Catholic may align him or herself politically, it is evident that in some ways we are to be liberal [1], but in others conservative [2]. Now, a great work in and of itself could be composed in the tackling of just the above notion in depth, but an issue not often spoken of outside of fringe Catholic movements is that of whether or not democracy is actually preferable to autocracy. Of course, there are good and bad forms of either, and an ill-conceived autocracy—that is one which puts its faith in the impious, who himself will neglect his own superiors (eg the Roman Pontiff, or some other bishop)—is unequivocally less preferable than a democracy of the pious, or those who will not neglect their ecclesiastical superiors. However, the question is speaking under the assumption that either is well conceived: is an autocratic government preferable to a democratic one? I have modeled my argument and opinions after those presented in St Thomas’ Summa Theologicæ, and such should not be taken of as explaining an article(s) of faith, but merely the theological opinion of an individual.


Whether or not kingship is preferable to democracy?

Objection 1

It seems that kingship is not preferable to democracy; for the virtue of a kingdom is liable to corruption by the acts of one man, as opposed to that of a democratic nation, in which the many must become corrupted in order that the state follows suit.

Objection 2

Moreover, as Aristotle says, “man is by nature a political animal” [3]; hence, to deprive one of participation in governance is to deprive one of their nature, thus making monarchies, then, a deprivation of human nature.

On the contrary

Many theologians in the Church’s history, especially those most prominent, have long held that autocracy is superior; hence P Pius IX speaks of the inevitable heresies which emerge from democracy, “…they chiefly tend to this, that that salutary influence be impeded and (even) removed, which the Catholic Church, according to the institution and command of her Divine Author, should freely exercise even to the end of the world—not only over private individuals, but over nations, peoples, and their sovereign princes…” [4]

I answer that

As the divine governance of the existent is that to which all things naturally belong—the divine governance being monarchical, with God at its head—human governance ought to follow suit, since it is thus evident that men are by nature subjects to a superior. And since God has entrusted some degree of governance to men—that degree being inclusive of having power over each other, in order that we may aid in each other’s salvation (hence the clergy)—those men most practical, yet pious, ought to rule as monarchs, in keeping with natural law.

Moreover, the Church, which is man’s ultimate source of guidance, has been itself established by God as part of His Divine kingdom, the Roman Pontiff acting as His vicar. Hence, it is evident that, by God’s own judgement, men are best guided by autocracy.

Reply to Objection 1

In contrast to the democratic system, a kingdom is not reliant on the continuing virtue of the many to remain itself virtuous; hence, since the fallen state of man very nearly ensures that the many will not be continuously virtuous, the virtue of the state ought to be guarded by one famed for their unwavering virtue, as opposed to the volatile virtue of the masses.

Reply to Objection 2

Moreover, when the philosopher speaks of man as being by nature political, he means to say such in the capacity that from the communion of men naturally arises governance, be it in the nuclear family, the city, or the state, and such is made evident in his saying of the following: when several villages are united in a single complete community, large enough to be nearly or quite self-sufficing, the state comes into existence, originating in the bare needs of life, and continuing in existence for the sake of a good life [5]. Hence, it is not in the nature of all men to govern, but to be themselves governed, be it by God or men.

Works Cited

[1] CCC 2415–2417
[2] CCC 2402
[3] Aristot. Pol. I.2, 1253a1, trans. Jowett
[4] P Pius IX, Quanta Curia, ¶3
[5] Aristot. Pol. I.2, 1252b20, trans. Jowett

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