Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Boniface VIII and the Heresy of Statism

From Catholicism:
In the commonly received history of the battle between France’s King Philip the Fair and Pope Boniface VIII — the one that has Boniface being the villain — it is asserted that the Pope was pompously meddling in the affairs of state, intruding on Philip’s lawful right to rule France. In tyrannizing the fair prince so, the pontiff unsheathed the sword of the spirit readily, and issued an excommunication to cow the monarch into submission. This assessment, so untrue and unjust, is one of those deeply entrenched epics of historical mendacity which, like the Black Legend of Spain, pollutes libraries full of history texts. As a friend of mine said, in simpler prose, “it’s not just a lie, it’s a damn lie.”

What gives us just cause to be indignant at the usual treatment of Pope Boniface is the enormity of the historical phenomenon the lie conceals. At a time when the “Ron Paul Revolution” has aroused among the less somnolent of political conservatives an awareness that statism is a serious problem in our day, it is worth considering whence comes this gigantic, accountable-to-none megastate. It is not a product of Christian polity, but a rebellion against that order and a manifestation of pagan “Neo-Caesarism.”

The old order — the one respected and preserved by the unworthy Philip’s royal Grandpère, Saint Louis IX — was Christendom, a Republic of sovereign Christian nations all of which looked to the pope as a leader with direct spiritual power over all the baptized and an indirect civil power in the affairs of state. This set him above nations, bound to none, independent, and therefore disinterested enough to help settle the grievances which would inevitably arise among them. And this the popes did as a matter of routine. Not only that, but within their realms, Christian monarchs were bound by certain limits. True, they were not democratically elected, but their power was delimited by a constitution that did not have to go into writing — a tradition kept alive by Christian consciences. As Kurth puts it:

“To the men of this epoch, the king was without doubt the head of society, and religion invested him with a sacred and inviolable character. But his authority was far from being unlimited; everywhere — in the stronghold of the nobleman, in the walled enclosure of the communes, under the vaults of the churches and monasteries, on the lofty throne of St. Peter — it met free forces which acted as a counterpoise and did not permit the king to exceed the limits established by religion and by custom. The king of the Middle Ages was what would today be termed a constitutional king, not that there always existed written documents which formally limited his power, but because the privileges of the various classes of society were, in effect, a limit which he might not overstep, if he did not wish to hear the voice of public anger grumbling about his throne.” (Read more.)

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