MY CATHOLIC FAITH
LXV. Services of the Church to the State
Of what benefit is the Church to the State? –The Church is essential for the welfare of the State, for it upholds the government, directs its members to obey just laws, prevents crimes, incites to the practice of civic virtues, encourages to noble endeavour, and unites different nations in one brotherhood.
There is no better citizen than a good Catholic. He obeys the State because his religion teaches him that all lawful authority comes from God.
Who can be a more law-abiding citizen than one who looks upon civil officials as superiors that God Himself bids him obey? Plutarch says that religion is a better protection for a city than its walls.
The Church teaches its children to make sacrifices for the common good. Thus it trains unselfish, thrifty, and industrious members of the State. A man with no religion seldom, makes, a good citizen. He is liable to try always to get as much as he can even at the expense of others. A man without religion generally ends without any morality whatever.
The prisons are in general peopled, not by practicing members of the Church, but by people who neglected religion. Only God knows the number of those who have been turned from the paths of sin and crime on account of their connection with the Church.
The Church not only prevents crimes, but incites to works of charity.
It teaches the merit of works of mercy. From its teachings bud forth orphanages, schools, hospitals, social service, etc.
The greatest statesmen and patriots have recognized the necessity of religion in the State. Without religion among its citizens, the State would soon collapse. The Catholic Church teaches the best religion, the one taught by God Himself.
Washington said: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties-of men and citizens.” Machiavelli wrote: “The surest sign of ruin in a State is the neglect of religion.” Napoleon himself confessed that no nation could endure without religion.
By a common profession of faith, a common membership in the same body, and by the commandment of charity, the Church binds different nations in one brotherhood, the brotherhood of men, children of one God. Such a feeling of brotherhood would help greatly towards eliminating sectional and racial prejudices and strife.
Is it not a historical fact that national quarrels and wars have increased since the division of Christendom into sects? Today the term “brotherhood of men” seems to be a mere figure of speech in which most people have no faith.
What has the Church actually accomplished for the State during the over nineteen hundred years of its existence? –The history of all civilized nations gives ample testimony to the valuable services of the Church to civil government during a period of over nineteen hundred years.
The greatest accomplishment of the Church was the Christianization of Europe. From thence we have derived whatever we today call “civilization”. If we compare the truly Christian civilization with pagan life and culture, we can see the greatness of the service the Church has rendered the State.
Ignorance and immorality are usually partners; for this reason the Church eagerly promotes culture. The Church looks upon the world as coming from the hand of God; therefore the Church is interested in science.
The Church has always striven to provide schools for the education of the young; it founded great universities.
From the very beginning, the missions, parishes, monasteries, and cathedrals had schools. No less than 80 universities were built in the days when the Pope was supreme in Christendom; of these many still exist, though under different control. The encouragement given by the Popes advanced education, medicine, surgery, literature, chemistry, mathematics, and other sciences. Numerous religious orders and congregations have from earliest times devoted themselves to education.
The Church preserved the great works of ancient heathen philosophers and historians, saving them from destruction for future ages.
In the Middle Ages, before the invention of printing, monks patiently and carefully copied and transcribed the ancient works. Their zeal for learning built up great libraries and museums. The most profound and prolific authors were Catholic.
So great a patron of art and architecture is the Church that a saying became current: “There is no art outside the Catholic Church.” Practically all the world’s classic painters have been members of the Church, and were supported in their work by the Popes. We need only mention Raphael, da Vinci, and Michelangelo.
To this day thousands of tourists every year gaze in wonder at the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages, which stand unsurpassed. The Popes encouraged musicians like Palestrina. Plain chant, or Gregorian music, comes to us from St. Ambrose and St. Gregory the Great. The noblest musical works are products of the genius of sons of the Church, of whom we need mention only Gounod, Haydn, Mozart, Verdi.
Priests and monks, not to mention lay members of the Church, have contributed some of the greatest discoveries to human knowledge.
In physical science, the deacon Gioja discovered the magnet and compass; the Jesuit Kircher experimented with the first burning glass; the canon Copernicus taught his famous system; the Jesuit Cavaliere worked out the components of white light; the Jesuit Secchi made fruitful studies concerning sunspots; the Franciscan Berthold Schwarz discovered gunpowder. Other scientific works by priests and monks: the Dominican Spina discovered the use of spectacles; the Benedictine Pontius invented a method of teaching deaf-mutes; the Dominican Calandoni invented a typesetter to take the place of the compositor; the monk Veit discovered the scale and rules of harmony in music. Pope Gregory XIII reformed the calendar.
The Church helped establish free and stable governments; it civilized the barbarians. Through the Benedictines, Cistercians, and Trappists, it reclaimed whole tracts of waste lands. The Church cared for the poor, the sick, the orphaned, the old and helpless. It opened hospitals, ransomed captives, and freed slaves. Pope Innocent III is known as “Father of Hospitals”.
Who but the Church insited on the dignity of the soul of even the poorest slave in an age when class distinctions were rampant? Who but the Church rescued woman from degradation, and formed that beautiful institution, the Christian family? The Church stood for the liberties of the people against the encroachments of tyrants. It has ever stood for the poor against the oppressions of the rich. It has stood for the maintenance of authority against the violence of rebellious subjects. The whole history of Christian civilization has the mark of the Church.