(N.B.: Based on the book entitled Armageddon: A Beginning? to be published soon. Citations of sources also included therein.)
by Ruel Padua, PhD
One conflict too many …
Between 1296 and 1303, Pope Boniface VIII and the French king, Philip IV the Fair, were engaged in a rivalry that was turning increasingly ugly, brutal and irreconcilable. It began with the issue of whether the monarch could tax the clergy in his realm without the consent of the pope. In the summer of 1303, Philip’s minister de Nogaret, an anticlerical lawyer, went from Paris to the Pope’s native Italian city of Anagni (where he was then staying) to settle the whole feud by force. He and Colonna (a member of a powerful, rival family to the Pope and whose brother was a cardinal) forcibly confronted the Pope with mercenary troops. Although eventually rescued, the elderly lawyer-pope never recovered from the experience and died a few weeks later. It was the first medieval conflict between the church and state concerning ‘national sovereignty’. And it went far towards ending the Papacy’s hegemony over Western Christendom. By then, almost a thousand years had already passed since Catholicism became the Roman empire’s official religion; and thereby made the Catholic Church a politicised institution destined to lay down ‘apostolic discipline and evangelic doctrine’ expressed in Roman juristic terms.
Irreconcilabilities: An initial finding about the conflict between church and state
Among the ‘many schemes’ that we are informed in our societies, not many would dispute the proposition that political interests, values and relations and those that are deemed religious ought to be dealt with separately and distinctly from each other. They are widely believed as belonging to different spheres of thought and activity. And so in determining how our relationships may be governed, those who occupy positions of authority in the one sphere or the other may be expected to invoke different bases as to doctrine, function, and the like as well as goals and purposes. Insofar as such bases are then in effect, they also determine in perspective the causal conditions of the separation of church and state. What transpires in its application in modern societies? And how are we to explain what may be called ‘duty-based’ relations between these institutions (if any) in the ‘broad perspective’ which focuses on ‘who rules?’ and ‘what rules?’ in our inquiries?
Our answers to such questioning will be forthcoming as our discussion of some relevant practices develops. In this and the next two Chapters, we highlight the institutional relations mainly between the Roman Catholic Church and a few typical states in our times. This is to be done for us to better grasp the implications of the separation of church and state in general. To say the least, they involve functional or power relations, especially, in terms of rulership and legality. Amid all this, the Church may express itself in terms of Christian doctrines, say, on faith and morals; whereas sovereign political rule is the state’s realm. And so, the former will reflect those values when it tells us to look after the interests of others non- or anti-acquisitively. Yet, none more than the latter is to serve the socioeconomic purposes of capitalism; that is, when we tend or are made to look after our own interests, especially, if done acquisitively.
For this specific purpose, we are not unmindful of the fact that on the whole minority religious groups, far from being disadvantaged, have actually been some of the main beneficiaries of the separation doctrine. That is to say, not so much against any particular state as against the established or more numerous churches or denominations in modern societies; in particular, the Roman Catholic Church and, to a lesser extent, the Church of England and Orthodox churches. In this regard, among the effects of the separation are the variations in terms of doctrine, worship and ritual. Nevertheless, we will bypass this limited issue so that we may concentrate on the general characterisation of church-and-state relations. Moreover, such detail is hardly relevant to the main issues dealt with here and does not play apart much of a role in our argumentation.
To begin with, then, such institutional relations which we bring our focus to may be still looked at as a continuing conflict and struggle for domination or exclusion of one by the other. At other times such as medieval or early modern, not infrequently, it only led to and brought about dysfunctional—or even bloody and tragic—consequences. Yet, in any case it would involve the troublesome question of the class ‘who rule(s)?’ or ‘who is(are) the supreme ruler(s)?’ Are they (in) the Church? Or (in) the state? Who are—and who ought to be—the ‘governing authorities’? All the same, such issues as these may be seen to be no more than restatements of the irreconcilable standpoints of the Church and the state; and which, the Roman state already Christianised since a century before, seem to have started in the 5th century AD. As the medievalist Walter Ullman comments:
To the emperor it was the Roman empire, pure and simple, which had become Christian; to the pope this same body was the Church (comprising clergy and laity) which happened to be the Roman empire.
Besides those irreconcilables of the ‘who’ type, we may also consider the ‘what’ questions. They bring into our focus the other dimension or type of the ‘broad perspective’ mentioned above and which for us is decidedly more important. Thus, it may be asked what ‘ruling’ consists of—that is, ‘what rule(s)?’ Or what goal(s) or end(s) they lead to or ought. And, crucially, where do we find the ‘true and highest measure(s)’ of ruling or governance? All of these may uncover conflict-of-interest and other problems in states pursuing even minimally common goals. And in modern societies where there are always disputes or so, they are likely to become political issues and grievances. Some of such disputes, classified in terms of, say, irreconcilable thrusts, are what this treatise is about. Of their subtypes one to be called the extensive is to extend either of the sides in their scope and the other intensive to intensify each in or to a degree. As the foremost extensive thrusts, we may then point out where the ‘original power in the public field’ lies or is located, giving rise to either the descending (as in monarchic, theocratic) or ascending (liberal-democratic) form of government. Moulded as they were by Greco-Roman, Christian, and Germanic sources, in our understanding of politics and government much took root in their ‘fierce and bloody’ interplay since the Middle Ages. Of the former (as in Judeo-Christian terms), Ullman again says:
… original power was located in a supreme being which … came to be seen as divinity itself. St. Augustine in the fifth century had said that God distributed the laws to mankind through the medium of kings. And in the thirteenth century St. Thomas Aquinas expressed the same idea when he said that power descended from God. Whatever power was found ‘below’, was derived from ‘above’, for, as St. Paul said, ‘There is no power but of God.’ Here one can speak only of delegated power.
And of the latter (as with the Germanic tribes—Franks, Goths, and Vandals—already settled beyond the Empire’s northern frontiers in the 3rd cent. AD), he describes the ‘main feature’, to wit:
… original power is located in the people, or in the community itself. This was the thesis of government which Tacitus described when he portrayed the manner in which the Germanic tribes were governed. Since original power resided in the people, it was they who in their popular assemblies elected a war leader or a duke or a king, and the like. He had no power other than that which the electing assembly had given him. He was said to represent the community and remained therefore accountable to the popular assembly. Consequently, there existed a right of resistance to the ruler’s commands as a leader.
Consistent with such findings, then, quite a few of our present-day, sociopolitical ideas and practices may be followed back to the influence of the one or the other. And so as much relevant as both could be, no doubt crucial is the twofold inquiry, theoretical and practical, as suggested in the Introduction above into what we call ‘what rules?’. In setting out, however, we need also work in this Chapter on the other subtype of thrusts, highlighted as our utmost intensive thrusts as follows:
First: To look to the ‘interests of others’ in the pursuit of justice (as ‘common good’); and
Secondly: To look to ‘your own interests’ in the pursuit of wealth (or ‘individual ends’) in modern times.
As the function of a ruler, i.e., ‘who rules?’, the First thrust invariably applies to whichever government form we may refer, ascending or descending. In fact, the relevance of such ideas or values as ‘right’ and ‘duty’, and ‘proportionality’, ‘equality’ and the like can be seen to be in force in varying designs and guises. The Second, however, applies only to the ascending. And from here onwards, it is to be exemplified by the capitalist state. In initially developing our perspective, then, we will explain some considered propositions about them in relation to ‘what rules?’.