Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Enemies of Democracy !!? As If ??? The Real Founding Father


I am somewhat irate at the constant barrage of inaccurate and unhistorical accusations thrown at catholicism by its enemies - recently this 'enemy of democracy' chestnut has reared its head more than a few times and I'm frankly gobsmacked at how it is not only untrue ; the exact opposite is the case.
Take for instance the US Declaration of Independence - admittedly the work of Jefferson who was far from a friend to catholicism - but a little research and you'll discover that one of his most-used and annotated source-books was a tome called "Patriarcha" by ultra protestant monarchist Robert Filmer. [n.b. this book was also used by George Mason to assist the composition of the Virginia Declaration of Rights ]
Filmer hardly spends any time defending the right of kings - rather he affords most of his energy justifying his royal absolutist stance by vituperative condemnation of Cardinal St Robert Bellarmine and his political works defending the rights of the people ; and how states should be governed :

"Secular or Civil authority is instituted by men; it is in the people unless they bestow it on a Prince. This Power is immediately in the Multitude, as in the subject of it; for this Power is in the Divine Law, but the Divine Law hath given this power to no particular man. If the Positive Law be taken away, there is left no Reason amongst the Multitude (who are Equal) one rather than another should bear the Rule over the Rest. Power is given to the multitude to one man, or to more, by the same Law of Nature; for the Commonwealth cannot exercise this Power, therefore it is bound to bestow it upon some One man or some Few. It depends upon the Consent of the multitude to ordain over themselves a King or other Magistrates, and if there be a lawful cause, the multitude may change the Kingdom into an Aristocracy or Democracy' (St. Robert Bellarmine, Book 3 De Laicis, Chapter 4). and....

'Mankind is naturally endowed and born with freedom from all subjection, and at liberty to choose what form of government it please, and that the power which any one man hath over others was at the first by human right bestowed according to the discretion of the multitude.'

Filmer thought these ideas dangerously insane - but Mason and Jefferson were fascinated !
Think I'm over-exaggerating ?

Well compare the works of Bellarmine with the Virginia Declaration and the Declaration of Independence:


On the Source of Political Power:

Bellarmine: "Political power emanates from God. Government was introduced by divine law but the divine law has given this power to no particular man." De Laicis, Ch. VI.

VDR: ". . . That power is by GOD and NATURE vested in the people."

DOI: "They (the people) are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights."

On the Origin of Government:

Bellarmine: "Men must be governed by some one, lest they be willing to perish. It is impossible for men to live together without some one to care for the common good. Society must have power to protect and preserve itself." De Laicis, Ch. VI.

VDR: "Government is or ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community."

DOI: "To secure these rights (Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness) governments are instituted among men."

On the Power of the People:

Bellarmine: "This power is immediately as in its subject, in the whole multitude." De Laicis, Ch. VI. "The people themselves, immediately and directly, hold political power so long as they have not transferred this power to a king or ruler." De Clericis, Ch. VII. "The commonwealth cannot exercise this power itself, therefore, it is helped to transfer it in some way to one man or some few." De Laicis, Ch. VI.

VDR: "All power belongs to the people."

DOI: " Governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed."

On All Men Born Free and Equal

Bellarmine: "In the commonwealth, all men are born naturally free and equal." De Clericis, Ch. VII. "There is no reason why amongst equals one should rule rather than another." De Laicis, Ch. VI.

VDR: "All men are born equally free and independent" was originally written, but changed by the convention to read "All men are by nature equally free and independent."

DOI: "All men are created equal."

On the Divine Right to Revolution and Self-Determination

Bellarmine: "For legitimate reason the people can change the government to an aristocracy or a democracy or visa versa." De Laicis, Ch. VI. "It depends upon the consent of men to place over themselves a king, counsel, or magistrate." De Laicis, Ch. VI.

VDR: "When government fails to confer common benefit, a majority of the people have a right to change it."

DOI: "Whenever any forms of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government . . . Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes."



Amazing that all this from the sainted Bellarmine comes almost 200 years before a country attempts to live by the principles. But what's more astounding is when you discover that St Robert was assimilating four previous centuries of catholic political philosophy !!!

[more on this at some future date ; but in the meantime PLEASE do not let people antagonistic to Catholicism dismissively or glibly accuse us being enemies of democracy - for the real invisible unsigned hands behind the ideals for US democracy belong within our ranks of saints]


1 comment:

gemoftheocean said...

You might like to see what George Washington had to say when he decreed the first national celebration of Thanksgiving - I quoted his proclamation here. The atheists like to pretend the founders were Deists, a few were most weren't!