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Divini Illius Magistri – The Three Societies – Part 2

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In the first article in this series Pope Pius XI teaches us that education must serve the final end of man which is to attain eternal salvation in Heaven. This must be the primary purpose of education, otherwise, what passes for education will be faulty and will lead eventually to the corruption of children.

Pope Leo XIII warned us in ‘Sapientiae Christianae’ that, those ‘leagued together in wickedness’, will destroy the natural foundations of civil society if they get their way. He also warned us that some men are working to destroy the traditional family “utterly, root and branch.”

Those who are involved in the battle to save the Catholic family and to save Catholic education must become aware of the great depth of the evil that we are confronting. This evil has permeated every facet of our western democracies and has even managed to enter into the minds of some Catholics, even those of high rank within the Catholic Church.

We must not allow this to discourage us, because discouragement always comes from the evil one. But we must keep our focus on Jesus Christ and on what He teaches us through the Catholic Church. We must also come to a full understanding of the problems that we are dealing with and that is why Pope Pius XI wrote the encyclical letter ‘Divini Illius Magistri’.

After outlining the primary purpose of education, Pope Pius XI proceeds to teach us about the three societies into which man is born. Each of these societies has distinct functions and distinct though sometimes overlapping, spheres of authority. A grave danger arises where one society seeks to usurp the privileges and authority of another. Let us look at what Pope Pius XI teaches us.

By the “end of man” we mean the purpose for which he was created: namely, to know, love, and serve God.

It is well to dwell on the points being made here. The family is antecedent to civil society, therefore, it does not acquire its rights and duties from civil society but directly from God. The father, as head of the family, is answerable to God for how he lives his life as a husband and for how he carries out his family duties. It is a wondrous and tremendous responsibility.

But the family is an imperfect society. This is a nuanced use of the word ‘imperfect’. It does not indicate that there is anything inherently wrong with the family, but that each individual family is dependent on others in order to reach the Heavenly goal and to help others to reach that Heavenly goal as well.

Individual Families Cannot Build Infrastructure

This is where the civil society comes from. The necessities of families, which they cannot provide out of their own limited resources, gives birth to civil society. Civil society, through its institutions, is primarily charged with completing what is lacking in the family as an individual unit. It has a duty to provide for families what they cannot provide for themselves. Some examples of this would be the roads between towns and cities, the electricity grid, and the legal system. No individual family would be able to provide these benefits to society by themselves but, by pooling their resources within civil society, these facilities for improving the common good can be provided.

Civil society should be at the service of families. That is the sole reason for its existence. Individual families attain their temporal perfection within civil society. These families have a duty to raise their children to be good citizens who will serve the common good of the greater society. They will assist others to attain their ultimate end, which is Heaven. Jesus Christ speaks of this as the second of the great commandments – “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:39)

The Catholic Church is of supernatural origin being founded by Jesus Christ, the second person of the Most Holy Trinity. It is a Divine institution with the charism of indefectibility. Members of the Catholic Church can teach error in a personal capacity but the Catholic Church as a Divine institution cannot teach error or bind man to error. This is an important point in these times of great confusion, but it is best dealt with elsewhere. What must be understood is that the authority of the Catholic Church to teach, is greater than that of the other societies. Nonetheless, each of the three societies has a role to play in education.

Pope Pius XI now elucidates in great detail the Church’s entitlements in education before examining the natural societies of family and state.

It is within the Catholic Church that the deposit of faith is preserved whole and intact. The Pope and the bishops are bound to protect this deposit of faith and to teach it to all men. Jesus Christ did not command the apostles to go out and listen to all men, He commanded them to teach what had been handed to them. The apostle need not have any fear when he teaches according to the deposit of faith, because he can be sure that his teaching is free from error. This is a major problem today, especially with the novelty of the new ‘synodal process’ which places the emphasis on listening rather than on teaching. It is as if the Catholic Church is unsure of what she has been commanded to teach and this leads to confusion amongst the faithful who are not so well up on Catholic doctrine in these matters.

This is simply saying that it is God who has entrusted the role of teacher to the Catholic Church, as a mother entrusted with the charge of instructing her children in faith and virtue.

Pope Pius XI makes a strong and bold claim here. He is teaching us that, because the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ, it is not bound by any earthly power in accomplishing the mission entrusted to her by Jesus Christ. Of course this claim of absolute autonomy will be contested by corrupt civil powers because they seek to build an earthly kingdom of men, which will always be opposed to the rule of the Catholic Church. They misunderstand what the Catholic Church is saying. The Catholic Church, as we will see later, is not opposed to the temporal powers, just to the abusive use of those powers which act against the last end of man.

The Laws of God are Above the Laws of Man

The divine law is superior to civil law and civil law must not contradict divine law or prevent men from worshipping God as He desires to be worshipped. Therefore the Catholic Church is entitled to a role in education. Pope Pius XI now brings in Pope Pius X to confirm what he is saying.

Pope Pius X is writing about the formation of Labour Organisations. As is always the case with the Catholic Church, he points to the last end of man and how to achieve that end. He says “Accordingly, We first of all declare that all Catholics have a sacred and inviolable duty, both in private and public life, to obey and firmly adhere to and fearlessly profess the principles of Christian truth enunciated by the teaching office of the Catholic Church.” (Singulari Quadam 2)

In every field of endeavour, the Catholic is called to fearlessly and publicly defend Catholic principles. This is especially the case when it comes to our children, because these cannot defend and protect themselves. That is why our Lord issued such a grave warning concerning the corruption of children.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)

To be cont’d…

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