The Catholic Church: the Model of Nationalism


This is a continuation of my article on Apologia Anglicana, The Catholic Church: A Perfect Society. Here I show the political conclusions of the biblical doctrine of the Church.

The Catholic Church is a communion of particular churches, bound together in faith with Jesus Christ as the head. It is a true societas perfecta, a society that has everything it needs for its purpose. If this is true, and established by God, then the Church serves as the perfect model of every civil society.

Authority from God

All authority, ecclesiastical or civil, comes from God. As St. Paul teaches,

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Romans 13:1

Since every man is created by God and the family is given by God to all men, how else could one man have authority over the other? If it was just by some human arrangement, it wouldn’t be true civil rule and headship but contract work. Instead, God gives authority to human civil rulers to govern.

Therefore, each civil ruler needs to govern well, beholding the light of the Gospel illuminated by the Church. Of course, Jesus Christ is the head of the Church. However, His headship is not limited by the Church. Instead, the headship of Jesus Christ over the Church gives a perfect model of His headship over all things.

The civil ruler, who accepts the light of the Gospel, realises that everything he is and does is under the true King of Kings, Lord of the Nations: Jesus Christ, “for by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:15-7).

Autonomy of the Head

The civil ruler is a true head of his civil society. This is perfectly modeled in the Church as well. In each particular church, each bishop continues the high priestly authority of Jesus Christ. Beyond that, he is to be pious, cherishing the Scriptures and the church’s tradition, which show the very raison d’être of the Church. Likewise, the civil ruler is responsible for his society, for governing it well and keeping not only the Christian faith but also civil piety. A civil ruler who loves not his nation and cherishes its history and traditions cannot be a good ruler.

However, the autonomy of the ruler cannot divorce him from the rest of the world. Just as a bishop exists in communion with the other faithful bishops, so the civil ruler should be in communion with the other rulers.

The civil ruler fundamentally acts for the good of his people while willing the good of others. This is the model of nationalism given by the Scriptures and lived out in the Church.

The Danger of Globalism

The danger creeps in when another false model is given. This may be the nebulous concept of “universal human rights”: obligations imposed upon civil rulers to help foreigners before their own people. Or it may come in the form of demanding allegiance to another civil authority first, such as the United Nations, such as requiring authorisation from an external body to govern in its own lands.

These intrusions not only are absent from the model of the Church but also antithetical to it. Surely, the Lord demands every man pursue virtue and act justly. However, just as a father needs to perform justice to his household first and foremost, and the bishop his particular church, so the civil ruler and his civil society.

Furthermore, just as any bishop can fall away from the faith and be removed from the communion of the Catholic Church, so any civil society can lose its purpose and collapse. This collapse happens when (1) God is not recognised as the one who gives the authority to rule, (2) the good foundational principles of the society are scorned, or (3) the autonomy of the nation is relinquished—in whole or in part—to a foreign body.

Solution of Patriotic Autonomy

The solution to this is patriotic autonomy. First and foremost, a society must cherish its history. It must value its traditions. And, despite this great piety, must constantly be reforming itself according to the law of God, for the wicked hate to be reformed (Ps. 50:17) and the ways of the wicked shall surely perish (Ps. 112:10). Second, the society must be truly perfect. That is, it must have everything necessary for its purpose. Once it cannot sustain itself and needs to look outside of itself, the danger of destruction begins to lurk. Then, once it engages in treaties which demand authorisation, approval, or even consultation in order to manage its internal affairs, hope of sovereignty and autonomy will be lost.


6 responses to “The Catholic Church: the Model of Nationalism”

  1. 2 questions for you: as it relates to the Episcopal polity of the Catholic Church is your model that of Ignatius of Antioch? If it is, would it not follow that Apostolic bishops are of the esse of the Church?

    As a societas perfecta, the Catholic Church comprises national churches in the unity of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, as integral components of the same. Does it then follow that the whole Church, both in heaven and on earth, is found in each geographically embedded or local instantiation where the faith once delivered to the saints is confessed and the holy sacraments administered under the authority of the one Divine head who rules the Church militant through his bishops from his throne in the heavenly Mt. Zion?

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    • The above takes its cue from the first half of the Solemn Declaration of 1893. Leaving aside references to the now apostate CoE, does it come close to your own understanding of the Catholic Church militant on earth?

      “We declare this Church to be, and desire that it shall continue, in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world, as an integral portion of the One Body of Christ composed of the Churches which, united under the One Divine Head and in fellowship of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, hold the One Faith revealed in Holy Writ, and defined in the Creeds as maintained by the undivided primitive Church in the undisputed Ecumenical Councils;

      ~~ receive the same Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as containing all things necessary to salvation; teach the same Word of God;

      ~~ partake of the same Divinely ordained Sacraments, through the ministry of the same Apostolic Orders;

      ~~ and worship One God and Father through the same Lord Jesus Christ, by the same Holy and Divine Spirit who is given to them that believe to guide them into all truth.”

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    • Yes, I would consider my model that of St. Ignatius of Antioch. And yes, it would follow that they are of the ease of the Church.

      It is important to not flatten the universal and particular. There are members of the Catholic Church who do not exist in a particular church (a dying infant baptised by a Jewish nurse). The Catholic Church is the blessed company of all faithful people. However, regarding the particular church, you are correct.

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  2. Indeed. I agree that we should avoid smoothing out the distinctions between the Catholic Church, apart from which there is no salvation, and a true particular church, apart from which there is normally no salvation. I say distinctions; not that they are without differences, but the differences are logical only. For the universal Church is made local, concrete and non abstract in the embodied life of every true particular church on earth. This must be the case if the Catholic Church is the “fullness of him who fills all in all.” But from this it follows that the militant Church on earth, composed of particular or national churches, is no less of this fullness because she is the daughter of Mother Jerusalem above, the heavenly Mt. Zion, to which we have come in baptism, and whose witnesses, the souls of just men made perfect, encompass us about.

    The particular is latent in the universal which is also concealed in the particular. Thus is every true particular Church, and to a lesser degree its dedicated sanctuary, the gate of heaven on earth.

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  3. It goes without saying that Christian Nationalism is different from that bete noire of the progressive Left aka “White Christian nationalism.” The relation of Church and state in England is (or was) a far truer example.

    It seems to me that a single Church must be established as the Church of a Christian nation. A broadly Christian nation of moral principle, ethos and culture without an established church strikes me as weak. But the question arises as to how such a nation can maintain its integrity while at the same time show loving kindness to Baptists, Charismatics, Roman Catholics. etc and to non Christian peoples such as Jews, Muslims.

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