Conspiracies of the Jews
This article is a reiteration and expansion on the one entitled: Be Subject to Higher Powers, Render to Caesar, in which the exposition of St. John Chrysostom on Romans 13 was put forth for consideration. Herein, we will find St. Thomas Aquinas further expounding upon and supporting what St. John Chrysostom has said concerning "higher powers".
But when a person who holds a public office should use the power that he has received contrary to the common good, then there is no longer a duty of conscience to obey them and the “laws” they institute for their own personal gain or for the persecution of men, but rather we may indeed resist them, since they are now acting contrary to their ordination, that is, they are acting as a terror to the good work, but not to the evil. Yes we may lawfully resist such powers, nor will we purchase damnation by doing so.
Ephesians 6:12: "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places."
Ephesians 6:13: "Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect."
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 69, Art. 4: "Wherefore even as it is lawful to resist robbers, so is it lawful, in a like case, to resist wicked princes"
Deuteronomy 1:13-17: "Let me have from among you wise and understanding men, and such whose conversation is approved among your tribes, that I may appoint them your rulers.
Note the words of Moses: "approved among your tribes". That is to say that the tribes approved and authorized the rulers who were then given power and authority - in other words it appears from this passage that the power of governing the people is subject and subservient to the approval of the same people, for the common good.
Pope Pius IX, Nostis et Nobiscum, #20: "[I]t is likewise a mark of the natural, and so of the immutable, condition of human affairs that even among those who are not in higher authority, some surpass others in different endowments of mind or body or in riches and such external goods; therefore it can never be lawful under any pretext of liberty or equality to usurp or injure in any way the good or rights of other men. Divine precepts on this subject are clear and can be found throughout the holy scriptures. They forbid us strictly even to desire the goods of other men, much less seize them."
And do not sentence those who have no accuser
"St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 67, Art. 3: "Objection 1. It would seem that a judge may pass sentence on a man who is not accused. For human justice is derived from Divine justice. Now God judges the sinner even though there be no accuser. Therefore it seems that a man may pass sentence of condemnation on a man even though there be no accuser.
"On the contrary, Ambrose in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 5:2, expounding the Apostle's sentence on the fornicator, says that "a judge should not condemn without an accuser, since our Lord did not banish Judas, who was a thief, yet was not accused."
"I answer that, A judge is an interpreter of justice. Wherefore, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 4), "men have recourse to a judge as to one who is the personification of justice." Now, as stated above (Question 58, Article 2), justice is not between a man and himself but between one man and another. Hence a judge must needs judge between two parties, which is the case when one is the prosecutor, and the other the defendant. Therefore in criminal cases the judge cannot sentence a man unless the latter has an accuser, according to Acts 25:16: "It is not the custom of the Romans to condemn any man, before that he who is accused have his accusers present, and have liberty to make his answer, to clear himself of the crimes" of which he is accused."
A government that deprives individuals of their rights without due process of law is a government devoid of justice. All men's rights are to be respected and cannot be removed by any other man. When lawful government provides a just and fair hearing or trial, however, it is competent to determine whether or not a man has forfeited his rights through crime. Only then may the State lawfully remove a man's freedom/property/life, as the severity of his crime dictates. It is nevertheless the prerogative of the State to exercise mercy if it will, although this mercy may not be exercised in such a manner as to put others in danger (e.g. letting a hardened murderer or rapist go free).
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 69, Art. 3: "Now when a judge oppresses anyone unjustly, in this respect he departs from the order of the higher authority, whereby he is obliged to judge justly. Hence it is lawful for a man who is oppressed unjustly, to have recourse to the authority of the higher power, by appealing either before or after sentence has been pronounced. And since it is to be presumed that there is no rectitude where true faith is lacking, it is unlawful for a Catholic to appeal to an unbelieving judge, according to Decretals II, qu. vi, can. Catholicus: "The Catholic who appeals to the decision of a judge of another faith shall be excommunicated, whether his case be just or unjust." Hence the Apostle also rebuked those who went to law before unbelievers (1 Corinthians 6:6)."
If a man has purchased goods or services worth an ounce of silver, then naturally he pays with an ounce of silver or something of equal value. But if a criminal steals, then the criminal forfeits his natural right to whatever may already be in his possession of equal value - in addition to the value that the lawful authorities determine is sufficient compensation for the hardships the criminal has imposed upon the victim (or his family, nation, etc.).
Likewise, if a man murders his brother, then he has forfeited his natural right to what he possess of equal value to his brother's life, namely he has forfeited his own life. As such, the State that opts to exercise capital punishment does not murder, but quite simply provides justice, which by definition is the rendering of what is due. Simply put and in accordance with Scripture, the man who sheds another's blood, owes his own blood.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 69, Art. 4: "Objection 1. It would seem that a man who is condemned to death may lawfully defend himself if he can. For it is always lawful to do that to which nature inclines us, as being of natural right, so to speak. Now, to resist corruption is an inclination of nature not only in men and animals but also in things devoid of sense. Therefore if he can do so, the accused, after condemnation, may lawfully resist being put to death."
"On the contrary, The Apostle says (Romans 13:2): "He that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation." Now a condemned man, by defending himself, resists the power in the point of its being ordained by God "for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of the good" (1 Peter 2:14). Therefore he sins in defending himself.
"I answer that, A man may be condemned to death in two ways. First justly, and then it is not lawful for the condemned to defend himself, because it is lawful for the judge to combat his resistance by force, so that on his part the fight is unjust, and consequently without any doubt he sins.
"Secondly a man is condemned unjustly: and such a sentence is like the violence of robbers, according to Ezechiel 22:21, "Her princes in the midst of her are like wolves ravening the prey to shed blood." Wherefore even as it is lawful to resist robbers, so is it lawful, in a like case, to resist wicked princes; except perhaps in order to avoid scandal, whence some grave disturbance might be feared to arise."
Acts of the Apostles 17:26: "And hath made of one, all mankind, to dwell upon the whole face of the earth, determining appointed times, and the limits of their habitation."
Rulers have the power and responsibility to keep a nation prosperous by wisely attending to its borders, in matters of commerce as well as security. When States offer greater protection and rights to aliens or criminals than to the people lawfully living and working within and supporting the State through honest enterprise, then it is reasonable to recognize that there is a subversive element in government acting unjustly, contrary to the common good and to the demise of well ordered prosperity.
In the very same passage where St. Paul entreats every soul to be subject unto the higher powers, he clearly established that they are ordained of God when they act in accordance with the natural law principles of rulers upholding the common good and punishing evildoers. He says so quite explicitly:
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 25, Art. 1: "[W]e fear a man, or love him on account of what he has of God; as when we fear the secular power by reason of its exercising the ministry of God for the punishment of evildoers, and love it for its justice: such like fear of man is not distinct from fear of God, as neither is such like love."
Do we owe Satan any dues? Obviously not. Is he a higher power? Well he has more power than us mortals, that's for sure. Is he ordained of God? Not since he turned his power to oppression, persecution and tyranny, otherwise, we would still owe him the same dues, the same fear, the same custom and the same honour that we owe, for example, to St. Michael the Archangel, or that we owe to other saints and angels in Heaven.
Why then would it be any different concerning the powers of the earth, than it is with those of the air?
Stalin's justification for his totalitarian perversion was high-sounding: "We must free the world's workers from capitalistic exploitation." Stalin was a monster at the head of legalized tyranny.
The recent American wars against Iraq and Serbia are not materially different from and Stalin's invasion of Hungary. Both employed the power of coercion to impose their will on another nation. Both Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic may have been dictators who routinely deprived their citizens of life, liberty, and property, as all tyrannies tend to do, but the American bombing missions did not solve this problem. They instead deprived many more people of life, liberty, and property, and they do not restrict this behaviour to their conquests overseas.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Prima Secundae Pars, Q. 92. Art. 1: "A tyrannical law, through not being according to reason, is not a law, absolutely speaking, but rather a perversion of law [...] Since then every man is a part of the state, it is impossible that a man be good, unless he be well proportionate to the common good: nor can the whole be well consistent unless its parts be proportionate to it. Consequently the common good of the state cannot flourish, unless the citizens be virtuous, at least those whose business it is to govern."
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Prima Secundae Pars, Q. 105. Art. 1: "Objection 5. Further, as a kingdom is the best form of government, so is tyranny the most corrupt. But when the Lord appointed the king, He established a tyrannical law; for it is written (1 Samuel 8:11): "This will be the right of the king, that shall reign over you: He will take your sons," etc. Therefore the Law made unfitting provision with regard to the institution of rulers.
"Reply to Objection 5. That right was not given to the king by Divine institution: rather was it foretold that kings would usurp that right, by framing unjust laws, and by degenerating into tyrants who preyed on their subjects. This is clear from the context that follows: "And you shall be his slaves [Douay: 'servants']": which is significative of tyranny, since a tyrant rules is subjects as though they were his slaves. Hence Samuel spoke these words to deter them from asking for a king; since the narrative continues: "But the people would not hear the voice of Samuel."
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 42, Art. 2: "A tyrannical government is not just, because it is directed, not to the common good, but to the private good of the ruler, as the Philosopher states (Polit. iii, 5; Ethic. viii, 10). Consequently there is no sedition in disturbing a government of this kind, unless indeed the tyrant's rule be disturbed so inordinately, that his subjects suffer greater harm from the consequent disturbance than from the tyrant's government. Indeed it is the tyrant rather that is guilty of sedition, since he encourages discord and sedition among his subjects, that he may lord over them more securely; for this is tyranny, being conducive to the private good of the ruler, and to the injury of the multitude."
Dear reader, it is for you to discern how this applies in your own relationship with those who claim government over you.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 67, Art. 1: "Objection 1. It would seem that a man can justly judge one who is not subject to his jurisdiction.
Note: there is a difference between this kind of judgment that St. Thomas is referring to, that is juridical judgment, and epistemological judgment or discernment. Not just any man can make a legal pronunciation or impose penalties, but all men have the right to make value judgments and to judge between truth and falsehood.
So be subject to the higher powers who have a lawful right to govern and who enforce the true law, knowing that you may resist only those acts and statutes which are contrary to justice, and those which have no jurisdiction over you. Do this with the utmost of prudence and solicitude, and never forget that God is the highest power, to whom you must always be subject; His ways are always just.
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