Bernardino Cardinal Echeverría Ruiz

August 26, 2010


A serious and objective study of history shows that all times, all cultures, and all races have had undeniable differences among their constituents. There have always been wise men and ignorant men, classes that rule and classes that obey, rich and poor. Christ Himself taught, “The poor will always be with you.” The variety of elements within human society is as natural and  human as the variety of elements in the human body. As the body has a diversity of organs, it  has a diversity of functions. Mankind has a like diversity.

Although this diversity is so natural, there is a tendency, when speaking of society’s components, to consider the differences as contradictory, as alien to human nature. Thus was born the slogan of the French Revolution, which set the desire for liberty equality, and  fraternity as the foundation of society, not according to the Christian concept that all human beings are equal because they are creatures of the same God and sons of the same Father, but according to the erroneous concept that there should be no differences of any kind between human beings. This denial of the diversity of functions among men contradicts God’s plan in creating the universe and corresponds to the rationalist theory that all social inequalities must be eliminated, through violence if necessary.

That way of thinking characterized the French Revolution and also led materialistic sociologists to the idea of class struggle, practical atheism, and the use of tyranny to eliminate everything that could be considered favorable to the acceptance of the difference of values that is part of the historical reality of society. Marxism‑Leninism, inspired in this dialectic, rejected the values of the Christian faith and espoused a materialistic and atheistic philosophy.

The class struggle preached by Marxism received a death blow with recent events in the Soviet Empire. But the new concept that  must inspire the reestablishment of society destroyed by historical materialism has not been explored. For this, a new insight into the understanding of the human being is needed, as well as a deeper study of the variety of values in society. We need to ask ourselves: Is the idea of radicalizing unity valid? Or is an in‑depth study concerning the transcendental variety of the factors that constitute society necessary?

Basing himself on interesting Church documents, this is what the intelligent and profound thinker Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira proposes to do. He has written a work that can positively help to study and resolve this problem. Entitled “Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII,” it deals with a seemingly new subject: social elites and the seasoned aristocracy of the old nobility. The author declares that elites must reclaim the social values of the privileged class, of the families with a heritage, of the families with a background enriched by titles and traditions.

To some, reviving the social values of the elites may seem anachronistic and obsolete. Nevertheless, Pope Pius XII, remembering the old and noble traditions of his own family, presents the nobility of former times not only as holders of titles but, above all, as holders of a treasure of great virtues that benefited not just elite families but all of society.

Based on these reflections, I would venture to affirm that immorality and corruption have assumed scandalous proportions in modern society precisely because a wrong criterion of equality has crept in. In every society, in every culture, in every community, groups that stand out from the rest by their greater culture, by their greater morality, by a sense of nobility that not only dignifies an individual but conquers the admiration and respect of those who come to know these human values and, even more, Christian virtues, should be cultivated and fostered. For the same reason, the larger the community of families characterized by the practice of the human and Christian virtues, the better oriented society in general will be.

Pius XII left us a whole arsenal of documents in which, especially addressing the Roman nobility, he exalts the traditional virtues of the families considered noble and urges the Patriciate to cultivate qualities and virtues that should adorn a family (or person) that feels or considers itself noble. He exhorts the elites not only to maintain their ancestral values of nobility, but to purify them with the teachings of Christ.

For all these reasons I believe the launching of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s book is a prophetic call for contemporary society to make an examination of conscience regarding the true nobility that distinguished the men of the past, and the genuine virtues that must contribute to the building of a more human and Christian society. True nobility is based not on vanity and selfishness, but on the solid foundation of truth and goodness. We are convinced, therefore, that this book is a call to a serious reflection that will culminate in the return to the eternal values of the human being that are a basis of greatness and likeness with God.

Ibarra, June 21,1993

Archbishop Bernardino Echeverría Ruiz
Archbishop Emeritus of Guayaquil (elevated to Cardinal November 26, 1994)

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