Launching of the Portuguese edition of Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII

October 21, 2010

Launching of the Portuguese edition of

Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII


Estoril Palace Hotel – Estoril (greater Lisbon), Portugal
November 1, 1994

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira


[Recorded message]

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great satisfaction—and at the same time with much sorrow—that I present to you my cordial greetings at this launching of the book, Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII, which you grace with the honor of your presence, and will say a few words about the work now under your attention.

I sincerely lament that my specific activities in Brazil at the moment make it impossible for me to be personally present with you tonight. Nothing can replace personal presence. How agreeable it would be for me to see you directly, speak to you and exchange ideas, impressions and reflections with you. How enriching it would be to hear from members of the nobility and traditional elites in Portugal, considerations, observations, hopes, concerns and recommendations that could further illustrate a subject that the genius of the great Pope Pius XII so enlightened.

In his fourteen allocutions, the great Pontiff opened in favor of the nobility and analogous elites—as far as I know—a truly unique exception in the history of papal allocutions. I do not know a topic to which a Pope dedicated fourteen allocutions consecutively. Not to speak of the numerous references that other Popes have made to this issue, references which I evidently gathered and entered into the book. They show that this individual attitude by Pius XII does not merely express his thinking as former Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, then Pope Pius XII, but the general thinking of the Roman Pontiff about the theme we will deal with tonight.
This fact can be seen above all in an allocution by Pope Paul VI, opportunely quoted in the book, in which he implies, or rather clearly says, that they are mistaken who claim that Vatican Council II, which introduced so many innovations in the Church, rendered obsolete the allocutions to the Roman nobility, obviously addressed also to analogous elites and nobilities all over the world. On the contrary, they continue perfectly in force in the regime installed by the Council.
Thus, having recalled that statement that makes you gauge just how relevant our topic remains today, I will delve into the matter as quickly as possible in the few minutes that precede the book’s launching.

* * *

“Nobility and Analogous Elites” is a theme very rich in multiple aspects. These aspects change in tone and nuance according to the circumstances through which peoples successively pass. At times the elites are led by peoples, at other times they lead the latter, depending on the vicissitudes of history. And the TFP has very carefully analyzed and devoted a great part of its time and efforts to study this topic, fully convinced that a solution to most of today’s problems will come from a precise focalization on the question of the nobility and analogous elites.

We should not forget that in Vienna’s “Katholikentag,” an annual meeting of German-speaking Catholics from central Europe to study problems of the Catholic religion in that part of the world, the same Pius XII whose allocutions we now comment on formally declared that the study of the social question—by that he meant the labor question—had already gone so deep and the Church had strived so hard to study and solve it, that in places where people showed good will to apply Church principles, the labor issue is a resolved issue.

If by that one understands that the worker question is one for which a solution has already been found and needs only to be applied – and that is undoubtedly what the Pontiff understood – then the worker question is already clarified. The question of nobility still demands other clarifications in addition to those which Pius XII has given.

Why? Because of the complexity of this question.

Where is the root of this complexity? It is at the very heart of contemporary history.

So I go on to deal with the essential point of our lecture tonight, namely the relationship between the problem of nobility and analogous elites, and contemporary society.

* * *

If we take into account the problem of the origins of the contemporary crisis in this phase of history, we cannot fail to recognize that these origins are all found—or at least to a great extent—in the facts that brought about, enveloped and characterized the French Revolution.

The trilogy, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, with a special emphasis on the term equality, was disseminated throughout the world by very effective methods of diffusion in public opinion which remain mysterious to this day, as one does not understand how an idea could spread so much when, in the final analysis, before the Revolution the media were still nonexistent.

What was it that made those ideas spread in that way? Only books? It is known that it was not. It is known that there were organizations that spread those ideas in conversations in salons, social life and university life in an organized fashion.

The fact of the matter is that shortly before the French Revolution broke out in France, Europe as a whole was imbibed with the principles of the Revolution—the famous trilogy I mentioned—in which equality held the central place.

Why are all men equal, and why should they be? Because of this principle affirmed by the French Revolution.

* * *

The necessary consequence from that was the idea of Liberty: total liberty, unbridled liberty, liberty that one breathes like fresh air coming into the lungs. If everyone is equal, then no one must command anyone else. And if no one commands, authority is reduced to nothing. At best one could tolerate, for practical or purely administrative purposes, so to speak, a preeminence of a boss upon a worker, a teacher upon a pupil, a father upon his son. Such preeminence would be tolerated for purely operational purposes while striving to find new formulas and ways of being that could provide an orderly existence in an ambience where authority is absolutely nonexistent.

How many modern movements, even in Europe, in this West that bills itself post-communist, tend toward absolute equality and anarchy starting from the deeper principle that all superiority is an evil and an injury to human rights and that equality alone can accomplish entirely the ideal of justice latent in the hearts of men?

* * *

Fraternity: If all men are equal, the only way to realize this equality is to set in motion a fraternal good will that may establish the absolute equality that exists among brothers in modern families. No matter how different they may be by reason of age, culture, situation, accomplishments or advancements depending on the energy expended in the great battle of life, today fraternity must be understood in an egalitarian sense: one brother is absolutely equal to the other.

Fraternity is a repetition of the word equality, except that it is meant to give the latter—whose acidity calls to mind the bitter taste of social demands—a note of suavity to anesthetize the listener or reader and better make him accept the chameleonic developments of the trilogy.

* * *

Equality. Let us now focus on what this concept of equality is.

The concept: since all men are equal by nature, any inequality hurts them. Every man who sees superiority in another suffers as a result. He suffers because that is an aggression against his own sense of honor and dignity; it brings out inferiorities he wished did not exist and preeminences that shock him. If it is truly according to human nature that man feels hurt on every point he notes the other is superior to him, then one must recognize that equality is the supreme law of justice and that injustice reigns wherever equality has not been rigorously implanted.

Hence it follows that if one considers relationships among men even from the Christian or Catholic standpoint, one reaches the conclusion that true fraternity exists only in places where inequality has been completely abolished.

We are thus placed before this position: If this is so, then the nobility and analogous social elites are a social evil, a social scourge, for they benefit some to the detriment of others and make the lesser suffer all the weight of the grandeur of the greater. And since all inequality must disappear, the nobility is, par excellence, an institution that history must gradually kill, now with a bloody guillotine, now with persecution by socialist-communist or left-leaning legislations, now with constant defamation and unrelenting attacks in academia, now through a thousand other venues such as the cinema, theater or television, which present life scenes where nobility is either nonexistent or depicted as something heavy-handed, unjust and decrepit, inching toward its demise.

* * *

The idea of a social elite that guides men in a beneficial way and is thus a benefit to humanity; an elite with whom every member of society should relate as a son with his father within the great human family that every country must be, this idea is flatly and utterly denied. And it is against this idea of social equality that the TFP has constantly toiled.

To advocate what thesis?

The thesis is this: men are, by their nature, equal among themselves and thus have all the rights to which they are entitled as men. They are all equal insofar as these rights are concerned.


For example, the right to life. The right to life is inherent to human nature.

For example, the right to life. The right to life is inherent to human nature. No matter whose life is at stake, that person’s right to life is equal to everyone else’s. e maneira que procurar sacrificar a vida de alguém em benefício da vida de outrem, sem se tratar de um homicídio ou de uma punição, mas apenas sacrificar pelo gosto que um tem de oprimir e de liquidar o outro, é selvageria, é barbárie. Thus, to sacrifice one person’s life for the benefit of another’s—we are not considering cases of homicide or capital punishment—to sacrifice that life for the sheer pleasure one person has in oppressing and destroying another, is savagery, barbarism.

Catholic doctrine on this point is so categorical that some people are surprised upon learning its teachings without first preparing for it.

For example, if a man is in a situation of poverty through no fault of his own—that is, not caused by sloth, vice or some other reason—if he is in a state of indigence to the point of being unable to obtain the minimum necessary for his or his family’s sustenance, he may resort to people’s charity. But if they do not help him, he has a right to take, on his own initiative, something that belongs to a neighbor in order to appease his or his family’s hunger.

The right of property is a sacred right, but it is not the most sacred of rights. Man’s life is worth more than property, and one does not have a right to deny someone the bread he needs on the pretext that we own the bread and thus have no obligation to give it to him.

If he needs the bread to live, we have an obligation to give it. If we do not do it, he has a right to appropriate it. That is how strongly Catholic doctrine upholds these basic rights of man.

No matter whose life is at stake, that person’s right to life is equal to everyone else’s.

* * *

At the same time as the Church in her wisdom defines this principle of which I give only one application—it does have others, but our limited time obliges us to stick to this one example—if this situation is defined in this way, it is also true that while men are equal by nature, God made them unequal in many ways. To some He gave more health, to others, less; to some more intelligence, to others, less; to some, more capacity for technical matters; to others, a more penetrating intelligence for philosophical, metaphysical or theological matters, and so on.

The varieties God placed from man to man and the inequalities that in His holiness He established among them are legitimate inequalities that must be respected like all inequalities that constitute the universe that God created.

Look at the stars. How unequal they are.

Photo by slworking2

We can imagine what a monstrosity it would be if these unequal stars were reduced to small spheres or large spheres, all with the same size. How monotonous the sky would be if we looked at the stars and had the impression they all have the same size, emit the same light and travel identical orbits.

Isn’t inequality among celestial bodies precisely the pinnacle of order?

The universal order is established through the collaboration of these unequal bodies around a point of equilibrium that governs the whole universe.

This is also the way that men—more unequal among themselves than the stars in the sky—collaborate with one another so that each of them appreciates the qualities God gave him and seeks to elevate, polish and make them shine as much as possible for the glory of God and the good of his country, family, and his own.

It is also true that there is hierarchy in this variety.

How can there be variety without inequality?

One concept contains the others. If variety is so indispensable, we need to accept the fact that this variety must have an order. Order in variety is hierarchy, whereby one is more, the other less, but all are like the stars that God created to shine in the firmament.

So you can clearly see how the existence of a social class which is the princeps class of a nation, a class called nobility, is according to the principles most ingrained in the order of the universe and most deeply rooted in Catholic doctrine.

* * *

This consideration leads us to an objection that often arises against the nobility.

It was understandable, in the days of old, for a valiant warrior to have been made a count, duke or marquis. He fought for his motherland, which rewards the warrior by making him—through the king’s hands—a count, duke or marquis. But how can one justify that inequality in regard to his descendants? Descendants who never waged war, who may have been born blind or paralyzed and are thus incapable of fighting or doing anything concrete for the community?

How to justify the fact that at times this man, not because of illness (which can dignify his soul if he accepts it as a sacrifice) but out of laziness, lack of will to act, or criminal indolence, boasts throughout his life about deeds of his father, grandfather, great-great-great-grandfather, in historic episodes whose echo has been dying out through the centuries, and all that is left of that luminous event is a descendant, at times faded, at other times colorless, who gives the impression of a celebratory bonfire in the night that diminishes after a while and gradually dies out for a long time until disappearing completely?

Such would be the end of a noble family. Is it not worthy to get it over with once and for all? This is a question that an egalitarian person does not fail to raise.

At the Estoril Palacio Hotel launching of Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites.

* * *

The short time at our disposal naturally leads me to make only one consideration on a topic that has room for many. Let me simply say this: a father is in relation to his son like a cause is in relation to its effect.

A son is the very flesh and blood of his parents. If we want to repay a benefactor of ours all the good he has done for us, we consider ourselves obliged to do unto him every possible good he may need while alive but also to favor the livelihood, career and situation of his children; for no parent egoistically thinks of his own happiness as being detached from the situation of his children.

When he closes his eyes to the earth and opens them to eternity, a father wants to have before him a strong and elevated offspring that carries with it all the glories of the past in the names of their grandfathers. He wants to be sure that public gratitude to him as a benefactor will be prolonged in the families of his descendants just as the good a benefactor does in private leads the beneficiary to do good to his benefactor’s children.

Why? Because the best way to thank a father is to benefit his children. The real interest a father wants from the capital investment of his work and dedication is the security and future of his children.

A motherland must set the example of gratitude. It is very glorious for a nation to know how to take a family that began to serve the country one hundred, two hundred, five hundred, eight hundred years earlier and maintain that family lineage while trying to surround them with consideration, admiration and general respect and thus encourage them to give the country more and more heroes.

* * *

Count St. Nuno Álvares Pereira, Constable of Portugal

I remember the emotion I felt last year when I had to deal with a highly-placed intellectual whose name I do not want to mention here, about historical matters. As we spoke about ancestry, he turned to me unpretentiously and said:

—My ancestry is faded, but I glory in it.

—How so?

—For one thousand consecutive years—I can prove this with valid historic documents—members of my family have been serving the country in the modest capacity of soldiers or petty officers. That, to me, is glorious. Glory comes not only from descending from generals or heroes. To descend from men who for a thousand years have served and served and do not stop serving, that is a marvel of history.

I felt like standing up and hugging that man. Why? Because he had clearly spelled out all the preeminence and gratitude a country owes a family which, for a thousand years, has been living to die and dying so that the motherland may live.

To say that this does not deserve special emphasis, protection or empathy, is to ignore all the dictates of justice and all the norms of truth; in the final analysis, it is to make Revolution in the mold of the French Revolution or the Russian Communist Revolution, this great universal Revolution which, though now metamorphosed, continues to spread throughout the universe.

Here you have, ladies and gentlemen, in excessively quick strokes due to lack of time, some reflections that you will find further developed and above all illuminated by the magnificent texts of Pius XII, in the book now being launched in Estoril.

Best regards and thank you for your attention.

The Duke of Maqueda and the Count of Proença Velha discussing Nobility and Analogous Traditonal Elites

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