The Deterioration of the Medieval Order in Modern Times

May 30, 2013

Queen Elena of Italy and Princess Maria José, both with the Privilège du blanc, during the visit of Pope Pius XII at the Quirinale.

Queen Elena of Italy and Princess Maria José, both with the Privilège du blanc, during the visit of Pope Pius XII at the Quirinale.

As explained… the feudal organization of society—at once political, social, and economic—deteriorated in modern times (from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries). From then on, the successive political and socioeconomic transformations have tended to meld all the classes and entirely, or almost entirely, deny a special juridical status to the clergy and nobility. This is a difficult contingency to which these classes should not pusillanimously close their eyes, since this would be unworthy of true clerics, as of true nobles.

Pius XII, in one of his masterful allocutions to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility, describes this state of things with noteworthy precision.

“First of all, you must look fearlessly, courageously, at the present reality. It seems superfluous to insist on recalling to your mind what, three years ago, was the object of Our considerations; it would seem vain and unworthy of you to veil it in prudent euphemisms, especially after the words of your eloquent representative have given Us so clear a testimonial of your adhesion to the social doctrine of the Church and to the duties stemming therefrom. The new Italian Constitution no longer recognizes you as possessing, as a social class, in the State and among the people, any particular mission, quality, or privilege.” (1)

Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein, who vetoed the abortion referendum in Liechtenstein.

Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein, whose son Alois promised to veto a referendum in Liechtenstein if it approved abortion.

This situation, the Pontiff observes, is the outcome of a chain of events that creates the impression of following an “irresistible course.”

In view of the “very different lifestyles” now emerging in modern society, members of the nobility and traditional elites should not engage in futile lamentation, nor should they ignore reality. Rather, they should take a strong attitude toward it. This is the conduct proper to courageous people: “While the mediocre can only wear a frown in the face of ill fortune, superior spirits are able, according to the classic expression, to prove themselves ‘beaux joueurs,’ [good sports] imperturbably maintaining their noble and untroubled bearing.” (2)


(1)   Pius XII, 1952 allocution to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility, 457.

(2)   Ibid., 457-58.

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII: A Theme Illuminating American Social History (York, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, 1993), 35-37.

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