Temporal Society Was Made for the Salvation of Souls

November 12, 2020

By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

A picture of an ideal Catholic society implies above all an exact conception of the relations between the Church and temporal society.

In this respect, the famous “minimum demands”* have done us much harm. We are not opposed to the “minimum demands”; we are favorable to them, and it even appears to us that one must not make all the demands at the same time. Therefore, we admit that some demands are minimal and immediate; but there are others that, because they are unattainable, must not be put in the order of the day. Let us explain.

            Indeed, a document could decree into law tomorrow all the rights of the Church concerning temporal society. However, we would not be favorable to having such a regime set up from one moment to the next. All of those rights suppose a specific preparation, and without it, no social or political experiment could turn out well. But we are also opposed to being silent about the ideal goal in this matter when one speaks about the “minimum demands” because that way, people know what the minimum is but not what the maximum is.

This gives rise to a certain deformation of the soul. All Catholics know the “minimum demands” of the “Catholic Electoral League”: The name of God in the Constitution, civil and religious marriage, the prohibition of divorce, religious instruction in the schools, religious assistance for the Armed Forces and in State hospitals and prisons, etc. However, from this, many are led to think that the Church desires no more than this from the State or just a little more. Those “minimum demands” ended by being the only ones that Brazilian Catholics know. From this, there a profound deformation arises.

The watchmaker by Charles Spencelayh

People are thus left ignorant of Catholic doctrine. The true principles governing relations between the Church and the State and the correct notion of the interrelation of the spiritual and temporal are lost from sight. In the final analysis, one loses the idea of the Church’s mission in temporal society. Since She is called to live within temporal society, as the soul lives within the body, one purely and simply loses the notion of a great part of the Church’s mission.

What does the Church have a right to in an ideal temporal society? Let us trace the outline.

The young connoisseur by August Friedrich Siegert

To properly understand this matter, the starting point lies in studying temporal society’s raison d’etre. One of the best documents to use for this is the famous De Regimine Principum of St. Thomas Aquinas. He shows us that absolutely all things are created for our souls’ salvation and must be means that positively contribute to our sanctification. Even purely material things like watches, carpets, curtains were all made for this end. Men themselves were created for the salvation of one another. That is why they live together in society.

From this, it follows that temporal society and not merely the Church was made for our souls’ salvation.


* “Minimum demands” (Reivindiacações Mínimas) is the name which was given to the principles of Catholic Doctrine demanded by the “Catholic Electoral League” (Liga Eleitoral Católica) as indispensable in the Constitution of 1934.


(This is an excerpt from a meeting by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira and is published without his revision. Nobility.org translation.)


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