Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Christian Churches and Monarchy Today

Recently, some clerics of the Church of Sweden made headlines by writing an editorial in a Swedish newspaper that condemned the celebration of Sweden’s “National Day”, the official national holiday of the Kingdom of Sweden. They come from a very immigrant-heavy area of southern Sweden and their editorial was riddled with all the most popular left-wing buzzwords of our time, saying that, “Patriotism has its roots in the patriarchal thinking that celebrates traditional masculinity as strength, competition, inequality, and reduced men to soldiers, and women to mothers. It goes without saying that this does not create good conditions for a world without borders.” Clerics of the Church *of Sweden* said that the Church of Sweden has become too “synonymous with being Swedish”. Imagine that. Some historian might remind them that this was rather the point. They also said that for Swedish Christians (and presumably all Christians), “nationalism and patriotism must be swept away and replaced with internationalism and solidarity”. Thankfully, most Swedes expressed opposition to this article though I’m not sure what the view of the lesbian Bishop of Stockholm was, the woman who removed the crosses from a church in her diocese so that Muslim immigrants could use it as a mosque effectively.

The Church of Sweden is not alone, sadly, among the Protestant state churches which have forgotten why they were founded in the first place: to be *national* churches. The Archbishop of Canterbury, primate of the Church of England, has twice referred to Britain leaving the European Union and becoming independent again as “poison” and repeatedly urged the Prime Minister to appoint a cross-party commission to advise her on how best to, presumably, minimize the effects of this terrible poison which somehow never managed to kill Britain in all the centuries prior to January 1, 1973. One cannot but stand aghast at the sight of clerics of legally established, national churches which first came into being, at least in large part, by wanting to be free of an Italian pontiff in Rome, now condemning the idea of national independence or the very idea of nationality at all, at least in terms of their own people. All of these state Protestant churches were based, to varying degrees, on the idea that there should be no earthly power set above their national monarch. Now they are arguing the exact opposite.

Protestant churches have, at various times and in various places, been both opposed to monarchy and supportive of it, depending on the situation. Originally, the teachings of Martin Luther sparked widespread opposition to the idea of any traditional authority at all, secular or spiritual, which was manifested in the “Peasant’s Revolt” in Germany. Luther himself, who was sheltered by a German prince, quickly tried to make amends by calling on the princes to slaughter the disloyal peasants and the Protestant cause soon came to be wedded to the monarchies of the various nations which embraced it. In England, for example, Protestantism came into power in a rather round-about way. It started very much with loyalty to the Crown being paramount above all else and this meant what was largely a continuation of Catholicism but with the King (Henry VIII) rather than the Pope at the head of it. It was only later, during the regency of the unfortunate King Edward VI, that the Church of England actually became Protestant. From the time of Queen Elizabeth I onward, Protestant Christianity and the monarchy seemed to be inseparable. The same could be said for countries such as Denmark or Sweden.

The Netherlands is also an interesting case. Originally, the cause for independence from Spain had little to do with religion at all. The Princes of Orange did not start out as Protestants and, indeed, even after the Dutch War for Independence was well underway, there were Princes of Orange who were still Catholic. However, the Dutch took up the Protestant cause, some doubtless from conviction, others because they wanted to attract the support of the Protestants in Germany and England to support them in their fight against Catholic Spain. Something similar also happened in France, though this is not always remembered today. The French Protestants, the Huguenots, were very anti-monarchy in the time of King Charles IX and have been credited by some with the idea of “popular sovereignty” (though, personally, I would say, “blame” rather than “credit” would be appropriate phrasing). This did change somewhat with the Edict of Nantes but, to a large degree, Protestants who had not left France became reconciled to the monarchy but they were always rather suspect and thus it came as no great surprise when King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes and insisted that France would have one faith and that faith would be Catholic (though, it is worth pointing out that the leader of the Catholic Church, the Pope, opposed both Louis XIV and the revocation of religious tolerance for the Protestants).

This was, of course, in a country that was largely Catholic and in Protestant countries, the bonds between the Crown and the national church generally went on proudly together. The break between the established Protestant churches and the cause of monarchy came relatively quite recently. In some ways, these churches remained at least nominally monarchist even longer than they remained at least nominally Christian. There were even a number of news stories this year that, after a long period of precipitous decline, attendance at the Church of England was growing along with the revived sense of national pride and patriotism that grew up around the “Brexit” referendum. However, given the reaction of the Anglican hierarchy to the outcome of that vote, I would not be too hopeful about this continuing. These established Protestant churches remain, today, officially supportive of the monarchy in its current, purely ceremonial form, but they are increasingly abandoning any pretense of actual Christianity and embracing, even championing ideas which run directly in opposition to the very fundamental idea of monarchy. Of course, the monarchies themselves have been poked, prodded and cajoled into going along with this trend which works directly against the long-term survival of the monarchical institution.

I know many disagree with me on this, but I will go back to one of my pet-peeves which is the recent trend, now embracing almost every monarchy in Europe, for ending male primogeniture. This necessarily rejects the Christian notion of family, that it is the wife who becomes part of the family of her husband rather than the reverse. As such, not only do we now have royals marrying commoners as the rule rather than the exception but you also have, by traditional Christian standards, royal dynasties giving way to common ones. The Swedish Royal Family will likely not change its name but, by the old standards, will be the Westling dynasty rather than the Bernadotte dynasty after the passing of the current King. Britain, Norway and Denmark are not quite in the same position as they have had male heirs born first in any event, Queen Elizabeth II is old enough to have still married an actual royal and Queen Margrethe II, while not marrying royalty, did not quite go full ‘common’ as her husband is, as I recall, from very minor French nobility or some sort of aristocratic background.

Why do I bring this up? Because it undermines the idea that royals are set apart, that their bloodline matters and it seems to go hand in hand with the other changes in society, the borderless, internationalist world the Swedish pastors are so fond of in that Europeans seemed to have stopped caring about the bloodline of their royals at the same time they stopped caring about their own. It all feeds into the narrative of the egalitarians that we are all the same, we are all interchangeable, “everyone is special” which means that no one actually is. It is simply an unavoidable fact that monarchies are being dragged along with this revolutionary, egalitarian mindset. To say that male primogeniture is “unfair” is true, in the terms of the egalitarians, but it is no less “unfair” than saying the firstborn is heir rather than the second or third. By these standards, *monarchy* is unfair and they will always see it as such. Likewise, it would be absurd to argue that a monarch must be a descendant of a certain bloodline, a lineage with historic roots in the country, but that the people of said country could be anyone from anywhere. This is obviously not conducive to monarchy nor is it in line with Biblical Christianity which Protestants once prided themselves on. Even a cursory reading of the Bible will show immediately just how important genealogy, bloodlines and national history was to the Christian religion.

Now, of course, the Catholics have to get theirs too. The Catholic record in regard to monarchy is not terribly different than the Protestant one, albeit for very different reasons. Going back to the very beginning of the Catholic/Orthodox Church, loyalty to the Roman emperors prevailed even when those emperors were pagans who persecuted Christians. A pagan emperor could be disobeyed if he commanded something contrary to the faith, but he was not to be rebelled against, not to be overthrown, he was to be converted and this eventually happened. Things began to change, however, with the fall of the Western Roman Empire which created a power-vacuum filled by the Pope and, at which time, the Pope also became a temporal ruler which meant that the papacy and the monarchy became rivals. This did not happen in the East Roman Empire since it both survived for much longer and the clerics remained subjects of the Emperor and had only their own spiritual fortitude to fall back on to keep the faith, there was no equivalent of the Papal States in Eastern Christianity. Catholic Christianity, on the other hand, developed the “two swords” approach with the Pope having the spiritual sword and the Emperor having the temporal sword but with the Pope also saying that his sword was bigger than the Emperor’s sword and that, naturally, led to a great deal of trouble.

As the popes became real or potential rivals for power with the emperor and lesser monarchs, the papal attitude toward monarchy tended to shift depending on the situation. An important distinction was that the popes tended not to be anti-monarchy, simply anti-whoever was the strongest monarch. So, the Pope would ally himself with the republican city states of northern Italy because they were not a threat to him while the Emperor in Germany was powerful enough to be so. Later, the popes, as we have discussed previously, tended to alternate between the Germans and French depending on who was the least threat to them. So, for example, when the German Emperor became the most powerful Catholic monarch, the Pope would support the King of France against him and, alternately, when the King of France became the most powerful Catholic monarch, the Pope would throw his support behind the Emperor in Germany. This was generally a successful strategy in maintaining papal control over central Italy but it also meant that any time a Catholic monarch emerged who was strong enough to unite Christendom, the Pope would be working to undermine him, even, ultimately, if that placed him on the same side as the Protestants such as during the time of papal opposition to King Louis XIV of France and by extension his Stuart cousins in Britain.

Papal support for the cause of monarchy was attractive to monarchs but, needless to say, the papal claim to total supremacy over them in exchange was not. King Charles I in Great Britain, for example, was a High Anglican married to a devout Catholic and an ardent defender of absolute monarchy and the “Divine Right of Kings”. He seemed very inclined to take the plunge and convert to Catholicism but could not and would not accept the idea that the Pope had the power to take his crown from him. He likely could have, and in his conscience perhaps did, accept that the Pope had supreme authority in spiritual matters but could not countenance the notion that his crown would be owed to the Pope rather than to God directly. Ultimately, over the centuries, monarchs thus began to slowly concern themselves less and less with the political wishes of the popes, which was often unfortunate as the popes quite often called for good things, like everyone uniting to retake Constantinople, which they never did. By the time of the French Revolution, the papacy had lost most political influence however that unhappy event did, albeit briefly, bring about a change in the papal attitude best illustrated by the admirably reactionary Pope Gregory XVI. Good Pope Gregory opposed any innovation of any kind and opposed all rebellion against traditional authority regardless of the circumstances. This meant that he not only locked up secular Italian revolutionaries in Rome but he also condemned Irish Catholics rebelling against a Protestant British king and Polish Catholics rebelling against the Russian Orthodox Czar. Gregory XVI was nothing if not consistent.

However, that era ended with him after which the world got its first, short-lived, taste of a liberal pope. When Blessed Pius IX came on the scene he reversed all of his predecessor’s policies. He not only let the revolutionaries out of prison but appointed them to high office under a new constitution that brought laymen into the government of the Papal States. He championed the cause of Italian nationalism and urged the Emperor of Austria to withdraw his armies from Italian soil so that all his children might live happily in their own national territory. Then he was ousted by a republican mob and instantly reversed himself in every regard, allying himself with a Bonaparte President-turned-Emperor to maintain his rule over Rome. Ultimately, history proved that Pius IX had attached himself to a falling star and with the downfall of Napoleon III, Papal rule over Rome ended too and Rome was once again the capital city of a united Italian peninsula. However, it would take some time before the papacy would count as lost what had been lost and this would lead to some unusual situations such as Pope Leo XIII making peace with Protestant Prussia and allowing French Catholics to participate in republican politics while still refusing to deal with the Catholic King of Italy or allowing Italian Catholics to participate in politics in the Kingdom of Italy.

The Church also diminished its own influence by taking sides in Catholic dynastic disputes and, unfortunately, tending to take the side that ultimately lost meaning that things were rather awkward in dealing with the winners. Inexplicably, the otherwise admirable Pope Pius XI also undercut the Catholic royalist cause in France just at the time when it seemed capable of success. The reasons for this are still debated today, some saying it was because the unofficial leader of the movement was not a believing Catholic, others that it was because the movement favored the Orleans branch of the French Royal Family while the Church remained committed to the senior branch, while more recently others have argued that it was because of righteous papal indignation at the anti-Semitism that prevailed in French royalist circles. Whatever the cause, it happened and even when it was later undone, history had moved on. Oddly enough, the last time the Catholic Church really took up the monarchist cause on a level beyond praising individual (and usually deceased) monarchs was prior to the Italian referendum of 1946 in which, rather belatedly to say the least, the Church awoke to the fact that it faced a choice between a Catholic monarchy and a secular republic and so, as strongly as possible while still maintaining a modicum of detachment, urged Italians to support the House of Savoy. Unfortunately, we all know how that turned out.

Nonetheless, in theory or in terms of general concepts, the Catholic Church remained pro-monarchy throughout all but its recent history. It would be wrong to heap all blame for changing on the Second Vatican Council (aka ‘when the hippies took over’) as the creep had started before that but it does represent the most visible break with the traditional teachings of the Church of Rome of the past. Democracy, freedom of conscience, separation of church and state etc, all once condemned by the Church suddenly became embraced as good things. Attitudes which were once lauded as being devout and pious have recently been criticized as being rigid and dogmatic. Holding fast to sacred traditions was previously considered a divine commandment only to now be regarded as Pharisaical and putting ‘form’ ahead of ‘substance’. What was once considered being reverent is now considered exclusionary and un-Christian. It should come as no surprise that even while the current Roman Pontiff has received glowing praise from the secular elites, mass attendance and religious vocations have continued to decline rapidly. A lukewarm faith doesn’t seem to be winning many converts, indeed those in the most heavily Catholic part of the world, Latin America, are either moving to the very Protestant United States (with the encouragement of the Church) or are converting to Evangelical Protestantism in their own countries brought by American missionaries.

The one group of the “big three” to stand out in regards to monarchy is the Eastern Orthodox Church(es). As previously stated, they started out in the same boat as the Catholics but kept their Emperor after the West lost theirs and had only the Pope. Today, it is quite popular for Christians in the west to speak rather condescendingly of “Caesaropapism” in the east, implying that Christian leaders in the east put their loyalty to the Emperor above and before their loyalty to God. This is rather unfair. The Emperor was certainly more important in the East than in the West after the fall of the Western Roman Empire as the West, firstly, had no emperor and, secondly, when they did it was one created by the Pope. Eastern clerics could and did oppose the monarchical power when they judged it to be in the wrong but, as stated previously, like the first popes but unlike most later Bishops of Rome, they had no independent state of their own to protect them from possible imperial domination. They had only the strength of their faith to rely on to prevent them from becoming no more than imperial chaplains. Anyone can look at how tradition and orthodoxy have been maintained in the east to judge whether or not their faith was more reliable than the armies and political maneuverings of their western counterpart. As with each, there were wins and losses.

Much has also often been made of the national character of Eastern Orthodoxy after the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the lack of unity and nationalist attitude of the various churches often being compared, unfavorably, to those united with Rome. Again, however, this can be rather unfair and, upon reflection, I think may be exaggerated by those eager to have something over the Orthodox. After all, for much of the history of Eastern Christianity, most of these national churches were under the rule of Muslim conquerors and surely that would have contributed to nationalistic attitudes more than the administrative divisions of their Church. The divisions of Eastern Christianity may have also actually been beneficial in at least one way. Since their entire outlook on how the Church was supposed to work required a unity that did not exist, it meant that no one had the power to change things or mess things up as, I think it would be hard to argue, did happen in the West. Furthermore, while Orthodox Christians have often opposed each other, the same could be said for Catholics and Protestants as well. For that matter, one could simply point to the very existence of Protestantism in the West, which the papal office did not prevent (and, indeed, at times exacerbated) whereas no similar division of such magnitude ever happened in the east where Church and Crown were more firmly on the same side.

One could also argue that the Eastern Christians, because of history, were forged in a more intense fire than the Western Christians. The West certainly had plenty of problems but most had nothing like the centuries of living under Islamic rule that the Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians, Serbians and others had. They did not have to live under the rule of Mongol conquerors like the Russians had and, indeed, for many Eastern Christians, it was hardly the blink of an eye in historical terms from the time they had been persecuted by Muslim rulers to the time that they were persecuted by atheistic Marxist rulers. It does seem to be the case that religious beliefs are never more strongly reinforced than when they are subject to persecution. The British tried to pound the Catholicism out of the Irish for centuries without success only for Ireland to practically abandon it on their own within mere decades of becoming independent of Great Britain. If it is true that, ‘that which does not kill you, only makes you stronger’ then the Eastern Christians have every reason to be quite robust indeed. While Catholics rulers fought each other over where the border would be between France and Germany, whose family would rule which country or how much of Italy they could control, Orthodox Christians were fighting for their very survival, both as Christians and as distinct people.

It cannot escape notice, however, that while Christian monarchs still reign in the west, none do so in the east. However, that is not very significant when one considers how this came about. Catholic France was already on her third republic by the time the monarchy fell in Russia and the Orthodox monarchies in Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia were not overthrown by their own people but conquered and demolished by the invading Soviets. It also says something about the strength of monarchist sentiment in the east that the idea of a limited, ceremonial monarchy always remained rather alien to them. The Czar of Russia remained an absolute monarch practically until he was overthrown and the Romanian, Bulgarian and Yugoslav monarchs all were effectively absolute monarchs as late as just prior to World War II with the “King’s Government” of Boris III in Bulgaria in 1935, the “January 6 Regime” of Alexander I in Yugoslavia in 1929 and the “National Renaissance Front” of Carol II in Romania in 1938. Even the “August 4 Regime” in Greece under George II of 1936 was somewhat similar. The point is that, monarchy in these Orthodox countries not only survived but was quite robust up to the very end.

Whereas today Christian leaders in the west, whether Catholic or Protestant, tend to stick to the usual liberal platitudes and practically never praise monarchy as an institution, indeed as the *only* political institution endorsed by Christianity itself, such Christian leaders can be found in the east. There are not enough of them to be sure and, in some ways, the Ecumenical Patriarch was Pope Frank before Pope Frank was cool, but high ranking Orthodox clerics from Serbia to Georgia have openly called for the restoration of monarchy and spoken of monarchy as the proper form of government for Christian civilization. It would, needless to say, be most significant if such efforts were coming from Russia, the largest and most powerful Orthodox country, but they have been so far hesitant to be so bold, though they did finally join their overseas brethren in recognizing the piety of the last Czar and his family but this is hardly equivalent to calling for a restoration. Pope St John Paul II beatified the last Emperor of Austria but he certainly did not openly call for a restoration of the Habsburgs. Unfortunately.

What has been done is significant though and I think worthy of praise. It would be great if Protestant and Catholic leaders would follow the example of the Orthodox in this regard because the Orthodox leaders who speak out in favor of traditional authority are, as such, the only ones offering a viable and proven alternative to the liberal malaise of modern times. Western Christian leaders are, sadly, not doing this and, indeed, are moving ever further from genuine Christianity in favor of a “social justice gospel”. It is, for this reason, not surprising that while right-wing dissidents in the east rally around the Church, similar dissidents in the west have begun rallying around a sort of neo-paganism. That would be unfortunate enough from a Christian point of view and yet, worse than that, it seems to invariably be a neo-paganism of the Celtic or Germanic variety which has little to offer. As I recently pointed out, if you are of European descent, unless your lineage is Greek or Italian, your pagan ancestors were not much to write home about. They became some of the most advanced and outstanding civilizations the world had ever seen in the Christian era, but as far as non-Christians go, the Egyptians who built the pyramids, the Jews who built the Temple of Solomon or the Babylonians who built the hanging gardens could rightly ask the worshippers of Odin and Thor just what they had ever done that was so impressive.

Yet, Christian leaders can hardly be very critical of people inventing their own religion given what they have been doing for the last few decades, becoming increasingly worse all the time. They offer no clear vision, no sense of identity and increasingly not even any hope for survival. If church leaders are telling people that they must give up their homes, give up their countries, give up a future for their children in order that others, more worthy than they, can have these things, they should not be surprised when people turn away and start looking for a belief system that, to put it bluntly, cares about them and will allow them to live. This is not authentic Christianity. Authentic Christianity says to remember your lineage and your national story, it says not to be “unequally yoked”, it says to remember the rock out of which you were carved and the hole you were dug out of, it says to take care of your own kind before taking care of others, its says we are not all the same, not interchangeable and it says the majority will usually do what is wrong rather than what is right. Authentic Christianity says it is evil for everyone to do what is right in their own eyes and it says to “fear God and honor the emperor”. Christianity is a fundamentally monarchical religion and it cannot be reconciled with liberalism. Many have tried for a very long time and the only result has been that liberalism dominates while so-called Christianity surrenders. Emperor Theodosius of Rome, Vladimir the Great of the Kievan-Russ, Harald Bluetooth of the Danes or Clovis of the Franks would not recognize what passes for Christianity today and, I dare say, would want no part of it for themselves or their peoples.
Altar and Crown, both must be restored.


  1. "Clerics of the Church *of Sweden* said that the Church of Sweden has become too “synonymous with being Swedish”." Seriously, they actually think a church of Sweden being Swedish is bad? What do they want it to be? Muslim arabic instead?

    1. Actually, that's not far fetched. That's a sign of how things are today. You can no longer say anything absurd enough to be ridiculous because the most absurd things are already being called for.

  2. Another great article as usual. Although I must say the lack of mutual support among kings and the Church is depressing.

    Speaking of depressing would it be possible for you to do an article on Vatican 2? As someone still learning, I am highly confused what to think about it.

    1. It is, though I think it is worse now because in the past they could not know how fragile their world was whereas today, obviously, we should all be sticking together because we have seen the depths civilization can fall to.

      As for Vatican II, I certainly have plenty of opinions on the subject but it probably wouldn't do to talk about it here as it is not really a monarchy-specific topic and I'm certainly no expert on that subject. It's a "maybe", not a "likely" but a "maybe".

    2. To understand VII, I would recommend the article "Hermeneutic of Continuity: Pope Benedict XVI's 10 Step Guide to Vatican II" on St. Peter's List. Long story short, Benedict, who participated in VII, reigned in the crazy by pointing out that, as always, the documents had to be read in light of all that had come before it, rather than as a break with the past. The VII documents themselves are relatively easy to read for the layperson and are surprising, considering all that has been attributed to them. Personally, I think that as the Church moves into the 21st century, VII is going to be a huge blessing, as it is fully digested and implemented. (It typically takes a century or more of turmoil for a new council to be fully integrated into the Church.) Beware the 'Spirit of Vatican II.' It is code for, 'This isn't in the documents, but let's imply that it is, so that we can let loose zeitgeist of the 60s and 70s into the Church.'

  3. If I am not mistaken, there is a verse in the Book of Revelation which speaks about "men of God and Kings of the earth" who choose to be in league with the dark prince.

    1. I think so, though there are any number of opinions on how to take the Book of Revelations. To my mind, it may or may not refer to 'actual' kings as it seems to me that, before the word was common, the Almighty was referring to presidents when He spoke of kings chosen by the people and "not by Me".

  4. Problem with male promeginiture was that it put an unreasonable pressure on the royal couple to produce a male heir.It is after all God that decides whether one will have daughters,sons or both.

    1. I don't think so. If people have children as they are naturally inclined to, there will likely be sons or at least nephews on hand and, even barring that, it is not as though male preference means 'males only' (which also used to be the way but which I did not argue for) but rather that males have preference over girls because it is better to maintain one dynastic than switch to another depending on who the princess marries.


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