“The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church.” This fundamental principle of modernity was condemned by Pope Bl. Pius IX in his 1864 Syllabus of Errors as incompatible with Catholic teaching, yet today it is almost universally accepted. Is it really possible to separate politics even partially from religion, as secularists and others would have us believe?
The problem is that, as Bl. Pius had already foreseen, the modern world is discovering that it is impossible to have a government that is not founded on a religion. Governments are ordered towards the Common Good which is discerned by a moral standard of Good, which is determined by religion. And Secularism, Humanism, and even Atheism are certainly religions, regardless of the protests of their adherents. If the religion is based in Natural Law then the government has a solid foundation. If not, the religion subverts governmental authority, leading to anarchy or tyranny and the complete disregard of the Common Good. The question then becomes “which religion will you found your state on?”
The purpose of the separation of the Catholic Church from the state was not to protect the Church from the Government. It was not even to protect the government from any religious interference. The goal of it was to establish an “Enlightened” religion in the Church’s place, a religion which by its philosophy subverts its own authority.
Unfortunately, some Catholics fall into the trap of regarding the state as always ready to control or suppress the Church if given the chance. After all, did not the Roman Empire persecuted the early Church, and then fall because of its decadence? This line of reasoning ignores the historical truths that the Empire did not fall and that Church and Empire became almost interdependent, truths hidden under layer upon layer of deliberate misinformation.
The whole mess of modern politics stands in stark contrast to true Catholic government with its acceptance of the natural Hierarchy or “Vertical Order”. The Catholic King or Emperor at his coronation was constantly reminded by an ancient and profoundly symbolic ritual of his duty to God and Church, to whom he owned his authority. The Imperial Mitre-Crown (the symbol of combined Temporal and Spiritual Authority, much like the Papal Triregnum) and the consecration of the Emperor to the Holy Order of the Deaconate served to stress that the Temporal Lord of Christendom was first and foremost the servant of the Lord of Heaven and Earth. Compare this to the almost complete lack of symbolism in modern ceremony. The unity at the heart of the Empire and the Church is something that we must strive to restore in modern times. The alternative is already unfolding before our eyes.