Debemus: In Defense of Fr. Cessario, Bl. Pius IX, and the Catholic Faith

by Frater Asinus


Despite its having taken place in 1858, the so-called “Mortara Affair” has recently caused much debate to erupt in Catholic circles. This recent debate was occasioned by Fr. Romanus Cessario’s book review in First Things, Non Possumus,” which examines a newly released translation of Fr. Edgardo Mortara’s memoirs. Mortara was the child of a Jewish family living in the Papal States in the city of Bologna. As an infant he fell ill, and the doctors were convinced that he was about to die. The Mortara’s maid, Anna “Nina” Morisi, a Catholic woman, baptized Edgardo, without his parents’ knowledge. Some years later, when Edgardo was six years old, officials were made aware of Edgardo’s baptism. Accordingly, they went to the Mortaras to assure that their son Edgardo was educated in accordance with his baptism. The Mortaras refused to allow him to be educated at a local boarding school, so instead, Edgardo was taken and essentially raised under the care of Pius IX himself. In his review, Fr. Cessario defends Pius IX in his handling of the Mortara Affair. Continue reading

Letter on the Needy Immigrant

Pater Edmund,

I agree with much in your “Needy Immigrant” post as far as your analysis of the rise of the nation state and the ideal of Christendom, but I take issue with the tenor and general framework of your piece because I think it fundamentally misapprehends the reason why most Americans (and probably most Europeans) oppose immigration, even when using “what benefits us” sort of language. I fear it will be used as further support for the position that the refusal to accept immigration on any grounds is tantamount to rejecting Christ. Continue reading

Dubium: When Is Any Government “Legitimate”?

Mr. Daniel Lendman published a note recently here on The Josias that proposed that a government is illegitimate insofar as it is not “operating in accord with the laws and rules which properly govern” it. A state that redefines marriage contrary to the natural law does so illegitimately, and makes an illegitimate law. Lendman argues that this has implications for the legitimacy of the government as a whole, and may at some point abrogate citizens’ duty to obey the law. Continue reading

Dubium: Is Integralism Essentially Bound Up with Racism, Nationalism, and Totalitarianism?

Dubium: Is integralism essentially bound up with racism, nationalism, and totalitarianism?

Responsum: Negative.

Before proceeding to the explanation, it is important to identify exactly what is meant by the term “integralism.” An earlier article, “Catholic Integralism and the Social Kingship of Christ,” set forth the core principles of integralism and its inextricable bond to the Catholic Church’s doctrine of the Kingship of Christ. A more detailed and theologically refined explication of “the integralist thesis” is available on Pater Edmund Waldstein’s blog, Sancrucensis. P. Edmund closes his discussion and defense of integralism with the following passage from Thomistic philosopher-theologian Charles De Koninck’s seminal work, On the Primacy of the Common Good:

Continue reading

Dubium: Can the State Limit Non-Catholic Religions?

Dubium: Does your interpretation of Dignitatis Humanæ imply that the state cannot, even as the arm of the Church, limit the public profession of non Catholic religions if the professors are unbaptized (apart, of course, from the considerations of public order)? Put differently, has the church never allowed that exercise to the state?

Responsum: Affirmative. The state cannot, even as arm of the Church, limit the profession of false religions by the unbaptized, except insofar as they disturb public order.

For the most part the Church has been very careful of the distinction between the baptized and the un-baptized. Even anti-Catholic authors have remarked on this. For example, Thomas Hobbes:

From hence it is, that in all Dominions where the Popes Ecclesiasticall power is entirely received, Jewes, Turkes, and Gentiles, are in the Roman Church tolerated in their Religion, as farre forth, as in the exercise and profession thereof they offend not against the civill power: whereas in a Christian, though a stranger, not to be of the Roman religion, is Capitall; because the Pope pretendeth that all Christians are his Subjects. For otherwise it were as much against the law of Nations to persecute a Christian stranger, for professing the Religion of his owne country, as an Infidell… (Leviathan, ch. 44, Of Spirituall Darknesse from Misinterpretation of Scripture; cf. Thomas Pink, “Suarez and Bellarmine on the Church as Coercive Lawgiver,” p. 188).