International Relations and Internal Order



Official Translation of Christmas Address broadcast over the Vatican Radio StationHUJ, December 24, 1942 as recorded and transcribed by the New York Times

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 199-203.

AS the Holy Christmas season comes round each year, the message of Jesus, who is light in the midst of darkness, echoes once more from the crib of Bethlehem the ears of Christians and re-echoes in their hearts with in ever new freshness of joy and piety.

It is a message that lights up with heavenly truth a world that is plunged in darkness by fatal errors. It infuses exuberant and trustful joy into mankind, torn by the anxiety of deep and bitter sorrow. It proclaims liberty to the sons of Adam, shackled with the chains of sin and guilt. It promises mercy, love, peace to the countless hosts of those in suffering and tribulation who see their happiness shattered and heir efforts broken in the tempestuous strife and hate of our stormy days.

The watchword: "I have compassion on the multitude," is for us a sacred trust which may not be abused, and it remains strong and intelligent at all times and in all human situations, as it was the distinguishing word of Jesus.

The church would be untrue to herself, would cease to be a mother, if she turned deaf ears to her children's anguished cries that reach her from every class of the human family.

She does not intend to take sides for either of the particular forms in which several peoples or states try to solve the gigantic problem of domestic order or international collaboration, as long as these forms conform to the law of God.

But on the other hand, as the pillar and ground of truth and guardian by the will of God of the mandate of Christ, and of the natural and supernatural order, the church cannot renounce her rights to proclaim to her sons and the whole world the unchanging basic laws, saving them from every perversion or frustration, corruption, false interpretation and error.

This is all the more necessary for the fact that some exact maintenance of these laws, not merely by the efforts of the noble and courageous will, depends in the last analysis on the solidity of any national quality of courage and sacrifice of all peoples.

We know the qualities of courage and sacrifice of those peoples, and we also know their straitened conditions and their sorrows; and in this hour of unspeakable trial and strife we feel ourselves bound to each other and every one of them without exception, by a deep, all-embracing, unmovable affection, and by an immense desire to bring them every solace and help which is in any way at our command.

In our last Christmas message, we expounded the principles which Christian thought suggest, for the establishment of an international order of friendly relations and collaboration such as to conform to the demands of God's law. Today we shall, with the consent, we feel, and the interested attention of all upright men, pause to consider very carefully and with especial impartiality, the fundamental laws of the internal order of States and peoples.

International equilibrium and harmony depend on the internal equilibrium and development of the individual States and in the material, social, and intellectual sphere. A firm and steady peace policy toward other nations is, in fact, impossible without a spirit of peace within the nation which inspires trust.

It is only, then, by striving for an internal peace, a peace in both fields, that people will be freed from the cruel nightmare of war, and the material and psychological causes of further discord and disorder will be diminished and gradually eliminated.

Every society worthy of the name has originated in a desire for peace, and hence aims at attaining peace, that "tranquil living together in order" in which St. Thomas finds the essence of peace.

Two primary elements, then, regulate social life: A living together in order and a living together in tranquillity.

Order, which is fundamental in an association of men (that is, who strive to attain an end appropriate to their nature) is not a merely external linking up of such parts which are numerically distinct.

It is rather, and must be, a tendency and an ever more perfect approach to an internal union; and this does not exclude differences founded in fact and sanctioned by the will of God or by supernatural standards.

The origin and the primary scope of social life is the conservation, development and perfection of the human person, helping him to realize accurately the demand and values of religion and culture set by the Creator to every man and to all mankind, both in the whole and in its natural ramifications.

This social life comprises unity between the people. And not at the same time does it exclude differences which are founded in fact and nature. But when one holds fast to God, the Supreme Controller of all that relates to men, then the similarities, no less than the differences of men, find their allotted place in the fixed order of things, of values and henceforth of morality.

When, however, this foundation is removed there is a dangerous lack of cohesion in the various spheres of culture; the frontier of true values becomes uncertain and shifting even to the point where mere external factors, and often blind instincts come to determine, according to the prevalent fashion of the day, who is to have control of this or that direction.

After the fateful economy of the past decades, during which the lives of all citizens were subordinated to the stimulus of gain, there now succeeds another and no less fateful policy which, while it considers everybody and everything with reference to the State, excludes all thought of ethics or religion. This is a fatal masquerade, a fatal error. It is calculated to bring about incalculable consequences for social life, which is never nearer to losing its noblest prerogatives than when it thinks it can deny or forget with impunity the eternal source of its own dignity—God.

That social life, as God willed it, may attain its scope it needs a juridical order to support it from without, to defend and protect it, the function of this juridical order is not to dominate but to serve, to help the development and increase of society's vitality in the rich multiplicity of its ends, leading all the individual energies to their perfection in peaceful competition and defending them with appropriate and honest means against all that may militate against their full evolution.

Such an order, that it may safeguard the equilibrium, the safety and the harmony of society, has also the power of coercion against those who only by this means can be held within the noble discipline of social life.

But in the just fulfillment of this right an authority which is truly worthy of the name will always be painfully conscious of its responsibility in the sight of the Eternal Judge, before whose tribunal every wrong judgment, and especially every revolt against the order established by God, will receive without fail its sanction and its condemnation.

The juridical order has, besides, the high and difficult scope of insuring harmonious relations both between individuals and between societies, and within these. This scope will be reached if legislators will abstain from following those perilous theories and practices, so harmful to communities and to their spirit of union, which derive their origin and promulgation from false postulates.

Among such postulates we must count the juridical positivism which attributes a deceptive majesty to the setting up of purely human laws, and which leaves the way open for a fateful divorce of law from morality.

There is, besides, the conception which claims for particular nations, or races, or classes the juridical instinct as the final imperative and the norm from which there is no appeal. Finally, there are those various theories which, differing among themselves, and deriving from opposite ideologies, agree in considering the State or a group which represents it, as an absolute and supreme entity, exempt from control and from criticism even when its theoretical and practical postulates result in and offend by their open denial of essential tenets of the human and Christian conscience.

Any one who considers with an open and penetrating mind the vital connection between social order and a genuine juridical order will realize at once the urgent need of a return to a conception of law which is spiritual and ethical, serious and profound, vivified by the warmth of true humanity and illumined by the splendor of the Christian faith which bids us seek in the juridical order an outward refraction of the social order willed by God, a luminous product of the spirit of man which is in turn the image of the spirit of God.

On this organic conception which alone is living, in which the noblest humanity and the most genuine Christian spirit flourish in harmony, there is marked the scripture thought, expounded by the great Aquinas: "Opus justitae pax." "The work of justice shall be peace," a thought which is as applicable to the internal as to the external aspect of social life. It admits of neither contrast nor alternative such as expressed in the disjunction, "love or right," but the fruitful synthesis, "love and right."

The second fundamental element of peace, toward which every human society tends almost instinctively, is tranquillity.

Tranquillity and feverish activity are not opposed, but rather form a well balanced pair for him who is inspired by the beauty and the urgency of the spiritual foundations of society, and of the nobility of its ideals.

To you young people, who are wont to turn your backs on the past, and to rely on the future for your aspirations and your hopes, we address ourselves with ardent love and fatherly anxiety: Enthusiasm and courage do not of themselves suffice, if they be not, as they should be, placed in the service of good and of a spotless cause.

It is vain to agitate, to weary yourselves, to bustle about without ever resting in God and his eternal law.

You must be inspired with the conviction that you are fighting for truth, that you are sacrificing in the cause of truth your own tastes and energies, wishes and sacrifices; that you are fighting for the eternal laws of God, for the dignity of the human person, and for the attainment of its destiny.

When mature men and young men, while remaining always at anchor in the sea of the eternally active tranquillity of God, coordinate their differences of temperament and activity in a genuine Christian spirit, then if the propelling element is joined to the refraining element, the natural differences between the generations will never become dangerous, and will even conduce vigorously to the enforcement of the eternal laws of God in the changing course of times and of conditions of life.

In one field of social life, where for a whole century there was agitation and bitter conflict, there is today a calm, at least on the surface. We speak of the vast and evergrowing world of labor, of the immense army of workers, of breadwinners and dependents.

If we consider the present with its wartime exigencies, as an admitted fact, then this calm may be called a necessary and reasonable demand; but if we look at the present situation in the light of justice, and with reference to a legitimately regulated labor movement, then the tranquillity will remain only apparent, until the scope of such a movement be attained.

Always moved by religious motives, the Church has condemned the various forms of Marxist socialism; and she condemns them today, because it is her permanent right and duty to safeguard men from currents of thought and influences that jeopardize their external salvation. But the Church cannot ignore or overlook the fact that the worker, in his efforts to better his lot, is opposed by a machinery which is not only not in accordance with nature but is at variance with God's plan and with the purpose He had in creating the goods of earth.

In spite of the fact that the ways they followed were and are false and to be condemned, what man, and especially what priest or Christian, could remain deaf to the cries that rise from the depths and call for justice and a spirit of brotherly collaboration in a world ruled by a just God?

Such silence would be culpable and unjustifiable before God, and contrary to the inspired teaching of the Apostle, who, while he inculcates the need of resolution in the fight against error, also knows that we must be full of sympathy for those who err, and open-minded in our understanding of their aspirations, hopes and motives.

When He blessed our first parents, God said: "Increase and multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it." And to the first father of a family he said later: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." The dignity of the human person, then, requires normally as a natural foundation of life the right to the use of the goods of the earth.

To this right corresponds the fundamental obligation to grant private ownership of property, if possible, to all. Positive legislation, regulating private ownership, may change and more or less restrict its use. But if legislation is to play a part in the pacification of the community, it must prevent the worker, who is or will be a father of a family, from being condemned to an economic dependence and slavery which is irreconcilable with his rights as a person.

Whether this slavery arises from the exploitation of private capital or from the power of the State, the result is the same. Indeed, under the pressure of a State which dominates all the controls of the whole field of public and private life, even going into the realm of ideas and beliefs and of conscience, this lack of liberty can have the more serious consequences, as experience shows and proves.

Any one who considers in the light of reason and of faith the foundations and the aims of social life, which we have traced in broad outline, and contemplates them in their purity and moral sublimity, and in their benefits in every sphere of life, cannot but be convinced of the powerful contribution to order and pacification, which efforts, directed toward great ideals and resolved to face difficulties, could present, or better, could restore to a world which is internally unhinged, when once they had thrown down the intellectual and juridical barriers, created by prejudice, errors, indifference, and by a long tradition of secularization of thought, feeling, action which succeeded in detaching and subtracting the earthly city from the light and force of the city of God.

The call of the moment is not lamentation but action; not lamentation over what has been, but reconstruction of what is to arise and must arise for the good of society. It is for the best and most distinguished members of the Christian family, filled with the enthusiasm of crusaders, to unite in the spirit of truth, justice and love to the call: "God wills it"—ready to serve, to sacrifice themselves, like the crusaders of old.

If the issue was then the liberation of the land hallowed by the life of the incarnate word of God, the call today is, if we may so express ourselves, to traverse the sea of errors of our day and to march on to free the Holy Land of the spirit, which is destined to sustain in its foundations the unchangeable norms and laws on which will arise a social construction of solid internal consistency.

With this lofty purpose before us, we turn from the crib of the Prince of Peace, confident that His grace is diffused in all hearts, to you, beloved children, who recognize and adore in Christ your Saviour; we turn to all those who are united with us at least by the bond of faith in God; we turn finally, to all those who would be free of doubt and error, and who desire light and guidance; and we exhort you with suppliant, paternal insistence not only to realize fully the dreadful gravity of this hour, but also to meditate upon the vistas of good and supernatural benefit which it opens up, and to unite and collaborate toward the renewal of society in spirit and truth.

The essential aim of this necessary and holy crusade is that the star of peace, the star of Bethlehem, may shine out again over the whole of mankind in all its brilliant splendor and reassuring consolation as a pledge and augury of a better, more fruitful and happier future. It is true that the road from night to full day will be long; but of decisive importance are the first steps on the path because the first five milestones bear chiseled the following maxims:

1. Dignity and Rights of the Human Person—He who would have the star of peace shine out and stand guard over society should cooperate for his part in giving back to the human person the dignity given to it by God from the very beginning; he should oppose the excessive herding of men, as if they were a mass without a soul; their economic, social, political, intellectual and moral inconsistency; their dearth of solid principles and strong convictions, their surfeit of instinctive sensible excitement and their fickleness.

He should favor, by every lawful means, in every sphere of life, social institutions in which a full personal responsibility is assured and guaranteed both in the earthly and the eternal order of things.

He should uphold respect for and the practical realization of the following fundamental personal rights: The right to maintain and develop one's corporal, intellectual and moral life and especially the right to religious formation and education; the right to the worship of God in private and public and to carry on religious works of charity; the right and principle to marry and to achieve the aim of married life, the right to conjugal and domestic society; the right to work as the indispensable means toward the maintenance of family life; the right to free choice of a state of life, and hence, too, of a priesthood or religious life; the right to the use of material goods, in keeping with his duties and social limitations.

2. Defense of Social Unity and Especially of the Family—He who would have the star of peace shine out and stand over society should reject every form of materialism which sees in the people only a herd of individuals who, divided and without any internal cohesion, are considered as a mass to be lorded over and treated arbitrarily; he should strive to understand society as an intrinsic unity, which has grown up and matured under the guidance of Providence, a unity which, within the bounds assigned to it and according to its own peculiar gifts, tends, with the collaboration of the various classes and professions, toward the eternal and ever new aims of culture and religion.

He should defend the indissolubility of matrimony; he should give to the family, that unique cell of the people, space, light and air so that it may attend to its mission of perpetuating new life, and of educating children in a spirit corresponding to its own true religious convictions, and that it may preserve, fortify and reconstitute, according to its powers, its proper economic, spiritual, moral and juridic unity. He should take care that the material and spiritual advantages of the family be shared by the domestic servants; he should strive to secure for every family a dwelling where a materially and morally healthy family life may be seen in all its vigor and worth; he should take care that the place of work be not so separated from the home as to make the head of the family and educator of the children a virtual stranger to his own household. He should take care, above all, that the bond of trust and mutual help should be reestablished between the family and the public school, that bond which in other times gave such happy results, but which now has been replaced by mistrust where the school, influenced and controlled by the spirit of materialism, corrupts and destroys what the parents have instilled into the minds of the children.

3. Dignity and Prerogatives of Labor—He who would have the star of peace shine out and stand guard over society should give to work the place assigned to it by God from the beginning.

As an indispensable means toward gaining over the world that mastery which God wishes, for His glory, all work has an inherent dignity and at the same time a close connection with the perfection of the person; this is the noble dignity and privilege of work, which is not in any way cheapened by the fatigue and the burden which have to be borne as the effect of original sin, in obedience and submission to the will of God.

Those who are familiar with the great Encyclicals of our predecessors and our own previous messages know well that the Church does not hesitate to draw the practical conclusions which are derived from the moral nobility of work, and to give them all the support of her authority.

These exigencies include, besides a just wage which covers the needs of the worker and his family, the conservation and perfection of a social order which will make possible an assured, even if modest, private property for all classes ofsociety, which will promote higher education for the children of the working class who are especially endowed with intelligence and good-will, will promote the care and the practice of the social spirit in one's immediate neighborhood in the district, the province, the people and the nation, a spirit which by smoothing over friction arising from privilege or class interests, removes from the workers the sense of isolation through the assuring experience of a genuinely human and fraternally Christian solidarity.

The progress and the extent of urgent social reforms depend on the economic possibilities of single nations.

It is only through an intelligent and generous sharing of forces between the strong and the weak that it will be possible to effect a universal pacification in such wise as not to leave behind centers of conflagration and infection from which new disasters may come.

There are evident signs which go to show that in the ferment of all the prejudices and feelings of hate, those inevitable but lamentable offspring of the war psychosis, there is still aflame in the peoples the consciousness of their intimate mutual dependence for good or for evil, nay, that this consciousness is more alive and active.

Is it not true that deep thinkers see ever more clearly in the renunciation of egoism and national isolation the way to general salvation, ready as they are to demand of their peoples a heavy participation in the sacrifices necessary for social well-being in other peoples?

May this Christmas message of ours, addressed to all those who are animated by a good will and a generous heart, encourage and increase the legions of these social crusades in every nation. And may God deign to give to their peaceful cause the victory, of which their noble enterprise is worthy.

4. The Rehabilitation of Juridic Order—He who would have the star of peace shine out and stand guard over social life should collaborate toward a complete rehabilitation of the juridical order. The juridic sense of today is often altered and overturned by the profession and the practice of a positivism and a utilitarianism which are subjected and bound to the service of determined groups, classes and movements whose programs direct and determine the course of legislation and the practices of the courts.

The cure for this situation becomes feasible when we awaken again the consciousness of a juridical order resting on the supreme dominion of God and safeguarded from all human whims; a consciousness of an order which stretches forth its arm in protection or punishment over the unforgettable rights of man and protects them against the attacks of every human power.

From the juridic order, as willed by God, flows man's inalienable right to juridical security, and by this very fact to a definite sphere of rights immune from all arbitrary attack.

The relations of man to man, of the individual to society, to authority, to civil duties, the relations of society and of authority to the individual should be placed on a firm juridic footing and be guarded, when the need arises, by the authority of the courts. This supposes:

Firstly: A tribunal and a judge who take their directions from a clearly formulated and defined right;

Secondly: Clear juridical norms which may not be overturned by unwarranted appeals to a supposed popular sentiment or by merely utilitarian considerations; and

Thirdly: The recognition of the principle that even the State and the functionaries and organizations dependent on it are obliged to repair and to withdraw measures which are harmful to the liberty, property, honor, progress or health of the individuals.

5. Conception of the State According to the Christian

Spirit—He who would have the star of peace shine out and stand guard over human society should cooperate toward the setting up a State conception and practice founded on reasonable discipline, exalted kindliness and a responsible Christian spirit. He should help to restore the State and its power to the service of human society, to the full recognition of the respect due to the human person and his efforts to attain his eternal destiny. He should apply and devote himself to dispelling the errors which aim at deviating the State and its authority from the path of morality, at severing them from the eminently ethical bond which links them to individual and social life, and at making them deny or in practice ignore their essential dependence on the will of the Creator. He should work for the recognition and diffusion of the truth which teaches, even in matters of this world, that the deepest meaning, the ultimate moral basis and the universal validity of "reigning" lies in "serving."

Beloved children, may God grant that while you listen to our voice your heart may be profoundly stirred and moved by the deeply felt seriousness, the loving solicitude, the unremitting insistence with which we drive home these thoughts, which are meant as an appeal to the conscience of the world, and a rallying cry to all those who are ready to ponder and weigh the grandeur of their mission and responsibility by the vastness of this universal disaster.

A great part of mankind, and, let us not shirk from saying it, not a few who call themselves Christians, have to some extent their share in the collective responsibility for the growth of error and for the harm and the lack of moral fiber in the society of today.

What is this world war, with all its attendant circumstances, whether they be remote or proximate causes, its progress and material, legal and moral effects—what is it but the crumbling process, not expected, perhaps, by the thoughtless, but seen and deprecated by those whose gaze penetrated into the realities of a social order which, behind a deceptive exterior or the mask of conventional shibboleths, hid its moral weakness and its unbridled lust for gain and power?

That which in peacetime lay coiled up, broke loose at the outbreak of war in a sad succession of acts at variance with the human and Christian sense.

International agreements to make war less inhuman by confining it to the combatants, to regulate the procedure of occupation and the imprisonment of the conquered, remained in various places a dead letter; and who can see the end of this progressive demoralization of the people; who can wish to watch impotently this disastrous progress?

Should they not rather, over the ruins of a social order which has given such tragic proof of its ineptitude as a factor for the good of the people, gather together the hearts of all those who are magnanimous and upright in the solemn vow not to rest until in all peoples and all nations of the earth a vast legion shall be formed of those handsful of men who, bent on bringing back society to its center of gravity, which is the law of God, aspire to the service of the human person and of his common life ennobled in God?

Mankind owes that vow to the countless dead who lie buried on the field of battle. The sacrifice of their life in the fulfillment of their duty is a holocaust offered for a new and better social order.

Mankind owes that vow to the innumerable sorrowing host of mothers, widows and orphans who have seen the light, the solace and the support of their lives wrenched from them.

Mankind owes that vow to those numberless exiles whom the hurricane of war has torn from their native land and scattered in the land of the stranger, who can make theirown the lament of the prophet: "Our inheritance is turned to aliens: our house to strangers."

Mankind owes that vow to the hundreds of thousands of persons who, without any fault on their part, sometimes only because of their nationality or race, have been consigned to death or to a slow decline.

Mankind owes that vow to the many thousands of non-combatants, women, children, sick and aged, from whom aerial warfare, whose horrors we have from the beginning frequently denounced, has, without discrimination or through inadequate precautions, taken life, goods, health, home, charitable refuge or house of prayer.

Mankind owes that vow to the flood of tears and bitterness, to the accumulation of sorrow and suffering, emanating from the murderous ruin of the dreadful conflict, and crying to heaven to send down the Holy Spirit to liberate the world from the inundation of violence and terror.

And where could you with quieter assurance and trust, and with more efficacious faith, place this vow for the renewal of society than at the feet of the "Desired of All Nations" who lies before us in the crib with all the charm of His sweet humanity as a babe, but also in the dynamic attraction of His incipient mission as Redeemer?

Where could this noble and holy crusade for the cleansing and renewal of society have a more significant consecration or find a more potent inspiration than at Bethlehem, where the new Adam appears in the adorable mystery of the Incarnation?

For it is at His fountains of truth and grace that mankind should find the water of life if it is not to perish in thedesert of this life. "Of His fullness we all have received." His fullness of grace and truth flows as freely today as it has for twenty centuries on the world.

His light can overcome the darkness, the rays of His love can conquer the icy egoism which holds so many back from becoming great and conspicuous in their higher life.

To you, crusader volunteers of a distinguished new society, lift up the new alarm of moral and Christian rebirth, declare war on the darkness which comes from deserting God, on the coldness that comes from strife between brothers.

It is a fight for the human race that is gravely ill and must be healed in the name of conscience ennobled by Christianity.

May our blessing and our paternal good wishes and encouragement go with your generous enterprise, and may they remain with all those who do not shirk hard sacrifices— those weapons which are more potent than any steel to combat the evil from which society suffers.

Over your crusade for a social, human and Christian ideal may there shine out as a consolation and an inspiration the star that stands over the grotto of Bethlehem, the first and the perennial star of the Christian era.

From the sign of it every faithful heart drew, draws and ever will draw strength: "If armies in camp should stand against me, my heart shall not fear."

Where that star shines, there is Christ. "With Him for leader we shall not wander; through Him let us go to Him, that with the Child that is born today we may rejoice forever."