Pius XI 1922-1939


Resistance Against the Abuse of Power *


[From the Encyclical, “Firmissimam constantiam,” to the Mexican Bishops, March 28, 1937]


2278 Surely it must be granted that for the development of the Christian life external aids, which are perceptible to the senses, are necessary, and likewise that the Church, as a society of men, has great need of a just freedom of action for the enjoyment and expansion of life, and that the faithful in civil society possess the right to live according to the dictates of reason and conscience.


Consequently, then, when the natural freedoms of the religious and civil order are impugned, Catholic citizens cannot endure and suffer this Yet the vindication of these rights and freedoms, according to attendant circumstances, can be more or less opportune, more or less strenuous


But you yourselves, Venerable Brothers, have often taught your faithful that the Church, despite serious trouble to herself, is the supporter of peace and order, and condemns all unjust rebellion and violence against constituted powers. Yet it has also been affirmed among you that, if at any time these powers manifestly impugn justice and truth, so as to overturn the foundations of authority, it is not evident why those citizens should be condemned who unite to protect themselves, and to preserve the nation by employing licit and proper means against those who abuse power to overthrow the state.


But if the solution of this question necessarily depends on individual attendant circumstances, nevertheless some principles should be brought to light:


  1. Such vindications have the nature of means, or of relative end, not of ultimate and absolute end.


  1. These vindications, as means, should be licit actions, not evils in themselves.


  1. Since the vindications themselves should be appropriate and proportionate to the end, they are to be applied insofar as they conduce entirely or in part to the proposed end, yet in such a manner that they do not bring greater evils to the community and justice, than the very evils to be reformed.


  1. Now the uses of such means and the full exercise of civil and political rights, since they include also problems of a purely temporal and technical order or of violent defense, do not belong directly to the duty of Catholic Action, although to Catholic Action does belong the duty of instructing Catholic men in the right exercise of their proper rights, and in the defense of the same by just means, according to the demand of the common good.


  1. The clergy and Catholic Action, since, because of the mission of peace and love entrusted to them, they are bound to unite all men “in the bond of peace” [Eph. 4:3], should contribute very much to the prosperity of the nation, both by encouraging the union of citizens and classes, and by supporting all social initiatives which are not at odds with the doctrine and moral law of Christ.

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