In 2020 the celebration of the feast of Christ the King was very subdued for Catholics in England, France and elsewhere. Once again, Mass had been banned at the order of the state, and they were left to livestream, read their Missals, or find other solutions.
This feast was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to commemorate Christ’s Kingship not just over the hearts of his Faithful, but rather over all men – and specifically over every state, nation, and society.
This article was originally published at LifeSiteNews as Have church lockdowns uncrowned Christ the King? (17 Nov 2020). Reprinted with permission. All pictures have been added. In some cases the present tense has been put into the past tense, and a call for writing to bishops has been removed. Photo by David Gilbert Wright, of Andrew, a homeless man, at a London Rosary vigil in reparation for church closures.
But in and since Vatican II, Christ has been progressively uncrowned and relieved of his “Social Kingship,” which is all but forgotten today. Few realize that the meaning, and even the date, of this feast was changed. All of this has contributed to what we see now – the subjection of the Church to the civil authority.
Silently accepting restrictions on the Church has uncrowned Christ
One consequence of Christ’s Social Kingship is that, “the Church, founded by Christ as a perfect society, has a natural and inalienable right to perfect freedom and immunity from the power of the state.” But the silence around this teaching – both in the post-conciliar period, and during the Covid crisis – has been deafening.
This silence – in the face of the enormous state interference in closing churches and suppressing the sacraments – is a betrayal of Christ the King by nearly all of those who claim to lead us as pastors and bishops.
It is one thing to obey an unjust law. It is another thing to positively consent to it. We are not yet living in a communist state, where expressing dissent can lead to death or punishment.
It is one thing for the Church to suspend public worship. It is another thing for the state to do so. It is yet another thing for the Church to meet this interference with silence, or with protests that are so inadequate as to be, in fact, concessions.
Take, for example, the various official statements of the senior clergy in England and Wales. Their requests were worse than silence, as they accepted principles that contradict the Kingship of Christ.
In an official letter, the two most senior representatives of the Bishops’ conference asked the Government to provide “evidence that justifies the cessation of acts of public worship”: but in asking for this evidence without protest, they were implicitly accepting that the Church is subject to the state.
In another letter, written with the leaders of other religions, they again claimed that the public worship (of all religions) is essential and asked (rather than required) that it be allowed to continue, as it was:
- “Covid-19 secure;
- “Essential to sustain our [charitable] service;
- “Necessary for social cohesion and connectedness;
- “Important for the mental health of our nation; and
- “An essential sign of hope […] especially for Black Asian and Minority Ethnic people.”
Perhaps some of this is true. And one can understand that the state may not be particularly convinced (at this stage) by a declaration of the sovereignty of Christ and the immunity of his Church. But it is as if people think that as God is so far above us, that we do not need to be concerned with honouring and protecting his rights.
But as Leo XIII said in his encyclical Tametsi: “The world has heard enough of the so-called ‘rights of man.’ Let it hear something of the rights of God.” It is the silence about the rights of God that represents a betrayal of Christ the King. Let at least we faithful be told of the rights of God.
In another statement, the same two said that it is important that we “observe these Regulations [sic], which have the force of law” – as if a civil authority has the power to suppress the worship of the Catholic Church for weeks on end.
They said that “these Regulations [sic] are not an attack on religious belief” – on the contrary, they attack the religious belief of the Catholic Church, namely that Christ is King and that the Church is immune to state interference.
They said that the regulations do, however, “demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of the essential contribution [to society’s mental health] made by faith communities” – as if the Church of Christ can be grouped together with other “faith communities,” and as if the purpose of the Church and the Holy Sacrifice are our wellbeing.
But what about the rights of God? One bishop, seen as a conservative and sympathetic to traditional Catholicism, also wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, asking that services be allowed to continue. While his letter included some Catholic elements, it was ultimately also a request, based on Man’s need for spiritual things and to be nourished by God.
But what about the rights of God? Another, seen as even more conservative, gave a statement to his own flock talking of “the vital role which public worship has for the well-being of hundreds of thousands of people in [this] Diocese.” He also emphasised how public worship is the source of “support for the most vulnerable and countless charitable activities in the service of the common good.” He also did not neglect to group the Holy Sacrifice of Christ the King “together with faith communities across the nation”.
But what about the rights of God? This was a statement to his own flock, not to the Government: there is no need to be coy about Christ’s rights as King. While these restrictions do indeed constitute an ongoing persecution of the Church, again, it is not yet like that of the Communists. Bishops can still speak out strongly and affirm the rights of God, at least to their own subjects. Why do they not do so?
Silence, implying consent, has uncrowned Him
Each bishop that has been silent on the rights of Christ the King has implicitly consented to their government’s pretended right to close Churches, suppress the Mass, forbid Baptism and the sacraments, and impose restrictions such as registers, masks, distancing, choir sizes, and so on.
Again: one can understand pastors using naturalistic arguments to convince the secular state – but not towards their Catholic flocks, who need to be taught the truth about Christ’s reign. Even if he uses such arguments, a Bishop must nonetheless publicly affirm – and the Faithful need to hear – these three truths:
- That Christ is King;
- That his Church is immune from state interference; and
- That such restrictions on public worship are illegitimate in principle, even if accepted under duress.
Even the return of the Mass and the lifting of restrictions has not remedied these omissions on the part of those standing as our pastors. These omissions required of each one a public profession of the Social Kingship of Christ and a promise that future restrictions, which are illegitimate in principle, can only be accepted under duress.
The subjection of the Church to the state has uncrowned Him
Accepting these restrictions without protesting the rights of Christ represents a subjection of Christ and his Church to the civil authority. But as seen above, Pius XI teaches that the Church “has a natural and inalienable right to perfect freedom and immunity from the power of the state,” and that the she “cannot be subject to any external power” in teaching, ruling and sanctifying.
He teaches that “not only private individuals but also rulers and princes are bound to give public honour and obedience to Christ,” which is manifested most perfectly, of course, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The pope teaches that, at the Last Judgment, “Christ, who has been cast out of public life, despised, neglected and ignored, will most severely avenge these insults.”
Looking through history, we see that St. Thomas Becket was martyred for his defence of the liberty of the Church against the civil power. We see that Pope Pius IX condemned the idea that “the civil authority may interfere in matters relating to religion, morality and spiritual government.” We see that English law recognized the liberty of the Church, making it the first principle in Magna Carta.
When the teaching of Christ’s Kingship over Societies is abandoned, it should not be surprising that the State encroaches into the power vacuum. If bishops do not defend the immunity and liberty of the Church, we cannot be surprised to find that the state subjects her to its power, interferes with her life and even suppresses her altogether.
Quite simply, Christ is not allowed to reign if his Church is subject to the state. Recently, English parliamentarian Jacob Rees-Mogg declared that the spiritual sword is of higher authority than the temporal sword: but his actions in voting for the suppression of the Mass and the imposition of fines for those attending it subjects the Church to the State. How can he think to convince anyone of the true principle, when he had voted against it just a few days before?
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Why was the feast established in 1925?
When Quas Primas was promulgated 95 years ago, the world still remembered the First World War, and formerly Catholic countries were continuing their decline into secularism. The Mexican revolutionary government was consolidating its control and persecuting the Church. The Weimar Republic was allowing all sorts of immorality and decadence. And only a few years before, the Masonic government in Portugal had been persecuting the three children of Fatima.
Looking around him, the Pope taught that these evils were due to men having “thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives,” both in private affairs and in politics. He instituted the feast “to minister to the need of the present day, and at the same time provide an excellent remedy for the plague which now infects society.” What was this plague? “Anti-clericalism, its errors and impious activities,” manifested in the following progression, in different ways and at different rates:
- The rejection of Christ’s Kingship itself – “the empire of Christ over all nations”;
- The rejection of the liberty of the Church – “the right which the Church has from Christ himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation”;
- The imposition of religious liberty and indifferentism – namely, the process by which “the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them”;
- The subjection of the Church to “the power of the state [leaving her] tolerated more or less at the whim of princes and rulers”;
- The promotion of naturalism – “a natural religion consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart”; leading ultimately to
- The atheistic states, which hold that they “could dispense with God, and that their religion should consist in impiety and the neglect of God.”
Through this feast and encyclical, Pius XI taught that the only hope for lasting peace was that both individuals and states “submit to the rule of our Saviour.” This teaching has been neglected and forgotten: and as Pius XI predicted, the Church has progressively found herself stripped of her immunity, placed on the level as false creeds by claiming religious liberty, and has ultimately arrived where we are now: her mission, life, and liturgy are subjected to the state, and tolerated at the whim of our rulers.
The only hope is a full reversal: the recognition of Christ as King. This will not happen without the leadership of the Church. But he must reign, and so there must be a reversal.
In what does the Kingship of Christ consist?
Christ is King both by his divine nature, and by the price of his precious blood. By these two “titles,” he has the right to be recognized as King. He is King of each individual, and therefore of each gathering of individuals, because what applies to each part will also apply to the whole. So Christ is King over our families, organizations, and most especially our nations. Nations, which are gatherings of families and individuals, have a duty to recognise his sovereignty, and he has a right to their homage. This – and not his reign over our hearts, which is obvious to all – is the true point of this feast and teaching.
As King over the nation, Christ’s “kingly dignity demands that the State should take account of the commandments of God and of Christian principles, both in making laws, and in administering justice, and also in […] education.” As another perfect society, the state is sovereign in its proper sphere – but is obliged by its own nature to operate within the bounds of Christ’s Kingship.
This is not a medieval teaching fitted only for a Catholic confessional state. Although the teaching dates from the beginning of the Church, the feast and its teaching were made for a world rebelling against Christ the King. The pope taught that the annual and universal observation of this feast would draw attention to and remedy the evils of rebellion against Christ:
While nations insult the beloved name of our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we must all the more loudly proclaim his kingly dignity and power, all the more universally affirm his rights.
The change of the feast has uncrowned Him
To this end, he decreed that the feast be celebrated on the last Sunday of October. But Pius XI’s feast and the post-Vatican II feast bear a very different emphasis.
The original readings speak of Christ ruling now as the “head of the body, the Church,” and “that in all things he may have the first place” – and that he should reconcile all things to God, “whether on the earth or in the heavens.” The Gospel sees our Lord, crowned with thorns, affirming his Kingship to Pontius Pilate, and declaring that he was born for this Kingship. He is King, now.
By contrast, the new readings refer to our Lord seeking out his sheep in the future, the Resurrection on the last day, and the General Judgment. The feast’s new date on the last Sunday of the year (for centuries, associated with the end of the world) confirms this: our Lord has gone from being King, now, in all of his saints and the elect, to being a King at the end of time.
The original and the new readings in Matins both deal with the reign of Christ over our hearts. But the original readings, based on Quas Primas, teach that this rule means that he therefore has authority also over civil affairs. This is gone from the reformed breviary, leaving our Lord only to reign privately over our hearts.
The real smoking gun appears in the verses cut out of the hymns in the Divine Office, which affirm the rights of Christ the King in the social order. The verses that speak most clearly of this social kingship have all been removed:
2. The wicked mob screams out,
“We don’t want Christ as King,”
While we, with shouts of joy, hail
Thee as the world’s supreme king.
6. May the rulers of the world publicly
Honour and extol thee;
May teachers and judges reverence thee;
May the laws express thine order and the arts reflect thy beauty.
7. May kings find renown in their submission
And dedication to thee.
Bring under thy gentle rule our
Country and our homes.
The implication is clear: we are abdicating Christ’s claims over civil society.
But we cannot call Christ our King if we interfere with the extent of his rights over us. This would make him a figurehead King and place the true sovereignty elsewhere. In our case today, he has been subjected to the secular state.
They truly have uncrowned Him
So however one sanctifies the last Sundays of October and November, spare a thought for those who were or are prevented from being present at the Holy Sacrifice by the intervention of the state. It is the consistent failure to profess Christ’s Kingship over society that has led us to a civil suppression of the Mass and to bishops that simply accept this subjection.
As said above, not even the lifting of restrictions has remedied this injustice done to our Lord. The only fitting reparation to each bishop’s silence is a public profession of those three truths:
- That Christ is King;
- That his Church is immune from state interference; and
- That such restrictions on public worship are illegitimate in principle, even if accepted under duress.
We cannot accept an uncrowning of our King. And neither will our King himself accept it. This is a modest request of a men who have accepted the responsibility of governing dioceses as bishops – a mere declaration of fact, not even a call for public disobedience.
But the silence since then speaks volumes.
Nonetheless, Christ must – and will – reign.
This article was originally published at LifeSiteNews as Have church lockdowns uncrowned Christ the King? (17 Nov 2020). Reprinted with permission. All pictures have been added. In some cases the present tense has been put into the past tense, and a call for writing to bishops has been removed.
Scroll down for footnotes, sometimes full of hidden gems.
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 Pius XI, Encylical Quas Primas, 1925, 31. Available at https://www.papalencyclicals.net/pius11/p11prima.htm. Henceforth QP.
 Vincent Nichols and Malcolm McMahon, Statement on new ‘national lockdown’ in England, 31 October 2020. Available at https://www.cbcew.org.uk/statement-from-the-president-and-the-vice-president-of-the-conference-on-the-prime-ministers-statement/
 QP 24
 Footnote 2
 Justin Welby, Vincent Nichols et al; Letter to the Prime Minister from Faith Leaders, 3 November 2021. Available at https://www.cbcew.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2020/11/faith-leaders-letter-pm-places-worship-covid-secure-031120.pdf
 Leo XIII, Encyclica Tametsi, 1900, 13. Available at https://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13tamet.htm
 Vincent Nichols and Malcolm McMahon, Statement on the Four-Week National Lockdown in England and a Call to Prayer, 4November 2020. Available at https://www.cbcew.org.uk/statement-on-the-four-week-national-lockdown-and-a-call-to-prayer/
 Letter to the Prime Minister, 1 November 2020. Available at https://6420d1cc-a7ba-4039-90dd-e961eab088ca.filesusr.com/ugd/4e1d59_2341f1938df14323841e0a3694744ef1.pdf
 Second lockdown: A statement from the Rt Rev. Mark Davies, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, 1 November. Available at: https://icksp.org.uk/shrewsbury/second-lockdown-a-statement-from-the-rt-rev-mark-davies-the-bishop-of-shrewsbury/
 QP 31
 QP 32
 Syllabus of Errors, 1864, 44. Available at https://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius09/p9syll.htm
 Magna Carta 1297, Section I. Available at https://www.legislation.gov.uk/aep/Edw1cc1929/25/9/section/I
 Various sources contained in Paul Smeaton, Jacob Rees-Mogg has betrayed the Church and his fellow Catholics by voting to suppress the Mass, 12 November 2020. Available at https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/jacob-rees-mogg-has-betrayed-the-church-and-his-fellow-catholics-by-voting-to-suppress-the-mass
 QP 24
 QP 24
 QP 1
 “Further, there would be danger lest the primary and essential cell of society, the family, with its well-being and its growth, should come to be considered from the narrow standpoint of national power, and lest it be forgotten that man and the family are by nature anterior to the State, and that the Creator has given to both of them powers and rights and has assigned them a mission and a charge that correspond to undeniable natural requirements.” Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Summi pontificatus 1939, 61. Available at https://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_20101939_summi-pontificatus.html
 QP 32
 QP 25
 Vespers hymn of the feast of Christ the King, quoted in Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Religious Liberty Questioned, Angelus Press, Kansas City MO, 2000, pp 145-6.