Interview with Fr. Guillaume Devillers about Christian Politics

Source: FSSPX News

An interview with Fr. Guillaume Devillers to mark the publication of his book: Politique chrétienne, à l’école de saint Thomas d’Aquin (Christian Politics: the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas).

DICI: One hundred years ago the Lettre sur le Sillon (Letter on the Sillon) was published by St. Pius X, where one can read this warning: “there is no true civilisation without a moral civilisation, and no true moral civilisation without the true religion. » In what way could we say that your book Christian Politics follows the line recalled by St. Pius X?

Fr. G. Devillers : Yes, that is one of the fundamental ideas of my study. Without the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ everything crumbles, and our poor humanity goes from misfortune to misfortune. An example among many others is the disastrous experience of communism, with its millions of casualties. One forgets all too easily that the Church has long been almost the only opposition to this monstrosity. But above all I have tried to show how Faith brings light to all human realities, by reviewing the great philosophical and political questions which shake or disconcert our contemporaries. I’m tempted to add furthermore this other quote of St. Pius X : « No true philosophy without Faith ! »

Would that not be to confuse philosophy and theology ?

Not at all ! They are two very different sciences, but that’s no reason to want to separate them. In the same way as body and soul are intimately linked in each man, without making them any less distinct the one from the other. If you separate them, then it is death. Five centuries of naturalism and the thorough work of the « three points » brothers have effected the perfect experimental proof : philosophy and politics separated from religion rapidly deteriorate : « no true civilisation without the true Faith ! » Of course one can study philosophy in its own right, provided however one does not forget that Faith is our real wisdom, and that she must govern and control the other sciences. I leave it to others, more knowledgeable than me, to determine whether this control is essential or accidental, negative or positive, intrinsic or extrinsic, etc.

What is your answer to those whom the alliance of the words “politics” and “Christian” may shock? What do you say to all those who see in today’s politics a rather unchristian activity?

That this expression should shock non-Christians is understandable. What is more surprising is that it should also shock Catholics, and even some good Traditionalist authors, overly influenced by Jacques Maritain. However they cannot deny that Christian revelation contains a large number of natural truths, particularly in the field of politics. It allows us to know these truths with far more certainty than if left to our sole reason. What’s more, the experience of centuries has shown that the constitution of States in Europe was by no means indifferent to the salvation of souls. The Church has therefore elaborated, little by little, a social and political doctrine which ends with the proclamation of the Social Reign of Jesus Christ in the encyclical Quas Primas by Pius XI. The experience of 1000 years of Christian civilisation has proved it: these “Christian politics”, ordained for the salvation of souls as their ultimate goal, are also the most apt to procure the true happiness of people, according to the promise of the Saviour: “Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and its justice, and all the rest shall be added unto you”. If politics today have become “un-Christian”, it is precisely because they are no longer Catholic. Politics have become agnostic. The same can be said for philosophy.

Precisely, your first part deals with philosophy and theology.  Does it not reach just a little too high in its principles? Political men are infatuated with practical effects, is there not a risk that they will find such considerations to be too theoretical?

One can understanding nothing of the current policy of European governments if one does not see that these policies rest on a false philosophy that is agnostic and materialistic, which contradicts the basic principles of the faith and Catholic theology. The most serious disease from which the world presently suffers is that of incredulity and scepticism, as you have often well shown in DICI. No one believes in anything anymore. Disillusioned and without ideals, our contemporaries are dying of depression and are letting themselves be led by their passions. Thus there will not be a political restoration without a philosophical restoration which would remedy this evil by restoring to men a confidence in the power of reason, and by returning to them the love of truth and the good. There can be no philosophical restoration without a religious restoration. All the efforts will be in vain if one does not return resolutely to the whole truth— philosophical and theological, Christian and realistic. It is for that this reason St. Thomas Aquinas proves to be the indispensable Master.

In your fifth part, you envision the economic question which, in the present crisis, is of interest to everyone. Can you give a brief overview of the responses that a Christian politician could bring to the problems of today?

In the economic sciences like policy, the modern world oscillates miserably between anarchy and tyranny, fierce liberalism and excessive planning. I have tried to show here again how faith can bring original solutions to us, solutions which have proven to be reliable in traditional Christian society. Free market competition finds a place there, but without becoming an idol and the State exercises its necessary role there without crushing the intermediate bodies. The respect for private property is guaranteed by the seventh commandment. This way each thing is integrated harmoniously within the whole that is the City, according to the order of justice, for the glory of God, the good of souls, and the peace and blessedness of families. Some will be surprised by the condemnation of interest bearing loans, the well-known, incontrovertible foundation of the modern economy. Ah, yes, the Good Lord condemns usury! And we are well punished for having wanted to taste this forbidden fruit, since we have become, henceforth, the slaves of the power of money, that is to say of Satan and his fiends.

Concerning political society, in the sixth part you write about religious liberty, which Archbishop Lefebvre energetically opposed. In the seventh and last part—devoted to religious society: the Church—it is a question of obedience and the need for resistance.  A superficial reader might believe that you advocate a certain disobedience in the name of liberty of conscience which you denounced in the preceding chapter. How do you answer to this?

There you raise one of the most important issues and, today, the most difficult in civil society as well as in the Church, and even in our spiritual life: that of obedience and its limits. Logically, it was to occupy an important place in this study. Therefore, I endeavoured to determine the general principles which control the virtue of obedience, then to apply them to the present situation, particularly in considering the sedevancantist theses and “Ecclesia Dei.”  No, there is no right of freedom of conscience. It is a revolutionary idea which ruins the order of justice. In contrast, there is a right, which is also a duty, to obey God rather than men. As for religious liberty, one only needs briefly to shine the powerful Thomistic spotlight on it to make it collapse with a crash. Indeed, even its defenders recognize that it is nowhere in Holy Scripture! Nor, of course, in the traditional teaching of the Church.

You recommend in your bibliography, along side of Fr. Emmanuel, Romano Amerio and Jean Daujat, “The Brief Apology for the Church of All Time” by Fr. Calmel. Can you tell us what it is about this work in particular that you find so compelling?

Around 1968, at 14 years old, I happily escaped from the Little Seminary of Versailles which was in full post-councilar decomposition, without, however, understanding much of what occurred and without being able to find out about those who had organized such an upheaval. A few years later, a text of Fr. Roger-Thomas Calmel, O.P. (published in Itinéraires of March 1971) provided a clear and distinct answer: “They waste their lives and lose their souls to build a post-conciliar church, under the sun of Satan” (Prologue). A little later, I also read, with profound joy, The Mysteries of the Kingdom of Grace, by the same author, which gives a beautiful vision of our Christian faith and the supernatural life. That was at the beginning of my military service, on the base at Toulon, upon leaving a MJCF camp in Greece more than animated . . .  These are beautiful memories, which leave a mark on a life!

Is your book reserved for theologians and specialists? What pedagogic advantage do you find in putting forth the teachings of the Church in a manner similar to the method used in the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas, with objections and posed questions, followed by a demonstration, then by a response to the objections that were raised?

This book does not require any preliminary knowledge. Following the example of St. Thomas, I endeavoured to not use any difficult term without explaining it. Undoubtedly it will be necessary for the reader to be attentive and put in some small effort, as in any serious study. But I hope that he will be pleased to have done so, and thus be able to form more precise ideas about a great number of important matters. The next edition will include an alphabetical index to make it possible to quickly find a quotation or a reference. As for me, I will consider myself to have been rather well paid if I am able give to someone or other some knowledge of the Thomistic method and impart the desire to go there to see for themselves. We will never be able to thank Archbishop Lefebvre and the Seminary at Econe enough for having transmitted to us this treasure of divine wisdom that is the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas—and for having given us a liking for it and an understanding of it.