The hopelessness of the city of man without God

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H.E. Bishop Athanasius Schneider

The following video presentation was given on 16 May 2019 at the Rome Life Forum on the theme “City of man vs City of God – Global One World Order vs Christendom”, organised by Voice of the Family.

Dear participants of the Rome Life Forum 2019!

In this address I would like to speak about the two cities or communities which exist in the history of creation, that is the City of God and the city of man without or even against God. A city or community without God is by this very fact a city of hopelessness. The first attempt to establish a life and a community or a city without God and against God was that of Satan, the fallen angel, who with the other fallen angels tried to build up a reign opposing God. However, there was no more place for them in heaven and he and his angels were cast down to the earth, as Holy Scripture says (cf. Rev. 12: 8-9). Since then Satan has worked tirelessly in building up upon the earth his city against God.

The most distinctive characteristic of the godless city is the replacement of the authority and will of God with the authority and will of the creature (Satan or man). Ultimately it is the replacement of the kingship of God and concretely of the kingship of Jesus Christ by the kingship of Satan or the kingship of godless or atheistic men. It is the reign of the creaturely “ego” against the reign of the one Divine will of the “we” of the three persons in God, the Most Holy Trinity. The reign or city, that is against and without God, leads by its intrinsic logic to the tyranny of egoism, of narcissism. It leads to a society of the law of the jungle, of cruelty, of mercilessness, to a society with no affections, to a continuous spiritual winter, without spring, without flowers, without summer, without fruits, without true joy and beauty. In such a society there is no warmth of true humanity. A society and a city that is against God and without God is not even capable of a sense of humour, is not capable of mourning. Such a city is against nature, it is the reign of anti-nature, of perversity. These are the consequences when the will of God is replaced by the will of the creature. The spiritual essence of a city of man instead of a City of God could be expressed in these attitudes: “I am I! I will do what I want! I will eliminate everything and everyone who will be an obstacle for my ego and my will!”

The most famous teacher about the City of God and the anti-city of God is St Augustine. The city of man pretends to be totally independent and self-sufficient. St Augustine indicates disobedience to God as the deepest root of life without or against God. He says: “By the precept God gave, He commanded obedience, which is, in a sort, the mother and guardian of all the virtues in the reasonable creature, which was so created that submission is advantageous to it, while the fulfilment of its own will in preference to the Creator’s is destruction. And as this commandment enjoining abstinence from one kind of food in the midst of great abundance of other kinds was so easy to keep — so light a burden to the memory, — and, above all, found no resistance to its observance in lust, which only afterwards sprung up as the penal consequence of sin, the iniquity of violating it was all the greater in proportion to the ease with which it might have been kept.” (Civ. 14, 12)

The city of man contains in its root the impulse to totalitarianism, a global totalitarianism which demands total submission and will not tolerate the reign of the true king of this world and of humankind, the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ. The totalitarian city of man will propagate peace on earth, however, under the condition of the total subjugation of all other opinions to the godless city. Peace in the city of man means total submission; peace in the city of man means the exclusion of the kingship of Jesus Christ, and ultimately the exclusion of the will of God the Creator and Revealer.

The perfect order of the city on earth is given, where God and Christ rule. This demands the subordination of the inferior to the superior in the life of the individual and of the society. This law is realised in an individual’s life, when the body, the material things, are governed by the soul; when the sensuous appetites are governed by reason; and when reason itself is governed by the will of God. In social life, this law is realised when the subordinates obey superiors who govern according to the will of God.

In his historic radio message of Christmas 1942, Pope Pius XII presented a masterly and certain vision of the true society according to the law and will of God. He said:

“Order is the basis of social life among men, among intelligent and responsible beings, that is, who pursue an end appropriate to their nature. It is not a mere extrinsic connection between parts numerically distinct; it tends rather towards an ever more perfect achievement of internal unity, a unity, however, which does not exclude differences grounded in reality and sanctioned by the will of the Creator and by supernatural laws.

“Never has it been so capitally important to understand clearly the true foundations of all social life as in these days when humanity, diseased by the poison of social errors and perversions and tossed by a fever of conflicting desires, doctrines, and aims, has become the unhappy prey of a disorder created by itself, and is experiencing the disruptive effects of false social theories that neglect and contravene the laws of God. Just as darkness with all its oppressive horrors cannot be dispelled by a will-o’-the-wisp but only by the light, so disorder can be banished only by order, and by an order that is not fictitious but real. Only in one way can we hope for salvation, renewal, and true progress, and that is through the return of numerous and influential sections of mankind to a true conception of society, a return which will require an extraordinary grace of God and firm and self-sacrificing resolution on the part of men of good will and far-sighted vision. If such men are brought to perceive and appreciate the fascinating beauty of just social principles, they will be able by their influence to spread among the masses a conviction of the truly Divine and spiritual origin of social life; and they will thus prepare the way for the re-awakening, the development, and the consolidation of those ethical conceptions without which the proudest achievement in the social sphere will be nothing but a Babel; its citizens may have walls in common, but they will speak different and conflicting tongues.

“God is the first cause and ultimate ground of individual and social life. If we would understand social life we must raise our thoughts to God, the First Cause and ultimate ground, to God, the Creator of the first married pair, which is the source from which all society, the family, the nation, and the association of nations takes its rise. Social life is a reflection, however imperfect, of its exemplary cause, God Three in One, Who by the mystery of the Incarnation redeemed and elevated human nature; and therefore, viewed in the light of reason and revelation, the ideal and purpose of society possess an absolute character transcending all the vicissitudes of time; they have also a magnetic power which, far from being deadened and extinguished by disappointment, error, and failure, irresistibly draws noble and pious minds again to devote renewed energy, new understanding, new studies, means, and methods, to the accomplishment of an enterprise which in other times and in other circumstances has been attempted in vain.

“The original and essential purpose of social life is to preserve, develop, and perfect the human person, by facilitating the due fulfilment and realisation of the religious and cultural laws and values which the Creator has assigned to every man and to the human race, both as a whole and in its natural groupings. A social doctrine or structure which denies or neglects the internal and essential link connecting God with all human concerns is an aberration; those who follow such a doctrine build up with one hand but with the other, they are providing the means which sooner or later will undermine and destroy the structure.

“So long as we hold fast to God as the supreme controller of all human concerns, both likenesses and differences find their proper place in the absolute order of being, of values, and consequently also of morality. If that foundation is attacked, however, ominous fissures appear in the structure: the various spheres of culture become dissociated from one another; outlines, boundaries, and values become blurred and uncertain; with the result that the decision between opposing policies comes to depend, according to the prevailing fashion, upon merely external factors, and often even upon blind instinct.

“During the past decades a damaging economic policy subordinated the whole of civil life to the profit motive; today a conception rules which is no less detrimental to society, regarding as it does everything and everybody from the standpoint of utility to the State, to the exclusion of all ethical and religious considerations. In either case, we have a travesty and a misconception pregnant with incalculable consequences for social life, which is never nearer to losing its noblest prerogatives than when under the illusion that it can with impunity repudiate or neglect God, the eternal source of its dignity.

“Legislators have to avoid dangerous theories and practices which are detrimental to the community and to its cohesion, and which owe their origin and wide diffusion to false postulates. Among these is to be counted a juridical positivism which invests purely human laws with a majesty to which they have no title, opening the way to a fatal dissociation of law from morality. All those theories are to be shunned which have this in common that they regard the State, or a group representing it as an absolute and supreme entity exempt from all control and criticism, even when its theoretical and practical postulates result in open and clashing contradiction with essential data of the human and Christian conscience.

“If the evil spirit of materialism gains the mastery, if the rough hands of power and tyranny are suffered to guide events, you will then see daily signs of the disintegration of human fellowship, and love and justice will disappear presaging the catastrophes which must come upon a society that has apostatised from God.” (Radio message, Christmas 1942)

In his Apostolic exhortation, Conflictatio bonorum of 1949 Pope Pius XII provides a realistic picture of the continuous opposition and fight between the city of man and the City of God. Following the teaching of Christ and of all his predecessors, Pius XII rejects realistically the attempt to establish peace with the spirit of the world or with the modern world, which since the French Revolution has rejected God and Christ and which implacably pursues its goal to establish a real city of man. Such peace with the modern world is nothing else than an illusion and naiveté.

The modern world, that rejects the kingship of Christ, the only Saviour of humankind, is by this very fact not able to possess fresh spiritual air. By the very fact that the Church was fulfilling with zeal her missionary work, proclaiming to the world unambiguously the revealed Divine truths and Christ as the only Saviour, her windows were always wide open and all people could see and hear the timeless beauty of Christ’s doctrine and of the Church’s sacred liturgy, admire the attracting example of the moral life of her saints and her daily heroic works of charity towards those in need. One of the apogees when the windows of the Church were most wide open, was precisely the period of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries before the Second Vatican Council because it was an apogee of the Church’s mission among the unbelievers and non-Christians. The period after the Second Vatican Council, a Council which was metaphorically described by John XXIII as an opening of the windows of the Church, became, astonishingly, a time of the lowest missionary zeal in preaching the Gospel to non-Christians and leading them to the supernatural life in Christ.

Pius XII said the following about the modern world:

“The malice of the wicked has reached the limit of an incredible impiety in our days, which in other times was in fact unusual. We feel repugnance in referring to this offence, yet, by reason of Our Apostolic ministry, We can not be silent. That pride, which with disdain neglects the Divine things, as it was the crime of the first man, rebellious against the heavenly command, is the most turbid source of all sins in our days. It is like a contagious pestilence, which is spreading and raging almost all over the world. There has been incited the conspiracy ‘against the Lord and against His Anointed’. (Psalm 2:2) This causes an infinity of evils, because in banishing God from society, man himself will be deprived from his spiritual dignity, man will be a slave of material things and there will be suffocated in its roots all that is virtue, love, hope, beauty of the interior life.

“The enemies of the name of God, with their proper audacity take possession of any means and expedients: books, brochures, newspapers, radio broadcasting, public rallies, sciences and arts, everything is in their power to spread the disdain of things sacred. We believe, that this does not happen without the intervention of the plots of the infernal enemy, whose program consists in hating God and destroying man.

“Atheism is hatred of God, by which our century is contaminated and due to which one has to fear terrible punishments, it being the most grievous sin. However, with the Blood of Christ, contained in the Chalice of the New Covenant, we can wash this heinous crime, destroy its consequences, implore pardon for the offenders and prepare for the Church a splendid triumph.” (Apostolic exhortation Conflictatio bonorum, February 11, 1949)

True liberty, true humanity, true social progress of an individual and of society as a whole is guaranteed only when the will of God the Creator in His commandments and Revelation in Christ is accepted and observed and when Christ’s kingship over society is recognised.

Juan Donoso Cortés, a Catholic Spanish politician presented in his speech to the Spanish Parliament on January 4, 1849, a convincing demonstration of the intrinsic relationship between a society which rejects the Christian faith and tyranny. We quote some of his relevant and prophetic affirmations:

“When the religious thermometer is high, the thermometer of political repression is low; and, when the religious thermometer is low, the political thermometer—political repression—tyranny is high. That is a law of humanity, a law of history. If you want proof, look at the state of the world, look at the state of society in the ages before the Cross. Give me the name of a single people at this period which possessed no slaves and knew no tyrant. It is an incontrovertible and evident fact, which has never been questioned. Liberty, real liberty, the liberty of all and for all, only came into the world with the Savior of the world; that again is an incontrovertible fact, recognised even by the Socialists. Today, the way is prepared for a gigantic, colossal, universal, and immense tyrant; everything is ready for it. Gentlemen, observe that there are no physical or moral resistances anymore—there are no physical resistances anymore because with steamboats and railroads there are no borders any longer; there are no physical resistances anymore because with the electric telegraph there are no distances anymore; and there are no moral resistances because all wills are divided and all patriotisms are dead. Tell me, therefore, if I am right or wrong to be worried about the near future of the world; tell me whether, in dealing with this question, I am not touching upon the real problem. There is only one thing that can avert the catastrophe—one and only one: we shall not avert it by granting more liberty, more guarantees and new constitutions; we shall avert it if all of us, according to our strength, do our utmost to stimulate a healthy reaction—a religious reaction.” (Speech to the Spanish Parliament on January 4, 1849)

The true goal of the present earthly life consists of living already now in union with God’s will. The union with God’s will is the centre of the City of God, and it will be achieved in eternity, as St Augustine explains:

“God, then, the most wise Creator and most just Ordainer of all natures, who placed the human race upon earth as its greatest ornament, imparted to men some good things adapted to this life, to wit, temporal peace, such as we can enjoy in this life from health and safety and human fellowship, and all things needful for the preservation and recovery of this peace, such as the objects which are accommodated to our outward senses, light, night, the air, and waters suitable for us, and everything the body requires to sustain, shelter, heal, or beautify it:  and all under this most equitable condition, that every man who made a good use of these advantages suited to the peace of this mortal condition, should receive ampler and better blessings, namely, the peace of immortality, accompanied by glory and honour in an endless life made fit for the enjoyment of God and of one another in God.” (Civ. 19, 13)