The Benedict Option for Catholics -- Part II

St. Peter's Basilica
Vatican City State, Rome 

This is Part II in a series of articles I am writing on the Benedict Option for Catholics. See The Benedict Option for Catholics -- Part I for context.

When Jesus Christ came 2,000 years ago, he made it crystal clear that the Kingdom of God was at hand. What exactly did he mean by this? It's really very simple actually. The Kingdom of God is not some far off thing, as our Evangelical brethren often mistakenly think it is. Rather it had come upon the arrival of the King, and his name is Jesus of Nazareth.

When Jesus of Nazareth arrived on the scene in around AD 30, the King was here, and with the King came his Kingdom. His Kingdom was, and is, literally everyone who followed him. Throughout his ministry he compared the Kingdom of God to many things, but the mustard seed seems most appropriate. It started off very small, but then grew into something very large. The Church he established was this Kingdom of God, but we should not be fooled into thinking that it is the Kingdom in it's fullness. Rather, the Church (as we know it today) is just the Kingdom in part, or a deposit of the Kingdom, because the Kingdom will not come in its fullness until the King (Jesus of Nazareth) returns at the end of time.

However, it seems to me that when many of us think of the Church we almost never think of it as the Kingdom. We tend to think of the Church in more abstract ways, and in my opinion, this kind of thinking is toxic to our Christian growth and development. Jesus told us his Kingdom transcended international borders, and that it would be manifest wherever his followers were. The Kingdom of God does not reign from the outside, or from the top down. Rather, it reigns from the inside out. It enters this world through the hearts and minds of the King's subjects (Christians). It acquires land and territory wherever it's followers dwell. It subdues earthly principalities (monarchies, republics, dictatorships) whenever its leaders are subdued to Christ the King, and enact laws accordingly. The Kingdom of God, however, is not limited to these nations, nor to their governments or institutions. Rather, the Kingdom of God continues to reign with, or without, these things. It reigns in the hearts and minds of Christians. When this reign is extended to the civil realm, that's just an added bonus, a bonus not enjoyed by every generation.

The governance of the Kingdom of God is not through man-made authorities. Regional kings, queens, republics and dictators would never suffice as the representative (vicar) of King Jesus. Rather, King Jesus set up his own royal court. This is recorded in the gospels...
I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. -- Matthew 16:18-19
The "Kingdom of God" and the "Kingdom of Heaven" are the same thing. "Keys" are an Old Testament symbol of authority (Isaiah 22:22). They were given only to the king's prime minister. So Peter was selected by King Jesus to be his prime minister, but more than that, a key denotes succession. In other words, keys can be passed down from one generation to the next, and so likewise the prime ministerial duty of Peter would be passed down too. It's not uncommon for mortal kings (and queens) to outlive their prime ministers. This is because, in ancient times, prime ministers were usually selected from older (and presumably wiser) men, so as to give the king sound advice, and so the king might benefit from the wisdom of an older man. In modern times, prime ministers are usually elected by the royal subjects through democratic processes. When a prime ministers term is done, the people elect a replacement, but the king (or queen) remains. For example; Queen Elizabeth II, during the time of her reign, has had no less than 13 prime ministers under her, and that's just in the U.K. When you count the other nations that name her has sovereign, she has had over 160! So likewise, because King Jesus lives forever, he has had 266 prime ministers, starting with St. Peter and currently at Pope Francis. Beneath the prime ministers, a king usually has other ministers serving in his royal court. Under King Jesus these were originally the apostles of the Church. Today we call these the cardinals of the Catholic Church. Finally, a king must have sheriffs to extend the reaches of his realm beyond his castle and immediate city. In the Catholic Church, the Kingdom of God, these are the Archbishops and bishops. Each sheriff would have deputies to assist him in the governance of a region. In the Kingdom of God, these deputies are the priests and deacons, who assist the bishops in the governance of their dioceses, ordinariates, prelatures, or other juridic structures within the Catholic Church.

It is this understanding of the Church, as the Kingdom, that many of us have lost today, which is to our own detriment. However, it's not entirely our fault.

In recent centuries, the civil governments and institutions that were once Christian, and subdued by the Kingdom of God (The Catholic Church), turned away from their Christian character, and adopted instead various other forms of character.

The first was the characteristic of Protestantism in the 16th century, starting in Northern Europe (Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia and Great Britain). This was a morphed type of Christian governance that rejected Christ designated Prime Minister -- the Pope. In turn, Christ's appointed Prime Minister (The Pope) was replaced by their own civil governments, acting in the place of the Pope. This in turn allowed the teaching of the Church to be morphed as well, into something entirely different than what Christ the King originally established with the Catholic Church.

The second was the characteristic of Secularism in the 18th century, started in the United States and France. This form of governance attempted to separate religion from the state entirely, and replace it with a humanist view of mankind and the world. This type of governance spread quickly in the 19th and 20th centuries, until almost the entire Western world is now engulfed in it by the early 21st century. Also by the early 21st century, a new militant brand of Secularism took root in the West, divorcing Christian religion from all influence over public morality, and marginalising Christians in society.

The third was the characteristic of Communism in the 20th century, started in Russia. This quickly spread into China and the Orient, as well as into Eastern Europe and Latin America. This form of governance attempted to destroy all religious influence over society in total. Unlike Secularism which has no creed at all, Communism pushed the creed of militant atheism. Under Communism the Church was actively and openly persecuted, and the state was considered "god."

As civil authorities adopted one of these three characteristics, it became very easy for Christians to adopt a view of the Church that is abstract and nebulous. This is especially the case in Protestant and Secular states, were multiple Christian denominations abound. Unless you know history, it becomes very difficult to distinguish where real Christian authority resides.

As the 21st century increases, and Secular governments continue to marginalise Christians, espousing a type of moral relativism that is completely foreign to the Christian mind, it is high time we begin thinking of the Church as the Kingdom again. We must understand first that it is not the Kingdom of God in its fullness, but even as just a deposit of the Kingdom of God, it nevertheless exerts absolute sovereign authority over the King's royal subjects -- Christians.

Catholic Christians are particularly fortunate among all Christians, because for us, the authority structure of the Kingdom, established by Christ the King himself, remains totally intact, wherein it is easy to identify and submit. So we Catholic Christians need to think of ourselves as royal subjects first and foremost. We are royal subjects of King Jesus. We are his Kingdom. Which means our PRIMARY GOVERNMENT is Jesus Christ our Sovereign. We are citizens of our respective countries secondly. Our citizenship in our respective countries always comes secondary to being royal subjects of his Highness Jesus Christ, King of kings.

Now our poor Protestant brethren can cling to this truth too, as well they should, but they are left to try to figure out things themselves, as to how the chain of authority works between Christ the King and their own personal lives. Thankfully, we Catholics have our King's sacred authority clearly laid out for us. It begins with Christ's Prime Minister -- the Pope -- who acts as the King's vicar (representative) just like any royal prime minister of any country speaks on behalf of the monarchy for that nation. So the Pope acts as Christ's Prime Minister for this Kingdom on Earth. It's not the fullness of the Kingdom of God, it is rather just a deposit, but that deposit bears with it infinitely more authority than any man-made civil government on Earth.

We need to think of ourselves as royal subjects of Christ the King first, and thus subjects of his deposit of the Kingdom of God (The Catholic Church). This must be our primary and absolute authority. When you think of following the laws, the first thing you should think about as a Catholic is following God's laws through the Church. We are part of a Kingdom, and Jesus is our King, therefore, we must follow the laws our King has given us through his prime minister, royal court and sheriffs. That being the Pope, cardinals and bishops. Only AFTER THAT should we consider the civil laws of the land.

So with that, what is a short summary of the Holy Laws of Christ the King, and his Kingdom of God...

The Two Great Commandments

  1. Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.
  2. Love your neighbour as yourself.
These two great commandments summarise everything. Follow them meticulously, and everything else will just come along naturally. However, if you need some more details, our King (through his Kingdom Church) is quick to offer them...

The Ten Commandments

  1. Worship only God (Yahweh) the Holy Trinity. -- No false gods or idols allowed.
  2. Honour God's Name (Yahweh, Jesus & Emmanuel). -- Do not use them in vain or in disrespectful ways.
  3. Keep Holy the Sabbath Day. -- This was reinterpreted as Sunday by the first Apostles of Christ the King, who asserted their Christ-given authority over the Old Mosaic Law, because Christ is greater than Moses.
  4. Honour your father and mother. -- This means means to obey them while you're young, and then later care for them in their old age.
  5. You shall not murder. -- meaning you can't kill innocent people who aren't trying to kill you.
  6. You shall not commit adultery. -- This commandment forbids all sex (fornication, prostitution, pornography, homosexuality, masturbation, rape, incest, paedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia, etc., etc., etc.) outside of the natural marital act between one man and one woman -- a husband and his wife.
  7. You shall not steal. -- This includes theft, cheating people, depriving workers of a just wage, depriving employers of a full days work, fraud, tax evasion, etc.
  8. You shall not lie. -- Principally this is regarding a lie that hurts somebody, or deceives someone for personal gain, though all lies should be avoided as much as possible.
  9. You shall not covet your neighbour's wife. -- In other words, don't think about immoral sex of any type. Don't entertain the thought. Don't fantasise about it. Dismiss all such temptation as mere temptation and move on. (Temptation itself is not a sin. It only becomes sin when you entertain the temptation with intentional fantasies.)
  10. You shall not covet your neighbour's goods. -- In other words, don't think about feelings of envy, greed, and jealousy in reaction to what other people have.

    The Five Precepts of the Church

    1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labour. We must "sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord" (Sunday), as well as the principal feast days, known as Catholic holy days of obligation. This requires attending Mass, "and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days."
    2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year. We must prepare for the Eucharist by means of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). This sacrament “continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.”
    3. You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season. This "guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and centre of the Christian liturgy."
    4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church. "The fourth precept ensures the times of ascetics and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart."
    5. You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church. "The fifth precept means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability."

      Code of Canon Law


      The Code of Canon Law is the official law of the Church that governs the administration of the sacraments, the hierarchy of the Church, and the rights of the Catholic Faithful. People who are experts in this law are called canonists. It's not the responsibility of regular lay people to know all of these laws, or how they apply. This is the job of canonists, bishops and priests. A good rule of thumb for laypeople is to simply talk to your priest whenever you have questions about such things as Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist and Matrimony (marriage), etc.

      Probably the biggest problem most Catholics have today is they don't consult the proper Church authorities on the subject of marriage. Catholics cannot marry people without talking to a priest first. This is because permission to marry must be obtained from the bishop. This is especially the case when marrying non-Catholics. Catholics cannot lawfully marry outside of the Church without the local bishop's permission. Any marriage contracted by a Catholic outside of the Church, without permission from the bishop, the Church automatically regards such marriage null and void. This is a real problem among Catholics in the West. And it's a big reason why so many Catholics deal with divorce and irregular marriages today. Of course, this canon law does not apply to non-Catholics, but Catholics are under the authority of the Church (the Kingdom of God on earth), therefore they must keep this law. You can read The Code of Canon Law by clicking here, but like I said, your local priest is the best person to go to with questions and concerns. It's not designed for common lay reading.

      Civil Law


      Catholic Christians are under the Kingdom first, and are obliged to obey the laws of the King (Jesus Christ) as administered by his vicars (pope, bishops and priests). This is his royal court, administrators and deputies. Beyond that, however, God has permitted civil authority to govern everyone outside his Church, and Catholics are obliged to obey the laws of civil authority, only insofar as they do not contradict the laws of King Jesus as administered in his Kingdom (The Catholic Church). When it comes to Catholics, we really do live in one jurisdiction overlapping another. The laws of the Kingdom come first, and they supersede the laws of the civil state. We must obey civil laws, but we must disobey or disregard them when they contradict the laws of the King and his Kingdom Church.

      For example; Sharia Law (Islamic Law) opposes the laws of the King and his Kingdom in the very worship of God. Christians are commanded to evangelise, but sharia says they can't. Therefore Christians must ignore this civil law of sharia, even upon pain of death. For a law that contradicts God's law is no law at all.

      Another example; divorce is permitted by the state under both sharia and Western secular governments. Under these laws, it is permissible for divorced persons to remarry. This violates the laws of the King and his Kingdom which forbids divorce. Therefore these divorce laws must be ignored. Catholics are not permitted to remarry after civil divorce unless the Church declares (by marriage tribunal) that the divorced marriage is "null," meaning it never existed to begin with.

      Another example; civil law in many Western states permits persons of the same-sex to marry one another. This violates the laws of the King and his Kingdom. Therefore such civil laws must be ignored, and the Church must regard such "marriages" as automatically null and void. 

      Another example; abortion is permitted as "legal" in many Western states. This violates the laws of the King and the Kingdom. Therefore such laws must be ignored and abortion must be regarded by Catholics as the murder of innocent children, and coerced physical assault on their mothers. Catholics who participate in such acts automatically incur the penalty of excommunication from the Catholic Church.

      Another example; euthanasia is permitted as "legal" in a growing number of Western states. This violates the laws of the King and the Kingdom. Therefore such laws must be ignored and euthanasia must be regarded by Catholics as murder of the innocent. Catholics who participate in such acts automatically incur the penalty of excommunication from the Catholic Church. 

      Lesser examples include the following...

      • Wearing immodest clothing in public is considered perfectly legal in the West, especially on beaches and in public pools, but this violates the King's laws of modesty. 
      • Viewing pornography is considered perfectly legal in the West, but this violates the King's laws against adultery, and coveting you're neighbours wife, even if you're single. 
      • Artificial contraception is perfectly legal in Western nations, but it is forbidden by the laws of the King. 

      Catholics would be morally obligated to resist all pressures by society, corporations and the state to impose these things upon us. The point here is that we Catholics are not primarily under civil authority. The civil authority of our nation is a lesser authority. It falls beneath the Kingdom of God, which is our primary authority that supersedes all others. Now to be sure, King Jesus did command us to obey civil authorities only insofar as they do not try to subvert his authority. So when the government says "pay your taxes," King Jesus likewise says, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's but to God what is God's." In other words, "Pay your taxes, but give your allegiance to God." Likewise, the government of the Kingdom (the hierarchy of the Church) informs us to obey our governments in all things that don't encroach upon the authority of the Church. So if the civil laws post a speed limit, we obey that speed limit. If they demand a license, we get a license. If they demand fees, regulations, honours, we give them fees, and honours, while obeying their regulations. Again, we do all of this, so long as it never encroaches upon the authority of Christ the King, and the governance of his Kingdom Church.

      What about civil duties, like jury duty? Again, we are obliged to do these things, so long as they don't encroach upon the authority of Christ the King and the governance of his Kingdom Church. So for example; if we are called to jury duty then we serve accordingly, so long as we are not asked to convict somebody for following the laws of God. Case in point; suppose somebody is on trial for refusing some stupid civil law that requires a parents to put their daughters on artificial birth control at the age of 14. (I'm not saying such a law exists, but considering the direction our society is going, it may not be a long way off.) The state may consider this in the interest of public health, and refusal to comply a matter of civil disobedience, even child abuse! If a Catholic juror ever found his/her self in such a trial, he/she would be morally obligated to acquit the parents regardless of what the civil law said. The laws of the King and His Kingdom take precedence.

      What about military service? Again, we Catholics are free to serve voluntarily, and are obliged to comply with the draft, so long as we are never ordered to make war on the Christ the King or his Kingdom Church. For example; if Catholic soldiers were ordered by their superior officer to storm a cathedral, arrest the bishop and his priests, we would me morally obligated to resist (disobey) such orders, even at the risk of court marshal, for we cannot make war against our primary government. The bishop and priests are our King's governors.

      What about the civil duty of voting? How are we to vote as Catholics? The Catholic Church has given several directives for good Catholic voting, much of which has been confusing, vague and sometimes inconsistent. Still, there is a very simple principle any Catholic could follow and be totally in compliance with our duties to Christ the King first. All we need do is vote for candidates who are the least threat to the Kingdom. In other words, we vote for candidates who pose the least threat to the freedom and autonomy of the Catholic Church. That's it. That's all there is to it. Usually, the candidates that pose the least threat to the freedom and autonomy of the Catholic Church, also tend to be those candidates who are most aligned with authentic Catholic teaching. Follow this simple principle, and you'll be serving Christ the King as his royal subject, as well as fulfilling your civic duty as a citizen of your state.

      So how does all this relate to the Benedict Option for Catholics? Actually it relates quite a bit, because it's part of reorienting our minds toward a proper way of thinking about authority. The principle of the Catholic Church as the Kingdom of God on Earth is a way of thinking that has been lost for the last 500 years in Northern Europe and all of the English colony states. It's a way of thinking that has been lost to much of Western Europe for the last 200 years. Finally, it has been lost entirely to almost all of the world for the last 100 years. In other words, there is nobody left alive today who remembers what the world was like when most people thought this way. We are living in a time that is totally alien to anything our Christian ancestors have known. It's sort of like the Matrix films, wherein our intellects have been trapped in an alternate reality for so long, we have great difficulty wrapping our minds around anything different. We have to reorient ourselves for proper thinking if we ever hope to survive the coming storm of anti-Christian persecution, which is inevitable now. I've given you, my readers, much to digest for now, so I'll bring this installation to a close here. In my next instalment on this series, I'll suggest the methods and disciplines that will make this reorientation of thinking more practical and real in daily life.

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      Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books and a columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com.' Your support is what makes essays like this possible. This essay and all of Shane's Internet resources come to you (ad-free) thanks to the generosity of benefactors. Please consider becoming a benefactor.

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