The Nobility Should Remain a Leading Class in Today’s Greatly Changed Social Context

June 3, 2013

Pope Pius XII

According to Pius XII, “one may think as one wishes” about the new lifestyles. One is not at all obliged to applaud them, but one must accept that they constitute the palpable reality in which we are obliged to live. Just what, then, is the objective and manly acknowledgment of these lifestyles?

Have the nobility and the traditional elites lost their reason for being? Should they break with their traditions and their past? In a word, should they dissolve among the common people, mixing with them, extinguishing everything the noble families preserved in the way of lofty values of virtue, culture, style, and education?

“Should they break with their traditions and their past?” Photo by Surtsicna of H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria at the Baltic Development Forums summit in Stockholm 2009.

A hasty reading of the allocution to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility of 1952 would seem to lead to an affirmative answer. This answer, however, would be in patent disagreement with the teachings of analogous allocutions in previous years, as well as with passages from more than one allocution of later pontiffs. This apparent disagreement results especially from the passages quoted above, as well as from others that follow. Yet this is not the teaching expressed by the Pontiff in his 1952 allocution. In his view, the traditional elites should continue to exist and have a lofty mission.

“It may well be that one thing or another about the present conditions displeases you. Yet for the sake and for the love of the common good, for the salvation of Christian civilization, during this crisis which, far from abating, seems instead to be growing, stand firm in the breach, on the front line of defense. There your special qualities can be put to good use even today. Your names, which resonate deeply in the memories even of the distant past, in the history of the Church and of civil society, recall to mind figures of great men and fill your souls with echoes of the dutiful call to prove yourselves worthy.”

Count of Proença-a-Velha

This teaching is made still clearer in the allocution to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility of 1958, a passage of which was already cited.

“You, who at the start of each new year have never failed to come visit Us, must surely remember the careful solicitude with which We endeavored to smooth your way toward the future, which at that time promised to be harsh because of the profound upheavals and transformations in store for the world. We are certain, however, that when your brows too are framed with white and silver, you will yet be witnesses not only to Our esteem and affection, but also to the truth, the validity, and the timeliness of Our recommendations, which We hope are like fruits that have come to you and to society in general.

“You will recall to your children and grandchildren how the Pope of your childhood and adolescence did not neglect to point you toward the new responsibilities that the new circumstances of the age imposed on the nobility; that, indeed, he explained many times how industriousness would be the surest and most worthy way of ensuring yourselves a permanent place among society’s leaders; that social inequalities, while they make you stand out, also assign you certain duties toward the common good; that from the highest classes great boons or great harm could come to the people; that transformations of ways of life can, if one so wishes, be harmoniously reconciled with the traditions of which patrician families are the repositories.” (1958 allocution to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility.)

Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide

Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide

The Pontiff does not desire, then, the disappearance of the nobility from the profoundly transformed social context of our day. On the contrary, he invites its members to exert the necessary effort to maintain their position as the leading class among the groups that direct the present world. In expressing this wish, the Pontiff includes a singular nuance: The persistence of the nobility among these groups should have a traditional meaning, that is, a sense of continuity, of permanence.

In other words, the Pontiff desires fidelity to one of the founding principles of the nobility of former times: the correlation between the “social inequalities” that made them “stand out” and their “duties toward the common good.”

Thus, “transformations of ways of life can, if one so wishes, be harmoniously reconciled with the traditions of which patrician families are the repositories.” (1958 allocution to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility.)

Lord Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. Image © 2009 Joanne Nova

Lord Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. Image © 2009 Joanne Nova

Pius XII insists on the nobility’s permanence in the post-war world, so long as it truly distinguishes itself in the moral qualities it should manifest.

“Sometimes, in alluding to the contingency of time and events, We exhorted you to take an active part in the healing of the wounds caused by the war, in the rebuilding of peace, in the rebirth of the life of the nation, and to refuse all ‘emigration’ or abstention. For in our society there still remained an ample place for you if you showed yourselves to be truly elites and optimates [aristocrats], that is, exceptional for serenity of mind, readiness to act, and generous adhesion.” (1958 allocution to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility.)

 Subscription13

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII: A Theme Illuminating American Social History (York, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, 1993), 37-39.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share

Previous post:

Next post: