The Highest Social Function of the Nobility: To Preserve, Defend, and Spread the Christian Teachings Contained in Its Distinctive Noble Traditions

July 4, 2013

In his 1958 allocution, the Pontiff mentions the moral duty to resist modern corruption as a general charge to the upper classes, which include the Roman Patriciate and Nobility:

Doña María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba de Tormes, Grandee of Spain.

Doña María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba de Tormes, Grandee of Spain.

“We would like, finally, for your influence on society to save it from a grave danger inherent in modern times. It is well known that society progresses and raises itself up when the virtues of one class are spread to the others; it declines, on the other hand, if the vices and abuses of one are carried over to the others. Because of the weakness of human nature, more often it is the latter that are spread, with all the more rapidity nowadays, given the greater facility of means of communication, information, and personal contacts, not only among nations, but from one continent to the next. What happens in the realm of physical health is now happening in the realm of morals as well: neither distances nor boundaries can any longer prevent an epidemic germ from quickly reaching faraway regions. The upper classes, of which yours is one, could, because of their multiple relations and frequent sojourns in countries with different and sometimes inferior moral conditions, become easy conveyers of aberrations in customs.”

Thomas Woodcock, Garter Principal King of Arms, in procession to St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle for the annual service of the Order of the Garter.

Thomas Woodcock, Garter Principal King of Arms, in procession to St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle for the annual service of the Order of the Garter.

The Holy Father defines this duty of the nobility more specifically: It is a duty to resist, above all in the field of doctrine but also in that of morals. “As for your own task, you must be vigilant and do your utmost to prevent pernicious theories and perverse examples from ever meeting with your approval and sympathy, let alone using you as favorable carriers and hotbeds of infection.” This duty is an integral element of “that profound respect for tradition that you cultivate and hope to use to distinguish yourselves in society.” These traditions are “precious treasures” that it is important for the noble to “preserve…among the people. This itself may be the highest social function of today’s nobility; certainly it is the greatest service that you can render to the Church and to your country.”

Subscription9.2

To conserve, defend, and spread the Christian teachings contained in its distinctive noble traditions: What loftier use can the nobility make of the splendor of past centuries that still illuminates and distinguishes it today?(1)

 

(1) Concerning nobility as a factor that facilitates and encourages the practice of Christian virtues, see especially the admirable sermon of Saint Charles Borromeo transcribed in Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites, Documents IV, 8.

 

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), 44-46.

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