‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ We’ve all seen this quote of Lord Acton. Most people agree with it. I don’t. Like many (if not most) great quotes, it is dead wrong. Why? Because it’s exactly backwards, that’s why. Let me give you another simple example; ‘Cogito, ergo sum’. I think, therefore I am. Sorry, René, you’ve got it bass-ackwards. You must exist before you can think. He was simply trying to avoid the bigger question. The question of ‘why do I exist’?
Let’s reconstruct Acton’s sentence in a way that reflects the truth of the matter (and energy) of power. Put the word ‘man’ in place of ‘power’, and then move the word ‘power’ behind the word ‘corrupt(s)’. Now let’s see what it should look like if we’re truly seeking the truth: ‘(Man) tends to corrupt power, and absolute (Man) corrupts power absolutely’.
Wasn’t he a clever fellow to omit that word ‘man’ from his formulation? Because that omission is what has masked his real intent. The intent to slander. Because he was talking about a particular man when he made that statement. Actually, he was slandering two men. One of whom was also fully human. And all-powerful. Think about Acton’s statement as it would logically be applied to Jesus and see where it takes you.
Is power intrinsically evil? Certainly, power can be used in an evil manner. A hammer can be used for many things, and some would be evil but not, mind you, because it might be used with force. After all, using a hammer, regardless of intent or usage, requires force. It requires power to operate it. So it’s not the force that is evil. And it’s not the hammer itself that is evil.
What is evil about the concept of force, about power? Further, how is power considered to be something separate from man? Is there some form of power out there that is sitting in a box, waiting to be unleashed? Some power that if unleashed will, of its own accord, wreak havoc on all? Is this Pandora’s Box we’re talking about here? But wait. Isn’t opening that box something that required power in and of itself? If that’s the case, we’re back to the intent of the one who acts. Correct? The finger on the trigger is the power that unleashed the bullet.
Here’s the story. Lord Acton was Anglish, of course. One of the King’s Men, by peerage. In an earlier age, he might have been a Cavalier instead of the functional Roundhead he became. Like many of those in that long line of idiot Cavaliers, this King’s Man was a Catholic. Right away, we have an oxymoron.
Lord Acton was a man of his times. That is to say, he was thoroughly confused. He felt that the reins of power belonged in the hands of the King. But like so many others in Angland, he believed that the King was actually Parliament. Of which he was a member, you see. He and his brothers thought that ‘King Parliament’ should hold absolute power. As long as they were members of the club, that is.
These crazy Anglishmen, having swallowed Cromwell’s Kool-Aid (and keeping their peerage), had fallen for the false dichotomy. If having an individual King with absolute power is bad (think King John or almost any Henry), then the solution must be to have an absolute King-by-Committee. That is, a Parliament. It may not move as quickly as any Henry, but the death toll is eventually the same.
Acton was so enthralled by this libertarian concept of ‘King Parliament’ that he couldn’t see it would also lead to the absolute power he criticized in others. He attributed that lust for power to another man, while he himself held it. He and his political descendants. Here’s a perfect example of Acton’s confusion, from the introductory memoir (by Herbert Paul) of The Letters of Lord Acton: ‘I remember, for instance, (Acton) telling me that Rousseau had produced more effect with his pen than Aristotle, or Cicero, or Saint Augustine, or Saint Thomas Aquinas, or any other man who ever lived.’ Need I say more?
The particular insanity of Lord Acton wasn’t his Anglish nature. No, it is found in the fact that his forebearers had held on to their Catholic faith. They held fast, in the face of the centuries-long oppression of anyone who failed to acknowledge the King of Angland as the true head of the Church. Until Lord Acton, the peer, apostasized. That’s the price of peerage, evidently.
Until Lord Acton committed his apostasy-by-slander, his family had stood the test of time against the Absolute Man on the throne of Angland. An absolute man believes in absolute power for himself. He admits to there being no one higher than himself. That power begins with the right to personally determine truth. Especially as it might relate to him, and his wishes.
I think that pretty accurately describes most despots, whether they rule individually (as King) or in a group (as King Parliament).
Am I saying all rulers are intrinsically evil? No, of course not. For all power is from God. All legitimate power, that is. No King or Parliament can over-rule God. Certainly, they will try, as they often do. That is the whole point here. Who then will rein in the King (of whatever type) when he demands that we kneel before him in Church as well as in Court?
Man corrupts power, not the other way around. Sorry, Lord Acton. You are wrong. Dead wrong. You’re an apostate fool. And you apostasized all by yourself. It was an individual act, as all apostasy is. You did it by slandering the Church. Specifically, the head of The Church. The only man that could correct this problem of despotic rulers. The man your ancestors paid homage to when they refused to recant the ancient faith that they delivered to you, at great cost to themselves. The faith you threw away when you uttered your infamous line about ‘power’. Which power, I would point out, you held (along with your co-King Lords in Parliament). Which power you noticeably never willingly gave up.
Just who was the person slandered with Acton’s poison pen? The Ecclesial King himself, the Pope—Pio Nono—Pope Pius IX. The pope you were sworn to serve and defend, as a Catholic. The King you abandoned, in your zeal to seat yourself. And Rousseau. And Descartes.
What crime did this man commit that brought you to pen this poison of power? What did he do that drove you to subvert the fact that power resides in man, and not the other way around? What did he speak that his predecessors, whom your predecessors believed, had not also spoken from the very beginning? Simply this: that Peter speaks for the True King.
Peter himself was speaking when Pio Nono subscribed his name to the documents of Vatican I in 1870. The Council documents that simply memorialized what The Church had always believed and taught. That teaching, that doctrine, was this: in matters of faith and morals, the Pope (Peter, in whatever age), was infallible.
Quick, get the smelling salts! Acton’s collapsed from shock! Hearing this truth was too much for him. Is that how you feel, too? Are you also shocked by that claim of infallibility? I’ll explain why this isn’t the end of the world. Actually, quite the opposite. Because you see, infallibility simply means someone is right. And this someone has the divine protection that will not allow him to speak, ex cathedra (‘from the Chair’), anything but the truth.
The Pope actually does have the power to speak infallibly, under strict circumstances. But please notice, he doesn’t have the power to force you to believe it. Nor cut off your head if you don’t. As a contrast, glance for a moment at the Encyclopedia Britannica (if you know what that is) and tell me that even this Anglophile institution admits that the Kings (and King-Parliaments) of Angland regularly took recourse to this extreme remedy for all who refused to believe in their supposed infallibility. Now just who is it that is the despot here?
The real crime of Pio Nono was this: he spoke the truth. And the truth is, ‘He who hears you, hears Me‘. That’s what Jesus said to Peter. No Pope ever speaks infallibly except in the name of the papal ‘We’. That is, Peter and whoever is keeping the seat warm for him. Get it?
There is no power of the sword here, unless you truly understand ‘the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God)‘. This is the sword that Lord Acton’s ancestors feared and revered. The sword Lord Acton scorned in his desire for his own Parliamentary power. All in his desire to be seen as a ‘faithful servant’ of an earthly King. Oh, thou fool.
Lord Acton did this foul deed supposedly to protect the ‘religious liberty’ of his Parliamentary constituents. He protested (as all real Protesters do) that no one can add to the ‘deposit of the faith’ that Our Lord delivered to Peter. And that is true, in this respect: the one and only principal amount was given to Peter by Our Lord Jesus before He ascended into Heaven. And just as Jesus noted in his parable of the stewards, what principal would draw no interest? After all, Jesus wishes that we would increase His holdings, and that the harvest be a hundredfold of what was planted.
When a Pope speaks from the Chair of Peter concerning a matter of Faith and/or morals, isn’t he simply issuing an updated bank statement on that deposit of the faith? A statement that shows the interest accrued, as the doctrine of the faith (the ‘deposit’) has grown in value, as that doctrine becomes clearer with the passage of time (and trouble)? Is there no real value to be found in the sufferings of the Church as She holds dear to the dowry given Her? Has this not added to the riches of The Church?
The larger purpose of this article is to explain to those who think that I believe the Church as a whole has apostasized that they could not be any further from the truth. It’s because that is an organic impossibility. A logical non-sequitur. Read Vladimir Solovyev’s The Russian Idea if you want to truly understand the meaning of ‘organic’, and how it relates to The Church. (Yes, you knew there would be a Russian connection in here). Just as belief must be held individually for salvation, and just as repentance is an individual act, apostasy is also an individual act.
Simply put, how can the entire body reject the entire body? How can the entire Church reject the entire Church? Who then is the enemy here if both parties are one and the same? Sure, one organ might reject the rest of the body. And one cell might reject its role. But how can the entire body reject itself?
How can the entire Church apostasize? Especially over something one member may do or say? Even if that one member may be the head? No, I’m not saying that the current head has apostasized, definitionally. What I am saying is this: that unless the head (where the mouth is located) speaks ex cathedra (that is, in the name of Peter, sitting in the Chair of the Bishop of Rome) on a matter of faith and morals, then we are free to ignore him. And all of his many henchmen.
Ignore the current Pope? No, my friend. Because unless he speaks as I have described, then he is speaking as an individual. Not as the Pope. And he is free to err, just as you and I are. And free to suffer the punishment for doing so. Even the Pope has to go to confession. We all err. Except when we are Peter, and we are speaking what Jesus told him. And only what Jesus told him.
What is the meaning of all of this Welsh blather? Simply this, my Anglish friend. The deposit of faith has been given, and it has been entirely kept by the faithful steward, Peter. Interest has been added to it by his faithful followers. And the value of that interest has been added to the value of the Faith. The total value of our inheritance. If you want to receive your inheritance, my brothers, why would you not want all of it? Why renounce the interest on your principal share in the deposit of the faith?