Lucifer, The First Liberal By ARTHUR M. HIPPLER , Wanderer .March 03
the principles of liberalism mirror the Devilıs original revolt.
ARTHUR M. HIPPLER
his encyclical on The Nature of True Liberty (Libertas Praestantissimum), Leo
XIII makes the remarkable claim that liberalism is diabolic in its origins.
"But many there are who follow in the footsteps of Lucifer, and adopt as
their own his rebellious cry, I will not serve; and consequently substitute for
true liberty what is sheer and most foolish license. Such, for instance, are
the men belonging to that widely spread and powerful organization, who,
usurping the name of liberty, style themselves liberals" (Libertas
Praestantissimum, n.14). Although the Holy Fatherıs comparison may seem
hyperbolic, nonetheless the principles of liberalism mirror the Devilıs
many political opinions and projects are lumped together under the name of
liberalism, we should remind ourselves of its most fundamental basis. As Leo
XIII explains, liberalism begins with the rejection of both natural and divine
law; the "followers of liberalism deny the existence of any divine
authority to which obedience is due, and proclaim that every man is the law to
himself; from which arises that ethical system which they style independent
morality" (LP, n.15). Morality comes neither from God nor human nature.
the liberal, morality is created by the free choice of society. Whether one
studies Hobbes or Rousseau, one finds no law higher than the human law. In the
words of Pope Leo, "just as every manıs individual reason is his only rule
of life, so the collective reason of the community should be the supreme guide
in the management of all public affairs" (ibid.). This divorce of the
moral law from politics affects our understanding of democracy up to the
present day, as Pope John Paul notes in Evangelium Vitae (n. 70).
rejection of Godıs rule through the moral law is the sin of Lucifer. As St.
Thomas explains, the Devil rejected the law of God for a disordered form of
freedom: "The end of the Devil is the aversion of the rational creature
from God; hence from the beginning he has endeavored to lead man from obeying
the divine precept. But aversion from God has the nature of an end, inasmuch as
it is sought for under the appearance of liberty, according to Jer. 2:20: Of
old time thou hast broken my yoke, thou hast burst my bands, and thou saidst, I
will not serveı" (IIIa, Q.8, art.7).
rebellion was imitated by our first parents, when they decided to eat of the
Tree of the Knowledge of God and Evil, and "be like God." While
sharing in the divine image and likeness is part of our perfection, St. Thomas
teaches that man desired this divine likeness in a disordered way by eating of
the forbidden fruit: "The first man sinned chiefly by coveting Godıs
likeness as regards knowledge of good and evil, according to the serpentıs
instigation, namely that by his own natural power he might decide what was
good, and what was evil for him to do" (IIaIIae, Q.163, a.2). Here is the
liberal principle in its first expression: Man alone should decide good and
evil apart from God.
many understand liberalism as a freedom for certain political equality and
civil rights, more fundamentally liberalism is a freedom from the moral law and
the teaching authority of the Church. One cannot speak of "Catholic
liberals" without contradiction, or at the very least, equivocation.
Liberalism, like socialism and Communism, has been condemned by Pope after Pope
in the social encyclicals. If we are tempted to minimize the evils of this
error, we would do well to remind ourselves that Pope Leo XIII presents Lucifer
to us as the original liberal.
Arthur M. Hippler is the director of the Office of Justice and Peace in the
Diocese of La Crosse, Wis.)