Saturday, November 05, 2011

Tyranicide

Guy Fawkes was obviously a politically motivated extremist who wanted to bring about carnage, like all Englishmen I am horrified by him but I also have a certain admiration for him. Every Englishman has a secret wish to blow up Parliament, obviously without hurting anyone. Fawkes is both hero and villain. He symbolises direct action for an oppressed minority, no wonder so many protesters were wearing Guy Fawkes masks outside St Paul's.
The authors of the Gunpowder plot would have seen themselves as tyranicides, seeing King James as both a usurper and an oppressor. Though most Catholic theologians were of the grin and bear it school as far as tyrants are concerned, the Council of Constance (1415) had taught:
"Any vassal or subject can lawfully and meritoriously kill, and ought to kill, any tyrant. He may even, for this purpose, avail himself of ambushes, and wily expressions of affection or of adulation, notwithstanding any oath or pact imposed upon him by the tyrant, and without waiting for the sentence or order of any judge." (Session XV)
At a time when so many Catholics throughout Europe were oppressed or even outlawed the perennial Catholic question, "how far can you go?" had come to the fore. A small number of Jesuits at the time of the plot, like Juan Mariana defended, though with many restrictions and precautions, the disposition and killing of a tyrant. In 1610, five years after the Gunpowder Plot, the Jesuit General forbade any teaching or counsel in private or public, that tyranicide was acceptable.

Today the same question, how far can you go? is to the fore again, perhaps influenced by South American Liberation Theologians. It is not the assassination of a tyrant but questions as to whether it legitimate to destroy an offensive work of art or to disrupt a theatre performance.

Warning
Stupid me! thanks to those who made comments, what I put forward as the teaching of Constance, was actually condemned by it!!!

15 comments:

Patricius said...

"Every Englishman has a secret wish to blow up Parliament, obviously without hurting anyone. Fawkes is both hero and villain."

In 1834 the old Palace of Westminster caught fire- there is, I think, a painting by Turner of the blaze. It is said that a large crowd gathered on Westminster Bridge to admire (Yes!) the spectacle and a great cheer went up as the roofs began to cave in!

Marc said...

I'm confused, after looking at the Catholic Encyclopedia, which seems to say that Constance in its 15th session condemned the proposition that tyrannicide is permissible.

"At Constance the matter was discussed in the fifteenth session (6 July, 1415); many French doctors were eager for the formal condemnation of Petit and his theses [which defended the Duke of Burgundy's part in Louis d'Orléans's murder], but his Franciscan brethren defended him in a common memorial; the council finally was content with condemning in a general way the proposition that, regardless of his oath and without awaiting a judicial sentence, any vassal or subject might licitly kill, or cause to be killed, a tyrant."

Saint Michael Come To Our Defense said...

Anonymous uses a mask with the likeness of Mr. Fawkes.

http://www.valleycentral.com/news/story.aspx?id=682578#.TrXjtkP0fpR

In Mexico, the Anonymous group just backed down the Zetas. This is a mad dog Narco-trafficante group (CIA) that is the most vicious in the world.

This gives hope to many living in fear of the American drug trade in Mexico.

Pray for Mexico and its people.

At Mass, right or wrong, I will pray for the Fawkes inspired group.

*

Paul C.  (Email) said...

I'm as confused as Marc. Here's what the Council said: This most holy synod wishes to proceed with special care to the eradication of errors and heresies which are growing in various parts of the world, as is its duty and the purpose for which it has assembled. It has recently learnt that various propositions have been taught that are erroneous both in the faith and as regards good morals, are scandalous in many ways and threaten to subvert the constitution and order of every state. Among these propositions this one has been reported: Any tyrant can and ought to be killed, licitly and meritoriously, by any of his vassals or subjects, even by means of plots and blandishments or flattery, notwithstanding any oath taken, or treaty made with the tyrant, and without waiting for a sentence or a command from any judge. This holy synod, wishing to oppose this error and to eradicate it completely, declares, decrees and defines, after mature deliberation, that this doctrine is erroneous in the faith and with regard to morals, and it rejects and condemns the doctrine as heretical, scandalous and seditious and as leading the way through perjury to frauds, deceptions, lies and betrayals. It declares, decrees and defines, moreover, that those who stubbornly assert this very pernicious doctrine are heretics and are to be punished as such according to canonical and legitimate sanctions.

Michael Petek said...

It seems that the Gunpowder Plot was a false-flag operation. Gunpowder was a state monopoly, and only the military had access to any.

There was no way that Guy Fawkes and his conspirators could have trundled that much gunpowder through the streets of London without being noticed.

motuproprio said...

This whole section from 'The Catholic Encyclopedia'sets the whole matter in context. I think you may need to make a few amendments to your article, Father. Constance indeed condemned the proposition you quote.
"Looking on a tyrant by oppression as a public enemy, many authorities claimed for his subjects the right of putting him to death in defence of the common good. Amongst these were John of Salisbury in the twelfth century (Polycraticus III, 15; IV, 1; VIII, 17), and John Parvus (Jehan Petit) in the fifteenth century. The Council of Constance (1415) condemned as contrary to faith and morals the following proposition:

"Any vassal or subject can lawfully and meritoriously kill, and ought to kill, any tyrant. He may even, for this purpose, avail himself of ambushes, and wily expressions of affection or of adulation, notwithstanding any oath or pact imposed upon him by the tyrant, and without waiting for the sentence or order of any judge." (Session XV)

Subsequently a few Catholics defended, with many limitations and safeguards, the right of subjects to kill a tyrannical ruler. Foremost amongst these was the Spanish Jesuit Mariana. In his book, "De rege et regis institutione" (Toledo, 1599), he held that people ought to bear with a tyrant as long as possible, and to take action only when his oppression surpassed all bounds. They ought to come together and give him a warning; this being of no avail they ought to declare him a public enemy and put him to death. If no public judgment could be given, and if the people were unanimous, any subject might, if possible, kill him by open, but not by secret means. The book was dedicated to Philip III of Spain and was written at the request of his tutor Garcias de Loaysa, who afterwards became Bishop of Toledo. It was published at Toledo in the printing-office of Pedro Rodrigo, printer to the king, with the approbation of Pedro de Oñ, Provincial of the Mercedarians of Madrid, and with the permission of Stephen Hojeda, visitor of the Society of Jesus in the Province of Toledo (see JUAN MARIANA). Most unfairly the Jesuit Order has been blamed for the teaching of Mariana. As a matter of fact, Mariana stated that his teaching on tyrannicide was his personal opinion, and immediately on the publication of the book the Jesuit General Aquaviva ordered that it be corrected. He also on 6 July, 1610, forbade any member of the order to teach publicly or privately that it is lawful to attempt the life of a tyrant."

motuproprio said...

Part 2
"Though Catholic doctrine condemns tyrannicide as opposed to the natural law, formerly great theologians of the Church like St. Thomas (II-II, Q. xlii, a.2), Suarez (Def. fidei, VI, iv, 15), and Bañez, O.P. (De justitia et jure, Q. lxiv, a. 3), permitted rebellion against oppressive rulers when the tyranny had become extreme and when no other means of safety were available. This merely carried to its logical conclusion the doctrine of the Middle Ages that the supreme ruling authority comes from God through the people for the public good. As the people immediately give sovereignty to the ruler, so the people can deprive him of his sovereignty when he has used his power oppressively. Many authorities, e.g. Suarez (Def. fiedei, VI, iv, 18), held that the State, but not private persons, could, if necessary, condemn the tyrant to death. In recent times Catholic authors, for the most part, deny that subjects have the right to rebel against and depose an unjust ruler, except in the case when the ruler was appointed under the condition that he would lose his power if he abused it. In proof of this teaching they appeal to the Syllabus of Pius IX, in which this proposition is condemned: "It is lawful to refuse obedience to legitimate princes, and even to rebel" (prop. 63). While denying the right of rebellion in the strict sense whose direct object is the deposition of the tyrannical ruler, many Catholic writers, such as Crolly, Cathrein, de Bie, Zigliara, admit the right of subjects not only to adopt an attitude of passive resistance against unjust laws but also in extreme cases to assume a state of active defensive resistance against the actual aggression of a legitimate, but oppressive ruler.
Many of the Reformers were more or less in favour of tyrannicide. Luther held that the whole community could condemn the tyrant to death (Sämmtliche Werke", LXII, Frankfort-on-the-Main and Erlangen, 1854, 201, 206). Melanchthon said that the killing of a tyrant is the most agreeable offering that man can make to God (Corp. Ref., III, Halle, 1836, 1076). The Calvinist writer styled Junius Brutus held that individual subjects have no right to kill a legitimate tyrant, but that resistance must be authorized by a representative council of the people (Vindiciae contra Tyrannos, p. 45). John Knox affirmed that it was the duty of the nobility, judges, rulers, and people of England to condemn Queen Mary to death (Appellation)."

nickbris said...

We are still being fed propaganda of the "Catholic Plot" of 1605.It was a bit like the Greenwich Diamond Heist at the millennium dome,a means to get rid of an irritatating bunch plotters & criminals.

PM said...

Michael Petek is onto something here. A consitutional historian told me some years ago that the principal Crown witnesses in the uinpowder Plot trial, the dubious Messrs Oates and Tonge, wouldn't have suvived a genuine cross-examination by a competent defence counsel.

Patricius said...

I think PM above has confused the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 with the "Popish Plot" of 1678. One thing which is absolutely certain here is that the latter was the complete fabrication of Titus Oates and was recognised as such within a few short years.

Michael Petek said...

The condemned proposition is:

"Any tyrant can and ought to be killed, licitly and meritoriously, by any of his vassals or subjects, even by means of plots and blandishments or flattery, notwithstanding any oath taken, or treaty made with the tyrant, and without waiting for a sentence or a command from any judge."

Not condemned is the proposition:

(1) A tyrant can be killed provided that his misdeeds are of sufficient gravity, licitly and meritoriously;

(2) by such of his vassals or subjects are of wise judgement and enjoy sufficient prospects of success;

(3) even by means of plots and blandishments or flattery;

(4) notwithstanding any oath taken provided that keeping the oath has certainly become harmful to the common good or to eternal salvation;

(5) or treaty made with the tyrant terminated by reason of conflict with a peremptory norm of international law or according to the general law concerning the termination of treaties, and without waiting for a sentence or a command from any judge.

Richard said...

Constance did indeed condemn that proposition (as Fr Blake has now corrected), but it wasn't a clearcut matter - there was great debate beforehand and subsequently about how far you can go.

Two interesting facts:

1) the proposition that tyrants could be killed was by a Franciscan, not a Jesuit. And the Franciscans supported it at Constance.

2) several leading protestant writers supported the killing of tyrants (applying it to Queen Mary).

Michael Petek said...

Richard: My maternal grandfather also supported the killing of tyrants. He set out to assassinate Hitler.

Adrian said...

I have always felt that there is more than an element of 'the sting' about the Gunpowder Plot (as with the Babington Plot and several others) in that government agents appear to have infiltrated the group very early on, if not actually to have instigated the plot. James was by no means every Englishman's idea of an English king (not just RCs), so it was necessary to do something to win the propaganda war on his behalf. The success of the manoeuvre is such that we are only just putting to rest the latent hostility to Catholics in this country - four hundred years on.

Richard said...

Michael Petek, was that a private venture or was he ordered to do so by legitimate authority?

That was the debate about tyrranicide at the Council of Constance - not whether it was permitted, but whether a private citizen could do it of his own volition.

Interesting though.