The Social Reign of Christ the King: A Forgotten Doctrine?

Written by on November 30, 2019

Rarely mentioned in some western nations, the Church’s teaching on the social reign of Christ is profound, and highly enriching to those who discover it for the first time.  Key to individual and societal tranquility and prosperity, it is easily understandable through faith and reason.  Not understanding it can increase the likelihood of spiritual deformity — of a false perspective on both governmental and non-governmental institutions that is akin to idolatry, and of a tendency to treat Christianity as a mere personal preference, rather than objective truth.

In 1925, Pope Pius XI established the feast of Christ the King.  In his encyclical Quas Primas of the same year, he affirmed the spiritual kingship of Christ, that is, that He is rightly the king of hearts, “by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of His knowledge, and also because He is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind … He is king of hearts, too, by reason of his ‘charity which exceedeth all knowledge.’”[1]

There is another rarely mentioned dimension of the kingship of Christ.  As Christ is a man, the title of King applies to Him in another sense too.  “We cannot but see that the title and the power of King belongs to Christ as man in the strict sense, too. For it is only as man that he may be said to have received from the Father ‘power and glory and a kingdom’ since the Word of God, as consubstantial with the Father, has all things in common with him, and therefore has necessarily supreme and absolute dominion over all things created … Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the state; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the domination of Christ. In him is salvation of the individual, in him is the salvation of society.”[2]

If Our Lord has absolute dominion over all that is created, then this applies to every person, and every nation, in every sphere of life.  As we can see from the state of world, this is typically not what people today believe.  We live in a cruel, secular world, marked by division, corruption, uncharity, and conflict on all levels, a consequence of the excessive individualism, hedonism, egotism, and increasing hostility to Christianity.  It is also a time of increasing societal disorder, a reality reflecting the fact that rejection of Christ as King leads to increased burdens on the individual and society, dysfunction, unhappiness, and ultimately hell.

Today’s nearly ever-present disorder has its roots in the rejection of authority.  As Saint Paul teaches, ‘all authority that exists originates from God.’ (Rom 13:1).  With this Pauline outlook, we tend to respect persons in authority as we recognize they have authority from God, as all authority originates from God.  Likewise, a person  having a Pauline attitude who wields authority will tend to exercise it with the understanding that authority only exists within the bounds of true morality and charity, as God never gives authority for anything that is contrary to His will; he understands that authority to do what is unjust does not exist.  All of this is a core aspect, at the practical level, of how the social kingship of Christ is actualized.

If, in the citizen’s misdirected mind, the authority and legitimacy of government is ascribed solely to it’s crude ability to successfully overcome every challenge to enforce it’s will by force, then we should expect less respect, less reverence towards the institutions of authority.  In some cases, that lessened respect will be justified, as institutions increasingly abuse their authority, by trampling on the citizens’ natural rights, a problem stemming from the misdirected and ungodly attitudes of governing elites.  These dual problems originate from a disconnect with the Christian faith, and an unawareness of the Social Kingship of Our Lord. The net result is an increased tendency to instability and oppression.

Pope Pius XI aptly stated that, “If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ.”  This is the kingpin.  When this foundation is removed, the house gradually collapses. “What we said…concerning the decline of public authority, and the lack of respect for the same, is equally true at the present day. ‘With God and Jesus Christ…excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated.  The result is that human society is tottering to it’s fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation.’”[3]

The consequence of the current irreverence is the loss of much happiness, and an increase in heavy burdens that come from greater human conflict, whether in the home, because the authority of husband and wife are not accepted, or in society at large.  As Pius XI remarked, “Oh, what happiness would be ours if all men, individuals, families, and nations, would let themselves be governed by Christ … then at length will many evils be cured; then will the law regain it’s former authority; peace with all its blessings be restored.  Men will sheath their swords and lay down their arms when all freely acknowledge and obey the authority of Christ, and every tongue confesses that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the Glory of God the Father.”[4]

This is Part I of a three-part series. Please return in a few days for Part II – “Establishing a New Order: The Rebellion Against Christ the King”


[1] Quas Primas, Pope Pius XI, “On the Feast of Christ the King,” 1925, par. 7. http://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_11121925_quas-primas.html,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, par. 18.

[4] Ibid, par. 20


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