Even if we are ultimately resigned to the [in]justice the state metes out, a Catholic's first duty is to the truth. Submission to authority is not the full story. While Our Lord, as God, certainly had more standing to challenge the religious and secular leaders of His day than any one of us does to challenge our leaders today, it remains clear from His actions that pursuit of truth will sometimes involve vocal and physical resistance to those who claim unjustly to be the rulers of humanity.
You'll notice in the passage above that while Jesus places greater blame on the plotting of the pharisees, who retain the "greater sin," the Roman state is by no means exonerated.
Indeed, if our Lady is to be believed at La Salette among many other apparitions, in the time we are living disobedience to the powers that be [and resignation to the injustice with which they repay our rightful disobedience] may be a prerequisite of sainthood.
Most are aware of the words of our Lord to the pharisees calling them a brood of vipers and His turning over of tables in the temple. The application of our Lord's teachings to real world governance run much more thoroughly through history than many are aware.
In the "City of God," St. Augustine tells the story of a pirate captured by Alexander the Great. The Emperor angrily demanded of him, "How dare you molest the seas?" To which the pirate replied, "How dare you molest the whole world? Because I do it with a small boat, I am called a pirate and a thief. You, with a great navy, molest the world and are called an emperor." St. Augustine thought the pirate's answer was "elegant and excellent."
Perhaps the greatest condemnation of the monarchical state - that so many Catholics hold in such high esteem - comes from none other than the LORD GOD Himself when speaking to the prophet Samuel:
And it came to pass when Samuel was old, that he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. ... Then all the ancients of Israel being assembled, came to Samuel to Ramatha. And they said to him: Behold thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: make us a king, to judge us, as all nations have.
And the word was displeasing in the eyes of Samuel, that they should say: Give us a king, to judge us. And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel: Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to thee. For they have not rejected thee, but Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all their works, they have done from the day that I brought them out of Egypt until this day: as they have forsaken Me, and served strange gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken to their voice: but yet testify to them, and foretell them the right of the king, that shall reign over them. Then Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people that had desired a king of him,
And said: This will be the right of the king, that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and put them in his chariots, and will make them his horsemen, and his running footmen to run before his chariots, And he will appoint of them to be his tribunes, and centurions, and to plough his fields, and to reap his corn, and to make him arms and chariots.Your daughters also he will take to make him ointments, and to be his cooks, and bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your best oliveyards, and give them to his servants. Moreover he will take the tenth of your corn, and of the revenues of your vineyards, to give his eunuchs and servants.
Your servants also and handmaids, and your goodliest young men, and your asses he will take away, and put them to his work. Your flocks also he will tithe, and you shall be his servants. And you shall cry out in that day from the face of the king, whom you have chosen to yourselves. and the Lord will not hear you in that day, because you desired unto yourselves a king. But the people would not hear the voice of Samuel, and they said: Nay: but there shall be a king over us. And we also will be like all nations: and our king shall judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles for us.
And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel: Hearken to their voice, and make them a king.It is clear that GOD Himself considers the Jewish people's desire for a king as an affront to His Own authority. Even here we see the beginnings of the modern welfare state coming into view. The 50% income tax rate of modern European states and the workaholic feminism that dominates the present American generation are just further degradations from 'taking the tenth of you corn' and 'making your daughters his cooks and bakers.' This is not to say there is no reason to hold particular Catholic monarchs in high esteem. God bless us with such governors! But praise for monarchy other than Christ's per se is a different matter, and we must not treat as an absolute a Catholic preference for monarchy that was historically necessary in the face of a militant and centralized Protestantism.
God's dismay at the desire of His people for a monarch may become more comprehensible to modern ears if we say a little about the method of government that until this time God had instituted among His chosen people. As the Douay-Rheims commentary points out, "the government of Israel hitherto had been a theocracy, in which God himself immediately ruled, by laws which He had enacted, and by judges extraordinarily raised up by Himself; and therefore He complains that His people rejected Him, in desiring a change of government."
While modern Christian culture is a victim of protestant sentimentalism, even Catholics today seem to get caught up in pseudo-romanticism when considering such concepts as 'grace,' 'theocracy' or 'God himself immediately ruling by judges extraordinarily raised up by himself.' Magic is a tool of Satan. God is the master of reality, and while grace has a supernatural origin, it encompasses real-world, concrete effects. Only the profane degrade the reality of God acting in the world to some sort of "Hocus Pocus."
The truth is we can describe in great detail the methods of governance that prevailed under the Judges of the Old Testament prior to the Jewish monarchy. Natural law scholars have done so since the earliest days of Western civilization. Look no further than Bruno Leoni's magnum opus, Freedom and the Law, which answers the question 'does law require legislation?' with a resounding 'no!'
Leoni's great contribution is to point out...an alternative to the tyranny of legislation. Rather than accept either administrative law or legislation, Leoni calls for a return to the ancient traditions and principles of "judge-made law" as a method of limiting the State and insuring liberty. In the Roman private law, in the Continental Civil Codes, in the Anglo-Saxon common law, "law" did not mean what we think today: endless enactments by a legislature or executive. "Law" was not enacted but found or discovered; it was a body of customary rules that had, like languages or fashions, grown up spontaneously and purely voluntarily among the people. These spontaneous rules constituted "the law"; and it was the works of experts in the law—old men of the tribe, judges, or lawyers—to determine what the law was and how the law would apply to the numerous cases in dispute that perpetually arise."Judge-made law" should not be confused with judge-made-up law, which prevails in the United States today, wherein rulings have basis neither in the Constitution nor natural-law. Obviously, 'judge-made' law requires the utmost precision of reason and exercise of good-faith. It is a logical, organic process of finding the natural law and was correctly seen by the ancient Israelite to originate in God Himself, who as any Catholic knows is the Logos. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
Man's knowledge and practice of the natural law has progressed under obedience to God and regressed under obedience to men. It reached its height under the Catholic Church during the decentralized middle ages wherein the competition of a plurality of sovereignties and jurisdictions gave birth to the very "freedoms" liberals were to claim as their own invention after the rise of the Weberian state.
Decentralization of power also came to mark the domestic arrangements of the various European polities. Here feudalism – which produced a nobility rooted in feudal right rather than in state-service – is thought by a number of scholars to have played an essential role (see, e.g., Baechler 1975, 78). Through the struggle for power within the realms, representative bodies came into being, and princes often found their hands tied by the charters of rights (Magna Carta, for instance) which they were forced to grant their subjects. In the end, even within the relatively small states of Europe, power was dispersed among estates, orders, chartered towns, religious communities, corps, universities, etc., each with its own guaranteed liberties. The rule of law came to be established throughout much of the Continent.The extent of these economic and political "liberties" were expounded upon most exactly by the Spanish Scholastics. Once revolution began to sweep Europe centralizing power and giving rise to the modern nation-state, the natural law tradition became misidentified with Liberalism. While these [classical] liberals did at least in their early formulation attempt to adhere to traditional natural law concepts, they did so by attempting to coax a now all-powerful state into accepting the dictates of natural law, something such states are not inclined to do. It is critical to take hold of the fact that while classical liberals promoted natural law concepts, they did so within the context of legally positivist government, and were not the originators of the values they championed.
Indeed, with the modern nation state we have a bifurcation of the Logos, the natural law, from the apparatus of government. This has led to much confusion and as we have pointed out, requires a reintegration of ideas seen incorrectly as opposing one another.
It should be increasingly clear that our Lord's admonition to 'render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's' was an appropriate tautological response to His interlocutors. Our Lord was not about to begin the historically nuanced analysis necessary to delineate the political order that most coincides with the nature of reality. His was a simple statement of truth, if X, do what is appropriate for X; if Y, do what is appropriate for Y.
While Catholicism may necessitate a toleration of the state as a lesser evil than actual anarchy, we are making a diabolical mistake if we consider the modern nation-state a good in itself. Logic, history and theology bear witness to the truth that the government which accords most with natural law governs best. The ultimate foundation of all legitimate political power is our Lord and conforms perfectly with His law.