Praise for George Washington from Leo XIII

Praise for George Washington from Leo XIII February 18, 2008

    Today is George Washington’s Birthday (Observed), popularly known as President’s Day. Washington has a rare distinction among American Presidents in that he makes a cameo appearance in a Papal encyclical (a fact which, no doubt, will be of deep significance to those who claim Washington died a Catholic) The encyclical in question is Longinqua, by Leo XIII. Here is the passage in question:

Precisely at the epoch when the American colonies, having, with Catholic aid, achieved liberty and independence, coalesced into a constitutional Republic the ecclesiastical hierarchy was happily established amongst you; and at the very time when the popular suffrage placed the great Washington at the helm of the Republic, the first bishop was set by apostolic authority over the American Church. The well-known friendship and familiar intercourse which subsisted between these two men seems to be an evidence that the United States ought to be conjoined in concord and amity with the Catholic Church. And not without cause; for without morality the State cannot endure-a truth which that illustrious citizen of yours, whom We have just mentioned, with a keenness of insight worthy of his genius and statesmanship perceived and proclaimed. But the best and strongest support of morality is religion. She, by her very nature, guards and defends all the principles on which duties are founded, and setting before us the motives most powerful to influence us, commands us to live virtuously and forbids us to transgress.

Washington’s statement on religion and morality referenced by Leo is from his farewell address:

Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

The full text of the Farewell Address can be found here.

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  • Nice post. Thanks.

    I’m saving my annual “Washington may have died a Catholic” post for Washington’s Birthday this Friday.

  • Adam Greenwood

    Very nice.

  • Donald R. McClarey

    November 5, 1775:

    “As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form’d for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope–He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture; at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain’d, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause. The defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such Circumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused; indeed instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our Brethren, as to them we are so much indebted for every late happy Success over the common Enemy in Canada.”

  • Hello

    Leo XIII’s words are, in keeping with his whole approach to (alarm regarding) democracy and liberty (and he wrote enyclicals on each, recall, so great was his concern), an example of his wise and artful diplomacy.

    The popes seldom missed an opportunity to mention anything good they could possibly find in the aftermath of the American or French Revolutions in order to protect the goods and rights of the Catholic Church and the Catholic Faithful in nations of Freemasons, Freethinkers and Protestants.

    Leo was also very concerned about the contamination of the Church via the Masonic ecumenism of the American pantheon. Remember his enyclical on Freemasonry? It was always on his mind, as Willie Nelson sang.

    Leo’s successor, St. Pius X, was far less diplomatic:

    Pope St. Pius X: “the City cannot be built otherwise than as God has built it; society cannot be setup unless the Church lays the foundations and supervises the work; no, civilisation is not something yet to be found, nor is the New City to be built on hazy notions; it has been in existence and still is: it is Christian civilisation, it is the Catholic City. It has only to be set up and restored continually against the unremitting attacks of insane dreamers, rebels and miscreants: Omnia instaurare in Christo.” (no 11)

    As for George Washington’s alleged conversion to Catholicism at the end of his life, as mentioned elsewhere

    Good Mason that he was, whose religion was actually that of Masonic so-called “tolerance” “[George Washington] attended Presbyterian, Catholic, and Friends Sunday services…”

    “Analysts who have studied Washington’s papers held by the Library of Congress assert that his correspondence with Masonic Lodges is replete with references to the “Great Architect of the Universe” (a neutral Masonic style of referring to God — probably derived from the writings of John Calvin),[18] but that “his response to a Christian clergyman conspicuously avoids mention of Jesus Christ or acknowledgement of personal Christian faith.”[19]

    “Washington was buried according to the rite of the Episcopal Church, with the Rev. Thomas David, rector of Christ Church, Alexandria, officiating.[32] Masonic rites were also performed by members of his lodge.[33]

    “A claim that Washington was baptized as a Roman Catholic on his deathbed[34] is contradicted by the eyewitness reports of Washington’s secretary, Tobias Lear[35], and his step-grandson, George Washington Custis[36], neither of whom mentions the incident, nor for that matter any minister of religion whatsoever, nor any attempt to procure one.” —from Wikipedia on his religious views

    Michel Novak’s odd attempt to sanctify Washington as sympathetic to the Bible (whilst a good deist) seems congruent with the former’s attempt to rally the Catholic people to Novak’s Americanism which has a quasi-religious significance for many neocon Catholics and Jews, especially in times of imperial wars.

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