The Catholic Second Amendment

At the beginning of the second millennium, there was no separation of church and state, and kings ruled the church. Tyrannicide was considered sinful. By the end of the thirteenth century, however, everything had changed. The "Little Renaissance" that began in the eleventh century led to a revolution in political and moral philosophy, so that using force to overthrow a tyrannical government became a positive moral duty. The intellectual revolution was an essential step in the evolution of Western political philosophy that eventually led to the American Revolution.

The above is a summary of my new law review article "The Catholic Second Amendment," which will be published in the Hamline Law Review in 2006. Please feel free to offer useful comments and suggestions, as long as they related to the period covered the article. Please don't include arguments about the New Testament, patristic Christianity, or modern Catholicism--all of which are interesting, and all of which I'm writing about in other articles.

DNL (mail):
Without reading your article (yet), what do you make of Dark Ages bans on crossbows?

[DK reply: The article doesn't get into the subject. Crossbow bans were very popular with monarchs, including in Germany, who didn't like how much power they put into the hands of common people. I hope that someone will write a good history of crossbow control.]
11.2.2005 11:17am
Gordon (mail):
The Assize of Arms of Henry II (1184):

The conventional view of this law and other such English laws is that they were put in place to provide the King of England with a trained fighting force for his wars in France, not to safeguard the individual liberties of the arms-bearers from the tyranny of the King of England. They may have had that unintended effect, though.

[DK reply: Clearly Henry II didn't have any personal commitment to the civil liberties of the English people, but I think the Assize of Arms had purposes that extended beyond just offensive warfare in France.]
11.2.2005 11:25am
alexandra (mail):
Where are your theological articles? Are they up ye

[DK reply: So far, the published ones are at: But there's much more to come, from works that are still in progress.]
11.2.2005 11:29am
18 USC 1030 (mail):
I found the article to be generally well written and quite informative. There was one sentence that I was a bit confused over. On page 13, you say:
Thus, the Bill of Rights protected Americans against congressional interference with the pre-existing human rights recognized in the First and Second Amendments.

My question to you is; did you mean that to be human rights; or Natrual law or natural rights? It seems to me at least that the theory of Human Rights is a relatively new construct, not that "human rights" were not respect in prior times, but that "human rights" were generally referred to as natural law. Obviously the First and Second Amendments today protect that which is known as Human Rights, but was this the case then?

I do not mean to be nit picky but when I read that I was a bit puzzled. If I am mistaken as to the past view of human rights, please let me know.

[DK reply: You're right that "Human Rights" is a modern term of art. In practice, there's a significant overrlap between "Human Rights" and the rights which earlier writers called "natural rights." In using the terms interchangeably, I'm trying to illustrate the continuity of the idea that rights are inherent, rather than granted by government.]
11.2.2005 12:10pm
I skimmed the article and have two issues: one is that I think the connection between Catholic scholarship and the writings of Sidney, Harrington, Locke, Bolingbroke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, etc. needs to be more firmly established in Part VII. Is there any evidence of direct transmission? If not, to what extent are the arguments in the latter so similar that we can say confidently they were drawing on the former? Related to that, I think there may be a fundamental difference between the two strands of thought, although I haven't read the sources you have. That is, it sounds from my cursory reading as though the Catholic scholars support, as non-sinful, actions taken against a king or duke who has violated Church law; but that seems importantly different than the theory that arose during the English Revolution, that a sovereign has (non-religious) duties to the people, and that the people may enforce those duties through violent action. The latter seems truly revolutionary in that it supports non-elite action not merely to enforce elite-determined duties, but also to enforce duties that in the opinion of the multitudes have not been met.
11.2.2005 1:33pm
Easy Tiger (mail):
I've printed out the article and am excited about reading it tonight (got a knotty Personal Holding Company problem).

My medieval professors at Berkeley, Jonathan Koziol and Robert Brentano always warned us against the tendency of Medieval historians to ignore Germanic tribal cultural contributions. Their cultural norms heavily influenced western civilization's institutions and intellectual thought, but are rarely considered because of the paucity of written records.

With that in mind, my initial take on the the issue you present, is as follows. First, germans were notoriously short of patience for kings and rulers. Gregory of Tours and others describe pandemic gleeful, bloody usurpations. The Romans survivors and Catholic clergy were horrified, and tried to elevate the strongest (Clovis, Charlemagne) into a more Eastern (i.e. greek) type kings-- divinely ordained, infallible, protector of the church, etc. These two notions co-existed in thought and practice for centuries. Finally, the educated elites (all 2 dozen of them) turned their back on eastern political theory and tenatively agreed that you could usurp a king. That philosophical departure was made easier by the old germanic predisposition to hold kings accountable.

The change I see, then, is that these new Chrisitan thinkers replaced old reasons for usurpation (incompetence, insufficent greed, luck or prowess) with new basis (piety, responsibility protect rights, etc.). It was a synthesis of german tradition and Christian philosophical development, neither of which could have deveoped in isolation. For example, if the military powers were not used to and prone to usurpation, a philisophy of usurpation would have been dead on arrival

Anyway, that's just an off the cuff response to your post, not the article, and based on things I haven't chewed over in 10 years. But I'm excited to read your article and ready to admit I'm totally wrong.
11.2.2005 3:18pm
Shelby (mail):
One intellectual development that plainly contributed a great deal to the later "true" Renaissance (and subsequent revolutions) was the rediscovery and widespread dissemination of Greek and Roman texts on politics and history. Might it be possible to work backwards, as it were, and remove the obvious Greco-Roman contributions that infiltrated starting in the Fourteenth Century? What's left would be the more Christian-driven underpinnings of anti-tyrannical revolution that had evolved by the Thirteenth Century.

Then again, maybe that's too much work.
11.2.2005 5:26pm
Jam (mail):
Interesting. Would Aquinas interpret SCOTUS contortions of the uS Constitution's text tyrannical? The Executive and Legislative violations' ? Would Aquinas supported the Kentucky and Virgina Resolutions?
11.3.2005 9:12am