Revolution is in the air

Revolution seems to be “in the air” and this has been true during much of 2020.  There were riots, burning, destruction, and looting across the U.S. (and in other places in the world) especially in the Summer 2020. 

Here is one account of the leftist demonstrations in Seattle on January 20, 2021, the day Joe Biden was sworn in as U.S. president:

The demonstrators, mostly clad in black, spray-painted anarchy symbols on buildings, broke windows and marched under a banner that read, “We are ungovernable.”

“We don’t want Biden – we want revenge for police murders, imperialist wars, and fascist massacres,” read another banner that the group marched under.  …  The crowd called for the abolition of ICE[1] and, outside the federal immigration court, several people set fire to an American flag ….[2]

There was not only burning and looting during the leftist riots in 2020 but anarchists even established a long-term violent occupation of part of Seattle, Washington, excluding police from the area, and re-naming the captured territory “the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone” (a/k/a “CHAZ”).

Further, six men reportedly planned to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, the leftist governor of Michigan who was infamous for her abusive lockdowns of her state.[3]

Also, the mainstream media, the Democrats, and some others blame then-President Trump for inciting a supposed “coup attempt” on January 6, 2021.[4]  They blame Trump, despite him telling his followers that day to “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard”[5] about the election fraud.  

On January 6, 2021, while Trump was speaking to his supporters at a different location, some hooligans already began some lawless activity at the U.S. capitol building.[6]  It appears that leftist activists[7] led the violence and successfully got a tiny percentage of Trump supporters to follow their lead, e.g., following those leftists into the Capitol building through a smashed window.  One of the Black Lives Matter founders had previously put out a call on her Twitter feed telling her followers that they should disguise themselves as Trump supporters at post-election events.[8]

All these events raise the general question:

Is it ever permissible for Catholics to be revolutionaries?

Let us examine the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church on this question.

We must distinguish between resisting and revolting. 

When someone in authority commands something evil, we must never “obey” that evil command.[9]   But it is one thing to resist that evil command (as we must) and it is a further step to use that evil command as a basis for rejecting the ruler’s lawful authority as such.  This further step is to revolt.

For example, the American revolutionaries considered it evil that King George III imposed taxes on them without their consent, and that he did many other things to which they objected.  But the American revolutionaries not only resisted such commands of King George but also used the commands as a (purported) “justification” for their revolution. 

In their Declaration of Independence, the revolutionaries objected to many things such as their king “quartering large bodies of armed troops among us”; “imposing taxes on us without our consent”; and “depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury”.

After listing their grievances, the American revolutionaries then did what all revolutionaries do: they said that their ruler was to blame for their own revolution because his conduct caused him to lose his status as their king.  The American revolutionaries declared that King George III, “whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”[10]

The American revolutionaries did what revolutionaries always do: they declared that their ruler had lost all authority over them.  Here are their words:

[T]hese United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.[11]

Finally, the American revolutionaries then did something else which revolutionaries always do: they declared that it was their right and duty to revolt:

[W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations … evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is [the colonies’] right, it is their duty, to throw off such government.[12]

This is what it is to be a revolutionary: to reject and resist not just particular (perhaps evil) commands but to also reject the very authority of his ruler.

The American revolutionaries followed the same pattern as countless other revolutionaries, e.g., in France, Russia, and Latin America.[13]  In all human history there is not even one revolution[14] which the Catholic Church recognizes to have been praiseworthy and not sinful.[15]

In summary, revolutionaries follow a common pattern:

1.    they assert that their ruler committed wrongs (whether actual wrongs or merely imagined); and then

2.    they use such wrongs as a basis to declare that their ruler’s own conduct has resulted in his losing his authority to rule them.

The Cristeros were Not Revolutionaries

On a superficial level, a person might have the false impression that the Mexican Cristeros were revolutionaries because they took up arms against the anti-Catholic Mexican government in the 1920s.  But the Cristeros’ goal was to defend their priests, their churches, and the Catholicism of their families.  The Cristeros resisted the many wrongs committed by their anti-Catholic, Masonic government.  By successfully taking up arms, the Cristeros prevented the anti-Catholic government from further harming them unjustly (arresting them, killing them, etc.). But unlike persons who are revolutionaries, the Cristeros never used their government’s wrongs as a basis to declare that their government had lost all authority over them.[16]  Instead, by taking up arms, the Cristeros merely prevented their lawful but anti-Catholic government from doing the harm it intended.

The American Revolutionaries could have – but did not – take the same approach as the Cristeros.  That is, the American Revolutionaries could have resisted even by force of arms any wrongs that were severe enough while still acknowledging King George of England as their rightful king.

Revolution is Always Wrong

It is un-Catholic to be a revolutionary.  All authority comes from God, regardless of the method by which a ruler is chosen to wield civil or religious power.  Here is how St. Paul teaches this truth:

[T]here is no power but from God:  and those [powers] that are, are ordained of God.  Therefore, he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.  And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation.  …  For [the ruler] is God’s minister.  …  Wherefore, be subject of necessity, not only for [the ruler’s] wrath, but also for conscience’s sake

Romans, ch.13, vv. 1-2 & 4-5 (emphasis added).[17]

Pope Pius IX faithfully echoed St. Paul:

[A]ll authority comes from God. Whoever resists authority resists the ordering made by God Himself, consequently achieving his own condemnation; disobeying authority is always sinful except when an order is given which is opposed to the laws of God and the Church.

Qui Pluribus, November 9, 1846, §22.

Pope Pius IX taught this same doctrine in his infallible condemnation of the following proposition:

It is permissible to refuse obedience to legitimate rulers, and even to revolt against them.

Quanta Cura, proposition #63 (emphasis added).[18]

Pope Leo XIII taught the same doctrine as St. Paul and Pope Pius IX:

If, however, it should ever happen that public power is exercised by rulers rashly and beyond measure, the doctrine of the Catholic Church does not permit rising up against them on one’s own terms, lest quiet and order be more and more disturbed, or lest society receive greater harm therefrom.[19]

Because it is sinful to even willfully desire to sin, Pope Leo XIII taught that even the “desire for revolution” is a “vice”.  Auspicato Concessu, §24. 

Although revolution is forbidden, Pope Leo XIII gave us the remedies of patience, prayer, and resistance to the particular evil commands of a bad ruler.  Here are his words:

Whenever matters have come to such a pass that no other hope of a solution is evident, [the doctrine of the Catholic Church] teaches that a remedy is to be hastened through the merits of Christian patience, and by urgent prayers to God. 

But if the decisions of legislators and rulers should sanction or order something that is contrary to divine and natural law, the dignity and duty of the Christian name and the opinion of the apostles urge that “we ought to obey God, rather than men” (Acts 5:29).[20]


St. Thomas Aquinas, greatest Doctor of the Church, offers the same remedy to persons who suffer the evil of a bad ruler:

[S]ometimes God permits evil rulers to afflict good men.  This affliction is for the good of such good men, as St. Paul says above [ch.8, v.28]: “All things work for the good, for those who love God.”[21] 

The Example of the Saints shows Revolution is Wrong

Look at the example of Catholics, including great saints like St. Sebastian, who served bravely and faithfully even in the army of the pagan emperors of Rome.  They did not revolt, even when their emperor openly sought to kill all Catholics (although, of course, those soldier-saints did not aid in the persecution of Catholics). 

Here is Pope Gregory XVI’s praise for those Roman soldier-saints, who were faithful to God first, but also to their emperor (whenever the emperor’s commands were not themselves evil):

[T]he early Christians … deserved well of the emperors and of the safety of the state even while persecution raged.  This they proved splendidly by their fidelity in performing perfectly and promptly whatever they were commanded which was not opposed to their religion, and even more by their constancy and the shedding of their blood in battle. “Christian soldiers”, says St. Augustine, “served an infidel emperor.  When the issue of Christ was raised, they acknowledged no one but the One who is in heaven.  They distinguished the eternal Lord from the temporal lord, but were also subject to the temporal lord for the sake of the eternal Lord.” 

St. Mauritius, the unconquered martyr and leader of the Theban legion had this in mind when, as St. Eucharius reports, he answered the emperor in these words: “We are your soldiers, Emperor, but also servants of God, and this we confess freely . . . and now this final necessity of life has not driven us into rebellion.”  … 

Indeed, the faith of the early Christians shines more brightly, if we consider with Tertullian, that since the Christians were not lacking in numbers and in troops, they could have acted as foreign enemies.  “We are but of yesterday”, he says, “yet we have filled all your cities, islands, fortresses, municipalities, assembly places, the camps themselves, the tribes, the divisions, the palace, the senate, the forum.  …  For what war should we not have been fit and ready even if unequal in forces – we who are so glad to be cut to pieces – were it not, of course, that in our doctrine we would have been permitted more to be killed rather than to kill?  …  [Y]ou have fewer enemies because of the multitude of Christians.”

These beautiful examples of the unchanging subjection to the rulers necessarily proceeded from the most holy precepts of the Christian religion.[22]

Summary of this article so far

As shown above, it is Catholic dogma that revolution is always wrong but that resisting the particular evil commands of our ruler is permitted and is sometimes necessary.  When resisting is just, such resistance might include taking up arms and fighting the government soldiers who seek to enforce the ruler’s evil orders.  The Cristeros did this in Mexico.

If the evil is great enough, the resisters may even place themselves beyond the reach of the harm which the ruler seeks to unjustly inflict on them.  The Cristeros did this, succeeding in defending three-quarters of Mexico from the anti-Catholic harm attempted by Mexico’s Masonic government.[23]

However, even when strong resistance is justified by the greatness of the evil attempted by the ruler, those persons resisting the evil are not permitted to revolt, i.e., to declare that the ruler has ceased to be their ruler.  The ruler does not lose his authority in principle, even when the resisters prevent him by force of arms from accomplishing in practice the evil he wishes to do.  This is the meaning of Quanta Cura’s infallible condemnation of the assertion that “It is permissibleto revolt”.  (See above.)

Regarding the early soldier-saints fighting in the Roman army (see above) even while the emperor martyred Catholics: those Catholic soldier-saints served their emperor faithfully in honorable activities but never aided the Roman persecution of Catholics.  In those quotations above, St. Augustine, Pope Gregory XVI, and the other authorities praise those soldier-saints for not revolting but do not address the option of armed resistance since those soldier-saints of Rome did not choose to do what the Cristeros did, viz., defend themselves by force of arms, (although without revolting). 

A note about a different but related issue: determining whether a ruler is the legitimate ruler

Above, we see that Catholics must never revolt against their legitimate ruler (although they must resist his evil commands).  However, a person can ask: “how do we know when a ruler is legitimate?”

This article does not lay out principles from which we can know in all cases if a ruler is legitimate (and thus has authority over us).  There are many ways a ruler might not be the legitimate ruler.  Here is an easy case of a ruler being illegitimate:

When the head of a foreign, attacking army first lands on a country’s soil and immediately declares himself the legitimate ruler of the country simply because he is there and is strong, it is easy to see that he is a usurper and not a rightful, legitimate ruler of the country he is attacking.  The people of that country can justly deny his authority over them and fight against him to try to expel him from their country.

Is Biden our legitimate president (with authority over us)?

The legitimacy of a ruler is currently a very pertinent question because there is much evidence from which to conclude that Joe Biden and the leftists stole the 2020 presidential election from President Trump.[24]  So then is Joe Biden the legitimate U.S. president wielding the executive authority of the presidency?

That is a difficult question, involving many facts of which we have incomplete knowledge.  However, it seems that he is the U.S. president, wielding the authority of a president because:

  A person becomes president by being sworn in as provided by the U.S. Constitution.  Joe Biden has been sworn in as president.

  Even with the apparent election fraud, it seems more accurate to say that Biden has become president through fraudulently stealing the election, rather than that he is an imposter who falsely poses as president.

  If Biden weren’t the president, then who would be president?  Trump does not claim to be president and does not claim that Biden is not president.  Rather, Trump claims (apparently correctly) that Biden stole the presidency (i.e., he became president) through fraud. 

Further, whatever Biden does while acting as president would be enforced and implemented by other, lower government officials who do have lawful authority over us.  We would have to recognize their lawful authority (when they are not commanding something sinful, of course).


Faithful and informed Catholics are not revolutionaries.  We must obey those in authority over us when they command something which is not sinful.

Any abuse we cannot avoid from our legitimate authorities we should face with prayer, patience, and our best efforts to vote, stay informed, instruct our children and fellow citizens, as well as work in other ways to improve the quality of our leaders.

However, our obedience extends only to those who legitimately have authority over us.  We do not have to obey those who falsely claim to have authority.

Even though Biden (apparently) stole the 2020 presidential election, he is apparently still the legitimate U.S. president, wielding the authority of the U.S. presidency.

May God help us!

[1]           “ICE” in an acronym standing for the U.S. agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

[9]           For a careful examination of true and false obedience, read this article:


[10]         Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.

[11]         Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.

[12]         Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.

[13]         To read how Masonic revolution swept throughout Latin America, read the sketches of the political histories of the individual countries, in this book: Latin America: A Sketch of its Glorious Catholic Roots and a Snapshot of its Present, by the Editors of Quanta Cura Press, ©2016.

[14]         Generally, political revolt is called by the name “sedition”, whereas revolt against the Catholic Church is called “schism”.  But at the root of all such revolts, there is the same “non serviam! which echoes that of Satan, the father of all revolutionaries.


[15]         If there could ever have been a place and circumstances where revolution could have appeared justified, it would have been a civil revolution by Catholics in newly-apostate England, where the English government inflicted horrors and injustices of every type upon the Catholics.  The torture, imprisonment, extreme suffering, and martyrdom inflicted on Catholics and the outrageous confiscation of Catholic property seemed to many as something impossible to bear.  See, e.g., Chapters 1-3 of Narrative of the Gunpowder Plot, by Fr. John Gerard, S.J., Quanta Cura Press.  This book is a fascinating contemporaneous account of the Anglican and Puritan persecutions of Catholics during the reign of King James I, which is the context of the Gunpowder Plot.


Because of the Anglicans’ and Puritans’ shocking treatment of Catholics, Guy Fawkes and a few other Catholics devised the Gunpowder Plot to blow-up the Parliament Building when King James I was there with the rest of England’s political leaders.  However, the two consecutive popes of the time, as well as all of the Jesuit superiors and priests in England all strongly forbade Catholics to take part in such plots or otherwise to revolt against their rightful (but bad) king, James I. 


In his contemporaneous account of the Gunpowder Plot and the savage persecutions leading up to this plot, Fr. John Gerard explains:


All Catholics received strict commandment from the See Apostolic, that in no case they should stir or attempt anything against His Majesty [viz., King James I of England] or the State [viz., England], and this both from Pope Clement VIII, of pious memory, and from Paulus Vtus [viz., Pope Paul V] that now sitteth in the Chair, who both before and since his assumption to that supreme dignity of governing the Church of Christ, hath showed [sic] himself most earnest to procure the quiet, safety, and security of our Sovereign [viz., King James I], … [and by ordering] that no Catholic people should go about to interrupt or trouble the same [viz., King James I of England] by their impatient proceedings ….


Id., page 120 (bracketed words added for clarity; note: In this quotation, Fr. Gerard uses “Vtus” which is the Roman numeral “V” (five) plus the last three letters of the Latin word “Quintus”, meaning “fifth”).                                                             

[16]         To read more on the Cristeros resistance to their anti-Catholic government’s oppression, read Latin America: A Sketch of its Glorious Catholic Roots and a Snapshot of its Present, by the Editors of Quanta Cura Press, pp. 40-42, ©2016.

[17]         God also declares: “By Me kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things; by Me princes rule, and the mighty decree justice.”  Proverbs, 8:15-16.


[18]         Pope Pius IX used his ex cathedra (infallible) authority to condemn this error as part of a list of errors contained in the syllabus of Quanta Cura.  Regarding these condemnations, the pope said:

We, truly mindful of Our Apostolic duty, and especially solicitous about our most holy religion, about sound doctrine and the salvation of souls divinely entrusted to Us, and about the good of human society itself, have decided to lift our voice again.  And so all and each evil opinion and doctrine individually mentioned in this letter, by Our Apostolic authority We reject, proscribe and condemn; and We wish and command that they be considered as absolutely rejected, proscribed and condemned by all the sons of the Catholic Church.

Thus, Pope Pius IX’s condemnation fulfills the conditions for infallibility set out in Vatican I’s document, Pastor Aeternus, because the pope was: 1) carrying out his duty as pastor and teacher of all Christians; 2) in accordance with his supreme apostolic authority; 3) on a matter of faith or morals; 4) to be held by the universal Church.

[19]         Encyclical, Quod Apostolici muneris, December 28, 1878, §7
(emphasis added).


[20]         Quod Apostolici muneris, December 28, 1878, §7 (bracketed words added to show context).

[21]         St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Romans, ch.13, lect.1.


[22]         Encyclical Mirari Vos, August 15, 1832, §§ 18-19 (emphasis added), quoting and relying on the teaching of St. Augustine (Doctor and Father of the Church), as well as St. Mauritius, and Tertullian (a Father of the Church).

[23]         To read more on the Cristeros resistance to their anti-Catholic government’s oppression, read Latin America: A Sketch of its Glorious Catholic Roots and a Snapshot of its Present, by the Editors of Quanta Cura Press, pp. 41, ©2016.