A few weeks ago in an article about the appeal for Russian Consecration, I announced that OnePeterFive had taken Bl. Emperor Karl as one of its heavenly patrons. This was occasioned by the sad reality of the war in Ukraine, part of which was under Blessed Karl’s dominions at the start of the Great War in 1918.
On this day, we are given a happy occasion to begin to unfold some of the reasons for our choice of a patron. Today is the centenary of the holy emperor’s birthday into eternal life.
We will have many years to reflect on and extol the virtues of this saint, but in this post we wish to commemorate his holy death, and speak on a few of the aspects of his life which influence the mission of OnePeterFive. Our contributing editor Charles A. Coulombe is today on the island of Madeira, where Bl. Karl was exiled and buried, taking part in the official pilgrimage there.
Blessed Emperor Karl’s tomb! pic.twitter.com/ntsh8tTD5Y
— Charles A. Coulombe (@RCCoulombe) March 31, 2022
We will run an article next week from him, God willing, reporting on the pilgrimage. You can visit the official site of the Cause for Canonization for more information.
The Two Swords Doctrine
As we discussed in our editorial stance, we seek to unite the clans to rebuild Christendom. The building of Christendom has always been the proclamation of the Gospel, which is that Jesus is King.
The sovereignty of Our Lord over the principalities and powers of this world disarms the illegitimate means by which rulers have formed society against justice. It sets souls and society free from the reign of the devil, and plants the mustard seed of the Kingdom of God at the heart of every community.
This begins with the Apostle, preaching to the pagan king, who is converted, baptised, and liberated from the demonic.
He then destroys the idols of his realm and raises a cathedral to the King of Kings.
From this grew the traditional Two Swords doctrine, where the lay order (with its temporal sword) and the clerical order (with its spiritual sword) together built Christendom. Canonist Stephen of Tournai (1128-1203) summarizes this with these words:
In the same city, and under the same King, there are two people and two authorities. The city is the Church, the King is Christ, the two peoples are the clergy and the laity… and the two authorities are the priesthood and the monarchy.
Andrew Willard Jones published a study in 2017 entitled Before Church and State: A Study of the Social Order in the Sacramental Kingdom of St. Louis IX, which examined this doctrine in 13th century France.
In our own epoch, we have seen this doctrine gradually crumble in an age of constant revolution. The evils of Liberalism destroyed the organic bond between the Two Swords, leading to a real problem of clericalism, which began in the 19th century. Against the traditional definition of Church as lay and cleric working together, we normally speak of “the Church” today as including the hierarchy only. The laity do not help to govern Church affairs anymore, as they did in Christendom.
For more on this, we direct readers to this conversation between former Una Voce president Jamie Bogle and Dr. Sebastian Morello on Vendée Radio:
Where does Blessed Emperor Karl fit into all this?
He was the last in a line of Holy Roman Emperors (even without the title) who wielded the temporal sword on behalf of Christendom during the Great War and its aftermath, which included the errors of Russia. We look to him for our times because he became the model layman in an age of clerical takeover, coming down to our present day. Blessed Karl fought for his people and gave his whole life for them, fulfilling his coronation oath.
In this, he is an icon of Christ the King.
He was a father, a husband. He knew his place as a layman and sovereign in the Church of the modern era. And he fulfilled his duties.
We need him as our model layman, if the lay order is to be restored in the Church and Christendom is to be rebuilt.
The Novus Ordo iconoclasm which was imposed on the Church in the 1960s and 1970s would not have been possible with pious and orthodox lay rulers helping to govern the Church. The first lay movement of the Traditionalist cause, Una Voce, imitated the work of lay rulers in the times of our fathers. They acted as fathers. They defended their people and their children.
Like Emperor Karl.
The holy monarch fought against the ideological iconoclasm of the Great War and its aftermath, which were the hideous seeds of the uglification of the world. He stood for Tradition when it was attacked everywhere. He stood for Catholic order in an age of chaos.
Now he stands in heaven to intercede for us, sinners.
He is our holy emperor in heaven, against the errors of Russia and modernity. Lest any critics think this is merely some integralist nostalgia, we must be reminded that Karol Józef Wojtyła Sr., a Polish officer in Blessed Karl’s army during the Great War, was so impressed with the saint that he named his son not after himself, but after Emperor Karl, when he was born in 1920: Karol Wojtyła, the future John Paul II. We direct all to purchase a copy of Mr. Coulombe’s recent biography of the saint, published by TAN: Blessed Charles of Austria: A Holy Emperor and His Legacy.
His Holy Death
We invite all readers to the comments of Eduard Habsburg here:
T. S. Flanders
Centenary of Bl. Emperor Karl’s Birthday into Heaven
April 1st, A. D. MMXXII
Photo taken from the official Cause website.
 See T. S. Flanders, City of God vs. City of Man: the Battles of the Church from Antiquity to the Present (Our Lady of Victory Press, 2021), 113-124.
 R. W. Carlyle, A History of Mediaeval Political Theory (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1915), vol. II, 198 in Christopher Dawson, The Formation of Christendom (Ignatius, 2008), 216.
 Charles A. Coulombe, Blessed Charles of Austria: A Holy Emperor and His Legacy (TAN: 2020), 189.
Timothy Flanders is the editor of OnePeterFive. He is the author of City of God versus City of Man: The Battles of the Church from Antiquity to the Present and Introduction to the Holy Bible for Traditional Catholics. His writings have appeared at OnePeterFive and Crisis, as well as in Catholic Family News. In 2019 he founded The Meaning of Catholic, a lay apostolate dedicated to uniting Catholics against the enemies of Holy Church. He holds a degree in classical languages from Grand Valley State University and has done graduate work with the Catholic University of Ukraine. He lives in Michigan with his wife and five children.