Andrei Șaguna and ”The Organic Statute” – VI.2.3.3 The relationship Church-state in Andrei Şaguna’s conception


VI.2 The autonomy of the Church

VI.2.3.3 The relationship Church-state in Andrei Şaguna’s conception

The study of Andrei Şaguna’s conception concerning the relationship Church-state is on the one hand interesting, because it was expressed in the nineteenth century, when in the Roman Church the school of Ius Publicum Ecclesiasticum and its theory of the Church as societas perfecta[1] developed. On the other hand, it is welcome both for the Romanian Orthodox Church, but also for the actual global context.

Andrei Şaguna’s theory is based on the premise of possibility and necessity of the peaceful coexistence of the Church and state, although they are fundamentally different, the model of their communion being that of the relationship between soul and body. Moreover, not only can the two entities live together, but they also have to help each other mutually and unconditionally to serve man.

The state and the Church are different from one another. The difference lies, first of all, in their different origin. Whereas the Church is created entirely by God, through the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ[2], the state is the result of several groups of people’s unification under the command of a ruler (emperor, king, prince)[3]. Another difference is their final purpose. The purpose of the Church is “to instil into the Christians the religiousness and morality according to Jesus’ teaching, thus preparing the believers to achieve the spiritual salvation, or, as Christ said, to inherit God’s Kingdom…[4] The state’s function is to guarantee the order and protect the life, honour, and property of its citizens, or, in other words, to preserve the lawful state.[5] The Church conceives man as a member of Christ’s mystical body that it has to prepare for the hereafter, while the state sees man as a citizen and is concerned on his temporary well-being. “Although the Church is composed of the same people the state is composed of, still the community of the Church is different from the political one, for the Church’s goal is one, and the state’s goal is another. The Church’s goal is eternal redemption and the state’s goal is temporary happiness.[6]

Of course, in order to reach its goals the Church uses other means than the state. The means of the Church are the preaching of the Word – of faith, love, hope, of the ten divine commandments and the nine ecclesiastical ones – and the administration of the seven Holy Sacraments[7], whereas the means of the state are “the political and penal laws[8]. The fact that “the civil rule cannot interfere in an absolutistic manner in the inner affairs of the Church is without any doubt.[9]

Therefore, the Church and the state are different both in their origins and final goals, and the means used to achieve their goals. But this difference does not hinder their peaceful coexistence, which was strongly proven by the analogy between soul and body.[10] As these two heterogeneous elements – the soul and the body – create together the human being which is spiritually subjected to the Church and physically to the state, the Church and the state can and must coexist. Because their goals and means, though different, do not contradict each other, even if the state were not Christian and irrespective of the form of government it would have.[11]And because the goal of the Church helps that of the state and the goal of the state does not prevent the Church from reaching its own goal, basically they are together, they contain each other, that is the Church is in the state and the state is in the Church, without any prejudices, for the Church does not harm the state, striving for the eternal redemption of the believers, nor does the state harm the Church, looking after the temporary happiness of its subordinated people; thus, only mistakes or disaccords can lead to a collision between the Church and the state. The Church can exist without the state, as it happened during the persecutions of the Church; but if the Church has the state’s goodness on its side, then it flourishes […]; when the Church is supported by the state, it has the natural authority.[12]

As far as the usefulness or the necessity of the Church (religion) in state is concerned, Andrei Şaguna rejected the idea according to which the Church is necessary to the state because it supports the state in its social interests, trade, industry, science, art, and moreover the promotion of morals. In his opinion, the Church is necessary to the state firstly because it ensures the spiritual peace of the people. The earthly life of the state’s citizens has a double perspective – a material and a spiritual one – and it has to be lived in such a way so as to “satisfy their spiritual needs and ensure their spiritual peace.”[13] The state has the duty to guarantee the possibility of achievement of both human dimensions. It cannot ignore the religion of its citizens, without hurting itself and its citizens.[14]

So the Church and the state are two entities between which major differences are but which still can coexist and work peacefully to the benefit of man, of his bodily and spiritual well-being. Their coexistence does not mean the lack of separation, on the contrary. The paragraphs 297 to 301 of the “Compendium” offer Şaguna’s solution for the relationship Church-state: a clear separation and mutual, unconditional help.

The recognition of the separation between Church and state is attributed even to the Christian Byzantine Emperors Constantine the Great (306-337), Valentinian (364-375), Marcian (450-457), Justinian (527-565), “for they confessed many times, in writing, that they had no right to interfere in religious affairs.”[15] Moreover, Emperor Justinian “was firmly convinced that civil laws had to be written according to the Church’s canons”[16], the same emperor’s Novella 83 being reminded in this respect. Although the Byzantine emperors issued laws concerning ecclesiastical people and objects, these laws were, however, in agreement with the canonical provisions, derived from canons “like their natural affluents[17], proving, in fact, the respect and support given to the Church by the state.

As for the state, the measure unit of its attitude toward the Church must be the truth that “Christ is the Head of the Church body (Colossians 1.18)[18], therefore the Church is subordinated to Christ (Ephesians 5.23-24)[19]; the same as the ruler is the head of the state and the state is subordinated to the ruler.[20] The separation between Church and state expressed here has its fundament in the Orthodox doctrine on the power and the supreme authority in the Church, which is Jesus Christ himself.[21] The state has another worldly, supreme authority – the ruling monarch in the monarchy, respectively the president or the parliament in the case of other forms of government. Just as Christ did not preach anything against the state or detrimental to it but on the contrary, respect and submission to the state authority, the state has to show respect to the Church, mainly by avoiding any measures that might infringe in its principles or the Christians’ religious convictions. The state’s attitude toward the Church has to show respect directly proportionally with the holiness of the divine teachings, to comply with the goal of the Church, and to bring spiritual peace to the citizens. In essence, the state’s position toward the Church should be “the most cordial and correct one[22]. The state is invited not only to guarantee the existence of the Church, but also to respect its principles because of the intrinsic value given by their divine nature, and to know them in order to identify and respect them.[23]

Although he considers that the state has the duty to respect the Church, Andrei Şaguna admits that the principles of the Church cannot be accepted by the state as principles with legal value, excepting the form of government called theocracy.[24] However, the principles of the Church must be considered by the state as being worthy of imitation when the latter establishes its own principles and the citizens’ rights and duties.[25] As positive examples he remembered some of the constitutional principles of the modern states adopted from Christendom – the abolishment of slavery, of privileges and feudalism, the equality in front of state duties and laws -, and the Gospels (Matthew, 5.1-48) as a moral source of legal provisions.[26]

 A point of view unacceptable today, as it is against the state’s religious neutrality, is expressed by Andrei Şaguna when he is of the opinion that the state itself must have a religion and respect it, giving expression to it in the measures either legislative or administrative it takes.[27] Still, in one of the following chapters of the “Compendium” where he analyses the relationships between state and different confessions, he strongly denies the idea of a dominant or state confession, stating the modern principle of the religious neutrality of the state.[28]

As far as the Church is concerned, it ensures the spiritual peace of the Christian citizens through its goals, so implicitly it does service to the state as the guarantor of the material and spiritual well-being of all its citizens. At the same time, the Church must have the right evangelical attitude of support toward the state, expressed in “genuine, cordial and correct”[29] forms.

The reciprocity or complementarity of services between Church and state are natural, coming from their liaison, similar to the one between soul and body. The soul and the body sustain each other, and so do the Church and the state. Moreover, the Church cannot refuse to help the state even when the state refuses to support the Church, the latter being unconditionally obliged to help according to the teaching of Jesus Christ (Matthew 22.21)[30] and his followers – the Apostles (I Peter 2.17)[31]. In this argumentation, worthy of being extended to the analysis of the relationship religion-state nowadays, there is also an anachronistical statement: “the Christians are citizens and the citizens are Christians.[32] The citizens of the state nowadays can not only choose not to be Christians, but they can also have no religion whatsoever. This does not mean anyway that the state discriminates them because of this reason, but it has to find the best solution to treat them equally, which would hurt neither the religious one nor the non-religious.[33]

Practically, the Church’s support for the state consists of: prayers for the rulers, soldiers and all the citizens[34], announcing the civil duties, special prayers on emperor’s birthday[35], prayers on special occasions such as epidemics, riots, wars, and the fulfilment of the ecclesiastical ministry with dignity.[36]

The state’s support for the Church consists of: the factual recognition of its citizens’ freedom of consciousness and of religious convictions[37]; the compliance with the internal autonomy of the Church by not interfering in its doctrine and strict religious affairs; the compliance with the dogmas, institutions and ecclesiastical internal decisions; the compliance with the canon law; the minimal financial support for the clergy and Church’s educational and charitable institutions; the guarantee of the development of the ecclesiastical and religious life of its citizens.[38]

What is very important, considering the reciprocity Church-state and also the separation between them, is the unconditional help: “just as the Church obliges itself to offer the state its moral help unconditionally, because this is what the Holy Scripture command, the state obliges itself to give the Church its material help unconditionally too, without demanding any rights of patronage; contrarily, the hierarchy is invited to refuse such conditional help from the state and watch over for the strict compliance with the Saviour’s words in the Bible.”[39]

Not lastly is to be noticed the use of the adjective “correct” both when the state’s attitude toward the Church and the Church’s attitude toward the state are described. In order to sustain such a reciprocally right attitude, Andrei Şaguna insisted that firstly the ecclesiastical leaders themselves, but also the state should know the principles and genuine institutions of the Church: “The Church hierarchy is obliged to eliminate, by its actions and words, any circumstance that might endanger the exercise and supporting of the Church’s freedom within the state, which can be best ensured by the understanding of the genuine rules of the Church. […] Not less, the state has the duty to insist on knowing the rules of the Church and getting permeated by their holiness, so that no wrong should be done to the Church […]. Therefore, knowing the Church’s rules is of the greatest importance for Church and state in order for the Church’s freedom be exercised.[40]

He experienced incorrect attitudes both from the rulers of the Church and the political circles, especially in the case of the Orthodox Church of Bukovina. So that, after all his efforts to obtain and guarantee the autonomy of the Metropolitanate toward the state, Metropolitan Andrei Şaguna was aware that this autonomy could be easily damaged by the very representatives of the Church: “I do believe that the strongest warranty of our rights we have won will be enforced when the Church’s representatives, fully aware of their rights, will manifest this awareness not only in words, but also in actions. When they will guard their rights, exercise them with zeal, and admit that the exercise of their rights is a constitutional duty; when they will start avoiding the total submission to the government’s tutorship and will stop considering it to be their providence, which should work miracles for them. These rights cannot be consolidated by the government, but only by the free activity of the Church.[41] Among other tasks of the church congress and bishops’ synod stipulated by “The Organic Statute” were to promote and to defend the freedom and autonomy of the Church.[42]

Andrei Şaguna expressed an interesting and modern point of view when he made the difference between the religious tolerance and the religious freedom, the state being invited to ensure the latter. Whereas the religious tolerance postulates the existence and privileges for a dominant religion or confession, which idea he rejects[43], the religious freedom admits the existence of a confessional, respectively religious diversity, and it legislates neutrally, without taking sides with one confession or religion or another. Moreover, the religious freedom promoted and guaranteed by the state has also the role of counteracting the proselytism, because a state that acknowledges a privileged religion or confession will always support it in its proselytist actions: “the blame of the ecclesiastical proselytism always comes from the state firstly.[44] If the relationship between the different Christian confessions has to be based on Christian love, the state’s relationship with all confessions and religions must be founded on the justice, the state assuring the confessional or religious equality through its laws.[45]

Because the state is sovereign, it has the right to approve the elected hierachs, as well as the right to control, which is done for “the benefit of the country’s laws”, which rights anyway do not interfere in the internal autonomy of the Church.[46] As Keith Hitchins remarked, Andrei Şaguna “conceived of the ideal relationship between Church and state as one of harmony and cooperation in furthering the general welfare of the Christian community rather than one of hostility and rivalry, which characterized Rumanian Orthodoxy’s existence in Transylvania for centuries.”[47]

[1] See J. LISTL, Kirche und Staat in der neueren katholischen Kirchenrechtswissenschaft, 104 et seqq.; Ludger MÜLLER, Communio-Ekklesiologie und Societas-perfecta-Lehre: zwei Quellen des kirchlichen Verfassungsrechts?, in: S. DEMEL, L. MÜLLER (Hrsg.), Krönung oder Entwertung des Konzils?, 265-293 here 266-270; L. GEROSA, Gesetzeauslegung im Kirchenrecht, 19-29.

[2] Cf. A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 279.

[3] Ibid., 280.

[4] Ibid., 279-280.

[5] Ibid., 280.

[6] A. Baronu de ŞAGUNA, Elementele dreptului canonic, 21855, 3.

[7] A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 280. Andrei Şaguna did not mention deaconry or charity among the means possessed by Church in order to achieve its purpose. In the Orthodox doctrine, deaconry is intrinsic to the Church, being a derivative of the supreme evangelical commandment: the love of the neighbour. Andrei Şaguna himself had been a promoter and undisputed organizer of the social and charitable action of the Church ever since his first years as church ruler in Transylvania. Cf. the chapter III.1.5 herein.

[8] A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 280.

[9] Ibid., 15.

[10] Cf. ibid., 280.

[11] This is a good argument for the existence and achievement of the role of the Church in the actual European and worldly context too. The Church as divine-human institution is invited, must, and can achieve its role in the history, irrespectively of the social and political context which can be more or less favourable.

[12] A. Baronu de ŞAGUNA, Elementele dreptului canonic, 21855, 3-4.

[13] A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 282.

[14] In this connexion it is interesting to notice the evolution, in the last 20 years, of the legislation concerning religions and the problems of the new religious movements in European countries such as Germany, France, Belgium, Austria. Cf. B. SCHINKELE, Überlegungen zum Phänomen neuer religiöser Bewegungen, 256-262.

[15] A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 281.

[16] Ibid., 281.

[17] Ibid., 281.

[18] Colossians 1.18: “He is the head of the body, the church…”

[19] Ephesians 5.23-24: “[…] Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. […] the church is subject to Christ …”

[20] A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 284.

[21] The source and subject of the Church authority is Jesus Christ. He exercises his authority in an invisible way through the unaltered teaching of the Gospels and the Holy Ghost, and in a visible way through the Holy Apostles and then through the bishops, as their followers. The bishops’ college, as a follower of the Apostles’ college is in Orthodoxy the holder of the supreme visible authority in the Church.

    Unlike the Orthodox doctrine, in the Catholic Church the visible Church authority is entirely concentrated on the pope (can. 331 CIC), whereas within Protestantism the subject of the authority are the believers and only they.

    Cf. D. BELU, Autoritatea în Biserică, 555-556; V. PHIDAS, Droit canon, 149 et seqq.; L. STAN, Poziţia laicilor în Biserica Ortodoxă, 198-199; D. STĂNILOAE, Orthodoxe Dogmatik, Bd. 2, 162 et seqq.

[22] A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 284.

[23] Ibid., 283, 290-291. The knowledge of the doctrine and principles of various religions and new religious movements is a real necessity for the state nowadays in order to guarantee what is useful for the citizens and, on the contrary, to repel what is detrimental to them. Cf. B. SCHINKELE, Überlegungen zum Phänomen neuer religiöser Bewegungen, 253-290.

[24] Cf. A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 285.

[25] If we consider the historical and political context in which the “Compendium” was edited, as well as the fact that Andrei Şaguna had revived the mixed synodality or constitutionalism in his eparchy ever since the Neoabsolutist era, it is easy to understand that one of the principles of the Church that he would have liked to have been followed by the state was that of constitutionalism. “In my Church the constitutionalism is so perfect that I would recommend it to the whole world! So I have learnt about the virtue of constitutionalism in my Church; as for political constitutionalism, it is said to be equal rights, but I have not felt it.” Andrei Şaguna’s speech in the Diet of Cluj of 1865, stenographical notices, in: Telegraful Român, No. 92, year XIII, Sibiu, Nevember 21/December 3, 1865, 366.

[26] Cf. A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 286.

[27] Cf. ibid., 282-283.

[28] Ibid., 302-304.

[29] Ibid., 285.

[30] Matthew 22.21: “[…] Then he said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’”

[31] I Peter 2.17: “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

[32] A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 287.

[33] Cf. B. SCHINKELE, Überlegungen zum Phänomen neuer religiöser Bewegungen, 256-262.

[34] See the great litany of the Orthodox liturgical prayers: “For our country, the president, and all those in public service, let us pray to the Lord.”

[35] In the Orthodox Church nowadays this anniversary prayer (Te Deum) has been preserved for the national day of the respective country.

[36] Cf. A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 285, 288.

[37] See ibid., 289-296.

[38] Cf. ibid., 288.

[39] Ibid., 288.

[40] Ibid., 291.

[41] Andrei Şaguna’s letter to Jakob Rannicher, dated Sibiu, February 20, 1868, in: Spicuiri şi fragmente din corespondenţa lui Şaguna, 519-522 here 522.

[42] See Statutul organic, §145-§154; §171-§174.

[43] A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 303: “As a consequence, we do not approve the idea of a dominant [privileged] Church in a state with several Churches.”

[44] Ibid., 304.

[45] Ibid., 302-303.

[46] Cf. A. Baronu de SIAGUNA, Proiectu de unu Regulamentu, §220-§225.

[47] K. HITCHINS, Orthodoxy and Nationality, 225.


mihaela.stan January 20, 2017 Drept si Religie