Rorate Caeli

The Council and the Eclipse of God by Don Pietro Leone: CHAPTER VIII – part 3 : THE DEIFICATION OF MAN


The Deification of Man

The Deification of Aeneas - The French School


This section consists in:


1.     An Analysis of Texts;

2.     A Schematic Representation of the Modes in which the Council Deifies Man;

3.     The Council’s Ultimate Justification for the Deification of Man.



1.     Analysis of Texts


In the last section on the dignity of man, we have seen how the Council ascribes to man properties which in fact belong to God alone: in subsection (a), the faculty perfectly to know all things together with the property of Absolute Freedom; in subsection (b), the status of being an end in himself. In subsections (c) and (d), moreover, we have seen the Council suggest that man is called to, or indeed already enjoys, a union with God which is that of identity. In such ways the Council effectively deifies man, as it does also in the following texts [1]:


i) ‘… by their power to know themselves in the depths of their being, they [women and men] rise up above the whole universe of objects’ [2] (GS 14);


ii) ‘… there is a growing awareness of the sublime dignity of human persons who stand above all things…’ (GS 26);


iii) ‘the ferment of the Gospel has aroused and continues to arouse an unquenchable thirst for human dignity’ (GS 26);


iv) ‘Women and men… crave a life that is full, autonomous, and worthy of their nature as human beings; they long to harness for their own welfare the immense resources of the modern world.’ (GS 9).


Fichte visits Kant [engraving - 1792 ] ‘experts in perverse divagations of German Philosophy’ 

First, we observe that here too the Council is only describing man’s natural dignity: not man’s supreme dignity which is the supernatural dignity which he attains by his union to God by sacramental, sanctifying Grace; second, we observe that the Council is here using a particularly elevated manner of speech: a language, indeed, more suited to God than to man. We note in particular man’s pretention to autonomy in text (iv), recalling the perverse divagations of German Modern Philosophy [3].


‘Where is God’s sublime dignity in all this?’


Where is God in all this? we might ask, who Himself is ‘before all’ [4], and Himself stands above the whole universe of objects, whose ‘magnificence is elevated above the Heavens’ [5], who ‘holds the primacy’ [6] in all things? Who ‘beholdeth the power of the height of heaven: and all men are earth and ashes’ [7]. Where is God’s sublime dignity? Where is the unquenchable thirst for Him aroused by the Gospel? Where is the craving of the heart for Him? Where the longing to harness the immense resources of the modern world for His glory? The Council here has veritably substituted God for man.



2.     A Schematic Presentation of the Modes in which the Council Deifies Man


Having brushed aside the god-like, supernatural dignity of man, as we have explained at the end of section C, the Council is pleased to attribute a god-like quality to his merely natural dignity. We proceed to present schematically ten of the relevant elements, taken particularly from the present chapter:


1.     Man’s reason is capable on its own of attaining and completely comprehending all truth;

2.     Man’s freedom stands higher even than objective reality [8]; it is to be used as man desires, like the freedom of God Himself. Man is hereby free to choose the religion he wishes [9], and free also to interpret the Sacred Scriptures himself;

3.     Man’s love within marriage is an end in itself like God’s own love [10];

4.     Man’s dignity and freedom are associated to his ‘fraternity’ with all other men, thus lending him the spirit of self-deification which informed the French Revolution;

5.     Man is the supreme principle of society, in the place of Christ the King;

6.     Together with the rest of humanity man constitutes the egalitarian State-God;

7.     Man ‘stands above all things’;

8.     The whole creation has been made for man alone;

9.     Man is not prey to Original Sin because it has been repaired by Christ [11],

10.           Man is not prey to personal sin because it is incompatible with his god-like freedom.


    The Procession of the Goddess of Reason, France 1793 

('Man’s reason is capable on its own of attaining and completely comprehending the truth.')



             3.     The Council’s Ultimate Justification for the Deification of Man


How does the Council ultimately justify man’s god-like dignity? The answer is given above [12]: ‘Human nature, by the very fact that it was assumed… in him, has been raised in us… to a dignity beyond compare. For, by his Incarnation, He, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each individual’ [13]; ‘In the human nature united to himself, the Son of God, by overcoming death through His own death and resurrection, redeemed humanity and changed it into a new creation’ [14]. In other words, our sublime dignity derives from Christ’s purported union with us in the Incarnation, and from His consequent Death and Resurrection which redeemed us.


In this vision of man’s dignity, as we observed above, in this vision of man’s union with God and of man’s redemption, neither the supernatural order, nor, more precisely, Grace, nor the sacraments, nor a good life, have any rôle to play. Now the Church has always taught that we are united to God by Grace, which lends us a likeness to Him and a real, but finite, participation in Him. But if we are not united to Christ by Grace, how are we united to Him? We are told that He has united Himself to us ‘in a certain way’, but in what way? The god-like language used leaves us in no doubt but that Christ has divinized man directly, so that man has become Him, has become identical to Him. We are no longer united to God, deified by Him, through Grace and participation, as the Church teaches, but through nature and identification.


Is this, then, what we know ‘in the depths of our being’? [15] Is this what the Council means when it tells us that Christ ‘fully reveals man to himself’? [16], when it elects man as the supreme principle of society in place of Christ the King? Is this what Pope John Paul II means when he says that the Ecce Homo reveals man’s Kingship to man?


In such a case, what would this union amount to theologically? The author of the text does not tell us, but leaves the question suspended in the air with that elusive phrase ‘in a certain way’. The union between man and God with which the Catholic Faith is primarily concerned is of course that which subsists in Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, namely the hypostatic union. So does the author conceive the union between God and every man as hypostatic? Has the Divine Person Who is the Word, united Himself to our human nature, so that each of us has become another Christ in the true sense of the term? If so, then we are face to face with the error of the pantheists, of the pantheistic Gnostics [17] who say: Look into yourself and you will find God there; we are God; I am God [18]: man presumes to ‘be like God’ simply in virtue of his nature, as Lucifer did and as he tempted Adam to do [19].

'You will be like God.'


Pope Paul VI was well aware that the Council presented modern man as a sort of god. As Romano Amerio points out [20], he shared this diagnosis of modern man with St. Pius X, but differed from him in approving, rather than deploring, such a vision. Pope Paul stated in his concluding sermon, which Professor de Mattei considers ‘the conclusive message of the Council and the key which the Pope offered for its interpretation’, that: ‘The Religion of God made Man has encountered the religion (because that is what it is) of man who has made himself God. What has happened? … a conflict, a struggle, an anathema? It might have been the case, but it was not… the Council was completely pervaded by an immense sympathy’ [21].


Conclusion to Part II


If in the first part of the book we were surveying from a high vantage - point the Church in Herself, and in Her multiple relations with other societies and with the World; in the second we were focusing more closely on man himself: on his choice of life - marriage, priesthood, and religious life - and in the Holy Mass. And yet in both fields we have witnessed the same work of destruction on the Faith, a work wrought with the same equipment: antirealist philosophy with its six false principles of thought, naturalizing, secularizing, protestantizing the Faith, and reducing it to rubble.


But in the midst of this rubble we have observed an edifice being built, like some meaningless and godless monster of modern architecture: and this is man, self-glorifying, bursting forth from what he is pleased to consider the shackles of Faith, and crying out against God and His Christ with the words of the opening psalm of the Tenebrae of Good Friday: Dirumpamus vincula eorum: et proiciamus a nobis iugum ipsorum, ‘Let us break their bonds asunder: and let us cast away their yoke from us…’ [22] -  the tyrant cry of the outraged infant, taken up by the Modern Philosopher in his study, laboring wearily to prove the most illusory of all dreams: that man is God.      


'Whoever, contrary to the decree of the senate, shall be made, called, or depicted as a god, is to be given to the hobgoblins, and get a thrashing among the newly-hired gladiators of the next show…'

We can think of no more fitting commentary to this dream, and of no more fitting conclusion to this part of the book, than the following passage from the Apocolocyntosis Divi Claudii [23], referring to the arrival of the Emperor Claudius at Heaven’s gate: ‘He wants to become a god… Once it was a great thing to be made a god, but now you have made the distinction a farce… I move that from this day forward, no-one should be made a god…. Whoever, contrary to the decree of the senate, shall be made, called, or depicted as a god, is to be given to the hobgoblins, and get a thrashing among the newly-hired gladiators of the next show… I propose that stout punishment be meted out to him, that he be granted no rest… and that he be got out of the way as soon as possible, departing from Heaven within 30 days and from Olympus within 3.’ This verdict was carried… he was carried off from Heaven towards the nether regions, whence, they say, no-one returns.’



[1] sections 9 and 26 are singled out amongst others by Pope John Paul II as particularly expressive of man’s royalty, in his retreat Le Signe de Contradiction, op. cit.

[2] Interioritate enim sua universitatem rerum excedit: ad haec profunda redit, quando convertitur ad cor

[3] the Freemason philosopher Fichte, following the lead of Kant, states: ‘Man is free by nature and nobody has the right to lay down a law for him except himself’, cf. Father Denis Fahey op. cit., p.33

[4] ante omnes Col. 1.17

[5] elevata est magnificentia tua super caelos Ps. 8.2

[6] primatum tenens  Col. 1.18

[7] Ecclesiasticus 17.31

[8] not indeed as a property of God, since God is Himself identical to objective reality; but rather as a fantasy of the self-deifying creature.

[9] ch.4, A 3

[10] see the section on marriage in the next chapter

[11] C (d)

[12] C (d)

[13] GS 22

[14] LG 7

[15] see text D (i) above

[16] GS 22, see b (ii) above

[17] such as the Freemasons and the ‘New-Age’ adherents

[18] we note that such people like to think of themselves as divine, not because they claim, for instance, to be Holiness itself, but rather because they think they know everything, that everything they do is right, that the whole world revolves around them: the sort of infantile egoism that a child will normally learn to abandon as he is growing to adulthood.  

[19] although Satan tried to be like God in His Divinity, and man tries to be like Him in His Divinity and Humanity combined.   

[20] Iota Unum p. 97 referring to the encyclical of St. Pius X E Supremi Apostolatus cf. RdM p. 521

[21]La religione del Dio che si è fatto Uomo s’è incontrata con la religione (perché tale è) dell’uomo che si fà Dio...’

[22] Ps 2.3

[23] the satire on the apotheosis of the Emperor Claudius, normally  attributed  to Seneca,  is, most reasonably in our view, by Petronius.