Furthermore, a civilization in opposition to the holy doctrines and laws of the Church is a civilization in appearance only, a mere name without the substance. A remarkable proof of this is supplied us by the populations on whom the light of the Gospel has not shone. In their life a species of exterior culture may be perceived, but the real and solid advantages of civilization are not found. We cannot look on an audacious disdain of all legitimate power as a perfection of civil life. Neither can we salute by the name of liberty the pursuit of a disgraceful and unhappy course that leads to the unchecked propagation of errors, the unhindered satisfaction of the worst passions, the impunity with which crimes can be committed, and the oppression of honest citizens of every class. These are false, erroneous, and perverse principles. They can assuredly not help to render human nature perfect, or to make it more prosperous, for “sin maketh nations miserable” (Prov. xiv, 34). On the contrary, it is absolutely inevitable that these principles, after corrupting the spirits and minds of men, will by their natural influence precipitate the people into all sorts of misfortunes, so as to upturn all legitimate order, and sooner or later, end in the final destruction of the State and public tranquility.
If, on the other hand, we consider the achievements of the Holy See, what can be more iniquitous than to deny how well and nobly the pontiffs have deserved of all civil society? Desirous of contributing to the welfare of the people, our predecessors engaged in struggles of every description, underwent the severest trials, and never hesitated to expose themselves to the most arduous difficulties. With eyes fixed on heaven, they never bowed their heads before the treats of the wicked, or debased themselves so far as to be seduced from their duty by promises or flattery. It was the Apostolic See which gathered up the remains of ancient society that had been destroyed, and reunited them. That See was also the friendly guiding light which illuminated the civilization of Christian times, the anchor of safety in the midst of the most terrible tempest that ever tossed about the human race, the holy bond of concord which united far-distant nations of different cultures, and, of peace no less than the doctrines of faith and the instructions of religion. Still more, it has been the glory of the Roman Pontiffs that they have constantly and unceasingly opposed themselves as a wall and rampart against the relapse of human society into the degradation of ancient superstition and barbarism.
[From the Papal Encyclical Inscrutabili Dei Consilio, “On the Evils of Society,” promulgated on 21 April 1878 by His Holiness Pope Leo XIII]