After the fall of Rome and the limitation of Byzantine power to merely the old eastern Roman Empire, the Papacy found itself able to establish a new Holy Roman Empire in western Europe with the Pope reigning above the emperor himself. While the Pope saw himself as the universal ruler over a dawning universal Europe, the Holy Roman Emperor believed himself to be the true universal ruler with the Pope and Church as his royal subjects. This caused a tension between Church and State which was only exacerbated by the rise of new European nations, each seeking to rule its own lands apart from Imperial or Church control.
Thus in the rise of nations, both the Holy Roman Empire and the Catholic Church fought for their own forms of universalism, and by doing so both Empire and Church stood against the nations. The Church sought a borderless, universal realm governed by the Pope and bishops with a king or emperor under their leadership, while the Emperor sought an unending Imperial rule across the lands. Neither understood their roles in the world of the nations. Indeed, no mere political force has what it takes to unite the nations with their distinctive customs and cultures. This, however, is also true of the Church if it sees itself acting primarily as a political entity.
This is the danger of today’s Church-State situation in Europe and the Americas. While the Secular West is attempting to create a borderless Europe, a godless single-state of atheists, socialist movements in the United States seek to bring European “progress” to our lands. The old imperial universalism has been replaced by an atheist universalism. As the Church confronts this crisis, it would be well if we recall that Christ sent the Apostles to make disciples of all the nations, not exert political authority over a single, united Catholic nation. Christ loved the nations, and God has ordained their existence. Let us not compete with the Secular West – or the Islamic caliphate – in seeking to deny the nations by rekindling the old anti-national, politically universalist dreams of medieval Christendom.