Liberal tyranny


Many believe in or claim that they believe in and hold fast to Catholic doctrine on such questions as social authority, the right of owning private property, on the relations between capital and labour, on the rights of the labouring man, on the relations between Church and State, religion and country, on the relations between the different social classes, on international relations, on the rights of the Holy See and the prerogatives of the Roman Pontiff and the Episcopate, on the social rights of Jesus Christ, Who is the Creator, Redeemer, and Lord not only of individuals but of nations. In spite of these protestations, they speak, write, and, what is more, act as if it were not necessary any longer to follow, or that they did not remain still in full force, the teachings and solemn pronouncements which may be found in so many documents of the Holy See, and particularly in those written by Leo XIII, Pius X, and Benedict XV. There is a species of moral, legal, and social modernism which We condemn, no less decidedly than We condemn theological modernism.

– Pius XI

Hamish Fraser once observed that the universal restoration of the traditional liturgy would not solve the crisis in the church. The traditional liturgy was, after all, universally observed before the crisis arose and it did not prevent it. That which was not upheld and which would have prevented the crisis, the absence of which led to the crisis and the restoration of which alone will solve it, is the preaching of the Social Kingship of Christ. However, as Hilary White has recently and eloquently observed the Kingship of Christ exists exclusively for the salvation of souls. When His disciples could not find Him in Capharnaum they found the Lord alone in the hills praying. He said to them “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” As I once heard a very holy monk observe, the word here translated as ‘came out’ is ἐξῆλθον the same word as Our Lord uses in John 8:42 to describe His eternal generation. He went out into the hills to prepare to preach to the people. He came out from the Father in eternity that He might breathe forth the Spirit. He came into the world to save mankind, but that salvation consists in going out from the perishing city as He went out from Capharnaum to share in the eternal processions of the Divine Persons through prayer – the one thing necessary. Only in this light are any temporal benefits (such as the people of Caphernum sought) even benefits. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

St Benedict says “To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King, and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.” But he is not addressing would-be statesmen or even the fathers of families, he is addressing would-be monks. The Social Kingship of Christ consists in the reordering and subordination of temporal realities to the supernatural end. Its foundation lies in the recognition of the utterly surpassing nature of that end. Its foundation is in the monastery and the monastery’s foundation is in heaven. Without this all temporal Christian struggle is worthless. The path of restoration proceeds from the monastery through the liturgy to the capitol and back again, but cut off  from its source and destination it will nought avail.

I have had the opportunity over the years four times to celebrate the feast of Christ the King on its traditional date in the United States of America according to the traditional rite. On one of those occasions the Mass was arranged by a lay ‘Latin Mass Community’ who ensured that it was celebrated with gusto. A High Mass with full choir, Blessed Sacrament procession and the solemn intoning of the Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. On the other occasions the Mass was offered by the FSSP. Now the FSSP are splendid fellows but the liturgy was not at all celebrated with the vigour and pomp one might expect for the Feast instituted to combat social and political modernism, the consecration was recited in a frankly perfunctory manner (and one occasion omitted entirely), there was no procession and the Blessed Sacrament was not exposed. Most seriously of all there was absolutely no mention made in the sermon of the Social Kingship of Christ on any of these occasions.

Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King in order to compel the clergy to preach this doctrine.

[A]lthough in all the feasts of our Lord the material object of worship is Christ, nevertheless their formal object is something quite distinct from his royal title and dignity. We have commanded its observance on a Sunday in order that not only the clergy may perform their duty by saying Mass and reciting the Office, but that the laity too, free from their daily tasks, may in a spirit of holy joy give ample testimony of their obedience and subjection to Christ. The last Sunday of October seemed the most convenient of all for this purpose, because it is at the end of the liturgical year, and thus the feast of the Kingship of Christ sets the crowning glory upon the mysteries of the life of Christ already commemorated during the year, and, before celebrating the triumph of all the Saints, we proclaim and extol the glory of him who triumphs in all the Saints and in all the Elect. Make it your duty and your task, Venerable Brethren, to see that sermons are preached to the people in every parish to teach them the meaning and the importance of this feast, that they may so order their lives as to be worthy of faithful and obedient subjects of the Divine King.

Hamish Fraser famously described the American Catholic as “a Protestant who goes to Mass”. There is, alas, all too much truth in this ungenerous observation. One is often struck by the way in which American Catholics will say “I’m Catholic” rather than “I am a Catholic” as if ‘Catholic’ were one among a number of flavours of Christian. They will even talk about ‘Catholics and Christians’ as if there were some other sort of Christian or as if Catholics were not Christians or as if there were some kind of generic ‘mere Christianity’ approximating mildly conservative Protestantism upon which Marian devotion and five sacraments and the Real Presence are (hopefully) harmless baroque accretions.

Fr Brian Harrison observes:

[R]ejecting papal authority in favour of one’s own individual judgment was a perfect recipe for religious anarchy. And in medieval Christendom it was much easier to see that fact – and also to see that such anarchy is thoroughly undesirable – than it is in modern Western society. Desensitised after several centuries spent under a socio-political umbrella that shelters multiple coexistent Christian denominations, we have now, as a society, baptised this chaotic anarchy with the bland name of “religious pluralism”, and have come to see it as an instance of normal and healthy progress, rather than of pathological decline from the revealed norm of a Catholic polity that recognises the kingship of Christ. (After all, isn’t such ‘pluralism’ a cornerstone of democracy and a guarantee of individual liberty?) Those of us who are converts to the faith can testify from experience that for modern Protestants right across the liberal-evangelical-fundamentalist spectrum, the co-existence of many Christian denominations or “churches”, while theoretically acknowledged as falling short of the biblical ideal of Christian unity, is for practical purposes taken for granted as something normal, natural and inevitable – pretty much like the co-existence of many different countries, languages, styles of music, or ice cream flavours. From that perspective it is precisely “Rome” that appears as the renegade – the black sheep in the Christian fold – by virtue of her “arrogant” claim to be the one and only true Church. And let us recall the full radicality of this Protestant critique. It is not that the Southern Baptists (let us say) object to the aforesaid claim simply because they consider their own denomination, rather than “Rome”, to be the one true Church. That would basically be the same kind of objection that many claimants to this or that national throne have made over the centuries against rival claimants: “It is not you, but I, who am the rightful king!” No, the Protestant position cuts much deeper. It is like objecting to someone’s claim to the throne of England on the grounds that no such throne exists! It’s like protesting that anyone at all who claims to be England’s rightful ruler is ipso facto an impostor and potential tyrant whose pretensions must be firmly resisted! For the common position now shared by Protestants is precisely that no single Christian denomination may claim to be the Church founded by Christ, and, therefore, that no leader of any one denomination may dare claim the authority to make doctrinal or governing decisions that bind all Christians. Rather, it is said, each denomination should respectfully recognise many (or even all) of the others as being true, that is, real, “churches”, and so limit itself to making the modest claim of being preferable to the others in one way or another – for instance, by virtue of possessing what it believes is a better understanding of Scripture. In other words, the different organised “churches”, according to this ecclesiology, are seen as being in this respect pretty much like banks, schools, cars, brands of toothpaste, or any other sorts of commodities and services. It is considered legitimate to promote one or other as being of better quality than the rest; but just as it would be outrageous and beyond the pale for Wells Fargo to claim seriously that none of its competitors is truly a bank, or for General Motors to claim that nobody else makes real automobiles, or for Colgate ads to proclaim that what you’ll get in tubes of other brands is not just inferior toothpaste but fake toothpaste – so Protestants right across the liberal-conservative spectrum consider it theologically outrageous and beyond the pale for any single Christian denomination (read: Roman Catholicism) to claim that it is the one and only real Church.

The analogy of a disputed throne versus ideological republicanism is quite apt. The nonsense that legitimate governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed” goes hand in hand with nominalist contractualist ecclesiology. It is this Protestant vision and only this vision that could make sense of an intended adherence to the Gospel and a simultaneous acceptance of the ‘separation of Church and State’ as desirable for its own sake. The superstitious awe in which the citizens of the USA are expected to hold the Freemasons and Deists who composed their constitution and Declaration of Independence forbids the very idea of taking an axe to the First Amendment. American Catholics are expected to fly the flag of the US in the very sanctuaries of their Churches. This is extremely rare to non-existent even in countries that are or were formally Catholic, but this is the flag of the first western polity since the Edict of Theodosius in 380 to withhold recognition from Christ and which substituted the five pointed star for the Cross on its flag. This secularised banner is often, even in churches, hoisted on a staff surmounted by a golden eagle, the very symbol the Labarum supplanted and which was employed to desecrate the Holy of Holies in 70 AD.

Between the World Wars liberal economics and politics seem tired. The world was torn between totalitarian ideologies that demanded the whole person. The Church thrived in this context with an integral vision of God and man that answered all the aspirations of the human person in freedom and ranged her against “the modern world in arms”. The Leonine formula of indifference to the form of regime but implacable insistence on the conformity of the civil order to the Divine and Natural Laws made vast strides against Modernity. In the wake of the Second World War the USA was left as the hegemonic power and the ideology of its founders has eaten away at the Church. The ‘Boston Heresy Case‘ was a disaster as the quasi-condemnation of Feeney’s garbled version of explicitism seemingly justified the complete surrender of the American church to the spirit of Thomas Jefferson. The United Kingdom, born of the revolution of 1688, has this paradoxical advantage: the sovereign is subjected to a religious test. The Jacobites, like the colony of Maryland, became entangled in the dubious cause of religious liberty. The rectification of the British constitution, upon the conversion of the Monarch and the people, requires only a single Act of Parliament.

Crux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux Non Draco Sit Mihi Dux!

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The Ecumenical Councils of Trent and Vatican I and the Creed of Pius IV all require us to:

…accept the Holy Scripture according to that sense which holy mother the Church hath held, and doth hold, and to whom it belongeth to judge the true sense and interpretations of the Scriptures [and] never take and interpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

If is often said that the Church has, in fact, only very rarely defined the precise meaning of a biblical passage. Whether or not that is true one clear instance of such a definition is the Bull Unam Sanctam which has very precise teaching concerning Luke 22:35-38 and John 18:11. In ordering the disciples to buy a sword if they had not one already, and in telling them that two swords are enough, and in ordering Peter to sheath his sword Our Lord laid out the precise nature of the jurisdiction of the sacramental hierarchy and  the Supreme Pontiff over the temporal power.

Both the temporal and the spiritual power are intrinsic to the Church. The spiritual sword is to be exercised for the specific ends for which the Church was instituted and by the members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. In contrast, the temporal sword must be exercised by members of the Church but cannot be wielded by the members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy (although they may confiscate it if it is misused and assign it to another) because it is not a means by which the specific ends of the Church may be advanced.

What rarely seems to attract much notice is the reason Our Lord gave for this arrangement:

And he said to them: When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, did you want anything? But they said: Nothing. Then said he unto them: But now he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a scrip; and he that hath not, let him sell his coat, and buy a sword. For I say to you, that this that is written must yet be fulfilled in me: And with the wicked was he reckoned. For the things concerning me have an end. But they said: Lord, behold here are two swords. And he said to them, It is enough.

The apostles are told to obtain a sword because Christ will be treated as a criminal. As Our Lord also said at the Last Supper “the servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also.” The opposition between the Church and the world is such that the Apostles (and their successors) need to have the protection of force in order to function. Yet, a short time later when Peter uses his sword to try to defend the Lord he is rebuked. “Put up thy sword into thy scabbard”. The Apostles have two swords but they are permitted to wield only one. The word of God is in the power of the clergy the state is to be in the power of the laity.

How does this fit with the prohibition on coercive conversion? The temporal sword of Christendom is essentially defensive. It is not ‘for’ the Church as Boniface VIII insists, it is wielded ‘by’ the Church (the lay faithful). The essential purposes of the Church cannot be advanced by violence but the non-ordained members of the Church can use the temporal sword to defend the Church from external persecution. Once the state is no longer in the hands of the Church this is not possible. So long as the state is non-Christian the Church’s business lies in buying the sword (bringing the temporal order by consent into the possession of the Church). Once it is purchased the sword may be drawn – but only by the laity – to stave off temporal impediments to the operation of the spiritual sword. We do not live by the sword. The life of Christendom is established and maintained by the peaceful spreading of the Gospel. However, once that life has reached the highest temporal level of social organisation the temporal sword can and should be drawn in its defence.

As St Cyril of Alexandria teaches:

He says sell his cloak, and buy a sword: for henceforth the question with all those who continue in the land will not be whether they possess anything or not, but whether they can exist and preserve their lives. For war shall befall them with such unendurable impetuosity, that nothing shall be able to stand against it.

At the beginning of the Song of Roland Charlemagne (in deference to his council) seeks to negotiate a temporal peace with Islam. He seeks to keep his cloak instead of buying a sword. He forgets the truth that he remembers later in the midst of battle with the Emir of Babylon: “Never to Paynims may I show love or peace.” The Lord tells us “the things concerning me have an end” there is no new revelation to dispense us from the unremitting opposition of the world. As Leo XIII teaches “Christians are born for combat”. The faithful must sell their cloaks and buy a sword because the state cannot simply be left in the hands of the pagans if the Church is to survive. This is why the Song ends with a weary Emperor roused from his bed by St Gabriel to carry on the war. He sought not first the Kingdom of God and His justice and so earthly peace is taken from him until he learns his lesson.

 

The nations, not so blest as thee,

Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall;

While thou shalt flourish great and free,

The dread and envy of them all.

Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:

Britons never will be slaves.

What a joke. Islam is code of belief and practice that one may adhere to or reject in whole or part. If I wish to disapprove of Islam and (in proportion to their freedom in the matter) its adherents I bloody well shall. In regard to persons who have no responsibility for their adherence to Islam (minors, the simple, the inculpably ignorant and oppressed women) I might still oppose their emigration to the United Kingdom simply because the bankrupt secular culture of the UK cannot fail to be overwhelmed by the infusion of multitudes from a coherent and vigorous rival civilisation. Disapproval of someone’s ethnicity on the other hand is irrational and immoral. The very equation of anti-Semitism and ‘Islamophobia’ is anti-Semitic. I do not suppose Jeremy Corbyn disapproves of Jewish ethnicity per se. He disapproves of the existence of the state of Israel. The problem now is that the state of Israel is a fact. To position ‘I have nothing against the French. I just want to deport them to Canada and partition their country between Germany and Spain’ is difficult to distinguish from just being anti-French. The Islamic vote upon which Labour is increasingly dependent does indeed disapprove of the ethnicity of the Jews per se and adheres to a religion which looks forward to the eventual genocide of all Jews who do not convert to Islam. I, along with Western Civilisation as a whole, accept the great bulk of Judaism as true and good but lament the failure of its adherents to recognise the Messiah. Corbyn rejects Judaism as a whole and finds the ultimately supernatural basis of its claim to the Holy Land deeply offensive. This is the ultimate root of non-Islamic left-wing anti-Semitism. The Left are the vanguard of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment is a movement to eliminate divine revelation as a source of public policy and public law. The destruction of confessional schools, of the diplomatic recognition of the Holy See, the National Anthem, the Coronation and the state of Israel, are necessarily essential aims of the Left. Islam may not be their ideology of choice but they sympathise with its internationalism and its willingness to use violence to advance its cause. As Burke said of them in the first flush of their victory “to those who have observed the spirit of their conduct, it has long been clear that nothing was wanted but the power of carrying the intolerance of the tongue and of the pen into a persecution which would strike at property, liberty, and life.”

There seems to be lot of interest in the recent fracas between Simon Schama and Rod Liddle.
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What is most startling about the exchange is the total absence of any reasoning on the part of Simon Schama. Rod Liddle claims that taking in lots of refuges/migrants who have trekked across Europe and risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean, merely encourages more people to do the same and so will increase the number of people who die in the attempt. People in France or Italy do not have well a founded fear of persecution in those countries and therefore cannot be refugees by definition. Taking in such migrants for the sake of feeling good about ourselves is mere emotional self-indulgence at the cost of other people’s lives. Schama apparently has no answer to this. This does not appear to concern him. It is hard not to be reminded of the liberal attitude to contraception. Every study (and common sense) shows that flooding a population with contraceptives encourages people to engage in irresponsible and immoral behaviour and proportionately increases sexually transmitted diseases and unwed pregnancy, the very things liberals claim it will reduce. Apparently, liberals are so impressed by the fact that that rescue ships in the Mediterranean and Contraceptives will reduce the chances of catastrophe in each particular case that they cannot see that in general they will ensure greater misery.
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The real reason for this of course is that they actually positively desire fornication and immigration as goods in themselves. Well that’s not quite right, they desire fornication as a good in itself, they desire immigration for the sake of cheap labour to keep them in the manner to which they are accustomed and in order to dilute the stable moral norms of their own societies. I think it would be fair to say that they positively prefer Muslim immigrants to Christian ones for precisely that reason. Naturally, due to the hostility shown to Christian immigrants in the various camps and boats on the way to Britain they are more likely to get Muslim immigrants from Calais than from a camp in Syria. When it comes to fornication they simply do not believe that extra-marital continence is either possible or desirable and thus the only way to reduce ‘unwanted pregnancy’ and disease it to equip the fornicator with the means to reduce the risks in each instance. If contraceptives were eradicated and the population responded by reserving sexual activity for life-long monogamy and all sexually transmitted infections died out they would actually see this as a cultural catastrophe. Consequently, if you confront them with the fact that contraceptives increase sexually transmitted diseases and unwed pregnancy they will either blank it out or obstinately deny the known truth.
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And yet, there is another mental block at work. Liberals are preselected for the incapacity to grasp the fact that certain evils might be necessarily concomitant upon certain goods. Liberals are by and large atheists and agnostics. Those who are religious are generally deists, which is to say atheists who believe in one very powerful alien. The reason they adopt this inexcusably stupid [Romans 1:20] position (and even when the real cause is a desire to escape the moral law they generally look for a justification) is because they cannot see how evil is compatible with an omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent entity. St Thomas dismisses this objection extremely casually in ST Ia,2,3 obj 1 and reply:
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Objection 1. It seems that God does not exist; because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word “God” means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.
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Reply to Objection 1. As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): “Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.” This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.
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The reason certain people cannot grasp this is because they do not understand that evil is privation and that God is subsistent being itself. As St Thomas says in Ia, 25, 6 “God can make something else better than each thing made by Him.” Consequently, there will always be an infinitude of better possible worlds than any universe God has actually created. It is therefore pointless to complain that God has not made the best of all possible worlds as there is no such thing. God in His literally infinite wisdom makes use of our necessary finitude and imperfection to achieve good for us. As atheists and agnostics are unable or rather unwilling to accept this, they imagine therefore that anyone who can remedy any evil must do so, and if they do not do so they are themselves evil. As this is the pretext for their rejection of the Creator they must apply the same idiotic principle to the state. If there is any ill that the state could remedy and it does not, then the state must be responsible for that ill and will it to be. The idea that the attempt to remedy some ill by the state might occasion a greater ill or even that permitting some ill might occasion a good greater than that opposed by the evil tolerated must be rejected by the atheist and agnostic because otherwise they would have to surrender their beloved ‘problem of evil’ and expose themselves to the logic of theism. This is why atheists, agnostics and deists must demand an ever vaster and more intrusive state intruding into every recess of human existence and when this state worsens every ill it seeks to remedy then some enemy must be identified ‘climate change’, ‘religion’ or ‘the forces or conservatism’, ‘human nature’ or hilariously ‘intolerance’ which may be blamed for the failure of their beloved Leviathan (and punished accordingly). For the only alternative is repentance and belief and this is a prospect that may not be contemplated even for a moment.

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“Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel. Howbeit from
the sins of Jeroboam Jehu departed not from after
them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel,
and that were in Dan.”

YE cannot halve the Gospel of God’s grace;
Men of presumptuous heart! I know you well.
Ye are of those who plan that we should dwell,
Each in his tranquil home and holy place;
Seeing the Word refines all natures rude,
And tames the stirrings of the multitude.

And ye have caught some echoes of its lore,
As heralded amid the joyous choirs;
Ye mark’d it spoke of peace, chastised desires,
Good-will and mercy,—and ye heard no more;
But, as for zeal and quick-eyed sanctity,
And the dread depths of grace, ye pass’d them by.

And so ye halve the Truth; for ye in heart,
At best, are doubters whether it be true,
The theme discarding, as unmeet for you,
Statesmen or Sages. O new-compass’d art
Of the ancient Foe!—but what, if it extends
O’er our own camp, and rules amid our friends?

– John Henry Newman, Palermo. June 5, 1833.

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