Not peace but a sword


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charlemagneparis

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.

St John the Baptist chapel

There has been no authoritative papal document on usury since 1745. Charles Edward Stuart was raising the Highlands for the King when the last Pope, with the zeal to take on this subject, sat upon the throne of Peter. When making war against the Pelagian fable of Implicitism, the complaint one so often hears is that Implicitism has been floating around for years, and the Popes have done nothing about it so it must be okay. One might think that in the new springtime of Pope Francis people might have given up on the doctrine of the divinely guided digestive grumblings of the Roman Pontiff, but alas no. It occurred to me the other day that the case of usury is very similar. It takes but the merest suggestion that the lending of money at interest might just be usury and a mortal sin to transform an apparently orthodox Catholic into a red faced raging gibbering Neo-con. I watched this metamorphosis take place before my eyes in a seedy European bar circa 2001. It was not a pleasant experience. The Neo-cons are all a bit bewildered at the moment. The Zenit-theology of the Kirchengeist has taken a beating since the last conclave. But the Neo-cons will still cite the absence of any pronouncement on usury in the last two hundred and fifty-six years as evidence that there is no problem anymore. But there it is in black and white in the Acts of the fifteenth ecumenical council:

If indeed someone has fallen into the error of presuming to affirm pertinaciously that the practice of usury is not sinful, we decree that he is to be punished as a heretic; and we strictly enjoin on local ordinaries and inquisitors of heresy to proceed against those they find suspect of such error as they would against those suspected of heresy.

But don’t worry folks, the moderns tells, us the fathers of Vienne don’t really mean it. ‘Usury’ actually means ‘bad usury,’ so long as you don’t practice ‘bad usury’ then don’t worry. Perhaps it is just that usury is such a rare practice nowadays that there has been no need for the Holy See to comment, unlike the dark days of the mid-eighteenth century, when vast international banking corporations bought the loyalties of heads of state and government, and demanded huge subsidies from the ordinary tax payer on the ground that they were too big to fail. Oh… hang on.

I am told by an old friend of her’s (anecdotal evidence alert) that Elizabeth Anscombe in 1967 was pretty convinced that the prohibition on contraception was going to go the way of usury. Terrified of the Catholic bourgeoisie, Paul VI would just let the matter drop, and the succeeding popes would be too terrified to raise the question again until everyone forgot there was ever a problem. Since the Revolution, the hierarchy has been (rightly) terrified of the left. Sheltering under the protective wing of the plutocracy, Popes and bishops have been very unenthusiastic about raising embarrassing questions that might render them unwelcome guests in the house of mammon. Leo XIII did mention the fact that the concentration of the hiring of labour and the conduct of trade in the hands of comparatively few, which he sought to remedy, resulted from a “rapacious usury … more than once condemned by the Church” but that has been just about it. I often think the verbosity of Papal social encyclicals comes from the fact that the Popes are going all round the houses trying to avoid stating straight-out what the real problem is: the lending of money at interest distorts market economies, so that capital automatically gravitates to capital, instead of gravitating to labour “so that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the labouring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself.”

The rise of Implicitism has many things in common with the magisterial loss of nerve about usury. Usury precisely treats created goods as if they were fertile and life giving of themselves. It treats nature as if it were grace. Usury is not condemned because it would offend comfortable wealthy respectable people. Implicitism seeks to achieve the same goals. It conflates the natural and the supernatural orders, and facilitates a worldview in which nice respectable ‘good people’ go to heaven through their fulfilment of the natural law. A spot of semi-pelagian assistance from on high will of course be most gratefully received.

Although dear Lord I am a sinner,
I have done no major crime;
Now I’ll come to Evening Service
Whensoever I have the time.
So, Lord, reserve for me a crown,
And do not let my shares go down.

‘Blessed are the poor’ says the Gospel, the miserable peasants whom God favours with the preaching of the Gospel and the efficacious grace to receive it. Those who know they are sinners and cannot possibly merit the grace of God are its fit recipients. Those who cannot imagine that ‘good people like us,’ who have had the random misfortune not to receive a preacher might be damned on account of a few trivial sins, will wait in vain for the mercy of God. As Oscar Wilde said, the Catholic Church is strictly for saints and sinners only, for merely respectable people the ‘Church’ of England must suffice. Our Lord says that it will be worse for those places where He preached and was rejected, than for Sodom on the last day. That does not mean that the inhabitants of Sodom are saved (indeed, they are the only specific group expressly designated as damned Jude 1:7), He means their torments are less than those who squandered the grace of God.

Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. And thou Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up to heaven? thou shalt go down even unto hell. For if in Sodom had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in thee, perhaps it had remained unto this day. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. At that time Jesus answered and said: I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to the little ones. Yea, Father; for so hath it seemed good in thy sight.

It is because we do not want to face this prospect. We do not want to face the pure gratuity of God’s grace, we want salvation to be in our power, that we try to imagine that somewhere noble pagans are redeemed by their own efforts, fulfilling the law with merely moral assistance from on high. And there is another motive, fear of the absolute opposition that faith and grace, establishes between the Church and the world. There was some dreadful debate a few years ago where some foolish Catholics agreed to defend against a baying mob of ‘new atheists’ the proposition “the Catholic Church is a force for good in the world”. Madness! The Catholic Church (depending on which sense of Kosmos one is using) is either the only force for good in the world, or it is the world’s implacable enemy. “I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world; as I also am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil. They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world. Sanctify them in truth.”

Now I feel a little better,
What a treat to hear Thy Word,
Where the bones of leading statesmen
Have so often been interr’d.
And now, dear Lord, I cannot wait
Because I have a luncheon date.

 

 

 

Fr Ray Blake raises an interesting question on his blog. He says that he would like to break communion with Cardinal Drew and Archbishop Cupich, but that he cannot since they are in communion with the Pope and so is he. The implication is that he would therefore be going into schism if he refused to give Holy Communion to either of these two prelates, were they to come and spend some time in Brighton.

But is this so? Schism is defined in canon law as “the withdrawal of submission from the supreme pontiff or from communion with members of the Church subject to him” (canon 751; incidentally, I like the fact that this canon uses the term ‘members’ – it is there in the Latin too – as this term has to a large degree vanished from modern ecclesiastical vocabulary, implying as it does that baptised non-Catholics are severed members.) So the question is, is Archbishop Cupich or Cardinal Drew a member of the Church subject to the Roman pontiff? Pius XII made it clear in Mystici Corporis that to be a member of the Church, one must among other things, profess the true faith. Therefore if the archbishop and the cardinal are no longer professing the true faith – and Archbishop Cupich’s latest remarks are totally unCatholic – then they are no longer members of the Church. In that case Fr Blake could, and indeed should refuse to give either man communion. It may be that the Roman pontiff himself continued to give them communion; but that would not cause them to be members of the Church.

The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. . . . Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. . . . We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. . . . We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed (Chesterton in 1905).

Today is perhaps the worst day for Christian civilisation since the fall of France to the freemasons in the 18th century. If I were an American citizen I should certainly be hoping for a secession of the healthier states from the tyranny now being exercised from Washington D.C. Let the whole land-mass be shared between two entities, a real State and the pseudo-state. One cannot live with such people. They are brain-washed. They are more like zombies than human beings. This is not like the co-existence of Catholics and pagans in the Roman empire. The pagans did not by their laws abolish marriage and the family, or even dream of such a thing.

One can pray for these people and do penance for them; one cannot live with them in society.

So, the Irish have chosen madness and the abyss. Another one for the ‘astonishing but unsurprising’ file.

The Irish State has dissolved itself, and this for two reasons. First of all because it has renounced the Catholic faith that until now was enshrined in the preamble to its constitution. St Thomas Aquinas writes:-

It must never be permitted that infidels should newly gain dominion over the faithful, for this would cause scandal and be a danger to the faith. For easily those who are subject to the government of others can be changed by those under whom they live, so that they may follow their rule, unless those who are subject be of great virtue. . . . And so the Church in no way allows infidels to acquire dominion over the faithful.

This would by itself be sufficient to make the official institutions of Ireland henceforth illegitimate. But there is a second reason. The state has officially declared war on marriage and the family, abolishing marriage insofar as lies within its power. But the State is a society of families united under a common rule. By nullifying the family, as far as lies within its power, it nullifies itself; it denies its own reason for existence and so it denies or dissolves itself.

When the Moors swept over Spain, no Spanish Catholic, surely, would have supposed that those Moors who got permanent control over their particular village or town were their legitimate rulers. They were not in the same position as the pagan Roman rulers who held power from God, according to Romans 13. If the Spanish obeyed the local Moorish ruler, it was from prudence, because until a counter-attack could be organised, it was the lesser of two evils. In the same way, from now on the Irish need not obey the ‘laws’ of the ‘State’ out of justice, but only out of prudence. Heretics, apostates and lunatics do not hold power from God over the faithful.

Ideally, the remaining Catholics should officially secede from the evil pseudo-State, and find some promising young army general to help them set up a new State somewhere in Eire. I am serious. Apparently of the 43 constituencies, only Longford and Roscommon-South Leitrim voted to retain marriage. Since these are contiguous, that would seem to be the best place to found it. Maybe Poland or Hungary would help them.

I suppose what we might call the Blackadder Goes Forth version of the First World War is pretty standard by now. It might be summarised as “Both sides as bad as each other, engaged in slaughter out of commercial ambition and stupid jingoism, until one side happened to win” (it’s not only materialist historians who speak like this, incidentally; a recent article of John Rao’s seemed to take the same view.) Yet even such a version of history seems preferable to the Daily Telegraph attitude of solemnly commemorating the heroic sacrifice of our forefathers while simultaneously promoting abominations that would have caused those same forefathers to say that the country they defended had simply ceased to exist.

There was a painful juxtaposition of headlines on the front page of the Telegraph at the time of the 100th anniversary of the start of the war last year. One of them said: ‘We will never forget’. The other one said, ‘What’s wrong with {excuse me} sperm banks for lesbians?’, the columnist arguing that nothing was. Never forget, forsooth. When it comes to the civilisation we were fighting for, or rather that those young men were fighting for, whose names we read on the war memorials, often several from the same family in even the smallest English village: they forgot long, long ago.

I’ve been reading recently some of the articles that Chesterton wrote in his weekly newspaper column during the War. While the style is recognisably his, they have an elevation of tone that sets them apart from his peacetime works. He has no doubt that the cause of the Allies is not only just, but that the fight is essentially spiritual: a war for the what remained of Christendom, for natural law, justice, the traditions of chivalry and honour and civilisation, against that mixture of brutality, totalitarianism, and mystical self-worship which is evoked by the word Prussia (I wonder if he had any inkling that the young emperor of Austria was a saint?) In one sense, namely as a defence of Belgium, the justice of the war is obvious, and can be judged by posterity as easily as by contemporaries. With regard to the spiritual essence of the combat, insisted on by Chesterton, things are less easy. It is not one or two obvious facts but a multitude that can justify one in speaking as he does. Spiritual things, though supremely real, are subtle, and it is hard for those who have not directly experienced them to speak of them. Yet Chesterton’s words carry conviction. Here are a few variations on a constant theme:-

Prussia was not a nationalist democracy which chose evil; it was not a nation, or even, in the proper sense, a people. It was simply such accidental crowds of colourless, lumpish, outlying northern men as certain chiefs could hammer and harden into mere regiments conscious of no flag. It is necessary to be ruthless because we must reach the centre of the machine in order to break the spring – or, perhaps, the spell. But it is not necessary to be hopeless, because in a sense the men living under it have never yet lived at all. There is nothing in their native and somewhat mild character to prevent their ripening under a better civilisation into very happy and humane Europeans. In that sense this is quite strictly to be called a religious war – in that it is waged to save souls by hypothesis capable of salvation (March 17th, 1917).

We hear this conflict called, not unreasonably, the most horrible war of history. But the most horrible part of it is that it would not be the most horrible war. Wars more and more horrible would follow the failure to vindicate and restore Christian equity and chivalry in this one. This does not make the fight less ghastly to the feelings; but it does make it more inevitable to the mind. It is, even in its most intense agony, still a problem of the reason, and even of the senses – of the sense of external things (29th September, 1917).

There is one fatal blunder in [the] whole picture of the war between England and Germany, and that is that it is a war between England and Germany. There is no war betweeen England and Germany. What happened, as a simple historical fact, in A.D. 1914 was not  a war between England and Germany, either in origin or occasion, or motive, or proportions, or excuse. What happened was a war between Prussian and the remains of the older civilisation which Prussia had not yet subdued, and with which England only threw in her lot at the last moment, by a belated implulse mainly noble, but almost entirely new. It is profoundly true that now the very existence of England is bound up with beating Prussia; but that is a result of her largely unexpected act and its many unexpected consequences (December 1st, 1917).

What we have been fighting is the half-finished design of a sort of inverted Roman Empire. It is one in which the least civilised instead of the most civilise power is on top; and one which originally radiated not from an old republican city, but from a new royal court. Bavaria is part of it only as Bulgaria is also a part of it. They both belong to it, in the sense that the Bavarian King would say to the Kaiser what the Bulgarian King also said to the Kaiser: Ave Caesar (August 24th, 1918).

Suppose we were at war, like the Children of Israel, with a Phoenician State vowed to the worship of Moloch, and practising infanticide by flinging babies into the fire. If we used strong words about smiting such enemies hip and thigh, I think it would be unreasonable in essence, though it might sound reasonable in form, for some sage to say to us: “Are there no good Phoenicians? Do not Phoenician widows mourn for their warriors? Is it probable that even Phoenician mothers are born without any motherly instincts?” The answer is that all this misses the main fact; which is a very extraordinary fact. The wonder is not that some Phoenician mothers love their babies, but that most Phoenician mothers burn their babies. That some mothers revolt against it is most probable; that many mothers have so many feelings urging them to revolt against it is almost certain. But Moloch is stronger than the mothers – that is the prodigious fact for the spectator, and the practical menace for the world. When Moloch’s image is fallen, and his fane laid waste; when his worship has passed into history and remains only as a riddle of humanity – then indeed it may be well worth while to analyse the mixed motives, to reconstruct in romance or criticism the inconsistencies of cruelty and kindness. But Moloch is not fallen; Moloch is in his high place, and his furnaces consume mankind; his armies overrun the earth, and his ships threaten our own island. The question on the lips of any living man is not whether some who burn their children may nevertheless love their children, it is whether those who burn children shall conquer those who don’t. The parallel is practically quite justifiable; what we are fighting has all the regularity of a horrible religion. We are not at war with regrettable incidents or sad exceptions, but with a system like the system of sacrificing babies, a system of drowning neutrals, a system of enslaving civilians, a system of attacking hospital services, a system of exterminating chivalry. We do ot say that there are no exceptions; on the conrary, we say that there are exceptions; it is our whole point that they are exceptions. But it is an almost creepy kind of frivolity that we should be speculating on the good exceptions at a moment when we ourselves are in peril of falling under the evil rule (July 20th, 1918).

And just after the Armistice:-

There is another form of the same materialist fallacy which fools have sown broadcast for the last four years. Its most fashionable form may be summed up in the phrase, “It will all be the same a hundred years hence.” I have read pacifist poems and essays in which the old rhetorical flourish to the effect that the corn will grow on the battlefield, or the ivy on the ruined fortress, is seriously used to suggest that it makes not difference whether the battle was fought or whether the fortress fell. We should not be here at all, to moralise about the ivy on castles and the corn on battlefields, if some of the great conflicts of history had gone the other way. If certain barbarian invasions had finally swept certain civilised districts, men would very probably have forgotten how to grow corn, and would certainly have forgotten how to write poems about ivy.

Of some such Eastern Imperialist it was said, as a sort of proverb, that the grass would not grow where he had set his foot. Europe has been saved from turning gradually into such a desert by a series of heroic and historic wars of defence, such as that of the Greeks against the Persians, of the Romans against the Carthaginians, of the Gauls against the Huns, of Alfred against the Danes, or Charles Martel agains the Moors. In each one of these cases the importance of the result does not decrease, but does definitely increase with time. It increases with every new generation that is saved from that destruction, with ever new civilised work that is built on that security, with every baby that might never have been baptised or reared, with every blade of grass that might never have grown where it grows today (November 23rd, 1918).

Though the darkness has returned and Moloch is again in his high place, yet what was gained by their sacrifice will at least always have been gained. Whether or not there can still be continuity for our civilisation, those young men have at least left us an example. So in those words of Tolkien that so moved his friend Lewis, both of whom fought on the Western Front, I say that these were “great deeds, not wholly vain”.

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