An Open Letter to Miloslav Cardinal Vlk
September 25, 2006
Miloslav Cardinal Vlk
Hradcanske namesti 16
119 02 Praha 1
I am writing this letter to you with respect to your comments concerning my lecture in Prague on Saturday, September 9th, 2006 . I would rather that this discussion had been a private one, with you seeking first to clarify my meaning and correct my possible errors on a one-to-one basis, as would seem to befit a pastor of souls and a fellow believer. After all, Scripture tells us that problems among the brethren must initially be approached in precisely this quiet and personal fashion.
Unfortunately, you chose to ignore the charitable path, and to launch, instead, into a public attack on my reputation, going so far as to assure the American and Israeli Ambassadors to the Czech Republic that my supposed intellectual sins were abhorrent to the Roman Catholic Church. Given this totally unpastoral "preemptive strike", I have decided that I have no choice but to make the letter I am writing to you a public one as well, lest my position in this controversy otherwise never be known. This is the reason behind my sending copies of this letter to the above-mentioned ambassadors and publishing its text in The Remnant.
My talk on September 9th for the St. Joseph Institute and the Katolík Revue was entitled "The New World Order and the War on Terrorism". It was, as you correctly understood, a highly critical lecture. It was critical of American society. It was critical of the supposedly "free, democratic and peaceful" regime which has emerged from out of the historical flaws of that society, and which the Bush Administration now seeks to spread throughout the globe by force. It was critical, most importantly, of the intolerable lack of respect for other independent nations and cultures (not to speak of the true well-being of the United States itself) which the realization of this new, evangelical, global disorder guarantees.
What is completely beyond my grasp is how Your Eminence or anyone else listening to a tape of that lecture could construe from what I said therein that I had come to Prague to promote an anti-Americanism which gave succor to "nationalism, "neo-Nazism"; "anti-Semitism"; "Lefebvrism"; or "Islamism". Let us examine each of these themes in turn and, in conclusion, Your Eminence’s general appreciation of me as a promoter of "political extremism".
Absolute astonishment is the only word that I can use to respond to your criticism of me as a supporter of nationalism, given the fact that my entire lecture was precisely one, long, unending attack upon… nationalism!
Modern nationalism, from Giuseppe Mazzini to George Bush, turns respectable love of country into an unacceptable ideology of pseudo-religious character. My argument in Prague was that American nationalism is the contemporary world’s clearest and most dangerous example of this brand of ideological pseudo-religion; that it is a worldwide menace both to other countries’ legitimate patriotic aspirations to independence and cultural integrity as well as to the interests of true religion.
I explained in my talk that nationalism in the United States is expressed in a political philosophy, one which once was referred to as "Americanism", but which now is more popularly known globally as "Pluralism". This illegitimate nationalist philosophy claims that America and the American system have created a new, unique and infallible mechanism for guaranteeing freedom and happiness for all groups and individuals in every society whatsoever and ensuring their peaceful, democratic cooperation together. Divinization and unquestioning acceptance of this ideology and pseudo-religion is demanded of all Americans as proof of loyalty to their nation. It is taught and exalted through the political ceremonies conducted on all public occasions. One need only read the speeches given at such moments, by George Bush and others, to understand the sacral character of these strange liturgies, so hostile to the spirit of a true American patriotism.
Americanism and Pluralism view the United States and its way of life as a force in world history with a mission more universal and redemptive than that of the Incarnation. They see this global mission as one that is blessed by the God who first led the Puritans to the New World to build a "City on a Hill" for the edification of all of mankind. But, given the peculiar historical development of American society, they also understand this task to be one demanded by the "obvious, common sense laws of nature" preached by Enlightenment secularists who seduced those who had lost their supernatural faith in the New World and needed to replace it with fanatical commitment to a new political ideology.
What this means, therefore, is that each and every nation, culture and individual is commanded to support all that masquerades as patriotism in the United States in the name of pleasing both God and Nature. The only permissible "patriotism" anywhere on this planet is worship of the nationalist ideology and pseudo-religion of Americanism and Pluralism. Those who would seriously dare to oppose the global acceptance of such an idol in the name of their own independence and cultural integrity must be considered enemies of God and Nature. Further still, in the present environment, they must considered to be "terrorists". For who but a "terrorist" would physically resist the most blessed and infallible gift of God and Reason for the fulfillment of human happiness that history has ever known?
It is this arrogant Americanist/Pluralist cultural and spiritual ideology which I criticized in Prague. And yet it is my attack on that pseudo-religion which you, Your Eminence, seem to believe promoted an intolerable "nationalism". How odd that a man, in your eyes, demonstrates his support for nationalism by opposing unconditional surrender to its most dreadful current-day manifestation! One really would need the talent of a Samuel Beckett to portray the twisting of logic required to justify accepting such a humiliating Catholic submission to a fraudulent ideology that places itself above the God Incarnate.
This brings me to the charge of "neo-Nazism". Nazism, by any historical measure, is built around two central themes— 1) the conviction shared by all Fascists of the need to overcome disorder through the Triumph of the Will of a Leader whose subjects blindly obey him; and 2) Racism. Presumably, neo-Nazism underlines the same basic principles.
I certainly did bring up the topic of the Triumph of the Will in my Prague lecture, but for the purpose of attacking two frequent and complementary Americanist/ Pluralist demands. One of these, popular with American conservatives, is the call to shape public policy in the United States not on the basis of any objective standards of ethics and Reason, but on that of the "Will of the Founding Fathers". This, I noted, exactly parallels the classical Fascist appeal to the "Will of the Leader". The other argument which I lamented at my lecture was the already mentioned Enlightenment insistence that political, social and moral issues must be understood and resolved on the grounds of a "basic common sense" avoiding the "divisive" and "order disrupting" problems brought on by deeper theological, philosophical and historical discussions. Such an argument, I explained, gives a golden opportunity to the criminal mind to prosper. It permits a new elite of clever and unscrupulous strongmen to replace the old, already flawed American Puritan and merchant/plantation aristocracy, and to dominate and manipulate society in the name of "freedom" and "democracy". It guarantees such criminals the chance to work their will because it allows no one the opportunity to define what the true nature of freedom and democracy is, or to criticize the abuses being perpetrated under their banner. Woe to the man who tries to think! He will bring down upon himself the damning accusation of being an enemy of the stability of the American nation and a promoter of "terrorist" hostility to its absolute and unquestionable goodness.
And Racism? There are two great mysteries which baffle me with respect to the possible accusation of Racism in the present context: 1) How anyone could take racist arguments seriously enough to force me to respond to them in the first place. Every knowledgeable Catholic knows that Racism is anti-Christian, and, being a Catholic, I unhesitatingly reject it as such; and, 2) How you, Your Eminence, might have found a neo-Nazi racist theme in a lecture which never dealt with the subject at all; in a talk which precisely underlined that respect and protection owed to other ethnic groups and cultures which every real racist finds preposterous.
If anything, Your Eminence, my Prague talk’s condemnation of the Triumph of the Will would have earned me a prison sentence in Nazi Germany. Can the Americans and Europeans who have preached the need for blind obedience to the religion of the New World Order in Prague claim as much?
As a Catholic enemy of Racism, I clearly cannot be an anti-Semite. I do not profess any racial disdain either for the Jews or for any other Semites. My criticisms in Prague of the evangelical, ideological, pseudo-religious nationalism propagated by the United States today confirm the absurdity of the charge of anti-Semitism as well. For in fighting versus Americanism and Pluralism I was attacking a force that has issued an ultimatum for world submission to a set of non-negotiable changes undermining the rights of all peoples and cultures, those of the Jews included. In fighting this bizarre form of modern nationalism, I was combating an oppressor which obliges Jews, like everyone else, to bend to whatever the strongest forces defining "freedom", "democracy" and the "Will of the Founding Fathers" in 2006 desire.
Yes, it is true that my talk was obviously opposed to the Bush Administration’s policies in the Middle East, and, by extension, to the policies of governments which actively approve of current American international adventurism, the government of Israel among them. Surely you are not saying that anti-Semitism and a refusal unquestioningly to accept and support American and Israeli foreign policy are one and the same thing? Is blind obedience to that foreign policy part of Christ’s teaching and the Deposit of Faith? Where is this assertion to be found in Scripture? Who among the Church Fathers defended it? Which Pope or Council indicated as much? What Creed enshrines it? Is this not matter for human Reason as opposed to Faith? Am I not to use my Reason to judge such a policy? Is this not especially true in the modern Church, where past failures to allow people to use their Reason are regularly condemned and loudly lamented by progressive prelates? Or are Faith, Reason and Truth simply the playthings of truly neo-Nazi strongmen and their fellow-travelers who have learned to talk the superficially seductive talk of freedom and democracy louder and more insistently than their wretched victims? And are such neo-Nazi crimes against Reason something which the Catholic of 2006 is not allowed to criticize simply because the powerful men and women perpetrating them are still alive, very threatening and not as easy to chastise as dead villains from 1606?
I am a practicing Roman Catholic who loves the Traditional Mass. My parish church in New York City, St. Agnes, offers both the Traditional Mass and the Novus Ordo. I attend the former. Some of my friends attend the latter. We are fortunate in New York City in having an Archbishop who allows this co-existence without any problem or stigma to Traditionalists whatsoever. I am sorry that this is not the case in Prague, and am keenly aware of the number of prayers offered daily by many faithful in your beautiful city in the hope of storming heaven on behalf of a more open, pastoral approach towards the Traditional Mass.
Repeated traditionalist queries to Rome regarding whether it is permissible to attend a Mass celebrated by a priest of the Society of St. Pius X—whose members, by the way, consider themselves to be Roman Catholics and not "Lefebvrists"—have regularly met with positive responses. We have even been told by the Ecclesia Dei Commission that it is acceptable to make a "modest donation" when in attendance at a Society chapel. Moreover, the Roman authorities have had, and continue to wish to have, discussions with the Society conducted in a very friendly, civilized fashion. Does this make His Holiness and Cardinal Hoyos "Lefebvrists"? Should they be suspected of political extremist, nationalist, neo-Nazi and Islamist sentiments as well? Are Catholics required to report them to the secular representatives of the United States in Rome for chastisement as well as in Prague?
I do not have a clear sense of what this term means in a highly divided Islamic world, except to indicate a Moslem who contradicts the demands of George Bush and his allies.
In my talk, I did indeed note that I felt a certain sympathy for Moslems who stand up to violent commands that they unwillingly accept a New World Order which both divinizes the Triumph of the Will of the strongest and destroys age-old local cultures and local economies in the process; a New World Order which calls all who oppose it with anything more than a token "parlor sport" resistance "terrorists" (Moslems today and Roman Catholics tomorrow?) and insists upon global commitment to a final solution of their obstinacy.
I then went on to indicate that I thought my sympathy to be a misplaced one. I labeled it "misplaced" both because I noted that there are people active in the Moslem world whom anyone would define as terrorists, and because I see terrible flaws in Islam which, mutatis mutandis, produce many evils analogous to those engendered by the pseudo-religion of Americanism and Pluralism. The global evangelism of both these forces greatly troubles me, but it is that of the New World Order which, at the moment, is most powerful.
If anything, my sympathy for Moslems is, I believe, of the sort felt by certain elderly central European acquaintances of mine for the Russians at the time of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. These friends told me that they pitied Russia since they understood the horrors of Nazism and knew the damage that would be done to the Russian people if it were to be victorious. On the other hand, they admitted that their sympathy was problematic, as they knew the evils that Stalin had perpetrated on his own peoples, and were deeply worried about what a Communist victory under his leadership would entail. You, Your Eminence, as a Czech patriot who is not an extreme nationalist or an Islamist, surely must know what I mean in this context. One of the things that regularly impresses a "dogmatist" like myself is just how complicated history and life are in practice.
VI. Political Extremism? Or Merely the Use of Human Reason?
Your Eminence accused me of the general crime of promoting "political extremism". Alas! what is meant by "political extremism" in the Americanist and Pluralist language of the New World Order is very often merely the attempt to use human reason to understand and resolve major social and moral issues.
Unfortunately, I have no chance in a modest sized letter of protest to explain in detail just how prohibition of serious thought has always played a major role in the pseudo-religion of America. This prohibition emerged from certain complexities of American History which I described at length in Prague. It was born out of the impossible effort to combine together a praise for two totally irreconcilable things: a radical freedom and democracy (which, in a multicultural land, would inevitably destroy the stability passionately desired by the conservative American Establishment) and a need to protect peace and order at any price (in a way that would render the radical freedom and democracy taught by one wing of the Enlightenment and its secularized American Puritan supporters practically meaningless). The whole ideological edifice of Americanism and Pluralism, with all of its fraudulent and criminal consequences, has developed out of this hopeless attempt to square the circle. Any rigorous theological, philosophical, psychological, sociological and historical investigation of such an impossible mish-mash of idealism and self-interest would cause this house of cards to fall apart in an instant. Hence the attack on human reason as a "divisive" rather than an "integrative" force. And hence the need to persecute as "extremists" those who recognize that they have a brain and desperately wish to use it.
I generally leave a lecture for traditionalist Catholic organizations feeling terribly discouraged. The numbers attending are frequently small and lead one to wonder whether there is any chance that what has been said will actually have an impact. Your Eminence has given me hope for the future in this respect. I now see that our gatherings are monitored; that reports of what is discussed therein are sent to those strong enough to have their will regarding what is True, Good and Beautiful serve as the norm for the world in which we live without having to answer rational objections to their wishes.
Still, I wish the substance of what Your Eminence reported had been accurate. It was not. I am convinced that you must not have listened to the tape of my lecture carefully, and that a second hearing would clear up this truly unnecessary confusion concerning what was said. I am enclosing a copy of a pamphlet which I have written on Americanism and the Collapse of the Church in the United States to help to clarify my position in your mind still further. Once this unfortunate misunderstanding has been resolved, I would ask that you issue a public statement undoing the damage that has been done to my reputation and, by extension, the insult that has been given to those who are suffering from what truly is a form of extreme nationalism and neo-Fascism: that propagated by the Might Makes Right philosophy of the proponents of the New World Order and its caricature of freedom and democracy.
This apology will prevent my having to take further legal steps to protect my good name.
Yours in Christ,
John C. Rao (D. Phil., Oxford University)
Associate Professor of History, St. Johns University, NYC
Chairman, Roman Forum/Dietrich von Hildebrand Institute
William J. Cabaniss
Trzist e 15
118 01 Praha 1
170 06 Praha 7
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