Fleeing the More Effective of the Two Evils
A Renewed Appeal “To All Men Free and Strong”
(The Remnant, February 28, 2013)
Those men have been labeled conservatives who, since 1815, have formed the parliamentary majorities that have been seen to fight the revolution, but for the profit of the revolution. The conservative majorities have not conserved anything. Gradually they have delivered everything and have themselves been delivered over to the violent minorities that they have seemed to combat, but to which, in reality, they have submitted. (Louis Veuillot, Oeuvres Completes, xii, 236).
“Now battle had to be joined, and therefore men were needed to restore a new order, and new theologians as well, to whom the evil was manifest from its outward phenomena down to its most subtle roots; then the time would come for the first stroke of the consecrated sword, piercing the darkness like a lightning flash. For this reason individuals had the duty of living in alliance with others, gathering the treasure of a new rule of law. But the alliance had to be stronger than before, and they more conscious of it.”(Ernst Jünger, Auf den Marmorklippen, XX)
Traditionalist Catholic lamentation and woe over the re-election of President Obama, rationally grounded though it is, is regrettably one-sided and therefore tragically self-destructive. Yes, the victory of a candidate supporting abortion and gay marriage is something that we must bitterly regret. Nevertheless, we should all take some serious consolation in the fact that at least the “conservative” Republican Party and its own peculiar array of anti-Catholic allies were defeated.
For far from presenting American Catholic voters some definite good, however limited, the Romney-Ryan ticket promised nothing other than the spread of the same modern secularist disease championed by the Democrats. While attacking a truly Catholic vision from a slightly different direction, the Republicans also offered valuable long-term assistance to the triumph of that abortion mentality and sexual immorality that is more immediately disturbing to traditionalist minds and hearts. All in all, I believe that they represented the more effective of the two evils.
The reasons for this greater efficacy are four-fold, each of them dreadful in its consequences for the cause of both faith and morals. First of all, the Republican Party promotes that wing of the naturalist Enlightenment that mocks man’s social character and responsibilities, condemning him to an atomistic individualism. Secondly, it willfully limits the wide range of sinful passions to which this anti-Catholic atomism exposes the individual to an exercise of economic and patriotic libertinism. Thirdly, the G.O.P. embraces that “moderate” Anglo-American approach to the Enlightenment that has always used an appearance of friendship for religion as a more subtle means of advancing the cause of secularism. And, finally, “moderate” Enlightenment Republicanism has seduced even Traditionalist Catholics into believing that the Founding Fathers’ earth-bound vision and system reflect an esoteric wisdom superior to that coming from the Mystical Body of Christ.
I cannot possibly develop these four-fold reasons explaining why the contemporary Republican Party now represents “the more effective of the two evils” in the detail of my essay on Americanism and the Collapse of the Church in the United States or my books, Removing the Blindfold and Black Legends and the Light of the World. Nevertheless, I would like to look at each of them briefly in turn, and then make a “simple” suggestion regarding what I believe needs to be done in response to their continued seductive threat. In offering that response, I wish to build upon, but also modify, the 1919 appeal to co-operative political action made by the new Italian Popular Party and addressed “to all free and strong men”.
Surely no one can deny that the Republican Party prides itself on being a vigorous voice in favor of rugged individualism. This association with manly freedom has grown still more pronounced as Libertarian and Tea Party influences over the G.O.P. have grown. Republicans see their rugged individualism as reflecting the teaching of the Founders. And indeed it is true that in so far as those Founders had any intellectual basis for their political theories they took much of this from the Enlightenment speculations of an individual-obsessed John Locke.
Locke, developing the atomism logically rooted in the still quite illogically tradition-bound Protestant lands of his day, built his vision of the good life firmly upon the individual, with communities and their social authorities reduced to necessary evils always threatening to bear their wicked teeth against his personal wellbeing. Goodbye positive affirmation of the State as an active aid in the hunt for virtue---as praised by Plato, Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the perennial doctrine of the Church. Goodbye appreciation of medieval “subsidiary” corporate society as an authoritative summons to cooperative effort in a myriad of different forms---and not as a mere “check on State tyranny”. And goodbye to the model for the proper ordering of the entire earthy realm offered by the Mystical Body of Christ, with its clear teaching of the need for the individual to perfect himself and gain eternal life only in submission to an authoritative community.
Let us forget, for the moment, the specific problems involved with providing individuals any specific act of proper, effective, authoritative social guidance and assistance. Current day Republicans are so much the logical followers of Locke that they simply cannot conceive that such an act is really and truly possible. They are incapable of thinking of anything other than in naked individual terms, and therefore see in the very word “social” a dire threat and an invitation to cocktail party mockery.
Perhaps most telling for me in this respect was Romney’s accompaniment of praise of the merits of individual students with expressions of deep disdain for the idea that their success could in any way be attributed to a communal project. Heaven forbid that the lowly janitor and bus driver---the virtual representatives of the overwhelming majority of the population---could have somehow contributed to the end result. He might just as well have added my own uneducated parents to the list of useless aids to obtaining my own doctorate in philosophy. I mean all they actually did was to bring me into existence and sacrifice their non-entrepreneurial working class lives to support me! For Romney, what I achieved I achieved on my own steam and my own steam alone. In short, community in all of its richness simply did not resonate with him as a substantive reality.
Sorry Locke and Romney, but it does “take a village” to raise and perfect even the most natively intelligent and ambitious child. And sorry liberal Democrats, but this work can only be done properly and justly if that village includes an authoritative Catholic Church eager to make Christ and His supernatural teaching the King and guide of the rest of authoritative society.
A village with such serious clout teaches the child that he cannot shape a proper and complete personal life with his attention focused upon what he gets out of society for himself as Numero Uno. It shows him that he can only gain life’s full promise on the basis of determining what he must do to please God. It reveals that pleasing God includes shouldering social responsibilities that cannot be measured according to an egalitarian quid-pro-quo calculus. It makes it crystal clear to him that the rich, the intelligent, the strong, and the healthy all owe more to the community than the poor, the ignorant, the weak, and the sick can possibly give to it; that they, as favored individuals, have a greater burden placed upon them than any physical rewards they will ever receive in this life in recompense for bearing it. And it is precisely because an environment looking to Christ as King understood the essential communal context for individual development and perfection that Locke and all those who have followed after him have felt obliged to work to dismantle a social-minded Catholic Christendom.
But let us now move on to the second reason for underlining the more effective anti-Catholic danger posed by contemporary Republicanism. Here, too, we can hang our hats on Locke and his influence over the G.O.P. to make our point. For, as my friend Professor Danilo Castellano of the University of Udine so succinctly remarks, Locke “first reduces everything to the individual, and then he destroys the individual”. This is because that sovereign individual, for Locke, is really nothing other than a bundle of diverse material stimuli and passions.
From a Catholic standpoint, those stimuli and passions, even when they are natural ones, are marred by Original Sin. Faith, grace, reason, and social authority in all its varied forms and on all its varied levels must be used to control them. Where such controls are lacking, the individual in question is doomed to sharpen that caricature of a human person that we call a “fallen man”. Any culture that he is party to creating will thus also become a caricature of a human civilization; a “fallen civilization”. And yet Locke, the Founding Fathers, and their Republican heirs believe that such stimuli and passions must be allowed freely to flourish, grow, and clash. They think that encouragement of the consequences of Original Sin---building The System upon their basis---will guarantee attainment of the common good. This is why they mock continued Catholic belief in the need for authoritative social encouragement of the hunt for virtue as nothing more than naïve utopianism. Christ as King? Give me a break! Let’s get real!
Still, man is made up of many material stimuli and passions from among which the unguided, sinful individual can willfully choose. Such willful choice is clearly at the heart of the American national vision. If it were not, people would avoid constant reference to our need to obey the Will of Semi-Divine Founders, even at the expense of ignoring what Faith and Reason might tell us to the contrary. The contemporary Democratic Party, despite certain ties to the more collectivist wing of the same naturalist Enlightenment that shapes Republicans, also feels the weight of Locke and the Founders heavily upon it. It shares the Republican concern for rugged individualism but in a different manner. Its rugged individualism emphasizes the crucial importance of protecting the individual’s will to murder the helpless child in the womb, to engage to sexual perversions, and to educate all his fellow citizens to praise such satisfyingly liberating personal choices. “Don’t tread on me!” is the motto it feeds to its atomist supporters. Its Republican counterpart shouts the same slogan to individuals willfully demanding the right to an untrammeled freedom in other matters, with property and economic issues at the top of the list. And this economic libertinism has become stronger along with the growth of libertarian influence over party theorists and officeholders alike---as with the atheist Ayn Rand’s impact upon the Catholic Paul Ryan.
Both Democrats and Republicans are willfully illogical in not granting their partisan opponents the freedom to carry their own preferred version of rugged individualism to its rational extreme. Each puts the triumph of its particular willful choice over the full exercise of the individual freedom that it nevertheless praises as the untouchable foundation for attainment of the common good. As it does so, each clearly denies or displays indifference to the impact that its specific willful choice has on the weak of mind or body in society at large. Each simply wants what it wants when it wants it, and praises the principle of “devil take the hindmost” in its heart of hearts. The “common good” is therefore somehow reached by means of totally abolishing it as a reality separate from the expression of individual will.
Yes, it is true that many rugged Republican individualists also willfully and illogically praise a primary love of country. If they proclaimed this in a real Catholic spirit, it would reflect possession of at least some laudable social sense. But the love of country that they promote is that of modern nationalism, which is just another of the many willful by-products of the naturalist Enlightenment. It amounts to nothing more than a treatment of the United States as though it were an atomistic creature in its own right, and a call for a “national libertinism” in its dealings with other lands. This is well expressed by the demand for recognition of an “American Exceptionalism” that somehow frees the United States from any need whatsoever to justify the morality of its actions around the globe. That exceptionalism amounts to nothing other than Modernism as applied to a nation rather than a human person.
Moreover, this national-minded atomistic libertinism is generally a blatant fraud. It regularly serves as a useful cover for the agenda of more powerful individual scoundrels: for those pursuing personally willful choices disguised as national and patriotic concerns. On the one hand, this means that the uncontrolled will of America reduces to whatever protects the individual beneficiaries of corporate profits. On the other, it reduces to whatever pleases influential neo-conservative supporters of the most willful, “national individual” of all: the State of Israel. In short, American Exceptionalism, for many Republicans, entails prohibition of all rational and Christian critique of everything from military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq to individual and corporate profit making to disruption of traditional foreign cultures and to anything that Benjamin Netanyahu wishes to do to destroy the Palestinian people.
Just wait one moment! the cry will inevitably go out. What in the world does all this have to do with the obvious need to block the greater evil of a Democratic ticket enthusiastically supporting abortion and gay marriage? Everything. For, based on what I have indicated above, I emphatically deny that a Romney-Ryan vote was an effective means of opposing such offenses to Faith and Reason. Why? The paralyzing realities of “practical” American politics, which regularly lead principled crusaders down one dead end after another, each hopeful path checked and balanced into oblivion, provide one reason. But more importantly still, one cannot seriously fight the individual libertinism justifying abortion and gay marriage by emphasizing an individual libertinism applied to economic questions, or a national libertinism granting America, corporations, and Israel carte blanche for communal chaos. They are all faces of the same evil.
Moreover, whether we, as individual Catholics influenced by Locke, might “will” this to be the case or not, Republican praise of economic and national libertinism teaches youth that the attainment of material riches and raw power, two “goods” that tempt men more than all others, and throughout the course of every single day of their existence, is the overriding goal of life. An environment built upon such praise is one whose every organ aids in the formation of men and women who will not think twice about trading in a fetus for a swimming pool if bringing the first to term gets in the way of finding the funds to build and enjoy the second. It shapes individual and national libertines with so little general concern for life and social well being that they would be willing to walk over the dead bodies of their fellow citizens and butchered Afghani, Iraqi, and Palestinian babies if they blocked their way to the nearest ATM machine.
How can anyone believe that a Party claiming to be deeply concerned for innocent unborn life while addressing issues of justice regarding born life in so incredibly cavalier a fashion is anything other than dangerously ignorant at best or criminally hypocritical at worst? Do we really think that someone will be won over to a pro-life position by inculcating an indifference to a trampling on the rights of the weak and the poor so vigorously condemned by the prophets of the Old Testament, or by yawning over news of a Herod-like butchery of the born that we are not personally obliged to see?
Yes, we believers may somehow arrange the furniture in our head to continue to oppose evil free choices regarding abortion and gay marriage while supporting a Party permitting them in economics and international politics. But we are a handful of men and women. Most voters do not begin with consciences formed as ours have been. Do we really think that our fellow citizens will follow our quite illogical reductionist choice in this matter? And will our own children? It is not all that easy to make our offspring follow in our footsteps with respect even to the basic practice of the Faith. Is it not likely that both groups will see the lack of logic at work in praising one act of illicit “free choice” while denying another? Will they not be sorely tempted to grasp the connection between national and individual economic libertinism on the one hand and libertinism in moral choices in all realms before them on the other?
This brings us to reason number three: the Republican Party’s claim that it is the Party of God, and that it has won this position because it is the heir of those God-fearing Founders who fought a God-fearing American Revolution. Oh the Lord is and has indeed been evoked by all of them (although I should like to remind my readers that radical revolutionaries like Maximilian Robespierre, who happily guillotined atheists along with Catholics in the last stages of the Reign of Terror, equally expressed a profound reverence for God). But the God that Republicans, Founders, and the American Revolution praise and permit to enter into the public square is the God of the Whigs and John Locke and the Moderate Enlightenment; the humble God; the God who keeps His mouth shut over those matters that the currently dominant strain of sovereign individuals who happen to control the machinery of government willfully wish Him to ignore; the God whose tongue is loosed only to cheer them on in perfecting their own personal libertinism.
Yes, that political vision is religion-friendly in the sense that it will allow all the Traditional Latin Masses one might want---so long as Christ the King does not get uppity and “social-minded”. Keep Him and His Gregorian Chant in the Church and out of one’s investment portfolio and bank account. Keep Him and His morality distant from any rebuke of a dysfunctional health care system reeking of greed and corruption. Keep them out of Baghdad and the West Bank. Above all, keep them away from judging the Sacred Foundation and its Sacred Documents. Who does God think He is anyway---a Socialist?
This “moderate” approach now has three hundred years of success behind it. It knows that it can count on most believers’ allowing its mission of backdoor secularization to proceed unobstructed---out of fear that the only alternative to its illogical and willful privatization of faith and morals is the more immediate “in your face” persecution that does indeed come from the supporters of the Radical Enlightenment and Communism. To steal a phrase from a good friend man of mine who might at this moment wish to remain unnamed, it knows that it can rely on most believers fervently manning the battlements of the Maginot Line against the enemy supporters of abortion and gay marriage---as it sneaks into the Camp of the Saints as a seeming ally and peacefully grinds Catholics minds and souls into pointless mush. What’s the point of wasting energy on straightforward but potentially counterproductive assaults on religion, like the French revolutionary abolition of Sunday, when you can much more effectively achieve the same result by reducing Sunday to meaninglessness as just another shopping day? By all means let pious Catholics spend the morning at the altar rail if the rest of their day is nothing other than a paean to Mammon.
That brings me to dreadful reason number four: many believing Catholics have swallowed the Republican fraud hook, line, and sinker---just as many of our ancestors fell hook, line, and sinker for parallel “nice stories” undermining the full message of the Incarnate Word in the past. So long as anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage positions are maintained, they accept and praise everything anti-Catholic that the Republican Party, its fellow travelers, its candidates, and their openly cynical publicity agents promote as though it came straight from the Fathers of the Church. Under these circumstances Catholics could just as easily have made Stalin into a religious hero for having ended Soviet pro-abortion practices of the 1920’s. Paraphrasing Churchill with respect to the German invasion of the Soviet Union, one has the impression that if the Republican Party supported the devil himself many Catholics would rethink their position on Lucifer and at least give him the benefit of the doubt.
The atomistic, libertine, and general Moderate Enlightenment influences over believers could not be more obvious, and the last election campaign and the post-mortems on it have confirmed this truth anew. Quite frankly, most of us have shown that we have no social sense whatsoever. “Social” means “Socialism” pure and simple. We would consider communal concern for the health of the nation as an evil even if it included the most pro-life features imaginable. In fact, we view most of what has been done since the 1930’s to build an absolutely essential social protective net as an offence to individual initiative, illustrating the inevitable wickedness supposedly accompanying any and all State interference in life. Oh we may admit that government action is momentarily needed in the battle against abortion and gay marriage, as well as in the struggle to root out enemies of the Regime and its Sacred Market from their nests across the globe. But we believe that God-fearing Republicans will eradicate the first set of evils swiftly, by appointing good judges to the Supreme Court, and the second batch of horrors by sending American troops into every hidden nook and cranny of the evil outside world. There’s a Catholic agenda for you, and one that a host of Acton Institutes work untiringly to solidify. Hence, their employment of pseudo-scholars to dig up an Ayn Rand sounding snippet here and an out of context Locke-friendly phrase there---all from the books of past Catholic thinkers who would shudder at the intellectual injustice being done to them in the name of protecting profits without end and promoting radical Zionist aggression.
Fraud, fraud, fraud most foul! A fraud that provides a vision of Catholicism that no Catholic before the Enlightenment could ever have recognized as that taught by his beloved Faith. A fraud that blinds Catholics to the development of an economic system run by ever more grasping oligarchs exploiting brain-dead peons in a manner undreamed of merely thirty two years ago. A fraud that chastises as “socialist” the kind of laudable state efforts to deal with the problems of modern, secularized industrial society that were already taken in Germany in the 1880’s under Prince Otto von Bismarck and the Hohenzollern Family, and with Catholic support to boot; state efforts the blessings of which, I might add, many a Traditionalist Catholic in Europe enthusiastically defends to me today (as he asks, in bewilderment, why we oppose them). A fraud that combines praise of the heroic Republican fight against Democratic “statism” with a mind-boggling defense of the right of the Bush Administration arbitrarily to define the nature of just and unjust warfare and to institute a surveillance of Americans at home and abroad more thorough than ever before in our history.
Do we Catholics really have to swallow this fraud? And accept it in order to elect “pro-life” candidates who change their tune on abortion in front of national television audiences as the mood of voters more clearly emerges? “Pro-life” candidates hostile to abortion if the right to kill the unborn is founded upon court decisions, but ready to accept it at the hands of a democratic vote on the local state level?
Based upon our cries of woe, any outside observer asked to indicate what, exactly, believing Catholics identify as the greatest manifestations of evil in public life, would have no difficulty in responding. Evil Incarnate takes two forms: promotion of abortion and gay marriage on the one hand---and any expression of concern for economic injustice, outrage over an inadequate and downright shameful healthcare system, and shame at the slaughter of innocent populations of Moslem countries on the other. Both are condemned en bloc.
A better means of increasing popular support for the first set of abominations---abortion and gay marriage---from among the vast non-believing majority of our fellow citizens can hardly be imagined. Why would the average confused American be willing to take seriously Church teachings on the need to squelch a criminal freedom to kill the unborn and destroy sexual innocence when a criminal freedom to trample everything else of importance in daily life is praised? And praised, may I once again emphasize, not only as the Will of the Most Blessed Founders, but as the height of Catholic wisdom as well?
My irritation with “the more effective of the two evils” finally reached its peak during the last two weeks, when I began to see President Obama blamed not only for the libertine evils that he ought to be accused of supporting, but for those much more clearly stemming from the vulgar materialism of Republican libertinism as well. I began to wonder what new proposals I might make for flight from the seductive appeal of a Party of God that obliterates all human Reason and obscures the True Faith as well. Should I blog? Should I twitter? Should I tweet, tweet, tweet? But try as hard as I possibly could, I still was unable to come up with any other conclusion than a desperate need to emphasize what I have always argued in these pages: the overriding importance of Catholic consciousness-raising.
Allow me to return to that same theme by making reference to an historical event discussed in the 2012 Roman Forum Summer Symposium dealing with the questions now before us. On January 18, 1919, the Catholic founders of the new Italian Popular Party issued “an appeal to all men free and strong” to confront a post war society in full crisis that they eagerly wished to find an effective way to address. Our present crisis is part of that same Italian crisis, which was itself but one episode in the general crisis brought about by that Protestant Reformation and Enlightenment that has eaten away at the substance of Catholic Christendom for centuries.
I would like to issue a renewed “appeal to all men free and strong” as a guide to flight from “the more effective of the two evils”. My appeal shares the Popolari recognition of the urgent need for a social-minded political action. This was being threatened with emasculation through the blandishments of a budding Italian “Party of Order” that was offering yet another heaping spoonful of unacceptable Enlightenment individualism as the sole answer to the Red Menace. My appeal also shares the Popolari argument that it is indeed necessary to work for the common good with confused but well-intentioned non-believers in modern dysfunctional society. For our ranks alone are simply not large enough to conquer.
Nevertheless, my manifesto is different from that of the Popolari in one very important respect. It is much more rooted in a conviction that we Catholics do not really know exactly who we are and what we stand for, and that an absolutely crucial labor of spiritual and intellectual consciousness-raising must underlie any political task we undertake in union with others. Without this consciousness-raising we might as well adopt one phrase to adorn our political banner: “We are Suckers---Come and Get Us.”
I want this crucial work of consciousness-raising to get believers to think socially because thinking socially is an integral part and parcel of what Catholics must always do. But they can only properly understand what “thinking socially” really means by focusing their attention upon the fullness of the message of Christ’s Incarnation; the message of the Catholic Church. This refocusing was the thrust of that spirituality of St. Catherine of Genoa that fueled the Catholic Reformation and “cut through” the seemingly impossible dilemmas of how to correct a “Catholic” order that passed itself off as the defender of “Tradition” when it was really only protecting a deeply rooted cynicism and heap of fetid “customs”.
Failure to focus on Christ means that both “Tradition” and “thinking socially” do indeed fall into the corrupt, ideological, and criminal hands that make for bad curial officials and left wing professors and bureaucrats. Focus on Christ means that corrupt custom is exposed in all its naked stupidity. Focus on Christ means that the appalling fraudulence of individual and national libertinism is revealed for what it is---a denial of Catholic social responsibility in the name of an individualist naturalist materialism. Focus on Christ means that what is “social” and what is “materialist socialism” separate out nicely. The Catholic who stares Christ’s message forthrightly in the face thus begins to realize that two entirely different spirits can shape an outwardly similar---and desperately needed--- public healthcare system in two entirely different ways, one of them as good as the other is bad.
Consciousness-raising must make people think of co-operation with good willed outsiders for the sake of practical political action because this is also part and parcel of what Catholics must always do. But they can only properly understand what “thinking practically” really means by dint of the same intense focus upon the teaching of Our Lord and Savior played out in history. Failure to focus on Christ guarantees that American “pragmatic” action rules the roost and inevitably works to build the Moderate Enlightenment’s individualist materialist desert. A focus on Christ means that the “freedom” of Locke Land is revealed for it what it is: a recipe for lulling believers into impotence in private and “non-divisive” religious clubhouses while the public order is handed over to manipulation by the strongest, naturalist individual wills; a machine designed to check, balance, and paralyze any action for the common good to death; a Regime that can only be fought properly with full consciousness of what we as Catholics are and where we as Catholics are going---and the wisdom of serpents besides.
Absolutely central to our consciousness-raising labor is a recognition that while we are “in” the current Locke-inspired Moderate Enlightenment Regime, we must no longer consider ourselves to be “of” it. By separating ourselves from the Regime spiritually and intellectually, we are by no means making an empty gesture. On the contrary, this gesture is the most important and difficult first step that any individual can take. In saying this, I am merely repeating much of what the New Testament writers, the Apostolic Fathers, the Apologists, and the Church Fathers implied or stated openly in the first centuries of Christian History with respect to the Roman Empire. All these men were very much aware that they were physically still “in” the Empire, and had no intention whatsoever of violating laws or acts of authority still working for the common good. Nevertheless, they also knew that they were not “of” the system any longer. Spiritually, they were part of a new commonwealth, the Kingdom of Christ. They quickly learned that their spiritual declaration of independence meant a great deal indeed, earning them the deep loathing of the defenders of the established order, whether from among the elite or among the masses.
Far from thinking that their momentary failure to dominate a public life infringing upon the Kingdom of God was fruitless, they were convinced that whatever good the imperial system did continue to do was actually due chiefly to their independent spiritual and intellectual activity. For those who were both “in” and “of” the pagan world around them were helpless slaves of precisely everything that was pestilential about it. All that the cheerleaders for the Regime could do was to prop up its decaying carcass to produce just a bit more unnecessary damage before its inevitable demise.
Meanwhile, our Christian spiritual forbears---“impotent” only the eyes of an anti-Catholic understanding of the “practical---were doing more than just propping up the better parts of a dying pagan carcass. They were preparing for substantive regime change, laying the groundwork for a better socio-political body into which they could transplant any and all organs of the Roman system still worth saving. It is for this reason that the writings of men like Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, and John Chrysostom bear upon everything from education to economics, the military, and daily problems of life in an urban society. How could they not? They were all dedicated to a consciousness-raising with positive political impact on the future. And thinking about where they were headed in relation to the decadent world they had abandoned, they could heartily agree with St. Ignatius of Loyola in his praise of “the beauty of the fire of the ships one burns behind him”.
Mention of the experience of the early Christians should be sufficient to clarify the importance of that stage of regime change when one is “in” but not “of” the existing system. In case it is not, allow me to note that those who created the seemingly God-fearing, individualist, economically libertine Regime that represents the Will of the Founders, alongside their more radical Enlightenment brethren in France and elsewhere, went through the same phase in organizing the destruction of Christendom. They did this work through the creation of a so-called “Republic of Letters” populated by what Voltaire labeled a “merry band” of thinkers and writers dedicated to “enlightened” regime change. Even before having any impact whatsoever on governments, these men who were “in” the old world but not “of” it, used journals, committees of correspondence, freemasonic lodges, social improvement clubs, and aristocratic salon society to shape and discuss the problems of the new world order they were in the process of constructing. In short, they were engaged in consciousness-raising.
If, as I believe, raising consciousness of a proper social sense is the greatest practical political need as the present Regime collapses into a paralysis that benefits only libertines of both camps, Democratic and Republican; and if, especially given our numerical weakness, political action inevitably involves alliance with good-willed non-believers for success, let us follow the models of the past to insure that that social-minded success is truly Catholic in character. By all means, let us use whatever political opportunities seem to come our way. Let those of us who feel a vocation for politics give ourselves over to their perceived mission. But let us do so by learning what we really stand for in an educated, literate, and fully Catholic way: as members of an international Christendom. The individual and the American nation can only gain from such consciousness-raising. Let “all men free and strong” look Christ and the teaching of His Incarnation directly in the face and act accordingly.
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