Writings by Dr. John C. Rao

From Cite Catholique to Mental Asylum

What Does an Auxiliary Do When the "Seeds of the Logos" Dry up?

(Verbo , August, September, October 2023 Numero 617-618.)

When I reached my biblical span of three score and ten in 2021 and indulged in the usual lamentation regarding the sad truth of aging, my elder son jokingly chastised me by saying that I should not worry about this, because it was the last birthday I would remember anyway. Since my memory does actually still function, it seemed to me that it was necessary for me to plumb its depths for the purposes of this conference while I am still capable of doing so. For given the fact that I “enlisted” in the Traditionalist Movement in 1970 at the age of 19, plunging into the work of Dietrich von Hildebrand’s Roman Forum, whose director I became in 1991, my personal experiences may have a certain value as a source for understanding the difficulties of shoring up and reinvigorating whatever might remain of the cité catholique---in that term’s broadest sense---in our ever more troubled age.

Allow me to begin my testimony in the spring of 1974, four years after that “enlistment”, at a time when I was already two years into my academic program at Oxford University in Britain. It was then that I attended the Lausanne Congress---held by what had once been the specific historical organization called the Cité Catholique, and which since the 1960s had become the Office International. I was enticed to attend by Hamish Fraser, the Scottish editor of the journal Approaches, who was an admirer of Jean Ousset and his movement and was a very close collaborater with the Roman Forum as well.

Lausanne’s roster of distinguished speakers, which included a member of the Irish Government who accompanied Hamish and myself to the conference, could not help but greatly impressive me. That positive impression was further enhanced by the fact that many of the activists whom I met that year, men such as Arnaud de Lassus, were to remain life-long contacts with whom I would regularly reconnect in later years at the annual pilgrimages from Paris to Chartres organized by Notre Dame de Chrétiènté, one of the most spiritually important training camps of our time. 1

I certainly agreed with the basic strategy of the Cité Catholique/Office International: first of all, the small “cell” spiritual and intellectual preparation of men and women who would seek, as “auxiliaries”, to inject a Catholic spirit into the different milieu in which they operated, aided in their formation by the teaching given through a substantive journal, and, secondly, the refusal to create a “party” of its own; a faction that, like so many others in an ever more technocratic society, might then risk existing merely to feed the growth of its organizational apparatus rather than the cause it was meant to serve.

However, there did remain a certain practical doubt in my mind. Before I left for Britain in 1972, I had myself become part of an Ousset-inspired “circle” founded by one of his French followers who worked at the United Nations in New York and who was a fellow member of the Roman Forum. Already at that time, I felt that this circle manifested precisely that “party” problem feared by the organization in general. For it, too, seemed to exist merely to prepare for each subsequent group meeting, with its goal of participants having a Catholic impact on American political and social life appearing to be something of a chimera.

Reading pamphlets and taking notes looked as though they alone could be the goals to which its American members might realistically aspire. Committedly secular forces undisturbedly shaped our practical socio-political environment. Even those that boasted openly of being friendly to religion reflected a spirit dangerous to the Catholic cause---and, what was even worse, with major support from American believers as well.

Before tackling that central problem of the feasibility of the defense and reinvigoration of the cité catholique in general, allow me to continue this rather lengthy introduction by noting that 1974 was also to prove to be a dramatic moment illustrating consequences of the dangerous “spirit” of the Second Vatican Council for the future fate of the Roman Church as a whole. Two quite different events expressed those consequences succinctly.

One crucial radicalizing contribution to this new development of the Drama of Truth that is always played out in Sacred History was represented by the explosive bishops’ Synod on Evangelization taking place that momentous year. What was clearly reinforced at that gathering was the wish of a number of powerful progressive bishops and the supportive---or manipulative---theological apparatus standing behind them to abandon the goal of evangelization and missionary work entirely, replacing this with a “listening” and “discerning” of the message that the non and even anti-Catholic world was called upon to teach Christ’s Church: i.e., that same project now pushing for its total victory through the coming Synod on Synodality.

I do not hesitate to say that under this faction’s rules of the game, the cité catholique would come to resemble a schizophrenic mental asylum rather than a unified polis helping to direct men and women to eternal salvation. In fact, so divided was the 1974 gathering that the plenum refused to accept the report prepared by its secretary, the more conservative Cardinal Karol Wojtyla. Paul VI’s “Post Synodal Exhortation” of the following year replaced it, this being a new type of papal message that would be repeatedly employed by the Cardinal of Cracow when becoming John Paul II as well. 2

It seems to me that the shock of this synodal division helped to link the future pontiff more closely together with the work of Josef Ratzinger and his colleagues in the journal Communio, along with their defense of a so-called “hermeneutic of continuity”. Ironically, both the “listening and discerning” Church---with its blueprint for constructing a schizophrenic Catholic mental asylum---as well as that defended by the “hermeneutici”---who were attempting to maintain and extend some kind of more traditional cité catholique on the basis of the documents and the language of freedom and religious liberty popularized by Vatican Two---were to prove to be further stimuli for reducing the main activity of potential orthodox “auxiliaries” in training to nothing other than impotent “note-taking”.

A different but also fateful episode of the post-conciliar Drama of Truth was played out in 1974 through the Vatican’s assault on the seminary of Archbishop Lefebvre at Econe, forcing traditionally minded Catholics to take a more pronounced stand on the horror of the liturgical and general ecclesiological changes emerging from Vatican Two and the whole “spirit” behind that Council. The choice presented them split every Catholic group with which I was familiar in the United States and in Britain, as well as those that I had encountered at Lausanne---the very organizers of the Cité Catholique/Office International included.

A life lived in opposition to the will of the Roman Pontiff, attending Holy Mass in living rooms or rented hotel spaces, now loomed large. Any desire that Traditionalists might cherish for protecting a collapsing Christendom then had to deal not just with radicals rejecting the concept entirely and waiting in the wings for their chance entirely to liquidate it, alongside “hermeneutici” trying to make believe that nothing in the mainstream Church had substantively changed at all. Potential auxiliaries were now confronted with the possibility of a life led in a cité catholique that might prove to be nothing more than a ghetto. This was better than a schizophrenic mental asylum, but not terribly challenging, evangelically speaking, with respect to “missionary” outreach. Notebook producers could be excused for seeing a thriving market emerging from the ranks of believing Catholic cherishing a vocation as militants of this type.

Dr. Thomas Molnar, with whom I was very close in those years, along with Dr. William Marra, my predecessor as the day-to-day director of the Roman Forum, urged me to focus on obtaining my doctorate and not to become personally involved in the ever more intense battling over the post-conciliar Church until I did so. They insisted that solid, systematic educational formation had to take precedence over immediate---and therefore possibly ill-considered and self-destructive---militant engagement. In any case, Britain had its famous “Agatha Christie” Indult allowing for celebration of the Traditional Mass, and it was possible to participate there, at least in a liturgical regard, in the hermeneutici chimera of a basically unchanged cité catholique.

Nevertheless, Michael Davies, who for decades was the driving English-speaking intellectual force behind the defense of Archbishop Lefebvre and the Old Rite, and with whom I developed a close friendship from 1972 onwards, kept me well informed about the Blitzkrieg of secularization more and more sweeping religion out of the public sphere, and the dismantling of any Catholic Social Doctrine that could credibly be used to oppose this; once again, all in the name of obedience to the “spirit of Vatican Two”. When I returned to the United States and asked Dr. Molnar how the “Movement” was doing, he replied quite succinctly: “the Movement is stationary”.

“Return to the United States” is a rather exaggerated statement for me to make, given the fact that I have spent at least three months every year in Europe since my undesired 1978 repatriation, and sometimes considerably longer. In any case, my experiences in both continents for the past forty three years led me very quickly to the conclusion that whatever “Seeds of the Logos” might yet remain alive in a political and social “Christendom” ever more committed to its total secularization were much more resistant to transformation in Christ by well-trained “auxiliaries” than those ancient ones mentioned and nurtured by St. Justin Martyr.

Such Greco-Roman, and then Germanic, Slavic, and Norman “seeds” had indeed proven capable of being shaped and exalted historically through a committed, Faith-driven Catholic vision embracing and powerfully nourishing everything natural and rational embryonically open to it. Now, however, stripped of their authoritative cultivation by a substantive and living Faith, the “seeds” of the Christian civilization---of the cité catholique---that had emerged through their assiduous husbandry and maturation had been abandoned to their unredeemed state. These orphaned “seeds” were thus left unwatered and untended, except by forces wishing militantly to prevent them from once again being “molded” through a renewed effort of “transformation in Christ”; forces that also had a diabolicly effective methodology for blinding everyone to the very thought of doing so.

Moreover, even if there were some residual, only “semi-abandoned” seeds left to fertilize, my regular contact with surviving Catholic “circles” of varied sorts convinced me that their ability to prepare militant “auxiliaries” to accomplish this work had become much more difficult as well. To train such “auxiliaries” properly, these circles now needed first to man their own ghetto defenses against the impact of the increasingly faithless, irrational, and mentally ill environment in which they were living upon their own Catholic project. For these were ghettos only in the spiritual sense. In fact, they were environments still all too open and subject to harassment at the hands of a secularized society from whose influences they could not escape.

Ghetto Catholics also had to deal with certain psychological problems of their own, which were brought about primarily by the lack of charity of their former shepherds who had driven them within their walls. Deprived, as they were, of the aid they used to get both from the mainstream Church, as well as that residual assistance, still significant in the 1960s, that had come from social organs ranging from the educational establishment to the police, the number of dangers that they had to face were legion. Many believing Catholics reacted by focusing upon one or the other of the most immediate threats confronting them with one form or another of a crippling “tunnel vision” damaging to a fully conscious and complete evangelical labor.

In short, all institutions of the religious and socio-political world were becoming ever more “diabolically disoriented”, irrational, and resistant to a logical discussion of what was responsible for bringing about this general construction of an ever more global mental asylum. Jean Ousset had said in Pour qu’Il règne, that it was of no use to take power at noon if one must lose it at 12:05, and that that would be inevitable if there were no current opinion supporting that conquest. This scenario was even more likely from the 1960s onwards than when he penned his warning. Dried out “Seeds of the Logos” could no longer grasp the meaning of the words that Catholic militants might use to coax them towards the Father of Lights, and such militants generally were not using the full vocabulary historically at their disposal, thus damaging the truth content of whatever was actually left to them.

I soon decided that I needed to write a novel to explain to potential Catholic “auxiliaries” risking an impotent life in this mental asylum the psychologically twisted minefield that they had to dodge through in order to escape from it. Cousine Bette, Balzac’s masterwork depicting the activity of a woman by this name who destroyed everyone around her, all of whom were nevertheless convinced that she loved them, was my guide to identifying the seductive wickedness of the particular kind of hyperactive demonic force hiding under a charitable exterior while constructing our contemporary “nut house”.

Only such a work could pinpoint the intricate web of twisted ways in which all and sundry---Church, State, Society, and even the militant Catholic groups eager to train “auxiliaries” to change them for the better---were being led to live a pathetic, mentally deranged, “peripheral” existence, never tackling the goals required of them in their various vocations, and yet believing that they were absolutely right on target precisely through their self-destructive or pointless labors. I poured out my astonishment over the bizarre temptations of this amazingly effective imbroglio during the entire decade that began with my repatriation in 1978 in the work that I called Periphery: A Novel of Rage and Reason. 3

It was never my intention in undertaking this project to deny the fact that there was indeed a dogmatic idea that lay behind the psychologically twisted dismantling of the cité catholique and construction of a mental asylum in its place. That idea was the thoroughgoing naturalism of the Radical Enlightenment, whose long developing roots I had found brilliantly discussed in George de Lagarde’s multi volume Naissance de l’esprit laique au declin du moyen âge. It was an idea whose progress benefited greatly from the utilization of manipulative tools that it learned from the ancient Sophist “word merchandizing” discussed in Werner Jaeger’s Paideia, and which---whether it wanted to or not---also adopted dangerous aspects of the attitude towards nature described in Hans Jonas’ The Gnostic Religion. 4

Periphery was designed to make clear that this dogmatic idea of the Radical Enlightenment and Company was too open in its militant atheism and its revolutionary, egalitarian, democratic vision of a totally transformed society to force itself directly upon a still powerful---though always troubled---Christendom and its traditions; that it needed the assistance of a seemingly non-dogmatic pastoral methodology claiming friendship towards believers to allow the radical ideology that it nevertheless aided to penetrate and drive the Catholic order of things stark raving mad. It required the work of a “hidden” but deadly enemy masquerading as a friend, like the evil soul giving her name to Balzac’s Cousine Bette. Once again, a study of theology and philosophy alone could not uncover the wiles of the architects of the mental asylum. Literature, a “human study” like history, was need to make clear the twisted paths by which a hidden demon can push fallen men to work towards their own demise with a smile on his and their faces.

We have no time here to discus the historical growth of the so-called Moderate Enlightenment, whose defenders developed the psychologically convoluted pastoral methodology, whose deadly efficiency I found demanded the aid of this novelistic approach fully to uncover. This methodology was rendered important politically through the admittedly varied forms of what we call Liberalism. All we need to note now is that whether in its original Whig-Glorious Revolution-Lockean-Baconian-Newtonian envelope, or in the Liberal “Party of Order” program popularized from 1848 onwards, its basically unchanging pastoral methodology has had its greatest effect on the destruction of the cité catholique through its American Pluralist, pseudo-religious mode of expression. 5

This promoted the mainline Liberal arguments with an emphasis upon the special, God-given, providential role of “the American Pluralist Way” in providing a path out of the post-Second World War horrors for its all too demoralized victims, Catholics very much among them. Yes, it said, radical revolutionary forces were at work feeding the evils plaguing mankind; forces inimical to religion and social order; forces reflected by the ideological madness of Soviet Marxism-Leninism and a defeated Fascism always waiting in the wings for rebirth. Happily, clear-headed observation of the many divisions of modern society had made it obvious that there was one, sole, crystal clear, salubrious key to protection of religion, rational discussion, social peace, and the freedom and dignity of the individual that were at the heart of all believing and thinking individuals’ concerns: a key that promised liberty for the plurality of different faiths, worldviews, and persons that were willing to respect one another’s rights to plead their specific causes and actually thrive as never before in history.

However, that path could only be taken if justice in the public sphere were defended by reliance on arguments that did not come from these same clashing dogmatic, confessional, or ideological sources---a tactic that had proven to unleash brutal conflict and oppression---but rather from a practical application of what were the “obvious teachings of Christian morality” anyway; teachings so universally accepted that they might also be referred to as being merely “common sense” principles.

The best, historically tested tool for guaranteeing this happy result to come about politically was the implementation, alongside the guarantee of religious liberty, of those constitutional checks and balances that had grown out of the liberal Anglo-American experience. These had amply demonstrated that their employment permitted the full blossoming of diverse expressions of private freedom and initiative in a social order grounded on the common, practical, prudential concerns of a Christian spirit that was really universal in character. Who but sympathizers with the truly revolutionary forces threatening to wreak apocalyptic havoc or madmen---outright “haters of mankind”---could think otherwise?

Alas, among those madmen were the traditional leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, who defended wrongheaded dogmatic objections to what was really only a purely pastoral commitment to religious liberty. Hence, as David Wemhoff has shown so thoroughly in his work on this subject, the American government’s creation of a “Doctrinal Warfare Program”---mobilizing every tool from the CIA to the mainstream national media to admirers of Pluralism within the Catholic community such as John Courtenay Murray and Jacques Maritain---to defeat the misguided dogmatic enemy. As Murray had explained, “aggiornamento meant getting the Church of 1965 up to where the US Constitution was in 1789”, and Dignitatis humanae, interpreted pastorally through “the spirit of Vatican II”, fulfilled this goal nicely. 6

Quite frankly, appeals to liberal pragmatism had already had their impact on the practical political and social policies of the Roman Church since the mid-1700s, but never felt in a way that touched openly upon a real dogmatic issue. Cousine Bette, in the form of the American Pluralist Way, was now to initiate its “diabolical disorientation” of the Roman Church under the outward façade of giving it a supposedly totally free, fully Catholic opportunity to thrive and even win its cause, but in a peaceful, pastoral manner, amidst the dogmatic and ideological divisions of modernity that had proven to be so destructive to everyone, herself included.

Alas, as Jonathan Israel, the great contemporary scholar of the whole naturalist movement indicates, the Moderate Liberal Enlightenment has never served as anything other than a “holding action” for the Radical Enlightenment, subtly and effectively preparing the way for the latter’s more logical penetration and complete transformation of social, political, and intellectual life. And this is because the outward appearance of purely pastoral practicality of the Moderate Liberal Enlightenment, however much the self-deception of many of its promoters might “will” it to “stay within bounds”, logically advances the radical agenda, offering a Liberation Theology that cannot help but eventually--- and just as brutally---lead to a total war with the cité catholique. The construction of a mental asylum ruled by the violent triumph of the strongest, most materialist, and most ideologically insane willfulness is the inevitable outcome of its pastoral manner.7

Here, too, given time constraints, I can only summarize briefly how its pastoral methodology---packed with dogmatic presuppositions, psychological pressures, and the blocking of the escape routes from the naturalist mental asylum that it is constructing---accomplishes this deceptive trick. Locke’s religious liberty, as both Voltaire and James Madison (the main author of the American Constitution) saw, tamed the plurality of competing confessions---and, logically, the manifold secular worldviews as well--- by allowing so many of them to thrive that they “checked and balanced” themselves out of any influence on the public sphere, forcing them into a ghetto “clubhouse” existence where they could do no harm except that of damaging psychologically their adherents themselves. In consequence, purely “practical”, natural, material pursuits were now free to guide the public sphere on their own, never looking “upward”.

Favoring these pursuits was supposed to guarantee a plumbing of the machine of nature for those harmonious laws of the universe that would yield all that was needed to prove the existence of a good Creator God anyway. Use of the Baconian/Newtonian scientific method to explore those laws’ riches would then transform the world for the better, thereby permitting fulfillment of that Christian call to feed the hungry and heal the sick that actually lay at the heart of all mankind.

Nevertheless, here, too, the hidden logic and psychological pressures of the whole project were at work both obstructing as well as metamorphosing such seemingly laudable goals. Putting aside a problem immediately faced by Moderate Enlightenment Christians---the fact that discovering the harmonious rules of the universe might point one to a Creator God, but not necessarily to a Trinity and to Jesus Christ---the influence of John Locke (1632-1704) and Francis Bacon (1561-1626) over the whole project ensured that the construction of a “religion and charity friendly” society became more and more of the radical mental asylum that we now inhabit instead.

Locke was a materialist individualist who believed that everyone had to build his personality based upon gaining the property that he needed to respond to the purely physical sensations upon him. Despite the “conservative” constitutional apparatus that he fashioned, which Liberals praised as protecting the public sphere from injustice by placing it under the guidance of society’s most traditional, common-sense filled component parts, Locke’s radically individualist presumptions ate away at the foundations of every single form of social authority, the family included. They worked, as James Madison said, to “multiply factions” within social groups, reducing politics and life in general to a hidden Hobbesian “war of all against all” favoring the victory of those willing to use the most effective tools to satisfy their natural ambitions and reduce their opponents to compliance with their stronger will.

Esoteric elements underlying the development of the modern scientific method aided the pursuit of naturalist ambitions of all kinds. Its founders, men like Francis Bacon at the top of the list, praised magicians and alchemists---whose unscientific modus operandi alone he faulted---for cultivating the desire to gain from nature things that it did not seem rationally capable of providing; even for altering it entirely, “for the better”, in a classically anti-natural gnostic spirit. Doing something “better” with nature would be based on seeking knowledge no longer gained for the sake of knowing, loving, and serving the laws of any God---Christian or Deist---but for the attainment of power pure and simple. From a Christian standpoint, this could readily entail plumbing it for a knowledge that allowed individuals to gain property for the successful attainment of power in ways that violated both God’s revealed laws and man’s rational judgments as well.

Unfortunately, there is no way for anyone trapped in the grip of the American Pluralist version of the basic Moderate Enlightenment Liberal argument to seeing how antithetical to Christianity this all is, and to think himself out of contributing to construction of the mental asylum replacing the cité catholique. Every trick in the book, first developed by the ancient Sophists (who presented themselves as being as much friends of “true” philosophy as Liberals were to “true” Christianity) to prevent people from stepping back to judge what could be made to “work” for the pursuit of power goals of the “unexamined life” was mobilized to stop such a salutary venture. The providential character of the American pastoral methodology was drilled incessantly into the victim’s mind, from cradle to grave. Resort to Faith and Reason for judgment’s sake were constantly chastised for their divisive, conflictual consequences, and for their diversion from the real, practical, technological benefits that men tortured by totalitarian dogmatisms had hoped to gain from these dangerously flawed tools in the past. Once again, only madmen---or total “losers”---could oppose this godly approach.

Locke’s conventional, constitutional tools for providing justice, along with the idea that Christian and common sense morality were one and the same and forever unchanging, were also erroneous. They both succumbed to the pressures of those most ambitious for satisfaction of their naturalist desires, whether for unlimited personal property or attainment of an insane, ideological, gnostic transformation of the real, existent world. And yet once more, the naturalist-sophist-gnostic-nominalist tendencies of the whole Lockean-Baconian-Newtonian system built an Iron Curtain against Faith and Reason inspired criticism of the actual horror of the “last, best, hope of mankind”.

Its supporters had argued that whatever “worked” was what God had always wanted. Whoever was willing to use all the tools needed for success “won” in the war of all against all determining what “worked”. That meant the possessor of the strongest “will”. Appeal to commitment to the constitutional limitations dictated by the “Will of the Founding Fathers” with their more “conservative” property obsession or to the “Will of the World Economic Forum and prophets of Davos”, with their mixture of power-driven capitalist and gnostic ideological goals, amount to one and the same thing. Appeal to the will of the former is simply a “holding action” as the latter emerge to define that more conservative expression of will power more radically---and, with it, the “true” meaning of the Will of God, Christian morality, and the nature of the cité catholique as well.

This meant that whatever the documents of a “pastoral council”, or the actual text of Dignitatis humanae itself may have said, it was the hidden logic and “spirit” behind it that would be called upon to define them. Opening the Church to American Pluralism opened it to the innate pressure of individualist Lockean Liberalism to dissolve social authorities of all kinds and “multiply factions” within them. A pilgrim Church’s learning process then had to be carried to its obvious conclusions, as, bit by bit, the deeper spirituality of the American experience taught her what Christ really expected from her: a structural democratization favorable to baptizing as Catholic the dictates of individual “free consciences” formed by physical sensations; and a condemnation of the use of coercive social authority of any sort---even that of purely internal impact on the faithful and devoid of physical penalties----as offensive to human dignity. And all this with the kind of incessant propaganda that had already long convinced most American Catholics that the United States and the cité catholique were one and the same thing: thereby rendering impotent the goals of the my own Ousset-inspired “cell” from the early 1970s.

Cousine Bette’s diabolical disorientation worked first of all to break down the authority and morale of the old Roman Curia, turning real---but illegitimate---power to implement the Council’s decrees over to the stronger will of commissions, study groups, and journals dominated by those possessing the approved spirit, their godly labors praised to the skies by the appropriate magisterial media fonts and financial backers. Under these circumstances, any strong-willed individuals or factions with a clear naturalist agenda gained a tremendous advantage in taking control of a Church apparatus left bereft of the action of legitimate authoritative organs.

Hence, the swift rise to ascendancy of the radical, and much more openly dogmatic faction that had also had a major influence in shaping the Council: that represented theologically and philosophically by what Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange called the “New Theology” and also various insistent forms of “Personalism”. These brought to the fore old pastorally-focused Jansenist projects, but also the ultimately Jean-Jacques Rousseau grounded hunt for God’s Will in the voice of vigorous, vital, natural “energies” as well.

Translated into a direct religious influence through the work of the Abbé de Lamennais, that latter concern had always thrived in the underbrush of the Catholic world. It re-emerged into the open from the 1920s onwards, with the demand for Catholic “listening” and “discerning” of the Will of the Holy Spirit in the successful, vitally energetic movements of modern life, as interpreted by the prophetic insight of those reading these “signs of the times”. Very quickly, bishops and episcopal conferences that failed to respond to the energetic “teachings” of their local communities were brought to heel by the prophets in their midst: confirmed, as usual, by media and financial sources that saw the satisfaction of their own naturalist passions in the ensuing transformation of the meaning of the cité catholique.

The formerly Catholic social movements of Europe and Latin America were now expected to continue their labors only on the basis of perfecting “natural values” that could be shared by believers and non-believers alike: as interpreted by prophetic “listeners” and “discerners”. Distinctly Catholic elements were not to be allowed to interfere with social action in Africa and Asia where they had had little or no influence before, lest they somehow distort a Seed of the Logos in the process of development down the right direction. Popular forces that dared to resist the abandonment of Catholic ideas or contest the shape that social action was taking had to have their consciousness raised in base communities and encounter groups by professional prophets appealing to the “spirit of the Council”. The cité catholique was left spiritually “barren in the face of a Ramakrishna”, as Maritain, whose more conservative “will” still led him back to the guidance of a hopelessly authoritarian Aquinas left behind by the forward march of the Holy Spirit, had predicted it would be.8 With the Faith of the Church out of the picture, the State and social forces were also rendered incapable of using their natural Reason properly, and any remaining Seeds of the Logos they still possessed were left high and dry.

At this point, I should like to return to my own experiences in both North America and Europe to corroborate what I have expressed above. With the subversion and lobotomizing of every institution that up until recently had at least still provided some guidance to sane men and women, the hopes of forming those who needed yet further training in order to return to the world at large as Christian “auxiliaries” bringing it the kind of spirit that would aid in the proper reconstruction of the cité catholique were mortally wounded. This wound was very noticeable in the United States, where Cousine Bette had already successfully been about her labors before the Council in three particular ways: the work of “think tanks”, the educational choices of the homeschooling movement, and the pressure felt to dedicate all time and effort to fighting one among the all too many pressing anti-Catholic political and social threats.

Allow me to begin with my contact with the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, founded in the 1950s as a conservative “think tank”, active before any other “rightist” organization, by means of clubs at universities throughout the country, lecture programs, and extensive summer seminars. Men and women educated with the help of the ISI moved on to found or to become active in other conservative “think tanks” and lobbies, including the Heritage Foundation, the Young America Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Federalist Society. A good number of them entered government due to the victory of Ronald Reagan in 1980, serving as conservative “fifth columnists” throughout later Democratic administrations, waiting for better Republican times to emerge.

Catholics could not help but be attracted to the educational programs of the ISI, which I myself regularly attended from 1970 onwards. At that point, they were “the only game in town”. It was through the ISI and the academics and students connected with it that I came into contact with practically every other group of Catholics that I knew other than from Roman Forum and SSPX circles. I even served as Eastern Director for the ISI from 1978-1979, after returning from Britain and before taking up my position at St. John’s University in New York.

Having been given responsibility for all projects east of the Mississippi, I viewed my role as Eastern Director in the historical Cité Catholique sense, as an “auxiliary” who could bring more and more of the Church’s Social Doctrine into its teaching. Hence, my encouragement of the work of Thomas Molnar, who had actually managed to become a member of the ISI’s Board of Trustees, and Fritz Wilhelmsen, known to many of you here today. There was absolutely no hostility from the ISI’s leadership to this project. It was a conservative defender of the American Way---and therefore by definition very religion and even specifically very Catholic friendly. The only problem was that it became more and more clear to me that this friendship meant little, primarily due to two factors, both of which indicated that we “auxiliaries” could never have any real significance on the education of our many fellow Catholics who were also members.

One of these was the fact that we had no money. The funding for the ISI mostly came from sources concerned with classical liberal economic freedom of the kind that was criticized by Catholic Social Doctrine. They saw the organization as the educational force helping to prepare the way for a Reagan dominated Republican Party that would deregulate the economy, thereby allowing Lockean individualism to triumph. Ironically, a Republican political victory was in one sense a danger to the ISI because it meant that its donors felt that their cause had been won, and that they needed no further intellectual backing for it.

However, the defenders of the libertarian school of economics among this group were more educational minded, and the organization appears to have fallen completely under their domination. I have lost contact with the ISI since this happened, but know for a certainty that if they were still looking for “Catholic” support, they could find it through Lew Rockwell’s Ludwig von Mises Institute and the Rev. Robert Sirico’s Acton Foundation, both of which took for granted that Christianity and the kind of “classical liberalism” promoted by the Moderate Enlightenment were God given partners in the task of socio-political salvation.

That reality brings me to the second problem limiting my subversive “auxiliary” activity: the apparent inability on the part of the “movers and shakers” in the organization and most of the conservative Catholics associated with it as well to conceive that anyone could truly be serious about offering a Christian alternative to “the American Way”: the “last, best hope of mankind”. Always spoken of as the defender of the “Judaeo-Christian” heritage of “the West”, the American system could not possibly be anything other than “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. It was deemed to be so Catholic in its spirit that there was no wonder some of the people attending our programs honestly believed that George Washington had had a vision of the Virgin Mary at Valley Forge, which was near to the ISI’s original headquarters, and had supposedly converted on his deathbed. Catholic Social Doctrine thus could not be anything other than commitment to religious freedom, constitutional checks and balances, and Lockean individualism---in fact, the ISI’s original name was the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists.

The same equation of the Christian West and the United States as the model “Locke Land” gripped Catholics in the related organizations mentioned above, and was also to spill over into the approach of Opus Dei. My experiences lecturing for “The Work”, which was to become very close to members of the Federalist Society in particular, indicated the presence of this mentality, the nervousness with which my overly positive presentation of the non-Pluralist Middle Ages and my too intense critique of Americanism were greeted being cases in point. But, then again, the American branch of Tradition, Family, and Property, which appeared in the United States in the 1970s, whatever their attitude toward other social matters might have been, also did not seem to have anything against the Lockean promotion of the last of their trio of goals either. Everyone was infected.

However, this love of Locke Land did not, at first, seem to have infected the groups mentioned above with a militant evangelical spirit, particularly one that might be openly bellicose and claim to have no need to justify violence because of the “special role” of America in always “doing good”. Yes, I did represent the ISI at one economic conference where Spain was officially welcomed into the club of “free nations”, and I did, in 1981, after I started teaching, do two weeks of work in Washington, D.C. at a conservative conference for foreign writers conducted by the only organization with something of this evangelical spirit, the Young America Foundation. Still, its praise of the National Religion had no impact whatsoever on the group in question, composed primarily leftist journalists, a few quite indifferent French Catholics, and representatives of the New Right such as Alain de Benoist.

Unfortunately, such a call for global action was beginning to get a growing hearing in ISI circles, first of all through the political philosophical school of Leo Strauss, and then, in more militant fashion, through the sudden appearance of the neo-conservatives at one of the “think tank’s” summer schools. Thomas Molnar, who was also present, lamented that we would never rid ourselves of their influence again. This was to prove to be especially true after the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in the years between 1989-1991, which confirmed the neo-conservative conviction that the Moderate Enlightenment of Locke Land had triumphed, with a New World Order under its uncontested grip definitely on the horizon.

As the American Way became more belligerent, its Catholic fellow travelers did so along with their Master. And although the Libertarians were indeed involved in bringing the Good News abroad, no Catholics did so as much as the trio of Michael Novak, George Weigel, and the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus. Among all of the Catholic forces at work in the international promotion of the American Way as the Catholic Social Doctrine par excellence, none have gone about their work with the fury of this group or have had as great an influence. Moreover, they have achieved all this while in no way hiding their allegiance to Moderate Enlightenment principles---with logically radicalizing consequences.

Fr. Neuhaus, the founder of the journal First Things, was well known for his book declaring that the “Catholic Moment” in history had arrived: that “Catholic Moment” being identified as the “moment” for the Church enthusiastically to take up the cause of Adam Smith and the Scottish “common sense” school of political, social, and economic thought of the eighteenth century. Michael Novak waxed eloquent on the structure of the modern economic corporation as “Trinitarian” in character, praising its promotion of modern “Democratic Capitalist Man”. George Weigel was—and remains—available for the baptism of each and every aspect of the labor of “the last, best, hope of mankind”. Weigel describes the beginnings of this trio’s international crusade through their systematic effort to depict John Paul’s 1991 encyclical, Centesimus annus, as an enthusiastic adoption of their own ideas. 9

At Michael Novak’s suggestion they set up the Centesimus annus Seminar on the Free Society, which began its work the following year, and then, in 2000 became the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society. It is an extremely well funded project, and, once again, praises the entire vision of Locke Land and encourages support of all means for extending its construction of a worldwide mental asylum as the Catholic apostolate par excellence. Their financial security allows them to entice other Catholic groups to follow their lead---including one that is concerned for the spread of the ideas of Dietrich von Hildebrand---but the price one pays is always the same: a backing off from defense of a Catholic Social Doctrine critical of the Moderate Enlightenment. Their dedication to the American cause is so complete that it led to their being tapped by the Bush Administration to convince Rome to change its mind about the justice of the Iraq War in 2003, and then to their arguments dismissing any Catholic fears about being unfaithful when they could not get the Vatican to agree.

My own attempt to debate with Fr. Neuhaus regarding American Pluralism was dismissed by his entourage as too delicate to discuss before a general public, and my critique in the pages of The Remnant Newspaper of their whole approach was greeted by them with ridicule as a manifestation of a bizarre, exotic form of Catholicism.10 I experienced the same kind of treatment when presenting my critique of the American Way at another supposedly Dietrich von Hildebrand friendly venue, the International Academy of Philosophy at Liechtenstein, where the Seminar on a Free Society took place before moving to its permanent home in Cracow. When discussing Catholic Social Doctrine with reference to the mainline of papal and Roman supported thought on the subject from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century I was asked by one outraged student “how I would respond to Jesus Christ regarding my ‘new gospel’”---i.e., the old one.

One of the supporters of the Seminar on a Free Society, very much present at Liechtenstein, was Rocco Buttiglione, whom I had first met when invited to give a talk on Americanism at the 1984 “Meeting” of Communione e Liberazione in Rimini dedicated to the varied aspects of life in the Americas: America/Americhe.

Now I must say that my experiences with CL’s founder, Don Giussani, as well as with the members of the organization with whom I had lengthy contact in the 1980s, was very positive: I felt that I was among serious Catholics who wanted to do serious Catholic things. Moreover, they treated my uninhibited critique of American Pluralism with the greatest respect---unlike the “Gang of Three” & Company mentioned above. Nevertheless, the rather naïve openness to the need to offer exposure to the many expressions of “vital American culture” to which I was exposed at Rimini---including significant liberal and morally problematic ones---indicated to me that the American Pluralist Cousine Bette was being given droite de cité to wreak havoc with their unprotected good will. And events up to the present have proven to me that with Don Giussani gone from the picture, the organization became a sitting duck for subversion.

But then again the subversive influence of the American Way was visible everywhere in Europe. While having a Sunday cocktail with the Prince Ruspoli in Rome at the time of the Iraq War, ex President Francesco Cossiga joined us, and, upon learning that I was an American Catholic, asked me if I knew his good friends: Novak, Neuhaus, and Weigel. Even an interview with a Tuscan Italian Fascist organization that wanted me to deliver an attack on Americanism proved to be a disappointment. My discussions with it made it clear that they were Fascists only in the sense of being nationalists who were upset with American domination---an outrage that, admittedly, I could readily share. However, they indicated an acceptance of the basic underlying principles of the American Way, and even transported me to the interview in a car whose radio blasted out horrific American rock music.

Both in the United States as well as in Europe, the American Way has done its job in preparing for, accepting, and then praising the work of more radical forces, which, in our post-Soviet Bloc collapse globe, has entailed that of the oligarchic mixture already mentioned above with reference to the World Economic Forum and Davos. This includes such dangerous radicals and gnostics as George Soros and Bill Gates. Submissive believers have digested their marching orders, with any number of supposedly Catholic organizations becoming financially supported by and promoting their work as essential to the construction of the true cité catholique. But I think the point has been made without pursuing this development still further.

Instead, let us move on to the homeschooling movement, which has represented a totally rational response to the kidnapping of education, both public as well as private, secular as well as religious, by naturalist minded forces since the 1960s. It is a response that my wife and I also adopted: thankfully, given our urban life, in a more traditional social form, in conjunction with other closely neighboring families. This is an option generally not available to those living in suburban and rural areas. Nevertheless, even with the aid of one’s neighbors, homeschooling places an enormous unwarranted burden on parents, many of whom now have to be well-trained and often full time educators of their children, with many other mothers also having to work at least part of the day to contribute to the family budget for survival in a world that values nothing other than practical production and consumption.

Some of these parents have done yeoman service in setting up organizations that offer guidance on curricula for children from primary through secondary schools. Given their well-intentioned desire to provide a solid Catholic grounding to their offspring, they presume that the choices that they make in curricula---or that they are offered by organizations with the same goal---satisfy this criterion. Unfortunately, what very frequently happens is that they then turn to sources that eagerly depict themselves as being religion-friendly, even though, predictably, they reflect only the main Moderate Enlightenment “holding action”, preparing a spirit which trains the mind and soul for further radicalization: sources divinizing the American Pluralist approach.

Hence, their history programs do not begin with Egypt and Mesopotamia, but in 1776: the date that the real hope for salvation truly entered into the human experience. The recipe for rebuilding the cité catholique then becomes that of “returning to the will of the Founding Fathers”. The homeschooling family thus helps to build what St. Cyril of Alexandria, lamenting a similar phenomenon in Late Antiquity, called a dypsychia—a contradictory two-faced spirit, one of which is Catholic in the private sphere and Americanist (pagan in Cyril’s case) publicly. This then works to baptize as the “last great hope of the Catholic world” what has proven to be the best and most subtle means of subtly destroying Christendom.

Some exacerbate and speed up the problem in their anger at the traison des clercs, understandably embittered as they are by the betrayal of theologians, priests, nuns, and educators in general. They often become entirely anti-intellectual and anti-authority in consequence, adopting---something they admittedly do not realize---a Jansenist mentality which then takes on a fully naturalist, Rousseauian individualist character. Abandoning structures entirely, a good number of these bewildered and overburdened parents fall prey to what is called the “Unschooling Movement”, presuming that a human person can be formed solely by means of following his individual “star”. This has been the bane of my wife’s experience in her own cooperative classes, where students, pursuing their whims, disappear for weeks at a stretch with the blessing of their parents. And sadly, of course, the individual’s “star”, which at the start of the Moderate Enlightenment progress through history was said to be protected from going astray due to the obvious moral rules of an unchanging common sense Christianity, was, through its logical radical development, now said to be the guide to the Holy Spirit’s evolving will for mankind, whatever the passion that it might enshrine.

Those leaving the homeschool environment either enter into the network of recently created Catholic universities---almost all of whom entertain some form of a “reductionist” spirit, seeing the answer to the modern problem in allowing only the study of St. Thomas Aquinas or of “the great books” and exiling history and literature from the curriculum in consequence. Not being willing to read the “novel” that would allow them to see the psychological issues historically and sociologically at play here, they are reduced to pure logic for guidance. They point to the claims of the American “founding documents” and not the Lockean spirit behind them. They therefore nurture the same American Pluralist spirit as the key to living the educated Christian life as the secular schools that draw the radical conclusions of this for them more directly.

If still eager to serve the cause of Catholic Social Doctrine, those on this track will do so in the orbit of the organizations already indicated above or, worse still, the Republican Party. They will never learn of the Catholic counterrevolutionary tradition dear to the heart of Jean Ousset, nor those other aspects of it that he neglected. And if they do, by accident, hear of them, they will consider them to be violently anti-Catholic---as I, through reaction to my own writings, have all too well become aware. They possess no mechanism for reviewing their mistake, and the incessant propaganda from cradle to grave urging them to remain in their dogmatic slumber so as not to be “divisive” and “losers” in the game of life is formidable indeed.

A similar result, sad to say, has often been aided by the attitude of those involved in a magnificent and essential activity: the Pro-Life Movement. There is nothing too much one can say to honor the work and sacrifices of the great men and women who have lost their livelihoods and spent literally years in prison for fighting against abortion, euthanasia, and more recently, the State-sponsored mutilation of human bodies from the most tender age upward. Problems have emerged when this self-sacrifice has been urged upon everyone as the only activity blessed by God, in such a way as to even lead to the abandonment of the raising and education of one’s own children, seeing this as being a personally selfish endeavor.

Aside from the lack of charity to one’s offspring thereby displayed, such an approach also allows for the encouragement of the same difficulty noted above with respect to education: failure to come to learn of the danger posed by the American Pluralist system for the goal being pursued. This leads to the broad error of seeking a solution to the culture of death in a “return to the Will of the Founding Fathers” and the more practical mistake of presuming that one can always work with the admittedly well-intentioned Protestant opponents of the evils in question, whose charismatic outbursts tend to sabotage the “sidewalk counseling” of young women preparing to enter the abortion mills given by more rational Catholic activists. And something similar could be said about those who believe that everyone’s activity should exclusively be dedicated to the movement for traditional liturgical revival.

After all these negative comments, let us end on a positive note: the continued importance of the Cité Catholique insistence on solid training of Catholic “auxiliaries” in the public sphere, using all the tools we have at our disposal, and filling in the gaps of the original Jean Ousset approach as we recognize them. For there are still Seeds of the Logos out there, which, by the grace of God, are looking upward for further cultivation.

I encountered one of these in 1994 in the activity of a secular group of Swiss psychologists, whose bewilderment over being driven out of drug rehabilitation programs led it to realize that it needed more historical, philosophical, and theological guidance to understand what they came to realize was a problem developing for centuries. This group’s honestly open hunt for answers became ever more extensive, ending in the sponsoring of an annual conference with international speakers and an audience of perhaps one thousand participants. Its advance was halted, among other reasons, due to what seemed to be CIA infiltration, brought about by the fact that its discovery of the causes of modern corruption was becoming much too “close for comfort”. The organization in question was becoming much too systematically educated not to be a danger for the “Established Disorder”.

One of Dr. Molnar’s complaints about counter-cultural education in the United States was that it was never “systematic”, and I noticed the same problem with the initial approach of the Roman Forum, which involved simply “reacting” to whatever it was that hostile forces around us were doing, rather than undertaking a step-by-step instruction of those coming onto our pathway in the entirety of the Catholic Tradition. It was only this kind of education that could also confirm whether we were really the “Traditionalists” that we said we were, or simply people who had baptized our own whims as Traditional, and did not confirm their Truth because the banner that we flew was deemed to be sufficient proof of our claims. It was this that convinced me of the need to begin systematic training in the entirety of Catholic thought and culture through the Roman Forum, both in our New York home, and, even better, outside of the United States, so as to draw those attending our programs out of the environment that subjected them to incessant Americanist propaganda.

Regardless of how hopeless the battle against the architects of the mental asylum around us might appear to be, it seemed to me that this labor of systematic formation had to proceed. As Prosper of Aquitaine had said in other troubled times: “Even if the wounds of this shattered world enmesh you, and the sea in turmoil bears you along in but one surviving ship, it would still befit you to maintain your enthusiasm for studies unimpaired. Why should lasting values tremble if transient things fall?” And it was in undertaking this work that Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro introduced me to the Fundácion Speiro, which was continuing the spirit of the original Cité Catholique in a similar though much more extensive and much more effective fashion.

Every year, I re-read Ernst Jünger’s 1939 novel, On the Marble Cliffs. The protagonists of this brilliant work, dealing with the seemingly hopeless situation of a once glorious civilization corrupted by its own Cousine Bette which actually is basically the same as our own, begin their fight against the evil by a “return to the sources”---in their case, to a study of the literal plant life of their environment. They go about their task and seek allies in a spirit of personally exuberant and yet calm joy---Heiterkeit in the German. Some of their allies are pathetically helpless, but nonetheless more and more determined to do at least something militant as the promoters of the horror of what is happening around them bare their teeth more openly.

Our enemies have been baring their teeth more openly for the last three years, and more and more unexpected allies have been emerging, saying things indicating their determination to put a stop to the program of the true enemies of mankind in ways I would never have dreamed possible in January of 2020. Let us explore the possibility of joining hands with them, but only in an even more complete and vigorous commitment to the program of systematic educational training embraced by the Cité Catholique and carried on so commendably by all of you here today. It is only this, as Jünger also makes clear, that can permit us to win the way that---truly—Deus lo vult!

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, On the Marble Cliffs, XX).

Viva Cristo Rey!

1 Massimo Introvigne See “Jean Ousset et la Cité catholique. Cinquante ans après Pour qu’Il règne”, Cristianità, XXXVIII, n. 355, gennaio-marzo 2010, pp. 9-61.

2 https://www.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_p-vi_exh_19751208_evangelii-nuntiandi.html. For a discussion of this Synod---albeit in a perhaps too favorable light---can be found in: https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2013/12/12/the-greatest-pastoral-document-that-has-ever-been-written/.

3 See http://jcrao.freeshell.org/Periphery.html

4 G. de Lagarde, La naissance de l’esprit laique au declin du moyen age (Nauwelaerts, Five Volumes, 1958); W. Jaeger, Paideia (Oxford, Three Volumes, 1986); H. Jonas, The Gnostic Religion (Beacon, 1963).

5 For the Moderate Enlightenment, see J. Israel, Enlightenment Contested (Oxford, 2009). For the growth of the anti-Catholic evangelical American Pluralist “religion”, see J. Rao, http://jcrao.freeshell.org/NorciaDignitatisHumanae.html

6 D.A. Wemhoff, John Courtney Murray, Time/Life, and the American Proposition: How the CIA’s Doctrinal Warfare Program Changed the Catholic Church(Fidelity, 2015), p. 819.

7 See J. Israel, Radical Enlightenment (Oxford, 2002), and Democratic Enlightenment (Oxford, 2011), in addition to Enlightenment Contested, cited above.

8 J. Hellman, Emmanuel Mounier and the New Catholic Left: 1930-1950 (U. of Toronto, 1981), p. 42.

9 https://www.georgeweigel.com/michael-novak-founding-father/

10 See my series of articles: “Uncle Tom’s Catholics”, “Blinded by the Right”, “Regalist Breakfasts”, “The Exotic Liberation Theology of Fr. Neuhaus and Dr. Hitchcock”, “Chartres, Dr. James Hitchcock, & the Social Kingship of Christ”, and “George Weigel and ‘The Happening’”, at: http://jcrao.freeshell.org/

Email Dr. John Rao.

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