II. Nice and Easy Does It
(The Remnant, December 15, 1990)
“We see them in the schools, in the midst of a young generation which they unscrupulously water with all the poisons of error. They have audacity on their faces, mockery in their mouths. Their actions permit us to believe that they have atheism in their hearts. We count their victims by the hundreds, and in our souls themselves there stirs a little of their poisons. May God convert them tomorrow! Our task is to escape them today.” (Louis Veuillot)My first article, “Open Up the Jewel Box!”, introduced the “prophetic” figures of Luigi Taparelli d’Azeglio (1793-1862) and Louis Veuillot (1813-1883), both of whom did their most important work in Catholic journalism, on the Roman by-monthly, La Civiltà Cattolica, and the Parisian daily, l’Univers.
Like true men of genius, Taparelli and Veuillot carried out their mission after having made a full, honest assessment of the conditions under which they were living. These conditions, they agreed, were not good. The prospects for a serious Catholic revival were already dim by the 1850’s. Modern man, Taparelli lamented, seemed to be irrevocably committed to a game of “blind man’s bluff” which would lead him deeper and deeper into the Kingdom of Darkness. Even more unfortunately, he would eventually perish in the fullness of barbarism while claiming to be basking in the brightest of lights.
Why (to indulge momentarily in typical Americanist expressions) the “pessimism”, the “gloom”, the “lack of faith in themselves”? After all, from the standpoint of these latter days, the era of our two prophets looks like a Golden Age indeed. Popes anathemized, bishops “bished” and every day brought news of the foundation of a new periodical, a fresh movement, and enthusiastic recruits for the army of Catholic counterrevolution. What reason could there possibly have been to warn that the Cause might actually need a miracle to triumph?
Let us begin the answer with reference to the experience of a divinely elected soldier of the City of God, recounted to us in the Third Book of Kings, chapter nineteen.
When the disheartened Elias, escaping the wrath of Jezabel, fled to Horeb, God spoke to His prophet and announced that He would show Himself on the mountain’s summit. Elias was open to God’s appearance in whichever manner He chose, and thus was able to read and understand the Lord’s manifestation in phenomena that a less discerning soul might have missed. Good thing, too. For God entered Elias’ presence neither in a strong wind, nor in a subsequent earthquake and fire, but, rather, in the midst of an ordinary, simple, common, every day, gentle breeze. “Nice and easy does it” was the Lord’s motto in His dealings with the overwrought Elias. And the prophet heard the divine message and went ahead to complete his work on earth.
Satan imitates God. He frightens us through thunderous assaults and lightning bolts, but he also marches into the recesses of our souls on the back of everyday actions, the ordinary routines, and the simple symbols of each of our individual lives. In fact, “nice and easy does it” is the demon’s preferred method. For in this fashion he can find entry both into those of us who are in turmoil and wish for a little peace and quiet, as well as into others so tensed for a Blitzkrieg that they ignore the tiptoeing of the enemy through the back porch door.
Taparelli d’Azeglio and Louis Veuillot were convinced that the spirit of Modernity and Revolution was a satanic one. Oh, they knew that the modern revolutionary world had thundered in 1789 and would probably storm again. But thank God when it did. Most Catholics, at least in those days, would we wakened by the shouts of battle and head for the trenches. Unfortunately, however, the demonic spirit present in the revolutionary western world had also learned that “nice and easy does it all the time”. So much so that by the middle of the nineteenth century, Catholics who would have fended it off if it had violently broken through the front window were inviting it in for a friendly chat if it appeared in the kitchen, eager for a neighborly cocktail. Why the “pessimism”, the “gloom”, the “lack of faith in themselves”? Because of the recognition that Catholics were dismissing with derisive smiles the suggestion that such small acts of conviviality could be a problem. And the recognition that the time would come when the “harmless” camaraderie with the “nice” little neighbor would make Catholics too drunk ever to pronounce the words “get thee behind me” again. When Satan stops by for coffee, he stays until he eats us out of house and home.
One example illustrates the point clearly. Revolutionaries so thundered against the Church in the 1790’s that they literally abolished Sundays, along with the rest of the traditional calendar. The effort did not last long. No matter, Taparelli explained. Why should they bemoan the failure? The sanctity of sacred days was being eaten away at in a million little and more efficient ways by the 1850’s. An abandoned custom here. Use of a secular word to describe something religious there. A shop opened as a public service here, there, and everywhere, encouraging “industriousness” and enabling us to buy those products which would make our loved ones just that extra bit happier. Why should the Revolution thunder and storm against a holy day when a step-by-step, “nice and easy” appeal to a thousand different temptations and weaknesses ensured that the sacred was gradually being buried beneath the profane?
But what about sound teaching? Good catechesis? Firm direction offered year after year in dedicated Catholic classrooms? Would not this solve potential problems? Alas, Veuillot argued, all such activity meant very little indeed when pitted against an entire culture that contradicted it. Take a graduate of Catholic schools in mid-nineteenth century France, he suggested, and compare him with someone who had gone to an anticlerical establishment. You would find that both people, despite their radically different instruction in religious matters, shared the same prejudices, political opinions and practical behavior. Why? Again, because the Revolution, relying on the “nice and easy does it” principle, had discovered a sure path into the hearts of both. What did serious doctrinal formation matter when nearly every ordinary action of every average day taught the lessons of Modernity? It was ironic that the Catholic, who believed, in theory, in the danger of the near occasion of sin, ignored the accumulated effect of these endless little temptations to apostasy. And it was also tragic that he placed all his hopes in a rationalism (i.e., the value of good education) which he attributed only to the enemies of the Faith. Let the pope, bishops, priests and teachers hurl as many imprecations against the forces of evil as they liked. Everyone would be so busy living the revolutionary life that they would not even understand what the fuss was all about. Why, these very carpers themselves would contribute to the demolition of tradition once they dismounted the pulpit and the lectern! And their practical revolutionary teaching would be infinitely more important than their theoretical, intellectual, orthodox one.
Any full, honest assessment of our own situation today must begin by admitting how just were our two prophets’ fears. The Revolution has now been victorious everywhere, and it has, indeed, triumphed through the “nice and easy does it” approach. Those countries recently freed from Marxist oppression are doomed to fall before the “nice and easy” Revolution as flabbily as we who never had the “blessing” of a forthright, public, thundering persecution.
We know the “nice and easy does it” method under the name of Pluralism. Pluralism has convinced the western world that its citizens can remain committed to substantive creeds, philosophies, and cultures while at the same time calling in their enemies for a neighborly cocktail. Hence, it has enshrined the near occasion of sin as a system, and invited serious people voluntarily to participate in their own peaceful destruction—just like those moderate revolutionaries called Girondins who marched to the guillotine singing the anthems of their executioners. The invitation to suicide has been blithely accepted. And many people who still admit Christ to be “the Truth” demonstrate, by their “openness” to ideas and behavior that their very Faith warns can easily corrupt them, that He is no longer really the “Way and the Life”. But they are not the only ones. Catholic illogic is just one case among many in our contemporary Supermarket of Choice, where the principle of contradiction is lost amidst frenetic shopping. Almost everyone is convinced that he can shove a thousand opposing doctrines and practices into his shopping cart, and that this mess of pottage will never bring down the Wrath of God upon him. By constitutional right!
Dear Remnant readers, let us not delude ourselves a moment longer. Never, in the long history of the repeated flirtations of the Bride of Christ with evil, has she gone a-whoring like this. Never has she so willingly, giddily, frantically prostituted herself. Never has she so carelessly abandoned herself to an obvious fraud, and precisely at a moment when every other legitimate institution has lost its chastity as well. Would that we had perished in a forthright assault rather than lived to see the teachings of the Church reduced to a Judaiac formalism which we are enthusiastically told, over and over again, cannot in any real way be permitted to have an impact upon society; much less—God forbid, triumph over it. A house divided, sociologically less useful than a sewer, led by Prelates competing for the title of Supreme Pluralist and composed of laymen praying in their hearts that Christ never reign as King, this whore has, humanly speaking, literally only a few more years to live. I defy anyone to read the prophets’ lamentations over the Temple and its cult and tell me that it does not sound like “The Week in Review” from a current issue of the New York Sunday Times. I defy anyone to say that her corruption does not demand even greater chastisement than the Old Israel, since, as St. Peter says, by adulterating her known mission, she becomes like a dog returning to its own vomit. It is essential that those of us who love this whoring Bride of Christ all the same remember just how low she can sink while God still holds her within His protective embrace. It is essential because we will live to see the very buildings of the Church torn down by their custodians, and the demolition praised from episcopal thrones as a victory for the Holy Spirit.
The “nice and easy does it” approach of Pluralism has devastated conservative dioceses as much as liberal ones. A loyal Catholic archdiocese with which I am very, very familiar is rampant with evils caused by the “open” atmosphere of the cocktail party with the enemies of Christ. Orthodox? Absolutely. Its Orthodoxy is reiterated over and over again in countless sincere sermons and statements by the archbishop himself, and yet there may well be no Catholic Church here within the decade. Why? Because the diocese’s imprisonment to Pluralism and Pluralism’s police force—public opinion, the Press, and, above all, a swollen, arrogant class of bureaucrats of the kind spewed forth by every democratic revolution in history—makes it an agent of the Truth and of Error at one and the same time.
Again, a single example suffices to demonstrate this point. A friend of mine attended a conference of catechists at which the archbishop gave a truly excellent sermon on the purpose and character of Catholic religious instruction. At its conclusion, everyone present was told that fulfillment of the lofty goals set in the prelate’s talk required obedience to the archdiocese’s Catechetical Guidelines. Alas, the Catechetical Guidelines urged the opposite of that which the archbishop proposed in his sermon. And no wonder. The bureaucrats who wrote it dislike or do not know the Catholic Faith. Could they not be removed? What? And sin against openness? Causing pain? And an exclusion evidencing lack of charity? In this, the freest of all possible societies? Never! Never indeed. And the consequent equivocations and contradictions and stupidities that any discerning Catholic can see? What of them? No matter. Anything goes in the Free Supermarket of Ideas established by Pluralism. Anything whatsoever. Besides, dear friends, the worst is yet to come.
One of the most tragic aspects of this riot of Pluralism, one that Louis Veuillot noted regularly one hundred forty years ago already, is the way in which many conservative Catholics try to prevent the full extent of the disaster from being discussed. The “nice and easy does it” approach has so emasculated them that they live in terror lest we raise our voices above the whimper permitted Catholics in our free society to announce that we are dying. Never mind that Canon Law clearly obliges us to action when confronted with the obvious daily crimes of a thousand Cranmers. Never mind that concern for a bishop’s “difficulties”, reasons, and “loneliness of power” are no excuse for his allowing positive evils to flourish. It is the conservative’s duty, a member of one organization told a friend who asked a pointed question of a well-known Cardinal some time ago, “to protect” his prelate. “Funny”, my friend responded. “And all this time, I was living under the misconception that he was here to protect me!”
I cannot hope to list all the ways in which this conservative protection of a hierarchy and a corruption dedicated simultaneously to the Truth and its opposite has impressed itself upon me during the past year. Every liberal-pluralist argument has been called forth by conservatives whom I know to silence the full unmasking of the “nice and easy does it” perversion. I have been told that strong actions on the part of bishops would not be “professional”, and that it would entail “imposing values”, and that my own position was “uncharitable”, “disrespectful”, and, of course, “pessimistic”. “You lack Faith in the System!”, I have been informed. “And you even lack Faith in God, who will raise up saints to save us as in all past periods of turmoil.”
Perhaps such conservatives are correct about my temptation towards bitterness. It is very hard for me to avoid feeling bitter about being accused of cynicism for failing to believe in a System which exiles Christ and makes Catholics afraid of their own shadows. It is very hard for me to avoid feeling bitter when I see people who fought valiantly against the introduction of clear abuses now feel honor bound to encourage them simply because they are permitted, and argue that we must obey their authors and henchmen to avoid scandal. Obey whom? An archbishop, or the bureaucrats who oppose him with his own approval? Scandal to whom? To the faithful? Or to those who do not want to be told that, as Dietrich von Hildebrand said, the Trojan Horse is inside the City of God? And whence are saints to arise to save us, if the food that is fed to the budding soul is alien to everything supernatural, Catholic and rational? Are they to emerge ex nihilo? Without work on our part? The old Church had an expression for such a notion. It was called “tempting Providence”. If there were a fraction of the confidence in Christ the King that conservatives devote to that American System which nurtured Pluralism to maturity and now preaches it around the globe, we would have moved whole mountain ranges many times over. The one unthinkable thought is that that very System, with its Protestant Founders and utilitarian legal procedures, has itself been instrumental in preparing for the reign of Antichrist.
Taparelli and Veuillot were worried that the “nice and easy does it” approach would so dull Catholics that they would not hear the thunder of the Revolution when it roared again. That is precisely what has happened. Every day, the direct assault on Catholics builds more clearly. I walk through neighborhood streets in New York decorated with vicious caricatures of things Catholic, the like of which I have only seen in documentaries on anti-semitic propaganda in Nazi Germany, whose narrators tell me that they were the prelude to genocide. But the Catholics are, after all, expendable. Every morning, I pick up papers filled with denunciations of the Church. And every moment, I encounter Catholics who either cannot see that there is a problem, or tell me that I must waste my entire lifetime trusting the weapons of an enemy System to defend me.
Let us face the truth. Almost every Catholic, from the top of the hierarchy to the bottom of the laity, has been bought by this System and taught, by years of practice, that to be a Catholic is to be a Pluralist; to do things “nice and easy”; to share a whiskey sour with Satan. That is why the denunciations of the “unresponsive” Church are joined in by heretical prelates and bureaucrats overflowing with hatred of true Christianity. That is why the average Catholic himself will end by taking part in the open persecution of his brethren who understand that Catholicism and Pluralism are mutually exclusive. That is why conservatives will tell the victims not to admit that they are being destroyed, even as the blade falls upon them.
Friends, the “nice and easy” days in this country have ended. The storm has indeed begun. The time for battle has arrived. Total war will soon be upon us. There will be no help in this conflict from the hierarchy, beyond the obvious protection of doctrine guaranteed popes and dogmatic councils by the working of the Holy Spirit. We must remember that that principle of infallibility only assures us that error will never be officially taught, ex cathedra, on matters of faith and morals. It does not ensure the faithful that prelates will resolutely attack heresy and evil practice, that they will be given guidance every time they require it, that all doctrinal statements will be accurate (after all, Archbishop Weakland makes “doctrinal” pronouncements regularly), or that “pragmatic” decision of terrible consequence will all be wise. In fact, what lies in store for us is ever more negligence, ever more expressions of “business as usual”, ever more absurd “practical directives” from popes, bishops, priests, monks, nuns and Catholic Experts, each of them compromising all that is sacred and good and makes life worth living.
The moment has arrived spiritually to break with a “pragmatic” concern for “due process” that has only succeeded in making us endorse each assault on the practice of the Faith one step behind the perpetrators of evil. It is ridiculous for us to ask permission from Church and State to do what the obvious magisterial teachings of the Bride of Christ demand. It would not be the Church and State officials who would respond to our requests anyway, because legitimate authorities are as much the captives of their pseudo-intellectual, bureaucratic Pluralist masters as Cardinal Mindszenty was of the Hungarian secret police--with the important exception that His Eminence was silenced by force, while our leaders cringe, begging for their leashes to be tightened around their necks. It is insane for us to ask “prudently” for the right to worship God as He expects to be worshipped, to say the Creed, to teach our children moral goods, to stop abortion, and to seek the Beatific Vision. The only sensible thing is for us just to do it. If we do not, then we ourselves, in a very short space of time, will also begin to feel the effects of the poison, and wonder why this “Catholic issue” ever seemed so crucially important in the first place. For none of us is safe in the “nice and easy" Pluralist world of "nice and easy" damnation.
Humanly speaking, Taparelli and Veuillot thought that their world was already doomed. Everything had been revolutionized by the 1850’s, and no human society could be expected to recover all that had been lost. Still, they argued, all things were possible to those who trusted not in “The System”, but in the Lord. Fighting with that weapon is always the right tactic, Veuillot said. “All borrowed armor troubles us and often chokes us”. Adiutorium nostrum in nomine Domini.
Christian hope is no less justified today, in our infinitely more devastated vineyard. But Christian is not synonymous with easy. We must be prepared to be labeled subversive, vicious, psychologically disturbed Enemies of Mankind (or am I now obliged to say her-child-kind). We must expect punishment by secular institutions which (ironically) have never walked so closely together with religion as they do with the new streetwalker Church. We must be ready to be condemned by conservative allies, who will soon prudently accept the ordination of women, at the hands of open, charitable, Americanist bishops, as cravenly as they have accepted every other lie that a band of revolutionary upstarts has foisted upon a bewildered or co-opted hierarchy. We must be prepared for anything. But the stakes are our eternal souls, and there is no time left for looking back.
So girt your loins. Eat standing up. Be prepared for action. It is the Second Passover of the Lord. And the blindfold blocking the eyes of the Bride of Christ, the one and only institution which can lead us through the desert to salvation, will, as Louis Veuillot noted, only be removed “by the mutilated hands of martyrs”.
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