He Who Loses the Past, Loses the Present
Putting Dignitatis Humanae in its Full Historical Context
(Norcia Conference on Dignitatis Humanae, October, 2015)
Being neither a theologian nor a logician, my task here today is not that of entering directly into a discussion of whether the Declaration on Religious Liberty of the Second Vatican Council is or is not in contradiction to previous Church teaching on this topic of immense spiritual, political, and social significance. My role is merely that of laying out the historical background in which that Declaration came to life.
Nevertheless, I do think that a broad consideration of the modern revolutionary context in which the current discussion of the question of religious liberty emerged offers an absolutely essential preparation for the more substantive dialogue to come. On the one hand, such a study demythologizes the claim by the most vocal proponents of the Declaration that their position called attention to a fresh development of Catholic doctrinal insight dealing with a political situation very different from that faced by believers even in the recent past. It does so by making it clear that the battle leading up to Dignitatis humanae at Second Vatican Council was actually nothing other than the second part of a contemporary drama whose nearly identical first act began a century and a half earlier---although it ended on a quite different note. On the other hand, contemplation of this broad historical picture demonstrates that the proponents of the 1965 teaching reflected what was, at best, an appalling ignorance or naiveté regarding the political and intellectual conditions under which the Catholic Church was operating in the period after the Second World War, and, at worst, an active participation in the work of rendering the cause of Christ sociologically and even spiritually meaningless.
Moreover, at least as far as I am concerned, a knowledge of both the long-term as well as the more immediate historical setting of the Declaration on Religious Liberty leads to two further conclusions: first of all, that an orthodox interpretation of the final text stood no chance of obtaining any serious practical hearing whatsoever; and, secondly, that the task of the believing Catholic lies not so much in glossing this document to death as in uncovering the horrific obstacles that the Zeitgeist dominating our lives in 2015---as in 1965 and the nineteenth century beforehand---places in the path of learning and acting in accord with Faith and Reason on any substantive issue of political and moral importance.
Act One of the religious liberty drama began with that nineteenth-century Catholic renewal whose main French, German, and Italian-speaking centers were circles of clerics and laity seeking both to understand the reasons behind the disastrous attack on the faith in the French Revolution, as well as to find a means of reconstructing a new Christianity on the ruins of the old. All such circles came to confront a similar disappointment that greatly troubled them: the fact that the post-Napoleonic Restoration monarchies that prided themselves on their public support for religion, continued, in practice, to maintain frustratingly tight controls on Catholic evangelization.1
The hunt for an explanation of the restrictions muzzling full Church freedom by supposedly “Catholic” States led the circles in question to a deeper study of the tremendous complex of linguistic, psychological, political, and material influences that shape a given society and the individuals living within it. Their labors brought them to understand that the radical Enlightenment naturalism that had proven to be so devastating to the faith in the 1790’s had already gained an influence over both Catholic monarchies as well as the Church authorities working in union with them in a more moderate form well before the French Revolution. They then realized that the resulting changes had created a mesh of forces whose impact made it difficult for believers---the simple faithful and their leaders alike---to appreciate that there was something dreadfully wrong with what still in many outward respects looked traditional and good; that the positive-sounding words “Catholic monarchy” actually masqueraded the emergence of a secularized counterfeit of a Christian society. In short, proponents of Catholic renewal realized that a Zeitgeist had been created whose hold on life prevented Church authorities and believers in general from grasping what the Christian mission really entailed, and effectively diverted them away from a recognition and examination of the sources that they needed to consult in order to regain a complete sense of it.
A conscious dive into the fullness of the Catholic Tradition awakened in these thinkers’ minds and souls a theme that they perceived to have been put soundly to sleep by the relentless but measured advance of the eighteenth century naturalist Zeitgeist in its more moderate form. This was the basic truth that the Church’s role was not that of some “established” administrative machine fulfilling her humdrum “spiritual” obligations by helping to defend the existing social order, keeping civil records, and promoting openness to agricultural improvements and smallpox vaccinations. On the contrary, her task was that of being the Mystical Body of Christ, entrusted with the simultaneously supernatural-natural mission of continuing the life and work of the Incarnate Logos in a world deemed worthy of Redemption but badly wounded by sin. And this task she could only accomplish by seeking to make Christ the King of all of Creation---the very goal of all human existence.2
God . . . has established one sole order composed of two parts: nature exalted by grace, and grace vivifying nature. He has not confused these two orders, but He has coordinated them. One force alone is the model and one thing alone the motive principle and ultimate end of divine creation: Christ. . . . All the rest is subordinated to Him. The goal of human existence is to form the Mystical Body of this Christ, of this Head of the elect, of this Eternal Priest, of this King of the immortal Kingdom, and the society of those who will eternally glorify Him.
Moreover, the Christ who came to free men from the bondage of sin had shown that the sole way this sublime goal could be achieved was through individual submission to His authority; a submission possible only if men and women welcomed the authoritative guidance of His Mystical Body. But the men and women in question had to offer this submission through their daily lives in that natural world that God Himself had created and the Incarnation was intended to perfect rather than to abolish. Therefore, the Church had to recognize that all natural tools were intrinsically valuable to that work of saving and “divinizing” individual believers which was her primary responsibility. Everything natural had to be rescued---that is to say, corrected and transformed by Christ’s message and grace---to help bring about the ultimate liberation of the individual from sin that was essential to his final perfection. This meant that all the natural, authoritative, social institutions so crucially important to daily human life---from the family to the not-so-Catholic Restoration monarchies as well---were also central to this corrective and transforming goal. To paraphrase a nineteenth century American orator: human freedom, individual dignity, and social authorities; now and forever; one and inseparable.3
To fulfill her mission, the Church needed freedom: an internal, “psychological”, self-liberation from enslavement to a Zeitgeist that blocked her from recovering and cherishing the whole of a Tradition that a progressive secularization had hidden in shadowy and vilified places; an external, physical freedom for her to work efficiently to correct and transform the natural world in its entirety; and, finally, an equally public liberty for the faithful, as individuals, to follow her authoritative social teaching concerning where she must lead them.
Such freedom to exercise her full corrective and transforming influence would, as St. Justin Martyr had already indicated in the second century, place every natural gift and institution in its proper place in the hierarchy of values. A truly free Church would give to the work of Reason---and especially to philosophy---the help that it desperately needed both to avoid its ancient limitation to the role of “parlor sport” for “boys” or sophistic justification of the powers-that-be, as well as its modern Enlightenment mobilization for purely materialist and utilitarian purposes. A truly free Church would help simultaneously both to exalt the State in her proper role as the indispensable coordinator of all social authorities laboring for the attainment of man’s natural and eternal end, as well as to humble her historical tendency to self-divinization. In short, a truly free Church would remove the blindfold placed by sin upon man’s eyes regarding how properly to use all natural goods for human perfection. Everything natural was calling for the “light” that could make it fully see, and this could ultimately only arrive “from above, coming down from the Father of Lights” (James 1:17), by means of union with and completion in the Incarnate Word. Separation of Christ and Reason, Christ and State, Christ and family, Christ and each and every aspect of life as a whole were all, therefore, an insult to nature’s deepest longings and needs, parochializing and blinding every one of its manifold elements.4
The above argument slowly developed in the first half of the nineteenth century. It was ultimately refined in the years following the Revolutions of 1848 in the many circles inspiring the Syllabus of Errors of Blessed Pius IX (1864), and, perhaps most systematically of all, in the literally thousands of pages published between 1850 and 1864 by the editors of the internationally influential Roman Jesuit journal, La Civiltà Cattolica. That polishing took place with much reference to ideas emerging from among the very ranks of the forces of renewal themselves: first those of the Abbé Félicité de la Mennais (1782-1854) and his followers—the men we know of as the Mennaisians---and then by thinkers and activists who after 1848 began to call themselves Liberal Catholics.
Lammenais, disillusioned---like all those eager for true renewal---by the chains imposed upon the full expression of the Catholic spirit through existing governments, began to argue that only a clean separation of Church and State would put an end to the manipulative activity of fraudulent, “sacred monarchies” and the de facto secularization of the clergy that slavishly worked together with them. Only then would the local episcopacy and clergy, united under the international direction of the Pope, be able to dedicate themselves freely to unleashing that still vital Catholic spirit and energy of believing peoples that had been unnaturally repressed by secularists, both revolutionary and monarchical alike. Only then would the Christianization of all of life be brought about---a Christianization of the State enabling its proper reunification with the Church included. “God and liberty”, the motto of his journal, l’Avenir, founded in 1830, neatly expressed the gist of the broad Mennaisian program. A godly unity was its ultimate aim.
But episcopal opposition and condemnation by Pope Gregory XVI in Mirari vos (1832) thwarted the progress of Lamennais’ vision. In consequence, he became convinced that hidebound Church authorities enchained Christ’s message just as willingly as those of the State. From this point on, Lamennais claimed that the only guide to the Faith and its meaning could be that which sprang from the Spirit of God operating in and through the faithful mass of believers. Unfortunately, the populace’s awareness of that Spirit active in its midst would remain unconscious and mute unless it were awakened by Lamennais’ own fully conscious prophetic witness. But once awakened, it would recognize the foolishness of its blind and ultimately impious leadership. It would realize that Christianity, as a variety of contemporary thinkers from the Saint Simonians to Polish nationalist poets exiled in Paris were insisting, was a palingenesist phenomenon—that is to say, a religion born anew in each age as the vital energy pouring forth from the believing population revealed to the world God’s ever-evolving message; a message that popes and bishops clearly did not wish to accept.5
Those reformers who rejected Lamennais’ teaching but wanted to continue to work for freedom from the oppressive chains of supposedly Catholic monarchies, focused on the need for a division of competence to ensure the correction and transformation of all things in Christ. According to them, Catholic political and social action should be left in the hands of lay pressure groups; dogmatic and moral guidance in that of the clergy. If the laity conducting the politics of the movement still did not follow the dogmatic and moral guidance of the clergy, at least this would not compromise the Magisterium of the Church, confusing believers regarding the sacrality of this new kind of lay action the way that monarchies appealing to their impressive and long-lasting historical ties with Christianity might still do. The war cry of this post-Lamennais movement was “freedom of association”. Freedom of association would guarantee the religious liberty necessary for understanding the mission of the Church and for teaching it accurately. It would assure a real chance for a Catholic transformation of State, society, and individuals in Christ, instead of seeing the Church’s mission perverted by a fraudulent union of sacred and secular subjecting the former to the latter.
But given the difficulties of obtaining freedom of association in the Restoration Era, battle conditions seemed to require a pragmatic alliance with Enlightenment-inspired political forces who demanded such liberty for their own particular purposes: that is to say, cooperation with liberals, democrats, and nationalists---perhaps even with budding socialists. Lamennais had already looked to such collaboration with reference to the union of believers and liberals that had resulted in the creation of the Kingdom of Belgium in 1830. Still, those Catholics now working for “freedom of association” encouraged it from a practical as opposed to an ideological standpoint. Their hunt for non-Catholic allies made much progress, giving rise to the hope that mutual assistance might result in an honest dialogue revealing the intellectual differences with their pragmatic allies to be misunderstandings rather than real disagreements.
Such collaborative endeavors reached their peak in the first victorious stage of the Revolutions of 1848, especially in Italy and Germany. Still, it did not take long for bitter conflicts to arise among the victorious allies on the actual meaning of the freedom that had been won; conflicts that led very quickly to the suppression of religious orders, the call for a holy war of Catholic Italians against Catholic Austrians, and the exile from Rome of a pope who had committed himself sincerely to dialogue: all this in the name of obtaining “freedom”.
One wing of the “cooperative movement” had as its most famous head the Count Charles de Montalembert (1810-1870), an ex-follower of Lamennais who had fought valiantly for Church freedom under the quite difficult conditions of the Liberal Monarchy born in France in 1830. Montalembert claimed that despite setbacks, Catholics must recognize that continued work with the liberal system of government under the divided religious and intellectual conditions of modern times was an absolute pragmatic necessity if freedom for the Church and individual believers were to be ensured. Yes, those who now came to be called “Liberal Catholics” argued, many non-believing liberals were ideologically hostile to religion, but this, to a large degree, was because the behavior of foolish believers had convinced them that the faithful were fawning admirers of an absolute monarchy that had not even been good for their own religious cause. Nevertheless, a truly liberal system could not help but guarantee the functioning of “a free Church in a free State”. And if Catholics would only show that they respected such a system and had no desire to overturn it, even the fire-eaters’ abusive anti-religious actions would eventually lose their appeal.6
Opponents of the Liberal Catholic approach included the above-mentioned editors of La Civiltà Cattolica. These were men who took the sad reality of contemporary religious and intellectual division as well as the appeal to pragmatic necessity to heart. A number of them, including their most famous member, Luigi Taparelli d’Azeglio (1792-1861), had vigorously supported cooperation with liberals at the beginning of the 1848 Revolutions, and were still willing to continue a dialogue with them. But given the disputes with liberals and supporters of other Enlightenment-inspired political movements that had once again been brought to the surface as the revolutions in question advanced, the Civiltà editors argued that any judgment regarding the possibility of substantive future interaction with such forces---liberalism included---had to be preceded by a much more systematic and critical study of the full meaning given to the words “individual”, “freedom”, “dignity”, “social order”, “dialogue”, and “pragmatism” by all of the parties concerned. Moreover, it also had to be preceded by a more sober, rational examination of exactly how these words played out in practice under the form of government that Montalembert insisted was an unquestionable modern necessity and blessing for the Church.
Liberalism and the Liberal Catholic call to recognize the benefits of the “free Church in a free State” that ultimately went along with it did not come off well as the Civiltà’s detailed study proceeded. It is important for the Second Act of our drama to note that they did not come off well because their critique identified problems that the editors perceived as being imbedded in liberalism in its original and supposedly friendly and moderate Anglo-American form---not in some radically anti-religious perversion of its “true character”. Already in the 1850’s and 1860’s, these problems were said to destroy the possibility of possessing the religious liberty that liberalism was supposed to ensure and to open wide the gates to the radical abuses that Liberal Catholics like Montalembert themselves honestly abhorred. And the editors insisted that any hope for defining and attaining the individual freedom and dignity fully obtainable only under the Social Kingship of Christ was obliterated in the process.
Allow me briefly to outline just enough of the Civiltà critique to indicate its acute awareness of those innate difficulties that were to be either ignored or purposely dismissed with the reemergence of the questions of religious liberty and separation of Church and State in the second act of our drama, to which we will soon come. It is a tribute to the acuity of their judgment that the Civiltà editors put so many of the pieces of the problem together, even without a full knowledge of all of that extraordinary mélange of esoteric, gnostic, nominalist, protestant, utopian, pietist, and simply sinful, self-interested elements that played a role in the chaotic English Civil War era leading to the formation of the Whig Alliance, the Glorious Revolution, Locke, Newton, and Anglo-American liberalism.7
Once again, the Civiltà did not deny that religious division presented a real problem for achieving the common good that budding liberalism justly sought to address---and exactly as one had to address it under such circumstances, with reference to the natural law alone. Still, it believed that it was necessary to admit that at the very best this was a tragic situation. For the natural law was a “paper tiger” without the aid that divine wisdom and grace gave to men to marshal their rational faculties properly and instill in them the courage actually to believe consistently what their minds told them to be true.
Protestantism could not offer such assistance. It must always logically be suspicious of Reason, both because of its fundamental doctrine of the total post-lapsarian depravity of all things natural, as well as its dislike of the historic mobilization of Socratic Philosophy on behalf of Catholic doctrinal formulations. Neither could “religious liberty” do the cause of natural law a favor, even if it ungagged Catholics. All that this general liberation accomplished---as Moderate Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire joyfully recognized8---was to encourage a cacophonous forum where competing voices from private religious “clubhouses” could babble ceaselessly, rendering what they had to say publically impotent and, quite frankly, rather ridiculous to boot. When one added to the weakening of the mind brought about by this stripping away of religious help in forming the human mind the Enlightenment’s reduction of the work of Reason to purely scientific or purely banal utilitarian tasks, it became ever more obvious that any concept of a substantive natural law capable of making universally applicable judgments on issues of moral importance was doomed. Under these circumstances natural law could only survive as an historical memory, as a sociological codification of existing habits and customs, and one that was condemned to be eaten away at more and more under the pressure of contempt for non-scientific metaphysical thought.
But the Civiltà was convinced that liberalism gave the coup de grace to natural law in two other telling fashions. One was through the theoretical support that its Protestant and Enlightenment roots provided for an individualist vision of materialist life. This vision understood such “law” to be nothing other than the “right” of men to build their private personalities on the basis of the many sensual passions that they experience in shrapnel-like fashion in the course of a lifetime, along with their “liberty” to do what these passions told them that they must do. Such rights were limited, once again, only by conventional agreements based on what---for the moment---people generally still “felt” to be good and bad. Their number and content would expand as the growing demand for more “freedom” ate away at existing “custom”. That expansion was rendered even more inevitable due to liberalism’s seeming conviction that some mysterious hand would harmonize the unleashing of individual expressions of Original Sin in pursuit of an overriding “common good”---a common good whose definition was just as materialist, convention-bound, shaky, and doomed to spiral downwards into meaninglessness as everything else in this catastrophic system.
A second, practical blow to any serious use of natural law came through the opportunity that was given by the purposefully weak liberal State for the strongest and most willful individuals or groups of individuals to dominate society as they saw fit. This opportunity emerged as that same disdain for authority that had worked for the abandonment of public religious coercion was applied to the construction of a system of division of powers guaranteeing the semi-paralysis of the government. And given that whatever ethos is publically dominant exercises its influence over the rest of society as well, the anti-social spirit of the liberal State sooner or later translated into denigration of and assaults on the internal authorities of the now “private” religious denominations, along with those of families and every other kind of community as well. Unfortunately, as legitimate social authority was withdrawn from the public and private sphere, the naked and illegitimate force of powerful, immoral, irrational individuals and the passionate factions formed by them moved in to take its place. And these illegitimate forces, undeterred by their logical and moral savaging of the concepts of individual freedom and dignity that they always inscribed on their own banners, imposed new, self-interested, tyrannical controls upon the weaker elements of the community---precisely the sort of thing that liberal constitutionalism was supposed to prevent.
Although the editors realized just how much this system allowed the property owners and financiers historically active in creating it to manipulate defenseless society for their own private profit, it seemed logical to them that others would try to cash in on the golden opportunity provided by the emasculation of legitimate public and private authority. They thought that the liberal system gave all individuals and unnatural groupings of individuals dedicated to material and ideological passions of any type imaginable a chance to wreak their own special havoc.
All that these “others” had to do in order to press their advantage was to develop the innate logic of the liberal argument that worked to break down barriers to individual personality construction. After all, continued barriers were maintained solely by the mere habits and customs of the existing, illicit “powers-that-be”, who irrationally defended them as the “obvious” dictates of “common sense”. But in pursuing the satisfaction of their willful desires thoroughly, vigorously, and with tools that the current tyrants perhaps never imagined possible, the new oppressors would force their wishes upon a community lacking legitimate authority: either by violence, or by peaceful acceptance of their demands in the name of maintaining “public order”. Ironically, such individuals and factions might eventually demand reactivation and illegitimate exaggeration of the powers of the State for the purpose of obtaining goals that were actually inimical to the original anti-authoritarian liberal program. This, the Civiltà argued, was precisely what happened in the new Kingdom of Italy, where budding totalitarians with warmongering nationalist obsessions happily used the apparatus of the liberal State to pursue policies that Montalembert insisted the liberal State had been created to thwart---and, once again, all in the name of individual freedom and dignity.
Finally, it was quite clear to the editors that many liberals had a new, irrational, and ultimately unquestioningly “fideist” faith in the ability of the political system they adored to guarantee each and every one of the benefits that the Civiltà denounced as precarious at the very best. The articles of faith of this system were legion, although somewhat varied by place and time, depending upon what worked, practically, to allow its writ to run in one country as opposed to another.
One should add that insofar as religious-minded elements played a role in creating such fideism---as they very much did in Britain---its articles of faith included the pietist-inspired command to abandon “sterile” battles over doctrinal differences and replace them with efforts to find God through the practical exploitation of nature for the sake of that human material progress which was deemed the greatest aid to charity and public order. Such a policy was regarded as secure because it would be guided by an unchanging Christian morality that was by now unalterably rooted in men’s minds and hearts and clearly crowned by God with practical success. Besides, adopting it was said to procure the further benefit of allowing believers to stay united in fighting the real enemy threatening them all: the naturalist atheism of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677). Be that as it may, it gave to those who followed this path absolutely no means of seeing just how much “unchanging Christian morality” actually was changing all around them. Such change proceeded as material “successes” in the natural order---in war, commerce, and sexual seduction---seemed to indicate God’s blessing on behavior that a consultation of “divisive” doctrine and the historical record of Church pronouncements would have revealed to have been regularly condemned as morally reprehensible.9
La Civiltà Cattolica, like Voltaire, thought that religious toleration under English historical conditions and in the materialist atmosphere of liberal Britain was sufficient to render Christianity gradually meaningless, without any violent assault upon it. This meant that there would be no need to press acceptance of the new liberal or liberal pietist faith forcefully in the United Kingdom. But wherever the memory of a “sacred government” might still be vivid, or where there were fewer religious divisions to exploit than in Britain, or where Catholic resistance to being rendered publically impotent might still be vigorous, or where the ideological factions not yet in power felt the need to press their claims to control over rudderless society with every tool imaginable, the articles of this new faith would have to be more strictly preached and enforced. It was this that had happened in moderate form in the pre-revolutionary Kingdom of Prussia and the “sacred monarchies” that sought to combine the Enlightenment and Catholicism before 1789. And it was this that had happened much more radically in revolutionary France.
Unfortunately, I had no time to review the Civiltà’s articles dealing with Lamennais for this talk. Nevertheless, it is clear from the above comments that the editors would have thought that a prophet of his type who might gain an influence over a different kind of society than that of liberal Britain would be likely to impose his palingenesist view of a changed Christianity upon that community as a whole---and through the power of the State as well. For contrary to what people generally think, a genuine Mennaisian can never really be in favor of the separation of Church and State. Lamennais was upset with the old State, because it blocked the victory of the religion it hypocritically claimed to support. But a new, democratically guided State, where the voice of the Holy Spirit must infallibly be heard---once coaxed to the surface by a fully conscious prophet of ever-evolving Christianity---could not suffer from the same flaw. State, People, Prophet, and Spirit would be united in transforming society as Christ wished it transformed at that moment in time. And woe to those Pharisees and Sadducees---popes, bishops, and kings alike---who sought to maintain a faith in the Old Law when the New was now unmistakably upon them! They would ruthlessly be exposed as the enemies of God and “contemporary man” that they truly were.10
Reformed Mennaisian though he might have been in other respects, Montalembert also appeared to the Civiltà to be an irrational, fideist, Lamennais-like proponent of a liberalism that he proclaimed the infallible “pragmatic” tool for protecting the message of the Holy Spirit and Christ “in our time”; a tool against which the devil was himself somehow quite powerless. The editors repeatedly tried to explain to him why they believed that the only kind of “free Church” that liberalism permitted was one whose activity was limited to that of a private denominational clubhouse bickering impotently with an ever increasing number of similarly castrated communities, while whatever illicit private powers were momentarily manipulating the “free State” went forward, uncontested, to define the meaning of life, the “Christian” moral virtues required to live it fully, and the “spiritual” role religion might yet have to play in service of its particular ideological or material interests. But Montalembert prohibited any rational questioning of the value of liberal propositions for the protection of Catholicism through an irrational ideological sloganeering: by condemning opponents as “intransigent” enemies of social peace, prosperity, progress, individual freedom, human dignity, and Christianity itself rather than responding frankly to their critique. Adopting his approach, the Civiltà editors submitted, entailed nothing other than a return to the enslavement of the Catholic vision to a partisan ideological position against which the movement for renewal had rebelled when it was supporters of “sacred monarchies” who had demanded it. The only thing that this would definitely ensure was that there would once again be no freedom to work to effect the real changes in State, social, and individual behavior that must come along with construction of the Social Kingship of Christ.11
Seeking the correction and transformation of all things in Christ was an innately daunting project even under extremely favorable conditions. Nevertheless, the editors of La Civiltà Cattolica were most troubled by the complex of problems posed for the whole endeavor by their own immediate and unfavorable Zeitgeist. This had now, for a century or more, taken control of the basic terms of all substantive debate, and had defined words like “Reason”, “freedom”, “individual dignity”, “success”, “progress”, “authority”, “tyranny”, and even “peace”, “Christian charity”, and “pastoral efficacy” in reductionist and naturalist ways that soldiers for the Kingship of Christ would have to re-explain, from their most basic roots, in a fully Catholic manner. These definitions had been hammered into people’s minds with all of the means that the Zeitgeist had at its disposal, including the press, the theater, and popular song; means that Catholics were far less adept in using, but would have to learn to master for success. Moreover, the political and socially dominant enemies of correction and transformation in Christ possessed another “convincing” argument: their power to break believers’ lives, ruining their careers and destroying their families, should they go about the business of questioning the existing order and reacquainting the world with a truly Catholic paideia.
Nevertheless, the Civiltà and its allies set to work, employing all of the tools utilized by their opponents, and pressuring the Papacy to exercise its universal teaching authority to instruct believers clearly regarding the truth and morality of contemporary political and social visions. They insisted that if such teaching were to be effective, it had to be absolutely crystal clear, naming the names of enemies as it condemned their ideas and actions. Ambiguities would only afford the Zeitgeist, with its overwhelming verbal and physical power, an opportunity to interpret them in a manner that was advantageous to its worldview. Inaction was not an option, for a drama of incalculable significance was unfolding before modern eyes. As one Civiltà article put it: either God would be King of the world, with true individual freedom and dignity, or man would be King, guaranteeing an irrational, willful, forceful reign of Original Sin masqueraded as the victory of personal liberty and dignity.12 The Syllabus of Pius IX, the partial but interrupted work of First Vatican Council, and the development of Catholic Social Doctrine in the hands of the popes from Leo XIII onwards can be counted as confirmations of their work. And nota bene! It was this stiffening of the Catholic position, begun through the work of the laity and lower clergy earlier in the century, and only seriously involving the Papacy since 1848, that brought about the real “culture wars” of the nineteenth century---not some innate desire for battle on the part of a liberalism whose preference was always for work through subtle and subversive palingenesis rather than brutal straightforward assault.
The Civiltà was aware that fighting an existing Zeitgeist is always an uphill battle, and that the spirit of the times dominating the latter nineteenth century was in no way moribund. Worse still, the practical consequences of Enlightenment materialism in the form of its ever-increasing ability to divert the mass of the population away from consideration of substantive ideas to cheap entertainments or simplistic and demagogic arguments was rendering the problem of battling the enemy intellectually an infinitely more burdensome enterprise. And even if the reign of Pope St. Pius X might still be considered an integral part of Act One of our religious liberty drama, many of the new forces that would play an integral role in Act Two were already strongly present by that moment---the Mennaisian conception of a Catholicism built on vital energy as it translated into at least one branch of theoretical and political Modernism, and the Americanist flip on the basic liberal vision being chief among them.
What I would like to emphasize at this juncture, however, is the demoralization of those militants aroused to action by the drive to make Christ the King of the universe---a demoralization that was a primary factor in bringing an end to earlier, medieval efforts to achieve the Social Kingship as well.13 A contributing element to this more recent demoralization was the confusion sown by those Church authorities who, while seemingly promoting the concept of transformation in Christ, repeatedly tended to belie it through their practical decisions. One serious example of such morally demoralizing decisions may be found in repeated expressions of papal and episcopal willingness to compromise with existing liberal forces that were terrified by the growing power of the Socialist Movement. Such compromises, which involved attenuating criticism of liberal errors, made liberalism seem as though it were actually a conservative and pro-Catholic force. They also tended to affirm a conviction that protection of the cult and the position of the clergy were the sole issues of moment to believers, thereby giving the impression that the Church was uninterested in the fullness of the Social Kingship, which she perhaps held to be for all intents and purposes unattainable and therefore even utopian in character.14
A second and perhaps much more powerful form of demoralization emerged from the recognition on the part of activists of their very slight impact on the world outside. This perception of insignificance was visible in innumerable settings: among leaders of Catholic political parties eager to escape from limitation to their narrow confessional base; amidst missionaries frustrated by their inability to make a dent in the cultural armor of some of the lands they wished to convert; in specialized Catholic Action organizations dealing with everything from youth to industrial workers, and shocked by confrontation of their meager numbers with the mass of the young, unchurched population in the trenches of the First World War; with men convinced that their nation must win the Great War, or that that war had given European populations the chance to purify their banal, materialist, prewar lives, and that one needed to bond with similar seekers of victory or war purification from non-Catholic backgrounds; in the company of enthusiastic liturgists aroused to find ways to attract modern men and women to a life of prayer after the ravages of the world conflict; among Russian emigrés as passionate to explain the reasons for the collapse of their Church in the aftermath of the Revolution as their Catholic counterparts had been a hundred years earlier; and, finally, in the ranks of all religious-minded observers of the successes of popular atheist and pagan communist and fascist movements, wondering how to stir up such energy in their own anemic confessional ranks, and ready to contemplate the ecumenical action of Christians everywhere to do so.15
Representatives of all the forces mentioned above took part in a more intellectual discussion of religious failure and what to do to reverse it that gave rise to the highly variegated phenomenon known as Personalism. Among those influential in Personalism’s growth were Jacques Maritain (1882-1973), who served as host to debates on the subject for soirées at his home in Meudon in interwar France. These were attended by Russians like Nicholas Berdyaev (1874-1948), a representative of the Orthodox revival that placed a great deal of emphasis upon the nineteenth century Slavophile concept of the individual “finding himself” in community (sobornost), and Emmanuel Mounier (1905-1950), future editor of the Personalist journal, Esprit.
Catholic scouting groups were an important force for spreading concepts reflecting what Mounier called “Communitarian Personalism” before the Second World War, and the École des cadres at Uriage in Vichy France, which was created to prepare a new elite for a transformed European order once that conflict seemed to indicate a Nazi victory. Under the guidance of men like Pierre Dunoyer de Segonzac and Hubert Beuve-Mery, the future founder of Le Monde, priests like Henri de Lubac, Jean Maydieu, Victor Dillard, and Paul Donceour were brought to Uriage to teach. These men, in turn, introduced students to thinkers connected with the so-called New Theology emerging from the Dominican and Jesuit centers of Saulchoir, Latour-Maubourg, and Fourvières. Writings of Lamennais, Henri Bergson, Maurice Blondel, Marie-Domenique Chenu, Yves Congar, Karl Adam, Romano Guardini, Charles de Foucauld and, perhaps more importantly than anyone else, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), were examined here with care. Uriage also had links, direct and indirect, with Frs. Louis Joseph Lebret and Jacques Loew, founders of the Catholic social movement Economie et Humanisme, and, at least in Lebret’s case, very influential in the genesis of Gaudium et Spes.16
Transformation of the world, according to the doctrine taught at Uriage, was dependent upon the creation of “persons” as opposed to “individuals.” “Persons” were defined as men who responded to the call of “natural values” through participation in a community life elevating them above narrow individual desires. One knew that he was dealing with a valid community dedicated to a natural value constructing true persons whenever he saw that that community possessed a discernible, energetic “mystique,” and that that mystique led its individual members to creative, self-sacrificing activity. One day, the “convergence” of all such mystiques would result in the establishment of a community of communities producing, in effect, super-persons, “the greatest transformation to which humanity has ever submitted.” The nightmare of the twentieth century was actually “the bloody birth of a true collective being of men,” mysterious indeed, but providential and eminently Catholic.17
Catholicism’s role in this “convergence” was that of “giving witness” to the supernatural significance of every natural value, reflected in the mystiques of the active communities of self-sacrificing persons it saw around it, and helping each of them to come to its own innate perfection. It must not sit in judgment of them, because a “palingenesist” Catholicism itself could not fully know what it itself really was until everything natural had matured and converged through its witness. Catholicism was part of a multifaceted pilgrimage to God, linked together by intuition and action, whose destination was unclear. What was important at the moment was encouraging deeply willed commitment to self-sacrifice of all sorts.
Hence Uriage’s stunning ecumenism, testified to in a myriad of ways. It began with Segonzac’s ability “to form friendly relations, on the spiritual plane, with Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Moslems, agnostics,” since he “preferred (rooted) people…in their own setting, in their own culture”18. It passed through the Uriage Charter’s proclamation---reminiscent of pietist claims regarding an unchangeable Christian morality anchored firmly in European society---that “believers and non-believers are, in France, sufficiently impregnated with Christianity that the better among them could meet, beyond revelations and dogmas, at the level of the community of persons, in the same quest for truth, justice and love”19. And it arrived, in Mounier, at full-fledged Teilhardian rapture over the strange growth of the “perfect personal community,” where “love alone would be the bound, and no constraint, no vital or economic interest, no extrinsic institution”:20
Surely [development] is slow and long when only average men are working at it. But then heroes, geniuses, a saint come along: a Saint Paul, a Joan of Arc, a Catherine of Siena, a Saint Bernard, or a Lenin, a Hitler and a Mussolini, or a Gandhi, and suddenly everything picks up speed...[H]uman irrationality, the human will, or simply, for the Christian, the Holy Spirit suddenly provides elements which men lacking imagination would never have foreseen.
May the democrat, may the communist, may the fascist push the positive aspirations which inspire their enthusiasm to the limit and plenitude.
As John Hellman explains, “Mounier’s belief that there was an element of truth in all strong beliefs coincided with Teilhard’s vision of the inevitable spiritualization of humanity” 21
Uriage’s message was not a rational one. Its ultimate justification was intuition and strength of will leading to creative action. Any appeal to logic, either in support or criticism of strongly willed commitment to natural values, was dismissed as either belaboring the given, or as a dangerously decadent and individualistic scholastic pedantry. Better to bury the temptations of a sickly rationalism through the development of the obvious virtue of “manliness”---again, defined in completely anti-intellectual ways: the ability to leap onto a moving streetcar; to ride a bicycle up the steep hill to the École like Jacques Chevalier; to look others “straight in the eye” and “shake hands firmly”; to endure the sweat-filled regimen defined as décrassage, devised for Uriage students under the inspiration of General Georges Hébert; to sing enthusiastically around the evening fire in the Great Hall; to know how to “take a woman”; and, always, to feel pride in “work well done.” Such manliness was said to have deep spiritual meaning, aspects of which were elaborated in lectures like de Lubac’s Ordre viril, ordre chrétien and Chenu’s book, Pour être heureux, travaillons ensemble.22
Finally, let us note that Uriage’s teaching was unabashedly elitist---the particular mystique of the École being that of developing the natural value of leadership. “The select youth of Uriage” were said to be “the first cell of a new world introduced into a worn-out one”23, “entrusted with the mission of bringing together the elite from all of the groups that ought to participate in the common task of reconstruction in the same spirit of collaboration”24. Since they were destined to reveal the eternal supernatural significance of the natural values witnessed to by the mystique of all virile communities, Uriage students were actually priestly figures as well. Each class was consecrated and given a great man’s name as talisman. Segonzac especially “took upon himself a certain sacerdotal role, even regarding the wives and children of his instructors” 25 This entailed also a “separation between the leaders, the lesser leaders, the lesser-lesser leaders, the almost leaders and the not-at-all leaders” irritating some of the interns. Members of the “central team,” as one of them indicated, “were gods”26
The Uriage gods at first saw fascism as the “monstrous prefiguration” of the new personalist humanity waiting to be born under their spiritual guidance. Nevertheless, Nazi racism never appealed to men who appreciated vitality in every people and culture, while fascism in general proved its supreme unworthiness by its very inability to succeed. Enthusiasm was then transferred to Marxism, another “monstrous prefiguration” promising a happier future. Here, the activity of the Uriage cadres was paralleled by the efforts of priests and bishops trying to understand the “mystique” of workers in labor camps and ordinary French factories, training for the latter purpose being offered under the patronage of the supra-diocesan Mission de France. Uriage teachers were themselves involved in these priestly activities – Fr. Dillard, for example, canonizing the Soviets he encountered in the labor camps, and insisting that all workers were “born” into their tasks with specific virtues denied to other people. But an Uriage-like openness was everywhere in the air. After all, there were “riches in modern disbelief, in atheist Marxism, for example, which are presently lacking to the fullness of the Christian conscience”27. Enlightened spirits had “to share the faith in and the mystique of the Revolution and the Great Day (that of the total Christ)”28, as did one priest who asked to die “turned towards Russia, mother of the proletariat, as towards that mysterious homeland where the Man of the future is being forged”29.
Communitarian Personalists employed familiar Mennaisian arguments to explain their desire to give witness to the work of the Holy Spirit in modern times through the triumphant energy of Marxism-Leninism. Still, the Zeitgeist-savy nineteenth century editors of La Civiltà Cattolica would have understood that the mere physical victory of the Soviet Union in the Second World War was already an enormously powerful, non-intellectual, psychological weapon, fit for convincing the war-weary and demoralized European world---its Catholic population included---unthinkingly to attribute a superiority to the beliefs and system lying behind its success and the unquestionable necessity of making accommodations with them.
Neither would the Civiltà have been surprised that that same powerful but unthinking psychological reaction made itself apparent with respect to the other victor in the global conflict: the United States. When one adds to the by now ingrained and unconscious influence of the Enlightenment “gospel of natural success” over modern western man as a whole the especially uncritical appeal that America might have to those truly suffering persecution under her Soviet partner in victory, it becomes obvious that there would be a ready-made cheering squad for the politically stable and economically rich regime across the pond. But a rational analysis of the full impact of this second victorious force requires some mention of five particular themes and persons: the development of what by the late nineteenth century was called “Americanism”; the postwar ideological politics of the American government and Press; the role of John Courtney Murray, S.J. (1904-1967); the personalist Integral Humanism of Jacques Maritain (1882-1973); and, finally, the continuing impact of the demoralizing activity and inactivity of the Catholic clergy.
What is Americanism?30 It is in one sense a by now all too familiar demand for an unquestioning faith in the pragmatic necessity of accepting the American system as the sole means of protecting liberty and public order in our time. Americanists addressing themselves to Christian believers build upon the anti-Spinoza arguments of earlier pietist promoters of doctrinal syncretism and tolerance. They insist upon their recognition that the American separation of Church and State and religious liberty are their best possible friend and indispensable defender versus contemporary atheism---something that after the Second World War was most clearly represented by Soviet Communism.
America’s career as a redemptive and liberating faith---with a country accidentally attached to it---began in seemingly purely Christian form through the Pilgrim Fathers’ description of their flight from an evil Catholic Europe to a New Jerusalem across the Atlantic. The Pilgrims saw the “city on a hill” that they were to construct in the New World as a beacon light that might eventually illuminate the entire globe religiously. New England preachers stirring up their parishioners to dramatic expressions of faith in Christ saw this light growing ever brighter under the direct impetus of the Holy Spirit in the Great Awakening of the 1700’s.31
Many of these migrants soon lost their faith in the Christian God, but not their religious fervor. That fervor they transferred to the Enlightenment concepts that also had begun to exercise an influence over them, perceiving God’s hand through His providential action in the natural world---that is to say, in the birth of the American version of the Glorious Revolution and its secularized vision of redemption through the spread of individual “freedom”. Abraham Lincoln added immeasurably to the divinization of the American experiment by emphasizing earlier calls for a civil religion that would underline its peculiarly sacred character. Lincoln envisaged enshrining the Founding Fathers and the nation’s foundation documents---the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution---in secular temples with eternal flames burning in their honor. His civil religion preached the message that through America, God and the Founders had provided the “last, best hope of mankind” for both peaceful social order and individual freedom.32
Unfortunately, faith in America hid the disturbing facts that the Civiltà had already brought to light in discussing the mélange of Moderate Enlightenment and liberal ideas that this system also enshrined: that the “free” and peaceful social order established by it was one in which the most passionate and most willful individuals and factions had the advantage over anyone continuing to play by the supposedly unchanging “Christian-common sense” rules that the regime always claimed to defend and obey. Freedom and peace were reconciled under its aegis, but by ensuring the construction of a pseudo-order guaranteeing the victory of the strong over the weak---with the weak expected to praise the liberty that oppressed them, and limit their own use of it in the interests of the strong. The will of the strongest---whose representatives could, of course, always change, should those on the hunt for power press their demands in ways that the “common sense” of the current elite would not have dreamed possible ---thereby also came to interpret the “will” of the Founders and the “original intent” of the foundation “scriptures” along with “freedom”, “social order”, and what was considered to be acceptable “pragmatic action” in the public sphere. And given the need to placate a continuing American religious feeling unwilling to believe that the “unchangeable Christian moral code” was actually being subverted, the strong defined what the true wishes of God were as well.
Uncovering the variety of contradictory influences behind this victory requires precisely the complex doctrinal, philosophical, historical, sociological, and psychological study of the Zeitgeist that the Civiltà editors encouraged. Unfortunately, “truly free and pragmatic citizens”, living under the guidance of this spiritually and intellectually stifling American Liberation Theology, are pressured by means of all the public and private tools available to manipulators of the spirit of the times to avoid just such an investigation. Besides condemning any thoughtful critique as unpatriotic and even downright treasonous, the spokesmen for the new civil religion say that it represents a divisive, impious, uncharitable, and utterly impractical obstacle to the success of “the last, best hope of mankind” for peace and freedom. Morever, they argue that it simultaneously displays the misanthropic spirit of men and women envious of the material successes of their more energetic brethren, whose enrichment works charitably for the benefit of all. As always with “religious” defenders of the Moderate Enlightenment, they insist that it is only through the pragmatic exploitation of material nature that social peace, the fruits of liberty, and the blessings of the Christian God Himself are to be obtained; not through a harping on spiritual and intellectual abstractions dear to the hearts of sterile, unproductive “losers” who bring all serious practical religion into disrepute.
One cannot underline this Americanist fideist approach strongly enough. Anyone opposing its pragmatically ideological civil religion is vilified as an enemy of public order, freedom, the practical material success that is the fruit of “real Christian virtue”, and the only effective religious response to the evils of unbelief as well. He is, in short, branded as a “hater of mankind”, both cynical and naïve at one and the same time. Sustained attempts to point out the contradictions in this heap of conflicting arguments do nothing but bring down upon the wretched critic yet another round of the usual exasperated invectives further peppered with the accusations of outright mental illness.33
A quantum leap in the preaching of the American civil religion and its self-conscious Liberation Theology took place in the 1890’s. The need to “integrate” an enormous and highly diverse immigrant population that might not easily be able to digest what was, after all, a basically English medley of pietist, Newtonian, and Lockean contributions to a new and “pragmatically ideological” Christianity dictated this more intense evangelization. Various pronouncements of President Woodrow Wilson concerning American goals of the First World War in 1917 and 1918 made the worldwide scope of such evangelization clear enough to anyone with ears to hear. True, American devotion to the international spread of the national Liberation Theology slowed in the 1920’s and 1930’s, due chiefly to a desire to purge it from any contamination that involvement with a war-torn, revolutionary (and, in “Christian” eyes, impious) Europe might have entailed, as well as to a domestic need to finish the massive immigrant population’s incomplete indoctrination. But all that changed by the end of the Second World War, when Americans in general finally took the nation’s global role as practical guide to the liberation of the universe as an unquestionable given, and prepared themselves to bring the light definitively into each and every dark foreign cave.
Americanists told Catholics---as they did the members of each and every religious denomination---that the nation’s sacred system gave all of them a freedom to pursue their faith that was incomparably greater and more beneficial than ever known beforehand. How could it not do so, given that the regime’s providential charism enabled them to come to grips with and understand the true meaning of their own specific teachings with more clarity than popes, councils, and scriptures could ever have provided? But what the Americanists did not openly admit was that the “freedom” that this providential system offered did not permit individual members of religious denominations freely to link their personal convictions with the public actions they required, since these were contrary to the self-interests of the dominant materialist oligarchy that defined what liberty really meant.
Leo XIII’s attacks upon Americanism and its errors in the last decade of the nineteenth century were quite accurate. Nevertheless, they failed to halt the civil religion’s progress among believers. The many reasons for this failure include the fact that Rome’s attention was swiftly turned away from the United States to the battle against the Modernists, whose intellectual errors were---as more intellectual arguments always are---an easier target to identify than those of the Moderate Enlightenment. Americanism, which was rooted in just this moderate approach, could always hide behind a deceptive outward appearance of a “purely pragmatic” concern for solving “immediate practical problems”. In the meantime it had the opportunity to go about its more subversive work on behalf of its infallible and ironclad ideology, “defending religion” by castrating or transforming it beyond recognition.
A reading of the Handbook discussing the task of the National Catholic War Council created in 1917, subsequent NCWC documents, and the comments of Cardinal Gibbons in the copies of the New Testament given to soldiers going off to battle in the War to End All Wars all show how an uncritical commitment to “national principles” of democracy and freedom, as well as to ecumenical activities in pursuit of patriotic goals, inexorably advanced. A Catholic wartime ecumenical cooperation potentially “disturbing to pious ears” continued to be praised in popular interwar films. And the call for fraternal union of Catholics and non-Catholics on behalf of the American Liberation Theology, resurrected in the Second World War in the battle against National Socialism, reached a peak of frenzy due to the postwar conflict with Soviet Communism.34
Eager to guarantee a militant commitment of all men of faith to the primary battle against the Red Menace, Americanists sought to calm continued religious squabbling inside the United States. A major source of this bickering was the terror felt by a number of Protestant leaders at the high American Catholic birth rate. These Protestants feared that a future papist majority would forge a traditional Catholic union of Church and State, the anti-American evils of which they illustrated by pointing to the authoritarianism of the Spain of General Francisco Franco. Spanish authoritarianism was identified as a threat to the individual liberty central to the American system in everything from religious to economic matters, revealing a basic, inescapable truth: freedom was endangered by Catholic tyranny in a manner analogous to that of Soviet Communism.35
Americanist anti-communists could not escape the conclusion that such debilitating divisions had to be put to rest in a fashion that allayed Protestant fears: by making it clear that neither the union of Church and State nor Spanish authoritarianism could remain a praiseworthy model for Catholics. The Church had to be taught that her anti-communism must be the American form of anti-communism, and that since the “pragmatic” American system was the “last, best, hope” for the Church as well as everyone else to be free and really come to grips with her own message, adoption of the tenets of the American civil religion could not help but be beneficial to Catholicism.
Since Moderate Enlightenment methodology dictated a gentle rather than a violent path to impotence, this teaching had to proceed by means of seduction---preferably with the enthusiastic help of Catholics themselves.36 Anyone interested in pursuing a study of this seductive emasculation has a variety of sources that he can consult. One of the most interesting is the recent work of David A. Wemhoff: John Courtney Murray, Time/Life, and the American Proposition—How the CIA’s Doctrinal Warfare Program Changed the Catholic Church. Here, Wemhoff discusses in great detail the American government’s creation of such agencies as the “Psychological Strategy Board” (1951) and the “Operations Coordinating Board” (1953), as well as the development of a “Doctrinal Warfare” program (1953) designed to destroy all non-American as well as anti-Soviet communist outlooks---with as much internal Catholic assistance as possible.37
Doctrinal warfare’s propaganda campaign began appropriately enough by identifying America’s “fundamental characteristic”: Lockean liberalism. This revealed that she “values the individual as an end in himself”.38 An appreciation of individualism was said to explain America’s “deep tolerance” and “the diversity of its doctrines and philosophies”. Such dedication to individual freedom made the United States “a revolutionary nation” from its very birth. That revolution in the name of personal liberty continued globally in the postwar world, and “America, as the leader of the Free World, leads this revolution” because she “still is in the business of revolution”.39 Following the typical palingenesist pattern, however, the “revolution” in favor of individual liberty was simultaneously identified as being totally traditional in character. In truth, it was more traditional than Christian Tradition itself, which, once again, needed the aid of the American Way to achieve its full development and self-understanding. For American individualism began with the “Christian-Judaic religion which, in its very concept, recognized the dignity, worth, and right to freedom of the individual, as do most of the other major religions of the world”.40
It was unfortunate that there were dangerous forces that did not realize that Christian, Jewish, and most major religions were all of them in one way or another nothing other than embryonic protagonists of Lockean individualism. These elements had to be destroyed by employing the method that James Madison in The Federalist indicated as being central to the standard operating procedure of the American regime: by multiplying factions inside the enemy’s ranks. Hence, “[t]he program was to give voice to ‘new and stimulating ideas, even contradictory ideas’ because these ‘have self-generative powers and are desired.” Doctrinal Warfare had to “[c]reate, when advisable, deviationist movements designed to split organizations promulgating hostile ideologies”, and “[e]xploit local divergences, heresies or policy disagreements within opposition systems”. But, once again, this was for the ultimate benefit of the “opposition systems” in question, which could not help but prosper should they rid themselves of their own “totalitarian” tendencies and tap into the American vision that could truly set them free.41
Wemhoff’s discussion of the personnel at work on these specific projects, as well as those active in the broader enterprises of the Central Intelligence Agency of the 1950’s, also indicates clearly just how much government agencies interacted with the private world of the American Press on behalf of Doctrinal Warfare. Staff members regularly communicated with one another and moved back and forth in the employment of both. Henry R. Luce’s (1898-1967) Time/Life network stands out in particular relief with respect to the program’s concern for convincing religious denominations that the ethos of Locke Land enabled them to understand the inner striving of their visions better than by consulting their own history, thinkers, and heroes. 42
Luce personally emphasized all of the themes indicated above. “The founding purpose of the United States”, as he wrote in one article in Time, “was to make men free, and to enable them to be free and to preach the gospel of freedom to themselves and to all men”.43 Reiterating the ever-useful palingenesist concept, he insisted that America “is at once revolutionary and conservative, traditional and progressive”.44 Because America was so rooted in traditional religion, she was deeply concerned for fighting off atheism; for forging a “Holy Alliance with God”.45 Still, her advanced knowledge of what was best for believers showed her that this Holy Alliance had to unite “all people who believe in a Supreme Being” for “the promotion of confidence of people everywhere in religious truth”.46 Christian dogma, as Doctrinal Warfare also firmly agreed, could not enter into the redemptive picture.47
American wisdom also taught that the fight against atheism was equivalent to the battle for individual freedom, whose chief purpose Luce was candid enough to identify: the ability “to make all the money you can and ‘to do as you damn please with your own’”---apparently, as his wife noted, without any concern for moral questions or right and wrong.48 Luce’s understanding of the real purpose of freedom was confirmed by a speaker at a conference he organized in Princeton on behalf of a “World Economic Plan” (1954) who defined it as “the capacity of the individual to produce more per capita, and to enjoy a greater degree of pleasure”.49 Meanwhile, the real purpose of the Holy Alliance was underlined at the1955 meeting of the Luce-backed Foundation for Religious Action in the Social Order:50
[O]ur Christian religion and our competitive business system [are] in themselves the two most revolutionary forces in the world today. Communism and socialism, which we frequently think of as revolutionary, are, in fact, reactionary movements---leading man back to the bondage from which he has only so recently emerged. What we call ‘free enterprise’ or ‘competitive capitalism’ or ‘the American way of life’…upsets the old established order. Christianity endowed the individual with spiritual dignity; our American Constitution endowed the individual with political dignity; but it has remained for American industry to endow the individual with economic dignity.
One of the main participants at this same Foundation conference was John Courtney Murray, S.J., editor of Theological Studies, based in Woodstock College in New York. Murray, who in his earlier life had made rather vehemently anti-Americanist statements, became deeply involved with the whole governmental-Time/Life project, and an intimate friend of Henry and Claire Booth Luce as well. His career as apologist for the American Liberation Theology and the Catholic Church’s duty to accommodate it---in the name of a pragmatic historical necessity that providentially assured her a more complete understanding of her own teachings and best interests---began through those wartime ecumenical stimuli central to many believers’ “conversion” to the cause of “religious freedom” and syncretism everywhere.
Particularly significant in Murray’s case was a Church and State symposium organized by the National Conference of Christians and Jews at the Biltmore Hotel in New York on April 26th, 1948. It was only after that date that he began publically to propagate the argument on the relationship of Church and State and religious liberty for which he became famous, along with those themes so dear to the hearts of Doctrinal Warfare and Henry Luce. Once again, these themes were individualism, the religious syncretism required to defend it, and the exaltation of America as the sole key to a global solidarity essential for the defeat of atheistic evil---communism---and the victory of God and the good---free enterprise capitalism.51
Murray attacked the “historical union” of Church and State as an unfortunate, accidental product of circumstance, and one that had had the consequence of enchaining Catholicism, hindering its true mission of transforming all society in Christ. American constitutionalism had given the faith the chance to set itself free, permitting the Church to return to “the true Christian Tradition”. He insisted that the American political system, with its division of powers and a still more clear separation of Church and State than in Britain, limited the competence of the government over social life, leaving Catholicism totally free to go about its work of evangelization. It thereby differed intrinsically from that nineteenth century Liberalism that had militantly worked against Christianity.
And how could it not so differ? After all, the Founding Fathers of the United States took for granted that basic Christian morality that no one could call into question precisely because it was an uncontestable given; an integral part of the natural law that every right thinking man relying on human Reason could grasp.52 Anyone with eyes to see could judge just how fruitful their system had been for the American Church. Adoption of the same approach by the Universal Church must bring about similar results elsewhere. For the contemporary world, burned by horrible experiences with ideological and tyrannical states, would then realize that Catholicism had nothing to do with governmental coercion. Modern man was more “sensitive”, with “deeper insights into the needs of the human person”, and ready to hear the message of the Church that historically guided him on his first shaky steps to the realization of his individuality and dignity under the only political conditions suitable to their fulfillment: those established by the Founders. Besides, America and America alone could fight the good fight against atheistic Soviet Communism. “For [the] Catholic Church cannot with full effectiveness oppose Communism as long as it is itself regarded as being in opposition to the American political system”, “man’s best, and possibly last, hope of human freedom”, “that stands out most strongly against the spread of Communism.”53
Most of this is very old indeed, beginning with Murray’s complaints regarding the abuses of Church-State unions, which recall those of the militants of the early nineteenth century. The appeal for a defense of religion against the one common atheist enemy by means of a reliance upon natural reason rather than doctrine, the insistence on the uniqueness of the practical-minded American experience for allowing all traditional forces their sole chance to reinvigorate their real roots in modern times, and the focus on an individual freedom that ends up supporting the interests of the dominant group in society all recall Pietist, Whig, Palengenisist, Mennaisian, Liberal Catholic, and, of course, early Americanist themes and their consequences. Similarly familiar is Murray’s contemptuous distortion and dismissal of criticism and his failure honestly to confront certain basic practical problems: his Time/Life and Doctrinal Warfare allies’ praise of the dangerously revolutionary movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth century that he attacked, and Leo XIII’s critique of precisely this supposedly “fresh” and “different” American manifestation of liberalism among them.54 All that is really different in Murray is the extent to which he as a Catholic priest became involved in the nexus of powerful governmental and private forces active in promoting principles destructive of true Catholic freedom.
Part of this nexus was Fr. Felix Morlion, O.P., the founder, with financial assistance from “all the usual suspects” of governmental and private background, of the Pro Deo University (1944) in Rome.55 Morlion used Pro Deo to apply “the solid and balanced work of the American Founding Fathers as expressed by their correspondence (1773-1776), by the Federalist papers, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the U.S.A.” to European practice. He did so because this “most realistic way of establishing a free but God-centered way of life” was “an inspiration for the Italian and other democracies”.56 Of course that faith-friendly way of life was not to be taken as specifically Catholic in character, for American principles were “profoundly united with the principles of living faith in God common to all authentic religious denominations”.57 And there could be little surprise in the fact that Pro Deo understood that promotion of a system dear to freedom and to God very much entailed a “spreading of the philosophy of American Business”.58
Luce, inevitably one of the main supporters of Morlion’s project, gave a speech before 4,000 persons, including Alcide de Gasperi, at the opening of the Pro Deo academic year on November 29th, 1953 entitled “the American Proposition”. He consulted John Courtney Murray to ensure intellectual depth to his comments and admitted that he lifted much of the content directly from his response. Forgive me if I summarize one last time aspects of the Doctrinal Warfare-Time/Life-Murray effort to seduce Catholics with reference to this address.59
The “American Proposition” presented for Pro Deo was one that Luce summarized more succinctly in a Time article of 1963; namely one that “consists of a word, a tendency and a method. The word is liberty. The tendency is equality. The method is constitutionalism.”60 Its most practical element was said to be that of getting rid of governmental obstacles to personal belief and action, thereby making men ever more free. American freedom, in consequence, could “support much pluralism in religious beliefs, political opinions, and local customs”, as well as, mirabile dictu, economic freedom and the encouragement of “business”. Luce read from “our National Scriptures”---the Gettysburg Address—to back his argument, discussing various American governmental institutions, such as the Supreme Court---which he called the “Keeper of the Ark of the Covenant”---with the same hushed, sacred awe.
Lest Catholics think that the individualist, anti-social authority approach of the American Way was somehow opposed to the Catholic Faith, Luce assured them that it was based upon the obvious dictates of the natural law and therefore could not be in any way anti-Catholic. In fact, it could not be anti-anything natural. The “intelligent American can legitimately long for a world in which all men will think his political thoughts and talk his political language”, he explained, because insofar “as the American way of life rests upon these principles, understood in their Western traditional sense, it is exportable, but only because it is, or ought to be, indigenous everywhere”.61 And besides the natural law, the Founding Fathers had a deep commitment to God, reflected in the thoughts of the “Christian” John Adams (he was a Unitarian) and the Deist Thomas Jefferson, both of whom agreed that “God reigned and, directly or indirectly, ruled”.62 But why refer to these sources when one could calm Catholic fears by citing the blessings of America as proclaimed by the Third Council of Baltimore in 1887, also mentioned by the Handbook of the NCWC in 1917: “We consider the establishment of our country’s independence, the shaping of its liberties and laws, as a work of special Providence, its framers building better than they knew, the Almighty’s hand guiding them.” 63 In short, the Enlightenment understanding of man, enshrined most securely in America, was that of the traditional natural law and the best means of fulfilling Catholic along with all other human values. And anyone present at the talk knew from its tenor that the only possible alternative to the American Proposition was atheistic communism.
Murray, Luce, Time/Life, and presumably those behind the Doctrinal Warfare Program as well were very pleased with Jacques Maritain’s influence in spreading openness to the American Liberation Theology.64 Although closely connected with the development of the personalist approach, Mounier’s Communitarian Personalism did not appeal to Maritain. He believed that its total embrace of vital energy as a guide to the presence of the Holy Spirit meant abandonment of the unique significance of Catholicism, so much so that its supporters would find themselves helpless before any superficially vibrant phenomenon; spiritually “barren in the face of a Ramakrishna”. 65
Nevertheless, Maritain’s Integral Humanism, and his treatment of the “person” as an ineffable being whose full spiritual dignity would be injured by coercion in that socio-political realm where man operated as a mere “individual”, did call for a Mounier-like dialogue with others. The need for dialogue was confirmed by reading the “signs of the times”. The signs of the times indicated that that indefinable creature known as “modern man”, whose deep sense of “dignity” was ultimately rooted in the Christian heritage, and who still needed the witness of Catholic Truth, had perhaps temporarily leaped ahead of the Church in his longing to fulfill his destiny as a person. Contemporary perceptions and strengths must therefore be cultivated.
Dialogue with sensitive modern man could involve many groups, from Marxists to previously antagonistic but now chastened, anti-totalitarian liberals. Maritain’s experiences while living in the United States, expressed in his Reflections on America (1958), encouraged the conviction that her pluralist system represented another great leap forward whose appreciation would work for the benefit of Christianity. For the American Way permitted that free, non coerced dialogue among all manner of sensitive “individuals” through which men unconsciously waiting for Christ could be opened up to the faith, certain that they would be getting the message of Jesus rather than that of Constantine manipulating religion through the power of the State. The unchanging project of Christianization could finally advance under the historically changed socio-political framework of liberating American Pluralism.
Maritain’s apparent ignorance or naiveté regarding just how open to dialogue and true religion American society actually was in practice is regrettable. Among the peculiar benefits that he claimed came from it---benefits that slaves, Indians, Mexicans, exploited Latin American economies, and anyone familiar with the Christmas shopping season might well have contested---was America’s total freedom from any and all Machiavellianism, as well as a possession of many consumer “gadgets” that freed men to pursue more spiritual goals.66 But no one can deny that, along with Father Morlion, Pro Deo, Luce, Murray, and the American security apparatchiks, this great philosopher helped mightily in smoothing European acceptance of the American Way as the “last, best hope of Catholics”. Just how much Maritain’s book might have helped the Communitarian Personalists---who were initially very suspicious of American individualism---to see how a worldwide spread of liberal pluralism in Church and State might provide opportunities for prophets who were usurping control of the various “energetic mystiques” to which they supposedly “gave witness” to seize control of the authoritative vacuum it guaranteed I cannot right now say.
One last element that needs briefly to be mentioned before summarizing the Zeitgeist at the time of the Council and its aftermath is the ever more vociferously expressed anger over the inaction of the Roman and American ecclesiastical establishment in the face of the Americanist onslaught coming from the main enemies of Murray and the Time/Luce project in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Chief among these opponents were the two most important American theologians of the pre-Murray era, Mgr. Joseph Fenton (1906-1969), editor of the American Ecclesiastical Review, and Fr. Francis J. Connell (1888-1967), the central founder of the Catholic Theological Society of America.
Fenton and Connell understood that what actually was being promoted through the call for a rejection of the union of Church and State and an embrace of the principle of religious liberty was a divinization of a materialist American attitude towards life.67 They were furious with the incessant propaganda for these ideas in the American Press, and even more so with the way in which the Time/Life position was devoured and then slavishly copied by Catholic newspapers in the United States as well. Nevertheless, what most irritated both men was the increasingly obvious fact that nothing could arouse the vast majority of bishops to do anything serious about the subversion of the Faith. Fenton’s diaries in particular indicate his ever greater demoralization; a demoralization similar to that discussed earlier, based upon a conviction that there was no real belief in the concept of the Social Kingship of Christ in Rome and America alike, and this because of a practical acceptance of the precepts of the same old liberalism in its latest and only deceptively new clothing. He finally came to the conclusion that Rome was run “by vain and money hungry cowards who are afraid of the manifest opponents of the true faith within the ranks”; men who were easily seduced and bullied by materialist society in all its forms.68
The inner circle here lives on a diet of steady promotion….They go to foreign lands as diplomats mixing with and living like the richest of the rich. They occupy archbishoprics or fill-in posts. Then they return and drive around Rome in super-sized chauffeur driven German cars, and, at the top of the ladder there is always the big prize….Here are members of the Church who are obviously in a state of mortal sin. Some of them do not believe Our Lord’s message at all…What nonsense!
In short, two Americans themselves felt that the Blitzkrieg on behalf of a “free Church in a free State” providing a Catholic future brighter than any past was resulting in an enslavement of the authorities of the Mystical Body of Christ to exactly that hunt for purely material benefits that the illegitimate powers really guiding life in a pluralist system defined as both paramount and “spiritual”. Supporters of Catholic renewal in the early nineteenth century would have understood what was happening. The freedom of the Church and Catholics was being subverted, and the pathway to true liberty and human dignity obscured by the Zeitgeist.
By the time the Council was called and met, pressure for a discussion of “religious liberty” was very strong indeed. This pressure can be divided into three parts---Communitarian Personalist, Integral Humanist, and Americanist---and the greatest of these was the Americanist. That immense Americanist pressure was to be backed at the Council by a Time/Life press campaign of staggering consistency. Correspondents like Robert Blair Kaiser and Michael Novak were urged to take sides in this monumental battle of the “good guys” versus the “bad guys”, with the good guys---Personalists, Americanists, Palingenesists, and Modernists in general---rewarded with adulation not just in print but also through triumphal speaking tours of American universities. They were aided in their lobbying activities by inside information leaked through periti breaking conciliar rules of secrecy, and, to Fenton and Connell’s horror, by the every more obvious collaboration of the Catholic Press at home and the American bishops present at the Council itself. 69
This meant that whatever the text of Dignitatis humanae itself eventually said, it was the “rising expectations” of a Zeitgeist shaped by well-funded and self-proclaimed prophetic forces interpreting the “signs of the times” outside the Council---expectations to which Bishop Emile-Joseph de Smedt made passionate reference in pleading for a swift completion of work on the religious liberty decree---that would dictate what it was permitted to mean. It was the servants of the Zeigeist who would mobilize “the spirit of Vatican Two”---a favorite Novak phrase---in righteous opposition even to the most obvious words of the Council’s clearest documents, not to speak of its more ambiguous ones. And it was this Zeitgeist to which Church authorities with eyes and ears open to the “signs of the times” would submit again and again in the future.70
All this was totally predictable. Playing carelessly with the word “liberty”---of whose Catholic sense very few “sensitive”, “dignified” modern men possessed any inkling whatsoever---was like riding on the back of a monster. One needed only to consult the evidence from Act One of our drama to have an appreciation of what would happen by mounting this beast. But such rational consultation, under the “freedom” allowed by the “signs of the times” interpreted by those prophetic spirits awakening Catholics to their full dignity in a totally new stage in human history, was strictly prohibited. And the result was that the predictable did indeed come to pass.
Opening the Church to liberalism’s innate tendency to treat social authority as dangerously suspect worked first of all to break down the authority and morale of the old Roman Curia, turning real power to implement the Council’s decrees over to commissions, study groups, and journals dominated by those possessing the requisite spirit. Under these circumstances, any strong-willed forces with a clear agenda gained a tremendous advantage in taking control of a Church apparatus left bereft of legitimate authorities.
Equation of the principles of the Zeitgeist with those of Christianity itself in the giddy atmosphere of “joy” and “hope” characterizing the end and immediate wake of the Council gave all of those forces which Maritain deemed eager to enter into a “dialogue” with Catholics a chance to do exactly what those “dialoguing” with the faithful did in 1848: demand a Catholic surrender on whatever issue was of deepest concern to them as the sole means of proving the Church’s good will. The Integral Humanist project lacked a sufficient number of non-Catholic individuals prepared to respect believers’ “personhood”, and believers were easily cowed by their opponents’ all too familiar strength of will. The reader will remember that it was precisely this sort of problem that La Civiltà Cattolica sought to address in that call for greater Catholic clarity that Montalembert labeled as hopelessly “intransigent”.
Meanwhile, the Communitarian Personalist approach bared its teeth. Bishops and episcopal conferences that failed to respond to the “teaching” of the energetic local community were quickly condemned. Other corporate institutions, reduced by pluralism and personalism to being mere channels for “mystiques” instead of truly authoritative societies, came to understand that they could not perfect the “natural messages” they nurtured on their own steam alone. They had to be guided by the “witness” provided through prophetic, elitist activists. The spiritual superiority of these witnesses was in turn made manifest by their abandonment of traditional Catholic teaching and their willful proclamation of its latest “reborn” lessons.
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. Distinctly Catholic elements were not to be allowed to interfere with the development of 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. 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 palingenesist guides appealing to the “spirit of the Council”. How else could those trapped in the past come to know what God wished, and what their own deeper aspirations really were?
Disastrous is the only word that can be applied to the post-conciliar consequences of this new “evangelization”. In so far as there was an unprejudiced dive into the vital, active milieu in which the spirit of Christ was supposedly taught, this permitted no contact with the Christ of history outside and above it. The objective reality of the Incarnate God-Man was thus ultimately called into question, with the very concept actually being identified as merely a “western” understanding of the work of “the Spirit” in human life. Catholicism was indeed left spiritually “barren in the face of a Ramakrishna”, as Maritain, much too wedded to his Aquinas to go the whole Mennasian personalist route, had predicted it would be.71
“Aggiornamento means getting the Church of 1965 up to where the US Constitution was in 1789”, Murray had happily explained.72 If this judgment were accurate, as the masters of the Zeitgeist were determined that it was to be---and as Pope Benedict XVI, speaking in 2005, apparently concurred73---then there was no surprise that the American Catholic experience after the Council would parallel that of the country’s as a whole. This meant that if anything in pre-existing Catholic theology and the rational philosophy traditionally utilized in union with it stood in opposition to the American Way, it was these discordant theological and philosophical elements that had to disappear. The Council’s “clearer understanding of ecclesiology” was indeed called upon to justify such a surrender. A pilgrim Church’s learning process 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”; 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.
Both the Catholic Church and her Christianization of the world at large thus came to be guided by supposedly Christ-like, but actually John Locke shaped individual consciences; individual consciences whose “liberation” was proven by their slavish repetition of the demands of the latest willful interpretation or competing interpretations of the will of the willful Founding Fathers. And as believers’ rational abilities deteriorated, the “obvious, common sense dictates” of the natural law disappeared with them, all of these now seen as nothing other than private religious options rejected by large numbers of sensitive modern men with a deeper awareness of their individual dignity; discarded because unacceptable to the consensus needed to maintain public order. The drab, pragmatic, utilitarian, and downright silly crochets of an over bloated fur trapping settlement that was now the Master of the Universe became the only “spiritual” elements that the individual on his way to his full dignity as a “person” was allowed to take seriously in the course of his daily life. “Evangelization” of the social order under these circumstances became a code word for a conscious, determined burial in fallen natural desires and perceptions. These might have been lifted up to God, had the tools for accomplishing that goal not been rejected, and an opening not been given instead to all the gross, banal and frequently inane fantasies to which human beings always feel their deepest pull.
No willful assertion of spiritual superiority could save those prophets attempting to “witness” to such a false spiritualization from a depressing fall to earth along with the “vital energies” closest to their heats. Hence, the once deeply pious Fr. Dillard ended by concluding that his work in the factory was more important than his Mass, and, indeed, that the machine on which he labored itself actually had a soul74. Similarly, Mounier’s Ascent of Mount Carmel led him to jettison prayer for psychoanalysis. Meanwhile, the Monde milieu of Beuve-Mery helped mightily to build a technocratic Europe which is now marked by the same bland, materialist “diversity” of the American pluralist circus it so readily condemned at the end of the Second World War.
Murray’s own “spiritual” trajectory could serve as a key to the whole downward spiral of American society. Already before the Council’s end, he began to reject a Catholic right to intervene in the public square by means of verbal condemnations and economic boycotts of indecent films and literature. Any open Catholic opposition to socially divisive issues such as birth control and abortion stood next in line for stigmatization. Daily contact with LSD started to look to Murray as though it might provide a definitive pathway to true sanctification. Both he and Clare Booth Luce occasionally took the drug with the blessing of an intimate friend and spiritualist guru, Gerald Heard, who not surprisingly lamented the nefarious influence of morality on business freedom and saw homosexuality as a sign of creative evolutionary development.75
And yet despite his descent into 1960’s madness, Murray still felt his undegenerated religious and philosophical tendencies working upon him. Hence, he anxiously admitted the swift dissolution of that common understanding of the natural law which he once argued would be sufficient for preservation of a moral social order. “The thing we have not yet proved in the United States”, he said in 1966 shortly before his death, “is that the social consensus, as at least moral, can be maintained in the absence of religious unity, in the presence of radical divisions. There are signs that the consensus is eroding.”76 But he was wrong. The underlying American pluralist consensus was stronger than ever. The American Church was linked more closely to the American State and society than ever before in her demonstration of a willingness to bless whatever it was that the strongest forces controlling them all demanded that she accept and proclaim as integral to the Catholic Tradition.
Numerous statements coming from the Vatican during the reigns of Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI attempted to explain the Council’s “true meaning” on a variety of subjects, including both religious liberty as well as the Church’s relationship with the State and outside world in general. All these sought to correct the horrible consequences for the Social Kingship of Christ stemming from the victory of the pluralist and personalist mentalities, making it clear that concern for “public order” could never be permitted to justify public and individual immorality. Nevertheless, the stigma attached to statements suggesting possible recourse to the use of any form of social authority in the life of “free, dignified, individual modern man”, has rendered such valuable theological corrections utterly meaningless in practice. They are not backed up by serious consistent action.
How could they be? Accusations of everything from “opposition to the will of the Holy Spirit” to “cultivation of innate fascist sympathies” regularly bring closure not just upon effective action but coherent argument as well. And that coherent argument never seems to emerge. The root refusal to critique the pluralist vision of political and social life and to make an effort to understand whence it came remains painfully apparent. Fenton and Connell themselves do not appear to have understood the origins of the Americanist problem in the mesh of forces giving birth to the Glorious Revolution and the Whig interpretation of man and society. Nor could they bring themselves to admit that a Catholic order would alter the American Way of Life. Contemporary popes, bishops, priests, and laity show almost no knowledge of Act One or Act Two of the drama outlined above. A mere expression of concern for gaining that knowledge would itself be a crime of lèse majesté against the glories of the contemporary Zeitgeist.
Without the root problems being tackled, the tree that grows therefrom cannot be destroyed. That tree, once again, supports a society in which Church and State have never been more united in their common commitment to allow fallen nature to have its way against the dictates of Faith and Reason. Both illustrate a conscious or unconscious subservience to “the Promethean lust for material power that serves as the deepest common drive behind all modern Western cultures”.77 Neither Church nor individual Catholic believers nesting in this tree possess true Christian freedom.
Yes, the Church is still a “sign of contradiction”, but, unfortunately, contradiction of her own divine character and mission, which has become enslaved in a much deeper and complete sense than when abused by sacred monarchies still nurturing at least some flicker of Faith. A false tradition has become the Tradition. As Louis Veuillot indicated during Act One of our religious liberty drama, this false tradition, destructive of all Church and individual Catholic freedom, seeks irrationally to silence Christ’s full message. Our true liberation can never come by following its pragmatic guidelines, defined in such a way as to fix a blindfold permanently over our own eyes. It can only be effected through a return to a full knowledge of Christ and the demands of His Social Kingship. All borrowed armor chokes us.78
[F]erocious pride is correctly the genius of the Revolution; it has established a control in the world which pleases reason out of the struggle. It has a horror of reason, it gags it, it hunts it, and if it can kill it, it kills it. Prove to it the divinity of Christianity, its intellectual and philosophical reality, its historical reality, its moral and social reality: it wants none of it. That is its reason, and it is the strongest. It has placed a blindfold of impenetrable sophisms on the face of European civilization. It cannot see the heavens, nor hear the thunder.
The right tactic for us is to be visibly and always what we are, nothing more, nothing less. We defend a citadel that cannot be taken except when the garrison itself brings in the enemy. Combating with our own arms, we only receive minor wounds. All borrowed armor troubles us and often chokes us.
1 Much of this discussion comes from my two books, Black Legends and the Light of the World: The War of Words with the Incarnate Word (Remnant Press, 2011) and Removing the Blindfold: Nineteenth Century Catholics and the Myth of Modern Freedom (Angelus Press, 2014). For brevity sake, I will only footnote direct citations, points that I believe need special emphasis, and, of course, any other works used.
2 “L’enciclica dell’8 dicembre”, La Civiltà Cattolica, Series 6, Volume 1 (1865), 287-288.
3 Some characteristic articles to consider in this regard, all from La Civiltà Cattolica, are “Il restauro della personalità pel cristianesimo”, 1, 2 (1850), 367-383; “Se la personalità umana abbia da temere dalla chiesa”, 1, 2 (1850), 518-541; “L’autorità sociale”, 2, 4 (1853), 19-37, 175-189, 291-304, and “Dell’elemento divino nella società”, 2, 9 (1855), 129-140, 385-396.
4 Compelling in this regard are the Platonic themes emphasized by Werner Jaeger in Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture (Three Volumes, Oxford, 1986), and Early Christianity and Greek Paideia (Belknap Press, reprint of 1961 edition).
5 See J. Rao, “Lamennais, Rousseau, and the New Catholic Order”, Seattle Catholic (1 February, 2005), http://www.seattlecatholic.com/article_20050201.html; also, J.M. Mayeur, ed., Histoire du christianisme (Desclée, Thirteen Volumes, 1990-2002), Mayeur, X, 427-477, 628-906.
6 C. de Montalembert, Des interest catholiques aux xix siècle (Paris, 1852).
7 Especially important to this critique was L. Taparelli d’Azeglio’s Esame critico degli ordini rappresentativi nella società moderna, which first appeared as a series of articles in La Civiltà Cattolica and then was published separately (Rome, Two Volumes, 1854). See, also, C. Hill, The World Turned Upside Down (Penguin, 1984) on the ideological battles of the English Civil War era.
8 P. Gay, The Enlightenment (W.W. Norton, Two Volumes), I, 168-171.
9 Interesting in this regard is R. Gawthrop, Pietism and the Making of Eighteenth Century Prussia (Cambridge, 1993).
10 See J. Rao, “Lamennais”, Op. cit.; on the Mennaisian spirit, see A. Gough, Romantic Catholics: France’s Postrevolutionary Generation in Search of a Modern Faith (Cornell, 2014); Paris & Rome: The Galllican Church and Ultramontane Campaign, 1848-1853 (Clarendon Press, 1996).
11 See J. Rao, Removing the Blindfold, pp. 157-165.
12 “O Dio Re colla libertà o l’uomo Re colla forza”, La Civilta Cattolica, 2, 3 (1853), 609-620.
13 See G. Lagarde, La naissance de l’esprit laique au declin du moyen age (Nauwelaerts, Five Volumes, 1958).
14 See J. Rao, “All Borrowed Armor Chokes Us”, Seattle Catholic (9 July, 2005), http://www.seattlecatholic.com/a050709.html.
15 See J. Rao, “The Good War and the Rite War”, Latin Mass Magazine (Spring, 2001), pp. 34-38; “The Bad Seed: The Liberal-Fascist Embrace and its Postconciliar Consequences”, Latin Mass Magazine (Fall, 2001), http://www.latinmassmagazine.com/articles/articles_2001_FA_Rao.html.
16 On the historical development of the influence of Personalism see J. Hellman, Emmanuel Mounier and the New Catholic Left, 1930-1950 (University of Toronto Press, 1981); The Knight Monks of Vichy France: Uriage, 1940-1945, McGill, 1997, p. 56); E. Poulat, Les prêtres-ouvriers: Naissance et fin (Cerf, 1999).
17 Hellman, Knight Monks, p. 178.
18 Ibid., p. 83.
19 Ibid., p. 59.
20 Hellman, Mounier, p. 85, 90.
21 Hellman, Mounier. p. 128.
22 Hellman, Knight Monks, pp. 71-76.
23 Ibid., p. 65.
24 Ibid., p. 63.
25 Ibid., p. 90.
26 Hellman, Knight Monks, p. 75.
27 Poulat, Op. cit., p. 408.
28 Ibid., p. 386.
29 Ibid., p. 244.
30 For the following, see J. Rao, “Le mirage americain”, in B. Dumont, ed., Église et Politique, Changer de paradigme (Artéges, 2013), pp. 227-257; also Americanism and the Collapse of the Church in the United States (Tan Books, 1995).
31 M. Marty, Pilgrims in their Own Land (Penguin, 1985), pp. 107-128.
32 Marty, Op. cit., pp. xiii, 154-164, 221-224, 280-284; W. J. Wolf, Lincoln’s Religion (Pilgrim Press, 1959), pp. 9, 98, 116-120, 143-144, 152-159, 193-194; P. F. Boller, Jr., George Washington and Religion (Southern Methodist University Press, 1963), pp. 66-115; Mayeur, Op. cit., X, 479-538, XI, 853-932; Gay, Op cit., II, 555-568.
33 J. Rao, “Why Catholics Cannot Defend Themselves: The Religious and Cultural Suicide of a Conquered People”, Diocesan Report (3/19/03 www.diocesereport.com/guest_col/rao_cannot_defend_march03.shtml.
34 See The Handbook of the National Catholic War Council (NCWC, 1918); M. Williams, American Catholics in the War: National Catholic War Council, 1917-1921 (Macmillan, 1921); see Pat O’Brien as Fr. Duffy in The Fighting Sixty Ninth (1940); Marty, Op. cit., p. 409; Mayeur, Op. cit., xiii, 833-924. Fr. John Ryan (1869-1945) is an interesting and much more nuanced critic of many aspects of the American system.
35 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), pp. 143-149, 168-169.
36 Ibid., pp. 52-53, 116-120, 143-149, 168-169, 235.
37 Wemhoff, Op. cit., pp. 151-318.
38 Ibid., pp. 305, 297.
39 Ibid., 449, 450-451.
40 Ibid., p. 449.
41 Wemhoff, Op. cit., pp. 304-306.
42 Ibid., pp. 151-180, and passim.
43 Ibid., p. 576.
44 Ibid., p. 393.
45 Ibid., p. 373
46 Ibid., p. 465.
47 Ibid., p. 294.
48 Ibid. pp. 172, 465, 551.
49 Wemhoff, Op. cit., p. 433
50 Ibid., pp. 467, 53.
51 Wemhoff, Op. cit., pp. 122-276, 467, 505-509, 575, 746; Marty, Op. cit., pp. 417-422.
52 Wemhoff, Op. cit., pp. 133-142,182-207, 220-221, 719.
53 Ibid,, pp. 228, 235, 223, 147-148.
54 Wemhoff, Op. cit., pp. 52, 245-257, 270, 369-370, 418, 449, 488, 637-641.
55 Ibid., pp. 366-372.
56 Ibid., p. 368.
57 Ibid., p. 376.
58 Ibid., p. 371.
59 Wemhoff, Op. cit., pp. 374-382.
60 Ibid., p. 381.
61 Ibid., p. 379.
62 Ibid., p. 377.
63 Ibid., p. 378.
64 Wemhoff, Op. cit., pp. 220, 225, 235, 269, 506, 518, 627, 882, 943.
65 Hellman, Mounier, p. 42.
66 Martain, La fin de machiavellisme (NV, 1942), p. 125; Wemhoff, Op. cit., p. 518.
67 Wemhoff, Op. cit., pp. 514-516.
68 Wemhoff, Op. cit., p. 625; also pp. 191, 245, 247,418, 425, 493-494, 514-516, 607, 685-686.
69 Wemhoff, Op. cit., pp. 659-901.
70 Ibid., pp. 726-729, 797-798.
71 Hellman, Emmanuel Mounier, p. 42.
72 Wemhoff, Op. cit.
73 Ibid., pp. 900-901.
74 Poulat, Op. cit., p. 327; Hellman, Mounier, pp.190-193, 255.
75 Wemhoff, Op. cit., pp. 483-491, 535, 537-549, 858-895
76 Wemhoff, Op. cit., p. 869.
77 R. Gawthrop, Op. cit., p. 284.