V. The Reign of Fraud and Force
(The Remnant, February 28, 1991)
“Force. Let us say it straightforwardly, let us repeat it with daring. Force is the only social instrument left to the Protestant (i.e., revolutionary) who wishes to be logical. And since the sole means of salvation becomes a ‘right’ in society, then ‘right’ in Protestant society amounts to ‘force’. (La Civiltà Cattolica, I, i, (185), p. 406.)The difference between a civilization formed from the incarnational insights of Catholic Wisdom and one shaped by the anti-incarnational spirit of the Revolution is, Taparelli and Veuillot argued, ultimately a simple one. Catholic civilization helps to unveil the Truth, while its revolutionary opponent masquerades it. That is why our two prophets insisted that Catholics can hope to correct their flaws the more closely they cling to the spirit of their culture, while revolutionaries must inevitably deepen their errors and explain them more absurdly the more logically they embrace their own deformed way of life. I would like to emphasize several miscellaneous points with respect to this basic difference, especially insofar as they relate to apologetics. Then, in future articles, we will be ready to move on to discuss specific questions involving the State, economics, the use of certain “freedoms”, and, alas, even the character of the New World Order.
“Ferocious pride is the real spirit of the Revolution. This pride has so established itself in the world that it has exiled Reason. 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 dimension, its historical dimension, its moral and social dimension. It wants known 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.” (Louis Veuillot, Mélanges, X, 45-46).
Catholics were accused by their revolutionary adversaries in the nineteenth century of being enemies of civilization and progress, just as Christians in ancient Roman times were said by pagans to be Haters of Mankind. It is no wonder that they were attacked in this fashion. Revolutionaries were looking at things from the standpoint of the earth-bound individual, and thus were nearsighted and distorted in vision. Of course they thought that they could put the Church to shame once they had pointed to the GNP, statistics on highway construction, the number of telephone lines in rural districts, and the average weight of newborn babies in Catholic as opposed to revolutionary societies. They had nothing else but such myopic standards to go by.
Taparelli and Veuillot were not troubled by these critiques. Eyes fixed firmly on Christ, they understood civilization and progress through the sharpened vision provided by the corrective lenses of Hypostatic Law. Hence, they knew that society and cultural development could only be judged with reference to the model of the Word made Flesh.
Everything in Christ was perfectly balanced and proportionate, both within His human nature as well as in the relationship of the human to the divine in the unity of His single personality. This meant that a civilization ruled by Hypostatic Law would also have balance and proportion and harmony as its hallmark.
The question for a Catholic was never “how much” his culture produced. The question was whether or not it was a true cosmos, a fit throne for Christ the King. It is not in riches or military victories or in the number of people buying subscription tickets to the Philarmonic that a Catholic judges the successes of his civilization, but in determining whether the Theater of Life constructed by his culture understands, teaches, and assures the existence of an appropriate hierarchy of values. Catholic civilization thus continues and completes the nuanced foundation already laid by the “virtuous pagans”. How civilized, already, in a Christian sense, were those ancient men of balance like Scipio Aemilianus, the conqueror of Carthage. A member of one of the most cultivated families of his day, he realized that a man of culture ought to cry rather than exult over the ruins of the vanquished city, understanding that the mystery of suffering played a role in life and must one day inevitably affect his beloved Rome as well.
No, it is not in vulgar weighing and measuring that the perfection of a civilization was to be evaluated. Rather, it was in assessing whether the mixture of food and drink and joy and fasting and sacrifice and suffering which a culture allowed for succeeded in opening the whole man to the action of grace; whether it exposed him to a hint of that music of the spheres whose full concert was reserved for the elect in the world beyond.
But the Revolution? It wants hosannas sung to the goddess of progress because Hyderabad now sports a thousand shoe factories where once there were none. And amidst all of the artificially produced drumbeats and trumpet blasts and videos of people dancing and having fun to celebrate the Achievement, it disguises what this glorious revolutionary civilization is really all about: unparalleled fraud and force.
Whence comes the fraud? From the fact that the constituent elements of revolutionary civilization, rather than being in harmony with one another, as they would be in a culture ruled by Christ, are actually at war. The result is that the entire construction is, in practice, in conflict even with its own stated goals. “I am not what I am”, Iago, the devilish figure in Shakespeare’s Othello says, indicating that his true activity belies his surface image, and that he is an enemy of God, who “is what He is”. The same can be said for revolutionary civilization, which stands self-condemned by its own principles. We’re not talking just plain ordinary fraud here, folks. We are talking Fraudissimo, the Big Enchilada of Frauds, the Fraud of Frauds, the Great Fraud.
La Civiltà Cattolica entertained itself in the 1850’s by drawing up syllabi of self-contradictions in revolutionary civilization. I would suggest reviving this custom, as a parlor sport, for dull family get-togethers. The possibilities for amusement are infinite. Allow me to mention just a few examples to demonstrate how to get the game started.
Revolutionary civilization says that it protects freedom and individual dignity. How? Historically, it has been devoted to scientific explanations of the universe which humiliate mankind, reduce the individual to nothing more than a machine part, and treat his freedom to “gum up the works” as a mechanical kink that a well-educated engineer can iron out and standardize in order to make him functional and well-adjusted. Hence, the insistence upon proving that the earth is in no sense the center of the universe, and the discovery that each of us is nothing other than a robot programmed to obey the inescapable commands of sexual desire, race, class struggle, or the laws of supply and demand. Man the Machine, as one revolutionary book in the 1700’s excitedly called him. Glorious freedom and dignity, is it not? A freedom and dignity capable of claiming that a Michelangelo accomplished what he did because of eating olive oil or being a bourgeois rather than consuming lard or emerging from the proletariat. A sense of individuality that ends by arguing that everyone would, perhaps, be able to paint Sistine Chapels if his digestive system were restructured by a diet police, or his class consciousness altered.
How about this one? Revolutionary civilization says that it stops useless debates over pointless issues like the nature of the Eucharist, debates which led to bloody Religious Wars. It claims that it replaces such wastes of time and energy with solid, rational studies of the obvious truths of mother nature, whose clear consequences nobody could possibly contest. How? Historically, it has simultaneously encouraged an individualism so prideful and disdainful of objective truth that it allows everyone the opportunity to forge his own reality. One man’s murder can become another man’s good deed. And we know that the love for the truths of mother nature is so strong among revolutionaries of our own day that people can observe a living, breathing baby in the womb and say that it is human if they want it to be, and a blob if they do not. Welcome to the revolutionary world of solid facts!
Here’s another beauty, following the same tack. Revolutionary civilization says that it is doing away with Blind Faith, mythology, and all sorts of superstitious humbug. How? Its openness never allows its own premises to be discussed and questioned. It requires belief that the mysterious, invisible hand of progress will clear up any of the difficulties science causes when it builds devilishly destructive bombs, tampers with genetic structure, and violates the environment. It answers those who do dare to criticize its approach not with reasonable responses, but with cheap invective. It reveres as one of its founders a man like Francis Bacon, who outspokenly loved wizardry, but argued that the scientific method emerging from the experiments of the alchemist would produce the marvels of the magic wand more efficiently; a man who said that the purpose of knowledge was simply that of gaining power.
Name the revolutionary idea, name the revolutionary hero, probe one or the other pillar of revolutionary civilization for just one minute and…whamo!, you will find a first class howler of a contradiction designed to keep a depressed Catholic household in stitches for a week. But remember what will happen in this freest and most rational of all possible worlds if you let the secret out. Your impudence will earn for you the title of Hater of Mankind. Wear the label proudly.
But if the Great Fraud is this obvious, how does it remain so powerful? To a large degree, because of the fact that it ultimately reduces to the justification of the exercise of pure, brutal, naked force. To a large degree because it places the strong in a permanent near occasion of sin, tempting them to rely on force, and because it places the weak in a state of constant terror in which they remain defenseless, and will agree to anything.
There is no way around this basic truth. The minute that the Revolution began the work of separating the individual from the social and supernatural context of life, its logic led it straight to force as its definitive argument. What possible hold could reason or any other form of objective truth have on the sovereign individual if he wanted something, if he willed something, and if he had the strength to get it? Ultimately, any restraint upon his will had to be itself defined as irrational and tyrannical, and the victory of the willful ego as the victory of whatever truth, good, and beauty existed in the universe. Weapons used to break restraints and achieve that victory were the weapons of a crusader. The crushing of the bewildered weak was nothing malicious. It was the suppression of ignorance. Why? Because that is what the “I” wanted it to be! Me, me, me, requiring, if necessary, you as dead, buried, and forgoten.
Many revolutionaries of the past few hundred years indeed recognized that it was possible to do outrageous things with the arguments which they held dear. Did they then reject their errors and return to a reasoned, Catholic position? No. Instead, they treated the outrages as accidents, and tried to defend themselves against them with exactly the same kind of appeal to force that they seemed to oppose. Every time they fought the worst ravages of rampant willfulness, they fought them with reference to the outraged community consensus, or, more broadly, to democracy and the desires of the majority. In other words, with an appeal to another form of strength alone. What they were saying was simply that many wills bound together could and would restrain the action of other wills which they thought to be dangerous. They were not saying what Catholics would say—namely, that they were defending the truth—but that there were more of them, and that troublemakers had better keep their mouths shut on that basis solely. Insofar as this defense helped shored up Tradition and restrain the forces of disorder it was a partial good. Insofar as it was the only defense possible it may even have been a necessity. But what a flawed good. What a tragic necessity. Relying on force alone as the justification for one of the most fundamental gifts of nature and God--civilized life. Was it for this that the Catholic order of things was abandoned? Was it at this price that religious conflict was ended? The sacrifice of truth? And a sacrifice which has not brought peace anyway, but caused millions more deaths than the perpetrators of even the Thirty Years War would ever have dreamed imaginable?
Taparelli and Veuillot believed that this Reign of Fraud and Force had to be unmasked for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that it led to some form or another of political totalitarianism disguised as freedom. More about that problem in future articles. At the moment, I would like to turn our attention briefly to a different motive for revealing the character of the Great Fraud, one rooted in the problem of apologetics.
Catholic battles against the Revolution, our two prophets lamented, had been basically reactive in nature. It was as though people thought that the job of the Catholic apologist was to wait until some revolutionary statement was made, and then begin the task of rationally policing the enemy’s initiative.Such an approach presumed that the revolutionary world was playing by the rules for rational debate forged by an historical tradition which Christianity alone had made effective. But, once again, it must be remembered that the revolutionary was doing nothing of the kind. The revolutionary was a man of blind, prideful, willful, magical faith. Hence, it made no difference to him whatsoever if Catholics reacted to his arguments brilliantly, and found five hundred million iron-clad disproofs of his theories. It was precisely in the nature of a willful, potentially brutal irrationalism to explain away wise judgments, and to delve into endless permutations on the same repetitive egotistical themes. And it was precisely in the peculiar nature of this specific revolutionary willfulness to dismiss wise criticism as superstition, ignorance, and remnants of a Dark Age mentality, ultimately silencing it through force.
No, rational Catholic refutations of this easily refuted madness meant nothing to people who began with the axiom that their garbled dogmas were the measuring stick of reasonability. Catholic critiques were so many extra miracles tossed before blinded Pharisees, pearls cast before swine, dazzling displays of Ciceronian eloquence acted out in front of babies with a colic. And, given the fact that the noisy modern world is saturated with innumerable arguments of every kind, every day, the magnificent rebuttals uttered by Catholics against the Revolution were immediately lost down the memory hole.
Moreover, Taparelli and Veuillot continued, Catholics dedicated to reacting to the Revolution were doing the cause of reason a disservice. They themselves helped to contribute to the cheapening and ultimate destruction of rational discourse whenever they wasted their energies proving (to use contemporary examples) that God was not a sacred mushroom, or Moses a transvestite, or St. Paul a closet homosexual, or anything else that base and vulgar prides proclaimed as valid hypotheses. Catholics who treated this claptrap seriously helped to spread knowledge of revolutionary phraseology, revolutionary words, and general revolutionary goo. Their own critiques could end by making titillating sensationalism seem just. Worse still, potential St. Augustines in the revolutionary audience who were aware of the weaknesses of their own beliefs (and such men are out there, waiting to be converted, even today) were deprived of the St. Ambroses who might show them the way. Why? Because the potential St. Ambroses were bogged down fighting Phil Donohue.
How often the dismay of a recent convert comes to my mind in this context! When first discovering the possible truth of the Faith, he rushed to the Catholic camp, expecting the faithful to be seized with the same enthusiasm he had newly developed for discussing the glories of the Trinity. But no. Many people, he complained, were just as obsessed with sexual issues as the world he hoped to flee. And often in just as graphic detail. In fact, his interest in the Trinity was generally taken as a disturbed intellectualism that made him suspect of heresy.
So what were our prophets saying? That no energy should be aimed at refutation of the Revolution? Not at all. Remember, Veuillot ran a daily newspaper, which necessarily undertook the activity of attacking enemy assaults. No. What they were concerned with was the need to engage in this refutation in the balanced and proportionate way that one would expect from a confident Catholic culture.
How could one determine the balanced and proportionate approach? By once again fixing Catholic eyes firmly upon Christ. Christ knew exactly how to deal with basically willful adversaries who were hypocritical to boot. He confronted whited sepulchres with disdainful silence. Where sarcasm and ridicule seemed fruitful, sarcasm and ridicule were His weapons. The convinced children of a lie could never be approached as though they were Socrates or Marcus Aurelius.
And as for anyone serious hiding among the sons of the Revolution? Well, Taparelli and Veuillot argued, why not try the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth? Once the Great Fraud was recognized for what it was, and its magical faith was dismissed accordingly, why not devote Catholic time to the systematic study and presentation of the Truth? Such an activity would help the honest enemy while it allowed Catholics to do what they were supposed to be doing: coming to know Christ better. It was time not merely to react to a fraud, but to learn and teach the Magisterium. Time to plumb the riches of Scripture. Time to take those dusty volumes of St. Augustine and St. Basil the Great and St. John Chrysostom off the untouched shelves housing the Fathers of the Church and actually read them. Time to make the ins and outs of Church History more familiar than the ins and outs—to use another modern example—of the latest outrages on the latest outrageous television program. Time to learn and sing Gregorian Chant. Time to understand and encourage polyphony. Time to form sodalities. Time to grasp the nuances of St. Thomas’ political theories instead of devoting precious energy to making oneself conversant in the latest stupid rhetoric from the latest shallow combatants in the latest pointless political campaign. Time, leaping once again to our own day, to restore and nurture and love with all our hearts and souls the daily sacrifice of the Mass. Time to live the ever-living Tradition of the ever-living God. That’s where victory lay! In letting the Catholic Faith speak for itself. In letting Christ be Christ. For the two poles of the struggle were always and forever the same. As one article in La Civiltà Cattolica put it—it is either Christ as King of civilization together with knowledge and freedom, or man as king of a Fraud.
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