Writings by Dr. John C. Rao

Vital Error

Energy, Personalism, Pluralism, and the Triumph of the Will

(The Josias, July 7, 2020)

Nineteenth and early twentieth century Catholicism was rich in militant initiatives pursuing global evangelization outside the older borders of Christendom as well as spiritual and socio-political revivification of the troubled lands within them. These initiatives were stimulated by a general movement of Catholic revival vigorously opposing an Enlightenment-inspired secularization of European and American lands that had already begun before 1789, and which was intensified and spread still further due to the violence and warmongering of the French Revolution.

Spokesmen for this general revival insisted upon the reality of a dramatic “culture war” with enormous consequences for earthly life and the salvation of souls being waged between those proclaiming Christ as their King and the adherents of a soul-killing revolutionary naturalism. Global evangelists and militants inside ancient Christendom took their words to heart. They felt compelled to do everything in their power to achieve success in this conflict as fast as possible. But that passion for success, laudable though it was in and of itself, was destined to lead a number of them to give their support to what I am calling a “vital error” equating Catholicism with the triumph of the arbitrary but “energetic” human will.

Let us begin our tale by calling up the “noonday devil” of demoralization that always lay there lurking, waiting to pounce upon the drooping spirits of zealous nineteenth and early twentieth century activists. This demon crept from its den to plague militants of all types at just those moments when a sense of failure to obtain any truly serious impact upon the populations that they had targeted for swift conversion and transformation in Christ began to overwhelm them.1

Such perception of lack of success was already noticeable in certain militant circles before the First World War, with some of the “Outer Missionaries”---those dealing with non-Christian lands---expressing deep frustration over their inability to make a telling dent in the armor not just of the seemingly impregnable Moslem world, but even in that of their beloved and long-lived Chinese field of operation. They were joined in their brooding by a number of influential members of European Catholic political parties grappling with their own “Inner Mission” limitations, conscious as they were of having painfully little impact outside their narrow confessional base.

World War One and its troubled aftermath increased the influence of this noonday devil immensely among those militants laboring in one of the fields of the “Inner Missions” known as “Specialized Catholic Action”, whose organizations focused on youth in precise types of industrial and agricultural labor. The meager fruits of their work were especially driven home to them upon mingling with a young population of overwhelmingly un-churched fellow soldiers in the trenches. They were further shocked by discussions with some of the more articulate of these comrades in arms who were convinced that the war had indeed given European peoples the chance to purify and spiritualize their banal, materialist, prewar lives, but through bonding together with their mates in the front lines without any concern whatsoever for their previous religious backgrounds and aspirations. Yet a third and perhaps even more powerful stimulus to demoralization came at the conflict’s end, when this small band of committed Inner Missionaries marched home in the ranks of masses of their battle-scarred fellow soldiers who were now displaying a willingness to devote themselves, body and soul, to atheist Marxist and budding neo-pagan Fascist Faiths.

Once the activists returned, some of them began openly to hunt for reasons explaining the failure of their apostolic endeavors in a world where others were having great success enticing converts to sacrifice themselves for their relatively recently born or utterly new anti-Catholic creeds. They hoped that knowledge of these reasons would allow them to correct what must only be “pastoral” errors in their approach, given their consciousness of possessing a Catholic Faith as solid as the rock of Peter. Their attempts to provide answers enabling them to address and remedy these crucial pastoral as opposed to faith problems brought them together with other Christian “seekers” whose passion for success intersected with their own.

One of these groups of seekers was composed of the Outer Missionaries and influential members of Catholic political parties working with the Inner Missions already mentioned above. Another was formed by promoters of liturgical renewal exploring ways of attracting the mass of modern men and women to a life of prayer and peace that could calm the individual and social ravages brought about by the world conflagration before these ignited a new inferno. A third group involved dedicated members of the growing ecumenical movement, concerned lest Christians remain divided in their private, limited efforts to fend off what to them was the greater and obviously more imminent threat posed by contemporary atheism and neo-paganism.

Among those prominent in bringing together Christian intellectuals for extensive discussion of theoretical problems, practical failures, and pastoral projects that might enable them to snatch spiritual victory from demoralizing defeat, was Jacques Maritain (1882-1973). Maritain served as the host of regular gatherings probing such subjects at his home in Meudon, near Paris, after the papal condemnation of the Action Française in 1927 removed him from the camp of Charles Maurras (1868-1952) and his Integral Nationalists with their slogan of politique d’abord.

Supporters of all of the western forces noted above attended these soirées, but the Christian East made its presence felt there as well. For also visiting Meudon were men from among that Russian Orthodox diaspora which was so visible in Paris, London, and Oxford, particularly the philosopher-theologian Nicholas Berdyaev (1874-1948). Thinkers like Berdyaev brought with them as great a passion for finding an explanation for the collapse and a hope for the revival of their Church in the aftermath of their Revolution as that which had stimulated zealous anti-revolutionary Catholics a hundred years earlier.

One of the names given to the intellectual and practical “programs for success” discussed at the Meudon soirées was Personalism. Personalism, whose story encompasses more than just the Meudon experience, must be defined as a tendency rather than a program, its name being used by a wide range of thinkers reflecting a myriad of contrasting nuances, with Maritain’s own “practical philosophy” of Integral Humanism among them. But whatever their particularities and nuances may be, I would argue that these varied forms of Personalism all owe an essential debt to a late eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth century emphasis upon the importance of the “vital energy” of “natural forces and values” as a guide to the truth and its transmission into practical action.

Central to the introduction, further development, and dissemination within the Catholic world of this emphasis upon vital energy was the thought of the Abbé Félicité de Lamennais (1782-1854).2 Lamennais’ work was consciously or unconsciously carried on by a segment of the Modernist camp condemned by St. Pius X (1903-1914). This “Mennaisien” heritage, reinvigorated through the meditation of our Inner Mission veterans upon the puzzling question of how soldiers who had been hopelessly divided at home before the war successfully created a fraternal unity at the front then entered into the conclusions elaborated by the various Personalists and their fellow travelers at Meudon and elsewhere.

What emerged was a recipe for escaping Catholic failure in the dramatic modern culture war and more swiftly gaining that victory for Christ that every militant, firm in the Faith, desired. Unfortunately, however, it is this recipe that constitutes the “vital error” leading to the equation of the triumph of that Faith with the dictates of the strongest successful will. Let us explore the transformation of this hunt for success into a divinization of effective but mindless will, destructive of the Catholic Faith, by focusing on what I think to be the most logical of the many contemporary forms revealing this development: Communitarian Personalism.3

Communitarian Personalism was the brainchild of one of Maritain’s Meudon guests, the French philosopher-journalist, Emmanuel Mounier (1905-1950), founder in 1932 of the Parisian journal promoting his vision, Esprit. Mounier maintained contacts with a kaleidoscope of thinkers, outside as well as inside the Meudon circle: Jean Guitton (1901-1999), who would one day become a close friend and advisor to Pope Paul VI; Henri Daniel-Rops (1901-1965) and his fellow members of the organization Ordre Nouveau (New Order); Jean Danielou (1905-1974), the future cardinal; Belgians inspired by the “spiritualized socialism” of Henri de Man (1885-1953); proponents of European cooperation like Otto Abetz (1903-1958), Nazi ambassador to fallen France in the 1940s; and a group of “revolutionary National Socialists” who gathered in the early 1930s around the Hitler rivals Gregor (1892-1934) and Otto Strasser (1897-1974).

Mounier sees a successful Catholic conquest of society as emerging from the transformation of limited “individuals” into full-fledged community-minded “persons”. For him, an individual on his own is a living dead man, “trapped” by his private intellectual mind games and atomistic behavioral concerns. To become a full person, capable of realizing his deepest potential and fulfilling his true God-given destiny, the individual must find a way to get out of himself and his deadening introspective existence. He can only accomplish this by diving into the richer life provided by communities, the most important of which, on the supernatural level, is the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

But the Mystical Body of Christ, having taught the value of nature, also points out the need for enriching and perfecting one’s existence by immersing oneself in the life of “natural communities” and the “natural values” they incarnate. Which natural communities? Which natural values? The answer is those communities the beauty of whose natural values is demonstrated by the “vital mystiques” they exude; vital mystiques revealed by the energetic, action to which they move the individuals embracing them and the successes that they obtain through them over the world at large. Committed adherence to such vital mystiques and their demands, together with acceptance of the vital mystique of the Catholic Church, would transform crippled, atomistic individuals in need of what they have to offer into truly fulfilled and successful persons.

For Mounier, the Catholic believer who approached the Faith of his own supernatural community and its vital mystique as a set of intellectual precepts to be studied and put into practice on the individual level was just that sort of self-crippling, introspective atomist that he loathed, a man in desperate need of awakening to full personhood. Such an awakening would ultimately require shaking him out of an obsession with whatever parts of his heritage blocked his opening to the energetic pursuit of the natural values of whatever vital communities his life needs called upon him to join. This was particularly true with respect to any rigidly intellectual spirit of theological, philosophical, and legal dogmatism that could dampen his commitment to spontaneous, natural, energetic action.

We will have much more to say about this topic below, but for the moment let us simply underline Mounier’s conviction that an individual Catholic’s acceptance of and immersion in the vital mystiques of the energetic and successful communities around him were essential not only to the full perception of the natural values that they reflected, but also to the spiritual perfection of Christian personhood and the pastoral success of the Faith themselves. Yes, he admitted, the successful vital mystiques of a number of contemporary communities and the movements they engendered that he was urging Catholics to join might appear at first glance to reflect purely natural values and dubious ones, seemingly dangerous to the spiritual life, to boot. Nevertheless, the energies that they unleashed, and the successes that they were clearly obtaining demonstrated that there was something supernatural at work through them: the providential action of the Holy Spirit developing Christ’s teaching and bringing it to fruition in history.

Hence, to tie the argument back to our main theme, what this all meant on the practical level was that any militant who was engaged in the work of the Outer or Inner Missions and understood the crucial need for victory for Christ, had to pursue that undoubtedly laudable goal through a pastoral methodology of immersion in the energetic, vital mystiques of successful communities. This entailed no longer seeing their natural characters as potentially flawed forces whose erroneous characteristics had to be overcome, but as trustworthy reflections of the obvious presence of the Holy Spirit within them. The Outer and Inner missionary’s task was that of “witnessing” to his Catholic Faith by humbly listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit through the vital mystique in question and helping Him to nurture it and bring it to its innate natural perfection. Such immersion and abandonment demanded a pastoral strategy of root and branch abandonment of any educational or practical activity that gave the militant missionary the perspective and appearance of an alien trying to dampen the natural value that he was confronting.

One day, the Holy Spirit would guarantee the “convergence” of all the seemingly contradictory, vitally energetic, age-old or recently emerging communal mystiques and natural values to which such militant missionaries were witnessing. The result would be the establishment of a unified Catholic “community of communities” capable of producing what would, in effect, be super-persons, “the grandest transformation to which humanity has ever submitted.”4 Once again, the key to achievement of this goal was that Catholic believers witnessing to mystiques on the path to convergence must never sit in judgment of them as “outsiders”. For they could not even fully know what the Catholic Faith they were trying to transmit entailed, and what the Holy Spirit was seeking to do with it, until the natural values that the various mystiques enshrined had all completely blossomed and merged together. Hence, the violent, secular, twentieth century communal movements hostile to the Faith that were encountered by returning Catholic activist soldiers had to be viewed in the long run not as enemies to be fought and defeated, but as splendid, Spirit-guided organisms calling men and women to an “eminently-Catholic” perfection of their varied natural values.

A number of the activists of the Outer or Inner Missions attentive merely to the key words of Mounier’s thought, perceived in them a confirmation of what they, with their---at that time---much more traditional goals in mind, were also trying to do: follow in the footsteps of Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) by “getting under the skins” of the various peoples or groups they were trying to evangelize or revitalize and “inculturate” the Faith. Thus, he could be seen as simply urging the Christian missionary to “go native” and thereby soften the opposition of potential converts and facilitate their willingness to accept the True Faith. The names of Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916), Vincent Lebbe (1877-1940), and their disciples are very important with respect to this “going native” outlook in the Outer Missions, while their parallel in the Inner Missions can be seen in the work of men like Fr. (later Cardinal) Joseph Cardijn (1886-1967), probably the most important proponent of the Specialized Catholic Action with which we are already familiar.

That strange mixture of Anglicans and members of the Russian Orthodox Diaspora working together in various postwar ecumenical projects also could and did connect with and further influence Communitarian Personalist ideas. Its organs were dedicated to promoting a supposedly superior Eastern spirituality and recipe for Christian living to be found in the mystical writings of the Philocalia and in those of the Slavophiles dealing with the relationship of the individual and the community referred to by the term sobornost. Both these types of writings were used by them to drive home two criticisms of the “Roman” school of Catholic Christianity much related to those of Mounier: 1) that it crippled souls through an intellectually rigid theological, philosophical, and legal dogmatism under the micromanagement of the Supreme Pontiff; and 2) that is could never truly be “successful” in the fight against Enlightenment naturalism because it shaped atomistic individuals working for sanctification totally on their own, rather than the fully spiritual Christian persons formed by individual immersion in and obedience to community as understood by the teachers of sobornost.

The French Catholic scouting movement, filled with a youthful energy that was both anti-atomist and communal in spirit, as well as possessed of a very clear and distinctive mystique of its own, offered a fruitful soil in which Communitarian Personalism, often in union with the ideas of the missionaries and ecumenists just mentioned, could plant its tents.

Moreover, scout troops also served as regular centers for experimentation with that branch of the liturgical renewal movement rooted in a number of monasteries and intellectual circles in Northern Europe nurturing Mounier-like ideas. One person worthy of mention in this regard is Fr. Jean-Augustin Maydieu (1900-1955), who celebrated mystique-friendly masses for the scouts during which he faced his congregation so as to better connect with its needs, providing it with a French narration of the advancing liturgical action in the process. Another is Fr. Paul Doncoeur, S.J. (1880-1961), who, terrified that Catholics had lost touch with vital life forces, had become enthusiastic for pastoral liturgical developments in Germany that were seeking a closer linkage with “deeply felt reality” as early as 1923. He honed in on the French scouting movement’s concern for communal games and sports for a cue to teaching a better understanding of the liturgy that might perhaps influence its future development throughout the Catholic world:5

Games can also be an excellent preparation for worship, which to the little ones appears to be very little different from a game. This should not scandalize us. The word game is not in the child’s vocabulary, and particularly in the realm of scouting, it is a synonym for diversion. A game is an action, passionate insofar as it is sincerely played. Well, official worship is eminently sincere. Children sense this. They find satisfaction in this atmosphere of truth. They savor this serious action, wherein all participate, body and soul, this collective and ordained action, similar in nature to those grand modern sports events wherein modern youth finds its discipline and sometimes its mystique. But the little faithful heart senses well that worship is more noble than sports. Worship is the Big Game, the Sacred Game which is being played for the Chief of Chiefs…. Among the troops the Mass is generally a Dialogue Mass at which all actively participate. Certain among them make the offering. The cadets which Father Doncoeur leads each summer with knapsacks across France’s roads also have the Dialogue Mass. Gathered before the altar, they respond to the liturgical prayers, {and} make the offering of the host which will be consecrated for them at the Offertory….

Many supporters of Communitarian Personalism, convinced of the innate weaknesses of the atomistic, individualist, “Established Disorder” of the liberal, bourgeois western world, were highly sympathetic to Fascist movements. Fascism clearly revealed an appreciation for vital, energetic, virile manliness, combined with self-sacrifice to the community through obedience to its charismatic leader. While flawed, Fascism was nonetheless said to be a “monstrous prefiguration” of the new humanity of truly unified and faith-filled communal persons waiting to be born. The initial German victories of the Second World War were, in consequence, in no way surprising to such sympathizers, who insisted that liberal bourgeois defeat at Fascist hands had to be looked at from a hopeful perspective. What really concerned Mounier and his followers was whether Catholicism could find a way to turn what to the superficial observer seemed to be an apocalyptic situation to the advantage of the higher, long-term good. By “witnessing” to the construction of the German-guided, European-wide New Order, it would turn that budding super society down the direction that the Holy Spirit---who, unbeknownst to the Nazis, was the force that really stood behind their successes---ultimately wanted it to go.

Marshal Philippe Pétain’s (1856-1951) so-called National Revolution, born out of the defeat of the Third Republic in June of 1940, was appreciated by the Communitarian Personalists both because of its condemnation of liberal bourgeois individualism and its freedom from what they understood to be the more grossly materialist aspects of Nazism. They hoped to make Vichy France a wartime laboratory for educational and evangelical schemes designed to reshape the world in the more vitally energetic spiritual manner that the Holy Spirit so obviously demanded.

One major example of educational experimentation combining the ideas of Communitarian Personalists and their fellow travelers discussed above together with those coming from National Socialist Ordensburgen— castle training centers for the new elite of German youth—was the École Nationale des Cadres at the Château Bayard above the village of Uriage, near Grenôble. Founded in the waning months of 1940, this institution became especially significant by June of 1941, when the Vichy regime determined to require a session at the École for all future high government functionaries.

The teachings of a vast array of contemporary Catholic luminaries destined for an influential future were marshaled under the banner of the National Revolution to play a role at Uriage. Under the day-to-day direction of Pierre Dunoyer de Segonzac (1906-1968) and the Study Bureau of Hubert Beuve-Mery (1902-1989), Mounier’s Communitarian Personalism was very much central to this labor. This was true even after political problems led to Mounier’s personal removal from the Uriage staff. For his vision continued to prosper through the similar teaching of his friend, Jean Lacroix (1900-1986), and their common master, Jacques Chevalier (1882-1962), a professor at the university in Grenôble and sometime Vichy Minister of Education.

Allied with Communitarian Personalism at Uriage was the radicalizing influence of the budding New Theology, itself also sharing many aspects of the common Mennaisien “vital energy” approach. This arrived via the Dominican houses of Saulchoir and Latour-Maubourg, the Jesuit center at Fourvières in Lyons, journals La vie intellectuelle, Sept, and Temps present, and French scouting, liturgical, and Specialized Catholic Action groups also open to Communitarian Personalist and New Theology teachings. Segonzac and Beuve-Mery had frequented such circles before the war. They happily brought to Uriage priests like Henri de Lubac (1896-1991) and Victor Dillard (1897-1945), along with the above-mentioned Abbés Jean-Augustin Maydieu (1900-1955) and Paul Donceour (1880-1961). Uriage also had links, direct and indirect, with Frs. Louis Joseph Lebret (1897-1966) and Jacques Loew (1908-1999), founders of the Catholic social movement, Economie et Humanisme, which was destined for a significant “progressive” future both in Latin America as well as in Europe after the Second World War.

Through all these sources, students were introduced directly to the writings of Lamennais, as well as those of Henri Bergson (1859-1941), Maurice Blondel (1861-1949), Charles Péguy (1873-1914), Marie-Domenique Chenu (1895-1990), Yves Congar (1904-1995), Karl Adam (1876-1966), Romano Guardini (1885-1968), Charles de Foucauld and, perhaps more importantly than anyone else, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955). Their instruction combined Communitarian Personalism together with currents of biblical, philosophical, historical, spiritual, liturgical, and ecumenical thought that, while marginal at the moment, would become immensely powerful and instrumental in guiding the Second Vatican Council and the “spirit” of the post-conciliar Church. The names of Congar, Chenu, and Lebret (who was an author of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes) are alone sufficient to make that point obvious. And this team, “ensconced in a chateau up in the mountains with a commission to completely rethink and transform the way France educated its young people”, was even then absolutely and enthusiastically convinced that it was the prophetic guide to witnessing and perfecting the vital mystiques of numerous groups and natural values backed by the vigor of the Holy Spirit.6

A stunningly broad Uriage “ecumenical” commitment to the value of all forms of vital communal mystique and energy was testified to in a myriad of ways. One could note 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”. 7 Uriage’s Charter proclaimed the truth that “believers and non-believers are, in France, sufficiently impregnated with Christianity”, so 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”.8 And Mounier, “whose belief that there was an element of truth in all strong beliefs coincided with Teilhard’s vision of the inevitable spiritualization of humanity”,9 prophesied the mysterious and convoluted growth of the “perfect personal community,” where “love alone would be the bond” and “no constraint, no vital or economic interest, no extrinsic institution” would play a role:10

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.

We have seen that intellectual rigidity was considered to be a bad thing by Communitarian Personalism, and the message taught at Uriage was definitely not a rational one at all. What counted most was the deeply felt intuition of the teachers giving prophetic witness to the future, and their strength of will in leading the young men under their control to a creative action; a creative action, once again, formed by taking seriously the Holy Spirit-backed messages of all of the varied vital mystiques contributing to the construction of the coming New Order. Any appeal to critical logic questioning the existential or moral appropriateness of aspects of successful mystiques and the natural values they represented was dismissed as dangerous, decadent, crippling, atomistic, scholastic pedantry blocking the obvious will of the Holy Spirit for the future.

Better to bury the critical temptations emerging from a sickly rationalism through the development of the obvious virtues of a vitally energetic “manliness”—virtues 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 labeled décrassage devised for students under the inspiration of General Georges Hébert (1875-1957); 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 vitality was said to have deep intellectual and spiritual meaning in and of itself on the more developed “personal” level, aspects of which were elaborated in lectures like de Lubac’s Ordre viril, ordre chrétien (Virile Order, Christian Order), and Chenu’s book, Pour être heureux, travaillons ensemble (For Happiness, Let Us Work Together).11

Finally, let us stress that Uriage’s teaching was unabashedly elitist. In fact, the particular mystique of the École was that of developing the natural value expressed through Fascism by means of the Leadership Principle. “The select youth of Uriage” were said to be “the first cell of a new world introduced into a worn-out one” 12, “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”.13 Students had to learn to lead others in witnessing to the development of the Spirit-guided future.

Since they were destined to reveal the higher supernatural significance of the natural values in the mystiques of all the vitally energetic communities to which they must give witness, Uriage students had to be trained as priestly figures. Each class was “consecrated” and given a great man’s name as a talisman. But, once again, learning to lead came through future leaders first learning to obey their own infinitely more priest-like, intuitive, prophetic teachers. Segonzac especially “took upon himself a certain sacerdotal role, even regarding the wives and children of his instructors”.14 This entailed a “separation between the leaders, the lesser leaders, the lesser-lesser leaders, the almost leaders and the not-at-all leaders”. “The central team,” as one of the interns indicated, “were gods”.15

According to the doctrine taught at Uriage, the National Revolution ultimately had to be judged upon its success in the creation of “persons” open to communal life with many varied “others” as opposed to shriveled atomistic “individuals”. Liturgy would be central to this process, and Uriage was permeated with a spirit of “pastoral concern”, through the liturgists active in its ranks. In fact, Uriage turned the entire day into a vital, energetic, and therefore liturgical experience. Bonfires were lit, backs slapped, virile poems and hymns composed, and special pageants mounted. All these were said to be inspired by the “deep feeling” coming from vital mystiques requiring the participation of the still atomistic-minded but developing Uriage persons. Failure to participate in the communal liturgies of the entire Uriage day would be a breach of Volksgemeinschaft equivalent to an individualistic sin against the Holy Spirit and the super personhood of the future. And all of this new, “natural”, participatory, creative---and expensive---liturgical life emerging “from the bottom up” as guided by priest-like leaders was elaborated at the same time as Frs. Maydieu, Doncoeur, Chenu, Congar and others were bringing into existence what would become the extremely influential “Center for Pastoral Liturgy”, designed to effect similar liturgical changes in the life of ordinary parishes.

Yes, Fascism, with its exaltation of individual abandonment to the vital energy and will of a community guided by its charismatic leader or leaders, and with its denigration of sickly, individual, rationalist criticism, was intensely appealing to Uriage. Nevertheless, Fascism’s dominant National Socialist strain was unavoidably tied to the racial vision of the Volksprinzip, and Mounier, his followers, and Personalists in general never accepted the ideology of modern racism. After all, different races could be just as energetic in the support of their beliefs and traditions as the Nazis were of Aryan supremacy. It is not surprising therefore, that important Personalists of all types courageously and openly opposed National Socialist racism from the very outset.16 And whether it was their growing horror over the intensification of Nazi racial persecution, or their increasing awareness as the war went on that the Fascists possessed less “vital energy” than their United Nations Alliance opponents, Personalists in general came to realize that any flirtation with the ever less successful Nazi regime had to be jettisoned.

Nowhere was this need to flee National Socialist racism and military failure more felt than at Uriage.17 The deportation of French youth to forced labor camps, the tightening German control of internal Vichy affairs, and the outright takeover of the Unoccupied Zone in the latter part of 1942, had already moved its leadership closer to the growing Resistance Movement: long before allied success in combat was assured. This tendency matured by December of that fateful year, when the enemies of the project at Vichy managed to have the École expelled from the Château Bayard entirely.

Uriage never did anything haphazardly. Building upon its sense of constituting a modern band of crusading knights, the exiled École leadership now created a ‘Chivalric Order” whose inner circle was bound by spiritual vows of a character that Fr. Maydieu compared to those of matrimony. Members of the Order were to sally forth to show the various communities composing the Resistance how to perfect their “mystiques” and “natural values” in the Uriage manner. Thus, high-level emissaries were dispatched to contact de Gaulle, and “flying squadrons” into the countryside to guide the Communist maquis so that both of their deficient mystiques could be “transcended spiritually” and “converge” in the construction of the better world of the Teilhardian Omega Point.

The enthusiasm with which this labor was undertaken was genuine, but especially so with respect to the Marxist component of the Resistance Movement. Most Uriage men felt a preference for the vital energy of Marxism-Leninism. Despite its anti-spiritual Enlightenment mechanist foundation, the Marxist “communal” emphasis, as reflected in the Soviet collective experiment, was much more satisfying to their own pronounced social sense than the natural value shaping the vital mystique of the other crucial community forming the United Nations Alliance: the Lockean individualism of the United States. “The Americans,” complained Beuve-Mery ----who ultimately moved from Uriage to the management of the highly influential postwar French newspaper, Le Monde--- “could prevent us from carrying out the obligatory revolution, and their materialism does not even have the tragic grandeur of the materialism of the totalitarians”.18 Round Two of the creation of super-persons through super-communities was thus to involve “witnessing” to the vital, successful energy of the Marxist Mystique as another monstrous prefiguration of a happier future coming into being with the aid of the Holy Spirit .

One sees this outlook expressed not only among members of the Uriage Chivalric Order but also in the writings and labors of priests trying to understand and witness to the Marxist mystique of the proletariat in two different contemporary settings. One of these settings was the German labor camps to which these priests had either themselves been deported or chose voluntarily to move as an apostolic service to the exiles. The other venue was that of ordinary French factories, where experiments were being conducted to address the problem of the industrial population’s manifest de-christianization, as outlined by Fr. Henri Godin (1906-1944) in his famous text: France: Pays de Mission? (1943). Under the patronage of the supra-diocesan Mission de France, set up in response to this book, “worker priests” were given systematic preparatory training for “witnessing” to that energetic French industrial “proletarian mystique” whose energy also revealed the presence of the Holy Spirit calling out for Catholic aid to perfect.19

In any case, a cleric like Fr. Dillard canonized the Soviet citizens he encountered in the camps in which he labored, insisting that all the workers slaving therein were endowed with specific virtues denied to ordinary people outside the compounds. Other priests praised the “riches in modern disbelief, in atheist Marxism, for example, which are presently lacking to the fullness of the Christian conscience”.20 They urged enlightened spirits “to share the faith in and the mystique of the Revolution and the Great Day (i.e., when all spiritually valid approaches would converge together)”.21 One cleric asked to die “turned towards Russia, mother of the proletariat, as towards that mysterious homeland where the Man of the future is being forged”.22

Personalist-Marxist-Soviet-Worker fervor inevitably increased the hunt on the part of liturgical reformers for a pastoral response to the particular mystique in question. Those committed to the factory workers said that the liturgy and the priesthood were completely out of sync with the vital energy of the proletarian world. The Mass was clearly nothing other than the precious toy of atomistic, bourgeois minds that could not understand the spiritual beauty of the entire Marxist mystique. Hence, the critique of Fr. Dillard, who dismissed the dominant “anachronistic” definition of the Catholic priestly mission as useless. He insisted that his proletariat clientele was able to sense the superior spirituality of what pathetically limited old style Catholics might be tempted to label a secularized clergy pandering to its audience. This ability was due to a je ne sais quoi emanating from that “new” clergy’s fresh sacerdotal adoption of the Marxist mystique. A more complete and effective Catholicism was thereby in the making. 23

My Latin, my liturgy, my mass, my prayer, my sacerdotal ornaments, all of that made me a being apart, a curious phenomenon, something like a (Greek) pope or a Japanese bonze, of whom there remain still some specimen, provisionally, while waiting for the race to die out.

Religion as they [the workers] knew it is a type of bigotry for pious women and chic people served by disguised characters who are servants of capitalism….If we succeed in ridding our religion of the unhealthy elements that encumber it, petty superstitions, the bourgeois “go to Mass” hypocrisy, etc. we will find easily with the Spirit of Christ the mystique which we need to reestablish our homeland.

But there were many problems blocking success in this mission of witnessing to the voice of the Holy Spirit as expressed through the Marxist Mystique. Those peoples who ultimately came under Soviet control, exercised through a party dictatorship backed by the military strength of the Red Army, did not show themselves as open to the charms of Marxist-Leninist vital communal energy as its Uriage engendered supporters had been. Moreover, Communist General Secretaries did not seem as responsive as they ought to have been to the witnessing mission of the priest-prophets sent to raise their monstrous pre-figuration of a new world to the seventh heaven. And these hopeless leaders were even less receptive when “security for the apparatchiks” became the Party’s chief goal under Leonid Brezhnev, solidifying both the advantages of a petty bureaucratic elite as well as the general cynicism regarding Marxism of the peoples under its disappointing yoke.

This difficulty aside, there was also no denying that the vital mystique and energy of the United States on behalf of its own “natural value” of individualist materialism combined with spiritual and intellectual indifferentism---once referred to as Americanism, but now marketed under the more suitably globally applicable term of Pluralism---had also been “successful” in the war against the Fascists. Using the innate and often unconsciously felt power and prestige that came from “success”, the United States had been hugely effective in reshaping the heritage of Western Europe to fit pluralist demands---and, unlike the Soviets, with voluntary support from the peoples of the Old World.

Moreover, Jacques Maritain, one of the historic pillars of the many-headed Personalist hunt for Catholic success, rejected the skepticism of men like Beuve-Mery regarding the value of diving into the American mystique. His experience in the United States led him to realize that its Pluralism was an immensely powerful revolutionary force suitable for breaking down many petrified traditions—if only Catholics witnessed to it and aided the work of the Holy Spirit within it properly. The pluralist offer of a practical, “pastoral method” for dealing with the diversity and divisions of modern life by guaranteeing freedom for all beliefs and cultures amounted to an Emancipation Proclamation for each and every natural value and vital mystique. Their Long March to convergence for the perfection of Catholic personhood could not help but be promoted through an embrace of American Pluralism.

Maritain argued that the pluralist vision, in permitting liberty even for the natural communal values represented by the Marxist mystique to thrive, could promote that necessary spiritualization of its mission under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that had been so badly botched by the Soviets. And some of the “usual suspects”, including Mounier, Chenu, Lebret, and Maritain himself, saw hopes for a fresh chance for open minds and hearts freely to witness to and perfect those aspects of the Marxist mystique that they most appreciated coming out of Latin America in the postwar era. A number of Personalists and fellow travellers with connections to Uriage grew especially excited when the Cuban Revolution unleashed by Fidel Castro (1926-2016) and Che Guevara (1928-1967) was crowned with “success” at the beginning of 1959, thereby proving the blessing of the Holy Spirit upon its own vital energy. Subsequent events in Chile confirmed their hopes for the future in this regard.

Meanwhile, step by step, making their way to the center of the world stage, were so many other vital communal mystiques representing natural values to which Catholics heeding the voice of the Holy Spirit must witness, uplift, and allow to converge with one another. These included not just the mystiques of different Faiths, whose inner meaning Outer Missionaries---now reflecting Mounier’s thought much more than that of Ricci---were claiming much better to appreciate, but those of all the cultures of the newly independent nations of Asia, Africa, and Oceania as well. Perhaps even more exciting was the recognition of the existence of communities inside the borders of old Christendom composed of people energetically promoting the needs of specific gender, sexual, and psychological mystiques. Embrace of the revolutionary message of American Pluralism could allow the thousand vital flowers of all these manifold mystiques to blossom, as well as Catholic freedom to “witness” to the natural values that the Holy Spirit wished to uplift and bring to fruition through them.24

But before the priest-prophets of the various Personalist camps could do their work of Christian witnessing to a new form of Marxism, the religions and cultures of a “Third World”, and the hitherto neglected mystiques of gender and sexual character, with or without the aid of American Pluralism, something much more obstructive had to be destroyed: Traditional Roman Catholicism itself. Mounier and Uriage had already denounced “frozen” teachings and rituals that “feared the insistence on bringing together men with different ‘mystiques’”. They had long felt “a ‘manly’ impatience with clericalism, dogma and the orthodox”.25 Before the end of the war, Fr. Dillard had reached the point of saying that his work in the vibrant forced labor factory was more important than his Mass under any form whatsoever, and, indeed, that the very machine on which he toiled itself actually had a soul of its own. 26.

Mounier is particularly instructive with respect to this ever- intensifying dismissal of the whole of the Church’s traditional teaching and practice as an obstacle to the voice of the Holy Spirit. His vision had always logically involved the possibility of shelving entire realms of Christian scripture, theology, and spirituality, should they clash with embrace of the energies of the “emerging convergence.” By the last years of the war, “there was little place for sin, redemption and resurrection in the debate; the central acts of the Christian drama were set aside”.27 Nietzsche’s critique of slavish Christianity now seemed to him to be unanswerable, and he “came to think that Roman Catholicism was an integral part of almost all he hated. Then, when he searched his soul, he discovered that the aspects of himself which he appreciated least were his ‘Catholic’ traits”.28

Not surprisingly, everything rational from the Greek tradition that had been used to support Christianity to critique and often dampen the vital will and its energy as often both wrong headed and immoral, was execrated alongside Catholicism. The Socratics, for Mounier, were indeed Seeds of a Logos that confirmed the importance of the work of the energy-taming intelligence---and, as such, had to be driven into the wilderness with a fiery sword. Philosophical thought was as dangerous an enemy as theological speculation. Both blocked that “going with the vital flow and the willful energy stimulating it” that was the unum necessarium of the New Catholicism of the Holy Spirit.

Mounier’s denunciations became increasingly vitriolic. Christianity, he wrote, was “conservative, defensive, sulky, afraid of the future.” Whether it “collapses in a struggle or sinks slowly in a coma of self-complacency,” it was doomed. Christians were castigated as “these crooked beings who go forward in life only sidelong with downcast eyes, these ungainly souls, these weighers-up of virtues, these dominical victims, these pious cowards, these lymphatic heroes, these colourless virgins, these vessels of ennui, these bags of syllogisms, these shadows of shadows…”.29 Metaphysical speculation was a characteristic of “lifeless schizoid personalities.”…He referred to intelligence and spirituality as “bodily diseases” and attributed the indecisiveness of many Christians to their ignorance of “how to jump a ditch or strike a blow.” “Modern psychiatry,” Mounier wrote, had shed light on the morbid taste for the “spiritual,” for “higher things,” for the ideal and for effusions of the soul…”. Thus, he dismissed many forms of religious devotion as the result of psychosis, self-deception or vanity. Psychiatric treatment must address the psychological illness revealed by obsession with doctrine and prayer, although vigorous exercise would help to cure some of this as well.30

How was it that the powerful influence of the American mystique over postwar Europe created the conditions under which its Pluralist vision could facilitate the projects of all the above-mentioned Personalist forces and their fellow travellers? How did they come to mold the Second Vatican Council and place people of their kind of outlook in charge of the implementation of its many non-dogmatic, pastorally-focused, dangerously ambiguous “mission statements” and decrees? It would require an entire book to demonstrate this in sufficient detail.31 At the moment I can only assert that they actually did gain such control, and that the consequence has been the victory of the “vital error” posited at the start of this article.

That vital error is the reconstruction of the Catholic Faith upon a foundation that is fundamentally Fascist in character. For this reconstructed Catholicism is built upon nothing other than the Leadership Principle and the need for obedience to the triumph of the strongest arbitrary wills rejecting all reference to anything outside of their deeply felt intuition: namely, the interpreters of the “Spirit of Vatican Two”, whose charismatic dictates lesser believers with their obstructive appeal to Faith and Reason in defiance of the obvious demands of the Holy Spirit are allowed no means of criticizing whatsoever.

Such an outcome was totally predictable, and, in fact, a number of precisely those thinkers who inspired the militants of the nineteenth-century Catholic revival who so desperately wanted “success” as quickly as possible foresaw it. Obviously, they did not use the word “Fascism” to describe the “rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem to be born” since the time of Lamennais. On the other hand, they very much saw where the logic of his arguments was going, and it was these arguments and that logic that continued to be central to the ideas of the Personalists and the pastoral stimulus offered by their Pluralist facilitators.

For all of the main features of this Catholicism-as-Fascism mystique are present in Lamennais, the subsequent contributions of radical Personalists like Mounier being little more than refinements on the original theme, with those of more moderate thinkers such as Maritain, whose Thomism caused him to see the dangers lurking therein, merely offering intellectual warnings regarding an end result that his Integral Humanism and Pluralism nevertheless make “pastorally” inevitable. All we need to do to make the Fascist end game palpable is briefly to sketch its founder, Lamennais’, own personal trajectory.

Exactly like his twentieth century heirs, Lamennais was desperate for Catholic success against the foe. This, he felt, could easily be achieved if the vital energy of the believing Catholic People, who knew, by instinct, what the Faith was all about and what needed to be done with it, were free to fight the obvious evils perpetrated by the enemies of God around them. But instead of unleashing that energy, bishops and popes collaborated with political forces that wanted to control this absolutely reliable source of the Faith. Worse still, the believing Catholic People, acquiescing in their continued chains, did not itself display the energy that it obviously innately possessed.

Hence, the need for the believing Catholic People to be awakened and put into energetic action by means of the witness that was being given to its central role by a prophetic figure who saw what the Holy Spirit demanded of it. That figure was, of course, Lamennais himself. Upon being attacked by a Papacy making reference to traditional doctrines to justify its condemnation, he began to argue that the sole source of the Faith came through the believing Catholic People, under his prophetic guidance, even if it pronounced itself against what the Papacy and Sacred Tradition had always taught and were teaching anew. Moreover, he began to claim that that Faith was evolving under the action of the Holy Spirit expressing Himself through the voice of the energetic People in general, not just that which at the moment called itself Catholic. This voice had to be heard, witnessed to, and uplifted by the prophet to create the Faith of the future, as Lamennais’ friend, Giuseppe Mazzini reminded him when, at times he seemed still too intellectual in his approach at the expense of energetic action:32

Why do you only write books? Humanity awaits something more from you...Do not deceive yourself, Lamennais, we need action. The thought of God is action; it is only by action that it is incarnated in us...So long as you will be alone, you will only be a philosopher and a moralist in the eyes of the masses; it is as a priest that you must appear before it, a priest of the future, of the epoch which is beginning, of that new religious manifestation of which you have a presentiment, and which must inevitably end in that new heaven and new earth which Luther glimpsed three centuries ago without being able to attain it, since the time had not yet come ...

It is this same principle that the Personalists and their Pluralist facilitators adopted and expanded upon by dividing The People up into many mystique-driven communities all of which they, in their non-rational, Tradition hating wisdom, charismatically understood how to allow to converge to obtain the victory of the Holy Spirit. All theological and philosophical tools for distinguishing between a good and bad manifestation of the communal energy promoting a specific “natural value”, and how to put it into practice were now verboten. No existing theology, no philosophy, and no contact with the vital, active historical Christ outside of and above the energy and will of the People as interpreted by the charismatic prophet guiding it to the Omega Point was permitted.

The “success” that was to be won for the Catholic Faith is thus won for a Catholic Faith that defines itself solely through abandonment to passionate energies and arbitrary wills. Someone among our own dominant Priest-Prophet Leaders who is actually sincere in giving way to the vital mystiques he encounters, thereby finds himself to be incapable of rejecting any energetic fraud; “barren in the face of a Ramakrishna”, as Jacques Maritain---whose love of Pluralism nevertheless precisely encourages, in practice, this surrender---quite justly lamented.33 But we have now reached the stage were it is difficult to believe that the hunt for “success” through the nurturing of “vital mystiques” and the natural values they energetically promote is in the hands of Church leaders who are anything other than hypocrites and Judas priests who know fully well that they are blatantly betraying Christ.

1 For the entire following argument on the missions, Russian Orthodoxy, and Personalism, see Mayeur, J.M., ed., Histoire du Christianisme (Desclée, Thirteen Volumes, 1990-2002), XII, 87-158, 259-345,451-522, 617-694, 769-779, 813-819; Jedin, H., and Dolan, J. History of the Church (Crossroad, Ten Volumes, 1981), X, 229-409, 458-488, 583-600; J. Hellman, Emmanuel Mounier and the New Catholic Left: 1930-1950 (U. of Toronto, 1981); The Knight-Monks of Vichy France: Uriage, 1940-1945 (McGill, 1997); Cholvy, G., Jeunesses chrétiennes au xxe siècle (Ouvrières, 1991, III, 19-66; Meinvieille, J., De Lamennais à Maritain (La Cité Catholique, 1949); pp. 89-262, 281-300, 134-142; Zernov, N., The Russians and Their Church (St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1978), pp. 134-187; Ware, T.K., The Orthodox Church (Pellican, 1993).

2 For this argument, see Blum, C., Rousseau and the Republic of Virtue (Cornell, 1986); Billington, J.H., Fire in the Minds of Men (Basic Books, 1980), pp. 125-364; Mayeur, X, 427-477, 628-906; Jedin and Dolan, VII, 261-292; Meinvieille, Op. cit.; Cranston, M., The Romantic Movement (Blackwells, 1994). pp. 94-97. Also, J. Rao, “Lamennais, Rousseau, and the New Catholic Order” (http://www.seattlecatholic.com/article_20050201.html; http://jcrao.freeshell.org/.

3 See footnote 1, particularly with respect to the two works by Hellman.

4 Hellmann, Knight Monks, p. 178.

5 J. Duquesne and Abbé Aigrain, quoted in Didier Bonneterre, Le mouvment liturgique (Fideliter), pp. 38, 39.

6 Hellman, Knight Monks, p. 56. Courrier de Rome, La ‘Nouvelle Théologie’ (Courrier de Rome, 1994); Mayeur, XII, 168-186, 451-522; Jedin and Dolan, X, 229-336; Cointet, M., L’Église sous Vichy (Perrin,1998), pp. 140-161; Cholvy, III, 19-66, 107-166; Also, 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 Latin Postconciliar Consequences”, Latin Mass Magazine (Fall, 2001), http://www.latinmassmagazine.com/articles/articles_2001_FA_Rao.html.

7 Hellman, Knight Monks, p. 83.

8 Ibid., p. 59.

9 Ibid., p. 128.

10 Hellman, Mounier, pp. 85, 90.

11 Hellman, Knight Monks, pp. 4-52, 68-92, 139-162.

12 Ibid., p. 65.

13 Ibid., p. 63.

14 Ibid,, p. 90.

15 Ibid., p. 75.

16 Chelini, J., L’église sous Pie XII (Fayard, Two Volumes, 1983, 1989), pp. 213-311; Poulat, E., Les prêtres-ouvriers: Naissance et fin (Cerf, 1999), pp. 179-375; Cholvy, III, pp. 67-125.

17 Hellman, Knight-Monks, pp. 182-254.

18 Hellman, The Knight Monks, p. 213.

19 See Poulat, Les prêtres-ouvrières, passim.

20 Ibid., p. 408.

21 Ibid., p. 386.

22 Ibid., p. 244.

23 Ibid., 329, 333.

24 For the union of the Soviet and American “magisterium” see Meinvielle, pp. 216-39, 257, 260, 291; On the atmosphere in the Catholic world down to the opening of the Council, see Chiron, Y., Paul VI: Le pape écartelé (Perrin, 1993), pp. 77-168; Scaglia, G.B., La stagione montiniana: Figure e momenti (Studium, 1993); Cholvy, III, 127-255; Jemolo, A.C., Chiesa e stato in Italia dalla unificazione agli anni settanta (Einaudi, 1970), pp. 283-310. On Latin America, see Mayeur, XII, 941-1022; XIII, 509-577; Jedin and Dolan, X, 672-750; Letamendia, P., Eduardo Frei (Beauchesne, 1989), pp. 13-182.

25 Hellman, The Knight Monks, p. 88; also Meinvielle, pp. 224, 262.

26 Poulat, p. 327

27 Hellman, Mounier, p. 255.

28 Ibid., p. 190.

29 Ibid,, p. 191.

30 Ibid., pp. 192-193.

31 See Rao, J., “He Who Loses the Past, Loses the Present: Putting Dignitatis Humanae in its Full Historical Context”, in Dignitatis Humanae Colloquium (Dialogos Institute).

32 Mayeur, X, p. 893.

33 Hellman, Mounier, p. 42

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