The Tallinn Lectures--III. Vitalism & Americanist Pluralism
Smiling as Christian Europe Dies
A. Vitalism, Voluntarism & the Emasculation of the Catholic Movement
Despite the vigor of the movement of Catholic revival, many if not most believers continued to display their susceptibility to naturalist temptations. Some gave in to these temptations on the intellectual level, thus openly and willingly joining the naturalist camp. But even when Catholics did not necessarily accept naturalist theory, they often acted in daily life as though they had done so, becoming practical naturalists.
In one way or another, therefore, Catholics could be found supporting all of the various forms of naturalist thought and practice discussed in the previous lecture. These ranged from a mechanism that valued uniformity over diversity to an atomism that worshiped individual freedom, whatever the negative consequences this liberty might have for the survival of objective law and morality.
All Catholic naturalists, conscious and unconscious, shared in the basic voluntarism underlying one "natural" choice as opposed to another; a voluntarism which called itself rational, while possessing all of the characteristics of a Faith; an unexamined Faith; a Fideism. Like their secularist counterparts, they allowed no room for their Faith-disguised-as-Reason to enter into the kind of rational dialogue regarding its validity nurtured by the Catholic Tradition. Instead, they, too, appealed to "success" as a criterion for judging the ultimate truth of their willful option.
I should like to begin this last of my talks by discussing a more complex phenomenon: the transformation of a significant group of Catholics active in the Incarnation-centered revival movement into vitalist-voluntarist proponents of the acceptance of nature "as it is". Once this melancholy development has been outlined, I will add to it a treatment of the worldwide, postwar impact of Americanist Pluralism. At that point, we will finally be able to grasp the fullness of the problem we face today if we seek to defend a broad European identity respectful of the integrity of each of its constituent national parts.
The great early leader of fervent Catholic activists making the changeover to the vitalist-voluntarist camp was the Abbé Felicité de Lamennais (1782-1854). His significance in this regard, from the 1820's onwards, cannot be exaggerated. Lamennais was the priest-apologist who became the great conduit for transmitting the message of Rousseau to the Catholic world in the early 1800's. Filled with love for The People as the vibrant, energetic Voice of God, Lamennais at first thought that the legitimate monarchy was the political vehicle for translating its sacred wishes into reality. When the monarchy failed him, he turned to the Pope as the God-People's political and social agent. With papal rejection of the notion of the People as the source of Truth, Lamennais then looked to a purely secular democratic system as the infallible translator of God's will into practice. But since even the supposedly vital People did not seem to possess much enthusiasm for the sacred task he had identified for them, Lamennais realized that it fell to him, as Prophet, to take up this task. He saw that he had been called by God to raise the People's slumbering spiritual consciousness and reveal the new and higher stage of political democratic development to which the history of Catholicism was inevitably leading it.
The Prophet's "official" influence in the Catholic world ended with his excommunication in the 1830's. Nevertheless, his initial followers, both orthodox and heterodox, were to be found everywhere within it, some retaining merely his prophetic fervor, others his precise prophetic vision in more subtle "liberal" Catholic form. His impact on the secular world continued unabated. In union with many of the other religious syncretists, nationalists and utopian reformers of the first half of the nineteenth century, he spent the rest of his life preaching the final realization of the Catholic spirit through its rebirth in a secularist, democratic, anti-Catholic form. (See John Rao, "Lamennais, Rousseau, and the New Catholic Order", Seattle Catholic, February 1, 2005; Frank Paul Bowman, Le Christ des barricades, Cerf, 1987; J. Meinvieille, De Lamennais a Maritain, La Cité Catholique, 1949)
I am most interested at this time, however, in the work of a group of figures from the 1890's through the 1930's who, at first glance, would not seem to have been at all influenced by Lamennais' approach. These were the activists involved in the Outer and Inner Missions---missionaries in Asia and Africa on the one hand, and Catholic political, labor and youth movement leaders on the other---discussed in my previous lecture. All such activists were honest militants who shared the sense of urgency central to the movement of Catholic revival. All, in consequence, were men and women who were desperate for success.
Unfortunately, the Outer Missionaries were worn down by their many failures, amazed at the resistance of native religions and cultures to the Catholic message, and disturbed by signs of their revitalization even in places where they had long seemed nearly extinct. Inner Missionaries were still more demoralized. They were shocked by their pre-1914 political failures, their frontline service during the First World War, and the terrible social disruptions accompanying that conflict's end and aftermath. All three experiences had demonstrated to them the weakness of their distinctly Catholic impact upon the average voter and soldier. Most of these apparently "typical" Europeans had proved to be totally indifferent to the Faith, and yet capable of being roused to enthusiastic action by energetic lieutenants in the trenches and political radicals at home. Such military and civilian leaders, as well as the communities that they shaped, seemed to possess an extraordinary vitality. Where did it come from? Why did Catholic Outer and Inner Missionaries lack the strength that a wide variety of non-Catholic militants possessed?
A translation of the concerns of Catholic activists into theoretical arguments was undertaken in the 1920's and 1930's by a kaleidoscope of thinkers calling themselves Personalists. Personalists ultimately went down numerous, divergent directions. Nevertheless, the mainline, in the interwar period, either consciously or unconsciously adopted positions going back to Lamennais and, through Lamennais, to Rousseau, to Kant, and to the Pietist Tradition.
Catholic activists, the Personalists lamented, despite their claims to be community-minded, actually thought and spoke much more like the eighteenth century individualist rationalists they were said to oppose. In practice, all of their arguments were designed to appeal to isolated human atoms, and this on a one-dimensional, purely intellectual, boring scholastic level. Hence the conviction on the part of the flesh and blood men and women to whom they addressed themselves that in dealing with Catholics they were dealing with teachers who were dead to the fullness of existence; cerebral academics; professional note-takers; disembodied "losers".
The Holy Spirit, the Personalists continued, could never be an advocate of such lifeless creatures and the Gospel as they preached it. He manifested Himself in history through those vital, energetic, leaders and communities whose successes impressed the "dead" Catholic activists themselves. This was due to the fact that God wanted human beings to perfect their personalities, and they could only accomplish this perfection, becoming full "persons" rather than desiccated "individuals", through participation in precisely such energetically led circles.
Should Catholics really wish to have an impact in life, what they had to do was to "dive into" the already vital, successful, "person-shaping" communities which they hoped to influence. Their work would then be one of "witnessing"; i.e., using their Catholic presence to help these vibrant, Spirit-favored societies to complete and perfect their unique "mystiques".
In order to "witness" properly, believers had to shed whatever stood in the way of their enthusiastic cooperation with the mystiques in question: namely, their substantive Catholic formation, with all of its presuppositions about how to express what was True, Good and Beautiful. Yes, these vital communities might seem, at first glance, to be in many ways hostile to one another in belief and behavior. Nevertheless, their success proved that they all had the Holy Spirit behind them. Therefore, one could have absolute faith that their contemporary, outwardly clashing mystiques would somehow providentially "converge" in the future. Hence, these comments of Emmanuel Mounier, one of the most important of the thinkers in question:
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. (John Hellman, Emmanuel Mounier and the New Catholic Left: 1930-1950, Toronto, 1981, p. 90).Such personalist arguments found a serious hearing in Catholic educational, political, youth, and labor movements in the 1920's, 1930's and afterwards. Their acceptance did not affect merely these circles' vision of their ultimate purpose and modus operandi. It also worked to justify a sea change in that Catholic liturgical movement which had formed part of the revival of the previous century. Many of the leaders of the liturgical renaissance now began to claim that their principle task was that of learning how to respond to the Spirit manifesting Himself in the different mystiques of vital communities. For a true "witnessing" would require developing a form of divine worship peculiar to the spiritual genius of each of these providential entities.
From the standpoint of the older theorists of the nineteenth century Catholic revival, hunting for a "success" that could only be gained by "witnessing" to a Holy Spirit who was willfully said by His prophetic interpreters to endorse everything "vital" and energetic in contemporary communities was a recipe for total disaster. Abandoning all that one knew from the Catholic, incarnational vision in order to open the mind and heart to vital "mystiques" meant nothing other than consciously diving into "slumbering" nature. It entailed limiting God's message and activity in the world to the voice of nature "as it is", and not admitting His supernatural role as corrector and transformer of nature's flaws. The believer would be left with no means of judging whether the particular manifestations of nature confronting him were true or false, good or bad, beautiful or ugly ones.
In the final analysis, such "witnessing" involved giving oneself over to and blessing a modern "natural" world ruled by people with an agenda: the agenda of power-hungry ideologues, libertines, and criminals whose rhetoricians used Isocrates' "appropriate words" to justify erroneous and evil actions and cut off real, substantive criticism of them as though it were some pointless waste of time. Such "witnessing" amounted to a baptism of the false and ever more vulgar perceptions of the strongest and most arrogant "activists" of the place and the moment. Should the liturgy be dragged into this enterprise, it would mandate a tailoring of worship to however many self-deluded or cynical voices of Reason, Freedom, Progress and the People might succeed in imposing their corrupt wishes on the communities which they manipulated. It would require a constant retailoring of divine worship to respond to the changing and progressively degenerating demands of the strongest wills. It would demand a self-censorship and silence whenever the true Catholic spirit broke through and suggested that God was being mocked and men in need of supernatural redemption were being cheated.
A study of those involved in the Personalist campaign yields a Who's Who of the liturgical and postwar European unification movements. It also serves as an introduction to many of the liberal and radical periti at Vatican II and related, postconciliar "experts". Investigation of the vital, successful communities to whose mystiques such people thought they must give witness is also quite revealing. One discovers an early sympathy for Fascism and its cult of vital action and successful application of strength. This was accompanied by liturgical experimentation with much respect for the Leadership Principle and expressions of paramilitary camaraderie. A major and very instructive example of such Fascist-like fervor can be seen in the program and life style fostered at the elite training center established at the castle of Uriage near Grenoble, with the aid of the Vichy government in France.
Studies of the development of Personalist influence also make it clear that this was matched by an ever growing contempt for the entire theological, philosophical, liturgical, and general cultural tradition of Catholicism. How could this not be so? We have by now repeatedly noted that that tradition encouraged too strong of a critique of diving into a contemporary world marred by naturalism not to be viewed as a most dangerous pest indeed. So angry with this "cranky" tradition was Emmanuel Mounier that he even argued that the only man who had come close to understanding how flawed it really was, and how Catholicism must be regenerated, was the Nihilist prophet, Friedrich Nietzsche:
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' (Ibid., p. 190). Doing what one willed was the unum necessarium. Everything rational from the Greek tradition used to support Christianity and dampen the will was execrated as well. If there was anything valuable in the Greco-Christian heritage it had to come from personalists rebuilding it from scratch; those appealing to the Catholic name and Catholic practice in his day required diagnosis and psychiatric help. Mounier now flatly denounced old-fashioned Christianity and Christians. 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', he castigated in even stronger terms in a rhapsodic style worthy of his new master (Nietzsche): '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... (Ibid., p. 191).But the dominant National Socialist strain of Fascism was unavoidably and unacceptably tied to the Volksprinzip, and Personalists, despite their other temptations, never succumbed to that of modern Racism. Even more significantly, Fascism had not proved to be vital enough to win the Second World War, losing whatever credibility as an engine of success that it had once possessed. The prize in that conflict had been carried off by the Soviet Union and the United States. One might legitimately conclude that Marxist-Leninist and Americanist Pluralist communities were those possessing the greatest vigor, successful energy, and stamp of approval of the Holy Spirit. These communities had their own Word Merchants working day and night to encourage such an attitude; to find the "appropriate words" to equate everything non-Marxist-Leninist or non-Pluralist with Fascism, and therefore with evil incarnate. Catholic doctrines and achievements of the European Catholic past were generally non-Marxist and non-Pluralist. It was therefore only a matter of time before they were both identified with the Fascist disease.
Metaphysical speculation, Mounier declared, was a characteristic of 'lifeless schizoid personalities.'...Mounier even 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, many forms of religious devotion were the result of psychosis, self-deception or vanity. Prayer was often a sign of psychological illness and weakness (Ibid., pp. 192-193 all of the above from John Rao, "The Bad Seed", Latin Mass Magazine).
Both conviction and prudence told the Personalists that a swift change of allegiance was definitely in order. The preference of most of them was for the vitalist Marxist-Leninist victor, due to the more obvious communal and collectivist character of the Soviet system. A number of men active in the Catholic Personalist movements mentioned above had learned to respect the "energy" of Marxism-Leninism due to their experiences with Soviet citizens and European Communists in labor camps in Germany. Those who had not "enjoyed" this opportunity, schooled themselves in the same experience through participation in the worker priest experiment of the late 1940's and 1950's. Liturgists from both groups then sought to tailor worship to the needs expressed in such Spirit-guided communist milieu. Just how accurate their perceptions were regarding their atmosphere is, of course, highly debatable, given the willful voluntarism that constantly fuels their thought and action.
Liberation Theology is instructive in this regard. A number of extremely important Personalists were at the center of its birth and development; hence, their call to dive into vital Marxist-Leninist communities the world over in order to witness and perfect their mystiques. Liberation Theologians, like their immediate Personalist precursors, insisted that responding to the clear message of these Marxist communities required the dismantling of every obstacle that a deadening, individualistic, Catholic rationalist tradition might place in their way. But the Catholic peoples of Latin America who were supposed to be the generating force behind the vital needs expressed through such vibrant communities seemed stubbornly attached to beliefs and practices which they ought to have been in the forefront of rejecting. Such stubbornness indicated the need for a little consciousness-raising of the kind which Lamennais had been the first important Catholic to prescribe. Consciousness-raising was to be accomplished by hearkening to the "appropriate words" of the Liberation Theologian who explained to the People that which, in its heart of hearts, it really loved and wanted. Such work could be done in "base communities". Here, an unacceptable Catholic vitalism might be replaced by the acceptable, unquestionable vitalism willed by the prophets of Marxism-Leninism but disguised as the Diktat of the Holy Spirit. (For all the above, see John Hellman, Op. Cit., plus his The Knight Monks of Vichy: Uriage, 1940-1945, McGill, 1997; J. Meinvieille, Op. Cit.; Emile Poulat, Les pretres-ouvrieres: Naissance et fin, Cerf, 1999; also, John Rao, "All Borrowed Armor Chokes Us", Seattle Catholic, July 9, 2005; "The Good War and the Rite War", Latin Mass Magazine, Spring, 2001; "The Bad Seed", Ibid., Fall 2001)
B. Americanist Pluralism
Even those entranced by Marxism-Leninism had to admit that the impact of America's vital energy was evident everywhere in the postwar world. A number of Catholic personalists therefore argued for the need to "dive into" and help perfect the American community and those shaped by it. But what, exactly, were the underlying principles and standard operating procedure of that community? And what would a Catholic "witness" to its peculiar "mystique" really mean in practice?
Americans like to speak of their nation as a "young" one, and contrast it favorably with the decadent countries of the Old World. But the American nation is as much a product as a European land of all of the ancient battles and modern naturalist developments that we have been discussing since the beginning of this week. America's Founding Fathers worked in an environment deeply affected by the loss of Christian Faith and its transformation into a secularist tool. The system that they created also very much reflects the concerns of the final, Enlightenment stage of modern naturalism: including all of its doubts regarding both speculative and empirical Reason, and, hence, all of its temptations to rebuild order on foundations that one "makes believe" are objectively true.
The Founding Fathers and their successors built their "make believe" objective order first and foremost upon America's British heritage. This was quite a schizophrenic legacy by the late eighteenth century. It certainly included Christianity, chiefly in the form of Anglicanism and Puritan Protestantism. But it also involved the Enlightenment, primarily in the manner that former Anglicans and Puritans who had lost their Faith presented it. These converts to the naturalist camp often used the Christian-inspired language with which they were familiar to promote their new, anti-Christian goals. Whether they intended this or not, such speech soothed those who remained believers and blinded them as to where, exactly, their familiar-sounding doctrines might actually lead in the future.
Even the Founders were aware that there was a troublesome reality that their novus ordo saeclorum was obliged immediately to confront. This was the presence in the United States of a kaleidoscope of different ethnic groups and religious convictions. That presence grew still more complex and troublesome with the mass migrations of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The fullness of the make believe order of the American Pluralist system emerged out of attempts to harmonize the reality of a multicultural society with the basic conservatism of the Anglican via media, the radicalism of Puritanism, and the naturalism of an Enlightenment of both Anglican and Puritan flavor. Its theory and "mystique" were firmly in place by the late 1890's. What they claimed was that America had discovered the formula for providing a peaceful, ordered community out of a society guaranteeing freedom to all of God (or Nature's) divided children. America thus offered mankind throughout the globe its "last and best hope" for a liberty, tranquility, and happiness greater than any ever known in human history.
Unfortunately, "diving into" the Americanist Pluralist mystique helps merely to bring to fruition another version of vulgar, materialist, and uniform disorder, whipped into some semblance of make believe unity through the will of the strongest. It aids in the perfection of that type of bland, organized willfulness predicted by nineteenth century Catholic thinkers, but in a more successful and seductive way than they could ever have imagined. Those who are interested in a deeper, more detailed discussion of Americanist Pluralism and its (temporarily) successful employment of Original Sin as the central building block of individual and social life should consult my Americanism and the Collapse of the Church in the United States, Why Catholics Cannot Defend Themselves, Founding Fathers and Church Fathers, To Promote Dialogue, Fight American Pluralism, and many other articles, all to be found on the For the Whole Christ website (jcrao.freeshell.org). All I propose to do in the present brief talk is to outline the main lines of the perversion and the confusion that this system perpetrates.
Let it suffice to say for now that the "freedom" and the "order" that one obtains through it are a purely naturalist freedom and order based upon the peculiar and often contradictory Christian and Enlightenment factors forming American culture. Its naturalism is bewildering to the believer because, as noted above, so many Americans used---and still use---Christian language to describe, praise and promote a set of anti-Christian purposes. It is baffling also because it has to cater to both radical and conservative naturalist tastes at one and the same time.
Hence, the American is told that he has the radical freedom that a secularized Puritans might wish him to have, a freedom that "sounds Christian" because it can easily be related to its fundamental Protestant roots. But in order to practice this freedom in a way that does not disturb the order preferred by Enlightenment conservatives, he learns that liberty actually has to be utilized in a way that avoids "divisiveness"; in a fashion that "integrates" its practitioner into an order composed of endless varieties of "non-divisive, integrating individualists".
Americans learn that the "freedom" of communities, such as the Catholic Church, is subject to the influence of Puritan and secularized Puritan ideas regarding liberty. Freedom, under these circumstances, means only the freedom given for individual members of a religious society to rip their communal authority to shreds. All attempts to hold onto communal authority could be nothing other than assaults on freedom detested by the anti-institutional God of Protestantism and the anti-institutional Nature of the liberty-loving Enlightenment. Freedom for religious communities---for all communities, as far as more radical thinkers are concerned---amounts to nothing other than the freedom to be impotent and to self-destruct. James Madison, the chief author of the American Constitution, quite openly rejoices in this truth, arguing for the need to "multiply factions" within existing, strong communities so as to paralyze their ability to mobilize their followers and actually shape the American political and social order.
Individuals and communities are ultimately given a two-fold teaching regarding the relationship of freedom and order. On the one hand, they are pressed to divide serious free thought from serious free action. On the other, they are encouraged to build whatever unity can exist upon a positive materialist use of their freedom. In the final analysis, the freedom granted to men and communities under the Americanist Pluralist "mystique" is merely the freedom to be materialists in a myriad of fashions. To take but one example, freedom for a Chinese must never be understood as allowing him to harmonize the American system with Confucianist principles. It does mean, however, that he can open as many restaurants as he might see fit, thereby contributing to the rich diversity of American life.
But this cheap form of freedom offers no more substantial block to sinful misuse than reliance on "common sense" prevents adherence to unnatural errors. It has within it an innate tendency to degenerate, and, with that degeneration, to ensure construction of an "order" based upon the dictates of the strongest practitioners of materialist freedom; libertines and criminals. Such criminals maintain their alliance with the Americanist Pluralist ideologue and the Word Merchant in order to justify and ennoble their oppression of the weak. All, together, guarantee that the system gradually "spirals downward", ending in that boring, corrupted sameness identified by Louis Veuillot as a chief characteristic of the "Empire of the World".
None of these essential problems of the American Pluralist mystique can even begin to be discussed. That mystique prohibits all criticism of its theory and its practice. If, for example, a person wishes to employ all of the various tools western man has developed over the course of the ages for discussing the validity of its definition of the meaning of individual and social life, all of these tools, one by one, including theology, philosophy, history, psychology and sociology, will be dismissed as both impractical and intrinsically dangerous. A desire to use them will be said to illustrate nothing other than a lack of "obvious common sense" on the part of the foolish, impractical, "loser" critic. Do such tools help one to make money or keep the peace? On the contrary, all they do is bring up disruptive fantasies encouraging divisiveness and disturbing profits.
If, on the other hand, one seeks to demonstrate the long-term practical dangers of the Americanist Pluralist mystique, and especially its degeneration into a reign of "might makes right" disguised as the victory of freedom, its totally unquestionable "godliness" will be called up to smother the dialogue. The critic will be accused of lacking Faith in its divine nature and mandate...as revealed, let us remember, through the all too arbitrary Will of the Founding Fathers. Here he is condemned for his cynical rejection of the "last and best hope" for individual freedom and social peace, and his consequent lack of charity for suffering humanity.
Should the critic then return to theory, and identify the Americanist Pluralist Faith as a voluntarist, irrational fideism masquerading a purely materialist conception of life, he will be brutally brought back down to the practical level once again. Now, with complete disregard for the change in tactic, he will be assaulted for his childish naiveté; his hopeless idealism in the midst of a jungle universe guided by the War of All Against All. Surely only a "loser" envious of the success of his betters would think that life was susceptible to guidance by his utopian spiritual babble!
But what if our critic persists in his position and emphasizes the fact that he has been the subject of an irrational attack, accused simultaneously of being both a faithless cynic and impractically (but enviously) naïve? Why, then, he will become the kind of "public nuisance" promoting unpleasant, logical consequences of first principles that David Hume deplored and Ralph Waldo Emerson considered to be the infallible sign of a "petty mind". The Word Merchants will be called onto center stage to find as many "appropriate words" as possible to brutalize this Enemy of the People. Truth will not matter in their campaign against him. He will be dismissed as an obvious lunatic. Moreover, since Americanist Pluralism fought the good fight against the Fascists, he will also be denounced as a Nazi; an anti-Semite; a defender of genocide. Terrorism being the system's current manifestation of evil, the critic will also be painted as a probable Al Quaeda, "Islamo-Fascist" supporter. Why this deranged, extremist Loser is the kind of man who most likely wishes that Estonia were still within the Soviet Bloc as well!
Few have the stamina to reach this final stage of unsuccessful dialogue. The schizophrenia brought on by Americanist Pluralist refusal to allow serious thought to be transmitted into action will have deconstructed most potential critics' spirit from the very outset. Others will have been daunted by the number of tools that have to be marshaled to uncover the system's fraud and its bewildering modus operandi. Should a hardy few possess the will to fight the good fight still longer, they, too, shall eventually be forced to abandon the struggle due to the materialist environment created by the system in question. That environment demands work and ever more work in order merely to survive. Even the strongest opponent, over time, will be simply too exhausted to indulge the luxury of criticizing the system in the few hours of repose left to him by it each day. Hence, mankind's "last, best hope" retains its undeserved image, its victims never learn of its poisons, and it can continue to wreak its all too predictable havoc again and again and again, in country after hapless country.
Equivocal use of Christian language on behalf of a happy vision of order and freedom, accompanied by the appeal of potential success in the New World seduced many Roman Catholic immigrants into the camp of Americanist Pluralism in the years between 1890 and the present. Accepting its precepts seemed to be a "no lose" proposition. The appearance of openness, prosperity, and tranquility similarly entranced the exhausted and demoralized Europeans of the 1940's, with those resisting the Americanist Pluralist embrace easily anathematized as unregenerate Fascist remnants.
But what happens both to Catholics and to non-Catholic Europeans still at least partly historically shaped by Catholicism once they "dive into" this mystique, "witness" to it, and then "bring it to perfection"? Neither has any hope of survival as a distinct force or culture. They are both obliged to destroy whatever distinguishes themselves as Catholics and Europeans in order to practice a "non-divisive, integrating, materialist freedom", and then to repeat, as a dogma, the belief that they have never experienced such great liberty and so exalted a sense of human dignity. They are both obliged to dismantle what is most essential to their character, especially what has been corrected and transformed through the message of the Incarnation, in order to "fit in" to a jungle society which they must praise repeatedly as the most beautifully ordered in history. They are condemned to see their children treat this dismantling and emasculation as the obvious fulfillment of the real Catholic and the real European potential. They are condemned to hear their offspring repeat Black Legends which denigrate truly Catholic and European heroes as villains, and adulate anti-Catholics and opponents of past, substantive European culture as brave champions of the March of Progress. And they obliged to accept the fact that the focus of this dismantling and emasculation of true human achievement will change along with whoever is the strongest ideologue, libertine and criminal of the moment and whatever it is that he wishes. Today, that focus is on making certain that Catholics and Europeans be morally outraged only over whatever does not build bigger and more globally-oriented business enterprises. It is also focused on mocking "outmoded" concerns over just and unjust international conflicts, or humane treatment of prisoners of war.
"Diving into" the mystique of Marxism was a terrible thing. Nevertheless, that mystique was so patently fraudulent that it possessed a built-in destructive element. If one compares it to a drink, it offered a beverage which contained a poison one could taste and therefore wish to reject before it reached the point of destroying absolutely everyone who touched it. "Diving into" the Americanist Pluralist mystique is not quite the same phenomenon. It is like taking a poisoned cocktail that does still have something of a familiar, pleasant taste to it and seems, for a while, to provide what it promises: tranquility and satisfaction of personal desire. One does not realize, until the very moment that he reaches the bottom of the glass, that there is nothing really there, and that the poison has done its job. The individual members of all of the desiccated, "free", meaningless communities who drink the Americanist Pluralist poison---the members of the Catholic Pluralist "Club", the European Pluralist "Club", and the Estonian Pluralist "Club"---smile and toast their murderer as they die.
How, then, do we end this week's discussion? What can we say that we must do to go in search of Europe's identity? This is a simple question with a simple answer. We must go in search of that identity by going in search of Christ and the meaning of Christ's Incarnation. With our eyes fixed on Christ we gain both Faith and Reason along with all of the complex and eminently useful tools they provide for us for learning the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Through the application of these tools we gain a diversity that comes from unity in the Creator God; a solid unity; not a make believe unity emerging from a twisted vision of freedom and order.
The choice in front of us is exactly the same which the editors of La Civiltà Cattolica posited in the middle of the nineteenth century: either Christ as King, with both order and the diversity of true freedom, or Man and Nature as King with a make believe order, with the tyranny of the strong, and with the destruction of that magnificent bouquet of different cultures which Europe once seemed willing to offer to her God. My friends in England who thought that they were "anti-European" turned out merely to be voting for the first of these options.
Our hopes of making Christ the King seem very limited today. Still, success is not our primary concern as active individuals. Our primary concern is to know, to love, and to serve God. Let us therefore concentrate on these first things and leave His Providence to grant our labors their just rewards. Certain factors are working to our benefit as we undertake this mission. The self-deluded ideologues, criminals, and ordinary, confused members of the Coalition on Behalf of the Unexamined Life remain divided. They do, at times, battle with one another and thus bring harm to their common naturalist cause. Moreover, even if the majority of men throughout the globe were to persist in mocking God, God cannot unceasingly be mocked. The nature which He created, even though fallen and marred in its beauty, still tells of His glory. It will always offer starting points for thoughtful men and women to develop "Seeds of the Logos" leading individuals and societies back to reality. Nature will strike against its false naturalist friends and a deceived mankind which tries to push it too far, demanding from it what it cannot give. And it will do so with the aid of the Almighty Himself.
Try as modern man might, Cardinal Louis Pie (1815-1880), Bishop of Poitiers, argued at Lourdes in 1876, he can never escape the fact that he lives in a world created and redeemed at the behest of a supernatural will. "The supernatural is finished", he quotes nineteenth century man as gloating. "Well, look here, then! The supernatural pours out, overflows, sweats from the sand and from the rock, spurts out from the source, and rolls along on the long folds of the living waves of a river of prayers, of chants and of light." (Mayeur, Op. Cit., XI, p. 350).
September 28, 2007
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