But we should be saddened whenever we encounter a high civilization which so learns to adore its debased conquerors that it silences the songs of the glories of its own princes, warriors and poets and gradually no longer even recognizes its former accomplishments or their value. Scandalously, Catholic civilization throughout the western world and the Catholic peoples who ought daily to have fallen on their knees to thank God for its blessings, generally fit into the second, truly pathetic category of the conquered. This is as true of the United States as of Europe.
Many American Catholics, clerics and lay alike, fall on their knees to commit religious and cultural suicide, reciting the fideistic slogan of an ever more barbaric naturalism, begging instruction in the customs and religion of a dogmatic pluralism, and burning incense before a host of “heroes”, from Puritans to Jeffersons, who are non-Catholics at best and vehement enemies of God and man in their vast majority.
The results are obvious to anyone who has eyes to see. In the rush to please our conquerors, we have forgotten our own Catholic traditions and its heroes to such a degree that we often do not even recognize them as the real thing when we encounter them once more. Indeed, we have so absorbed the ethos of our masters that we do not realize that when we do give battle, we often use the enemy’s definition of words, fight on his terms, become self-contradictory in consequence, and end in yet another defeat.
Victory can only be won when we throw off this oppressive yoke, relearn pure Catholic wisdom in its fullness, and hence resort to the kinds of arguments and strategies that gave us demonstrable success in the past.
Victory can only be won when we cease adulating each and every miniscule remnant of a Catholic spark in the essentially anti-Catholic heroes of America’s Puritan and secularist past, and become thrilled once more by those from whom love of Christ and His Church gushed unceasingly. It will only be when we sing the praises of princes and warriors and poets who let Christ be Christ, the King of the Universe, and not the glories of a Liberal Pluralism which prohibits Him from reigning over a merely human constitution, that people will say: “Their Lord speaks as one having authority”.
One such truly Catholic hero was Giovanni Mastai-Ferretti (1792-1878), Pope Pius IX (1846-1878). I would argue that he is the prime example of the kind of Catholic hero that victorious Liberal Pluralism commands us to abandon, that conquered American Catholics have rejected in shame or forgotten, and for whom those of us who do not want Catholicism to be the parlor sport that our masters desire, must develop an understanding, love, and passion to emulate.
But who exactly was this Pius IX?
Born into an aristocratic family in Senigaglia, in the northeastern section of the old Papal States, Giovanni Mastai-Ferretti was ordained in 1819, and worked in hospitals and orphanages in Italy, as well as on diplomatic missions that took him to Latin America.
He was consecrated bishop in 1827, and served as Ordinary in Spoleto and Imola. Made a cardinal in 1840, he was elected pope on June 16, 1846, reigning for thirty-two years, longer than any of the other successors of St. Peter.
Universally praised during the first two years of his pontificate, he has since then been the object of more base ridicule than perhaps any other Supreme Pontiff, his very bier being assaulted and menaced with desecration on the way to its internment at Saint Lawrence-Outside-the-Walls in Rome.
So much has a Black Legend surrounding his memory been propagated by his enemies that it had long stalled a beatification whose mechanics had been long completed. In other words, the lies of our opponents had made inopportune the public recognition of the holiness already attested to by a Church confirmed miracle.
There are two reasons why enemies of the Catholic Faith have done everything imaginable to drive Pius IX from our minds and hearts. One of these is the fact that he understood the full consequences of the Incarnation and did not hesitate to shout them from the rooftops.
Pius realized that if the Word had been made Flesh, this fact could not have touched private consciences alone. It had to have shocked all nature to its very core, and left an imprint to be worked with and developed until the end of time. Christ came to be seen and felt everywhere, and Pius made sure that He was, regardless of who did not like it.
Hence, he gave unprecedented support to worldwide missionary activity.
He reestablished hierarchies in countries like England and Holland where they had long disappeared.
He encouraged Catholic journals and political activists who believed that Christ had more right to reign over what was, after all, His Creation, than the local newspaper editor, politically ambitious professor, or party hack.
He rejoiced in and promoted the gatherings of large numbers of faithful in Rome, so that he could pray together with them visibly at the tombs of the Apostles.
Pius IX accomplished a serious aggiornamento in the only legitimate way possible—by teaching the modern world the Truth in all its manifold ramifications. He was really the Catholic peoples’ pope, in closer contact with them than any of his predecessors, and they responded to him with a love that infuriated the Church’s enemies.
A second reason for their slander of this great and holy pontiff was the fact that Pius IX struck at the whole pretentious machinery of modernity on the grounds most designed to irritate its supporters: by underlining its fraudulence. Pius learned this fraudulence the hard way, spending the first two years of his pontificate trying to have the kind of rational dialogue with the enlightened promoters of liberal modern civilization that they claimed to want.
Betrayal, revolution and exile demonstrated to him that dark lies were at the center of every so-called enlightened modern principle. He realized that liberal dialogue demanded abandonment of religion, and an irrational acceptance of various rationalist dogmas as though they were revealed truths. Liberal freedom meant a destruction of clear, rooted, effective authority, thereby enabling the strong, clever, and ambitious to manipulate the weak, and without the oppressed being able to see exactly who their oppressors were.
Liberal progress entailed an unjustifiable faith in a fatalistic vision of human development that reduced man to a producing and consuming machine.
Liberal civilization was a recipe for a moral barbarism in scientific materialistic packaging, blinding society to its true purpose, and eventually depriving it of any sense of why it should be maintaining any standards at all in the first place.
The fresh air of the modern world, in short, was actually a vicious wind blowing Catholics into a living hell. Pius understood all this after his two-year effort to take the liberals at their word, and his unmasking of their underlying fraud won him their undying hatred.
Anyone who penetrates beyond the childish Black Legend built around this living martyr to Catholic Truth will quickly see just how much Pius and his advisors sought manfully to unmask the modern swindle.
It was the lie of a world without sin that pressed Pius IX—a devout servant of the Virgin—to proclaim her Immaculate Conception (1864), emphasizing our dependence upon grace to escape evil.
It was the lie of building the good life without God that engendered the encyclical Quanta Cura and its attendant Syllabus of Errors (1864), a prophesy of the consequences of social apostasy from Christ.
It was the lie of a civilization progressing towards freedom that urged upon the pope the definition of Papal Infallibility at First Vatican Council (1870), so as to give the faithful a clear sense of where to turn to defend the Faith in the face of a new, illegitimate, and truly brutal liberal Inquisition.
A study of Pius’ reign will reveal to any objective observer a conscientious and holy pope struggling against the same array of demons disguised as messengers of light that plague us even more today—because we did not heed his warnings.
America has developed a vision of herself as the land of the free and the home of the brave. Insofar as she tries to live up to that vision on the basis of a definition of freedom that actually guarantees slavery, and an understanding of bravery that praises the courage of willful hedonists who choose to murder their helpless babies, this claim is a mockery crying out to heaven for vengeance.
Would that America might look to Pius IX to imbue her with a sense of freedom as God sees and values it; to inspire her with heroic Roman Catholic courage; to sacrifice herself for the Truth! Would that we believing Roman Catholics in the United States might rise as one man, challenge those who tell us that we must not honor a pope of such merit and holiness, and become the clearest voice calling for canonization of a hero who shows us how to win a Catholic victory. Not only would we then honestly stand a chance of making this the land of the free and the home of the brave, but perhaps—just perhaps—a continent of saints as well.
Your Holiness! Give America the possibility of publicly honoring a hero that she needs. Give America Saint Pius IX!
(This is a slightly updated version of a talk give at Santa Maria degli Angeli, in Rome, on May 14, 1992)