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Thursday, April 25, 2019

CHRIST or DEATH: The Choice of 1914

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This year the director of the Lord of the Rings films, Peter Jackson, offered the world a unique look into recent history. Produced to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in World War I, Jackson created the extraordinary documentary, “They Shall Not Grow Old.” The film features archival footage of soldiers of the Great War, painstakingly remastered using computer technology to show us a glimpse of the war as these young men would have seen it.

The film slows down, cleans up and then convincingly colourises the original footage to show us the kind of young men – many of them only boys – we can easily imagine knowing ourselves. It takes the war out of the realm of remote and quaint lost era of the past, the world of the silent film and comic antics of Charlie Chaplain, to an immediate and humanised reality. 


I look at the faces of those boys and young men – in smiling health, clowning for the camera, burying their comrades and injured, blinded by gas – and cannot help but think about my grandfather. Born in March 1897 in Portsmouth, he would have been among the youngest enlistees. The age limit was 19, but they could go younger with a father’s permission, and some simply lied.

Norman White saw service in a tank division in the Mesopotamian Campaign. Those tanks were primitive beyond words compared to modern military machines, and were known as death traps for the men inside them. At least he was spared the mud-trenches of France and was not gassed.

My mother’s grandfather, already an officer, entered World War I on horseback, an unimaginable, almost absurdly anachronistic notion to us now. It is a family legend that on the way to one of the early bloodbaths of the war in France, his horse threw a shoe. My great grandfather, William Doloughan, stayed behind in a small village to have a blacksmith re-shoe his horse, while the rest of his regiment went on to ride, swords drawn, into the maw of the German Maschinengewehr guns, the new machines that left every man and horse shredded on the field.

Though both these ancestors survived the first world war to serve in the second, millions of others did not, and it is arguable that this, humanity’s first mechanical war, also killed the old civilisation they were born into.

Modernity’s path was set in this war, its true purpose and nature would be revealed in the next hundred years, a century of mass murder. The men who came home were deeply changed by their experiences, but they soon understood that the world they left to go to war, the world they were told they were defending, was also gone forever.

Earlier this month, Remnant editor Michael Matt spoke in a video about the current accelerating collapse of social order now that our secular elites, including our ecclesiastical leaders, have unthroned Christ as the ruler of nations. Now that these modern ideological men have consolidated and confirmed their absolute rule, we are in the final stage of their “new world order” that began in 1918.

The result of this rejection of Christ the King has been a descent into chaos that can now only be answered by the rise of the all-powerful State, backed up by the death-machines.

“You just simply can’t police people who have no God, no moral code anymore, and who are no longer really capable of policing themselves.

“The only way now to maintain any semblance of order in our society is through the raw power of the almighty State. Like a replacement deity now the state has replaced God.”

The warning of the pope of peace ignored

346ef05ce6314180e1ab6bdfcede426a 1658705324 1301713827 4d9693a3 620x348“Such, moreover, has been the change in the ideas and the morals of men, that unless God comes soon to our help, the end of civilization would seem to be at hand.” 

(Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, 1914)

And it all could have halted. It could have been stopped in its metal tracks in September of 1914 if the powers of Europe had made a single choice, a last chance to turn back that a good pope offered them. Their rejection of that choice set the whole world on the path we’ve been on ever since.  

Giacomo Paolo Giovanni Battista della Chiesa, born in Genoa in 1854, was elected to succeed Pope St. Pius X in September 1914, only a month after the outbreak of World War I. Pope Benedict XV took it as his immediate task to beg the European powers to halt and return to diplomatic negotiations, warning them that they stood on the brink of destroying their entire civilisation.

But while the pope loved peace, and understood what this conflict would lead to, an increasingly godless, post-Christian and bloodthirsty Europe wanted war. The Vicar of the Prince of Peace was scoffed at and insulted, and the war went on to directly claim over 19 million civilian and military lives and to turn vast sections of the world into permanent dead-zones. Thus was every word of warning in the pope’s first encyclical letter, “Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum,” confirmed.

The war, the pope wrote, presented “perhaps the saddest and most mournful spectacle of which there is any record”.

On every side the dread phantom of war holds sway: there is scarce room for another thought in the minds of men. The combatants are the greatest and wealthiest nations of the earth; what wonder, then, if, well provided with the most awful weapons modern military science has devised, they strive to destroy one another with refinements of horror. There is no limit to the measure of ruin and of slaughter; day by day the earth is drenched with newly-shed blood, and is covered with the bodies of the wounded and of the slain.

[W]hile with numberless troops the furious battle is engaged, the sad cohorts of war, sorrow and distress swoop down upon every city and every home; day by day the mighty number of widows and orphans increases, and with the interruption of communications, trade is at a standstill; agriculture is abandoned; the arts are reduced to inactivity; the wealthy are in difficulties; the poor are reduced to abject misery; all are in distress.

But despite this unprecedented human slaughter, the pope understood that it was only the beginning, and he went straight to the heart of the matter:

[I]t is not the present sanguinary strife alone that distresses the nations and fills Us with anxiety and care. There is another evil raging in the very inmost heart of human society, a source of dread to all who really think, inasmuch as it has already brought, and will bring, many misfortunes upon nations, and may rightly be considered to be the root cause of the present awful war.

(Rare footage of Pope Benedict XV) 

More than a decade before his successor, Pius XI, was to produce the great encyclical Quas Primas on the Social Reign of Christ the King, poor, ignored Pope Benedict XV identified in a single, searing line of text, the one reason for the cataclysm that had just begun:

“For ever since the precepts and practices of Christian wisdom ceased to be observed in the ruling of states, it followed that, as they contained the peace and stability of institutions, the very foundations of states necessarily began to be shaken.”

Reject Christ as King of nations and the world of man will fall

The Old Order, the social order of Christ, that these men had been chipping away at for a century, had to be entirely wiped away and even the memory of it deformed in order for the next phase to begin. It was not until the end of the war that the deranged theoretical proposals of 19th century madmen like Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche were imposed at gunpoint on whole sections of humanity. These ideologies allowed what remained of our civilisation to be transformed into the nightmare surrealist landscape of our own times.

Now we are in the final phase in which the ordinary restraints of objective reality are no longer considered binding. The human will – to power but also to lust and greed – has become the final word, and in a final declaration of civilisational insanity, mechanised, medicalised mass-murder has been declared a “human right”. 

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What was the essence of the choice Pope Benedict XV placed before the European powers in 1914? Simply, the same choice and warning that has been presented to man by God since the time of Moses.  

Deuteronomy 30:15-19:3

Consider that I have set before thee this day life and good, and on the other hand death and evil.

That thou mayst love the Lord thy God, and walk in his ways, and keep his commandments and ceremonies and judgments, and thou mayst live, and he may multiply thee, and bless thee in the land, which thou shalt go in to possess.

But if thy heart be turned away, so that thou wilt not hear, and being deceived with error thou adore strange gods, and serve them. I foretell thee this day that thou shalt perish, and shalt remain but a short time in the land, to which thou shalt pass over the Jordan, and shalt go in to possess it.

I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both thou and thy seed may live

What is this overarching principle of the Social Reign of Christ that the last rulers of the Christian social order rejected? Put as simply as possible, it is that the Christian moral law, indeed the Christian concepts of human nature and of the nature and purpose even of creation itself, is the true one and must be adopted as the foundational principle of governance.

Moreover this reality implies a corollary that, therefore, those governing ideas that oppose the Christian moral order are untrue, false, unworthy and must be absolutely rejected. Nations must be governed as though Christ is who He said He is, or we are doomed.

The wrong choice in the age of the machine has cost more human lives than our remote ancestors in the time of Moses could possibly have grasped. The Polish-American diplomat and historian Zbigniew Brzezinski is among those who have tried to estimate the scale of the 20th century slaughters. He writes that between 167 and 175 million lives have been “deliberately extinguished by politically motivated carnage” in the last 100 years. This includes 87.5 million dead in war, divided between 33.5 million military and 54 million civilians; and 80 million “Not-war Dead,” mainly by Communist oppression of about 60 million[1]

The simplistic division, adopted by most news agencies, of the political landscape between “liberal and conservative,” “left and right,” ignores or simply fails to perceive the larger reality. If we look back on our immediate history with the eyes of the Faith we can see that the true division in the world is between a rule by Christ or the rule by Satan. Our rulers have believed the satanic lie that by rejecting Christ we are now our own masters, that human beings rule by their own lights. But a hundred years of mass murder tells us the truth.

If the men of that time, in the full swelling of their satanic pride, refused to hear the pope’s warning, we can at least look back now and understand what has happened to us, the true nature of what has been done to us.


[1] 60 million is among the lowest estimates of death-by-communism. Some historians have counted as much as 150 million lives taken by this ideology by various means. And of course none of these estimates include the now approximately 50 million dead per year from abortion. The Chinese communist government recently boasted at having “eliminated” 400 million of their own population by abortion, mostly girls.

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Last modified on Friday, April 26, 2019
Hilary White

Our Italy correspondent is known throughout the English-speaking world as a champion of family and cultural issues. First introduced by our allies and friends at the incomparable, Miss White lives in Norcia, Italy.