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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

He Who Lives by Modernity Dies by Modernity

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Blessed Pius IX Blessed Pius IX

This week we are not just celebrating the octave of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is also the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of Blessed Pius IX’s encyclical letter Quanta Cura and its accompanying Syllabus of Errors (December 8, 1864). This is a document that even a man as closely associated with modern experiments involving Christian Democracy as Don Luigi Sturzo (1871-1959) called a prophetic summary of an entire age of social apostasy from Christ.

Despite the libels of its opponents, the Syllabus is not merely “negative” with its eighty condemnations of modern errors. It stands tall at the head of a glorious line of march towards that more complete development of Catholic Social Doctrine that took place in subsequent pontificates—a Catholic Social Doctrine that the all too well-endowed schools of thought of Fr. John Neuhaus, Michael Novak, George Weigel, and Fr. Robert Sirico have done so much to disfigure and render impotent in our own day.

Anyone interested in the whole intellectually rich history behind the preparation of the Syllabus, as well as the beginnings of “conservative” distortions of its significance should take a look at my book Removing the Blindfold, which has recently been reprinted in a revised edition by the Angelus Press to learn the truth.

Even a brief familiarization with the background of the Syllabus would make it clear to an open-minded reader that the spirit behind the document is that of an outraged frustration caused by realization that what we call “modernity” is one many-faceted and tragically successful fraud: a declaration of independence on the part of the universe in general and in all of its specific aspects from the Creator that gave it life, meaning, and sustenance; a hideous assault on nature, society, and the individual and his freedom; a Iago-like monster that has been accepted by its victims as though it were providing them the answer to all of their problems. As two authors to La Civiltà Cattolica (perhaps the most significant contributor to the genesis of the Syllabus and a chief defender of its true meaning) explained the contrast between modernity and the mission of the Syllabus:

Starting with the words “I am free” and their new-found spirit of independence, men began to believe in the infallibility of whatever seemed natural to them, and then to call “nature” everything that is sickness and weakness; to want sickness and weakness to be encouraged instead of healed; to suppose that encouraging weakness makes men healthier and happy; to conclude, finally, that human nature {conceived of as sickness and weakness} possesses the means to render man and society blissful on earth, and this without faith, grace, authority, or supernatural community…since “nature” gives us the feeling that it must be so. (Taparelli, I, 6, 1851, 497-498) Now I have demonstrated one hundred times in the course of these articles that pagan civilization is a regression for humanity, its liberty entailing the most shameful slavery and the liquidation of the human personality, absorbed by the omnipotence of the God State. 

Therefore, even without my saying it, anyone can see by himself that modern liberalism, under the fiction of promoting liberty, tends to destroy it; under the shadow of desiring progress, it desires barbarism….It is not aversion to liberty or sympathies for despotism that lead the Church to fight their wicked efforts….Rather, it is the love it feels for true liberty, its native repugnance for all kinds of despotism, the mission it has from God to save the personal independence of man that inspires it, and urges it to such a battle. (Liberatore, I, 2, 1850, 540-541)

The Pope wants freedom as much as you do, if not quite in the same way... What man does not desire freedom? Freedom, however, is only a name now. In fact, everywhere liberalism reigns we have slavery and oppression….Dressed in all colors, liberalism is in reality always tyrannical, and, what is worse, hypocritical. In one word, the Church is not the enemy of freedom but of liberalism, which is the enemy of the Church no less than of freedom.

If only the true lovers of freedom had a little judgment! How they would love and revere the Church, the Pope, the Encyclical, the Syllabus, and any document of the Catholic Church, which is the sole moral force that tempers both despotism and libertinism.

…Far from opposing the true conception of liberty (and who could oppose a thing naturally dear to every man?), we have adopted for ourselves the task of solidifying it and purging it of those false principles that, while retaining the name of liberty, destroy it in its substance. (For previous three citations, Liberatore, VI, 1, 1865, 222-223, VI, 5, 1866, 9-10).

Briefly summarized: he who lives with his eyes on Christ as King understands how to harmonize nature and its eternal end, society and the individual, freedom and authority in a manner that perfects individual to the fullest possible degree. In contrast, he who lives by modernity, dies by modernity. For modernity is a principle of death disguised as a message borne to us on angels’ wings.

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Modernity’s separation of the universe from its Creator can be summarized in one destructive word: naturalism. Diving into unaided, fallen nature and closing one’s eyes to the Father of Lights, from Whom all good things flow, is tantamount to self euthanasia. Those who kill themselves in this fashion have proven, historically, first to isolate their chief pet natural obsession from all others, to play with their reductionist treasure like infants sucking their thumbs in cribs they will never leave, and then to grow ever more strident in their proclamations of their maturity as their sin becomes manifestly more thick and pointlessly dull. As Louis Veuillot notes:

Between the sensualists of the past and the sensualists of our day, there is the same difference as between the great lords who ran about the world astonishing it with their prodigalities, and those sons of the enriched whose splendor and decadence one quarter of Paris sees. The first wanted to ruin themselves and did not succumb to it; the latter calculate, are rich, yet succumb without even having known to make a semblance of being magnificent. Everything is lacking to the poverty of our times, including the brilliance and often even the substance of the vices it would like to have. (L. Veuillot, Oeuvres completes, iv, pp. 2-3).

On this one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Syllabus of Errors, in this second “winter of our discontent” under the current pontificate, I am preparing for my last class of the fall semester at St. John’s University in New York City. As I do so, and think more about the above citation, a dreary truth impresses itself upon me. Not only do all those who live by modernity die by modernity, but they die in the same way: by first abandoning the idealistic “cover story” through which their particular piece of the many-faceted fraud is promoted, and then by grasping after the passing shadows that the back wall of the contemporary world cave offers in the way of baubles and cheap applause-hunting masquerading as lasting riches and fame.

I say this because I have had the similarities impressed upon my by describing how two modernist institutions, one by nature and one by choice—the Soviet Union and the “mainstream” Roman Catholic Church—came crumbling down to death and deathbed. I have to recount this story in the single 85 minute lecture left to me to relate the events of the past fifty years in the inevitably absurd “global history” course that will be the sole history course that almost all of my students will be exposed to in our of so enlightened age.

The Soviet Union dissolved when the machine men of the Communist Party—the apparatchiks—discovered that they finally could rid themselves of the ideological piece of the modern naturalist pie that they had used to build their careers and still survive handsomely in the world around them. So they chucked the “cover story” in which they had long since ceased to believe, along with their anachronistically ideological “corporation”, for the competing “vision” and the truly successful, “with it” corporate world of pluralist, naturalist modernity. They became members of or facilitators for multi-national companies or imitators of the “Free World’s” organized crime syndicates. Baubles on both sides of the Atlantic were now at their fingertips, and fame in the form of their pictures in big newspapers and glossy magazines as well. They finally had pure naturalism: flesh and blood rewards without any “big” cumbersome idea blocking enjoyment of rattle shaking in their cribs. Boy, had they made it!

The Roman Catholic Church began to crawl into its deathbed somewhat earlier than the Soviet Union, once its own apparatchiks discovered that they finally could rid themselves of the religion that they had used to build their careers and still survive handsomely. So they chucked their own hated “cover story” and their anachronistically theological “corporation” to adopt the vision of pluralist modernity and the “with it” corporate world in whose games the former apparatchiks would soon indulge: either as members of or facilitators for not just multi-national companies, public relations’ firms, wacko money-making cults, popular newspapers and magazines and criminal enterprises, but for the many branches of the global Homintern as well. They finally had pure naturalism: flesh and blood rewards without any “big” cumbersome idea blocking enjoyment of rattle shaking in their cribs. Boy, they had it all, but, being sooner and better versed in the ways of pluralism than their Soviet colleagues, they still managed to convince large numbers of Catholics that their substantive Faith and its emasculating pluralist contradiction somehow could remain alive together at one and the same time. And the Roman Catholic Church, while not quite as dead as the Soviet Union, is just about to climb into the grave in consequence.

On this one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the greatest document of Blessed Pius IX, the best introduction to the growth of modern Catholic Social Doctrine, I appeal to those many, many deceived priests, prelates, and laity of our beloved Roman Church who are not really in their heart of hearts “apparatchiks”, and do not want to be their fellow travelers to do themselves a favor. Wake up, smell the coffee, and read the Syllabus of Errors. You can find it easily on the Internet. Do not fall prey another day longer to the lies of our own apparatchiks who are still literally getting away with murder as they drive all of us---themselves included--into the grave. And do not believe that Catholic-Pluralist “cover story” masquerading what is merely a more successful channel for the victory of the modernist fraud than Marxism that the Novaks, Weigels, and Siricos and the other perhaps self-deceptive standard bearers of a false vision of Christian order propagate. Many-faceted modernist naturalism is deadly in each and every one of its forms. Those who live by modernity, die by modernity. All that any of its victims, willing or fooled, can hope for as a reward as their terminal illness progresses is to have their picture on the cover of a glossy magazine as a representative of Catholicism in its only acceptable form: repentant, emasculated, and impotent.

Long live the Syllabus! Long live Christ the King!

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Last modified on Tuesday, December 9, 2014
John Rao | Remnant Columnist, New York

John C. Rao, Ph.D. is an associate professor of history at St. John's University, director of the Roman Forum/Dietrich von Hildebrand Institute, and former president of Una Voce America.  In 1977 he received his D.Phil. in Modern European History from Oxford University. Notable works include Americanism and the Collapse of the Church in the United States, Removing the Blindfold, and Periphery. His latest book, Black Legends: The War of the Words Against the Word, a guide to the history of the Catholic Church, was published by The Remnant Press in 2012. A student of Dietrich von Hildebrand and a close friend and collaborator of Michael Davies, John Rao has been a frequent contributor to The Remnant since the early 1980s.  He is known for writing his Remnant columns from Rocco's Cafe, an Italian pastry shop in Greenwich Village Manhattan.