The Myth of Liberalism

“The desire-based polity, that is, the polity whose philosophical and legal norms are said to reside in the primacy of individual desires, must in its own logic, … be based on a voluntarist concept of law that has no other justification but what those in power choose. Aristotle had long ago explained that democracies based on ‘liberty’ for its own sake and not for a purpose must end in tyranny.”

James V. Schall, S.J., Review of The Myth of Liberalism, The Imaginative Conservative blog, June 3, 2017. (H/T to Junior Ganymede.)

What it feels like some times

“The followers of the old Church must be overwhelmed per fas et nejas [through right and wrong]. They must be ‘based, discredited, and proceeded against . . . involved in the law and not pardoned . . . till they put themselves wholly to her Highness’s mercy, abjure the Pope of Rome, and conform themselves to the new alteration.’ Nor must they ever again be allowed liberty, for whenever the occasion offers they will probably once more ‘maintain and defend their ancient laws and orders.'”

The English Catholics in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth: A Study of Their Politics, Civil Life, and Government, 1558-1580, from the Fall of the Old Church to the Advent of the Counter-Reformation, by John Hungerford Pollen, S.J. (London:Longmans Green & Co., 1920), quoting “The Device for the Alteration of Religion in the First Year of Queen Elizabeth” (1558) attr. to William Cecil.

I don’t mean that only Catholics feel that way nowadays, but anyone trying to swim against the tide by holding fast to traditional morality.

Prayers you don’t hear anymore, Part 3

“King of virgins and lover of chastity and innocence, extinguish in my frame, by the dew of Thy heavenly grace, all flames of unlawful passion, that I may thus for evermore bide before Thee in innocency of body and of soul.  Mortify in my members the sting of the flesh, and repress in me every dangerous emotion. Together with all other virtues (each Thine own gift and, in sooth, well-pleasing to Thee), clothe me with true and abiding purity, that, unsullied in body and clean in heart, I may this day offer unto Thee the sacrifice of praise.”
Devotions in Preparation for Mass and Communion, prayer for Monday, in The New Roman Missal (Fr. Lasance), 1956.

(See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

The totalitarian diversity cult

‘Why should a Catholic institution not … be itself, precisely to offer to that increasingly homogeneous and nothing-adoring world a different word, the word of Christ and his Church? Have not the secular preachers of diversity instead worked their hardest to efface that difference, to muffle all those who speak with the voice of the Church against the vision that those preachers have to offer—a vision that pretends to be “multicultural,” but that is actually anti-cultural, and is characterized by all the totalitarian impulses to use the massive power of government to bring to heel those who decline to go along?

‘These aren’t idle questions. I notice, on our Diversity page, that incidents of “bias” will be forwarded to a “Bias Response Team,” which is, if I may adopt the phraseology of one of my shrewdest colleagues, a Star Chamber whose constitution and laws and executive power no one will know. “Fear not,” says the angel, “for the great Unwritten Law will come upon you, and the power of Correct Thinking will overshadow you.” How precisely the fear of being hauled before the Star Chamber can possibly bring people together in friendship, is never revealed.

*   *   *

‘In my now extensive experience, Catholic professors in Catholic colleges have been notably tolerant of the limitations of their secular colleagues. We make allowances all the time. We understand, though, that some of them—not all, but then it only takes a few—would silence us for good, if they had the power. They have made life hell for more than one of my friends. All, now, in the name of an undefined and perhaps undefinable diversity, to which you had damned well better give honor and glory. If you don’t—and you may not even be aware of the lese majeste as you commit it—you’d better have eyes in the back of your head.’

Anthony Esolen, “My College Succumbed to the Totalitarian Diversity Cult“, Crisis magazine website, September 26, 2016.

The government can’t change reality

“The idea that a government would see it as its duty or within its power to redefine what a family is is a sign of a fatal misapprehension. A culture is not defined by its laws; rather, the laws are defined by the living culture. It’s not like murder and theft become bad because governments enact laws against them. Neither do families become different because judges decide that laws will be misconstrued and votes overturned to redefine what a family is. All that does is assure that the police powers of the state will now be used against anyone who does not go along with the insanity.”

Joseph Moore, “Politics as the Least Important Thing“, Yard Sale of the Mind blog, September 16, 2016.

When the spirit necessarily includes the letter

[W]e must say this, that if we take “letter” in the sense of the literal formulation of a commandment and “spirit” in the sense of the intention and meaning of the commandment, it is never possible to fulfill the spirit without fulfilling the letter when moral commandments including an absolute veto are in question. For example, an absolute veto is found in the moral commandments: “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” “Thou shalt not curse,” or “Thou shalt not sacrifice to idols or deny God.” Here it is absolutely impossible to claim that someone could ever depart from the letter without violating the spirit, that is, without sinning.

It makes no sense to say that although someone committed adultery in the literal sense of the word he remains true to the spirit of the commandment—if we take “spirit” in the sense of the meaning and intention of the commandment. The formulation here is such that “spirit” necessarily includes the letter, so that the possibility of any departure from the letter without violating the spirit is excluded regardless of the circumstances.

Dietrich von Hildebrand, True Morality and Its Counterfeits, New York:David McKay Company (1955).

Truth and innocence are boring

As in the intellectual field there exists a perversion according to which an interesting, complicated, intelligent error is preferred to a simple, evident truth, so there exists also a moral perversion that leads us to prefer the dramatic, interesting tension of a tragic sin to simple innocence.

Dietrich von Hildebrand, True Morality and Its Counterfeits, New York:David McKay Company (1955), pp. 44-45.

Jesus accepts us as we are — but does he leave us that way?

Not long ago I came across a blogger who wrote that he didn’t agree with the Church’s moral teachings, but he was going to stick with the Church anyway. He was raised in the Church, and why should he be the one to leave, just because others in the Church have hateful attitudes? Besides, Jesus accepted people as they were. I commented that Jesus accepted people as they were, but for the purpose of bringing them to repentance.

I was reminded of this exchange this past Sunday, when the Epistle for the traditional Latin Mass was Romans 6:3-11:

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Does this not preclude the notion that Jesus accepts us as we are? Maybe he accepts us as we are initially. As he said, he came to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance. It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. (Mk. 2:17.) But once we sinners are called, what then? Will he not heal us of our sickness?

According to this reading, baptism, the very sacrament of initiation into the Church, entails leaving our sinful past behind. Indeed it’s even more than that: Our old self is crucified, the sinful body is destroyed, that we may no longer be enslaved to sin. Strong language! Becoming a Christian means no less than dying to sin once for all, that we might live to God in Christ Jesus. This “newness of life” is what saves us and enables us to live eternally.

Can one call himself a follower of Jesus, who has not died to sin that he might live to God in Christ Jesus? Is this not essential to being a Christian? Is there a Plan B for those who don’t wish to take their Christianity so far as all that?

Secularists are Christians but don’t know it

For Nietzsche, when modern intellectuals “believe that they know ‘intuitively’ what is good and evil, when they therefore suppose that they no longer require Christianity as the guarantee of morality,” this is a delusion, and in fact reflects nothing more than the historical “effects of the dominion of the Christian value judgment and… the strength and depth of this dominion” even if “the origin of [the] morality has been forgotten”’ (Twilight of the Idols, p. 516).

Think of the contemporary secular academic moral philosopher who appeals to our “intuitions,” the Rawlsian method of bringing moral theory and our “considered convictions” into “reflective equilibrium,” the liberal activist who glibly appeals to the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights as if it were something other than a set of sheer assertions floating in midair, and so forth. All of this, for Nietzsche, would merely confirm his judgment that secular egalitarianism is nothing more than a bundle of sentiments inherited from Christianity and incapable of being given a new rational foundation.

Edward Feser, “Adventures in the Old Atheism, Part I: Nietzsche“, Edward Feser blog, June 13, 2016.