An Unmitigated Catholic Defeat
by Dr. John C. Rao
"This, also, is one of the steps that leads to Americanism."
Ernst Junger, on seeing the effects of civilian bombing in Cologne in 1942; Strahlungen (Heliopolis, 1949, p. 155)
"We have sustained an unmitigated defeat." This statement, made by Winston Churchill with reference to the effects on Britain of the Munich Conference of 1938, applies equally well to the situation of Catholics with respect to the current conflict in Iraq. For we, too, have sustained an unmitigated defeat through the application of the principles responsible for this "war of liberation," the full consequences of which the very near future will reveal to us. To make matters worse, this unmitigated defeat was a thoroughly predictable one, whose evils might have been attenuated if eyes had only remained opened and ears had heard what was clearly being stated by the proponents of conflict over the course of the last decade.
How does the fallout from the latest of the modern world's innumerable "wars of liberation" make itself felt? One would be better advised to ask the question how it does not show its effects. With the most recent carnage of Catholic Christendom lying all around us, let me limit myself here to a ten-point Syllabus of Collateral Damage. This, admittedly, will need further elaboration to put the full horror of the present debacle into proper focus. I have no doubt that occasions for doing so will offer themselves unceasingly in the years to come. Nevertheless, an initially rather spartan statement of the perimeters of the problem serves a useful purpose as an introduction to a nightmare which is really just beginning.
Syllabus of Catholic Collateral Damage
1. Subjection to a Global Insistence Upon American Pluralism American Pluralism is a pseudo-religion, disguised as a practical plan for stability and prosperity, which divides the world into the good (those who accept it) and the bad (those who do not). All actions of the good are virtuous; all those of the bad are wicked. In the past, American Pluralists were generally happy to protect the good by isolating the United States from the rest of the world. Now they overwhelmingly believe that the good can only be defended by transforming all the peoples of the globe into virtuous American Pluralists. The central doctrine of this pseudo-religion is "tolerance". It has no room for a real religion, like Catholicism, which is "divisive", will not "integrate itself" with all others in a universal creed of tolerance, and insists upon a substantive, transforming impact on political and social questions forbidden it by Pluralism;
2. Subjection to a Life that is a Living Death Catholicism is open to all things natural, seeks to utilize the goods of the world to the greater glory of God, and gives life to individuals more abundantly than any of the ancients would ever have believed to be possible. American Pluralism offers a living death. It builds a Regime that despises theology, philosophy, history, and the great variety of serious, distinctive cultures that have been built up from a common commitment to the service of God. It sees these as disruptive of the only two "goods" that desiccated pluralist culture is permitted to seek: marketing and consumption opportunities. It allows no scope for the development of the human mind and the human spirit beyond their application to a technological achievement used for dulling intellectual and spiritual perception. It breaks down, trivializes, stupefies, psychoanalyses, and, if need be, eliminates entirely anything that yearns for the elevation of the individual and all of nature ad maiorem Dei gloriam, exchanging it for a mess of pottage that it calls a banquet;
3. Subjection to the Triumph of the Will Catholicism has been both history's greatest defender of human reason as well as one of its most severe critics of man's errors and unacceptable passions. It cannot accept that anti-rational Triumph of the Will which the modern proponents of the liberation of the "natural man" have espoused, from Rousseau to the National Socialists to supporters of abortion to capitalist imperialists. The American Pluralist Regime claims to have opposed the Triumph of the Will by combating Hitler, and it has used its role in the Second World War as proof positive that it can never be accused of any irrational, arbitrary Nazi-like actions of its own. And yet it is now, with its program for "making the world safe for Americans," more openly promoting, defending, and disdainfully laughing away criticisms of this violently anti-Catholic principle than any other force since 1945;
4. Subjection to Persecution Disguised as Freedom Orthodox Catholicism is what it says it is, and fails only in so far as people do not live up to its message. We are now witnessing the complete victory of a message that has never been what it says that it is, and becomes even more of a lie when people do live up to its potential for evil. The definitions of freedom, democracy, popular liberation, and peace promoted by the American Pluralist Regime emerged out of a long history of anti-Catholicism and irrationalism. They ensure that the strongest "free" wills and passions dominate, forcing "the people" to express its joy at submission to them. Failure to indicate happiness over such a liberation is seen as a sign that the people has not yet had its consciousness raised to the perception of the difference of good and evil demanded by the strong, and is therefore not yet ready for democracy. These are not failures to live up to American Pluralist conceptions. This is what the American Regime, one of several socio-political by-products of revolutionary Enlightenment concepts, inevitably encourages. Its previous record of seeming cooperation with solid Catholic moral principles was nothing but an accidental, historical footnote, the product of the continuing influence of ideas, habits, and a "common sense" that the beliefs of the Regime were unceasingly working to break down. Unfortunately, many people who are used to the Regime's temporary appropriation and distortion of the Christian concept of concern for the dignity of the human person have been propagandized into arguing that just such a noble motive lies behind its current revel with Machtpolitik. They are doomed to disillusionment or self-deception. Yes, on the one hand, Regime spokesmen do continue to express shock over the failure of the critic to appreciate the "freedom" and the "peace that surpasseth all understanding" which they claim that they are bringing to suffering lands. On the other, when this claim is challenged on the philosophical level, they mockingly retreat to an anti-intellectual admission that they are actually "pragmatists" seeking the practical satisfaction of every man's "real" desires. Like true cynics, they then point to the gradual, willing acceptance by other former opponents of the Regime of all of its many supposed blessings. But what they are truly calling attention to is the tragic failure of long-suffering individuals and peoples to resist the systematic and incessant freedom to market sin that these seducers have insisted upon as their natural birthright. It is this "saying yes to Original Sin" that is seized upon as proof of the "natural longings" of mankind which the Pluralist Regime does nothing but charitablyand profitably fulfill. Some of the Regime's proponents have now abandoned all moral pretensions entirely. They openly assert that the strength of America gives it the right to prohibit all those who are weaker from defending themselves, and then brazenly march that principle into battle to make the world safe for seduction;
5. The Full Revelation of Catholic Division and Impotence The supposed Great Renewal of the last half-century has, in reality, been the period of the swiftest collapse of Catholicism in history. This is not a surprise to critics of American Pluralism, since the Church, through this false renewal, did nothing more than adopt a version of the Regime's vision as her guide. She thus suffered all the inevitable consequences of manipulation by "free" men of passion and will, the uncovering of some of whose crimes in the immediate past have weakened her ability to speak the truth with any psychological credibility among the masses of the Catholic population. Recently, the Church has shown some desire to reiterate her understanding of what constitutes a just as opposed to an unjust war, and this in order to try to block the perpetration of other criminally willful actions. Nevertheless, she has merely demonstrated once again the confused witness to the Apostolic Tradition generated by her "renewed" Faith. Instead of providing a forthright condemnation of a blatant case of aggression unleashed by application of the principle of the Triumph of the Will, she has founded much of her opposition to the Iraqi War on her fears for damage to the same Universal Pluralist Religion promoted by the Regime. Moreover, the statements and eloquent silences of her pro-war priests, chaplains, and bishops have again exposed that division and impotence which is her chief contemporary hallmark;
6. The Confirmation of the Existence of an Independent American Catholic Church Domestic support for the "war of liberation" has confirmed the fact that many believers in this country prefer to be part of a national Catholic sect rather than members of an international Church which may have to criticize even the American Regime. The idea that the One True System and Way of Life of the only nation allowed to defend itself has actually come under attack by Rome is inconceivable to them. Apparently, Satan himself is thought to be impotent against the power for good of the American Pluralist Regime and its Constitution. All other nations and peoples are subject to error. The Regime, by definition, is not. A system of checks and balances and Pluralism is thereby shown to be much more sacramentally effective than grace in fighting evil, and its defense becomes an infallible theology of liberation. One wonders whether western dating should not begin with 1776 instead of with the birth of Christ, since true salvation came into the world only with the benefits offered through the national pseudo-religion;
7. Revelation of the American Catholic Preferential Option for Parochialism The treasury of Catholic doctrine and Church History lie open for all to investigate to understand how an individual and a whole people can be led astray. Many American Catholics have demonstrated a disdain for utilizing this treasury, and a preference for burying its wisdom under the mass of parochial judgments and interests guiding the Regime. This has seduced them, among other things, into the American Pluralist obsession with the Second World War as the sole historical subject worth studying; in fact, into its treatment of that conflict as a pressing current event. Our Regime requires such rapt attention both to stigmatize all of its opponents as sympathizers with those Nazis whom the freedom loving Pluralist system (along with the freedom loving Stalinist one) battled, as well as to keep people's attention away from living threats which are real and imminent. While Catholic friends of the Regime speak of a desperate need to heed the lessons of Mein Kampf and fight the crucial fight against dead Hitlerians, the entire neo-conservative plan for rearranging the world for the benefit of power-obsessed Israeli statesmen, oil tycoons, and American imperialists backed by Protestant Millenarianists is neglected. Mein Kampf is, after all, a big book and takes a long time to read. It allows no leisure for secondary, contemporary, life and death issues. Presumably there will be a chance to fight the battle for the survival of the Catholic Church and the real achievements of western culture later, once both lie prostrate, with the Regime as the sole guide to determining what it is that both of them mean. Or, perhaps that war can be delayed until a day of orthodox Catholic triumph, when everyone can finally shake his head in safety and disbelief, self-righteously wondering why enough good men did not stand up for truth at a time when it was difficult to do so;
8. American Catholic Preference for Anti-Catholic Leadership But why should the Regime and its Pluralist vision not be the sole Catholic guides? Many American Catholics have shown that they prefer anti-Catholics as the accepted spokesmen for Catholic doctrine and tradition. After all, if the Regime infallibly and more effectively fights evil than anything professedly Catholic, God is on its side, and its leaders its trustworthy servants. Apparently there is no need to feel humiliated by the disdain shown by American Pluralists for Catholicism if one thinks that that Regime and its proponents better represent it in the first place;
9. The Use of Catholic Corruption to Attack the Healthy Church Catholics who believe everything that the national religion of Pluralism teaches have shown a shameful willingness to call up the failings of the Church to defend their support for an anti-Catholic war. The admitted failures of the false Renewal are used to justify blind obedience to Machtpolitik Pluralism, just as an English Catholic might have used the corruption of Pope Clement VII to bless the actions of Henry VIII, a "traditionalist" in practically all ways save one. One rotted fruit of erroneous modern ideas is thus loudly lamented to direct attention away from the stench of another being sneaked through the back door. It is becoming ever more tragically clear that Catholics will be among the chief propagandists for the Regime's worldwide exaltation of the Triumph of the Will, and the prison of serious peoples constructed by its victory;
10. The Shaming of the Concept of the Crusade The Church never justified Crusading by claiming the preventive right to attack and convert an opponent. She argued that she was defending Christian lands from an enemy assault. Crusades have, however, been misused by men and groups for their own purposes, God's name being called upon to cover their clearly self-interested goals. In 1911, Italian Catholics eager to find ways of fitting into a Kingdom dominated by Liberals harassed by neo-pagan Nationalists succumbed to the temptation to think of a colonial war versus the Ottoman Empire in Libya as a "Crusade" against the Moslems. Many German and French bishops, despite the position of the pope, described the First World War as an "obviously" just Crusade against erring criminals concerning which no upstanding Catholic could entertain any doubts. All were wrong. These sins of her children have rebounded, indirectly, to the shame of the innocent Church. And now many American Catholics have fallen prey to this same self-serving temptation, treating the current revolutionary "war of liberation" as a Crusade. They are trying to baptize a conflict for a pluralist Regime that would have horrified both a militant St. Louis IX and a missionary St. Francis.
Unfortunately, people generally consider "winning" to be a sufficient argument in favor of the justice of a given cause. Most postwar westerners accepted the justice of the victory of the United States and the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany simply because these "freedom-loving" allies had won. American Pluralism has defeated Marxism-Leninism, and this convinces the masses of the population of its superiority more than any of its ideas or lack thereof. Victory in Iraq will be overwhelmingly construed, at least in the Homeland, as the conquest of evil by good.
But the Regime is not good. It is the opposite of God: it is not what it says it is. Its special horror lies in the fact that it provides part of what it offers, like sin, under the guise of good, and for our ultimate destruction. It does not even have the "fail safe" mechanism of the Soviet system, which was so root and branch flawed that it almost immediately broke down everything that it touched. The Pluralist beast seems to deliver what it claims, but it does so like a thick but artificial drink, yielding its fluid in abundance until one reaches the bottom of the glass, when the satisfying liquid comes suddenly to an end, and we pay the inevitable price of having been badly nourished by something causing us long term harm.
Earthly victory ought not to impress a Catholic. We follow a religion which draws permanent supernatural victory from transitory, natural defeat. Recognitions of the hard realities stemming from adverse historical conditions have frequently been the springboard for long term Catholic revival. It causes us to see the depth of the trouble into which we have been plunged and to react against it. Hard realities are now visible to all except the ideologically blinded. We have indeed sustained an unmitigated earthly defeat. It is only the logic of Faith, Hope, and Charity that will give us the key to escape from the Prison of Peoples in which the Regime has incarcerated us. The real renewal will emerge from the war for liberation that they alone can unleash.
Dr. John C. Rao, D. Phil. (Oxford University) is an Associate Professor of History at St. John's University and the Director of the Roman Forum & Dietrich von Hildebrand Institute.