Evelyn Waugh on Saint Edmund Campion’s Life and Death

Dr. Robert Hickson

28 January 2006

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint Peter Nolasco

(Author’s Note of 30 November 2021: Evelyn Waugh’s heart-felt text was first published in 1935, and dedicated to Father Martin D’Arcy, S.J. of Campion Hall, Oxford University. This current essay was first published in 2006 and will be published here once more in honor of Saint Edmund Campion, for his feast day on December 1.)


Forming a Catholic Resistance and Deeper Culture of the Faith in Times of Permeating Disorder: Evelyn Waugh’s Edmund Campion (1935) and Some Combatant Lessons from the Sixteenth Century

The scope and depth of Evelyn Waugh’s grateful and manly book, Edmund Campion, will, when receptively savored, illuminate and fortify those of the Catholic Faith today amidst their own special composite of challenges. For, as Waugh wrote in 1935: “The Church has vast boundaries to defend, and each generation finds itself called to service upon a different front.”[1]

In the longer light of history — informed by an attendant view of supernatural Grace and the other fundamental Christian Mysteries — Waugh shows in his deftly written 1935 book, only five years after his grateful reception into the Catholic Church, how the life of Edmund Campion bore intimate resemblances to the life and love of Christ, especially at the end. This book, moreover, will help us to see more clearly how we, too, must confront the mystery of iniquity today, to include the phenomenon of pervasive perfidy, which is sometimes so intrusive; and to do so without rash unwisdom or impetuous anger, but, rather, with high prudence and deeply abiding, intimate trust in the Providential Mercy of God rooted in the hearts of Christ and His Immaculate Mother, who will faithfully love us, and whom we must faithfully love, to the end. The greater the evil that God allows, the greater the good He intends to bring out of it. To what extent will we promptly and wholeheartedly — and perseveringly — collaborate with that generous Divine Intention? Edmund Campion did, knowing from the Council of Trent full well that the Grace of Final Perseverance itself is a great gift, a “Magnum Donum.”

One purpose of this essay is to give honor to Evelyn Waugh, a sometimes difficult man, but a great defender of the Faith in the Modern World, which he often so rumbustiously and wholeheartedly detested. One of his lovable characters, Scott-King (“Scottie”), the classical master at Grandchester Public School in England conclusively said to his progressive Headmaster: “I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world.”[2] Dying on Easter Sunday 1966 in his home, shortly after the Jesuit Father Philip Caraman celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass in a nearby Chapel, Waugh also suffered much from what he saw happening at, and shortly after, the Second Vatican Council — especially in the Liturgy and from the duplicity and perfidious manipulations of the clergy, especially Cardinal Heenan in England.[3] Like Edmund Campion, in part, Evelyn Waugh had his own “bitter trial” at the end — but so did Our Lord.

With his characteristic modesty, G.K. Chesterton once compared his entrance into the Catholic Church (in 1922, only eight years before Waugh) with the entrance into a Gothic Church. Inside a Gothic Church it is even more spacious than from without — i.e., when it is only seen from the outside, from different, but incomplete, perspectives. So, too, with the Catholic Faith and the Catholic Church. From within the Church the spaciousness of the Faith is even greater (and more intimate) than when only seen from the outside. The life and times of Saint Edmund Campion (1540-1581) are also seen with greater intimacy and spaciousness when seen from the inside of a beautiful book. This is to say, in and through the language and varied tones of Evelyn Waugh’s Edmund Campion.

Here, for example, is what Waugh wrote about the mystery of the character of Edmund Campion, who, in his short life and increasing witness to the truth, “suddenly emerges as a hero,” even though, from the beginning, it was vividly perceptible that “He was not a reserved man; he loved argument; ideas for him demanded communication”:[4]

It was an age [the Sixteenth Century] replete with examples of astounding physical courage. Judged by the exploits of the great adventurers of his time, the sea-dogs and explorers, Campion’s brief achievement [especially from his return to England in late June 1580 until his truculent martyrdom on 1 December 1581] may appear modest enough; but these were tough men, ruthlessly hardened by upbringing, gross in their recreations. Campion stands out from even his most gallant and chivalrous contemporaries, from [Sir] Philip Sidney and Don John of Austria [hero of Lepanto], NOT as they stand above Hawkins [the English buccaneer-pirate] and Stukeley by a finer human temper, but by the supernatural grace that was in him. That the gentle scholar, trained all his life for the pulpit and the lecture room, was able at the word of command [in March 1580] to step straight into a world of violence, and acquit himself nobly; that the man capable of strenuous heroism of that last year and a half [June 1580-December 1581], was able, without any complaint, to pursue the sombre routine of a pedagogue [in Prague and Brunn — in both Hussite and Lutheran Bohemia and Moravia] and contemplate a lifetime so employed — there lies the mystery which sets Campion’s triumph apart from the ordinary achievements of human strength; a mystery whose solution lies in the busy, uneventful years at Brunn and Prague [six years], in the profound and accurate piety of the Jesuit rule [hence “the precise discipline of the Ignatian Exercises”].[5]

Edmund Campion possessed a combination of very special qualities which could encourage the Catholics of England “to whom the Jesuits were being sent” and who, in truth, were “guilty of no crime except adherence to the traditional faith of their country”[6] — the Faith of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Saint Thomas à Becket of Canterbury, and King Saint Edward the Confessor or Saint Thomas More. Under these conditions of life, “always vexatious, often utterly disastrous” the Catholics of Sixteenth-Century England suffered, and:

They were conditions, which, in the natural course, could only produce despair, and it depended upon their individual temperaments whether, in desperation, they had recourse to apostasy or conspiracy. It was the work of the missionaries, and most particularly of Campion, to present by their own example a third supernatural solution. They came with gaiety among a people where hope was dead. The past held only regret, and the future apprehension; they brought with them, besides their priestly dignity and indestructible creed, an entirely new spirit of which Campion is the type: the chivalry of Lepanto and the poetry of La Mancha, light, tender, generous and ardent.[7]

Always himself rooted in reality, Waugh then adds:

After him [Edmund Campion] there still were apostates and there were conspirators; there were still bitter old reactionaries, brooding alone in their impoverished manors over the injustice they had suffered [and perhaps without “forgiveness from the heart”], grumbling at the Queen’s plebeian advisers, observing the forms of the old Church in protest against the crazy, fashionable Calvinism; these survived, sterile and lonely, for theirs was not the temper of Campion’s generation who — not the fine flower only, but the root and stem of English Catholicism — surrendered themselves to their destiny without calculation or reserve; for whom the honorable pleasures and occupations of an earlier age were forbidden; whose choice lay between the ordered, respectable life of their ancestors and the faith which had sanctified it; who followed holiness though it led them through bitter ways to poverty, disgrace, exile, imprisonment and death; who followed it gaily.[8]

How did Campion become a Jesuit? How did it come to pass that, ordained by the Bishop of Prague, Father Campion, S.J., celebrated his first Mass on the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, on 8 September 1578 — slightly more than three years before his blood witness for the Faith, at Tyburn, in London, England? Waugh’s vivid and nuanced narrative will lead us to these deeper understandings — and some other insights, as well, about the implications of the Faith. For, the Lord’s last words to His disciples before His Ascension were: “and you shall be witnesses [Greek, “MARTYRES“] for me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

In his own narrative of a later martyr for Christ, Waugh’s vivifying style has that “special quality” and “humbler role” of which Lactantius himself spoke in Waugh’s later Historical Novel, Helena (1950). In the later Third Century A.D., Lactantius was speaking of the earlier Christian martyrs of Britain and the recent martyrs of Thrace; he was speaking to Helena, before she became a Christian, and to her companion, Minervina (a sentimental — and somewhat brainless — Gnostic Sympathizer!). Lactantius in his modesty admits that he himself lacked what was needed to face the test of martyrdom, which is why he did not “stay at home in Nicomedia” (in Asia Minor), but fled the Diocletian Persecutions there. In Lactantius’ humble words about the mystery and abiding power of literary style, we also hear the deeper heart of Waugh:

“It needs a special quality to be a martyr — just as it needs a special quality to be a writer. Mine is the humbler rôle, but one must not think it quite valueless. One might combine two proverbs and say: ‘Art is long and will prevail.’ You see it is equally possible to give the right form to the wrong thing, and the wrong form to the right thing. Suppose that in the years to come [for example, in the time of Voltaire or Edward Gibbon], when the Church’s troubles seem to be over, there should come an apostate of my own trade, a false historian, with the mind of Cicero or Tacitus and the soul of an animal,” and he nodded towards the gibbon who fretted his golden chain and chattered for his fruit.” A man like that [who would “sap a solemn Creed with a solemn sneer,” said a poet] might make it his business to write down the martyrs and excuse the persecutors. He might be refuted again and again [with the true evidence and truthful counter-argument] but what he wrote would remain in people’s minds when the refutations were quite forgotten. That is what style does — it has the Egyptian secret of the embalmers. It is not to be despised.”[9]

Unlike the mocking tones and diction and syntax of Edward Gibbon, the gift of Evelyn Waugh’s style in his narrative of a later English martyr — “Pater Edmundus Campianus, Martyr” — gives the right form to the right thing. He uses language, not to conceal, but to reveal reality. That is to say, both the exterior, and the interior, life of Campion.

As we consider the preparation, formation, and full fructification of this gracious and much-beloved Jesuit priest, we should remember that, at the time of Father Campion’s return on “the English mission” as a Catholic priest, there was not yet an English Province of the Society of Jesus. Nor were there any Catholic bishops then in England who were not in prison. The other English Catholic bishops — like the elderly and failing Bishop Goldwell of Saint Asalph — were in exile. Moreover, after Campion was received as a novice in the Society of Jesus in late April 1573, he was assigned to the Austrian Province of the Jesuits for “the Bohemian apostolate” (which included Moravia, as well). The recently elected new General of the Society of Jesus — the Fleming, Mercurianus — approved of this assignment, as well as his later mission to England.[10] But, only three years after Campion’s martyrdom on the gibbet at Tyburn, the new Jesuit General Aquaviva was to write that “to send missionaries in order to give edification by their patience under torture might injure many Catholics and do no good to souls.”[11] The practical wisdom of those missions themselves, as well as the proper methods to be employed in the worsening circumstances in England, would remain a keenly disputed issue, even for those of deep faith who kept as a priority a supernatural criterion and the salvation of souls (salus animarum).

What would today’s laxer, or more tolerant, “Ecumenists” say — those who would inclusively promote, not the conversion of Protestants, but the convergence with Protestants (to include the increasingly innovative and syncretistic Anglicans of modern England)?

Even though Campion, along with Father Alexander Briant and Father Ralph Sherwin and thirty-seven others, was formally canonized on 25 October 1970, how would most “updated” Catholics today likely look upon those intransigent “Recusants” of Elizabethan England who refused to compromise with the eclectic and apostate “Elizabethan Settlement,” as it is euphemistically called? This is an important question, too, for us to reflect upon: to clarify our mind and principles, and to decide. We, too, must be prepared for the test — for the spiritual and moral combat of martyrdom. But, it is hard to pass the test when the test keeps changing. It is all too easy for our human weakness and sloth to say, instead: “If you can’t pass the test, change the test!” Especially, if it is a demanding test. Edmund Campion himself was often offered, as we shall see, comfortable preferments, even by the Queen herself, “would he but apostatize”!

In 1959, thirteen years after his new “Preface to the American Edition” of Edmund Campion, Waugh wrote a new Preface to his second, revised edition of Brideshead Revisited (1945), where he was very explicit about the main purpose of his historical novel. He said: “Its theme — the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected characters — was perhaps presumptuously large, but I make no apology for it.”[12] This matter of Grace was so important to him. He knew that Nature was not enough. Certainly not our Fallen Nature, wounded, concupiscent, and intellectually darkened.

In his short 1946 “Preface to the American Edition” of Edmund Campion — the edition without the original 1935 footnotes and bibliography — Waugh also very explicitly says, concerning his narrative, that “It should be read as a simple, perfectly true story of heroism and holiness.”[13]

Emphasizing that “the facts are not in dispute,” he adds:

We [in 1946] have come much nearer to Campion since Simpson’s day [the late Nineteenth Century]. He wrote[14] [1861-2, 1866, 1896] in the flood-tide of toleration, when Elizabeth’s persecution seemed as remote as Diocletian’s. We know now that his age was a brief truce in the unending war.[15]

This theme of the permanent combat was reinforced four years later in his especially beautiful, already quoted, historical novel on the mother of Constantine, Saint Helena, entitled simply Helena (1950). Reflecting upon those other late-comers to Christ, the Three Magi, with whom she humbly identified, Helena says the following — in a passage of the novel just before she is shown to discover the True Cross:

“Like me,” she said, “you were late in coming [“to the truth”, “to Christ”] …. How laboriously you came, taking sights and calculating, where the shepherds had run barefoot [to the Manger]! …. You came to the final stage of your pilgrimage …. What did you do? You stopped to call on King Herod. Deadly exchange of compliments in which there began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent!”[16]

Christ Himself was being hunted at His birth. Like the impending Slaughter of the Innocents (“Flores Martyrum” — Prudentius) and the later, manipulated mob who preferred Barabbas, so, too, Evelyn Waugh saw what was happening again in that “unending war,” and not only in Mexico:

We have seen the Church driven underground in one country after another. The martyrdom of Father Pro [of the Society of Jesus] in Mexico re-enacted Campion’s. In fragments and whispers we get news of other saints in the prison camps of Eastern and South Eastern Europe, of cruelty and degradation more frightful than anything in Tudor England and of the same pure light [undiluted — like all purity] shining in the darkness, uncomprehended. The hunted, trapped, murdered priest is amongst us again and the voice of Campion comes to us across the centuries as though he were walking at our side.“[17]

Waugh presents a lucid fourfold structure to his book, the four sections being entitled, respectively: The Scholar; The Priest; The Hero; The Martyr. He adds an Appendix, Father Campion’s original threefold Challenge (written in English, not Latin), to Queen Elizabeth’s Lords of the Privy Council, the Doctors and Masters of Oxford and Cambridge, and the Ecclesiastical and Civil Lawyers of the Realm of England. In this challenge — called “Campion’s Brag” by his adversaries — Campion says: “Hereby I have taken upon me a special kind of warfare under the banner of obedience, and eke [also] resigned all my interest or possibilitie of wealth, honour, pleasure, and other worldlie felicitie.”[18]

Campion’s Challenge is an Open Letter which was written spontaneously in July of 1580, by hand, in half an hour, at a village outside London (Hoxton), and at the request of his colleague, Mr. Thomas Pounde, for the purpose of clarifying his true spiritual mission, should he be captured, to those who purportedly suspected him of treason. It concludes with these memorable and still inspiring words of fervor and Faith; knowing very well “upon what substantial grounds our Catholike Faith is builded”:

Hearken to those who would spend the best blood in their bodies for your salvation. Many innocent hands are lifted up to heaven for you daily by those English students [in Douai, of Flanders, in Rheims, and in Rome], whose posteritie shall never die, which beyond seas [in exile], gathering virtue and sufficient knowledge for the purpose [to secure your salvation], are determined never to give you over, but either to win you heaven, or to die upon your pikes. And touching our Societie [the Society of Jesus], be it known to you that we have made a league — all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practices of England — cheerfully [with hilaritas mentis] to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery [return to the Faith, conversion unto salvation], while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked [by that instrument of pain which hideously later stretched his own limbs apart] with your torments, or consumed with your prisons [the Tower of London]. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the Faith was planted: so it must be restored.[19]

Reflecting upon the mysterious and very consequential decision which had been made ten years earlier (in 1570) by the sainted Dominican Pope Pius V, namely, to promulgate on Corpus Christi Day (25 May 1570) the Bull of Elizabeth’s Excommunication and Deposition (Regnans in Excelsis), Evelyn Waugh posed an important question, and with great humility:

Had he [Pope Pius V], perhaps, in those withdrawn, exalted hours before his crucifix, learned something that was hidden from the statesmen of his time and the succeeding generations of historians [who acutely criticized him for his act]; [had he] seen through and beyond the present and the immediate future [e.g., the October 1571 Battle of Lepanto!]; [had he] understood that there was no easy way of reconciliation, but that it was only through blood and hatred and derision that the faith was one day to return to England?[20]

Waugh shows a heart and a humility for this great Dominican Pope despite the manifold, “learned and prudent” criticisms against his Bull of Excommunication and Deposition. Waugh, then says, once again with a supernatural perspective:

It is possible that one of his more worldly predecessors [as Pope] might have acted differently, or at another season, but it was the pride and slight embarrassment of the Church that, as has happened from time to time in her history, the See of Peter was at this moment occupied by a Saint.[21]

Moreover,

His contemporaries and the vast majority of subsequent historians regarded the Pope’s action as ill-judged. It has been represented as a gesture of mediaevalism, futile in an age of new, vigorous nationalism, and its author as an ineffectual and deluded champion [like a Don Quixote], stumbling through the mists, in the ill-fitting, antiquated armour of Gregory [VII] and Innocent [III]; a disastrous figure, provoking instead of a few buffets for Sancho Panza the bloody ruin of English Catholicism.[22]

Waugh’s own artfully ironic description of Saint Pius V’s scoffers shows the depth of his own vision and Faith; and he truly tries to understand the Pope’s deeper reasons and motives:

Pius contemplated only the abiding, abstract principles that lay behind the phantasmagoric changes of human affairs. He prayed earnestly about the situation in England, and saw it with complete clarity; it was a question [a quaestio disputata] that admitted of no doubt whatever. Elizabeth was illegitimate by birth, she had violated her [Catholic] coronation oath, deposed her [Catholic] bishops, issued a heretical Prayer Book and forbidden her subjects the comfort of the sacraments. No honourable Catholic could be expected to obey her.[23]

Indeed, Edmund Campion’s own final words of his threefold “Challenge” (“Brag”) ten years later intimately hoped for an eventual and full reconciliation — but only sub gratia — in Beatitude. With eloquence and warm-heartedness he said:

If these my offers [to be allowed an open, public Disputation about the Faith] be refused, and my endeavors can take no place, and I, having run thousands of miles to do you good [unto your salvation], shall be rewarded with rigour [mortal punishment], I have no more to say but to recommend [entrust] your case and mine to Almightie God, the Searcher of Hearts [Scrutator Cordium], who send us His grace, and set us at accord before the day of payment [the Final Judgment], to the end we may at last be friends in heaven, when all injuries shall be forgotten.[24]

Before first introducing us to Edmund Campion as a young and developing scholar(twenty-six years old), who first met Queen Elizabeth on 3 September 1566 when she was only thirty-three years of age and on her first visit to Oxford University, Waugh begins his book with an unmistakable shock. He depicts Elizabeth in her last illness, a terrible thing to think upon, showing her increasingly withdrawn into silence and sadness, for nearly two weeks in Mid-March 1603, until she lapsed into a final stupor and death, after having sunk more and more into melancholy and muteness and the terrible isolation of the human soul, “where she died without speaking,” “sane and despairing.”[25] It is a stark depiction, indeed. “In these circumstances the Tudor Dynasty came to an end,” Waugh quietly comments, as if he were also implying a parable as well as a warning. For it was that same Tudor Dynasty “which in three generations had changed the aspect and temper of England.”[26]

That is to say, in 1603, almost twenty-two years after Father Campion’s own blood-witness for the Faith, Catholicism in England was fading. It was no longer part of the public order and leadership of the realm. Indeed, says Waugh, that three-generation Tudor Dynasty

Left a new aristocracy, a new religion, a new system of government; the generation was already [even in 1603] in its childhood that was to send King Charles [Charles I] to the scaffold [with the approval of Oliver Cromwell, the Calvinist]; the new rich families who were to introduce the [Protestant] House of Hanover were already in the second stage of their metamorphosis from the freebooters of Edward VI’s reign [1547-1553] to the conspirators of 1688 [i.e., the usurpation of the Catholic King James II, or “the Glorious Revolution”] and the sceptical, cultured oligarchs of the eighteenth century. The vast exuberance of the Renaissance had been canalized. England was secure, independent, insular; the course of her history lay plain ahead: competitive nationalism, competitive industrialism, competitive imperialism, the looms and coal mines and [financial] counting houses, the joint-stock companies and the cantonments; the power and the weakness of great possessions.[27]

Especially, we might say, the burden and the weakness of “Power without Grace“![28] In the words of Saint Helena to her belabored son Constantine, who was as yet unconverted and unbaptized as an Emperor: “Think of the misery of a whole world possessed of Power without Grace.”[29] In other words, words which were earlier applied to Emperor Diocletian himself, “All the tiny mechanism of Power regularly revolved, like a watch still ticking on the wrist of a dead man.”[30] And, for sure, the well-flattered Emperor Diocletian was at the time spiritually dead and exhausted; sick of strife and persecution (perhaps like Queen Elizabeth in the end).

This, indeed, according to Waugh, was the very sentiment that Emperor Diocletian had felt when, “consumed by huge boredom,” he stepped down from imperial rule and “sickly turned towards his childhood’s home” on the seacoast of Dalmatia; for, even he had, despite his great might, almost himself suffocated “in the inmost cell of the foetid termitary of power“[31] — “Power without Grace” had consumed him, and self-sabotaging despair in the end. Mindful of all of this, Helena was, as a good mother, warning her own son, as well — and drawing him to the Catholic Faith which she herself had so gratefully and winsomely embraced.

Edmund Campion, too, was gradually drawn to the Faith. Despite his early compromises with the new Anglican Establishment and the Elizabethan Settlement of the Tudor State, he always seemed to drink from deeper sources and was especially open to Grace, even while he was at St. John’s College at Oxford, which itself was “predominantly Catholic in sympathy.”[32] That is to say, the atmosphere there was still Catholic.

In contrast to his younger contemporary, Tobie Matthew (1546-1628), who had compromised completely with “the new order” and consequently “prospered” (becoming even the Anglican Archbishop of York), Campion persistently resisted. He was different. In Waugh’s trenchant words: “Tobie Matthew died full of honors in 1628. There, but for the Grace of God, went Edmund Campion.”[33]

While Campion was still a scholar and teacher at Oxford (1555-1569), “the division was more sharply defined” between the Catholic party in the majority and the Protestant party in the ascendant; and “Campion hesitated between the two, reluctant to decide.”[34] (In 1568, however, Campion had “committed himself more gravely by accepting ordination as deacon” in the Anglican Church, a step he later very deeply regretted![35] As Waugh depicts it, Campion had wished only to be “left in peace to pursue his own studies” and to “discharge [his] duties” as “proctor and public orator, to do his best for his pupils.”[36] With unfailing acuteness once again, Waugh immediately adds: “But he was born into the wrong age for these gentle ambitions; he must be either much more, or much less.”[37]

When the persistent integrity of Campion’s troubled conscience, in decisive combination with his close study of the Church Fathers (like John Henry Newman later), led him to an ever deeper understanding of Church History and Doctrine, “the further he seemed from the Anglican Church which he was designed to enter.” But, nonetheless, “he fled and doubled from the conclusions of his reason,” for “nothing but ill was promised for him by the way he was being drawn.”[38] It was still a temptation, an incentive to further disorder, but he resisted; he did not consent to it.

By contrast, “Tobie Matthew’s way lay smooth before him” and he could very easily convince himself that a compromise was needed altogether, in the circumstances that prevailed. Indeed, as the excuse was conveniently formulated: “In a world where everything was, by its nature, a makeshift and poor reflection of reality, why throw up so much that was excellent, in straining for a remote and perhaps unattainable perfection?”[39] (With respect to the Church Fathers and their clear support for the Catholic position, Tobie Matthew had even responded to Campion’s personal query to him, as follows: “If I believed them [the Church Fathers] as well as read them, you would have good reason to ask” — i.e., to ask why I — Tobie Matthew — do not myself become a Catholic![40]) This is a fine summary, I think, of the self-deception and corruption and dishonesty of an apostate!

In the case of Campion’s other companions of Oxford, there were some less corrupt evasions of historical evidence, and truth, and other temporizing arguments, too, which were quite “acceptable to countless decent people, then and later” — fearful people who also had resigned themselves to a lower vision of life, and of what could be expected from life and should be striven for.[41] Campion, says Waugh, was not content with mere decency, however:

There was that in Campion that made him more than a decent person: an embryo in the womb of his being, maturing in darkness, invisible, barely stirring; the love of holiness, the need for sacrifice.[42]

But the Catholic atmosphere at Dr. Allen’s seminary at Douai not only later nurtured this deeper disposition of his soul; it also made him look back upon his earlier compromises and “passive conservatism” with greater severity and self-rebuke. In Waugh’s memorable words:

Martyrdom was in the air of Douai. It was spoken of, and in secret prayed for, as the supreme privilege of which only divine grace could make them worthy. But it was with just this question, of his own worthiness, that Campion now became preoccupied. There is no record of the date of his formal reconciliation with the Church, but it is reasonable to assume that it occurred immediately on his arrival from England [i.e., in June 1572, after he had witnessed at London’s Westminster Hall, “the trial of Dr. Storey, a refugee whom Cecil had has kidnapped at Antwerp and brought home to suffer in old age under an insupportable charge of treason” — perhaps a turning point in Campion’s life — and “the condemned man [like Campion himself eight and a half years later] was executed on June 1st with peculiar ferocity“[43]] From then onwards he [Campion] was admitted to the Sacraments without which he had spent the past ten or twelve years of his life [i.e., not having received since 1560 or 1562!][44]

Moreover, as of 1572, we see a deeper change, sub gratia:

From then onwards, for the first time in his adult life [in 1555, under the Catholic Queen, Mary Tudor, Campion was only fifteen years old when he first went to Oxford], he found himself in a completely Catholic community, and, perhaps, for the first time, began to have some sense of the size and power of the world he had entered, of the distance and the glory of the aim he had [now] set himself.[45] The Faith of the people among whom he had now placed himself [along with his good friend from Oxford, Gregory Martin] was no fad or sentiment to be wistfully disclosed over the wine at high table, no dry, logical necessity to be expounded in the schools; it [the Faith] was what gave them daily life, their entire love and hope, for which [Faith] they had abandoned all smaller loyalties and affections; all that most men found desirable, home, possessions, good fame, increase, security in the world, children to keep fresh their memory after they were dead.[46]

In this atmosphere and with his humility, new discernments illuminated his mind and well-formed sensitive conscience. On the premise that “contrast clarifies the mind,” as it were, it came to pass that,

Beside their devotion Campion saw a new significance in the evasions and compromises of his previous years. At Oxford and Dublin he had been, on the whole, very much more scrupulous of his honor than the majority; he had foresworn his convictions rarely and temperately; when most about him were wantonly throwing conscience to the winds and scrambling for the prizes, he had withdrawn decently from competition; but under the fiery wind of Douai these carefully guarded reserves of self-esteem dried up and crumbled away. The numerous small jealousies of University life, his zeal for reputation, his courtship of authority [or of “Power without Grace”], the oaths he had taken of the Queen’s [Elizabeth’s] ecclesiastical supremacy, the deference with which he had given to [Anglican Bishop] Cheney’s view of conformity [with “the Powers That Be”], his melodious eulogies of the Earl of Leister [Robert Dudley, one of Campion’s patrons and one of Queen Elizabeth’s lovers, as well], above all “the mark of the beast,” the ordination he had accepted as an Anglican deacon, now appeared to him as a series of gross betrayals crying for expiation, fresh wounds in the hands and feet [or Heart!] of Christ.”[47]

To sharpen the transformation and humility of Campion, Waugh deftly says:

He had come to Douai as a distinguished immigrant …. Allen [“the founder and first President” of Douai, “Dr. — later Cardinal — William Allen of Oriel, a gentleman of ancient Lancashire family, thirty-years old at the date of the foundation, 1568, who had left Oxford at the first religious changes” and had “become a priest in Louvain”][48] received him as a sensational acquisition. He [Campion] had left England, it may be supposed, in a mood of some pride and resentment; he was casting off the dust of ingratitude, taking his high talents where they would be better appreciated. Now in this devout community, at the hushed moment of the Mass, he realized the need for other gifts than civility and scholarship; he saw himself as a new-born, formless soul that could come to maturity only by long and especially sheltered growth.[49]

In the end, Campion embodied Saint Ignatius Loyola’s prayer, already cited, from his Spiritual Exercises: “Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem. Accipe memoriam, intellectum atque voluntatem omnem …. (“Take and receive, O Lord, all my liberty. Receive and accept my entire memory and understanding and will”). At the end, “the composition of place” for Campion was not Calvary during the Passion of the Lord, which he had so often contemplated with love. His own Passion, in the Providence of God, would be at Tyburn; his Cross would be the Gibbet and the butcher-work to follow.

As in the case of Saint Longinus, so, too, with a witness of Campion’s later Testimony of Blood:

One man … returned from Tyburn to Grays Inn profoundly changed; Henry Walpole, Cambridge wit, minor poet, flaneur, a young man of birth, popular, intelligent, slightly romantic. He came from a Catholic family and occasionally expressed Catholic sentiments, but until that day [1 December 1581] had kept a discreet distance from [George] Gilbert and his circle [who, at great risk to themselves, sheltered and conducted support operations for the hunted missionary priests], and was on good terms with authority. He was a typical member of that easy-going majority, on whom the success of the Elizabethan Settlement depended, who would have preferred to live under a Catholic régime but accepted the change without very serious regret.[50] He had an interest in theology and had attended Campion’s conferences with the Anglican clergy [four of them, starting on 1 September 1581, after he had been put to the torture by the “rack-master” in the Tower of London — the fourth conference “to test the truth of his Creed” being held shortly before his judicial Trial for Treason began on 14 November 1581 at Westminster Hall, where Dr. Storey himself had also been condemned in May of 1572]. He [Walpole] secured a front place at Tyburn; so close that when Campion’s entrails were torn out by the butcher and thrown into the cauldron of boiling water a spot of blood splashed upon his coat. In that moment he was caught into a new life; he crossed the sea, became a priest, and thirteen years later, after very terrible sufferings, died the same death as Campion’s on the gallows of York.[51]

A recapitulation of the external events of significance and chronology of Campion’s life may be helpful at this point, especially after having considered Waugh’s more concentrated and intimate insights about Edmund Campion’s transformation unto holiness and heroism, to include Campion’s effects upon others, for their greater good. A schematic summary will serve our purpose, therefore, in an Appendix.

In the eloquent depictions of his book, Waugh moves from the final melancholy and very sad death of Queen Elizabeth, back to when as a young woman of thirty-three she first met Edmund Campion (on 3 September 1566); then to a presentation of the state of Oxford University and of Campion’s patronage (promised to him from both Leicester and Cecil), for “they had need of men like Campion” now “that the University had thrown off its lethargy and was once more advancing in hope.”[52] “But the past,” says Waugh, “could not be recalled,” for “a great tradition had been broken.”[53] Moreover, says he:

Not for a hundred years [i.e., until around 1670] was the University [Oxford, specifically] to know security [for “no one felt confidence in the rewards of scholarship” and “politics and theology continued to sway University elections”], and it was to emerge from its troubles provincial, phlegmatic and exclusive [and, most certainly, exclusive of Catholics!]; not for three hundred years was it to re-emerge as a centre of national life.[54]

It was the case, as of 1566, that

Now Cecil and Elizabeth were finding it very hard to get suitable candidates for ministry in the new church. By the first acts of the reign [of Queen Elizabeth] they had made the Mass illegal.[55]

No longer at Oxford was there to be seen “the spacious, luminous world of Catholic humanism.”[56] And, it must be remembered that

From its earliest days the University had been primarily a place for the training of churchmen. By the statutes, Holy Orders were obligatory on aspirants for almost all important offices. Sons of the aristocracy might keep term in the interests of culture, but the general assumption for poor scholars was that they were qualifying as priests.[57]

Now we may better understand Elizabeth’s and Cecil’s problem, and why they would have wanted to attract and give further patronage to Edmund Campion, even as late as November 1581, shortly before his vile and truculent execution. Even Campion’s sister was sent to him on such a mission during those last eleven days of his in the Tower of London, even as he lay in the dark dungeon in irons. In Waugh’s poignant words:

Hitherto his family have made no appearance in the story; now a sister of whom we know nothing, came to visit him, empowered to make a last offer of freedom [sic] and a benefice, if he would renounce his Faith.[58]

Leading us to another moving insight about the effects of Campion’s “heroism and holiness” — to include the forgiveness of others from his heart — Waugh adds the following:

There may have been other visitors [during those final eleven days] …. but the only one of whom we have record is George Eliot [the one who, like Judas, had betrayed and helped capture him]. “If I [Eliot] had thought that you would have had to suffer aught but imprisonment through my accusing of you, I would never have done it.” “If that is the case,” replied Campion, “I beseech you, in God’s name, to do penance, and confess your crime [to include his unmistakably base perjury at Campion’s own Trial for Treason], to God’s glory and your own salvation.”[59]

Waugh’s immediate comment is exquisite, and then compassionate and consoling, further revealing thereby the mystery of Grace and Divine Mercy — especially the grace of conversion of a hardened human heart:

But it was fear for his life [“fear for his skin”] rather than for his soul that had brought the informer [and apostate perjurer] to the Tower; ever since the journey from Lyford, when the people had called him “Judas,” he had been haunted by the spectre of Catholic reprisal.

“You are much deceived,” said Campion, “if you think the Catholics push their detestation and wrath as far as revenge; yet to make you quite safe, I will, if you please, recommend you to a Catholic duke in Germany, where you may live [were his conscience to permit it!] in perfect security.”

But it was another man who was saved by that offer. Eliot went back to his trade of spy; Delahays, Campion’s gaoler, who was present at the interview, was so moved by Campion’s generosity that he became a Catholic.[60]

By his further deft implicitness and artful indirection, Evelyn Waugh very forcefully and cumulatively conveys the inhumanity and violence of the New Elizabethan Régime and its New Religion.

For example, the founder of Saint John’s College at Oxford, Sir Thomas White, according to Waugh:

Had lived until 1564 [i.e., two years before Campion first met Queen Elizabeth], and up to his death he saw to it that the rules he had laid down were properly observed. He was a city magnate of modest education and simple piety; a childless old man who devoted the whole of his great wealth to benefactions. The last years of his life were overclouded by the change of religion; he collected the sacred vessels from the College Chapel and stored them away in his own house for a happier day, and was obliged to stand by helpless while the authorities perverted the ends of his own foundation; he saw the poor scholars whom he had adopted and designed for the [Catholic] priesthood trained in a new way of thought [i.e., in the insidious Neo-Modernism of his day!] and ordained with different rites, for a different purpose.[61]

Adding to this poignancy, Waugh says:

He had set down in his statutes that the day was to begin with Mass, said in the Sarum use; at Elizabeth’s accession it ceased, never to be restored; he saw three of his [Catholic and College] Presidents … deposed by the authorities for their faith. He died a comparatively poor man, out of favour at Court, out of temper with the times, and was buried according to Protestant rites — Campion speaking the funeral oration in terms which appear rather patronising [“The poor old man”!]. Perhaps in secret a Mass was said for him; it is impossible to say.[62]

Though there were “still many priests [of the Catholic Faith] at Oxford” in 1564, and “at this time the greater part of St. John’s was Catholic in sympathy;” nonetheless “Catholicism at Oxford was largely [then] a matter of sentiment and loyalty to the old ways, rather than of active spiritual life” — “until the counter-reformatory period, fifteen or twenty years later [1579-1584]” and the return of Father Campion, S.J.[63]

However, at this earlier time of Edmund Campion’s piercingly condescending funeral oration for the Catholic founder of his Oxford College, Thomas White — who may himself have died with a broken heart — the Council of Trent (1545-1563) had itself just ended the previous year. But, it was already clear, says Waugh, that

The official Anglican Church had cut itself off from the great surge of vitality that flowed from the Council [the Council of Trent, and Saint Charles Borromeo, for example]; it was by its own choice, insular and national. The question before Campion [also in 1564] was, not whether the Church of England was heretical, but whether, in point of fact, heresy was a matter of great importance; whether in problems of such great importance human minds could ever hope for accuracy, whether all formulations [as with the irreformable doctrines of Catholic Dogma] were not, of necessity, so inadequate that their differences were of no significance.[64]

But, what about the Catholic Mass?

For the New Régime, as is still the case today, it would seem, the primary target was the Sacrifice of the Mass, in which “Calvary is happening.” For a while, the new Anglican authorities could and would tolerate certain Catholic customs and lingering sentimentalisms:

But the saying of the Mass was a different matter …. They were united in their resolve to stamp out this vital practice of the old religion [the Actio Sacra Missae]. They struck hard at all the ancient habits of spiritual life — the rosary, devotion to Our Lady and the Saints, pilgrimages, religious art, fasting, confession, penance and the great succession of traditional holidays [i.e., Holy Days] — but the Mass was recognized as being both the distinguishing sign and main sustenance of their opponents.[65]

(We will recall that, about thirty years after he first penned these words, Waugh was to face his own ordeal over the new Liturgical Revolution within the Catholic Church, where, once again, as he saw it, the integrity of the Mass was at stake.)

As in the ongoing Dialectic Revolution today, informed, as ever, not by the principle of life, but by the “principle of disorder” — “solve et coagula!” — so, too, at the time of Campion, many well-meaning, but incompletely formed, Catholics were “dealing with the problem of conformity”[66] and also with the corrosive “solvents” of their hostile society. The Law in England was still mild (1559-1570); that is to say, until Saint Pius V’s 1570 Proclamation of Queen Elizabeth’s Excommunication and Deposition, after which time Catholics were more and more suspect of treason and potential rebellion.

Nevertheless, even under milder Penal Laws against Catholics, many of which were for a while not strictly applied, the average Catholic family had to face the threat of “sequestration,” “confiscation,” “fines,” and even (after the third offense) “imprisonment for life.”[67] Often, their choice was between either “submission” or “destitution.”[68] (Such submission often lead to apostasy; and the threat of destitution often lead to conspiracy and revolt, for the men, especially, were eventually “made reckless by injustice.”)

Moreover, says Waugh, even before the later 1570 Papal Excommunication, namely in the Spring of 1568, the Catholic Mary Stuart — “Mary Queen of Scots” — had taken refuge from the strife in Scotland, and then “was imprisoned in England.” She was seen as a threat, in many ways. For, says Waugh:

In the event of war abroad or rebellion at home, Cecil felt that the Catholics constituted a grave menace. They were proving more stubborn in their faith than had first seemed likely …. Accordingly, all over England the commissioners and magistrates were instructed to take a firmer line; at first no new legislation was used, but the law which had been administered with some tact was everywhere more sternly enforced. More Catholics went into exile, among them Gregory Martin [who went to Douai], Campion’s closest friend for thirteen years, who had left Oxford to act as a tutor in the Duke of Norfolk’s family [the head of which, himself a Catholic, had led a Northern Rebellion]. The repression had begun which was to develop year by year from strictness to savagery, until, at the close of the century, it had become the bloodthirsty persecution in which Margaret Clitheroe was crushed to death between mill stones for the crime of harbouring a priest.[69]

Thus, according to the discerning Waugh:

When Campion [while still at Oxford] most required tranquillity in which to adjust his vision to the new light [of his still slowly germinating Catholic Faith] that was daily becoming clear and more dazzling, events outside his control, both at Oxford and in the world at large, became increasingly obtrusive.[70]

Soon, therefore, he was to seek refuge in Ireland — until that, too, became more precarious: “The authorities in Dublin were instructed to arrest suspected Catholics, and at the beginning of March 1572 Campion, with his History [i.e., The History of Ireland] still unfinished, became a fugitive.”[71] But, “there is no clear record of his movements in the next few months.”[72] Eventually, by the end of June, he arrives in Douai.

Indeed, “in this ill-documented decade” (circa 1568-1580), the situation of the Catholics became increasingly difficult and sometimes confused, especially for those families who had to live on in England. Speaking with deft and vividly imaginative irony, Waugh recapitulates this situation:

The Catholics, left without effective leadership, appear to have been dealing with the problem of conformity [or, whether to choose Resistance to the growing Religious Revolution], each in his own way. It was one which varied greatly in different parts of the country. Some [i.e., those who at once became firm “Recusants”] refused the oath [of the Queen’s Spiritual Supremacy] and went into exile; some paid the penalties of the law. Some, who were popular or locally powerful, avoided, year after year, taking the oath at all; some took the oath and meant nothing by it. That generation [before the re-animating arrival of the Jesuits!] was inured to change; sooner or later [they imagined] the tide would turn in their favour again; a Protestant coup [a more radicalized strike by the Calvinists], such as was spoken of, to enthrone Earl of Huntington might inflame a national rising and restore the old religion; the Queen [Elizabeth] might die and be succeeded by Mary Stuart [Mary Queen of Scots]; she might marry a Catholic; she might declare for Catholicism herself. In any case, things were not likely [they delusively imagined] to last on their present unreasonable basis [Things were, in fact, to worsen and gravely degenerate!]. It was one thing for a government to suppress dangerous innovations — that was natural enough; but for the innovators [heretics, apostates, eclectics, syncretists] to be in command, for them to try to crush out by force [or by fraud!] historic Christianity — that was contrary to all good sense; it was like living under the Turks.[73]

In 1570-1571, too, during the reign of Pope Pius V, “the Turks were threatening Christianity from the rear, her centre was torn by new heresies, his [the Pope’s] allies were compromising and intriguing, their purpose distracted by ambitions of empire and influence.”[74] Pope Pius V’s successor Gregory XIII, also found himself constantly “reinforcing on all fronts the resistance to the Turks and the Reformers [or, rather, the Deformers of the Faith].”[75] Catholics, in their resistance and initiatives, must always be strategic, and not just tactical!

(So, too, is it the case for us now in the Twenty-First Century, but with a few additional elements and challenges now added. For now, we must deal, for example, with the difficult problem of deception and self-deception in the Church itself, as well as in the State and the Secret Societies. Hence, we must be prepared to face trust-breaking perfidy in high places. We must also be prepared to face new “psycho-techniques” of manipulation in the electronic and other “Mass Media,” which dangerously complement new methods of warfare and intimidation.)

In the Sixteenth Century, too, there came a point where faithful Catholics could no longer be “courtiers and connoisseurs” or “dilettanti,” especially “among the Catholic laity whose loyalty was already strained by persecution” amidst “the conflict that was rending every Catholic heart.”[76] When earlier referring to those more quiescent Catholics who would prefer to conform, Waugh had said: “But it needed more than a gentle heart and pious disposition to make a Catholic in that age.”[77] So, too, today!

Waugh himself, perhaps implying his own deeper examination of conscience, as well, reinforces this point:

The listless, yawning days were over, the half-hour’s duty perfunctorily accorded on days of obligation [i.e., on Holy Days of Obligation]. Catholics [after 1580] no longer chose their chaplain for his speed in saying Mass, or kept Boccacio bound in the covers of their missals. Driven back to the life of the catacombs, the Church was recovering her temper.[78]

As the Penal Laws (and their application) went further and further from “strictness” to “savagery,” in order, purportedly, to keep “the Queen Majesty’s subjects in due obedience,” other measures were taken:

In 1581, to meet the emergency of Campion’s mission, a further act [of Legislation] was passed …. It reaffirmed the principle that it was high treason to reconcile anyone or to be reconciled to the [Catholic] Church and imposed a new scale of fines …. It is the first time that the Mass is specifically proscribed …. The object of this legislation was to outlaw and ruin the Catholic community.[79]

Persons of cruelty, such as Francis Walsingham and his chief priest-hunter, Richard Topcliffe, said that they did not want “to make the bones” of a later Jesuit martyr and poet, Father Robert Southwell, “dance for joy,” and, so:

He and others like him now [under the new penal legislation] proceeded about the country levying blackmail where they could, spying, bribing servants, corrupting children, compassing the death of many innocent priests and the ruin of countless gentle families. The Catholics were defenseless at law [the Truth was not a defense], for their whole inherited scheme of life had been dubbed criminal [as if the charge, often made today, were true that Catholic Christianity itself is intrinsically “Anti-Semitic,” and thus soon to be liable under certain currently existing laws “on the books” in Europe; or the inexorable demand that certain of the Christian Gospels, especially John and Matthew, should be “expurgated” — censored — for their “hate speech” and other potentially persecutory incitements!]. They lived [and maybe, soon, we ourselves] in day-to-day uncertainty, whether they may not be singled out for persecution, their estates confiscated, their families dispersed and themselves taken to prison [and “the rack-master”] or the scaffold [as was to happen, we know, to Campion himself].[80]

But Father Campion shows us “the supernatural solution,” under Grace, and the deep, preparatory training for that higher supernatural vocation and the higher chivalry:

Both sides [Catholic and Protestant] now looked upon him [especially after “Campion’s Brag” had circulated very rapidly and had keenly animated his readers] as the leader and spokesman of the new mission; his membership of the Society of Jesus cast over him a peculiar glamour, for, it must be remembered, the Society had, so far, no place in the English tradition [and Campion himself was to become the Jesuit Protomartyr of the English Mission] …. ‘Jesuit’ was a new word, alien and modern. To the Protestants it meant conspiracy …. To the Catholics, too, it meant something new, uncompromising zeal of the counter-Reformation …. and in his place [in place of the earlier kind of “simple, unambitious” conventional priest] the Holy Father [Gregory XIII] was sending them [the vulnerable Catholics] in their dark hour, men of new light, equipped in every Continental art [of argumentation and persuasion], armed against every frailty, bringing a new kind of intellect, new knowledge, new holiness. [Jesuit Fathers] Campion and Persons found themselves [in 1580-1581] travelling in a world that was already tremulous with expectation.[81]

With the publication of the Ten Reasons (Decem Rationes — De Haeresi Desperata) in June of 1581, says Waugh, “the first part of Campion’s task was accomplished”:

He had been in England, now, for over a year; that was his achievement, that in all her centuries the English Church was to count one year of her life by his devotion; others were now ready to take over the guard; … the Church of Augustine and Edward and Thomas would still live; for Campion there remained only the final sacrifice.[82]

And it soon came — but after much intimidation and attempted seduction, striving to allure him both to “ecclesiastical” preferment and to apostasy; after much torture and his vigorous defensive debates (amidst his great fatigue) against the heretics and apostates themselves; after the travesty and mockery, as with Christ, of his ignominious Trial and Judicial Murder.

Reporting the words of Campion’s own Jesuit superior (who was six years younger than he), Father Robert Persons, Waugh gives us a piercing anticipation:

His [Campion’s own frequented missionary] road to Harrow took him past Tyburn gibbet, and here, Persons records, “he would often pause, both because of the sign of the Cross and in honour of some martyres who had suffered there, and also because he used to say that he would have his combat there.”[83]

And he did!

Just as it was the case “in the Tenebrae of his Passion” shortly after Campion had movingly preached on the Gospel Text “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou killest the prophets” — and just before his own final capture at Lyford Grange (in Mid-July of 1581) — Campion always kept his special qualities of courtesy and pluck, constancy and high spirits.[84] Even when, as in the Holy Week monastic ceremonies of Tenebrae, the light almost goes out — but for one final, and flickering candle — so, too, with the resilient magnanimous spirit of Edmund Campion, in combination with his deep humility. Such was the nature of his higher chivalry and daring; such was the vivid poise of his supernatural hope! The hope of the Christian martyrs.

For example, when first discussing, at Uxbridge, the important text which was finally to be called the Ten Reasons [i.e., the Decem Rationes, in Defense of the Catholic Faith],

Campion had proposed [as a title] De Haeresi Desperata — “Heresy in Despair;” it was a suggestion typical of the spirit of the missionaries; on every side heresy seemed to be triumphant; the Queen’s Government was securely in power; the old Church was scattered and broken; they themselves were being hunted from house to house in daily expectation of death; their very existence was a challenge to the power of the State to destroy a living faith. Leading Catholics, such as Francis Throckmorton, were discussing a treaty [a truce, an armistice] with the Government in which they promised to compound their fines for a regular subsidy on condition of being allowed the quiet practice of their religion. All despaired of the restoration of the Church, and only begged sufferance to die with the aid of her sacraments [in the event that they were mercifully allowed to have a “prepared-for death”]. It was at this juncture that Campion gently proposed to examine the despair of heresy and show that all its violence sprang from its consciousness of failure.[85]

In one of Campion’s own letters — a report to his Jesuit Superiors — the ending likewise conveys his pluck and hope and resilient trust:

There will never want [i.e., will never lack, be lacking] in England men that will have care of their own salvation, nor [will there be lacking] such as shall advance other men’s [salvation]; neither shall this Church here ever fail so long as priests and pastors shall be found for their sheep, rage man or devil never so much.[86]

Waugh greatly appreciated what Campion himself had gratefully recorded about his eight-day visit to Saint (then Cardinal) Charles Borromeo’s own residence and household in Milan, while they were enroute back to England on their final apostolic mission. Showing his own deeper heart, Waugh, as Campion’s biographer, could therefore also write with beauty, the following words:

The pilgrims were received, entertained, blessed [as they had also been blessed by Saint Philip Neri, when they were leaving Rome] and sent on their way, and the immense household [of the Faith] went about its duties; in its splendor and order and sanctity, a microcosm of the Eternal Church.[87]

Evelyn Waugh could also vividly render his profound gratitude to Cardinal William Allen of Douai and Rheims, who was so indispensable to Edmund Campion and to the supernatural vocations of many others down the years:

The object of the college [at Douai, and later at Rheims] was primarily to supply priests for the Catholic population, for, since the bishops were all either in prison or under detention, it was impossible for them, except very rarely with the connivance of the gaolers, to ordain priests; the system of education imposed by the Government [of Queen Elizabeth] made it increasingly difficult to train candidates for orders in England; in a few years the Marian priests [the older priests ordained during the five-year reign of Queen Mary Tudor] would begin to die out and, as [William] Cecil foresaw would quietly expire with them; that Catholicism did in fact survive — reduced, impoverished, frustrated for nearly three centuries in every attempt at participation in the public services; stultified, even, by its exclusion from the Universities [primarily Oxford and Cambridge], the professions and social life; but still national; so that, at the turn of opinion in the nineteenth century, it [Catholicism] could re-emerge, not as an alien fashion brought in from abroad, but as something historically and continually English, seeking to recover only what had been taken from it by theft — [THAT] is due, more than to any other one man, to William Allen.[88]

High tribute, indeed! And where might be the strategic-minded men of the Faith today — both in Holy Orders and among the Laity — whom we, too, may join and materially support and indefatigibly defend? The analogies between our situation today and the situation of the Faith (and of the faithful) in Sixteenth-Century England should be clearer to us now near the end of this essay. But, for us today there is also the challenge of an insidious and “peaceful preliminary subversion” on “the inner front” of the Church, in addition to more openly aggressive strategic attacks (even, as with Cecil, “a reign of terror”) upon “the exterior fronts.” Perfidy itself always breaks intimate trust. As is always the case with the Lie, its most harmful social effect is the subversion of trust. Trust, once shattered, is so hard to repair, even when forgiveness is given.

But, the Saints always show us what is possible. This is their manifold encouragement to us, as it is seen in the deepening life and final blood-witness of Saint Edmund Campion. While he was studying at Douai, says Waugh, there came to him

The continuous insistent summons to the highest destiny of all. The copy of the Summa [Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae] which Campion was using at the time survives at Manresa College, Roehampton; it is annotated in his own hand and opposite an argument on baptism of blood [by Saint Thomas] occurs the single mot prophète et radieux [i.e., the single prophetic and radiant word], Martyrium.[89]

By way of conclusion, Evelyn Waugh says:

And so the work of Campion continued [as in the later martyrdom of Father Henry Walpole, who had been so unexpectedly touched by a drop of Campion’s blood]; and so it continues. He was one of a host of martyrs, each, in their several ways, gallant, and venerable; some performed more sensational feats of adventure, some sacrificed more conspicuous positions in the world, many suffered crueller tortures, but to his own [generation], Campion’s fame had turned with unique warmth and brilliance; it was his genius to express, in sentences [with a unique power of style, recalling Lactantius’ words and Saint Helena!] that have resounded across the centuries, the spirit of chivalry in which they suffered, to typify in his zeal, his innocence, his inflexible purpose, the pattern which they followed. Years later, in the sombre, sceptical atmosphere of the eighteenth century, Bishop Challoner set himself to sift out and collect the English martyrology. The Catholic cause was very near to extinction in England …. It was then, when the whole gallant sacrifice appeared to have been in vain, that the story of the martyrs [and Edmund Campion, especially] lent them strength. We are the heirs of their conquest, and enjoy, at our ease [perhaps too much, or slothfully so?] the plenty which they died to win. Today a chapel stands by the site of Tyburn; in Oxford, the city he [Campion] loved best, a noble college [Campion Hall] has risen? dedicated in Campion’s honour.[90]

May we all, therefore, in a fuller sense — and without any spiritual sloth or inordinately self-satisfied complacency — become “Campionists”[91] and come to imitate (after our own fitting and disciplined preparation) “the spirit of chivalry in which he suffered.”

Let us not, like the “Cultural Relativists” and “Liberal Historicists” today, consider, by way of trivialization and condescension, that Campion’s response was, perhaps, once an “appropriate response,” but is no longer so now, in the new age of “ecumenism” and “inclusiveness” and “convergence.”

Let us instead, too, rise up to the higher standards of our Faith — and live up to the graces we may receive — with the radiant spirit of Campion’s chivalry and spiritual childhood.

For, Our Lord came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. The Christian Soldiers, all of us, must therefore grow up into Spiritual Childhood — which is an abundant challenge, too!

Saint Augustine of Hippo said that God created us without our co-operation, but He will not save us (or even justify us) without our co-operation.[92]

Saint Edmund Campion, Martyr, pray for us — especially for Evelyn Waugh who so gratefully cherished you.

Fifteen years after Waugh had first published Edmund Campion (1935), he published Helena (1950). In this historical novel, he presents, on the Feast of the Epiphany, a Mother’s Prayer for Her Son, and for all other “Late-Comers” to Christ, like Helena herself — and Edmund Campion, too:

While addressing the Three Magi, with whom she closely identified, who were also “Late-Comers” to Christ, Helena memorably says:

“You are my especial patrons,” said Helena, “and patrons of all late-comers, of all who have a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.

“Dear cousins [as my Patron Saints], pray for me,” said Helena, “and for my poor overloaded son [i.e., Constantine the Roman Emperor]. May he, too, before the end find kneeling-space in the straw [i.e., beside the creche of Christ]. Pray for the great, lest they perish utterly ….

“For His sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.”[93]

–FINIS–

© 2006 Robert Hickson

CODA

By way of further encouragement, and as an illustration of Evelyn Waugh’s special charm and comic touch of gracious irony throughout his inspiring, but very serious, book on Edmund Campion, this short addition proposes to do three things: (1) to give Campion’s own description of the Irish, selected from his own History of Ireland, which he wrote while in Dublin (late 1579-March 1572); (2) to give Waugh’s characterization of a very special man, the “ever impetuous” Mr. Thomas Pounde (the man who wisely suggested “Campion’s Brag” to him and later even became a Jesuit himself!); and finally, (3) to give Waugh’s depiction of a certain Father Bosgrave, S.J., who had been surprisingly sent from the Polish Province of the Jesuits, in 1580, to England, and sent for his health and for some rest and recreation!

Campion’s description of the “mere Irish,” especially fitting to be read on Saint Patrick’s Day, was written before he became a Catholic. It is charming, and perhaps even a little provocative! In Campion’s own words, Ireland was “much beholden to God for suffering them to be conquered, whereby many of their enormities were cured, and more might be, would [they] themselves be pliable”![94] The further “flavour” of Campion’s vivid history of the Irish people may be savoured, with cheerfulness, from the following two excerpts, which were presented — and warmly appreciated — by Waugh, as we may well imagine:

“The people are thus inclined: religious, frank, amorous, ireful, sufferable, of pains infinite, very glorious [perhaps like a “miles gloriosus“!]; many sorcerers, excellent horsemen, delighted with wars, great almsgivers, passing in hospitality. The lewder sort, both clerks and laymen, are sensual and loose to lechery above measure. The same, being virtuously bred up and reformed, are mirrors of holiness and austerity, that other nations [including the English!] retain but a show or shadow of devotion in comparison of them.”[95]

Now comes Campion’s brief description of the men of Ireland, and of their women:

Clear men they are of skin and hue, but of themselves careless and bestial. Their women are well favoured, clear coloured, fair headed, big and large, suffered from their infancy to grow at will, nothing curious of their feature and proportion of body“!![96]

There follows, now, Waugh’s own description of Mr. Thomas Pounde, “impetuous as ever,” and a worthy future Jesuit:[97]

They [Father Campion, Father Persons, and the others] arrived at nightfall [in Hoxton, near London, to the north] and were about to start out again the next morning when they were met by Mr. Thomas Pounde, who had slipped prison [in the Marshalsea] and ridden after them. Pounde was a devout and intelligent man, of pronounced eccentricity. The circumstances of his religious conversion were remarkable. He had been born with wealth and powerful family connections, and for the earlier part of his life lived modishly and extravagantly at Court; his particular delight was in amateur theatricals, for which the fashion of the reign gave him ample scope. On one occasion he performed an unusually intricate pas seul before the Queen; it made a success with her and she called for a repetition. He complied, but, this time, missed his footing and fell full length on the ball-room floor. The Queen was more than delighted, gave out one of her uproarious bursts of laughter, kicked him, and cried: “Arise, Sir Ox.” Pounde picked himself up, bowed, backed out among the laughing courtiers with the words: “Sic transit gloria mundi,” and from that evening devoted himself entirely to a life of austere religious observance. Various attempts, friendly and penal, failed to draw him back to his former habits, and in 1574 he was put in prison, after which date he was seldom at liberty, except on rare occasions like the present one.[98]

Finally, with regard to another Jesuit, we may savour Evelyn Waugh’s quite inimitable irony and comic style (his tonal diction, word order, and sense of incongruity): the case of Father Campion’s contemporary, Father Bosgrave, S.J., who, coming from Poland, had a surprise visit to England! Waugh’s presentation of his case is, as follows:

There was also the case of Father Bosgrave, another Jesuit, who had joined the Society sixteen years before and had since been working in Poland, far out of touch with the course of events in England. Now, at his superiors’ bidding, he returned to England, sent, by a singular irony, for the good of his health [in 1580!]. He was arrested immediately he landed, and taken for examination to the Bishop of London, who asked him whether he would go to church. “I know no cause to the contrary,” he replied, and did so, to the great pleasure of the Protestant clergy, who widely published the news of his recantation. The Synod [of Catholics, at Southwark] had only time to express their shame at his action before it broke up. The Catholics all shunned him, and Father Bosgrave, who retained only an imperfect knowledge of English, wandered about lonely and bewildered. Eventually he met a Catholic relative who explained to him roundly the scandal which he was causing. Father Bosgrave was amazed, saying that on the Continent scruples of this kind were not understood, but that a Catholic might, from reasonable curiosity, frequent a Jewish synagogue or an Anabaptist meeting-house if he felt so disposed [i.e., without thereby being guilty of an illicit participatio in sacris, or worse!]. As soon as it was made clear to him that the Protestants had been claiming him as an apostate, he was roused to action, and, saying that he would speedily clear up that misunderstanding, wrote a letter to the Bishop of London which had the effect of procuring his instant imprisonment. He was confined first in the Marshalsea and later in the Tower, from which he was moved only to his trial and condemnation for high treason, a sentence that was later commuted to banishment. He then returned to Poland and resumed his duties there, having benefited less by his prolonged stay in England than his superiors had hoped.[99]

APPENDIX

1540 — Campion, the future Protomartyr of the English Jesuits, is born in  London, on 25 January — a man in whom, finally, as in all the Saints,

“the grace of Christ is victorious” (Father Constantine Belisarius of Front  Royal).

1555-1569 — Campion is at Oxford University from the age of fifteen until almost  thirty (Queen Mary Tudor dies in 1558; Elizabeth ascends to the throne.)

Late 1569-March 1572 — Campion settles in Ireland, as a scholar, in the Anglo-Irish home of one  of his former students at Oxford. He writes his The History of Ireland there, in English, not Latin. (He knew no Gaelic.)

Early June 1572 — Campion’s departure from England, after only a brief return to his  homeland; and he is then enroute to the Douai Seminary in Flanders,  under Dr. William Allen.

June 1572-January 1573 — Campion is in residence and study at Douai Seminary, in Flanders.

February 1573-April 1573 — His arrival in Rome and subsequent departure for Vienna, Brunn, and  Prague after being accepted into the Austrian Province of the Society of  Jesus.

May 1573-25 March 1580 — Campion’s six years of residence in Prague (with a short, initial period  in Brunn) in the Jesuit Noviciate; and as a concurrent Professor of  Rhetoric and later a Professor of Philosophy, as well as a producer of  dramas, especially tragedies, for the stage. He was ordained as a priest  and said his first Mass on 8 September 1578, in Prague.

9-18 April 1580 — Campion is in Rome again, preparing for the Mission back to England.  He takes leave of, and receives a blessing from, Saint Philip Neri himself.

18 April-15 June 1580 — Campion is enroute to Rheims, France by way of Florence, Parma,  Milan (with eight days at the residence of Saint Charles Borromeo), and  then on to Turin, into the Savoy, and through Geneva itself (“the home of  Calvinism”), where they had several courageous and even humorous  experiences!

24 June 1580 — Campion lands at Dover, England “before it was daylight.”

29 June 1580 — Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Campion celebrates Mass in  London, preaching on the theme “Tu es Christus, Filius vivi Dei” and “Tu es Petrus.”

Late July 1580 — Campion writes in his own hand the Manifesto of his mission, his  Challenge, “Campion’s Brag.”

27 June 1581 — Campion’s Decem Rationes (Ten Reasons, which was originally to have  been called De Haeresi Desperata — Heresy in Despair) is placed, in  multiple copies, in the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin at Oxford  University — intentionally timed for distribution at the University  Commencement ceremonies.

16-17 July 1581 — Campion is captured at Lyford Grange, near Lyford, in Berkshire.

20 July 1581 — Campion is enroute to London as a prisoner, by way of Abington and  Henley, to the Tower of London.

End of July 1581 — Campion, after four days in solitary confinement, is rowed upstream  from the Tower of London to the Leicester House, for an interview with  Queen Elizabeth herself, in the presence of her advisers: the Earl of  Leicester (Robert Dudley), William Cecil (Lord Burghley), and the Earl  of Bedford (Francis Russell), who was Cecil’s Brother-in-Law.

5 Days Later, 1581 — Leicester and Burghley, having failed to corrupt him, sign the official  warrant to put Campion “to the torture,” to include “the Rack,” in the  Tower of London.

September-November 1581 — Campion endures, amidst great fatigue and pain, four Theological  Conferences and Examinations before the Anglican Clergy, so that  “Campion’s challenge, contained in the Brag and the Ten Reasons, should  not go unanswered” (Waugh).

14 November 1581 — Campion’s Trial for Treason commences, along with the trial of seven  other priests, with their formal Arraignment. “A majority in the [Privy]  Council had already decided in favour of Campion’s execution” (Waugh).  It was, therefore, to be a “Mock-Trial” — a fake and a travesty.

20 November 1581 — The Trial for Treason formally took place. “It was now abundantly  clear that there was to be no fair trial.” (Waugh) Campion was found  guilty and condemned to go the gallows and to the butcher-work that  follows.

21 Nov.-1 Dec. 1581 — “Campion lay in irons [in the Tower] for eleven days between  his trial and his execution,” during which, unsuccessfully, “his  sister tried to get him to renounce his Faith” (Waugh).

1 December 1581 — At Tyburn, Campion is martyred for the Faith, with his companions,  Father Sherwin and Father Briant. “It was raining; it had been raining for  some days, and the roads of the city were foul with mud” and “Every  circumstance of Campion’s execution was vile and gross” (Waugh).

1886  Edmund Campion is beatified by Pope Leo XIII.

25 October 1970  Edmund Campion is canonized by Pope Paul VI, and is given a Feast Day  of 1 December, the day of his courageous and humiliating Martyrdom.

Pater Edmundus Campianus, Martyr


[1] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946), p. 160. This 1946 edition is the second edition, the first edition being published in 1935 with notes and bibliography, which are unaccountably missing from the 1946 edition. His book was gratefully dedicated to Father Martin D’Arcy, “to whom, under God, I owe my faith.”

[2] Evelyn Waugh, Scott-King’s Modern Europe (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1949), p. 89.

[3] See A Bitter Trial: Evelyn Waugh and John Cardinal Heenan on the Liturgical Changes (edited by Scott M.P. Reid) (London, England: The Saint Austin Press, 1996). Waugh was sixty-two years of age when he died on 10 April 1966.

[4] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946 edition), pp. 83 and 32, respectively.

[5] Ibid., pp. 83-84 — my emphasis added. While Campion was at the Douai Seminary in Flanders (June 1572 — January 1573), “his mind turned more and more towards the selfless discipline and vigilance of the rule of St. Ignatius,” says Waugh, “to the complete surrender sought in the prayer ‘Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem. Accipe memoriam, intellectum atque voluntatem omnem….’ Only thus [thought Campion], if ever at all, could he be worthy of the hangman and the butcher.” (p. 67 — my emphasis added.) Especially “as his course of studies drew to their close,” Edmund Campion was “preparing himself laboriously in self-knowledge and the love of God, to become capable of the lowest service” (p. 67 — my emphasis added) and to become a Jesuit “if God willed it.” Thus he left Dr. Allen for Rome soon after 21 January 1573, after he took his degree at Douai, a Bachelor of Arts in Theology.

[6] Ibid., p. 122.

[7] Ibid., pp. 122-123 — my emphasis added.

[8] Ibid., p. 123 — my emphasis added.

[9] Evelyn Waugh, Helena (1950), pp. 115-116 — my emphasis added. The phrase about how the historian Gibbon “tried to sap a solemn Creed with a solemn sneer” has been attributed to Lord Byron (George Gordon) (1788-1824) — the English Romantic poet. See Edward Gibbon’s Chapters XV and XVI, for example, in Volume I of his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. His artfully mocking and unmistakably sabotaging Chapter XV is entitled “The Progress of the Christian Religion — Sentiments, Manners, Numbers and Conditions of the primitive Christians.” Chapter XVI is “The Conduct of the Roman Government towards the Christians, from the Reign of Nero to that of Constantine.”

[10] Ibid., p. 74.

[11] Ibid., p. 61.

[12] Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd, 1973 — 2nd Revised Edition of 1945), p. 7 (Preface).

[13] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), p. x (Preface).

[14] Richard Simpson, Edmund Campion: A Biography (London: John Hodges, 1896)

[15] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), p. x (Preface) — my emphasis added.

[16] Evelyn Waugh, Helena (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1950), p. 223 — my emphasis added.

[17] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), p. x (Preface) — my emphasis added.

[18] Ibid., p. 236.

[19] Ibid., p. 238 — my emphasis added.

[20] Ibid., pp. 48-49 — my emphasis added.

[21] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), p. 46 — my emphasis added. (I think, IBID is enough!)

[22] Ibid., p. 48 — my emphasis added.

[23] Ibid., pp. 46-47 — my emphasis added.

[24] Ibid., pp. 238-239 — my emphasis added.

[25] Ibid., pp. 5 and 6.

[26] Ibid., p. 5.

[27] Ibid., pp. 5-6 — my emphasis added.

[28] Evelyn Waugh, Helena (1950), pp. 185 and 186 — my emphasis added.

[29] Ibid., p. 186 — my emphasis added.

[30] Ibid., p. 131.

[31] Ibid., p. 100 — my emphasis added.

[32] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), pp. 11, 22.

[33] Ibid., p. 21 — my emphasis added.

[34] Ibid., p. 27.

[35] Ibid., p. 26.

[36] Ibid., p. 27.

[37] Ibid. — my emphasis added.

[38] Ibid., p. 28.

[39] Ibid., pp. 29, 29-30.

[40] Ibid., p. 28 — my emphasis added.

[41] Ibid., p. 30.

[42] Ibid. — my emphasis added.

[43] Ibid., p. 52 — my emphasis added.

[44] Ibid., p. 65 — my emphasis added.

[45] Waugh, when speaking of Campion’s earlier scholarly aims and hopes for the future, after he had almost finished his eloquent History of Ireland (March 1572), said the following: “Admirable prose, redolent of the security and humour in which it was written; tender and big with promise for the future …. But his happy interlude proved brief [1569-early 1572] and all the warm prospects illusory.” (Ibid., p. 44 — my emphasis added.)

[46] Ibid., p. 65 — my emphasis added.

[47] Ibid., pp. 65-66 — my emphasis added.

[48] Ibid., p. 58.

[49] Ibid., pp. 66-67 — my emphasis added.

[50] Waugh earlier had referred to the remaining potential “to appeal to the old loyalties that lay deep in the heart of the people,” and the Jesuits’ capacity “to infuse their own zeal into the passive conservatism over which the innovators had won a victory too bloodless to be decisive.” (Ibid., pp. 64-65 — my emphasis added.)

[51] Ibid., pp. 230-231 — my emphasis added. Blessed Henry Walpole (as of 1960) was also, it appears, canonized along with Campion and other English martyrs, in October 1970.

[52] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), pp. 14 and 12, respectively.

[53] Ibid., p. 17.

[54] Ibid. — my emphasis added.

[55] Ibid. — my emphasis added.

[56] Ibid., p. 14.

[57] Ibid., p. 17.

[58] Ibid., p. 223 — my emphasis added. Speaking earlier of Campion’s family, Waugh revealed this sad fact, namely: “At an earlier age his education had separated him from his own family; though he had two brothers of his own and a sister, they seemed never to have played any part in his life” (Ibid., p. 37 — my emphasis added).

[59] Ibid., pp. 223-224.

[60] Ibid., p. 224 — my emphasis added. Earlier, soon after Campion’s capture, Eliot, his capturer, had indignantly and presumptuously said to the priest: “Mr. Campion, you look cheerfully upon everyone but me. I know you are angry at me for this work;” and then “Campion turned his eyes on him” and said: “God forgive thee, Eliot, for so judging of me; I forgive thee and in token thereof , I drink to thee.” Then, after raising his cup, Campion added these words, but “more gravely:” “Yea, and if thou repent and come to confession, I will absolve thee; but large penance must thou have.” (see Ibid., p. 180)

[61] Ibid., pp. 21-22 — my emphasis added.

[62] Ibid., p. 22 — my emphasis added.

[63] Ibid., pp. 22 and 23 — my emphasis added. Waugh also said that, as soon as the accession of Elizabeth had occurred, in 1558, “The best men, like William Allen, had left the University and the country” (Ibid., p. 23), going first to Louvain and then to Douai and Rheims. Men like Allen did not linger to compromise, or to be tempted to compromise.

[64] Ibid., pp. 28-29 — my emphasis added.

[65] Ibid., p. 23 — my emphasis added. The phrase that “Calvary is happening” comes from Father Constantine Belisarius, a former Jesuit novice and now an Melkite Priest in Front Royal, Virginia, in the Community of “the Holy Family in Exile and the Holy Innocents.” While offering the solemn liturgy of Saint Basil recently, he spoke of the essence of the Mass, the sacrifice of “God in the Flesh,” who has a “Face,” a photograph of which we may see on “the Shroud of Turin.”

[66] Ibid., p. 26.

[67] Ibid., pp. 25 and 116-117 (Waugh’s summary of the Catholics’ legal position in England at the time).

[68] Ibid., p. 119.

[69] Ibid., pp. 30, 31-32 — my emphasis added.

[70] Ibid., p. 30 — my emphasis added.

[71] Ibid., p. 51 — my emphasis added.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Ibid., p. 26 — my emphasis added. In 1568, Mary Stuart taking refuge in England, was imprisoned there, as well, and later executed by Elizabeth.

[74] Ibid., p. 46 — my emphasis added.

[75] Ibid., pp. 69-70 — my emphasis added.

[76] Ibid., p. 71, 214, 214, respectively — my emphasis added.

[77] Ibid., p. 34.

[78] Ibid., p. 147 — my emphasis added.

[79] Ibid., pp. 117-118 — my emphasis added.

[80] Ibid., p. 120 — my emphasis added.

[81] Ibid., pp. 140, 141, 142 — my emphasis added.

[82] Ibid., p. 164.

[83] Ibid. — my emphasis added.

[84] Ibid., p. 171.

[85] Ibid., p. 157 — my emphasis added. Former Jesuit, Father Vincent P. Micelli (known to his friends as “Pete”), once said to me at Christendom College, in the mid-1980’s, the following words, when we were discussing his then-forthcoming book, The Roots of Violence: “Yea — the roots of violence is the hatred of the truth.” (He unforgettably spoke in his very special “New York City accent,” calling me, too, by my sobriquet!)

[86] Ibid., pp. 149 and 232 — quoted twice in Waugh’s book and emphatically also at the very end — my emphasis added.

[87] Ibid., p. 98 — my emphasis added.

[88] Ibid., pp. 58-59 — my emphasis added. Dr. William Cardinal Allen, himself quite strategically alert and resourceful, did much to thwart and deflect “the steps by which Cecil destroyed Catholicism in England” (William Thomas Walsh). It appears, however, that Evelyn Waugh did not know of the work of William Thomas Walsh, the Catholic Historian and Professor of English Literature, not even after 1935. That is to say, not even after Walsh’s death in 1949, although his great work, Philip II, first published in 1937, might have been of great help and inspiration to Waugh. In this masterpiece, Phillip II, William Thomas Walsh (1891-1949) has an important Chapter XVI, entitled “Freemasonry in the Sixteenth Century.” This Chapter XVI — which is the fruit of much original research, also in learned Jewish sources — is, in a sense, a complement to Walsh’s earlier Chapter XII (“William Cecil and His Friends”), which itself shows how “the so-called English Reformation begins at Cambridge, especially after Erasmus arrived in 1511 — most especially at Cambridge University and the White Horse Inn. Walsh shows how many of the key thinkers and later leading actors “all belong to Cecil’s political machine,” adding “Of this powerful political machine Cecil was always the mastermind” (pp. 212, 215). Moreover, “He [Cecil] had the advantage of working in the dark, and he had a complete organization of his own ready to take over gradually the functions of government” (p. 212) — “Such were the men who arose out of obscurity, most of them, to destroy the Church, the ancient nobility of England, and the English peasantry; to gain world power for their class …; and above all, to throw the weight of England, on the eve of her emergence as a world power in trade and politics, on the anti-Christian side” (p. 216). That is to say, “to raise up an anti-Catholic Empire” (p. 635). In Chapter XVI, which is effectively an analysis of occult Judeo-Masonry in the Sixteenth Century, William Thomas Walsh shows how Philip II himself gradually discovers the real nature of the government he has helped to set up under Queen Elizabeth in England. He later also shows that, especially “in the hands of the Marranos,” since “Marrano families from Spain and Portugal formed a vast network all over the world” (p. 634), “Under cover of these very profitable business activities the international Jews were becoming the backbone of the English spy system, one of the most elaborate and effective that the world has ever known” (p. 635). King Philip II soon discovered that “He had against him, in singular unity, all the elements of the international and mystical opposition to the Church of Christ” (p. 639). See William Thomas Walsh, Phillip II (New York: Sheed and Ward, Inc., 1937 — reprinted by TAN Books, Inc., Rockford, Illinois, 1987) — Chapter XII — “William Cecil and His Friends” [1559], pp. 208-231; Chapter XVI — “Freemasonry in the Sixteenth Century” — “Protestantism introduced by a small well-organized minority of un-English character and foreign associations,” pp. 303-323. For our further reflection, William Thomas Walsh also gives us a well-deliberated and incisive generalization and then leaves us with a strategically important question, as follows: “In the long history of the anti-Christian Revolution nothing is more obvious than the fact that each of its victories was won by a small highly-organized and partly secret minority in the midst of a large but poorly-organized majority” (p. 211). And then comes his still-important, strategic question: “How did it happen that at a precise favorable moment [i.e., during the rule of Queen Elizabeth and William Cecil] there were so many of them, of the same astute [i.e., “cunning”] and avaricious sort, with the same bitter resentment toward the Catholic Church, and acting with a remarkable spirit of collaboration, to rise up, seize or steal power, and build an empire on the ruins of the English Church?” (p. 216)

[89] Ibid., p. 64 — my emphasis added.

[90] Ibid., pp. 231-232 — my emphasis added.

[91] Ibid., p. 11. “At the age of seventeen he [Campion] had become a Fellow of St. John’s, and almost immediately attracted round him a group of pupils over whom he exerted an effortless and comprehensive influence; they crowded his lectures, imitated his habits of speech, his mannerisms and his clothes, and were proud to style themselves ‘Campionists.’ (Ibid., pp. 10-11 — my emphasis added).

[92] See, among other places, Saint Augustine’s Commentary on the Gospel of John, In Johannis Evangelium LXXII (Patrologia Latina 35:1823): “Qui creavit te sine te, non justificabit te sine te.”

[93] Evelyn Waugh, Helena (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1950), p. 224.

[94] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), pp. 40-41 — Waugh is quoting Campion’s The History of Ireland, composed in English, not, as usual, in Latin.

[95] Ibid., p. 42 — my emphasis added.

[96] Ibid. — my emphasis added.

[97] In the learned notes of Waugh’s original 1935 edition (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1935), p. 162 (Footnote # 8), we read, as follows: “He [Pounde] desired to become a Jesuit and the General, accepting his imprisonment [in the Marshalsea] in lieu of the [Jesuit] novitiate, admitted him to his vows.” (My emphasis added)

[98] Ibid., p. 133 — my emphasis added. On the following page (p. 134), Waugh emphasizes the importance of Pounde, especially on that occasion: “He came with a very wise suggestion,” which was then drawn up by Campion, by hand and in a very short while, and became his famous Manifesto — his Challenge — which is usually now known as “Campion’s Brag.”

[99] Ibid., pp. 129-131 — my emphasis added.

In My End Is My Beginning: Maurice Baring’s 1931 Novel on Mary Queen of Scots

Dr. Robert Hickson

                                                                                 7 October 2021

Feast of the Holy Rosary

             Epigraphs

We are to live and die supernaturally alive in a state of sanctifying grace.” (Solemn words often spoken by Father John A. Hardon, S.J. in his searching conversations with  R. D. Hickson down the  years.)

***

Gratia est Gloria incepta; Gloria est Gratia perfecta.” (A Dominican-Thomistic saying, as employed in the writings and oral words of Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.)

***

“Thereupon the [hostile Protestant] Earl of Kent said to her [who was then still a captive Queen in early February 1587: namely, Mary Queen of Scots (8 December 1542–8 February 1587)]: ‘Your life will be the death, and your death the life of our [Reformed Protestant] religion.’ And the Queen [Mary] said: ‘I was far from thinking myself worthy of such a death, and I humbly receive it as a token. I must trust in the mercy of God to excuse the want of such rites as His Holy Church commandeth.’” (Maurice Baring, In My End Is My Beginning (1931)—(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, pages 299-300)—my emphasis added)

***

“I [Ethel Smyth] imagine [as an artist and as a non-Catholic friend of Maurice Baring] this book will have had a resounding success among professors, record compilers, dictionary architects, and members of boards whose duty it is to guard the entrance of Scotch Universities. It might also be invaluable reading for persons marooned on desert islands. But for ordinary mortals it is a stiff proposition until you come to the indescribably harrowing thirty pages ascribed to Jane Kennedy [Queen Mary’s personal servant], who is supposed to have forwarded them to Mary Seton. This report describes the last weeks of [Queen] Mary Stuart’s sojourn in this world, and in its restraint and piercing simplicity is the sort of thing no one but Baring could have written.” (Ethel Smyth, Maurice Baring (London: Heinemann Ltd., 1938), page 288—my emphasis added.)

***

Shortly after first meeting Jesuit Father John A. Hardon in the autumn of 1980, I had occasion to read Maurice Baring’s well-researched historical novel, In My End Is My Beginning (1931) with its mysterious and poetic title. For there soon comes forth, upon greater reflection, the paradox of “endings with beginnings” along with a specific question: “What comes after death?” In other words, “We die and then what?” (Mary Queen of Scots, herself a Catholic, also had much time and occasion to examine and answer these profound and final questions—as did my own Catholic mentors–Father John Hardon and Professor Josef Pieper.)

The Catholic German philosopher Josef Pieper even once discussed some of these final matters during my visit to his home. One of them memorably deals with his active group of friends called the Bona Mors Group, also the Society of a Bonae Mortis –the Society of a Good Death. All of the members of Bona Mors were on the alert for any sudden or protracted dangers of death, to which they were promptly to respond with the organizations and initiatives with good friends: first of all to have a good Priest with offering of the Mass and the Sacraments of Penance and Extreme Unction, with Sanctifying Grace and with the giving of the Viaticum, if possible—as well as some of the more secular assistance to families and other close friends. (We shall now come to see—in the last chapter of Maurice Baring’s vivid yet harrowing historical study–all of the deprivations Mary Queen of Scots was afflicted with as a Roman Catholic in a Reformed Protestant land with an oligarchic government.)

As we shall probably soon come to realize in various ways, Mary Stuart Queen of Scots was herself in English captivity for 19 years, from 1568-1587, before being beheaded on 8 February 1587. She bore herself so well in the preparations for her rapidly announced—carried out early in 1587—Execution by the progressive English Protestants who, as they still manifestly presented it,  strongly reviled how Queen Mary Stuart both loyally believed, and lived out, the Catholic Faith.

An Attentive Reading of the Book’s Last Pages (pages 297-312) Concerned with the Presence and Deprivations of the Catholic Faith and Its Sacramental Culture: “Report Sent by Jane Kennedy to Mary Seton (Fotheringay Castle: 8-19 February 1587.[1])

Our closer attentiveness to the novel’s final section will present the format as it was structured in the original report to Mary Seton, and sent by Jane Kennedy who was herself the intimate, loyal, and longstanding  servant to Queen Mary Stuart even unto the Queen’s unjust death by beheading at the English scaffold at Fotheringay on 8 February 1587, one year before the comparably tragic Spanish Armada of 1588.

Here is how Jane Kennedy begins and sustains her report:

The Earl of Shrewsbury and the Earl of Kent….[among others], arrived at the Castle [Fotheringay] two or three hours before mid-day, and demanded audience [with Mary Queen of Scots] in the afternoon. And the Queen, being indisposed, was preparing to go to bed; but they  answering that it was a matter which would brook no delay, the Queen called for her mantle….Thereupon, …Mr. Beale, after first showing to the Queen a parchment, to which was appended the Great Seal of England in yellow wax, he [Beale, then with “the two Earls” present] began to read to the Queen the Commission, that the next day in the morning they would proceed to the execution, admonishing her to be ready between seven and eight of the clock. (297—my emphasis added)

Immediately Mary Stuart Queen of Scots was to respond, with gratitude, as follows:

The Queen, hearing that with an unchanged countenance, made the sign of the Cross, and said: “I thank you for such welcome news. You will do me a great good in withdrawing me from this world, out of which I am very glad to go, on account of the miseries I see in it, and of being myself in continual affliction. I am of no good and no use to anyone. I have looked to this, and have expected it day by day for eighteen years [of her own various captivities]. I never thought that my sister [half-sister Elizabeth I], the Queen of England, would have consented to my death…; but since her pleasure is such, death to me shall be most welcome and surely that soul were not worthy of the eternal joys of heaven, whose body cannot endure one stroke of a headsman.” And, laying her hand upon an English New Testament which lay upon the table by her, she said most solemnly: “I have never either desired the death of the Queen [Elizabeth I] or endeavoured to bring it about, or that [death] of any person.”

The Earl of Kent objected that it was a Catholic Bible, the Papist version, and therefore the oath was of no avail; whereat the Queen [Mary] replied: “If I swear on the Book which I believe to be the true version, will not your Lordship believe my oath more than if I were to swear upon a translation in which I do not believe?” (297-298—my emphasis added)

Queen Mary then sincerely “entreated” her stern and impatient visitors “to grant her a little space and leisure that she might make her will and give order for her affairs” (298), and the Earl of Shrewsbury at once answered her:

No, no, Madam, you must die. Make you ready between seven and eight of the clock in the morning. We will not prolong one minute for your pleasure.” And to the Earl of Kent, who was desirous of giving her spirit constancy to affront this death, and who urged her [ironically so] to confess her faults and to embrace the true religion [progressive Protestantism, not Catholicism], she answered that she had no need of solace as coming from him, but she desired of him, if he would administer comfort to the spirit to let her have conference with her [lay] almoner [who, as a distributor of mercy, was here not an Ordained Priest however], so that she might receive the Sacrament of Confession, which would be a favour that would surpass any other; and as for her body, she did not believe them to be so inhuman to deny her the right of sepulture. [….] They denied her [even Kent!] her Confessor, and offered her [instead, a Protestant Bishop, namely] the Dean of Peterborough, one of the most learned in Europe, to comfort her, from whom she might learn regarding her salvation and the mysteries of the true religion [i.e., not Catholicism]. She said, they said, remained in that in which she had been instructed in her youth, for want of someone to show her the truth; and now that she had but a few hours to remain in this world she must think of her  conscience and recognize the true religion, and not remain longer in these follies and abominations of Popery. (298-299—my emphasis added)

To which deft ironies we shall warmly resound, if we savor her pluck and maturity:

And the Queen [of the Scots] said: “I have not only heard or read the words of the most learned men of the Catholic religion, but also of the Protestant religion. I have spoken with them and heard them preach, but I have been unable to find anything in them which would turn me from my first belief. Having lived till now in a true Faith, this is not the time, but, on the contrary, it is the very moment when it is most needful that I should remain firm and constant, as I intend to do. Rather than being unfaithful to it, I would wish to lose ten thousand lives, if I had as many. For my consolation I beg you let me see my own priest, so that he may help me to prepare the better for death. I wish for no other.” Whereupon the Earl of Kent said to her: “It is our duty to prevent such [Catholic] abominations, which offend God.” And he pressed her to see the [Protestant] Dean. (299—my emphasis added)

Queen Mary of Scotland then again promptly replies to the Earl of Kent and his procations:

“I will do no such thing. I having nothing to do with him, and I neither wish to see him nor to listen to him. It surprises me that at the end, when I have most need of my priest, they refuse him to me; I had asked to have him especially to assist me at my last end. The Queen of England had granted my request, and had allowed him to come to me; and since then they [such as William Cecil and his son Robert] have taken him from me, and prevented him coming at the most necessary time.”

Thereupon the Earl of Kent said to her: “Your life will be the death [of our religion], and your death [will be] the life of our [Protestant] religion.” And the Queen said: “I was far from thinking myself worthy of such a death, and I humbly receive it as a token. I must trust in the mercy of God to excuse the want of such rites [hence all of the seven sacraments with their sanctifying grace] as His Holy Church commandeth.”  (299-300—my emphasis added)

A short time later Queen Mary said to one of her servants, Bourgoigne:

Have you not observed how powerful and great the truth is? For the common report is I am to die for conspiring the Queen of England’s death; but the Earl of Kent told me notwithstanding even now that the fear they have of my [Catholic] religion is the cause of my death.” (301—my emphasis)

After Queen Mary had gone to rest on that night before her own beheading, Jane Kennedy made an observation, and then said:

And when Jane Kennedy came to [reading aloud about] the penitent thief upon the Cross [a passage in the Queen’s Book of Hours], the Queen bade [a further reading and said]….“In truth  he was a great sinner, but not so great as I have been,”….Thereupon her eyes closed, yet the servants who sat round the bed for the last time thought that she slept not, albeit her eyes were closed, and her face was tranquil, and she seemed to be laughing with the angels. And from without [her castle window] came a noise of knocking and hammering, for they were making ready the scaffold. (302—my emphasis added)

Now we may see the Queen’s surprising private disclosure and request:

“And this I give to you,” she said, speaking to Jane Kennedy, “for I would receive this last service from you.” Whereupon she retired into her private oratory, where she received from her own hands a Consecrated Host which the Pope had sent to her to use, should the necessity come about. And when she had ended her prayers, she finished her letter to the [Catholic] King of France. (303—my emphasis added)

Perhaps the Queen, in the emergency, even received the Host from the hand of her own humble servant, Jane Kennedy. Such was her “last service” (303) that she was invited to give to her Queen. (The language of the pronouns here is somewhat ambiguous, do we agree? Both interpretations, however, are deft and gracious.)

Shortly after the presented reception of the Consecrated Host, the Queen makes some further observations of her own history, to include her resolute and distilled principles, and her final actions and sacred affirmations:

When all was arranged [her Legal Will and, for example, various and symbolic little gifts of gratitude], she spoke with her Ladies, and bade them farewell, consoling them and saying that the greatness of this world was as nothing, and that she should serve as an example thereof to all upon earth, from the mightiest unto the most humble; for, having been Queen of France and of Scotland, one by birth and the other by marriage, after having been tossed about in honour and greatness, in triumph and vexation, now enjoying the one, now suffering the other, she was to be put in the hands of the headsman, albeit innocent; and this was nevertheless her solace, that the most capital charge against her was that she was to die for the Catholic religion, which she would never abandon until her latest breath, since she had been baptized in it. (303—my emphasis added)

May we be blessed to have such a prepared-for death, and such a Good Death, with a Viaticum, and in the state of Sanctifying Grace.

Our author, Maurice Baring, has once again deftly taught us many wise things—and he has done them so subtly and modestly and with a sustained, true and grateful humility. On 1 February 1909—on the Vigil of Candlemas–he had become a convert to the Roman Catholic Faith and Sacramental Church. He was also then a very grateful man indeed—as his later autobiography openly displays it and does it also through his many consistent and generous actions of virtue, also in combat—in Far East Russia, in the Balkans, and indispensably so in World War I.

Maurice Baring, in any case, truly and deeply loved Mary Queen of Scots, even from his childhood. We are ourselves now perhaps better able to share those enduring sentiments, at least now more fully—because of Maurice Baring’s own trustworthy presentations and combinations of research.

Finis

   © 2021 Robert D. Hickson


[1]    Maurice Baring, In My End Is My Beginning (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1931). All references will henceforth be made  to this edition, and placed in parentheses above in the main body of this essay. Some of these references will also often display above my added emphases.

The Concept and Reality of “Nation-Building” — a Critique

Dr. Robert Hickson

5 April 2004

The Concept and Reality of „Nation-Building”: A Moral and Strategic Critique of a Recent Long-Range Study

A Note from the Author on 3 September, 2021: This essay was first written in Switzerland seventeen years ago. The author was then asked by several Europeans to write a commentary on this RAND study on Nation-Building in light of the earlier history of Umerziehung (Re-Education). The study variously attempts to endorse a two-fold “core doctrine” concerning both “a Global War on Terrorism” and also “Nation-Building.” With the publication of this essay, now seventeen years later, the author hopes to help enlighten, in a larger strategic context, the intended principles and the actual fruits of the U.S. historic presence in both Afghanistan and in Iraq, starting in October of 2001 and March of 2003, respectively. (It is fitting to know that the author himself stepped down from Federal Service in early 2003, just before the open invasion of Iraq began on 19 March.)

***

America’s Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq (2003) is the title of a 240-page strategic and historical study released in July 2003 by the RAND Corporation, an influential national-security Institute which originally did special research for the U.S. Air Force.1

An implicit premise of the RAND study – but a dangerously unexamined premise – is that the U.S. Military’s still strongly resisted, but newly proposed, “core mission” of foreign (and often – Muslim) “nation-building” can and must and should be conducted simultaneously with their already declared and very dissipating “Global War on Terrorism” (or the “GWOT,” as it is sometimes affectionately known). RAND’s strategic study, however, explicitly supports this new “core mission” of concurrent “nation-building,” even though “the GWOT” itself is already so increasingly ambiguous and elusive in definition, as well as centrifugally dispersing and over-extending in operation of the American military resources. Therefore, any such protracted and concurrent combination of two new “core missions” for the U.S. Military – “the GWOT” and foreign “Nation-Building” – will certainly produce and perilously constitute a self-inflicted and “self-sabotaging binary weapon.”

That is to say, if such a concurrent combination of exhausting military (and quasi-imperial) “core missions” were ever essentially and protractedly implemented as a U.S. policy and new grand-strategy, it would be a very self-destructive, self-defeating act – a sort of strategy and ideology of national suicide (in the words of the great James Burnham). The U.S. Military itself – as the armed and just defender of the U.S. Constitution (but not of the de-constructed – or “living” – Constitution) against all enemies foreign and domestic – would become thereby, in virtue of its dissipating dispersion, even more de-constructed and demoralized and exhausted than it now is. Were that to occur, one wonders whether the U.S. Military could then even be an effective proxy for Israel, despite that long-standing, manifest priority, or effectively compulsory requirement, as it would seem.

Under such cumulative conditions of dispersion and “overreach” and exhaustion, could the U.S. Military – or would the U.S. Military – then any longer even partially (let alone adequately) defend the State and far-sighted Grand-Strategy of Israel? And has that unconditional support for Israel not also effectively become a “core mission” of the U.S. Military? However, the RAND study omits any discussion of these momentous matters, let alone their longer-range implications for war and peace and the enrootedness of ordered life.

According to this 240-page Rand analysis, which is, I regret to say, a very presumptuous (and often superficial) study, the current “U.S.-led stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq” is, indeed, “after all, the sixth major nation-building enterprise the United States has mounted in 12 years, and the fifth such in a Muslim nation” (p. 220 – my emphasis added). (The other four Muslim nations alluded to are: Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan; Haiti is the one non-Muslim country which was made especially subject to U.S. “nation-building” over these twelve years.)

In Iraq, however, says the self-vaunting study, the U.S. now “embarks on its most ambitious program of nation-building since 1945” (p. 219), when an arguably pre-Imperial United States purportedly conducted “nation-building” in Germany and in Japan. And, indeed, both of those instances of “nation-building” were clearly, in the view of the RAND Corporation, “successful.” It should be noted, however, that the RAND Corporation’s only criterion of “success” in “nation-building” was Germany and Japan’s attainment of “democratization” and of a “vibrant economy.” (Does this not reveal a profound understanding of the formation and nature of a long-standing cultural nation?!)

However, the RAND Corporation now has certain grave concerns about the current U.S. vulnerability and unpreparedness for such a new and admittedly “ambitious program of nation-building” almost sixty years later, in Iraq, a predominantly Muslim society:

Over the past decade, the United States has made major investments in the combat efficiency of its forces. The return [sic] on investment has been evident in the dramatic improvement in warfighting demonstrated from Desert Storm [1991] to the Kosovo air campaign [1999] to Operation Iraqi Freedom [sic – March-April 2003]. [But,] there has been no comparable increase in the capacity of the U.S. armed forces or of U.S. civilian agencies to conduct postcombat stabilization and reconstruction operations (p. 220 – my emphasis added).

Furthermore, the RAND study also addresses the matter of the willingness of the U.S. Armed Forces to conduct “nation-building,” not only the matter of their capacity (or their capability) to do it:

“Nation-building” has been a controversial mission over the past decade, and the intensity of this debate has undoubtedly inhibited the investments that would be needed to do these tasks better. Institutional resistance in the departments of State and Defense, neither of which regard nation-building among their core missions, has also been an obstacle (p. 221 – my emphasis added).

It is worthwhile to consider these above words very closely. The language is characteristic of their entire study, and their style also reveals their mentality, which is so often asphyxiatingly superficial, equivocally vague, and altogether frigid and presumptuous. (I do not exaggerate.)

The above critique of the resistance to nation-building, and the implicit grand-strategic recommendations by the RAND Corporation itself, are especially significant; not only because they are to be found on the last page of their study’s main text, but also because their concluding analysis is itself so unspecific and ambiguous – so bereft of clarity and of substance.

For example, the RAND study only mentions the “intensity,” but no substance, of the purported interior “debate” (i.e., either within both the U.S. Defense and State Departments, or disputatiously between them? – it is not clear!) concerning the putative “mission” of “nation-building.” And RAND does not even say wherefrom this purported nation-building “mission” comes, nor on what grounds, nor by what authority! (This is really a trustworthy, professional analytical study, isn’t it?!)

And what about the deeper substance of this purported debate, which is much more important than its ostensible “intensity”? What about the essential content of this policy and strategic debate? And who, specifically, are the key proponents and antagonists in this debate? The reader will search in vain, however, for RAND’s presentation of any such substantive evidence or argumentation.

lt is also significant, I think, that the RAND study does not even mention the key arguments for “nation-building” or the key arguments against such a protracted and deeply consequential, arguably neo-imperial, mission. Such omissions of important and indispensable substance are altogether unprofessional and deplorable – as well as sophistical. For, like the ancient Greek Sophists, the RAND authors “make the worse seem better and the better seem worse.” (It is clear, however, that the RAND Nomenclatura tendentiously favors an expanded neo-imperial (or neo-colonial) mission of U.S.-led “nation-building.”

Nevertheless, the RAND study does not even give a “working-definition” of “nation-building,” much less an adequate and properly strict definition of nation-building, although that concept is the key-concept of their entire study. Nor do they give any reasonable critique of “nation-building,” as such. No deep and searching objections are ever presented, much less refuted. They do not even suggest that nation-building could be, at least, a potentially utopian (and self-sabotaging) “operation,” or even an intrinsically unfulfillable “project” full of hubris. Thus, their study is, once again, evasive as well as superficial and vague. It is also embarrassingly chimerical and arrogantly wrong!

Furthermore, why should “nation-building” ever constitute a “core mission” for any military institution, for any deeper military culture in the world, let alone for the U.S. Military, which is already centrifugally over-extended, linguistically unprepared, culturally and religiously under-educated, and exhausted by the tempo of its multifarious “global” operations – such as their “Global War on Terrorism” (“the GWOT”)?! Even “the GWOT” is making war against a method of warfare, and not against a clearly specific enemy, nor a consistent “image of the enemy (a Feindbild)”! (Will anyone ever defeat “psychological warfare,” for example, as a method of warfare – or “terrorism,” either?)

And why does the RAND Corporation so disapprovingly call the U.S. Military’s firm “resistance” to “nation-building” (as a “core mission”) an “obstacle”? – an obstacle to what? Is this rational and moral military resistance to an „utopian deformation” an obstacle to the U.S. Military’s further de-construction as a military force? Or, is it, rather, an obstacle to the U.S. Military’s further transformation into an imperial police force? – or to a neo-colonial “gendarmerie” and “constabulary”?

In its important “Executive Summary,” the RAND study says the following (and without, it would appear, any intentional sarcasm or irony!):

The current [G. W. Bush] administration’s efforts to reverse the trend [in America] toward ever larger and more ambitious U.S.-led nation-building operations have proven short-lived, however. (p. xv – my emphasis added).

Indeed, in seeming contrast to President Clinton, “President Bush,” according to RAND, “adopted a more modest set of objectives when faced with a comparable challenge in Afghanistan [as in Kosovo?]” (p. xv – my emphasis added). However, the RAND study never tells us what, specifically, this “more modest” set of objectives was! (Name 5!). Once again, no specificity!

But now, their study continues:

In Iraq, the United States has taken on a task with a scope comparable to the transformational attempts [from what, to what?] still under way in Bosnia and Kosovo and [on] a scale comparable only to the earlier U.S. occupations of Germany and Japan. Nation-building, it appears, is the inescapable responsibility of the world’s only superpower (p. xv – my emphasis added). [N.B. Some might even consider these words to be somewhat presumptuous, not to say malodorously self-vaunting!]

Moreover, the first paragraph of their Executive Summary will further focus – and perhaps even provoke – the attentive mind of the reader:

The goal of the work documented here was to analyze and extract the best-practices in nation-building from the post-World War II experiences of the United States. To do this, we examined U.S. and international [?] military, political and economic activities in postconflict situations [sic] since World War II, identified the key determinants of the success of these operations in terms of democratization and the creation of vibrant economies, and drew implications for future U.S. nation-building operations (p. xiii – my emphasis added).

And, it is clear that Iraq is the strategic focus. In fact, after the preceeding Chapter 9 on “Lessons Learned” from history, the study’s concluding chapter (Chapter 10 – pp. 167-222) is a lengthy and very sobering consideration of Iraq itself and its vulnerable geography, and the barriers to any U.S. mission of “nation-building” there. Nevertheless, the study’s consideration of the deeper religious factors is very poor, indeed, and even dangerously shallow.2

The Executive Summary itself later concludes with a slightly more unambiguous set of statements and an often-repeated emphasis, except, perhaps, for their “softening” last sentence, which is itself all too characteristically vague and equivocal as well as evasive and so timorously optimistic:

The current administration [of President G. W. Bush], despite a strong disinclination [even by the strategically influential “Neo-Conservatives”?] to engage U.S. armed forces in such activities [i.e., “nation-building”] has launched two major nation-building enterprises within 18 months [both in Afghanistan and in Iraq, as part of its “Global War an Terrorism”]. lt now seems clear that nation-building is the inescapable responsibility of the world’s only superpower [and its “Messianic Democracy”]. Once that recognition [of the U.S.’s “superpower-responsibility”] is more widely accepted [but, by whom, specifically?], there is much the United States can do to better prepare itself to lead such missions [i.e., the new multi-national “nation-building” missions!] (p. xxix – my emphasis added).

All things considered, the RAND’s Study strongly implies that the current, internal U.S. military resistance to the “mission of nation-building” constitutes an “obstacle to success” – like the purported success that the U.S. Military had with their nation-building in Germany and Japan after the military defeat and “unconditional surrender” of the “Axis-Powers” in 19453. Once again, it should be emphatically noted, RAND’s only measure of “success” was the degree to which Germany and Japan underwent “democratization” and attained to a “vibrant economy”!

However, did the United States really build the German nation? Did the United States really build the Japanese nation? Are such deeply formed cultural nations of long history ever to be “built” by “outsiders”? Can a slowly growing, well-rooted and fruitful nation ever be “engineered,” even by “insiders”? lt would seem not!

And, with reference to Iraq, what, indeed, is the substance of the historic culture of this purported “Iraqi nation,” which is now also to be reformed? Was there ever such a thing as “the Iraqi nation,” and is it in any way comparable to the coherent (and unified) German or Japanese cultural nations? What cultural substance is the United States now to draw upon, so as to conduct (or inflict) its new “nation-building operations” there? What is the nature of the evidence for an historic Iraqi nation (as was the case in Germany and Japan)? What are we really talking about? “Democratization” and “vibrant economy,” once again? Is that it?

And how many years would it take for the U.S. to build even a slightly deeper “democratic (non-autocratic) political culture” in Iraq? And, what, in truth, are the real linguistic capacities and working skills of the current (or future) resident American “reformers” and “nation-builders”? What are the facts, not only about the language problem, for example, but also about the deeper issues of mutually alien and incommensurate religious cultures?

For, it is true, that both the Arabic Shi’ite and the Arabic Sunni religious cultures of Iraq are not so easily compatible with increasingly secularized (and formless) U.S. religious traditions, nor even with each other! Nor are they made easily compatible even with Iraq’s significant Kurdish, Turkoman and Assyrian religious and cultural traditions! Nor with the Christian minority of the Oriental Chaldean Rite. Therefore, this question of the interaction of religious cultures, not to mention the “re-building” of often incommensurate (or immiscible) religious cultures, will be an especially challenging factor for the U.S. “occupational” and “democratizing” forces. The combination is likely to be a “time bomb” – especially if the U.S. will regard Iraq, effectively, as a “Satrapy.”

And, in this context, let us return once again to the concept and reality of “nation-building.” What, after all, is this process or this thing called “nation-building”? A nation is not an artifact nor a product to be engineered. Nor does a nation have a “modular” structure capable of being “changed” and “re-arranged” in various artificial “permutations.”

What does it really mean to “build” a nation, or even to “re-construct” and “reform” a militarily defeated nation? From the evidence of history, a cultural nation grows slowly over time in and through its deeply shared experiences and vivid, living memories, even (and sometimes especially) memories of intimately shared sorrow, and of tragic, but heroic military defeats. Remember the Serbian military defeat against the Turks in the 14th century (on the current territory of Kosovo) and its unifying effects still today upon the broken Serbian people. Remember the Hungarian military defeat at Mohacs in 1526, an heroic and turning-point battle near the Danube River, against the advancing Ottoman Turks, whose own very costly “Pyrrhic victory” there caused them to withdraw from their more ambitious plans of domination for almost 150 years thereafter.

More generally, how does any foreign culture – especially an increasingly intrusive and very secularized culture like the USA – “build a nation” during its own military occupation of a religiously Muslim society? After an openly pre-emptive, supposedly “preventive,” “war of aggression” (against current and long-traditional International Law, as well), can any foreign “interventionist” armed forces really build a nation, even if they were both linguistically competent and culturally sensitive, as well as religiously respectful? In any case, what should be our realistic expectations about the United States, i.e., our realistic expectations of how the impatient and largely technocratic Americans are likely to try “to build a nation,” even if they were to be very generous and sincerely acting “according to their own lights” and best wisdom for the common good of Iraq? For, it is important to remember that the United States of 2004 is not at all the United States of 1945. The U.S. is now, moreover, also “culturally Balkanized” and even “religiously Lebanonized.” And, morally (ethically), even under the so-called “neo-conservative” Bush Administration, the United States itself is still “Clinton’s America,” as well as a “proxy force” for the intelligently advancing grand-strategy of Israel.

Those who would want to know much more about the deeper nature and meaning of this thing called “Clinton’s America” should read Joe Sobran’s eloquent and discerning book, entitled HUSTLER, on “the Clinton Legacy.” For, it is this very “legacy,” at least in part, which the U.S. is now presuming to inflict upon other countries, often under the deceptive guise of progressive “globalism” or of “economies (and finance) without borders.” And, this includes the whole ideology of unrooted and restless neo-Liberal (and neo-Mandevillean) Capitalism (along with its oligarchical “chaos managers”).

In the longer light of history, how might (or how would) the Ancient Greeks have thought about this whole matter of “nation-building”? For example, after their unexpected victory over the arrogant Persian Empire (c. 490 B.C.) – after Marathon and Salamis – to what extent might the Athenian Democracy have then considered as a wise strategic policy their subsequent “nation-building” of the defeated Persians? Would the “vibrant” Athenian Democracy have believed that their own aggressive energy and love of freedom could have sufficiently (or at all) transformed the autocratic political culture of Persia? It would seem not. The “temptations of Empire” would come a little later, nonetheless, especially for the Athenians.

For, the Ancient Greeks, learning from their own grave mistakes, have also taught us so much about true tragedy and about “the tragic view of life,” to include the Athenian tragedy which resulted from their hubris in the Peloponnesian War (431 – 404 B.C.), as was so memorably depicted by Thucydides. (Perhaps, the greatest tragedy occurs – as in Sophocles’ Antigone – when a lesser good tramples out a greater good without ever knowing it, until it is too late !)

Even after the Greeks’ earlier exultant victory against the Persians, almost sixty years before their own tragic Peloponnesian War began, would the high leadership of the surprised and very vigorous Athenian victors have even dared to presume to re-build or transform the defeated Persian Empire? Or, would they have wisely and immediately considered this to be an act of self-destructive, overweening pride? lt is likely that they would not have been even so blind and foolish as to consider the theoretical possibility! In all likelihood, they would have practically considered such a policy or such a strategy to be an act of folly (ATË, in Greek – i.e., “blinding self-infatuation”) – or, an act of blinding self-aggrandizement (PLËONEXIA, in Greek) and a presumptuous “overreaching” (HUBRIS, in Greek).

Yet, it may have been possible, once again, that the restless Athenians would also have (even back in 490 B.C.) tragically succumbed to the seductive temptation to overreach themselves, as the conspicuously more arrogant Athenians later did in their “Sicilian Expedition” during the Peloponnesian War; especially after they had so unjustly, so cynically and self-blindingly destroyed the weak and vulnerable Melians on their little Island of Melos off the coast of Sparta; and even after General Nicias himself had later honorably and wisely tried to warn the Athenians against their over-extended and likely self-sabotaging military expedition!

What lessons might the United States learn from this Greek experience, an experience which was not at all considered by the RAND study as part of their “lessons to be learned from history”? In view of this illuminating and admonitory history from the Ancient World, where is the open and honest public debate in the United States now about America’s own potentially tragic “Sicilian Expedition” to Iraq? Or, where is the public debate about the wisdom and the justice of America’s protracted presence there amidst the Muslim society of Iraq, much less the “transformational efforts” at “nation-building”? The neo-Trotskyites and the Socialist International, as well as the “Muslim International,” among others, might be very pleased, however, – and even the Zionists! – with America’s centrifugal and presumptuous and self-sabotaging over-extension in the Middle East and elsewhere, as well as its infatuated and concurrent “nation-building projects” in Afghanistan and in Iraq (as well as in the Balkans). But just-minded and far-sighted and well-rooted Americans should not! Nor should they be in complicity with any grand-strategy designed to fragment and de-stabilize the Middle East, and certainly not as a “useful idiot” or “proxy” for the Israelis and their long-range objectives as an historical cultural nation. Moreover, the moral resistance to such destructive and self-destructive conduct (and policy and strategy) should intelligently and courageously grow.

To what extent does the United States have even one general like the deeply wise (but tragically rejected) General Nicias – or a far-sighted admiral (and strategos) like Admiral Thucydides – who also, like them, may have to suffer much for speaking the truth, but who is humble enough to learn from his own (not only from his country’s) mistakes?

May they have the courage and the fuller virtue to come forth, to bear full witness to the truth – to speak out and to act and to help make a „course-correction”, also for the common good – and in the spirit of high chivalry. For, it is true, that a grand-strategic „course-correction” is needed by the United States – and leaders of virtue are needed, too, for the greater common good, and to resist the growing injustice and suffering! (The true spirit of chivalry always taught that “the more defenseless someone is, the more that one calls out for our defense”!) Hubris is always a form of blindness and self-destructivness. Pride (superbia, orgueil, Hochmut) is not a spiritual strength, but a weakness. And a “provocative weakness”! It is certainly provocative to others. Caveat Imperator.

— FINIS —

© 2004/2021 Robert Hickson

1 The early intellectual leadership of the RAND Corporation is still influential in U.S. “Neo-Conservative” circles. For example, Albert Wohlstetter and his friend, Andrew Marshall (the long-serving and founding head of the Pentagon’s “Office of Net Assessment” – a very influential “in-house Think Tank” of the Department of Defense) have been, like Professor Leo Strauss himself, deeply formative mentors – and strategic collaborators – of Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, among others.

2However, the study is especially aware of the contrary national interests of the bordering countries of Iraq, to include the NATO member of Turkey, as well as the more expectedly resistant countries of Iran and Syria, all of whom could provide a serious impediment to any U.S. success in the context of Iraq’s multi-cultural and religious conflicts, and other strategic vulnerabilities.

3A second essay could be usefully written on the RAND Corporation’s two superficial „case studies” of the U.S. operations of “nation-building” in Germany and Japan after World War II – both of which RAND considers to be an impressive success. RAND’s measures (or “criteria and standards”) of the reality and essence of an historic cultural nation are, indeed, very insulting and very embarrassing, I think. “Democratizations” and “vibrant economies” just won’t do! Furthermore, all those who know the deeper history of the Occupation and “Re-Education” (UMERZIEHUNG) of Germany and Japan – and especially its distorting long-range effects on the “guilty” German nation and its youth – will be justly indignant and impatient with Rand’s perfunctory and smugly condescending treatment of this earlier “success” in “nation-building”!

Fr. John Hardon, S.J. in Rome in 1950: A Formative Time For Him Indeed

Dr. Robert Hickson

                                                                                 15 August 2021

The Assumption of the Blessed Mother Mary

            

Epigraphs

“We are witnessing a massive effort to remake our historic Faith.” (Father Hardon, as spoken solemnly, at least thrice, to RDH during our work, in the early 1990s, on the final draft of the New Catechism.)

***

“We are only as courageous as we are convinced. But what are we truly and sincerely convinced of? Meekness is not weakness.” (Father Hardon’s words, as spoken to RDH  many times during our collaborations and research throughout the years 1980-2000.)

***

Before Jesuit John A. Hardon died (on 30 December 2000), he still remembered the formative importance of his 1950 time in Rome during the Jubilee Year—especially three events.

The temporal sequence of these formative momentous events are: 12 June 1950; 12 August 1950; and 1 November 1950 (the Feast of All Saints).

These three sequential dates cited above also substantively disclose, in order, Pope Pius XII’s Canonization of Maria Goretti (d. 1902); then his promulgated Encyclical entitled Humani Generis (a partly updated and still largely effective new  Syllabus of Errors, presented without naming any familiar names, though they often were subtly subversive and evasive writers and speakers, alas); and, finally, Pius XII made his promulgated declaration of the Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother Mary, entitled Munificentissimus Deus (Most Bountiful God) and he proclaimed it on All Saints’ Day in Rome in 1950. Father Hardon, as he told me often, was profoundly affected by all three.

In 1950, Father Hardon was still a young vivid priest in Rome (having been recently ordained in the U.S. on his 33rd birthday on 18 June in 1947). Father Hardon was born on 18 June 1914, and was now in 1950 studying at the Jesuit Gregorian University for his Theological Doctorate.

Father Hardon told me that he worked personally with Pope Pius XII for  his announcement over Vatican Radio on 12 June 1950, where Pius XII so memorably said that “Maria Goretti is especially to be honored as a Martyr for our Twentieth Century: for she was a Martyr to Purity.”

(Father Hardon said that he thereafter never forgot those words and their implication.)

Father Hardon also remembered well—and with earnestness—his 1950 encounter with the notably trenchant and emphatically brief Humani Generis and its inchoate effects among the Jesuits in the Gesu in Rome. (He later saw some of its longer-range effects in the larger Church, to be seen, for example, in his own three-day Ignatian Retreat which he formulated and personally delivered in the 1980s, and which I also attended.)

One of  its effects was that the 1950 Librarian at the Gesu promptly received an awkward mission which also involved a strict assignment to Father Hardon himself as a human agent and young instrument of the higher papal strategy and its clerical policy. Father Hardon was to go to the individual rooms at the Gesu and gather up formal and informal texts and many concealed Samizdat (covert “self-publishing” in Russian) as composed by the suspect authors alluded to in that brief, authoritative encyclical  Humani Generis—such as still then Jesuit Father Hans Urs von Balthasar, who was soon himself to leave the Society of Jesus, formally and permanently.

Father Hardon told me that he had never expected such bitter, both general and individual responses that he received as the resident clergy very reluctantly yielded up the documents and suspect, often dangerously speculative texts de Ecclesia and de Gratia, for example.

The third formative event was the papal declaration on 1 November 1950 of the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, Body and Soul. This declaration was not just an opinion but an expression of  “Irreformable Doctrine” (in Father Hardons’s formulation): in other words, a Dogma.

As a Dogmatic Theologian himself as he already was, Father Hardon gratefully acknowledged the importance of the Sources of Revelation—both of them—both of which Pope Pius XII proportionately accented, namely “Divinely Revealed Sacred Tradition” and “Divinely Revealed Sacred Scripture.” Moreover, the Pope said that it was the Divinely Revealed Sacred Tradition that was decisive in his proclamation of a new Dogma, and thus also in opposition to those who believe there to be only one Source of Revelation, Holy Scripture (as was the case with Father Hans Urs von Balthasar according to Father Hardon).

 Father Hugo Rahner, S.J.—the scholarly brother of the Jesuit Father Karl Rahner—also tried in vain to prove (in his essays and in his sincere book) how the Assumption could be found supported in Scriptural Texts alone, or at least pre-eminently so, according to Father Hardon.

Pope Pius XII thereby effectively strengthened the trustworthiness and stability of Sacred Tradition. For example, said Father Hardon, the enduring move of Saint Peter the Pope from Antioch to Rome was a part of Divinely Revealed Sacred Tradition.

Moreover, for example, was not the transmitted and differentiated Corpus of Sacred Music also somehow part of Divinely Revealed Sacred Tradition, as at least an aid to indispensable Meditations and then also to a fruitful and deeper receptive Contemplation?

FINIS

© 2021 Robert D. Hickson

Joseph Ratzinger on the Priesthood and on the Resurrection

The Author’s Introductory Note (Written on 13 July 2021):

The following recent (7 July 2021) comment, composed by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski in his essay for Crisis Magazine, has inspired my decision to publish (along with some of the contributions from my wife Maike) my earlier and searching, if not candid, essay of 18 May 2018. That essay (below) is ten pages in length, with many varied quotations, and it is entitled Joseph Ratzinger on the Priesthood and on the Resurrection.
We may, after some close reading, thereby come to understand much better certain forms of applied Hegelianism active in the Catholic Church. For example, Dr. Kwasniewski has himself observed and said: “Indeed, Benedict XVI’s work is often characterized by an Hegelian dialectic method that wishes to hold contradictories simultaneously, or to seek a higher synthesis from a thesis and its antithesis (‘mutual enrichment’ can be understood in this [Hegelian] framework).” (“Summorum Pontificum at Fourteen: Its Tragic Flaws” (page 6 of 8 pages)my emphasis added)

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dr. Robert Hickson

18 May 2018

Saint Eric (d. 1160)

Epigraphs

“But the point is that Christ’s Resurrection is something more, something different. If [sic] we may borrow the language of the theory of evolution, it is the greatest ‘mutation,’ absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life and its development: a leap into a completely new order which does concern us, and concerns the whole of history.” (The Easter Vigil Homily of Pope Benedict XVI, Holy Saturday, on 15 April 2006, in the Vatican Basilica—my emphasis added)

***

“The Resurrection was like an explosion of light, an explosion of love which dissolved the hitherto indissoluble compenetration of ‘dying and becoming.’ It ushered a new dimension of being, a new dimension of life in which, in a transformed way, matter too was integrated and through which [integration and new dimension] a new world emerges.” (Pope Benedict XVI’s Easter Vigil Homily on15 April 2006, Holy Saturday)

***

“It is clear that this event [i.e., the Resurrection] is not just some miracle from the past, the occurrence of which could be ultimately a matter of indifference to us. It is a qualitative leap in the history of ‘evolution’ and of life in general towards a new future life, towards a new world which, starting from Christ [a Divine Person?], already continuously permeates this world of ours, transforms it and draws it to itself.” (Pope Benedict XVI’s Easter Vigil Homily, on 15 April 2006, Holy Saturday)

***

“The great explosion of the Resurrection has seized us in Baptism so as to draw us on. Thus we are associated with a new dimension of life into which, amid the tribulations of our day, we are already in some way introduced. To live one’s own life as a continual entry into this open space: this is the meaning of being baptized [sic], of being Christian. This is the joy of the Easter vigil. The Resurrection is not a thing of the past, the Resurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that he holds us firmly even when our hands are weak.” (Pope Benedict XVI’s Easter Vigil Homily, on 15 April 2006, Holy Saturday)

***

In the latter part of 2006, after the April 2005 installation of Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, I had occasion to tell a professor friend of mine confidentially that I have always had difficulties reading with understanding the varied writings of his German friend who is now the Pope. In seeking to understand Joseph Ratzinger’s language and his undefined theological abstractions (about relation and mutation and communion and the nature of the Church), I admitted my own incapacity and perduring insufficiency.

Acknowledging my difficulties, my compassionate and learned friend—who is also himself an admirer and personal friend of Joseph Ratzinger—said to me, and quite unexpectedly: “He is often too subtle for his own good.” I promptly replied: “And for our good, too, … or [I added] at least for my own good!”

For example, the arcane language used by Pope Benedict on Holy Saturday — even in his Easter Vigil Homily on 15 April 2006 — should be considered and slowly savored, first of all in the four Epigraphs I have chosen for this essay. But, by way of objection, one might say that these Epigraphs are not at all representative of Joseph Ratzinger’s mind and essential writings, especially not the seeming echoes or optimistic atmosphere of Jesuit Father Teilhard de Chardin (d. 1955) with his own evolutionary and naturalistic language about mankind’s “biocosmic possbilities,” about “an ongoing revelation,” “the evolution of Dogma,” and other purported developments beyond the contingencies of human history and our sinful propensities, and even beyond “the hope of the Christian martyrs.”

However, some well-informed scholars have also said that Joseph Ratzinger’s thought—even the earlier Teilhardian influence — has not essentially changed down the years; and, more importantly to me, Ratzinger has never yet made any public retractions, or formal Retractationes, of his own statements, as Saint Augustine himself had so humbly done in his candidly written and promulgated volumes.

Therefore, before we may more fittingly discuss Pope Benedict XVI’s Easter Vigil Homily on 15 April 2006—Holy Saturday—in Saint Peter’s Basilica of Rome, we should consider what a lauded priest-scholar, Karl-Heinz Menke—who himself specializes in Joseph Ratzinger’s many writings—has to say1 about the special continuity and consistency of Ratzinger’s thought and presentations. This priest and emeritus professor of Bonn University now recapitulates his own observations and reflections, as follows

There is barely any theologian like the retired pope [stepping down as of February 2013], whose thinking has remained constantly the same over decades. What he demanded before and during the Council [1962-1965], he still demands today. […] Joseph Ratzinger has self-critically asked himself whether he has contributed with his theology to the post-conciliar breach of tradition. But it is not known to me that he revised any position of his theology.

However, in Joseph Ratzinger’s 16 March 2016 published Interview with the Jesuit theologian, Father Jacques Servais2—himself a student of the former Jesuit, Hans Urs von Balthasar and a scholar of his voluminous works—the retired pope very forthrightly says (also for the later-published 2016 book, Through Faith, by Jesuit Father Daniel Libanori), as follows:

If [sic] it is true that the [Catholic] missionaries of the 16th century were convinced [sic] that the unbaptized person is lost forever—and this explains their missionary commitment. After the [1962-1965 Second Vatican] Council, this conviction was definitely abandoned, finally. The result was a two-sided, deep crisis. Without this attentiveness to salvation, the Faith loses its foundation. (my emphasis added)

Benedict had first explicitly said: “There is no doubt that on this point we are faced with a profound evolution of dogma.” (Some, like Father Gregory Baum, might have even more subtly called it “a discontinuous development of doctrine.”) But then Benedict’s own integrity here soberly admits: “If faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, faith itself becomes unmotivated”! (my emphasis added)

Benedict, by speaking of a “profound evolution of Dogma” implicitly concerns himself with the Church and with the Dogma “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus,” in contradistinction, for example, to a vaguer and more attenuated formulation, such as “Sine Ecclesia Nulla Salus.” In the retired pope’s eyes, this purported change of dogma (irreversible doctrine) has clearly led to a loss of missionary zeal in the Church. Indeed, he says, inasmuch as “any motivation for a future missionary commitment was [thereby supposedly] removed.” About this allegedly altered new “attitude” of the Church, Benedict poses an incisive question: “Why should you try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved without it?” (my emphasis added)

Moreover, if there are those who can still save their souls with other means, “why should the Christian be bound to the necessity of the Christian Faith [and of the Catholic Church] and its morality?”

On an intentionally more positive note, Benedict then turns to one of his heroes, Father Henri de Lubac, S.J., the now-deceased, and very learned scholar and Jesuit Cardinal who was himself a defender and supportive friend of Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. More specifically, Benedict rather arcanely turns to de Lubac’s putatively sound and exploratory insight about Christ’s “vicarious substitutions,” which, says Benedict, have to be now again “further reflected upon.” Benedict optimistically hopes that de Lubac’s own expressed—but quite abstract—idea of “vicarious substitutions” will somehow lead us out of our above-mentioned “two-sided, deep crisis” in the Catholic Church, the fruit of the new attitudes and logic coming out of Vatican II and its Aftermath. (Benedict himself never even defines what de Lubac means by his utopian and unconvincing abstraction, “vicarious substitutions,” as the key criterion!)

In this context, some earlier comments made to me in person by Professor Josef Pieper and by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.—and made to me privately in the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, respectively—will also now help us frame our present inquiry concerning Joseph Ratzinger’s enduringly influential, if not disorienting, thought. That is to say, Ratzinger’s own proposed “Integra Humana Progressio,” as it were: which is usually also officially translated as “integral human development.”

Sometime in 1974 or 1975, and in his own library at his home in Münster in Westphalia, Dr. Pieper showed to me a letter from Joseph Ratzinger that was signed “Dein Ratzinger.” And then Dr. Pieper told me that there was a story behind that letter. It had to do with Father Joseph Ratzinger, a young professor at the University of Münster during the interval 1963-1966; until he went to teach dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen (where Hans Küng was his colleague).

While Father Ratzinger was in Münster, Josef Pieper had a Catholic Reading Group at his own home at Malmedyweg 4, and Ratzinger was regularly present at those meetings and searching discussions about fundamental things, such as “What is a Priest?” That is to say, what is the essence of the sacramental Catholic Priesthood.

Dr. Pieper told me that he and Father Ratzinger had a serious exchange about the essence of the sacramental priesthood. Dr. Pieper said emphatically that, in order to make his point, Ratzinger even used a very unusual formulation in German. With a challenge, the young Father Ratzinger said: “A priest [essentially] is not a mere Kulthandwerker”—that is, he is not a mere craftsman of the cultus (the Church’s visible and public worship, especially in the Mass).

Dr. Pieper objected to Ratzinger’s claim, he told me, although he also found Ratzinger’s word-formulation exceedingly odd and so abstract as to be largely unintelligible to the ordinary speaker of the German language. However, Dr. Pieper then said that “the essence of a priest was indispensably to be a Kulthandwerker, uniquely offering the sacrificial ‘actio sacra‘ of the Holy Mass, but also sacramental absolution in the unique Sacrament of Penance.”

After Dr. Pieper explained to me the larger context and the aftermath of that discussion, he showed me the mid-1970s handwritten German letter from Ratzinger himself, where he said (in my close paraphrase) that “it is a good thing that we can disagree, and yet still be friends. Your Ratzinger [“Dein Ratzinger”].” For, it was also true that, sometime in the 1970s, Josef Pieper had already published a learned academic article about the priesthood that had—without mentioning Ratzinger by name—strongly criticized Ratzinger’s own limited concept of the priesthood as well as his odd, shallow use of the incongruous conceptual word “Kulthandwerker.”

Dr. Pieper later wrote brief and lucid books on the priesthood, on the meaning of the sacred, and also on the “sacred action” (“actio sacra”) of the Mass. However, I know nothing more of the likely later-written exchanges between Josef Pieper and Joseph Ratzinger; and Dr. Pieper never again brought up that adversarial topic with me over the many years that we knew each other and wrote to each other (1974-1997).

In the late 1980s, some fifteen years after Dr. Pieper’s disclosure to me in his library, I was comparably surprised and deeply enlightened by Jesuit Father John Hardon’s words to me in person and to another Jesuit priest who had telephoned him in my presence. It occurred in Father Hardon’s own room at the Jesuit Residence of the Jesuit University of Detroit, in Michigan. For, I was making a Private Ignatian Retreat with him, having flown out to Detroit from Front Royal, Virginia.

One evening, our retreat was politely interrupted by the editor, Father Joseph Fessio, S.J.’s somewhat lengthy telephone call to Father Hardon from California at Ignatius Press. Straightaway, Father Fessio asked Father Hardon to write some endorsing comments on one of their new English translations, specifically Urs von Balthasar’s short book, Dare We Hope that All Men Be Saved (1988). Father Hardon immediately declined to do so, and gave Father Fessio his reasons: “Joe, there are at least three heresies in that book—despite its title’s allusion to 1 Timothy 2:4.” Father Hardon (“John”) then explicated at length those errors he was referring to, to include von Balthasar’s view on “the Sources of Revelation,” the “Proximate Norm of Faith,”and on “Universal Salvation, Apocatastasis,” and other troubling affirmations or deft equivocations. Father Hardon was himself a Dogmatic Theologian and very attentive to the full Catholic doctrine of “Divine Grace” and, especially, to “Divinely Revealed Sacred Tradition,” in addition to “Divinely Revealed Sacred Scripture.”

Although I could say much more about this portion of Father Hardon’s words to Father Fessio, it seems fitting (“conveniens”) now to mention what John Hardon earnestly said to Joe Fessio—after he had once again urged him to be a “settler”and more rootedly come to earn finally, after many years, his own protective and academically acquired “Fourth Vow” in the Jesuit Order—and he spoke not only to an editor, but also to a devoted former student under Joseph Ratzinger: “Joe, why are you now also publishing so many new books by Joseph Ratzinger, especially so many of his earlier writings, such as his 1968 book, Introduction to Christianity? Why does Joseph Ratzinger want to bring up his past?” (Father Fessio then said that Ignatius Press would soon publish, but only in 2000 actually, a second revised version of that 1968 book, Introduction to Christianity, but with no retractions or recantations.)

After the phone conversation—where I had been sitting on a chair close to him—Father Hardon and I had a lengthy memorable discourse about these same matters of subtle Neo-Modernism, to include a consideration of Pope Pius XII’s own short but important 1950 Encyclical, Humani Generis.

Father Hardon also memorably spoke about two closely related errors: an evolutionary “process philosophy” and an evolutionary “process theology.” In the first, “the Geist [Spirit] needs us to complete itself”–as in some forms of “Hegelian evolutionary pantheism.” The claims of emerging “process theology” are more “blasphemous” inasmuch as it boldly claims—or at least implies– that “God needs us to complete Himself.” We also then spoke of some of the evolutionary ideas of Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. and their influence in the Church.

In 1987, Joseph Ratzinger published in English, again with Father Fessio’s Ignatius Press, his important and self-revealing 1982 book, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology. (His lengthy, and often viscous, book was originally published in German in 1982—one year after he was summoned to Rome as a Cardinal in order to be the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—and his German text was itself entitled Theologische Prinzipienlehre.)3 Because of its candid insights and claims—even about Don Quixote—I heartily recommend that a Catholic read, in full, at least Joseph Ratzinger’s “Epilogue: On the Status of Church and Theology Today,” and especially pages 367-393.

In a briefer selection of passages now, we thus propose to present some of the representative sections of that challenging, even stunning, book. For example:

Is anything left but the heaped-up ruins of unsuccessful experimentations? Has Gaudium et Spes [the Vatican II text, i.e., “Joy and Hope”] been definitively translated into luctus et angor [“grief and anguish”]? Was the Council a wrong road that we must now retrace if we are to save the Church? The voices of those who say that it was so are becoming louder and their followers more numerous. Among the more obvious phenomena of the last years must be counted the increasing number of integralist groups in which the desire for piety, for the sense of the mystery, is finding satisfaction. We must be on our guard against minimizing these [“integralist”] groups. Without a doubt they represent a sectarian zealotry that is the antithesis of Catholicity. We cannot resist them too firmly.4 (my emphasis added)

Ratzinger had earlier written these additionally revealing words:

Of all the texts of Vatican II, the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes)” was undoubtedly the most difficult and, with the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” and the “Decree on Ecumenism,” also the most successful.

If it is desirable to offer a diagnosis of the text [of Gaudium et Spes] as a whole, we might say that (in conjunction with the texts on religious liberty and world religions) it is a revision [sic] of the Syllabus [of Errors] of Pius IX, a kind of countersyllabus. This is correct insofar as the Syllabus established a line of demarcation against the determining forces of the nineteenth century: against the scientific and political world view of liberalism. In the struggle against modernism this twofold demarcation was ratified and strengthened. Since then many things have changed….As a result [of these unspecified “changes”], the one-sidedness of the position adopted by Pius IX and Pius X [was] in response to the new phase of history inaugurated by the French Revolution….

Let us be content to say here that the text [Gaudium et Spes] serves as a countersyllabus and, as such, represents on the part of the Church, an attempt at an official reconciliation with the new [revolutionary?] era inaugurated in 1789. (378, 381-382—my emphasis added)

This should remind us also of how Ratzinger himself especially helped to found in 1972 the more moderate progressivist Journal, Communio, so as to be an alternative to the much more radical modernist-progressivist Journal, Concilium, first founded in 1965seven years earlier. One may think of the seemingly more moderate Girondins or Mensheviks. The Communio group appears to propose a “tertium quid”—a more civilized “third way” in the moderate middle; and thus places themselves on a spectrum that is somewhere “between the Integrists and the Modernists.” But without drifting into the new subtleties of Neo-Modernism! (That would itself be a good Quaestio Disputata!)

In his own theological book, Joseph Ratzinger adds another affirmation, as it were:

That means that there can be no return to the Syllabus [of Pius IX; and even to the anti-modernist Syllabus of Pius X, perhaps?], which may have marked the first stage in the confrontation with liberalism and a newly conceived Marxism but cannot be the last stage. In the long run, neither embrace nor ghetto [sic] can solve for Christians the problem of the modern world. The fact [sic] is, as Hans Urs von Balthasar pointed out as early as 1952 [two years after Pius XII’s Humani Generis], that the “demolition of the bastions” is a long-overdue task. (391-my emphasis added)

These passages from Principles of Catholic Theology (1982, 1987) will prepare us to understand Ratzinger’s later (2006) East Vigil homily as the Pope himself, as well as his later 2016 interview touching upon certain qualms of conscience he has, after all, about Vatican II.

See, for example, Benedict XVI’s new interview-book—first released on 9 September 2016 by his German publisher Droemer Verlag and entitled Benedikt XVI: Letzte Gespräche (Benedict XVI–Last Conversations). Dr. Maike Hickson—when the book was still only available in the original German language—wrote a 7-page exposition and general review of the book’s specific Chapter on the Second Vatican Council.5

In Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 homily in Saint Peter’s on Holy Saturday—at the Easter Vigil Mass with the deacon’s chanted “Exultet”—he resorts to some unusual words and arcane ideas. One might even think that he, too, like his friend Hans Urs von Balthasar, is still interested in carrying out the purportedly needed “task”: the “demolition of the bastions” and the consequential attenuation of traditional boundaries.

From the chosen texts in our “Epigraphs” at the beginning of this essay, we now propose to give some of those specific examples again, and thereby substantiate the estrangement we experience, and the resulting and justified discomfiture of our own “Sensus Fidei.” In any case, one should, by all means, read the entirety of this remarkable 2006 homily, which is still to be found on the Vatican website.6 But let us now consider our chosen representative excerpts:

It [i.e., Christ’s Resurrection] is the greatest “mutation,” absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life and its development: a leap into a completely new order….The Resurrection was like an explosion of light, and explosion of love which dissolved the hitherto indissoluble compenetration of “dying and becoming.” It [“the Resurrection”] ushered a new dimension of being, a new dimension of life in which, in a transformed way, matter too was integrated and through which [integration and new dimension] a new world emerges….

It is clear [sic] that this event [i.e., “the Resurrection”] is not just some miracle from the past, the occurrence of which could be ultimately a matter of indifference to us [sic]. It is a qualitative leap in the history of “evolution” [as distinct from human “history” in Joseph Pieper’s own differentiated and proper understanding?] and of life in general towards a new future life, towards a new world which, starting from Christ, already continuously permeates this world of ours, transforms it and draws it to itself [sic]….

The great explosion of the Resurrection has seized us in baptism so as to draw us on. Thus we are associated with a new dimension of life [sanctifying grace?] into which, amid the tribulations [sins?] of our day, we are already in some way introduced. To live out one’s life as a continual entry into this open space; this is the meaning of being baptized, of being Christian. This is the joy of the Easter vigil. The Resurrection is not a thing of the past, the Resurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that he holds us firmly even when our hands are weak. (my emphasis added)

If I could, I would say to Joseph Ratzinger: “I don’t understand you at all. This all seems to me an abstract different religion. I wonder how many in your audience were warmly touched to the heart.”

CODA

Offering his reader a Parable involving Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Joseph Ratzinger chooses to conclude his lengthy book allusively, and somewhat symbolically, especially by affirming Don Quixote’s deepest chivalric Code of Honor:

But, as the novel [Don Quixote] progresses, something strange happens to the author [Miguel de Cervantes]. He begins gradually to love his foolish knight….[Something, perhaps Grace] first made him fully aware that his fool had a noble heart; that the foolishness of consecrating his life to the protection of the weak and the defense of truth had its own greatness. [….]

Behind the foolishness, Cervantes discovers the simplicity [i.e., Don Quixote’s sincere “simplicitas” or “oculus simplex”]….He [Don Quixote] can do evil to no one but rather does good to everyone, and there is no guile in him….What a noble foolishness Don Quixote chooses as his secular vocation: “To be pure in his thoughts, modest in his words, sincere in his actions, patient in adversity, merciful to those in need and, finally, a crusader for truth even if the defense of it should cost him his life.” (392—my emphasis added)

Ratzinger acknowledges in Don Quixote “the purity of his heart” (392) and then returns to his manifest “foolishness”: “Indeed, the center of his foolishness…is identical with the strangeness of the good in a world [also in the sixteenth century] whose realism has nothing but scorn for one who accepts truth as reality and risks his life for it.” (392) Such is the nobility of Don Quixote, and of Cervantes too; and may we also come to show and sustain such qualities ourselves, and in our children. For, there must be a vivid “consciousness of what must not be lost and a realization of man’s peril, which increases whenever…[there is] the burning of the past….those things [like Sacred Tradition] that we must not lose if we do not want to lose our souls as well.” (392-393—my emphasis added)

Since Joseph Ratzinger, as well as Josef Pieper, greatly admires Monsignor Romano Guardini, I have thought it good, in conclusion, to present Guardini’s brilliant insight about true tragedy—also affecting the Church, as in the decompositions [or “demolitions”] of Vatican II, to include the aftermath of some of its own openly posed, but untrue, principles:

The true nature of tragedy…lies in the fact that good is ruined, not by what is evil and senseless, but by another good which also has its rights; and that this hostile good [a lesser good] is too narrow and selfish to see the superior right…of the other [the greater good], but has power enough to trample down the other’s claim.7

–Finis–

© 2018/ © 2021 Robert D. Hickson

1See here Menke’s comments in German http://www.kath.net/news/62834;erman: and here some excerpts in English: https://onepeterfive.com/vatican-news-editor-claims-benedicts-gave-approval-to-letter-publication/

2See here a shorter report on this interview: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-emeritus-benedict-says-church-is-now-facing-a-two-sided-deep-crisis; and here for the full translation of the whole interview: https://insidethevatican.com/news/newsflash/letter-16-2016-emeritus-pope-benedict-grants-an-interview/

3For a fuller presentation of Ratzinger’s thoughts, see also here an earlier essay, entitled: “A Note on the Incarnation and Grace: For the Sake of Fidelity” (2017): http://catholicism.org/the-incarnation-and-grace.html

4Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), pp. 389-390—my emphasis added. All further page references to this book will be placed in parentheses above, in the main body of this essay.

5This important review—with many quoted passages—may now be found at Onepeterfive.com, under the title “Benedict XVI Admits Qualms of Conscience about Vatican II” (26 September 2016): http://www.onepeterfive.com/benedict-xvi-admits-qualms-of-conscience-about-vatican-ii/. Dr. Maike Hickson’s translation from the German shows some of Joseph Ratzinger’s seeming doubts about Vatican II, especially its effects on the Catholic missions and on the faithful conviction about the uniqueness, necessity, and salvific indispensability of the Roman Catholic Church.

6See the text of the entire homily (http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/homilies/2006/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20060415_veglia-pasquale.html), and ZENIT News Agency (16 April 2006) has a short report on this homily (https://zenit.org/articles/resurrection-yields-a-new-world-says-pope/). The entire homily may be found and downloaded HERE from the Vatican website itself

7Roman Guardini, The Death of Socrates (Cleveland, Ohio: The World Publishing Company, 1962, first in 1948), p. 44.

Money-and-Language Manipulation: New Methods of Modern Oligarchs

A Note from the Authors on 24 June 2021 (the Nativity of St. John the Baptist): In late  August 2012, now almost 10 years ago, while we were reading and discussing together candidly a variety of challenging books, my wife and I both considered a few recurring and connected insights in these counterpointed texts which we then decided to write down, and then also to present some of this thoughtful matter to some others, especially for their corrections and discerning deeper judgments. These matters included the isolation of the human soul and the trials of protracted human isolation (Belloc); a refreshing Christian paradox about the temporal and supernatural realms (Jacques Maritain); the uprooting of the family, not only of the Christian and of the Catholic family; the only partly knowable conduct of some influential financial and political oligarchs and their often unaccountable covert networks; and the misuse of language (as in sophistry) its consequential helping along, and often covering up, the abuse of power. May the brief consideration we offer here still be a worthy contribution to some important discourse, and be even timely.

Dr. Robert Hickson and Dr. Maike Hickson

25 August 2012

King Saint Louis IX of France (d. 1270)

Money-and-Language Manipulation: New Methods of Modern Oligarchs

Epigraph: A Christian Paradox to Limit the Temptation to Pharisaical Presumption

“The order of good moral and civil administration prescribes that publicans and prostitutes shall take rank after persons of honorable life. The order of the Kingdom of Heaven permits publicans and prostitutes to take rank, in the inscrutable judgment of God, before persons of honorable life.” (Jacques Maritain, Freedom in the Modern World, London: Sheed & Ward, 1935), p. 78 – my emphasis added.)

The inhuman state we humans are living in at this point of history is getting clearer every day. It gets more and more obvious that the ruling elites are detached from the people they are ruling and that even these elites are ruled by other, mostly financial, elites. The citizens often feel powerless in the face of social, moral, financial and even natural disorder.

Part of the analysis today will have to look at the effects of the destruction of the family. Much courage, independent thought and cohesiveness have been taken from the citizens (often with their own collaboration) by the isolation of man from his other family members, especially by divorce (the lack of care for the vulnerable, the little ones and the old, often is the result of a lack of a housewife who is at home and thereby able to provide the care). There is just barely any more an existing harbor for us, where we have a refuge and a stronghold, a support and the love that would sustain us more fully in any political struggle. Yes, we are weakened by broken bonds, strife over children’s custody, division of property, rebukes and remorse. We have sunk down into the moral and social anarchy which has grave effects for the Bonum Commune. Such a hedonistic (“I only do what gives me pleasure”) and atomized society is too much self-absorbed to be able to look at the large picture in society and to act upon its analyses.

The moral foundation of society has been wrecked, by an endless attack on the Christian faith and culture which was the foundation for a flourishing civilization. Analysts have shown the destructive effects of the theories of several cultural and political institutions and foundations (like the Tavistock Institute and the Frankfurt School) upon society and family. The Christian Creed and Morals gave the people the help and the disciplined structure to live better in this world, even though this world will always also be a valley of tears. We cannot escape the suffering. And love hurts.

Europe has seen many wars and revolutions in the last two and a half centuries. They have largely contributed to the self-destruction of a society where a child cannot (and may not) any more play unharmed in the public playgrounds and where elderly are not any more respected, protected and actively helped by the young. What kind of people are we that we do not protect any more the vulnerable ones, one of the major aims of Christianity? The Lord was not jesting in the Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.”

How have we come to this state of gradual rejection or quiet apostasy?

Much research has been done on the history of revolution and war as a means to fragment, destabilize, disrupt and atomize, formerly coherent and rooted societies, especially Christian. (These techniques are now, as it seems, applied more and more to the still somewhat consistent and resistant Muslim countries). War and revolution destroy the existing political stabilities and governments and uproot and destroy families by death and upheaval. Who was behind the destruction of the once coherent Christian countries in Europe?

It is known now that all the major leaders of the Enlightenment movement which replaced a Faith in God by a Faith in “Reason” of sorts were Freemasons. Freemasons aimed at the destruction of the Monarchy (as a stabilizing factor and somewhat a bulwark against money-manipulation, especially if the King was truly Christian) and of the Catholic Church as the moral guide. Both were attacked and undermined by the French Revolution, and in the sequence, by the growing nationalist movements in the 19th century which aimed at the replacement of the previous order and morals by an overstrengthening of the nationalistic feelings of the people and by centralizing the political power. Monarchies were much more subsidarian than ever were modern states.

At a closer look, it becomes clear that the oligarchies who run today the money and language manipulation (as a tool for governance) were already then involved in the financing of the revolutions since 1789, most prominently in the Russian Revolution, but also even of the disruptive and inhuman national-socialist revolution in Germany. Names like the Warburgs, the Mellons, the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers are to be mentioned here, among others.

Many leading figures of all the revolutions and of new philosophies in the modern era have been very interested in the occult world, and often in the higher Gnostic Freemasonry, specifically. Karl Marx wrote poems in honor of Satan; Freud secretly believed in the occult; Hegel himself was deeply rooted in the Kabbalah; many of the leaders of the Enlightenment were Rosicrucians. Charles Darwin, whose theory of the survival of the fittest is in accord with dialectical thinking (i.e., there is always a purported thesis and an antithesis, out of whose environmental conflict results a “better” or “more fit” synthesis), stems from a family deeply rooted in Freemasonry. Friedrich Nietzsche was initiated into the Eleusinian Cults and his book “Beyond Good and Evil” represents the essence of Gnostic thinking, i.e., that in the dialectical way we humans have to move beyond the old Christian antagonism of good and evil and have to embrace both in a higher synthesis. Historical research only later will show how many of those intellectuals who convinced the masses that there is no God and that atheism is a form of liberty, were themselves truly believing in the existence of the world beyond, with the difference that they followed the evil one, often using an euphemism, such as Lucifer. It would explain the evil effects of their philosophies and theories. What if one day it would come to light that the so-called enlightened people of today had fallen into the trap of mere propaganda, deception and self-deception? One only needs to look at the fruits of those “freeing” theories. The financial oligarchies, intertwined with the intellectual elites, have both promoted and empowered the state we are in today. They have apparently needed uprooted people for their plans of manipulative governance and profit-making.

The history of the last two centuries and more cannot be written without the immense role of these financial oligarchies. Their aim: the destruction of the Christian culture and civilization with its human face and compassion for the poor and the vulnerable and the strengthening of ideologies and movements which lead to a fragmentation and destabilization of the societies, which are constituted by humans who are mostly living in families. That is where these oligarchies needed specious (but false) theories and propaganda to instill ideas into the minds of men that would lead them away from a healthy and more fully virtuous way of life: Feminism, Communism, Socialism, Darwinism, Capitalism, Gender-Mainstreaming, to name but a few, are all leading people to help to form a less humane society. They all lead to the disruption of family life, the nucleus of human freedom and love.

It is very worthwhile in this context to go back a hundred years and to look at the work and writings of a few courageous men with a big heart, men of mercy and magnanimity, who in England fought the beginning of this modern (early 20th century) work of destruction, with love, keen intellect and the Catholic Faith as their differentiated tools: Hilaire Belloc, G.K Chesterton and Father Vincent McNabb. All three men discerningly saw the sprouting of these above-mentioned theories, many of which first sprang up in England at the time, and they perseveringly and joyfully resisted them. They had a longer historical view and the right criteria and standards to see the inherent actual consequences, as well as the fuller final logical implications, of such false theories.

Chesterton in his book What’s Wrong with the World (1910), for example, presented in a lovely and warm way the beauty of the home, especially made by a wife and mother who loves her whole family and makes a home with love and care. Elsewhere, he also showed the cruelty of divorce and its evil effects, especially upon the children.

Hilaire Belloc resisted the growing power of the state (something that seldom existed ever before in a Monarchical state) in his book The Servile State (1912). He also strongly resisted the spirit of mammon which was spreading in his time and defended the local and rooted life on the countryside.

Father McNabb, in his The Church and the Land book (1926),1 resisted the moving of the people into to the cities and argued that they should return more rootedly to the land, where a family can live independently and make a living by skilled crafts and by farming on its own land, and with responsibility and accountability.

They all three saw the importance of private property and personal responsibility and saw the frigidly indifferent and manipulative ill-rule of these financial oligarchies.

They fought with magnanimity and they always gave persevering encouragement.

They all three are connected with the mediating concept of Distributism, which is a real answer to the old dialectic between Capitalism and Socialism, inasmuch as it proposes to assure that the great majority of citizens owns their own land and are thereby made capable to live a dignified and ideologically independent life.

These three authors are worthy to be studied in the context of our time and the troubles we are facing. They, too, resisted, already then, aggressive military intrusions and intervention, as in the case of the British Empire’s two, and slyly expanding, Boer Wars (1880-1881; 1899-1902), especially the second one. They also criticized biological and social Darwinism, Euthanasia and any other form of inhumanity. But, they also acted in their own personal lives according to their beliefs. There is a very touching story about Father McNabb himself in old age, who, secretly dressed up in old woman’s clothes, sneaked regularly into a little apartment of a very elderly and sick woman and cleaned her apartment. This only came gradually to light when he died in 1943 and the woman was suddenly left without any help in her state of vulnerability and illness.

Criminal Capitalism for the Elites, Collective Socialism for the Masses?

Since the time of these authors we have now discussed, much has been further developed. The old dichotomy between Capitalism and Socialism has been brought into a new synthesis, into globalist Capitalism with a Socialist side: the merging of the two opposites, still following the old Hegelian dialectic. With each step, more and more cultural, religious and human substance gets destroyed and subtly undermined. Here is how these two former opposites work now together, enhanced by the new methods and technologies of the 21th century, with its multi-media and consumerist apparatus and with it further-developed psycho-drugs and psycho-techniques.

Capitalism is used as a tool to further uproot local businesses and farms, to further destroy family life through inhuman work schedules and fear of loss of jobs, a new form of slavery.

Socialism is used in the welfare-warfare state to make people mentally vaguer, sluggish and inordinately dependent. It also is used as a tool to turn the limited state into an intrusive therapeutic state which has a say in every matter, even in the most intimate questions of the education of children, and of how women should run their household, and so on.

While the early revolutions in modern times manifested much violence, the new methods of domination and of manipulative control today have been sophisticated and are in general less violent. While Communism had still its Gulag System, and Nazism its concentration camps, the modern man today is in the trap of consumerism, body idolatry, sexual degeneration and technological bondage and especially “electronic slavery.” Many people are so softened and occupied that they have neither the capability nor the will any more to think, so as to draw essential conclusions and to act upon them.

One of the conclusions of this little essay is that one has to live out oneself, and more fully, the precepts and counsels and generous invitations of Christianity in order to be able to be convincing and appealing to other people. Real charity in its generous selflessness still touches the human heart. When truth is spoken, it still appeals to the human mind.

–CODA–

One of the great advantages in our time of the United States, with all its all-too-well-known problems, is the greater spiritual and spatial freedom that still exist. One good example is the Homeschool Movement. The numbers of families who withdraw their children from the state schools and their propaganda and moral sewage are growing very considerably. They just school them at home with the help of the many homeschool organizations which provide them with learning material and indispensable guidance, or they organize themselves into subsidiary co-operatives. These families make use of their still-legal liberties in this country to nourish the minds of their little ones with truth and a fitting sense of proportion and purpose, not with intellectual and moral corruption.

A timely and timeless warning from the wisdom of Hilaire Belloc, from his chapter concerning the truly tragic life of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots and rival of Elizabeth Tudor, the Queen of England who, at the persistent prompting of her main counsellor William Cecil, then finally herself reluctantly consented to Mary Stuart’s unjust execution, after having kept her imprisoned in England and sequestered for many years (almost nineteen). From his heart, Hilaire Belloc therefore says: “Isolation is the chief evil of human life and isolation was imposed upon this woman [Mary Stuart] always and everywhere. When she made one desperate effort to be rid of it [i.e., of that protracted, terrible isolation] that effort was itself fatal to her.” (Hilaire Belloc, Elizabethan Commentary (London: Cassell and Company LTD, 1942), page 158—my emphasis added.)

FINIS

© 2012 Robert D. Hickson and Maike Hickson

1This book is a collection of essays addressing the problems of the Industrial Revolution with Christian philosophy and social thought. Among the topics included are industrialism and the rise of unemployment; the evil of the wage system; the importance of land ownership and the restoration of craft production; the necessary connection between real work and spiritual salvation. It is intended for anyone studying social and economic thought as well as Catholic and Christian studies.

Maurice Baring’s Proposed Addition to The Romance (and Tragedy) of Tristan and Isolde

Dr. Robert Hickson

11 June 2021

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Saint Barnabas (d. 60)

Epigraphs:

September 19.—To-day I was on the beach with Tristram and he asked me [Isolde of Brittany] if I saw a ship. I said I did. He asked me if the sail was black, and as the doctor had told me to humour him, I said it was. Upon which he got much worse, and I had to call the doctors. They said he was suffering from hypertrophy of the sensory nerves.

September 20.—Tristram unconscious. The Queen of Cornwall [i.e., Isolde the Fair] just arrived [in Brittany and she had come on the ship with two colors of sail, after all]. Too busy to write.” (Maurice Baring, Lost Diaries (1913), page 20—my emphasis added—Chapter II—“From the Diary of Iseult of Brittany.”)

***

“Standing by the wall [listening to the candidly intimate conversation between her husband Tristan and already his close confident and friend, her own brother, Kaherdin], Isolde of the White Hands had overheard everything. How much she had loved Tristan! [She had just recently married Tristan and she was his legal wife.]…At last she learned of his love for another [Isolde the Fair of Cornwall]. She kept every word in mind: if only some day she could, how she would avenge herself on her [i.e., on Isolde the Fair of Cornwall] whom he loved most in the world. But she hid it all; and when the doors were open again she came to Tristan’s bed and served him with food as a lover should….but all day long she thought upon her vengeance.” (The Romance of Tristan and Isolde (1945 and 1950, pages 165-166—the Hilaire Belloc translation.)

***

“And Tristran trembled [both from his poisoned wound from a hostile spear in battle, together with his yearnings for his beloved soon to arrive from Cornwall, as he still hoped] and said: ‘Beautiful friend, you are sure that the ship is his [brother Kaherdin’s] indeed?’

“’I saw it plain and well. They have shaken it out [the sail] and hoisted it very high, for they have little wind. For its colour, why, it is black.’

“And Tristan turned him [himself] to the wall, and said [to his wife Isolde]: ‘I cannot keep this life of mine any longer.’ He said three times: ‘Isolde, my friend.’ And in saying it the fourth time, he died. ….Near Tristan, Iseult of the White Hands crouched, maddened at the evil she had done [her acts of vengeance], and calling and lamenting over the dead man [her husband]. The other Iseult [the Queen arrived just now from Cornwall] came in and said to her [Tristan’s wife]: ‘Lady, rise and let me come by him; I have more right to mourn him that you have—believe me. I loved him more.‘” (The Romance of Tristan and Isolde (1945, 1960), page 171-172—my emphasis added.)

***

On the premise that contrast clarifies the mind, this brief essay will attempt to present Maurice Baring’s own ironic parody, entitled “From the Diary of Iseult of Brittany,”1 and thereby help us raise many worthy questions about the substance and tone and emotion and seeming omissions of Joseph Bédier’s larger and elaborate composite French text (a narrative poetic tale of some 170 prose pages)—and as largely translated into English by Hilaire Belloc.2 Maurice Baring’s freshly brief and intentionally incomplete excerpt also gives us an alternate version of the end of the romance and tragedy. The longer and variously important last chapter of this poetic “high tale of love and of death” (pages 162-173) presents to us a shuddering (and yet reflective) one-word title: “Death.” Then what?

By reading closely Maurice Baring’s nuanced (and characteristically magnanimous) ten-page literary parody, an attentive reader of The Romance of Tristan and Isolde will see and understand much more about the famous and unmistakably tragic medieval (largely Celtic) legend. And such a reader will also be better able to raise informed questions about what is not present and to be accounted for! There are loose ends in the longer romance, as well: for example, the virtuous character and conduct of King Mark of Cornwall and the Irish Mother’s consequential Irish Potion which she intended for her daughter and her vowed future husband!

Maurice Baring compactly imagines and depicts the reflections of young Isolde of Brittany as a docile daughter and harp-player who will soon be married to the unexpected visitor, Tristan of Lyoness. Baring presents the whole domestic atmosphere and increasing commentary of Isolde over five months from spring to early autumn:

May 1—Mamma sent me up a message early this morning that I was to put on my best white gown with my coral necklace, as guests were expected. She didn’t say who. Nurse was in a fuss….I can’t think why, as there was no hurry. I came down punctually at noon….I was told to get out my harp, and to sit with my back to the light….I was to play only Breton songs. I said I didn’t know any. She [Mamma] said that didn’t matter; but that I could say anything I knew and call it a Breton song. I said nothing, but I thought, and I still think, this was dishonest. (10-11—italics in the original; my bold emphasis added)

After waiting “a long time” during which “Papa and mamma were fidgety,” (10) the seneschal, Morgan, announced the arrival Sir Tristan with his squire, Kurneval. Isolde’s first perceptive impressions of Tristan were expressed in her diary, as follows—about the man who will very soon now be her husband:

Rather an oldish man walked in, with a reddish beard, and many wrinkles. One of his front teeth was broken and the other was black. He was dressed in a coat of mail which was too tight for him. He had nice eyes and seemed rather embarrassed. (12)

Isolde innocently continues her candid descriptions:

Mamma and papa made a great fuss about him and brought me forward [in my white gown and with my cleansed white hands] and said: “This is our daughter Isolde,” and mamma whispered to me: “Show your hands.” I didn’t want to do this….

Sir Tristan bowed deeply, and seemed more and more embarrassed. After a long poise he said: “It’s a very fine day, isn’t it?”

Before I had time to answer, mamma broke in by saying: “Isolde has been up by six with the falconers.” This wasn’t true and I was surprised that mamma should be so forgetful. I hadn’t been out with the hawkers for weeks.

Then dinner was served. It lasted for hours I thought, and the conversation flagged terribly. Kurneval, Sir Tristan’s Squire, had twice of everything and drank more cider than was good for him. After dinner, mamma told me to fetch my harp. (12-13—italics in original; my bold emphasis added)

After Isolde complied with her mother’s request for her “to sing a Breton song,” Isolde admitted:

I was just going to say I didn’t know one, when she frowned at me so severely that I didn’t dare. So I sang a Provençal orchard song about waking up too early….Sir Tristan said: “Charming, charming, that’s German isn’t it; how well taught she is. I do like good singing.” Then he yawned, although he tried not to, and papa said he was sure Sir Tristan was tired, and he would take him to see the stables. Sir Tristan then became quite lively and said he would be delighted. (13-14—my emphasis added)

Sir Tristan, after then reliably learning her name, said to her papa as to his daughter’s name– “Isolde”–“Oh! What a pretty name!” (14)

Five days after the first entry of 1 May, Isolde of Brittany makes another entry in her diary:

May 6—They’ve [Tristan and his Squire Kurneval] been here a week now and I haven’t seen much of them; because Sir Tristan has been riding with papa nearly all day, and every day. But every day after dinner mamma makes me sing the Provençal song, and every time I sing it, Sir Tristan says: “Charming, charming, that’s German, isn’t it?” although I’ve already told him twice now that it isn’t. I like Sir Tristan, only he’s very silent, and after dinner he becomes sleepy directly, just like papa. (15—my emphasis added)

One day later, on 7 May, Isolde was suddenly told by her parents something unexpected:

Then mamma cried and papa tried to soothe her and said: “It’s all right, it’s all right, and then he blurted out that I was to marry Sir Tristan next Wednesday….Sir Tristan [on 8 May one day later!] has gone away—to stay with friends– he is coming back on Tuesday night [on 11 May, shortly before their marriage [on 12 May]….

May 12—. The wedding went off well….After Mass we had a long feast. (15-16—my emphasis added)

Now we come a little closer to conflict and confusion:

Tristan made a speech [at the marriage feast] and got into a muddle about my name [Isolde], and everyone was silent. Then he said I had beautiful hands [“Isolde of the White Hands”] and everybody cheered. After supper we were looking out on the sea, and just as Tristan was becoming talkative I noticed that he wore another ring, besides his wedding ring, a green one made of jasper. I said, “What a pretty ring! Who gave it you?” He said, “Oh, a friend,” and changed the subject. Then he said he was very tired and went away. (17—my emphasis added)

Tristan thus crudely left his marriage feast. Unasked, he just “went away” (17).

What kind of man, after all, is he now increasingly showing himself to be? (That is to say, especially in Maurice Baring’s ironic parody and subtle depiction here!)

In this context, Baring’s Isolde goes on to say, as follows, in her diary entry of 13 May:

In any case Tristan, who has been very gloomy ever since he’s been here, has got to go and fight in a tournament. He says he won’t be away long and that there’s no danger; not any more than crossing the sea in an open boat [such as the sailing from Cornwall to Brittany?], which I do think is dangerous. He starts tomorrow at dawn [14 May]. (17-18—italics in original; my bold emphasis added)

In her 17 May entry, she says: “Tristan was brought back on a litter in the middle of the night” (18) and she is “very anxious” (18). Moreover;

Papa and mamma arrive to-morrow with the doctor. Tristan insists on sleeping out of doors on the beach. The doctor says this is a patient’s whim and must be humoured. I’m sure it’s bad for him, as the nights are very cold. (18-19—my emphasis added)

Isolde added on 1 July that “The doctors say there is no fear of immediate change” (19), but over a month later—on 10 August—“Mamma says that the Queen of Cornwall (whose name is Isolde the same as mine) is coming for a few days, with her husband [King Mark of Cornwall] and some friends.” (19—my emphasis added)

Furthermore, mamma is reported to have said about this untimely and sudden visit:

I do think it’s very inconsiderate, considering how full the house is already; and Tristan being so ill—and insisting on sleeping on the beach—it makes it very difficult for everyone [as of 10 August]. (19—my emphasis added)

Isolde of Brittany, Tristan’s wife, wrote on 1 September in her diary: “Tristan is no better. He keeps on talking about a ship with a black sail.” (19—emphasis added)

Almost three weeks later (on 19 September), with the other Isolde of Cornwall not yet having arrived with her husband and warmly landed, Isolde of the White Hand wrote the following entry:

To-day I was on the beach with Tristan and he asked me if I saw a ship. I said I did. He asked me if the sail was black, and as the doctor told me to humour him, I said it was. Upon which he got much worse, and I had to call the doctors. They said he was suffering from hypertrophy of the sensory nerves. (20—my emphasis added)

One day later—on 20 September — the ship from Cornwall landed safely in Brittany after many dangerous and delaying storms (as some scholars have said, and have written, such as Joseph Bédier). Isolde of the White Hands has this brief and final entry on 20 September: “Tristan unconscious. The Queen of Cornwall [Isolde the Fair] just arrived. Too busy to write.” (20—my emphasis added)

The reader, it is hoped, will now also fittingly read and contrast and savor the tragic end of the famous tale in the longer poetic version in prose: the Bédier-Belloc version and translation. It would also help us appreciate more adequately the evocative tones and allusions and artfulness of our beloved Maurice Baring.

CODA

A Glimpse of the Other Isolde and of Her Husband, King Mark of Cornwall, as quoted from the end of The Romance of Tristan and Isolde (172-173):

And when she [Isolde of Cornwall] had turned to the east and prayed God, she moved the body [of Tristan] a little and lay down by the dead man, beside her friend. She kissed his mouth and his face, and clasped him closely; and so gave up her soul, and died beside him of grief for her lover.

When [the magnanimous and forgiving] King Mark heard of the death of these lovers, he crossed the sea and came into Brittany….And he took their beloved bodies away with him upon his ship to Tintagel, and by a chantry to the left and right of the apse he had their tombs built round….Thrice did the peasants cut it down [the growing, twining “green and leafy” briar], but thrice it grew again as flowered and as strong [“in the scent of its flowers”]. They told the marvel to King Mark, and he forbade them to cut the briar any more.

–FINIS–

© 2021 Robert D. Hickson

1Maurice Baring, Lost Diaries (London: Duckworth & CO., 1913), Chapter II: “From the Diary of Iseult of Brittany,” pages 10-20. The Diary covers the five-month interval from May 1 to September 20, but the year is not given nor otherwise specified. All future references will be to this text and placed in parentheses above in the main body of this short essay.

2The longer literary text that will occasionally be referred to or cited is: The Romance of Tristan and Iseult —as retold by Joseph Bédier and as translated from the French by Hilaire Belloc– (New York: The Heritage Press, 1960; and also the earlier published in 1945—with a copyright in 1945 by Pantheon Books, Inc., from whom permission has been obtained here. All further variant spellings of the name of ISEULT will be henceforth standardized, if possible, as ISOLDE. For example: The Romance of Tristan and Isolde—and both Isoldes will be so written, one of them being from Ireland and then Cornwall, and the other one being of Brittany. The Heritage Press format and text of 173 pages will also be placed in parentheses above, if needed for a convenient reference of comparison. Given the varieties of spellings in use, Tristan will also, when feasible, stand as a preferred spelling and replacement for Tristram.

God and the Knowledge of Reality (1973) by Thomas Molnar: A Young Scholar’s 1975 Book Review

Dr. Robert Hickson

God and the Knowledge of Reality (1973) by Dr. Thomas Molnar:

An Inchoate Young Scholar’s Brief 1975 Review of the Book’s Trenchant Substance

Author’s Note on 3 June 2021: After unexpectedly recently discovering my June 1975, 4-page book review of Dr. Molnar’s profound little study—my review being written while I was still a callow young man then just returning from travels and from study in Spain (shortly before the consequencial death of General Francisco Franco on 20 November 1975)I have now come much further to see the timeliness of Thomas Molnar’s 1973 book, as well as its enduring timelessness. For, in part, he speaks of new revolutionary forms of dynamic gnosticism and the allure of converging monisms and tempting hermeticism; as well as the consequential distortions of German Philosophical Idealism, especially the occult dialectics of Hegel. Dr. Molnar, by contrast, clearly and pursuasively favors a moderate philosophical Realism and its fuller ongoing restoration, as is to be seen in Saint Thomas Aquinas and Josef Pieper.

A Tale of Two Cities1

GOD AND THE KNOWLEDGE OF REALITY2

Why are real things, all real things, incapable of being finally grasped?… Why is a finite spirit unable to acquire, in the last resort, such a comprehensive knowledge? The answer is: because the knowability of Being, which we are attempting to transform into knowledge, consists in its being creatively thought by the Creator. —Josef Pieper

St. Augustine once wrote a book he might have called A Tale of Two Cities. His title actually spoke of only one city, The City of God, but his contents spoke of two cities, two orders of society, one divine and one human, apart until human history ends. Between these two cities are connections, yet key separations and distinctions, with no merger in substance, with no reduction to only one city. Between these two cities, therefore, there must also be tensions, indeed furious tensions.

The particular genius of G. K. Chesterton was in his depiction of orthodoxy’s heady adventure, its special romance, its many mysteries of paradox whose sacred tensions must remain for man unresolved. Romano Guardini always spoke of preserving in its entirety the mystery of Revelation, the holy profundity. The essence of most forms of unorthodoxy is simplification, reduction of orthodoxy’s furious tensions. Guardini said that “every dogmatic error is basically directed against mystery. It always tries, in one way or another, from one viewpoint or another, to dissolve the mystery of Revelation.”

In the tradition of Chesterton and Guardini comes this fecund book, little and patient and modest, ostensibly about restoring man’s philosophical enterprise, but constantly pointing to the difficult adventure “at the fount of their premises,” into several non-orthodox formulations which attempted to achieve a treacherous simplification, which tried to resolve mysteries of paradox into some false union or absolute. Thomas Molnar’s God and the Knowledge of Reality (1973) shows how a genuine philosophy is the handmaiden of theology. Reading it will be a refreshing, sobering and challenging experience for anyone who has reflected on the relation between a personal, transcendent God and the philosophical tradition of realism; on the implications and consequences to philosophy of God’s lovingly and freely willed act of Creation, His design of several special and finite natures whose essences come from the generosity of His Being.

Molnar’s central insight, which is certainly demanding, is also essential for modern man. Wishing to combat monism, a simplifying worldview that has always especially tempted and threatened men of thought—and has particularly deformed much of modern philosophy—Molnar conceives of his task thus: “the restoration of the philosophical enterprise,” attempted “through a return to reason and hence to the possibility of knowledge.” He seeks a return to a position he calls “moderate realism.” Like Jacques Maritain, he has an interest in the degrees of human knowledge because human knowledge can only exist in degrees. Moreover, the notion of degrees itself implies an inherent limit, whereas a complete comprehension is only possible through an identity in substance with the object of knowledge. This latter striving for fusion comes from the temptation to monism.

With his gradated understanding of knowledge, Molnar probes deeper premises involving the very possibility and limits of human knowledge. His probing descends to fundamental questions: questions about being, created nature, human history, temporality and especially about God.

Molnar argues that all conceptions of God except that of the personal, transcendent, Creator-God must finally warp man’s efforts to know reality (and to know what he cannot know of reality). If there is a personal and transcendent Creator-God, He guarantees man access to knowledge of reality; but because created reality is finite, that access is necessarily limited. Given any other understanding of God, or a denial of God, man resorts to desperate expedients and drifts into deadly, simplifying paths; man’s self-deceptive anfractuosity of mind and sentiment diminishes God and the extra-mental creation. Concurrently, man assumes more centrality: he attempts to contain, systematically, a fuller and more direct knowledge; he presumes to set his own limits from within; he naturally gathers a larger presumed sense of autonomy. It is paradox at work: insofar as the subjective self increases and the non-self lessens, man himself is attenuated. He grows inattentive to the personally mediating, yet finally limiting abyss of light, which is God. There is left only an abyss of darkness, or a cold abstraction of deity, or the silence of otherness.

Molnar argues that the “God-problem” in philosophy is ever recurrent, though it be denied, though it be secularized into some other reductive Absolute such as history or the disquietude and incompleteness of Being. His thesis links the postulates of the God-problem to consequent speculation on the knowledge-problem and, finally, to the problem of the good society, or the political problem.

Molnar sees two “limit formulations” in categorizing the problems of God’s existence: His role in the creation of the world, and His relationship to man. One is the completely transcendent God, the other is the completely immanent God. Each of these two initially separate positions has been widely held throughout history. Molnar provides an intriguing historical exegesis of both of them, of their influence, and, most importantly, of their ultimate reducibility to one another.

Briefly, he sees that the wholly transcendent God is reduced to an immanentist conception of God, and that the latter rests on monist doctrine. The key images or conceptual words of the monist include: fusion, coalescence, merger, unmediated and substantial union.

Opposed to these monist ideals are the ideals of orthodoxy and philosophical realism and, thus, of St. Thomas: distinction, articulation, mediation through finite forms, and, at the most, an analogical union of natures separately created. The paradox and tension inherent in orthodoxy’s understanding of a personal-transcendent God are reflected in His acts—the creation of the world, the Incarnation—and in the mediational forms of Catholicism—the sacraments, the institutional Church itself. Monist doctrine, by contrast, is always tempted, because of its premises of consubstantiality, to burst through boundaries or forms of mediation in order to make the direct connection of the complete transformation.

Since Molnar is convinced that we live still today inside of the Hegelian, dialectical worldview, he focuses on the speculation of this subtle, monistic genius. He hopes to awaken us from dogmatic slumber amongst the illusions of the Hegelian “Cave.” He elucidates the multiple monistic antecedents of Hegel—the traditions of esoterism (Hermeticism), gnosticism, archaic religions, and monistic (as distinguished from “theistic”) mysticism.

In addition to Hegel, much of German philosophical idealism is treated, including Kant, Schelling and Fichte, as well as the inadequate oppositions this idealism provoked, such as Bergson, Husserl, Barth, Heidegger and Sartre.

What happens when a more or less religious spirit is lost from monism? What happens when it is even more secularized than in Hegel? Then we witness how much more treacherous and dynamic and collective the monistic temptation becomes. Society as a whole becomes the unit of analysis. Unique, created personhood becomes an obstacle to collective fulfillment within the historical process itself. A diversely constituted and unchanging human nature is seen to be an illusion. The impulse of monism to collapse distinctions, to facilitate mergers, to reabsorb “fragments” gathers momentum. The signs of this demiurgic monism can be seen in the leveling process, in the uniformity of centralization, in mathematical models of society.

The reader of Thomas Molnar’s book will see with startling lucidity some of the deepest roots of the contemporary anti-institutional, anti-sacramental, anti-sacerdotal impulse. He will see that these positions are not merely emotional preferences or strictly political egalitarian and democratic notions. Often there is a deeper doctrine and a longer tradition underlying such urges.

“Man is nothing but . . .; nature is nothing but . . . ; history is nothing but . . .; God is nothing but. . . .” Reductive thinking flourishes. The monistic transposition means that mental processes are not only seen as identical with historical processes and extra-mental reality, but are actually seen as able to transform history and society. A special kind of knowledge is presumed to have a power which can transmute the “constitution of being” into something better and more complete. A gnosis, such as presuming to recognize the whole blueprint of history, becomes the necessary plan for revolution. “True freedom” comes only in recognizing this necessity. (And here we cannot forget Marx, though he is not usually considered a philosophic idealist.)

At this point we see the apotheosis of monism: Man the Creator: man daring to make being less imperfect than Creation by erasing the distinctions between nature and artifact, between natural thing and artificial thing.

It is therefore at this point that we can see the fundamental opposition between the monistic and immanent mentality and Catholic orthodoxy. Thomas Molnar’s book, like the works of St. Augustine and Chesterton and Guardini, will lead the thinking Catholic to see the adventure to which orthodoxy calls him—which, on the intellectual level, is the challenge to Faith to draw on Reason for aid in restoring the philosophical enterprise.

–FINIS–

© 1975 Robert D. Hickson

1This Review-Essay was first published in Triumph Magazine, in the Issue of June 1975, pp. 26-28.

2Thomas Molnar, God and the Knowledge of Reality (New York: Basic Books, 1973)

Remembering John Vennari

An Author’s Note, on 21 May 2021: After John Vennari (the editor-in-chief of Catholic Family News) had died on 4 April 2017, my wife Maike and I wrote a six-page tribute to him and to his family that is now to be found below. Our tribute was first published, in an abbreviated form and as excerpts of our original words, by Catholic Family News in its May 2017 edition. The fuller presentation of our tribute was then graciously published on 21 May 2017 (exactly four years ago) by the editor of the AKA Catholic website. The tribute below will show that Maike, my wife, also cherished John Vennari, although she never met him in person.

Robert and Maike Hickson

21 April 2017

Saint Anselm (d.1109)

It was only in late August of 2007 in Brazil that I came more intimately to know John Vennari—and thus to perceive his varied high qualities and warmth of heart—especially because the two of us then had a few concentrated days together there in Brazil immediately after Father Gruner’s fine Fatima Conference (20-24 August)—to which I had been unexpectedly invited as a speaker. (Along with Father Gruner, John had invited me to speak selectively on two related, but contrastive, topics: (1) on Catholic Sacramental Literature and the Higher Chivalry a Catholic Centurion Needs Today; and (2) on Perception Management and Strategic Deception in the Growing Forms of Total War We Face.)

In spite of John’s warm invitation, I had not at first thought of accepting this special opportunity, for my wife Maike and I had just been married sacramentally on 11 July in Europe, in Alpine Austria, near Switzerland. And we were understandably somewhat fatigued from the travel and also from our recent talks at another Catholic Conference. Nonetheless, my dear wife earnestly encouraged me to accept John’s invitation and to go promptly to Brazil! I did and I am manifoldly grateful for it.

John Vennari was then forty-nine years of age and robustly exercising the full range of his own manifold faculties and high spirits (and humor) along lines of excellence: intellectual and moral virtue. John was then soon to turn fifty years of age, on 24 February 2008, the Feast of Saint Matthias, the Apostle chosen to replace Judas Iscariot who had mysteriously committed such intimate perfidy and dark deception.

(After our return to the United States in late August, and with his vivacious and smiling encouragement, I sent John a special gift for his upcoming 50th Birthday. The gift brought out in him some fine sparkles and coruscations, I have heard. For, it was something that a man—a strong and cultured man—could and would receive and drink! And would proceed to do so even promptly!)

Since my wife, Maike, never met John in person—but only had telephone exchanges with him as well as a reciprocity of e-mail messages about their own writings and publications and varied interviews—I shall now first try to convey what John shared with me personally during those days in Brazil.

During our time rooming together in Brazil that late August, John excitedly introduced me to what he called a graduate-level—indeed, a doctoral level—of Political Science education, supplemented by some enriching Strategic Studies. For, John had with him on his accompanying computer a complete set of the 1980s British Situation Comedy and Political Satires known as “Yes, Minister” (1980-1984) and “Yes, Prime Minister”(1986-1987)—especially with “Sir Humphrey Appleby,” the “Permanent Secretary” and Sly Counsellor to “the Minister” and then to “the Prime Minister.” One of John’s favorite (and so characteristic) set of words uttered and recommended by Counsellor Sir Humphrey to Minister Jim Hacker himself was: “Let us not bring the truth in at this stage.”

John proceeded to show me, over some three days together, five or six half-hour episodes of this brilliant series of comedy and political satire. For example, the episode on how the Prime Minister would have to choose a new Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, and whether or not the candidate at least had to believe in God! And have certain other qualifications.

When hearing John laugh and deftly comment on these depictions—also in light of the current Catholic Church—I then knew that I was close there to John’s genuine heart. Over the years—having first met him in 1997—I never saw him utter anything sardonic or harshly sarcastic. His humor and irony were always generous and magnanimous. No bitterness, no constrictedness, no sneer—despite the provocations. He might help the situation by giving a vignette from P.G. Wodehouse, whom he cherished, or one from a short story by Evelyn Waugh, such as “Mr. Loveday’s Little Outing”!

When John had made up lyrics to his then vividly sung song on advancing in “The Chancery,” he was smiling and radiant with tears of laughter. In the late 1990s when I introduced John to the musical Dr. E. Michael Jones in South Bend, Indiana and heard them sing together with their fiddles or guitars, it was a rare festive and antic combination. Mike Jones gratefully told me afterwards—and Jones is no effusive praiser of persons—that “John Vennari is a brilliant lyricist.”

In Brazil, John told me much about his life growing up around Philadelphia (E.M. Jones’ home town, as well.) For, he knew I grew up nearby in South Jersey, less than 60 miles away, in Margate, on an ocean seacoast island (Absecon Island) which is some 6 miles south from Atlantic City—and John had often visited the coast and beaches there as a boy and as a young man—maybe even with one of his “rock bands.”

Later on he attempted to be a monk (along with the Diamond brothers and their lame, but robust, superior) at The Most Holy Family Monastery, a more traditionalist monastery just outside of Berlin, New Jersey, a little to the east of Philadelphia. (That former monastery is now Mater Ecclesiae diocesan Church which celebrates only the Traditional Liturgy.)

While John and I were discussing his time and difficulties there at the monastery, when he was searching for a confirmation of a true and sound religious vocation, he told me a charming story of how he first met his future wife, Susan.

Susan was at that same time, apparently, a Graduate Assistant to a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania—he was a professor of Arabic and of Middle East Studies, as I recall–and somehow Susan was sent by her professor with a large quantity of papers or texts to be copied on the excellent (and fast) copy machines at the Berlin monastery. While recollecting his time as an Aspiring Novice Monk, John then stopped in his longer narration and charmingly said to me with a smile: “Robert, When I first saw her [Susan] I knew I had no religious vocation.”

I am not sure in what year it was that Susan had first visited that Berlin monastery with her learned papers to be copied, but I believe it was after I had first met her in Germany in the early 1990s. It was at Dr. John Haas’ Seminar and three-week summer school in lower Bavaria, in Eichstaett, Germany at which I had also given some invited talks on Catholic Literature. When I later met Susan in the late 1990s at the South Bend Conference (conducted by Mike Chabot) after she and John had married and had at least one child, she was so vividly grateful for her time in Germany and for her dear family, too!

In Brazil, John also told me: “Robert, you are a soldier, and you have probably had a lot of fights growing up, at least at West Point, but likely also so much more later on. But, do you know that I was never even in a fight growing up?! Also, in my marriage with Susan, we have never had a fight! We just fit together so well. Even our temperaments.” The way he recounted all these things was so warm and innocent and affectionate. The beautiful picture of John’s face–as it was posted on the Catholic Family News Website after John’s death on 4 April—reminded me of John’s face in Brazil as he told me of Susan and such matters. His countenance is (and was) so pure and clear and big-hearted. Just look at his eyes! (We now have a copy of that picture of John in the kitchen of our Old Farmhouse near the hearth and our active fireplace.)

John often shared with me short films of his three children’s musical or dramatic performances—to include their rides in home-made wheeled buggies or with sleds in the snow. Often there were the joyful antics of the young children, including young Benedict, his last child and only son.

Over the almost twenty years of our association and friendship (1997-early 2017), we exchanged some deep thoughts and opinions about some challenging subjects: the brilliant and polite pre-Vatican II learned exchanges in the American Ecclesiastical Review itself between Father John Courtney Murray, S.J. (d. 1967) and Monsignor Joseph Clifford Fenton (d. 1969); the reasons (in addition to weak health) for Msgr. Fenton’s own sad departure from the Vatican Council after the First Session; the extent to which John’s hero Msgr. Fenton ever met or wrote or spoke to Father Leonard Feeney; and the subtle shift made by some SSPX Traditionalists from “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus” to the vaguer and much more ambiguous formulation “Sine Ecclesia Nulla Salus”; what Our Lady of Fatima specifically meant by “the Errors of Russia”?—Name five!; what did Msgr. Fenton mean by his distinction in his own, often magnificent pre-Vatican II 1958 book, The Catholic Church and Salvation: In the Light of Recent Pronouncements by the Holy See, namely the distinction De Ecclesia about someone’s somehow being “in” the Church, but “not a memberof the Church?; And what are the implications of this claim—without thereby sliding into Karl Rahner’s notion of the putatively “anonymous Christian”?

John was always gracious and thoughtful in our discussions, even when he was unable to find and render a satisfactory answer—satisfactory also to him and to his winsome integrity.

It meant very much to me later—when my wife Maike in 2012 was secretly and so strategically forming up a one-day Academic Conference and a subsequent Festschrift for my upcoming 70th Birthday on 29 December 2012—that John Vennari deftly chose to write something for the book which explicitly looked back, once again, to our time together in Brazil five years earlier, and even to one of the talks on literature I had presented there. The memorable title of John Vennari’s Festschrift contribution was “These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruins” (65-68). John remembered the proposed motto of a Catholic Centurion and Soldier—“Blessed be he who has saved a child’s heart from despair”—recalling Georges Bernanos’ own haunting words in The Diary of a Country Priest.

John Vennari’s own “spiritual childhood” always touched me deeply—his docility, humility, and trust. “Sinite parvulos ad Me venire,” said Our Lord. May John now rest truly in peace; and may he now or soon know, at least inchoately, the Life More Abundant promised by the Lord to those of Loyal Love ad Finem. Requiescat in Pace. Abundantius!

A small and hopefuly apt word of gratitude may be fittingly added now by Maike Hickson :

One of the first articles I wrote as a Catholic—on G.K. Chesterton’s What’s Wrong With the World—was published by John Vennari, in 2009. It was an honor for me, since, still in Germany, his name had resonance among traditional Catholics. I remember having seen reprints of his writing about the Alta Vendita document, in German. Down the years, I have gotten to know John for his charity, clarity, and cheerfulness. Our own little children still remember watching, many a time, a little film John once sent to us from a local little pig race which he had attended with his own children. He so clearly was such a loving father and husband.

Unforgettable to me (and my husband) are his and Chris Ferrara’s running filmed commentaries from Rome on the Synod of Bishops on the Family. John and Chris together both made such a contribution in resisting the evil flowing out from those heterodox debates in discussing the events of the day, dissecting the lies then being spread, and then themselves returning, again and again, to the clarity of the Catholic Church’s traditional teaching. For many of us, these video clips were strengthening and uplifting. Certainly my husband and I cherished them.

I always have a sense that these two Synods on the Family must have damaged John’s health. They were life-taking. They were so upsetting and so shaking. We are still shaken to our inner roots. John gave so much in these last years of intensified battle, from articles on the life and work of Cardinal Carlo Martini to the equivocal writings of Cardinal Walter Kasper. John gave his best, and, as it now seems, his last. He exhausted himself, as it seems now, for the greater good of the Church. He gave his all in the defense of the Catholic Faith. I often have compassion for him and his comrades—and I may include my husband in it—because they have had to fight this battle for so long, and often in such a lonely fashion. For us younger Catholic writers, it is only a shorter time that we try to do battle for Jesus Christ. But now, at least the tide is changing a bit, and, though still much disdain we feel, people’s hearts are more open to tradition. People like John Vennari, Arnaud de Lassus, Anthony S. Fraser, and also my husband, had to carry the cross for a very long stretch— even since 1962—without seeing any light. I wish to honor them and to thank them.

John wrote in his contribution to the Festschrift in honor of my husband the following piercing words when speaking about those who try to preserve “Catholic fragments”: “Lone individuals who keep alive forgotten truths are a mark of our time. What was considered normal in Christian Civilization are now oddities extolled by the few who recognize the value of these discarded fragments.” This he wrote in 2012. That was before the papacy of Pope Francis. How much further have we come ourselves into becoming these “lone individuals who keep alive forgotten truths”? It is with a sense of sadness and longing that we will miss John —we miss him as a comrade here on earth, and we long to be with him in Heaven, relieved from this Valley of Tears that seems to become a sadder place by the day. May John Vennari now intercede for us who—to include his dear family—are still Christian soldiers here on earth. May his intercession be now even more powerful than it was while he still walked and wrote among us. May Our Lord have welcomed him with a warm embrace and tears of joy, and with His Mother standing by Him, with a very special smile. You have fought your fight well, John.

“And You Cannot Build Upon a Lie” (H. Belloc) – When the Humbug Has Broken Down and the Sham Exposed (Learning from English History)

Author’s Note on 18 May 2021: Hilaire Belloc’s 1920 book, while enduring the aftermath of World War I, will be a helpful political education for us as we study the instructive British history and apply it to our own situation in the United States. Belloc’s book on Kingship and Oligarchies and Aristocracy will include the 1649 English Regicide and the gradually corrupting consequences of that act upon an oligarchic, sometimes aristocratic institution, such as (and especially) the English House of Commons of which Belloc was once himself a member. This current essay was originally completed on 16 April 2013.

“And You Cannot Build Upon a Lie” (H. Belloc)—

When the Humbug Has Broken Down and the Sham Exposed

Dr. Robert Hickson

16 April 2013

Saint Bernadette Soubirous

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre

Epigraphs:

“But the answer to all this [“sort of hopeless feeling”] is that these growing evils (and they have almost reached that limit after which the State breaks down) are not inevitable and are not necessary—save [i.e., except, unless] under an anonymous system.” (Hilaire Belloc, The House of Commons and Monarchy, p. 181—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

***

“It is [in this context] far more important for us to see and admit what has happened than to discuss why it has happened. It is much more important to find out that your rudder has dropped off in the deep sea than to discover how it dropped off. Yet it may be of service to mention causes briefly before we proceed to the chances of the future.” (Hilaire Belloc, The House of Commons and Monarchy, p. 115—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

***

In 1920, ten years after Hilaire Belloc had stepped down from his four maturing years of publicly elected service in the House of Commons, he published a lucid book-length essay, entitled The House of Commons and Monarchy.1 It is a forthright and equitably proportioned work with a clearly stated thesis; and the development of Belloc’s presented evidence and argumentation will help us still better understand—even in the United States—many timely and timeless things of political and moral moment. For example, the reality of power, especially the formation, sustained moral authority, and gradual decay of a “new governing class” (39): indeed, a wealthy Oligarchy that had indispensably become a well-rooted Aristocracy, “after a sufficient tradition has confirmed them,” (47) even so as to become “a sacramental thing.”(39) Regrettably then, but truly, Belloc says, “one of the causes of the decline of Aristocracy” (179) is “the accumulation of…corruptions.” (179) Thus, Trust is broken; the earlier “general respect” (47) and the “ reverence upon which Aristocracy reposed,” vanish.

For it is so, he says, that

The characters [those enduring qualities] which keep an Aristocratic body in the saddle are easily recognized, though difficult to define. The first, undoubtedly, is dignity. The second, closely related to dignity, is a readiness in the individual to sacrifice himself for the good of the whole. The Aristocratic spirit demands in those who govern a readiness to suffer personal injury and loss for the sake not only of the State…but [for the sake] of the Aristocratic quality of the State, and in particular of the special Aristocratic organism [i.e., the House of Commons] to which the individual belongs. (85-86—my emphasis added)

However, when then later speaking of the growing “ineptitude” (88) of a governing class, and its selfish, even “ardent passion” to serve “personal safety” (89) rather than the larger Common Good (Bonum Commune), Belloc, by way of sharp contrast, also says:

When a governing clique ceases to be Aristocratic you feel it not only in specific indignities and particular buffooneries, or petty thefts; you feel it in a sort of insecurity [as well as an insufficiency]. The frantic efforts to conceal, the silly blushing denials, the haste to get away with the swag—all of these are the symptoms: and worst of all is the incapacity for sacrifice. (88-89—my emphasis added)

Furthermore, in Belloc’s words:

Lastly, from two most powerful sources, the Aristocratic State tends to suffer from Illusion, especially in its old age—and illusion is the most dangerous of all things. The two sources whence Illusion insinuates itself into the mood [or “atmosphere” (82)] of an Aristocratic State are, first, its internal security; and second, the legendary nature of the moral authority which the governing class exercises. (55—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

Belloc also came to believe that, in the House of Commons, there is “a lack of machinery for recuperation” (57) and, so: “They nourish Illusion to protect their decay.” (58—emphasis added) However, although it is so that “Parliaments must be Oligarchies;” (63) likewise “it is universally true of oligarchies that they cannot govern unless they are Aristocratic.” (64) Moreover, an “Aristocratic State demands Aristocratic Action and Temper both in those who govern and in those who are governed.” (63—my emphasis added) Such must be, in good times, the reciprocally nourishing political culture.

Belloc’s main thesis, in the light of earlier English history (especially since the Regicide of 1649) is, as follows: “The House of Commons was formed by, and is essentially part of, an Aristocratic State. England having ceased to be an Aristocratic State the House of Commons is ceasing to function.” (This clear formulation is repeated three times at the outset of his argument, i.e., on pages 4, 7, and 9.)

For, “the central institution of that Aristocratic England which the Reformation had made was [and still is] the House of Commons.” (63—my emphasis added) Speaking of the mid-seventeenth century in England and the contention between the newly strengthened vested interests and the Stuart King, he says:

The rising quarrel (confused in its eddies but clear in its main stream) produced the Civil Wars and the destruction of English kingship. The new Oligarchy [with the help of the martial Calvinist, Oliver Cromwell] put to death the last true Monarch in 1649 [Charles I]. His son [Charles II] came back eleven years later, but only as a salaried official…. But why was all this? Why should the supplanting after civil war of one form of government by another, of Monarchy by Oligarchy, have produced so large an effect and one of such advantage to national greatness and glory?….The masses grew more dependent, the rich more powerful and even immune; but of the external growth and wealth and dominion, and all that of which patriotic men are proud, there can be no doubt. (37-38—my emphasis added)

Belloc considers his own terse answer to the question (“And why?”) to be so important to his overarching argument that he puts his brevity in emphatic italics:

Essentially because the Oligarchy, which had thus seated itself firmly in the saddle after the destruction of the Monarchy, was growing (through the national sentiment and through the new religion on which that sentiment was based) into an Aristocracy. That is the point. That is the whole understanding of modern English history. As an ultimate result of the Reformation the Kings were broken and replaced by a Governing Class, of which the House of Commons was the [“sovereign”] organ. But that new governing class was not a mere clique, not a small minority merely seizing power. Men have never tolerated such usurpation. They have never allowed an irresponsible few to rule without moral sanction. It would be an insupportable rule….What had come, in the place of kingship, was an Aristocratic State, a State governed by an Oligarchy indeed, but by an Oligarchy which received the permanent and carefully preserved respect of its fellow-citizens. (38-39—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

Throughout the later parts of his book, Belloc shows how and why that indispensable and cherished respect gradually (and very consequentially) decayed—while emphasizing the stark fact that it had indeed happened!

In the remainder of this essay, I propose to give special accent to Hilaire Belloc’s articulate insights about general moral matters, to include the importance of virtuous, as well as vicious (or subtly degraded), moral character in members of a ruling Elite. For moral character also has social consequences, and, as Belloc has incisively written: “The statement that Parliaments are, or can be, democratic is a lie; and you cannot build build upon a lie.” (177—my emphasis added) Reform of a long-traditional Governing Class must come from deeper sources, from within and from without. In any case, it must be based on reality, on truth presented fully and in its proper proportions—even though, as Belloc knows well, there are always “critics of too much truth-telling,” (82) in spite of a “known internal breakdown” (82) of an “existing organ of government,” (82) such as the House of Commons. For, he had said: “It is always so when an institution breaks down. The crust survives by a few years the rotten interior.” (81)

Despite its special strengths, an Aristocratic State—in Belloc’s view—has its own special vulnerabilities:

An Aristocratic State is less able to reform itself than any other, and if its essential principle [deserved mutual respect, and even reverence] grows weak, it has the utmost difficulty in finding a remedy for its disease…. An Aristocratic State attacked in its vital principle has no medicinal rules, no formulae upon which to fall back for its healing. Its diseases [in the face of “civil dissension” and distrustful disrespect] are profoundly organic, never mechanical; for the whole action [and “temper”] of an Aristocracy is less conscious and less defined than that of a Democracy or Monarchy. (55)

There is “another element” in this matter of the “old age” of an Aristocratic State: the factor of “weariness” (97):

The weakening of contempt [for moral baseness, and for coarse and cunning “adventurers and rapscallions” (97)], this new intimate companionship with financial powers, not only ephemeral but base, comes in part from fatigue. And this we see in a process everywhere observable: which is the admixture of apology and impudence…. [For example,] to find a man or woman of the governing type (they no longer possess the governing power) apologizing for their frequentation of such and such a [plutocrat’s] house, for their acceptation of such and such an insult, and accompanying the apology with a phrase which admits their incapacity to stand firm. It is an attitude of drift and of lassitude in luxury: of a tired need for money. It is the very contrary of that atmosphere of discipline which all governing organs, Monarchic, Democratic, or Aristocratic, must maintain under peril of extinction. Next to this abandonment of principle, this loss of a stiffening standard round which the governing body could rally, and to which it could conform, we note [now, indeed, as of 1920] the disintegration of the governing body. That process has not yet gone very far, but it is going very fast. (97-98—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

As to another important quality of Elites, Belloc piquantly observed that, “at the time when the Aristocratic spirit was most vigorous,” (99) “we have seen, not only in our own, but in every other country,” that a “ ‘Representative’ Assembly” itself “does only work” (98-99) when it is

A body slowly renewed, and renewed largely by its own volition; that is largely co-opting [selecting and recruiting] its own membership as elder members drop out through age, glut of loot, fatigue, tedium, disgrace, or pension. But an organism of this kind, an instrument of government of this kind, a body comparatively small, in the main permanent, and continuous in action, is an Oligarchy by every definition of that term. (68—my bold emphasis added, italics in the original)

As such an Oligarchy itself develops slowly into a more “rooted” Aristocracy, “there is an aristocratic way of doing it and an unaristocratic way of doing it” (87), thus properly without any “undignified mountebank tricks” (85):

For instance, it is in the Aristocratic spirit that a member of the Government caught taking a bribe, or telling a public lie, should resign: and until quite lately such resignations were the rule. Another subtle character, and one very little recognized because it is so difficult to seize (yet its presence is powerfully felt), is the representative character of the Aristocrat properly so called…. A living Aristocracy is always very careful to be in communion with, actually mixed with, the mass of which it is itself the chief. It has an unfailing flair for national tradition, national custom, and the real national will. It has, therefore, as a correlative, an active suspicion of mere numerical and mechanical tests [and even mere financial tests?!] for arriving at that will. To take a practical example: an English governing class, which in the middle of the nineteenth century had given up riding horses or playing cricket, would have ceased to govern; but the extent of the franchise was indifferent to it. (86-87—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

On the premise that contrast clarifies the mind, we may see how our Belloc will first have us appreciate the earlier composite of Aristocratic qualities and dispositions, so as to enhance his insights about the drab or monochromatic sequels:

Under the old order the governing class maintained a certain hierarchy, and had a regular process of digestion and support [i.e., of incorporating recruitment and as patrons of a richer artistic culture]. The best example of this function in the old Aristocratic organism, the gentry, is its old attitude toward intelligence and creative power (intelligence and creative power are between them the mark of the arts)…. In an Aristocracy, while it still has its vigour, the Aristocratic organism recognizes and selects (though itself is not for the most part creative) true creative power around it. It recognizes above all proportion and order in creative power. It has an instinct against chaos in the arts. When what remains of a governing class seeks only novelty and even absurdity, or, what is worse still, a mere label, in its appraisal of creative power, it is a proof that the Aristocratic spirit has declined. The disintegration of the class that should govern is to be seen in another fashion: the substitution of simple, crude, obvious, and few passions for a subtle congeries of appetites. (98-99, 101-102—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original).

Acutely aware as he is of the (seductively specious, but deeply corrupt) Vitality of Mammon in the Decline of a State—as some of his richly differentiated essays also confirm—Belloc exemplifies in this 1920 book what these crude and coarse passions, or isolated and inordinate desires, actually mean:

Consider the passion for money. The necessity for wealth, position through wealth, the digestion of new wealth, all these are indeed native to the governing class of an Aristocracy. But they are native only as part of a much larger whole. Wealth thus sought in a strong governing class is subject to many qualifications, the desire is balanced against many other desires. When the attitude towards wealth becomes at once a principal thing and an isolated thing it is a proof, and a cause, of disintegration in a governing class; for instance, when wealth is divorced from manners, or is accepted or sought for at the expense of a grave loss of dignity. And what is true of the appetite for wealth is true of many other things, the appetite for physical enjoyment, the appetite for change, the appetite for new sensation (an appetite born of fatigue and accompanying not strength, but weakness). (102-103—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original).

Among “the Governed,” (107) there has also been “a portentous change” (118), as a result of the Industrial and French Revolutions:

These masses [of the Governed] have been born and have lived their lives utterly divorced from the remnants and even the tradition of the old Aristocratic organism….The new wealthy classes which might have imitated the [landed] squires of an older time, and which at first were largely assimilated into the governing class, do not live with their workmen. They fled the towns. They established colonies, as it were,…of luxurious houses [not yet “gated communities”] standing miles away from the workshops…., and the proletariat lived, grew, formed (or half formed) its political desires, nourished its bitterness, apart. No social condition more directly contrary to that of aristocracy can be imagined. And this is the immediate as well as the major cause of the phenomenon we are studying. This it is, the substitution of the new great towns for the old country sides as the determining body of society which has transformed the political [form] of England and of the Lowlands of Scotland. (118-119—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

Belloc, very importantly, then says that it was “not, indeed, anything material,” but “it was a spirit; the religion and philosophy of Industrial Capitalism” and “the outward effects of that religion acted as I have said.” (119) One stark result was that:

The great mass of the populace was left with no bands [no bonds] attaching it any longer to the form of the Aristocratic State….There you have the final condemnation to death of Aristocracy as a principle in this country, and with it a corresponding condemnation to death of the House of Commons. Side by side with the loss of the Aristocratic spirit in those who should have governed there has gone the loss of any desire for, and even the mere knowledge of, Aristocratic government in the mass who are governed. (119—my emphasis added)

Another result of this “binary” combination is that it “has left the House [of Commons] to-day bereft of moral authority.” For it is fundamentally true, as the Catholic Church well knows (and as Belloc himself often elsewhere quotes) that “without authority there is no life” (“sine auctoritate nulla vita”). Furthermore, says Belloc with a sense of irreversibility and even of a sort of tragic finality:

Even though the House of Commons were to become as clean as it is now corrupt, as nice as it is now nasty, as noble as it is now mean and petty, or as dignified as it is now vulgar and contemptible, this factor alone, the loss of the popular desire to be ruled by a few, would be fatal to its continued power. (120)

Even if the House of Commons “might (in part) revive its moral authority,” (132) “who on earth believes that such things will ever be done by the authority of the culprits themselves?” (132) For,

Though miracles certainly happen, yet the rarest of all miracles is a moral miracle of this kind. A rotten institution reforming itself, and not only reforming itself but being aided in its reformation by all its own corrupt members, servants, parasites, and masters [or “paymasters”], is a thing that history has never seen. History has seen plenty of men raised into the air, many walking on the water, and a few raised from the dead. But it has never seen an institution in the last stages of decay and still possessing nominal power, using that power to chastise and to reform itself. (132-133—my emphasis added)

Without having any utopian expectations, and knowing well the problems with historic or actual kingship, Belloc does nevertheless believe that a substantive improvement could be attained amidst this cumulatively grim state of affairs if a strong, virtuous, and intimately personal Monarchy were to be restored and again to control the Money Power, inasmuch as

The leading function of the Monarch is to protect the weak man against the strong, and therefore to prevent the accumulation of wealth in a few hands, the corruption of the Courts of Justice and [the corruption] of the sources of public opinion [ thus, the full range of “the Media”]. (178—my emphasis added)

As a counterpoint to this monarchical preference, Belloc admits that

A Democracy also, where it is active and real, can do all these things.2 You may see every one of these functions at work in a Swiss Canton, for instance. There you may see [legal] tribunals which dread public opinion, judges who are afraid of giving false judgments, laws which forbid too great an inequality of wealth, and the absence of any vast or sudden profits acquired through the cunning of one against the simplicity of many. But where very great numbers are concerned [as in a “numerous democracy”] all these functions are atrophied if you attempt to make them Democratic in their working; and in the absence of an Aristocratic spirit there is nothing but a Monarch to exercise them [the essential “functions” of just and equitable Governance]….He [the Monarch] knows that he is responsible. He cannot shift the burden to some anonymous or intangible culprit. (179-180—my emphasis added)

Earlier in the book, Belloc had especially noted, as one of the potential weaknesses of an Aristocratic country (even in its commendable vigor) is to see “how strangely deep in such a country is the worship of powerful men, and how rooted is the distaste in the masses for the responsibilities of government.” (79—my emphasis) He later adds a complementary reinforcement to his earlier wise insight:

Out of citizens who have always been passive of their nature [especially about the burdensome responsibilities of governance], and whose passivity was the very cause of Aristocracy among them, you will never get the Democratic spirit of corporate initiative, and of what is essential to Democratic institutions, a permanent, individual interest in public affairs. (176—my emphasis added)

After then returning to the matter of monarchy and briefly considering some of the prominent Kings (or Emperors) of history, our Belloc then tries to imagine any of these men in action today, if they were to be “placed at the head of the modern State,” (182)—and yet “not through their [virtuous] character, but [only] through the powers granted them by the constitutions of their times.” (181-182) Asking and happily (or impishly) answering his own question, he says:

What do you think would happen to the corrupt judges, to the politicians who take bribes, to the great trusts that destroy a man’s livelihood, to the secret financiers boasting that they control the State [“Le pouvoir sur le pouvoir”—in the oft-quoted words of Jacques Attali]? Their blood would turn to water. (182—my emphasis added)

Belloc often accents the danger of unaccountable finance and its corrupting Oligarchical power, especially to mislead “the remaining inheritors of the old Aristocratic position” (103) in “their now irretrievable mixture with international finance and consequent degradation of blood.” (104—my emphasis added) A few pages later, Belloc even says that, for the governed populace, as of 1920, “the [old] gentry no longer means anything to them,” (112) and even the idea of “one governing class is no longer within the vision of the governed” (112)—and “What may be left of such a class they merge in a general vision of excessive, unjust, and indeed malignant wealth.” (112—my emphasis added) That is to say, they are seen as if they were all merely detached and frigid Plutocrats or selfishly Squalid Oligarchs—inaccessible and also still immune from any just accountability in this world.

Hilaire Belloc always combated “an anonymous system,” and its evasive diffusion of personal responsibility and accountability, and he argued, instead, for the return of a Popular Monarchy as was known in historic Christendom, but now, as is just, in prudent view of unique modern conditions and technologies.

The House of Commons and Monarchy, by way of summary, began by showing how Kingship in England was first weakened by the monarchs themselves, to include Henry VII’s sly usurpation of the throne, and then especially the spiritual and temporal actions of Henry VIII, who more or less unwittingly helped create a new and powerful Oligarchy which materially profited from the general loot of the monasteries and monastery lands. That new landed Oligarchy gradually incorporated the merchant and professional elements—the lawyers and the financiers, for instance—and that Oligarchical power increasingly worked to weaken (and have leverage over) the Sovereign King, culminating in the Regicide of 1649: the execution of the Stuart King, Charles I. As the new Oligarchy—or somewhat differentiated, and rival, oligarchies—grew in power and influence, they also became more rooted and stable and continuous, until the Oligarchy became an Aristocracy and the Parliament effectively became the Sovereign, Aristocratic House of Commons. The gradual decay of that House of Commons showed once again the coarser qualities of an Oligarchy, now also containing various alien elements from the outside, as it were—to include the leverage and power of “the Money Power” (as Belloc elsewhere calls it): the Elements and Organs of Finance, to include International Finance—and the Power of the Public Media of Communications (the Press, as it was then known). Then came the further (often anonymous) Oligarchic Manipulations of what was increasingly (but misleadingly) called Democracy—a coarsening and deceptive and drifting development, for sure, which thereby called out, once again, for a restoration in principle, and establishment in actuality, of a sound and strong Personal Monarchy which was attentive to, and finally responsible for, the whole Bonum Commune—as a good Father would care and sacrifice for the common good of his whole family, for which he will finally be held strictly accountable, coram Deo. Before God, in the Final Verdict of Truth—at least in the Faith of a Catholic. And not only Belloc’s. “To whom much has been given, much will be required; to whom much has been entrusted, more [even more!] will be required.” (Luke 12:48)

In any case, Belloc saw the humbug and sham of so much of Modern Democracy, as did the honest French intellectual historian, François Furet, who also (like Belloc) wrote books on the French Revolution, one of which contained an important chapter, near the end of his text, on Augustin Cochin (1876-1916), the young French Catholic historian of the French Revolution who was killed on the battlefield of World War I. In that chapter, Furet said with unexpected candor: “Modern Democracy is based on [depends upon] a hidden oligarchy [“oligarchie cachée”], which is contrary to its principles, but indispensable to its functioning.”3 That is to say, though in even more trenchant words: “Modern Democracy is based upon a Deception.”

Moreover, since there are always “civil wars within the Revolution itself,” as the French Catholic scholar, Léon de Poncins, often noted, François Furet’s insight would be rendered even more perfectly if we put his singular “oligarchie cachée” into the plural, “oligarchies cachées.” For, there are, indeed, rivalries among the variously manifold and active oligarchies in their quests for advantage and power (as was so, historically, between the Girondins and the Jacobins and their respective Financiers), especially when it is for “Power without Grace.” (An acute phrase said more than once by Saint Helena in her candid, cautionary guidance to her own beset and perplexed (and as yet unbaptized) son, Emperor Constantine, amidst the deficiencies and delusions of his burdensome Rule, as so eloquently presented by Evelyn Waugh in his highly differentiated historical novel, Helena (1950). )

When we also recall the title of this essay, we may now appreciate a further nuance of meaning. To the extent that Modern Democracy itself is based upon Deception—indeed a deliberate deception of rival and often anonymous oligarchies—it is based upon a Lie. (And the greatest social effect of a Lie is that it breaks Trust, even the deepest Trust—as in an intimate Perfidy—and that deeply shattered trust is so hard to rebuild. Even with mercy and grace and “forgiveness from the heart,” wholehearted forgiveness.)

When the Humbug has broken down and the Sham exposed—whether about Democracy or Oligarchy or an Ecclesiastical Sophistry—we must still remember, in our sustained and faithful efforts at reconstruction, Hilaire Belloc’s own recurrent words: “And you cannot build upon a lie.” (177)

“The Moral is, it is forsooth: You mustn’t monkey with the Truth.”4

Finis

© 2013 Robert D. Hickson

1Hilaire Belloc, The House of Commons and Monarchy (London: George Allen & Unwin LTD.,1920), 188 pages. References to this text will henceforth be in parentheses in the main body of this essay. See also H. Belloc’s “The Decline of a State”( in First and Last, 1912); and “A Few Kind Words to Mammon”( in On, 1923).

2In an earlier footnote, on page 113, Belloc himself says: “The test of the Democratic temper is a popular craving to possess public initiative, and the test of Democratic government is the exercise of that initiative. Chance consultation by vote has nothing to do with Democracy.” The American Founding Fathers, in The Federalist Papers, also disapprovingly spoke of the instability and irresponsibility of mere “numerous democracy.” A rule by mere number and quantity, that is.

3François Furet, Penser la Révolution française (Paris: Gallimard, 1978), Part II, Chapter 3 (Augustin Cochin: la théorie du jacobinisme), p. 241. Another rendition of the French original is: “There is in all democratic power, a fortiori in all pure democratic power, a hidden oligarchy, which is at the same time contrary to its principles and yet indispensable to its functioning.” Augustin Cochin himself especially, and famously, studied those active leavens of the Revolution: the so-called associations or societies of thought (Sociétés de Pensée). These intellectually and operationally active groupings would also be properly considered as networks of little, though disproportionately influential, “oligarchies.”

4This is a close paraphrase of the two concluding lines from one of Hilaire Belloc’s own buoyant verses, entitled “The Example.” See, for example, Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Verses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1941), pp. 402-407. The last two lines of that sprightly, cautionary verse are: “The Moral is (it is indeed!)/ You mustn’t monkey with the Creed.”