Hilaire Belloc the Sailor and His Salty “Song of the Pelagian Heresy”

Dr. Robert Hickson

12 September 2022

The Holy Name of Mary


[Expressed Manly Love for the 1902-1912 Sussex, England:] “The Southern Hills and the South Sea / They blow such gladness into me, / That when I get to Burton Sands / And smell the smell of the Home Lands, / My heart is all renewed and fills / With the Southern Sea and the South Hills.” (Hilaire Belloc, Complete Verses, page 89.)


“So that no one may be shocked, my song [said the Sailor] shall be of a religious sort, dealing with the great truths. And perhaps that will soften the heart of the torturers….For this song that I [the Sailor] am proposing to sing [at the Inn] is of a good loud roaring, but none the less it deals with the ultimate things….Now it cannot be properly sung unless the semi-chorus (which I will indicate by raising my hands) is sung loudly by all of you together…for dear life’s sake….Such is the nature of the song.” (The Four Men (1912), pages 89-90.)


“Oh, he didn’t believe / In Adam and Eve, / He put no faith therein! / His doubts began / With the fall of man, / And he laughed at original sin!” (The Four Men, page 93—an emphatic “semi-chorus” character mark of the Pelagian Man, as it was first sung aloud and then led more fully by the Sailor himself.)


In the concise doctrinal essay—along with its salty and robust songs—as they are presented immediately below this compact introduction, we may also fittingly read some four pages of Hilaire Belloc’s own 1912 book, entitled The Four Men1 about the dominant aspects of the four symbolized named characters (Myself, the Poet, the Sailor, and the elderly—and often wise—Grizzlebeard).

In the preparatory surrounding 1902-1912 context, “the Sailor” himself takes the initiative to compose and deliver the “Song of the Pelagian Heresy” to their three companions and to the growing onlookers at their inviting Inn.

Moreover, the Sailor stipulates that the growing audience’s response to each of three semi-chorus’ must be heartfelt, robust, and loud! We shall further discuss the context and aftermath—and the Sailor’s ongoing reflections—after closely we also now read the vivid “Song of the Pelagian Heresy.”2 We may now also consider the various 1902 and 1912 Modernisms already sabotaging the Catholic Faith. Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius X were clear about what is, sub gratia, at stake. Both, for example, were attentive lest a “rally to Democracy” could and would subtly become a “rally to the Revolution”!


Pelagius lived in Kardanoel,

And taught his doctrine there:

How whether you went to Heaven or Hell,

It was your own affair.

How whether you found eternal joy,

Or sank forever to burn,

It had nothing to do with the Church, my boy,

But was your own concern.


Oh, he didn’t believe

In Adam and Eve,

He put no faith therein!

His doubts began

With the fall of man,

And he laughed at original sin!


With my row-ti-tow, ti-oodly-ow,

He laughed at original sin!

Whereat the Bishop of old Auxerre —

(Germanus was his name),

He tore great handfuls out of his hair,

And called Pelagius Shame:

And then with his stout Episcopal staff

So thoroughly thwacked and banged

The heretics all, both short and tall,

That they rather had been hanged.


Oh, he thwacked them hard and he banged them long,

Upon each and all occasions,

Till they bellowed in chorus, loud and strong,

Their orthodox persuasions!


With my row-ti-tow, ti-oodly-ow,

Their orthodox persu-a-a-sions!

Now the Faith is old and the Devil is bold —

Exceedingly bold indeed;

And the masses of doubt that are floating about

Would smother a mortal creed.

But we who sit in a sturdy youth,

And still can drink strong ale,

Ohlet us put it away to infallible truth,

That always shall prevail!


And thank the Lord

For the temporal sword,

And for howling heretics too;

And whatever good things

Our Christendom brings,

But especially barley brew!


With my row-ti-tow, ti-oodly-ow,

Especially barley brew!


© 2022 Robert D. Hickson

1Hilaire Belloc, The Four Men (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1912)—310 pages. The setting is in 1902 A.D.

2See Complete Verse: Hilaire Belloc (London: PIMLICO, 1970 and 1991), pages 90-92 for the complete and compact “Song of the the Pelagian Heresy.” We shall later add some reflections on the context and incentive for the big “Song.”

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]


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]


© 2006 Robert Hickson


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]


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.

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)


“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.”


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


© 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.

Memoirs of a Slow Learner and a Deficient Fruit Inspector

Dr. Robert Hickson 21 September 2020

Saint Matthew (d. 65)


“Who were exempt from taking the 1910 Antimodernist Oath, why, and since when? Were the Vatican II Fathers themselves and their Advisors (Periti) also exempt, or did some of them gravely and consequentially perjure themselves?”


“What are the actual repercussions and some further implications of 17 July 1967: Pope Paul VI’s formal rescinding and abrogation of the Antimodernist Oath?”


Some time ago when I spoke to a friend of mine about my recurrent “reflections on life from the vantage point of a mere fruit inspector,” I should have fittingly added also another small truth: my persistent desire someday to present mine own “memoirs of a slow learner.”

For, after graduating as a new second-lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers from West Point on 3 June 1964, I lived largely out of the country, or in secluded military training, up until January of 1971. It was then that I unexpectedly returned to a civilian Graduate School at the University of North Carolina in the same State as Fort Bragg, North Carolina, at which military post I was first formed as a young Army Special Forces Officer, and was thus to be a recipient of the cherished “three-prefix” to my MOS in 1966, after I had first attended parachute and ranger schools (where a 7-prefix and a 8-prefix were, respectively, to be added first to my main “Military Occupational Specialty” (MOS)). In 1966, however, there was not yet—not until 8 April 1987, some twenty years later—a special military branch set aside and designated for Army Special Forces overall. And so, before 1987, the “three-prefix” was the designator to be found in one’s personnel records, along with our patched green berets.

During all this very active time (1962-1971), the deep contrasts of foreign strategic and religious cultures influenced me greatly and prompted me to wonder about many fundamental things, and these things were often matters of moment to man. Although I was then still very innocent and ignorant, I had a strong and vivid sense of adventure—and an unquenched propensity to ask searching, sometimes uncomfortable, questions. I thereby gradually came to understand some things about the Church, too.

Now, for instance, I am still gradually learning many important things about the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church and its equivocal earlier preparations and its confusing aftermath. Here, too, I have been, alas, a deficient “Fruit Inspector” and am still a “Slow Learner.”

For instance, in late July of 1967, I was returning from Istanbul to New York City by way of a civilian ship, from my one-year military assignment in Turkey, with visits to Greece, Turkey’s own opponent also on the eastern flank of NATO, to include the contested divided island of Cypress.

Earlier in July of 1967, on page one of The New York Times near the bottom of the page, Tad Szulc contributed a special 17 July report from Rome published on 18 July 1967 and with the following headline: “Pope Said to Cancel Antimodernist Oath; Pope Paul Said to Abrogate Antimodernist Oath.” And this is what he said in his first paragraph from Rome, which was dated 17 July 1967: “Pope Paul VI was reported today to have ordered the abrogation of the oath against modernism that Roman Catholic priests and ecclesiastical officials have been obliged to take for the last 57 years [i.e., since its promulgation by Pope Pius X on 1 September 1910].”

It was only later that I heard of, and then considered the implications of, this 17 July 1967 promulgated recension and abrogation of that solemn Oath established by Pope Pius X in 1910.

Shortly after this Roman act, the lax and rebellious Land O’ Lakes Conference in Wisconsin (20-23 July 1967) took place. Its own final Statement about academic freedom and authority was signed and promulgated on 23 July 1967, which was only a few days before Pope Paul VI went to Turkey.

Pope Paul VI came to visit Turkey from 25-26 July 1967, and he was on one of his further missions of diplomacy and so-called ecumenism, first of all with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras, and then also briefly with the government of the Turks.

Paul VI was meeting Athenagoras for the second time. He had first met Athenagoras in Lebanon, and both meetings were importantly arranged by Dr. Charles Malik, a prominent Lebanese academic and diplomatic figure, also as Lebanese ambassador to the U.S. and at the United Nations. (Dr. Malik was an Orthodox Christian and academic philosopher, but, despite his abiding Catholic sympathies, he never became a Roman Catholic after Paul VI’s words to him privately and personally—i.e., that it was sufficient for him to believe in the Council of Florence, 1431-1449; and so he did not need to convert.1)

It was in such a lax and softly tolerant way that the revolutions of 1968 were gradually fomented. I came to believe that, without the optimistic and selectively merciful Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and its immediately applied aftermath (late 1965-early 1968), there would not have been the widespread revolutions of May 1968 and thereafter. In late 1968 and 1969, I saw some of the violence in Japan after I had returned from Vietnam. The Socialists in Japan were, surprisingly, even more radical and violent than the Communists.

It was in 1969 that Paul VI’s revolutionary New Order of the Mass was promulgated and then gradually spread throughout the world. In June of 1968, Paul VI also published his partly attenuated and yet still widely criticized Encyclical Humanae Vitae.

But, it was very soon after Paul VI became pope in the middle of June 1963 that he quietly first lifted (on 5 July 1963) the ban and in 1966 introduced the spreading allowance of priestly officiating at cremations for human bodies after death. There is always both a Slow Path as well as a Fast Path in a Revolution. And we must also closely follow the Language as well as the Money.

We may look at the itch for a novel use of words—for example, “dialogue” and “ecumenism” (or syncretism? perhaps as a subtle relativism?) and “evolution” (that is, an “ongoing Revelation”?, or the “Evolution of Dogma” instead of affirming the just permanence of “irreformable doctrine”?).

So much has changed since that Summer of 1962 when I, at a callow nineteen years of age, first returned to West Point from our memorable German Exchange Program abroad, just before the October 1962 beginning of Vaticanum II amidst the threats in Berlin and risks of nuclear war, not only in Cuba.

Soon I was to hear (or read) such things as: “our result is more process”; “God needs us to complete Himself”; and “They have asked the Blessed Mother to leave the Marriage Feast of Cana”—“and they did not even give her the time to say: ‘Vinum non habent‘”—i.e., “they have no wine.”

It is as if the Blessed Virgin Maria were a multi-layered obstacle (“obex”) to a Grand Ecumenism!

It is true, I have often learned some deeper truths by carefully inspecting the fruits of new or alien ideas and actions and strategic networks and attitudes. But too often, alas, I have been a slow learner.


In the context of this brief essay, I also wanted to recommend to our readers that they revisit my 7 October 2019 reflections on the words of Cardinal Walter Brandmüller concerning the Oath against Modernism: https://ordodei.net/2019/10/08/the-oath-against-modernism-1910-1967-and-cardinal-walter-brandmullers-recent-words/


© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1Charles Malik told this whole “ecumenical” scandal to his intimate boyhood, Lebanese friend, Brother Francis Maluf, M.I.C.M. (Dr. Fakhri Maluf), who, in turn, told the whole story to me in person. Malik never formally converted.

Hilaire Belloc’s “The Barbarians” (1912) and the Analogy of a Self-Sabotaging Cultural Immune System

(Author’s note: this essay was first published in 2017, and we hereby reprint it in light of current events.)

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                8 August 2017

Saint John Marie Vianney (d. 1859)


“The Barbarian….will consume what civilisation [hence sacred tradition] has slowly produced after generations of selection and effort but he will not be at…pains to replace such goods nor indeed has he a comprehension of the virtue that has brought them [such goods] into being. Discipline seems to him irrational, on which account he is for ever marvelling that civilisation [especially Christian civilisation, Christendom] should have offended him with priests and soldiers….In a word, the Barbarian is discoverable everywhere [even as a Caudillo Churchman] in this that he cannot make; that he can befog or destroy, but he cannot sustain; and of every Barbarian in the decline or peril of every civilisation [to include, even now, what remains of “the great and ancient body of Christendom”] exactly that has been true.” (Hilaire Belloc, “The Barbarians,” pp. 281, 282-283—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)


“Upon the model of this conception men, watching the dissolution of our own civilisation to-day [before World War I, in 1912], or at least its corruption, have asked themselves whence those Barbarians would come that should complete its final ruin [as was once the case in North Africa and in Asia Minor, also with the Faith].” (Hilaire Belloc, “The Barbarians,” pp. 273-274—my emphasis added)


“But the truth is that no such [mere] mechanical explanation will suffice to set forth the causes [not just the symptoms] of a civilisation’s decay. Before the barbarian in any form can appear [also inside the Church], it [the civilisation] must already have weakened. If it cannot absorb or reject an alien element [such as a doctrinal heresy] it is because its organism [thus its immune system] has grown enfeebled, and its powers of digestion and excretion are lost or deteriorated; and whoever would restore any society which menaces to fall, must busy himself about the inward nature of that society [to include its composite and intimately religious society] much more than about its external dangers or the merely mechanical and numerical factors of peril to be discovered within it.” (Hilaire Belloc, “The Barbarians,” pp. 274-275—my emphasis added)


After recently re-reading after some years Hilaire Belloc’s 1912 essay, entitled “The Barbarians,” I have thought to apply a few of his keen insights about both ancient and modern civilisation to the current Catholic Church and her own “cultural immune system,” as it were.1 This limited analogy may also thereby allow us to consider the additional phenomenon of “auto-immune diseases,” whereby an immune system comes to sabotage itself—sometimes swiftly, sometimes slowly.

Belloc begins his own searching essay with an aptly cautionary sentence: “The use of analogy, which is so wise and necessary a thing in historical judgment, has a knack of slipping into the falsest forms.” (273) We must therefore be careful with our application of compressed metaphors and likewise preserve a just sense of proportion. For, analogy itself means proportion (analogia).

To help us understand his caution, Belloc gives an illustrative example:

When ancient civilisation broke down its breakdown was accompanied by the infiltration of barbaric auxiliaries into the Roman armies, but the settlement of Barbarians…, upon Roman land, …, in some provinces [was accomplished], by devastatingirruptions of barbaric hordes.

The presence of these foreign elements, coupled with the loss of so many arts, led men to speak of “the Barbarian invasions” as though these were the principal cause of what was in reality no more than the old age and fatigue of an antique society. (273—my emphasis added)

In this context, we might also helpfully recall what the Roman historian, Livy, had earlier (and very trenchantly) written, even back in 19 B.C., and in the general introduction to his own multi-volume history of Rome. Livy had then said that Rome had so degenerated and come down in those times even to such a point where “we can tolerate neither our vices nor their remedies” (“donec ad haec tempora quibus nec vitia nostra nec remedia pati possumus peruentum est”).2 This compact insight about cumulative decadence is certainly “a terrible thing to think upon” (in the words of Father François Rabelais). Into such a weakened culture—to include a fatigued and weakened culture and immune system of the Catholic Church—there will come various parasites and barbarians. They should be expected (and firmly resisted). For, a certain kind of weakness constitutes a “provocative weakness” (in the memorable words of Dr. Fritz Kraemer)—“for it is so weak that it is provocative to others.”

But, in the face of certain threats, there is also a dangerous progression: from denial to indifference to despair. Some have even colloquially referred to the three sequenced tricks often employed by the Prince of this World: “I don’t exist”; “I do exist but it makes no difference”; “I do exist and that’s all that exists, the reality of evil; goodness is an illusion.” We might also call it a slothful mental or spiritual movement from “What’s the difference?” to “What’s the use?”—an expression of the despairing sense of futility. From denial to presumptuous sloth to despair.

Father Enrique Rueda’s 1982 book—The Homosexual Network: Private Lives and Public Policy3—illustrated for me such an enervating psychological pattern unto futility, if not, after all, despair. Father Rueda had told me that three-fifths of the specific evidence and other materials he had assembled he had cautiously “sent to Rome, and confidentially”: inasmuch as he did not want to scandalize the vulnerable faithful.4 His published Homosexual Network already had 680 pages of evidence and argumentation, and that was only two-fifths of the evidence he had produced. Even in 1982—during the reign of Pope John Paul II—there was already a grave problem of homoeroticism in the Catholic Seminaries in the United States, and also in some of the Catholic clergy. Father Rueda himself had, in his careful research, first discovered the meaning of “gay” which was an intentionally used ideological and meliorative word. For, he discovered, “gay” meant that both “being homoerotic” and “also acting out such a yearning disposition” were, in themselves, “good” and, conversely, “being straight was bad.” However, now in 2017—35 years later—Catholics so nonchalantly use the word “gay,” thereby appropriating (perhaps unknowingly) the soiled language of their own enemy or adversary or opponent.

Hilaire Belloc illustrated this same linguistic and essentially moral phenomenon back in 1912. Let us consider this matter now, especially the implications of an attenuated language concerning Marriage:

It is certain that if the fundamental institutions of a polity are no longer regarded as fundamental by its citizens, that polity is about to pass through total change which in a living organism we call death.

Now the modern attack upon property and upon marriage (to take but two fundamental institutions of the European [at least as of 1912]) is precisely of this nature. Our peril is not that certain men attack the one or the other and deny their moral right to exist. Our peril rather is that, quite as much as those who attack, those who defend [marriage and property] seem to take for granted the relativeness, the artificiality, the non-fundamental character of institution which they are apparently concerned to support. (278-279—my emphasis added)

Belloc then considers the purported defence of marriage more specifically:

See how marriage is defended. To those who would destroy it under the plea of its inconveniences and tragedies, the answer [especially in England as of 1912] is no longer made that, good or ill, it is an absolute and is intangible. The answer made is that it [marriage] is convenient, or useful, or necessary, or merely traditional.

Most significant of all, the terminology of the attack [such as “gay” in another “marital” context] is on the lips of the defence, but the contrary is never the case. Those opponents of marriage who abound in modern England will never use the term “a sacrament,” yet how many for whom marriage is still a sacrament [such as Roman Catholics] will forego the pseudo-scientific jargon [e.g., “sustainable developments in and among the gay, single-sex civil partnerships”] of their opponents? (279-280—my emphasis added)

Adopting the categories and undefined equivocal language of one’s opponents is, indeed, a recurrent peril and often a sophistical trap. Much alertness is required to detect and resist sufficiently such ensnaring sentimentalism or subtle humbug based on false premises.

Belloc will now introduce us to one such unprincipled form of the “strutting Barbarian”:

The [presumptuous] Barbarian, when he had graduated to be a “pragmatist,” struts like a nigger in evening clothes [sic—as in Fats Domino’s own singing of “The Darktown Strutters’ Ball”!], and believes himself superior to the gifts of reason [and to “the accuracy of mathematics” (280)], or free to maintain that definition, limit, quantity and [the law of] contradiction are little childish things which he [the strutter as well as the dialectical Hegelian] has outgrown….

The Barbarian hopes—and that is the very mark of himthat he can have his cake and eat it too. He will consume what civilisation [or our sacred tradition] has slowly produced after generations of selection and effort [as in the cultivated vineyards!] but he will not be at… pains to replace such goods nor indeed has he a comprehension of the virtue that brought them [such goods] into being. Discipline seems to him irrational, on which account he is for ever marvelling that civilisation should have offended him with priests and soldiers.

The Barbarian wonders what strange meaning may lurk in that ancient and solemn truth, “Sine Auctoritate nulla vita” [“Without Authority there is no life”]. (281-282—my emphasis added)

Belloc concludes with some candor that should make us more attentive and more wholeheartedly resistant now to the ongoing subtle, and also the crude, subversion of our Catholic Faith:

The real interest in watching [and then resisting] the Barbarian [within the gates and even within the walls] is not the amusement derivable from his [often perverse] antics, but the prime doubt [i.e., “dubium”] whether he [perhaps even as a crude lout or Caudillo leader] will succeed or no, whether he will flourish. He is, I repeat, not an agent, but merely a symptom, yet he should be watched as a symptom. It is not he in his [unmanly] impotence that can discover the power to disintegrate the great and ancient body of Christendom [and the Faith], but if we come to see him [that same Barbarian] triumphant we may be certain [“sine dubio”] that that [corrupted] body, from causes must vaster than such as he could control, is furnishing him with substance and forming for him a congenial soil—and that is as much as to say that we [and thus our sustaining culture of the Faith] are dying. (282-283—my emphasis added)


Hilaire Belloc’s fresh insights about the Barbarian and about his recurrent qualitative conduct throughout history will now also prepare us, I hope, to ask with integrity certain candid questions about our own “fundamental convictions” and, thus, about some “fundamental institutions,” especially the sacred and enduring institution of the Mystical Body of Christ (the Corpus Christi Mysticum), also known as the Catholic Church—to include the threefold interdependence and interrelationship of the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Triumphant. My observations and questions propose to cover the interval of time beginning mainly in October of 1962 (or a little before) and continuing until today. When the Second Vatican Council formally began on 11 October 1962, I was still nineteen years of age, and very young.

By slightly introducing some autobiographical evidence as a witness, beginning with my time as a West Point cadet (5 July 1960-3 June 1964), I hope thereby to make more pertinent, even more trenchant, some of my own searching and specific questions as a Catholic layman down the years, and amidst many intellectual, spiritual, and moral challenges. For, some of the things I first heard or read in my callowness and considerable theological ignorance later became much clearer, and, for me personally, even momentous. However, I early on was reliably led to understand that the deepest ongoing revolution was about the very nature of the Church, de Ecclesia. The subtle revolutionaries, striving to bypass and offset Pope Pius XII’s own doctrinal distinctions, attempted to say that “the Mystical Body of Christ” was larger than the Catholic Church, and thus more “inclusive” and much more “ecumenical.”

Professor Roberto de Mattei has just recently made me understand this larger matter freshly and still more deeply than ever before. His brief 2 August 2017 article on Corrispondenza Romana5 said the following, for example:

On the historical level, however,Vatican II constitutes a non-decomposable block [sic]: It has its own unity, its essence, its nature. Considered in its origins, its implementation and consequences, it can be described as a Revolution in mentality and language, which has profoundly changed the life of the Church, initiating a moral and religious crisis without precedent. If the theological judgment may be vague and comprehensive, the judgment of history is merciless and without appeal. The Second Vatican Council was not only unsuccessful or a failure: it was a catastrophe for the Church….

When Vatican II opened in October 1962, Catholics from all over the world were waiting for the disclosing of the Third Secret [of Fatima] and the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary….What better occasion for John XXIII (died 3rd June 1963), Paul VI and with circa 3000 bishops gathered around them [at the ongoing Second Vatican Council still in Rome], in the very heart of Christendom, to meet Our Lady’s requests in a solemn and unanimous way? On February 3rd 1964, Monsignor Geraldo de Proença Sigaud, personally delivered to Paul VI, a petition signed by 510 prelates from 78 countries, which implored the Pontiff in union with all the bishops, to consecrate the world and, in an explicit manner, Russia, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Pope and most of the Council Fathers ignored the appeal….

The failed consecration allowed Russia to continue spreading its errors throughout the world and these errors conquered the highest ranks of the Church, inviting a terrible chastisement for all humanity. Paul VI and the majority of the Council Fathers assume an historical responsibility for which today we gauge the consequences. (by Roberto de Mattei ) (My bold emphasis added to the text itself.)

It was sometime in early 1963—a year, more or less, before the 4 February 1964 Marian Petition to Pope Paul VI—that our two West Point Catholic Chaplains (Monsignor Moore and Father Mc Cormick) said something unforgettable in a conversation. Speaking of the Vatican Council, they said: “They have now asked the Blessed Mother to leave the Marriage Feast of Cana.” (It was only many years later—in the early 1980s—that I learned of a French priest who seems to be the first one to have written those piercing and sad words, namely L’Abbé Berto, himself a peritus at the Council: Victor-Alain Berto (1900-1968).) Quoting Our Lady, he also poignantly wrote: “Vinum non habent” (“They have no wine.”). Perhaps in her dismissal she still had time to tell them that. About Grace, too.

Some twenty years later, in the 1980s—while he was visiting my home in Front Royal, Virginia for the evening and for some deep historical and theological discourse—the learned Jesuit priest, Father Robert I. Bradley, S. J., unexpectedly told me a related story from back in 1965 and from inside Saint Peter’s, concerning Our Lady’s newly proposed title as the Mother of the Church (Mater Ecclesiae).

Father Bradley’s careful historical recollection of these 1965 events—where he was personally present—had to do with the audible unsettling reaction to Pope Paul VI’s new proposal, which he made in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the end of the Second Vatican Council. (And he actually proposed it after the formal close of the Council itself, as Father Bradley himself said from his first-hand experience there.) It came to pass that Pope Paul’s somewhat weak and shaky voice publicly proposed to the larger Assembly to restore an older title of Our Blessed Lady and Blessed Mother, and thus to address her once again as the “Mater Ecclesiae.”

Immediately after that Papal proposal, as Father Bradley earnestly acknowledged, there came an audible hiss throughout Saint Peter’s—a rudely disapproving and an unmistakably audible and permeating hiss inside the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican.

It was only after this shocking report that I told Father Bradley about Abbé Berto’s own 1963 words about Our Lady’s being asked to leave the Marriage Feast of Cana. In both cases, she seemed to be an unwelcome barrier to Ecumenism, the new coalescent ecumenism or syncretism. Father Bradley and I then considered together whether or not to use, without scandalizing others, an evocative and reality-revealing formulation: “The Theological Journey from Our Lady’s Being Asked to Leave the Marriage Feast of Cana to Her Being Crudely Hissed At in Saint Peter’s.” It was, moreover, a weakening and self-sabotaging Journey of only two years: from 1963 to 1965. The Church’s immune system was thereby further weakened. There are also signs of auto-immune reactions and disorders, or self-sabotaging actions (or evasions), whereby one actually subverts one’s own protective immune system.

We may now incorporate these events and implications into what we have already considered concerning Our Lady of Fatima and her entire Message of Mercy and Warning—to include the already mentioned (and ignored) 3 February 1964 Petition to Pope Paul VI from 510 Prelates during the Vatican Council who were asking for the special and specific consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Not consecrating Russia then also may have weakened the Church’s immune system.

In this context, we should ask a few other questions. For example:

To what extent were all—or selectively only some—of the Council Fathers informed about the the content and resolutions of the secret meetings held in Strasbourg, France and in Metz, France prior to, or slightly after, the October 1962 opening of the Council—those meetings being respectively held with Moscow and with certain representatives of the modern Jews? (The great Catholic scholar and French layman, Jean Madiran (1920-2013), wrote extensively and reliably about these matters.6)

To what extent did Cardinal Tisserant (after Metz) and Father Yves Congar, O.P. (after Strasbourg) make known the existence of their own individual private meetings and, especially, the content of their binding “ecumenical” decisions and agreements, to include any “secret accords” and hence their promised “self-censorship” henceforth about certain strategic and contested topics at the Ecumenical Council? Were most of the Council Fathers intentionally kept in the dark about such matters of secret diplomacy, and was this thought to be a sign of integrity and pastoral and ecumenical forthrightness? Were the leaders of the Council “playing with a full deck of cards”?

And how many of the more progressive (or purportedly “liberal”) Council Fathers and their own Periti may very well have gravely perjured themselves at the Council? For, they had all by then taken themselves the solemn Anti-Modernist Oath, which was only later withdrawn—after the Council–and then made non-binding and was even effectively, but quite quietly, revoked by Pope Paul VI himself, in July of 1967.

We wonder how such things affected the larger deliberations at the Council—especially their deliberations about the unique doctrines of the Catholic Faith, such as the matter of Supernatural (and Sanctifying) Grace and the specific Seven Sacraments and the Two Deadly Sins against the Virtue of Hope (Presumption and Despair), i.e., against the Infused Virtue of Hope.

Does it not seem that even the proposed Gospel of Life—as in Evangelium Vitae—is essentially (if not entirely) about Natural Life, not Supernatural Life?

Moreover, how are we to understand that a Pastoral Ecumenical Council would not want to know more fully—and with a provision of Strategic Intelligence—at least two major adversarial groups (or combatant ideologies): Communism; and both the Range and the Substantive Content of Modern Judaism?

That is to say, what do we need to know about the Political Action of Communist Forces? What do we need to know about the Cultural Action of Communist Forces?

Likewise, what do we need to know about the Political Action of Jewish Forces, and also especially about the Cultural Action of Jewish Forces?

A wise French mentor [Arnaud de Lassus], recently deceased, said to me years ago (in the 1980s) two especially memorable and reality-illuminating things:

“As I look back at the Council and the cumulative Aftermath, I see, on several fronts, the Attenuation of Sacrificium, Sacramentum, and Sacerdotium—and of Grace!

Secondly, he said:

“Our great challenge in this situation today is ‘How do we properly resist the Corruptions of Authority without thereby subverting the Principle of Authority?’”

My beloved mentor saw and sensed so well the ongoing weakening of the Church’s cultural immune system and its sometimes inattentively careless (and delusional) resort to self-sabotaging actions, to “auto-immune disorders and diseases,” as it were. He also knew that such enervating conduct would more and more provoke the barbarians unto further-sapping, or conquering, actions.

Like Hilaire Belloc and Jean Madiran, Arnaud de Lassus (R.I.P.) was a very great man of integrity, and graciously modest, as well. He was invariably charitable, but always after the truth.


© 2017 Robert D. Hickson

1Hilaire Belloc, “The Barbarians,” to be found in his own Anthology of Essays, entitled This and That and The Other (Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press—Essay Index Reprint Series, 1968—an exact reprint of the original 1912 edition), pp. 273-283. Further page references to this reprinted text will be placed above, in parentheses, in the main body of this essay.

2See Titus Livy, Titi Livi Ab Urbe Condita—Oxford Classical Texts (Oxford, England: Clarendon Press—Oxford University Press, 1974, reprinted in 1979), p. 2—Praefatio (Preface)—my emphasis added.

3(Reverend Father) Enrique Rueda, The Homosexual Network: Private Lives and Public Policy (Old Greenwich, Connecticut: Devin-Adair Company, 1982), 680 pages.

4Father Rueda also told me that, in his confidential report to Rome, he earnestly, and even insistently, recommended that the problems with homoeroticism should be dealt with on a “one-to-one basis, individually,” and “not at all with group dynamics” or with more collective “consciousness-raising sessions,” both of which would only exacerbate the situation and the disordered (or worse) affliction. He later told me that his recommendation was ignored and effectively rejected “because the problem is also in Rome.” These words were spoken to me by Father Rueda in 1982, while I was on the Faculty of Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia.

5See the 2-page English translation of Professor de Mattei’s own article,“The Second Vatican Council and the Message of Fatima,” which is now to be found conveniently on the website of Professor de Mattei himself: http://www.robertodemattei.it/en/2017/08/03/the-second-vatican-council-and-the-message-of-fatima/. Professor de Mattei’s original article was in Italian.

6See Jean Madiran, “Rome’s Secret Accord with Jewish Leaders,” (10 pages), first published in French in Itinéraires in 1986—and it was translated into English for Apropos, in Issue 9 (1990). The journal is printed in Scotland. This earlier article (with four others) is still to be seen on the Apropos website on 29 July 2013. Until his sudden death on 28 August 2014 the Editor was Anthony S. Fraser (R.I.P.). See www.apropos.org.uk (Archives), also Approaches: issues 84, 85, 86, 88, and 93-94 for additional writings by Jean Madiran. Approaches was Hamish Fraser’s earlier magazine, later re-titled.

Insights on the Philosophical Mixture of Truth and Error: Louis de Wohl’s 1950 Historical Novel The Quiet Light

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                    1 April 2020

Saint Hugh of Grenoble (d. 1132)

Saint Theodora (120 A.D.)

Blessed Karl of Austria (d. 1922)

Maike’s Nativity in Germany


“The Jews of this period [12th-13th centuries] translated the writings of Aristotle and of the Arabian philosophers into Hebrew, and these, retranslated into Latin, afforded the scholastics an opportunity for becoming acquainted with Greek thought. The most famous of the scholastics, ‘men like Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas Aquinas, studied the works of Aristotle in Latin versions made from the Hebrew’ [S. Munk]….At a time when the Hohenstaufen defended the cause of science against dogma, and showed themselves the protectors of Epicureanism, the Jews occupied the first place among scholars and rationalist philosophers. At the Court of the Emperor Frederick II, ‘that hotbed of irreligion,’ they were received with favour and respect. It was they, as [Ernest] Renan has shown, that created Averroism [Earnest Renan—and hence at least implicitly the subversive doctrine of ‘the double truth’ of philosophy and religion, or of faith and reason, as in Siger of Brabant]. (Bernard Lazare (1865-1903), Antisemitism: Its History and Causes (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1995—originally published in 1894, in French; and later published in London in English, in 1967, of which the 1995 edition of the main text is a reprint), see page 150—Chapter Thirteen—“The Jew as a Factor in the Transformation of Society”)—my emphasis added)


“’Then let me ask you, my son [said the Dominican Albert the Great to his student Thomas Aquinas]: Which is the most important rational faculty of man?

The faculty to discern the truth.’ The answer [of Thomas] came at once.

‘There are those who think man is unable to discern truth….What is it that makes an error so often credible?

The amount of truth its contains in proportion to the untruth.’ ….

Aye,‘ said Albert..’truth and error mixed…that is the danger. That is the danger we are confronted with.‘” (Louis de Wohl, The Quiet Light: A Novel about Saint Thomas Aquinas (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996—originally published in 1950), pages 205-206—my emphasis added)


While recently reading aloud to my family another historical novel by Louis de Wohl—one first published in 1950 and entitled The Quiet Light: A Novel about Saint Thomas Aquinas1—I was especially touched by a timely and timeless conversation in Chapter X between Master Albertus Magnus and his gifted and abidingly modest student, Friar Thomas Aquinas. Therefore I have considered selectively presenting now again for the reader what had been so farsightedly depicted and politely conducted at the Dominican convent in Cologne, Germany during the mid-thirteenth century.

Master Albert (the future Saint Albert the Great), while visiting Thomas’ small cell, started their gradually deepening discourse with a searching question: “Which is the most important rational faculty in man?” (205)

After hearing Thomas’ prompt reply (“The faculty to discern the truth” (206)), Albert continues their ongoing exchange of insights, where they soon come to detect some self-refuting propositions, as it were:

“There are those who think that man is unable to discern the truth.”

“They are to be refuted [said Thomas] by the fact that they cannot make such a postulate without contradicting their own hypothesis. If man cannot discern truth, then they cannot state as true that man is unable to discern the truth.”

“Besides, we would never be able to recognize an error as an error,” said Albert, “though at times it can be difficult to recognize it. What is it that makes an error so often credible?”

“The amount of truth it contains in proportion to untruth.” (206)

While Thomas remained serene, Albert proceeded to surprise him, but only after he had reinforced Thomas’ earlier comment in slightly different words:

“Aye,” said Albert, nodding his heavy head, “truth and untruth mixed…that is the danger. That is the danger we are confronted with. That is what threatens to overcome the world, smash all our new [Gothic] cathedrals, and drive the Faith back into the catacombs. Unless…we liberate the giant.”

“Liberate the giant, my Father?” (206)

We again see Thomas’ sincerity and modesty as he proceeds to learn more about the giant.

Magister Albert, O.P. now further reveals his meaning concerning this formidable giant:

“None of those alive in the flesh…not even [Emperor] Frederick the Second, however powerful he may appear [just before 1250] to those whom he is crushing at the moment. He is roaring up and down Italy like a mad beast, seeking whom he can devour. But he and his little wars will be forgotten soon enough….except by those whose kith and kin have lost their lives through his cruelty. I hope this does not concern you, my son? Your family is still in Italy, as far as I know….

“I did not mean Frederick, the soon forgotten. I did not mean Louis of France either [i.e., the reigning King (Saint) Louis IX], though he will not be forgotten. My giant is not flesh and blood, though he was that, once. And those who lured him out of limbo are not flesh and blood either, though once they were, too.” [He was thinking about both Aristotle and his later Moslem interpreter, Averroes, as well as the derivative and subversive phenomenon of “Averroism.”].

Thomas waited, patiently.

“I’ll tell you a fairy tale, my son,” said Albert grimly. (207—the emphatic italics are in the original; my bold emphasis added)

Albert then gave Thomas a compact history of the rise and progress and gradual strategic encirclement of Islam (207-208), ending his summary introduction with these words:

“But still today [circa 1250] the green banner of the prophet Mohammed is raised over Spain, as it is at the very doors of the city of the great Constantine [Constantinople, to be finally conquered in 1453]. The emblem of the new religion is the crescent…and, shaped like an immense crescent, the Mohammedan lands are encircling Christendom, ready to strike at any moment. And some time ago [first in the 12th century], a new danger arose.”

“Now,” thought Thomas. He knew the story of Islam, of course. And he sensed at least some of what was coming. But he knew also that the Master was not telling him this “fairy tale” without good reason.

“The crude faith of Moors and Saracens,” went on Albert, “could never be a spiritual danger for Christendom. But then came the new danger. First Al Kindi in the ninth, then Al-Farabi in the tenth, and Avicenna in the eleventh century of Our Lord began to invoke the shadow of a giant who had died three centuries before Our Lord walked on earth. There was, at the time, no idea of claiming Aristotle as a forerunner of Islam. Al Kindi, Al-Farabi, and Avicenna wanted to know. Nevertheless, under their magic touch the giant [Aristotle] began to change, to be transformed….Then, just about a hundred years ago [in the 12th century], Averroes made his appearance….With Averroes…the birth of Mohammedan philosophy was completed. It was not an original philosophy. It was, to put it bluntly, a garbled and orientalized Aristotelian philosophy.” (207-208— emphasis added)

Still approaching his special and nuanced meaning and proposal—and his hoped-for mission with Friar Thomas, as well—Albertus Magnus repeats himself, nonetheless, for an important emphasis:

“But…but it was a philosophy. And it contained enough Aristotelian truth to carry oriental errors right into the heart and intellect of Christendom. At last, at long last, Islam [now] had a weapon against the Christian Faith, a weapon of such sharpness that it drove our own [Christian] philosophers [such as Siger of Brabant (see page 313—Chapter XVI)] to the terrible admission that there must be two truths …that of revealed faith and that of philosophy [namely, the claim that there is a truth of reason; and an incommensurate, parallel, and often contradictory truth of faith—along with its purported prior revelation!]. (208-209—my emphasis added)

It will be further helpful to our understanding of these grave claims and their implications (even today in the Catholic Church), if we now allow Albert to present with more detail his own fuller understanding of the enduring issues of moment, and his ardent encouragement to Thomas’ own further and fitting projects:

“And in the souls of intelligent Christians doubts are [thus] being raised for which theology has only the one answer: ‘Leave philosophy alone and stick to the faith.’ In other words: the Trojan horse is within our walls, and its name is the philosophy of Islam. What the vast armies of the camel driver could not do may be accomplished from within by the Trojan horse, by the spirit of the giant Aristotle, led by the spirit of Averroes. They say [Holy Roman Emperor] Frederick the Second is aping oriental customs in many ways, swearing by Mohammed and the Caaba, and making all things oriental [even Hebraic?] a fashion. It is a sorry sight. But it isn’t a tenth as dangerous as oriental [hence also Hebraic?] fogging our best ecclesiastical brains. And why is it that they are captivated by this thing? Because because the Averroist error is Aristotelian truth. Truth and untruth mixed…that is the danger. Unless…we liberate the giant.”

“We…” said Thomas incredulously. “We…?” (209—my emphasis added)

Albert promptly explicates to the modest Thomas the meaning of his “we”:

“You and I. I have cast about; I have been casting about for years to find the man who can do it. My own life is dedicated to it. But one life is not enough. No single man can free Aristotle from his chains. The task is immense. It isn’t simply a translation of [the original Greek, or the often dubious later Arabic, and even Hebrew, translations] of Aristotle into Latin.”

“It couldn’t be,” said Thomas breathlessly. “For even Aristotle was not always right.”

Son,” shouted Albert jubilantly, “that sentence alone proves that you are the man to do it.” (209—my emphasis added)

Somewhat stunned by Thomas’ concise words of simplicity and insight, Albert himself not only concurs but he also replies with a warning admonition:

“Aristotle was not always right,” he repeated. “Do you know that there is probably no man alive who’d dare to say that in public? Of those who have read Aristotle, I mean. For the others, and especially a few theologians I could name, are firmly convinced that the whole of Aristotle is the work of Satan himself. Can you imagine that? Good men crossing themselves when the very name of the Stagirite [Aristotle] is mentioned. But you, son,…oh, I love you for it…you have read him, and neither do you shrink from him, nor do you bow to him without reservations.”

He stopped abruptly. “Here is where we enter the fairy story, son…you and I, with our plan to unchain the giant and bring him back to his senses.”

“The great Jews will be of help [but also with reservations?],” said Thomas eagerly. “And especially Rabbi Moses ben Maimon [Maimonides (1135-1204), himself an anti-Christian]. His Guide of the Perplexed…”

“You have read that?” asked Albert, surprised.

“Oh, back in Naples,” admitted Thomas. “They [at the Frederick II-founded secular university] had a good copy [in a language unnamed, however] at the university. Rabbi Moses was a great man and a good one.”

“And he [Maimonides] also does not regard Aristotle as infallible. Son, do you realize where this leads?”

Thomas nodded. “The Christians will be able to say: ‘By the Grace of God, I believe; I have faith. There is much in my faith that surpasses reason but nothing that contradicts it.’” (209-210—my emphasis added)

Again even though very happy to hear the words of Friar Thomas’ succinct insight, Albert still gravely decides to be more explicit in his admonition:

I warn you of one thing, Thomas: our own people are going to make things difficult for you. The most intelligent Franciscan I ever met, Friar Roger Bacon…not the best, mind you, but the most intelligent…laughed at me when I told him my idea. He said it was impossible. It couldn’t be done.”

“We shall find out,” said Thomas.

“But the worst opposition won’t come from him. It will come from the narrow-minded, the chicken-hearted, the sterile…and some of them are very powerful. They are going to besiege you like the bulls of Bashan [see Psalm 22:12, for example]. And they will speak with formidable authority. They’ll quote the great saints against you, aye, and even the Fathers of the Church themselves. They’ll crush you with [Pope] Saint Gregory, with Saint Bernard, and the greatest of all, Saint Augustine…”

“It doesn’t matter who said it,” interposed Thomas. “What matters is what he said.”

Albert stared hard at him.

“By the love of God,” he said hoarsely, “I believe you mean it.”

Thomas stared back, in blank surprise.

I could not say so, surely, unless I meant it.”

The little man [Magister Albert], before whom they all trembled, said in a muffled voice: “Tell me, son…have you ever been intimidated by anyone?

“Oh, yes,” said Thomas.

I don’t believe it. By whom?”

By Our Lord…on the altar [before, during, and after the Consecration at Mass].”

[Thus cometh the memorable conclusion of this Chapter X.] (210-211—my emphasis added)

We may now, I hope, have better come to see and savor Louis de Wohl’s own accurate and reverent presentation of the life and challenges of Saint Thomas and his sincerity and purity and gifted discernments of truth, especially important truth that is properly unmixed with untruth and error. (With his unmistakable humility, Saint Thomas also knew that, as in the case of Aristotle, his opinions were not to be regarded as infallible.)

In any case, the varied wisdom expressed in Louis de Wohl’s book on Saint Thomas and his mentors, especially in Chapter X, could be well applied against Neo-Modernism today, not just those that were afoot around 1250 or in 1950 (under Pope Pius XII).


Writing about his own life for a scholarly source entitled “CatholicAuthors.com,” Louis de Wohl (b.1903-d. 2 June 1961) said the following:

Then, in May of 1948, I went to Rome, had my first audience with that living saint, the Holy Father [Pius XII], and asked him whom he wanted me to write about next! He said “Saint Thomas Aquinas.” Two years later I gave him the finished book, The Quiet Light, and asked him for his next order. This time he said “Write about the history and mission of the Church in the world.”

Also notably occurring in 1950, Pope Pius XII additionally accomplished three major things in and for the Church and her mission: the 1 November 1950 dogmatic declaration (rooted in Divinely Revealed Sacred Tradition) on the Assumption of the Blessed Mother (Munificentissimus Deus); preceded by the 12 August 1950 propagation of the incisive Encyclical, Humani Generis (a brief, polite update, as it were, of Pius IX’s earlier 8 December 1864 Syllabus Errorum (Syllabus of Errors); and, finally, the moving 24 June 1950 canonization of Maria Goretti whom the Pope warmly called a “martyr to purity.”


© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1Louis de Wohl, The Quiet Light: A Novel about Thomas Aquinas (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996—a reprint originally published in 1950). All future references will be to the 1996 edition, and the pagination placed above in parentheses in the main body of this brief essay. The excellent Chapter X itself is to be found in its entirety on pages 198-211 of the 1996 edition, and the reader would do well to read and savor the whole chapter, as well.

The Oath Against Modernism (1910-1967) and Cardinal Walter Brandmüller’s Recent Words

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                              7 October 2019

Our Lady of the Rosary (1571 A.D.)


“We are only as courageous as we are convinced.” (Father John A. Hardon, S.J.)


In an article recently published on LifeSiteNews, the learned scholar and church historian, Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, reported the following fact and has thereby especially arrested my attention, in part because of its momentous implications. For, the proposed fact is also what G.K. Chesterton would have called a “Tremendous Trifle,” a seeming trifle, but momentous if one has the proper criterion.

Cardinal Brandmüller wrote the following:

The philosophy of German idealism [Kant and Hegel et al.]—which is fixed on human consciousness—and its connection with evolutionary thought had led to the result that one regarded religion as a product of the depth of the human soul which develops from one stage to the next higher one in the course of evolution and that religion therefore is subject to change. From today’s perspective [sic], one might consider some of the actions on the part of “Rome” in those years to have been rigid, but one cannot put in doubt the danger of these ideas—which one since then summarizes with the name “Modernism”—which were indeed undermining the foundations of the Faith.

That Pius X here pulled the emergency brake in this situation by demanding from theology teachers [and others] that they make the Oath Against Modernism [1910], one should not demean or ridicule it as an expression of “Roman alarmism.” It can, instead, astonish us that, of all people, the German theology professors were excluded from fulfilling this demand. They feared for their freedom in teaching and research, whose loss would have exposed them to some disdain in the academic world.1 [my emphasis added]

However, the German Cardinal does not then additionally present any more specificity or historical clarifications about this momentous German exemption, indeed this mysterious German dispensation and its consequent exclusion from the standard requirement, under obedience, to affirm the contents of that carefully crafted solemn Oath Against Modernism.

Was the Oath also exempted from the vows of the Austrians and others of the German linguistic groups in Europe or in Foreign Missions or as Germanic citizens in diaspora? Did it apply, as well, to ethnic German Catholic teachers dwelling in other cultures? Was the oath not even required of German theological teachers or broadly religious teachers in Rome? Was the German exclusion ever even written down and officially promulgated? If so, when? Where is the official document to be found? Was it in place even from the outset in 1910—or did it come quietly into the public later?

These are the kinds of questions I wanted to ask Cardinal Brandmüller, and my wife Maike Hickson even proceeded, in fairness, to ask him for some his further clarifications, if feasible, about that presented momentous fact.

I would also have some more questions to ask him about a later event: namely, the quiet 17 July 1967 rescinding of the 1910 Oath Against Modernism—which was done by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under the reign of Paul VI and with his approval.2

Was it the case that Modernism or an even more subtle Neo-Modernism was now to be tolerantly accepted and variously institutionalized within the modern Church? How are we to understand this removal of a grave 57-year-old Oath of honor?

But, did not the prelates and other clergy with their advisors (periti) during the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council also face the danger of having perjured themselves especially if they had actually and obediently also earlier taken the solemn Oath Against Modernism—although the German delegates might well have had a mitigating dispensation and had thus been exempted from making the vow, even then and even in 1962-1965 Conciliar Rome?

By way of an analogous contrast, it was back in the 1980s that I first read—with Arnaud de Lassus’s indispensable help—Jean Madiran’s reliable analyses of two admittedly secret meetings in France—in Metz and in Strasbourg —conducted just before the October 1962 opening of the Second Vatican Council.3 The Metz meeting was with representatives of Soviet Communism and with the French Cardinal Eugène Tisserant from Rome. In Strasbourg, France, there was a secret meeting with representatives of modern Judaism and with Rome’s official representative, Father Yves Congar, O.P. (a Dominican who was later in 1994, shortly before his 1995 death, made a Cardinal by John Paul II).

Rather than now considering the troubling substance of these compromising agreements—intended to help guide the impending Pastoral Vatican Council as to the political action of both Communist forces and Jewish forces—we only want to raise a few questions: namely, to what extent were the Council Fathers informed about these important secret meetings and binding promises and subversive arrangements? To the extent that these two secret meetings were not disclosed, to what extent was the Pastoral Council playing with a crooked deck of cards, from the outset—even before the original Schemata were diverted and disposed of?

With so much talk afloat about openness and all that, there are many signs of oligarchic secret assemblies, protective censorship, and frightened self-censorship that gradually becomes a withering and atrophying self-censorship.

The intimately exoteric Catholic spirit of vital candor and robust lucidity thus now tends to become a more “occult organization of revolution.” That is to say, comprising both the fast path and the slow path of revolution. The principle of “solve et coagula” also now has more unimpeded scope for its Hegelian Dialectic and Evolutionary Pantheism. The Geist needs us, as it were, to complete Itself. Such “Process Philosophy” even boldly says that “God needs us to complete Himself.” The Church, we dare say, now still has Her work cut out for Her, sub Gratia Divina.

May we be able to face with courage some of those “Tremendous Trifles,” as well: Installed Neo-Modernism, for example. And still, during this pervasive Occupation, to preserve our font of “Battle Joy”!


© 2019 Robert D. Hickson

1https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/dubia-cardinal-warns-church-in-germany-against-synodal-path-that-leads-to-final-decline (The invited commentary and article by Cardinal Brandmüller, with its English translation from the German and with its brief introduction being both presented by Dr. Maike Hickson, is only some seven pages in length, and the public article is entitled “Dubia Cardinal warns Church in Germany against synodal path that leads to ‘final decline.’”)

2AAS-59-1967; see here for the original 1910 Oath Against Modernism: https://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius10/p10moath.htm; and see here for the replacement Profession of Faith: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19670717_formula-professio-fidei_en.html

3Since the electronic archives of Apropos Magazine do not seem anymore to be available, I shall give herewith links to other websites with the two Jean Madiran articles: https://theeye-witness.blogspot.com/2013/10/jean-madiran-romes-other-secret-accord.html; https://livinginjmj.com/2017/10/10/the-vatican-moscow-agreement/

Hilaire Belloc’s 1931 Insights from His Survey of the New Paganism

Picture: Greek Architecture in Agrigento, Sicily (Pixabay)

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                            18 August 2019

Saint Helena (d. 326)


“We call Paganism an absence of the Christian revelation. That is why we distinguish between Paganism and the different heresies; that is why we give the name of Christian to imperfect and distorted Christians, who only possess a part of Catholic truth and usually add to it doctrines which are contradictory of Catholic truth [e.g., nominalism and syncretism or a denial of free will]….

“This New Paganism is already a world of its own. It bulks large [as of 1931], and it is certainly going to spread and occupy more and more of modern life [and thus not only in the sprawling Amazon Region then]. It is exceedingly important that we should judge rightly and in good time of what its effects will probably be, for we are going to come under the influence of those effects to some extent, and our children will come very strongly under their influence. Those effects are already [in 1931] impressing themselves profoundly upon the Press, conversation, laws, building [i.e., architecture as a public art], and intimate habits of our time.” (Hilaire Belloc, Essays of A Catholic Layman in England (London: Sheed & Ward, 1931), pages 13 and 14—my emphasis added)


“Of these marks [of the New Paganism] the two most prominent are, first, the postulate that man is sufficient to himself—that is, the omission of the idea of Grace; the second (a consequence of this [postulate]), despair. The New Paganism is the resultant of two forces which have converged to produce it: appetite and the sense of doom….A licence in act and a necessarily more extended licence in speech [also “exercising the fullest license for what is called ‘self-expression’” (15)] are therefore the mark of the New Paganism…. I will say this much: that the one very powerful agent in producing this mood [of fatalism] is the desire to be rid of responsibility. (Hilaire Belloc, Essays of a Catholic (1931), page 15-17—my emphasis added)


“But the New Paganism will tend, not to punish, but to restrain with fetters; to prevent action, to impose coercive bonds. It will be an issue more and more with human dignity. It has already, in certain provinces (the Calvinist canton of Vaud in Switzerland is an example), enacted what is called ‘the sterilisation of the unfit’ as a positive law. It has not yet enacted, though it has already proposed and will certainly in time enact, legislation for the restriction of births. Not only in these, but in many other departments of life, one after another, will this mechanical network spread and bind those subject to it under a compulsion which cannot be escaped.” (Hilaire Belloc, Essays of a Catholic (1931), page 19—my emphasis added)


In the first chapter of his 1931 book, Essays of a Catholic Layman in England,1 Hilaire Belloc presents his own farsighted “survey of the New Paganism”—its resistance and lack of receptivity to the Faith—which contains some profound insights that are timely for us still, and refreshingly articulated.

Given the current discussions about the nature (and proposed new modifications) of Catholic missionary activity in the large and multi-cultural Amazon Region of South America, Hilaire Belloc’s reflections and differentiated view of Classical Paganism and its History might well be especially welcomed now—at least so as to give us a fitting sense of proportion and distinction and integrity.

The Preface to Belloc’s set of Catholic Essays shows us his modesty and his cultured reticence about some important matters of moment to a mature man:

I do not know whether I ought to apologise for the fact that these papers [these reflective essays] deal only with what may be called the externals of religion, are even in great part political, and without exception controversial. I have, perhaps, no faculty for dealing on paper with the more essential, the all-important, interior things of Catholic life. If ever I have dealt or shall deal with them I am sure I should not sign my name. (10—my emphasis added)

At the beginning of his essay on “The New Paganism,” Belloc reveals what for him is the importance of the difference between first struggling and receptively going uphill into the fresh air and the fresh water and lucid vision, as distinct from one’s later, in disillusionment and even still bitterly bearing “a rejected experience” (16), going back downhill into a mephitic and fetid swamp:

Our civilisation developed [gradually] as a Catholic civilisation. It developed and matured as a Catholic thing. With the loss of the Faith it will slip back not only into Paganism, but into barbarism with the accompaniments of Paganism, and especially the institution of [or different forms of] slavery. It will find gods to worship, but they will be evil gods as were those of the older savage Paganism before it began its advance toward Catholicism. The road downhill is the same as the road up the hill. It is the same road; but to go down back into the marshes again is a very different thing from coming up from the marshes into pure air. All things return to their origins. A living organic being, whether a human body or a whole state of society, turns at last into its original elements if life be not maintained in it. But in the process of return [“downhill,” as it were] there is a phase of corruption which is very unpleasant. That phase the modern world outside [and now, in 2019, maybe also, in part, inside?] the Catholic Church has arrived at. (11—my emphasis added)

However, Belloc acknowledges that, as of 1931:

The Christian scheme is still close enough even to the most Pagan of the New Pagans to be familiar, and the social atmosphere which is created still endures as a memory, or as a rejected experience, in their lives. The social atmosphere insisted on a number of restrictions. Of course, no society could exist in which there were not a great number of restrictions, but the restrictions imposed by Christian morals were severe and numerous, and most of them are meaningless to those who have abandoned Christian doctrine, because morals are the fruit of doctrine.

It is not only in sexual matters (the first that will be cited in this connection), but in canons of taste, in social conduct, traditional canons of beauty in verse, prose, or the plastic arts that there is outbreak [in the New Paganism]. The restriction and, therefore, the effort necessary for lucidity in prose, for scansion in poetry and, according to our tradition, for rhyme in most poetry—the restrictions imposed by reverence for age, for certain relationships such as those between parent and child, for the respect of property as a right—and all the rest of it are broken through. A licence in act and a necessarily more extended [and promiscuous] licence in speech are therefore the mark of the New Paganism. (16—my emphasis added)

A few pages later Belloc shows us, with vivid force, how the New Paganism considers moral responsibility and logicality and human reason:

It is true that the professors of this creed [of “Monism,” of “Fatalism” or of Evolutionary “Determinism”] are illogical; for no one gives louder vent to moral indignation than themselves, especially when they are denouncing the cruelties or ineptitudes of believers in moral responsibility, but then, as the denial of human reason is also a part of their creed, or, at any rate, the denial of its value as the instrument for the discovery of truth, they will not be seriously disturbed by the incongruity of their outbursts; for what is incongruous or illogical is not to them blameworthy or ridiculous—rather in their mouths does the word “logical” connote something absurd and empty. (18—my emphasis added)

Belloc will now comment on the overlapping interrelationship of religion and politics, and he criticizes an error that the moderns sometimes make, especially when considering the loyal Catholics:

And here I have…a quarrel with those moderns who will make of religion an individual thing (and no Catholic can evade the corporate quality of religion), telling us us that its object being personal holiness and the salvation of the individual soul, it [religion] can have no concern with politics. On the contrary, the concern of religion with politics is inevitable. Not that the Christian doctrine and ethic rejects any one of the three classic forms of government—democracy, aristocracy or monarchy, or any mixture of them—but it does reject certain features in society which are opposed to the Christian social products, and are opposed to them because they spring from a denial of free will. (21-22—my emphasis added)

Moreover, Belloc will continue to accent for us the importance of doctrine and its practical fruits:

The battle for the right doctrine [also in the Amazon now] in theology is always also a battle for the preservation of definite social things (institutions, habits) following from right doctrine; nor is there anything more contemptible intellectually than the attitude of those who imagine that because doctrine must be stated in abstract terms it therefore has no practical application nor any real fruit in the real world of real men. Contrariwise, difference in doctrine is at the root of all political and social differences; therefore is the struggle for or against, the most vital of struggles. (22—my emphasis added)

After this compact and profound summary of his courageous convictions and principles, Hilaire Belloc will gradually conclude his essay (22-26) by comparing and contrasting the New Paganism with Classic Paganism (sometimes called the Old Paganism):

But apart from these [earlier-examined] aspects of the New Paganism there is another which I confess I happen to feel myself closely concerned with. It is the connection between the New Paganism and that lure of the antique world, which is of such power over all generous minds, and especially upon those who are in love with beauty….

Yet this attraction [of created loveliness] of the antique [Pagan] world I conceive to be a dangerous decoy, leading us on to things very different from, and very much worse than, that classic Paganism from which we all descend. (22—my emphasis added)

After noting that “most modern people who fall into the New Paganism know nothing about the Paganism of antiquity” (23—emphasis added), Belloc goes on to specify his meaning:

There never was a time when educated men had a larger proportion among them ignorant of Latin and Greek [as of 1931], since first Greek was taught in the universities of Western Europe; and there was certainly never a time during the last two thousand years when the mass of people, the workers, were given less knowledge of the past and were less in sympathy with tradition.

None the less,….There is a general knowledge that men were once free from the burden of Christian duty, and a widespread belief that when men were free from it [Christian duty] life was [putatively] better because it was more rational and directed to things [“such as the health of the body and physical comforts and pleasant surroundings, and the rest”]….To direct life again to these objects, making man once more sufficient to himself and treating temporal good as the supreme good, is the note of the New Paganism.

Now what seems to me by far the most important thing to point out in this connection is that the underlying assumption in all this is false. The New Paganism [which is a “corruption”] differs, and must differ radically, from the Old [Paganism]; its consequences in human life will be quite different; presumably much worse, and increasingly worse. (23—my emphasis added)

But what are Belloc’s well-grounded reasons for having such a dark assessment of the processes and finality of the the New Paganism? (Let us, for now, remember the return downhill to the swamp after having once deeply experienced and resolutely rejected the Faith and Traditional Catholicism.)

Since Hilaire Belloc remains, on principle, resistantly attentive to a false synthesis of religions or to the formation of a hybrid religion (as is being done now in the Amazon Region, as it seems), he will offer his own set of reasons for firmly resisting the New Paganism on many fronts:

The reason of this [mark of difference] is that you cannot undo an experience. You cannot cut off a man or a society from their past, and the world of Christendom has had the experience of the Faith. When it moves away from the Faith to return to Paganism again it is not doing the same thing, not producing the same emotions, not passing through the same process, not suffering the same reactions, as the Old Paganism did, which was moving towards the Faith. It is one thing to go south from the Arctic towards the civilised parts of Europe; it is quite another thing to go north from the civilised parts of Europe to the Arctic. You are not merely returning to a place from which you started, you are going through a contrary series of emotions the whole time.

The New Paganism, should it ever become universal, or over whatever districts or societies it may become general, will never be what the Old Paganism was. It will be other, because it will be a corruption. (24—my emphasis added)

As he moves to a more specific presentation of his condign warnings and fuller admonitions, he sharpens the contrasts between the Old Paganism and the New Pagan manifestations:

The Old Paganism was profoundly traditional; indeed, it had no roots except in tradition. Deep reverence for its own past and for the wisdom of its ancestry and pride therein were the very soul of the Old Paganism; that is why it formed so solid a foundation on which to build the Catholic Church, though that is also why it offered so long and determined resistance to the growth of the Catholic Church. But the new Paganism has for its very essence contempt for tradition and contempt of ancestry. It respects perhaps nothing, but least of all does it respect the spirit of “Our fathers have told us.”

The Old Paganism worshipped human things, but the noblest human things, particularly reason and the sense of beauty….But the New Paganism despises reason, and boasts that it is attacking beauty. It presents with pride music that is discordant, building that is repellent, pictures that are a mere chaos, and it ridicules logical process, so that, as I have said, it has made of the very word “logical” a sort of sneer. (24-25—my emphasis added)

Now Belloc considers the openness to authority and the need for an alert perceptiveness:

The Old Paganism was of a sort that would be open, when due time came, to the authority of the Catholic Church. It had ears which at least would hear and eyes which at least would see; but the New Paganism, not only has closed its senses, but is atrophying them, so that it aims at a state in which there shall be no ears to hear and no eyes to see.

The one [the Old Paganism] was growing keener in its sight and its hearing; the other [the New Paganism] is declining towards a condition where the society it informs will be blind and deaf, even to the main natural pleasures of life and to temporal truths. It [i.e, such an atrophied, pagan-informed society] will be incapable of understanding what they [the pleasures and truths] are all about. (25—my emphasis )

One final contrast will prepare us for his last alert and warning:

The Old Paganism had a strong sense of the supernatural. This sense was often turned to the wrong objects and always to insufficient objects, but it was keen and unfailing; all the poetry of the Old Paganism, even when it despairs, has this sense. And you may read in those of its writers who actively opposed religion, such as Lucretius [especially in his lengthy epic poem, De Rerum Natura], a fine religious sense of dignity and order. The New Paganism [by contrast] delights in superficiality, and conceives that it is rid of the evil as well as the good in what it believes to have been superstitions and illusions [such a the traditional Catholic Faith and the Sacraments of the Church].

There it [the New Paganism] is wrong, and upon that note I will end. Men do not live long without gods; but when the gods of the New Paganism come they will not be merely insufficient, as were the the gods of Greece, nor merely false; they will be evil. One might put it in a sentence, and say that the New Paganism, foolishly expecting satisfaction, will fall, before it knows where it is, into Satanism. (25-26—my emphasis added)


Beware of superficial or syncretic, newly proposed “inculturations” and the sly use of both the Hegelian and the Marxist Dialectic, both of which deny the logical principle of non-contradiction. These recommendations apply not only to the current developments in the Amazon Region and Rome.


© 2019 Robert D. Hickson

1Hilaire Belloc, Essays of a Catholic Layman in England (London: Sheed & Ward, 1931). Future references to this book will be to this first edition and, for convenience, be placed above in parentheses in the main body of this commentary.

Learning from the Early English Reformation 1531-1606

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                               6 August 2019

The Transfiguration


“From these few representative instances [of “the propaganda of falsehood”], Catholics may perhaps better appreciate the very great handicap from which Protestants suffer when they come to consider the story of the Reformation in England. The surprise is not that so few come to the facts of it but that so many have had the pertinacity to unearth the truth, embedded under centuries-hard layers of propaganda, and, in finding it, have found also the courage to admit they have been cozened.” (Hugh Ross Williamson, The Beginning of the English Reformation (1957), page 31—my emphasis added).


“That [14th and 15th century variegated heretical] dualism…, in one form or another, may be described as the heresy against which the Church has had to struggle from its foundation until today [1957]. The essence of dualism, however the emphasis varies, is a denial of the reality of the Incarnation. By asserting the inherent wickedness of ‘matter,’ of ‘the flesh,’ it continues to separate what Christ united….It denies the first premiss of Christianity—that God became Flesh….It has flourished as the eternal and subtle enemy of the central Christian truth, with which no compromise is possible.” (Hugh Ross Williamson, The Beginning of the English Reformation (1957), pages 32-33—italics in the original; my bold emphasis added).


The legend [about Catholics as “rebellious, treacherous hypocrites with alien sympathies”—quoting the Elizabethan Act of 1593] still persists [as of 1957], for in spite of its demonstrable and demonstrated falsity, it is to this day repeated, taught, and officially insisted on in non-Catholic schools and universities. And it will die only when sufficient numbers of people come to realize what, in cold fact, the Reformation in England was—the imposition of a foreign religion to justify an economic revolution, set in motion by the lust of a bad Catholic king [“a simple conflict between loyalty and lust—and loyalty lost” (42)] who made himself and his successors the Spiritual Heads of a new State Church [“an Erastian State” (46)].” (Hugh Ross Williamson, The Beginning of the English Reformation (1957), pages 104-105—my emphasis added).


After just receiving an initial invitation to an upcoming autumn conference in Europe concerning “The French Revolution, 230 Years Later—A Critical Review,” I could not but wonder what my limited abilities could contribute to such a two-day gathering.

Although my French is very weak and incomplete, I first thought of presenting a few things on the French historian Augustin Cochin (d. 1916) and his seminal insights about the French Revolution and the influential power of certain forms of conflicting oligarchies.

For, Cochin’s writings have been found very worthwhile by such varied and deeply reflective men as François Furet, Arnaud de Lassus, James Burnham, and Igor Shafarevich. Cochin even understood what Léon de Poncins has called “civil wars within the revolution” and hence amongst its conflicting and contending oligarchs: concurrently engaged in both the “fast path” and “the slow path” of the revolution.

However, a prominent French traditional Catholic scholar and author—my beloved mentor Arnaud de Lassus—freshly provides for us, I think, a more fitting and much more manageable consideration. For, he himself belatedly came to see the importance of the earlier sixteenth-and-seventeenth century English Revolution, and especially its religious and political influence upon the French Revolution. For example, he once memorably said to me modestly and quietly in his home—just after he had finished reading Hugh Ross Williamson’s short and lucid 1957 book, The Beginning of the English Reformation1—that he had regrettably never, until then, realized just how important the English Revolution was in history, even for the better understanding of the French Revolution. He therefore inspired me to re-read, at least twice, my own 1957 copy of H.R. Williamson’s book. Each time I read it, I was gratefully to learn more and more about true history, instead of the specious “propaganda of falsehood.”

If I could now do so, as well, I would send a copy of that book to all of the conference attendees so that they might attentively read this incisive and fair-minded English-language book, and accomplish the reading before the fall conference itself begins. The progressive analogies and proportions of Williamson’s text will be a helpful searchlight to grasp the roots and purposes of the policies and methods and permanent targets of the incipient and maturing French Revolution. Williamson’s book would become for us a more convincingly formative and understandable work of research, one that is timely as well as timeless.

By considering the concrete life span of a seventy-five-year old man (1531-1606) with all of its tumultuous (and tragic) changes, Williamson again and again helps us to see and feel the scale and proportion of the losses to the Catholic faithful in England. His vivid supporting evidence and stories even frequently shake the heart. We again wonder about the mysteries of the Permissive Will of God Triune and Incarnate.

Given his fairness and integrity, Williamson (himself a Catholic) presents the weaknesses and corresponding vulnerability of the Tudor Catholics. For example, he says early in the book:

Thus, in England, the Protestant triumph was made possible by the failure of Tudor Catholics to fulfil their faith. Three sentences will serve as [an] epitome. Saint John Fisher said to his fellow bishops: “The fort is betrayed even of them which should have defended it.” Saint Thomas More described the English priests as “a weak clergy lacking grace constantly to stand to their learning.” And for the [Catholic] laity the Duke of Bedford may be spokesman when he [sacrilegiously] refused to return the plundered property of the Church but threw his Rosary into the fire saying that, much as he loved it, he loved his “sweet Abbey of Woburn” more.

The Reformation in England was made possible by the existence of fear, weakness and self-seeking in the very places, where, above all, one might have expected courage, strength and loyalty. No estimate of it which denies or minimizes this can pretend to accuracy. (6—my emphasis added)

From another perspective, Williamson also shows us a later passage about the reaction and public witness of the Tudor Catholics, in general:

So the prologue [to the deeper revolution] ended. The breach with Rome was effected….The lack of effective opposition to it—as was mentioned at the beginning of this essay—was due to the cowardice, self-interest and blindness of the Catholic hierarchy, clergy, and laity, in whose defense it can only be said that the issues, as presented to them, were technical rather than religious. “Religion,” in the sense in which the term is popularly used, was not in question, though, with [the artful heretic and prose master Thomas] Cranmer in command, the new Continental doctrines were soon to be brought in to buttress the new English Church the king [Henry VIII] had created and to justify the revolution now about to begin. (46-47—my emphasis added)

At this point it will be helpful to consider that, “doctrinally speaking” (37), there were “two distinct streams of heresy” (37), namely:

The older [stream], associated with the “Anabaptists,” attacked the central Christian doctrine of the Incarnation (the Unitarians and the Quakers are the most logical of the “Anabaptists” of today) and was abhorrent equally to Catholicism and to “orthodox” Protestantism. The second [stream of heresy], embodying “advanced” Continental speculations, professed to keep the main Christian doctrines, but so interpreted them as to destroy their true meaning, and specifically denied beliefs, such as the invocation of saints and the existence of purgatory, which resulted in practices of piety and charity inconvenient to secular policy [and power!]. But the crucial issue of the Reformation in England was something apart from these. From the beginning it was and to this day for Anglicans [in 1957] it has remained the [Erastian] State’s jurisdiction over the Church in spiritual mattersthe substitution of the monarch for the Pope. (37—my emphasis added).

However, it had once been known and accepted in pre-Reformation England that “no temporal act can make a temporal man have spiritual jurisdiction.” (12) (We face such disputed matters today, as well, also the permanent difficulty about mixed and overlapping jurisdictions—“the Mixta.”)

Moreover, traditionally and abidingly it has been so that we give “a central position in the Christian faith to what is sometimes known as the Great Prayer of the Church, though more usually referred to as the Canon of the Mass.” (19—my emphasis added)

Williamson also shows us that the “The Great Pillage [of the Church institutions and property] …continued methodically and ruthlessly [the looting and plundering] from the winter of 1537 to the spring of 1540.” (55) Earlier, in 1535, the loyal uprising of the Pilgrimage of Grace took place, but it was met with destructive force, as foreign mercenaries were also later again to be regularly employed, as happened in 1549 against those who resisted the sudden infliction of Thomas Cranmer’s doctrinally skewed new Prayer Book, which was widely imposed on 9 June 1549—on Whitsunday:

The royal forces, five thousand strong, with a core of fifteen hundred mercenaries, veteran Italian infantry and German cavalry, finally defeated them [the uprisen peasants and others] outside of Exeter. “The killing was indiscriminate; 4000 were shot down or ridden down or hanged before the men of Devon would accept, without enthusiasm, the exquisite prose of Cranmer.” (69—my emphasis added) (These latter-quoted and slightly ironic, understated words were those of Hilaire Belloc himself, who also wrote an honorably fair-minded, lengthy book on Cranmer.)

During the brief reign (beginning in July of 1553) of Queen Mary Tudor (d. November of 1558), a well organized and financed migration to Continental Europe started in mid-1553:

The movement was financed by Protestant bankers and merchants, of whom forty eventually took part in the exodus, while in London, as early as the December of 1553, there was a directing committee of twenty-six persons of wealth and influence known as “Sustainers.” In charge of the [strategic] scheme abroad was [William] Cecil’s brother-in-law [and many others besides, including Protestant bishops!]. (78)

In so many ways—which we do not have space and faculties to consider now—the faithful Catholic Queen Regnant, Mary Tudor, was a truly tragic figure, even in her choice of close advisors when she was often so isolated herself. Williamson forcefully confirms that point when “the situation was beyond retrieving” (84), as he saw it:

The varied human vileness” is not too strong a description of Mary’s councillors. Several of them had been the very men who, in her father’s [Henry VIII’s] day, had trimmed their sails to his policies; of the laymen, nearly all had made fortunes out of the dissolution of the monasteries; even Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor, the best and most honest of them, had been an opponent of More and Fisher and had publicly upheld the supremacy of the State over the Church. (84—my emphasis added)


After the death of Mary Tudor, Queen Elizabeth I’s reign then began, when she was only twenty-five, and she was to reign for forty-five years (1558-1603). She had a continuity of policy and of competent advisors (such as William Cecil and his son Robert) and she had much help from them in order to safeguard her own rule into the early seventeenth century.

If we were to have the sufficient qualities to do so, we should next promptly take a closer look at the continuation of the English Reformation into the ongoing Revolution throughout the entire seventeenth century, at least up to the effective deposition of the last Catholic (and Stuart ) King, James II, as part of the purported “Glorious Revolution.”

In this troubled seventeenth century we would certainly find even more influences upon what would become the secular-naturalistic Enlightenment and the acts of the French Revolution. We would thereby learn much more about overt and veiled oligarchies and the often unaccountable, but well organized, “money power.” As Arnaud de Lassus taught me, there were even keen conflicts in France between the financiers of the Girondins and the financiers of the Jacobins—an instance and example of those “civil wars within the Revolution.” Here, too, I have so much more to learn.

As we come to the end of our current reflections—and as we make a few further recommendations—we shall again recall the framework of seventy-five years (1531-1603) which Hugh Ross Williamson “took as defining the period of the Reformation—from the first guarded Oath of Supremacy in 1531 to the [quite specifically anti-Catholic] penal legislation imposing a sacramental test in 1606.” (95) This period ended three years after Elizabeth I’s grim, fearsome, and still haunting death.

But the English Revolution itself was to continue into, and throughout, the seventeenth century and afterwards. Scholars of the French Revolution will still find that further studies of the English Reformation and the complementary, ongoing English Revolution will provide a proportionate enhancement of our larger historical and theological understanding. (Montesquieu and Voltaire themselves seem likely and largely to have learned much from their English studies, experiences and time in England, although I do not yet know their specific personal and intellectual associations while receptively accepting British hospitality.)

Our own further research should certainly include our attentive reading of the French historian, Augustin Cochin, who as a young man was killed on the battlefield in World War I, in 1916. His writings, many of them posthumously published, show his deep and strategic understanding of small and well-organized philosophic groups (or societies). This matter constitutes part of his larger understanding of both open and concealed oligarchies, especially those who help to subvert the Catholic Faith and the traditional Catholic Church, especially the sacrificing, sacramental priesthood.


© 2019 Robert D. Hickson

1Hugh Ross Williamson, The Beginning of the English Reformation (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1957). This very small book contains 103 pages of text, and then 7 pages of endnotes-references. The main contents are presented in three major sections: Introduction; The Course of the Revolution; and Epilogue: The Half-Century of Settlement. The Introduction (pp. 3-47) is subdivided, as follows: What It [The Reformation] Was; Why It is Misunderstood; The Existence of Heresy; and The Crucial Issue. Further page references to this book will be placed in parentheses above in the main body of this essay.

Introduction to Hilaire Belloc’s Survivals and New Arrivals (1929)

(An updated, newly accented Introduction to Hilaire Belloc’s 1929 Book)

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                  3 June 2019

Saint Clotilde (d. 545)

Jefferson Davis (b. 3 June 1808)

West Point Graduation (3 June 1964)


“As we proceed deeply and more deeply from cause to cause we discover what gives its nature to a human group is its attitude to the Last Things [“Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell”]: its conception of the End of Man. Even when a positive creed has lost its vigor and dwindled under indifference, its remaining effect upon the stuff of society remains profound.” (Survivals and New Arrivals—words from Hilaire Belloc’s own designated “Introductory” Chapter, page 5—with my emphasis added)


In his 1929 book dedicated to his beloved daughter Eleanor, Hilaire Belloc wrote out for her and for us some of his long-cultivated and still illuminating historical and theological insights on the sequenced battle-situation of the Catholic Church, on the old and new enemies of the Catholic Church and the Faith, and entitled Survivals and New Arrivals.1

For example, in passing he once discerningly said that, if the earlier widespread Arian doctrinal challenge—along with its martial-heretical, social and political movements (especially among the Roman-Gothic Arian army)—had further permeated the lands and the seas of Europe and had been finally victorious, Europe (as of 1929) would be, and retain, a confident and fortified religious culture, but with qualities that were much closer to those of “Mohammedism” (Islam) than to those of orthodox Christianity. For, it is the case that both Arianism and Islam deny the Incarnation and the Personal Divinity of Jesus Christ. Such a fact is one such part of the permanent and sequenced Battle-Situation of the Trinitarian Catholic Church, and it is also an important instance that Hilaire Belloc proposes that we, too, must recurrently assess.

Moreover, even though he first published his insights in 1929—during a gathering economic-financial crisis—Belloc’s book still shows itself to have been a farsighted presentation of what was then likely soon to come to Europe and to spread elsewhere. It was also a complementary preparation for his excellent later study, entitled The Great Heresies (1938), which appeared just before the outbreak of World War II.

This brief 2019 introductory essay to Survivals and New Arrivals (1929) first proposes, therefore, to present Belloc’s chosen categories of interpretation in his “examination of the battle’s phases” (2) against the Catholic Faith and Catholic Church (as an hierarchical Institution with a divine foundation and a set of seven sacraments in the order of Grace). After that commentary, we then propose to examine a little more closely one enduring example of the alleged “Main Opposition” against the Church, as of 1929: i.e., the case of the hypothetical “Modern Mind.” For, such a tenacious obstacle is a swamp-like barrier characterized by “pride, ignorance, and intellectual sloth” and especially marked by a manifoldly shallow appeal to an authority that is without a rational foundation.

We thereby hope to draw others to a close reading (and further savoring) of this brilliant book—it is a justly proportioned and generously fair-minded book—which could also be usefully applied, although with some slight adjustments, to other historic institutions and religions, such as Calvinism and Islam, or even the putatively enlightened Naturalism and Gnosis of “the Masonic Corporation” and thus “the Masonic Organization…organized like an army against the Church” (99).

At the very outset of his book, Belloc forthrightly says the following about the Church’s history, and her permanent combats with varied adversaries outside—and also inside—the Catholic Church:

But what has been more rarely undertaken [in studies of the Catholic Church], and what is of particular interest to our own day, is an examination of the battle’s phases. (2—my emphasis added)

Then Belloc presents to us a series of clear criteria and helpful standards of judgment, and does it subtly by way of his sets of linked and interdependent questions. For example:

Which of the attacks are getting old-fashioned? Which new offensives are beginning to appear, and from what direction do they come? Which are the main assaults of the moment? What is the weight of each, and with what success are they being received and thrown back?

I say this cataloging of the attacks in their order of succession, from those [attacks] growing outworn in any period to the new ones just appearing, has been neglected. Yet to make such an appreciation should be of value. The situation of the Church at any one time can be estimated only by noting what forms of attack are failing, and why; with what degree of resistance the still vigorous ones are being combated; what novel forms of offensive are appearing. It is only so that we can judge how the whole position stood or stands in any one historical period. (2-3—my emphasis added)

Belloc modestly approaches the deeper and yet lucid structure of his book by presenting additional questions concerning the Church and in light of “Her unique character” (7):

There is, then, no man who cares to understand the character of the world but must acquaint himself with the situation of the Faith. What are its present enemies? What dangers beset it? Where and how is it checked? Where lies its opportunities for growth? These are the outstanding questions. Compared with a judgment upon the present situation of the Catholic Church, a judgment upon the rise and fall of economic systems or of nations is insignificant.

This is my postulate, and [at] the outset of my inquiry.

I have said that the situation of the Church at any moment (and therefore in our own time) is best appreciated by judging the rise and decline of the forces opposing Her at that moment.

Now these, when we pause to estimate the state of the battle in any one phase of it, fall into three fairly distinct groups. (7-8—my emphasis added)

It will be helpful to understand these three groups as he presents them in his own summary words:

There is, most prominent, what I will call the Main Opposition of the moment….At any moment there lie upon one side of the Main opposition old forms of attack [such as the early medieval danger of “a rationalizing movement from within, against the Sacramental mysteries and later against the Hierarchy” (8)] which are gradually leaving the field—I will call them The Survivals. There are, on the other side [of the Main opposition of the moment against the Faith], new forms of attack barely entering the field. These I will call The New Arrivals (8—my emphasis)

After giving many examples of earlier main oppositions—such as “Heathen pirates of the north, and the eastern Mongol hordes” (8) as well as the martial forces of the Arians and of the later Mohammedans—he says the following:

The Survivals exemplify the endless, but always perilous, triumph of the Faith by their defeat and gradual abandonment of the struggle. A just appreciation of them makes one understand where the weakness of the main attack, which they preceded and in part caused, may lie. The New Arrivals exemplify the truth that the Church will never be at peace, and a just appreciation of them enables us to forecast in some degree the difficulties of tomorrow.

Between the two, Survivals and New Arrivals, we can more fully gauge the character of the Main Action and only in a survey of all three can we see how the whole situation lies. For such reasons is a survey of this kind essential to a full comprehension of the age. (8—my emphasis added)

A careful reading of his earlier historical analyses—full of specific details and vivid examples—will prepare us to appreciate the nuances of his important section on “The Modern Mind”—the third element of the Main Attack and Opposition (as of 1929), after the formidable facts of “Nationalism” (to include the strategic international endurance of Jewish Nationalism) and of “Anti-Clericalism” (as in the cases of France, Portugal, and Spain and Mexico in the early twentieth century).

For example, he asks: “Are there…contemporary conditions [as of 1929] which point to a future hostility to [various forms of] Nationalism [as of 1929]?” (88) He answers:

I think there are. Besides the Catholic Church there are two great international forces (not to quote more) which are already clearly apparent [as of 1929]. Once is that of Finance, the other is that of the Protest of the Proletariat against Capitalism; a protest which in its most lucid and most logical form is called Communism. Both of these [forces] are solvents to that religion of nationality which was universal before the Great War [1914-1918].

These two forces, International Finance and International Socialism, act after fashions often unexpected [as in the propaganda of “the big newspapers” (8)], and [often] more drastic….

But when you suppress a religious order, you have the opportunity to loot its property. Under the oligarchic Parliamentary system (strangely called “democracy”) the loot will go into the pockets of the politicians, the lawyers, and the hangers-on of both. The first taste of loot breeds an increasing appetite. (88, 97-98—my emphasis added)

Now we turn to his considerations of the hypothetical (still often professed) “Modern Mind”:

The third and far the most formidable element of Main Opposition to the Faith today, is what I propose to call by its own self-appointed and most misleading title: “The Modern Mind.”…

We note that it acts in a fashion wholly negative. It is not an attack but a resistance. It does not, like Anti-Clericalism, exercise an active effect opposed to religion, nor, like Nationalism, substitute a strong counter-emotion which tends to supplant religion. It rather renders religion unintelligible. Its effect on religion [hence on the Catholic Faith] is like that of an opiate on the power of analysis. It dulls the faculty of appreciation, and blocks the entry of the Faith. Hence its power. (105-106—my bold emphasis added, italics in the original)

Speaking again of the sapping importance of the third and final element of the then-current Main Opposition against the Faith, he says:

For, indeed, we are met at the outset of this, perhaps the most important section of our enquiry, by a difficulty which was not known in any other time than ours: that difficulty to which I have alluded, that this chief adverse condition we have to examine has no suitable name….Nevertheless,…it [“the Modern Mind”] is the word [that] its own votaries use.” (106-107—my emphasis added)

Belloc also warns us: “But everywhere it is of the same character, and everywhere, so far as its influence extends, it fills with despair those who attempt to deal with its fearful incapacities. (106—my emphasis added)

Yet, very soon after considering the difficulty of giving a “clear definition,”Belloc himself proposes “first to analyze its character,” that mark of the “Modern Mind”; and thus to postpone until later in his Chapter 4 an examination of “the causes of this philosophical disease—and it is an appalling one—which is affecting such a large numbers in our time [circa 1929]” (108):

Upon dissecting it we discover the “Modern Mind” to contain three main ingredients and to combine them through the force of one principle. Its three ingredients are pride, ignorance, and intellectual sloth; their unifying principle is a blind acceptance of authority not based on reason. (108—my emphasis added)

Belloc shows his magnanimity and sense of pathos when he adds a short note to the above characterization and statement of principle:

With most men who are afflicted [with the Modern Mind] the thing is not so much a mixture of these vices as the mere following of [intellectual] fashion; but these vices lie at the root of the mental process in question.

As to the principle of blindly accepting an authority not based on reason, it runs through the whole base affair and binds it [like servitude] into one: Fashion, Print, Iteration, are the commanders abjectly obeyed and trusted.

Let us take a leading test: [for example] the attitude taken by the “Modern Mind” towards the supernatural….(108-109—my emphasis added)

A representative and fitting selection from Belloc’s examples and guiding interrogatives will aid us a little further in our understanding of “the horrible welter of the ‘Modern Mind’” (116) :

There stands the “Modern Mind,” a morass.

The great difficulty of the intelligent in dealing with this thing, whether they be Catholic or skeptical, is the lack of hold. It is like fighting smoke….

What are you to do with a man who always argues in a circle?….What do you do with a man who does not recognize his own first principles?….What are you to do with a man who uses the same word in different senses during the same discussion?….What do you do with a man who puts it forth as a foundation for debate that the human reason [logos] is no guide, and who then proceeds to reason through hundreds of pages on that basis? (115-116—my emphasis added)

(Do these comments and specific questions make anyone else think of the current Vatican and its ambiguous language? Perhaps we may honestly and reliably now recall some of the ongoing verbiage in the lengthy verbose Official Documents, partly deriving from the multiple and equivocal Bishops’ Conferences with their garrulous speeches, and the sometimes demeaning sermons from the higher Leadership, to include associated interviews with the Media given by the progressive, sometimes evasive, Prelates; and sometimes even to their artfully sophistical votaries and to their abrasively loud and voluble lay supporters of innovation against long-standing Tradition?)

In any case, Belloc reminds us: “the acceptance without question of such authority as it meets—especially that of print—’blind faith‘ we have said, ‘divorced from reason‘—is the very mark of the ‘Modern Mind.’” (126—my emphasis added)

In this context Belloc also constructively speaks of our cultivating of “the faculty of distinction—[the faculty] of clarity in thought through analysis” (126—my emphasis) in contrast to the “sustainers” and “ill fruits” of the “Modern Mind.” On the premise that contrast clarifies the mind, he then additionally says:

Look around you and note the incapacity for strict argument, the impatience with exact definition, the aversion to controversyand the facility in mere affirmation [or “in mere assertion”]. (126—my emphasis added)

Near the beginning of his searching, candid and encouraging book, Hilaire Belloc would have us at the outset always remember something important and decisive, and then keep the proposed criterion in our hearts and in our enduring convictions:

As we proceed deeply and more deeply from cause to cause we discover that what gives its [specific] nature [thus a distinctive character] to a human group is its attitude towards the Last Things [“Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell”]: its conception of the End of Man.

Even when a positive creed has lost it vigor and dwindled under indifference, its remaining effect upon the stuff of society remains profound.

Should any doubt this, let them mark the effects of the two contrasted religious cultures in the West: the Protestant and the Catholic; that proceeding from the schism in the sixteenth century, and that [“Catholic Thing”] which, in the sixteenth century, weathered the storm and maintained tradition.

All may [indeed] see the ease with which industrialism grows in a soil of Protestant culture, [and] the difficulty with which it grows in a soil of ancient Catholic culture.” (5—my emphasis added)

May we too be blessed to help to cultivate the soil (and soul) and to defend the deep ancient culture of the Catholic Faith with its graciousness and slow fruitfulness.


© 2019 Robert D. Hickson

1Hilaire Belloc, Survivals and New Arrivals (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1929—219 pages). This book was also later “retypeset and republished in 1992 by TAN Books and Publishers, Inc.” of Rockford, Illinois. For convenience of access to this 1929 book, we shall henceforth refer to the text and pagination of the 1992 TAN paperback edition of 167 pages. References to that 1992 paperback edition of Survivals and New Arrivals will also henceforth be placed above, in parentheses, in the main body of the essay. The current Survivals and New Arrivals text is also a good preparation for Belloc’s The Great Heresies (1938), published almost a decade later and dedicated to his son-in-law, Reginald Jebb, who had become the cherished husband of Belloc’s especially beloved daughter, Eleanor. Reginald and Eleanor Jebb loyally and affectionately attended to Hilaire Belloc in his infirmities during the lengthy last part of his life.