Catholicism: vs. Secularism & Totalitarism

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“This is the greatness and misery of modern civilization – that it has conquered the world by losing its own soul, and that when its soul is lost it must lose the world as well.” (Christopher Dawson, The Judgment of the Nations, London, 1943, p.68)

The Revolution against the Catholic Civilization

In Heroism and Genius, the author, after describing how Catholics had laid the foundations for medieval Christendom, briefly alluded to the overthrowing of this promising Christian civilization:

“The Catholic social order ‒ Christendom ‒ had a brief springtime of life in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries before corrupt and incompetent clergy, philosophical nominalism, the rise of nationalism, the Black Death, and the Hundred Years’ War undermined its foundations in the following two hundred years. Then began the era of “modernity” which, although spanning five centuries, is an ideologically coherent unity. The unifying factor is the assault on the cultural and socio-political ethos of Christendom. This onslaught, due to its philosophical roots in socio-political gnosticism, its socio-cultural pervasiveness, and its frequent use of violence in order to pursue a utopian world order, increasingly rejected not only Catholicism but also the Natural Law and any sense of cultural heritage from previous generations to the extent that the world witnessed the arrival of a new phenomenon ‒ the socio-cultural revolution. The successive stages and agents of change of the revolutionary process can be identified emblematically by the years in which crucial events occurred: the outbreak of the Protestant revolution in 1517, the foundation of the first Grand Lodge of Freemasonry in London in 1717, the French Revolution of 1789, the October Marxist-Leninist Revolution of 1917 in Russia, and the 1968 cultural-Marxist revolution which is currently eradicating the remnants of the Catholic social order.” [1] (William J. Slattery, Heroism and Genius)

The French Revolutionary ideology revealed the raw totalitarianism hidden underneath the call for a tolerant secular society. One of the influential philosophers of the Revolution, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, urged the power of the state and its ability to coerce:

“Once there is a society it is necessary to have a coercive force to organize and coordinate the movements of its members so that the common interests and reciprocal ties are given the solidity they would not be able to have by themselves.” (Grace G. Roosevelt, Reading Rousseau in the Nuclear Age (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1990), p.204)

The “common will” of society, declared Rousseau, would channel this “coercive force” towards increasing “equality” by eliminating all differences of class, hierarchical order, distinction of roles. The consequence of course was an all-powerful state and the birth of statism, something utterly unknown in the Catholic civilization of Christendom.

As the historian, Arnold Toynbee, wrote:

“In the Revolution, a sinister ancient religion which had been dormant suddenly re-erupted with elemental violence. This revenant was the fanatical worship of collective human power. The Terror was only the first of the mass-crimes that have been committed during the last hundred and seventy years in this evil religion’s name.” […]

“The Revolution’s supreme paradox was that, in the act of deposing the traditional Christian ‘Establishment’, it opened the way for an atavistic return to a pre-Christian religion: the worship of collective human power which had been the religion of the pagan Roman Empire and of the Greek city-states which the Roman Empire had incorporated.

“This worship of human power is about ninety per cent of the religion of about ninety per cent of the present generation of mankind.

“Shall we succeed in shaking it off? And, if we remain enslaved to it, whiether will it lead us?” (Arnold Toynbee in the “Introduction” to Christopher Dawson, The Gods of Revolution [New York University Press, 1972], pp. x-xi)

Secularized Culture: Engine for Society’s Destruction

However, the most radical roots of the French Revolutionary ideology lie in the unredeemed disordered passions of human nature.

All human societies, societies not governed by the divinely revealed truths and the Natural Law, are cities in which “the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling” (St. Augustine, The City of God, 19,17).

They have an inner dynamism tending toward secularization, the exclusion of the adoration of God from public life and of obedience to the laws of God as the basis for legislation.

But ultimately secularization’s intrinsic dynamism is towards totalitarianism. The French Revolution of 1789 “ ‘liquidated every social and ideological element which could not be brought into immediate harmony with the dominant party and its creed” (Christopher Dawson, Beyond Politics).

However, prior to the twentieth century, totalitarianism lacked the technology provided by modern science in order to be truly total. But Nazi Germany, the Marxist-Leninist states, and, increasingly in a more subtle way, the democratic states dominated by cultural marxism, obtained the technological instruments necessary to intrude into all aspects of an individual’s life.

Notable nowadays is their ability to exercise psychological terrorism against Christians through centralized control of information in order to ensure conformity to what is politically correct.

By rejecting to follow the North Star of divine law, secularized society is vulnerable to this lust for power originating in the fallen nature of man and magnified in a godless society where technology is power’s servant.

The death of the mind itself soon occurs in the sense that man becomes almost blind to the truths of the Natural Law due to the weakening of his ability to concentrate his intellect through contemplation because of mass media’s bombardment of instant communication and of sensual inflammation.

A society without the foundations of the Catholic worldview with all of its support for the dignity of the individual, marriage, the family, and local communities, rapidly homogenizes people, destroying true individuality, and dissolving society into “a human herd without personality” (Dawson).

The result is a Western civilization that is generally materially comfortable and pleasure-filled but whose interior holds a cancerous growth that will ultimately destroy it.

All of this is due to the intrinsic dynamism of  the rejection of the Natural Law and the supernatural.

Present-day cultural Marxism, the dominant ideology in the West today, a worldview created by the School of Frankfurt intellectuals, which subordinates ends to means, truth to practical goals (praxis), has penetrated the mentality of the masses in the Western world to the degree that any other philosophy of life besides practical materialism is unimaginable to many.

Humanitarianism is Powerless to Build a Better World

A vague humanitarianism, as shifty as mercury in its “values”, is the pseudo-religion of the masses, even if nominally many individuals still call themselves Christian.

However, humanitarianism as a philosophy is hollow. It lacks not only the supernatural but also the intellectual strength of the Natural Law.

Hence, it is powerless to protect man from totalitarianism.

Not only that, but many humanitarians, whether with good intentions or unwittingly or through cowardice, allowed themselves to be used by Nazis and communists in the past and by cultural Marxists today.

“Christianity is the soul of Western civilization, and when the soul is gone the body putrefies. What is at stake is not the external profession of Christianity, but the inner bond which holds society together, which links man to man and the order of the state to the order of nature. And when this has gone nothing remains but the principle of brute force…”.” (Christopher Dawson, The Judgment of the Nations, (London: Sheed and Ward, 1943, p.98)

That “brute force” has already been seen. As Voegelin remarked, “the rivers of blood that have flowed through the world from the abandonment of the ideal of a society governed by the laws of Christ and His Mystical Body are evident. Not only Nazism, communism but the present day “Dictatorship of Relativism” with its murder of millions of the most innocent and now, increasingly, the murder of the old. [check source of citation]

Therefore, Catholicism is intrinsically hostile to secularism, the new guise of “the world” (1 John 2: 16).  Catholics may never compromise with the forces of secularization for to do so would be nothing else than apostasy.

[1] Christopher Dawson, The Gods of Revolution (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2015); Eric Voegelin, Modernity Without Restraint: The Political Religions, The New Science of Politics, and Science, Politics, and Gnosticism (Columbia: Univ. of Missouri Press, 2000); Augusto del Noce, The Crisis of Modernity (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014). For an instance of the use of violence in the revolutionary ideology, see the analysis of the first genocide of modern times, the 1793-1794 massacre of the Catholics of the Vendée by the French revolutionaries whose motto was “liberté, égalité, fraternité” in Reynald Secher, A French Genocide: The Vendée (Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2003); Michael Davies, For Altar and Throne: The Rising in the Vendée (Forest Lake: Remnant Press, 1997). For the Catholic vision of freedom, equality, and fraternity, see Roberto de Mattei, Blessed Pius IX (Leominster: Gracewing, 2004), pp. 147–68; also H.|J.|A. Sire, Phoenix from the Ashes: The Making, Unmaking, and Restoration of Catholic Tradition (Kettering, Ohio: Angelico Press, 2015), pp. 166–69.