I remember Marcus Berquist once remarking that the problem with politics nowadays is that all the really important things have already been settled, and settled wrong. Given the developments of recent decades (and indeed centuries), there was nothing surprising about the United States Supreme Court’s decision on homosexual “marriage.” Viewed as a symptom of the general corruption of our time it is a sad thing. Viewed with a bit of detachment though, there is something comical about the court’s “finding” a right to this spectacularly irrational abomination in the terse, 18th century prose of the constitution that it has to pretend to interpret. Justice Scalia’s comparison of the opening line to a fortune cookie is even a bit unfair. Unfair, that is, to fortune cookies; they are not accustomed to apply their banalities to such extreme perversion.
In the civil wars, the Egremonts pricked by their Norman blood, were cavaliers and fought pretty well. But in 1688, alarmed at the prevalent impression that King James intended to insist on the restitution of the church estates to their original purposes, to wit, the education of the people and the maintenance of the poor, the Lord of Marney Abbey became a warm adherent of “civil and religious liberty,”—the cause for which Hampden had died in the field, and Russell on the scaffold,—and joined the other whig lords, and great lay impropriators, in calling over the Prince of Orange and a Dutch army, to vindicate those popular principles which, somehow or other, the people would never support. (Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil)
In a reply to Owen White’s comment on my last post I claimed that English Toryism worthy of the name suffered its final defeat in 1846 with the triumph of the free trade movement and the abolition of the Corn Laws. To explain what I meant I want to consider the account of the anti-conservative nature of capitalism in The Communist Manifesto. Marx and Engels point out that bourgeois capitalism has dissolved the feudal ties that used to tie men to their ‘natural superiors,’ and that it has stripped human relations down to ‘egotistical calculation,’ and reduced human values to ‘exchange value.’ But they think that this was in a way necessary (one might almost say good) because it has enabled the rise of a revolutionary class who know that they are being oppressed: «for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.» (p. 16) But what if the religious and political institutions that founded pre-capitalist society in Western Europe were not illusions? What would become of their argument then? If one thinks that earthly societies ought to reflect the hierarchical order of the cosmos, then one might indeed think that ‘feudal’ society may have been more defensible then Marx and Engels thought, and that the rise of bourgeois capitalism was not a necessary unveiling of exploitation at all, but just an unmitigated disaster. Continue reading
Schadenfreude is not the most noble of human emotions, but it can certainly be very sweet. I must confess that to me the most enjoyable thing about the recent Tory election victory in the UK is the impotent rage and naked despair in the left-wing English newspapers. I don’t much like what passes for Tory politics in England nowadays, and I don’t actually think this Tory victory will make much difference, but the progressives’ despair is really amusing. For a moment the worshipers at the idol of progress doubt their god, and shout in rage at the meaningless nothingness left over after his absence. Continue reading
The US Supreme Court recently oral arguments for why it should judge “gay marriage” to be required by the United States Constitution. One of the main objections brought against the argument was that this question should not be settled by “nine people outside the ballot box,” but rather “the people acting through the democratic process.” I have little sympathy for this line of argument in the abstract. I approve of the idea of nine learned judges wielding great power in the state by deciding which laws are in conformity with the basic principles of the nation. Continue reading
In a comment on my last post Michael Bolin does a good job of defending the Newman passage that I used to show that one should not be for moderation in religion, even in false religion. Nevertheless, I think Samantha Cohoe is right that the passage is not applicable to the case of St Paul before his conversion. Even after one has dismissed the bogus moderate/extreme distinction in religion one still needs to be able to distinguish between the false zeal of the pharisee and the true zeal of the saint. Jeremy Holmes provided the following distinction on Facebook (quoted with permission): Continue reading
In my Charlie Hebdo piece I tried to understand how the anti-bourgeois left will use the affair to promote it’s agenda. Obviously, I have little sympathy for the positive ideals of the heirs of Robespierre and Lenin. But their negative critique of bourgeois society, and their sense of the crying injustice done to the weakest and poorest is very powerful. There is much distortion in it, yes, much misunderstanding, a good amount of inconsistency and self-contradiction; but there is also much truth, and this is the source of the enduring allure of radical leftism. By far the most powerful and moving piece on the Charlie Hebdo murders that I have read is by Sam Kriss. Much of what he says is questionable, but much more of it is clearly true: Continue reading
‘Ah birbone! ah dannato! ah assassino! Villain! Wretch! Murderer!’ shouted Renzo, striding up and down the room, and grasping the hilt of his dagger every so often…. He stopped suddenly in front of the weeping girl, looked at her with sad and angry tenderness, and said: ‘I’ll make sure he never does a thing like this again.’ ‘No, Renzo, no! — not that, for the love of Heaven!’ cried Lucia. ‘God is the God of the poor and oppressed; but how can you expect him to help us if we do evil?’ (Alessandro Manzoni, The Betrothed, ch. 3)
The cliché that evil begets evil is true not only in it’s obvious sense (that righteous anger and zeal for justice can quickly turn to hatred, revenge, and unlawful violence), but also in the sense that such reaction itself provides occasion for the long term strategies of well meaning but thoroughly mischievous movements. Continue reading
A few years ago a huge sundial with mosaic of the Adoration of the Magi was erected in Heiligenkreuz. It is a monument to the Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis Humanæ. The monument was built by a society for Christian monuments founded by the auxiliary bishop of Salzburg. They were planning to put the monument up in Vienna. The city government of Vienna pretended to be in favor, but then kept on making small bureaucratic difficulties till the society gave up. The abbot of Heiligenkreuz then said that they could put it up here, and so they did.
The treasurer of the society is editing a little book on the monument. He asked me whether I could write a piece on the relation of Dignitatis Humanæ to previous tradition. “You see,” he said, “I am a Lefebvrite.” “Wait,” I said, “you are a Lefebvrite but you are also the treasurer of a society founded by Bishop Laun that puts up monuments to religious liberty? How does that work?” “Oh,” he said, “it works fine.” So I agreed to write the piece, defending Thomas Pink’s argument for the continuity of Dignitatis Humanæ with the Tradition.
I have begun posting an English version of my piece on The Josias. The first part is about how all interpretations before Pink’s were wrong.
There is much insight in Archbishop Chaput’s Erasmus Lecture. Take these words on liberal democracy, which for an American bishop are extraordinarily strong:
In a liberal democracy, the source of political legitimacy is the will of the sovereign individual, which is expressed through elected representatives. Anything that places obligations on the individual—except for the government itself, which embodies the will of the majority of individuals—becomes the target of suspicion. To protect the sovereignty of individuals, democracy separates them. It isolates them from each other, and it inevitably seeks to break down or dominate anything that stands in the way. That includes every kind of mediating institution, from community organizations, to synagogues and churches, to the family itself.