Fortitude vs. the Revolution
A New Christianity
The immense mutation, the immense degeneration that the word “mutation” almost always implies has taken over the most noble, the most solid institution that the world has ever known: the Catholic Church, through the new “social” reforms established by the law inspired by liberal individualism.
A “new Christianity” has incontestably infiltrated the Church, in sinu ac gremio Ecclesiae, to quote St. Pius X: the contemplation of the revealed truths contained in the dogmas and the practice of the theological virtues that lead the faithful towards their supernatural end, are literally sacrificed to earthly praxis alone, to efficacy alone, to exclusively human means of saving men. The process of secularizing the Church, of which the discarded cassock is a sign, a radical aggiornamento, and an “irreversible” adaptation to the “imprescriptible” demands of the modern world devoured by the liberal or collectivist democratic fever, are in full swing, and we do not yet see the outcome. The Church of the “new priests” is now centered on man, on the secularized human person that considers itself as an end in its desires, aspirations, ambitions and demands.
The supernatural order is completely overturned under our very eyes: theology tries to be anthropocentric, with no fear of contradicting itself; God’s transcendence submits to the multiform imperatives of immanence; catechism no longer obeys dogma, but rather the prescriptions of the independent conscience, the urges of the subconscious, the sexual instinct, the thousand and one extravagances of a delirious dissociety; the liturgy obeys all the whims of the game-leader and the entertainment business; authority turns into opportunism and bows down fearfully before the opinion created and maneuvered by pressure groups or by the bureaucracy with which it has surrounded itself on the model of a legal country; the supernatural becomes natural; its transcendent order of which the Church used to be the guardian has been evacuated in favor of a technique of redemption of humanity copied off the maneuvers of the permanent Revolution; the clergy, for the most part, aspires to build the Kingdom of God on earth on the strength of the human word alone, or of the Word of God distorted from its meaning; the faith becomes a political ideology; the foreigner takes the place of the neighbor; the man of God abdicates his “magical” power and transforms himself into a man like other men.
Subversion has set up camp in the Church and is using her ascendency to destroy her, to do violence to souls, and to institute, with a hypocrisy that is not always conscious, especially in the hierarchy, a clerical Caesarism that penetrates into the very source of the human being and substitutes itself for the will of God clearly expressed in the Church: haec est voluntas mea sanctification vestra (I Thess. 4:3).
The collusion of the new Christianity, emptied of its supernatural substance and inflated by a vague “social Christianity,” with Liberalism and Communism was inevitable. Here we are face to face with the very mystery of our times: it shows us why the cardinal virtue of fortitude, upheld over the centuries by the grace of God and Catholic tradition, is banished today from men’s mentality, as well as from that of Christians, and why the mysticism of violence has replaced it. It is enough to read the writings of contemporary theologians and the episcopal mandates, as well as the constitutions of Vatican II, to see immediately that this virtue has no place in them and that if by chance its name appears, it appears reviled, vilified, as the ultimate sin for which there is no pardon.
The Industrial Society
Indeed it has not been said enough that the “industrial society” that is the great innovation of our times and has evacuated most of the natural forms of former societies, was born in the Christian Western world, and nowhere else. Nor has it been said enough that it is the result of the slow decay of the Catholic Church after her admirable ascension provoked by the Council of Trent. During the century of the Enlightenment, the de-Christianization that had already spread in the shadows attacked Europe, meeting with scarcely any resistance from the clergy, who was already won over to the process of secularizing Christianity. It is significant that the secular society and the ecclesial society were both attacked at the same time in their living works and in their own structures. The former saw its end, the common good, attacked as being opposed to individual liberty. The latter saw herself led by a series of mediocre popes, preoccupied with political disputes, through the figure of Benedict XIV. This pontiff reigned for eighteen years and adopted an extremely conciliating attitude towards the demands of Catholic and Protestant sovereigns and towards the mentality of the “philosophers.” Grace no longer strengthening nature, the political nature of man and his subordination to the common good thus had even less meaning.
So what remained to unite men among each other, if not technique, work, the economy and the foundation of a new individualistic “society” that as such can have no other end than the material happiness of each and every member. This overthrow of the common good in favor of the particular good goes back unavoidably to the producers who are also all consumers, with the following irresistible consequence: a struggle between the different levels of producers to share the profit. There is no more general justice, nor the virtue of fortitude to defend it, and distributive justice consists simply in the distribution by the new “society” established of material and financial advantages to those who work for its prosperity. The role of the oratores and of the bellatores is over: the Europe that replaced vanishing Christianity had room only for the laborantes, represented at the time by the bourgeois. What need is there for moral and political strength when man is harnessing all the energies of nature to his own profit?
The modern industrial “society,” fruit of the Enlightenment, is but the last avatar of a Christianity that explodes into individualism as soon as the ecclesial Institution committed by Christ to the supernatural salvation of its members shakes and cracks. Under the name of “a society of abundance” to which capitalism leads it, or under the name of “a perfect society,” in which the human person will be completely alienated, the industrial “society” that pretends to be the only possible society for our times, as is proved by the fact that politics are completely absorbed in purely economical preoccupations, is the result of the vertical line of Redemption being knocked down into a horizontal line. Thanks to his technical power, man will soon be delivered from all evils. The ideology of Progress with which he is imbued persuades modern man that he can henceforth be sure of obtaining happiness here below. Thus do the immense majority of our contemporaries conceive existence: “Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
The Revolutionary Gospel
If we call revolution a complete overturning of an order, it is clear that this “New Christianity,” as the Count de Saint-Simon dared to call it, which consists in inverting the order of individual salvation from heaven to earth, is a revolution. And if all revolution takes place in minds before being translated into laws and customs, it is once again obvious that this same new Christianity is the ultimate Revolution; and it is more than that: it coincides with the permanent Revolution at work in the world for the past two or three centuries.
The new Christianity, that tries to create an industrial society to save the human person instead of the Catholic Church, brings us into the most pitiless of religious wars, that which opposes faith in God to faith in Man. This war works upon the civil society (composed of smaller societies of which the family is the ultimate element, and not made up of agglomerated individuals) and upon the Church that it completely secularizes, the most inhuman of violences: it tries to destroy in man, if it were possible, nature and grace.
IF WE HOLD STRONG, by the virtue of fortitude and the gift of fortitude that feeds it, to this evidence that the Gospel, WITHOUT the Church, guardian of Faith and morals, WITHOUT Tradition that keeps them intact, WITHOUT the natural metaphysics of the human spirit that the Greeks passed down to all men of all time in all places, WITHOUT the complementary certitude that man is a political animal subject to the common good of the different societies in which he is inserted, has for interpreter nothing but individual reason abandoned to all the passions that the virtue of fortitude no longer masters and to the most terrible of all: the passion of “being like unto the gods,” through the overturning of the order of salvation, THEN, but only THEN, do we understand that this same Gospel can change into an agent of corruption with an incalculable range and degenerate into a religion of Man with the overturning of the order of all values that this religion entails. Without the Church, without Tradition, without the philosophy of common sense, without the primacy of the political common good, the Gospel turns into a revolutionary agent that denies all the supernatural and natural realities because it turns the human person into an entity with unlimited rights, principle and end of all things.
The revolutionary Gospel precedes Subversion and is its cause, its only source, because all that is left in it is a rotten leaven: the divinization of the Ego. Of all the religions in the world, Christianity is in effect the only one to teach that God became Man in order that man may become God, on the formal condition that man abdicate his Ego, that he renounce the appropriation of his person by itself—“you are not your own,” says the Apostle, without however renouncing his essence as a rational and political animal created by God: “May Thy will be done and not mine.” That is where the Gospel as the Catholic Church received it from Our Lord Jesus Christ to be announced to men without alteration, faces off with the revolutionary Gospel.
For ever since the Gospel, the Ego of Man has only one possible disguise left: the mask of God, the parody of divine knowledge and of the Divine Love spectacularly spread over the theater of this world. There are thousands of ways of using God to serve one’s Ego, but these metamorphoses all come down to aping Him. All that is left to man, since Christianity, is ARTIFICE, the TECHNIQUE with which he recreates the world, rebuilds society, fashions a “new man,” operates a new “redemption,” finally “frees” and “saves” man. All the present deviations, errors and attempts to subvert the human and divine order are Christian heresies. Today the world is the victim of their furious folly because many Christians, for lack of the virtue of fortitude, no longer impose upon the falsifiers of the Gospel the straightjacket they deserve, because Christians resist less and less against the universal aberration and refuse to attack it with the arms of nature and grace.
So we understand the change of perspective we must realize when we analyze the essence and range of the virtue of fortitude. The end of the virtue of fortitude is no longer just man’s resistance against the murderers of the common good, especially in “the blazing war,” but his unshakable firmness in the face of the shape-shifting dangers that disintegrate what is left of society and of the Church, that is to say, of the ends of natural and supernatural life in the human spirit in the grip of the “cold war.”
For that is the end to which revolutionary violence leads if we do not oppose it ahead of time with the virtue of fortitude that we still have by a sort of miracle, with all it presupposes and all the acts that it engenders both in resistance and in attack.
A Return to Human Nature
We have to agree that the amplitude of this task is immense and that despite the totalitarian violence that scorns it and the liberal tolerance that vilifies it, the virtue of fortitude—that has disappeared from the vocabulary of politicians and churchmen—is today the ultimate virtue, without which a return to the intellectual, esthetic, moral, social and religious health of man that is attacked from all sides, is rigorously impossible. We are just beginning to glimpse in this end of the century, despite the rambling optimism that sails helmless from Renan’s L’Avenir de la Science (The Future of Science) (1849) to Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes (1965), that we are entering into the final phase of a civilization that, for substituting the homo laborans for the homo sapiens and the homo politicus and in so doing turning its back on the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church, is now irreversible. Civilizations, of course, are mortal, but at least the civilizations of Europe that succeeded each other over the span of three millenia had something human to pass down to their respective heirs, so much so that the reality of the eternal man (title of a book of G.K. Chesterton) remained through their rises and falls and after their deaths.
If the industrial “civilization” we know today continues, through successive crises from which it recovers only through inhuman wars, what will man become in it, if not an animal laborans, excluded from true order, subject to computers from his birth to his death? What will its legacy be, if it disappears? The answer is clear: nothing. The only thing that can agglomerate individuals thus isolated from each other is, to quote Augustin Cochin’s words that are more valid than ever, the socialization of thought by myth, that is to say, by a language deprived of any reference to reality, the socialization of the person in the gears of a mechanical collectivity, and the socialization of goods by the suction pump of a totalitarian State that forces the person to become more and more lonely.
The three human activities of contemplating, acting and making, itself cut off from its end, no longer exist or no longer have a truly human sense.
So starting now, before the final collapse, and perhaps, God willing, in order to mitigate it, we must return to what is specifically and elementarily proper to man: to thinking first of all, thinking well, admitting as true only what is true, only the results of sensible experience enlightened by the first principles of knowledge which are held by common sense; renounce appearances, the fruit of the imagination and of our Ego amplified by our illusions; return to the natural metaphysics of the human mind. Then to acting, acting well, acting for the common good of the city and the universal common good, the God of Revelation, two distinct goods that have become inseparable since Our Lord Jesus Christ. And lastly to making, to making all the products that are necessary for the life of the individual, improving them, making them available to as many as possible, but under the rule of the common good that governs them and subordinates to itself the particular goods thus created, with that primacy of the common good that aims above all at maintaining living social relations, which are always threatened by the individualism inherent in any economical activity.
It cannot be done in a day, nor in ten years, nor in a century. It requires of us a continuity in the exercise of the virtue of fortitude from generation to generation, both to resist the evils engendered by all decadence and to attack those that propagate it, and to let the human plant grow under the sun of God.
Nature and God help us. The former has always placed the remedy next to the evil. Natura malorum remedia demonstrat. An exact diagnosis is at the principle of any healing. And God will never abandon the man who prays to Him. Indeed there are privileged places inhabited by a few rare persons who resist the malady of the permanent Revolution, and they are the starting point for a renewal, since the supremacy of Technique that destroys everything, once abandoned to itself, cannot destroy them without destroying itself. Technique will always need learned men and a minimal concern for the common good in order to produce its material goods and to put them on a consumers’ market that is neither a free-for-all nor a barracks.
These are the natural and semi-natural basic communities in which the realities of daily life resist in spite of all the revolutionary violence that wishes to strike them down and replace them with constructions of the autonomous human mind that would thus consolidate its empire. Doubtless, “the conditions for a normal family and professional life are disappearing more and more, tending to turn this life into a hell,” but the day there is no more family, no more business in which the organic social relations subordinate technical relations, humanity will have reached the end. It will be “the end of History,” the very end of all History.
The Sense of Duty of State
Everything is there: in an attentive look at the realities that are daily one with our being, that cannot be separated from it without us suffering, and that, if we live them, fulfill us. In the communities of family and professional life, we are on a ground where we can only be conquered if we abandon it to the enemy: that of the DUTY OF STATE, an expression scarcely met with in contemporary language, especially in the writing and babbling intelligentsia, and for good reason! It is the supreme duty here below, and ever since the Revelation it directly follows the duty to love God above all things, and from it alone, if it is accomplished, come rights.
The duty of state is what one has to do depending on one’s fixed and immutable way of being. It is defined, constant, and invariable, like all that belongs to nature. No one can take the place of anyone in these little natural or semi-natural societies from which we can separate ourselves in thought, in imagination, in act, but never as to the being that we are: I belong to this family, this profession, this country forever. In these societies, each person’s place is determined by something does not depend on him, by his coming into existence at such a time, in such a place, by his vocation, by the answer he gives to the call that transcends him and yet makes him what he is, by the inclinations whose urge comes from nature and the direction of his upright will. Because the state and the being are one, we must take it upon ourselves to fulfill our duty of state and realize our being. This eminently requires the activity of the virtue of fortitude that resists the mirages of egoism—which separates the Ego from its being—the solicitations of the dissociety, and the easy ways out offered by human weakness to intensify liberal politics and modern socialism.
In these communities, the duty of state is always hinged upon the common good of the members. Far from opposing their respective goods, it makes them up: working, for example, for the renown and prosperity of the business of which one is a part, leads to a particular consideration and material advantages for oneself. Egoism, from whose temptation no one is exempt, is corrected by the undeniable presence and control of the other members of the community. The obligations of the common good to be safeguarded, that can be severe, imply no stoic rigidity, no heroism, but rather joy: there is hardly a greater satisfaction than having well filled one’s day or seen true men, true women and true children grow.
The exercise of the virtue of fortitude in the accomplishment of the duty of state is always accompanied by contentment, despite the inevitable miseries of this life. Most men have forgotten this under the weight of the dissociety that buries them in the chaos of its fleeting pleasures.
So we must fight with all our strength against the liberalism whose starting point was the benevolent humanistic conception in which man, “master of the world” (Gaudium et spes), carries no seed of evil, and everything wrong with our existence is the fruit of evil societies, and against “socialism in general and in all its details, which leads to the universal annihilation of the spiritual essence of man and to the leveling of humanity in death” (Solzhenitsyn, Le Déclin du Courage, Discours de Harvard, 1978).
Rebuild the Natural Communities
The fortresses of the natural micro-communities force us to this imperious necessity, if we wish to survive as rational and political animals. Those who wish to do so will have to speak out, write, and above all set the example, teach fathers, mothers and members of the family the ABC’s of the attitude to adopt, which is the NO of the strength of resistance. We cannot repeat enough that in the practical matter of an action aiming at its proper end, YES begins with NO. The elementary principles of family morality will follow. We must teach all producers, at every level of business, the rudiments of economic morality: one does not produce to produce or to produce more and more; salaries, appointments and benefits are the recompense for services rendered to the consumers; the consumers are human beings.
These rudiments of a shining evidence, a thousand times confirmed by experience, demand the virtue of fortitude in its double form: sustinere et aggredi, resist and attack. To these humble gestures of daily life in which still shine some sparks of the concrete nature of man and of his virtuous activity for the common good, we must add the breath of truth taken at its center: the natural and Christian law taught by the Gospel and by the pre-conciliar Church. Unless our eyes are fixed upon the star, it is impossible to walk on earth in the dark night we are living through.
Thus, in these privileged circles where our action can still develop and above all be transmitted, by holding strong to both ends of the chain, the natural and the supernatural, we can cover the intermediary links and patiently restore society and the Church. The only answer to the unlimited emancipation of man by an omnipotent Technique, the only escape from which left by the deprivation of the sovereign lights of the True and the Good is subversive violence and permanent Revolution, the only answer to the destruction of the concrete nature of man that follows is the persevering restoration of the rational animal and of the social animal in us by the virtue of fortitude and by the exterior acts that lead it towards its end.
The simple and moving story told by Ramuz in Derborence illustrates the realism of the virtue of fortitude in the most obscure men, but also those closest to both earth and heaven at once. Some shepherds climbed up to their huts above the clouds to watch over their flocks in transhumance. One night, the mountain on which their lodging was built collapsed. Only one shepherd escaped the avalanche. He found himself buried under a giant heap of rocks. For two months he ate dry bread and drank the water that seeped in. He felt around under the rock. He dug his way out, tearing apart his hands, sometimes vanquished but always victorious over his defeat. At last he arrived one day, mute, stuttering, spectral. For he wished to live. His home needed him. His family was waiting for him. He went back down to the village, that was moved at the sight of his ghost. The parish priest came to meet him armed with a cross. His wife came toward him, stopped. “And having looked at him closely, though from a distance, as if she dared not approach, said, “Oh, Antoine, is it you?”—“Just touch, it’s flesh, it’s meat and now that I have gone through the cross…” “Just touch,” he said, “you will see, it is not an idea, it’s solid, it lasts, it’s me…” “Oh!” said she, “is it possible?”
The future belongs to the magnanimity of the humble, to their inexhaustible fortitude.
Translated by Mary Carlisle Moline.