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A Book Review . . . The Myths Of Modernism

April 3, 2016 Featured Today No Comments

By DONAL FOLEY

Thomas Storck, From Christendom to Americanism and Beyond: The Long, Jagged Trail to a Postmodern Void (Angelico Press, angelicopress.com); 218 pages, paperback, $17.95. Available at Amazon.com.

From Christendom to Americanism and Beyond is a collection of essays written by Thomas Storck. It has a foreword by Joseph Pearce in which he praises the way Storck makes connections between the various branches of knowledge which have been “severed from each other by the modern world’s radical disconnectedness with the wholeness of things.”
He describes him as a worthy heir of Hilaire Belloc — and of Christopher Dawson and G.K. Chesterton — because of his insistence that Western civilization can only be comprehended if we understand it as something which has grown out of Christendom, that is, European society as based on the faith, and that our modern increasingly Godless society is largely a revolt against that conception of society and all that it stands for.
In his introduction, the author says that his aim in writing From Christendom to Americanism and Beyond was to provide a guide to the way ideas about the social order over the last several hundred years have changed, and the tremendous impact this has had on how people now view society, as opposed to the genuinely Catholic approach, which sees Christian principles influencing the whole of society and not merely fostering a private piety or morality.
It was this bigger picture that Christendom was about historically — a whole social order based on Christian teaching, and so the rejection of this worldview and the rise of liberalism “brought about the privatization of religion in the Western world and led to the dissolution of a cultural order that was organized as a [religious] hierarchy.”
From Christendom to Americanism and Beyond comprises 21 chapters, with titles such as “What Was Christendom?” “Liberalism’s Three Assaults,” “Christendom or Europe?” “The Catholic Vocations of the Americas,” and “The Catholic Failure to Change America.”
The book is so wide ranging that it is difficult to summarize it adequately in a short review, but it is possible to indicate some of the major themes and highlights.
Storck begins by frankly acknowledging the serious state of modern society, with its widespread rejection of God, a situation made more serious because “the voice of the Catholic Church, the true oracle of God, is confused and muted because of the raging dissent, indifference, and turmoil within her ranks.”
This is not something which happened overnight, but which has grown up over the last five or six centuries in particular, as the world has been convulsed by a series of revolutions, including the Protestant Revolution of the 16th century, and the French Revolution of 1789.
Although the Church recovered from this latter event in the 19th century, its role as an institution which encompassed entire social orders was greatly diminished. So although there was a Catholic intellectual revival which continued into the 20th century, and which should have logically led to a widespread reacceptance of Christian principles by the modern world, this “ran out of steam in the 1950s, [and] vanished abruptly after the Second Vatican Council.”
Storck argues, though, that we shouldn’t be surprised at this since we live in a fallen world, and so we should all be doing what we can to rebuild a genuinely Christian social order, such as was the case during the centuries of Christendom when, “the Faith had sunk so deeply into men’s minds and actions, both individual and corporate, that it is difficult for us to grasp how thoroughly Christian that society was.”
What we do need to be aware of is that if we are serious about the business of rebuilding Christendom, then this means the conversion of our culture so that our institutions and customs reflect the teaching of the Gospel.
This in turn means overcoming the various assaults of liberalism, which have included the overthrow of the Church’s economic teaching and the resulting rise of capitalism; the overthrow of societies favorable to Christian principles; and now, what we are currently experiencing which Storck terms as the “assault on humanity,” through such things as divorce, contraception, and abortion.
Storck argues strongly that the way Western society developed during second half of the 20th century, the period after the Second Vatican Council, has had serious negative consequences for the Church, in that the previously vigorous Catholic culture which existed in the West has now largely disappeared. He sees the need for a greater emphasis on the liturgy, and the Church’s intellectual and social teaching, and a massive program of catechesis and education at all levels, as the most likely ways to remedy this sad situation.
The problem is that we are living in the aftermath of the effects of the 18th-century Enlightenment, which means that society as a whole largely rejects the Christian Revelation as not really worthy of serious consideration. It has also rejected traditional Catholic Thomist philosophy, and thus since right action depends on right thinking, it is hardly surprising that the modern world is in such a state of chaos. A whole series of false philosophies have thus taken root in our culture, each one more subversive than its predecessor, and likewise each one that much more distant from reality.
Storck argues that the question we need to ask ourselves is: What should the Church be doing to combat the errors of modernity; what is the best way of communicating the Gospel to our modern world? We have to find some way of dialoguing with the world which does not compromise on questions of Catholic doctrine.
To this end he sees the possibility of the Church fundamentally changing the culture of Anglo-Saxon, Protestant America if a serious program of evangelization is undertaken. But up to now this has not really been attempted.
He thinks that an excessive reliance on the principle of toleration in Europe, in the face of Islamic immigration will prove suicidal, and that there should rather be an emphasis on conversion, as happened in the aftermath of the collapse of the Roman Empire. But demographically Europe is dying, and it is going to take a huge change in thinking and action for that process to be reversed.
As he points out, too, we have all become the victims of modern “myths” — literally the “myths of modernism,” such as the idea that technological progress is inevitable, or that science will solve all our problems. Most Catholics have also accepted these “gnostic” myths.
From Christendom to Americanism and Beyond has much interesting historical, philosophical, economic, and political material, as well as engaging discussions about art and topics such as post-modernism. While the reader might not accept all aspects of Storck’s thinking, and the book is not light reading, it is worth persevering, since the result of that effort will be a much better understanding of why the world is in such a mess, and of what needs to be done to remedy that situation.

+ + +

(Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian apparitions, and maintains a related web site at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also a written a time-travel/adventure book for young people — details can be found at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk/.)

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