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The Barbarians Have Won

June 12, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By DEACON JAMES H. TONER

Part 1

(Editor’s Note: Deacon Toner has contributed numerous columns to The Catholic Thing, Crisis Magazine, and The Wanderer. He serves in the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C. This is a two-part article.)

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Précis: Known as barbarians or heathens, the powerful enemies of the Church are both internal and external. There are many ideological symptoms of this hatred for Christ and His Church, but they may be subsumed under the heading of the principal source and cause of such anti-Catholic hostilities: modernism, which is the “synthesis of all heresies” (St. Pope Pius X) and of all “structures of sin” (Pope St. John Paul II).
Among the spiritual weapons which the Church can deploy to help defend truth from the depredations of immanentist-utopian lies and to help effect defense against geopolitical peril is the “Mass Against the Heathens.” This Mass reminds us that we are God’s champions, called to be His Righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21) at a time and in a place which seeks to seduce us with the perennial prevarication that we can be God (Gen. 3:5), creating our own knowledge of good and evil (1 Tim. 6:20-21), and which seeks quixotically to lull us into the moral and political confusion of identifying a belligerent Islam as beneficent.

Introduction

Writing almost forty years ago, philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre told us: “This time…the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament.”
If, by barbarian, we mean, as the dictionary suggests, “savagely cruel,” or “exceedingly brutal,” or “uncivilized,” or “unrefined,” what was ascendant forty years ago is today triumphant. Forty-four U.S. senators recently voted for infanticide, as we continue to murder children growing inside the womb and emerging from it; our past president expresses open admiration for Saul Alinsky, who had dedicated his book Rules for Radicals to Lucifer; many celebrate the right of children to choose their biological sex by means of the surgeon’s scalpel and deny differences between men and women; we have lost the meaning of words such as family, truth, and justice (cf. Isaiah 59:14-15).
And: Militant atheists trumpet the view that religion is poison; to practice one’s Christian or Jewish faith today is to invite calumny on a massive scale and to risk one’s position or promotion; very rare are Catholic politicians whose views are shaped by devotion to the enduring teachings of the faith; many endorse Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s jaundiced view that the United States is “nothing more than a fascist slave labor camp”; and those dissenting from these “progressive” views are ridiculed, shouted down, or physically assaulted.
Confronted with this moral maelstrom, we look to the Chair of Peter for wisdom and courage, and we are asked, “Who am I to judge?” We therefore plaintively raise a key question posed in the Psalms: “if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (11:3).

I.

The barbarians have won, it seems. They largely or, in some cases, wholly control our educational system from grade school to graduate school; our public news networks and information sources; our political process and courts; our medical system; our music, art, and entertainment; our commerce and industry, which increasingly bow to “political correctness”; our science, which too often reflects the fads and fancies of the day; and even our history, which must reflect today’s judgments. (When they come — and, in time, they will — to remove the “offensive” statue of Our Lady on the Golden Dome of Notre Dame’s Administration Building, will anyone on campus object?)
And, horribile dictu, many Protestant ecclesial bodies enthusiastically approve abortion, homosexual practice, same-sex “marriage,” and euthanasia. To some atheists, religion may be “poison,” but many — very many — ministers, priests, and bishops remind us of the French political leader Ledru-Rollin (1807-1874). Seeing a mob rush by, he asked, “Where are they going? I am their leader. I must follow them!” So it is with the zeitgeist, which works its fascination upon the souls and minds of far too many whose ordained task it once was to teach the world, not be taught by it.
All of this is captured in or by the noun modernism, prophetically denounced by Pope Pius X as “the synthesis of all heresies” (Pascendi Dominici Gregis [1907], n. 39). Yet Honduran Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga soothingly told us about six years ago: “The Second Vatican Council was the main event in the Church in the twentieth century. In principle, it meant an end to the hostilities between the Church and modernism, which was condemned in the First Vatican Council. On the contrary: neither the world is the realm of evil and sin — these are conclusions clearly achieved in Vatican II — nor is the Church the sole refuge of good and virtue. Modernism was, most of the time, a reaction against injustices and abuses that disparaged the dignity and the rights of the person.”
The cardinal’s Panglossian pronouncement that there are no longer any hostilities between the Church and modernism may, tragically, be often true. Far too often, the Church and its ordained leaders have turned a blind eye to sin. As Philip Lawler put it ten years ago in his fine book The Faithful Departed: “Church leaders will always be tempted to tailor their messages to suit the latest fashions. But when the quest for public affirmation takes precedence over the demand for integrity to the apostolic tradition, the results are predictable.” This is biblical wisdom. Many Pharisees believed in Jesus but they did not openly acknowledge it lest they be expelled from the Temple. “For they preferred human praise to the glory of God” (John 12:43; cf. Gal. 1:10 and 1 Thess. 2:4). Modernism, of which political liberalism is the current manifestation, demands that we placate adherents to the fads, fashions, and fancies of the day. We are their leaders, after all; we must follow them.
The leaders of the ideologies under the modernist umbrella include Carneades (214-129 B.C.), Protagoras (490-421 B.C.), Pilate (the Roman procurator of Judea, 26-36), Pelagius (360-418), Hume (1711-1776), Rousseau (1712-1778), Comte (1798-1857), Marx (1818-1883), Darwin (1809-1882), Nietzsche (1844-1900), Freud (1856-1939), Dewey (1859-1952), Bultmann (1884-1976), Foucault (1926-1984), Ayer (1910-1989), Rorty (1931-2007), Hefner (1926-2017) — and so many more — all of whom are, in one way or another, subscribers to the declaration of J.L. Mackie (1917-1981) that “there are no objective values,” and all whom may be included in Felipe Fernandez-Armesto’s apt description, “truth vandals.”
The variegated heresies include Hedonism, Marxism, Nihilism, Pelagianism, Positivism, Pragmatism, Relativism, Scientism, Socialism, Subjectivism — and so many more (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 387, 1696), often leading to what St. John Paul II called “structures of sin” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis [1987]: n. 36).

II.

Modernism is a spiritual disease of which there are many ideological symptoms but only one metaphysical cause: aversio a Deo, conversio ad creaturam (aversion to God, conversion to creature). At the basis of every modernist ideology, whatever its stripe, there is heretical belief either that we are our own gods (cf. Isaiah 14:14, 2 Thess. 2:4) or that the God of the Bible is illusory.
To be sure, modernism is amorphous, taking on various shapes and colors according to the intellectual romance and the moral quirks of the day. Although there are many irruptions of modernism, they emanate from one cynical, impious, and irreverent ideology: immanentism, which is the opinion that truth is human property, not transcendent gift; that reason may be bent to serve political purpose; that the natural moral law is absurd or defunct; that the Bible is little more than a good storybook; that freedom consists in doing what we please, insofar as may be practicable, and certainly not in conforming ourselves to God’s will and to settled Church teaching (see Romans 12:2, CCC, nn. 1269 and 2420), which is dismissed as superstition or as authoritarianism; that progress and even perfection may follow in the wake of recognizing that we are our own salvific masters, capable of erecting a new “Temple of Reason” in the here-and-now.
(Under the protean heading of “modernism,” by the way, one may soon find prominent entries for the parlous promises of technological singularity.)
Order is what we decide and impose for the good of the subject masses, not what is consistent with divine Providence (Wisdom 8:1).
An ersatz religion, modernism deifies the individual conscience, not the voice of God (cf. CCC, n. 1777), and it magnifies, not the Lord, but substituted values — perhaps a craving for power, profit, prestige, or pleasure; perhaps the desire for a mammoth state and utopia; perhaps a trust in Frankensteinian artificial intelligence. All of these are substitutes for God and for His holy Church (cf. Jer. 14:14).
As Eric Voegelin (1901-1985) put it in The New Science of Politics: “The spiritual destiny of man in the Christian sense cannot be represented on earth by the power organization of a political society” and “The immanentist pride in science is so strong that even special sciences have each left a distinguishable sediment in the variants of salvation through physics, economics, sociology, biology, and psychology.”
Modernism, in whatever guise, then, is always marked by three principal beliefs: (1) Moral autonomy: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul” (William Ernest Henley [1849-1903]) — not that I belong to God, finding purpose and peace in His will. (2) Despotism: Because, ultimately, there is no ultimate, all standards depend upon secular power, not upon divine wisdom. (3) Vengeance: Those who believe in a beneficent God and in the natural moral law, available to us through Revelation and Right Reason, will, in due time, be judged — and punished — as enemies of the state.
“Man is the measure of all things,” Protagoras told us. But Plato responded, No: God, not man, is the measure of all things. In that crucial exchange are the seeds of the bitter fruits we have had been consuming for 2,000 years. The first lie, after all, was that God was a liar (Gen. 3:4-5); and the man who supinely agreed to the murder of God could not, or would not, discern Truth-in-the-flesh (John 18:38).
Modernism is barbarism with iPods; and modernists are heathens in designer dress (or, ironically, in the burqa). Modernism seeks to build again the Tower of Babel, even knowing that it will be used as a gulag in which millions are murdered in worship of ideological Molochs who promise immanent paradise (cf. CCC nn. 396-409; Matt. 24:3-5). The messianic governor of this heaven-on-earth will be a “political savior” (whether Duce, Fuhrer, Vozhd, Caliph, or Great Helmsman), whom one may not doubt or question. Political liberalism is a form of millennialism, which is the heart of the blasphemy of modernism. Expect no stake to be driven through that apostatical heart until Christ’s return, finally defeating the barbarian armies (Rev. 19:11-211; CCC, n. 830) and the false “human gods” who lead them.

III

Have we become the new Canaanites? Is there anything which they did which we do not now celebrate? Leviticus 18 tells us some of the “abominable” practices of the Canaanites, including incest, bestiality, child sacrifice, adultery, and homosexuality. The Canaanites “did all these disgusting things and made the land unclean, but you [Israelites] must not do them. [Keep God’s commands] and then the land will not reject you, as it rejected the pagans who lived there before you. You know that whoever does any of these disgusting things will no longer be considered one of God’s people” (Lev. 18:26-29 GNB).
As Mark Giszczak points out in Light on the Dark Passages of Scripture: “Before implementing a last-resort plan of judgment, God granted the Canaanites ample time to repent and turn away from their evil practices. But because they persisted, the Lord decided to punish their culture and destroy their religion using human agents.”
As we celebrate our sodomitic society and note that abortions globally are in the range of fifteen million a year, we hear the stentorian voices, including very many Catholics, shouting that we are making “progress.” First, however, the ceremonial laws and the judicial decrees of the Old Testament concluded with the fulfillment of Jesus, but the moral law of the Old Testament has never changed (Matt. 5:17-18, Luke 16:17); and, second, the notion that the progressive institutionalization of mortal sin merits celebration is not delightful, but diabolical.
Recently, a pro-abortion politician shouted that she had had an abortion — a declaration which elicited loud cheering from the crowd. Imagine! Someone confesses that she killed her child and is gleefully applauded by the mob. Confronted with such ochlocracy, the hope that our self-proclaimed but Judas-like Catholic politicians might finally recognize and confront the moral horrors among us seems, at best, forlorn. They are our leaders; they must follow the crowd.
We live at a time and in a place where, also, certain priests of Christ not only accept, but applaud, some of the Canaanite morality which Scripture calls an abomination (Lev. 18:22). The barbarians are among us; some wear collars or bear mitres (cf. Psalm 55:14-15, Matt. 10:36, and Acts 20:28-30). We beseech God to protect us, especially from the ravages of the savage wolves (Acts 28:29) who are the foes – heathen — who celebrate the vices of Canaan, calling evil good and good, evil (Isaiah 5:20).
“There will be terrifying times in the last days. People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud,…ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power. Reject them” (2 Tim. 3:1-5 NAB).
Those we ought to reject, though, are much too often present in our pulpits; in our schools, colleges, and seminaries, and in our publications (cf. Eph. 2:2). The secular world loves these people, who essentially say that nothing pleasurable can be sinful. We may thus be reminded of Chesterton’s incisive remark that the problem with Christians today is that the world doesn’t hate us enough (cf. John 15:19).
St. Paul’s assurance that the barbarians’ folly “will be plain to all” and that “they will not get very far” (2 Tim. 3:9) has been proved true repeatedly in history, but if these are, in fact, the days rather immediately preceding the Parousia, we also have the admonition that we are at the doorstep of apostasy and of a “pseudo-Messianism [a utopianism] by which man glorifies himself in place of God” (CCC, n. 675). Are these not signs of the times?
This is not to call for another herem (“the Ban”), a war waged to destroy all that was evil, leaving nothing for booty or gain (as in Num. 21:2, 31:1-24; Deut. 20:16-18; Joshua 6:21, 11:20; 1 Samuel 15:1-3). As Giszczak reminds us, however, “the justification for this ‘ban’ is that the people who inhabit the land [the Canaanites] might teach the Israelites to follow their false religion and worship false gods.” Giszczak points that that in Gen. 15:16, God informed Abraham that “the iniquity of the Amorites [a Canaanite people group] is not yet complete. The Lord brings judgment on the Canaanites’ culture and religion but waits [in vain] for centuries for them to turn to [H]im before [H]e acts.” Are we not too often deceitfully taught today? Do we not frequently worship Moloch and Mammon rather than almighty God (cf. Exodus 20:3)?
Can any reasonably well-informed Christian conclude anything other than that God waits and waits and waits (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Tim. 2:4) for us to repent, to turn to Him, and to amend our disgraceful ways (cf. Psalm 81:11-12)? Is it not presumptuous in the extreme to think that God will withhold His righteous anger much longer (cf. Hab. 1:1-11; Luke 21:12, John 15:21)?

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