Traditionalist & Progressive Totalitarians in the Church

April 2016By Richard Upsher Smith Jr.

Richard Upsher Smith Jr. teaches classics and honors at Franciscan University of Steubenville. After serving for nineteen years in the Anglican ministry, he converted to Catholicism in 2001. He recently published Ecclesiastical, Medieval, and Neo-Latin Sentences: Designed to Accompany Wheelock’s Latin (Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2013).

“Blessed are those who endure [weakness and tribulation] in peace, / for by Thee, Most Highest, they will be crowned.” — St. Francis of Assisi

Vasily Grossman’s great novel Life and Fate (1959) exposes the commonality of the great totalitarian movements of the twentieth-century, though they understood themselves to be antagonists. As the Nazi interrogator Liss says to the old Marxist Mostovskoy, “When we look one another in the face, we’re neither of us just looking at a face we hate — no, we’re gazing in a mirror. That’s the tragedy of our age. Do you really not recognize yourselves in us — yourselves and the strength of your will? Isn’t it true that for you too the world is your will? Is there anything that can make you waver?”

Twentieth-century politics and economics tended toward totalitarianism. It did not matter whether one were a fascist or a communist or a capitalist, for whichever creed one believed in, one believed in it absolutely — as the total theoretical explanation and practical plan for life.

Of course, if a capitalist initiate had been told by Liss that capitalism and Nazism were mirror images of each other, he would have recoiled from the thought, as Mostovskoy did. The capitalist, however — still rooted in bourgeois morality — would not have been tempted by it as the old Marxist was. And yet these seemingly disparate groups do share some fundamentals in common. As economist John D. Mueller wrote in Redeeming Economics: Rediscovering the Missing Element (2010), “Marxists, libertarians, and even some of my fellow supply-siders — who couldn’t agree on anything else” are united in “their exaggerated admiration for Adam Smith.” What is it about Smith that they find so attractive? “It’s the mating call of pantheism,” Mueller concludes. “The only thing they disagree about is which collective body — Marx’s proletariat, the libertarian’s unfettered market, or the supply-sider Jude Wanniski’s ‘global electorate’ — best expresses the mind of God. We are dealing with a genuine but misguided religious impulse.” And lest the reader think that these observations apply only to communists and capitalists, Adolf Eichmann confessed himself a pantheist too, at the end of his life.

Just as the totalitarian impetus of Nazism and Marxism is clear, so it is manifest in capitalism, for the unfettered market is the expression of the absolute individual human will, while the “global electorate” expresses the absolute will of the many. In each of these cases, God has been harnessed as the absolute will of the most representative class of humanity according to the theory.

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This is the only article I've seen that contains "a stroke of genius" and "Pope Francis" in the same sentence. Posted by: j17ghs
May 21, 2016 07:37 PM EDT
To paraphrase Malcolm Muggeridge: it is difficult indeed to fathom the confusion that would provoke such an article as this.

Mr. Smith is confused about politics, confused about economics, confused about history, and confused about "private judgement" and nature of the traditionalist movement.

It's like he's just making it all up; there is no rigor, no understanding of principles et cetera; and so the reader is left to ponder just a raft of contradictions, fallacies, errors and vagueness, all wrapped up in cloying language that obfuscates rather than delineates, parses and instructs.

Which is all very Bergoglio-esque of course.

Posted by: Micawber
May 05, 2016 10:52 AM EDT
The loss of 20 million souls to Holy Mother Church in the last 30 years is the responsibility of those sitting in this room. The opening remark of Bishop Bartholomew of Braga, Portugal given at the 4th Council of Trent. History has repeated itself by those dissidents from the traditional faith who have cleverly wormed their way into the chancelleries, ordained or lay, and disingenuously interpreted the documents of Vatican Council II to fit their own agenda. A second generation of dissidents is poised to do the same with this newest encyclical on the family. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI very carefully instructed that any development of teaching should be organic. Any conflict with previous teachings ultimately undermines the claim of authority to speak the truth, in all seasons. Those who point out poorly written statements which are in conflict with tradition, whether it be 50 years or 1000 years have a right to be alarmed. How many clever dissidents participated in the formulation of this potentially confusing document? Posted by: lilio31
May 05, 2016 03:26 PM EDT
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