June 2016

A Radical Rehabilitation of a Proto-Hippie

It is refreshing to encounter a reading of Henry David Thoreau that eschews reductionist interpretations and appreciates the tensions in his writings (“A Radical Recalibration of the Moral Economy” by Kenneth Colston, April). Thoreau offered a beautiful vision of a simple life, but his animosity toward human community and history can leave his readers with a bitter taste in their mouths. This is in part why I was shocked to learn from Colston’s article that Thomas Merton adored Thoreau. While Thoreau was not thoroughly anti-Catholic, he was very critical of the clergy. Writing about his trip to Montreal in the fall of 1850, he said, “The Catholic are the only churches which I have seen worth remembering, which are not almost wholly profane.” But a page later he wrote, “These Roman Catholics, priests and all, impress me as a people who have fallen far behind the significance of their symbols.”

Adopting Thoreau’s Walden as a kind of practical economic example also has its limits. Yes, he challenges us to resist materialism and excess and to appreciate the extent to which our lives impact the well-being of the natural, non-human world. But I’m not sure we should, as Colston suggests, “bracket out Thoreau’s blindness to man as a social being,” as it undermines much of Thoreau’s otherwise positive recommendations. Indeed, the extent to which Thoreau’s own example is practical is that we do it in the context of communities and families. The wood for Thoreau’s cabin was repurposed, he needed the assistance of his neighbors to raise the walls, and he borrowed tools and purchased food from others in Concord. Simplicity is made possible by a community, the greatest example of this occurring in the early Church (Acts 4:32-37).

Thoreau also, perhaps unexpectedly, knew how to use the market and competition to improve the well-being of his family. Through his own innovations in graphite composition, he significantly improved his family’s pencil business and forced other manufacturers out of the market.

Thoreau continues to inspire and provoke, and there is much to admire in his works. He teaches us to live deliberately, to appreciate the intangible depth of reality, and to celebrate the beauty of our common home.

Joshua Bowman
Monroe, Michigan






Kenneth Colston has labored thoughtfully to recruit Henry David Thoreau into Catholic ranks by declaring him a “master of Catholic social thinking,” albeit an “unlikely” one. Colston has indeed clued out some similarities, above all the human right to joyful work and the call to reduced consumerism.

Being outside the Catholic community, though in sympathy with many of its aspects, I appreciate Colston’s ingenious yet candid inclusivity. Yet I have my misgivings about this proto-hippie, Thoreau. So does Colston. He chastises Thoreau’s arrogant mean-spiritedness toward his poor Catholic neighbor and his disdain for family life and children. Indeed, Thoreau himself tells an Iranian fable in Walden (probably somewhat redacted) that, possibly unconsciously, conveys his low opinion of propagation: Of all the lofty trees created by God, none are called “free” but the cypress, which bears no fruit. What explains this mystery? The answer is that the producing trees have their blooming and their withered season, but the cypress flourishes always. So be a free man, like the cypress — a “religious independent.”

Thoreau is certainly short on reverence. I don’t recall whom he is quoting in the sentence in which he says that “most men…have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to ‘glorify God and enjoy him forever,’” but I recognize this “hasty conclusion” as Thomas Aquinas’s in the Summa Theologiae (I-II, q.4).

The title of Colston’s article is “A Radical Recalibration of the Moral Economy,” and much of it refers to Thoreau’s first chapter in Walden, called “Economy,” which is, to my taste, not so much a moral but a moralistic beginning — that is, a preachment about preferences. Now, I think that he was too young (just 28) for this office when he went into (spurious) seclusion at Walden Pond. Thoreau himself refers to the narrowness of his experience. To be sure, a man of Tocqueville’s stature could, at the same age, travel our continent to appreciate and critique it. But whence comes Thoreau’s right to know that “most men live lives of quiet desperation” or “mean and sneaky” lives? Or to the self-canceling assertion of aging hippies (he was himself 30 by then) that “I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors”?

Nor does Walden seem to me “radical.” Colston, as does Thoreau himself, refers to Tho­reau’s sojourn as an “experiment.” Now, people in the truly radical mode don’t, I think, regard themselves as experimenting — a way which, unless made earnest by experimental protocol, trivializes the undertaking, or rather embellishes it with false dignity. Consider “experimenting with drugs” or engaging in “educational experiments” on the backs of guinea-pig students. These are unserious efforts you expect to enjoy and walk away from, as Thoreau did from Walden Pond after 24 months. Radicality is thinking things out, down to the roots, and sticking with them, retreat not being an option.

Accordingly, Walden is a charming, puckish, delightfully detailed account of a pretended wilderness experience (with the train whistling by) in pretended solitude (plenty of visitors) and pretended self-sufficiency (borrowed tools on land lent by his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson). But, as always, Kenneth Colston induces re-reading and thinking out.

Eva Brann
Annapolis, Maryland






I enjoyed Kenneth Colston’s juxtaposition of Thoreau with Pope Leo XIII. Colston writes that Thoreau’s views on the work ethic, etc., didn’t get much enthusiasm until the youth of the 1960s bought into it. Does that mean they were “Thoreaubacks”? What happened to them? Where are they now? Thoreau would say they turned 30 and decided it was better to run the show.

Terence J. Hughes
Fort Pierre, South Dakota






I have one correction to contribute to Kenneth Colston’s interesting article on Thoreau: Ralph Waldo Emerson was not the founder of Unitarianism. Although the Transcendental movement and Unitarianism seem to be inextricably linked, unitarianism (small “u”), in some form or another, existed as a heresy from the early centuries of the Church. The sect existed in England and was always considered heretical by the established Protestant churches because of its denial of the divinity of Jesus. Emerson’s own father was, in fact, a Unitarian minister.

Long before the Transcendentalists, and just after the Revolutionary period, along came a young man named Hosea Ballou, son of an itinerant Baptist preacher (common in the sparsely populated areas of rural New England) in the town in which I reside, Richmond, New Hampshire. Hosea studied his father’s Bible and found no evidence of eternal damnation therein. He determined that, at some point, every human would enter Heaven and gain eternal salvation. Hosea became an outcast both in his own family and in the Boston area where he served as the first Universalist minister. He was derided publicly as a heretic, even by Protestant Calvinist standards. If one visits our little town, one can see the historical marker denoting “Ballou’s Dell” where the Ballou family lived and farmed. It is still a common family name in these parts.

In 1961 the Unitarian and Universalist churches consolidated to form the UUA — the Unitarian Universalist Church of America.

You can find the complete story of this interesting local gentleman, told from the Catholic viewpoint, at www.catholicism.org/hosea-ballou-universalism.html. He is historically the best-known citizen of Richmond, New Hampshire.

Eleonore D. Villarrubia
Richmond, New Hampshire




KENNETH COLSTON REPLIES:

In this age hurtling toward post-literacy, I am all the more grateful for careful readers. My thanks, therefore, to Terence J. Hughes for his clever pun, to Eleonore Villarrubia for her correction about Unitarianism, and to Joshua Bowman and Eva Brann for their penetrating additions and revisions to an elusive Thoreau, whom I attempted to ally with traditional Catholic wisdom on a narrow but fertile common ground. Brann and Bowman add yet more texture to an already complicated portrait, but I still look up to a flawed Thoreau for the possible and concrete small-is-beautiful little way, now raised to an urgent magisterial imperative urbi et orbi, and no longer merely a short-lived experiment of a snarky imagination more poetic than thorough.





That Enigmatic Union

Joseph Cornwall’s guest column “The Theology of Dance” (March) was absolutely beautiful. I grew up going to dancing school and I enjoyed dances and proms in high school and college. These were real ballroom partner dances. Partner dancing was all we knew back in the 1950s.

After describing partner danci­ng, with the man leading and the woman responding, Corn­wall explains that this leads to cooperation, “which in the end expresses a wholeness that encompasses both partners’ qualities.” After developing this concept beautifully, Cornwall goes on to say, “That two may become one — that enigmatic union, transcendent beyond the physical, finds visible expression in partner dancing.”

My husband, Jack, and I have been partner dancing in a new way since he went to Our Lord two years ago, and I believe he took half of me with him. We were married for 56 years and raised six children, who are now raising 19 children of their own. I think a lot about the beauty of our life together, how we became two in one flesh in Our Lord and cherished our Catholic faith together. We are still partner dancing together, with Jack in Heaven and me on earth (for now), and looking forward to dancing together in Heaven in God’s good time.

Joan C. Pendergast
Providence, Rhode Island






It was enlightening to read references to “transcendence” and “immanence” associated with man and woman, respectively, and how the two connect beautifully when dancing with mutual respect for each other and for God’s law. Joseph Cornwall has put into perspective deep philosophical and theological aspects of our humanity.

Fr. Sal S. Vahi
Washington, D.C.




The Suppression of an Obvious Threat

Please accept my compliments on your three recent New Oxford Notes on the dangers of mass Muslim immigration to the West, “Giving an Appearance of Solidity to Pure Wind” (Jan.-Feb.), “Barbarians Inside the Gates” (March), and “Looking Beyond Malalapalooza” (April). Together they present what I have long considered self-evident truths about Islam that are seldom, if ever, reflected in the offerings of the mainstream media. The suppression by the media and most public officials of the obvious threat posed by Islam to our country and all of Western society is shameful and incomprehensible. But the NOR, as it so often does, has met the challenge and set the record straight. Thank you for being there for us. Keep up the good work.

Henry Borger
Laurel, Maryland




Beyond Insulting

Wow! The NOR editor’s insulting response (letters, April) regarding my questions about why we must de rigueur attack the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) confirms I did the right thing by canceling my subscription. Being a 15-year subscriber and supporter of the NOR gets you a boot print on your derrière from Pieter Vree and associates because you refuse to join in their witch hunt of the SSPX. 

Be assured, I will do my job to tell others NOT to support the NOR any longer. It is the very “elitist, exclusivist, and irrelevant” group it eschews. It is also beyond insulting that they hurl epithets at those who try to bring some sense to the conflict.

Adios, NOR!

E.J. Speciale
San Jose, California




THE EDITOR REPLIES:

In his April letter, Mr. Speciale said that the NOR “has lost its steel,” is not “considered relevant,” that we “skewer” the SSPX so we can “feel better” about ourselves, and that we “eat our own.” Yet he accuses us of being insulting? How, pray tell, does any of the above qualify as “bringing some sense to the conflict”? Physician, heal thyself!

We challenge readers to find anything in our April reply that’s as “insulting” as what Mr. Speciale said about us. Indeed, we chose not to exchange tit for tat with him, saying instead that “people love it when we call a spade a spade — except when they’re the ones with the spade in their hands (the spade being the SSPX in this case).” Mr. Speciale has proven this observation correct. We can only conclude that he’s insulted because we dared to disagree with him. In this he has inadvertently disclosed one of the fundamental problems with the traditionalist movement: It detests debate, preferring imposed intellectual conformity.

As for the charge of losing our steel: We could have easily clamped down on this topic and not let any readers air their opinions, either for or against the SSPX — and nobody would have been the wiser. That would have been a sign that we’ve lost our steel. But we enjoy the exchange of ideas — it’s what we do. The NOR doesn’t exist to regurgitate the party line of any society, order, wing, branch, or rump of the Church.





A Sapless Branch

Thank you for promoting dialogue in the past several issues regarding the SSPX (letters). Here are my two cents: The SSPX is mostly correct in its assessment of Vatican II. It would be naïve not to suspect that something went terribly awry within the Council based on the ambiguities in its documents and the “fruits” they produced. The very same type of ambiguity was recently employed in the Synod on the Family. Such ambiguity leads the faithful to question what exactly is being said, and it leads those who seek change to say, “You didn’t say no, so you must mean yes.” For example, the Vatican II document Dignitatis Humanae makes it easy for Catholics to come away with a completely erroneous understanding of conscience and so-called religious liberty.

Though there is a lot with which one can sympathize regarding the SSPX, the fatal error of its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was that, in committing an act of juridical disobedience by consecrating bishops without papal approval, he hamstrung his entire mission, cutting it off from the Church and thereby severely undermining its effectiveness. It could have been the mustard seed from whence grew a tree. Instead, it became a sapless branch, particularly vulnerable in drawing unto itself those types who thrive on categorical beliefs and the imperious pride of being “right” and “in the know.” This disobedience and its related attitudes make the SSPX repellent to those of genuine piety who would have given the Society true power to convert others.

SSPX members are fond of saying that if it hadn’t been for them, the liturgical traditions of the Church would have been lost after Vatican II. Yet there are at least two societies today — the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest — that are entirely devoted to the preservation of the Tridentine Latin Mass and that exist within the Church.

The SSPX has great potential, yet its mortal weakness is written into its foundational DNA. It represents a form of Protestantism characterized by an inability to see that Christ remains and works in and through His Church, even when the Church is being led by the gravest of sinners who propagate scandal and downright heresy. This lack of faith is what gave rise to the SSPX, a “reformed” society that believes it is safely sterilized from the rot within the greater Church. And, tragically, sterile it remains.

Mary Wlazlo
Casper, Wyoming






As a longtime reader, I’ve enjoyed the ongoing and thought-provoking debate on the SSPX. My feelings toward this group are mixed: I think their hearts are in the right place, though I have serious doubts as to whether their brains are. But I do not wish to take sides in this controversy.

I do, however, strongly support the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, two orders that offer the Tridentine Mass exclusively while remaining in good standing with the Vatican and that continue to flourish without outside interference. The SSPX would be wise to follow their example.

I would like to hear the editor’s opinion regarding the above-mentioned orders. It would do much to clarify his stand concerning the traditionalist movement in general and could conceivably heal some wounds within our own ranks. We are all seeking the same goal — namely, the full restoration of undiluted Catholicism — and it is in our approaches that we frequently differ.

Arthur R. Ahrens
Chicago, Illinois




THE EDITOR REPLIES:

In a word, we’re all for them. As we stated in our reply to R.J. Mattes Jr. (April): We’re not writing from any particular agenda vis-à-vis the traditionalist movement. It, like everything else in the Church, should go under the microscope. We’ve come to learn, however, that that’s not a place many traditionalists like to be. Hence the numerous cancelations we’ve endured (see, for example, E.J. Speciale’s letter above and Susan Rattray’s letter below).

A closer look reveals that a lot of extraneous stuff has crept into the traditionalist movement — e.g., hatred of Pope St. John Paul II (and Pope Francis); Fatima fundamentalism; and a rigorist, more-Catholic-than-thou attitude. This is what has prevented it from gaining any real foothold in the greater Church and securing a place for traditional liturgical celebrations. That said, we love the Tridentine Latin Mass and wish it were celebrated more widely — in every parish, if possible. This is a worthwhile pursuit. It’s the excess baggage weighing down the traditionalist movement that we don’t like.





Who Are the Real Schismatics?

Since Vatican II there has been a growing rift among Catholics, demonstrated by the often bitter conflict between advocates for the Tridentine Mass and for the Novus Ordo Missae and by the formation of the SSPX. Although acrimonious, these arguments do not address the root cause of the division, which has to do with Catholic doctrine.

There seems to be reluctant but general agreement that loyalty to Catholic doctrine is in decline. There is quite a bit of evidence that the problem started at the top. Doctrinal leadership has been and is woefully lacking. The Church stopped teaching its doctrine after Vatican II, apparently in the interest of ecumenism.

The overwhelming approval of same-sex marriage in Ireland, presumably a Catholic nation, indicates how little today’s Catholics know of their Church’s doctrine due to this decline in instruction. The Cardinal Newman Society has reported that only about ten percent of Catholic institutions of higher learning have signed on to the mandatum issued by Pope St. John Paul II concerning the teaching of Catholic doctrine. Either the great majority of bishops no longer accepts Catholic doctrine or they are afraid to speak up.

Many people charge the SSPX with being in schism since its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, consecrated four bishops in the face of papal disapproval. This raises many questions: What is schism and just who are the schismatics? Is schism the act of breaking away from the pope or is it breaking away from Church doctrine? Then who is a Catholic? Is it he who follows the pope down a contemporary path or is it he who holds to doctrine? According to my hypothesis, a Catholic is one who follows Church doctrine. Therefore, the schismatic group is not the minority that follows traditional doctrine but the majority that does not.

However, this is a losing argument, for there is another hypothesis that almost everyone denies but is almost always true: Might makes right. If the majority of Catholics who reject Church doctrine insist that they are the real Catholics, then the minority will have to find another name.

In sum, there is a profound and apparently irreparable fracture in the Catholic Church that no one wants to admit exists. This has happened before, during the Reformation. The difference between then and now is this: During the Reformation, those who disagreed with Church doctrine left the Church. Today, it is the adherents who must leave.

William A. Stimson
Charlottesville, Virginia




THE EDITOR REPLIES:

Mr. Stimson’s supposedly complex questions actually have rather simple answers. We need only look to authoritative sources for satisfaction, in this case, canon law (presuming Mr. Stimson’s “minority” of “adherents” still adheres to canon law).

Who is a Catholic? Canon 205 says: “Those baptized are fully in communion with the Catholic Church on this earth who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of profession of faith, of the sacraments and ecclesiastical government.” One must follow both Catholic doctrine (profession of faith) and the pope (ecclesiastical government), as well as receive valid sacraments (a point of uncertainty with the SSPX at this time).

Who are the schismatics? Canon 751 says: “Schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.” Schismatics, therefore, are those who break away from the pope (who, by virtue of his ability to exercise the authority of the Church’s Magisterium, defines doctrine) and the “majority” of whom Mr. Stimson speaks. If you refuse to submit to the pope or reject communion with the body of the faithful — the Catechism defines Church as “the ‘convocation’ or ‘assembly’ of the People God has called together ‘from the ends of the earth’” — then you have placed yourself in schism.

Regardless of how “woeful” doctrinal instruction might be at any given point in ecclesiastical history, the Church will ever remain indefectible — she cannot lose or be stripped of her nature and identity, despite the defects of her leaders and/or members. She will always be Holy Mother Church. Christ Himself guaranteed this. However, we individuals, and even groups of individuals, within the Church can lose our identity as Catholics.





Off the Mark

In his article “Traditionalist & Progressive Totalitarians in the Church” (April), Richard Upsher Smith Jr. claims that “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.” Thus, Smith posits the individual will as the primary source of one’s decision-making, whether one pursues Nazism, Marxism, socialism, or capitalism.

Smith is, however, well off the mark. He fails to make an important distinction in applying this analysis to the Catholic Church. He notes correctly that the progressive creed is fed primarily by personal feelings, emotions, and desires (rather than by rational reflection), which then impels the will to seek its implementation. In their thought processes, progressives rely on major modern existentialist philosophers, such as Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Smith then strongly but mistakenly claims that the liturgical controversies within the Catholic Church are similarly guided.

Catholic traditionalists, however, following St. Thomas Aquinas, derive their creed primarily from logical analysis and inquiry, which forces the intellect to accept objective truth.

Because the “pull of the will” based on feelings and emotions is irrational, it creates only subjective truth. It is, rather, the “push by the mind” that forces the intellect to accept objective truth. Thus, 2 + 2 = 4 always, regardless of what other total one might will it to be. By dethroning reason (a function of spirit and the soul) in favor of human sensory knowledge, progressives developed a flawed theory that accents God’s humanity rather than His divinity, and His immanence (in this world) rather than His transcendence (out there in Heaven), leading to pantheism and the hegemony of the environment.

As a result of the above distinctions, it can be seen that the internal friction within the Church is not properly viewed as a battle between progressives and traditionalists but more accurately as a battle between authentic Catholics (i.e., those who believe the rational and logically formed perennial truths of the Church) and dissenters (i.e., those whose personal desires alone impel them to seek to change doctrine).

Rudolph Lohse
The Villages, Florida






Thank you for promoting dialogue in the past several issues regarding the SSPX (letters). Here are my two cents: The SSPX is mostly correct in its assessment of Vatican II. It would be naïve not to suspect that something went terribly awry within the Council based on the ambiguities in its documents and the “fruits” they produced. The very same type of ambiguity was recently employed in the Synod on the Family. Such ambiguity leads the faithful to question what exactly is being said, and it leads those who seek change to say, “You didn’t say no, so you must mean yes.” For example, the Vatican II document Dignitatis Humanae makes it easy for Catholics to come away with a completely erroneous understanding of conscience and so-called religious liberty.

Though there is a lot with which one can sympathize regarding the SSPX, the fatal error of its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was that, in committing an act of juridical disobedience by consecrating bishops without papal approval, he hamstrung his entire mission, cutting it off from the Church and thereby severely undermining its effectiveness. It could have been the mustard seed from whence grew a tree. Instead, it became a sapless branch, particularly vulnerable in drawing unto itself those types who thrive on categorical beliefs and the imperious pride of being “right” and “in the know.” This disobedience and its related attitudes make the SSPX repellent to those of genuine piety who would have given the Society true power to convert others.

SSPX members are fond of saying that if it hadn’t been for them, the liturgical traditions of the Church would have been lost after Vatican II. Yet there are at least two societies today — the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest — that are entirely devoted to the preservation of the Tridentine Latin Mass and that exist within the Church.

The SSPX has great potential, yet its mortal weakness is written into its foundational DNA. It represents a form of Protestantism characterized by an inability to see that Christ remains and works in and through His Church, even when the Church is being led by the gravest of sinners who propagate scandal and downright heresy. This lack of faith is what gave rise to the SSPX, a “reformed” society that believes it is safely sterilized from the rot within the greater Church. And, tragically, sterile it remains.

Susan Rattray
Richmond, California






Richard Upsher Smith Jr.’s article reminded me, a pastor implementing Laudato Si’, not to get lost in the weeds of line items, not least because such misadventure is clearly inconsistent with the manner and intent of Pope Francis’s teaching.

Even so, Smith’s alternatives — ontological dependence versus pantheism — miss the subtler, false-evangelical appeal of both traditionalism and progressivism. Smith favorably quotes John D. Mueller’s description of Marxist, libertarian, and supply-side economics as “the mating call of pantheism…a genuine but misguided religious impulse.” While Mueller’s religious analogy might work in its original context, Smith treats the more aggressively politicized economic ideologies — e.g., an implicit Leninism or Maoism rather than a philosophical Marxism. Combative ideologies don’t compare well with the confidence (or at least Stoic quiescence) of pantheism.

Instead, these ideologies are better understood as perversions of the Gospel — retaining the urgency of salvific doctrine but jettisoning faith in victory already won and in enduring solidarity with the sovereign Lord. Absent such faith, embedded errors grow carcinogenic, converting ideas into totalitarian ideologies with an imperative to save the world even through bloodshed and devastation.

Thus also theological progressives and traditionalists may profess allegiance to, say, the Second Vatican Council or the “Magisterium of all time,” while for each — in the absence of fides qua creditor — its doctrines take on antagonistic meanings. Seeking to save the past from the future, or the future from the past, displaces God with man in order to save the Church of the God-man from man. The appeal is not a pantheistic holism but a false-messianic campaign to defeat the imagined enemy and attain worldly vindication.

So Smith rightly indicts indocility and the denial of contingency and dependence. But intellectual errors do not merely assert errant wills: They manifest also grave moral error, pride — eagerness to render premature judgment, to pre-empt the true Judge.

Among Pope Francis’s virtues is the habit of acknowledging his own contingency. Regardless of how his personal inclinations may be manifest, or how salient his criticisms, his major documents nevertheless put a premium on “dialogue.” They reflect in this way a docile spirit and receptivity to correction. Not merely in his teaching, then, but in his own person, Pope Francis may be the Lord’s tool for remedying the absolutism of the past century.

Rev. David G. Poecking, Pastor
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish
Carnegie, Pennsylvania




RICHARD UPSHER SMITH JR. REPLIES:

Goethe’s Faust exclaimed, “Feeling is all; / Names are but sound and smoke / Befogging heaven’s blazes.” This is Faust’s rejection of the ancient and medieval philosophical traditions in favor of a life, culture, and politics grounded in natural feeling and an ever-unsatisfied striving. Rudolph Lohse is quite right to point, in his own way, to the radical distinction in late modernity to which Goethe gives voice. It was a watershed down the lee side of which the Church militant, having crossed it with the rest of the world, has had to make its way in hopes of finding better watered plains below.

On its journey down the dry mountainside of postmodernity, a period which can be taken to have begun with Feuerbach and Marx, the Church militant has, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, remained rational, and has also maintained its long tradition of hallowing the feelings through ascetical discipline (unlike the denomination from which I converted, Anglicanism, which lost its mind in the 1930s and lost its morals not long afterwards). The popes of the past century and the present century have uniformly guarded the mind, morals, and feelings of Catholics, and I take the present Holy Father’s Laudato Si’ as representative of this rational tradition. Thus, if Mr. Lohse and I disagree at all, it would be about where and how we should draw the line between reason and feeling.

It is ironic that I am one of those converts, to whom Susan Rattray refers, who attend the extraordinary form of the Mass. But I do not attend it because I think it is “superior” to the Novus Ordo at achieving its goal: our sacramental sanctification. I referred to SSPXers in the first place in speaking of traditionalists; but many traditionalists, it seems to me, like Ms. Rattray apparently, elevate the accidents of the Mass above its substance, which are matters of sentiment, taste, or feeling.

Fr. David G. Poecking argues that “pantheism” is too tame a term for the evil of Leninism and Maoism and therefore gets the postmodern dichotomy ? “ontological dependence versus pantheism” (his summary of my position) ? wrong. Of course, my argument on pantheism was meant merely to establish a correlation among communism, Nazism, and capitalism as totalitarianisms that men saw as “the total theoretical explanation and practical plan for life” and by which men tried to gear God to the wagon of “the absolute will of the most representative class of humanity according to the theory.” Moreover, pantheism is not necessarily a “Stoic quiescence.” The pantheism that Faust espoused was a “striving” to avoid quiet and rest, a ceaseless activity to be as gods, even though the effort would, and should, have no end and find no rest. Thus, I think that Fr. Poecking’s analysis of the virulence of the competing ideologies is not incompatible with mine.

To be sure, Fr. Poecking might have made explicit the objection that a capitalist revolution has never descended to the levels of hellish activity that the communist and Nazi revolutions (1917 and 1933, respectively) did. However, this seems a matter of historical accident. The English Revolution of 1688 and the American Revolution of 1776 occurred in much different historical circumstances. Moreover, the French Revolution of 1789, also a bourgeois, capitalist revolution in Burke’s analysis, did reach the lowest levels of hell. Thus, in essence, as regards totalitarianism, and without regard to historical circumstances, communism, Nazism, and capitalism have the same dynamic, in my view.




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