FIGHTING THE ENEMIES OF TRADITION IN CHURCH AND STATE, AT HOME AND IN EUROPE
by The Editor
A talk given by Christopher Gillibrand to the Traditional Britain Group in the Autumn of 2010.
"I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they did not wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority."
So said Lord Acton after the declaration of the Infallibility of the Pope in 1870, to which he so bitterly opposed and which is rather so applicable to so much wider a constituency today. And it is the presumption of the elites in their attack on traditional forms and institutions (which Blessed Pius IX could never be found guilty of, at least in his later years, when he had overcome an unfortunate tendency to liberalism in his early ecclesiastical career) that I am here to condemn today, notwithstanding the fact that traditionalism since 1855 has been a condemned proposition of the Catholic Church, when the Curia sought and obtained corrections to the erroneous views of one poor Augustin Bonnetty on matters of faith and reason. But there again, there is one notorious Papal document condemning polyphony, which will never do, not least because that the present Pope, with his profound aesthetic and musical sense would himself be condemned. Blessed Pope Pius IX even managed to condemn himself when he did not observe his own strict prohibitions on protestant service in Catholic lands in his own Papal states.
If by chance, that my excommunication is sought, I would defend myself that traditionalism, divided off from Scripture and the teaching of the Church is indeed an error. My objections are based on the removal of traditionalism from that tri-form foundation of truth (Scripture, Tradition, Magisterium) often with the simple device of identifying tradition with the Church, which may have been an appealing idea at the time of the declaration of Papal infallibility but after the Second Vatican Council simply beggars belief. The idea of there being no radical break at the Second Vatican Council, is likewise unsupportable in logic or in historical reality. The Council was not only a break but an unmitigated disaster- an auto-da-fe of all that was good and holy in the Catholic Church. No wonder the Orthodox Church looks on the Catholic Church with such suspicion if they were capable of doing what they did to traditional forms of Catholic life and liturgy. An ecumenism that we can all believe in is solidarity between traditionalists in all communions, Catholic, Orthodox and the Anglo-Catholics.
St Paul has the great gift of making the demands of Christianity real. Faith, hope and charity and the greatest of these is charity. These three are but a derivation of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity, Father, Holy Spirit and Son, to put them in the proper order of analogy. The Trinity cannot be divided, Quicumque vult salvus esse- whosever wishes to be saved, shall hold firm the Catholic Faith, but maybe I am being a little optimistic when I then use the words of James Bond and say that you know the rest of the Creed of St Athanasius.
So likewise Faith, Hope and Charity cannot be separated. It is useless to pray for the Poor Souls in purgatory, no good for you or for them, if in charity, you cannot honour father and mother, yet living or fail in obligations to your neighbour. Incidentally, Our Lord when asked who is our neighbour, answers with the parable of the Good Samaritan- it is somebody who is passed by- so much for the socialist view of universal charity at others people’s expense. And so much, by the way, for the increase in the overseas aid budget, stretching the idea of neighbor to the globalised, all one village world.
But these demands have also to be made real in the ecclesiastical world, so just as I have already described one analogy, Tradition (passed down from the very moment of creation) , the teaching of the Church (inspired by the Holy Spirit) and Scripure (describing the life of the Son, also prefigured in the Old Testament, so many in the Church live in Obedience, Poverty, Chastity- indeed the degree to which this equivalence is valid affects the view of the claims of the Catholic Church- is a nun bound by vows leading a life according to the Gospel and the intent of the Divine Founder.
Turning to the secular world, I would be the first to make claims for the primacy of the spiritual, the idea of the great Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. To ascribe proper realms, and with realms, clear borders to ecclesiastical and political life. However, since the French revolution, we are in the position of the Irishman when asked for directions to Limerick and the United Kingdom Chancellor when seeking to balance the national books, we can’t start from here, given the enormous damage which has been already done to the whole fabric of society, both in institutional and moral aspects.
The reason for this is the utter catastrophe of the French Revolution, which sought to reinvent humanity without faith, hope and charity and to make them free, equal and fraternal.
These three concepts are inconsistent among themselves- no-one apart from the pseudo-Socialist fantasist, Roy Hattersley believes that individuals can be free and equal. Frankly, I don’t need people going around, least of all blood soaked revolutionaries telling me who my neighbour or indeed my brother is. I have a perfectly good identical twin brother, he is a vicar of the progressive kind, and is some sort of socialist. One of those is enough. Anyone who says we are the same person must have totalitarian tendencies.
As I already expressed myself in a speech on Lord Acton to the Von Mises Circle in the European Parliament, the so-called principles of the French revolution have meant more often than not the liberty of domesticated dogs, the fraternity of the wolf pack, and the equality of a flock of sheep.
The Revolution consumes its own. The naïf bleaters after equality go down to the wolves of fraternity or the dogs of liberty depending on the season and the circumstances.
Notoriously, Archbishop Gobel of Paris declared in 1791
Born a man of the people. cure of Potentruy, sent by the clergy to the Estates General, the raised to the Archbishopric of Paris, I have never ceased to obey the people, I accepted the functions which the people formally bestowed on me and now, in obedience to the wishes of the people, I have come here to resign them. I allowed myself to be made a bishop when the people wanted bishops. I cease to be one when the people no longer want them.
He stands in the first of a long line of clerics who crave popular approval at the expense of all else, including truth, crowd pleasers to a man, who have betrayed the faith of the faithful. He was guillotined in 1794, having spent the remaining three years of his life devoted to the cult of reason and as administrator of Paris.
After the 1848 revolution in the next generation, the Bishop of Langres, in the interests of preserving himself in office, declared in favour of institutionalising the French Revolution:
There is nothing more profoundly- indeed, I would say more exclusively Christian than these three words which are incribed on our national flag, liberty, equality, fraternity. Far from repudiating these sublime words, Christianity claims them as its own work, its own creation. It is Christianity and Christianity alone, that has introduced them, that has consecrated them, and caused them to be practiced in the world.
The would come as a great surprise to both the revolutionaries and the Catholics which they martyred, not least among them the Carmelite nuns of Compiegne, whose heroic deaths were the subject of an opera by Poulenc, based on a film script by Georges Bernanos, who himself drew on a novel by Gertrud Le Fort.
Once someone was so outraged with my comments on the modern Catholic Church that he accused me of rejecting the principles of the French Revolution. I pleaded guilty immediately but warned him that the death penalty is illegal in the UK - indeed to restore it, we would have to leave the EU but that is another story- lest he wanted me guillotined.
Not least among the crimes of the French Revolution is the odious sin of regicide. As a tyrant cuts himself off from God, since Bellarmine there has been not just a right but a duty of resistance formulated. The monarch rather derives his or her power from the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The open question, from medieval times, is whether this is intermediated by the Papal office. The English expression of the unmediated power of the monarchs ends up in Anglicanism and in France, the expression was Gallicanism which gave ecclesiastical power to the French monarch. Who among us cannot shed a tear at Burke’s account of the martyred Queen of France.
It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France, then the Dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, glittering like the morning star full of life and splendor and joy.
Oh, what a revolution! and what a heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream, when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor, and of cavaliers! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.
But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom! The unbought grace of life, the cheap defense of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone. It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness.
He who will murder the Monarch, will also crucify Christ the King, who still reigned from the Cross. There are deep ironies in all this. The fiercest opponents of the declaration of Papal infallibility in 1870 were the French minority bishops, many of whom left town rather than take place in the final vote- but it was also French bishops who were among the most vocal supporters, as the Papacy provided a substitute in day to day life for the monarchy that was no longer present.
And all this inhumane bloodletting, was not done in the name of God or of the King, but in the name of the people. This mythology of the collective will of the people is as fantastic as “institutional racism”. Ultimately, this greatest of secular dogmas leads to the persecution of minorities. No wonder its proponents are so keen on human and minority rights- they are trying to deal with their own self-created problem. It is they, not us that would deny them at the drop of a hat. Where were these rights for Catholic adoption agencies? The stern unbending mind of a liberal can be very selective when it comes to rights. The reality is that rights that are not natural but depend on the gift of the state are not rights at all.
In the name of the people, O irony, was inscribed on the Reichstag- all the criminal cases in Germany, in Nazi times and to this day are tried in the name of the people. In reality, the Nazi legal system from 1942 consumed its own children, when it became a capital offence to indulge in un-German activities.
The draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe opened with the idea of “reflecting the will of the citizens” by the time we come to the Lisbon Treaty, the will of the people is only articulated by political parties. It is a matter of legitimacy as much it is of accountability.
Before the revolution the legitimacy derived from God, through Pope and Crown in some relation, and then through the aristocracy to the people. The lawgivers were more often than not beyond the remit of the law. And in any case, much of the law was immutable and in the case of the English based on custom and precedence.
Aquinas indeed taught the following descending division of the law, eternal, divine, natural and finally human laws. Our laws should conform to the eternal and divine and not violate the natural law. And contrary to the modern view, and those of the French revolutionaries, St Paul and indeed Our Lord himself teach that the law from which all other laws derive, has not passed away, rather should be carved on all our hearts.
But now as we hurtle towards an uncertain future, from where can legitimacy be derived. In the United Kingdom, this is of course the symbolic Crown in Parliament- tyranny avoided by the Queen’s actual absence for 364 days a year. But our institutions are under threat, often with the connivance of alleged Conservatives- the negotiating away of the hereditary House of Lords springs immediately to mind. A totally unnecessary defeat- as I said earlier there is not only the right to resist but the duty- something Mr Hague forgot at the time, even if he knew it in the first place.
And yes, the Church of England, once in the words of Blessed Cardinal Newman, by then a Catholic, a bulwark against errors more fundamental than her own, a shadow of its former self- ill-served by Synodical careerists and would not know a Divine Truth if it was being proclaimed by Our Lord and Saviour, himself and in person. The internet has ill-served the Church of England. Each faction now knows the day to day life of the others and they do not like what they see. Comedy has ensued with Cameron criticizing the Church of England for not being supportive of gays rights- just how much more tolerant do they have to be before the PM is happy. What irony- all those Anglicans whose very ecclesiastical life depends on the Act in Restraint of Appeals now cheerfully supporting transfer of secular power after power to the foreign jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and the Court of the First Instance in Luxembourg.
A similar media-mediated effect, but for the good, can be observed in the Catholic Church- the liturgical outrages of the modernists would be described in gory detail in the appendices of obscure traditionalist books - now are there on Youtube for all to see - and most especially Conservative Catholics cannot live in a dream world where no blame attaches to the hierarchy, even up to the Papacy for what has taken place. The last half of John Paul II's Papacy was disastrous- by his own admission had no idea how to govern the Church. He once even said that the notorious modernist Blondel was in fact a hammer of heretics. Given how philosophically Blondel defined truth, this would be rather surprising.
And the UK Monarchy victims likewise along with many others are victims of the media age. Let a little Youtube into your life, and the mystery has definitively run out by the back door. They have survived the typhoon better than the Lords and the Established Church in our own country, but without these two other pillars one has to wonder also about their own endurance.
But there are three profound problems for the project of renaissance or restoration or counter-revolution or what you will. The first is to ensure that the project is not about the restoration of some golden age that never existed rather to create a new age, if you will forgive the expression- perhaps better to say era. Otherwise, we should constitute ourselves as the Antiquarians Club and stop bothering the world with schemes.
The second was known even in 1848. Even as Alfred,. Fürst zu Windischgratz, the reactionary’s reactionary and indeed a man after my own heart was crushing the revolt in Vienna with considerable verve and courage, he complained that there were not enough aristocrats of any moral fibre and competence to form any sort of government. Likewise, the 1870 government of Jules d’Anethan in Belgium collapsed in an aristocratic heap- big on titles, short on basic skills of government.
If it is possible to have a restored House of Lords on a hereditary basis, we only have a limited time or the families will have died out or married out. The alternatives have been proved to be too horrible for words- an assembly of placepersons, of diminishing talent and an elected House of Lords in a perpetual war of legitimacy with the Commons.
Thirdly, the Church of England is no konger in a fit condition for active service of the nation- and the only real alternative, the Catholic Church is hopelessly compromised by the recent abuse scandals on which I am something of an expert. The cases themselves on the whole took place ten years before the Council and ten years after. Just at a time when borders were being broken down by the church, some of their members seemed to think this included moral borders.
The personification of all that is wrong with the modern Church is Cardinal Danneels, the man who went to the last Papal election convinced that he would win it. A liturgical expert who has spent his entire office in hot pursuit of the spirit of age. He who weds the spirit of the age soon becomes a widower, as C S Lewis said. When the present Pope’s brother is on record as saying that Danneels is not Catholic, I suspect he knew much more than he is saying.
It will take another fifty years at least, if at all, for the Church to be in a fit state to be institutionally recognized as the supreme teacher of Faith and Morals which She is. In this generation we are chasing out of power the last generation of people who were young priests and laity at the time of the Council.
This includes the present Pope, whose inglorious role at the Council was to draft a speech for Cardinal Frings which broke the back of the power of the Curia. The core issue was whether people could have an audience in Rome before their books were condemned. As the great Cardinal Ottiavani said. He would not presume to investigate what people were thinking, rather their writings in books claiming to be Catholic. Ironic then that the Pope has been picking up the pieces of the damage which he himself did, as a peritus and a leading light in the German group at the Council. He caused such trouble that he was forbidden from further direct lobbying of Council fathers. Vatican II was indeed the French revolution of the Church- the present Pope is its Napoleon, trying to reconcile conservatives to the fundamentally unacceptable, not least in liturgical matters.
I can explain many things in public life but for the primary role of moral guidance to be given to a church which systematically covered up child abuse would be to ask the impossible. The idea that outside the Church there is no salvation was completely perverted to keep children in abusive situations.
The good news here however is that the modernist Church in its European heartlands will be dead in about twenty five years, leaving behind in places large and vibrant congregations of traditionalists. The German Church, for which figures are available, has been in linear decline since 1944. Apart from a micro-blip, the Second Vatican Council had no effect. A caveat there- the numbers of traditionalists were always fed from the mainstream church- outreach to the great unchurched Masses will be an absolute imperative to prevent traditionalists being washed down the plughole of history with the modernists.
So given the unavailability of the fundamental building blocks of a civilized society, in the words of Tolstoy, when then must be done? All will be relieved that my solution is no Tolstoyan idealism- not least because we would all be in the fields at the crack of dawn and not allowed to touch a drop of alcohol and that would never do.
So what shall be our battle cry as we face this catastrophes prepared for us by our masters and mistresses in the political and ecclesiastical elites, both in Europe and nearer to home.
Dignity, Identity and Liberty, we shall thunder back at all those who have institutionalized the French revolution in church and state.
Human dignity is the birth right of all from the moment of conception for many, excluding only those who a profoundly evil, not least among them the great tyrants of world history, such as Stalin.
The normal condition of humanity is that we have an eternal destiny and we are made in the image and likeness of God- indeed according to St Augustine, the human is imprinted with an image of the Divine Trinity, which is mirrored also by the three operations of the human soul, intellect, memory and will.
So human life needs to be protected from the moment of conception, through to moment of natural death. The very weakest in society that really cannot help themselves need to be protected as an expression of this fundamental principle.
I read from the Universal Declaration of Human Dignity
produced by the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, to whom I am an advisor and indeed on their Steering Committee, Special Representative to the European institutions.
whereas it is precisely the imago Dei that Man acknowledges within himself with suchprofound awe and respect to call human life sacred; and to which the moral sense testifies certain properties as being inalienable; indelible in every single human life from conception until natural death,
whereas it is impossible to deny the source of Man’s transcendent dignity, and at the same time maintain that such dignity exists, yet the school of humanism tried to do just this, and with its inevitable failure, Man has been left in the precarious state of having no inherent rights other than those which the social community deigns to confer on him,
Western Civilisation is a historical collection of countries with strong identities formed and influenced through the Christian Faith; and that it is only through the full, conscious and active participation of this Faith in the public square that recognition of the imago Dei can be most authentically nourished;
All excellent and I would urge you to go on line and express your support by signing.
But intrinsic dignity, not dependent on society as the socialists would have us believe, is not enough on its own. We have to know who we are- literally to look in the morning in the mirror and to be able to be honest about our past and our self- narratives. Socialists would have us live in a perpetual day- zero, alienated from our past by our lack of tradition. I have a splendid book by E J Hobsbawn, The Invention of Tradition which seeks to do exactly that with each of the nations which make up our United Kingdom, saying all our national culture is of recent invention. A convenient fiction to serve socialist purposes.
So starting with who we each are as children of God, we develop identities which can be local, regional, national- which are shared narratives and in the end, real cultures and societies. Society that is validated by the state is a fake. The Big Society programme comes to mind- it is a programme of the political elites against we the people.
But this is how the concept of we the people can be redeemed- when the idea, as was done by Ronald Reagan, of eternal memory is set in opposition to the political elites. It is the fundamental reason for the success of the Tea Party movement in the US and God willing this can now be repeated in each and every nation state of Europe.
From Reagan’s valedictory to the American people.
Ours was the first revolution in the history of mankind that truly reversed the course of government, and with three little words: "We the people." "We the people" tell the government what to do, it doesn't tell us. "We the people" are the driver, the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast. Almost all the world's constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which "We the people" tell the government what it is allowed to do. "We the people" are free.
and also as the great satirist, P J O’Rourke has pointed out
We are the champions of freedom. Liberals are the champions of statism, dependence and oppression - let us not forget that basic point. And because we conservatives are the champions of freedom, there is always going to be a lot of arguing among us. Arguing is what freedom is all about.
While we are doing that arguing, let us not lose sight of the fact that there is a place for everyone under the conservative rubric. For men, for women, for born-again Christians, for Catholics, for Jews, for Muslims, for mainstream Protestants, for African Americans, for native Americans, whites, Hispanics, for everyone in between, for young people, old people - it may surprise you to hear me say this - for gays, for people on welfare, even for people who teach college.
And it is to the liberty of the people and peoples to which I now turn. As I said, universal fraternity and equality are the most bogus cheques ever made out in the name of the people, but liberty indeed can be validated. What is precisely meant by liberty is not just one disputed question among others- it is the disputed question,
For liberty cannot mean a license for vice, as it has come to mean especially in modern society. Weimar Europe is a fitting description for much of European society today. The insatiability of human desire in material terms is heading for a face to face clash with the grim economic realities.
But liberty has to mean more though than a choice of the good, which is in all decent people, hopefully more or less obligatory. Liberty is indeed best defined by its absence- you probably do not understand its depths and its grandeur unless you have had to fight for it, as our country has had to all too often and has to do again in future years- for we now have enemies of our national and individual liberties both within and without the realm. As Ronald Reagan once said the extinction of liberty is never more than one generation away.
But it also the un-relativised truth that sets us free, a Biblical principle. Truth that many politicians in the elites are having increasing difficulties understanding. The control of power comes before any truth is their shrinking and miserable world.
So Dignity, Identity, Liberty- inseparable. Don’t tell me you are free if you have lost your identity and dignity. Indeed, the phrase puts liberty in its proper context. I will leave it up to each of you however to decide which of these is the greatest- personally I will opt for liberty any time. My good friend, Ben Harnwell, who runs the Dignitatis Humanae Institute has just delivered an excellent paper called Jesus, the First Libertarian, so no doubt where he stands.
Indeed, we are in the image and likeness of God and creation out of nothing, before it is anything, is a free act of the Divine Will, in all His splendid Providence.
All three have the most profound implications for public and political life- under this banner we can begin the back fight against the poisonous principals (although that for sure is a misnomer) of the French revolution.
To arms! Great battles are coming- and the only option, in the name of God and our shared humanity, is total victory.