Smashing the Hand that Feeds You

The Rorate Caeli web site posted this picture of a smashed statue of the Virgin of Lourdes. The statue lies in the Via Merulana, the lovely street that connects the Lateran Basilica to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, with several other churches between. Why has this act of outrageous anti-Marian iconoclasm been perpetuated within blocks of the Pope’s own Cathedral? Because among the “peaceful protesters” engaged in a common ritual of Italian politics, there were some violent scoundrels, who had no interest in peace or genuine social order. Their iconoclasm reveals their agenda, inasmuch as they have one at all.

The Roman protest has been touted in the American press as a spin-off of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but I doubt that it was. Time Magazine says it had been planned for months, which would make its conception older that OWS. Besides, this type of demonstration is common. I’ve only been to Rome three times, and twice I’ve been caught in the middle of one, in exactly this locale. It’s a common theater for leftist protests. Each time, the brothers and I were on our way to visit St. John Lateran, when we were caught up in a swelling mass of humanity decorated with communist flags (yes, red ones, with hammers and sickles!) and Che Guevara T-shirts, with, some, at least, reeking of pot. At various stations, public agitants were shouting through large amplification systems, while many chanted slogans as they marched in groups. To add to the cacophony, demonstrators were blowing whistles, of the type used by referees in sports matches. There we were in our habits surrounded by noisy, dope-smoking commies. Twice.

Neither protest ended up violently, as far as I know. These were leftists, trade union members, and probably some coming along for a good time, who were screaming about Silvio Berlusconi’s corruption, getting high, drunk, or both, and then clogging up the Roman Metro and making lots of noise on their way home.

The recent protest was worse. For one thing, there was property damage, including Molotov cocktails being hurled at buildings and police cars being set afire. Worse, there was the statue, which was no accident. Protesters broke into the Church, removed the statue, and dashed it to the street. We must not forget that blasphemy against Our Lady “in Her images” is one of the five offenses that motivated Heaven to give us the devotion of the Five First Saturdays.

The Occupy Wall Street protests, and many of its allied activities around the globe, are crying out against the financial tyranny of the “banksters” and crony capitalists whose wealth is growing as the rest of us are suffering in these bad economic times. Generally speaking, these folks are calling on big government to save us all, which is like a bug asking a spider for a hand. By contrast, the Tea Party has been calling for the shrinking of government to constitutional limits, less taxation, and less bureaucratic meddling in the affairs of private citizens. Considering that the enemies of a Christian social order include the unholy trinity of corrupt big business, corrupt big government, and corrupt big bankers, it becomes clear that the OWS people and the Tea Partiers have both identified genuine enemies.

But the problems and, more importantly, the solutions to them go beyond our typical left-right dichotomy. In brief, it’s not blue staters versus red staters.

Neither the conservative Tea Partiers nor the liberal “Occupiers” have proposed as a solution a return to Catholic social teaching. Distributism, an attempt at systematizing Catholic social principles into an economic praxis, is now looking better and better. It even recently gained the attention of the Washington Post — not that that’s necessarily a testimony to its worth. If you read the Post article, and I recommend it, you will note that Phillip Blond makes the same point I do: Both the big American protest movements identify real enemies, but neither has the right solution. Neither the nanny state nor the blind forces of “the market” can solve our economic woes.

Who has the solution, you ask? The Catholic Church, in her traditional social teaching.

For a good critique of the nanny state from the vantage point of that teaching, I recommend Gary Potter’s talk at our conference just past, while an informative piece on the insufficiency of the free market as a safeguard of economic order may be found in a book review by Robert Boehm.

To learn more about distributism, one can listen to the excellent talk John Sharpe gave at our conference in 2003: “Putting First Things First: The Economic Vision of Fr. Vincent McNabb and the Distributists.” There are other offerings in our store that explain it further. On the web, an informative site is The Distributist Review.

As for the “banksters” and the money problem in general, as well as the larger question of the social kingship of Our Lord, the work of Father Denis Fahey is invaluable. There is also a very good article concerning Father Fahey on our site.

Gary Potter has asked whether we are seeing the advent of a new dark age. If the answer to that question is in the affirmative, then it would be wise to preserve some of these monuments of Catholic thinking so that the new feudalism of our new dark age may give way to a new Christian social order. That’s what happened after the first “Dark Age.”

It was the Catholic Faith, scholastic theology, sound philosophy, and the guidance of the Roman Pontiffs that gave us such a Catholic social order in Christendom. Wherever the present global economic upheavals are taking us, we must realize that the Church has the answers. And here is where our doctrinal crusade touches upon the everyday problems of humanity. How? We vigorously assert the primacy of Jesus Christ the King in all things, the primacy of God’s grace in living a good life, the special role of God’s Mother as Mediatrix and Advocate, and the primacy God’s Church in teaching, governing, and sanctifying humanity. In this capacity, the Church has a great deal to say about our moral life, which includes politics and economics.

The doctrine of the Church about herself forms an important linchpin. When we affirm extra ecclesiam nulla salus, we affirm that we really mean all the rest.

Regarding Our Lady, it’s very clear from the Fatima revelations that the Holy Trinity has given a new mandate to the Queen of Heaven, whose mission in this “Age of Mary” is unique in all the history of the Church. Consider these words of Sister Lucy, told to Father Augustin Fuentes, about the Rosary:

“Look, Father, the Most Holy Virgin, in these last times in which we live, has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary. She has given this efficacy to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations, that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary. With the Holy Rosary we will save ourselves. We will sanctify ourselves. We will console Our Lord and obtain the salvation of many souls.”

The malcontents who invaded a Church on the Via Merulana and threw down Our Lady’s statue, wicked as they were, probably had no idea that they were insulting the very one who can spare them and the world this chaos.

Those of us who do have an idea — who know about the Five First Saturdays — ought to make reparation for this act by giving the Holy Virgin even more love and devotion.