Social Disintegration and Catholic Hope

This week, my Reconquest show is an interview with John Horvat II, which we have already recorded. The discussion is a wide ranging consideration of Catholic social teaching, including the subject of immigration, as it effects various aspects of the Culture War. With that conversation still fresh in my memory, I present the following thoughts on social disintegration and Catholic hope. Hopefully, readers will want to listen to the show.

As we stated recently in considering the issue of abortion, man comes together in society in order to live virtuously. This opinion of Saint Thomas Aquinas was not exclusively Christian, as it can be found in the pagan Aristotle, and later, in certain of the Masonic and Deist founders of our American Republic (as well as in their nominally Christian collaborators).

The “common good” of society is understood in similar terms to the good of the individual, that is, the pursuit of happiness through living a virtuous life. Both virtue and happiness can be understood in a natural sense, as the Greek philosophers and our American founders understood them, but they can also be elevated to the supernatural order, as Christians understand them more fully in accordance with that utterance of Our Lord: “I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). In this Catholic understanding, the good of the individual and of society is ultimately fulfilled by living a life of supernatural virtue terminating in the Beatific Vision.

Before proceeding, let me note that the concept of the common good is gravely misunderstood, and even maliciously abused by anti-Christian leftist culture warriors masquerading as Catholics. We need to recover the proper meaning of these terms so that our own Catholic concepts are not effectively weaponized against the Mystical Body.

If we accept these true notions of the common good and the purpose for which man comes together to form a society, certain things logically follow. One of these is that sin necessarily has social consequences. It is most evident that the good of virtue and its resulting achievement of happiness are both vitiated by sin. From this it follows that sin, which violates the common good as well as the good of the individual (though in very different ways), will cause social fragmentation. Psychologically, sin alienates us from that society of which we are a part, and we feel the need of reconciliation, of reintegration, and of acceptance because of this.

We Catholics, who are members of the supernatural society of the Church, have all this within our reach by virtue of the means Christ gave us: the sacraments (especially Penance and the Eucharist), and Catholic moral doctrine, which clearly enjoins certain works and virtues of us. Too, we have the edifying examples and intercession of the saints in the Church Triumphant, who are, after all, part of that same supernatural society.

In writing this, I fully realize that most modern Americans (and Europeans) will dismiss me as a total lunatic. Your humble servant’s personal demerits aside, the accusation shows just how far gone the common conception really is. It also shows how alien to common sense most of us have become. The social fragmentation we see all around us is so evidently produced by the sins that are glorified in our diseased culture that it beggars belief so few people have the sense to point it out.

Because the social bonds between men are so real, and because sin has the tendency to alienate us from society, the sinner who is addicted to his sin has some choices to make. He can (1) be contrite and reconciled to society (and, of course, God) by turning away from sin; or (2) continue to live in alienation, even if this alienation is only something he feels interiorly; or (3) force a false social unity by demanding that others not only tolerate, but accept his sin, which must now be redefined not as a sin, but as a good work. The person who chooses this third redefines his vices as virtues, and, because he is a social creature, desires his “new normal” to be the common good of virtue and happiness for society.

Concerning such an approach, the Prophet Isaias has something impolitic to say: “Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (5:20).

This forcing of a false social unity based on sin, coupled with the bad conscience that sin necessarily causes, are sufficient to explain why the enemies of Christian Social order are so angry and aggressive. It is why those “women’s marches” are so obscene (warning: offensive material in link); why those pro-aborts at the clinics and elsewhere are so vulgar and hateful (whether or not children might hear their hate speech); why those LGBT activists insist on barging into the wrong bathrooms, forcing “diversity” and perverse sex-education programs into schools, and otherwise demanding unconditionally that you not only tolerate their sins, but join them in calling evil good and good evil. Lastly, it is why fraudulent “human rights” organizations (ACLU, SPLC, ADL, etc., etc.; their acronyms are legion) will go after you if you oppose their agenda — the doing of which makes you, in their strange universe, “a right-wing fringe group,” a “hate group” or a questionable “religious sect.”

Remember, they don’t want tolerance because one tolerates evil. That is the notion of tolerance. What they want is acceptance and conformity. Why? Again, because they want to be part of a society with a common view of virtue. If you remind them that vice is vice and virtue is virtue, then you are a public sinner and will be dealt with severely. And that includes bringing the full force of the Nanny State down on dissenters — something Catholics are forbidden to do because we cannot force conversions.

The forgoing is, in short, why the liberals rage. And boy are they raging.

But there is hope. There is always hope. As the unity and social cohesiveness of American society splinters more and more and the nation becomes ever more balkanized, some people, in their alarm, will wake up. Some people are waking up to discover that only one institution is capable of holding a light in this darkness. It is the same one that has an official charge from her Divine Founder to guard and teach the truth of His supernaturally revealed Law, and even the natural law written on the heart. Only the Catholic Church can show our countrymen what the true “common good” is, as well as the good of the individual. The false individualism of Protestantism, with its assertion of personal interpretation of the Scriptures, making each man his own pope, has not and cannot maintain Christian truth in the face of these new errors. In fact, it has spawned these errors, as the successive revolutions since 1517 are so many rebellions following on that initial fraction of Western Christendom. Protestantism cannot combat revolution because it is essentially revolutionary. Catholicism is counterrevolutionary.

In his very insightful article, “A Solution for a Fragmented America,” John Horvat wrote of competing notions of freedom (the Catholic vs. the Liberal notion), and the splintering of our society. He concludes his thoughts masterfully:

That is why the Culture War is so important. With the splintering of society, many Americans are searching for what we lost. With the grace of God, the institutions and principles of Christian society can have amazing regenerating qualities if strongly affirmed. If we are to be a people once again, we must rally around what Russell Kirk called those ‘permanent things’ that we once loved and agreed to share.

Those “regenerating qualities” he spoke of are what made Christendom rise out of the ashes of the fallen Roman Empire. It can make a new Christendom rise out of the ashes of Modernity. For now, we will have to be an anvil and not a hammer, to use the figure of Bishop von Galen. Things will necessarily have to get hot first before we rise from the ashes; the hammers will necessarily fall on us if we are to be the anvils that lend their shape to the new society. Our success will be in perseverance in seeking out, living out, and pointing out to others what is true, good, and beautiful — those “permanent things” that the Catholic convert and great conservative thinker Russell Kirk wrote of.

To live those ideals properly requires so many virtues. It is not a matter of simply being right and insisting on it. Yes, solid convictions are absolutely necessary, but from them must flow a life of conformity to Christian virtue: fortitude and meekness, zeal against the enemies of our salvation and charity for our erring neighbor, firm and uncompromising faith, and kindness to all. Difficult times call for difficult measures, and sanctity is not easy. But sanctity is that to which we are called. It also happens to be the best strategy for victory.

Let’s make sure that if they kill us for being Christian, we’re guilty as charged.