Ordered Virtue as Resistance to Revolution

Next week, our IHM School resumes classes. ‘Tis that time of year! In honor of all the students, parents, and teachers preparing for a new academic year, I thought I would make this Ad Rem a “back-to-school special” edition.

It is customary for teachers on the first day of school to inform the students what is to be expected of them. Many of us pass out and explain a “syllabus” for that purpose (and ask parents to read and sign it!), but even those who do not employ the use of a syllabus make known their expectations for things like behavior, tests, homework, quizzes, etc. Not satisfied with my customary way of doing things in past years, I have decided to take a different approach this year and promulgate a set of twelve rules of behavior that will be enforced in my classroom so that it can be what I would like it to be: an environment that is optimally conducive to learning. Integral to this approach is the radical idea that there must be consistently applied consequences for every infraction against the rules.

In this, one tries to imitate the great Lawgiver Himself, of whom the Psalmist says, “The Lord is sweet and righteous: therefore he will give a law to sinners in the way” (Ps. 24:8).

But what has this to do with our title, “Ordered Virtue as Resistance to Revolution”? A lot, actually. Revolutionaries love chaos. It’s not that they love disorder for its own sake; they don’t. Disorder is a tool in their toolkit. They want to bring about their own “ordo ab chao” as the Freemasonic motto goes, that is, “order out of chaos.” When they foment the chaos, they can utilize it to subject people to the diabolical order they want. So, too, all revolutionaries. Sexual revolution is a supreme example of this principle, for when people’s venereal appetite has been unleashed from the moral law, they become “chaotic” and therefore highly manipulable, as an excellent book by Dr. E. Michael Jones shows us atgreat historical length.

We do not live in Christendom, but former Christendom. The forces of organized naturalism have been creating a chaos all over former Christendom for centuries. Now, of course, they have established themselves in very high places in the spiritual and temporal spheres of Church and State. We must resist their revolution even if the revolutionaries wear the insignia of high office in either sphere. But in resisting them, we are not ourselves revolutionaries, but counterrevolutionaries, which means that we live within self-imposed (and grace-imposed) parameters of behavior. We are, therefore, to conform our lives to the demands of virtue, even imposing concrete rules upon ourselves that will help us the better to keep the natural and supernatural Divine Law.

To go back to my classroom as an example, here are the rules for order I am soon to explain to my students:

  1. At the appointed time for class to begin, be at your desk and ready to pray reverently.
  2. Be prepared for class, that is, properly attired in your uniform and having all class materials at your desk when class begins.
  3. Listen and follow directions.
  4. Maintain silence, raising your hand if you have a question during class.
  5. Do not speak to or otherwise communicate with each other during class.
  6. Respect your classmates, your teacher, and property that does not belong to you.
  7. Keep your hands, feet, and other items to yourself.
  8. Do not leave your desk or the classroom without permission.
  9. Keep the classroom aisles free of clutter.
  10. Refrain from cursing or using any other inappropriate language.
  11. Refrain from partaking of food, gum, candy, or beverages in class.
  12. When class concludes, stand silently and reverently for the prayer.

It is not exactly a work of art, nor will it take the academic world by storm, but I rather like my list. Why should such lists be limited to students? If revolutionaries can have their “rules for radicals,” then we counterrevolutionaries ought to have our own rules — rules that conform us to the Law of God and promote the life of virtue. Like a “rule of life,” such lists are not intended to replace the Gospel but rather to concretize its evangelical demands in the here and now.

I propose three rules we can work with:

  1. When revolutionaries in either the spiritual or temporal sphere show their hate for something good and holy, we will strive to love that thing even more (e.g., the doctrine concerning the necessity of the Church for salvation, the Traditional Latin Mass, the consecrated life, authentic Catholic evangelism, etc.)
  2. We will not stoop to the level of revolutionaries, acting out of hate, but will act out of love of God, of our neighbors (even the revolutionaries), and of God’s truth. (Yes, there is a place for “hate,” properly understood, as in “hatred of the world,” or “hatred of heresy,” or Saint Robert Bellarmine’s explanation of Psalm 138:22 as striving zealously against evil — but all of those hatreds are founded on the love of God. We are not permitted to wish evil, especially the ultimate evil of damnation, to our enemies, whom we are commanded to love.)
  3. We will strive, in prayer, to visualize to ourselves how the many nuisances, inconveniences, outrages, and injustices our revolutionary enemies impose on us are so many opportunities for us to practice the theological and cardinal virtues for God’s glory as well as for our salvation and theirs.

I will not give a full dozen rules as I did for my class. Readers may be interested in taking the three I gave and augmenting them with their own rules.

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When I came up with theme for the October 2021 Saint Benedict Center Conference, “Resisting the Revolutionary Reset,” I had in mind the “Great Reset” and similar things, like the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (see here and here), both of these brought to us by Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, a man who exudes the persona of a James Bond villain sans the cat. But, I also had in mind the ongoing revolution in the Church, including the undermining of doctrine and morals and the attack on the Traditional Latin Mass. Many of us intuit that, at some level, this is all one thing; after all, the enemies of Christ the King in the spiritual and temporal orders serve the same Dark Lord. Recently, though, Michael Matt has compellingly connected some very interesting dots linking Herr Schwab directly to one of the greatest ecclesiastical villains of the twentieth century, the self-proclaimed socialist, Brazillian Archbishop Hélder Câmara. Not only are these revolutionaries connected to the same infernal puppet-master, but, in some instances at least, they are connected to each other directly.

The talk that I will be giving at our conference will have the same title as this Ad Rem, so I will take this occasion to make some points now that I will expand upon then. After all, we are going back to school, so let us “crack the books” and see what the German Catholic philosopher, Josef Pieper can tell us about the subject of “ordered virtue.” Dr. Pieper makes the case very eloquently that there is an excellent logical and psychological rationale behind the common ordering of the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. His explanations of this ranking — which I will soon summarize in three paragraphs — will help us to grasp certain fundamental notions of virtue in general and how each relates to the others.

Prudence is the first of these because it is the habit by which the intellect grasps the truth of any given situation, then judges and commands what ought to be done. It is the will that must then perform acts proper to the moral virtues. Because it situates us in reality, prudence is a prerequisite for the practice of the moral virtues; therefore, the remaining cardinal virtues would be completely impossible without it. One who does not know reality cannot pursue the good in the context of that reality.

Justice is the supreme moral and cardinal virtue. Over eight hundred times, the Bible speaks of “justice” and “the just man” as synonyms for goodness (or the good man) and holiness (or the holy man). Without being just — rendering to each, including God, what is his due — we simply cannot be good. The unjust man is an evil man. All sin is injustice, if not against some other man then against God Himself. All sin is, therefore, something personal — an affront to the Three Divine Persons.

In order to remove certain obstacles to the practice of justice, we need two other virtues, one of which moderates the fear we may encounter when doing the just thing becomes arduous or difficult (fortitude), the other of which moderates sensuality, which, as has been noted already, makes us forgetful of the moral law and therefore of justice (temperance).

A discussion of this ordering or ranking of the cardinal virtues and how they fit in with the theological virtues will help us to consider certain priorities we ought to assign ourselves while assessing and resisting the revolutionary reset. We can question ourselves on what the response ought to be to various aspects of the revolution. To initiate, at least, such a discussion is one purpose of my own talk. The goal of the entire conference is to make us come to “one mind and one heart in God,” as says the Rule of Saint Augustine, and help us better resist the revolution together.

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Please join us in October. Offering class, camaraderie, no bad consequences, and a closing pass-or-fail test (called “real life”!), our twenty-fourth annual conference promises to be an integrally Catholic “back-to-school” experience you won’t want to miss.