Liberty, the God That Failed

Review of Liberty, the God That Failed: Policing the Sacred and Constructing the Myths of the Secular State, from Locke to Obama (Angelico Press, 2012)

In his first encyclical, Inscrutabili (On the Evils Affecting Modern Society), April 21, 1878, Pope Leo XIII wrote: “Now the source of these evils lies chiefly, We are convinced, in this, that the holy and venerable authority of the Church, which in God’s name rules mankind, upholding and defending all lawful authority, has been despised and set aside.”

In his latest book — described by historian Dr. John Rao as “one of the most illuminating, well researched, and reader-friendly” that he had ever enjoyed — Christopher Ferrara, a Catholic attorney (pro-life founder of American Catholic Lawyers Association) gives an excellent and thorough explanation of what went wrong with the grand American experiment in “ordered liberty.” This superb, eye-opening work traces the decline of Western civilization from the Protestant revolt in the Sixteenth Century, and the ideas that caused it, to our present era of renewed but much more virulent paganism. In this first volume (a second is promised) the result of the decisions — to despise and set aside the venerable authority of the Church–made by revolutionaries immersed in the errors of the Enlightenment is scrutinized, mainly in our country, where, as a quote from historian Arthur Schlesinger underscores, “anti-Catholicism will be ‘the deepest bias in the history of the American people.’” (pg 94)

Brought forth by men “of ruined intellect and corrupt heart” (as Pope Leo would describe such in the prayer he composed to St. Michael the Archangel), a new god — Liberty — would be forced, often brutally, down the throats of the common man. Rejecting the long held traditions which were the foundation of Christendom, the Enlightenment was proposed in order to free man from the intellectual and spiritual influence of the Catholic Church (pg. 1). The contemporary condition of our country, and Western civilization, is the result of an unending warfare conducted by admitted and boastful enemies of Christ and His Church to completely destroy what remains of the Christian order, on which they intend to erect their Godless New World Order.

Mr. Ferrara opens this landmark study with a brief review of the logic and defense of Christendom–which he calls the Greco-Catholic Synthesis. He first distinguishes the proposed radical alternatives as “the principles of the ‘moderate’ Enlightenment which pass for a conservative inheritance to be opposed to the excesses of liberalism, an inheritance ‘We the People’ were supposed to have ‘secured to ourselves and our posterity; following the American Revolution.” These include: “The origin of political authority in the ‘consent’ of the governed (invariably presumed to have been given by those who happen to be wielding power.) ‘Government of the people’ according to the ‘sovereignty of the people,’ meaning a strict majority rule on all questions, including the most profound moral ones. Church-State separation and the non-‘interference’ of religion in politics. The confinement of religion, above all the revealed truths of Christianity, to the realm of ‘private opinion.’ The unlimited pursuit of gain, including the freedom to buy, sell and advertise anything whatsoever the majority deems permissible. Total liberty of thought and action, both public and private, within the limits of a merely external ‘public peace’ essentially reduced to the protection of persons and property from invasion by others…in sum, a ‘free-market society.’ And the dissolubility of marriage, and thus the family, as a mere civil contract founded on a revocable consent.”(pg 15)

“That this ‘conservative’ inheritance was actually a radically liberal and inevitably disastrous departure from the millennial Western theologico-political tradition is now considered a proposition bordering on madness even by the most ‘conservative’ opponents of contemporary liberalism. And yet a radical departure it was….”

He briefly but succinctly describes what the revolutionaries despised and sought to destroy and replace. “If one phrase could describe the Greek view of Man and State it would this: the politics of the soul. Indeed, Greek philosophy ‘led the way into the new found land of the soul,’ producing ‘a new order of values…worked out in the philosophical systems of Plato and Aristotle,’ which ‘paved the way for the universal religion, Christianity.”(pg 21) Ferrara now states his case: “It will be the burden of this study to show that the crisis of our civilization lies precisely in its all-but-complete repudiation, in the name of Liberty, of the things that made it Christian.” (pg 25)

He critically examines the radical impact of the “moderate” thinkers of the Enlightenment, offering as his main examples: Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), John Locke (1632-1704), Voltaire (1694-1778) and Rousseau (1712-1778); but special consideration is given to Locke, regarded “as the sturdiest of conservatives by the standards of political modernity. Hence it is necessary at the outset to dismiss the irrelevant objection that Locke and other such ‘moderates’ did not see themselves as subversives but, rather as conservatives in good faith of what they considered the fundamentals of the tradition whose revolutionary overthrow followed in their wake.” (pg 40) That Locke and his fellow free thinkers knew full well they were engaged in intellectual subversion is made quite clear as Mr. Ferrara proceeds with his compelling argument.

Locke invented “mythical justifications” and a persuasive allure of a newfound liberty, that is, freedom from the tyranny of kings, popes, and the Catholic Church. In the colonies of America seeking a new way of life, tools now justified by a radical minority would include: “agitation and propaganda, mob violence and intimidation, the creation of revolutionary cadres and committees to expose, censor, harass and crush all ‘enemies of the Revolution’ and ‘enemies of the People,’ and, finally, bloodshed whenever and wherever necessary. The same pattern would be followed in every subsequent revolution in the name of Liberty. In short, to build the ‘temple of Liberty’ the apostles of ‘liberty’ would trample on the liberties of their opponents.” (pg 137)

Imposing the revolutionary will, in ways far more brutal than those “suffered” under King George III, it was in America where “Liberty” finally replaced the alliance of altar and throne. “On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress — purporting to speak as the ‘representatives’ of several million colonials who had never elected them — declared that the colonies were independent from England and that they now constituted a union of independent states.” (pg 159)

Very interesting is Attorney Ferrara’s criticism of the Constitution, of how it was planned behind closed doors, and of the golden legend suggesting the Founding Fathers were “wise and selfless Framers of the Constitution, assembled in Philadelphia in order to devise and bequeath to America and the whole world an inspired model of freedom and ‘limited government’ whose results were so beneficent as to suggest divine guidance for the project. The reality is quite other.” He continues: “There is no denying that the Constitution is a masterpiece of legal draftsmanship. But there is also no denying that what the delegates to the Constitutional Convention created was a central government with sweeping powers they had been given no warrant to create….” (pg 176) “Given the plain language of the Constitution, not to mention our long and bitter experience with its implementation and interpretation by the federal judiciary the Constitution itself created, the claim that the Framers created a ‘limited government’ of ‘checks and balances’ borders on the ridiculous.” (pg 180)

The concise, short biographical sketches offered on George Washington (Masonic Stoic), Thomas Jefferson (Enlightened Infidel) and James Madison (A Religious Void) also help explain the absence–with exception of a clever Masonic deistic nod–of any mention of Jesus Christ in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

His lengthy chronicle of the blood shed in the spread of American Liberty is simply mindboggling, sad and sorrow filled. Ferrara misses few if any battles from the American Revolution to the Reconstruction following the catastrophic Civil War (over 600,000 killed to defend chattel slavery and preserve the union). Add to this his description of the Jim Crow Era and the Klan, and the Indian “Pacification” program. These “holocausts for Liberty” represent an “unprecedented practical application of the Rousseauian dictum tied to the Lockean social compact: ‘whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body. This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free (emphasis original)….” (pg 381)

Shortly after the Civil War, “a group of conservative Protestants — most of whom, ironically, were more or less afflicted by America’s endemic anti-Catholic bigotry — was calling for the recovery of that quintessentially Catholic doctrine, the very thing Locke regarded as ‘destructive of society’ in his call for the non-toleration of Catholics in England.” The National Recovery Association declared: “We have refused to recognize the Lord Jesus Christ as King of Nations…The claims of the Messiah have been entirely ignored” Ferrara briefly notes: “A more forthright declaration of the Social Kingship could hardly be found in papal encyclicals on the subject.” (pg 523)

One of the “blessings” of liberty, widely held in high regard by most Americans is the so-called “right” to believe whatever one pleases. The publications of Saint Benedict Center have long refuted this theological absurdity. However, considering another important aspect Ferrara writes: “As Locke foresaw, the unchallenged monism of state power that is at the essence of Liberty would be insured by a multiplicity of Christian sects…we saw how, in the Essay Concerning Toleration, Locke advised that when any sect is ‘grown, or growing so numerous as to appear dangerous to the magistrate’ the magistrate ‘may and ought to use all ways, either of policy or power, that shall be convenient, to lessen, break and suppress the party (original), and so prevent the mischief.’” (pg 542)

In this relentless counter-narrative of liberty he shows the order promised is a fraud. “Leviathan is the secular nation-state whose will as ‘Mortal God’ is law no matter what the will of ‘the Immortal God,’ safely removed from human affairs, may enjoin to the contrary; and the peace it offers is a mere absence of public disturbance.” (pg 621) He quotes Alasdair MacIntyre: “…the barbarians are not waiting beyond our frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes our predicament.” (pg 628)

Christopher Ferrara, a long time supporter of Fr. Gruner’s Fatima Apostolate, has written an absolutely great (some calling it even an epochal achievement) and most persuasive book, a clear groundbreaking analysis loaded with astounding, challenging material, which I imagine will become essential reading, not only for supporters of the Crusade of Saint Benedict Center, but throughout our country; for in answer to his question — What, then, is the alternative? — he offers what are in fact the goals of this Crusade: “If this inert majority were to be roused from its Liberty-induced coma by the leaders of a Church returned to militancy, the face of the earth could be renewed.” (pg 629)

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!