Love is the Spirit of Truth

(written in 1948)

Mr. Daniel Sargent has written a classic biography called Thomas More . If anyone should know about Utopia, it would be Sargent. He concluded a lecture on St. Thomas More’s Utopia at St. Benedict Center one night with the words:

To write a Utopia is an easy thing to do. A great many people can tell us what is wrong with the existing state of things, but few people have the courage to do something practical about it from within the thing. A Utopia is completely outside and beyond, indeed it is a whole new creation. It is not practical at all.

For many issues now, in From the Housetops , we have been talking against secular education in secular colleges and about the inroads which secularism has made into Catholic colleges. We have not written a Utopia exactly, in which we have brought into being an ideal college community, the members of which all grow wise on the right subjects and live happily ever after, but neither have we given an alternative for the disastrous conditions which are turning out not men and scholars but, rather, future problems for society. That we have lived in the midst of secular education you know, that we have thought about it and prayed about it, you may be sure. We have also done something about it, the details of which we will tell you some day. For the moment, we would like to present some reflections for your consideration.

Catholics know that love follows upon truth. We know it in two ways, from God and from ourselves. We know that Eternal Truth, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, came to us first, and we know that Eternal Love, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, came to us second. God as Love followed upon God as Truth.

In our own order, we know that the human soul is so empowered that love follows only upon truth also. A man loves truly when he knows truly. There can be no real love without real truth, and the modern world, which knows very little truth, does not know what real love is either. If it were asked what man needed most of all today, the answer would undoubtedly be, love. We Catholics know that what it needs most is truth — upon which love, of necessity, follows. Because we now have “love” without truth, we have a sentimental, empty thing which leaves the human being starved and thirsty for he knows not what, and he is conscious merely of lack of leadership (except for false leaders like Stalin and Hitler and Mussolini), of chaos, and confusion, and a headlong rush for destruction.

Where can truth be found? Jesus Christ who said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32) left that truth, which integrates all lesser truths, in the keeping of His Church, that Church which has for its visible head His Vicar, the Bishop of Rome, and hence is called the Holy Roman Catholic Church. The Truth is nowhere else. (It is useless to quibble about the possession of partial truth! The whole truth alone suffices.) Adherence to the Holy Catholic Church is the one thing that will save the world, write peace treaties, bring love upon earth, and salvation after death. The tirne is short, we must shout the truth, teach the truth, plead the truth, while it is yet not too late. More than ever, it is time to lead. Our voice is far too hushed.

The voice of truth began to be muted in the world when the Renaissance came in. Trends reach their climaxes over centuries, and the Reformation grew out of the Renaissance. Whole countries were lost to the Church, countries in which the truth was no longer preached to every man. The Church entered upon a long siege, known as the Counter-Reformation, in which it was obliged to spend its time not in asserting the truth, but in defending it, in trying to make friends with the mammon of iniquity in order that its children might have enough to eat for their bodies on the one hand, and on the other that churches and schools and parishes might be built for the nourishment of their souls.

One of the inevitable marks of every heresy is that before its expiration it undergoes a swing to the exact opposite of that for which it stood in the beginning. The history of each heresy in the Church testifies to this amazing, although not surprising, fact. And so we find Protestantism, which began with Luther’s “faith without works,” now everywhere professing “good works without faith.” This is what we call “love” without truth, which, as we know, is a contradiction in terms because there can, may I repeat, be no real love without truth.

The Renaissance said, approximately, “There has been an excessive emphasis on God; let us return again to what man on his own can do. Let us go back to man at his best, to the natural man of Greece and Rome, to the classics — to Man.” It required centuries for a theocentric civilization to become an anthropocentric one, but gradually it was accomplished. God went out of art and poetry and prose and sculpture and music. The godless man we are given to know in the modern novel, in the motion pictures, in modern art and modern music is a lewd, degenerate, depraved thing.

Good works without faith, the end (in the sense of last days) of the Reformation, and humanitarianism, the end of the Renaissance, are responsible for the many manifestations of love without truth which we find about us. On the surface, it would seem that love were everywhere. During the war we dispensed it in many forms: Russian Relief (we regret that now), Bundles for Britain (since the Palestine situation recently we seem to be cooling on that also), Spreading Our Way of Life, Making the World Safe for Democracy. At the present moment it comes to us, in the press, over the radio, in the motion pictures, under the titles: Common Objectives, Everyone is Sincere, One Religion is the Same as Another, Bundles for Everywhere, Billions for Everyone (outside of the United States), You Mustn’t Hurt People’s Feelings (by telling the truth.)

This is all called love, love for one’s fellow man. This species of love does not seem to have been subscribed to by the world at large since Europe and the East are frankly selfish, but the United States is seriously drunk on it. It is, of course, a form of selfishness, too, a fact which Europe has long seen and taken advantage of, but of which the United States is unaware. Europe, having had the Faith and lost it, has the memory of a capacity for truth, at least. We have never had the Faith, as a nation, and therefore have always had a substitute for the truth. That is why Europe has always been able to “put it over on America.”

Planned Parenthood is called love, love for the family! InterFaith Meetings are called love, love for all creeds (as if that were possible in the true sense.) Modern Social Work, stemming from materialistic and atheistic premises and turning out upon the poor, at high salaries, workers whose knowledges are far sadder than the lives of the people they would “raise,” is called love. Experimental psychology, psychiatry, anthropology, economics are called love. Thes Red Cross is called love.

Love, love everywhere, and not a thought to think! Truth would seem to be nowhere, so seldom is its voice heard, and one is led to wonder where the Catholics, who know better, have been through all this. The following quotation resembles very much any article in FROM THE HOUSETOPS. On the contrary, it was written by the great Father Faber, Frederick William Faber, D.D., Priest of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, and is contained in his book THE CREATOR AND THE CREATURE, or THE WONDERS OF DIVINE LOVE, and was published in London, by Burns & Oates, Limited. It was written in 1856, before the age of politeness and liberalism had set in. It explains what has happened to Catholics, and if you will remember that trends reach their climaxes only over long years, it will be clear that the very thing Father Faber was warning about in 1856 has come to pass in 1948. He writes, on page 17 of the first chapter, “A New Fashion of an Old Sin”:

“Good Christians hear conversation around them, catch the prevailing tone of society, read books, and become familiarised with certain fashionable principles of conduct; and it is impossible for their minds and hearts not to become embued with the genius of all this. It is irksome to be always on our guard, and from being off our guard we soon grow to be unsuspicious. When a Catholic enters into intimate dealings with Protestants, he must not forget to place his sentries, and to act as if he was in an enemy’s country; and this is unkindly work, and as miserable as it is unkindly. Yet so it is. When newspapers tell us that Catholicism is always more reasonable and less superstitious when it is in the immediate presence of Protestantism, we can have little difficulty in deciding whether it has changed for the better or the worse. All this illustrates what we mean. The prevailing errors of our time and country find their way down to us, and corrupt our faith, and lower our practice, and divide us among ourselves.”

Our Lord said, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and behold I am with you all days, even to ‘the consummation of the world.” (Matt. 28:20) We who have the truth should love all our fellow men so much that we cannot rest until they also possess that truth.

“And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.” (1 Cor. 13:13). But the first of these is faith — knowing. Then and then only is charity — loving– possible. So far has man gone from God in his long emphasis on himself that he must be taught all over again, and if we would love him with Christ’s love (and what other love is worth loving him with?) then it is necessary first to give him the truth in order that he may love — and be loved.