The Perfect Versus the Good

A number of recent events are rather in my craw at the moment: the entirely secular inauguration of King Felipe VI of Spain; so much of what happens in Rome today; the July 4th celebrations in which we annually tell ourselves how wonderful we are, despite our national pastime of infanticide. My gut reaction to these and similar events is to say “to blazes with you all!” Now, apart from the presupposition that my views actually mean something (quite a leap given my humble position in the world) — that the King of Spain, the Holy See, and the great American public really need concern themselves with what annoys me — there is the second presupposition that I know better than they how they should do their jobs. I am asserting in fact, that I know how the world should be run.

That being said, I think I shall take you on a quick tour of my Utopia — based, I believe, on strictly Catholic principles; a formula for thorough-going restoration in Church and State — and not merely for one country, but across the globe.

Let’s look at the Church first. Need I say that were it in my power, Pope Francis would immediately have himself a coronation, complete with Tiara bestowed by the Bishop of Ostia? All of Paul VI’s “reforms” would be undone: the Noble Guards and the Palatine Guards of Honour restored, alongside the hereditary offices of the Papal Court and the restoration of the privileges of the Black Nobility. The Pontifical Zouaves would be revived — thus giving young Catholic men from all over the world the chance to serve the Pontiff directly. They would be needed too, because the Papal States would return — WITH Avignon.

Of course, restoration of the Holy See is only a part of the programme! Every parish in the Latin Rite would resume the Tridentine Mass immediately; altars, altar rails, and tabernacles would be restored; Gregorian chant, polyphony, and traditional hymns would oust guitars and pianos; altar girls, extraordinary ministers, and lay lectors banned from the sanctuary; the laity would be required to wear decent clothes to Mass, and women veils. All pro-abortion and same-sex marriage politicians would be immediately excommunicated.

But there is so much more! The Sarum Use would be revived, as would those of Lyons and Braga; the Dominicans, Carmelites, Cistercians, and Norbertines would have to resume their unique rites as well. Every scrap of church property would be returned across the planet, from Westminster Abbey to the Grand Mosque of Damascus – regardless of whether it had been filched by Muslim, Protestant, or revolutionary.

There would be restored with the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, and the Assyrian Churches the unity that existed for the first millennium; so too the Protestant State churches of Northern Europe (and their daughter bodies in the rest of the World), would be brought back into the Faith. Those of their churches built before the revolt and the Anglo-Catholic or High Church structures erected after it would immediately return to the Church, with buildings expressly built for Protestant worship (and lacking in historic interest) reserved to those individuals who insisted on staying out.

Needless to say, the Church’s teachings would play the dominant role in determining social policy in every Christian nation: farewell abortion, contraception, divorce, and unisex! Judiciaries and Legislatures would open with Red Masses, Te Deums would accompany all national ceremonies of rejoicing, and the Nuncio would be the dean of each diplomatic corps. Catholic chaplains would be emplaced in every university, and the Faith taught in every public school. A proper “back-to-the-land” movement would be encouraged, wide ownership of property, craft guilds founded, and cities reorganised along the lines of Ralph Adams Cram’s Walled Towns. Representation would be along Corporatist and Solidarist notions.

Now we slip over the line to contemplate the State. The Holy Empire would be re- or in-stored, with its Emperor acknowledged to be the rightful heir and successor of Constantine the Great, Theodosius the Great, Justinian, Charlemagne, Basil II, Frederick Barbarossa, Constantine XI, Charles V, Napoleon I, Alexander I, Nicholas II, and Charles I. Crowned by the Pope at St. Peter’s, and again by the Patriarch of Constantinople at Hagia Sophia, he would preside over an Imperial machinery into which the infrastructures — purged of objectionable elements — of the UN, EU, NATO, and the COE would be enfolded. In place of mere blind peacekeeping, the Imperium would intervene whenever Christian minorities were threatened. It would have to preside over allowing descendants of expellees from Asia Minor and Eastern Europe during the 1922-47 period to return to their ancestral homes, and resettle them without disturbing the current inhabitants too much. The Knightly Orders of Malta (with its Protestant branches converted and reincorporated), the Templars, the Teutonic Knights (as with Malta, reattaching its Protestant branch), and St. Lazarus (the Maltese and Orleans obediences being reunited, and Papal approbation restoring continuity with the Medieval Order) resuming their former roles in support of Christendom, and the Orders in the International Association of Catholic Knights becoming truly chivalric. The Imperial Nobility would play a large part in public life. Naturally enough, the Feast of Christ the King would be the Imperial “national holiday.”

This would not be the end of national governments, however, not by a long shot. Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg would be ruled by effective Catholic sovereigns, as would the restored monarchies of Greece, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Georgia, Armenia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, Finland, and Ethiopia. The Arab-Israeli issue would be solved by the reunion of Hatay, Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, Jordan (although somehow, due to its patronage of the country’s Christian minority, the current Monarchy would be retained), Palestine, and Israel into one renewed Kingdom of Jerusalem, under one of the current claimants to that throne. The Order of the Holy Sepulchre would provide security (reinforced when and if necessary by Imperial troops), and the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, the Greek, Latin, and Armenian Patriarchs of Jerusalem; and the Melkite, Maronite, Greek, and Syriac Patriarchs of Antioch would be numbered among the great men of the realm. A new “Law of Return” would allow not just Jews but Christian and Muslim Palestinians to resettle there. Needless to say, the efforts of the Hebrew Catholics to bring their brethren according to the flesh into the Church would be supported by the government.

For further security, the westernizing Monarchies of Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Iran, Yemen, and Afghanistan would be restored (and those of Jordan, Morocco, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman retained), alongside the Mughals of India. The Emperors of China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, and the Kings of Thailand, Burma, Laos, and Cambodia would be made allies of the Empire.

Italy would see, in addition to the afore-mentioned revival of the Papal States, the restoration of Sardinia, the Two Sicilies (under the now-reconciled branches of Calabria and Castro — an example to all feuding royals everywhere!), Parma, Modena, Lombardy-Venetia, and Tuscany in a federation. The House of Savoy (with Victor Emmanuel IV and the Duke of Aosta reconciled) would retain some sort of precedence, and its ancient title of “Perpetual Vicar of the Empire in Italy” — presumably the Pope and the King of Sardinia would find some sort of time-share plan for the Quirinal Palace. Victor Emmanuel III and Umberto II would be brought back to rest with their fathers. In any case, groups like the Militia Christi, the Cenacolo di Studi, and the Alleanza Cattolica would be very influential.

The Oldest Daughter of the Church, France, would see the Legitimist and Orleans branches of the House of Bourbon reconciled; indeed, the Bonapartes would sign on. Louis XX would be crowned at Reims, and the country at last consecrated by her King to the Sacred Heart. The Feast of the Assumption would replace Bastille Day as the national day, and all would venerate Ss. Louis IX and Joan of Arc. The bodies of Henry V and the other later Bourbons would be brought back from their tombs in exile to the Royal Abbey of St. Denis. The old provinces would be restored, and the Basilica of Christ the King in Paris rebuilt. All Francophonie across the world would be under the French sceptre, to include Louisiana and New France. Legitimists, Orleanists, and Fusionists would work together in prayer and action; the old nobility would regain its place.

Spain, too, would see reconciliation between the current holders of the throne, and the Carlists — but the ideology of the latter would guide policy. Here, too, the remains of the exiled Kings would be brought back to their proper place. The Four Military Orders would regain their standing in the Kingdom, and Hispanidad would re-erect the Viceroyalties of New Spain, Peru, New Granada, and Rio de la Plata in Latin America, and the Spanish East Indies in the Pacific. The Falange, both in Spain and the Empire, would support the new order, and somehow room would be made for the Imperial House of Mexico. The Braganzas would regain the throne of Portugal, and with it all Lusofonia around the world — supported by the Monarchists, the Integralists, and the remaining partisans of Salazar. The current Imperial House of Brazil would somehow also rule their country under the older branch of their line, while both the Royal and the Ancient Military Orders of the country, having redeemed their lands, would also play their part in both Portugal and Brazil. So too, throughout the Iberian world, would the noble corporations, Hidalgos, and Grandees of Spain, and the nobility of Portugal.

Russia would regain the Romanoffs (who would have Alaska returned), and Austria the Habsburgs — though how these Emperors would fit under the new Imperium is difficult to see; moreover, the latter would also regain Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech lands, Slovenia, Croatia, Vojvodina, Bosnia, and South Tyrol. But how to adequately deal with their claims to part of Poland, Ukraine, and Romania? They would also receive overlordship of the German States: Prussia, Bavaria, Hanover, Saxony, Hesse, Wurttemberg, Baden, Waldeck, Schaumburg-Lippe, Lippe-Detmold, Oldenburg, Anhalt, Mecklenburg, and the rest — all of whose princes would return. The Weisse Rose, SGA, Tradition und Leben, and other Monarchist groups would have to try to figure it all out.

For Britain, the Catholic King shall have to embody both Windsor and Jacobite traditions, and transform the currently ceremonial side of governance (House of – hereditaryLords, Privy Council, Lords Lieutenant, High Sheriffs, Lord Mayors, Courts Leet, guilds, and Freemen) into effective servants of the Crown — superseding the political classes; appointments to the Honours System obviously will belong solely to the Monarch. The traditional counties shall be restored, and Celtic Nationalism reconciled with Merry England. Home rule all round will require the equality of the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, reunited Ireland (somehow embodying both the Stuart rule and the High Kingship), and the Principality of Wales, while the Commonwealth shall revert to Empire and then forward to Imperial Federation. In keeping with developments at home, real executive power shall be reclaimed by the Governors-General of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India (reintegrating Pakistan and Bangladesh while at the same time hosting the restored Mughal Emperor and bringing back the Maharajas) and the rest. The Anglo-Indians, Malaysian and Singaporean Eurasians, and Ceylon Burghers shall regain their favoured status, and the Thirteen Colonies return as the jewel in the British Imperial Crown. The causes for canonisation of Henry VI, Mary Queen of Scots, and James II shall be reopened, Richard III and Charles I rehabilitated, and the Ordinary of the Catholic Anglican Ordinariate made Archbishop of both Canterbury and Westminster. He shall crown the King in the old Latin rite. The Monarch will then become an honorary canon of St. Paul-Outside-the Walls in Rome, and the Abbot of St. Paul’s shall again be prelate of the Order of the Garter. The English Benedictine Congregation shall reoccupy and rebuild where necessary such Abbeys as Westminster, Glastonbury, St. Albans, St. Mary’s of York, and the rest; the abbots and abbesses of those for whom it was once customary shall take their places beside the Bishops in the House of Lords.

Filled with difficulties and contradictions as my utopian vision for the rest of the world is, these rise to a fever pitch in this country. As noted, the various Catholic Sovereigns shall regain their rights — even though this means the Kings of Britain and France scratching their heads over Quebec and the Maritimes, and the latter and his brother of Spain over Louisiana. Hawaii’s reversion to its Monarch is easier. Nevertheless, I also want both the Confederate tradition AND the American Black Catholic and Anglican cultures retained in equal esteem. Moreover, I want to preserve the territorial integrity and national unity of these United States — albeit a Catholic United States as envisioned by Orestes Brownson and — from an adversarial point of view — Paul Blanshard. I suppose I would want to see the French, Spanish, British, American, and Confederate flags all flying at once over, say, Baton Rouge — with the Dutch back on the Hudson and the Swedes on the Delaware — to say nothing of Fr. DeSmet’s proposed Indian Mission State in the Northwest. What makes it all the more confusing and self-contradictory is that I hold firmly to the vision of patriotism as enunciated by the Knights of Columbus.

That, at least, is something of the utopia bouncing around in my head, and never before plainly enunciated. Of course, for it to be realized, an enormous effort would have to be made against overwhelming opposition in every corner of the globe; and if, somehow it did succeed, fallen human nature would probably swiftly turn it (or large parts of it) into a horrible nightmare.

Moreover, there really is nothing I can do to put this ideal into fruition. This points up two equal temptations that all of us with what we believe to be high ideals face: the one is to keep our dedication so pure that we are unable to function effectively in the world around us; the other is to be so pragmatic — given the difficulty or even impossibility of achieving our goals — that we end up standing for nothing.

This point is relevant to all three realities touched on in the first paragraph. The 4th of July might inspire us to wear black armbands and bone up on our League of the South or United Empire Loyalist or Sinarquista or Societe Saint Jean Baptiste literature, or else mindlessly chant in unison the praises of infanticidal freedom as the true spirit of ’76. But a far better response would be to enjoy the picnics, concerts, parades, and fireworks; deepen our knowledge of national, state (both parks and historical societies), and local history; and ponder how we, as individuals, can best evangelise our own corner of the country that we ought to love because God has seen fit to place us here.

Similarly, it is easy to ridicule the new king of Spain, and point out that the regime over which he presides is nothing like that of the truly Most Catholic Majesty for whom the Carlists fought and continue to pray; he is certainly NOT of the elder line, and doubtless shall do no more than his father in opposing the nation’s increasing secularism and so inhumanity. But this reasoning ignores the fact that many monasteries, parishes, and confraternities continue to function under his aegis. What is most likely to replace him at this juncture is not the Carlist heir but a president, whose republic would undoubtedly be much more aggressively disgusting — a la Francois Hollande.

Lastly, it is certainly true that Pope Francis is neither Ven. Pius XII nor even Benedict XVI. He appears to have no interest in the externals of the Papacy that are so important for a Pope to face down the great ones of this world. But he does say some very good things in addition to the other stuff — things I wish I would hear in the pulpit of any parish church. The New Evangelisation is not entirely hype, and all over the world newer priests tend to be more orthodox, the numbers of Latin Masses are growing, new orders and communities are forming, and so on.

We must refuse to let the Perfect (at least as we imagine it to be) to become the enemy of the Good. If I lived in a New England town, I could well imagine myself refusing to vote in the Town Meeting because the warrant issued did not say: “To the inhabitants of … qualified by law to vote in District affairs you are required in His Majesty’s Name to assemble and meet at the public meeting house in said District on Monday, ye 11th day in Jan at one o’clock in the afternoon then and there to act on the following articles…” I might declare that since the dolorous day in 1776 when the reference to the King’s Most Excellent Majesty was deleted, no valid Town Meeting has been able to take place. Yes, I most certainly could — and so forfeit the ability to do something good where I live.

Life in this fallen world is filled with shadows and uncertainty. If we decide that we shall not participate in improving and converting it — or our neighbours — until it has or they have become perfect, we shall not only be denying Our Lord’s express command to spread the Gospel to all men. We shall also be implying that we ourselves have such perfection — a claim that seems utterly without foundation. There are all about us either the ruins of Christendom, or else the raw material for something that might be fitted into it. By the Edict of Thessalonica, Emperor Theodosius the Great not only made the Church the State religion of the Empire, he made Baptism the entry into Roman Citizenship as well as into the Body of Christ — our fellow Catholics in whatever land they may live are as much (and in a sense, more) our countrymen as our neighbours next door. In the current state of affairs, we should remember this, and live our lives as did the Military Saints: ready to shed our blood, if need be, for our earthly country — in its defence, if it is attacked, or at its hands if it tries to take what is God’s.