Friday, 22 January 2021

Tiny Violins for Cardinal Cupich

Please join me in praying for Cardinal Cupich's return to the Catholic Faith which I do every day.

From One Mad Mom

Awww…Isn’t this sad? Cardinal Cupich got his “feewings” hurt. Why? Because somebody made it hard for him to stop the condemning of Biden’s errors. Can you imagine what would have happened if Archbishop Gomez would have hit on all of them instead of just the preeminent ones? I’m pretty sure you would have seen a mushroom cloud from Chicago as he went nuclear. Here’s a sample of some of his tweets from today.

Today, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an ill-considered statement on the day of President Biden’s inauguration.

2:29 PM · Jan 20, 2021·Twitter for iPhone

Why is it ill-considered? Oh, for many reasons. For one, Cardinal Cupich disagrees with it. Also, Cardinal Cupich wasn’t consulted so he couldn’t reach his cronies in Rome for a full out stop. (I know there’s some question on how this all went down, but hoorah for whoever leaked it, posted it, etc. I’m hoping this means some have learned to be “sly as the serpent and gentle as the dove”, because that’s going to be what it takes.)

@CardinalBCupich

Aside from the fact that there is seemingly no precedent for doing so, the statement, critical of President Biden, came as a surprise to many bishops, who received it just hours before it was released.

I was unaware that precedent was to be taken into consideration when fraternally correcting a member of the flock. However, maybe a Catholic president’s unprecedented speed at which he promised to reinstate taxpayer funding for abortions might warrant an unprecedented response? When was the last time a member of the flock was inaugurated and proclaimed as one of his first acts the intent to allow children to be killed? When was the last time a member of the flock was inaugurated who “married” two dudes? When was the last time a member of the flock was inaugurated who pretty much says “I’m personally opposed but…” every other day to excuse his bad politicking? Oh yeah, never. Talk about no precedence. Kennedy looked like a choir boy in comparison. When is the proper time to wait to respond to this?! When children are dead and their moms have been irreparably harmed? https://thefederalist.com/2021/01/20/after-unity-speech-biden-plans-to-immediately-reinstate-taxpayer-funding-for-abortions-here-and-abroad/

@CardinalBCupich

The statement was crafted without the involvement of the Administrative Committee, a collegial consultation that is normal course for statements that represent and enjoy the considered endorsement of the American bishops.

Isn’t it interesting that he didn’t cite chapter and verse when saying it’s not allowed? He just says it’s not normal. Well, neither is Biden. Deal. Also, Archbishop Gomez put this out as a statement of the president of the USCCB, not as a document of the USCCB. What’s lacking in your little temper tantrum is why any of it was wrong. I mean, I could point out specific things I find awful about it, but your only argument was that nobody asked you. Boo. Hoo.

@CardinalBCupich

The internal institutional failures involved must be addressed, and I look forward to contributing to all efforts to that end, so that, inspired by the Gospel, we can build up the unity of the Church, and together take up the work of healing our nation in this moment of crisis.

Not consulting you is hardly an institutional failure. In fact, some would consider it a rousing success. Besides, are you a chairman on any of the committees this year? I mean, you did talk about the Administrative Committee. I don’t know, maybe you are but from what the USCCB says, that’s comprised of the committees’ heads. Regardless, stop trying to make the USCCB a divine institution. It’s not. It doesn’t have some hierarchical structure that supersedes the Church’s. NOBODY is beholden to your particular thoughts on the matter.

Biden’s Blasphemous Sacrilege Against the Most Holy Eucharist

Let His Eminence know how you feel about this sacrilegious blasphemy, but be respectful.

From Complicit Clergy

By Peter

Joe Biden and other pro-abort politicians attending today’s pre- inauguration Mass, presumably with blessing of Cardinal Wilton Gregory

Blasphemy is defined as a sin against the virtue of religion by which we render to God the honour due to Him as our first beginning and last end.

Sacrilege is the irreverent treatment of sacred things as distinguished from places and persons. This can happen first of all by the administration or reception of the sacraments (or in the case of the Holy Eucharist by celebration) in the state of mortal sin, as also by advertently doing any of those things invalidly. Indeed deliberate and notable irreverence towards the Holy Eucharist is reputed the worst of all sacrileges.

So how else could one describe what took place this morning other than a blasphemous sacrilege against the Most Holy Eucharist?

The New York Times reports that Joe Biden, along with other like-minded ‘Catholic’ politicians such as Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, attended  Mass this morning at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in downtown Washington. This could not have occurred without the blessing of Cardinal Wilton Gregory who will be giving the invocation at Biden’s inauguration.

Biden, Pelosi, Schumer, as well as many other ‘Catholics’ attending today’s Mass, have publicly opposed core teachings of the Catholic Church on abortion, homosexuality, marriage, transgenderism and socialism.  They essentially thumb their noses at the Church by supporting anti-Catholic positions while simultaneously presenting themselves for Holy Communion presented to them by complicit clergy.  In doing so, they create great scandal by broadcasting the message that Church teaching can be fragrantly flouted without repercussions.

Be not deceived, God is not mocked. — Galatians 6:7

TAKE ACTION: Contact Cardinal Wilton Gregory and let him know how you feel about allowing this blasphemous sacrilege to occur in his Archdiocese.

Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory
Archbishop of Washington DC
P.O. Box 29260, Washington DC  20017

Phone 301.853.4500

Email chancery@adw.org

Twitter @WashArchdiocese

Facebook

Website

Off the Menu: Episode 139 - Platitudinous

Topics range from Moonies, anti-communism and Falun Gong (all connected) to nationalism and the UK Constitutiom.


0:15 Death by Platitudes 6:36 Moonies 11:15 Anti-Communism 18:30 Falun Gong Cult 20:30 Fate of China 23:55 Dealing with Infertility 28:25 All in the Family 29:36 Comedy Relevance 38:15 The Third Man & Vienna 43:00 Humphrey Bogart 45:36 Orthodox & Catholic Syncretism 57:00 Is Nationalism Anti-Monarchist? 1:03:25 Puerto Rico 1:05:55 History of the Pub 1:10:27 UK Written Constitution? 1:12:44 Origin of the Hospital 1:15:43 Conservative Credibility & Trump 1:21:45 Plea Bargaining 1:22:20 European Dowry System 1:24:10 Handling Non-Catholic Environment

Can There Be a Catholic History?

I certainly hope so! If not, I've read a great number of books published under false pretences.

From Homiletic & Pastoral Review

By Christopher Zehnder

Some years ago, in a conversation with a non-Catholic woman of my acquaintance, I mentioned how I made my living. “I write Catholic history texts,” I told her. With head cocked and a challenge in her eyes, she asked, “Catholic history? What is that? How can history be Catholic?”

It was a good question, and I confess that, at first, I was uncertain how I would answer it. I said something like, “Catholic history is not Church history. It is history written from a Catholic perspective”; but that did not satisfy her. The more I tried to explain what I meant by a Catholic historical perspective, the less comprehending she seemed to grow. The fault was mine, for my explanations were unclear. The conversation ended with a shoulder shrug of incomprehension on her part, and I was left to ruminate on my own confusion.

The woman’s question and my failure to answer it adequately were, however, salutary. It forced me to think about what I meant by the phrase, “a Catholic perspective on history.” Today, if I were asked the question (“What is it?”), I could give a better answer.

This essay is my attempt to give that better answer. But first I shall reformulate the question that begs an answer.

What Is Catholic History?

What, indeed, is “Catholic history”? How can we speak of a Catholic telling of history? Does not the idea of Catholic history seem as absurd as the idea of Catholic mathematics or Catholic astronomy? After all, facts are facts. Some facts are religious facts, perhaps, but not all facts are religious; nor do all facts seem to have any necessary relation to religion. We do not need divine revelation to prove the Pythagorean theorem or to explain the movement of the spheres. Do we need it to discern and discuss the causes and effects of, say, Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon or Napoleon’s invasion of Russia? On the face of it, the answer seems to be no.

Of course, unlike mathematics or astronomy, some disciplines seem susceptible of falling under the religious ambit. For instance, we speak sometimes of “Catholic philosophy.” Yet one might object that even here, the Catholic epithet is misapplied. For though we might call philosophy the “handmaiden of theology,” it is only so in providing us a framework and a vocabulary of concepts by which we can better access divine revelation. In this way, it serves theology.

Still, in its relation at least to a theological expression of religion, philosophy differs from mathematics and astronomy in one important respect. It often covers the same subject matter: metaphysics, in particular, and ethics — even politics. Indeed, divine revelation may be a help to philosophy, for it might show us natural truths in moral matters or metaphysics we might not otherwise discover by reason unaided. Nevertheless, if such truths are based merely on revelation, they are only materially philosophical. Whatever is a matter of natural knowledge must be rooted in and demonstrable from rational premises accessible to the human mind unaided by revelation before it can be properly philosophical. Thus, if we call a philosophy “Catholic,” we mean only that it is in some measure inspired by or in accord with a Catholic conception of the world.

The case of “Catholic philosophy,” however, may provide the clue to the meaning of “Catholic history.” Could history be related to divine revelation or a theology founded on revelation in a way similar to philosophy? Can there be a Catholic history in the sense of a Catholic philosophy?

To discuss this, we must have a better idea of what history is. What is it in essence? What is its object? What are its means?

What Is History?

Very broadly, history is the study of what occurred in the past and why it occurred. It is an essay into and a narrative of past events and their causes: both merely natural events (such as earthquakes, floods, solar and lunar eclipses, precipitation patterns, etc.) and those that arise from the determinations of the human will. Yet, though it includes events arising in and from the natural world, these are not history’s primary subject. The subject of history is man. It is the study of human actions in the past, both in their causes and effects, their influences (including the non-human) and results.

What is the object or purpose of history? Most fundamentally, the study of history arises from curiosity about the past. Its object is knowledge, and thus history is a scientific endeavor, in the broader sense of scientia (“knowledge”), extending beyond the positive sciences. Such an understanding of the object of history sees it as a noble endeavor that looks to the perfection of the mind with the knowledge that finds its fulfillment in wisdom.

There are, of course, what we could call the perverse objects of history, such as manipulation for political, economic, or cultural ends that proceeds from a quest for power and domination. It has often been said that “history is written by the victors,” and this, one must admit, is often the case. Such manipulation may be unconscious, proceeding from prejudice or bias. It may be conscious, an intention to cast the best light on a bad affair, or the worst light on a good one. Whether conscious or unconscious, however, most would condemn such history, thus confirming the basic intuition that history should have as its object an honest and fair recounting of what happened in the past. Its purpose should be the truth that informs and perfects the mind, not the power that would seek to enslave it for ulterior ends and purposes.

What are the means of history? If we include pre-history in history, the means include archeology and paleontology. Yet history properly so called, though it draws on these disciplines, focuses more narrowly on the written records of the past. In fact, we use “pre-history” to refer to those ages before the time of the first extant written records. Since man and human actions stand at the center of history’s interest, history primarily consults the accounts written or told by men about themselves, their deeds, and their times.

With this understanding of its essence, object, and means, what are we to say about “Catholic history”? The answer is clear. Like mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy, history confirms its hypotheses by means that are fully accessible to the human mind without the intervention of supernatural grace or revelation. History is not theology, whose principles are drawn, not from observation and experience, but from revelation. Thus, if by Catholic we mean “theological,” and by history we mean the discipline we have been discussing, Catholic history is impossible. This is not to say, however, that there cannot be some sort of history based on revealed sources — such as the history of God’s people, based on the Scriptures as revelation alone. Yet such a history would be a part of theology; at best, it would be narrow subset of history, extending only to the parameters of what has been revealed. It would be convincing only to those who have the gift of supernatural faith. Beyond the subjects of such a sacred history, Catholic historians would have to rely on the same sources and methods that other historians use to uncover the past.

History and Perspective

So, is there any sense in the term “Catholic history”?

Some would say there is great sense in it, mainly pejorative.

For these critics, “Catholic history” or any history told from a religious perspective falls under the perverse objects of history that we have discussed above. If such history is not always history as told by the victors, it can be a loser’s attempt to gloze over failures and sins, to hide them or to cast them in the best light possible. That such historical works exist is undeniable. Historians, whether Catholic, of some other religion, or with political ends in view, have indulged in such polemics, sometimes in self-defense, sometimes in a quest for power. In every such case, the result has been a betrayal of history as knowledge.

Yet those who charge religious historians with bias proceed from an assumption — that bias is inherent in the religious mind, that those without religious faith can be objective in a way a religious believer never can be. The assumption, however, is baseless. It follows from a misapprehension that should be apparent to the most casual observer of human nature.

Those who assume bias follows inexorably from religious faith miss the fact that everyone, religious or not, approaches the world with presuppositions about its nature or its meaning. Indeed, no one approaches the world without having come to some conclusions about God. The atheist’s judgment is every bit as theological as the Catholic’s. Both proceed from a “bias,” or better yet, conviction, as to the fundamental nature of things. If a Catholic historian is biased on account of theology, so is every other historian on account of his own point of view.

Yet, whatever their bias or conviction, we expect a certain “objectivity” from historians. Historians must strive to conform their account of the past to the facts, not the facts to their account. They must be prepared, whatever their philosophy and religion (or lack thereof), to work in accord with the principles of the discipline of history in the narrow sense. That is, historians must strictly apply themselves to the interpretation of documents or the consideration of the evidence of artifacts according to all the canons of the historical discipline without interpolating into it principles that do not intrinsically belong to it.

A trenchant example will illustrate this point. I will assert a claim — that, in operating simply as historians, a Catholic and even an atheist could come to the same historical conclusions about the resurrection of Christ.

This claim might seem counter-intuitive, but it is easily demonstrable if we assume both the Catholic and the atheist are acting as historians. As historians, both the atheist and the Catholic must, for instance, appeal to the primary source documents of the life of Christ — the Gospels and the New Testament epistles. They must assess those documents as to their reliability based solely on historical grounds. Are they, for instance, eyewitness accounts, or, at least, accounts by a near contemporary? If they are contemporary to the events they describe, do the Gospels hint at any bias that might compel an unfavorable judgement as to their historical reliability? How do the Gospels line up with each other? Are there discrepancies; and, if there are, are the discrepancies only apparent? Are they grave enough to cast serious doubt on the Gospels’ reliability as historical texts? How do the Gospels compare with other witnesses to the life of Christ? How do they compare with what we know otherwise about the history of the period? How do they line up with the discoveries of archaeology? These are among the questions any historian, whether he has faith in Christ or not, must ask if he is to function as an historian. He cannot shirk these considerations without betraying the discipline of history itself.

What we have said here answers to the procedures of history — but could an atheist and a Catholic historian come to the same conclusions, even on an event like the resurrection of Christ? The answer is yes. Both could conceivably agree that the resurrection accounts witness to some real, perhaps inexplicable event; they could both conclude that the eyewitnesses or Paul were not simply lying when they claimed to have seen the risen Jesus; they could both assert that there is good historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ – not necessarily that he literally rose from the dead but, at least, that the authors who recounted resurrection were not engaged in dishonest subterfuge, that they are trustworthy.

Of course, the Catholic, on account of his faith, would be disposed to accept a literal, bodily resurrection as a historical event, while the thoroughgoing materialist atheist would be disposed to deny it. Each, too, may be disposed to reject evidence brought by the other in defense of his conclusion. Yet disposition is not determination. Reason is not bound to follow the dictates of prejudice, nor the will ineluctably crushed by the burden of one’s druthers. The intellect, like the will, though influenced by presuppositions, remains free. Judging from the standpoint of history itself, there is no reason at the outset why a Catholic and an atheist could not agree at least in large part in their judgment of an historical record such as that of the Gospels.

Thus, from the vantage point of the historical discipline, both as regards its methods and possible conclusions, it seems there should be little if any difference between a Catholic historian and an atheist historian, or between Catholic and non-Catholic history. It seems, then, that we have answered the question with which we opened this essay: can there be a Catholic history? That answer is clearly no. We are forced to conclude that “Catholic history” makes about as much sense as Catholic mathematics or Catholic astronomy. History is just history, plain and simple.

Faith and Reason for the Historian

As far as the discipline of history goes, this conclusion — that there can be no Catholic history — is simply true. One cannot escape it.

Yet can we so easily set aside the nagging intuition that there is, indeed, a real difference between history as told by a believer and that told by an unbeliever?

After all, can we entirely dismiss the nagging suspicion that, no matter how hard a historian tries to be objective, his biases will force him, if only unconsciously, to manipulate the historical record to accord with his presuppositions? The suspicion is certainly just. A healthy skepticism must accompany any foray into a historical text by any writer of whatever stripe. Caveat lector should be the watch phrase for those who plunge into the reading of historical works. At the same time, a healthy suspicion should not force us to reject out of hand any historical text based on the worldview of its author.

Nevertheless, though one cannot simply set aside the power that a philosophical or religious point of view wields over judgment in the study and exposition of history, may we advance the supposition that a point of view or conviction is not itself a negative influence? A presupposition is not by necessity in itself groundless; in fact, it is a necessary starting point from which we begin any study, even of mathematics or astronomy. A confidence in the power and efficacy of logic, for instance, founds the study of mathematics. One’s conviction as to the trustworthiness of the senses and human observation must be the beginning point of astronomy. At the very least, our sense that we are discovering reality or just describing phenomena relies on how we understand the nature of the human mind and its ability to access reality. A worldview — or philosophy or religion (for even atheists, in their own way, are religious) — sets the scope and depth of one’s perception of the world and its possibilities. We are disposed to accept as true only what we think is possible. We are wont to reject out of hand any claim that we think is untenable by reason. The possible for us sets the boundaries of reality.

At the very least, those who think God exists and those who reject this proposition, those who accept the existence of a non-material, spiritual world and those who reduce everything to the material, will have a correspondingly narrower or broader preconception of what is possible in reality. How expansive one’s understanding of reality is will certainly have an effect, and an important one, on how he approaches existence, not in a determinative (as I have argued above) but in a dispositive way.

For the materialist, reality is just that — only material. Since the universe is circumscribed by material causality, the apparently supernatural and immaterial will have to be explained by material causes. There is no alternative. If a historical text recounts a seemingly miraculous event — one that, on its face, can only be explained by supernatural causes — the materialist will either have to deny that the event occurred at all or, if that is not quite possible, seek an explanation for its apparent supernatural character in primitive credulity, the machinations of priestcraft, or a process by which the human mind transfigures and reconfigures events to fulfill a psychological need: a kind of wish-fulfillment. For example, materialist presuppositions have been at the root of the attempts to abstract the “Christ of history” from the “Christ of faith”; for the Christ of faith, who worked miracles, cast out demons, raised the dead, and himself arose from the dead, cannot exist in a universe subject only to material laws.

Materialism is thus a presupposition in every way as influential as any religious belief in the study of history. Though it does not necessitate an unsound use of the historical method, it conditions its exercise and constrains the mind and imagination. It thus disposes to a rather narrow understanding of reality and, thus, of history.

By contrast, a religious and, thus, a Catholic, historian accedes to the possibility of the spiritual and supernatural in history. I say possibility here, for the religious mind properly formed will not give immediate credence to every claim of supernatural intervention. Credulity is not the mark of the believer — an openness to a broader reality is. The historian who believes in God and a supernatural order can thus, as a historian, entertain the possibility of miracles and divine intervention in general; in exploring history, he is free to consider all of the historical record with an open mind, unconstrained by the narrow presuppositions of materialism. In doing so, he does not abandon any of the standards of the historical discipline. He does not reject material causality. He should be as strict in assessing the likelihood of any recorded supernatural event as he is in discerning the possibility of any historical claim. Still, he is not shackled by materialist presuppositions. He has been “set free from the bondage of decay” and “enjoys the glorious liberty of the sons of God” (Romans 8:21).

Such liberty marks any religious historian; yet the Catholic historian enjoys another benefit: the specificity of Catholic revelation. Though the Church does not provide magisterial pronouncements on how every historical event falls under divine providence, she does assert the reality of providence: a divine plan for history. This plan not only includes the Church, both in its mystical and existential reality, but flows in and through the Church. The Catholic thus knows that the Church is the key to understanding history. This knowledge, as it operates in the historical discipline, serves thus as a kind of hunch, a suggestive lead that the historian as historian can use to form hypotheses to interpret historical events. Again, such hypotheses cannot be used to shortchange the hard work of historical interpretation, which proceeds by rational methods; but they provide avenues for exploration that are closed to those who do not share the Faith.

Thus, far from constraining the historian, the Catholic faith opens up vistas of reality undisclosed to materialists and non-Catholic religious believers alike. Catholic history is truly history. It does not abandon any of the demands of the historical discipline; rather, it insists on them, for the Catholic, if he is truly such, warmly embraces the autonomy of reason within its own sphere. Yet, like the Catholic philosopher, the Catholic historian can sit at the feet of the one who has uncovered the “mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints” (Colossians 1:26). From him, and through his Church, the Catholic historian has access to the mystery that has revealed man to himself and the meaning of his long sojourn on this earth.

In this sense one can speak, even confidently, of a “Catholic history.”

Conservatism and the Southern Tradition

On the strength of this review, I purchased the book. Of course, I'm partial to Sir Roger, my favourite contemporary political philosopher. 

From The Abbeville Review

By Duncan Killen

A review of Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition (All Points Books, 2018) by Sir Roger Scruton.

There is no such thing as conservatism, according to Sir Roger Scruton’s 155-page monograph, Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition. That is, there is no unified theory of conservatism because it is always localized to a time, a place, and a tradition. To say the word conservative means something different depending on who, and where, you are. But the philosophy of conservatism qua conservatism simply does not exist. By no means does that mean it’s empty, though.

Conservatism requires a modifier. There is Southern conservatism. There is British conservatism. There is even what you might call Yankee conservatism (see, e.g., the Salem Witch Trials). One might rightly say that there is a localized flavor of conservatism for every state and even every town, the objective of which is to preserve the native society, kinship, and ritual. Conservatism without a specific temporal and terrestrial provenance, though, is empty.

In Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition, Scruton surveys the intellectual foundations of conservative thought, from the pre-history of conservatism, to the birth of modern conservatism as written by Edmund Burke, to conservatism in continental Europe, and up to more modern currents of conservatism as expressed by thinkers like Russell Kirk. In a way, Scruton’s book might be thought of as a primer for reading Kirk’s classic The Conservative Mind.

Scruton provides an accessible yet thorough explanation of the constituent ideas of Burkean conservatism. He channels the intellectual spirit of Burke, to the point where their two voices are often indistinguishable throughout the book. The relevance of these ideas to a Southerner can hardly be overstated. The ideas of Southern conservatism and what we term the Southern Tradition are at bottom the same. Southern conservatism is inextricable from the soil in which it is rooted. It comes out of a specific place and it forms a distinct, if sometimes diverse, body of thought.

What is the basis of conservatism, then? The answer to this question, is that which holds us together as a community even when we are not united on all the issues of the day: because we are nevertheless united in our sharing of a pre-political loyalty. Conservatism is the manifestation of this pre-political loyalty. It is the trust, the heritage – and the collocational settlement – that has generated social cohesion. It is upon this loyalty that social order, and conservatism, is built.

There is no conservatism without a shared community, a shared history, a shared identity, and a shared land. Scruton explains:

[Conservatism] has been about our whole way of being, as heirs to a great civilization and a many-layered bequest of laws, institutions and high culture. For conservatives our law-governed society came into being because we have known who we are, and defined our identity not by our religion, our tribe or our race but by our country, the sovereign territory in which we have built the free form of life that we share. And if there is another way of staying together in the world as it is today, I should be interested to hear of it.

The essence of conservatism is the common-sense understanding that it is easier to destroy than to build. This is true of a building just as it is true of a society. Our institutions contain intergenerational experience, carefully tended and developed by trial and error, the accumulation of which is wisdom. Large and small, they are the fabric and the infrastructure of our day-to-day lives: civil and governmental institutions, religion, the common law, manners, holidays, traditions, and even the way we remember our history. To remake basic societal structures each time we encounter a flaw would undermine the stock of utility that has been built up in them through accretion of group effort. It would be the ultimate in hubris to think we can discard any of these without suffering a catastrophic loss.

Because it is easier to build than to destroy, we must be cautious when making change. Change – even progress – may come, but it should be done to conserve that which we have. As Burke famously said, “we reform in order to conserve,” and such reform is occasioned in the interest of long-term community survival. Edmund Burke was a Whig, after all. He believed in progress, but he rejected revolution. Scruton explains that as conservatives “we adapt to change in the name of continuity, in order to conserve what we are and what we have.” That is, we must be modern in defense of the past, and creative in defense of tradition.

* * *

To be clear, conservatism as explained by Scruton is not the libertarian, free-market ideas of quisling conservatives who define conservativism simply as being “anti-Left,” as someone like George F. Will does. A conservative defines himself by what he stands for, not by what he stands against. These nominal conservatives are the reason, as Scruton says, in modern society “the only phobia permitted is that of which conservatives are a target.” These quasi-conservatives do not take their stand, or if they do, it is for capital for its own sake.

Markets have no virtues in-and-of themselves unless there is a community they serve. Real conservativism requires a belief in a transcendent order, as well as faith in custom, tradition, and culture. The economy expounded by free-market, open-border libertarians has little intrinsic value. Honest actors will “wish to reach deals openly” but those deals must be “backed up by the moral and legal strictures that issue from our shared sympathy,” says Scruton. Market libertarianism is not conservatism because libertarianism’s basic unit of value is the deal. Conservatism’s basic unit of value is the soul.

Modern-day libertarians and liberals alike would have us believe that Enlightenment-style natural rights, derived from so-called pure reason, are the fount from which a society may be fashioned. John Locke spoke of these fundamental rights as being life, liberty, and property. These rights were ostensibly declared in the Virginia Declaration of Rights and our Declaration of Independence.

The problem with natural rights as expressed by social-contract theorists like Locke and Rousseau is that they treat man’s creation of human institutions as transactional. They claim that free men in a state of nature have negotiated the terms of their society like it were an actual contract. By this understanding, the contract could be ripped up at any time and rebuilt from the foundation. This hyper-rationality is absurdly mathematical in its application of abstract reason to politics and human society, says Scruton. It’s a hallucination. Rarely if ever have men made such agreements. There was no state of nature, least not one that human experience can know or understand.

Rights do not come prior to society. Rather, society and its inherited traditions are that out of which rights and governments grow. This assertion may sound foreign to the student of liberal philosophy. But to a conservative, rights reflect a preexisting national character and tradition, which may vary among peoples and nations. Society is organic, not a machine. As M.E. Bradford has explained, the existence of a constitution is something worked out by a people with a specific history whose existence is a priori to any discussion of their constitution.

Natural rights are nonsense on stilts, as Jeremy Bentham said. Conservatism is functional, not aspirational, and it is the customary utility of rights and obligations – not abstract reason – which is the justification for them. Scruton expounds on this, telling us that without our inherited institutions, our freedoms are meaningless:

For the conservative, human beings come into this world burdened by obligations, and subject to institutions and traditions that contain within them a precious inheritance of wisdom, without which the exercise of freedom is as likely to destroy human rights and entitlements as to enhance them.

By this understanding, proclamations of liberty may be the child of custom and tradition, but they are not a realization of God’s grants, at least not in the sense that they can be separated from tradition. Rights are the inherited expression of a preexisting political order – not the instant karma of Enlightenment insight.

Society is a trusteeship, not an arm’s length contract. It is, Burke reminds us, an association between the dead, the living, and the unborn. Each generation has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of those for whose benefit he has been entrusted. There is “a continuous chain of giving and receiving, and to recognize that the good things we inherit are not ours to spoil but ours to safeguard.” Social traditions exist “because they enable a society to reproduce itself.” If you destroy them heedlessly, you remove the guarantee offered by one generation to the next.

* * *

The American Revolution, as understood by Scruton, Burke, and the Founding Fathers, was the just not the insistence of Americans’ rights – it was the insistence of their rights as Englishmen. The Founders did not seek to create a new order, they sought to retain the rights they believed were due them under English law and tradition. Burke supported the American Revolution, writing that its purpose was “not to acquire absolute speculative liberty, but to keep what they had under the English constitution.” The American Constitution was thus an attempt to capture that legal tradition within four corners to protect against another attempt at what was the real revolutionary act – the theft of their rights by Parliament and the Crown.

The American Constitution was a restoration of the rights of Englishmen hewn from the most essential principles of the British Constitutional tradition. Burke said he could only find that America wanted “a security to its ancient condition.” The American Revolution was another flavor of the English Glorious Revolution in which traditional rights were restored to the populace.

Burke recognized that our Constitution was a natural fit for the national character of Americans. This order, under, eventually, the Constitution, had developed organically from the existing societal order. The Revolution was relatively neat and procedural, led by lawyers, planters, and merchants, all men who had little interest in upending the colonial social structure.

There had been wisdom in the trial and error of the American founding. The Articles of Confederation were scrapped (technically, seceded from), state constitutions were rewritten, and an intense period of attempting to create an American version of the English rights that had been received through the generations. The Bill of Rights itself was named after the original Bill of Rights enacted after the Glorious Revolution, in which another king had overstepped his bounds. The father of our Bill of Rights might be James Madison, but its grandfathers might rightly be the English Parliament of 1689.

Professor Donald Livingston says that American independence was declared from inherited rights, and that it is not possible to create a new society purely on contract principles. Livingston explains:

The Declaration [of Independence], then, is not about an aggregate of atomistic Lockean individuals uniting to secure their individual self-interest, but historically pre-existing political societies, each seeking to establish (out of its desired sovereignty) legal protection for what it considers a valuable way of life. But what about the abstract proposition that “all men are created equal?” It is just that: an abstraction. Without a moral and religious tradition to interpret it – with all its contingency and particularity – it is entirely empty and cannot serve to guide any conduct whatsoever.

The American Revolution was a conservative revolution, one in which we reformed in order to conserve our cultural inheritance, not a revolution based on what Livingston has called the “philosophical superstition of natural rights.” The declaration that all men are created equal is not (as Lincoln claimed) a statement of universal rights, it meant that all men in the existing political community – those who shared a history, culture, and territory – were equal under the law.

The French Revolution stood in stark contrast to the American Revolution, however. Scruton, channeling Burke, explains that the French Revolution was destined for failure because it was premised solely on abstract Enlightenment rights, without reference to French society or traditions.

The French Revolution started from an ideal, from an abstraction. Its leaders were a “literary cabal” consumed with the abstract at the expense of the practical. The French Revolution was an attempt to create a new society from whole cloth by using ideas that previously had little or no presence among the French people. Like the Soviets, the French tore down fundamental institutions like the church, started from scratch, and tried unnaturally to force the existing society’s nature to conform to ideas previously unknown.

The French revolutionaries rejected all that which conservatism consists – practicality, the everyday, and the familiar. They dishonored the dead, they stole from the unborn, and showed contempt for the gifts that had been given to them. This resulted in, as Scruton explains, the “systematic destruction of the stock of social capital.” The French discarded their society and political birthright, and both they and their progeny paid a price for it, falling under control of a dictator, Napoleon.

As Burke pithily remarked, “the doctrine of the rights of man, was never preached any where without mischief.” The example has repeatedly been proven true throughout history, repeating itself as recently as the Communist revolution in 1917 and up through the riots of the Summer of 2020. The absurdity of most revolutions is that they see society as a means to a future society, rather than an end in itself. The revolutionaries are at war with the people they set out to govern.

* * *

Scruton touches on the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, the progenitor of the Southern tradition. Scruton – who has no dog in the endless fight over whether Jefferson is the originator of radical leftism or Southern conservatism – comes down firmly in favor of the latter. Jefferson is important, says Scruton, because of his belief that though there are valid human rights, “the form of government must be tailored to the conditions of a given society, not dictated by the logic of abstract ideas.” Jefferson considered himself a philosopher, but he believed that the common law was a better guide to defining rights than philosophy alone.

At least as important is Jefferson’s critique of centralization of political power and his corresponding belief in localized sovereignty. Jefferson is representative of the enduring divide in American politics, says Scruton, between the “defence of an agrarian civilization” against the collectivist state represented by market forces. Scruton thus sides with those of us who understand, as Clyde Wilson has said, “the Jeffersonian stance was the more conservative because it more truly in kept with the facts of human nature and the particular conditions of America.”

Though Scruton’s examination of Jefferson is brief, more can be said about Jefferson’s conservatism using his framework. Agrarianism and decentralization were two sides of the same coin to Jefferson, and they continue to be fundamental principles to Southern conservatives. These two principles developed organically in the American colonies. Though they had inherited the English common law tradition, the colonies, and then the states, were unique by virtue of their geography. Vast expanses of land on which to settle led to the tandem developments of agriculture and decentralized government. This decentralization was clearly different than the English system of unitary government with a center of power in London. To Americans, decentralization was innate to their experience, and thus formed one of the fundamental Jeffersonian (and American) political values.

Scruton says that conservatism comes from experience, and in America, the experience of agrarian decentralization is that conservatism. Jefferson wrote that the Constitution would have an effective system of checks and balances so long as, in addition to the three branches of the general government balancing each other, state power also provided a check on the general government. “The limited powers of the federal government and jealousy of the subordinate governments afford a security which exists in no other instance,” Jefferson said, which would protect. Consolidation of power, on the other hand, would destroy the traditions unique to the former colonies.

To understand Jefferson’s conservatism, one need only look at his aspirations for American society. His dream for America was an agrarian nation, stitched together from independent homesteads, populated by yeoman farmers, which came together to form communities built into states. It would be an America where “towns and institutions [would be] built according to civilized principles,” says Scruton. The largest unit of government, with very limited exceptions, was the state. It was a community of communities, not (as he Jefferson wrote to Madison) crowded metropolises where “people get piled upon one another … and got to eating one another.”

To Jefferson, each state possessed unique cultural characteristics – its settlement patterns, geography, and even the ethos and the myths that made one, for instance, a Virginian. There was no template that could be imposed equally on New England and the Lowcountry. A polity need not contain values that must be transcribed so universally as to fit a continental nation. That would be laughable, for it was no great leap to conclude that there may also be rights and duties possessed by inhabitants of one state that would not exist for neighbors of another across the river.

Jefferson believed in tradition. He knew that inculcation of virtue – the mores and traditions of his culture – would “render the people a sure basis for the structure and order of government.” Such words never came from the mouth of Robespierre, who thundered that “virtue without terror is impotent.” Jefferson thus had a fundamentally conservative conception of society that derived from his own history, language, religion, and society.

Though Jefferson sometimes wrote and spoke like a natural-rights theorist, he lived and dreamed like a conservative. His dreams were not of a future that had broken radically from the past, but of a future that grew naturally out of its past. On his mountain, Monticello, Jefferson was a farmer, a father, a grandfather, a neighbor, a community leader, an educator, a philanthropist, and a philosopher. He believed in a stable society. What mattered most fundamentally to Jefferson, more even than the conjuring of rights by enlightened philosophers, was his way of life.

Indeed, Jefferson, like Burke, believed a form of aristocracy to be vital. Jefferson wrote that aristocracy arose organically among men, and that it is necessary for a functioning culture:

The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed, it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society. May we not even say, that that form of government is the best, which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government?

These same thoughts were set to paper twenty-two years earlier by none other than Edmund Burke. Burke wrote that when men act with virtue, pursue honor and duty, and tend to the affairs of society, “these are the circumstances of men that form what I should call a natural aristocracy, without which there is no nation.”

It should come as no surprise that though Jefferson and Burke took different routes, they had arrived at the same destination.

* * *

The epitaph on Karl Marx’s tombstone in Highgate Cemetery, London famously says that “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” Scruton’s life activity (he passed away in January 2020) stands for much the opposite principle. The point of philosophy, to him, was to protect the heritage that had been handed down through generations. He was no armchair philosopher, though, because he understood that defense of one’s heritage must often be active. Scruton was an anti-communist whose works were handed out in samizdat form through the Eastern Bloc, and for this he was arrested in Prague during one of his many lectures against totalitarianism and in favor of republican conservatism. Scruton met with Czech and Polish dissidents in dark, crowded apartments – they were professors, poets, and other such thought-criminals. They were, as Scruton has written, “a battered remnant.”

What Scruton said about meeting with Eastern Bloc dissidents might apply equally to what he would have felt if attending a gathering of Southerner conservatives:

I felt toward these people an immediate affinity. Nothing was of such importance for them as the survival of their national culture. Deprived of material and professional advancement, their days were filed with a forced meditation on their country and its past, and on the great Question of [] History that has preoccupied [them] since the movement for national revival in the nineteenth century. They were forbidden to publish; the authorities had concealed their existence from the world, and had resolved to remove their traces from the book of history. Hence the dissidents were acutely conscious of the value of memory. Their lives were an exercise in what Plato called anamnesis: the bringing to consciousness of forgotten things.

As with those dissidents, symbols of Southern nationhood have been purged from the national landscape by consolidationist bureaucrats and quangos. The American political climate is openly hostile to Southern conservatives, banishing our own battered remnant to the dark corners of the culture.

But Southern memory yet endures. The people of the South, like the Hebrews of old, are defined by the stories they tell about how their people came to be. Their stories are still told, even if one must sometimes look harder to find them. There is yet hope so long as those stories continue to be told.

Hope without action is just a daydream, though. Scruton concludes with words that Southern conservatives would be wise to heed. He says that to offer toleration to those gripped by animosity to your way of life “is to open the door to your own destruction.” We must “rediscover what we are and what we stand for,” and having discovered it, “be prepared to fight for it.” That is, says Scruton, the conservative message.

Word of the Day: Slavonic Language

SLAVONIC LANGUAGE. Also called Old Church Slavonic. Not a distinctive rite, but the liturgical language used in the Byzantine Rite by Catholic and Orthodox Russians, Ruthenians, Bulgars, Serbs, and others. About A.D. 866, Sts. Cyril and Methodius translated the liturgy into Old Slavonic, the language of the people in Moravia and Pannonia, and invented a new alphabet (Cyrillic) for their Slavic converts. Pope Adrian II approved the action. The Roman liturgy in Old (Southern) Slavonic dates in some territories from about the eleventh century and is still in use in Dalmatia and Croatia (Yugoslavia). The introduction of the vernacular in the liturgy since the Second Vatican Council has naturally affected the use of Slavonic among Catholics.

Well, What Now? A Look at the Difficult Present Moment, With a Dash of Hope

Mr Skojec looks at the current situation with Big Tech censorship, the Leftist ascendancy in society and the State of the Church.

From One Peter Five

By Steve Skojec

If things here at 1P5 have seemed a little quieter than usual lately, that’s because they have been. Fewer submissions have been coming in, and I’ve personally struggled to find more things worth saying, leaving my pen keyboard a bit more unused than I’d like. If you’ve ever lived through a hurricane, the current moment sort of reminds me of the eerie, quiet calm after it’s finally gone through, where all you can do is walk around and look at all the downed trees and powerlines and debris and sort of marvel at what just happened.

If you’ll allow me to mix a bunch of metaphors and make bad analogies, I’ll try to sum up the situation. And if I do this right, maybe I’ll even offer a little bit of hope. This isn’t going to be a political post; not really. But we have to reference what just transpired to make sense out of where we are.

I think a lot of people are, as I said above, sort of dazed right now. I’m no exception. For those of us here in America, we thought we had a chance to keep our country on track a little while longer, but the chance slipped right through our fingers. Then we thought maybe we could prove that it was because the other guys had cheated. We failed there, too. We can argue all we like about the reasons why that happened, but the fact is, we didn’t prevail. We lost the battle for this country, and now the Empire (so to speak) is striking back good and hard.

As the Leftist media assumes with gusto its role as propaganda agent for the Political Left, Big Tech has now joined them as all-seeing eye of Big Brother and unofficial enforcer of Goodthink. Voices are being purged; individuals (and even entire categories of thought) are being deplatformed and blacklisted. All of this is happening for the pseudo-crime of having supported the wrong guy for president. The guy who already was president for the past four years (and who totally failed to take pre-emptive action on this exact thing for some reason). Somehow, this hasn’t happened to me or to 1P5 yet, but I’d be pretty naïve to assume it won’t. After all, the things Catholics have always believed are increasingly being re-categorized as hate speech. How long do we really have left?

I wrote an article here in 2019 about the escalating threat of this kind of thing. I said:

And now there’s deplatforming and shadowbanning — typically deployed against people who are insufficiently politically correct, who don’t bow and scrape to the prevailing and popular ideologies of our day. These practices have gotten so out of control that the White House actually set up a reporting form to let them know about violations — a form they’ve since had to close after receiving “thousands of responses.”

It’s no real surprise that the very members of the administration that tried to stop this particularly stifling form of political axe grinding were among the first to be disappeared when the balance of power shifted. In so doing, they’ve now made me look like a prophet. Here’s what I said two years ago:

On the receiving end, the powerlessness one feels when an automated platform shuts out your content is profound. As a content-creator, social media deplatforming doesn’t even make it possible to talk to another human being about why you can’t share your work with your painstakingly cultivated online audience.

You’re just…banished.

Advocates make it sound as though this deplatforming is happening only to people with extreme views, like neo-Nazis and racial supremacists (white ones, obviously; the other kinds of racial supremacism are A-OK.) But that isn’t really true. There is a spectrum of political and religious conservatives who run afoul of today’s thought police, with conservative comedian and pundit Steven Crowder being a notable recent example. In his case, his YouTube channel was just “demonetized” — basically, he can’t make any money from ads despite getting millions of views — until he stops linking to a t-shirt he sells that bears the phrase “Socialism Is for Fags.” Among other perhaps not yet defined hoops he needs to jump through.

In other words: “You will say what we want you to say how we want you to say it or we’ll wipe out your ability to make a living.”

And they have the unilateral power to do it.

They’ve certainly been flexing that power, haven’t they?

And while yes, social media remains an incredibly important tool for community building and getting good content in the hands of geographically dispersed people of like mind, I’m having an increasingly hard time seeing the downside in spending less time with all of this stuff. It’s doing something to us. It’s toxic, sure, but it’s also radicalizing people, and I’m not just talking about the Left. And it seems to be destroying what’s left of critical thought.

Twitter is an absolute battlefield. It’s a good place to get information quickly about a lot of things, but it’s also very difficult to navigate it without a thick skin and a hair trigger – and it has a tendency to bring out the worst in people (myself included.)

Parler, of course, long-touted as a conservative alternative to Twitter, has been taken out by the internet version of a tactical nuke. Other, less-popular and often issue-plagued third party platforms have sprung up, but they lack the potency or the staying power to foster discussion. They can also be de-listed from app stores or have their hosting cut off with virtually zero notice.

And then there’s Facebook: a place where everything of substance that I post seems to get hundreds of comments, many of them quite long and often, quite contrary. Sometimes the arguments between the people in the comments go on for days – long after I’ve moved on from my own thread and stopped participating. Often these people would never conduct themselves the same way in person — I mean, I know some of them in person and they don’t act that way — but getting in front of a screen and a keyboard seems to change folks.

 

Demoralization by Design?

I can’t say for certain if the effects of social media and the way they’re now controlling it like jackbooted thugs is a purposeful attempt to demoralize us, but they’d be hard pressed to find a better approach if they tried. We learned that this was how you communicate in the 21st century. Once they trained us to be keyboard warriors, flamethrowers at the ready, they showed us how easily they could take it all away, leaving people entirely unsure what to do except…go to social media and complain about it.

With COVID restrictions still putting a crimp in in-person socialization in many places, the shutdown or heavy-handed moderation of most of the popular online platforms is going to leave a lot of people feeling more vulnerable and isolated at a time when we desperately need community. If they can do these things to a sitting president, they can do it to you, and they want you to know it. I’ve personally lost over 1600 followers on my personal Twitter account, and we’ve lost another 1400 from the 1P5 Twitter account. That’s a lot of accounts that have just evaporated because, apparently, they’ve been deemed unacceptable by the luminaries of our woke-or-go-home age. On an emotional and intellectual level, the speed and scope of the crackdowns, the assimilation of sycophantic media into a new administration, and the ruthlessly efficient systematic dismantling of the past four years of executive action has been like a sucker punch to the gut. You’re left with that feeling of not being able to catch your breath, just trying, to no avail, to will the air back into your lungs.

The powerlessness, the lack of clarity on where we go from here, it all takes a toll. I know I’ve been battling malaise since late last year, but it’s even more than that. There’s this overwhelming sense of having been defeated in every battle that matters. We had already lost the culture. We’ve almost completely lost the Church. I think a lot of us poured ourselves into the political fight with little to no reserve because we felt it was the last stand. That was certainly the message Archbishop Vigano was sending, wasn’t it?

He spoke of the “epochal importance” of the election; he said that “the United States of America is considered the defending wall against which the war declared by the advocates of globalism has been unleashed.”

And the wall fell. It fell hard. It doesn’t matter whether you think they won by cheating or fair and square, the fact is, they won. They found a way to take home the prize, and it doesn’t matter, practically speaking, if it was a dirty win, because they outsmarted us, they outhustled us, they got the refs looking the other way on every critical play, and they came out on top with all the chips.

They’re in control now, whether we think it stinks or not, and they’re not going to let go.

Now, we have to face the reality. Now, we have to figure out what it means to live in an America where we will likely never see a major electoral victory again, knowing that even the Catholic Church doesn’t have our back. We have to figure out how to manage despite the purges, the crackdowns, the laws trying to force us to conform. And we’ve got to find a way to do it with our heads up, because moping around feeling sorry for ourselves is going to get us precisely nowhere.

I’m saying this to myself as much (or probably more) than I’m saying it to you. I’m trying to unfreeze my brain, clear the clouds and the cobwebs out, and start finding a path forward.

I’m trying to shake the tendrils of depression and despair that keep trying to snake their way into my heart and mind.

The world didn’t end this week. But it did change, and not for the better. Are we going to succumb, or survive?

 

We’re On Our Own

One of the most important lessons this week came in the form of yet another betrayal by our shepherds.

Somehow, against all odds, the American Bishops decided they were going to issue a statement pointing out that the second “Catholic” President has made public commitments that are in conflict with our faith.

The statement wasn’t overwhelmingly strong, but it was more than I expected. Evidently, it was also more than the Vatican expected, and they sought to stomp it out the first chance they got:

The U.S. bishops’ conference held back a statement on incoming President Joe Biden Wednesday morning, after officials from the Vatican Secretariat of State intervened before the statement could be released.

The statement, from conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez, took uncompromising positions on abortion, gender, and religious liberty, warning that the Biden administration’s policy agenda would advance “moral evils” on several fronts.

[…]

The statement was not released Wednesday morning, and bishops were informed by USCCB officials that it remained under embargo, even after one media outlet reported it had been released.

Sources in the Vatican Secretariat of State, others close to the U.S. bishops’ conference, and sources among the U.S. bishops have confirmed to The Pillar that the statement was spiked after intervention from the Vatican Secretariat of State, hours before it was due to be released.

The statement had been debated hotly late into Tuesday evening, but multiple sources say it was the intervention of the Vatican that led to its delay.

[…]

Conference sources told The Pillar that while Gomez’ statement might eventually be released, Pope Francis was expected first to release a statement on the Biden administration, at midday on Wednesday. Some sources said there was concern in the Vatican that a statement from Gomez seen as critical of the Biden administration might seem to force the pope’s hand in his own dealings with Biden, who will be the second Catholic president of the United States, and the first in 60 years.

The pope did issue a statement, and as expected, it contained nothing even resembling an admonishment, despite his stated positions in favor of things like abortion and same-sex marriage, and his intention to remove conscience exemptions from contraception mandates.

Archbishop Gomez ultimately published the USCCB statement after the morning delay, and though some bishops expressed their support, Cardinal Cupich wasted no time in pouncing on it:

“Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an ill-considered statement on the day of President Biden’s inauguration. Aside from the fact that there is seemingly no precedent for doing so, the statement, critical of President Biden came as a surprise to many bishops, who received it just hours before it was released.

The statement was crafted without the involvement of the Administrative Committee, a collegial consultation that is normal course for statements that represent and enjoy the considered endorsement of the American bishops. The internal institutional failures involved must be addressed, and I look forward to contributing to all efforts to that end, so that, inspired by the Gospel, we can build up the unity of the Church, and together take up the work of healing our nation in this moment of crisis.”

The entire affair was a stark reminder: the best we can hope for is moderate and tempered pushback from the best of our bishops; the worst will actively seek to suppress anything that looks like Catholic truth.

We are on our own. We have been for a very long time, and we will be for a long time to come.

We need to remember this. We need to hold on to it. We need to be motivated by it.

 

So What Do We Do Now?

This is, after all, the most important question. The tattered remains of Christendom are being set ablaze – quite literally in some cases.

Anyone who tells you they know the answers at this moment (beyond the standard Christian duties to pray and do penance) is selling you something.

We don’t know. Nobody does. There are no easy answers. I don’t see any obvious political solutions at this moment. I don’t even see the beginnings of a political path. But I do have some ideas on what where we can start, right in our own homes. We need to take time and reflect. We need to spend less time online, poring over news, arguing, wallowing in conspiracy theories or anger or bitterness, and spend that time instead with the people we love. Learning, thinking, and regrouping. Building up what we can, not just staring, useless, in abject horror at what is being torn down.

We focus on what we can do. We build communities. We raise our children. We study and teach the faith. We make art & music. Read good books. Write whatever we think might be helpful to others, and share it as long as we’re still allowed. (And when we’re no longer allowed, find new ways to share it.)

We need to figure out what has gone so wrong with our culture that we’ve strayed this far from our beginnings. We should study other such failures in history to see what we can learn. We must seek to understand how we became so desperate that we thought political solutions to moral problems could put the world back on track. Politics was never going to solve our problems. We all knew this, and yet, somehow, we all forgot.

But remembering — or perhaps more appropriately, re-discovering — is going to take work. And it may be the work of many years. Generations, even.

That’s hard to do if you’re walking around in a daze, or sitting on the couch just staring into space.

I’ve been reading a book by Scott Adams that I’m enjoying. Though he’s best known for creating the comic strip Dilbert, Adams has been one of the most interesting and insightful political and social commentators I’ve read in recent years. In the book, Loserthink, Adams describes a condition known as “couch lock,” where people get stuck, and feel unable to take a step to fix it.
“Your body is presumably able to get off the couch,” he writes, “and perhaps you want to get up, but you lack the specific motivation. It feels as if you are trapped in your own lazy body.”

He continues:

We’ve all experienced times when we wanted to get up and do something useful but we couldn’t talk ourselves into it. It can happen when you are tired, unmotivated, shy, anxious, or even depressed. Your body sits there like a bag of potatoes while your helpless brain thinks that getting up and doing something would be a good idea. For some mysterious reason, your brain can’t give the order to your body to make it get off the couch. You might know you need to make a phone call or take a class to further your life ambitions, but for some reason you don’t do it. Maybe you think you know why, and maybe you don’t. But the net result is that your brain can’t force your body to do the simple things you know you need to do to improve your situation. For all practical purposes, you’re locked in a mental prison of your own making.

Even if you don’t have a couch-related problem, you might feel paralyzed in major areas of your life. Are you thinking about changing jobs, applying to graduate school, moving someplace better, learning a new skill, or upgrading your love life? Your first step is figuring out how to cure your own impulse for inaction.

The secret to thwarting couch lock of any sort is to stop imagining everything you need to do, and start imagining the smallest step that you can do without much real effort. If you feel you can’t talk yourself into standing up and doing something that needs to get done, talk yourself into moving your pinky finger. Then move it. As you move your pinky, you will immediately regain the sense of agency over your body that had been temporarily missing. Moving your pinky finger is easy no matter how stoned, tired, depressed, or unmotivated you are. Do what you can do, not what you can’t. Then build on the momentum.

What you will quickly learn is that moving your pinky finger makes it easy to wiggle the other fingers. Then you can easily move your hand, your arm, and the rest of your body. You’ll be off the couch in about ten seconds.

A similar approach works for those big things you need to do in life that you can’t talk yourself into doing. Figure out the smallest step you can take and then do it. Then take the next microstep. Stop thinking about the whole project you have in mind, as that will overwhelm you and stun you into couch lock. Just do what you can easily do, and watch how quickly that action makes it easier to do the next action.

It sounds ridiculously simple, but it also makes sense. Not everyone reading this will need this advice, but for those (like me) who sometimes do, perhaps it’s worth trying. It’s really just a riff on the old proverb: “The longest journey begins with a single step.”

I think another key is to avoid falling into fatalistic thinking. “Welp, it’s over now. We’ve lost everything, and we’re never getting it back. We’ll be in prison camps by next Christmas.”

I think we need to be more realistic than that.

Are we going to see more fruits of the “Great Reset”? Yeah. I think we will. But I think most of it will happen in subtler ways than we might expect. Good dictators know that bread and circuses are better than gulags and firing squads. The goal is not to provoke the populace into fighting back. It’s to keep them just comfortable enough, just complacent enough, that they stay in their lane.

Now, that might sound bad to you — and in a way, it is — but if it’s right, there’s an upside. Hard totalitarianism doesn’t leave much room for anything but survival. But soft totalitarianism means we’ll have time to quietly rebuild what we can, so that even if we don’t win many public victories, we can live fruitful lives now, and pass the torch to future generations. And if they push too hard, then we push back. We just need to understand that it isn’t healthy for us to be on a constant war footing, seeing everything as a battle, always scanning the horizon for threats. We need to be vigilant, certainly, but too much of that kind of thinking can consume us and hollow us out. It can make us bitter, and cause us to de-prioritize things that matter (when you’re in an emergency situation, who has time for pleasantries?) I know I’ve experienced this in my 7-year-long battle with Francischurch, and I let things get way out of whack. The people I love most often got the least of my time, because there was always another battle to fight, and I took them for granted.

We were made for so much more than that. And for me, at least, this is the year I’m going to start fixing what I’ve neglected, and repairing what damage I can. I’ve failed my wife and my kids more times than I can bear. I’ve failed to love or take care of myself. It’s time to change that.

And in the mean time, who knows what unexpected things might happen that lead to change? Even if our present historical moment is a sunset, sunrise is sure to follow. Some folks are already making the case that we’re in the midst of an epochal change that will turn out better for us in the long run. Science fiction novelist and homesteading advocate Travis Corcoran wrote something very interesting on this the other day:

Friend, censoring dissident voices, building walls, and lying about everything is not what winning looks like.

That’s what terminal rot looks like.

When the Soviet Union was rolling out rural electrification and sending the barefoot sons of farmers to study math and engineering, they didn’t HAVE to lie about change and growth

The lies started later, when growth dropped to or below 0.

Compare the Soviet Union in 1955 to 1975 or 85. In 55 there were lots of true believers.

The Berlin Wall didn’t go up the day WWII ended.

It went up 16 years later.

For 16 years, the story that “Communism is better” was plausible enough that they didn’t NEED a wall.

The American Cathedral didn’t NEED to censor people say “the election was stolen” in 1976, because no one was credibly saying such a thing, and everyone believed in the basic morality of the Other Party.

The urge to censor, to crush, to humiliate, to silence … that’s not an urge that a strong, stable, self-evidently successful government needs to indulge in.

So I don’t worry that “they’ve won, for all time, and our side will never get a nostril above water again”.

This is the death throws of liberalism.

He argues that there’s a “new country without a name” being born right now, one that “is going to be far stronger and far more powerful than the US ever was.”

He goes on:

So what is this New Invisible Country?

More or less the inverse of all of that

* Competence is real.
* Results matter.
* Credentials don’t.
* Social lies are laughable.
* Moral bravery matters; following the latest trends is actively bad
* Family, marriage, children matter.

* Free speech is good.
* Rights are real.
* Producing value isn’t the ONLY thing in life, but it’s an important thing.
* Piety and decency matter.
* Western civilization has more good than bad.
* People who are willing to accept our culture are welcome to join our project .

I could go on and on, but lunch is on the table.

TLDR: don’t despair because the old corrupt system is failing; rejoice because we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, are building a new nation, right under their eyes.

And we’re succeeding.

It’s an interesting read, and there’s a good bit more than I had room to excerpt here. I’m not sure if he’s right, but I see the sense in what he’s saying.

And you know, even though I don’t always agree with everything Archbishop Vigano says, something he wrote in his letter to President Trump bears repeating here:

In the midst of this bleak picture, this apparently unstoppable advance of the “Invisible Enemy,” an element of hope emerges. The adversary does not know how to love, and it does not understand that it is not enough to assure a universal income or to cancel mortgages in order to subjugate the masses and convince them to be branded like cattle. This people, which for too long has endured the abuses of a hateful and tyrannical power, is rediscovering that it has a soul; it is understanding that it is not willing to exchange its freedom for the homogenization and cancellation of its identity; it is beginning to understand the value of familial and social ties, of the bonds of faith and culture that unite honest people. This Great Reset is destined to fail because those who planned it do not understand that there are still people ready to take to the streets to defend their rights, to protect their loved ones, to give a future to their children and grandchildren. The leveling inhumanity of the globalist project will shatter miserably in the face of the firm and courageous opposition of the children of Light. The enemy has Satan on its side, He who only knows how to hate. But on our side, we have the Lord Almighty, the God of armies arrayed for battle, and the Most Holy Virgin, who will crush the head of the ancient Serpent. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31).

These are good things to keep in mind. There are a lot of us, and even if we’re not always on the front lines, we plan to stand our ground.

For 1P5, I hope we can keep focusing more on educating and enlightening our readers on how the faith can best be understood and lived, even in times of persecution. You’ll no doubt have noticed that we’ve been doing a lot less news coverage and a lot more thought pieces. I feel like that’s the right direction, and I hope you’ll let us know if you agree. (I hope you’ll also financially support our work this month, by the way, because we are WAY short of our January goal!)

I encourage you to offer more ideas and suggestions in the comments. For now, at least, we’re still allowed to have free discussion here, and so I encourage you to make the most of it. I only ask that you try to keep it constructive. We’re all worried, I think it’s fair to say, but let’s build up what we can, and support each other in that effort.