Never appease the Left: the example of the ralliement of Leo XIII

I hate to criticize the mistakes of a basically good pope, but now that Roberto de Mattei has done the unpleasant work for me, I can recommend his essay and endorse his conclusion.

The Third Republic was conducting a violent campaign of de-Christianization, particularly in the scholastic field. For Leo XIII, the responsibility of  this anticlericalism lay with the monarchists who were fighting the Republic in the name of their Catholic faith. In this way they were provoking the hate of the republicans against Catholicism. In order to disarm the republicans, it was necessary to convince them that the Church was not adverse to the Republic, but only to secularism. And to convince them, he retained that there was no other way than to support the republican institutions.

In reality, the Third Republic was not an abstract republic, but the centralized Jacobin daughter of the French Revolution. Its program of secularization in France was not an accessory element, but the reason itself for the existence of the republican regime. The republicans were what they were because they were anti-Catholic. They hated the Church in the Monarchy, in the same way that the monarchists were anti-republican because they were Catholics who loved the Church in the Monarchy.

The encyclical Au milieu des solicitudes of 1891, through which Leo XIII launched the ralliement did not ask Catholics to become republicans, but the instructions from the Holy See to nuncios and bishops, coming from the Pontiff himself, interpreted his encyclical in this sense.

I’ve read in several books that Leo’s hope was that Catholics would working through republican forms vote the monarchy back in, but I’m not sure what this is based on.

As de Mattei shows, appeasing the Left had the same effect for the French Church that appeasing the Left always has.

Despite Leo XIII  and his Secretary of State Mariano Rampolla’s endeavor, this policy of dialogue was a sensational failure and unable to obtain the objectives it proposed. The Anti-Christian behavior  of the Third Republic increased in violence, until culminating in Loi concernant la Séparation des Eglises et de l’Etat on December 9th 1905, known as “the Combes law” which suppressed all financing and public recognition of the Church;  it considered religion merely in the private dimension and not in the social one;  it established that ecclesiastical goods be confiscated by the State, while buildings of worship were given over gratuitously to associations cultuelles” elected by the faithful, without Church approval.

de Mattei then speculates that it was the rise of a more combative pope that prevented the most draconian aspects of the separation from being fully implemented.  He concludes

The spirit of ralliement with the modern world has been around for more than a century, and the great temptation to which the Church is exposed to, is still [with us]. In this regard, a Pope of great doctrine such as Leo XIII made a grave error in pastoral strategy. The prophetic strength of St. Pius X is the opposite, in the intimate coherence of his pontificate between evangelical Truth and the life  of the Church in the modern world, between theory and praxis, between doctrine and pastoral care, with no yielding to the lures of modernity.

It’s always a mistake to think the Church should stand above arguments over whether the civilization she founded should be destroyed or preserved, i.e. that she should avoid being Left or Right.  The Church is a Rightist organization, obviously, because preserving the Christian principles of hierarchy and duty is the definition of the Right.  The Left never, ever reciprocates gestures of conciliation.  When it senses weakness, it strikes.  It’s painful to admit it, but this really should have been obvious even in 1891.

You can get some use out of that humanities/critical studies degree after all!

Via Radix:

In move that could be considered a STIHIE if it wasn’t so Onion-worthy and likely to backfire, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (guess his ethnicity!) now wants his baristas to discuss race relations with customers.

Starbucks published a full page ad in the New York Times on Sunday — a stark, black, page with a tiny caption “Shall We Overcome?” in the middle, and the words “RaceTogether” with the company logo, on the bottom right. The ad, along with a similar one on Monday in USA Today, is part of an initiative launched this week by the coffee store chain to stimulate conversation and debate about the race in America by getting employees to engage with customers about the perennially hot button subject.

Beginning on Monday, Starbucks baristas will have the option as they serve customers to hand cups on which they’ve handwritten the words “Race Together” and start a discussion about race. This Friday, each copy of USA Today — which has a daily print circulation of almost 2 million and is a partner of Starbucks in this initiative — will have the first of a series of insert with information about race relations, including a variety of perspectives on race. Starbucks coffee shops will also stock the insert.

If you think this is a terrible business move and will only further alienate non-lefty Whites from his coffee brand, Schultz dismisses those concerns as nonsense.

Lots of people joke that people who study gender theory, race theory, and whatnot in college end up working as baristas while saddled with huge student debts.  This should be phrased more positively.  A degree in racial grievance prepares one to work at Starbucks!  Schultz has the most highly trained group of race hecklers he could want, an enormous untapped resource.  I am strangely but genuinely pleased that these hard-working baristas will finally get a chance to do a little bit of what they really love.  It will be awkward, though, for Starbucks employees who didn’t go to college or who got more practical degrees.  They don’t have the same training in demonizing whites, didn’t know it was going to be one of the expectations of the job, and are bound to feel a little inadequate.  Fortunately, I don’t think there are many such people with practical degrees or training working at Starbucks.

Why harass a large group of one’s customers?

  1. I suppose it’s barely possible that it makes business sense.  Perhaps it pleases the non-white and white Leftist customers enough for this to offset the lost business from whites who don’t want a lecture with their coffee.  Perhaps it makes employment at Starbucks more attractive, giving them an edge in hiring.  This sounds like a silly thing to worry about–there are lots of unemployed people who would be happy to work at Starbucks without the social justice enticement.  Then again, maybe there’s more competition for particular classes of service employees–attractive women in their early twenties, for instance.  Maybe there are lots of fellows who would like an opportunity to strike up a conversation with a cute waitress, and if the topic has to be race in America, that’s a price they’re willing to pay.  I doubt it, though.
  2. Shultz is a true believer, willing to sacrifice profit for ideology or animus.
  3. When you’re as rich as the CEO of a big company, pure selfishness leads you to care less about bigger profits than about social status, and you’re happy to pay for the second with the first (which comes out of the pockets of the shareholders anyway).  This is what I think most likely.  As soon as an individual or business reaches a modest level of success, further increases of profit bring less utility to decision-makers than enhanced social status from ostentatious displays of fidelity to progressivism.

The achievement of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

It’s been two hundred years since the Grimm brothers published the first edition of their fairy tale collection, and Arts and Letters Daily has linked to a nice essay at Humanities by Jack Zipes on the topic.

Originally, the collection was not intended for children, but was a Herderian effort to capture the voice of the German Volk.

What compelled the Grimms to concentrate on old German epics, tales, and literature was a belief that the most natural and pure forms of culture—those which held the community together—were linguistic and based in history. According to them, modern literature, even though it might be remarkably rich, was artificial and thus could not express the genuine essence of Volk culture that emanated naturally from experience and bound the people together. Therefore, all their efforts went toward uncovering stories from the past.

In their preface, the Grimms explained their interest in the culture of the common people, and their intention in recording their tales: “It was perhaps just the right time to record these tales since those people who should be preserving them are becoming more and more scarce. . . . Wherever the tales still exist, they continue to live in such a way that nobody ponders whether they are good or bad, poetic or crude. People know them and love them because they have simply absorbed them in a habitual way. And they take pleasure in them without having any reason. This is exactly why the custom of storytelling is so marvelous.” In short, the Grimms’ first collection was shaped as an archaeological excavation and as a book for adults and for scholars. Their tales were not to be classified as children’s stories, not even today.

Later, they did realize their potential as childrens’ stories, and younger brother Wilhelm did much work in later editions to make them more appropriate.

In contrast to the final 1857 edition, most of the tales in the first edition are shorter and sparser. They have a rawness that was later to be refined. For example, “Rapunzel” is embellished a great deal in the final edition:

First Edition

Once upon a time there lived a husband and wife who had been wishing for a child for many years, but it had all been in vain. Finally, the woman became pregnant.

Now, in the back of their house the couple had a small window that overlooked a fairy’s garden filled with all kinds of flowers and herbs. But nobody ever dared to enter it.

Seventh Edition

Once upon a time there was a husband and wife who for quite some time had been wishing in vain for a child. Finally, the dear Lord gave the wife a sign of hope that their wish would be fulfilled. Now, in the back of their house the couple had a small window that overlooked a splendid garden filled with the most beautiful flowers and herbs. The garden, however, was surrounded by a high wall, and nobody dared enter it because it belonged to a sorceress, who was very powerful and feared by all.

Aside from adding a Christian motif and substituting a sorceress for a fairy, Wilhelm Grimm also concealed a later scene in the first edition when Rapunzel reveals that she apparently had sex with the prince and was impregnated by him. Other differences in the editions show: In the first, Snow White’s mother, not her stepmother, wants to kill the beautiful girl out of envy.

A first round of Disney-fication, one might call it.  By the way, from Rapunzel:

The prince climbed up, but above, instead of his beloved Rapunzel, he found the sorceress, who peered at him with poisonous and evil looks.

“Aha!” she cried scornfully. “You have come for your Mistress Darling, but that beautiful bird is no longer sitting in her nest, nor is she singing any more. The cat got her, and will scratch your eyes out as well. You have lost Rapunzel. You will never see her again.”

The prince was overcome with grief, and in his despair he threw himself from the tower. He escaped with his life, but the thorns into which he fell poked out his eyes. Blind, he wandered about in the forest, eating nothing but grass and roots, and doing nothing but weeping and wailing over the loss of his beloved wife. Thus he wandered about miserably for some years, finally happening into the wilderness where Rapunzel lived miserably with the twins that she had given birth to.

Given the twins, the implication of sex isn’t less clear than in the first edition to those who know the facts of life.  Referring to Rapunzel as the prince’s “wife” is a more effective bit of moral scrubbing.

The fairy tales the Grimms collected were not medieval children’s tales.  There’s a fun chapter in Nicholas Orme’s Medieval Children on medieval children’s literature, some of which has survived, and in spirit would not be out of place among the books for children written today.  The folk tales, on the other hand, were, as Zipes’ article puts it, “brusque, blunt, absurd, comical, and tragic, and are not, strictly speaking, ‘fairy tales.'”  That they are the work of an anonymous process of verbal transmission in itself doesn’t make them more than the rural equivalent of urban legends.  In fact, I suspect that the process of adjusting adult stories for a young audience has something to do with giving fairy tales their distinct quality.  The sex and cruelty are (mostly) put offstage, but the story still revolves around them, so that the stories seem both serious and ethereal–not of the world of childhood but of the adult world seen through a childlike lens.

In defense of interspecies romance

Will S. finds an article claiming that Disney princess movies have been softening up children for gay marriage with their “impossible desire” plotlines.  If species is a bigger deal than sex, and Ariel and Belle can fall in love with men of other species, then surely it wouldn’t be far-fetched for them to marry each other instead, right?  The Atlantic article quotes cite lots of examples, none of which would seem to have anything to do with homosexuality to anyone not already obsessed with the topic.  (If socially forbidden love is always implicitly gay, then a whole genre going back to the Middle Ages stands condemned.)  I stand by my position that Disney has done a pretty good job of preserving gendered archetypes in the face of feminist pressure, and warming children to the idea of monarchy to boot.  But there are bigger issues at stake here.

Of course, interspecies romance has always been with us.  If you are a hero, you must expect that sooner or later, a fairy, wood nymph, mermaid, Martian princess, Olympian goddess, or elf maiden is going to fall in love with you.  Should this happen to you in real life, you don’t have to marry the girl, but for heaven’s sake have care for her feelings and don’t act shocked or disgusted.  Should you encounter it in fiction, don’t be scandalized.  The author is most likely not trying to win you over to a gay or gender-bending agenda.  And even if he is, you still needn’t worry, because his tools betray him.  Maybe Hans Christian Anderson wrote The Little Mermaid as part of a secret hundred-year plot to normalize sodomy.  I doubt it, but it wouldn’t matter if he did.  Hollywood being what it is, no doubt most of the teams who worked on the Disney movies that have appeared in my lifetime have “gotten with the program” on the gay agenda.  That also doesn’t matter, because what makes The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and other stories with similar premises work dramatically is the intuition that sex is actually more fundamental than species.  To use them to deconstruct “gender” is to destroy them.

To explain this, I turn to a true expert on interspecies romance:  Captain James T. Kirk.

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The postmodern creed

There are many conflicting metanarratives, but only the metanarrative of oppression is the full and absolute truth, not only about history, but about science, art, and philosophy.  All other metanarratives are falsehood, illusion, prejudice, illusions to benefit the oppressor, not truths about things but claims imposed on them by violent ideologues; the metanarrative of oppression, and it alone, reveals the ding an sich.  The perspectives of oppressors and oppressed who do not acknowledge their oppression have no truth in them.  Such views are to be discredited and suppressed.  The purpose of education is to bring all men into the light of faith in the metanarrative of oppression.  Only thus enlightened is the soul free of false consciousness, that the holy spirit of critical thinking may dwell therein.

Vatican II as a “new Pentecost”

What a shockingly blasphemous claim!  The first (that is, the real) Pentecost was when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles.  So, if Vatican II was a new Pentecost, the Spirit of Vatican II is a new Holy Spirit.  In fact, the Spirit of Vatican II is superior to the Holy Spirit, because trading the third person of the Trinity for this new spirit is supposed to have been a good thing.  Shocking as it is, this is what the phrase “new Pentecost” implies.  If the Spirit of Vatican II were the same Holy Spirit Who has guided the Church for the previous two millennia, Vatican II would not be on a level with Pentecost, but only with, say, Chalcedon or Lateran IV.  What’s more, if it were the same Spirit before and after, we wouldn’t expect Him to contradict Himself so blatantly.

And since it was Jesus who sent the Paraclete to the Apostles, so it was Pope John who sent the Spirit of Vatican II to the bishops, meaning Pope John is a new, improved Christ!  And indeed this seems to be what the conciliar church thinks.  The original Christ freed us from the Mosaic Law, which was pretty nice, but the new Christ, by unleashing his spirit upon us, does better by releasing us from the natural law as well.  True, Pope John didn’t get around to doing this before ascending into Heaven, but ditching the Mosaic Law also didn’t really get settled until Saint Paul, and many have been the theologians who have wanted to play the role of Paul for their new Savior.

We should be grateful that the Fathers of Nicea, Trent, and the rest never imagined that they were instituting a second Pentecost or thought they needed to concoct a new “spirit” to guide the Church.

The irony of Star Trek

When you’ve been a Star Trek fan as long as I have, you’ve heard your fill of the Star Trek narrative, the story we tell to justify the enduring popularity of, it could be claimed, a rather silly sixties television show and its spinoffs.  The popularity of the show is supposedly explained by our being inspired by Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of humanity’s future, in which mankind defeats war, racism, and poverty through technological wizardry and liberal platitudes.  There are a lot of smart Trekkies out there–I’ll bet Mr. Spock was the childhood hero of half the people in my physics department, myself included–many of whom would give some credence to this story, but it’s not true.  Roddenberry’s human utopia is so boring, so repellently inhuman, that even liberals can’t take much pleasure in it, and the shows almost completely ignore it in favor of the more interesting and appealing alien races.  The most popular aliens, the Klingons and the Vulcans, are extremely illiberal.  The Klingons are a warrior race with strong kinship groups, while the logical Vulcans are strictly patriarchal (wives referred to as property, must obey husbands), mystical, and ritualistic.  Nor does anybody value Star Trek for its social commentary.  Contrary to how the show’s creators like to remember it, there actually wasn’t much, which is good, because fans never liked the “preachy” bits, even when the message was unobjectionable.

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