honor among fake Americans

I’ve come to believe that Vox Day is right about only U.S. citizens descended from those circa the Constitutional Convention being real members of the American nation.  This not in spite of my personal case but because of it.  My ancestors immigrated to America in the mid-19th century from various parts of Europe, and I definitely don’t have the same instinctive identification with the colonial or revolutionary generations that the WASPs seem to have.  I’ve never been proud nor ashamed of the Founding Fathers, even before becoming a monarchist, even though my parents are interested in American history and never said anything against them; they simply are not my fathers.  The disputes and parties of American history are alien to me; arguments between Federalists and anti-Federalists, for example, feel to me like the disputes of a foreign people with alien sensibilities.

I find that I can think more warmly of Founderolatry realizing that it’s not meant for me, that it represents not a serious position of political philosophy but another people’s vulgar (in the sense of “popular”) expression of piety.

The proper attitude I should have to “real” Americans is gratitude.  They didn’t have to take my people in, and it is a point of honor that we should not make them regret having done so.  We should not aim to overthrow and replace them.  Yes, we Catholics wish that all lands would become Catholic, but we want this to happen by converting the natives, not by dispossessing them of their homes.  An America that embraced the faith would still be herself, just as Rome under Constantine and Theodosius remained herself.  And even if America did become Catholic, it would still not really be my country.

The trouble with an aristocracy of virtue

All the world’s efforts against the “aristocrats,” the “mighty,” the “masters,” the “holders of power,” are negligible by comparison with what has been accomplished against those classes by the Jews—the Jews, that priestly [Bonald:  “prophetic” in my terminology] nation which eventually realized that the one method of effecting satisfaction on its enemies and tyrants was by means of a radical transvaluation of values, which was at the same time an act of the cleverest revenge. Yet the method was only appropriate to a nation of priests [i.e. prophets], to a nation of the most jealously nursed priestly revengefulness. It was the Jews who, in opposition to the aristocratic equation (good = aristocratic = beautiful = happy = loved by the gods), dared with a terrifying logic to suggest the contrary equation, and indeed to maintain with the teeth of the most profound hatred (the hatred of weakness) this contrary equation, namely, “the wretched are alone the good; the poor, the weak, the lowly, are alone the good; the suffering, the needy, the sick, the loathsome, are the only ones who are pious, the only ones who are blessed, for them alone is salvation—but you, on the other hand, you aristocrats, you men of power, you are to all eternity the evil, the horrible, the covetous, the insatiate, the godless; eternally also shall you be the unblessed, the cursed, the damned!” We know who it was who reaped the heritage of this Jewish transvaluation. In the context of the monstrous and inordinately fateful initiative which the Jews have exhibited in connection with this most fundamental of all declarations of war, I remember the passage which came to my pen on another occasion—that it was, in fact, with the Jews that the revolt of the slaves begins in the sphere of morals; that revolt which has behind it a history of two millennia, and which at the present day has only moved out of our sight, because it—has achieved victory.

— Nietzsche, The Geneology of Morals

Social status is the summum bonum of human existence for all but a few psychological deviants.  See how people will sacrifice their lives and their childrens’ lives rather than suffer the reproach of their fellows.  To disregard status is to break from the communal mind.  Scipio had to be physically removed from the solar system to learn to see beyond the renown of men.

There are individualists who care more about their personal status, and there are tribalists who care more about the status of their group.  Personal status means power, comfort, and sex.  Group status means survival into future generations.

Social rationality.  Suppose I say that Leftists are so thin-skinned that they’ll fire me for criticizing them, and then a Leftist administrator fires me for saying that.  He just proved me right, didn’t he?  No!  He’s proved me wrong, because he’s got a prestigious position, and I’m just a schmuck without a job.

Social rationality.  If I could produce an argument that proves with mathematical certainty the truth of the Catholic religion, it would make no difference–not a single convert.  We’re all a bunch of child molesters, don’t you know, and no one is going to be reasoned into being a social pariah.

(Well, maybe if we could sell it as showing that I’m a genius, it would help, but Catholicism would get the same boost if I produced an impressive argument against the faith.  Just as Judaism gained prestige when Freud impressed the world with his argument that all religions are lies.)

I said once that the New York Times rules America, but only with a delay, that obedience to its dictates is not instantaneous.  Direct causality is instantaneous, so when we see an effect delayed in time from its cause we expect there to have been a mediating variable.  The mediating variable is status.  The media’s control of status is instantaneous, but it takes a short time for hold-outs to realize how dire is their plight and to give up hope.  Hence, as I’ve said many times, democracy is rule by the media.

I’m no different from others.  The idea of my group achieving status, of being proud of ourselves and being admired and feared by competitors, is far sweeter to me than any hope for the beatific vision.  In fact, I’d say that much of the attraction of heaven for past generations was the expectation that the next life will shake up current social status hierarchies, that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.  In the past, status was based on things like inherited wealth and power, which were presumed to have little relation to the attributes of holiness that heaven prizes.  Today, though, our status hierarchy is based on moral status–holding prestigious attitudes, engaging in activism, being oppressed, and so forth.  Alas, it now seems natural to imagine that the social hierarchies of Earth and heaven are finally synched.  Who will be top dog in heaven?  Presumably prophets, activists, philanthropists, the aggrieved; the same types who lord over and humiliate us in this life.

Indeed, one needs no faith to believe in an afterlife.  Our culture and our children live after us, and we see with our own eyes that they are being brought over to hate us and worship our high-status enemies.  The attraction of the idea of a revolution is that it shakes up social status hierarchies; that’s pretty much the definition.  But now the prophets and revolutionaries are on top–their millennium has arrived–and future no longer holds any hope of recourse for us losers.

It may seem perverse–especially in a reactionary and anti-egalitarianism–to dislike the idea of an aristocracy of virtue, but Jesus Himself also seems to have found it especially obnoxious and condemned Pharisees jockeying for status by conspicuous virtue probably more often than He condemned any other vicious behavior.  Only in these intensely moralistic times can we again appreciate the radicalism of Christ’s critique, directing His suspicion not at hierarchies that are forthrightly worldly but at those most nearly heavenly.

The competition for moral approbation does seem particularly nasty.  In a world of status by wealth, one might hope to make one’s fortune and thus jump straight to the top 10%.  The game of shifting moral enthusiasms works differently.  The goal is to eliminate 10% of one’s competitors who either have too many past statements on record for maneuverability or are too principled to go along with the latest insanity.  It’s a game of attack first to be eaten last.

I’d be so much happier if we Catholics were at the top spot instead.  Why are our enemies not ecstatically happy?  They have everything.

On anonymous Christianity

By “anonymous Christianity” I mean the idea that most or all people who are not believing Christians (perhaps having never been exposed to Christianity, perhaps having consciously rejected it) are nevertheless unconsciously Christians, in the sense that Christianity is their implicit belief system that grounds their explicit, consciously-acknowledged beliefs.  Furthermore, these people are in a state of grace, perhaps attenuated, without knowing it.

The claim is prima facia implausible but has been debated seriously in Catholic circles.

One common objection is that it seems to reduce the importance of explicit faith, the Christian Churches, and evangelization.  These would then only bring people to explicit recognition of what they already knew deep down.  I don’t find this objection decisive.  In matters of belief, bringing to consciousness is no small thing.  Consider Socrates teaching the slave geometry.  Even if it were true that the knowledge lay somehow dormant in the slave’s mind beforehand, that doesn’t reduce the importance of explicit recognition.  Recognizing the value of explicit knowledge of ultimate truths, it would also not be true that missionary work is pointless if heathen are not damned.  (This argument is like the one that without hell there would be no incentive to be moral, which only makes the orthodox sound like moral cretins.)  In any case, anonymous believers would not have anonymous sacraments of which to avail themselves and so would surely be living deprived lives by Catholic standards.

Because Rahner himself seems to have thought that his system would aid the evangelization of modern culture, it is a fair practical objection that it has completely failed in this regard.  Me-too-ism is never an effective apologetic tool–there is no point taking notice of a religion unless it is (as Chesterton put it) right where we are wrong–so to the extent that anonymous Christianity demands we endorse secular culture and the apparent beliefs and sentiments of secular people, it is a failure.  A more consistent application of the theory would be to dismiss the apparent beliefs of non-Catholics as inauthentic, but I doubt this would win any open-mindedness for our beliefs.  I myself find it less obnoxious to be told that my beliefs are wrong than that they are not really my beliefs and that strangers know my own mind better than I do.

More importantly, anonymous Christianity seems to be incompatible with the nature of the Christian faith.  First, the Christian faith includes contingent, temporally tensed statements such as “Jesus died for our sins” which cannot be part of the generic human consciousness, if nothing else than because there were times before these statements were true.  I know that some even of the Fathers believed that there were Christians before Christ (e.g. the Patriarchs of ancient Israel), but to seriously maintain this one must allow that statements like “Jesus died for our sins” are not an essential part of the faith.  Second, the faith is supposed to be supernatural, which would imply that doctrines like the Trinity should not be able to be read off from the default cognitive structure of the human mind.  If we strip everything in the faith that could not possibly be held anonymously, we are left not with an anonymous Christianity but, at best, an anonymous Deism.  So what anonymous Christianity boils down to is the liberal Protestant belief that deep down Christianity is just Deism.

So we should instead debate what happens to anonymous Deists when they die, with the hope that God will show them mercy for at least not being explicit Deists.

What if Pope Francis doesn’t hate us?

What possible reason could there be for a Pope to apparently deny the Incarnation and arrange the worship of idols of a pagan fertility demon except to torment believing Catholics and to push the Church toward apostasy?

Suppose, though, that most of the pressure he gets is coming mostly from the other direction.  (Just like Mark Zuckerberg mostly gets heat for being too lenient on conservatives and “Russians”.)  Suppose the Pope believes that these blasphemous acts, protected by the thinnest shred of ambiguity, are the bare minimum he must do for a flock demanding idolatry, demanding a renunciation of historic Catholicism, to keep the Church from emptying utterly.

What if he’s right?

Book review: A Deeper Vision

A Deeper Vision:  The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century
by Robert Royal (2015)

This volume limits itself to European Catholic thinkers during the 20th century, but it includes not only philosophers and theologians, but also novelists and poets.  Supposedly, a sequel on 20th-century American Catholic thought is forthcoming, although I think Royal would have been wiser to have just stuck a paragraph on Thomas Merton into this book and then moved on to a more interesting topic.

20th century Catholic thought is an unwieldy subject, and a writer must find some way to give unity to his subject.  Usually, this is done through the standard narrative, which goes as follows.  The early 20th century Church was ruled by reactionaries whose thoughts, if they are granted to have had any, could not possibly be of interest.  All creative and intelligent Catholics were working to get the Church to “open up to the world”.  At Vatican II, this faction won, and henceforth thinking Catholics were “freed” to submit to the secular consensus, which they promptly did.  The standard narrative is, in a sense, self-defeating, because if it’s true it’s uninteresting, because what could be learned from the story of irrational holdouts reconciling themselves to the obvious?

Fortunately, Royal does not accept the standard narrative.  He only denies it by a peculiar double negative strategy, but readers of average reading comprehension should have no trouble getting the point.  For example, he will pro formal acknowledge some aspect of the narrative about the Church  needing to become less defensive or whatever.  Then, rather than presenting the standard cartoon villain picture, he will honestly present the thought of, say, Pius X or Garrigou-Lagrange, quoting these figures predicting disasters if particular novelties are introduced, all of which later happened exactly as they had predicted.  Royal will  then conclude that their concerns “were not entirely without merit” or words to that effect.  Similarly, discussing the documents of Vatican II, he will briefly acknowledge how good or needed some document was, but when he looks at them in detail, he finds nothing but naivety and ambiguity.  It’s not much of a stretch to suspect that Royal’s true opinion of the trajectory of 20th century Catholicism is closer to this blog’s than he likes to say explicitly.  One exception is that he accepts the childish adulation of Jews that one always seems to find among Americans, and he must disapprove (I think earnestly, but thankfully briefly) when his subjects express more nuanced opinions of our Elder Brothers.

Without the standard narrative, Royal must tell the history of 20th century thought as an attempt to express a credible alternative to the secular worldview, an attempt that by worldly, demographic measures must be judged a failure, albeit with a few impressive blows struck.  This has the virtue of being what actually happened.

There are, nevertheless, some basic problems Royal can’t overcome.  It’s not clear who is the appropriate audience for this book.  For example, since he feels the need to define “epistemology”, he can’t dig very deep into the disputes of Thomists and phenomenologists, and just from his vague descriptions it would be hard for a reader who doesn’t already know about them to see why particular works or movements are interesting.  Alternatively, he could have based the book on personal stories and drama anyone might have understood, but fortunately he didn’t; the book is arranged by discipline rather than chronologically or by characters.  One sometimes gets the impression from his brief treatment that the main danger of 20th century philosophy was Cartesian solipsism, although, to be fair, one often enough gets the same impression from the books of the neo-Thomists themselves.

The other problem Royal can’t overcome is that, once one sees through the claims of the charlatans like Teilhard de Chardin (whom Royal shows good judgement by not even mentioning), the 20th century just doesn’t seem to have been a very impressive century for Catholic thought.  Certainly it doesn’t compare well with the 19th century.  (Then again, as Royal notices, secular culture also went to crap after mid-century.)  The book spends a couple of chapters on Catholic scriptural studies, at the end of which one’s suspicion that no valuable work was done in this field has become a certainty.  After Vatican II, Catholic scriptural studies followed the fashionable academic historical-critical rathole.  Royal is left to focus on some Vatican commission report which, while making generally sensible points, is just a bureaucratic document.  I had hoped to find some figure in this book whose work I would want to learn more about.  I find that I still have no temptation to read Charles, Peguy, Charles Taylor, Francois Mauriac, or any of the transcendental Thomists.  On the other hand, some of Georges Bernanos’ novels do sound interesting.  Also, Thomists like Josef Pieper, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Etienne Gilson have done some good work on ethics and the history of philosophy, although them I already knew about.  Among the writers–fiction or nonfiction–in this book, Chesterton and Tolkien are the two I enjoy re-reading, which may only say something about my lack of aptitude for challenging literature, but can hopefully be expressed as a compliment regardless.