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Tema: Americanism and the Collapse of the Church in the United States, by John Rao

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    Americanism and the Collapse of the Church in the United States, by John Rao

    Americanism and the Collapse of the Church in the United States

    (Remnant Press, 1984; Updated, Tan Books, 1994)


    Americanism is a term that appears to express nothing more than a devotion to America. In reality, however, it teaches principles and a way of life that pose, and always have posed, a threat to the Church of Rome. Indeed, the threat that it poses to Catholicism may be the most dangerous experienced by her in the past few centuries of revolution. Its harmful quality arises from its subtle and effective transformation of the United States into a new religion whose central dogma of “pluralism” cannot be investigated or questioned; a new religion whose creed is said to be purely “practical” and “pragmatic”, but which actually aims at a messianic rebuilding of the entire globe; a new religion that brooks no opposition to its will.

    The collapse of the Catholic cause in the United States can be attributed in large degree to an understandable error to which patriotic Catholic Americans fell prey. Americanism was presented to them as involving nothing more than a praiseworthy love of country with practical, pragmatic goals. They rushed wholeheartedly into its defense under the assumption that their civic duty demanded it, and that failure to do so would lend support to the enemies of their country. But what they, in fact, received in the name of patriotism and pragmatism was a set of instructions for religious and cultural suicide. Catholics followed these instructions, replacing their true faith with the Americanist religion, generally not even recognizing that they were doing so, and, indeed, generally rejoicing in their self-destruction every step of the way.

    Nothing can be accomplished for the cause of the Church (and, ironically, for the cause of true American patriotism as well) until such time as Catholics come to understand the nature of the force that is killing them. A full appreciation of the depth of the opposition of Americanism to Catholicism can, however, only be gained from discussion of historical problems rooted centuries in the past. Clarification of these problems will be a two-step undertaking. It will begin with an examination of what may be called the “soul” of America, and the ways in which the character of this soul dictated the development of a subtle, pseudo-patriotic, pseudo-pragmatic, fideistic religion. Next, it will focus upon the various attempts of an “alien” Church to come to terms with this truly anti-patriotic cult. The particular Catholic controversy surrounding the emergence of an Americanist heresy in the latter half of the nineteenth century will be treated in the context of this second step of my argument.

    Only when the historical groundwork has been laid will it be possible to grasp the appeal of the “mess of pottage” that has conquered the contemporary Catholic—clerical, religious, and lay—and the ease with which the Church in the United States has lost its own soul and praised its suicide as a great victory. Only when it has been made clear how deeply-rooted the problem really is can its present world-wide consequences be properly judged and the formidable question be asked anew: what is to be done?

    I. Patriotism and the American Soul

    Two concepts crucial to an understanding of this analysis have been lost to the western world in the course of the last half century. The first is the idea that there is a structure of incalculable importance to the shaping of an individual which we can call the “nation”, and the second, the recognition that each specific nation is guided by a kind of “soul”. My contention is that the American “nation” has a tortured “soul”, and that this tortured soul has militated against the construction in the United States of the sort of nation that the individual truly needs. The result of this unfortunate development has been an irrepressible conflict with the Catholic religion.

    What, exactly, is a “nation”? This itself is a difficult question, and one that has been complicated by the revolutionary ideology of the past two centuries. Suffice it to say, for the moment, that it is the broad community within which the individual feels the presence of “home”. It is the structure whose language, geography, institutions, past and people evoke familiar and affectionate images.

    One need not say that a given nation was historically predestined to be what it now is or to possess its present boundaries to recognize that some such “cradle” is essential to a man’s well-being. Even though it is the individual and the individual alone who gains salvation, the individual always achieves his goal within the context of a number of different communities: societies which include his family, his school, his workplace, union and even his clubs. Each of these enriches him as a person in varying degrees by elaborating psychological needs and incarnating moral duties in specific emphatic ways. Each pinpoints the True, the Good and the Beautiful for him from different perspectives.

    The “nation” provides the framework for all these elaborations and incarnations, and is also the necessary symbol of the unity of a serious “home”. If a man does not belong to a real unity of this kind to which he is devoted and for which he sacrifices simply because it is the crucial framework for his existence, he begins his pilgrimage through life with only half of the baggage vital for his journey. The man without a country is like the man suspended in mid-air because he lacks the concrete things that a nation offers—a village, a language, a way of life and a means of providing it—in order to accomplish even his most basic tasks. Are there problems inherent in the individual-nation relationship? Many, because one may be tempted to break the moral code for the benefit of his country just as one can be led astray in his family’s self-interest. Do the difficulties that it engenders justify its abandonment? No more than a father’s crimes on behalf of his children legitimate rejection of the family structure.

    How does one determine the peculiar quality of any given nation, as opposed to nations in general? By examining what I have chosen to call its “soul”. This muse or spirit can be identified through the clear means that God has given to every man to understand the world about him. It is captured by the study of language, literature and the legends and historical facts accompanying a nation’s foundation. It is understood through the deeds of its great men, its arts, customs and even its cuisine. The scholar entering to the “soul” of a nation comes to sense the basic presuppositions and modus operandi of its people. Are there problems with this search for a nation’s soul? All too numerous ones. It is easy to substitute feeling or mystic intuition for reason during the hunt. One can readily justify illicit behavior with reference to the demands of a peculiarly inspired national spirit. Do the difficulties that it engenders justify its abandonment? No more than the mistakes made identifying the character of one particular family demand rejection of the notion that it does somehow stand apart from every other “community” of man, woman and child. One must simply be prepared to submit his findings to the tribunal of Christ’s Church, to the judgment of that Mystical Body which has always respected and encouraged true national distinctions.

    America’s “soul” has been formed by many factors, of which two are crucial to the present discussion. On the one hand, it has been shaped, to a large degree, by the attempt to unite a multitude of ethnic groups under a tradition inspired by the English experience. On the other, it has been built upon a foundation that is Puritan Protestant. Both these factors have generally merged together, forming a “soul” full of contradictions which few are willing to analyze or are even conscious of existing. These contradictions and difficulties are particularly blatant with regard to the question of the “nation” and “patriotism”. Although, in practice, such influences cannot clinically be separated, it is necessary to do so for theoretical clarity. Clinical separation will reveal that the first of these factors has seriously impaired the quality of nationhood in the United States, while the second has placed obstacles in the path of nationhood in and of itself. Their operation in tandem has created the confusion that permitted the growth of Americanism and its entrance into the life of the Church.

    A clear grasp of the first of these formative influences necessitates a brief review of the nature of the British “soul”. England is a nation that has been marked by a conservatism more profound than that of perhaps any other occidental land. Anything that causes change or turmoil generally provokes a deep sense of unease in the English mind. This is as much true of thought as of action. Serious divergences of thought have customarily been seen by the English as having such destabilizing consequences as to inspire them to self-censor the taking of ideas to logical conclusions. It is no accident that the Protestant Revolution in England created the Anglican Church and the “via media”, the “middle way”, with its attempt to combine the new religion with much of the old. One ought not to be surprised that the Enlightenment in Britain did not give birth to political chaos, but, rather, to an effort to modify Christianity and establish that liberal Protestantism which masquerades a loss of faith behind outwardly traditional forms of worship and ecclesiastical government. There is little mystery to the fact that English philosophers have often been anti-philosophers, in the sense that they have sought to demonstrate that ideas have no intrinsic meaning, and that the whole philosophical enterprise is simply a word game. No wonder that literature, with its revelation of the “non-rational” in man, speaks more to the genius of the English nation than metaphysics. So much did the English spirit of distrust of ideas as a channel of change strike the Jesuit editors of La Civiltà Cattolica in the nineteenth century that they argued that a free press in Britain could not mean the same thing as in a Latin nation. The Latin search for distinction and clarity, they insisted, led continental peoples to logical actions that few Englishmen would have been willing to tolerate. An inbred desire for stability prevented them from taking themselves—or anything else—too seriously. If the virtue of this spirit lay in the unity that it provided, its vice lay in its potential banality. Fortunately, as many Catholic political theorists have argued, England unthinkingly preserved so much that was sound and Catholic in spirit that the banal never grasped hold of that country’s culture as a whole.

    The United States to a large degree inherited this profound English conservatism. It, too, has always desired stability and disliked change. As soon as it was in a position to do so, it confirmed in its Constitution the political structure of its English past. It did so under the guidance of its historical aristocracy, which, in 1787, effectively usurped from the existing revolutionary Congress the right to do as it wished in this regard. Like the English, the Americans are a people generally suspicious of thought as being a potentially dangerous waste of time. It may be noted in this context that the Civiltà editors applied their comments to the United States as well as to the United Kingdom.

    If America had been nothing other than a mirror image of England, then this disdain for the world of ideas might not have had the devastating consequences that it did. But the United States was different from Britain. It had to deal, among other things, with one of the great mass migrations of history. It was forced to come to terms with the descent upon its shores of millions of people of varying nationalities, most of them ignorant of the language and laws of their new home.

    American “conservatism” gave birth to movements that tried to keep these masses out. They did not succeed in their efforts. The only other alternative, given the innate national drive towards stability, seemed to be the adoption of a policy of rapid “integration”. If unity could not be assured by closing down the borders, harmony might still prevail by churning immigrants through an “americanizing” process.

    How was this task accomplished? In two ways. First of all, “negatively”, by subtly teaching the immigrant peoples what they could not do in the United States. Thus, they were shown that controversial issues disturbing stability, such as those touching upon religion, were out of place in the American forum. The Constitution had already begun this process when its awareness of religious diversity caused it to abandon the concept of an established Church. Secondly, it was also accomplished in a “positive” manner by discovering a goal towards which all Americans, regardless of their way of life, could strive.

    This positive goal was found in a kind of materialistic “pioneer mentality” that manifested itself in varied forms. It is hard to exaggerate the power exercised by the image of a virgin continent, ready for conquest, upon the minds of excited Americans. An appeal was made to this image in the cause of “integration”. Loyal Americans were told to avoid divisive quibbling over “non-essentials”. Instead, they were directed down the “pioneer” pathway towards the practical exploitation of this country’s riches. Whether in the East, in a figurative sense, or on the frontier, in a literal one, Americans were assigned a common national purpose: the attainment of a livelihood for themselves and for their families at previously undreamed-of levels. Hard labor and solid material achievement were held up as the true marks of patriotic spirit. Hard labor and solid material achievements, that is, that did not itself somehow disturb or demand too much of one’s neighbors and thereby become divisive; hard labor and material achievement regardless of their object or quality. Thus, in effect, potentially dangerous but sublime concerns were to be sacrificed to assuredly pacifying but mundane projects. The sacrifice was to take place on the altar of American unity, for the sake of the harmony required of “home”.

    America did not, with one major exception, carry out this mission violently. The exception was the attack upon the southern aristocracy in the Civil War, whose defeat removed the one class that was permanently controversial and wedded to principles other than the purely pragmatic and material. Otherwise, specific ethnic groups (with the exception of the Indians) were not massacred, foreign languages were not prohibited, and serious religions were not officially persecuted on a regular basis. Any effort of such a kind would have been seen as being destabilizing and divisive, thus violating the basic principle of “integration”. Moreover, “integration” was not primarily carried out by means of the government. Instead, American government aided the process through its very weakness, its unwillingness to enforce religious doctrines or to censor any ideas or behavior espoused by a significant number of people in this country. An all-encompassing governmental program would have clearly indicated the nature of what was happening, aroused opposition, and, perhaps, defeated the ultimate goal of stability.

    Thus, the United States presented a two-fold image of protecting “freedom” and ensuring “stability” at one and the same time. It created the impression of establishing what has become known as a “pluralist” society, where many ways of life are “respected”. In truth, however, the manifold organs of Anglo-Saxon society and the spirit of Anglo-Saxon culture were “moderating” and “integrating” this diversity out of existence, slowly, peacefully, but surely. It created the illusion of stability, since the purpose of “integration” was to ensure the continued dominance of native American ways. In truth, however, native Anglo-Saxon Americans themselves were pressured into a gradual transformation of their own traditions. Anything threatening the adoption of the new groups soon began to be discouraged and renounced as much as immigrant particularities. Unity took precedence over custom, habit and even adherence to what was believed to be the truth. While seeking to integrate, native Americans were being integrated as well. Integrated into what? Into a “pluralist” society which could only survive by missing bits and pieces of the ideas of all of its component parts and by bending the entirety to the construction of a grayish culture serving the least common denominator in human material needs. A process was begun which has ended with the “integration” into American life of groups espousing perversities and determining how their needs and interests might help improve the GNP. A process was begun which has ended in the glorification of the computer technician over the saint, media hype over substantive issues, and mass-produced hamburgers over the creations of the great composers.

    Generations of European observers, beginning with Alexis de Tocqueville in his Democracy in America, have remarked upon the effectiveness with which American society, motivated by its Anglo-Saxon spirit, has quietly repressed the emergence of sharp differences of opinion, and channeled its population’s efforts into limited, peaceful, but indiscriminately vulgar material goals. Their commentaries have been supported by numerous American writers who have felt the obligation to “drop out” of this society in order to live as full human beings. I am speaking here of men of the Right, and not of liberals, whose “anti-Americanism” is itself a form of the same Americanist mentality. One is reminded, for example, of T.S. Eliot’s assertion that the thinking American often sought to “lose himself” somewhere outside the national mainstream, in places like New York City, in order to maintain at least the illusion of intellectual and spiritual survival. One can point to H.L. Mencken’s satirical essay, On Being An American, wherein he argues that there are only two grounds for an intelligent man to remain in the United States: either as a means of swindling an easy living, or to enjoy some cheap laughs at the expense of the vulgarity around him. The writings of many such men betray a common bitter theme. America has made the “thoughtful”, the “spiritual”, the “committed” appear to be the province of either the “insane” or the “treasonous”. It has required no secret police in order to achieve this goal. The work has been done gently and naturally, due to the character of an Anglo-Saxon influenced “soul” gone wild.

    I believe that these critics have been correct in their assessment. The American obsession with avoiding controversy has ended by punishing the serious man. This is a regrettable phenomenon, since a human being—and a patriot—is not merely a prosperity machine, but also a thinker, a culture builder, and a dreamer of dreams. He needs to pay his respect, both alone and as part of a community, to higher things. As Isaiah says, “without a vision, the people perish”. A nation that allows little or no public scope for such important demands of the human personality is a defective “cradle” indeed. Still, the Anglo-Saxon desire for stability retains some insight into the importance of “home”, its needs, and the value of harmony therein. It sees that something resembling a “nation” is vital enough to men to require sacrifices to maintain it. It appears to admit the country as a structure distinct from the individual and the obvious framework for his development. The baggage that it gives to its citizens may be faulty and inadequate, but it does, at least, provide something onto which they can latch in order to work towards certain legitimate goals in life.

    But America grew up under a second and more destructive influence. It developed underneath the tutelage of Puritan Protestantism. This was a teacher that understood so little about human nature that it inevitably poisoned everything that came into contact with it. Even when it tried to fill the void left by the abandonment of higher national purposes, it did so by crushing entirely the idea of the nation. It thus threatened the American with the prospect of having no “home” to love at all.

    What lies at the basis of Puritanism? An emphasis upon the total depravity of man after Original Sin. How can man be saved according to its precepts? Only by an individual act of faith in God’s willingness to accept an intrinsically evil monster to live with Him eternally. Nothing that a man might do, good or bad, can, according to the Puritan dogma, affect the outcome of his personal saga.

    The results of such an outlook are manifold. A dichotomy between the all-perfect God and totally wicked individuals allows no scope for the work of society in the divine plan. All men are like atoms in the face of their God, fundamentally alone in their approach to Him. “Atomism” is, perhaps, the most basic Puritan by-product. The presumption of communities and authorities like the Church, which claimed to lead men to God, became intolerable. Popes and bishops, seen in this light, must inevitably corrupt whatever functions they perform in this wicked world, and, hence, cannot be part of the divine plan. A “Church”, insofar as one must exist to perform symbolic functions and prayer meetings, thus becomes merely the instrument of a “democratic” congregation of atomistic believers.

    Man’s efforts to transform the universe into a “mirror of God” become equally useless. Music, art, architecture, food and dress and everything else attempting to elaborate the beauties of a corrupted cosmos become an abomination. Europe as a whole, whose cities had blossomed under Catholic auspices and hosted innumerable varieties of human endeavor, becomes hopelessly decadent. Many Puritans drew the conclusion that the only way in which a God-fearing Christian might survive would be by fleeing as far from Babylon as possible, to the other side of the ocean, to a New World. Here, paradoxically, he could create a place of safety, a New Jerusalem, a City on a Hill living outside of and above the vain attempt to divinize the universe.

    Puritan Protestants did not necessarily wish to change the concept of “home”, “nation”, and “patriotism”. They, too, were English, and, hence, subject to the same conservatism tugging at the British “soul”. Moreover, unconscious Catholic habits and the pressure exerted by a thousand years of Catholic social life often prevented them from putting the full destructive force of their own ideas into operation. Nevertheless, the logic of Puritan Protestantism propelled it towards startling alterations in the patriotic ideal in America. It was destined to reach this end through its encouragement of secularization.

    Secularization was promoted by Puritan Protestantism in three ways. One was by having supported tenets so inhuman as to drive men away from God in horror. A second was through establishing such a stark dichotomy between God and man as to throw into doubt the rationality of Christ’s whole mission, to deny the reality of the Incarnation and to retire the divine beyond man’s reach. The last was by so disdaining the world and ridiculing the possibility of its transformation as to liberate nature entirely from God’s direction. Even though Puritans desired none of these consequences, the logic of Puritanism ensured their success. Their progress was often hidden from public awareness, partly because the Anglo-Saxon conservative sense led those who had lost their faith to continue to refer to “God” and Christian terminology in discussing their non-Christian ideas, and partly because such men no longer even sensed the significance of their own apostasy.

    A secularized man cannot completely shed the influences that formed him. The “secular Puritan” is still puritanical in his way of dealing with the world. This is obvious in three aspects of his outlook, all of which have reached their logical conclusions by our time.

    One can begin by noting that although he no longer believes in God in an orthodox sense, the secular Puritan continues to understand men to be atoms, individuals in whose life society plays no true role. Just as a man was expected to make a private act of faith in God, he is now meant to make a private act of faith in his own “goals”, independently of his fellow creatures. Just as he once privately interpreted the Scriptures, he now must be “self-reliant” in his guidance of his own life. And just as the Church, with its panoply of authorities, was seen to be an unwarranted intruder in the relationship of the individual and God, all secular institutions are now condemned from the same standpoint. The state, the family, authoritative traditions in general and one’s pet enemy organization in particular, are all held to be guilty of a form of breaking and entering. Evil in and of themselves, they explain the persistence of wickedness on this planet and can only be tolerated if they exercise their functions subject to the free acceptance of individuals and through democratic structures analogous to those of the Puritan congregations. The present assault upon every aspect of authority, particularly visible since the 1960’s, is directly related to this attitude and cannot be understood without it. Secularized Puritanism and authority are mortal enemies.

    Secondly, Puritanism can still be noted in the secularized American’s discomfort with efforts to transform the world into a “mirror of God”. This discomfort appears in two forms, superficially contradictory but firmly related at their root. Many Americans continue to anathematize “high culture”. They characterize everything from architecture and music to cooking and clothing as silly, wasteful, and effeminate, the moment that it rises above the mediocre. Other Americans feel the need to escape the blandness around them. They cannot, however, bring themselves to flee from it by cultivating truly serious culture. This would so tie them into the Greco-Roman and Catholic tradition as to frighten them back into their mediocrity. Instead, they develop a new type of “high culture” based upon the mad, individualistic ravings of their tortured puritanical souls. Their “cultural” creations are then guiltily justified by them with reference to deep biological or psychological needs. The one group of secularized Puritans adores the Big Mac as the height of human achievement; the other, a homosexual’s multi-million dollar sculpture of a broken toothpick. In short, the Puritan, after his break with faith as during its full fervor, is unable to grasp the principle of restoring all things in Christ. He manifests his inability in either philistinism or perversion. If he does discover the true heritage of the West, he converts to Catholicism or plays carelessly with it like an adolescent plays haphazardly with things before which he should stand in awe.

    Finally, the secularized Puritan cannot shake his conviction that the United States is divinely protected, the New Jerusalem, the place set apart by God to house those saints who have fled from Babylon. Even though God does not exist for him in the old way, something god-like is understood to guide the United States towards establishment of the Heavenly City on earth. America’s divine uniqueness now lies in the fact that this country has democratic institutions, that its geographical isolation continues to separate it from decadent European cultures and that its Pluralism, at least on the surface, appears to provide room for the atomistic individual to maneuver. Although his belief that evil can be dealt with through application of “the American Way” may seem to indicate a break with the Puritan past, it really is not. It is in the nature of a doctrine as horrible as Puritanism to push someone psychologically from espousal of a concept like that of total depravity to espousal of its exact opposite, just as it is in the nature of horrible exercise of parental authority psychologically to push a child to complete abandonment of his parents’ teaching. And it is also in the nature of a secularized Puritanism which has lost its vision of God and of Heaven to seek paradise in an earthly realm, peopled by autonomous, god-like atoms manipulating democratic pseudo-societies of the type that America seems to promise.

    We are now at the crux of the problem. If America, even in the mind of the secularized Puritan, is the City on a Hill, it would seem to mean that “home” is something worth protecting. But the “nation”, understood in a traditional sense, must itself be a stumbling block to such a mentality. It is a hindrance because it, too, demands respect for authority, whether in the form of institutions or in that of customs and traditions. The true patriot must put brakes upon his “self-reliance” and his atomistic freedom for the good of the country. He is obliged to recognize his inability to provide for himself and his family, to communicate sensibly with a sizeable community and to blossom as a personality outside of his cradle. He is required to admit that society is good or, rather, that societies of all kinds are good, since no one can love his nation and hate the things that make it great. No one can love France, recognizing that the French nation gives him a language, people who understand his way of life, soil on which to be nourished, and a place to lay his head, without at least respecting those forces which contributed to creating it: the Roman Church, the universities, the communal institutions of the city of Paris, and a thousand other entities besides. The true patriot must, in the last analysis, be prepared to give his life to maintain his nation just as he must be prepared to give his life in the defense of his own body. But if a secularized Puritanism is to triumph, the patriot, patriotism, and all the baggage accompanying the idea of the nation must disappear. “Home” demands too much, it is too authoritarian, too reminiscent of the Church’s vain effort to place itself between God and the individual. Yet how could one maintain love for America without allowing it to become love of nation in its unacceptable sense?

    The dilemma may be resolved only by giving a new definition of patriotism in the New World, one that takes secularized Puritanism and its preoccupations to heart. A patriotism demanding sacrifices for the sake of the cradle, and thus placing impositions upon the individual, is seen as a wicked thing. But a patriotism which redefines love of country and makes it into devotion to a set of anti-authoritarian principles is another story entirely. A patriotism reminding man of his dependence upon his city, tongue, and fellow citizens, the dead as well as the living, is seen to be as shameful as it is despotic. But a “patriotism” eliminating all these images could make a magnificent contribution to the liberation of the human race.

    How could such a patriotism be developed? By transforming the prudential and, indeed, illusory phenomenon of pluralism into an iron-clad Pluralist Faith; by insisting that the nurturing of diversity as such is the only real purpose of government; by praising American institutions for working towards this end, despite the fact that, historically, such a goal has played no role in the conservative, Anglo-Saxon program; by then explaining that “God”, or whatever force a secularized man might find operative in the universe, had set up the United States and given it its Constitution and its wealth for the sake of propagating atomistic individualism. And, finally, by indicating that patriotism is also service to this cause. Patriotism no longer means protection of American institutions in the sense of their being the legitimate authoritative bodies ruling over men in this country, but protection of American institutions insofar as they help to crush the very principle of authority. Patriotism no longer means protection of American borders in and of themselves, but only insofar as they are the borders of that New Jerusalem established to destroy community and tradition. Indeed, seen in this light, everyone ought—and, indeed, must—establish American institutions and the “American Way of Life”. But, if, through some terrible apostasy, the City on a Hill were to betray its mission, everyone would then be obliged to be devoted to the humiliation of America, whether living in Moscow or Athens or Washington, D.C. True patriotism would then mean devotion to whatever other country takes up the cause of the Pluralist Doctrine. In this second, long unthinkable situation, the “patriot” must necessarily engage in what men throughout the long course of human history have always rightly called treason. And in whatever they do to promote this new form of “patriotism”, we shall see that they do not ensure freedom but, rather, the reign of pure force; the triumph of the will.

    II. The Americanist Heresy

    We are now in a position to define Americanism. Americanism is a religion which both major elements of the American “soul”—secularized Puritanism and Anglo-Saxon conservatism—have helped to develop. Americanism is a religion that adores the United States as the incarnation of the secularized Puritan vision of paradise. It is a religion that simultaneously adores the bland, materialistic, catch-all unity that stems from the Anglo-Saxon drive for stability and integration. Americanism is an evangelical religion that wishes the rest of the world to be converted to its doctrines and preaches them under the heading of Pluralism. Even though its dogmas are as iron-clad as Marxist ones, even though it inevitably revolutionizes societies under its control, it masquerades as being nothing other than a practical method of attaining the good life. Americanism subtly combines the ideological character of Puritanism with Anglo-Saxon disdain for ideas. Patriotism in the United States is devotion to this complex Americanist-Pluralist religion.

    Let us examine the different aspects of this religion in greater detail. The strength of the secularized Puritan element in Americanism is incontestable. Few dare to defy the notion that America has a divine mission to protect atomistic freedom, Pluralism and Democracy. The Americanist faith is evoked on every ceremonial occasion by each political faction in its own distinct fashion. It is inscribed on national monuments and in patriotic legend. The conservative cult of the Constitution as a God-given document reflects it. So does the Monroe Doctrine, which establishes the New World as an American sphere of influence, not on the grounds of self-interest, but as a means of carving out a “truly free” segment of the globe. The symbolism of the Statue of Liberty, the adulation of unrestricted capitalism and the spirit behind the American Civil Liberties Union are all different manifestations of the same religious definition of the meaning and glory of the United States. Moreover, the fideistic way in which this American Religion is taught, one which permits no investigation and discussion of the principles upon which it rests, is as classically Puritan as the historical influence of “preachers”—ministers, and then, in secularized form, professors, psychologists, journalists, etc.—in the interpretation of the true will of the supposedly autonomous individual.

    Puritan and secularized Puritan control of the main educational and propaganda organs in the United States did much to ensure penetration of the vision of America’s evangelical mission, especially after the defeat of the southern aristocracy, whose peculiar and unfortunate character made it an obstacle to this. It was not, however, the only factor aiding such penetration. Indeed, certain features of the drive for integration also indirectly contributed to the strength of the Puritan vision of America’s role in the world. Thus, for example, incoming groups of immigrants were grateful, in a good patriotic sense, for the real material benefits they had won as a result of their acceptance here. They were all too unaware of the price they would ultimately have to pay in true happiness for the ability to consume goods that they did not really need or initially want. The United States, for them, was the land of milk and honey. Since the powers-that-be claimed that atomistic democracy and Pluralism were their essential backdrop, the immigrants gave the Americanist Religion their genuine support. They were too tired from trying to “make it” to notice what a sham their supposed freedom really was in the Pluralist scheme of things. The myth of American liberty became their myth as well. Also, the “integrationist” insistence upon work and material achievement, although not intrinsically anti-patriotic in the old sense of the word, aided anti-patriotic secular Puritanism in practice. It forced men to act as atomists, to lower their sights from God to insurance policies, to flee from the centers of community life, regardless of the emotional costs involved, just so long as a dollar was to be earned elsewhere. The constant picking up and leaving that has long been a part of the American way of life had to destroy tradition, authority and a sense of commitment in a way that aided the secularized Puritan cause.

    Americanism, however, also means “religious” devotion to the bland consequences of the Anglo-Saxon drive for stability. It entails devoting oneself not only to the cause of atomistic freedom, but to a rejection of the firm ideas and divisive behavior that can come from actually exercising freedom. The result has been that Americanism requires simultaneous commitment to atomistic diversity and integrationist unanimity. While praising individualism, an American is really expected to avoid it like the plague. American protocol insists upon a danse macabre, an insane ritual of exulting in liberty and behaving with herd-like docility, whether in politics, at work or in private behavior. The inherent paradox has been seemingly resolved by insisting upon twisting individual “creativity” to the development of vulgar advertising jingles, unisex clothing and broad, insipid, intellectual formulae for everything from philosophy to foreign policy. Those who follow the prescribed pattern are lauded as being both men of conviction as well as team players; those who reject it are either laughed off center stage or written out of polite society as being insane. Older foreigners exposed to this horror are often baffled by it (though their children have digested the lessons and learned the steps of the danse macabre all too well). Most Americans do not even notice it, nor do foreigners raised under its spell from birth. Secularized Puritanism indirectly aids the adulation of unanimity just as the Anglo-Saxon conservative sense indirectly aids the growth of atomism. The philistines and perverts who are the standard bearers of Americanist creativity would not know what individualism really meant even if their lives depended upon it.

    Americanism promoted an atomism that sneered at true community life with its panoply of authorities and traditions as the worst of plagues. This atomism did not understand just how necessary community was to save men from madness. When this atomism infected country living, where such respect was often great and where it was perhaps most essential, it made rural existence intolerably lonely. It has now created the suburb. It has punished those who fled the structured community of the old city for the “freedom” of the outside world with the misery of lives spent on super highways and in soulless shopping malls. The drive towards individual space has led to the creation of vast tracts of “sameness” across the entire breadth of the land. Similarly, those who wished to remain in cities found themselves forced to apologize for their behavior with reference to “personal needs”, “unique life styles”, and an equally corrupt spirit of self-reliance. This “individualism” has been crowned by an insufferable and repulsive trendiness. If the suburbanite atomist is herd-like in his vulgarity, the city-dwelling atomist is machine-like in his obsession with pseudo-intellectual and cultural fads. Americanism is, to a large degree, responsible for their troubles, and Americanism is a principle of death; of life-long euthanasia.

    There are four major problems with Americanism, all of which have been mentioned above and which must be summarized now. Americanism is a false religion, a fideism disguised as being merely a practical method for achieving peace amidst diversity and attainment of a free and happy life for all. Rather than providing peace and freedom, it ensures the triumph of base, irrational will. This dangerous fideism destroys patriotism and the nation. It has the same effect on serious religion—especially the true one, the Catholic Faith. Let us examine each of these four problems in turn.

    The Americanist usually claims that the American government and way of life are simply practical, effective pathways to human happiness. He also insists that they are “doctrineless” and “neutral” in character by virtue of the fact that they offer every possible viewpoint a chance to thrive. But we have seen that these are misrepresentations of reality. America is tied together with Pluralism, which is an evangelical form of secularized Puritanism, and shaped by the Anglo-Saxon tradition under pressures from immigration as well. This Pluralism breaks down commitment to all other ideas, establishing a purely materialistic harmony among pseudo-individualists. It has become one of the most effective means of oppression, repressing, as Marcuse says, by tolerating everything to meaninglessness and, therefore, to death. No beneficial new order of the ages began for mankind with the United States and the American Constitution. No new, happier man was born from the American way of life. Rather than providing some special form of grace to transform men (which only the sacraments can give), America and American Pluralism offer an example of the dismal logical consequences of certain already aged ideas and tendencies under the understandable though regrettable circumstances of American History.

    But what is of concern to us here is the fact that the Americanist has made an act of faith in the unique ability of American institutions to achieve the good, and that he does not see that he has actually become an ideologue. This blindness is totally comprehensible. Americanism does not appear to be a religion because it had to adopt the language of pragmatism to make headway in an Anglo-Saxon country that dislikes ideas. It does not appear to be a religion because of the subtle, generally non-coercive, Anglo-Saxon way in which it goes about its work.

    The fact that Americanism is a religion and that many Americans do not see through its pragmatic mask is aided immeasurably by its fideistic character. Fideism is not a faith-seeking-understanding like Catholicism, respectful as the Catholic Faith is of both theology and philosophy, revelation and reason. Fideism prohibits all investigation of its central tenets and their difficulties. This is precisely what Americanism does. It defends and promotes the cult of America as God-Sacrament-Liberation Theology-Pragmatic Tool by cutting off every possible means of investigating and criticizing the various aspects of the American Way. One needs all the disciplines, supernatural and natural, to expose the errors of Americanism, since we have seen that it has developed out of a mesh of theological, philosophical, historical, sociological, and psychological factors. But the two-sided character of the error, secularized Puritan and Anglo-Saxon conservative, combined together ultimately in one, disguised, fideistic faith, works against a complete study of its essence and mode of operation. If one attacks its logical flaws on theological and philosophical grounds, it responds by referring to its purely pragmatic nature, claiming that it must not be taken on an “abstract” level but only as a practical method for establishing peace and freedom amidst the irrational flaw of human events. If one takes these arguments seriously and finds fault with Americanism on a practical, pragmatic level, on the basis of its historical, sociological, and psychological fruits, then it calls forth its exalted role as the sole means of attaining happiness for mankind. It one then returns to the attack on the abstract level, comparing the “truth” of Americanism with other truths, “pragmatic” Pluralism enters into the breach to denounce the practical, divisive effects of such an inquiry. It exhorts everyone to get his mind out of the clouds and focus it on something concrete, common-sensical and really helpful. Hence, the enemy of Americanism hears himself categorized as being simultaneously romantic, naïve, and cynical: an unmotivated, lazy, misanthropic wretch, eager to demoralize simple, virtuous, common-sensical people, and probably a totalitarian in the bargain. The result is to lower a blindfold over peoples’ eyes; to insist that they accept as unassailable doctrines what the Americanist writings claim America to be; to do so while denying that these are truly doctrines, but while also prohibiting the use of all the rational tools that would uncover the fraud which is at work. The only “rational” tool whose use the fideist permits in order to understand and “criticize” Americanism is the recitation of the tenets of Americanism themselves. And these, of course, offer it nothing but praise.

    A second problem which needs to be underlined now is that, rather than providing peace and freedom, Americanism ensures the triumph of the kind of base, irrational will which destroys them. Why? Basically because of that disdain and even hatred for ideas and rational authority at work in Puritanism, in secularized Puritanism, and in an Anglo-Saxon mentality deprived of a, consistent Catholic direction. Supporters of Americanism refer us back to the Founders, a study of whom actually demonstrates much of the difficulty. James Madison, in the Federalist, speaks with confidence of America’s ability to secure peace due to the “multiplicity of factions” existing within its borders. He even argues that this multiplicity of factions be encouraged, since its encouragement will mean that no faction will ever be able to gain power over the others. A permanent war of all against all will check and balance each into a common nullity guaranteeing the continued maintenance of the existing public order (and private aristocracy).

    This attitude presumes too much. For one thing, it presumes that a human society can, and perhaps even should, be built upon division, and not just division, but a struggle among the divided parts which will not be permitted a conclusion. The question is, of course, whether this would not in the long run cause the various groups struggling amongst themselves either to recognize the pointlessness of their struggle and unite in seeking some common oppressive goals or to adopt new, unforeseen tactics to assure their own unpalatable victory.

    Consideration of this question leads us to another false presumption at work among the Founders and important in understanding the flaws in Madison’s argument: the sufficiency of the eighteenth century, Anglo-Saxon “common sense” view of reality to protect a public order which is also good. As stated above, this view of reality was itself shaped by that Puritan and secularized Puritan concept of life which understood men to be depraved, individual atomist at war with authority. Appreciation of the consequences of this concept among the Founders may well have been limited by an Anglo-Saxon propensity not to investigate ideas too seriously, by maintenance of many older external forms in the midst of negative change (like the Anglican Church herself), and by the remnants of Catholic or classical influences still at work in society. They may not have willed the consequences of these ideas, but their will is not the problem here. The question is whether Puritan and secularized Puritan ideas have logical consequences of the sort that I have indicated; consequences which other men may “will” to draw and apply to life.

    And this, as we have seen, they do. The atomization of man and of human society multiplies factions further and further. The most common and successful of such willful factions are those which the American system was disposed to produce by its history (i.e., sexual, commercial, and lunatic). Reason is itself rejected as a guide since that, too, is considered to be an oppressive authority. All of these factions are thrown back on their irrational wills to justify themselves and their life styles, while the meaning of “common sense” is expanded to permit them do so since their suppression could be “divisive” and disturb the peace. In a struggle of irrational wills, tactics will be used that might not have been “common-sensical” according to the Founders, but which are judged to be just fine in an atomistic world exposing people to perpetual temptations. A supporter of the Founders is reduced to insisting that this is not what they wanted—in other words, to an appeal to their will. An appeal to will even in their case is not surprising given that a rational probe of their understanding of “common sense” reveals the seeds of the same evils and destructive fruits which we see around us today. But in the struggle of the multiplicity of factions guided by irrational wills, the strongest triumphs, and the twentieth century factions are both stronger and more logical in their willfulness than those of the 1700’s. Of course, Americanists will never admit to the reality of what is happening around them. They will continue to refer back to what the Founders said and wrote, ignoring the factors which tell us what their judgments actually have meant in practice. They will sweep the truth under the rug for the sake of defending their fideistic faith, and they will thereby make impossible that daily search for acting justly which they claim is rendered unnecessary by the machine-like openness and constitutional guarantees of Pluralism.

    Thirdly, Americanism destroys patriotism and the nation. Those who accept it and are truly interested in ideas will take its secularized Puritan elements seriously, and see it to be their patriotic duty to support anyone “hurt” by a United States which betrays its “mission” to set peoples free. They will, therefore, willingly aid outright enemies of the country in various parts of the globe and destroy its consistent friends, should they believe Pluralism to be invoked by the former and rejected by the latter. Despite horrendous strategic consequences, truly destructive to the concrete nation, American ideals and American purity must be honored! Meanwhile, Americans who understand something of what a nation truly means and who want to protect the United States and her legitimate self-interests in a traditional sense, are misled by Americanist influences into dangerous waters as well. Thus, for example, they presume that every other nation’s practical desires ought to bend to fit our own. For does not the United States, by definition, defend what is good? It might, on specific occasions. But even if it does, one must always recognize that there are also legitimate national differences which will last until the end of time, and it is precisely these distinctions which a true patriotic sense discerns and respects in other peoples. Sometimes, such Americans think that the only reason for our quarrel with the Soviet Union was our different political and social institutions—as though exaggerated Russian military power would have been a mere trifle without Marxism-Leninism! Americanism blinds them to the fact that nations fought wars before ideologies existed and will continue to do so should they ever disappear. And, finally, there are true patriots, who are also respectful of other nations’ integrity. They find, to their amazement, that the entire strength of the Americanist message is aimed against them and the expression of their real love of the land and concern for the independence of all nations. Why are they amazed? Because no one has pointed out the existence of Americanism to them.

    The result is that Americanism makes us men without a country, just as it makes us men without an authoritative state, a network of real institutions with traditions and esprit de corps, men without a history. Americanism seeks to replace the nation with an ideology, patriotism with an ideological, fideisitic religion. But ideology cannot take the place of faith, the state, the city, the family and everything else of importance to national life. It cannot take the place of a real nation. And, hence, it leaves the American suspended in a limbo which the Americanist would have us believe is a model for the cosmos as a whole.

    Finally, let us remember that this fideistic faith disguised as patriotism is a jealous thing, and cannot endure competition with real religion. Of course, it would never admit to being a problem for religion, just as it would never admit to being a problem for reason, precisely because it does not see itself as it actually is. Nevertheless, it works ferociously against any faith that contradicts it. It cannot rest until is sucks all substance out of opposing creeds. But operating in the subtle way that it does, it prefers to destroy by reinterpretation; by allowing and even encouraging the survival of its opponents, so long as they redefine their beliefs and goals along Pluralist, Americanist lines. And it was to find its most serious opponent in the Roman Catholic Church and its greatest victory in conquering and blindfolding her to her own collapse.

    III. Americanism and the Catholic Church

    Americanism was bound to react against Catholicism with peculiar virulence. Indeed, it was obliged to do so. Catholicism represented all that both major influences on the American Religion reproved. The Church condemned the doctrine of total depravity and the secular consequences stemming from it. She did not disdain the principle of authority, the value of community, the wonder of the arts and the glory of the human body. Hence, she did not hand them over to man’s sinful tendencies to be shaped willfully, but, rather, sought to guide them to their proper fulfillment. Rome saw no need to worship the American model of government. The Church was at home in the city. Her traditions were tied in with the heritage of the Greco-Roman polis and the brilliant culture of the medieval town. Moreover, Catholicism had long nourished a diversity of national cultures within that real (even if difficult to define) unity called Christendom. Harmony, in her mind, did not entail an end to ethnic differences nor a minimizing of the universal truth, nor an adulation of materialism. She was ready to sacrifice a cheap, narrowly-construed idea of peace at any price for the sake of obtaining the peace that surpasses all understanding. Other forces encountered by Americanism might embody one or two “erroneous” beliefs, easily defused and integrated into the gray, Pluralist dogma, but Catholicism was the enemy incarnate.

    American animosity towards the Church was expressed in as many ways as there were personal reflections of the national soul. The brutish burned convents and churches in Philadelphia. Men of religion evoked images of Bloody Mary from Fox’s Book of Martyrs. They aroused congregations to sympathy for the supposed torments of captive nuns in New England convent dungeons. Politicos set to work in the Know-Nothings, the American Protection Association and the Ku Klux Klan. Intellectuals, cultivating what some have called the anti-semitism of the educated classes, delivered learned papers at Harvard and Yale on the inevitable conflict of Catholicism and human dignity. None of these “types” had to fear serious reprobation. Each was putting the national creed into action according to his peculiar gifts. If the enemy of the American Religion was incapable of being devoured, then it would have to be humiliated and destroyed.

    Two distinct Catholic viewpoints regarding the best method of protecting the Church and Catholics in America were in obvious conflict by the latter half of the nineteenth century. One of these was convinced that the battle between Catholicism and American society was an unnecessary one. It has long been labeled the Americanist position. This title is a justifiable one, as shall become clear below, since supporters of the Americanist position gradually grew close to the Americanist faith described in the previous section. Three names stand out among its more significant proponents: Bishop John Keane of Richmond, sometime Rector of Catholic University; Msgr. Denis O’Connell of the North American College in Rome; and Bishop John Ireland of St. Paul. The opposing viewpoint took a much more critical attitude towards the possibilities of an American-Catholic rapprochement. It may simply be called the anti-Americanist outlook. Anti-Americanism had a very flexible set of supporters. Leaders of German-speaking Catholics frequently espoused it. So did several foreign faculty members at Catholic University. Bishops such as Corrigan of New York and McQuaid of Rochester were more comfortable with its skepticism than with the optimism of the Americanist school.

    There are at least four good explanations for the development of the Americanist position. Two of these are “positive” in character in the sense of responding to real problems. Two are “negative” in that they reflect unfortunate preoccupations that ought to have been suppressed.

    The two positive stimuli to the growth of Americanism were the desire for a true home and the awareness of nativist exploitation of the “alien” Catholics. Europe was far away, Americanists argued, unlikely ever to be seen again by the bulk of Catholic immigrants. The American government, American working conditions and American neighbors would provide the framework for their existence for the rest of their lives. Should wars come, American armies might demand their blood. Hence, the faster that they cut their ties with their lost European past, the sooner that they ceased viewing themselves as strangers in a strange land, the better for their tranquility, material prosperity and the peace of the Church. Hyphenated Americans would always be unhappy and disrespected Americans.

    Two negative influences were present, however, in the form of an unhealthy reaction to America’s status as a mission country and in the particular ambitions of some members of one Catholic ethnic group—the Irish. Both of these demand a full and separate attention.

    The United States was a mission country of enormous size underneath the supervision of Propaganda in Rome. Because it was a mission country, it required a vast amount of help from abroad in order to survive. How few remember today, for example, the fact that the American episcopacy was once heavily spiced with French prelates, and that seminary training in this country was subject to tremendous Gallic influence.

    One of the difficulties of being a mission country is the fact that it is all too painfully clear that the center of things is far away. There are no sacred places. There are no confessors and martyrs or holy kings. There is no developed music or art or theology or any of the other hallmarks of a high Catholic civilization. Mission countries are often engaged in a race to cease being what they are and to arrive, so to speak, at the center of things. This, however, is a cumbersome task and can—indeed, it must—take centuries if it is to be deeply rooted.

    A people as “practical” and “results-oriented” as the Americans find slow movements impossible to tolerate. Americanists, sensitive to this mentality, were similar in spirit. Surely, good will and ingenuity ought to be able to make history move faster! What better way to speed it up than to find in the soul of America Catholic lessons about which the rest of the Mystical Body of Christ was ignorant? In other words, what more efficient means of ending one’s mission country status than by declaring the periphery to be the center! In this way, the remainder of the Church could be viewed as the true mission territory and the United States as its teacher.

    The second negative influence is the more difficult one to discuss because it seems to be an indictment of an entire people, the Irish. It is not. Many Irish were among the most vigorous opponents of Americanism, and the problem that I am about to discuss may well have been an unconscious one for those who were not. Nevertheless, a complete understanding of Americanism as an historical phenomenon requires touching upon the Irish Question in a manner that some may find to be offensive.

    American Catholics of German and French descent were generally of a higher material and cultural level than those who were not. The Germans, for example, had carefully planned their immigration, settled comfortably upon their arrival and often maintained their interest in the outward manifestations of Catholic high culture. Irish Catholics, persecuted for centuries by the English, could not do the same thing. Their only real advantage in the new homeland was the fact that they could speak its language. So long as the mission country status of the Church in the United States continued, along with its emphasis upon the glories of the past tradition, the French and Germans retained a closer tie with the center of things. As soon as that tradition began to weaken, however, and the star of America rose within the Church, then the Irish fortune might rise with it. The key to understanding the American “teachings” would be the English language, not cultivation, and in this endeavor the Germans and the French could be outmatched. Ironically, as some have pointed out, an Irish connection with Americanism would involve the Celts in a glorification of the “enemy” Anglo-Saxon achievement.

    Just as positive and negative influences may be indicated in the growth of the Americanist attitude, a two-fold set of factors is responsible for the evolution of the opposing position. Hostility to Americanism was certainly due to fears of its effects upon the corpus of Catholic teachings and the practices of the faithful. It was also the product of a certain jealousy of the successes of the Americanist leaders in mainstream society in this country. Moreover, German ethnic pride and sense of cultural superiority may also have played their role irrespective of the substantive issues involved.

    The Americanists were probably right in insisting upon the need for wholehearted Catholic involvement in American society. Catholicism does, after all, have a vision of full participation in all forms of community life. It is not healthy for Catholics to retreat from this vision. When they do so retreat, they have a tendency to create substitute communities that temporarily protect them from the reality around them but which cannot shut it out permanently. They become sectarian in their behavior, sometimes even psychologically ill, like so many Protestant cultists. When this retreat takes place within an already Protestant environment, such as that of the United States, the potential for madness is incalculable. The existence of a non-Catholic society is always a tragedy, and one which mutilates many of the best efforts to deal with it. It is conceivable that a complete victory of the anti-Americanists could have entailed the development of a true ghetto mentality with unpredictable heterodox side effects. It is also conceivable that it might have left the Church in the United States as a set of colonial churches dependent upon foreign governments and traditions, thus arousing quite rational nativist fears.

    Nevertheless, the enthusiasm and the type of arguments with which the Americanists promoted the difficult enterprise of making contact with American society indicate their unsuitability for the task. It seems to be fairly clear that a desire to “fit in” to American life caused them to be very blithe about the dangers of “slippage” from the Faith; that the Americanists themselves, in displaying their “patriotism”, began to espouse the “religion” of the United States; and that, finally, adoption of this false patriotic religion began to make them bend Catholicism to the demands of the drab, Pluralist culture around them. In other words, they were conquered by Americanism and became spokesmen for their conqueror.

    IV. The Opposing Camps

    Americanist spokesmen encouraged any number of sensitive contacts with non-Catholics that radically increased the chance of a break with the Church. They rejected demands for foreign language parishes for immigrants and an ethnic sharing of bishoprics, regardless of the fact that a sudden immersion in Anglo-Saxon culture might mean a drowning in Protestantism as well. Some urged newly-arrived Catholics to abandon the city centers for a countryside where anti-Romanism reigned supreme. Major Americanist figures seem to have been embarrassed at the idea of a separate Catholic school system, preferring state education supplemented by religious instruction. What of the prolonged exposure of school children to teachers trained in hostility to Catholicism? They saw the problem as being an exaggerated one.

    While nervous of Catholic lower education, they dreamed of a national Catholic university, the present Catholic University of America, which became a reality during the 1880’s and 1890’s. This was envisioned by them as a tool for breaking out of the ghetto, as an instrument for encouraging educated Catholic contribution to American civilization in a spirit of friendship. But what of the national culture’s penchant for unanimity and the probability that “friendship” would transform the Catholic intelligentsia into yet another group of mindless adulators of the Pluralist party line? And were there no dangers to the Americanist call for Catholic and non-Catholic cooperation in labor unions? Could workers’ interests be so clinically separated from their personal beliefs that a man’s atheism, Protestantism, or Catholicism did not shade them in any significant fashion?

    Americanists, as already noted, were largely motivated to urge these contacts because of their “patriotism” and because they believed that they were a practical necessity. They were enthusiastic, both in public and in private, in their gratitude towards the United States for what they felt that the Catholic peoples had gained here. They tried to demonstrate to Catholics the practical use that they could make out of American separation of Church and State. They sought to convince other Americans that full Catholic participation in national life would strengthen this country still further. Once the United States entered the race for colonies, many Americanists became fervent Imperialists. The Spanish-American War was crucial to them, both as a means of displaying their patriotism as well as for the chance it gave to underline the value of the Catholic contribution to the common cause.

    Alas! Americanists, like other Americans, were seduced into confusing true patriotism with devotion to the religion of atomism, democracy and Pluralism. They were led from the practical acceptance and use of the unique American experience into its glorification as a superior good in and of itself. This adoption of the secular religion described in the previous section can be seen in endless statements and symbolic actions during the lat twenty years of the nineteenth century. It is best summarized in a biography of Fr. Isaac Hecker (1819-1888), founder of the Paulists, which will be discussed in further detail below.

    Several examples will suffice to illustrate my point. Because they had begun to become atomists in the Puritan sense, Americanists were often not alarmed at the prospect of enticing Catholic immigrants away from the cities. They saw America as a place wherein individuals no longer needed the superficial aids of past Catholic communities. Older Catholic cultures were “weak”, and, hence, understandably more dependent upon authority, spiritual directors, miracles and other religious manifestations to keep up their spirit. They were “passive” in character. No wonder that they appreciated “passive” virtues, like obedience, and developed so many religious orders maintained by life-long vows and disciplinary methods.

    Now, however, America had created the potential for developing strong individuals who could be “active” instead of “passive”, who were “doers” instead of obedient servants. The Holy Spirit poured Himself out directly to self-reliant American individuals in a way that He did not wish to do with passive Europeans. Hence, they could dispense with certain of the authoritative, visible aids that other Catholic peoples required. As one American archbishop said at Lourdes, there were no appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the United States because Americans did not need them. Individual Catholic Americans could survive more fruitfully than those wrapped up in the community-rich, medieval European setting. Unfortunately, he did not understand that they would be living off of the diminishing capital of the past as they stripped themselves of all reference to it.

    Similarly, Americanists were not terribly frightened of state schools in the United States because they presumed that American institutions were divinely shielded from error and abuse. Rather than being products of necessity, political choice and the American Constitution, America’s freedoms and her separation of Church and State were God’s most perfect political and social gifts to man. They were magnificent by definition. Therefore, nothing guided by them, such as state schools, could ever harm Catholicism.

    Finally, the Americanists’ true spirit is underlined by the character of the statements that they made about our country’s victory in the Spanish-American War. Americanists combined their views with Social Darwinism to express just how natural this victory really was. The Latin peoples, they argued, were subjects of inferior, decadent, authoritarian cultures. Hence, they were still childlike in behavior. America represented superior, individualistic Anglo-Saxon culture, and her victory would set the inhabitants of the Caribbean free. Indeed, her victory demonstrated that the banner of God and of humanity was in her hands. America would soon be in a position to teach the world that democracy, separation of Church and State and rugged individualism were Catholicism’s best friends.

    All of the elements of secularized Puritan Americanism are present in these statements: atomism, disdain for Europe and belief in the divine mission of America. Unfortunately, the consequence of acceptance of this secular religion also began to make its appearance as well: namely, the minimizing of the Catholic Faith for the sake of fitting in with vague, bland, materialistic Pluralist Fideism. Insistence upon the superiority of “active” virtues like work over “passive” ones such as obedience already indicate this transformation. So does American Catholic neglect of art and music. So, too, does the willingness of Americanists to be present at ceremonies in Harvard Chapel and the Brigham Young Monument in Utah. So does the gesture of giving dubious titles like “The Ultimate Religion” to otherwise decent Catholic talks at a “World Parliament of Religions” representing everyone from Anglicans to theosophists and swamis.

    None of these developments was missed by the opponents of Americanism. They argued that Americanism was, to a certain degree, simply a means of adulating the unacceptable spirit of American life. Americans did not want the supernatural to interfere with their lives, such critics insisted, and the Americanists were trying to accommodate them by declaring their naturalistic concerns and abilities to be supernatural promptings and virtues anyway. American government had developed in such a fashion as to banish the Church from political and social matters. Secularists now praised this development. Americanists were trying to ingratiate themselves with such people by declaring separation of Church and State to be the ideal Catholic goal. In fact, what Americanists were saying was that Protestant and Enlightenment influences, such as those which had built the United States, produce higher cultures than Catholic ones. Rather than less authority and community and supernatural manifestations, the anti-Americanists argued, the United States required more of these than did other nations. The American Religion did provide some of the things that it promised, particularly material benefits. But unless the United States were permeated with the supernatural, this very prosperity would expel God from the nation. It would expel Him not as an atheist would banish Him, as an evil superstition, but as an inconsequential and superfluous being who interfered with consumption. And it would do so in the wrapping of seemingly traditional Protestant Christian language.

    Three issues, more than any others, brought the battle between Americanists and their opponents to a head during the 1880’s and 1890’s, forcing Rome to deal with the problem. These three problems were the German Question, the conflict over Catholic University and the publication of the French translation of Fr. Elliott’s Life of Fr. Isaac Hecker.

    The German Question chiefly involved the debate over German Catholic efforts to protect their identity as an ethnic group. It centered around the issues of appointment of bishops in the United States with regard to ethnic considerations, the feasibility of foreign-language parishes and the separate Catholic school problem. It did not pit all of the opponents of Americanism on the same side of the fence since many anti-Americanists did believe in the ultimate need for an English-speaking unity in this country. What it did so, however, was to identify the power of many of the Americanist spokesmen and demonstrate the awe in which they held America and American institutions. Germans became embittered as a result of this debate, both by what they felt to be the Irish domination of the Church and the way in which certain Americanist Irish prelates seemed to be accusing them of greater loyalty to Germany than to the United States. The fact that there had even been efforts made by Catholic clergy to have this Church issue brought for discussion before the American Congress was particularly irritating. Many German Catholics became convinced that there were heretical, secularist tendencies at work behind the scenes, and dedicated themselves to exposing them.

    A second conflict centered around Catholic University. Controversy had plagued Catholic University since before its birth, controversy involving its purpose, location and leadership. A number of foreigners had been hired to work as faculty members from the time of its inception in the Departments of Theology and Philosophy. Several of the most outspoken among them, including Fr. Georges Périès, Fr. Joseph Schroeder and Msgr. Joseph Pohle felt that the institution was being manipulated by a clique of Americanists. The vigor with which they attacked manifestations of the Americanist spirit made them personae non gratae at the University. They were eventually forced out. Needless to say, personal matters as well as substantive issues entered into their difficulties, but that is in the nature of the human dilemma. An Americanist/anti-Americanist quarrel lay at the foundation of the problem. Upon returning to Europe, they exposed in French and German Catholic journals the character of that which they claimed to have heard and seen in the United States. They, too, were convinced that they were dealing with a subtle heresy.

    Rome had already given some credence to the complaints of these men while they were still at Catholic University. Leo XIII had sent an Apostolic Delegate to the United States in 1893, Archbishop Satolli, who had resided for a time on the university’s grounds. Satolli came to share the fears of the anti-Americanists. His reports to Rome led to the retirement of Keane as Rector of Catholic University in 1895. The Vatican issued a letter, Longinquina oceani, in the same year. This stressed the unique character of the American experience and its inability to serve as a model for the rest of the Catholic world. When Satolli was finally replaced as Apostolic Delegate, his successor was a religious. The choice of a religious as a replacement was interpreted as a sign that Rome considered Americanist disdain for passive virtues such as the obedience entailed by vows to be an error.

    Nevertheless, the most important confrontation leading to intervention from Rome came with the translation in 1897 by the Abbé Klein of Fr. Elliott’s Life of Isaac Hecker. Fr. Hecker, founder of the Paulists, had supported “opening the windows” to the United States in a manner reminiscent of the Americanists. Carved on his tombstone in St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York are his own words: “In the union of Catholic Faith and American civilization…a future for the Church brighter than any past.” Fr. Klein, as well as a number of renegade “neo-Christians” in France, suggested that the Pluralism and separation of Church and State in America ought to be the model for European affairs as well. This universalizing of what Rome admitted to be a parochial, practical necessity in the United States, this universalizing of which the Americanist was also guilty, unleashed serious debate both in the Old World and in the New. The exiles from Catholic University insisted that they had listened to this sort of thing all the time in academic circles in the United States. German-American Catholics understood it to be the natural accompaniment to the earlier attack on their ethnic unity. Proponents of Americanism seemed to confirm suspicions of their intentions by speechmaking tours overseas and discussion among themselves of the progress of “The Movement”.

    Still, Americanists claimed that they were not promoting the kind of thing that one found in the biography of Fr. Hecker or in the statements of neo-Christians. They insisted that Europeans who criticized them were actually enemies of the United States. In one sense, they were correct. Anyone writing or thinking about Americanism inevitably tries to analyze it in logical fashion. He must organize it to do so. But since it is one of the essential aspects of Americanism not to take ideas seriously and to presume that it is simply espousing a practical method of achieving a good, the Americanist often does not see the contradictions of which he is guilty. Nineteenth century Americanists were orthodox Roman Catholics. They wished to be American patriots. American patriotism involved unquestioning adherence to Americanism. Hence, they tried to be both Catholics and Americanists at the same time. When the logical consequences of accepting Americanism were spelled out to them, when the significance of their own symbolic actions was explicated, they reacted in a typical Americanist way: they denied logic. They did not intend to be heretics. Therefore, Americanism could not be a heresy when it proclaimed America to be a God-given instrument for the instruction and progress of the world. Moreover, the Americanists were perhaps correct in claiming that their enemies were the enemies of the United States, but only in the sense that the United States and the Americanist Religion were equated. I have tried to show that this equation need not take place when a true definition of patriotism and nationhood exist.

    Rome was faced with an unfortunate dilemma. Americanism was an error, but it seemed to be the case that its proponents did not understand either the problem or their part in it. Thus, she responded in the only way that seemed to be just. A letter, Testem benevolentiae, was sent to the Cardinal-Archbishop of Baltimore in 1899 explaining the danger of Americanism, stopping short of accusing any Americans of accepting this doctrine, but urging them to abandon it if they had done so. It was not enough to crush the monster.

    V. The Blindness of a Conquered People

    Americanism, in its Catholic form, was long said to have been nothing other than a figment of over-excited and over-suspicious minds. This judgment would seem to have been confirmed by the fact that significant mention of it practically disappeared almost from the moment that Testem benevolentiae took notice of its dangers. And yet a comparison of contemporary Catholic life with the main Americanist tenets would indicate unmistakably that it has now won as total a victory as it humanly can win.

    Many of the doctrines which were only embryonic in the Americanist of the 1890’s who basically still wished to be orthodox, have blossomed into straightforward, unashamed heresies today. There is now a blatant insistence upon the need for a national American Church, one that has as its chief duty the propagation of Pluralist doctrines of openness to freedom for everything except that which is substantive, exalted, truly distinct, Catholic and therefore, unacceptably “divisive”.

    Moreover, the inevitable consequences of Americanist thought are more manifest in practical ways than they were one hundred years ago. The dismantling of all that is solidly Catholic for the sake of integration has brought in its train every one of the evils to be noted in secular Pluralist society as a whole. Americanism always is accompanied by spiritual boredom, and nothing can be imagined that is more boring than American Catholicism in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The liturgical disaster, the stripping bare of churches and the way in which gimmicks, games, vulgarities, petty forms of social work, sexual obsessions and narrow political concerns have taken precedence over the supernatural all testify to the blandness and materialism that this conquest entails. Americanism is always accompanied by the multiplication of facts, the impotence of the serious and the domination of the strongest materialist or irrational will, and nothing can be imagined that is more divided, more bumbling in its defense of the truth and more enslaved to the desires of powerful illicit wills than American Catholicism in the 1980’s and 1990’s. All the talk of manifold types of hyphenated Catholics with interests unceasingly in collision, all the episcopal statements and programs wrapped in contradictions and chintz, all the commanding influence of financial consultants, sex experts and uninformed charismatic personalities in parishes, chanceries and doctrinal committees sing of the ravages of the Americanist Faith.

    And yet, once again, far from decrying its destruction, the conquered Catholic people do not admit what has happened to them but praise their conquest and strive to tighten the chains of their conquerors with their own hands. “They die, and yet they smile.” They have forgotten what Catholicism is all about, even when they think that they are defending it. I should like to offer four historical and sociological reasons for the silent victory of the conquering enemy.

    Americanism appeared to fade away partly because the United States at the turn of the century was on the periphery of the world in the Vatican’s mind and could not hold its attention for long. Rome was not eager to bother the Americans, so long as the Americans did not openly bother Rome. Rome, in other words, allowed the infection to grow.

    Admittedly, it was difficult for her to continue hostilities when the Americanist himself insisted that no heresy existed, that he possessed no discernable theological platform and that he merely espoused a humble, pragmatic method concerned with promoting contacts between the secular world and Catholicism, unconnected with doctrinal matters. The subtle transformation of his pastoral program into an evangelical religion escaped him, much as it escaped many other patriots who unwittingly served an anti-national creed. Americanists could not grasp the meaning of Testem benevolentiae because the encyclical was itself part and parcel of that preoccupation with abstractions that American Pluralism was supposed to overcome. If the Americanist issue did not attract the concern of most Catholicism and one of the participants in the battle refused to admit that there was even a war, why would Rome, belabored with other difficulties which it judged to be more critical, think to intervene anew?

    Moreover, the contrast of Modernism with Americanism seemed to confirm this judgment. The Modernist Crisis did involve a direct theological challenge to Catholic doctrine, and, thus, could not arouse a general Americanist enthusiasm. American failure to embrace Modernism in the wake of the Americanist flare-up gave the United States the aura of a model orthodox nation. Alas! Rome did not realize how “practical”, “pragmatic” Americanism could suck whole nations into what was effectively a nominalist, naturalist, modernist wind tunnel!

    Secondly, Americanism also triumphed in the midst of its seeming demise due to Catholic acclimatization to the surrounding American world. This acclimatization was solidified by the post-war flight from the cities. It was one thing speaking of the glories of the American way of life when the bulk of Catholics were foreign speaking or at least were making their home in ghettos in New York, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. In this case, such chatter amounted to nothing more than tossing grains of incense before the statue of an Emperor whose dicta might still be interpreted in a Catholic sense. After all, even an Americanist who lived under such conditions was constantly subject to an afterglow of the old Catholic ways, and probably would never grasp or develop the full meaning of his new religion.

    Once, however, Americanism was emphasized under the authority and customs of the beauty-less suburbs, it began to take its real toll. Catholics started to live with their fellow Americans door-to-door. They discovered the true meaning of Pluralism in doing so. They understood that it did not mean adding their heartfelt convictions to an uplifting national dialogue. Instead, they saw that it signified adoption of sexual, commercial and other democratic obsessions, merged into a dull, drab, shapeless middle position, reflected by the character of their bedroom communities as a whole. Pluralism is the intellectual expression of Wonderbread. Catholics saw this and they grew infatuated with the horrendous reality of it. Soon, their love affair led them to a Wonderbread Liturgy, a Wonderbread Catholic school system and a Wonderbread theology, all dedicated to the glorification of secularized Puritanism. This is what Americanism always offered, and this is what Catholics finally obtained. It was a glorious acquisition.

    Catholic politicians played their infamous role in this acclimatization. America was only willing to accept as national politicians those able to fit in with the Pluralist mentality, men who would bow down and adore the national God and the national Faith. Many Catholic politicians were willing to sell themselves in this fashion, or, to be more precise, were already so Americanized as not to understand the humiliation they were undergoing. Once more, American society went out of its way to praise them for the “courage” they displayed in accepting the devil’s offer of all the kingdoms of this world. The average believer saw their consequent success as a sign that the place of the Church in American life had become secure. Democracy, Pluralism and separation of Church and State had, it seemed, really done their job. They had given Catholics and their Church a full share in national affairs. This is true, so long as one underlines a harsh fact: those Catholics and that Catholic Church which were given a full share in national affairs were so defused by the Americanist Religion that they bore little or no relation to the believers and the Faith that the United States had so disliked a century beforehand.

    A third explanation for the apparent demise of Americanism was the rise of Soviet power. Marxist hostility to the Church was so overt as to overshadow completely the subtle way in which the American Religion opposed the true Catholic spirit and led to similar anti-Catholic results. American Catholics, thrilled that the enemy of their Church was also the enemy of their country, understood anti-communism to be a means of emphasizing their patriotism. Unfortunately, it also proved to be a pathway to their Americanization. Catholics began to believe, en masse, that any criticism of the American way of life—indeed, any suggestion that there could even be a single alternative to the American way of life—was tantamount to treason. Instead of using their loyalty to home to wean the United States away from the equation of patriotism with the American Religion, they fell prey to the same unfortunate error. We are now paying the price of that surrender, since many Americanized Catholics feel duty-bound to betray the land which they believe has ignored its democratic mission in South America, Asia and Africa.

    Fourthly, Americanism has prevailed because of recent American dominance of the western world as a whole. The victory of the United States in World War Two and its undoubted material prosperity convinced many Europeans that American attitudes towards the State, the individual and Pluralism itself were valid. It convinced them that efforts to shape countries according to the dictates of substantive political and social doctrines like those of Communism or Nazism were erroneous. It convinced them that American Pluralism was the neutral force allowing all doctrines a chance to prosper which I have demonstrated it was not. I once thought that 1968 marked the beginning of the end of this fascination of Europe for America, but the cultural influences from the United States have continued to grow unabated, making an effective escape a difficult enterprise. So omnipresent are they now that people no longer even remember where they originally came from, or that the Second World War was actually an important event permitting their development.

    The Church did not remain free of these influences either. Americanist notions penetrated throughout the Universal Church in the period after the Second World War. I do not deny the validity of the Second Vatican Council. Nevertheless, one would have to keep his eyes shut not to recognize just how many Americanist concepts, in union with related Vitalist visions, played a role in its proceedings and interpretation. The notion of avoiding doctrine issues for purely “pastoral” concerns is something an Americanist, suspicious of ideas, would want. The subtle transformation of a non-doctrinal synod into the only doctrinal council, a force for developing a democratic, Pluralist, truly oppressive institution, is something that a student of Americanism could have predicted. So was the insistence upon separation of Church and State. Efforts since the Council to minimize Catholicism by integrating Marxist, capitalist, feminist and homosexual ideas into the body of the Faith are all vivid signs of the pressure of Americanism. The most certain indication of its presence is the boredom and the childishness of much of what passes for Catholic life since the 1960’s. How could Americanism not triumph when the very centers of the Universal Church reflect its wishes? Reflect its wishes, and yet deny that they do so at one and the same time?

    VI. What Is To Be Done?

    It is essential for the American people to become a nation. It cannot do so while Americanism is the standard used to define the meaning of nationhood. It is essential for Catholic Americans to relearn orthodox teachings and the glory of orthodox cultures in order to save themselves and to raise their nation to supernatural perfection. They cannot do so while Americanism sets the ground rules for identifying what constitutes both Catholicism and loyal citizenship.

    The solution to this two-fold dilemma is the same now as it was when Catholics first began observing and criticizing American life in the last century. It is as simple to describe as it is immensely difficult to carry out. Catholic Americans must distance themselves from the ideology of America. They must not abandon their faith for the sake of this false religion which is both anti-human and destructive to the idea of nationhood as well as blasphemous. Until such time as they act politically and socially on the basis of a true, orthodox vision of God and His Creation, and seek to raise this nation up on that foundation, both they and their non-Catholic fellow citizens will remain “men without a country” and slaves to a vulgar materialism that will eventually bore them to their graves. The necessary precondition for this action is described in my article, “Why Catholics Cannot Defend Themselves”. That precondition is to learn their Faith, free from Americanist manipulation. For no one who wants to shout “long live the United States of America, from sea to shining sea, its flag and its people” can do so with confidence until a race of true confessors converts that land to the one Church of Christ, defeating Americanism and preventing all trace of religion and patriotism from perishing from its shores.

    Bibliographical Note

    In addition to Dr. Thomas Molnar’s Le modele defiguré, published in France, the following works were crucial to preparing this pamphlet: Thomas McAvoy, The Great Crisis in American Catholic History: 1895-1900 (Chicago, Regnery, 1957); P.H. Ahern, The Catholic University of America, 1887-1896: The Rectorship of John J. Keane (Washington, D.C., Catholic University Press, 1948); C.J. Barry, The Catholic University of American, 1903-1909: The Rectorship of Denis J. O’Connell (Washington, Catholic University Press, 1950); The Catholic Church and the German Americans (Washington: Catholic University Press, 1953); J.T. Ellis, The Life of James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, 1834-1921 (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company, 1952).

    Source: JOHN RAO
    Última edición por Martin Ant; 27/03/2013 a las 20:36
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    Re: Americanism and the Collapse of the Church in the United States, by John Rao



    To the Archbishops and Bishops of the United States.

    1. We traverse in spirit and thought the wide expanse of ocean; and although We have at other times addressed you in writing - chiefly when We directed Encyclical Letters to the bishops of the Catholic world-yet have We now resolved to speak to you separately, trusting that We shall be, God willing, of some assistance to the Catholic cause amongst you. To this We apply Ourselves with the utmost zeal and care; because We highly esteem and love exceedingly the young and vigorous American nation, in which We plainly discern latent forces for the advancement alike of civilization and of Christianity.

    2. Not long ago, when your whole nation, as was fitting, celebrated, with grateful recollection and every manifestation of joy, the completion of the fourth century since the discovery of America, We, too, commemorated together with you that most auspicious event, sharing in your rejoicings with equal good-will. Nor were We on that occasion content with offering prayers at a distance for your welfare and greatness. It was Our wish to be in some manner present with you in your festivities. Hence We cheerfully sent one who should represent Our person. Not without good reason did We take part in your celebration. For when America was, as yet, but a new-born babe, uttering in its cradle its first feeble cries, the Church took it to her bosom and motherly embrace. Columbus, as We have elsewhere expressly shown, sought, as the primary fruit of his voyages and labors, to open a pathway for the Christian faith into new lands and new seas. Keeping this thought constantly in view, his first solicitude, wherever he disembarked, was to plant upon the shore the sacred emblem of the cross. Wherefore, like as the Ark of Noe, surmounting the overflowing waters, bore the seed of Israel together with the remnants of the human race, even thus did the barks launched by Columbus upon the ocean carry into regions beyond the seas as well the germs of mighty States as the principles of the Catholic religion.

    3. This is not the place to give a detailed account of what thereupon ensued. Very rapidly did the light of the Gospel shine upon the savage tribes discovered by the Ligurian. For it is sufficiently well known how many of the children of Francis, as well as of Dominic and of Loyola, were accustomed during the two following centuries to voyage thither for this purpose; how they cared for the colonies brought over from Europe; but primarily and chiefly how they converted the natives from superstition to Christianity, sealing their labors in many instances with the testimony of their blood. The names newly given to so many of your towns and rivers and mountains and lakes teach and clearly witness how deeply your beginnings were marked with the footprints of the Catholic Church.

    4. Nor, perchance did the fact which We now recall take place without some design of divine Providence. Precisely at the epoch when the American colonies, having, with Catholic aid, achieved liberty and independence, coalesced into a constitutional Republic the ecclesiastical hierarchy was happily established amongst you; and at the very time when the popular suffrage placed the great Washington at the helm of the Republic, the first bishop was set by apostolic authority over the American Church. The well-known friendship and familiar intercourse which subsisted between these two men seems to be an evidence that the United States ought to be conjoined in concord and amity with the Catholic Church. And not without cause; for without morality the State cannot endure-a truth which that illustrious citizen of yours, whom We have just mentioned, with a keenness of insight worthy of his genius and statesmanship perceived and proclaimed. But the best and strongest support of morality is religion. She, by her very nature, guards and defends all the principles on which duties are founded, and setting before us the motives most powerful to influence us, commands us to live virtuously and forbids us to transgress. Now what is the Church other than a legitimate society, founded by the will and ordinance of Jesus Christ for the preservation of morality and the defence of religion? For this reason have We repeatedly endeavored, from the summit of the pontifical dignity, to inculcate that the Church, whilst directly and immediately aiming at the salvation of souls and the beatitude which is to be attained in heaven, is yet, even in the order of temporal things, the fountain of blessings so numerous and great that they could not have been greater or more numerous had the original purpose of her institution been the pursuit of happiness during the life which is spent on earth.

    5. That your Republic is progressing and developing by giant strides is patent to all; and this holds good in religious matters also. For even as your cities, in the course of one century, have made a marvellous increase in wealth and power, so do we behold the Church, from scant and slender beginnings, grown with rapidity to be great and exceedingly flourishing. Now if, on the one hand, the increased riches and resources of your cities are justly attributed to the talents and active industry of the American people, on the other hand, the prosperous condition of Catholicity must be ascribed, first indeed, to the virtue, the ability, and the prudence of the bishops and clergy; but in so slight measure also, to the faith and generosity of the Catholic laity. Thus, while the different classes exerted their best energies, you were enabled to erect unnumbered religious and useful institutions, sacred edifices, schools for the instruction of youth, colleges for the higher branches, homes for the poor, hospitals for the sick, and convents and monasteries. As for what more closely touches spiritual interests, which are based upon the exercise of Christian virtues, many facts have been brought to Our notice, whereby We are animated with hope and filled with joy, namely, that the numbers of the secular and regular clergy are steadily augmenting, that pious sodalities and confraternities are held in esteem, that the Catholic parochial schools, the Sunday-schools for imparting Christian doctrine, and summer schools are in a flourishing condition; moreover, associations for mutual aid, for the relief of the indigent, for the promotion of temperate living, add to all this the many evidences of popular piety.

    6. The main factor, no doubt, in bringing things into this happy state were the ordinances and decrees of your synods, especially of those which in more recent times were convened and confirmed by the authority of the Apostolic See. But, moreover (a fact which it gives pleasure to acknowledge), thanks are due to the equity of the laws which obtain in America and to the customs of the well-ordered Republic. For the Church amongst you, unopposed by the Constitution and government of your nation, fettered by no hostile legislation, protected against violence by the common laws and the impartiality of the tribunals, is free to live and act without hindrance. Yet, though all this is true, it would be very erroneous to draw the conclusion that in America is to be sought the type of the most desirable status of the Church, or that it would be universally lawful or expedient for State and Church to be, as in America, dissevered and divorced. The fact that Catholicity with you is in good condition, nay, is even enjoying a prosperous growth, is by all means to be attributed to the fecundity with which God has endowed His Church, in virtue of which unless men or circumstances interfere, she spontaneously expands and propagates herself; but she would bring forth more abundant fruits if, in addition to liberty, she enjoyed the favor of the laws and the patronage of the public authority.

    7. For Our part We have left nothing undone, as far as circumstances permitted, to preserve and more solidly establish amongst you the Catholic religion. With this intent, We have, as you are well aware, turned Our attention to two special objects: first, the advancement of learning; second, a perfecting of methods in the management of Church affairs. There already, indeed, existed several distinguished universities. We, however, thought it advisable that there should be one founded by authority of the Apostolic See and endowed by Us with all suitable powers, in which Catholic professors might instruct those devoted to the pursuit of learning. The design was to begin with philosophy and theology, adding, as means and circumstances would allow, the remaining branches, those particularly which the present age has introduced or perfected. An education cannot be deemed complete which takes no notice of modern sciences. It is obvious that in the existing keen competition of talents, and the widespread and, in itself, noble and praiseworthy passion for knowledge, Catholics ought to be not followers but leaders. It is necessary, therefore, that they should cultivate every refinement of learning, and zealously train their minds to the discovery of truth and the investigation, so far as it is possible, of the entire domain of nature. This in every age has been the desire of the Church; upon the enlargement of the boundaries of the sciences has she been wont to bestow all possible labor and energy. By a letter, therefore, dated the seventh day of March, in the year of Our Lord 1889, directed to you, Venerable Brethren, We established at Washington, your capital city, esteemed by a majority of you a very proper seat for the higher studies, a university for the instruction of young men desirous of pursuing advanced courses. In announcing this matter to Our Venerable Brethren, the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, in Consistory, We expressed the wish that it should be regarded as the fixed law of the university to unite erudition and learning with soundness of faith and to imbue its students not less with religion than with scientific culture. To the Bishops of the United States We entrusted the task of establishing a suitable course of studies and of supervising the discipline of the students; and We conferred the office and authority of Chancellor, as it is called, upon the Archbishop of Baltimore. And, by divine favor, a quite happy beginning was made. For, without any delay, whilst you were celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the establishment of your ecclesiastical hierarchy, under the brightest auspices, in the presence of Our delegate, the divinity classes were opened. From that time onward We know that theological science has been imparted by the diligence of eminent men the renown of whose talents and learning receives a fitting crown in their recognized loyalty and devotion to the Apostolic See. Nor is it long since We were apprised that, thanks to the liberality of a pious priest, a new building had been constructed, in which young men, as well cleric as lay, are to receive instruction in the natural sciences and in literature. From Our knowledge of the American character, We are fully confident that the example set by this noble man will incite others of your citizens to imitate him; they will not fail to realize that liberality exercised towards such an object will be repaid by the very greatest advantages to the public.

    8. No one can be ignorant how powerfully similar institutions of learning, whether originally founded by the Roman Church herself from time to time or approved and promoted by her legislation, have contributed to the spread of knowledge and civilization in every part of Europe. Even in Our own day, though other instances might be given, it is enough to mention the University of Louvain, to which the entire Belgian nation ascribes its almost daily increase in prosperity and glory. Equally abundant will be the benefits proceeding from the Washington University, if the professors and students (as We doubt not they will) be mindful of Our injunctions, and, shunning party spirit and strife, conciliate the good opinion of the people and the clergy.

    9. We wish now, Venerable Brethren, to commend to your affection and to the generosity of your people the college which Our predecessor, Pius IX, founded in this city for the ecclesiastical training of young men from North America, and which We took care to place upon a firm basis by a letter dated the twenty-fifth day of October, in the year of Our Lord 1884. We can make this appeal the more confidently, because the results obtained from this institution have by no means belied the expectations commonly entertained regarding it. You yourselves can testify that during its brief existence it has sent forth a very large number of exemplary priests, some of whom have been promoted for their virtue and learning to the highest degrees of ecclesiastical dignity. We are, therefore, thoroughly persuaded that you will continue to be solicitous to send hither select young men who are in training to become the hope of the Church. For they will carry back to their homes and utilize for the general good the wealth of intellectual attainments and moral excellence which they shall have acquired in the city of Rome.

    10. The love which We cherish towards the Catholics of your nation moved Us, likewise, to turn Our attention at the very beginning of Our Pontificate to the convocation of a third Plenary Council of Baltimore. Subsequently, when the archbishops, at Our invitation, had come to Rome, We diligently inquired from them what they deemed most conducive to the common good. We finally, and after mature deliberation, ratified by apostolic authority the decrees of the prelates assembled at Baltimore. In truth the event has proven, and still proves, that the decrees of Baltimore were salutary and timely in the extreme. Experience has demonstrated their power for the maintenance of discipline; for stimulating the intelligence and zeal of the clergy; for defending and developing the Catholic education of youth. Wherefore, Venerable Brethren, if We make acknowledgement of your activity in these matters, if We laud your firmness tempered with prudence, We but pay tribute due to your merit; for We are fully sensible that so great a harvest of blessings could by no means have so swiftly ripened to maturity, had you not exerted yourselves, each to the utmost of his ability, sedulously and faithfully to carry into effect the statutes you had wisely framed at Baltimore.

    11. But when the Council of Baltimore had concluded its labors, the duty still remained of putting, so to speak, a proper and becoming crown upon the work. This, We perceived, could scarcely be done in a more fitting manner than through the due establishment by the Apostolic See of an American Legation. Accordingly, as you are well aware, We have done this. By this action, as We have elsewhere intimated, We have wished, first of all, to certify that, in Our judgment and affection, America occupies the same place and rights as other States, be they ever so mighty and imperial. In addition to this We had in mind to draw more closely the bonds of duty and friendship which connect you and so many thousands of Catholics with the Apostolic See. In fact, the mass of the Catholics understood how salutary Our action was destined to be; they saw, moreover, that it accorded with the usage and policy of the Apostolic See. For it has been, from earliest antiquity, the custom of the Roman Pontiffs in the exercise of the divinely bestowed gift of the primacy in the administration of the Church of Christ to send forth legates to Christian nations and peoples. And they did this, not by an adventitious but an inherent right. For "the Roman Pontiff, upon whom Christ has conferred ordinary and immediate jurisdiction, as well over all and singular churches, as over all and singular pastors and faithful,(1) since he cannot personally visit the different regions and thus exercise the pastoral office over the flock entrusted to him, finds it necessary from time to time, in the discharge of the ministry imposed on him, to despatch legates into different parts of the world, according as the need arises; who, supplying his place, may correct errors, make the rough ways plain, and administer to the people confided to their care increased means of salvation."(2)

    12. But how unjust and baseless would be the suspicion, should it anywhere exist, that the powers conferred on the legate are an obstacle to the authority of the bishops! Sacred to Us (more than to any other) are the rights of those "whom the Holy Ghost has placed as bishops to rule the Church of God." That these rights should remain intact in every nation in every part of the globe, We both desire and ought to desire, the more so since the dignity of the individual bishop is by nature so interwoven with the dignity of the Roman Pontiff that any measure which benefits the one necessarily protects the other. "My honor is the honor of the Universal Church. My honor is the unimpaired vigor of My brethren. Then am I truly honored when to each one due honor is not denied."(3) Therefore, since it is the office and function of an apostolic legate, with whatsoever powers he may be vested, to execute the mandates and interpret the will of the Pontiff who sends him, thus, so far from his being of any detriment to the ordinary power of the bishops, he will rather bring an accession of stability and strength. His authority will possess no slight weight for preserving in the multitude a submissive spirit; in the clergy discipline and due reverence for the bishops, and in the bishops mutual charity and an intimate union of souls. And since this union, so salutary and desirable, consists mainly in harmony of thought and action, he will, no doubt, bring it to pass that each one of you shall persevere in the diligent administration of his diocesan affairs; that one shall not impede another in matters of government; that one shall not pry into the counsels and conduct of another; finally, that with disagreements eradicated and mutual esteem maintained, you may all work together with combined energies to promote the glory of the American Church and the general welfare. It is difficult to estimate the good results which will flow from this concord of the bishops. Our own people will receive edification; and the force of example will have its effect on those without who will be persuaded by this argument alone that the divine apostolate has passed by inheritance to the ranks of the Catholic episcopate.

    13. Another consideration claims our earnest attention. All intelligent men are agreed, and We Ourselves have with pleasure intimated it above, that America seems destined for greater things. Now, it is Our wish that the Catholic Church should not only share in, but help to bring about, this prospective greatness. We deem it right and proper that she should, by availing herself of the opportunities daily presented to her, keep equal step with the Republic in the march of improvement, at the same time striving to the utmost, by her virtue and her institutions, to aid in the rapid growth of the States. Now, she will attain both these objects the more easily and abundantly, in proportion to the degree in which the future shall find her constitution perfected. But what is the meaning of the legation of which we are speaking, or what is its ultimate aim except to bring it about that the constitution of the Church shall be strengthened, her discipline better fortified? Wherefore, We ardently desire that this truth should sink day by day more deeply into the minds of Catholics-namely, that they can in no better way safeguard their own individual interests and the common good than by yielding a hearty submission and obedience to the Church. Your faithful people, however, are scarcely in need of exhortation on this point; for they are accustomed to adhere to the institutions of Catholicity with willing souls and a constancy worthy of all praise.

    14. To one matter of the first importance and fraught with the greatest blessings it is a pleasure at this place to refer, on account of the holy firmness in principle and practice respecting it which, as a rule, rightly prevails amongst you; We mean the Christian dogma of the unity and indissolubility of marriage; which supplies the firmest bond of safety not merely to the family but to society at large. Not a few of your citizens, even of those who dissent from us in other doctrines, terrified by the licentiousness of divorce, admire and approve in this regard the Catholic teaching and the Catholic customs. They are led to this judgment not less by love of country than by the wisdom of the doctrine. For difficult it is to imagine a more deadly pest to the community than the wish to declare dissoluble a bond which the law of God has made perpetual and inseverable. Divorce "is the fruitful cause of mutable marriage contracts; it diminishes mutual affection; it supplies a pernicious stimulus to unfaithfulness; it is injurious to the care and education of children; it gives occasion to the breaking up of domestic society; it scatters the seeds of discord among families; it lessens and degrades the dignity of women, who incur the danger of being abandoned when they shall have subserved the lust of their husbands. And since nothing tends so effectually as the corruption of morals to ruin families and undermine the strength of kingdoms, it may easily be perceived that divorce is especially hostile to the prosperity of families and States."(4)

    15. As regards civil affairs, experience has shown how important it is that the citizens should be upright and virtuous. In a free State, unless justice be generally cultivated, unless the people be repeatedly and diligently urged to observe the precepts and laws of the Gospel, liberty itself may be pernicious. Let those of the clergy, therefore, who are occupied with the instruction of the multitude, treat plainly this topic of the duties of citizens, so that all may understand and feel the necessity, in political life, of conscientiousness, self restraint, and integrity; for that cannot be lawful in public which is unlawful in private affairs. On this whole subject there are to be found, as you know, in the encyclical letters written by Us from time to time in the course of Our pontificate, many things which Catholics should attend to and observe. In these writings and expositions We have treated of human liberty, of the chief Christian duties, of civil government, and of the Christian constitution of States, drawing Our principles as well from the teaching of the Gospels as from reason. They, then, who wish to be good citizens and discharge their duties faithfully may readily learn from Our Letters the ideal of an upright life. In like manner, let the priests be persistent in keeping before the minds of the people the enactments of the Third Council of Baltimore, particularly those which inculcate the virtue of temperance, the frequent use of the sacraments and the observance of the just laws and institutions of the Republic.

    16. Now, with regard to entering societies, extreme care should be taken not to be ensnared by error. And We wish to be understood as referring in a special manner to the working classes, who assuredly have the right to unite in associations for the promotion of their interests; a right acknowledged by the Church and unopposed by nature. But it is very important to take heed with whom they are to associate, lest whilst seeking aid for the improvement of their condition they may be imperilling far weightier interests. The most effectual precaution against this peril is to determine with themselves at no time or in any matter to be parties to the violation of justice. Any society, therefore, which is ruled by and servilely obeys persons who are not steadfast for the right and friendly to religion is capable of being extremely prejudicial to the interests as well of individuals as of the community; beneficial it cannot be. Let this conclusion, therefore, remain firm-to shun not only those associations which have been openly condemned by the judgment of the Church, but those also which, in the opinion of intelligent men, and especially of the bishops, are regarded as suspicious and dangerous.

    17. Nay, rather, unless forced by necessity to do otherwise, Catholics ought to prefer to associate with Catholics, a course which will be very conducive to the safeguarding of their faith. As presidents of societies thus formed among themselves, it will be well to appoint either priests or upright laymen of weight and character, guided by whose counsels they should endeavor peacefully to adopt and carry into effect such measures as may seem most advantageous to their interests, keeping in view the rules laid down by Us in Our Encyclical, Rerum Novarum. Let them, however, never allow this to escape their memory: that whilst it is proper and desirable to assert and secure the rights of the many, yet this is not to be done by a violation of duty; and that these are very important duties; not to touch what belongs to another; to allow every one to be free in the management of his own affairs; not to hinder any one to dispose of his services when he please and where he please. The scenes of violence and riot which you witnessed last year in your own country sufficiently admonish you that America too is threatened with the audacity and ferocity of the enemies of public order. The state of the times, therefore, bids Catholics to labor for the tranquillity of the commonwealth, and for this purpose to obey the laws, abhor violence, and seek no more than equity or justice permits.

    18. Towards these objects much may be contributed by those who have devoted themselves to writing, and in particular by those who are engaged on the daily press. We are aware that already there labor in this field many men of skill and experience, whose diligence demands words of praise rather than of encouragement. Nevertheless, since the thirst for reading and knowledge is so vehement and widespread amongst you, and since, according to circumstances, it can be productive either of good or evil, every effort should be made to increase the number of intelligent and well-disposed writers who take religion for their guide and virtue for their constant companion. And this seems all the more necessary in America, on account of the familiar intercourse and intimacy between Catholics and those who are estranged from the Catholic name, a condition of things which certainly exacts from our people great circumspection and more than ordinary firmness. It is necessary to instruct, admonish, strengthen and urge them on to the pursuit of virtue and to the faithful observance, amid so many occasions of stumbling, of their duties towards the Church. It is, of course, the proper function of the clergy to devote their care and energies to this great work; but the age and the country require that journalists should be equally zealous in this same cause and labor in it to the full extent of their powers. Let them, however, seriously reflect that their writings, if not positively prejudicial to religion, will surely be of slight service to it unless in concord of minds they all seek the same end. They who desire to be of real service to the Church, and with their pens heartily to defend the Catholic cause, should carry on the conflict with perfect unanimity, and, as it were, with serried ranks, for they rather inflict than repel war if they waste their strength by discord. In like manner their work, instead of being profitable and fruitful, becomes injurious and disastrous whenever they presume to call before their tribunal the decisions and acts of bishops, and, casting off due reverence, cavil and find fault; not perceiving how great a disturbance of order, how many evils are thereby produced. Let them, then, be mindful of their duty, and not overstep the proper limits of moderation. The bishops, placed in the lofty position of authority, are to be obeyed, and suitable honor befitting the magnitude and sanctity of their office should be paid them. Now, this reverence, "which it is lawful to no one to neglect," should of necessity be eminently conspicuous and exemplary in Catholic journalists. For journals, naturally circulating far and wide, come daily into the hands of everybody, and exert no small influence upon the opinions and morals of the multitude.(5)

    19. We have Ourselves, on frequent occasions, laid down many rules respecting the duties of a good writer; many of which were unanimously inculcated as well by the Third Council of Baltimore as by the archbishops in their meeting at Chicago in the year 1893. Let Catholic writers, therefore, bear impressed on their minds Our teachings on this point as well as yours; and let them resolve that their entire method of writing shall be thereby guided, if they indeed desire, as they ought to desire, to discharge their duty well.

    20. Our thoughts now turn to those who dissent from us in matters of Christian faith; and who shall deny that, with not a few of them, dissent is a matter rather of inheritance than of will? How solicitous We are of their salvation, with what ardor of soul We wish that they should be at length restored to the embrace of the Church, the common mother of all, Our Apostolic Epistle, "Praeclara," has in very recent times declared. Nor are we destitute of all hope; for He is present and bath a care whom all things obey and who laid down His life that He might "gather in one the children of God who were dispersed." (John xi. 52).

    21. Surely we ought not to desert them nor leave them to their fancies; but with mildness and charity draw them to us, using every means of persuasion to induce them to examine closely every part of the Catholic doctrine, and to free themselves from preconceived notions. In this matter, if the first place belongs to the bishops and clergy, the second belongs to the laity, who have it in their power to aid the apostolic efforts of the clergy by the probity of their morals and the integrity of their lives. Great is the force of example; particularly with those who are earnestly seeking the truth, and who, from a certain inborn virtuous disposition, are striving to live an honorable and upright life, to which class very many of your fellow-citizens belong. If the spectacle of Christian virtues exerted the powerful influence over the heathens blinded, as they were, by inveterate superstition, which the records of history attest, shall we think it powerless to eradicate error in the case of those who have been initiated into the Christian religion?

    22. Finally, We cannot pass over in silence those whose long-continued unhappy lot implores and demands succor from men of apostolic zeal; We refer to the Indians and the negroes who are to be found within the confines of America, the greatest portion of whom have not yet dispelled the darkness of superstition. How wide a field for cultivation! How great a multitude of human beings to be made partakers of the blessing derived through Jesus Christ!

    23. Meanwhile, as a presage of heavenly graces and a testimony of Our benevolence, We most lovingly in the Lord impart to you, Venerable Brethren, and to your clergy and people, Our Apostolic Benediction.
    Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, on the feast of the Epiphany, the sixth day of January, 1895, in the seventeenth year of Our Pontificate.



    1. Con. Vat. Sess., iv. c. 3.

    2. Cap. Un. Extrav. Comm. De Consuet, 1. 1.

    3. S. Gregorius Epis. ad Eulog. Alex. lib. viii. ep. 30.

    4. Encyc. Arcanum.

    5. Ep. Cognita Nobis ad Archiepp, et Epp. Provinciarum, Taurinen. Mediolanen. et Vercellen, xxv., Jan. an, MDCCCLXXXII.

    Source: VATICAN.VA
    Última edición por Martin Ant; 05/04/2013 a las 14:42

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    Re: Americanism and the Collapse of the Church in the United States, by John Rao

    Libros antiguos y de colección en IberLibro

    Concerning New Opinions, Virtue, Nature And Grace, With Regard To Americanism
    Pope Leo XIII

    Encyclical promulgated on January 22, 1899.

    To Our Beloved Son, James Cardinal Gibbons,
    Cardinal Priest of the Title Sancta Maria, Beyond the Tiber, Archbishop of Baltimore:

    Beloved Son, Health and Apostolic Blessing:

    We send to you by this letter a renewed expression of that good will which we have not failed during the course of our pontificate to manifest frequently to you and to your colleagues in the episcopate and to the whole American people, availing ourselves of every opportunity offered us by the progress of your church or whatever you have done for safeguarding and promoting Catholic interests. Moreover, we have often considered and admired the noble gifts of your nation which enable the American people to be alive to every good work which promotes the good of humanity and the splendor of civilization. Although this letter is not intended, as preceding ones, to repeat the words of praise so often spoken, but rather to call attention to some things to be avoided and corrected; still because it is conceived in that same spirit of apostolic charity which has inspired all our letters, we shall expect that you will take it as another proof of our love; the more so because it is intended to suppress certain contentions which have arisen lately among you to the detriment of the peace of many souls.

    It is known to you, beloved son, that the biography of Isaac Thomas Hecker, especially through the action of those who under took to translate or interpret it in a foreign language, has excited not a little controversy, on account of certain opinions brought forward concerning the way of leading Christian life.

    We, therefore, on account of our apostolic office, having to guard the integrity of the faith and the security of the faithful, are desirous of writing to you more at length concerning this whole matter.

    The underlying principle of these new opinions is that, in order to more easily attract those who differ from her, the Church should shape her teachings more in accord with the spirit of the age and relax some of her ancient severity and make some concessions to new opinions. Many think that these concessions should be made not only in regard to ways of living, but even in regard to doctrines which belong to the deposit of the faith. They contend that it would be opportune, in order to gain those who differ from us, to omit certain points of her teaching which are of lesser importance, and to tone down the meaning which the Church has always attached to them. It does not need many words, beloved son, to prove the falsity of these ideas if the nature and origin of the doctrine which the Church proposes are recalled to mind. The Vatican Council says concerning this point: "For the doctrine of faith which God has revealed has not been proposed, like a philosophical invention to be perfected by human ingenuity, but has been delivered as a divine deposit to the Spouse of Christ to be faithfully kept and infallibly declared. Hence that meaning of the sacred dogmas is perpetually to be retained which our Holy Mother, the Church, has once declared, nor is that meaning ever to be departed from under the pretense or pretext of a deeper comprehension of them." —Constitutio de Fide Catholica, Chapter iv.

    We cannot consider as altogether blameless the silence which purposely leads to the omission or neglect of some of the principles of Christian doctrine, for all the principles come from the same Author and Master, "the Only Begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father."—John i, 18. They are adapted to all times and all nations, as is clearly seen from the words of our Lord to His apostles: "Going, therefore, teach all nations; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all days, even to the end of the world."—Matt. xxviii, 19. Concerning this point the Vatican Council says: "All those things are to be believed with divine and catholic faith which are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by her ordinary and universal magisterium, proposes for belief as having been divinely revealed."—Const. de fide, Chapter iii.

    Let it be far from anyone's mind to suppress for any reason any doctrine that has been handed down. Such a policy would tend rather to separate Catholics from the Church than to bring in those who differ. There is nothing closer to our heart than to have those who are separated from the fold of Christ return to it, but in no other way than the way pointed out by Christ.

    The rule of life laid down for Catholics is not of such a nature that it cannot accommodate itself to the exigencies of various times and places. (VOL. XXIV-13.) The Church has, guided by her Divine Master, a kind and merciful spirit, for which reason from the very beginning she has been what St. Paul said of himself: "I became all things to all men that I might save all."

    History proves clearly that the Apostolic See, to which has been entrusted the mission not only of teaching but of governing the whole Church, has continued "in one and the same doctrine, one and the same sense, and one and the same judgment,"—Const. de fide, Chapter iv.

    But in regard to ways of living she has been accustomed to so yield that, the divine principle of morals being kept intact, she has never neglected to accommodate herself to the character and genius of the nations which she embraces.

    Who can doubt that she will act in this same spirit again if the salvation of souls requires it? In this matter the Church must be the judge, not private men who are often deceived by the appearance of right. In this, all who wish to escape the blame of our predecessor, Pius the Sixth, must concur. He condemned as injurious to the Church and the spirit of God who guides her the doctrine contained in proposition lxxviii of the Synod of Pistoia, "that the discipline made and approved by the Church should be submitted to examination, as if the Church could frame a code of laws useless or heavier than human liberty can bear."

    But, beloved son, in this present matter of which we are speaking, there is even a greater danger and a more manifest opposition to Catholic doctrine and discipline in that opinion of the lovers of novelty, according to which they hold such liberty should be allowed in the Church, that her supervision and watchfulness being in some sense lessened, allowance be granted the faithful, each one to follow out more freely the leading of his own mind and the trend of his own proper activity. They are of opinion that such liberty has its counterpart in the newly given civil freedom which is now the right and the foundation of almost every secular state.

    In the apostolic letters concerning the constitution of states, addressed by us to the bishops of the whole Church, we discussed this point at length; and there set forth the difference existing between the Church, which is a divine society, and all other social human organizations which depend simply on free will and choice of men.

    It is well, then, to particularly direct attention to the opinion which serves as the argument in behalf of this greater liberty sought for and recommended to Catholics.

    It is alleged that now the Vatican decree concerning the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff having been proclaimed that nothing further on that score can give any solicitude, and accordingly, since that has been safeguarded and put beyond question a wider and freer field both for thought and action lies open to each one. But such reasoning is evidently faulty, since, if we are to come to any conclusion from the infallible teaching authority of the Church, it should rather be that no one should wish to depart from it, and moreover that the minds of all being leavened and directed thereby, greater security from private error would be enjoyed by all. And further, those who avail themselves of such a way of reasoning seem to depart seriously from the over-ruling wisdom of the Most High—which wisdom, since it was pleased to set forth by most solemn decision the authority and supreme teaching rights of this Apostolic See—willed that decision precisely in order to safeguard the minds of the Church's children from the dangers of these present times.

    These dangers, viz., the confounding of license with liberty, the passion for discussing and pouring contempt upon any possible subject, the assumed right to hold whatever opinions one pleases upon any subject and to set them forth in print to the world, have so wrapped minds in darkness that there is now a greater need of the Church's teaching office than ever before, lest people become unmindful both of conscience and of duty.

    We, indeed, have no thought of rejecting everything that modern industry and study has produced; so far from it that we welcome to the patrimony of truth and to an ever-widening scope of public well-being whatsoever helps toward the progress of learning and virtue. Yet all this, to be of any solid benefit, nay, to have a real existence and growth, can only be on the condition of recognizing the wisdom and authority of the Church.

    Coming now to speak of the conclusions which have been deduced from the above opinions, and for them, we readily believe there was no thought of wrong or guile, yet the things themselves certainly merit some degree of suspicion. First, all external guidance is set aside for those souls who are striving after Christian perfection as being superfluous or indeed, not useful in any sense—the contention being that the Holy Spirit pours richer and more abundant graces than formerly upon the souls of the faithful, so that without human intervention He teaches and guides them by some hidden instinct of His own. Yet it is the sign of no small over-confidence to desire to measure and determine the mode of the Divine communication to mankind, since it wholly depends upon His own good pleasure, and He is a most generous dispenser 'of his own gifts. "The Spirit breatheth whereso He listeth."—John iii, 8.

    "And to each one of us grace is given according to the measure of the giving of Christ."—Eph. iv, 7.

    And shall any one who recalls the history of the apostles, the faith of the nascent church, the trials and deaths of the martyrs—and, above all, those olden times, so fruitful in saints—dare to measure our age with these, or affirm that they received less of the divine outpouring from the Spirit of Holiness? Not to dwell upon this point, there is no one who calls in question the truth that the Holy Spirit does work by a secret descent into the souls of the just and that He stirs them alike by warnings and impulses, since unless this were the case all outward defense and authority would be unavailing. "For if any persuades himself that he can give assent to saving, that is, to gospel truth when proclaimed, without any illumination of the Holy Spirit, who give's unto all sweetness both to assent and to hold, such an one is deceived by a heretical spirit."—From the Second Council of Orange, Canon 7.

    Moreover, as experience shows, these monitions and impulses of the Holy Spirit are for the most part felt through the medium of the aid and light of an external teaching authority. To quote St. Augustine. "He (the Holy Spirit) co-operates to the fruit gathered from the good trees, since He externally waters and cultivates them by the outward ministry of men, and yet of Himself bestows the inward increase."—De Gratia Christi, Chapter xix. This, indeed, belongs to the ordinary law of God's loving providence that as He has decreed that men for the most part shall be saved by the ministry also of men, so has He wished that those whom He calls to the higher planes of holiness should be led thereto by men; hence St. Chrysostom declares we are taught of God through the instrumentality of men.—Homily I in Inscrib. Altar. Of this a striking example is given us in the very first days of the Church.

    For though Saul, intent upon blood and slaughter, had heard the voice of our Lord Himself and had asked, "What dost Thou wish me to do?" yet he was bidden to enter Damascus and search for Ananias. Acts ix: "Enter the city and it shall be there told to thee what thou must do."

    Nor can we leave out of consideration the truth that those who are striving after perfection, since by that fact they walk in no beaten or well-known path, are the most liable to stray, and hence have greater need than others of a teacher and guide. Such guidance has ever obtained in the Church; it has been the universal teaching of those who throughout the ages have been eminent for wisdom and sanctity—and hence to reject it would be to commit one's self to a belief at once rash and dangerous.

    A thorough consideration of this point, in the supposition that no exterior guide is granted such souls, will make us see the difficulty of locating or determining the direction and application of that more abundant influx of the Holy Spirit so greatly extolled by innovators To practice virtue there is absolute need of the assistance of the Holy Spirit, yet we find those who are fond of novelty giving an unwarranted importance to the natural virtues, as though they better responded to the customs and necessities of the times and that having these as his outfit man becomes more ready to act and more strenuous in action. It is not easy to understand how persons possessed of Christian wisdom can either prefer natural to supernatural virtues or attribute to them a greater efficacy and fruitfulness. Can it be that nature conjoined with grace is weaker than when left to herself?

    Can it be that those men illustrious for sanctity, whom the Church distinguishes and openly pays homage to, were deficient, came short in the order of nature and its endowments, because they excelled in Christian strength? And although it be allowed at times to wonder at acts worthy of admiration which are the outcome of natural virtue—is there anyone at all endowed simply with an outfit of natural virtue? Is there any one not tried by mental anxiety, and this in no light degree? Yet ever to master such, as also to preserve in its entirety the law of the natural order, requires an assistance from on high These single notable acts to which we have alluded will frequently upon a closer investigation be found to exhibit the appearance rather than the reality of virtue. Grant that it is virtue, unless we would "run in vain" and be unmindful of that eternal bliss which a good God in his mercy has destined for us, of what avail are natural virtues unless seconded by the gift of divine grace? Hence St. Augustine well says: "Wonderful is the strength, and swift the course, but outside the true path." For as the nature of man, owing to the primal fault, is inclined to evil and dishonor, yet by the help of grace is raised up, is borne along with a new greatness and strength, so, too, virtue, which is not the product of nature alone, but of grace also, is made fruitful unto everlasting life and takes on a more strong and abiding character.

    This over-esteem of natural virtue finds a method of expression in assuming to divide all virtues in active and passive, and it is alleged that whereas passive virtues found better place in past times, our age is to be characterized by the active. That such a division and distinction cannot be maintained is patent—for there is not, nor can there be, merely passive virtue. "Virtue," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "designates the perfection of some faculty, but end of such faculty is an act, and an act of virtue is naught else than the good use of free will," acting, that is to say, under the grace of God if the act be one of supernatural virtue.

    He alone could wish that some Christian virtues be adapted to certain times and different ones for other times who is unmindful of the apostle's words: "That those whom He foreknew, He predestined to be made conformable to the image of His Son."— Romans viii, 29. Christ is the teacher and the exemplar of all sanctity, and to His standard must all those conform who wish for eternal life. Nor does Christ know any change as the ages pass, "for He is yesterday and today and the same forever."—Hebrews xiii, 8. To the men of all ages was the precept given: "Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart."—Matt. xi, 29.

    To every age has He been made manifest to us as obedient even unto death; in every age the apostle's dictum has its force: "Those who are Christ's have crucified their flesh with its vices and concupiscences." Would to God that more nowadays practiced these virtues in the degree of the saints of past times, who in humility, obedience and self-restraint were powerful "in word and in deed" —to the great advantage not only of religion, but of the state and the public welfare.

    From this disregard of the angelical virtues, erroneously styled passive, the step was a short one to a contempt of the religious life which has in some degree taken hold of minds. That such a value is generally held by the upholders of new views, we infer from certain statements concerning the vows which religious orders take. They say vows are alien to the spirit of our times, in that they limit the bounds of human liberty; that they are more suitable to weak than ›o strong minds; that so far from making for human perfection and the good of human organization, they are hurtful to both; but that this is as false as possible from the practice and the doctrine of the Church is clear, since she has always given the very highest approval to the religious method of life; nor without good cause, for those who under the divine call have freely embraced that state of life did not content themselves with the observance of precepts, but, going forward to the evangelical counsels, showed themselves ready and valiant soldiers of Christ. Shall we judge this to be a characteristic of weak minds, or shall we say that it is useless or hurtful to a more perfect state of life?

    Those who so bind themselves by the vows of religion, far from having suffered a loss of liberty, enjoy that fuller and freer kind, that liberty, namely, by which Christ hath made us free. And this further view of theirs, namely, that the religious life is either entirely useless or of little service to the Church, besides being injurious to the religious orders cannot be the opinion of anyone who has read the annals of the Church. Did not your country, the United States, derive the beginnings both of faith and of culture from the children of these religious families? to one of whom but very lately, a thing greatly to your praise, you have decreed that a statue be publicly erected. And even at the present time wherever the religious families are found, how speedy and yet how fruitful a harvest of good works do they not bring forth! How very many leave home and seek strange lands to impart the truth of the gospel and to widen the bounds of civilization; and this they do with the greatest cheerfulness amid manifold dangers! Out of their number not less, indeed, than from the rest of the clergy, the Christian world finds the preachers of God's word, the directors of conscience, the teachers of youth and the Church itself the examples of all sanctity.

    Nor should any difference of praise be made between those who follow the active state of life and those others who, charmed with solitude, give themselves to prayer and bodily mortification. And how much, indeed, of good report these have merited, and do merit, is known surely to all who do not forget that the "continual prayer of the just man" avails to placate and to bring down the blessings of heaven when to such prayers bodily mortification is added.

    But if there be those who prefer to form one body without the obligation of the vows let them pursue such a course. It is not new in the Church, nor in any wise censurable. Let them be careful, however, not to set forth such a state above that of religious orders. But rather, since mankind are more disposed at the present time to indulge themselves in pleasures, let those be held in greater esteem "who having left all things have followed Christ."

    Finally, not to delay too long, it is stated that the way and method hitherto in use among Catholics for bringing back those who have fallen away from the Church should be left aside and another one chosen, in which matter it will suffice to note that it is not the part of prudence to neglect that which antiquity in its long experience has approved and which is also taught by apostolic authority. The scriptures teach us that it is the duty of all to be solicitous for the salvation of one's neighbor, according to the power and position of each. The faithful do this by religiously discharging the duties of their state of life, by the uprightness of their conduct, by their works of Christian charity and by earnest and continuous prayer to God. On the other hand, those who belong to the clergy should do this by an enlightened fulfillment of their preaching ministry, by the pomp and splendor of ceremonies especially by setting forth that sound form of doctrine which Saint Paul inculcated upon Titus and Timothy. But if, among the different ways of preaching the word of God that one sometimes seems to be preferable, which directed to non-Catholics, not in churches, but in some suitable place, in such wise that controversy is not sought, but friendly conference, such a method is certainly without fault. But let those who undertake such ministry be set apart by the authority of the bishops and let them be men whose science and virtue has been previously ascertained. For we think that there are many in your country who are separated from Catholic truth more by ignorance than by ill-will, who might perchance more easily be drawn to the one fold of Christ if this truth be set forth to them in a friendly and familiar way.

    From the foregoing it is manifest, beloved son, that we are not able to give approval to those views which, in their collective sense, are called by some "Americanism." But if by this name are to be understood certain endowments of mind which belong to the American people, just as other characteristics belong to various other nations, and if, moreover, by it is designated your political condition and the laws and customs by which you are governed, there is no reason to take exception to the name. But if this is to be so understood that the doctrines which have been adverted to above are not only indicated, but exalted, there can be no manner of doubt that our venerable brethren, the bishops of America, would be the first to repudiate and condemn it as being most injurious to themselves and to their country. For it would give rise to the suspicion that there are among you some who conceive and would have the Church in America to be different from what it is in the rest of the world.

    But the true church is one, as by unity of doctrine, so by unity of government, and she is catholic also. Since God has placed the center and foundation of unity in the chair of Blessed Peter, she is rightly called the Roman Church, for "where Peter is, there is the church." Wherefore, if anybody wishes to be considered a real Catholic, he ought to be able to say from his heart the selfsame words which Jerome addressed to Pope Damasus: "I, acknowledging no other leader than Christ, am bound in fellowship with Your Holiness; that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that the church was built upon him as its rock, and that whosoever gathereth not with you, scattereth."

    We having thought it fitting, beloved son, in view of your high office, that this letter should be addressed specially to you. It will also be our care to see that copies are sent to the bishops of the United States, testifying again that love by which we embrace your whole country, a country which in past times has done so much for the cause of religion, and which will by the Divine assistance continue to do still greater things. To you, and to all the faithful of America, we grant most lovingly, as a pledge of Divine assistance, our apostolic benediction.

    Given at Rome, from St. Peter's, the 22nd day of January, 1899, and the thirty-first of our pontificate.

    Source: EWTN
    Leo XIII*** On Americanism

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