The crowning deception

“Receive the Ring of kingly dignity,
and the seal of Catholic Faith:
and as you are this day
consecrated to be our Head and Prince,
so may you continue steadfastly
as the Defender of Christ’s Religion;
that being rich in faith
and blessed in all good works,
you may reign with him who is the King of Kings,
to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

The decline of western civilisation into the present state of intellectual anarchy and nihilistic hedonism began with certain philosophical aberrations in the fourteenth century, but the first direct blow against the vital organs of our culture was struck by the Reformation. By declaring the interpretation of the scriptures a matter of private judgement, the “Reformers” made the very idea of divine revelation absurd. What would be the point of God instructing the human race in those truths necessary for salvation through a collection of inspired and inerrant sacred texts and then leaving the interpretation of those texts to the completely arbitrary whim of each individual? Should a special intervention of the Holy Spirit be required each time if the Bible is to be read correctly, the Bible itself becomes superfluous; one might as well be given special revelations on ongoing basis if that is essentially what is happening anyway every time anyone reads the scriptures. Naturally, not in fact being of the Holy Spirit, the Protestant movement immediately collapsed into innumerable sects, each having to claim that their tiny band were Christ’s true church or that this Church is in fact an invisible set of opposed and mutually contradictory gatherings wholly incapable of fulfilling the Lord’s command to teach the nations “everything that I have commanded you”.

Sometimes one will hear the argument made that, in upholding the infallibility of the church, Catholics are putting the “teachings of men” on a par with or even above the inspired word of God. The falsity of this claim is easily illustrated. Imagine every citizen of the United States were to be authorised to take in hand his own copy of the US Constitution and interpret it for himself, recognising no final authority beyond or above the individual’s interpretation of that document. The result would be the total destruction of the USA as a polity. Imagine instead there were instituted a Supreme Court to make final determinations concerning the meaning of the Constitution. This would secure the corporate existence of this republic. The problem of course, as many Americans realise, is that these “interpretations” can be but a thin veneer for the eisegesis that projects the personal preferences of the jurist into the document without serious reference to its original meaning. This is just what liberal protestant theologians do with the text of sacred scripture and what US Supreme Court justices do with the US Constitution. Imagine instead God were to endow the justices of the Supreme Court with a charism of infallibility so they could not in the final discharge of their official duties to interpret the constitution contrary to its original sense even if they wanted to. This would not put their opinions on the same level as the text, but quite the opposite, it would ensure the eternal primacy of the original meaning over the private opinions of the experts. This is why God endowed the Catholic hierarchy with the charism of infallibility to ensure the primacy of God’s word over the preferences of ecclesiastics.

By the same logic, without the charism of infallibility, revelation itself is absurd. With grim inevitability therefore, from the poisonous egg of the Reformation there springs forth the “Enlightenment”: the movement to eliminate divine revelation as a principle of public policy and public law. Christianity being the foundation of the western civil order, such a secularisation required violent revolution. All the many revolutions which have characterised western history since the late eighteenth century are but episodes in one great unchaining of evil, the return of the seven more terrible spirits to the house cleaned and swept at the foundation of Christendom.

The movement to preserve and further this elimination of divine revelation as a principle of public policy and public law is called liberalism.

“What naturalists or rationalists aim at in philosophy, what the supporters of liberalism, carrying out the principles laid down by naturalism, are attempting in the domain of morality and politics. The fundamental doctrine of rationalism is the supremacy of human reason, which, refusing due submission to the divine and eternal reason, proclaims its own independence, and constitutes itself the supreme principle and source and judge of truth. Hence, these followers of liberalism deny the existence of any divine authority to which obedience is due, and proclaim that every man is the law to himself.”

Leo XIII, Libertas

As a result of liberalism, the social and political climate in western society has become increasingly hostile to the gospel. Overt persecution would undermine the spurious posture of “neutrality” adopted by the liberals, and so they proceed by redefining immoral practices as “rights” and their practitioners as victims of persecution. The very profession of Catholic teaching becomes a persecution of these imagined groups and so the faithful can be persecuted in the name of securing the safety of those offended by reason and nature. From this pressure emerges the most terrible temptation of all: theological liberalism or Modernism. This synthesis of all heresies offers Christians the possibility of being assimilated without conflict by the surrounding apostate culture. By denying that faith consists in the actual assent of the intellect to truth received by hearing from an external source and defining it instead as a religious sentiment which finds legitimate expression in a plethora of divergent and incompatible “religious” traditions, Modernism makes “faith” intrinsically inapt to be the principle of public policy and public law. Abandoning all claim to rationality and certainty, this “spirituality” is a harmless inhabitant of the politically liberal order. Even atheism and agnosticism can eventually be accepted as possible expressions of the “religious sense” and, if not paths to salvation, then at least compatible with it.

Many have celebrated the plurality of religions on proud display at the coronation. It is doubtful there were many (any?) Christian “leaders” present at the coronation who were not Modernists. In a way, the incorporation of non-Christian religions into the ceremony was as much a statement of “faith” for them as the previously narrowly Protestant arrangements of earlier centuries and the originally Catholic rite that prevailed from the tenth to the sixteenth century. To “acquiesce” in such proceedings is in fact to proclaim with some enthusiasm one’s repudiation of the “propositional faith” of the great commission in favour of the religion of sentiment and “spirituality”.

It is clear that St Pius X considered Modernism to be nothing short of the “supreme religious deception” (CCC, 675) of the one who “takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thes 2:4). For the faith of Christ is a gift that cannot be bought or earned. It cannot be attained by introspection, elicited by sentiment or deduced by reason. It comes from outside by preaching, because it is beyond our desert and beyond our conception. “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard nor yet hath it entered into the heart of man what God hath prepared for them that love Him and revealed to us through His Spirit.” The forgiveness of our sins and our participation in God’s nature cannot be earned or imagined by nature or reason. The Good news is performative. Its proclamation itself redeems and saves us. As Byzantine Catholics cry out at the elevation of the Blessed Sacrament after communion:

“We have seen the True Light; We have received the Heavenly Spirit; We have found the True faith; And we worship the undivided Trinity; For the Trinity has saved us!”

The idea that multiple religions are various expressions (even unequal) of a fundamental underlying faith which need not be expressed in the proposition that “the sinner is justified by God by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Trent, Decree on Justification) is ultimately a claim that human nature can make itself “like the Most High” (Is 14:14).

The celebration of “multi-faith Britain” is the concomitant of the persecution of Christian orthodoxy. The Pagan Romans were happy to incorporate all cults within the civil order; it was the exclusivity of the Gospel which meant it had to be crushed. There is plenty of room for toleration within orthodoxy precisely because to procure the acceptance of faith by finite threats or promises is to behave as if there were proportion between the natural and the supernatural, to induce the sin of simony. Catholics reject the coercion of baptism because God “has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills” (Rom 9:18). To seek to coerce conversion is to seek to coerce the very gift of God. The false claims of rationalism are precisely presented as demands of reason (however absurd they may become) so that those who rejects them can be deemed “without excuse”. The Supernatural and gratuitous character of faith means that the convert must have been free to refuse the gift.

It is the gratuitous love at the heart of the Triune Godhead which demands faith and the freedom of faith as the basis of redemption. It is the liberal claim to grasp at equality with God which demands the coercion of apostasy under the veil of neutrality and tolerance. As Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange famously observed:

“The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. The enemies of the Church are tolerant in principle because they do not believe; they are intolerant in practice because they do not love.”