Diadems of the Decade from Monday, December 1, 2008, vol 19, no. 336
Charity and the Fall of the American Empire
For the first time in my life, I am truly afraid for the future of our country. As Catholics, I think it is important that we begin to prepare ourselves to stand firm in defense of the Faith and to endure the persecution that may be heading our way. At the end of this essay, I have included an old Catholic prayer to St. Stephen for this intention.
"But before all things have a constant mutual charity
among yourselves: for charity covers a multitude of sins."
In his essay entitled "Thoughts About Controversy", British author Arnold Lunn proposes that men should be able to debate matters of great public importance without resorting to bitter personal attacks against each other.
This is a noble practice from our Christian past which has been largely abandoned by modern society. In nearly every aspect of public life, modern man has lost all semblance of dignity and graciousness in his conduct. We have become rude and superficial in our demeanor, and it has become increasingly difficult to elicit a sense of shame in the modern psyche.
At its core, this represents an assault against the virtue of charity. While Mr. Lunn examines it within the more narrow parameters of public discourse, in our day this assault has gone beyond a general degradation of manners and has become a full-fledged attack against both the Natural Law and the Law of God. The result has been a weakening of our public and social institutions which may eventually lead to our nation's demise.
Writing in 1937, the author hails from an era in which men of principle generally respected one another and practiced the virtue of charity. In public debate, a certain decorum was observed which elevated the exercise to an honorable airing of opposing viewpoints. Lunn states that truth and right reason should carry the day in any honest debate, and that we should be as concerned about the edification of our opponent as we are about proving the correctness of our own position:
"I have been involved in many controversies, and have enjoyed them all,
controversies about public schools, skiing controversies, controversies with
the Norwegians, and religious controversy. All great fun. But though I have
crossed swords with many people, I do not think I have made any enemies
in my controversies. I do not see why controversy should develop into a
personal quarrel. Chess is a form of controversy, but chess tournaments
seldom degenerate into personal brawls. Nor can I see why hard hitting
should be a virtue in a controversy between two boxers, and a vice in a
controversy between two Christians...Hard hitting need not imply personal
bitterness. A controversy need not be acrimonious because it is uncompromising in its vigor. Contempt for heresy is consistent with respect for the
individual heretic." 1
This is in complete concord with the teaching of our Lord and His Church. Christ tells us that we should be uncompromising in our pursuit of what is true and just. But He also demands that we should love our neighbor as ourself.
Nowhere does this need to be taken to heart in greater measure than in the realm of American politics. In many political campaigns, the outcome seems to be determined not by an honest debate over public policy, but by the cleverness and tenacity of the personal attacks leveled at a candidate by his opponent. Mud-slinging has become an American art form, and millions of dollars are wasted each election year in these embarrassing displays of poor manners and petty bickering.
What is more lamentable is that once elected, these men and women often display the same dismal conduct in carrying out the duties of their office. In his autobiography, former Senator Barry Goldwater compared the United States Senate of the 1950's with the Senate as it was upon his retirement in 1986. The differences he noted are significant, and he attributed this to the deterioration of American society as a whole during the same period; a deterioration that is even more pronounced today:
"Yesterday's giant leaders no longer grace the floor of the Senate. Their
eloquence is stilled in its hearing rooms and halls. These men were not merely
lights of intelligence, the law, and language. Many acquitted themselves with
elegant personal style. Above all, they were masters of a unique craft and tools --
Senate rules and procedures.
Today's Senators are more competitive with one another and assert their
individual prerogatives more than ever. The younger members seem to know a
little about everything, but not enough about anything. Senate procedure is now
geared to the individual, not the institution. The Senate floor today is often chaos.
It's every man for himself, his personal agenda, not completing the business of the
institution. This makes one Senator temporarily more powerful but often renders
the entire body powerless.
That is why I mentioned the old-time respect for rules and procedure...The
agenda of Congress was the business of the nation as a whole, not the interests
and reelection of the few.
Nevertheless, the Senate reflects the country. I do not believe the makeup of
Americans and America is as solid as it was forty years ago. Society has become
more selfish, and, as a result, less dedicated to the common good. Millions now
hail a culture that is more concerned with money and appearances than genuine
accomplishment. We have slipped as a nation." 2
The selfishness of the American public observed by Senator Goldwater is important to understanding not only the moral decline of the United States, but also our possible destruction. For it has manifested itself in a rejection of God and His dominion over us. Rather than living our lives in accordance with His law, many of us have turned away and have opted to live our lives according to our own disordered desires. Whatever is convenient, expedient, and pleasurable is now the criteria for most of our decisions.
No institution has suffered more from this general apostasy than the family. For most of our Judeo-Christian history, the family has been the basic building block of society. Founded on the holy Sacrament of Marriage between one man and one woman, the family was created by God to serve as the Domestic Church. It is here that we are formed to become the men and women that God intends us to be. The new Catechism of the Catholic Church [at the very least] states this clearly:
The Christian home is the place where children receive the first
proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is
rightly called the Ecclesia Domestica, a community of grace and
prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity. 3
If the Christian family is where charity is taught and the moral virtues are acquired, then the weakening or disappearance of the family should result in these virtues being absent among a large portion of the American population. This is exactly what has occurred over the past several decades. We now live in a culture that is openly hostile to the family and to the God who has established it as a holy institution.
Artificial contraception, abortion, divorce, pornography, consumerism, the widespread entry of women into the workplace, and the glorification of homosexuality in American culture have combined to damage traditional family life on a scale that could not have been imagined when our parents were born. The decline of gentility that caused Arnold Lunn to take up his pen seventy years ago has exploded into a level of moral decay that is equal to that suffered by ancient Rome. And as the Roman Empire eventually crumbled under the weight of its sins, so too the American Empire may eventually fall.
In attacking marriage and the family, modern man has attacked Christ and His Church. The Sacrament of Matrimony is a living symbol of the relationship between our Lord and His heavenly Bride. This is spoken of eloquently by Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical on Christian marriage, Arcanum. In this jewel of Apostolic teaching that every Catholic should read with care, our Holy Father of happy memory declares:
...Christ our Lord raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament; that to husband
and wife, guarded and strengthened by the heavenly grace which His merits gained
for them, He gave power to attain holiness in the married state; and that, in a wondrous
way, making marriage an example of the mystical union between Himself and His
Church, He not only perfected that love which is according to nature (Trent, sess.
xxiv, ch. 1), but also made the naturally indivisible union of one man with one woman
far more perfect through the bond of heavenly love. 4
And what is the purpose of this union? Leo XIII continues:
Furthermore, the Christian perfection and completeness of marriage are not
comprised in those points only which have been mentioned. For, first, there has
been vouchsafed to the marriage union a higher and nobler purpose than was ever
previously given to it. By the command of Christ, it not only looks to the propagation
of the human race, but to the bringing forth of children for the Church, "fellow citizens
with the Saints and the domestics of God" (Eph. 2:19); so that "a people may be
born and brought up for the worship and religion of the true God and our Savior Jesus
Christ" (Catech. Rom., ch. 8). 5
Then, Pope Leo reveals how society as a whole will benefit from the proper Catholic understanding of marriage and family:
If, then, we consider the end of the divine institution of marriage, we shall see
very clearly that God intended it to be a most fruitful source of individual benefit and
of public welfare. Not only, in strict truth, was marriage instituted for the propagation
of the human race, but also that the lives of husbands and wives might be made better
and happier. This comes about in many ways: by their lightening each other's burdens
through mutual help; by constant and faithful love; by having all their possessions in
common; and by the heavenly grace which flows from the sacrament. Marriage can
also do much for the good of families, for, so long as it is conformable to nature and in
accordance with the counsels of God, it has power to strengthen union of heart in the
parents; to secure the holy education of children; to temper the authority of the father
by the example of the divine authority; to render children obedient to their parents and
servants obedient to their masters. From such marriages as these the State may
rightly expect a race of citizens animated by a good spirit and filled with reverence and
love for God, recognizing it their duty to obey those who rule justly and lawfully, to love
all, and to injure no one. 6
When seen in this light, we can say without fear of contradiction that contempt for marriage and the family is contempt for Christ. We have rejected His right of Kingship over us and have replaced Him with false gods of our own choosing. The Catholic faith that has been passed on to us by two thousand years of Saints and Martyrs is fading away, crucified and scorned upon the crosses of our hearts. Moreover, the "School of Christian Charity", the traditional family, is also disappearing before our eyes. Can a nation that has lost the virtues of faith and charity to such a degree long hope to endure?
Though the extent of his own religious beliefs has been debated by historians, Thomas Jefferson pointed out the folly of removing God from our public and private life. In his Notes On the State of Virginia published in 1781, he states:
"God who gave us life, gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be
thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the
minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not
to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I
reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever." 7
Perhaps no other nation in the history of mankind has enjoyed the favor of God more than the United States. From our most humble beginnings as a tiny collection of colonies, He has guided us, protected us, and allowed us to grow and prosper beyond anything we could have rightfully hoped for. And He has allowed us to serve as a light in the world to bring His mercy and love to those who are less fortunate. But pride and selfishness have hardened our hearts and caused us to turn away from the One who loves us and has purchased us with His blood. If we do not return soon to the service of Christ, the justice that was spoken of by Jefferson two hundred years ago will surely be visited upon us.
Like ancient Rome before us, the United States may soon be the next great empire to vanish.
- 1 Return To Tradition, Francis Beauchene Thornton, Ed., Roman Catholic Books,
originally published 1948, pg. 241 (Thoughts About Controversy, Arnold Lunn, 1937).
- 2 Goldwater, Barry M. Goldwater with Jack Casserly, Doubleday, 1988, pgs. 1-4.
- 3 Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997,
- 4 Arcanum, Pope Leo XIII, 1880, paragraph 9.
- 5 Ibid, paragraph 10.
- 6 Ibid, paragraph 26.
- 7 Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, Query XVIII, 1781, pg. 237.
PRAYER TO ST. STEPHEN
O glorious St. Stephen, first of the martyrs, for the sake of Christ you gave up
your life in testimony of the truth of His Divine teaching. Please obtain for us, dear St. Stephen, the faith, the hope, the love, and the courage of martyrs. When we are tempted to shirk our duty, or deny our faith, please come to our assistance as a shining example of the courage of martys; and please win for us a love like your own.|
O St. Stephen, we ask this of you for the glory and honor of Jesus Christ our Lord, who is the model and the reward of all martys.
DIADEMS OF THE DECADE
Editor Michael Cain's Catholic PewPOINT
from Monday, December 1, 2008,
Volume 19, no. 336