Education History: Thinking Through Chapter 2 (or maybe 3): the Great Catholic Schooling Tradition

Finished up The Protestant Crusade, about which I’ll need to do one more post about how schooling plays into it. At the moment, I’m working on The Educational Ideas of Pestalozzi by J. A. Green, published in 1906. The formatting/readability of the available online versions I’ve been able to scrounge up is so poor I did a copy/paste from a (254 pp! Although it will probably be more like 150 pp when I’m done.) PDF, dumped it into a Google doc, resized the text, and am cleaning it up as I read. Lots of bad character reader artifacts, weird imbedded formatting that doesn’t want to be overridden, unpleasant line breaks – yet, fixing it is still probably more efficient than trying to plow through the messes I could find online. When I’m done, I should find a way to make it available, for the next schmuck who would want to read it. (in the words of Shrek: yea, like that’s gonna happen.)

Next up: I have a series of dead tree editions of biographies and works by and about the great Catholic educators: Don Bosco, Elizabeth Anne Seton, Jean Baptiste de la Salle. I need some on Drexel and Montessori. And, as is always the case, I’ll undoubtedly come across others as I read. A blessing and a curse.

The book will have a chapter or two on the educational beliefs, goals, and practices of the great Catholic teachers, including those mentioned above. I have collected quotations from other, earlier teachers as well. Then there’s the writings of the Catholics contemporary with the rise of the public and parochial schools here, chief among whom are Hecker and Brownson. Got a bunch of materials online for this, only skimmed so far. References are made by these writers to statements by the Pope and bishops – need to dig those up, too.

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The J-Man had some things to say about education. Given he may have been the best educated man among a bunch of highly educated men, probably a good idea to hear him out.

Unfortunately, I’m only a medium reader, not one of those who can rip through 100 pp/hour. I’m more a 30-35 pp/hr guy, much slower when taking notes as I am now. So – yea, big task. But surprisingly fun! I’ve slowly come to realize I enjoy reading history, science, philosophy and biography more, in general, than I enjoy reading fiction. Yes, I’m odd.

For the more popular book, my goal is to show how the great Catholic tradition in education is not linked to the graded classroom model except accidentally. For the planned more scholarly work, I want to trace the evolution of acceptance of the graded classroom model under the influence of the Catholic immigrant/outsider desire to fit in. Being as good as the public schools is a recurring theme, when being vastly better, and better by Catholic standards, should be the goal.

Education Reading Update: Hecker, Schlegel, and Fichte

The rabbit holes are infinite and eternal. Well, maybe not that bad, but, Lord, it isn’t good.

Trying to get my head around 19th century American Catholicism, in order to have some feel for how Catholics viewed education. Don’t need to become an expert, just know enough that I don’t make obvious and avoidable errors.

The two biggest names in mid-19th century American Catholicism are, it appears, Orestes Brownson and Thomas Hecker. They were friends, both converts from rather rigorous or at least enthusiastic Protestantism, Brownson from Calvinist Presbyterianism, Hecker from Methodism. From my modern perspective, which I am trying to make better informed, I would classify those two origins as pseudo intellectual dogmatic nonsense and mush-headed touchy-feely nonsense. While that’s sort of what they look like today, minus the numerous fractures and branches into other, more trendy (until they aren’t) errors, I suspect but am not yet confident that description more or less holds for the 1820s as much as the 2020s.

I mention the above because, as I read them, these Protestant roots and habits of thought, especially as shaped by the post-Revolutionary and post-Civil War American experiences, seem to color everything. There is an optimism in these writers that appears almost insane from a modern perspective, along with that American distrust of authority that Brownson seems to deal with more realistically than Hecker. The big questions here are how widespread these attitudes were – I’d bet, pretty widespread, given the stature of Hecker and Brownson in 19th century American Catholic intellectual life – and how much these attitudes influenced Catholic thinking on education.

Brownson I’ve discussed much here. He was prolific, meaning I’ve only read a tiny fraction of his output. Fortunately, the Brownson Society has put his publications online, indexed them, and included the topic ‘education’ in that index – reducing the amount of essential Brownson reading to maybe a 100 more pages. Not that reading more would hurt, but must prioritize if I hope to get these books done in this lifetime.

Servant of God Rev. Isaac Thomas Hecker is the real puzzler. He founded both a religious order – the Paulists – and a magazine – The Catholic World. That magazine ran for over 130 years, and published many essays by Brownson, and more by Hecker. (Rabbit Hole Alert: the very first issue, from April of 1865, has an essay entitled The Christian Schools of Alexandria. Too much to read!).

The very first Hecker I’m reading is from The Church and the Age, a set of 12 of his essays taken from The Catholic World. As mentioned in my end of the year recap post, Hecker both praises obedience to the Church and Pope, and claims that an emphasis on obedience in response to Protestant disobedience has lead to the current effeminate state European Catholicism. We Americans can fix this by paying more attention to the Spirit. It’s a case where the rhetorical arrangement of ideas all but forces a conclusion that contradicts what, on the surface, is the argument. In this case, nothing could be more traditional and orthodox than a call to a greater commitment to the life of the Spirit, but by opening with a paen of sorts to obedience, and a rousing defence of the 1st Vatican Council’s declaration of Papal infallibility, such a call comes off as a criticism of obedience. If, instead, the call to a more spiritual life had merely, in the course of things, mentioned that the Spirit necessarily works through the Magisterium, such that there is no possibility that the impulses of the Spirit would ever direct one against obedience to Christ’s Church, and just left it at that, no issues would ever have been raised. But Hecker at the same time discusses the sorry state of European Catholicism and damns with effusive praise, so to speak, obedience. The inescapable conclusion is that less obedience is what is required if we (Americans) are to escape the effeminate state of European Catholicism, even if he tiptoes around actually saying as much.

On the bookshelf, staring down at me, is The Protestant Crusade, which I have barely started, along with biographies of Seton, Barnard, LaSalle, Bosco, and other educators, as well as books on education by Barnard, Piaget, and others, next to many books of criticism from the likes of Gatto. On the Kindle or my laptop are works by Fichte, Pestalozzi, Rousseau, Torrey Harris, etc., as well as various works referenced in Walch’s Parish School , including the indispensable The Catholic School System In The United States: Its Principles, Origin, And Establishment by J. A Burns. And then there’s more general references, such as Plato’s Republic and Marrou’s History of Education in Antiquity. Then comes all the snippets, links, essays, and articles on my laptop.

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Hecker’s beard is beyond reproach, I’ll grant.

And I add to this every time I sit down to read: Hecker mentions Schlegel, a German literary critic and philosopher and another convert, who shares Hecker’s conviction that this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius, so to speak:

“We are about to see,” said Schlegel, “a new exposition of Christianity, which will reunite all Christians and even bring back the infidels themselves.”

Hecker, the Church and the Age

What we got instead was the oldest of old-school powers doing their thing in the Concert of Europe followed by a century of ideologically-driven global war and genocide, build upon foundations laid by the same group of German philosophers to which Schlegel belonged: Kant, Fichte and Hegel.

So now I’ve dug up some stuff on Schlegel, throw it on the pile. The very next sentence:

“This reunion between science and faith,” says the Protestant historian Ranke, ” will be more important in its spiritual results than was the discovery of a new hemisphere three hundred years ago, or even than that of the true system of the universe, or than any other discovery of any kind whatever.”

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Ranke looks like a refugee from a Dickens Faire. Which makes sense, given when he lived…

So, who’s this Ranke fellow? Leopold von Ranke, 1795 – 1886) was a German philologist, historian, and devout Lutheran. (1) He was appointed to the University of Berlin in 1824 by the Minister of Education – yep, that University of Berlin, the first modern research university, set up by von Humboldt a decade earlier. Von Humboldt, you recall, was a major Fichte fanboy, and, put in charge of Prussian education reform, installed the state-controlled age-segregated graded classroom model proposed by Fichte. He appointing Fichte to be head of the Philosophy faculty at the University; Fichte was elected rector the next year. More materials to read.

Then, reading about Ranke, I run into Julian Nida-Rümelin, a living German public intellectual (I guess they still have those in Germany?). He’s a critic of modern education, although it seems a weak one – he doesn’t advocate burning the whole thing to the ground, as I do. In reading just the brief Wiki article on him, I come across the Bologna Process, which is not only a way to turn scraps of meat into a theoretically edible substance, but is also an EU committee instituted to standardize higher education….

Ah! The dreaded Black Rabbit Hole of Despair! It’s all so interesting…

I’ve been cutting and pasting passages as I go, and will end up with a huge electronic pile of index cards. For the first book, which is directed to a more general audience, I’m not going to need much of it, but for the more scholarly back-up book, I will.

The Education References project, to become a page on this blog, inches forward.

1. Aside: in my ongoing efforts to blame everything on Luther, I note here how many wacky thinkers come out of the Lutheran theological tradition. This would be an effect, I should think, of trying to make sense of the L-Man, whose mythology doesn’t quite comport with the foul-mouthed, petty, scandalously heretical (e.g., asserting Jesus had lots of adulterous sex) and largely incoherent mad man his copious writing reveal. I’ve long wondered if Hegel’s motivation in replacing being with becoming isn’t a result of his noting that, if logic holds and truth is eternal, Luther is a raving lunatic.

2019: The Year That Was/Education Reading Update

A Happy and Prosperous New Year to my followry! May you be fruitful and multiply (for my benefit, right? Oh, never mind.)

Lately, I’ve been reading some 19th century American Catholic writers, to get a better feel for how the people involved thought and felt about those tumultuous times. Thomas Hecker, who is a Servant of God, is both loved and loathed, typically according to how ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ the critic is. He is baffling in some ways, vigorously defending the Church’s core teachings as one would expect a Servant of God to do, but then proposing ideas that, if they mean anything, don’t square with those vigorous apologetics. I’ll write more on this when I get a little farther. He and Brownson, two American Protestant converts who tower over the middle of the 19th century, have, each in his own way, incorporated aspects of their Protestant upbringing into their new Catholicism without, it seems so far, acknowledging any risk or downside.

Hecker focuses on the direct work of the Spirit in our lives. While of course the Church recognizes this aspect of our faith as central – the feast of the founding of the Church is Pentecost, after all – the Spirit is seen to act primarily through the Sacraments and supremely through the Eucharist. The most vigorously active saints, those whose lives most show forth the action of the Spirit in the world, are invariably those most devoted to the Eucharist. Hecker, in the softest of terms and with constant deference to the teaching authority and Sacraments of the Church, nonetheless sets up a conflict between the normal Magestarium and the life in the Spirit. He dwells at length on the perceived enervating effect of the Church’s Counter Reformation emphasis on obedience and authority, which culminated in Vatican I’s declaration of papal infallibility. He falls all over himself confirming how this emphasis on obedience was a good and necessary thing, but insists that it has, somehow, caused Catholics to be far more passive than is good for them. He points to contemporary troubles of the Church in Europe, where the politics in even majority Catholic countries were dominated by secularists and other anti-Catholics.

He makes passing reference to the Jesuits, who (at least, in their fundamental form) were *the most* obedient body in the Church, thumbing their noses at the Protestants by adding an additional vow of obedience to the Pope. Jesuits (as founded, and sometimes in practice) were both the most obedient AND the most active of orders. Meaning, whatever supposed problems (excessive? hard not to see this) obedience presents, it seems to have missed the contemporary Jebbies.

It all rings false. On the one hand, he is careful not to criticize obedience to the Church too directly, and to even praise it; on the other, he’s inescapably criticizing obedience as the source of the *political* passivity of Catholics, and proposing shifting focus to the Spirit as a remedy.

Not surprising, he is a sort of patron saint to the American ‘spirit of Vatican II’ crowd. As in their interpretation of the council documents, the spirit of what Hecker means is to be followed, even when it contradicts the actual words he wrote.

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William-Adolphe Bouguereau – The Difficult Lesson. Ha.
Love me some Bouguereau, but he’s *almost* doing that big eyes thing here.

Brownson shares with Hecker a tendency to see America as the next step in Salvation History. Men, freed from the shackles of a European history full of bad or at least outdated political ideas, finally build a near-Heaven on earth upon the foundational American ideas, which can only be sustained by the Catholic faith. To his credit, Brownson seems to have gotten over this ideas – the post-Civil War destruction of many of those supposedly foundational ideas, such as a minimal Federal government that respects the local rights of states – probably contributed to this.

Lots more to read. Just doing background at the moment, but both Brownson and Hecker have a lot to say about education. I want to know where they are coming from, first, before I get too deep into it. We need a term, say, Black Rabbit Holes or Rabbit Black Hole, to describe both the randomness and irresistable gravitational pull of the things that come up whenever one attempts a little scholarly research…

From the sublime to the ridiculous: On the whole, 2019 was better than 2018. This is not saying an awful lot. In 2018, I was fired from a job I’d had for 20+ years; slipped and fell on the rocks in the American River, cracking some ribs and needing stitches in my hand; learned what bedbugs are; and in general was some combination of ill or hurt or depressed for pretty much the entire year. Not a high bar to hurdle.

Let’s count the blessings: Starting around 6 months ago, finally started feeling better, lost about 30 lbs (got a ways to go!), had the youngest son get totally into the Boy Scouts & hiking and all that good nature-y stuff, had 2 kids graduate from college, had a daughter get engaged to marry a fine young man. So that’s pretty darn good! Not to mention the stock market has been very good to the retirement funds. (A couple more years along those lines might even make up for the last 20…)

However, after having burned through 2/3 of the emergency savings, I need a job. My wife lost her job of 15 years when the school we’d help found and sustain for 20 years went full gender theory on us. So I’ve now been unemployed for 18 months, and the missus for 6. Not sustainable!

May God bless you and yours over the next year, and save us from time getting any more interesting than necessary. For me and mine, 2020 is the Year of Getting a Job. Preferably sooner rather than later.

…In Particular…

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This section taken from the last long quotation from Orestes Brownson, from around 1870, is striking:

The exclusion of the Bible would not help the matter. This would only make the schools purely secular, which were worse than making them purely Protestant; for as it regards the state, society, morality, all the interests of this world, Protestantism we hold to be far better than no religion – unless you include under its name free-lovism, free-religion, woman’s-rightism, and the various other similar isms struggling to get themselves recognized and adopted, and to which the more respectable Protestants, we presume, are hardly less opposed than we are.

These “more respectable Protestants” have, with few exceptions, completely caved to the ‘ism-itis’ mocked by Brownson above. You want to see the fruits of an unbridled embrace of faddish isms? Check out your local Episcopalian or Methodist church. With, of course, some few exceptions.

A related quotation. Note that his use of ‘pastor’ and ‘parish’ is more after the English usage, and does not refer here to Catholics in particular, as the context makes clear:

The schools were originally founded by a religious people for a religious end, not by seculars for a purely secular end. The people at so early a day had not advanced so far as they have now, and did not dream of divorcing secular education from religion. The schools were intended to give both religious and secular education in their natural union, and there was no thought of the feasibility of separating what God had joined together. The Bible was read as a class-book, the catechism was taught as a regular school exercise, and the pastor of the parish visited the schools and instructed them in religion as often as he saw proper. Indeed, he was, it might be said, ex officio the superintendent of the parish schools; and whether he was chosen as committeeman or not, his voice was all-potent in the management of the school, in the selection of studies, and in the appointment and dismissal of teachers. The superiority in a religious and moral point of view to the schools as now developed may be seen by contrasting the present moral and religious state of New England with what it was then.

The religion, as we Catholics hold, was defective and even false; but the principle on which the schools were founded was sound and worked well in the beginning, did no injustice to anyone, and violated no conscience; for Congregationalism was the established religion, and the people were all Congregationalists. Even where there was no established religion and different denominations obtained, conscience was respected; for the character of the school, as well as the religion taught in it, was determined by the inhabitants of the school district, and nobody was obliged to send his children to it, and those only who did send were taxed for its support.

Vol. 13, pp. 242-244. (of his collected works?)

Finally, here he is, as timeless as Chesterton:

The great misery of society is in the fact that the people do not and cannot discriminate, and are carried away by half-truths, or by some particular phase of truth.  The human mind never does or can embrace pure, unmixed falsehood, and it is the true mingled with the false, or truth misapprehended, misapplied, or perverted, that gives currency to error and renders it dangerous.  It was the mingling of the true and the false in regard to religion that gave to the so-called Reformation its destructive power, and it is the mingling of the true and the false in regard to education that vitiates the popular theories of its necessity or utility in developing and sustaining the virtue of the people.

BQR January, 1874

Education Reading Update: More Orestes Brownson

Organizing materials for the book, came across some Brownson I’d collected but, as far as I can remember, have not commented on. He wrote quite a bit on education, and was typically blunt in his withering criticism of secular education, as education without religions is miseducation, and religious education that isn’t Catholic is simply the inculcation of heresy.

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This small sample is from (I think) Brownson’s Quarterly Review sometime after the Civil War, in the last decade of his life. He is addressing the problem of state schools in America, at a time and place where Protestants and Catholics live intermingled :

Hitherto the attempt has been made to meet the difficulty by excluding from the public schools what the state calls sectarianism- that is, whatever is distinctive of any particular denomination or peculiar to it- and allowing to be introduced only what is common to all, or, as it is called, “our common Christianity.” [ Lewis’s ‘Mere Christianity’ – ed] This would, perhaps, meet the difficulty if the several denominations were only different varieties of Protestantism. The several Protestant denominations differ from one another only in details or particulars, which can easily be supplied at home in the family or in the Sunday-school. But this solution is impracticable where the division is not one between Protestant sects only, but between Catholics and Protestants. The difference between Catholics and Protestants is not a difference in details or particulars only, but a difference in principle. Catholicity must be taught as a whole, in its unity and its integrity, or it is not taught at all. It must everywhere be all or nothing. It is not a simple theory of truth or a collection of doctrines; it is an organism, a living body, living and operating from its own central life, and is necessarily one and indivisible, and cannot have anything in common with any other body. To exclude from the schools all that it distinctive or peculiar in Catholicity is simply to exclude Catholicity itself, and to make the schools either purely Protestant or purely secular, and therefore hostile to our religion, and such as we cannot in conscience support.

Yet this is the system adopted, and while the law enables non-Catholics to use the public schools with the approbation of their consciences, it excludes the children of Catholics unless their parents are willing to violate their Catholic conscience, to neglect their duty as fathers and mothers, and expose their children to the danger of losing their faith and with it the chance of salvation. We are not free to expose our children to so great a danger, and are bound in our conscience to do all in our power to guard them against it and to bring them up in the faith of the church, to be good and exemplary Catholics.

The exclusion of the Bible would not help the matter. This would only make the schools purely secular, which were worse than making them purely Protestant; for as it regards the state, society, morality, all the interests of this world, Protestantism we hold to be far better than no religion – unless you include under its name free-lovism, free-religion, woman’s-rightism, and the various other similar isms struggling to get themselves recognized and adopted, and to which the more respectable Protestants, we presume, are hardly less opposed than we are. If some Catholics in particular localities have supposed that the exclusion of the Protestant Bible from the public schools would remove the objection to them as schools for Catholic children, they have, in our opinion, fallen into a very grave mistake. The question lies deeper than reading or not reading the Bible in the schools, in one version or another. Of course, our church disapproves the Protestant version of the Bible as a faulty translation of a mutilated text; but its exclusion from the public schools would by no means remove our objections to them. We object to them not merely because they teach more or less of the Protestant religion, but also on the ground that we cannot freely and fully teach our religion and train up our children in them to be true and unwavering Catholics; and we deny the right of the state, the city, the town, or the school district to tax us for schools in which we are not free to do so.

We value education, and even universal education- which overlooks no class or child, however rich or however poor, however honored or however despised – as highly as any of our countrymen do or can; but we value no education that is divorced from religion and religious culture. Religion is the supreme law, the one thing to be lived for; and all in life, individual or social, civil or political, should be subordinated to it, and esteemed only as a means to the eternal end for which man was created and exists. Religious education is their chief thing, and we wish our children to be accustomed, from the first dawning of reason, so to regard it, and to regard whatever they learn or do as having a bearing on their religious character or their duty to God. … We hold that education, either of the intellect or of the heart, or of both combined, divorced from faith and religious discipline, is dangerous alike to the individual and to society. All education should be religious and intended to train the child for a religious end; not for this life only, but for eternal life; for this life is nothing if severed from that which is to come. …

Of course, we do not and cannot expect, in a state where Protestants have equal rights with Catholics before the state, to carry our religion into public schools designed equally for all. We have no right to do it. But Protestants have no more right to carry their religion into them than we have to carry ours; and carry theirs they do, when ours is excluded. Their rights are equal to ours, and ours equal to theirs; and neither does or can, in the eyes of the state, override the other. As the question is a matter of conscience and therefore of the rights of God, there can be no compromise, no splitting of differences or yielding of the one party to the other. Here comes up the precise difficulty. The state is bound equally to recognize and respect the conscience of Protestants and of Catholics, and has no right to restrain the conscience of either. There must, then, be a dead-lock, unless some method can be devised by which the public schools can be saved without lesion either to the Protestant or the Catholic.

(Vol. 13, pp. 244-247.)

Here is the argument as seen by a passionate Catholic intellectual in the second half of the 19th century, just as the Prussian model was starting to dominate the thinking of the elites. In practice, more kids at the time were being educated in one-room schools that graded classroom schools. These one-room schools were run exactly as Brownson describes: the local community, a true community in the sense that everybody knew everybody, built, funded, staffed, and managed their own school. In Protestant areas – most everywhere – they would be Protestant. I would assume, but do not know, that in the many Catholic immigrant farming settlements that sprang up across the Midwest and Great Plains during the last half of the 19th century, such schools would have been Catholic.

Anyway, fun topics to research. Downloaded a couple more books from the period, adding another 800-1,000 pages to be read. Have to retain focus!

Basics: How to Run a Nation

Like I know how to run a nation. As usual, more or less thinking out loud, given the insanity that is current politics. Seem there are a few obvious points:

  • To have a nation in the first place, the people in it must recognize some overarching interests they hold in common with everyone else in the nation.

Overarching in the sense that this common interest can be used to settle the inevitable disputes. Or, put the other way around, when there is no recognized interest that can be appealed to that everyone agrees is more important than the dispute to be settled, you don’t have a nation, or soon won’t. The obvious case would be the Civil War: the appeal to national unity itself was not enough, and this appeal was only made when appeals to God and His Justice had failed. Much of the South was willing to risk the judgement of God on slavery, and saw national unity as something already defeated as an overarching interest in the Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.

Not for one moment am I denying how messy and full of passion, intrigue and deceit the run up to the Civil War was, but, even given all that, division became inevitable once the appeal to unity, which is an appeal to shared interests, lost its power.

I am here following my understanding of Orestes Brownson. That shared interest, or set of interests, is what is meant by a commonwealth or republic. In a nation that long survives, the Pilgrim’s feet, patriot dreams and alabaster cities count much more than the amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties – the shared history, goals and dreams much more than the shared physical place.

You can run an empire in which group A has nothing in common with group B, and so on, but an empire isn’t a nation. To run an empire, you must first realize that that’s what you’ve got: a collection of peoples, perhaps of nations, who would not be united except by the empire imposed on them. Empires have often, all things considered, been pretty acceptable arrangements for the people in them. But an empire is not a nation, and must be imposed. A nation must be formed by the people in it.

  • Some assumptions and ideas support a nation, while others destroy it. No nation can long exist unless the first dominate or eliminate the second.

Loyalty, patriotism, and a sense that everyone has a duty to obey the law are some ideas that can support a nation. Their opposites – treason, the idea one is a citizen of the world before a citizen of his nation or that citizenship is to be despised, and the rejection of the idea breaking the law is a serious matter with serious consequences – these work for a nation’s destruction.

The Protestant Christianity that was assumed by the American founders and patriots is empirically able to support a nation, at least for a while. The nation itself, at least according to Brownson’s argument, came into being once the colonists recognized that they shared both overarching interests in freedom and self-determination, as well as a contiguous territory, language, and history. They shared a vision of a future as a nation, and a willingness to fight and die for that the nation might continue.

Of course, as many have pointed out, the seeds of destruction were there as well: radical individualism, tissue-thin Enlightenment assumptions about human nature, and slavery. Blank slates call for someone to write on them – the line of volunteers has gotten long. And how can it be said an individual who is nothing but a void to be filled has inalienable rights? Squaring slavery with Protestantism was difficult, to say the least, and should have been far more difficult. These threads, and the battles fought over them, are playing out today.

  • Nations, if the term means anything, have the right and duty to reinforce those ideas and assumptions that are needed for its survival.

A nation shoots its traitors, deports those who express hatred for it, and brings the force of the law down hard on scofflaws. Of course, a nation should not pass laws that are unlikely to be obeyed or it is unwilling or unable to enforce. Machiavelli observed that a wise prince never gives an order unless he knows it will be obeyed, lest he come to be held in contempt by the people. Similarly, when a nation passes Prohibition or refuses to enforce its immigration laws, not just drink and illegal aliens are at issue, bit the very duty to obey *any* law.

Soviet Nationalism. Um, sure?
  • If taken seriously, Marxist internationalism is an idea a nation has a right and duty to suppress.

No nation can tolerate a movement whose goal is the destruction of the nation. Most attention, it seems to me, is focused on the real-world outcomes of Marxism – totalitarianism, economic collapse, mass murder – but, even apart from the historical record, a nation must criminalize efforts to destroy it. That is the very definition of treason.

Yet this is all but the official position, and is taught in virtually all classrooms, in virtually all universities in America today.

  • There is no formal nation without borders.

It is not just a question of physical borders, although they are indispensable. It is also a question of citizens’ duty to protect the commonwealth. Reject the commonwealth, reject the nation. People can be physically in the nation without supporting the commonwealth of shared history, goals and dreams and the assumptions that underlie and support them. If you look at traditional steps naturalized citizens go through, you see the care given to inculcating these immaterial things as a condition for citizenship. Physical presence was not enough.

Back in the latter half of the 19th and first part of the 20th century, a significant number of bomb-throwing anarchists, mostly Germans, it seems, made it to America. Whether or not they committed any other crimes, the mere fact that they rejected the idea of our nation, or nations in general, made them invaders, not immigrants.

I didn’t watch the debates, as they have never been more than political theater, just a bunch politicians jockeying to unload their soundbites, for my entire adult life. But having read a little about what’s going down, it seems we’re in for a bumpy ride.

Weekend Update & Link-fest

A. Trying to write a review of Polanyi’s Great Transformation, and it’s painful. I’ll get it done in the next few days. Pure Communist propaganda hiding behind reams of faux erudition. Since a simple straightforward statement of his Marxist ideas would invite withering criticism from anyone who has not drunk the kool aid, he lards on irrelevancies with the implied ad hominem – you only disagree because you are not enlightened enough to get it. Or cold-hearted – look at all this suffering! If only enlightened managers had control, why, they’d fix everything! But don’t look at the gulags or killing fields.

He wrote a few years before Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, and before the post-war worldwide economic boom (still ongoing, despite a few comparatively brief hiccups) began driving world-wide material poverty and suffering down and health and life expectancies up year after year, everywhere in proportion as Marxist ideas are not implemented. Back then, it was still possible for your typical Marxist to claim the Soviet Union is the future that works, not a bloodbath of totalitarian control. Funny how that didn’t pan out.

B. Revisiting the heresy of Americanism. Foxifer was kind enough to link to my humble speculations over on American Catholic. The comments are interesting.

It’s easy (and convenient) to dismiss Americanism, as the near-contemporary Catholic Encyclopedia and, to a lesser extent, Wikipedia today do, as a phantom heresy: just some rabble rousers getting in the Pope’s ear, Pope overreacts, nothing to see here, move along.

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But let’s break that down a bit. The Pope’s letter to Cardinal Gibbons is a typical Vatican-style letter (old school division) where the praise is general and the condemnations relatively more specific. A more general way to state the issue: are you judging America by the Church’s standards, or the Church by America’s? Pope Leo XIII condemned:

  1. undue insistence on interior initiative in the spiritual life, as leading to disobedience
  2. attacks on religious vows, and disparagement of the value of religious orders in the modern world
  3. minimizing Catholic doctrine
  4. minimizing the importance of spiritual direction

Unless one is in utter denial, the absolute best one could seriously argue here is that Leo jumped the gun by a few decades. But I don’t think that’s the case.

In the last post, I mentioned in this connection Archbishop John Ireland, the leading ‘liberal’ in the American hierarchy at the turn of the last century. He’s yet another figure I’ll need to find out a lot more about. Superficially, at least, his actions imply serious cluelessness or worse, casual dishonesty. Right around this time, he gave a speech before the National Education Association, an institution that was viewed by many Catholic leaders as, at the very least, latently anti-Catholic. The NEA’s main thrust, then as now, was improving the lot of public school teachers through support of compulsory public schools and standardization through certification of teachers. The Catholic Church ran thousands of private schools staffed by religious sisters who were trained on the job and whose relevant certification was that they were Catholic sisters, not tools of a state that hated Catholics.

For Ireland to address such a crowd and suggest that, soon and very soon, Catholics would just accept the public schools and send their kids there, would be – insane? Unbelievably clueless? Dishonest? At the very least, wouldn’t this idea be something you’d float among the other bishops first? You know, the people who shepherd the flocks whose toil and money went into building all the parochial schools created specifically to keep their kids out of the public schools? When the other bishops reacted with predictable horror, Ireland tried to downplay the incident. The pope’s letter Gibbons, especially in light of his previous letter praising those who sacrificed much to keep their kids out of anti-Catholic schools, certainly would not have cast Ireland in a positive light.

Ireland’s actions could be seen as supporting at least points 2, 3, and 4 from Leo’s letter. You send your kids to public schools, and they’re learning by immersion that 1. the vows taken by those Catholic sisters teaching in the parochial schools don’t really matter much, certainly not as much as state certification; 2. at best, not hearing Catholic doctrine every day in the classroom, with the very real likelihood you’ll hear subtle and not so subtle disparagement of doctrine, is no big deal; and 3. being undirected spiritually – again, a best-case scenario – is perfectly OK for kids, as their parents will of course undo all the damage and supply the guidance between 5:30 and bedtime, minus dinner and homework time.

But the most important observation: everything the Pope condemns has passed into routine Catholic practice in America at some point in the last century or so. It either sprang Athena-like from some Progressive forehead in, I dunno, 1955? 1960?, or it was in fact a current among certain Catholics dating back to some period before Leo’s letter. How we personally feel about God and Church teachings is primary; vocations have fallen off a cliff, relatively speaking; priests are afraid (or letting their silence imply consent to dissident positions) of speaking out about hard doctrine from the pulpit or anywhere else for that matter; and spiritual direction? What’s that?

Of course, I generalize, and, at least in some areas, a corner has been turned. But anyone who thinks this is not the state of the American Catholic Church is living in a bubble. Go teach a 1st communion or confirmation class, and get back to us.

C. Related: turns out Isaac Hecker, the French intro to whose biography triggered Leo’s letter to Gibbons, was in fact well acquainted with Orestes Brownson, and was greatly influenced by him – Hecker reconsidered and then joined the Catholic Church after Brownson converted, and they discussed the matter in correspondence. He became a priest after consulting Brownson. So, while I have no first-hand information on Hecker’s views as yet, Brownson’s views I’ve discussed here. Writing as the Civil War concluded, Brownson was extremely optimistic about the Church’s future in America, declaring that it was God’s Providence that had created America in order to form one united Catholic nation comprising the entire Western Hemisphere. Since the principles upon which the Republic is established can only be supported by uniquely Catholic doctrines (that’s Brownson, not me, to be clear), it becomes inevitable that all the states of the New World will join America:

There was no statesmanship in proclaiming the “Monroe doctrine,” for the statesman keeps always, as far as possible, his government free to act according to the exigencies of the case when it comes up, unembarrassed by previous declarations of principles. Yet the doctrine only expresses the destiny of the American people, and which nothing but their own fault can prevent them from realizing in its own good time. Napoleon will not succeed in his Mexican policy, and Mexico will add some fifteen or twenty new States to the American Union as soon as it is clearly for the interests of all parties that it should be done, and it can be done by mutual consent, without war or violence. The Union will fight to maintain the integrity of her domain and the supremacy of her laws within it, but she can never, consistently with her principles or her interests, enter upon a career of war and conquest. Her system is violated, endangered, not extended, by subjugating her neighbors, for subjugation and liberty go not together. Annexation, when it takes place, must be on terms of perfect equality and by the free act of the state annexed. The Union can admit of no inequality of rights and franchises between the States of which it is composed. The Canadian Provinces and the Mexican and Central American States, when annexed, must be as free as the original States of the Union, sharing alike in the power and the protection of the Republic—alike in its authority, its freedom, its grandeur, and its glory, as one free, independent, self-governing people. They may gain much, but must lose nothing by annexation.

Brownson, the American Republic

Note first the primacy of place given to American doctrines, as the clear expression of what is implicit in Church teaching. Next, we have, as the cool kids say, immanentized the eschaton big time. Finally, note the implicit criticism of Europe and the non-American Church. If America is the (Hegelian historical?) expression of the Church, the European Church is chopped liver, more or less.

Now we look back at the French writer of the introduction to Hecker’s biography, who was by all accounts looking to America and America’s native saint (Hecker is a Servant of God as of 2008, first step toward canonization) for inspiration in restructuring European Church/State relations and in moving power to the people.

What could possibly go wrong?

D. I found this totally refreshing and revealing:

College Student to Synod Organizers: Don’t Listen to Me!

“What really matters is if I listen to the Church and learn from its wisdom.”

Even as the bishops attending this month’s Youth Synod in Rome strive mightily to demonstrate that they hear the wishes and concerns of young people, I was surprised when a Catholic college student told me that he doesn’t much care if the Church listens to him.
Isaac Cross first heard about the Youth Synod when he was asked to participate in the preparatory survey. One of the opening questions has stuck with him: “As a young person, do you feel that the Church listens to you?”

Isaac didn’t like the question.

“What really matters is if I listen to the Church and learn from its wisdom,” he told me. “The Church is built upon thousands of years of tradition and doctrine, and I have especially found at college how striving to understand that doctrine of the Church is a vital means of strengthening [one’s] faith.”

I don’t like lies. From the late 60s on, it was one lie after another from advocates of Church reform: we were told that all the changes were mandated by Vatican II – no, they were not; we were told the new music was for us kids – no, it was not, no one ever asked us if we wanted insipid pseudo-folk music; they claimed to be listening to us – never happened, except for those kids coached to say what our managers wanted to hear. All objections were treated as tantamount to heresy, never mind that no where in the documents actually issued by the Church Council could support be found for what was being rammed down our throats. (1)

So, here’s a kid willing to state the obvious: kids are stupid. We love them, we trust them, we educate them by example – but we would be even more stupid to expect wisdom from the mouth of babes on any but a rare exception basis. Goodness, innocence and charity, yes – the sense in which we are to be like children. But not so much gun control, immigration and tax policy. Or Church direction.

E. Don’t remember where I wandered across this:

“Time to Consider Changing the Name of Woodrow Wilson High School”?

Seems – finally – someone noticed that Wilson’s racism as evidenced by his resegregation of the federal government, which involved demotion or out and out firing of thousands of black federal workers, was a bad thing. Who’da thunk it? As an icon of progressive liberal thought, as architect of the League of Nations, as a champion eugenics and of public schooling (designed, after the wishes of the recently retired William Torrey Harris, to keep the population stupid and docile), Wilson has gotten the usual Liberal pass. See, a Confederate hero, for example, even if not a slave owner or even if personally opposed to slavery, is to be condemned – and here’s the important part – without discussion. A progressive hero is to be lionized, again, without discussion. And have schools named after him.

This could be very dangerous. What if people start looking even harder at Wilson? What if they start looking at, oh, Margaret Singer? John Dewey? (He’s got schools named after him, too.) Heck, any of the left’s heroes from around that time? If we give them a pass because all the cool kids were doing it at the time, I hope we’ve kept those Confederate statues safe, because we’d need to put them back up on the same principle.

Not that consistency has ever mattered much. I predict that their betters will put the anti-Wilson forces back in line, and nothing will happen. But I’d love to wrong, and I’d love to see dominos start to fall. Logic does have its own inertia and gravity, requiring a strong, steady stream of lies to keep it at bay. But the lies cannot be recognized as lies by too many people, or the damn breaks.

  1. As mentioned elsewhere, I have recently been blessed to attend the Novus Ordo said reverently in Latin ad orientem with chant – in other words, as the actual council documents describe it. If that had been allowed, back in the 60s and 70s, most of trauma – and it was traumatic – caused by the sudden, vehement and merciless adoption of the Spirit of Vatican II version of the Mass could have been avoided. One suspects the trauma was the point for many of those involved in implementing the changes.