When last week “Eleison Comments” laid out six errors of one of the leading theologians of Vatican II, Fr. Marie-Dominique Chenu, it said that the order of the errors had been changed from the original order in Si Si No No, and it suggested that thereby hangs a tale. That tale is the disastrous dethroning of the mind by modern times.
In Si Si No No, Sentimentalism ranked first among the errors. Then came Subjectivism, Historicism, the Turn to Man (Anthropocentrism), Evolutionism and Immoralism. To start with Sentimentalism is to start with man as one finds him today, i.e. wallowing in his feelings. Here are two examples amidst hundreds, or thousands: in religion, “God is much too nice to send a single soul to Hell”; in politics, “It is not patriotic to question who was behind 9/11.”
“Eleison Comments” chose rather to rank the errors in order not of immediacy but of depth. Then Anthropocentrism in the sense of turning away from God comes first, because turning away from God is at the root of all sin and error. Next come the three errors attacking the mind, Subjectivism, Historicism and their consequence, Evolutionism. They too come before Sentimentalism because – and here is the interesting point – only after the rightful king has been dethroned can the usurper take his place. Only after the mind is disabled can feelings take over. Ranking last on both lists is Immoralism, or the denial of right and wrong, because all disorder in the soul and mind ends up in disorder in action.
To grasp the natural primacy of the mind over feelings, a primacy which for many a modern soul is not obvious, let us resort to a comparison with a sailing-ship. If the captain by deliberately letting go of the rudder leaves his ship at the mercy of wind and wave until eventual shipwreck, nevertheless whenever he chooses to take the rudder in hand again, it belongs to the nature of the rudder to enable him to steer the ship, and by making good use of wind and wave to reach port. Similarly if a human being by deliberately letting go of his reason leaves his soul at the mercy of feelings and passions, adrift towards eternal Hell, it nevertheless belongs to the nature of his mind, whenever he chooses to re-activate it, to guide him to Heaven, however precarious at first may be his reason’s command of his passions and feelings.
Then how is a man to put his mind back on its throne? By turning back to God, because it was his turning away from God that let loose the dethroning of his mind in the first place, since to turn away from God he soon after had to begin dismantling his reason. And how does a man most easily turn back to God? Let him start with one “Ave Maria,” let him move on to a few, then to a decade of the Rosary, and finally to five decades a day. If he does that, he will begin to think again.
Mother of God, save our minds!