Doctrine Indispensable

Doctrine Indispensable posted in Eleison Comments on October 9, 2010

I can remember Archbishop Lefebvre in 1986 being surprised at how few followers of Catholic Tradition seemed to grasp the enormity of the all-religion love-fest at Assisi, but such is the corruption of our times: ideas and truth are of no consequence, because “All you need is love.” In truth, all of us need, absolutely, both doctrine and love.

Doctrine is not just formulas of words. Those of us that have the inestimable gift of the Faith know that upon our short life in this world hangs an eternity of unimaginable bliss or horror in the next life, and we know that this is the destiny of all men, whether they believe it or not, Limbo for unbaptized innocents being the one exception. It then stands to reason that unless God is cruel – vain wish of many a poor soul seeking to justify its revolt against Him! – He is offering to all souls at all times the light and strength they need to gain Heaven and avoid Hell, if they wish. But when a soul does not have the Faith, what form can that light and strength take?

Let two non-Catholics point towards the answer. Dr. Samuel Johnson, 18th century giant of English common sense, said “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life.” In other words, behind the hurly-burly of daily living in all its daily details, a man is forging day by day a general attitude towards life. And Count Leo Tolstoy in his epic novel, War and Peace, says, “To love life means to love God.” In other words, a man’s general attitude towards life is in fact an attitude towards God.

Of course many a modern soul will deny vigorously that his attitude to life can have anything to do with a “non-existent” God, but God is not the less sustaining in existence both him and all the objects daily surrounding him, and God is giving to him all the time the free-will with which to love or hate God within and behind them all. Thus Communists are meant to be atheists, yet Lenin once said, “God is my personal enemy.” Communists, as such, hate life and hate God.

Then what is the right attitude to life and to God? The First Commandment lays it down: to love Him with all one’s heart and mind and soul. But how can I love anybody without first having some knowledge of him? The right attitude to life and to God presupposes at least some faith or trust in the goodness of life and/or of God. Thus when unlettered souls come to Our Lord in the Gospels to ask for a miracle, frequently he tests their “faith,” or praises it and rewards it, when he grants the miracle. What faith? Faith in him. But who exactly is he?

That is for lettered souls to formulate, in doctrine. This doctrine of God may be polished down the ages, but it cannot be changed, any more than God can be changed. It is the on-going corrector of our attitude to life and to God, for as long as we wish to be unimaginably happy and not unhappy for all eternity. Catholic doctrine is truth. God is Truth. Truth is indispensable.

Kyrie eleison.

Kings Insufficient

Kings Insufficient posted in Eleison Comments on May 2, 2009

I have never felt entirely comfortable around monarchists, by which I mean people for whom a return to kings and queens would solve a large part of our present democratic woes. I agree that bygone monarchies like those of England, France and Russia are great landscapes for a nostalgia trip, and that Cromwell, Robespierre and Lenin were treacherous pioneers of a ghastly New World Order. Nevertheless the nostalgia comes across to me as a distraction.

Such thoughts arise from a visit to the delightful Exhibition at the Tate (Britain) Gallery in London, open until May 17, entitled “Van Dyck and Britain.” Sir Anthony van Dyck, knighted by King Charles I, was the outstanding painter of 17th century England. Born in 1599 in Antwerp, in today’s Belgium, he showed an early talent for painting, and soon became the “best pupil” of the famous Flemish painter, Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640). Amidst youthful travels on the Continent, in particular to Genoa to learn from the Italian masters, he made a brief visit to London in 1620–1621.

However, from 1632 until his early death in 1641, at the invitation of the Stuart King Charles I, a keen patron of the arts, van Dyck came to England mostly to stay. Here he became the fashionable and highly influential portrait painter of England’s ruling class, projecting, as no doubt the King had wished, a glamorous image of the Stuart kingdom. The glamour lives on in the colorful and characterful portraits that make up the bulk of this Exhibition.

Like his Continental masters, Rubens and Titian, and like the King’s spouse, Henrietta Maria of France, van Dyck was a Catholic. Even if a Puritan could be a painter, never could he rejoice as does van Dyck in the play of light upon gorgeous fabrics, nor could he portray costumes still more fanciful than they were in reality, like van Dyck’s ballooning sleeves. Of course the Puritans made war on Charles, and in 1649 they cut off his head, but with the Stuart Restoration of 1660 some of the color and joy returned, and van Dyck’s influence upon English portrait painting lasted – one thinks in particular of Gainsborough and Reynolds in the 18th century – through to the early 20th century, when at last the lights were switched out all over Europe, and remaining monarchies were extinguished with them, or gutted.

Therefore kings alone are not enough. They may patronize the arts, and their courts may uphold for a while the glamour and the glory, as reflected for instance by van Dyck, in whose dashing canvases one finds surprisingly little or no trace of the murderous tensions underlying the 1630’s in England. Nevertheless soon after him King and court were swept away, and only Restored on modern skids. What then does it take to overcome colorless and glamourless modernity? No less than the King of kings, and his Catholic Cross! “O crux ave, spes unica” – “Hail to thee, Cross, our only hope.”

Kyrie eleison.

Restless Change

Restless Change posted in Eleison Comments on January 12, 2008

Amongst recent manifestations of the puppet parade known as the “American political process,” one candidate – identity completely unimportant – allegedly became unhinged on being accused by another of being “in favour of the status quo.” In other words the accuser knew that the voting public wants change, and it wants their politicians to promise change, so no modern politician wants to be accused of not being in favour of change. Sure enough, the accusation struck home.

Similarly in Great Britain (once “Great,” maybe), it seems that last year’s new Prime Minister announced his intentions in a speech mentioning some 15 times the word “change.” Where in Heaven’s name does such restlessness come from?

Now by no means everybody today admits that human nature is a given framework inside which man has free will to operate as he chooses, but outside of which, or against which, he is powerless to do anything. On the contrary, are not modern men, for instance communists or feminists, proud of up-heaving any such supposedly given framework? “We are changing human nature,” boasted Lenin.

However, might not this restlessness of today’s political public and so of its puppit politicians be a testimony to the existence of that abiding human nature? Might not its unyielding resistance to all efforts to change it explain why one effort fails after another, and so the attempt to make a “new man” for a “new world” must be constantly –


In truth, God exists and it is He who is the giver of man’s given nature. It has not changed since Adam and Eve, except for the damage that they – and not God! – did to it by their original sin. However for the last 500 years mankind has been in rising revolt against the Giver and his givens. Of course the revolt does not work. But men persist in their folly, and will not vote for politicians who do not promise “change.”

Kyrie eleison.