I have just been re-reading Michael Davies’ Pope John’s Council, written in 1977 and hardly needing to be up-dated nearly 40 years later. If anything, Michael Davies was too kind to the Council, but there are many home truths in the book, so that it can be warmly recommended to anybody beginning to study the Council. Especially interesting is the Appendix VI consisting of a review by Professor Louis Salleron from 1936 of the French philosopher Jacques Maritain’s (1882–1973) then recently appeared book, Integral Humanism. This book so interested an Italian priest, Giovanni-Battista Montini, that he translated it into Italian. Later he became Pope Paul VI, the main architect of Vatican II. Thus Salleron uncovers the roots of the Council, 26 years before it began.
Integral Humanism presents Maritain’s vision of a new future for a remodelled Christendom. Bourgeois civilisation is doomed, but instead of the Church continually condemning the man-centred humanism which gave rise to the French Revolution (1789) which gave rise to that bourgeoisie, the Revolution needs to be recognised as part of an on-going and inevitable historical process with which Christianity can and must come to terms. By this means, while the whole course of modern history cannot be stopped, nevertheless by Christ the humanism can be made truly, fully human, becoming “integral humanism.” Christianity thus rebuilt on modern foundations will bring Christ to modern man and modern man to Christ, the admirable intention of Maritain and Paul VI and Bishop Fellay.
But “the way to Hell is paved with good intentions,” says the wise old proverb. Salleron admires all kinds of things in the book of Maritain, who was a philosopher skilled in Thomism and knew well, says Salleron, how to present any idea in such a way as not to contradict Catholic doctrine. But Salleron objects strongly to Maritain’s reading of modern history and calls it “Marxist.” Karl Marx (1818–1883) also started out from the rot of bourgeois civilisation but concluded that it must be completely torn down by on-going Revolution to make way for the dream of the classless society, which worked out in reality as the nightmare of Communism. So Maritain rejected Marx’ conclusion but accepted his analysis of history, so as to fashion a new compromise Christianity that would work for modern man: neither modernity on modern foundations (Marx – and Wagner), nor Christ on Christ’s foundations (Pius X – see especially his Letter on the Sillon – and Archbishop Lefebvre), but Christ on modern foundations. The result is that Newchristianity which is to be found throughout the documents of Vatican II, namely Christ is the true fulfilment of man – not man is ordered to Christ and to God, but God and Christ are ordered to man.
Alas, compromise solutions do not work with Our Lord. He says, “Let your speech be yes, yes or no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil” (Mt. V, 37). And “He that is not with me, is against me” (Mt. XII, 30). A man-centred religion of the true God is a contradiction in terms. Salleron points out that there is nothing inevitable in the march of modern history such as Marx and Maritain imagined. If modern man is going to the Devil, it is by man’s own free choice. What liberals like Maritain and Paul VI and Bishop Fellay do not grasp is the reality of evil. They do not grasp that modern man simply does not want Christ, and God will not force man to do so. Liberals will diminish God so as to make him appealing to modern man, but most modern men will turn away, in indifference or disgust. Vatican II has been a colossal failure, and “integral humanism” has been just one more example of disintegrating humanism, because it is not centred on God.
Politics, economics, the banks, finance, the arts, medicine, law, agriculture, the whole of modern society must come back under the Social Kingship of Christ the King. That was Archbishop Lefebvre’s solution. It is the only solution.