Hispanics and Anglos

The Ancestors of English-speaking Americans were living in wattle huts and trying unsuccessfully to fend off the armed Scandinavian migration.  Iberia, later called Hispania, was a much coveted colonial post among aspirant consuls-in-the-making, its climate warm and welcoming, its fields fertile, and the commerce of its ports, Barcelona and Valencia, humming.   This peace was interrupted by the Vandals and then by the Muslim invaders, who occupied various parts of Spain for about seven hundred years.  

Then two things happened.  In 1492 the last Muslim stronghold, Grenada, was taken.   Spain was the result of the slow union of Leon, Castile, and Aragon, accomplished as the war against Islam became increasingly successful.   Spain’s Atlantic trade challenged the Hansa and her Mediterranean commerce rivaled Genoa and Venice. In that fateful year Isabella, Queen of Castile from 1474 until her death in 1504, supported and financed the journey of the mystical, able Genoese  Christopher Columbus that led to the opening of the New World and to the establishment of Spain as the first global power which dominated Europe and much of the world for more than a century.  Her reforms and those she made with her husband had an influence that extended well beyond the borders of their united kingdoms. Isabella and Ferdinand are known for completing the Reconquista and for ordering conversion or exile of their Muslim and Jewish subjects.  Their national existence won by a long, bloody struggle, perhaps Ferdinand and Isabella were inspired by a Poland-like nationalism; being occupied by the Russians and the Third Reich has a clarifying power. Isabella, granted together with her husband the title “the Catholic” by Pope Alexander VI, was recognized as a Servant of God by the Catholic Church in 1974. Perhaps some day she will be considered a saint. Meanwhile the president of the Catholic University covers the murals depicting  Columbus’ voyage, preferring perhaps an America in which the Aztecs are unimpeded in their penchant for sacrificing maidens and ravaging their neighbors.  

Before Roanoke, before Jamestown, before Plymouth, the Spanish had organized an empire that included the Caribbean islands, the west coast of North America—yes, Virginia, Mexico is in North America—from what would be Oregon to the Terra Fuego at the southern tip of Argentina, including ultimately the distant Pacific Islands named for Phillip II.  It is satisfyingly hyperbolic but also true that there was grand opera in Lima before Jamestown was envisioned. 

It is hardly surprising that Henry VII was anxious to marry his heir Arthur to Catherine, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, or that after the death of Arthur, only six months married, Henry hastened to negotiate Catherine’s marriage to his second son Henry, despite the difficulty involved in dispensing the bond of consanguinity that existed between Henry and Catherine due to her previous marriage to Arthur.  From the attempt of Henry to have his marriage to Catherine annulled would grow the Black Legend, Spanish Leyenda Negra, a term indicating an unfavorable image of Spain and Spaniards, accusing them of cruelty and intolerance, prevalent in the pre-modern works of many non-Spanish, and especially Protestant, historians. “Bloody” Mary and her failed marriage to Phillip II is part of that story, the lynchpin of which is the attempt of Phillip in May 1588 to invade England and unseat the heretic Elizabeth.  It was this event which snuffed out the last Catholic resistance, ushered in violent persecution of Catholics, and, I think, made nationalism an essential part of the English national religion. A proud people do not take kindly to the attempt, however unsuccessful, to invade their country and change their government. Overlooked is the Treaty of Nonesuch, under which Elizabeth had offered support to the rebels in the Spanish Netherlands.

The voyage of Columbus ultimately unleashed a three-way race among the great European powers to claim territory in the New World.  Spain had a head start, and a state of war existed between Spain and England. Elizabeth never financed an expedition to the New World, but she licensed privateers who preyed upon the Spanish ships bearing gold back to Spain.   Sir Francis Drake, famous for his circumnavigation of the globe, the most famous of the privateers, claimed California for England and attacked St. Augustine in 1586. Relations between England, and Americans, the English surrogates  and Spain would remain anxious, erupting into armed hostility as English-speaking settlers brought the lightly settled Spanish frontier in North America under pressure. Spain’s last-minute entry into the French and Indian War on the side of France cost it Florida, which the British acquired through the first Treaty of Paris in 1763. After twenty years of British rule, however, Florida was returned to Spain as part of the second Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution in 1783.  In 1819 Secretary of State John Quincy Adams achieved a diplomatic coup with the signing of the Florida Purchase Treaty, which officially put Florida into U.S. hands at no cost beyond the U.S. assumption of some $5 million of claims by U.S. citizens against Spain. Formal U.S. occupation began in 1821, and General Andrew Jackson, the hero of the War of 1812, was appointed military governor.   Louisiana was part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain from 1763 to 1801 that consisted of territory west of the Mississippi River basin, plus New Orleans. Spain acquired the territory from France.  It was sometimes known as Spanish Louisiana. The district was retroceded to France, under the terms of the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso and the Treaty of Aranjuez in 1802 only to be acquired by Jefferson from the cash-strapped Napoleon in 1803. 

In 1821 Mexico won independence from Spain.  Meanwhile, Anglo settlers kept pushing west, and in 1836 the Republic of Texas was founded in the face of Mexican territorial claims.  This dispute was settled, supposedly, by the Mexican War of 1846–1848, which took American troops to California, Santa Fe, and finally to Mexico City.  In Mexico it is called the American Intervention of 1846. Meanwhile there was the French-Austrian attempt of 1864–67 to make Mexico a monarchy and an empire, narrowly defeated. The war of 1846 was the curtain-raiser  to the Spanish-American War, when, with doubtful justification Cuba, Porto Rico, and the Philippines were annexed from a weak Spanish monarchy, a project promoted by a subtle anti-Catholic propaganda. In 1903 the United States built the Panama Canal on land acquired by purchase.  

Since Henry’s rejection of Catherine of Aragon, since the Spanish Armada,  relations between Spain and England have intermittently been stiff. Things were not helped by the English acquisition in perpetuity of Gibraltar under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which now seems to the Spanish an unjust humiliation.  More recently there was the mystery of Franco, who either quashed a duly elected liberal government with savage violence, or prevented Spain’s becoming a socialist tyranny and Russian client state. What is forgotten, because we are more ignorant of Spanish cultural history than of the history of France and Italy, is Vasquez, El Greco, and Cervantes.  Also often neglected are great moderns: Antoni Gaudi and his Sagrada Familia, Ortega y Gasset, and Miguel Unamuno. 

For five centuries relations between Anglos and Hispanics have been complicated by religion, of which relation the black legend is the pathology.  Spanish Catholicism is the Inquisition, the enslaving of conscience to superstition, given which representation, the freeing of territory into American influence and possession is right and just.  But at the heart of the distanced relationship is the fact that so many Hispanics don’t do like folks do. Well, some do: the business elites, and maybe Costa Rica and Chili. But there is too much disparity between rich and poor, too much violence and disorder.  This is partly due to the fact that Latin America was not really settled by Europeans; there were two few Spaniards; partly due to the fact that the Spanish regime while not barbaric or anti-Christian lacked any meaningful element of consent or participation. There was no Magna Carta.  Some of the reasons for this would include the apparent inability of post-feudal colonial culture to support the idea of any degree of transcendent lawfulness. Remembering that for corruption to be damaging it does not have to be universal, it would seem that what one often finds is the survival of a degenerate, lawless bastard feudalism in which the strong man and his clientelia are the government.  As one politician put it, “For my friends anything; for my enemies the law.” In this environment it’s to some degree every man for himself. At the top the rich will build a gated and guarded compound. At the very bottom one might join a gang. In the middle one muddles through, remembering that the police may or may not be your friend; they are taking care of themselves too. This creates an environment in which investment is hard to find because it is never quite secure.   When there is no job there is trafficking in drugs, or smuggling. And there is always Socialism and Revolution. What makes a public political culture. Religion surely, but more importantly legal tradition, and still more importantly an incorruptible judicial system. As in Chicago, the police may charge but the case will never come to trial.  

Ukraine has some of the most exceptional farmland on the planet. But the country is totally broke.  150 years ago, Hong Kong was a tiny village of illiterate fisherman. 50 years ago in Singapore they used to defecate in the streets.  Twenty-five years ago Estonia was still part of the crumbling Soviet Union. None of those places has any resources to speak of. But they’ve become among the wealthiest in the world. What’s the difference between Hong Kong and Ukraine? Singapore and Venezuela? Estonia and Nicaragua? Wealthy nations do have some common characteristics.  Wealthy nations have a culture that values hard work. Knowledge. Productivity. Innovation. Risk-taking. Saving. Self-reliance. It’s not that people in poor countries don’t work hard. Far from it.” But there is no culture that supports these values. Poverty is in large measure the failure of public political culture.  

Perhaps Protestant critics are right.  Perhaps it’s their religion. It is true that Catholicism in health considers neatness and industry a bit downstream from some higher values. But persistent, even failed, Catholicism, hasn’t quite made mainland Spain or France or Italy an economic-political wasteland, although parts of Italy are marginal.  The trash cannot be dealt with in Sicily and the Milanese consider Neapolitans a lesser breed.    

One way to look at the problem of poverty in Latin American is to think of their pattern as predictive of where we may be headed as the political culture becomes Godless.  It is important to remember that while Argentina may still have Roman Catholicism in its constitution, Mexico is officially, and in the 1920s viciously, anti-clerical. Not everybody in El Salvador or Guatemala or Mexico is poor.  If you are well placed, you go to a (probably) religious high school and you may get out of Mexico for university. There is probably a pious picture of Msgr. Escriva somewhere in the house. On the other hand there are the cardboard villages, the untreated disease, and always the shrine to Archbishop Oscar Romero.  And if these are persistent you come to the United States. Deep in your consciousness there lies the conviction that Texas and Arizona and California belong to you.


To begin autobiographically, I can never think of the word “power” without thinking of Malcolm Muggeridge’s phrase “the vulgarity of power.”     What Muggeridge had in mind was the uses of power in contemporary culture and politics which typically involves the assertion of will without justice and certainly without love.  In the raw, power satisfies the human desire to dominate rather than to be dominated. As Augustine wrote, the search for power in the form of domination has been the failure of regimes, At the end of Nineteen-Eighty-Four the only answer the controllers can give as to why they have turned earth into hell is power.  This is the perversion of something that as belonging to human nature is good. It is a gift of God, who is omnipotent, all powerful, who wills that man share in this goodness, that we have the ability to exercise dominion in the world, and to pursue what is good, that is to be pleasing to God by rejoicing in his will.   “In his will is our peace,” as Dante wrote.  

As it happened, we humans have tended to use our powers not to please God but to pursue pleasure, for pleasure is the form  of those secondary goods that have the apparent ability to satisfy. Both carnality in its many aspects and dope, from marijuana to Heroin and meth, represent the exercise of power on behalf of pleasure.   Of course one may appeal to the Stuart moral philosophy, the principle of which was, “God never damned any man for having a little pleasure.” But against this is the experience of Eve, who, while her underlying sin was rebellion, was moved to disobedience by the facts that the fruit was good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and capable of producing wisdom (Genesis 3:6).   The formless pursuit of pleasure, without restraint, without underlying moral purpose, is central to Satan’s project, which is the destruction of souls. Satan thought to seduce Christ, not with the tawdry pleasure of the flesh, but with the promise of political power: the rule of kingdoms, bodily invincibility, the power to feed without labor. He failed, and the Messiah went on to offer salvation through the abandonment of every exercise of power other than the power of love.  He was not able, or would not, come down from the cross. Yet he did promise to come again in great power, full of justice, full of might, in great glory, to punish sinners and establish the incarnate kingdom of the new heart.   

In the meantime Jesus promised power of a certain kind to the Church, that is to his elect.  Christ said, “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18). And this was reiterated as Jesus ascended to his father: “You shall receive power after the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses” Acts 1:8.    And in John 1:12: “As many as received him, to them he gave the power to become sons of God, even to them who believe on his name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” And in 3:3 to Nicodemus, “Unless a man be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  

Here one might step back to consider the history of human attempts to be pleasing to God or the gods, and what one finds is a history of failure despite a fullness of information and plentitude of aspiration, vacillating and uncertain though these attempts be.   Israel was certainly not ignorant that their first task was to love God with all their hearts. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Cato, Marcus Aurelius and Plotinus had a clear understanding of the righteousness of the gods and offered various proposals for pleasing them.  All these projects, Hebrew and Greek and Roman, on a certain day had a certain nobility, but the results they achieved were episodic, fragile, and ultimately frustrated. It was not yet time for the lifting of the veil that stood between the sons of Adam and the Creator.  But then in the fullness of time Christ came, Pentecost came, and we were given the power to know the Father in his Son Jesus Christ.  

This did not end the question about power, for the Gospel maintained that we were made sons of God not by our own power, but by the power of God. Even among the elect there was controversy.  The difficulty was evident in Paul’s letter to the Romans, in which it was maintained that God’s power was made perfect in our powerlessness. Maintained consistently for five centuries, adumbrated by Saint Augustine, this came under attack in the early fifth century by a Roman advocate who thought this admission of incapacity in their one thing of ultimate importance admitted a shameful fault in God’s design of man, who, after all had been given freedom and choice.   This controversy, although settled and re-settled, and decreed and taught with anathemas, has never lain quiet. In the twenty-first century the occasional German bishop may be found opining that Pelagius might be right after all. Christianity put a check to the theory that power is self-justifying. There is no greater power than the power to forgive, to join the believer to Christ, to re-make the past.     

Whatever else it did, the Pauline-Augustinian position introduced into the political bloodstream of the West a healthy fear of power unchecked.   This was evident in the tendency of political power in the Middle Ages to prefer subsidiarity, to reject royal absolutism as in Magna Carta, and to consider human justice at its best a reflection, albeit imperfect, of divine justice.  The inherently transcendent rule of law itself mirrors distrust or arbitrary power. Between 1500 and the Age of Revolutions (1640–1790) arbitrary power triumphed as the Church was nationalized and the other parts of the body politic subordinated to royal authority.   When the revolutions came, the new polities, especially the Constitution of the United States sought to limit arbitrary authority through the disbursal of power among the branches of government, a noble and partially successful goal, successful accidentally while resting on the Hobbesian principle that life is he unending quest for power among contending interests.  

This still left our country with what at times seemed to be a monopoly of power.   Political power in a secular age is not seriously checked by extra-governmental interests of any kind.   Each exercise of state power can only be argued on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps the double defeat of Germany was just; perhaps Viet Nam was not.  Perhaps. Christianity teaches that power should always be exercised with humility; this I think may be the meaning of the third Beatitude, which means blessed are the gentle; those who do not insist or push. As history shows, and I mean by history not ‘history’ as Hegel envisioned it but the past, the attempt to exercise power without reference to God and his justice, pursuing the conviction that we can be good without him, will always court disaster.   It is better to exercise one’s power on behalf of another than on behalf of one’s. Thus Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet. Thus the Benedictines and monasticism generally. Thus, by the way, is being a father or mother.

In the twenty-first century power has found new means of achieving its will.  Language itself is power, and at present the public rhetoric is characterized by a new violence in which not only is shouting good, but it is noble to attribute motives and to lie bout one’s political opponents for the good of the country.  That there are reasons for this does not really mitigate. But in the end all power is from God, and before his just judgement earth and sky will flee away. Saint Augustine wrote a long book about this, showing that the pursuit of domination offers transitory success and long-term failure.


The Latin monere means to remember, and the suffix ment recognizes the result of an action, as in armament and accomplishment. The word monument is especially associated with the remembrance of the deceased; it is a distinctively human thing, buried in the ancient memory of the race, that our departed are not abandoned to the animals but buried with some external sign, a standing stone, a pile of rocks, or covered with stone slabs.  We know so little about the past. In 2012 a cemetery 4000 years old in which two important personages were discovered buried with their chariots in Georgia. And by then we are coming upon the pharaonic obsession with being buried in unforgettable splendor with all the equipment necessary for the good life included. To be a great person was to have a great tomb, as in the case of the tomb of Hadrian, better known as Castel San Angelo and the tomb of Augustus, almost as large but in ruins, and the doughty little tomb of Theodoric the Great on a traffic island in Ravenna.  The Middle Ages displayed a special interest in erecting be-jeweled monuments over the relics of the saints, as at Becket’s tomb—hastily destroyed by Henry (wrong message)―and at Compostela. For splendor it is hard to beat the tombs of the Medici in Florence, and then there was apparently the scheme of Julius II, happily frustrated, to make the new St. Peter’s a family tomb. St. Peter’s was already a vast memorial to the Apostle Peter, whose remains lay beneath the high altar.  

In a general way the Renaissance was the last great age of tomb building.  One thinks of the canopied tomb of the Viscounts Carey that occupied one chapel in St. Mary’s, Burford, Oxfordshire.  But from that point there was a steady diminution in great tomb-building, culminating in the twenty-first century, when you ancestors can be reduced to ashes in a number eight juice can.  But in the intervening centuries burial in the church-yard or the family cemetery on the farm or plantation was the Christian way. And of course among Catholics the practice of praying for the departed, who might be in the last stages of the great journey, persisted.   

Great events were also memorialized.   One can see the entire liturgical history of Israel  as a corporate act of anamnesis, from Passover, which recollects the deliverance from Egypt under the protection of the Lamb to the Feast of Booths.  Christianity is founded on the act of recollection commanded by Christ on the night in which he was betrayed, which remembrance, with its varied meanings, is now probably the most commonly shared activity of the human race.  The Greeks, too, had their memories; thus the monument to those who fell at Thermopylae, and the various monuments to the poetic and athletic achievements they so admired, as in the famous Choragic Monument of Lysiscrates in Athens.  

The wars and revolutions of the great consolidated states of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries provided ample opportunity for monument building.  Paris is significantly a monument to Napoleon Buonaparte, the gifted soldier and revolutionary bureaucrat who made France great again to the detriment of the rest of Europe.  The Pantheon is his tomb, and the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, the Arch of Triumph of the Star, commissioned in the wake of Napoleon’s victory over Russia and Austria at Austerlitz in 1805, recounts his conquests.  The Trafalgar column in London was commissioned at about the same time, commemorating the victory of Nelson over the Spanish and French in 1805. Washington is full of monuments, most notably the monuments to Jefferson, Lincoln, and Washington,  Only the Washington Monument is (belatedly, 1831) a burial place.   

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had their internecine, civil wars.  The conflict between Jacobins (defenders of the hereditary rights of the Stuarts) and the Hanoverians, the succession of William and Mary, lasted for about fifty years (1790-1845), the English won, and as far as I know―which is not very far—there are no English monuments to the valor of the supporters of the Stuarts in the uprisings of 1715 and 1745.  The Scots were annexed, their clans outlawed. Similarly, the French revolutionaries killed perhaps 200,000 French citizens of the Vendée between 1793 and 1795. One might say that the American Revolution was a kind of civil war. It was not very easily compromised, but after the collapse of Napoleon British and Americans found much in common.

The War Between the States or the Civil War was not easily settled and is perhaps not settled yet.   Battles between brothers often have a special bitterness. The South, especially the lower south, had been successfully invaded and punished, and was to remain occupied until 1875.   Then the South enjoyed its first modest post-war boom. If you will study the pictures of your ancestors, even of the farming yeomanry, you will see that by 1895 prosperity had set in.  There was a movement toward unity all around. But memory ran deep, and in southern imagination the war had been fought over a political theory—was the united States a unitary sovereignty such as France or was it a compact of states.  There was a respectable body of opinion that it was a compact, solemn, but a compact still. In 1814-15 the New England Federalists seemed willing to threaten secession over the three-fifths rule. South Carolina had always been a troublesome member of the Federal Union, requiring Andrew Jackson in 1836 to threaten, Trump-like, to go to South Carolina to hang the governor himself if the state persisted in nullification.   Why was Lincoln a convinced exponent of the unified state theory? Perhaps because civic piety required it. Perhaps because this was the platform of the National Republicans. Perhaps because he was from that part of the country that saw itself as the creation of the Federal government. In any event, Lincoln would have the union with or without slavery, but he would have the union. South Carolina thought otherwise and considered Lincoln a danger to its existence as a place utterly dependent upon African labor,  which was no more than the Federal constitution had guaranteed just seventy years before. South Carolina seceded on December 6, 1860. Fort Sumpter surrendered on April 12th.  This was Lincoln’s last causus belli, the other forts having surrendered.  On the 15th, he called from each state to provide 75,000 troops to suppress South Carolina.  The reply of the Governor of Tennessee, on his way out of the union, was “Not one soldier for coercion.”   But the war was on. The southern population flocked to the defense of their country and with that the back-handed defense of the institution that so exacerbated Abolitionist opinion, an institution in whose defense it had in general displayed no fervent interest. The issue was that Lincoln was raising an army against them. Half a million lives later the union was preserved.   

A nation may be defeated but not vanquished.  Bitterness seems to have died quickly, but there survived, among a people who believed in the hand of providence, both acceptance and a  sense of justice defeated, or at least a sense that we survived and were glad we did, our soldiers fought valorously and had a good constitutional cause.  As Walker Percy put it, “I’m glad we lost, but I’m glad we fought.” Thus the period 1890-1910 saw the beginning of the creation of a southern national memory, at the zenith of which was Margaret Mitchell’s 1939 Gone with the Wind, and which persisted into the states rights movement of the fifties.   Along the way there had been Thomas Nelson Page, and the glamorizing of southern history.  Consider the Dallas Confederate memorial, erected in 1896, the year that the United Daughters of the Confederacy was founded in Nashville. The inscription on the south-facing side below the medallion reads, “The brazen lips of Southern cannon thundered an unanswered anthem to the God of Battle.” The northern face is decorated with an anchor, and reads, “It was given the genius and valor of Confederate seamen to revolutionize naval warfare over the earth.” Below the writing, another inscription says, “This stone shall crumble into dust ere the deathless devotion of Southern women be forgotten.” The west side inscription is below an engraving of crossed swords and reads, “The Confederate saber kissed his blade homeward riding on into the mouth of hell.” The east side of the Dallas monument is decorated with crossed rifles, and reads, “Confederate infantry drove bayonets through columns that never before reeled to the shock of battle.”  Thank you, southern ladies.  

Retrospectively, what Lincoln had signed up for, what he would not forego, was the North American version of the nineteenth-century consolidation movement, thank you Hegel.  This same movement inspired the creation of the compact French empire, provinces all new-named, of the same size, and the revolutionary invasion of the rest of Europe, the expansion of the Russian empire to the northwest frontier of India, the consolidation of the non-Austrian German-speaking states into the Prussian Empire, with the consequent sacking of Silesia, Schleswig-Holstein, and the invasion of France in 1870, leading of course to the Third Reich.  Along the way a consolidated Italy featured Mussolini and the invasion of North Africa and Greece.  

It also created the American Empire.    Consolidation was at the least an ambiguous good.  David Bentley Hart was speaking of secularization of the churches, when he wrote “It is hard not to conclude that the chief inner dynamism of secularization has always been the modern state’s great struggle to free itself from those institutional, moral and sacramental allegiances that still held it, even partially, in check, so that it could get on with those mighty tasks—nationalist wars, colonial empires, universal conscription, mass extermination of civilians, and so on. . . .” (Atheist Delusions, 223). Consolidation was an essential step along the way.   

But to return to monuments.  The secular Puritans are right to attack them, although they do not know why.  The monuments of the 1890s were not in celebration of the suppression of anybody, although there is always in southern society, and perhaps elsewhere as well,  a shameful anti-black hostility shared by a narrow range of the lowest rungs of society, which will be here forever—African-Americans rightly call them Crackers.  The monuments were a celebration of the fact that while we had not won we were not defeated and we were and are proud of the men who fought and those who led them.  Obliquely they stand as a reproach to the Lincoln government who, perhaps understandably, would not wait.     


the Newman Option

Talking Points from Text and Talk

April 28, 2018


The Newman Option

The reference is obviously to Rod Dreher’s title The Benedict Option, which recommends as the model for the Church in modernity the Benedictine life, with its notes of single-hearted devotion to God, liturgical solemnity, the nine-fold pattern of prayer, and labor with one’s hands.   Dreher did not suggest that everyone should become a Benedictine, but that this pattern had applications to the life of the laity that were especially appropriate for these spiritually hard times.

            John Henry Newman, on the occasion of his elevation to the Cardinalate in 1878 made a short address that should be read and recommended repeatedly because of its prescience.   Newman saw that the danger to the Church was not the public refutation of its principles but its subtle transformation into a humanitarian project in which the highest virtue was kindness or the desire to avoid pain for oneself and others, the highest concern the goods of this life to which a certain commercial morality was intrinsic, and theology a kind of religious atheism.  He considered this more dangerous than such obviously incarnation-denying heresies as Arianism, because it would seem to be a kind of fulfillment of Christianity for modern times, providing a kind of quasi-religious object for sentiment while ignoring the purpose of the religion of Christ, which is to make us worthy Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven who now live in Christ and who will live with Him forever.  It cannot be said too often that the only movement that has ever significantly gentled the human condition is the living faith of the Church, which from the beginning defended the human person as the property of God, elevated women from chattel to partners, and taught princes to govern as men themselves under judgement.  But it also cannot be said too often that this was never the project of the Church but an effect of Christianity and that to make such goals the purpose of the church is to commit it ultimately to the service of the prince of this world, the final form being that slavery to matter called in our day Marxism or Communism or comfort-soaked capitalist materialism

              If Newman were alive today, he would, I am certain be anxiously concerned, for something new is happening in Rome.  Forces kept at bay since 1814 are having their moment, in which the moves are designed to come to terms with the world.   This is unlike the failings of previous popes, which for the most part have been the failings of powerful men in every age, lust and greed and the desire for domination.  The ‘new paradigm’ indeed has no place in tradition; it undercuts the teaching of the predecessors, derogates common piety, and ridicules the desire for clear teaching.  This is no place to canvass the details, but to Catholics who go to Mass and go to confession more than once a year it is profoundly disturbing.    Newman might say, “This is the end of the pattern I predicted in 1878.”

But he would also say something else; he would say, “Have a little patience.”   

            And this is why at the end of the Biglietto Speech, so named because it was the occasion on which the newly elected cardinal received the ticket or biglietto admitting him to the conclave, after he had painted in vivid colors the catastrophe that was coming, his advice was, “Do nothing.”   Go on your way in faith and hope and charity.  “Christianity has too often been in deadly peril, that we should fear for it in any new trial now.  So far is certain; on the other hand, what is uncertain, and what is commonly a great surprise, when it is witnessed, is the particular mode by which, in the event, Providence rescues and saves His elect inheritance.”  

Newman then lists four of those surprising ways in which Providence has acted to save the elect inheritance.   An apostrophe here.   Let it be admitted that the elect inheritance is not in the end “the Church” as a visible institution but  is the communion of the elect with Christ in heaven, although the Apostolic mission is indeed present there as the foundation of the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:14).  While the historical corporation has no place as such in the Kingdom of Heaven, let it also be admitted that there would be no elect body of saints without the very incarnate apostolic mission which Jesus sent, which was and is itself the mystical body of Christ, joining the faithful to God is Jesus, teaching and governing, destined to exist while the world lasts, sheltering in its arms the elect saints.   Between the corporate body and the kingdom of Heaven there exists an ambiguity, or an effective mystery, which cannot be readily resolved.  Robert Bellarmine said that the Church was “a perfect society.”   The Second Vatican council said in 1965 that the fulness of the faith subsists in the Catholic Church.   This has been variously interpreted, but it offers this grace, it relieves the faithful from believing that the instructions of the diocesan education department necessarily deserve the assent of faith.   

That said, Newman reflects, first, that sometimes danger is averted because the enemy of the Church is turned into a friend.    Of this the obvious example was the conversion of the empire from its program of persecution under Diocletian in 304 to the de facto Christian empire of Constantine in which Christianity was after 313, increasingly the favored faith.   And in a more general way even eighteenth-century enlightenment empires, at heart often deeply anti-Christian, would befriend Christianity, establishing religion as the common conviction and moral ground apart from which the state could not stand. It should also be noticed with respect to the old enemy Protestantism that conservative Protestantism is the only ally the Roman Church can find in the twenty-first century.

Second, there are those events in which the enemy is despoiled of that special virulence of evil that was so threatening.    The project of Enlightenment European princes for making the Church a department of religion was curtailed by the disappearance of the princes in the revolutionary storms of the early nineteenth century.   The threat of Moslem invasion was forestalled by the siege of Malta, Lepanto, and at five-minutes-to-midnight by John Sobieski.  

            Thirdly, there is the fact that systems opposing the Church are very likely after a time to fall apart.   Gnosticism, which threatened to destroy the Church and of which the great doctors of the second and early-third centuries were mightily afraid, exists not unless in the culturally marginalized precincts of the New age and Christian Science and Unitarianism.   It is very difficult now to find an Albigensian, whose dualistic fanaticism seriously endangered the Church in France in the thirteenth century.  And something can be said of Northern European Protestantism, which, however prosperous and pacific it may now be, came on the scene as, among other things, the dedicated enemy of Roman Catholicism. What Voltaire said of English religion in 1800, that the Tories had little religion, which was more than could be said of the Whigs who had none, could now be said of Catholicism and Protestantism in Germany.  The Catholic Church in Germany is on life support, but it is breathing.   In England the bloody two-centuries long campaign to destroy Roman Catholicism has ended in a situation in which, pitiful as the numbers are, more Catholics than Anglicans go to Church on Sunday, the Church of England having imploded in its homeland.  Stamping out Catholicism has been an unprofitable exercise, usually done most effectively from within.  But still it is striking that there were 9,000  Catholics in Norway in 1971 and 100,000 in 2012, which, even given that many of these may be migrant Poles and Mexicans, is remarkable.  Of course none of this apparent persistence means that any particular soul will see the face of God, but the temporal prospects of the Church falls into the same category with “by their fruits you shall know them,” an observation that is not taken to derogate the deeper truth that only God knows his own.  

            Finally, and fourthly, Newman reflects that God may allow the enemy to do just as much as is beneficial, and no more.    Generally, persecution has that effect but what Newman meant, I think, is a situation like the French revolution, which got rid of church establishment whose relation to the Gospel was decidedly ambiguous.  It is certainly true that the religious rebellion of the 1520 drove the Church into the Council of Trent.    Perhaps Pope Francis will with his common touch do good for many. 

            One may justifiably take comfort ln these facts, but these are secondary historical considerations calculated to reinforce a higher truth.   Since the destiny of the Church is always in the hands of God, since the agency of its effectiveness is in only the most derivative and secondary sense a human work, Newman would write, “Commonly the Church has nothing to do but to go on in her own proper duties in confidence and  peace.”   The patient will inherit the earth, and they will rejoice in the plentitude of peace” (Psalm 37:11). 

Would Newman change his mind if he were here now?   He lived and died in a world on horseback in which the train and telegraph were new, knowing nothing of the abstractive ravages of technology that were on the way.   I think he might say something like this:  “What did you expect?  Did you think that Satan having pretty well damaged its offshoots would leave the apostolic, Roman Church alone?.   Be a little patient.  We do not know how God will save his elect.  And remember, He will return.”