Rorate Caeli

The West: preliminary musings

One could consider Saint Augustine, Saint Benedict, and Saint Gregory the Great as Fathers of the Western Civilization. They, their deeds, their thoughts built Europe -- Latin and Catholic -- and, on and beyond Europe, Christendom and its civilization, the Western Civilization.

Which of the following people, our contemporaries, would any of these great saints most likely recognize as a member of his civilization?

(a) A feminist Dutch lesbian urbanite;

(b) A devout Kentuckian Protestant minister;

(c) A devoutly Catholic Mexican farmer.

I believe I know the answer...


Tomasz said...

C as in Cigar?

JSarto said...

C)?... Certainly C) y VIVA CRISTO REY!

the Savage said...

But wait... I think an Augustine or a Benedict would recognize A) and B) as familiar types. A) would remind them of Gnostic or Manichean philosophers, trying to argue against the reality of human nature in an appeal to a wonderful speculative abstraction. B) would remind them of various Christian heretics and schismatics - Montanists, Donatists, Arians - who put their own interpretations of Scripture above the tradition and wisdom of the Church. They would recognize the Mexican farmer as a fellow Catholic, but the Kentucky pastor and the Dutch feminist are most certainly Western in their errors.

Jeff said...

Sounds like a response to Lawrence Auster at View from the Right, says my wife. I agree. Are we right?

New Catholic said...

Savage, "most likely"? As members of the new Christian civilization they were trying to build with their own hands?... Or as signs of the decadence they were trying to overcome?

C is certainly the answer. More on that in a few days (hopefully), when we discuss the erroneous notions of "West" and "Western world".

¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Boko Fittleworth said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Screwtape said...

This actually has some relevance. There were more than a few who saw ahead, but few expressed it quite as eloquently.

Following is a letter written in August 1954, cropped from a book entitled Odyssey of a Friend, Whittaker Chambers Letters to William F. Buckley, Jr. 1954-1961. (I may be breaking some copyright law somewhere, but, in ignorance, I'll risk it.)

In the late 60's I contacted Buckley to tell him how much I liked Chambers’ Witness, and in response, Buckley was kind enough to send me a copy of the book, autographed by him, from which the extraction is taken.

By the way, if you’ve never read Witness, you’ve missed something. The late Alistair Cook called it the greatest autobiography of the century; the “Forward in the Form of a Letter to my Children” is one of the more magnificent pieces of prose you’ll ever find.

The beginning of the letter is somewhat mundane, but I’ll include it just for the sake of completion. I have forgotten who Butterfield might be, if I ever knew, and I’m no longer able to explain who John Chamberlain was, though once I could have. Chambers’ comments on Camus are insightful. Poor Camus. He almost once became a Catholic. According to a reliable source, Chambers “poped” before he died. I’m no longer sure, but I think the source was Buckley. Of course, there’s a real question as to how much of a Catholic Buckley is; “but that,” as the old man says at the end of Kipling’s The Jungle Book, “is another story.”

Dear Bill,

Thank you for the books, and, particularly, for your kindness in sending them. Camus is stunting in an intellectual glider, riding the currents of the tricky, upper air. I admire his skill in the qualified way with which we admire a skill we shall never be capable of, which seems to have little relevance to us, and which (perhaps because of our limitations) seems to have little to do with reality. But Butterfield has both feet firmly on the ground. I am reading him with interest. His grasp of what Marx means seems singular, coming from such a quarter; and my friend, John Chamberlain, should be made to read that chapter every morning before breakfast.
Of course, I wrote you a long letter as soon as Camus came, and added a few paragraphs with each Butterfield book. Yesterday, I did you the kindness to burn it. From it I shall pick up only one point, touched on by you in one of your letters. No, I no longer believe that political solutions are possible for us. I am baffled by the way people still speak of the West as if it were at least a cultural unity against Communism though it is divided not only by a political, but by an invisible cleavage. On one side are the voiceless masses with their own subdivision and fractures. On the other side is the enlightened, articulate elite which, to one degree or other, has rejected the religious roots of the civilization – the roots without which it is no longer Western civilization, but a new order of beliefs, attitudes and mandates. In short, this is the order of which Communism is one logical expression, originating not in Russia, but in the culture capitals of the West, reaching Russia by clandestine delivery via the old underground centers in Cracow, Vienna, Berne, Zurich and Geneva. It is a Western body of belief that now threatens the West from Russia. As a body of Western beliefs, secular and rationalistic, the intelligentsia of the West share in, and are therefore always committed to a secret emotional complicity with Communism of which they dislike, not the Communism, but only what, by the chances of history Russia has specifically added to it – slave labor camps, purges, MVD [an earlier version of the KGB] et al. And that, not because the Western intellectuals find them unjustifiable, but because they are afraid of being caught in them. If they could have Communism without the brutalities of ruling that the Russian experience bred, they have only marginal objections. Why should they object? What else is socialism but Communism with the claws retracted? And there is positivism. What is more, every garage mechanic in the West, insofar as he believes in nuts and bolts but asks: “The Holy Ghost, what’s that?” shares the substance of those same beliefs. Of course, the mechanic does not know, when he asks: “The Holy Ghost, what’s that?” that he is simply echoing Stalin at Teheran: “The Pope – how many division has the Pope?” That is the real confrontation of forces. The enemy – he is ourselves. That is why it is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within. That is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that something else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what is was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of hope and truth.


P.S. Chambers was once upon a time the Literary Editor of TIME magazine; then under the control of the originator, Henry Luce. He was also on the staff of NATIONAL REVIEW when Buckley founded the magazine in 1954. The once famous Alger Hiss case is now long forgotten, but Chambers was the major figure in that saga, proving that Hiss was a Communist high in the Truman Administration – Hiss was the head of the group that founded the United Nations in 1945. No more need be said on that!

The above is among the more perspicacious statements ever made by a writer who was renowned for being as perceptive as he was eloquent. He was among the great prose writers of our time. In addition, he knew the truth, respected the truth, and told it . . . and paid a terrible price.

For the record: Communism is as alive today, in multifarious forms, as it ever was. As for the West . . . .