One of the many consequences of the Protestant Revolt was the rise of nationalism, which has burgeoned into a gigantic exercise in the idolatry of the mythologies associated with a particular nation and/or ethnicity. Nationalism and patriotism are not the same things. And it is important for these two concepts to be distinguished in order to understand how many Catholics are confusing the two in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks upon the United States and subsequent events with anthrax scares and other threats.
As I have noted so frequently in recent years, a Catholic is called to love his country. However, one's love for country is premised upon willing its good. And the ultimate good of any nation is her Catholicization, which involves her total subordination to the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ and the authority of His true Church on matters of faith and morals and on matters of fundamental justice founded in the splendor of Truth Incarnate. A nation which is founded on the specific and categorical rejection of the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ and the authority of His true Church is bound to degenerate over the course of time to the point of being susceptible to decay from within and attacks from without. Pope Leo XIII noted this in his great encyclical letter on the State, Immortale Dei, in 1885:
"A well-spent life is the only passport to Heaven, whither all are bound, and on this account the State is acting against the laws and the dictates of nature whenever it permits the license of opinion and of action to lead minds astray from truth and souls away from the practice of virtue. To exclude the Church, founded by God Himself, from the business of life, from the power of making laws, from the training of youth, from domestic society, is a grave and fatal error. A State from which religion is banished can never be well regulated; and already perhaps more than is desirable is know of the nature and tendency of the so-called civil philosophy of life and morals. The Church of Christ is the true and sole teacher of virtue and guardian of morals. She it is who preserves in their purity the principles from which duties flow, and by setting forth most urgent reasons for virtuous life, bids us not only to turn away from wicked deeds, but even to curb all movements of the mind that are opposed to reason, even though they be note carried out in action."
To point this out is not to express hatred for one's country. The plain fact of the matter is that the United States of America was founded in the wake of the Protestant Revolt and the rise of Freemasonry. Although there was a surface veneer of Protestant Christianity extant in its popular culture at the time of the Founding, therein lies the problem. Protestantism of its nature rejects the authority of a visible, hierarchical Church which has been entrusted by the God-Man to direct all men and their civil societies until the end of time. Although the Church teaches that men are free to choose whatever specific institutional arrangements they deem appropriate, she teaches also that men must arrange their civil governments to take cognizance of the subordination of all civil and social life to the power of the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ exercised by the Supreme Pontiff and those bishops in full communion with him. For just as being in a state of sanctifying or habitual grace is the necessary precondition for true personal happiness here in this vale of tears and for eternal happiness in Heaven, so is the Social Kingship of Christ the necessary precondition for the right ordering of the civil life of men and their nations. Being in a state of grace at one moment in life is no guarantee that a person will persevere in such a state until the moment of death. We must work out our salvation in fear and in trembling. Similarly, a recognition of the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ is no guarantee that fundamental justice founded in truth will be pursued consistently over the course of time. Nevertheless, both are the necessary requisites for the good of souls individually and collectively, which is why we must be assiduous to grow in sanctity personally and vigilant in defending the rights of Christ the King and His true Church socially.
As I noted in a previous issue: Empires come and go, including ours!, a nation which promotes evil under cover of law and within every aspect of its popular culture makes itself more vulnerable to attacks from terrorists who have no more regard for the sanctity of innocent lives living within a country deemed to be their enemy than that nation has for the innocents it puts to death under cover of law. To point this out is far from a violation of the patriotism required by the natural law. Indeed, would a citizen of Nazi Germany or of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have been guilty of a lack of patriotism for pointing out how the evil perpetrated by these terrorist states made those states unworthy of defense? Were the precepts of love of country explicated by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologicae violated by citizens of dictatorships who criticized the evils perpetrated under cover of law? Are citizens who refuse to engage in the military defense of a nation guilty of crimes against innocent life within its own borders similarly guilty of a lack of patriotism? As Pope Leo XIII noted in Sapientiae Christianae in 1890, we are citizens of the Church before we are citizens of a particular nation. And it is because of our heavenly citizenship that we are obligated to resist unjust laws and to refuse to cooperate with civil authorities who try to enforce those laws. "Thereby he (Saint Paul) openly declares that if laws of men contain injunctions contrary to the eternal law of God, it is right not to obey them. . . . Wherefore, to love both countries, that of earth below and that o heaven above, yet in such mode that he love of our heavenly surpass the love of our earthly home, and that human laws be never set above the divine law, is the essential duty of Christians, and the fountain-head, so to say, from which all other duties spring."
A nation has the natural law right to defend itself, being careful to observe the conditions summarized in the Just War Theory
(the existence of a real and imminent threat from an aggressor, the exhaustion of all peaceful means to resolve a dispute short of the use of armed force, a prudential judgment made concerning the reasonable chance for the success of the use of such armed force in the pursuit of a legitimate end for the prosecution of justice and restoration of order, the proportionality of the good end sought in light of the foreseen evil to be done by the use of armed force, all reasonable steps taken to assure the safety of non-combatants, and the cessation of armed conflict as soon as possible).
Indeed, a nation has the duty to defend itself and its citizens and to bring to justice those responsible for criminal acts committed by foreign invaders or terrorists. Catholics are not pacifists. However, no amount of armed force is going to secure a nation which is itself acts terroristically against its own innocent citizens and which promotes the evils of contraception and sterilization here and around the world. It is delusional to think that the United States is going to "eradicate" its enemies abroad when it has made itself an enemy of Christ the King and Blessed Mary our Queen by its embrace of the very evils which caused our Lord to suffer once on the wood of the Cross and which wound His Mystical Body, the Church, today: sin. As I note so frequently, it is one thing to sin and to seek out the mercy of Christ in the confessional. It is quite another to persist in sin unrepentantly, worse yet to promote it under cover of law as a civil right and to export it abroad by means of international aid programs.
Could it not be the case that the terrorism being visited upon us by infidels is a chastisement by God for our indifference to our promotion of sin under cover of law? We endorse the mystical destruction of Jesus Christ in the wombs of mothers day in and day out in this country and around the world. We endorse contraception and in vitro fertilization and embryonic stem-cell research and sterilization here and around the world. We embrace sodomy and celebrate it as an "alternative life style." To wit, Secretary of State Colin Powell used the swearing-in ceremony of the new American ambassador to Romania, a homosexual, to introduce the man's homosexual "partner." Abortion and sodomy are two of the sins which cry out to Heaven for vengeance. Do we really think God is pleased with the United States? Do we really think that we are immune from the same currents which brought down the Roman Empire, currents which were described in very graphic terms by Saint Augustine in The City of God? Thus, it is not unpatriotic to come to the conclusion that while this nation has the right to defend itself and to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of innocent human beings in terrorist attacks such efforts of self-defense are ultimately bound to fail as long as we promote evil with abandon here and abroad. More and more enemies from abroad will be raised up as long as we continue to make ourselves enemies of the Cross of Christ and His true Church.
Some priests tell us that we have a right to be angry about the events which have befallen our nation and taken so many thousands of lives (and affected thousands upon thousands of other lives). There is such a thing as justified anger. Catholics are supposed to understand, however, that we are to transcend our justified anger when we are aggrieved individually or collectively. Yes, instances of injustice must be redressed according to the principles of strict justice. But they must also be addressed according to the principles of charity. That is, we must at all times will the good of those who have aggrieved us. The good thief won Heaven. Saint Stephen's prayers won the conversion of Saul. The Rosaries prayed by countless Catholics won the conversion of Bernard Nathanson. We cannot persist in anger, which is, after all, one of the seven capital sins. We can convince ourselves that some injustice is so great that it justifies our persistence in anger long after the commission of the act (and sometimes long after the aggressor has expressed contrition and has been punished for his transgressions). This is not of Christ at all. Permit me to explain.
There is a difference between acts committed against individuals and those which have a larger dimension on the social level. That is, our approach with those who sin against us individually must be the same one our Lord took with the woman caught in adultery. He told her that He did not condemn her for her sin. However, He also told her that she was to sin no more. Our Lord understood the woman's weakness, as He understands ours. He simply did not reaffirm her in her sins. His grace is sufficient for all of us to reform our lives and to scale the heights of sanctity. He extends His mercy to us in the Sacrament of Penance without anger or vituperation. We must have that same spirit of mercy to those who sin against us. "It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice." As the late Father John A. Hardon, S.J., noted, "God permits us to sin so that we can show mercy to each other. Let me repeat myself: God permits us to sin so that we can show mercy to each other." Our own recognition of our sinfulness and our constant need for God's mercy is supposed to make us compassionate toward others who demonstrate their weakness when dealing with us. Although we owe a debt to God for our forgiven sins, the sins themselves are wiped out in the confessional. They no longer exist. The same is true for those who sin against us. And while we are not required to restore to our friendship those who have injured us, we are nevertheless required to offer them forgiveness from our hearts, praying constantly for their temporal and eternal good. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." To act in any other manner is simply to act as though the Incarnation and Redemption have never taken place.
Those who commit acts against society owe a debt not only to God but to society. A person who, for example, kills thousands of people can make a good confession and be reconciled to the Father through the Son in Spirit and in Truth. However, he still owes a natural debt in strict justice to society. The price of that debt might be his own life. The survivors of the ones killed by such an aggressor (or aggressors) must offer their forgiveness. Nevertheless, such surviving relatives are acting well within the bounds of the precepts of the natural law to seek a vigorous prosecution of an aggressor (or aggressors). In this case, you see, a natural sense of justified anger is supernaturalized by praying for the conversion of the aggressor while at the same time it becomes a vehicle for the administration of justice by civil authorities.
Even justified anger, however, can be a very dangerous weapon. It can lead to the hardening of hearts and to the triumph of personal pride. A justified anger over terrorist attacks committed by foreigners upon our own citizens might-when coupled with a distorted nationalism-wind up blinding us to the responsibility our own nation bears for making itself so vulnerable to a possible chastisement from God for our continued, unrepentant promotion of sin under cover of law and within every precinct of our popular culture. We might even wind up seeking God's protection and blessing for us so that we can make our nation safe for its continued offenses against the binding precepts of the Divine positive law and natural law. And we might wind up believing that armed force in and of itself will restore a national security that has been eroded as a direct result of our own crimes against the innocent and by the blasphemies and outrages committed in the name of civil liberty and religious indifferentism.
While we pray for the safety of our troops and of our nation, we must nevertheless remind ourselves constantly that the only sure foundation for peace is to be found in Christ the King and Mary our Queen. The only sure formula to defeat the terrorism of our ancient Adversary is to follow our Lady's Fatima peace plan. We ignore that plan at our own peril.
To reiterate the wisdom of Pope Leo XIII:
"A well-spent life is the only passport to heaven, whither all are bound, and on this account the State is acting against the laws and the dictates of nature whenever it permits the license of opinion and of action to lead minds astray from truth and souls away from the practice of virtue. To exclude the Church, founded by God Himself, from the business of life, from the power of making laws, from the training of youth, from domestic society, is a grave and fatal error. A State from which religion is banished can never be well regulated; and already perhaps more than is desirable is know of the nature and tendency of the so-called civil philosophy of life and morals. The Church of Christ is the true and sole teacher of virtue and guardian of morals. She it is who preserves in their purity the principles from which duties flow, and by setting forth most urgent reasons for virtuous life, bids us not only to turn away from wicked deeds, but even to curb all movements of the mind that are opposed to reason, even though they be note carried out in action."
The exclusion of the true Church from the life of this nation is proving itself to have been a grave and fatal error. How many more innocent lives must perish within our own borders at our own hands before Catholics come to understand the necessity of working very publicly for the Triumph of Christ the King and the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the lives of individuals and in the life of our nation?
by Thomas Drolesky, from Christ of Chaos