Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Orestes Brownson and Homosexual Bishops

Herewith the conclusion of Orestes Brownson's essay.

"Catholicity Necessary to Sustain Popular Liberty," Part X:
Religious Implications, and Conclusion
[Brownson qualifies his argument regarding the safety of democratic liberty under a Catholic culture, and limits its application.]
If we were discussing the question before us as a theologian, we should assign many other reasons why Catholicity is necessary to sustain popular liberty. Where the passions are unrestrained, there is license, but not liberty; the passions are not restrained without divine grace; and divine grace comes ordinarily only through the sacraments of the church. But from the point of view we are discussing the question, we are not at liberty to press this argument, which, in itself, would be conclusive. The Protestants have foolishly raised the question of the influence of Catholicity on democracy, and have sought to frighten our countrymen from embracing it by appealing to their democratic prejudices or, if you will, convictions. We have chosen to meet them on this question, and to prove that democracy without Catholicity cannot be sustained. Yet in our own minds the question is really unimportant. We have proved this inefficiency of Protestantism to sustain democracy. What then? Have we in so doing proved that Protestantism is not the true religion? Not at all; for we have no infallible evidence that democracy is the true or even the best form of government. It may be so, and the great majority of the American people believe it is so; but they may be mistaken, and Protestantism be true, notwithstanding its incompatibility with republican institutions. So we have proved that Catholicity is necessary to sustain such institutions. But what then? Have we proved it to be the true religion? Not at all. For such institutions may themselves be false and mischievous. Nothing in this way is settled in favor of one religion or another, because no system of politics can ever constitute a standard by which to try a religious system. Religion is more ultimate than politics, and you must conform your politics to your religion, and not your religion to your politics. You must be the veriest infidels to deny this.

This conceded, the question the Protestants raise is exceedingly insignificant. The real question is, Which religion is from God? If it be Protestantism, they should refuse to subject it to any human test, and should blush to think of compelling it to conform to any thing human; for when God speaks, man has nothing to do but listen and obey. So, having decided that Catholicity is from God, save in condescension to the weakness of our Protestant brethren, we must refuse to consider it in its political bearings. It speaks from God, and its speech overrides every other speech, its authority every other authority. It is the sovereign of sovereigns. He who could question this, admitting it to be from God, has yet to obtain his first religious conception, and to take his first lesson in religious liberty; for we are to hear God, rather than hearken unto men. But we have met the Protestants on their own ground, because, though in doing so we surrendered the vantage-ground we might occupy, we know the strength of Catholicity and the weakness of Protestantism. We know what Protestantism has done for liberty, and what it can do. It can take of restraints, and introduce license, but it can do nothing to sustain true liberty. Catholicity depends on no form of government; it leaves the people to adopt such forms of government as they please, because under any or all forms of government it can fulfil its mission of training up souls for heaven; and the eternal salvation of one single soul is worth more than, is a good far outweighing, the most perfect civil liberty, nay, all this worldly prosperity and enjoyment ever obtained or to be obtained by the whole human race.

It is, after all, in this fact, which Catholicity constantly brings to our minds, and impresses upon our hearts, that consists of its chief power, aside from the grace of the sacraments, to sustain popular liberty. The danger to that liberty comes from love of the world, -- the ambition for power or place, the greediness of gain or distinction. It comes from lawless passions, from inordinate love of the goods of time and sense. Catholicity, by showing us the vanity of all these, by pointing us to the eternal reward that awaits the just, moderates this inordinate love, these lawless passions, and checks the rivalries and struggles in which popular liberty receives her death blow. Once learn that all these things are vanity, that even civil liberty itself is no great good, that even bodily slavery is no great evil, that the one thing needful is a mind and heart conformed to the mind of God, and you have a disposition which will sustain a democracy wherever introduced, though doubtless a disposition that would not lead you to introduce it where it is not.

But this last is no objection, for the revolutionary spirit is as fatal to democracy as to any other form of government. It is the spirit of insubordination and of disorder. It is opposed to all fixed rule, to all permanent order. It loosens eery thing, and sets all afloat. Where all is floating, where nothing is fixed, where nothing can be counted on to be tomorrow what it is to-day there is no liberty, no solid good. The universal restlessness of Protestant nations, the universal disposition to change, the constant movements of the populations, so much admired by shortsighted philosophers, are a sad spectacle to the sober-minded Christian, who would, as far as possible, find in all things a type of that eternal fixedness and repose he looks forward to as the blessed reward of his trials and labors here. Catholicity comes here to our relief. All else may change, but it changes not. All else may pass away, but it remains where and what it was, a type of the immobility and immutability of the eternal God.

Tomorrow, Concluding Thoughts by SecretAgentMan

No comments: