by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Lecture at the Second Week of Studies of Catolicismo – 1954
“A Roman and Apostolic Catholic, the author of this text submits himself with filial devotion to the traditional teaching of Holy Church. However, if by an oversight anything is found in it at variance with that teaching, he immediately and categorically rejects it.”
The words “Revolution” and “Counter-Revolution” are employed here in the sense given to them by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in his book Revolution and Counter-Revolution, the first edition of which was published in the monthly Catolicismo, Nº 100, April 1959.
We will study the Revolution to find out what liberalism and anti-liberalism are * The Catholic concept of liberty: possibility for the soul to act according to what reason dictates * Our freedom is limited by the roots of the capital vices within us * The most formidably anti-liberal conclusion on Earth: the law that forbids me to do evil protects my freedom * The pagan concept of liberty: man is entitled to act as he wishes, in any direction * The various stages of the suppression of freedom as concessions are made to the capital vice of pride * In its stages, the Revolution gradually curtailed freedom according to the Catholic concept: a repetition of the “non serviam”
A revolt becomes a Revolution when a group of subjects rise up and the danger of an overthrow of authority, civil war and bloodshed is imminent. Then we have a Revolution.
I sustain, with the doctrine maintained and taught by Holy Father Leo XIII in the encyclicals, Parvenu à la vingt cinquième année and Immortale Dei, that the Western world finds itself in a great Revolution with capital R. A Revolution that began in the 16th century and has been continuing until today. A growing Revolution that affects ever larger spheres of man’s life and aims to attain a total Revolution.
I would recommend that you not leave São Paulo without obtaining a copy of the encyclical, sold by Vozes publishers from Petrópolis, titled Catholic Encyclicals, Leo XIII Collection. It is a small and inexpensive booklet containing a very good translation – I can tell you with all certainty because the translation was done by Dona Julinha Ablas, here present.
Let us study the Revolution to find out what liberalism and anti-liberalism are
We should study the causes of this Revolution, which is the liberal Revolution par excellence, to find out what the Counter-Revolution is; and so we need to know what liberalism is and what anti-liberalism is.
We must study this in order to understand in depth the liberalism which Dom Sardá y Salvani deals with in his book on the matter.
But in order to make myself understood, I will adopt the following method of exposition: I will switch from this great historical panorama that involves the lives of whole nations for many centuries, in an extremely complex cultural process rife with miseries, to look at it from an individual standpoint.
Let us first see what the spirit of revolt is like in an individual. How this spirit of revolt is born, how it evolves, what it tends toward, so we can understand what the spirit of revolt in whole nations actually is. And also to facilitate that understanding, I will study this problem: what does the freedom of an individual consist of. The two notions: freedom well understood and freedom erroneously understood. Catholic notion and pagan notion of freedom. All this on the individual plane.
But so that my exposition is less arid, instead of sticking to the exclusively doctrinal domain I will try to give many examples so as not to bore my listeners.
Demonstration of the wisdom and goodness of the Moral Law established by God. What do I call “Morals”? What does the Catholic Church call “Morals”?
Morals are a rule of behavior given by God, Who has the right and power to command us. This rule participates in God’s qualities. God is infinitely wise, God is infinitely good. The rules of morals participate in these qualities of God: they are infinitely wise and infinitely good.
Why are they so wise? Why are they so good? Let us take, for example, a rule: “Thou shalt not kill.”
Why is this moral rule wise? It is wise because of this: It is in my very nature and in the nature of the man with whom I deal, that I do not have upon him a superiority such that his life depends on me. This is obvious. I may be more intelligent than someone else, more cultured, more powerful, richer etc. But in spite of all these superiorities that I may have over someone else, or that he may have over me, this superiority is not as great as to give him the right to kill me. Both men have the same spiritual nature, made by God. One may not kill the other. Take, for example, a man whose intellectual stature, but not moral stature, towers over and above his contemporaries: Winston Churchill. He is a much more intelligent man than these pale little figures that govern the Western world today, little Getulios and people like that. But all that intellectual, I repeat not moral, superiority does not give Winston Churchill the right to kill another man.
However, if Winston Churchill cannot kill, for example, Getúlio Vargas, Winston Churchill can kill a chicken to eat it. For it is not a crime for him to eat the chicken, but it is a crime for him to kill Getúlio Vargas. The reason for this is very simple. It is that Getúlio Vargas is a creature equal to him, made for God. This is in the nature of Getúlio Vargas. It is not in the chicken’s nature to be equal to any man, be it Winston Churchill or any of us. In the chicken’s nature is the fact he was created by God for us. Thus, to kill him is according to the natural order. It is a moral act. It would be immoral or stupid for me to be hungry while the chicken, made for me, a son of God, is just sitting there. That would be a stupidity because the chicken exists for me. It is in his nature that I should kill and eat him.
An example of how far pseudo-humane stupidity can go
I remember I read some days ago in O Estado de São Paulo a news item that shows how far pseudo-humane stupidity can go.
In the United States, a seagull became entangled in high tension lines. Taken up with humane feelings – let us call it that – a man decided to risk his life and climb up the post – I suppose he had rubber gloves, for otherwise I don’t see how he could do that – he climbed up the post and tried to free the seagull. But the seagull justifiably bit his face all over the place, as the crowd watched in awe. Blood was running down abundantly from his face. Finally, he was able to free the seagull, which flew away, but his face was all covered in blood. Certainly the same man, arriving home, had a chicken killed and ate it. He had carried out a selfless action. Was it a wise action? That is a very question altogether.
Why do I say that homicide is a bad action? Why do I say that the principle of morals prohibiting homicide is a good principle? Because the natural order of things forbids killing, the natural order of things shows that a [person’s] nature cannot dispose of another [person’s] nature. The reason, deep down is this: natural order was made by God, and what God makes is good. God created a nature and gave it this order. When we act according to nature, we act in a good way and one can say that we are moral. When we act against the natural order established by God, we act wrongly and against morals. This is not a complete notion of morals but one of its most important elements, which contains a great part of it. So having said that, I can continue giving examples.
Why do I say that to kill [a grownup] is an evil, but to kill a child is worse? Because it is in the child’s nature. If to kill is an evil, to kill a life in progress, in development, is a greater evil. To kill a child is an evil because it is cowardly. By nature, an adult is strong and a child is weak. This abuse of the child’s natural weakness makes the crime worse.
Why do I say, for example, that to kill someone on the basis of a “just” claim is less evil than killing someone on an unjust claim? First let me clarify that though I may have a reason to complain against a person, that does not authorize me to kill him; no reason for complaint could authorize anyone to kill anyone else. But when the complaint is just, the crime is less evil than when the complain is not just. Let us say that I kill someone who insulted my mother or slapped her in my presence. Of course I do not have a right to kill him. But that would be less evil than killing him because he would not give me his money when I assaulted him on the roadside. Obviously. Why? Because it is the natural order of things. All morals are based on the consideration of natural reality. My reason sees what nature commands to be done. And I could, through reason, deduce that these rules were revealed by God in the Decalogue, and that therefore, I know without any doubt what I must do.
The Catholic concept of liberty: the possibility for the soul to act according to the dictates of reason
If I know what I must do, my will is naturally inclined to do it. For example, if I see that I must not kill a child to steal his money, my will naturally tend not to kill him. And I say I am a free man because my intelligence saw, my will willed, and as a result I in fact did not kill the child. What is liberty? In this case, the correct meaning of liberty is the possibility my will has of deliberating and resolving to carry out my actions according to the dictates of reason. This is what I call “liberty.” And this is what Catholic doctrine calls “liberty.”
Common language accepts this concept too. Let us say, for example, that we have a healthy man and a raving mad one: the healthy man sees the child and does not kill him, because he believes he must not. The child comes around the mad man and throws a little paper ball at him; he begins to foam at the mouth, his blood boils, his eyes dilate and he feels he must not kill the child but a whirlwind begins to form in his mind: “But after all, this child, this paper ball…etc.” And that goes in a crescendo until the madman blows up and kills the child. Let us suppose he is really crazy.
I can say that I was free because I did not kill the child; and that he is not free, he is a slave of his madness. Why is this statement fully reasonable and well-founded? For the simple reason that my liberty consists in seeing what reason says and in following it. As the madman has a disorganization in his inner being, he either does not see reason entirely or, when he does, he is unable to follow it. And this is why I say he is not free, but I am free. I say that he is not guilty but I would be. I would be guilty because I am free; he is not guilty because he is not free. These are common concepts.
Our freedom is limited by the roots of the capital vices we have within ourselves
If I consider human defects in light of this concept, I reach this conclusion: each human defect is a limitation of my freedom. Let us take, for example, the seven capital sins. It is not a beautiful list, for they are the seven ugliest things on earth. Neither leprosy, nor the São Paulo “Bienal” art expos are as ugly as the seven capital sins. But let us list them: anger, sloth, pride, envy, covetousness (also known as avarice or greed), lust, and gluttony. This is from the catechism. But I do not think I would be disrespectful to Fr. Pestana, Dom Pedro Henrique, Dona Julinha or any of you if I were to say none of us in this room needs the catechism to learn the impetus of a few of these things. Why? Because we were conceived in original sin and this whole ‘Bienal’ exists within us. We have pride, anger, greed, envy, sloth, gluttony, lust. We have this in ourselves and this limits our freedom.
Let us say someone arrives here who is superior to me and has the right to tell me what to do. For example, Fr. Pestana, who is a priest and therefore, is an authority in the Catholic Church. Pius X teaches us that the Catholic Church is a society of unequals, some of whom were made to govern, teach and sanctify, and the others were made to be governed, taught and sanctified. Therefore, he has the right to teach, which I do not have. Now then, here I am giving you a lecture and, naturally, I am doing it because I believe I am giving you Catholic doctrine. Suppose that when the lecture is over, Fr. Pestana tells me:
— Dr. Plinio, you erred on such point – [looking at Fr. Pestana:] this can happen, you are totally free to do it – such point of Catholic doctrine is not like this.
Let us suppose I were an individual – I am, everybody is – with a tendency to pride; my natural inclination would be to invent some smart alec comment and hurl it at him. And since I am a lawyer and he is not, perhaps it would not be very difficult for me to find a trick and trip him up:
— Look, Fr. Pestana, see this thing or that thing, I have three more arguments.
I would drag this for at least one hour, it would be tiresome, and you all would be left not knowing who was right because at a certain point you would no longer pay attention – I do not mean to say his logic was not superior to mine.
What would have happened in such a case? I would have given in to a temptation of pride. Would I have been a free man? Yes, because I sinned. If I sinned, I was free. But my freedom was limited by pride. My intelligence shows that I must submit to Fr. Pestana. My will would naturally run toward this submission to him. But I have inside myself a bad effervescence that leads me not to want to subject myself to whom I should. This effervescence diminishes my freedom. It is an obstacle to my liberty; it does not suppress it, but diminishes it. My defect diminishes my liberty.
Envy: I see a friend come in the room, let us say my office mate, Dr. Paulo Barros de Ulhoa Cintra, who has just won a 5,000 dollar jackpot in the lotto – something I wish him with all my heart. Let us suppose he comes in the room and says:
— Plinio, I won a 5,000 dollar jackpot.
My first movement of soul:
— 5,000 dollars!!! – Since he is a close friend, I feel somehow involved in this splendid 5,000 dollar trove.
First movement: joy!
Second movement: “But it isn’t mine!”
No way out: it is not mine, it is his. And at this moment, he generously says:
— You know, I will make you a gift of 10 dollars.
It is kind of him.
But I say: “How come? Only 10? He’s got 5,000! And none of this 5,000 is mine, he’s won it all… all I have is 10.”
I am still in legitimate territory:
“Pity I did not draw a 5,000 jackpot. But of course, no one wins two 5,000 jackpots. Two office mates, each winning 5,000? It just doesn’t happen.”
So far, all is legitimate. And here the envy begins:
“If only he hadn’t… I can’t bear this joy of which I am not a part!”
In the afternoon he comes in with a beautiful object. It cost him 10 dollars. He says he bought a house, a car, and is going to Europe. Then he turns to me and says:
— Plinio, did you like your gift?
And I say:
— Paulo, your gift is enchanting. Thank you very much!
Evidently, I need not conclude.
I don’t know if I should take your time with more examples, say, of greed or lust. Lust… just open a magazine, look out a window, Gosh, it suffices to be awake for examples of lust to come through the gates of one’s senses in every way, and even when one is sleeping, dreams persecute us.
Gluttony. The other evening, I was looking at the Fasano Pastry Shop, with its illuminated showcase, all decked out for the occasion – it was Christmas eve – and a bottle of “Napoleon Cognac” dominating triumphantly the whole setup. And outside was a dirty street kid with his nose right against the glass pane, drawling over all those goodies. The attendant came and said:
— Kid, you are soiling the window.
He dragged himself away. Naturally, that boy was dying to eat and probably also to drink. If we were to tell him:
— Hey, look here, this is yours… All this chocolate, sweets, ice creams, and there are also sandwiches, hors d’oeuvres and mayonnaise – probably he would not like mayonnaise a whole lot – and the cookies are over there.
This boy would eat a lot more than would be reasonable. And I am afraid that being a São Paulo street brat he would also drink a lot more than reasonable. What would happen to him? His freedom would have been limited by his gluttony. His intelligence showed him: one must only eat so much and drink so much; but his interior disorder diminished his freedom.
The most formidably anti-liberal conclusion on the face of the Earth: the law that forbids me to do evil protects my freedom
When I reach this conclusion, I see it is a highly unexpected one for liberals. Look that what I am telling you is so limpid and clear – I do not mean I am saying it with clarity or limpidity – but I want to say that in itself it is clear and limpid. All that I am saying is so clear and limpid, that perhaps you are astonished that I am developing this subject with such a luxury of details, something so obvious that any John Doe around the corner would know perfectly well.
But the reason I am developing this with this luxury of details is because I want to establish, upon all this evidence, the most formidably anti-liberal conclusion on the face of the Earth. It is this: I am free to the degree that I act according to my reason and will, and am not free to the degree that my instincts dominate me. Consequently, the law that forbids me to do evil, that takes the occasions to do evil away from me, protects my freedom.
Thus, for example, if a law forbids immoral magazines, that law protects my liberty; it prevents my freedom from being distorted, corrupted and deformed by the roar of my animal instincts that the magazine would unleash. If there is a law obliging bars to close on Sundays at Mass time so everyone can to Mass – some countries in Europe have that law – the law protects the freedom of drunkards; for their intelligence tells them they should go to Church, their will wants to go to Church but their local variants of Brazilian cachaça – firewater – prevent them from going to Church. So by closing the bar I am not diminishing this man’s freedom but increasing it. It is the law that makes man free. Let me give an extreme example to make it very clear: Take a person addicted to morphine. His disordered sensibility is clamoring for the toxic, for the morphine. But his almost enslaved will still whispers to him, as if saying: “Don’t take morphine.” I ask: Which law is the one that protects his freedom: that which says “You can take morphine, as drug trafficking is now legal”? Or the one that says: “You cannot take morphine because drug trafficking has been closed down.”
The law that forbids him to take morphine is the one that protects freedom. On the contrary, the law that does not forbid him to take morphine is the one that betrays, forsakes and disserves his freedom.
Hence, according to the concept of common sense, which is the Catholic concept, since anima humana naturaliter christiana – the human soul is naturally Christian – in the Catholic concept we reach this conclusion: the severe, energetic law that forbids evil and favors good by all possible means is the true liberal law in the good sense of the word, because it favors liberty. On the contrary, the law that allows everyone to do whatever they want is an antiliberal law because it favors the enslaving of human will by human passions. This is the truth of the matter.
In the pagan concept, freedom consists for man in acting as he wishes, in any direction
This is the Catholic concept. What is the pagan concept of liberty? It is different. The pagan concept of liberty, as it circulates out there in a definition which is the creed of today’s world – at least in Europe – is defined in the Larousse dictionary, the spirit of the times in tiny articles, small alphabetized pills placed at everyone’s disposal.
When you want to know what everybody with some culture thinks about things — everybody who has the herd mentality and thus lacks independence – look for it in the Larousse and you will find it. And when you look for the concept of liberty in the Larousse, this is what you find:
“Liberty is a right that man has by his own nature.” I agree. But a right to do what? To act in any direction without any external constraint. This concept is entirely out of line. It is a totally different notion. For example, take a drunkard. He wants to be free. What does his freedom consist of? According to Larousse, it does not consist in the control of his passions by his will. It is the right to get drunk at will, a right to act as he wishes, in any direction, and therefore also to drink without being prevented by anyone. This is liberty. And so we have this cheap, common concept of liberalism. What is it? Liberty is this: I have neither annoyances nor brakes, I am loose.”
Free to them means loose, unimpeded. And deep down it means unbridled. I am loose. Do I want to eat too much? I eat. Do I want to drink too much? I drink. Do I want to steal? I steal. Do I want to read immoral things? I read. And later, if I want to do all the immoral things the immoral readings suggest, I do them. I am unbridled. This pagan concept is the opposite of our concept. It means: “Disorderly human passions are licit in their disorder. They must not be opposed. Everyone should be allowed to do what is enjoyable; and everything that forbids what is enjoyable is anti-liberal.” So here you have the concept of anti-liberal that today’s vulgar ambience multiplies out there.
Applied examples of the pagan concept of freedom
I am a professor. A student comes and asks:
— Professor, is smoking allowed?
I know that smoking is enjoyable to smokers and not smoking is hard. When I smoked I would go out during a movie to smoke a bit and return, missing part of it, so used I was to smoking. So I consider it very arduous to attend classes without smoking.
Now then, I see before me a student who is asking permission to smoke. Of course I understand that if he would like to smoke it is because he feels the way I felt when a smoker. My concept of liberty: “You know one is not allowed to smoke during class because it is neither respectful nor correct; your intelligence tells you that and deep down your will would like to adhere to it. But your disorder is leading you to smoke at the wrong time. I will protect your freedom and so my answer is:
— No, sir! You not only may not smoke, but your question is so extravagant that you are even forbidden to ask if you can smoke.”
He sits down and comments with a colleague: “How anti-liberal this professor is!”
For example, a child sees another child going to an afternoon movie theater where some suspect films will be shown. He sees the main actor, posters, titles and all those things that make a child light up – if you tell him there will be a catechism class, he does not get all excited like that. The child goes to his mother or father and says:
— Daddy, mom, today they’re showing “The Atrocious Bandit,” or “The Murdered Lady,” all my colleagues are going to see it, all the girls too, they’ve already formed a most exciting group, we’ll meet at the theater’s ticket counter and go in together. We’ll watch this movie. It’s a delicious thing to do!”
The mother says:
— No, you can’t go.
In our concept she is a liberal mother because she protected the freedom of her children. In their concept: “What a tyrant and executioner she is; poor boy, he wanted so much to go, what a shame! He couldn’t go because his mom wouldn’t let him.”
In our concept, a liberal head of state is one who orders Protestant and schismatic churches closed, as well as macumba joints and all kinds of sects rife all over Brazil. Churches of Japanese bonzes, Islamic mosques, everything closed. Worship only in private homes. Anti-Catholic propaganda? Forbidden. Only Catholic things can be printed and distributed. Our concept of liberty: “God does not deny his grace to anyone; a Catholic man knows that the Catholic Church is the true Church, yet his freedom is solicited and weakened by instincts that lead him to apostatize. To protect his freedom is to eliminate Protestant, spiritist propaganda etc.”
Their concept: “Man can freely plunge into religion as well he pleases.” He picks his religion as one who chooses from a buffet of cold cuts the meats he wants on his plate. And so anyone who wants to forbid other religions from functioning in certain countries is anti-liberal.
I do not know if you perceive where the rubber hits the road. It is that we, with our concept of liberty, want to lead man to do good, to obey the law, to have brakes. With their concept of liberty, they want to favor only what is pleasant, delicious, and only what caters to imagination and the senses. This is the point of division between the Revolution and the Counter-Revolution.
Let me now exemplify with the Catholic Church. I will switch from very down-to-earth examples to something a bit more elevated. Regarding God, the Catholic Church commands me to believe the following:
- a) God exists. This is our first affirmation.
- b) God is personal and transcendent. Later we will examine these two statements in greater depth.
- c) It was God who made Revelation. The revealing God, let us say.
- d) God became incarnate in the human nature of Our Lord Jesus Christ. So we have God Incarnate.
- e) God founded the Catholic Church.
- f) Finally, we have the Church: God established the Pope to preside over the Catholic Church.
These are some essential points of our faith.
Now, suppose I am an extremely proud man, with an unbridled pride. I do not like to see anyone above me; I do not like to admit superiority; I do not like to admit authority. The mere idea that someone is more than me torments me.
I once saw a very interesting profession of faith in a barber shop – I like very much to hear a barber talk because that is where you see the manifestations of certain mentalities in their primitive naïveté, their celula mater. So a man, who thought he was very beautiful, said: “I am like this: I do not deem myself superior to anyone, but I do not consider anyone superior to me – not even God.”
He is madly proud. He is so proud that he detests superiority even when he is superior. What he wants is for no one to command anyone because any authority torments him, even when he exercises it.
A man like that can be led to atheism, to denying the existence of God. He dislikes the idea that a God exists. This God will ask him for accounts, for satisfaction, it’s disagreeable, he does not want that. So he eagerly grabs onto any argument against the existence of God, finding it well-founded: “Look, this is true, that also is true.” He winds up falling into atheism.
If he has not reached extreme atheism, he will not deny that God exists but will deny another point: that God is personal and transcendent. “God does exist. But what is God? God is humanity, God is nature, God is not a person. We are all God. God is a principle out there, of which I am part.”
His consolation: “God exists, but I am God too. I am a little piece of God.”
This is not a complete solution, but an accommodation.
If he is not that daring, he will not deny the existence of a personal and transcendent God, but he will at least deny Revelation. He will deny the Bible. Because the Bible, for a proud man, is something horrible. He reads those teachings, does not agree with some things, and will not make this act of humility: “I am wrong because my intelligence is subject to error, and this is where the truth is; this book tells the truth;” this is hard for a proud man to do. The proud man is stubborn, obstinate. Result: he denies at least Revelation.
Something else which is hard: he also denies the Incarnation. “Jesus Christ on the cross is all right, but after all I see Him as a man, I see nothing in Him but a man. How can I, seeing in Him only a human nature like my own, kneel before Him and say: ‘My God’? Why? Why, after all, if we are equivalent? I already adore myself, why adore Him? Not me!”
If he received a very profound Christian formation, he can even admit the Incarnation but will stumble on at least another point: the Catholic Church. “This question of Pope, priests, bishops who teach, govern… and me there with a yoke around my neck: do this, do that… yes sir…”
“Our Lady was defined to have been exempted from original sin, but no one asked me about it… Now Pius XII has defined the Assumption. Did he ask me what I think of all this? No. He never saw me. He does not know that I exist. From Rome comes a revelation:
‘Everyone has to believe that Our Lady went up to Heaven in her body’. Why? Because he thinks so. He decreed it! Me? Believe such a thing? With my lucidity, the integrity of my personality, my broad individual resources, me accept such a thing? No sir, not that.
“All right. Jesus Christ did exist, He became incarnate, he was God, I’ll grant you that much. But to swallow this question of a dogma made by someone else? Why am I such an intelligent, independent man?” Any beggar on the street thinks he is just as intelligent. Because everyone sees himself as most intelligent.
“If at least it was the bishops who gathered and discussed at a council, with some study, then I could follow, form my own opinion, that might work.
But the hardest thing is this: there is a Pope. And he alone, from his own head and with his own head, decides: ‘this thing is a dogma.’ Come on, hurry up, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, make your act of faith because he has decided. There was no discussion, nothing at all. He resolved it. Plinio, you have to tow the line or you will be anathema. What sort of business is this?”
In its various stages the Revolution gradually curtailed liberty according to the Catholic concept: a repetition of the “non serviam”
You see that all this is an open heaven for us and for every faithful soul who wishes to govern his independence and who practices humility. But to a proud man this is like a barbed wire fence that cuts him from all sides. Here you have a first element of the history of the Revolution.
In his encyclical, Immortale Dei, Leo XIII says:
“There was a time when the philosophy of the Gospel governed the states. In that epoch, the influence of Christian wisdom and its divine virtue permeated the laws, institutions, and customs of the peoples, all categories and all relations of civil society. Then the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, solidly established in the degree of dignity due to it, flourished everywhere thanks to the favor of princes and the legitimate protection of magistrates.
“Then the Priesthood and the Empire were united in a happy concord and by the friendly interchange of good offices. So organized, civil society gave fruits superior to all expectations, whose memory subsists and will subsist, registered as it is in innumerable documents that no artifice of the adversaries can destroy or obscure.”
I do not want to make this too long, but you see the praise Leo XIII makes of the Middle Ages. It is not us saying it, it is a praise made by one of the Popes considered to have been one of the most intelligent and scholarly the Church has ever had.
When the revolt started the whole world accepted that, the whole Christian world agreed with those truths: humility existed. When did the revolt start? It started from the bottom up. It started by denying the supremacy of the Pope over all the faithful. The revolt began with a Michael Cerularius, patriarch of Constantinople from 1043 to 1058. What is it that Cerularius and the authors of the schism of the Orient affirmed? Everything: “There is the infallible Church, Incarnation, Revelation, transcendence, Providence, except this: the complete government of the Church by the Pope. So we had a first negation that drove the Orientals, Russians and Byzantines, from the Church.
Then, in the 16th century we had a second negation; not only the Pope was rejected but the infallibility of the Church herself. Then the revolt went deeper and we had Protestantism, which swept away Sweden, Norway, Denmark, a good part of Holland, a good part of France, a good part of Switzerland, England and Scotland. In Central Europe, part of Hungary, part of Czechoslovakia, a little bit of Yugoslavia in that area etc.
But the negation did not stop there. Pride, rising a notch, became more and more audacious; and from the sickly and evil entrails of Protestantism was born an even worse and more monstrous offshoot. In the 18th century, with Voltaire and his henchmen, deism began to appear. They did not deny that God exists or that God is personal, but they affirmed that Jesus Christ was not God, that He revealed nothing, that the whole Christian religion is false, and that only a personal God exists.
That was a generation of monsters, each son worse than his father. In the 19th century, with scientism and materialism there appeared what we see today: atheism, at times disguised in pantheism, at times in a vague naturalism, but in one way or another, if it is not atheism, it is almost completely atheism.
This is a rising tide of pride, a rising tide of revolt that wants no one above it, wants to be dominated by no one and which has been shouting against God for centuries and centuries, with ever growing energy, the cry of the rebel angels in Heaven: “Non serviam!” I will not serve! I will not serve but will refuse the Catholic religion as a whole because it curtails my pride and my revolt.”
The same revolutionary process is applied to the position of the State vis-à-vis the Church: limiting true freedom
That which we could say about man’s position toward the faith, we could also say of the State regarding the Church. The position of the State vis-à-vis the Church is this: the most elementary duty the State has toward the Church is to give her freedom to exist and to function. The State acts a little better when it recognizes that the Church is an independent society that has no obligation at all to obey the State in anything, that is to say, that she is a sovereign society and the only true Church, and the other churches are false.
And the State acts perfectly when it goes farther and recognizes the Church has a power in the State’s sphere to the degree that it can affect the salvation of souls. In other words, laws made by the State are null when contrary to the doctrine of the Church. Certain perfectly orthodox treatise authors sustain that when a State makes a law against the doctrine of the Church, the Pope not only has the right to declare it null and void – everyone accepts that – but the Pope can even make a law for that country replacing the erroneous law. That is the fullness of the rights of the Church in civil society.
What has happened is that the same process of revolt of man against God took place opposing the State to the Church. In the 15th century, legists denied the Pope’s right to legislate to countries and to interfere in their legislation. Later, in the 17th and 18th centuries we had a free Church in a free State. This is the least possible degree [of freedom], which we have in Brazil. The State does the Church the great favor of not coercing her and of giving her the same freedom as to an association of stamp or butterfly collectors. The associations of manicures and pedicures, guitar and violin players have the same rights as the Catholic Church and we are in awe: “What a great freedom!” We have as much freedom as any fly-by-night society of firewater peddlers. “Who could ask for more? We are perfectly free!”
But even this freedom ends up by being destroyed. How is it destroyed? By communism or by Nazi totalitarianism – which are the same thing: “The Church is enslaved and declared abolished. The State commands the Church.”
I could also exemplify with morals, were it not for the late hour. I brought from Portugal a most curious engraving that would be interesting to show here. It depicts two ladies in the 19th century walking on a beach in bathing suits. What ladies, what suits, what beach! The two alone, on an empty beach, wearing fluffy rubber overalls all the way to the feet.