Home Articles Golden Oldies Speaking Schedule About Christ or Chaos Links Donations Contact Us

November 28, 2004

Conservatively Correct

by Thomas A. Droleskey

Although he wrote long before the rise of the contemporary media, Pope Leo XIII understood that the popular culture of the latter part of the 19th Century was being taken over by those who believed in naturalism. He also knew that many Catholics in his day were being intimidated into silence on the events then enveloping the world, and he tried to exhort them to a Catholic militancy which is the only basis of restoring all things in Our Blessed Lord and Saviour. Consider the following excerpt from Pope Leo’s Sapientiae Christianae (1890):

But when necessity compels, not those only who are invested with power of [ecclesiastical] rule are bound to safeguard the integrity of faith, but, as St. Thomas maintains, “Each one is under obligation to show forth his faith, either to instruct and encourage others of the faithful, or to repel the attacks of unbelievers.’ To recoil before an enemy, or to keep silence when from all sides such clamors are raised against truth, is the part of a man either devoid of character or who entertains doubt as to the truth of what he professes to believe. In both cases such mode of behaving is base and is insulting to God, and both are incompatible with the salvation of mankind. This kind of conduct is profitable only to the enemies of the faith, for nothing emboldens the wicked so greatly as the lack of courage on the part of the good. Moreover, want of vigor on the part of Christians is so much more the blameworthy, as not seldom little would be needed on their part to bring to naught false charges and refute erroneous opinions; and by always exerting themselves more strenuously they might reckon upon being successful. After all, no one can be prevented from putting forth that strength of soul which is the characteristic of true Christians; and very frequently by such display of courage our enemies lose heart and their designs are thwarted.

Lest one believe that Pope Leo was discussing Christianity generically, consider this:

The chief elements of this duty consist in professing openly and unflinchingly the Catholic doctrine, and in propagating it to the utmost of our power.

Is that being done even by believing Catholics who appear on the "talking head" programs? Sadly, no. Everyone wants to be “respectable.” Everyone wants to get invited back again to engage in more mindless blather. Everyone wants to find some ecumenical or nondenominational way to fight evil. But there is no secular or ecumenical way to fight evil. The evils which afflict us, both individually and collectively, can be fought only with the sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist, and by praying devoutly Our Lady’s Most Holy Rosary. The evils we face are the result, proximately, of the overthrow of the Social Reign of Christ the King as a result of the forces let loose during certain aspects of the Renaissance, the entirety of the Protestant Revolt, the ideologies of the "Enlightenment" and the rise of Freemasonry. This veritable witches' brew of false ideas and beliefs has convinced even believing Catholics into thinking that it is not expedient to mention the Holy Name of the Divine Redeemer, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in "mixed company," especially on television and the radio.

Although I no longer watch any television programs, including the so-called "talking head" shows, I speak to others who tell me the details of what is spoken thereon. It saddened me no end to learn that two fairly well known "conservative" Catholic commentators offered remarks about some sort of scatological "lead-in" to a Monday night football telecast some weeks ago by saying that "some" people might be offended by such suggestiveness, indicating that rules of the Federal Communications Commission had been broken. There was not one mention, evidently, that displays that involve the glorification of sins of impurity are themselves occasions of sin and thus offensive to God and deleterious to the sanctification and salvation of the souls for whom Our Lord shed every single drop of His Most Precious Blood to redeem. Such displays are not merely "offensive" to some viewers. Such displays are not merely matters of breaking the "rules" of the Federal Communications Commission. Such displays are offensive to God and are thus prohibited from being displayed to the public at all. Sadly, though, the two Catholic commentators spoke as though this issue did not involve the overthrow of Catholicism in the world and its replacement by the reign of the devil himself.

These two Catholic commentators could have stated quite clearly that Catholics do believe in censorship, and that it is time for Catholics themselves to start censoring out a culture of eternal death by refusing to participate in any of its offerings, which means shutting off the television once and for all, as in, you see, permanently, forever, in perpetuity. (For a further discussion on "in perpetuity," see Pope Saint Pius V, Quo Primum.) Alas, this is not the "conservatively correct" thing to do.

Even though this will shock a lot of Catholics, censorship is part of the tradition of the Faith. That is, while the Church has always understood that authentic artists must be given a legitimate degree of latitude to express their God-given talents, she has also exercised her right to restrict those things that are patently blasphemous and pornographic. No one has the right to do anything which is violative of the greater honor and glory of God. Anything which blasphemes His divine majesty—or the honor due the Blessed Mother and the saints—is injurious to the well-being of individual souls and of the entirety of social order. It is not true that everyone has the right to do anything he wants to do whenever it is he wants to do it. There are limits which exist in the nature of things beyond which no one can violate legitimately. As Pope Leo XIII noted in Immortale Dei in 1885:

So, too, the liberty of thinking, and of publishing, whatsoever each one likes, without any hindrance, is not in itself an advantage over which society can wisely rejoice. On the contrary, it is the fountain-head and origin of many evils. Liberty is a power perfecting man, and hence should have truth and goodness for its object. But the character of goodness and truth cannot be changed at option. These remain ever one and the same, and are no less unchangeable than nature itself. If the mind assents to false opinions, and the will chooses and follows after what is wrong, neither can attain its native fullness, but both must fall from their native dignity into an abyss of corruption. Whatever, therefore, is opposed to virtue and truth may not rightly be brought temptingly before the eye of man, much less sanctioned by the favor and protection of the law. A well-spent life is the only way to heaven, whither all are bound, and on this account the State is acting against the laws and 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 life, from laws, from the education 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 known 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 not carried out in action.

Why can't just one Catholic who has been given access by God to speak to those who continue to watch television speak in such a way? Why does it not occur to just one Catholic who has been given a position of prominence in public discourse to speak in such a way?

There are some who believe that it is difficult sometimes to distinguish the line between what can be considered legitimate "art" (whether commercial or non-commercial) and what is actual pornography. But the Church in her wisdom has used the sense of the faith to discern that which is legitimate from that which is salacious and an occasion of sin. The standard which has been used traditionally is a relatively simple one: does a work of art or a play give expression to that which is efficacious for the salvation of souls? Is the greater honor and glory of God kept in view? Is the work or the play good in and of itself? Does it promote the cause of sanctity and virtue? Yes, as Pope Pius XI noted in Vigilanti Cura, a 1936 encyclical letter on motion pictures, people are entitled to legitimate forms of entertainment. But those who produce entertainment fare have a responsibility to do nothing which in any way glorifies or promotes sin or the occasions of sin. The same applies to any form of artistic expression. As Pope Pius XI noted in Vigilanti Cura:

Everyone will agree that recreation of body and soul, in the various forms in which this age has made it available, is a necessity to those who are wearied by the business and troubles of life, but it must be consonant with the dignity of man and the innocence of morals, and its object must not be to excite and stir leisure hours to amusements which injure the principles of morality, dignity and honour, and which give occasion for sin, especially to the young, who are surely running a grave risk of impairing their greatness and prestige.

Among such amusements, it must be clear to all, the cinema is of great importance, for in these times it is available to all men. Nor need one calculate how many millions take part in these entertainments every day; the number of cinema theatres is growing rapidly among almost every nation, whether in an advanced or early state of civilisation, and the cinema has become the common form of amusement and recreation, not only for the rich, but for every rank of society. It would not be possible to find anything with so much influence over the people, both on account of the very nature of the pictures projected on the screen, and because of the popularity of the films and the accompanying circumstances.

The power of the cinema is due to the fact that it speaks through the medium of living images, which are assimilated with delight and without difficulty, even by those who are untrained and uneducated, and who would be incapable or unwilling to make the efforts of induction or deduction necessary in reasoning. For to read, or to listen to another reading aloud demands a certain concentration and mental effort; an effort which in the cinema is replaced by the delight of a continuous stream of living images presented to the eyes. This power is accentuated in those films in which the voice accompanies the action, for the action becomes thereby even more easy to understand, and the plot may be developed with the added attraction of music. The dances and the scenes of so-called "variety" introduced in the intervals enhance the mental excitement and provide fresh stimuli.

These theatres, being like the school of life itself, have a greater influence in inciting men to virtue or vice than abstract reasoning. They must therefore be made to serve the purpose of disseminating the right principles of the Christian conscience, and must divest themselves of everything that could corrupt and impair good morals.

All men know how much harm is done by bad films; they sing the praises of lust and desire, and at the same time provide occasions of sin; they seduce the young from the right path; they present life in a false light; they obscure and weaken the wise counsels of attaining perfection; they destroy pure love, the sanctity of matrimony and the intimate needs of family life. They seek moreover to inculcate prejudiced and false opinions among individuals, classes of society and the different nations and peoples.

Why can't just one "conservative" Catholic commentator make reference to this great encyclical letter? Why can't there be any reference to the inescapable fact that the Mother of God, she who is the Immaculate Conception, would never have polluted her eyes with the trash that is displayed on movie screens and television sets? Why can't even one prominent Catholic in public life speak and act like a Catholic, referring all things to the Deposit of Faith that Mary's Divine Son has entrusted to the true Church?

Once again, you see, the old bugaboo of Americanism and constitutionalism comes into play. Many American Catholics have accepted the lie propagated by the popular misrepresentation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. That is, many people think that the rights of free speech and free press mentioned therein protect any form of expression, no matter how vile and blasphemous it is. Sure, an argument can be made that the amendment can be read in the context of the natural law. But when a written document becomes the only standard of what is considered legal and/or moral—and when the divinely instituted authority vested in the Vicar of Christ to direct us on such matters is outrightly rejected—chaos reigns supreme. Even believing, practicing Catholics are wont to react with indifference when confronted with works of art or plays or motion pictures (“Stigmata” and “Dogma” and the "Da Vinci Code" and "Luther" are only four examples of anti-Catholic trash that have been distributed within the past five years) attack the reverence due Our Lord and the Holy Faith. After all, who are we to “impose” our view of decency upon artists? We don’t believe in censorship, do we?

Well, as a matter of fact, yes, we do (or we should) believe in censorship. That which is blasphemous and/or pornographic is destructive of individual souls and hence of social order. As St. Louis IX, King of France, wrote to his son: “Work to remove all sin from your land, particularly blasphemies and heresies.” A Catholic in public life must be Catholic in all that he does, and he has the responsibility to assure that everything in popular culture redounds to the greater honor and glory of God and the salvation of souls. Our secular world has convinced us that such a view is repugnant to the spirit of pluralism and tolerance; alas, it is secularism—and all that it spawns—which is repugnant to the greater honor and glory of God and the salvation of souls.

Someone (perhaps a bishop or a priest, one ordained to bear witness to the truth no matter what it might cost him personally in terms of personal safety and human respect) has got to say:

Look, my fellow Americans. No one has the right to produce and display blasphemous and pornographic works. Period. End of argument. No one has the "right" to sin, and no one has the ‘right’ to lead others into sin—or to glorify sin—by the misuse of their God-given talents for the promotion of perversity and indecency.

It is time, ladies and gentlemen, that we start thinking and acting as Catholics, not as pluralistic Americans afraid to be considered intolerant and judgmental. As the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen noted in 1931, “What the world needs is intolerance.”

We are not one or two elections away from resolving deep-seated societal problems. Humanly speaking, we are a long way away from resolving societal problems, many of which are exacerbated by the liturgical irreverence fostered by the very nature of the Novus Ordo Missae and doctrinal impurity which characterizes much of the Church's life in this country and the world. (The Novus Ordo enshrines spiritual pornography in many instances, especially in various extravaganza Masses.) As disciples of Our Lord and His true Church, however, we must never flinch from doing all we can, in prayer, word and deed, to spur all others, especially those of the household of faith, to see all things through the eyes of faith—and to work with all of the strength He gives us to establish His social reign over us and our fallen, fractured world. How can we think that we are making progress when even traditional Catholics waste their time and pollute their immortal souls by watching television and all of the filth transmitted thereon?

We have no need for mindless blather. We have no need for prominent Catholics to have rostrums from which to speak in the media if they refuse to address the issues that face us squarely and unapologetically as Catholics and not as conservatives desirous of maintaining their public exposure. The Apostles did not care about their public exposure. They cared about fidelity to their Divine Master. So must we.

We have the depositem fidei and the treasury of writing of the Church Fathers and doctors. We have the witness of countless saints and martyrs. It
is time for us to speak and act as Catholics, for all of the mindless blather in the world will never enlighten or save us.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.



© Copyright 2004, Christ or Chaos, Inc. All rights reserved.