Post by Initiation on Apr 20, 2020 22:17:42 GMT
They Have Uncrowned Him
Does the Law Oppress Liberty?
“Liberty consists in the fact that, by the help of the civil laws, we can live more easily according to the prescriptions of the eternal law.” – Pope Leo XIII
I could not give a better summary of the disasters produced by Liberalism in every domain, such as they are exposed in the preceding chapter, than by quoting to you this passage from a Pastoral Letter of bishops dating from a hundred years ago, but so very up-to-date a century later.
“At the present hour, Liberalism is the chief error of the intellects and the dominant passion of our century. It fashions an infected atmosphere which envelops the political and religious world on all sides, which is a supreme peril for society and for the individual.
An enemy of the Catholic Church as gratuitous as it is unjust and cruel, it heaps up in a bundle, in an insane disorder, all the elements of destruction and of death in order to banish it all from the earth.
It falsifies ideas, corrupts judgements, adulterates consciences, enervates characters, inflames passions, subjugates governments, stirs up the governed, and, not content to put out (if that were possible) the torch of revelations, it moves forward, unconsciously and boldly, to extinguish the light of natural reason itself.”
The Liberal Principle
But is it possible to discover, among such a chaos of disorders, in an error so multiform, the fundamental principle that explains it all? I have told you, following Father Roussel, “The Liberal is a fanatic of independence.” That is it. But let us attempt to state it precisely.
Cardinal Billot, whose theological treatises were the books I studied at the Gregorian University and at the French Seminary in Rome, has devoted to Liberalism a few energetic and luminous pages of his treatise on the Church. He expresses as follows the basic principle of Liberalism:
“Liberty is the fundamental possession of man, quite sacred and inviolable, which it is not all permitted to harm by any coercion whatever. As a consequence, this freedom without limit must be the immovable stone on which all the elements of the relations among men will be organized, the immutable norm according to which all things will be judged from the point of view of the law. Consequently, everything that in a society will have the principle of the inviolate individual liberty as a basis will be equitable, just, and good. All the rest will be iniquitous and wicked. That was the thought of the perpetrators of the revolution of 1789, a revolution whose bitter fruits the entire world still tastes. That is the whole object of the “Declaration of the rights of man,” from the first line up to the last. For the ideologues it was the necessary point of departure for the complete rebuilding of society in the political order, in the economic order, and above all in the moral and religious order.
But, you will say, is not liberty a characteristic of intelligent beings? As a consequence, is it not right that the basis of the social order is derived from it? Be careful, I will reply! Of which liberty are you speaking? For this term has several meanings, which the Liberals strain their ingenuity to confuse. Therefore, we have to distinguish.”
There is liberty and liberty…
Let us then do a little philosophy. The most elementary reflection shows us that there are three kinds of liberty.
1. First, psychological liberty, or free will, proper to beings provided with intelligence, which is the faculty of turning one’s mind towards such or such a good independently of all interior necessity (reflex, instinct, etc). Free will constitutes the fundamental dignity of the human person, which is to be sui juris, to depend on oneself, and therefore to be responsible, which an animal is not.
2. Then we have moral liberty, which concerns the use of free will: a good use if the means chosen lead to the obtaining of a good end, a bad use if they do not lead to that. You can see from this that moral liberty is essentially relative to the good. Pope Leo XIII defines is in a way that is magnificent but very simple: moral liberty, he says, is “the faculty of moving oneself in the good.” Moral liberty is not therefore an absolute; it is all relative to the Good, that is to say, finally to the law. For it is the law, and firstly the eternal law which is in the divine intelligence, then the natural law, which is the participation in the eternal law by the rational creature, it is this law which determines that order put in by the Creator between ends that He assigns to man (to survive, to multiple, to organize in society, to arrive at his last end, the Summum Bonum, which is God) and the means suitable for obtaining these ends. The law is not an antagonist of liberty; on the contrary, it is necessary help; and that must be said also of the civil laws worthy of that name. Without the law, liberty degenerates into license, which is “doing what pleased me.” Certain Liberals, making an absolute of this moral liberty, precisely advocate license, the freedom indifferently to do good or evil, to adhere indifferently to the true or the false. But who cannot see that the possibility of falling short of the good, far from being the essence and the perfection of liberty, is the mark of fallen man’s imperfection! Moreover, as Saint Thomas explains, the power of sinning is not a liberty but a servitude: “He who commits sin is a slave of sin.”
On the contrary, guided well by the law, channeled between its priceless guard-rails, liberty attains its end. Here is what Pope Leo XIII sets forth in this regard:
“The condition of human liberty being such, it needed a protection, it needed helps and aids capable of directing all its movements towards the good and turning them away from evil. Without that, liberty would have been for man a very harmful thing. – And first a law, that is to say a rule of what must be done or not done, was necessary for it.”
And Leo XIII concludes his explanation with this admirable definition, which I will call plenary, of liberty:
“In a society of men, liberty worthy of the name does not consist in doing everything that pleases us: that would be in the State an extreme confusion, a disorder that would result in oppression. Liberty consists in this, that, with the help of the civil laws, we can live more easily according to the prescriptions of the eternal law.”
3. Finally there comes physical liberty, or liberty of action or liberty vis-à-vis constraint, which is the absence of external constraint that impedes us from acting according to our conscience. Well, it is precisely this liberty that the Liberals make into an absolute; and it is this conception that we are going to have to analyze and criticize.
Natural Order and Natural Law
But before this, I want to insist on the existence of the natural order and of the natural law, because the Liberals will consent to admitting laws, but laws which man himself has forged, since they reject all order 9or ordination, or ordinance) and all law of which man would not be the author!
Now, that there is a natural order conceived by the creator for mineral, vegetable, and animal nature, and equally for human nature, this is a scientific truth. No scholar would dream of denying the existence of the laws written into the nature of things, and of men. What does scientific research indeed consist in, for which billions are spent? What is it, if not the quest for laws? People speak often of scientific inventions, but this is an error; nothing has been invented, someone has only discovered laws and exploited them. These laws which are discovered, these constant relations between things, are not created by the scholars. It is the same thing with the laws of medicine that govern health, the laws everyone is agreed, man does not make them, he finds them already planted in human nature. Now from the moment when it is a question of finding the moral laws that regulate human acts in connection with the great finalities of man, the Liberals then speak. According to them, every person or every philosophical school has the power to construct its own proper ethics, as if man, in the rational and voluntary part of his nature, were not a creature of God!
Has then the human soul made itself, or does it make itself? Yet it is obvious that, in spite of all their complexity and all their diversities, souls are tailored on the same model and have the same nature. Whether it is the soul of a Zulu of South Africa, or of a Maori of New Zealand, whether you are talking about a Saint Thomas Aquinas or of a Lenin, you are always dealing with a human soul. Now, a comparison will help you understand what I want to say: nowadays one does not buy a rather complicated device, such as a washing machine, a copy machine, a computer, without asking how to operate it. There is always a law to use, a rule that explains the proper use of this object in order to succeed in making it do its work correctly, to make it arrive at its end, I would say. And this rule was made by him who devised the machine in question, not by the housewife who would consider herself free to play with all the keys and all the buttons! So, all proportions being preserved, there is a similar relation between our soul and the Good Lord! God gives us a soul, He creates it, thus necessarily He gives us laws: He gives us the means to make use of them to arrive at our ends, and above all at our ultimate end, which is God Himself, known and loved in eternal life.
“Oh, we do not want that,” the Liberals cry out. “It is man who should create the laws of the human soul.” Let us not then be surprised that they make of man something out of balance, by means of making him live contrarily to the laws of his nature. Imagine some trees that would withdraw from the laws of vegetation; well, they would die, that is clear! Trees that would stop giving their sap, or indeed birds that would refuse to look for their food because that contingency did not please them…well, they would perish. Not to follow their law, which their natural instinct dictates to them, is death! And notice here that man does not follow a blind instinct like the animals; God has given us this immense gift of reason, so that we may we direct ourselves freely towards the end, but not without applying the law! The eternal law and the natural law, the supernatural law, and also the other laws which derive from the first ones: the human laws, civil or ecclesiastical, all these laws are for our good. Our happiness is in the them. Without an order preconceived by God, without laws, liberty would be for man a poisoned gift. Such is the realistic conception of man, which the Church defends as much as it can against the Liberals. It was in particular the honor of the great Pope Pius XII to have been the champion of the natural and Christian order in the face of the attacks of contemporary Liberalism.
To come back from that to speaking of liberty, let us say briefly that liberty cannot be understood without law: these are two realities strictly correlative, which it would be absurd to separate and contrast:
It is absolutely in the eternal law of God that we must search for the rule of liberty, not only for individuals, but also for human societies.