Up to the first half of the 20th century, western societies taught their children stories which illustrated and reinforced a particular conception of marriage and family; the same conception was supported by the civil law, by social expectations and social sanctions; and the same model was experienced by the vast majority of people. The same is true of the conception of the role of the state, the place of religion in society, gender roles, and a thousand other things. These shared understandings, which took on distinct flavors in different countries and in different cultural and ethnic groups, were the basis of a sense of solidarity.
One does not have to imagine that the culture of any particular time and place was perfect in every way, in order to realize that a society which lacks a culture in this sense is in serious trouble. But that is our situation today. The old models of how to live have not entirely gone away, but they are no longer supported by a social consensus. Our children are continually exposed to mixed messages, and civil law and social norms not only fail to support the old model, but in many ways work to undermine it. On the other hand, that model has not been replaced by a consistently applied, widely understood, and coherent, alternative.
Since people on the “progressive” side of the debate generally need not fear exclusion from social media and public spaces, they usually do not need to make such appeals, so this appeal to free speech is becoming increasingly associated only with the defense of conservative voices. We now hear from liberals that the principle of free speech is being “weaponized,” a rhetorical preparation for saying that the principle should be rejected, as the latest Google memo comes close to doing.
This is quite a turn-around from the depiction of the Catholic Church as the opponent of liberty, and the historic attempts to undermine the Church’s institutions and influence by scurrilous pamphleteering: characteristic tactics of the Church’s opponents since the time of Luther. In response to this kind of activity, Popes down the ages remind us that freedom of expression is not an absolute right. Typical was Pope Pius IX, who had the Papal States to administer as well as the Universal Church, and who wrote in 1864 (Quanta cura) of “that erroneous opinion”
that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way. Read it all there.
There are inevitably those who are uncomfortable with the commemoration of the war dead, the commonest complaint being that it ‘glorifies war’. This seems a curious reaction to the ritualized expression of public grief, but it contains this grain of truth: the laying of wreaths and the parading of soldiers does not merely remember the dead: it honors them. If one takes the view that all war is evil, then this is no more appropriate than publicly honoring a roll-call of mass-murderers.
But the meaning of the words is only one aspect of the listener’s experience of these chants. Gregorian Chant is remarkable for expressing emotion without manipulating the hearer: it doesn’t twang on the heartstrings with euphoric or lacrimose cords, but expresses joy and sorrow in a way at once authentic, dignified, and restrained. Equally striking, with the chants for the dead, is their powerfully insistent tone, especially evident in the Dies irae. There is no need to speak at length about despair, but there is need to spend time begging God’s mercy, because God is pleased to grant it at our insistence, if we insist with a confidence that does not tip over into presumption.
The church of St Joseph, Bedford, has one of the limited number of specially produced replica images of the famous tilma in Mexico, which have been touched to the original. You can see it above and below in the sanctuary of the church. The image regularly tours the country, but this is its home.
Following the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court judge, an occult book shop in New York hosted his mass-“hexing”: people identifying as witches gathered to curse him. They had earlier done the same thing to President Trump. Reading such stories in reputable news sources like the BBC brings to mind G.K. Chesterton’s remark:
When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.
As LifeSiteNews has reported, however, self-described witchcraft has grown to the level which is no longer simply a joke. It is important to keep three points in mind about it. First, the claims of today’s occultists and witches to some historical continuity with European paganism are completely deluded. Secondly, it is nevertheless spiritually dangerous. Thirdly, Catholicism is the form of religion it most detests, and also the form which can most help its adherents.