John Cassian – Conferences 1.2

Of those who in renouncing the world, aim at perfection without love.

FOR hence it arises that in the case of some who have despised the greatest possessions of this world, and not only large sums of gold and silver, but also large properties, we have seen them afterwards disturbed and excited over a knife, or pencil, or pin, or pen. Whereas if they kept their gaze steadily fixed out of a pure heart they would certainly never allow such a thing to happen for trifles, while in order that they might not suffer it in the case of great and precious riches they chose rather to renounce them altogether. For often too some guard their books so jealously that they will not allow them to be even slightly moved or touched by any one else, and from this fact they meet with occasions of impatience and death, which give them warning of the need of acquiring the requisite patience and love; and when they have given up all their wealth for the love of Christ, yet as they preserve their former disposition in the matter of trifles, and are sometimes quickly upset about them, they become in all points barren and unfruitful, as those who are without the charity of which the Apostle speaks: and this the blessed Apostle foresaw in spirit, and “though,” says he, “I give all my goods to feed the poor, and give my body to be burned, but have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” And from this it clearly follows that perfection is not arrived at simply by self-denial, and the giving up of all our goods, and the casting away of honours, unless there is that charity, the details of which the Apostle describes, which consists in purity of heart alone. For “not to be envious,” “not to be puffed up, not to be angry, not to do any wrong, not to seek one’s own, not to rejoice in iniquity, not to think evil” etc., what is all this except ever to offer to God a perfect and clean heart, and to keep it free from all disturbances?

EVERYTHING should be done and sought after by us for the sake of this. For this we must seek for solitude, for this we know that we ought to submit to fastings, vigils, toils, bodily nakedness, reading, and all other virtues that through them we may be enabled to prepare our heart and to keep it unharmed by all evil passions, and resting on these steps to mount to the perfection of charity, and with regard to these observances, if by accident we have been employed in some good and useful occupation and have been unable to carry out our customary discipline, we should not be overcome by vexation or anger, or passion, with the object of overcoming which, we were going to do that which we have omitted. For the gain from fasting will not balance the loss from anger, nor is the profit from reading so great as the harm which results from despising a brother. Those things which are of secondary importance, such as fastings, vigils, withdrawal from the world, meditation on Scripture, we ought to practise with a view to our main object, i.e., purity of heart, which is charity, and we ought not on their account to drive away this main virtue, for as long as it is still found in us intact and unharmed, we shall not be hurt if any of the things which are of secondary importance are necessarily omitted; since it will not be of the slightest use to have done everything, if this main reason of which we have spoken be removed, for the sake of which everything is to be done. For on this account one is anxious to secure and provide for one’s self the implements for any branch of work, not simply to possess them to no purpose, nor as if one made the profit and advantage, which is looked for from them, to consist in the bare fact of possession but that by using them, one may effectually secure practical knowledge and the end of that particular art of which they are auxiliaries. Therefore fastings, vigils, meditation on the Scriptures, self-denial, and the abnegation of all possessions are not perfection, but aids to perfection: because the end of that science does not lie in these, but by means of these we arrive at the end. He then will practise these exercises to no purpose, who is contented with these as if they were the highest good, and has fixed the purpose of his heart simply on them, and does not extend his efforts towards reaching the end, on account of which these should be sought: for he possesses indeed the implements of his art, but is ignorant of the end, in which all that is valuable resides. Whatever then can disturb that purity and peace of mind–even though it may seem useful and valuable–should be shunned as really hurtful, for by this rule we shall succeed in escaping harm from mistakes and vagaries, and make straight for the desired end and reach it.

THIS then should be our main effort: and this steadfast purpose of heart we should constantly aspire after; viz., that the soul may ever cleave to God and to heavenly things. Whatever is alien to this, however great it may be, should be given the second place, or even treated as of no consequence, or perhaps as hurtful. We have an excellent illustration of this state of mind and condition in the gospel in the case of Martha and Mary: for when Martha was performing a service that was certainly a sacred one, since she was ministering to the Lord and His disciples, and Mary being intent only on spiritual instruction was clinging close to the feet of Jesus which she kissed and anointed with the ointment of a good confession, she is shown by the Lord to have chosen the better part, and one which should not be taken away from her: for when Martha was toiling with pious care, and was cumbered about her service, seeing that of herself alone she was insufficient for such service she asks for the help of her sister from the Lord, saying: “Carest Thou not that my sister has left me to serve alone: bid her therefore that she help me”–certainly it was to no unworthy work, but to a praiseworthy service that she summoned her: and yet what does she hear from the Lord? “Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things: but few things are needful, or only one. Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” You see then that the Lord makes the chief good consist in meditation, i.e., in divine contemplation: whence we see that all other virtues should be put in the second place, even though we admit that they are necessary, and useful, and excellent, because they are all performed for the sake of this one thing. For when the Lord says: “Thou art careful and troubled about many things, but few things are needful or only one,” He makes the chief good consist not in practical work however praiseworthy and rich in fruits it may be, but in contemplation of Him, which indeed is simple and “but one”; declaring that “few things” are needful for perfect bliss, i.e., that contemplation which is first secured by reflecting on a few saints: from the contemplation of whom, he who has made some progress rises and attains by God’s help to that which is termed “one thing,” i.e., the consideration of God alone, so as to get beyond those actions and services of saints, and feed on the beauty and knowledge of God alone. “Mary” therefore “chose the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” And this must be more carefully considered. For when He says that Mary chose the good part, although He says nothing of Martha, and certainly does not appear to blame her, yet in praising the one, He implies that the other is inferior. Again when He says “which shall not be taken away from her” He shows that from the other her portion can be taken away (for a bodily ministry cannot last forever with a man), but teaches that this one’s desire can never have an end.


John Cassian – Conferences One

First Conference of Abbot Moses – Concerning the goal or the aim of the monk. 

Of the question of Abbot Moses, who asked what was the goal and what the end of the monk.

ALL the arts and sciences, said he, have some goal or mark; and end or aim of their own, on which the diligent pursuer of each art has his eye, and so endures all sorts of toils and dangers and losses, cheerfully and with equanimity, e.g., the farmer, shunning neither at one time the scorching heat of the sun, nor at another the frost and cold, cleaves the earth unweariedly, and again and again subjects the clods of his field to his ploughshare, while he keeps before him his goal; viz., by diligent labour to break it up small like fine sand, and to clear it of all briers, and free it from all weeds, as he believes that in no other way can he gain his ultimate end, which is to secure a good harvest, and a large crop; on which he can either live himself free from care, or can increase his possessions. Again, when his barn is well stocked he is quite ready to empty it, and with incessant labour to commit the seed to the crumbling furrow, thinking nothing of the present lessening of his stores in view of the future harvest. Those men too who are engaged in mercantile pursuits, have no dread of the uncertainties and chances of the ocean, and fear no risks, while an eager hope urges them forward to their aim of gain. Moreover those who are inflamed with the ambition of military life, while they look forward to their aim of honours and power take no notice of danger and destruction in their wanderings, and are not crushed by present losses and wars, while they are eager to obtain the end of some honour held out to them. And our profession too has its own goal and end, for which we undergo all sorts of toils not merely without weariness but actually with delight; on account of which the want of food in fasting is no trial to us, the weariness of our vigils becomes a delight; reading and constant meditation on the Scriptures does not pall upon us; and further incessant toil, and self-denial, and the privation of all things, and the horrors also of this vast desert have no terrors for us. And doubtless for this it was that you yourselves despised the love of kinsfolk, and scorned your fatherland, and the delights of this world, and passed through so many countries, in order that you might come to us, plain and simple folk as we are, living in this wretched state in the desert. Wherefore, said he, answer and tell me what is the goal and end, which incite you to endure all these things so cheerfully.

AND when he insisted on eliciting an opinion from us on this question, we replied that we endured all this for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

TO which he replied: Good, you have spoken cleverly of the (ultimate) end. But what should be our (immediate) goal or mark, by constantly sticking close to which we can gain our end, you ought first to know. And when we frankly confessed our ignorance, he proceeded: The first thing, as I said, in all the arts and sciences is to have some goal, i.e., a mark for the mind, and constant mental purpose, for unless a man keeps this before him with all diligence and persistence, he will never succeed in arriving at the ultimate aim and the gain which he desires. For, as I said, the farmer who has for his aim to live free from care and with plenty, while his crops are springing has this as his immediate object and goal; viz., to keep his field clear from all brambles, and weeds, and does not fancy that he can otherwise ensure wealth and a peaceful end, unless he first secures by some plan of work and hope that which he is anxious to obtain. The business man too does not lay aside the desire of procuring wares, by means of which he may more profitably amass riches, because he would desire gain to no purpose, unless he chose the road which leads to it: and those men who are anxious to be decorated with the honours of this world, first make up their minds to what duties and conditions they must devote themselves, that in the regular course of hope they may succeed in gaining the honours they desire. And so the end of our way of life is indeed the kingdom of God. But what is the (immediate) goal you must earnestly ask, for if it is not in the same way discovered by us, we shall strive and wear ourselves out to no purpose, because a man who is travelling in a wrong direction, has all the trouble and gets none of the good of his journey. And when we stood gaping at this remark, the old man proceeded: The end of our profession indeed, as I said, is the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven: but the immediate aim or goal, is purity of heart, without which no one can gain that end: fixing our gaze then steadily on this goal as if on a definite mark, let us direct our course as straight towards it as possible, and if our thoughts wander somewhat from this, let us revert to our gaze upon it, and check them accurately as by a sure standard, which will always bring back all our efforts to this one mark, and will show at once if our mind has wandered ever so little from the direction marked out for it.

AS those, whose business it is to use weapons of war, whenever they want to show their skill in their art before a king of this world, try to shoot their arrows or darts into certain small targets which have the prizes painted on them; for they know that they cannot in any other way than by the line of their aim secure the end and the prize they hope for, which they will only then enjoy when they have been able to hit the mark set before them; but if it happens to be withdrawn from their sight, however much in their want of skill their aim may vainly deviate from the straight path, yet they cannot perceive that they have strayed from the direction of the intended straight line because they have no distinct mark to prove the skilfulness of their aim, or to show up its badness: and therefore while they shoot their missiles idly into space, they cannot see how they have gone wrong or how utterly at fault they are, since no mark is their accuser, showing how far they have gone astray from the right direction; nor can an unsteady look help them to correct and restore the straight line enjoined on them. So then the end indeed which we have set before us is, as the Apostle says, eternal life, as he declares, “having indeed your fruit unto holiness, and the end eternal life;” but the immediate goal is purity of heart, which he not unfairly terms “sanctification,” without which the afore-mentioned end cannot be gained; as if he had said in other words, having your immediate goal in purity of heart, but the end life eternal. Of which goal the same blessed Apostle teaches us, and significantly uses the very term, i.e., skopoV, saying as follows, “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those that are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of the Lord:” which is more clearly put in Greek kata skopon diwkw, i.e., “I press toward the mark, as if he said, “With this aim, with which I forget those things that are behind, i.e., the faults of earlier life, I strive to reach as the end the heavenly prize.” Whatever then can help to guide us to this object; viz., purity of heart, we must follow with all our might, but whatever hinders us from it, we must shun as a dangerous and hurtful thing. For, for this we do and endure all things, for this we make light of our kinsfolk, our country, honours, riches, the delights of this world, and all kinds of pleasures, namely in order that we may retain a lasting purity of heart. And so when this object is set before us, we shall always direct our actions and thoughts straight towards the attainment of it; for if it be not constantly fixed before our eyes, it will not only make all our toils vain and useless, and force them to be endured to no purpose and without any reward, but it will also excite all kinds of thoughts opposed to one another. For the mind, which has no fixed point to which it may return, and on which it may chiefly fasten, is sure to rove about from hour to hour and minute to minute in all sorts of wandering thoughts, and from those things which come to it from outside, to be constantly changed into that state which first offers itself to it.

New Gregorian Chant Album Review

I have always been amazed at the way that chant can move a soul.  For the past several years, I have made it a habit of listening to chant almost every day. My day job requires me to be at a computer, so there is ample opportunity for me to listen to chant as much as I want.  Typically, my taste in chant is for the old stuff.  I like the ones where you can tell it was made in the 40’s or 50’s as it sounds like it was recorded from vinyl records.

I was asked by Valley-Entertainment to review a chant album they produced from “The Monastic Choir of the Abbey Notre Dame de Fontgombault”.  They recorded an album that is entitled The Assumption and I was given a pre-release copy of it.  This CD covers a full mass including three very good organ pieces.  There are 23 tracks on the album and the voices are exquisite.

I honestly didn’t think I was going to like it simple because it is “new” but they sure proved me wrong.  When I see a mainline “chant” CD it is usually a glossy cover of monks that look like they came out of a GQ magazine and my immediate reactions is uh..nope.

When I saw the cover of this one, I was warming up to it without even hearing anything yet.

I downloaded a digital version and set it up to listen to it while I got some work done.  It was wonderful.  It has quickly become my new favorite chant album.

I have been listening to it for over a month now and its is now one of my favorites that I listen to daily.

The album was released on January 13th, 2017 and you can pick up a copy of this fabulous Gregorian Chant CD here.  I heartily recommend it.



AMERICANISM = Heresy – By Dr. John C. Rao


(Remnant Press, 1984; Updated, Tan Books, 1994) Posted also on his website here


Americanism is a term that appears to express nothing more than a devotion to America. In reality, however, it teaches principles and a way of life that pose, and always have posed, a threat to the Church of Rome. Indeed, the threat that it poses to Catholicism may be the most dangerous experienced by her in the past few centuries of revolution. Its harmful quality arises from its subtle and effective transformation of the United States into a new religion whose central dogma of “pluralism” cannot be investigated or questioned; a new religion whose creed is said to be purely “practical” and “pragmatic”, but which actually aims at a messianic rebuilding of the entire globe; a new religion that brooks no opposition to its will.

The collapse of the Catholic cause in the United States can be attributed in large degree to an understandable error to which patriotic Catholic Americans fell prey. Americanism was presented to them as involving nothing more than a praiseworthy love of country with practical, pragmatic goals. They rushed wholeheartedly into its defense under the assumption that their civic duty demanded it, and that failure to do so would lend support to the enemies of their country. But what they, in fact, received in the name of patriotism and pragmatism was a set of instructions for religious and cultural suicide. Catholics followed these instructions, replacing their true faith with the Americanist religion, generally not even recognizing that they were doing so, and, indeed, generally rejoicing in their self-destruction every step of the way.

Nothing can be accomplished for the cause of the Church (and, ironically, for the cause of true American patriotism as well) until such time as Catholics come to understand the nature of the force that is killing them. A full appreciation of the depth of the opposition of Americanism to Catholicism can, however, only be gained from discussion of historical problems rooted centuries in the past. Clarification of these problems will be a two-step undertaking. It will begin with an examination of what may be called the “soul” of America, and the ways in which the character of this soul dictated the development of a subtle, pseudo-patriotic, pseudo-pragmatic, fideistic religion. Next, it will focus upon the various attempts of an “alien” Church to come to terms with this truly anti-patriotic cult. The particular Catholic controversy surrounding the emergence of an Americanist heresy in the latter half of the nineteenth century will be treated in the context of this second step of my argument.

Only when the historical groundwork has been laid will it be possible to grasp the appeal of the “mess of pottage” that has conquered the contemporary Catholic—clerical, religious, and lay—and the ease with which the Church in the United States has lost its own soul and praised its suicide as a great victory. Only when it has been made clear how deeply-rooted the problem really is can its present world-wide consequences be properly judged and the formidable question be asked anew: what is to be done?

I. Patriotism and the American Soul

Two concepts crucial to an understanding of this analysis have been lost to the western world in the course of the last half century. The first is the idea that there is a structure of incalculable importance to the shaping of an individual which we can call the “nation”, and the second, the recognition that each specific nation is guided by a kind of “soul”. My contention is that the American “nation” has a tortured “soul”, and that this tortured soul has militated against the construction in the United States of the sort of nation that the individual truly needs. The result of this unfortunate development has been an irrepressible conflict with the Catholic religion.

What, exactly, is a “nation”? This itself is a difficult question, and one that has been complicated by the revolutionary ideology of the past two centuries. Suffice it to say, for the moment, that it is the broad community within which the individual feels the presence of “home”. It is the structure whose language, geography, institutions, past and people evoke familiar and affectionate images.

One need not say that a given nation was historically predestined to be what it now is or to possess its present boundaries to recognize that some such “cradle” is essential to a man’s well-being. Even though it is the individual and the individual alone who gains salvation, the individual always achieves his goal within the context of a number of different communities: societies which include his family, his school, his workplace, union and even his clubs. Each of these enriches him as a person in varying degrees by elaborating psychological needs and incarnating moral duties in specific emphatic ways. Each pinpoints the True, the Good and the Beautiful for him from different perspectives.

The “nation” provides the framework for all these elaborations and incarnations, and is also the necessary symbol of the unity of a serious “home”. If a man does not belong to a real unity of this kind to which he is devoted and for which he sacrifices simply because it is the crucial framework for his existence, he begins his pilgrimage through life with only half of the baggage vital for his journey. The man without a country is like the man suspended in mid-air because he lacks the concrete things that a nation offers—a village, a language, a way of life and a means of providing it—in order to accomplish even his most basic tasks. Are there problems inherent in the individual-nation relationship? Many, because one may be tempted to break the moral code for the benefit of his country just as one can be led astray in his family’s self-interest. Do the difficulties that it engenders justify its abandonment? No more than a father’s crimes on behalf of his children legitimate rejection of the family structure.

How does one determine the peculiar quality of any given nation, as opposed to nations in general? By examining what I have chosen to call its “soul”. This muse or spirit can be identified through the clear means that God has given to every man to understand the world about him. It is captured by the study of language, literature and the legends and historical facts accompanying a nation’s foundation. It is understood through the deeds of its great men, its arts, customs and even its cuisine. The scholar entering to the “soul” of a nation comes to sense the basic presuppositions and modus operandi of its people. Are there problems with this search for a nation’s soul? All too numerous ones. It is easy to substitute feeling or mystic intuition for reason during the hunt. One can readily justify illicit behavior with reference to the demands of a peculiarly inspired national spirit. Do the difficulties that it engenders justify its abandonment? No more than the mistakes made identifying the character of one particular family demand rejection of the notion that it does somehow stand apart from every other “community” of man, woman and child. One must simply be prepared to submit his findings to the tribunal of Christ’s Church, to the judgment of that Mystical Body which has always respected and encouraged true national distinctions.

America’s “soul” has been formed by many factors, of which two are crucial to the present discussion. On the one hand, it has been shaped, to a large degree, by the attempt to unite a multitude of ethnic groups under a tradition inspired by the English experience. On the other, it has been built upon a foundation that is Puritan Protestant. Both these factors have generally merged together, forming a “soul” full of contradictions which few are willing to analyze or are even conscious of existing. These contradictions and difficulties are particularly blatant with regard to the question of the “nation” and “patriotism”. Although, in practice, such influences cannot clinically be separated, it is necessary to do so for theoretical clarity. Clinical separation will reveal that the first of these factors has seriously impaired the quality of nationhood in the United States, while the second has placed obstacles in the path of nationhood in and of itself. Their operation in tandem has created the confusion that permitted the growth of Americanism and its entrance into the life of the Church.

A clear grasp of the first of these formative influences necessitates a brief review of the nature of the British “soul”. England is a nation that has been marked by a conservatism more profound than that of perhaps any other occidental land. Anything that causes change or turmoil generally provokes a deep sense of unease in the English mind. This is as much true of thought as of action. Serious divergences of thought have customarily been seen by the English as having such destabilizing consequences as to inspire them to self-censor the taking of ideas to logical conclusions. It is no accident that the Protestant Revolution in England created the Anglican Church and the “via media”, the “middle way”, with its attempt to combine the new religion with much of the old. One ought not to be surprised that the Enlightenment in Britain did not give birth to political chaos, but, rather, to an effort to modify Christianity and establish that liberal Protestantism which masquerades a loss of faith behind outwardly traditional forms of worship and ecclesiastical government. There is little mystery to the fact that English philosophers have often been anti-philosophers, in the sense that they have sought to demonstrate that ideas have no intrinsic meaning, and that the whole philosophical enterprise is simply a word game. No wonder that literature, with its revelation of the “non-rational” in man, speaks more to the genius of the English nation than metaphysics. So much did the English spirit of distrust of ideas as a channel of change strike the Jesuit editors of La Civiltà Cattolica in the nineteenth century that they argued that a free press in Britain could not mean the same thing as in a Latin nation. The Latin search for distinction and clarity, they insisted, led continental peoples to logical actions that few Englishmen would have been willing to tolerate. An inbred desire for stability prevented them from taking themselves—or anything else—too seriously. If the virtue of this spirit lay in the unity that it provided, its vice lay in its potential banality. Fortunately, as many Catholic political theorists have argued, England unthinkingly preserved so much that was sound and Catholic in spirit that the banal never grasped hold of that country’s culture as a whole.

The United States to a large degree inherited this profound English conservatism. It, too, has always desired stability and disliked change. As soon as it was in a position to do so, it confirmed in its Constitution the political structure of its English past. It did so under the guidance of its historical aristocracy, which, in 1787, effectively usurped from the existing revolutionary Congress the right to do as it wished in this regard. Like the English, the Americans are a people generally suspicious of thought as being a potentially dangerous waste of time. It may be noted in this context that the Civiltà editors applied their comments to the United States as well as to the United Kingdom.

If America had been nothing other than a mirror image of England, then this disdain for the world of ideas might not have had the devastating consequences that it did. But the United States was different from Britain. It had to deal, among other things, with one of the great mass migrations of history. It was forced to come to terms with the descent upon its shores of millions of people of varying nationalities, most of them ignorant of the language and laws of their new home.

American “conservatism” gave birth to movements that tried to keep these masses out. They did not succeed in their efforts. The only other alternative, given the innate national drive towards stability, seemed to be the adoption of a policy of rapid “integration”. If unity could not be assured by closing down the borders, harmony might still prevail by churning immigrants through an “americanizing” process.

How was this task accomplished? In two ways. First of all, “negatively”, by subtly teaching the immigrant peoples what they could not do in the United States. Thus, they were shown that controversial issues disturbing stability, such as those touching upon religion, were out of place in the American forum. The Constitution had already begun this process when its awareness of religious diversity caused it to abandon the concept of an established Church. Secondly, it was also accomplished in a “positive” manner by discovering a goal towards which all Americans, regardless of their way of life, could strive.

This positive goal was found in a kind of materialistic “pioneer mentality” that manifested itself in varied forms. It is hard to exaggerate the power exercised by the image of a virgin continent, ready for conquest, upon the minds of excited Americans. An appeal was made to this image in the cause of “integration”. Loyal Americans were told to avoid divisive quibbling over “non-essentials”. Instead, they were directed down the “pioneer” pathway towards the practical exploitation of this country’s riches. Whether in the East, in a figurative sense, or on the frontier, in a literal one, Americans were assigned a common national purpose: the attainment of a livelihood for themselves and for their families at previously undreamed-of levels. Hard labor and solid material achievement were held up as the true marks of patriotic spirit. Hard labor and solid material achievements, that is, that did not itself somehow disturb or demand too much of one’s neighbors and thereby become divisive; hard labor and material achievement regardless of their object or quality. Thus, in effect, potentially dangerous but sublime concerns were to be sacrificed to assuredly pacifying but mundane projects. The sacrifice was to take place on the altar of American unity, for the sake of the harmony required of “home”.

America did not, with one major exception, carry out this mission violently. The exception was the attack upon the southern aristocracy in the Civil War, whose defeat removed the one class that was permanently controversial and wedded to principles other than the purely pragmatic and material. Otherwise, specific ethnic groups (with the exception of the Indians) were not massacred, foreign languages were not prohibited, and serious religions were not officially persecuted on a regular basis. Any effort of such a kind would have been seen as being destabilizing and divisive, thus violating the basic principle of “integration”. Moreover, “integration” was not primarily carried out by means of the government. Instead, American government aided the process through its very weakness, its unwillingness to enforce religious doctrines or to censor any ideas or behavior espoused by a significant number of people in this country. An all-encompassing governmental program would have clearly indicated the nature of what was happening, aroused opposition, and, perhaps, defeated the ultimate goal of stability.

Thus, the United States presented a two-fold image of protecting “freedom” and ensuring “stability” at one and the same time. It created the impression of establishing what has become known as a “pluralist” society, where many ways of life are “respected”. In truth, however, the manifold organs of Anglo-Saxon society and the spirit of Anglo-Saxon culture were “moderating” and “integrating” this diversity out of existence, slowly, peacefully, but surely. It created the illusion of stability, since the purpose of “integration” was to ensure the continued dominance of native American ways. In truth, however, native Anglo-Saxon Americans themselves were pressured into a gradual transformation of their own traditions. Anything threatening the adoption of the new groups soon began to be discouraged and renounced as much as immigrant particularities. Unity took precedence over custom, habit and even adherence to what was believed to be the truth. While seeking to integrate, native Americans were being integrated as well. Integrated into what? Into a “pluralist” society which could only survive by missing bits and pieces of the ideas of all of its component parts and by bending the entirety to the construction of a grayish culture serving the least common denominator in human material needs. A process was begun which has ended with the “integration” into American life of groups espousing perversities and determining how their needs and interests might help improve the GNP. A process was begun which has ended in the glorification of the computer technician over the saint, media hype over substantive issues, and mass-produced hamburgers over the creations of the great composers.

Generations of European observers, beginning with Alexis de Tocqueville in his Democracy in America, have remarked upon the effectiveness with which American society, motivated by its Anglo-Saxon spirit, has quietly repressed the emergence of sharp differences of opinion, and channeled its population’s efforts into limited, peaceful, but indiscriminately vulgar material goals. Their commentaries have been supported by numerous American writers who have felt the obligation to “drop out” of this society in order to live as full human beings. I am speaking here of men of the Right, and not of liberals, whose “anti-Americanism” is itself a form of the same Americanist mentality. One is reminded, for example, of T.S. Eliot’s assertion that the thinking American often sought to “lose himself” somewhere outside the national mainstream, in places like New York City, in order to maintain at least the illusion of intellectual and spiritual survival. One can point to H.L. Mencken’s satirical essay, On Being An American, wherein he argues that there are only two grounds for an intelligent man to remain in the United States: either as a means of swindling an easy living, or to enjoy some cheap laughs at the expense of the vulgarity around him. The writings of many such men betray a common bitter theme. America has made the “thoughtful”, the “spiritual”, the “committed” appear to be the province of either the “insane” or the “treasonous”. It has required no secret police in order to achieve this goal. The work has been done gently and naturally, due to the character of an Anglo-Saxon influenced “soul” gone wild.

I believe that these critics have been correct in their assessment. The American obsession with avoiding controversy has ended by punishing the serious man. This is a regrettable phenomenon, since a human being—and a patriot—is not merely a prosperity machine, but also a thinker, a culture builder, and a dreamer of dreams. He needs to pay his respect, both alone and as part of a community, to higher things. As Isaiah says, “without a vision, the people perish”. A nation that allows little or no public scope for such important demands of the human personality is a defective “cradle” indeed. Still, the Anglo-Saxon desire for stability retains some insight into the importance of “home”, its needs, and the value of harmony therein. It sees that something resembling a “nation” is vital enough to men to require sacrifices to maintain it. It appears to admit the country as a structure distinct from the individual and the obvious framework for his development. The baggage that it gives to its citizens may be faulty and inadequate, but it does, at least, provide something onto which they can latch in order to work towards certain legitimate goals in life.

But America grew up under a second and more destructive influence. It developed underneath the tutelage of Puritan Protestantism. This was a teacher that understood so little about human nature that it inevitably poisoned everything that came into contact with it. Even when it tried to fill the void left by the abandonment of higher national purposes, it did so by crushing entirely the idea of the nation. It thus threatened the American with the prospect of having no “home” to love at all.

What lies at the basis of Puritanism? An emphasis upon the total depravity of man after Original Sin. How can man be saved according to its precepts? Only by an individual act of faith in God’s willingness to accept an intrinsically evil monster to live with Him eternally. Nothing that a man might do, good or bad, can, according to the Puritan dogma, affect the outcome of his personal saga.

The results of such an outlook are manifold. A dichotomy between the all-perfect God and totally wicked individuals allows no scope for the work of society in the divine plan. All men are like atoms in the face of their God, fundamentally alone in their approach to Him. “Atomism” is, perhaps, the most basic Puritan by-product. The presumption of communities and authorities like the Church, which claimed to lead men to God, became intolerable. Popes and bishops, seen in this light, must inevitably corrupt whatever functions they perform in this wicked world, and, hence, cannot be part of the divine plan. A “Church”, insofar as one must exist to perform symbolic functions and prayer meetings, thus becomes merely the instrument of a “democratic” congregation of atomistic believers.

Man’s efforts to transform the universe into a “mirror of God” become equally useless. Music, art, architecture, food and dress and everything else attempting to elaborate the beauties of a corrupted cosmos become an abomination. Europe as a whole, whose cities had blossomed under Catholic auspices and hosted innumerable varieties of human endeavor, becomes hopelessly decadent. Many Puritans drew the conclusion that the only way in which a God-fearing Christian might survive would be by fleeing as far from Babylon as possible, to the other side of the ocean, to a New World. Here, paradoxically, he could create a place of safety, a New Jerusalem, a City on a Hill living outside of and above the vain attempt to divinize the universe.

Puritan Protestants did not necessarily wish to change the concept of “home”, “nation”, and “patriotism”. They, too, were English, and, hence, subject to the same conservatism tugging at the British “soul”. Moreover, unconscious Catholic habits and the pressure exerted by a thousand years of Catholic social life often prevented them from putting the full destructive force of their own ideas into operation. Nevertheless, the logic of Puritan Protestantism propelled it towards startling alterations in the patriotic ideal in America. It was destined to reach this end through its encouragement of secularization.

Secularization was promoted by Puritan Protestantism in three ways. One was by having supported tenets so inhuman as to drive men away from God in horror. A second was through establishing such a stark dichotomy between God and man as to throw into doubt the rationality of Christ’s whole mission, to deny the reality of the Incarnation and to retire the divine beyond man’s reach. The last was by so disdaining the world and ridiculing the possibility of its transformation as to liberate nature entirely from God’s direction. Even though Puritans desired none of these consequences, the logic of Puritanism ensured their success. Their progress was often hidden from public awareness, partly because the Anglo-Saxon conservative sense led those who had lost their faith to continue to refer to “God” and Christian terminology in discussing their non-Christian ideas, and partly because such men no longer even sensed the significance of their own apostasy.

A secularized man cannot completely shed the influences that formed him. The “secular Puritan” is still puritanical in his way of dealing with the world. This is obvious in three aspects of his outlook, all of which have reached their logical conclusions by our time.

One can begin by noting that although he no longer believes in God in an orthodox sense, the secular Puritan continues to understand men to be atoms, individuals in whose life society plays no true role. Just as a man was expected to make a private act of faith in God, he is now meant to make a private act of faith in his own “goals”, independently of his fellow creatures. Just as he once privately interpreted the Scriptures, he now must be “self-reliant” in his guidance of his own life. And just as the Church, with its panoply of authorities, was seen to be an unwarranted intruder in the relationship of the individual and God, all secular institutions are now condemned from the same standpoint. The state, the family, authoritative traditions in general and one’s pet enemy organization in particular, are all held to be guilty of a form of breaking and entering. Evil in and of themselves, they explain the persistence of wickedness on this planet and can only be tolerated if they exercise their functions subject to the free acceptance of individuals and through democratic structures analogous to those of the Puritan congregations. The present assault upon every aspect of authority, particularly visible since the 1960’s, is directly related to this attitude and cannot be understood without it. Secularized Puritanism and authority are mortal enemies.

Secondly, Puritanism can still be noted in the secularized American’s discomfort with efforts to transform the world into a “mirror of God”. This discomfort appears in two forms, superficially contradictory but firmly related at their root. Many Americans continue to anathematize “high culture”. They characterize everything from architecture and music to cooking and clothing as silly, wasteful, and effeminate, the moment that it rises above the mediocre. Other Americans feel the need to escape the blandness around them. They cannot, however, bring themselves to flee from it by cultivating truly serious culture. This would so tie them into the Greco-Roman and Catholic tradition as to frighten them back into their mediocrity. Instead, they develop a new type of “high culture” based upon the mad, individualistic ravings of their tortured puritanical souls. Their “cultural” creations are then guiltily justified by them with reference to deep biological or psychological needs. The one group of secularized Puritans adores the Big Mac as the height of human achievement; the other, a homosexual’s multi-million dollar sculpture of a broken toothpick. In short, the Puritan, after his break with faith as during its full fervor, is unable to grasp the principle of restoring all things in Christ. He manifests his inability in either philistinism or perversion. If he does discover the true heritage of the West, he converts to Catholicism or plays carelessly with it like an adolescent plays haphazardly with things before which he should stand in awe.

Finally, the secularized Puritan cannot shake his conviction that the United States is divinely protected, the New Jerusalem, the place set apart by God to house those saints who have fled from Babylon. Even though God does not exist for him in the old way, something god-like is understood to guide the United States towards establishment of the Heavenly City on earth. America’s divine uniqueness now lies in the fact that this country has democratic institutions, that its geographical isolation continues to separate it from decadent European cultures and that its Pluralism, at least on the surface, appears to provide room for the atomistic individual to maneuver. Although his belief that evil can be dealt with through application of “the American Way” may seem to indicate a break with the Puritan past, it really is not. It is in the nature of a doctrine as horrible as Puritanism to push someone psychologically from espousal of a concept like that of total depravity to espousal of its exact opposite, just as it is in the nature of horrible exercise of parental authority psychologically to push a child to complete abandonment of his parents’ teaching. And it is also in the nature of a secularized Puritanism which has lost its vision of God and of Heaven to seek paradise in an earthly realm, peopled by autonomous, god-like atoms manipulating democratic pseudo-societies of the type that America seems to promise.

We are now at the crux of the problem. If America, even in the mind of the secularized Puritan, is the City on a Hill, it would seem to mean that “home” is something worth protecting. But the “nation”, understood in a traditional sense, must itself be a stumbling block to such a mentality. It is a hindrance because it, too, demands respect for authority, whether in the form of institutions or in that of customs and traditions. The true patriot must put brakes upon his “self-reliance” and his atomistic freedom for the good of the country. He is obliged to recognize his inability to provide for himself and his family, to communicate sensibly with a sizeable community and to blossom as a personality outside of his cradle. He is required to admit that society is good or, rather, that societies of all kinds are good, since no one can love his nation and hate the things that make it great. No one can love France, recognizing that the French nation gives him a language, people who understand his way of life, soil on which to be nourished, and a place to lay his head, without at least respecting those forces which contributed to creating it: the Roman Church, the universities, the communal institutions of the city of Paris, and a thousand other entities besides. The true patriot must, in the last analysis, be prepared to give his life to maintain his nation just as he must be prepared to give his life in the defense of his own body. But if a secularized Puritanism is to triumph, the patriot, patriotism, and all the baggage accompanying the idea of the nation must disappear. “Home” demands too much, it is too authoritarian, too reminiscent of the Church’s vain effort to place itself between God and the individual. Yet how could one maintain love for America without allowing it to become love of nation in its unacceptable sense?

The dilemma may be resolved only by giving a new definition of patriotism in the New World, one that takes secularized Puritanism and its preoccupations to heart. A patriotism demanding sacrifices for the sake of the cradle, and thus placing impositions upon the individual, is seen as a wicked thing. But a patriotism which redefines love of country and makes it into devotion to a set of anti-authoritarian principles is another story entirely. A patriotism reminding man of his dependence upon his city, tongue, and fellow citizens, the dead as well as the living, is seen to be as shameful as it is despotic. But a “patriotism” eliminating all these images could make a magnificent contribution to the liberation of the human race.

How could such a patriotism be developed? By transforming the prudential and, indeed, illusory phenomenon of pluralism into an iron-clad Pluralist Faith; by insisting that the nurturing of diversity as such is the only real purpose of government; by praising American institutions for working towards this end, despite the fact that, historically, such a goal has played no role in the conservative, Anglo-Saxon program; by then explaining that “God”, or whatever force a secularized man might find operative in the universe, had set up the United States and given it its Constitution and its wealth for the sake of propagating atomistic individualism. And, finally, by indicating that patriotism is also service to this cause. Patriotism no longer means protection of American institutions in the sense of their being the legitimate authoritative bodies ruling over men in this country, but protection of American institutions insofar as they help to crush the very principle of authority. Patriotism no longer means protection of American borders in and of themselves, but only insofar as they are the borders of that New Jerusalem established to destroy community and tradition. Indeed, seen in this light, everyone ought—and, indeed, must—establish American institutions and the “American Way of Life”. But, if, through some terrible apostasy, the City on a Hill were to betray its mission, everyone would then be obliged to be devoted to the humiliation of America, whether living in Moscow or Athens or Washington, D.C. True patriotism would then mean devotion to whatever other country takes up the cause of the Pluralist Doctrine. In this second, long unthinkable situation, the “patriot” must necessarily engage in what men throughout the long course of human history have always rightly called treason. And in whatever they do to promote this new form of “patriotism”, we shall see that they do not ensure freedom but, rather, the reign of pure force; the triumph of the will.

II. The Americanist Heresy

We are now in a position to define Americanism. Americanism is a religion which both major elements of the American “soul”—secularized Puritanism and Anglo-Saxon conservatism—have helped to develop. Americanism is a religion that adores the United States as the incarnation of the secularized Puritan vision of paradise. It is a religion that simultaneously adores the bland, materialistic, catch-all unity that stems from the Anglo-Saxon drive for stability and integration. Americanism is an evangelical religion that wishes the rest of the world to be converted to its doctrines and preaches them under the heading of Pluralism. Even though its dogmas are as iron-clad as Marxist ones, even though it inevitably revolutionizes societies under its control, it masquerades as being nothing other than a practical method of attaining the good life. Americanism subtly combines the ideological character of Puritanism with Anglo-Saxon disdain for ideas. Patriotism in the United States is devotion to this complex Americanist-Pluralist religion.

Let us examine the different aspects of this religion in greater detail. The strength of the secularized Puritan element in Americanism is incontestable. Few dare to defy the notion that America has a divine mission to protect atomistic freedom, Pluralism and Democracy. The Americanist faith is evoked on every ceremonial occasion by each political faction in its own distinct fashion. It is inscribed on national monuments and in patriotic legend. The conservative cult of the Constitution as a God-given document reflects it. So does the Monroe Doctrine, which establishes the New World as an American sphere of influence, not on the grounds of self-interest, but as a means of carving out a “truly free” segment of the globe. The symbolism of the Statue of Liberty, the adulation of unrestricted capitalism and the spirit behind the American Civil Liberties Union are all different manifestations of the same religious definition of the meaning and glory of the United States. Moreover, the fideistic way in which this American Religion is taught, one which permits no investigation and discussion of the principles upon which it rests, is as classically Puritan as the historical influence of “preachers”—ministers, and then, in secularized form, professors, psychologists, journalists, etc.—in the interpretation of the true will of the supposedly autonomous individual.

Puritan and secularized Puritan control of the main educational and propaganda organs in the United States did much to ensure penetration of the vision of America’s evangelical mission, especially after the defeat of the southern aristocracy, whose peculiar and unfortunate character made it an obstacle to this. It was not, however, the only factor aiding such penetration. Indeed, certain features of the drive for integration also indirectly contributed to the strength of the Puritan vision of America’s role in the world. Thus, for example, incoming groups of immigrants were grateful, in a good patriotic sense, for the real material benefits they had won as a result of their acceptance here. They were all too unaware of the price they would ultimately have to pay in true happiness for the ability to consume goods that they did not really need or initially want. The United States, for them, was the land of milk and honey. Since the powers-that-be claimed that atomistic democracy and Pluralism were their essential backdrop, the immigrants gave the Americanist Religion their genuine support. They were too tired from trying to “make it” to notice what a sham their supposed freedom really was in the Pluralist scheme of things. The myth of American liberty became their myth as well. Also, the “integrationist” insistence upon work and material achievement, although not intrinsically anti-patriotic in the old sense of the word, aided anti-patriotic secular Puritanism in practice. It forced men to act as atomists, to lower their sights from God to insurance policies, to flee from the centers of community life, regardless of the emotional costs involved, just so long as a dollar was to be earned elsewhere. The constant picking up and leaving that has long been a part of the American way of life had to destroy tradition, authority and a sense of commitment in a way that aided the secularized Puritan cause.

Americanism, however, also means “religious” devotion to the bland consequences of the Anglo-Saxon drive for stability. It entails devoting oneself not only to the cause of atomistic freedom, but to a rejection of the firm ideas and divisive behavior that can come from actually exercising freedom. The result has been that Americanism requires simultaneous commitment to atomistic diversity and integrationist unanimity. While praising individualism, an American is really expected to avoid it like the plague. American protocol insists upon a danse macabre, an insane ritual of exulting in liberty and behaving with herd-like docility, whether in politics, at work or in private behavior. The inherent paradox has been seemingly resolved by insisting upon twisting individual “creativity” to the development of vulgar advertising jingles, unisex clothing and broad, insipid, intellectual formulae for everything from philosophy to foreign policy. Those who follow the prescribed pattern are lauded as being both men of conviction as well as team players; those who reject it are either laughed off center stage or written out of polite society as being insane. Older foreigners exposed to this horror are often baffled by it (though their children have digested the lessons and learned the steps of the danse macabre all too well). Most Americans do not even notice it, nor do foreigners raised under its spell from birth. Secularized Puritanism indirectly aids the adulation of unanimity just as the Anglo-Saxon conservative sense indirectly aids the growth of atomism. The philistines and perverts who are the standard bearers of Americanist creativity would not know what individualism really meant even if their lives depended upon it.

Americanism promoted an atomism that sneered at true community life with its panoply of authorities and traditions as the worst of plagues. This atomism did not understand just how necessary community was to save men from madness. When this atomism infected country living, where such respect was often great and where it was perhaps most essential, it made rural existence intolerably lonely. It has now created the suburb. It has punished those who fled the structured community of the old city for the “freedom” of the outside world with the misery of lives spent on super highways and in soulless shopping malls. The drive towards individual space has led to the creation of vast tracts of “sameness” across the entire breadth of the land. Similarly, those who wished to remain in cities found themselves forced to apologize for their behavior with reference to “personal needs”, “unique life styles”, and an equally corrupt spirit of self-reliance. This “individualism” has been crowned by an insufferable and repulsive trendiness. If the suburbanite atomist is herd-like in his vulgarity, the city-dwelling atomist is machine-like in his obsession with pseudo-intellectual and cultural fads. Americanism is, to a large degree, responsible for their troubles, and Americanism is a principle of death; of life-long euthanasia.

There are four major problems with Americanism, all of which have been mentioned above and which must be summarized now. Americanism is a false religion, a fideism disguised as being merely a practical method for achieving peace amidst diversity and attainment of a free and happy life for all. Rather than providing peace and freedom, it ensures the triumph of base, irrational will. This dangerous fideism destroys patriotism and the nation. It has the same effect on serious religion—especially the true one, the Catholic Faith. Let us examine each of these four problems in turn.

The Americanist usually claims that the American government and way of life are simply practical, effective pathways to human happiness. He also insists that they are “doctrineless” and “neutral” in character by virtue of the fact that they offer every possible viewpoint a chance to thrive. But we have seen that these are misrepresentations of reality. America is tied together with Pluralism, which is an evangelical form of secularized Puritanism, and shaped by the Anglo-Saxon tradition under pressures from immigration as well. This Pluralism breaks down commitment to all other ideas, establishing a purely materialistic harmony among pseudo-individualists. It has become one of the most effective means of oppression, repressing, as Marcuse says, by tolerating everything to meaninglessness and, therefore, to death. No beneficial new order of the ages began for mankind with the United States and the American Constitution. No new, happier man was born from the American way of life. Rather than providing some special form of grace to transform men (which only the sacraments can give), America and American Pluralism offer an example of the dismal logical consequences of certain already aged ideas and tendencies under the understandable though regrettable circumstances of American History.

But what is of concern to us here is the fact that the Americanist has made an act of faith in the unique ability of American institutions to achieve the good, and that he does not see that he has actually become an ideologue. This blindness is totally comprehensible. Americanism does not appear to be a religion because it had to adopt the language of pragmatism to make headway in an Anglo-Saxon country that dislikes ideas. It does not appear to be a religion because of the subtle, generally non-coercive, Anglo-Saxon way in which it goes about its work.

The fact that Americanism is a religion and that many Americans do not see through its pragmatic mask is aided immeasurably by its fideistic character. Fideism is not a faith-seeking-understanding like Catholicism, respectful as the Catholic Faith is of both theology and philosophy, revelation and reason. Fideism prohibits all investigation of its central tenets and their difficulties. This is precisely what Americanism does. It defends and promotes the cult of America as God-Sacrament-Liberation Theology-Pragmatic Tool by cutting off every possible means of investigating and criticizing the various aspects of the American Way. One needs all the disciplines, supernatural and natural, to expose the errors of Americanism, since we have seen that it has developed out of a mesh of theological, philosophical, historical, sociological, and psychological factors. But the two-sided character of the error, secularized Puritan and Anglo-Saxon conservative, combined together ultimately in one, disguised, fideistic faith, works against a complete study of its essence and mode of operation. If one attacks its logical flaws on theological and philosophical grounds, it responds by referring to its purely pragmatic nature, claiming that it must not be taken on an “abstract” level but only as a practical method for establishing peace and freedom amidst the irrational flaw of human events. If one takes these arguments seriously and finds fault with Americanism on a practical, pragmatic level, on the basis of its historical, sociological, and psychological fruits, then it calls forth its exalted role as the sole means of attaining happiness for mankind. It one then returns to the attack on the abstract level, comparing the “truth” of Americanism with other truths, “pragmatic” Pluralism enters into the breach to denounce the practical, divisive effects of such an inquiry. It exhorts everyone to get his mind out of the clouds and focus it on something concrete, common-sensical and really helpful. Hence, the enemy of Americanism hears himself categorized as being simultaneously romantic, naïve, and cynical: an unmotivated, lazy, misanthropic wretch, eager to demoralize simple, virtuous, common-sensical people, and probably a totalitarian in the bargain. The result is to lower a blindfold over peoples’ eyes; to insist that they accept as unassailable doctrines what the Americanist writings claim America to be; to do so while denying that these are truly doctrines, but while also prohibiting the use of all the rational tools that would uncover the fraud which is at work. The only “rational” tool whose use the fideist permits in order to understand and “criticize” Americanism is the recitation of the tenets of Americanism themselves. And these, of course, offer it nothing but praise.

A second problem which needs to be underlined now is that, rather than providing peace and freedom, Americanism ensures the triumph of the kind of base, irrational will which destroys them. Why? Basically because of that disdain and even hatred for ideas and rational authority at work in Puritanism, in secularized Puritanism, and in an Anglo-Saxon mentality deprived of a, consistent Catholic direction. Supporters of Americanism refer us back to the Founders, a study of whom actually demonstrates much of the difficulty. James Madison, in the Federalist, speaks with confidence of America’s ability to secure peace due to the “multiplicity of factions” existing within its borders. He even argues that this multiplicity of factions be encouraged, since its encouragement will mean that no faction will ever be able to gain power over the others. A permanent war of all against all will check and balance each into a common nullity guaranteeing the continued maintenance of the existing public order (and private aristocracy).

This attitude presumes too much. For one thing, it presumes that a human society can, and perhaps even should, be built upon division, and not just division, but a struggle among the divided parts which will not be permitted a conclusion. The question is, of course, whether this would not in the long run cause the various groups struggling amongst themselves either to recognize the pointlessness of their struggle and unite in seeking some common oppressive goals or to adopt new, unforeseen tactics to assure their own unpalatable victory.

Consideration of this question leads us to another false presumption at work among the Founders and important in understanding the flaws in Madison’s argument: the sufficiency of the eighteenth century, Anglo-Saxon “common sense” view of reality to protect a public order which is also good. As stated above, this view of reality was itself shaped by that Puritan and secularized Puritan concept of life which understood men to be depraved, individual atomist at war with authority. Appreciation of the consequences of this concept among the Founders may well have been limited by an Anglo-Saxon propensity not to investigate ideas too seriously, by maintenance of many older external forms in the midst of negative change (like the Anglican Church herself), and by the remnants of Catholic or classical influences still at work in society. They may not have willed the consequences of these ideas, but their will is not the problem here. The question is whether Puritan and secularized Puritan ideas have logical consequences of the sort that I have indicated; consequences which other men may “will” to draw and apply to life.

And this, as we have seen, they do. The atomization of man and of human society multiplies factions further and further. The most common and successful of such willful factions are those which the American system was disposed to produce by its history (i.e., sexual, commercial, and lunatic). Reason is itself rejected as a guide since that, too, is considered to be an oppressive authority. All of these factions are thrown back on their irrational wills to justify themselves and their life styles, while the meaning of “common sense” is expanded to permit them do so since their suppression could be “divisive” and disturb the peace. In a struggle of irrational wills, tactics will be used that might not have been “common-sensical” according to the Founders, but which are judged to be just fine in an atomistic world exposing people to perpetual temptations. A supporter of the Founders is reduced to insisting that this is not what they wanted—in other words, to an appeal to their will. An appeal to will even in their case is not surprising given that a rational probe of their understanding of “common sense” reveals the seeds of the same evils and destructive fruits which we see around us today. But in the struggle of the multiplicity of factions guided by irrational wills, the strongest triumphs, and the twentieth century factions are both stronger and more logical in their willfulness than those of the 1700’s. Of course, Americanists will never admit to the reality of what is happening around them. They will continue to refer back to what the Founders said and wrote, ignoring the factors which tell us what their judgments actually have meant in practice. They will sweep the truth under the rug for the sake of defending their fideistic faith, and they will thereby make impossible that daily search for acting justly which they claim is rendered unnecessary by the machine-like openness and constitutional guarantees of Pluralism.

Thirdly, Americanism destroys patriotism and the nation. Those who accept it and are truly interested in ideas will take its secularized Puritan elements seriously, and see it to be their patriotic duty to support anyone “hurt” by a United States which betrays its “mission” to set peoples free. They will, therefore, willingly aid outright enemies of the country in various parts of the globe and destroy its consistent friends, should they believe Pluralism to be invoked by the former and rejected by the latter. Despite horrendous strategic consequences, truly destructive to the concrete nation, American ideals and American purity must be honored! Meanwhile, Americans who understand something of what a nation truly means and who want to protect the United States and her legitimate self-interests in a traditional sense, are misled by Americanist influences into dangerous waters as well. Thus, for example, they presume that every other nation’s practical desires ought to bend to fit our own. For does not the United States, by definition, defend what is good? It might, on specific occasions. But even if it does, one must always recognize that there are also legitimate national differences which will last until the end of time, and it is precisely these distinctions which a true patriotic sense discerns and respects in other peoples. Sometimes, such Americans think that the only reason for our quarrel with the Soviet Union was our different political and social institutions—as though exaggerated Russian military power would have been a mere trifle without Marxism-Leninism! Americanism blinds them to the fact that nations fought wars before ideologies existed and will continue to do so should they ever disappear. And, finally, there are true patriots, who are also respectful of other nations’ integrity. They find, to their amazement, that the entire strength of the Americanist message is aimed against them and the expression of their real love of the land and concern for the independence of all nations. Why are they amazed? Because no one has pointed out the existence of Americanism to them.

The result is that Americanism makes us men without a country, just as it makes us men without an authoritative state, a network of real institutions with traditions and esprit de corps, men without a history. Americanism seeks to replace the nation with an ideology, patriotism with an ideological, fideisitic religion. But ideology cannot take the place of faith, the state, the city, the family and everything else of importance to national life. It cannot take the place of a real nation. And, hence, it leaves the American suspended in a limbo which the Americanist would have us believe is a model for the cosmos as a whole.

Finally, let us remember that this fideistic faith disguised as patriotism is a jealous thing, and cannot endure competition with real religion. Of course, it would never admit to being a problem for religion, just as it would never admit to being a problem for reason, precisely because it does not see itself as it actually is. Nevertheless, it works ferociously against any faith that contradicts it. It cannot rest until is sucks all substance out of opposing creeds. But operating in the subtle way that it does, it prefers to destroy by reinterpretation; by allowing and even encouraging the survival of its opponents, so long as they redefine their beliefs and goals along Pluralist, Americanist lines. And it was to find its most serious opponent in the Roman Catholic Church and its greatest victory in conquering and blindfolding her to her own collapse.

III. Americanism and the Catholic Church

Americanism was bound to react against Catholicism with peculiar virulence. Indeed, it was obliged to do so. Catholicism represented all that both major influences on the American Religion reproved. The Church condemned the doctrine of total depravity and the secular consequences stemming from it. She did not disdain the principle of authority, the value of community, the wonder of the arts and the glory of the human body. Hence, she did not hand them over to man’s sinful tendencies to be shaped willfully, but, rather, sought to guide them to their proper fulfillment. Rome saw no need to worship the American model of government. The Church was at home in the city. Her traditions were tied in with the heritage of the Greco-Roman polis and the brilliant culture of the medieval town. Moreover, Catholicism had long nourished a diversity of national cultures within that real (even if difficult to define) unity called Christendom. Harmony, in her mind, did not entail an end to ethnic differences nor a minimizing of the universal truth, nor an adulation of materialism. She was ready to sacrifice a cheap, narrowly-construed idea of peace at any price for the sake of obtaining the peace that surpasses all understanding. Other forces encountered by Americanism might embody one or two “erroneous” beliefs, easily defused and integrated into the gray, Pluralist dogma, but Catholicism was the enemy incarnate.

American animosity towards the Church was expressed in as many ways as there were personal reflections of the national soul. The brutish burned convents and churches in Philadelphia. Men of religion evoked images of Bloody Mary from Fox’s Book of Martyrs. They aroused congregations to sympathy for the supposed torments of captive nuns in New England convent dungeons. Politicos set to work in the Know-Nothings, the American Protection Association and the Ku Klux Klan. Intellectuals, cultivating what some have called the anti-semitism of the educated classes, delivered learned papers at Harvard and Yale on the inevitable conflict of Catholicism and human dignity. None of these “types” had to fear serious reprobation. Each was putting the national creed into action according to his peculiar gifts. If the enemy of the American Religion was incapable of being devoured, then it would have to be humiliated and destroyed.

Two distinct Catholic viewpoints regarding the best method of protecting the Church and Catholics in America were in obvious conflict by the latter half of the nineteenth century. One of these was convinced that the battle between Catholicism and American society was an unnecessary one. It has long been labeled the Americanist position. This title is a justifiable one, as shall become clear below, since supporters of the Americanist position gradually grew close to the Americanist faith described in the previous section. Three names stand out among its more significant proponents: Bishop John Keane of Richmond, sometime Rector of Catholic University; Msgr. Denis O’Connell of the North American College in Rome; and Bishop John Ireland of St. Paul. The opposing viewpoint took a much more critical attitude towards the possibilities of an American-Catholic rapprochement. It may simply be called the anti-Americanist outlook. Anti-Americanism had a very flexible set of supporters. Leaders of German-speaking Catholics frequently espoused it. So did several foreign faculty members at Catholic University. Bishops such as Corrigan of New York and McQuaid of Rochester were more comfortable with its skepticism than with the optimism of the Americanist school.

There are at least four good explanations for the development of the Americanist position. Two of these are “positive” in character in the sense of responding to real problems. Two are “negative” in that they reflect unfortunate preoccupations that ought to have been suppressed.

The two positive stimuli to the growth of Americanism were the desire for a true home and the awareness of nativist exploitation of the “alien” Catholics. Europe was far away, Americanists argued, unlikely ever to be seen again by the bulk of Catholic immigrants. The American government, American working conditions and American neighbors would provide the framework for their existence for the rest of their lives. Should wars come, American armies might demand their blood. Hence, the faster that they cut their ties with their lost European past, the sooner that they ceased viewing themselves as strangers in a strange land, the better for their tranquility, material prosperity and the peace of the Church. Hyphenated Americans would always be unhappy and disrespected Americans.

Two negative influences were present, however, in the form of an unhealthy reaction to America’s status as a mission country and in the particular ambitions of some members of one Catholic ethnic group—the Irish. Both of these demand a full and separate attention.

The United States was a mission country of enormous size underneath the supervision of Propaganda in Rome. Because it was a mission country, it required a vast amount of help from abroad in order to survive. How few remember today, for example, the fact that the American episcopacy was once heavily spiced with French prelates, and that seminary training in this country was subject to tremendous Gallic influence.

One of the difficulties of being a mission country is the fact that it is all too painfully clear that the center of things is far away. There are no sacred places. There are no confessors and martyrs or holy kings. There is no developed music or art or theology or any of the other hallmarks of a high Catholic civilization. Mission countries are often engaged in a race to cease being what they are and to arrive, so to speak, at the center of things. This, however, is a cumbersome task and can—indeed, it must—take centuries if it is to be deeply rooted.

A people as “practical” and “results-oriented” as the Americans find slow movements impossible to tolerate. Americanists, sensitive to this mentality, were similar in spirit. Surely, good will and ingenuity ought to be able to make history move faster! What better way to speed it up than to find in the soul of America Catholic lessons about which the rest of the Mystical Body of Christ was ignorant? In other words, what more efficient means of ending one’s mission country status than by declaring the periphery to be the center! In this way, the remainder of the Church could be viewed as the true mission territory and the United States as its teacher.

The second negative influence is the more difficult one to discuss because it seems to be an indictment of an entire people, the Irish. It is not. Many Irish were among the most vigorous opponents of Americanism, and the problem that I am about to discuss may well have been an unconscious one for those who were not. Nevertheless, a complete understanding of Americanism as an historical phenomenon requires touching upon the Irish Question in a manner that some may find to be offensive.

American Catholics of German and French descent were generally of a higher material and cultural level than those who were not. The Germans, for example, had carefully planned their immigration, settled comfortably upon their arrival and often maintained their interest in the outward manifestations of Catholic high culture. Irish Catholics, persecuted for centuries by the English, could not do the same thing. Their only real advantage in the new homeland was the fact that they could speak its language. So long as the mission country status of the Church in the United States continued, along with its emphasis upon the glories of the past tradition, the French and Germans retained a closer tie with the center of things. As soon as that tradition began to weaken, however, and the star of America rose within the Church, then the Irish fortune might rise with it. The key to understanding the American “teachings” would be the English language, not cultivation, and in this endeavor the Germans and the French could be outmatched. Ironically, as some have pointed out, an Irish connection with Americanism would involve the Celts in a glorification of the “enemy” Anglo-Saxon achievement.

Just as positive and negative influences may be indicated in the growth of the Americanist attitude, a two-fold set of factors is responsible for the evolution of the opposing position. Hostility to Americanism was certainly due to fears of its effects upon the corpus of Catholic teachings and the practices of the faithful. It was also the product of a certain jealousy of the successes of the Americanist leaders in mainstream society in this country. Moreover, German ethnic pride and sense of cultural superiority may also have played their role irrespective of the substantive issues involved.

The Americanists were probably right in insisting upon the need for wholehearted Catholic involvement in American society. Catholicism does, after all, have a vision of full participation in all forms of community life. It is not healthy for Catholics to retreat from this vision. When they do so retreat, they have a tendency to create substitute communities that temporarily protect them from the reality around them but which cannot shut it out permanently. They become sectarian in their behavior, sometimes even psychologically ill, like so many Protestant cultists. When this retreat takes place within an already Protestant environment, such as that of the United States, the potential for madness is incalculable. The existence of a non-Catholic society is always a tragedy, and one which mutilates many of the best efforts to deal with it. It is conceivable that a complete victory of the anti-Americanists could have entailed the development of a true ghetto mentality with unpredictable heterodox side effects. It is also conceivable that it might have left the Church in the United States as a set of colonial churches dependent upon foreign governments and traditions, thus arousing quite rational nativist fears.

Nevertheless, the enthusiasm and the type of arguments with which the Americanists promoted the difficult enterprise of making contact with American society indicate their unsuitability for the task. It seems to be fairly clear that a desire to “fit in” to American life caused them to be very blithe about the dangers of “slippage” from the Faith; that the Americanists themselves, in displaying their “patriotism”, began to espouse the “religion” of the United States; and that, finally, adoption of this false patriotic religion began to make them bend Catholicism to the demands of the drab, Pluralist culture around them. In other words, they were conquered by Americanism and became spokesmen for their conqueror.

IV. The Opposing Camps

Americanist spokesmen encouraged any number of sensitive contacts with non-Catholics that radically increased the chance of a break with the Church. They rejected demands for foreign language parishes for immigrants and an ethnic sharing of bishoprics, regardless of the fact that a sudden immersion in Anglo-Saxon culture might mean a drowning in Protestantism as well. Some urged newly-arrived Catholics to abandon the city centers for a countryside where anti-Romanism reigned supreme. Major Americanist figures seem to have been embarrassed at the idea of a separate Catholic school system, preferring state education supplemented by religious instruction. What of the prolonged exposure of school children to teachers trained in hostility to Catholicism? They saw the problem as being an exaggerated one.

While nervous of Catholic lower education, they dreamed of a national Catholic university, the present Catholic University of America, which became a reality during the 1880’s and 1890’s. This was envisioned by them as a tool for breaking out of the ghetto, as an instrument for encouraging educated Catholic contribution to American civilization in a spirit of friendship. But what of the national culture’s penchant for unanimity and the probability that “friendship” would transform the Catholic intelligentsia into yet another group of mindless adulators of the Pluralist party line? And were there no dangers to the Americanist call for Catholic and non-Catholic cooperation in labor unions? Could workers’ interests be so clinically separated from their personal beliefs that a man’s atheism, Protestantism, or Catholicism did not shade them in any significant fashion?

Americanists, as already noted, were largely motivated to urge these contacts because of their “patriotism” and because they believed that they were a practical necessity. They were enthusiastic, both in public and in private, in their gratitude towards the United States for what they felt that the Catholic peoples had gained here. They tried to demonstrate to Catholics the practical use that they could make out of American separation of Church and State. They sought to convince other Americans that full Catholic participation in national life would strengthen this country still further. Once the United States entered the race for colonies, many Americanists became fervent Imperialists. The Spanish-American War was crucial to them, both as a means of displaying their patriotism as well as for the chance it gave to underline the value of the Catholic contribution to the common cause.

Alas! Americanists, like other Americans, were seduced into confusing true patriotism with devotion to the religion of atomism, democracy and Pluralism. They were led from the practical acceptance and use of the unique American experience into its glorification as a superior good in and of itself. This adoption of the secular religion described in the previous section can be seen in endless statements and symbolic actions during the lat twenty years of the nineteenth century. It is best summarized in a biography of Fr. Isaac Hecker (1819-1888), founder of the Paulists, which will be discussed in further detail below.

Several examples will suffice to illustrate my point. Because they had begun to become atomists in the Puritan sense, Americanists were often not alarmed at the prospect of enticing Catholic immigrants away from the cities. They saw America as a place wherein individuals no longer needed the superficial aids of past Catholic communities. Older Catholic cultures were “weak”, and, hence, understandably more dependent upon authority, spiritual directors, miracles and other religious manifestations to keep up their spirit. They were “passive” in character. No wonder that they appreciated “passive” virtues, like obedience, and developed so many religious orders maintained by life-long vows and disciplinary methods.

Now, however, America had created the potential for developing strong individuals who could be “active” instead of “passive”, who were “doers” instead of obedient servants. The Holy Spirit poured Himself out directly to self-reliant American individuals in a way that He did not wish to do with passive Europeans. Hence, they could dispense with certain of the authoritative, visible aids that other Catholic peoples required. As one American archbishop said at Lourdes, there were no appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the United States because Americans did not need them. Individual Catholic Americans could survive more fruitfully than those wrapped up in the community-rich, medieval European setting. Unfortunately, he did not understand that they would be living off of the diminishing capital of the past as they stripped themselves of all reference to it.

Similarly, Americanists were not terribly frightened of state schools in the United States because they presumed that American institutions were divinely shielded from error and abuse. Rather than being products of necessity, political choice and the American Constitution, America’s freedoms and her separation of Church and State were God’s most perfect political and social gifts to man. They were magnificent by definition. Therefore, nothing guided by them, such as state schools, could ever harm Catholicism.

Finally, the Americanists’ true spirit is underlined by the character of the statements that they made about our country’s victory in the Spanish-American War. Americanists combined their views with Social Darwinism to express just how natural this victory really was. The Latin peoples, they argued, were subjects of inferior, decadent, authoritarian cultures. Hence, they were still childlike in behavior. America represented superior, individualistic Anglo-Saxon culture, and her victory would set the inhabitants of the Caribbean free. Indeed, her victory demonstrated that the banner of God and of humanity was in her hands. America would soon be in a position to teach the world that democracy, separation of Church and State and rugged individualism were Catholicism’s best friends.

All of the elements of secularized Puritan Americanism are present in these statements: atomism, disdain for Europe and belief in the divine mission of America. Unfortunately, the consequence of acceptance of this secular religion also began to make its appearance as well: namely, the minimizing of the Catholic Faith for the sake of fitting in with vague, bland, materialistic Pluralist Fideism. Insistence upon the superiority of “active” virtues like work over “passive” ones such as obedience already indicate this transformation. So does American Catholic neglect of art and music. So, too, does the willingness of Americanists to be present at ceremonies in Harvard Chapel and the Brigham Young Monument in Utah. So does the gesture of giving dubious titles like “The Ultimate Religion” to otherwise decent Catholic talks at a “World Parliament of Religions” representing everyone from Anglicans to theosophists and swamis.

None of these developments was missed by the opponents of Americanism. They argued that Americanism was, to a certain degree, simply a means of adulating the unacceptable spirit of American life. Americans did not want the supernatural to interfere with their lives, such critics insisted, and the Americanists were trying to accommodate them by declaring their naturalistic concerns and abilities to be supernatural promptings and virtues anyway. American government had developed in such a fashion as to banish the Church from political and social matters. Secularists now praised this development. Americanists were trying to ingratiate themselves with such people by declaring separation of Church and State to be the ideal Catholic goal. In fact, what Americanists were saying was that Protestant and Enlightenment influences, such as those which had built the United States, produce higher cultures than Catholic ones. Rather than less authority and community and supernatural manifestations, the anti-Americanists argued, the United States required more of these than did other nations. The American Religion did provide some of the things that it promised, particularly material benefits. But unless the United States were permeated with the supernatural, this very prosperity would expel God from the nation. It would expel Him not as an atheist would banish Him, as an evil superstition, but as an inconsequential and superfluous being who interfered with consumption. And it would do so in the wrapping of seemingly traditional Protestant Christian language.

Three issues, more than any others, brought the battle between Americanists and their opponents to a head during the 1880’s and 1890’s, forcing Rome to deal with the problem. These three problems were the German Question, the conflict over Catholic University and the publication of the French translation of Fr. Elliott’s Life of Fr. Isaac Hecker.

The German Question chiefly involved the debate over German Catholic efforts to protect their identity as an ethnic group. It centered around the issues of appointment of bishops in the United States with regard to ethnic considerations, the feasibility of foreign-language parishes and the separate Catholic school problem. It did not pit all of the opponents of Americanism on the same side of the fence since many anti-Americanists did believe in the ultimate need for an English-speaking unity in this country. What it did so, however, was to identify the power of many of the Americanist spokesmen and demonstrate the awe in which they held America and American institutions. Germans became embittered as a result of this debate, both by what they felt to be the Irish domination of the Church and the way in which certain Americanist Irish prelates seemed to be accusing them of greater loyalty to Germany than to the United States. The fact that there had even been efforts made by Catholic clergy to have this Church issue brought for discussion before the American Congress was particularly irritating. Many German Catholics became convinced that there were heretical, secularist tendencies at work behind the scenes, and dedicated themselves to exposing them.

A second conflict centered around Catholic University. Controversy had plagued Catholic University since before its birth, controversy involving its purpose, location and leadership. A number of foreigners had been hired to work as faculty members from the time of its inception in the Departments of Theology and Philosophy. Several of the most outspoken among them, including Fr. Georges Périès, Fr. Joseph Schroeder and Msgr. Joseph Pohle felt that the institution was being manipulated by a clique of Americanists. The vigor with which they attacked manifestations of the Americanist spirit made them personae non gratae at the University. They were eventually forced out. Needless to say, personal matters as well as substantive issues entered into their difficulties, but that is in the nature of the human dilemma. An Americanist/anti-Americanist quarrel lay at the foundation of the problem. Upon returning to Europe, they exposed in French and German Catholic journals the character of that which they claimed to have heard and seen in the United States. They, too, were convinced that they were dealing with a subtle heresy.

Rome had already given some credence to the complaints of these men while they were still at Catholic University. Leo XIII had sent an Apostolic Delegate to the United States in 1893, Archbishop Satolli, who had resided for a time on the university’s grounds. Satolli came to share the fears of the anti-Americanists. His reports to Rome led to the retirement of Keane as Rector of Catholic University in 1895. The Vatican issued a letter, Longinquina oceani, in the same year. This stressed the unique character of the American experience and its inability to serve as a model for the rest of the Catholic world. When Satolli was finally replaced as Apostolic Delegate, his successor was a religious. The choice of a religious as a replacement was interpreted as a sign that Rome considered Americanist disdain for passive virtues such as the obedience entailed by vows to be an error.

Nevertheless, the most important confrontation leading to intervention from Rome came with the translation in 1897 by the Abbé Klein of Fr. Elliott’s Life of Isaac Hecker. Fr. Hecker, founder of the Paulists, had supported “opening the windows” to the United States in a manner reminiscent of the Americanists. Carved on his tombstone in St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York are his own words: “In the union of Catholic Faith and American civilization…a future for the Church brighter than any past.” Fr. Klein, as well as a number of renegade “neo-Christians” in France, suggested that the Pluralism and separation of Church and State in America ought to be the model for European affairs as well. This universalizing of what Rome admitted to be a parochial, practical necessity in the United States, this universalizing of which the Americanist was also guilty, unleashed serious debate both in the Old World and in the New. The exiles from Catholic University insisted that they had listened to this sort of thing all the time in academic circles in the United States. German-American Catholics understood it to be the natural accompaniment to the earlier attack on their ethnic unity. Proponents of Americanism seemed to confirm suspicions of their intentions by speechmaking tours overseas and discussion among themselves of the progress of “The Movement”.

Still, Americanists claimed that they were not promoting the kind of thing that one found in the biography of Fr. Hecker or in the statements of neo-Christians. They insisted that Europeans who criticized them were actually enemies of the United States. In one sense, they were correct. Anyone writing or thinking about Americanism inevitably tries to analyze it in logical fashion. He must organize it to do so. But since it is one of the essential aspects of Americanism not to take ideas seriously and to presume that it is simply espousing a practical method of achieving a good, the Americanist often does not see the contradictions of which he is guilty. Nineteenth century Americanists were orthodox Roman Catholics. They wished to be American patriots. American patriotism involved unquestioning adherence to Americanism. Hence, they tried to be both Catholics and Americanists at the same time. When the logical consequences of accepting Americanism were spelled out to them, when the significance of their own symbolic actions was explicated, they reacted in a typical Americanist way: they denied logic. They did not intend to be heretics. Therefore, Americanism could not be a heresy when it proclaimed America to be a God-given instrument for the instruction and progress of the world. Moreover, the Americanists were perhaps correct in claiming that their enemies were the enemies of the United States, but only in the sense that the United States and the Americanist Religion were equated. I have tried to show that this equation need not take place when a true definition of patriotism and nationhood exist.

Rome was faced with an unfortunate dilemma. Americanism was an error, but it seemed to be the case that its proponents did not understand either the problem or their part in it. Thus, she responded in the only way that seemed to be just. A letter, Testem benevolentiae, was sent to the Cardinal-Archbishop of Baltimore in 1899 explaining the danger of Americanism, stopping short of accusing any Americans of accepting this doctrine, but urging them to abandon it if they had done so. It was not enough to crush the monster.

V. The Blindness of a Conquered People

Americanism, in its Catholic form, was long said to have been nothing other than a figment of over-excited and over-suspicious minds. This judgment would seem to have been confirmed by the fact that significant mention of it practically disappeared almost from the moment that Testem benevolentiae took notice of its dangers. And yet a comparison of contemporary Catholic life with the main Americanist tenets would indicate unmistakably that it has now won as total a victory as it humanly can win.

Many of the doctrines which were only embryonic in the Americanist of the 1890’s who basically still wished to be orthodox, have blossomed into straightforward, unashamed heresies today. There is now a blatant insistence upon the need for a national American Church, one that has as its chief duty the propagation of Pluralist doctrines of openness to freedom for everything except that which is substantive, exalted, truly distinct, Catholic and therefore, unacceptably “divisive”.

Moreover, the inevitable consequences of Americanist thought are more manifest in practical ways than they were one hundred years ago. The dismantling of all that is solidly Catholic for the sake of integration has brought in its train every one of the evils to be noted in secular Pluralist society as a whole. Americanism always is accompanied by spiritual boredom, and nothing can be imagined that is more boring than American Catholicism in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The liturgical disaster, the stripping bare of churches and the way in which gimmicks, games, vulgarities, petty forms of social work, sexual obsessions and narrow political concerns have taken precedence over the supernatural all testify to the blandness and materialism that this conquest entails. Americanism is always accompanied by the multiplication of facts, the impotence of the serious and the domination of the strongest materialist or irrational will, and nothing can be imagined that is more divided, more bumbling in its defense of the truth and more enslaved to the desires of powerful illicit wills than American Catholicism in the 1980’s and 1990’s. All the talk of manifold types of hyphenated Catholics with interests unceasingly in collision, all the episcopal statements and programs wrapped in contradictions and chintz, all the commanding influence of financial consultants, sex experts and uninformed charismatic personalities in parishes, chanceries and doctrinal committees sing of the ravages of the Americanist Faith.

And yet, once again, far from decrying its destruction, the conquered Catholic people do not admit what has happened to them but praise their conquest and strive to tighten the chains of their conquerors with their own hands. “They die, and yet they smile.” They have forgotten what Catholicism is all about, even when they think that they are defending it. I should like to offer four historical and sociological reasons for the silent victory of the conquering enemy.

Americanism appeared to fade away partly because the United States at the turn of the century was on the periphery of the world in the Vatican’s mind and could not hold its attention for long. Rome was not eager to bother the Americans, so long as the Americans did not openly bother Rome. Rome, in other words, allowed the infection to grow.

Admittedly, it was difficult for her to continue hostilities when the Americanist himself insisted that no heresy existed, that he possessed no discernable theological platform and that he merely espoused a humble, pragmatic method concerned with promoting contacts between the secular world and Catholicism, unconnected with doctrinal matters. The subtle transformation of his pastoral program into an evangelical religion escaped him, much as it escaped many other patriots who unwittingly served an anti-national creed. Americanists could not grasp the meaning of Testem benevolentiae because the encyclical was itself part and parcel of that preoccupation with abstractions that American Pluralism was supposed to overcome. If the Americanist issue did not attract the concern of most Catholicism and one of the participants in the battle refused to admit that there was even a war, why would Rome, belabored with other difficulties which it judged to be more critical, think to intervene anew?

Moreover, the contrast of Modernism with Americanism seemed to confirm this judgment. The Modernist Crisis did involve a direct theological challenge to Catholic doctrine, and, thus, could not arouse a general Americanist enthusiasm. American failure to embrace Modernism in the wake of the Americanist flare-up gave the United States the aura of a model orthodox nation. Alas! Rome did not realize how “practical”, “pragmatic” Americanism could suck whole nations into what was effectively a nominalist, naturalist, modernist wind tunnel!

Secondly, Americanism also triumphed in the midst of its seeming demise due to Catholic acclimatization to the surrounding American world. This acclimatization was solidified by the post-war flight from the cities. It was one thing speaking of the glories of the American way of life when the bulk of Catholics were foreign speaking or at least were making their home in ghettos in New York, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. In this case, such chatter amounted to nothing more than tossing grains of incense before the statue of an Emperor whose dicta might still be interpreted in a Catholic sense. After all, even an Americanist who lived under such conditions was constantly subject to an afterglow of the old Catholic ways, and probably would never grasp or develop the full meaning of his new religion.

Once, however, Americanism was emphasized under the authority and customs of the beauty-less suburbs, it began to take its real toll. Catholics started to live with their fellow Americans door-to-door. They discovered the true meaning of Pluralism in doing so. They understood that it did not mean adding their heartfelt convictions to an uplifting national dialogue. Instead, they saw that it signified adoption of sexual, commercial and other democratic obsessions, merged into a dull, drab, shapeless middle position, reflected by the character of their bedroom communities as a whole. Pluralism is the intellectual expression of Wonderbread. Catholics saw this and they grew infatuated with the horrendous reality of it. Soon, their love affair led them to a Wonderbread Liturgy, a Wonderbread Catholic school system and a Wonderbread theology, all dedicated to the glorification of secularized Puritanism. This is what Americanism always offered, and this is what Catholics finally obtained. It was a glorious acquisition.

Catholic politicians played their infamous role in this acclimatization. America was only willing to accept as national politicians those able to fit in with the Pluralist mentality, men who would bow down and adore the national God and the national Faith. Many Catholic politicians were willing to sell themselves in this fashion, or, to be more precise, were already so Americanized as not to understand the humiliation they were undergoing. Once more, American society went out of its way to praise them for the “courage” they displayed in accepting the devil’s offer of all the kingdoms of this world. The average believer saw their consequent success as a sign that the place of the Church in American life had become secure. Democracy, Pluralism and separation of Church and State had, it seemed, really done their job. They had given Catholics and their Church a full share in national affairs. This is true, so long as one underlines a harsh fact: those Catholics and that Catholic Church which were given a full share in national affairs were so defused by the Americanist Religion that they bore little or no relation to the believers and the Faith that the United States had so disliked a century beforehand.

A third explanation for the apparent demise of Americanism was the rise of Soviet power. Marxist hostility to the Church was so overt as to overshadow completely the subtle way in which the American Religion opposed the true Catholic spirit and led to similar anti-Catholic results. American Catholics, thrilled that the enemy of their Church was also the enemy of their country, understood anti-communism to be a means of emphasizing their patriotism. Unfortunately, it also proved to be a pathway to their Americanization. Catholics began to believe, en masse, that any criticism of the American way of life—indeed, any suggestion that there could even be a single alternative to the American way of life—was tantamount to treason. Instead of using their loyalty to home to wean the United States away from the equation of patriotism with the American Religion, they fell prey to the same unfortunate error. We are now paying the price of that surrender, since many Americanized Catholics feel duty-bound to betray the land which they believe has ignored its democratic mission in South America, Asia and Africa.

Fourthly, Americanism has prevailed because of recent American dominance of the western world as a whole. The victory of the United States in World War Two and its undoubted material prosperity convinced many Europeans that American attitudes towards the State, the individual and Pluralism itself were valid. It convinced them that efforts to shape countries according to the dictates of substantive political and social doctrines like those of Communism or Nazism were erroneous. It convinced them that American Pluralism was the neutral force allowing all doctrines a chance to prosper which I have demonstrated it was not. I once thought that 1968 marked the beginning of the end of this fascination of Europe for America, but the cultural influences from the United States have continued to grow unabated, making an effective escape a difficult enterprise. So omnipresent are they now that people no longer even remember where they originally came from, or that the Second World War was actually an important event permitting their development.

The Church did not remain free of these influences either. Americanist notions penetrated throughout the Universal Church in the period after the Second World War. I do not deny the validity of the Second Vatican Council. Nevertheless, one would have to keep his eyes shut not to recognize just how many Americanist concepts, in union with related Vitalist visions, played a role in its proceedings and interpretation. The notion of avoiding doctrine issues for purely “pastoral” concerns is something an Americanist, suspicious of ideas, would want. The subtle transformation of a non-doctrinal synod into the only doctrinal council, a force for developing a democratic, Pluralist, truly oppressive institution, is something that a student of Americanism could have predicted. So was the insistence upon separation of Church and State. Efforts since the Council to minimize Catholicism by integrating Marxist, capitalist, feminist and homosexual ideas into the body of the Faith are all vivid signs of the pressure of Americanism. The most certain indication of its presence is the boredom and the childishness of much of what passes for Catholic life since the 1960’s. How could Americanism not triumph when the very centers of the Universal Church reflect its wishes? Reflect its wishes, and yet deny that they do so at one and the same time?

VI. What Is To Be Done?

It is essential for the American people to become a nation. It cannot do so while Americanism is the standard used to define the meaning of nationhood. It is essential for Catholic Americans to relearn orthodox teachings and the glory of orthodox cultures in order to save themselves and to raise their nation to supernatural perfection. They cannot do so while Americanism sets the ground rules for identifying what constitutes both Catholicism and loyal citizenship.

The solution to this two-fold dilemma is the same now as it was when Catholics first began observing and criticizing American life in the last century. It is as simple to describe as it is immensely difficult to carry out. Catholic Americans must distance themselves from the ideology of America. They must not abandon their faith for the sake of this false religion which is both anti-human and destructive to the idea of nationhood as well as blasphemous. Until such time as they act politically and socially on the basis of a true, orthodox vision of God and His Creation, and seek to raise this nation up on that foundation, both they and their non-Catholic fellow citizens will remain “men without a country” and slaves to a vulgar materialism that will eventually bore them to their graves. The necessary precondition for this action is described in my article, “Why Catholics Cannot Defend Themselves”. That precondition is to learn their Faith, free from Americanist manipulation. For no one who wants to shout “long live the United States of America, from sea to shining sea, its flag and its people” can do so with confidence until a race of true confessors converts that land to the one Church of Christ, defeating Americanism and preventing all trace of religion and patriotism from perishing from its shores.

Bibliographical Note

In addition to Dr. Thomas Molnar’s Le modele defiguré, published in France, the following works were crucial to preparing this pamphlet: Thomas McAvoy, The Great Crisis in American Catholic History: 1895-1900 (Chicago, Regnery, 1957); P.H. Ahern, The Catholic University of America, 1887-1896: The Rectorship of John J. Keane (Washington, D.C., Catholic University Press, 1948); C.J. Barry, The Catholic University of American, 1903-1909: The Rectorship of Denis J. O’Connell (Washington, Catholic University Press, 1950); The Catholic Church and the German Americans (Washington: Catholic University Press, 1953); J.T. Ellis, The Life of James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, 1834-1921 (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company, 1952).

The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved

The Little Number of Those Who Are SavedSt. Leonard of Port Maurice –

Saint Leonard of Port Maurice was a most holy Franciscan friar who lived at the monastery of Saint Bonaventure in Rome. He was one of the greatest missioners in the history of the Church. He used to preach to thousands in the open square of every city and town where the churches could not hold his listeners. So brilliant and holy was his eloquence that once when he gave a two weeks’ mission in Rome, the Pope and College of Cardinals came to hear him. The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the veneration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were his crusades. He was in no small way responsible for the definition of the Immaculate Conception made a little more than a hundred years after his death. He also gave us the Divine Praises, which are said at the end of Benediction. But Saint Leonard’s most famous work was his devotion to the Stations of the Cross. He died a most holy death in his seventy-fifth year, after twenty-four years of uninterrupted preaching.

One of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice’s most famous sermons was “The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved.” It was the one he relied on for the conversion of great sinners. This sermon, like his other writings, was submitted to canonical examination during the process of canonization. In it he reviews the various states of life of Christians and concludes with the little number of those who are saved, in relation to the totality of men.

The reader who meditates on this remarkable text will grasp the soundness of its argumentation, which has earned it the approbation of the Church. Here is the great missionary’s vibrant and moving sermon.


Thanks be to God, the number of the Redeemer’s disciples is not so small that the wickedness of the Scribes and Pharisees is able to triumph over them. Although they strove to calumniate innocence and to deceive the crowd with their treacherous sophistries by discrediting the doctrine and character of Our Lord, finding spots even in the sun, many still recognized Him as the true Messiah, and, unafraid of either chastisements or threats, openly joined His cause. Did all those who followed Christ follow Him even unto glory? Oh, this is where I revere the profound mystery and silently adore the abysses of the divine decrees, rather than rashly deciding on such a great point! The subject I will be treating today is a very grave one; it has caused even the pillars of the Church to tremble, filled the greatest Saints with terror and populated the deserts with anchorites. The point of this instruction is to decide whether the number of Christians who are saved is greater or less than the number of Christians who are damned; it will, I hope, produce in you a salutary fear of the judgments of God.

Brothers, because of the love I have for you, I wish I were able to reassure you with the prospect of eternal happiness by saying to each of you: You are certain to go to paradise; the greater number of Christians is saved, so you also will be saved. But how can I give you this sweet assurance if you revolt against God’s decrees as though you were your own worst enemies? I observe in God a sincere desire to save you, but I find in you a decided inclination to be damned. So what will I be doing today if I speak clearly? I will be displeasing to you. But if I do not speak, I will be displeasing to God.

Therefore, I will divide this subject into two points. In the first one, to fill you with dread, I will let the theologians and Fathers of the Church decide on the matter and declare that the greater number of Christian adults are damned; and, in silent adoration of that terrible mystery, I will keep my own sentiments to myself. In the second point I will attempt to defend the goodness of God versus the godless, by proving to you that those who are damned are damned by their own malice, because they wanted to be damned. So then, here are two very important truths. If the first truth frightens you, do not hold it against me, as though I wanted to make the road of heaven narrower for you, for I want to be neutral in this matter; rather, hold it against the theologians and Fathers of the Church who will engrave this truth in your heart by the force of reason. If you are disillusioned by the second truth, give thanks to God over it, for He wants only one thing: that you give your hearts totally to Him. Finally, if you oblige me to tell you clearly what I think, I will do so for your consolation.


The Teaching of the Fathers of the Church

It is not vain curiosity but salutary precaution to proclaim from the height of the pulpit certain truths which serve wonderfully to contain the indolence of libertines, who are always talking about the mercy of God and about how easy it is to convert, who live plunged in all sorts of sins and are soundly sleeping on the road to hell. To disillusion them and waken them from their torpor, today let us examine this great question: Is the number of Christians who are saved greater than the number of Christians who are damned?

Pious souls, you may leave; this sermon is not for you. Its sole purpose is to contain the pride of libertines who cast the holy fear of God out of their heart and join forces with the devil who, according to the sentiment of Eusebius, damns souls by reassuring them. To resolve this doubt, let us put the Fathers of the Church, both Greek and Latin, on one side; on the other, the most learned theologians and erudite historians; and let us put the Bible in the middle for all to see. Now listen not to what I will say to you – for I have already told you that I do not want to speak for myself or decide on the matter – but listen to what these great minds have to tell you, they who are beacons in the Church of God to give light to others so that they will not miss the road to heaven. In this manner, guided by the triple light of faith, authority and reason, we will be able to resolve this grave matter with certainty.

Note well that there is no question here of the human race taken as a whole, nor of all Catholics taken without distinction, but only of Catholic adults, who have free choice and are thus capable of cooperating in the great matter of their salvation. First let us consult the theologians recognized as examining things most carefully and as not exaggerating in their teaching: let us listen to two learned cardinals, Cajetan and Bellarmine. They teach that the greater number of Christian adults are damned, and if I had the time to point out the reasons upon which they base themselves, you would be convinced of it yourselves. But I will limit myself here to quoting Suarez. After consulting all the theologians and making a diligent study of the matter, he wrote, “The most common sentiment which is held is that, among Christians, there are more damned souls than predestined souls.”

Add the authority of the Greek and Latin Fathers to that of the theologians, and you will find that almost all of them say the same thing. This is the sentiment of Saint Theodore, Saint Basil, Saint Ephrem, and Saint John Chrysostom. What is more, according to Baronius it was a common opinion among the Greek Fathers that this truth was expressly revealed to Saint Simeon Stylites and that after this revelation, it was to secure his salvation that he decided to live standing on top of a pillar for forty years, exposed to the weather, a model of penance and holiness for everyone. Now let us consult the Latin Fathers. You will hear Saint Gregory saying clearly, “Many attain to faith, but few to the heavenly kingdom.” Saint Anselm declares, “There are few who are saved.” Saint Augustine states even more clearly, “Therefore, few are saved in comparison to those who are damned.” The most terrifying, however, is Saint Jerome. At the end of his life, in the presence of his disciples, he spoke these dreadful words: “Out of one hundred thousand people whose lives have always been bad, you will find barely one who is worthy of indulgence.”


The Words of Holy Scripture

But why seek out the opinions of the Fathers and theologians, when Holy Scripture settles the question so clearly? Look in to the Old and New Testaments, and you will find a multitude of figures, symbols and words that clearly point out this truth: very few are saved. In the time of Noah, the entire human race was submerged by the Deluge, and only eight people were saved in the Ark. Saint Peter says, “This ark was the figure of the Church,” while Saint Augustine adds, “And these eight people who were saved signify that very few Christians are saved, because there are very few who sincerely renounce the world, and those who renounce it only in words do not belong to the mystery represented by that ark.” The Bible also tells us that only two Hebrews out of two million entered the Promised Land after going out of Egypt, and that only four escaped the fire of Sodom and the other burning cities that perished with it. All of this means that the number of the damned who will be cast into fire like straw is far greater than that of the saved, whom the heavenly Father will one day gather into His barns like precious wheat.

I would not finish if I had to point out all the figures by which Holy Scripture confirms this truth; let us content ourselves with listening to the living oracle of Incarnate Wisdom. What did Our Lord answer the curious man in the Gospel who asked Him, “Lord, is it only a few to be saved?” Did He keep silence? Did He answer haltingly? Did He conceal His thought for fear of frightening the crowd? No. Questioned by only one, He addresses all of those present. He says to them: “You ask Me if there are only few who are saved?” Here is My answer: “Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Who is speaking here? It is the Son of God, Eternal Truth, who on another occasion says even more clearly, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” He does not say that all are called and that out of all men, few are chosen, but that many are called; which means, as Saint Gregory explains, that out of all men, many are called to the True Faith, but out of them few are saved. Brothers, these are the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Are they clear? They are true. Tell me now if it is possible for you to have faith in your heart and not tremble.


Salvation in the Various States of Life

But oh, I see that by speaking in this manner of all in general, I am missing my point. So let us apply this truth to various states, and you will understand that you must either throw away reason, experience and the common sense of the faithful, or confess that the greater number of Catholics is damned. Is there any state in the world more favorable to innocence in which salvation seems easier and of which people have a higher idea than that of priests, the lieutenants of God? At first glance, who would not think that most of them are not only good but even perfect; yet I am horror-struck when I hear Saint Jerome declaring that although the world is full of priests, barely one in a hundred is living in a manner in conformity with state; when I hear a servant of God attesting that he has learned by revelation that the number of priests who fall into hell each day is so great that it seemed impossible to him that there be any left on earth; when I hear Saint Chrysostom exclaiming with tears in his eyes, “I do not believe that many priests are saved; I believe the contrary, that the number of those who are damned is greater.”

Look higher still, and see the prelates of the Holy Church, pastors who have the charge of souls. Is the number of those who are saved among them greater than the number of those who are damned? Listen to Cantimpre; he will relate an event to you, and you may draw the conclusions. There was a synod being held in Paris, and a great number of prelates and pastors who had the charge of souls were in attendance; the king and princes also came to add luster to that assembly by their presence. A famous preacher was invited to preach. While he was preparing his sermon, a horrible demon appeared to him and said, “Lay your books aside. If you want to give a sermon that will be useful to these princes and prelates, content yourself with telling them on our part, ‘We the princes of darkness thank you, princes, prelates, and pastors of souls, that due to your negligence, the greater number of the faithful are damned; also, we are saving a reward for you for this favor, when you shall be with us in Hell.'”

Woe to you who command others! If so many are damned by your fault, what will happen to you? If few out of those who are first in the Church of God are saved, what will happen to you? Take all states, both sexes, every condition: husbands, wives, widows, young women, young men, soldiers, merchants, craftsmen, rich and poor, noble and plebian. What are we to say about all these people who are living so badly? The following narrative from Saint Vincent Ferrerwill show you what you may think about it. He relates that an archdeacon in Lyons gave up his charge and retreated into a desert place to do penance, and that he died the same day and hour as Saint Bernard. After his death, he appeared to his bishop and said to him, “Know, Monsignor, that at the very hour I passed away, thirty-three thousand people also died. Out of this number, Bernard and myself went up to heaven without delay, three went to purgatory, and all the others fell into Hell.”

Our chronicles relate an even more dreadful happening. One of our brothers, well-known for his doctrine and holiness, was preaching in Germany. He represented the ugliness of the sin of impurity so forceful that a woman fell dead of sorrow in front of everyone. Then, coming back to life, she said, “When I was presented before the Tribunal of God, sixty thousand people arrived at the same time from all parts of the world; out of that number, three were saved by going to Purgatory, and all the rest were damned.”

O abyss of the judgments of God! Out of thirty thousand, only five were saved! And out of sixty thousand, only three went to heaven! You sinners who are listening to me, in what category will you be numbered?… What do you say?… What do you think?…

I see almost all of you lowering your heads, filled with astonishment and horror. But let us lay our stupor aside, and instead of flattering ourselves, let us try to draw some profit from our fear. Is it not true that there are two roads which lead to heaven: innocence and repentance? Now, if I show you that very few take either one of these two roads, as rational people you will conclude that very few are saved. And to mention proofs: in what age, employment or condition will you find that the number of the wicked is not a hundred times greater than that of the good, and about which one might say, “The good are so rare and the wicked are so great in number“? We could say of our times what Salvianus said of his: it is easier to find a countless multitude of sinners immersed in all sorts of iniquities than a few innocent men. How many servants are totally honest and faithful in their duties? How many merchants are fair and equitable in their commerce; how many craftsmen exact and truthful; how many salesmen disinterested and sincere? How many men of law do not forsake equity? How many soldiers do not tread upon innocence; how many masters do not unjustly withhold the salary of those who serve them, or do not seek to dominate their inferiors? Everywhere, the good are rare and the wicked great in number. Who does not know that today there is so much libertinage among mature men, liberty among young girls, vanity among women, licentiousness in the nobility, corruption in the middle class, dissolution in the people, impudence among the poor, that one could say what David said of his times: “All alike have gone astray… there is not even one who does good, not even one.”

Go into street and square, into palace and house, into city and countryside, into tribunal and court of law, and even into the temple of God. Where will you find virtue? “Alas!” cries Salvianus, “except for a very little number who flee evil, what is the assembly of Christians if not a sink of vice?” All that we can find everywhere is selfishness, ambition, gluttony, and luxury. Is not the greater portion of men defiled by the vice of impurity, and is not Saint John right in saying, “The whole world – if something so foul may be called – “is seated in wickedness?” I am not the one who is telling you; reason obliges you to believe that out of those who are living so badly, very few are saved.

But you will say: Can penance not profitably repair the loss of innocence? That is true, I admit. But I also know that penance is so difficult in practice, we have lost the habit so completely, and it is so badly abused by sinners, that this alone should suffice to convince you that very few are saved by that path. Oh, how steep, narrow, thorny, horrible to behold and hard to climb it is! Everywhere we look, we see traces of blood and things that recall sad memories. Many weaken at the very sight of it. Many retreat at the very start. Many fall from weariness in the middle, and many give up wretchedly at the end. And how few are they who persevere in it till death! Saint Ambrose says it is easier to find men who have kept their innocence than to find any who have done fitting penance.

If you consider the sacrament of penance, there are so many distorted confessions, so many studied excuses, so many deceitful repentances, so many false promises, so many ineffective resolutions, so many invalid absolutions! Would you regard as valid the confession of someone who accuses himself of sins of impurity and still holds to the occasion of them? Or someone who accuses himself of obvious injustices with no intention of making any reparation whatsoever for them? Or someone who falls again into the same iniquities right after going to confession? Oh, horrible abuses of such a great sacrament! One confesses to avoid excommunication, another to make a reputation as a penitent. One rids himself of his sins to calm his remorse, another conceals them out of shame. One accuses them imperfectly out of malice, another discloses them out of habit. One does not have the true end of the sacrament in mind, another is lacking the necessary sorrow, and still another firm purpose. Poor confessors, what efforts you make to bring the greater number of penitents to these resolutions and acts, without which confession is a sacrilege, absolution a condemnation and penance an illusion?

Where are they now, those who believe that the number of the saved among Christians is greater than that of the damned and who, to authorize their opinion, reason thus: the greater portion of Catholic adults die in their beds armed with the sacraments of the Church, therefore most adult Catholics are saved? Oh, what fine reasoning! You must say exactly the opposite. Most Catholic adults confess badly at death, therefore most of them are damned. I say “all the more certain,” because a dying person who has not confessed well when he was in good health will have an even harder time doing so when he is in bed with a heavy heart, an unsteady head, a muddled mind; when he is opposed in many ways by still-living objects, by still-fresh occasions, by adopted habits, and above all by devils who are seeking every means to cast him into hell. Now, if you add to all these false penitents all the other sinners who die unexpectedly in sin, due to the doctors’ ignorance or by their relatives’ fault, who die from poisoning or from being buried in earthquakes, or from a stroke, or from a fall, or on the battlefield, in a fight, caught in a trap, struck by lightning, burned or drowned, are you not obliged to conclude that most Christian adults are damned? That is the reasoning of Saint Chrysostom. This Saint says that most Christians are walking on the road to hell throughout their life. Why, then, are you so surprised that the greater number goes to hell? To come to a door, you must take the road that leads there. What have you to answer such a powerful reason?

The answer, you will tell me, is that the mercy of God is great. Yes, for those who fear Him, says the Prophet; but great is His justice for the one who does not fear Him, and it condemns all obstinate sinners.

So you will say to me: Well then, who is Paradise for, if not for Christians? It is for Christians, of course, but for those who do not dishonor their character and who live as Christians. Moreover, if to the number of Christian adults who die in the grace of God, you add the countless host of children who die after baptism and before reaching the age of reason, you will not be surprised that Saint John the Apostle, speaking of those who are saved, says, “I saw a great multitude which no man could number.

And this is what deceives those who pretend that the number of the saved among Catholics is greater than that of the damned… If to that number, you add the adults who have kept the robe of innocence, or who after having defiled it, have washed it in the tears of penance, it is certain that the greater number is saved; and that explains the words of Saint John, “I saw a great multitude,” and these other words of Our Lord, “Many will come from the east and from the west, and will feast with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,” and the other figures usually cited in favor of that opinion. But if you are talking about Christian adults, experience, reason, authority, propriety and Scripture all agree in proving that the greater number is damned. Do not believe that because of this, paradise is empty; on the contrary, it is a very populous kingdom. And if the damned are “as numerous as the sand in the sea,” the saved are “as numerous at the stars of heaven,” that is, both the one and the other are countless, although in very different proportions.

One day Saint John Chrysostom, preaching in the cathedral in Constantinople and considering these proportions, could not help but shudder in horror and ask, “Out of this great number of people, how many do you think will be saved?” And, not waiting for an answer, he added, “Among so many thousands of people, we would not find a hundred who are saved, and I even doubt for the one hundred.” What a dreadful thing! The great Saint believed that out of so many people, barely one hundred would be saved; and even then, he was not sure of that number. What will happen to you who are listening to me? Great God, I cannot think of it without shuddering! Brothers, the problem of salvation is a very difficult thing; for according to the maxims of the theologians, when an end demands great efforts, few only attain it.

That is why Saint Thomas, the Angelic Doctor, after weighing all the reasons pro and con in his immense erudition, finally concludes that the greater number of Catholic adults are damned. He says, “Because eternal beatitude surpasses the natural state, especially since it has been deprived of original grace, it is the little number that are saved.”

So then, remove the blindfold from your eyes that is blinding you with self-love, that is keeping you from believing such an obvious truth by giving you very false ideas concerning the justice of God, “Just Father, the world has not known Thee,” said Our Lord Jesus Christ. He does not say “Almighty Father, most good and merciful Father.” He says “just Father,” so we may understand that out of all the attributes of God, none is less known than His justice, because men refuse to believe what they are afraid to undergo. Therefore, remove the blindfold that is covering your eyes and say tearfully: Alas! The greater number of Catholics, the greater number of those who live here, perhaps even those who are in this assembly, will be damned! What subject could be more deserving of your tears?

King Xerxes, standing on a hill looking at his army of one hundred thousand soldiers in battle array, and considering that out of all of them there would be not one man alive in a hundred years, was unable to hold back his tears. Have we not more reason to weep upon thinking that out of so many Catholics, the greater number will be damned? Should this thought not make our eyes pour forth rivers of tears, or at least produce in our heart the sentiment of compassion felt by an Augustinian Brother, Ven. Marcellus of St. Dominic? One day as he was meditating on the eternal pains, the Lord showed him how many souls were going to hell at that moment and had him see a very broad road on which twenty-two thousand reprobates were running toward the abyss, colliding into one another. The servant of God was stupefied at the sight and exclaimed, “Oh, what a number! What a number! And still more are coming. O Jesus! O Jesus! What madness!” Let me repeat with Jeremiah, “Who will give water to my head, and a fountain of tears to my eyes? And I will weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.

Poor souls! How can you run so hastily toward hell? For mercy’s sake, stop and listen to me for a moment! Either you understand what it means to be saved and to be damned for all eternity, or you do not. If you understand and in spite of that, you do not decide to change your life today, make a good confession and trample upon the world, in a word, make your every effort to be counted among the littler number of those who are saved, I say that you do not have the faith. You are more excusable if you do not understand it, for then one must say that you are out of your mind. To be saved for all eternity, to be damned for all eternity, and to not make your every effort to avoid the one and make sure of the other, is something inconceivable.


The Goodness of God

Perhaps you do not yet believe the terrible truths I have just taught you. But it is the most highly-considered theologians, the most illustrious Fathers who have spoken to you through me. So then, how can you resist reasons supported by so many examples and words of Scripture? If you still hesitate in spite of that, and if your mind is inclined to the opposite opinion, does that very consideration not suffice to make you tremble? Oh, it shows that you do not care very much for your salvation! In this important matter, a sensible man is struck more strongly by the slightest doubt of the risk he runs than by the evidence of total ruin in other affairs in which the soul is not involved. One of our brothers, Blessed Giles, was in the habit of saying that if only one man were going to be damned, he would do all he could to make sure he was not that man.

So what must we do, we who know that the greater number is going to be damned, and not only out of all Catholics? What must we do? Take the resolution to belong to the little number of those who are saved. You say: If Christ wanted to damn me, then why did He create me? Silence, rash tongue! God did not create anyone to damn him; but whoever is damned, is damned because he wants to be. Therefore, I will now strive to defend the goodness of my God and acquit it of all blame: that will be the subject of the second point.

Before going on, let us gather on one side all the books and all the heresies of Luther and Calvin, and on the other side the books and heresies of the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians, and let us burn them. Some destroy grace, others freedom, and all are filled with errors; so let us cast them into the fire. All the damned bear upon their brow the oracle of the Prophet Osee, “Thy damnation comes from thee,” so that they may understand that whoever is damned, is damned by his own malice and because he wants to be damned.

First let us take these two undeniable truths as a basis: “God wants all men to be saved,” “All are in need of the grace of God.” Now, if I show you that God wants to save all men, and that for this purpose He gives all of them His grace and all the other necessary means of obtaining that sublime end, you will be obliged to agree that whoever is damned must impute it to his own malice, and that if the greater number of Christians are damned, it is because they want to be. “Thy damnation comes from thee; thy help is only in Me.”


God Desires All Men to be Saved

In a hundred places in Holy Scripture, God tells us that it is truly His desire to save all men. “Is it My will that a sinner should die, and not that he should be converted from his ways and live?… I live, saith the Lord God. I desire not the death of the sinner. Be converted and live.” When someone wants something very much, it is said that he is dying with desire; it is a hyperbole. But God has wanted and still wants our salvation so much that He died of desire, and He suffered death to give us life. This will to save all men is therefore not an affected, superficial and apparent will in God; it is a real, effective, and beneficial will; for He provides us with all the means most proper for us to be saved. He does not give them to us so they will not obtain it; He gives them to us with a sincere will, with the intention that they may obtain their effect. And if they do not obtain it, He shows Himself afflicted and offended over it. He commands even the damned to use them in order to be saved; He exhorts them to it; He obliges them to it; and if they do not do it, they sin. Therefore, they may do it and thus be saved.

Far more, because God sees that we could not even make use of His grace without His help, He gives us other aids; and if they sometimes remain ineffective, it is our fault; for with these same aids, one may abuse them and be damned with them, and another may do right and be saved; he might even be saved with less powerful aids. Yes, it can happen that we abuse a greater grace and are damned, whereas another cooperates with a lesser grace and is saved.

Saint Augustine exclaims, “If, therefore, someone turns aside from justice, he is carried by his free will, led by his concupiscence, deceived by his own persuasion.” But for those who do not understand theology, here is what I have to say to them: God is so good that when He sees a sinner running to his ruin, He runs after him, calls him, entreats and accompanies him even to the gates of hell; what will He not do to convert him? He sends him good inspirations and holy thoughts, and if he does not profit from them, He becomes angry and indignant, He pursues him. Will He strike him? No. He beats at the air and forgives him. But the sinner is not converted yet. God sends him a mortal illness. It is certainly all over for him. No, brothers, God heals him; the sinner becomes obstinate in evil, and God in His mercy looks for another way; He gives him another year, and when that year is over, He grants him yet another.

But if the sinner still wants to cast himself into hell in spite of all that, what does God do? Does He abandon him? No. He takes him by the hand; and while he has one foot in hell and the other outside, He still preaches to him, He implored him not to abuse His graces. Now I ask you, if that man is damned, is it not true that he is damned against the Will of God and because he wants to be damned? Come and ask me now: If God wanted to damn me, then why did He create me?

Ungrateful sinner, learn today that if you are damned, it is not God who is to blame, but you and your self-will. To persuade yourself of this, go down even to the depths of the abyss, and there I will bring you one of those wretched damned souls burning in hell, so that he may explain this truth to you. Here is one now: “Tell me, who are you?” “I am a poor idolater, born in an unknown land; I never heard of heaven or hell, nor of what I am suffering now.” “Poor wretch! Go away, you are not the one I am looking for.” Another one is coming; there he is. “Who are you?” “I am a schismatic from the ends of Tartary; I always lived in an uncivilized state, barely knowing that there is a God.” “You are not the one I want; return to hell.” Here is another. “And who are you?” “I am a poor heretic from the North. I was born under the Pole and never saw either the light of the sun or the light of faith.” “It is not you that I am looking for either, return to Hell.” Brothers, my heart is broken upon seeing these wretches who never even knew the True Faith among the damned. Even so, know that the sentence of condemnation was pronounced against them and they were told, “Thy damnation comes from thee.” They were damned because they wanted to be. They received so many aids from God to be saved! We do not know what they were, but they know them well, and now they cry out, “O Lord, Thou art just… and Thy judgments are equitable.”

Brothers, you must know that the most ancient belief is the Law of God, and that we all bear it written in our hearts; that it can be learned without any teacher, and that it suffices to have the light of reason in order to know all the precepts of that Law. That is why even the barbarians hid when they committed sin, because they knew they were doing wrong; and they are damned for not having observed the natural law written in their heart: for had they observed it, God would have made a miracle rather than let them be damned; He would have sent them someone to teach them and would have given them other aids, of which they made themselves unworthy by not living in conformity with the inspirations of their own conscience, which never failed to warn them of the good they should do and the evil they should avoid. So it is their conscience that accused them at the Tribunal of God, and it tells them constantly in hell, “Thy damnation comes from thee.” They do not know what to answer and are obliged to confess that they are deserving of their fate. Now if these infidels have no excuse, will there be any for a Catholic who had so many sacraments, so many sermons, so many aids at his disposal? How will he dare to say, “If God was going to damn me, then why did He create me?” How will he dare to speak in this manner, when God gives him so many aids to be saved? So let us finish confounding him.

You who are suffering in the abyss, answer me! Are there any Catholics among you? “There certainly are!” How many? Let one of them come here! “That is impossible, they are too far down, and to have them come up would turn all of hell upside down; it would be easier to stop one of them as he is falling in.” So then, I am speaking to you who live in the habit of mortal sin, in hatred, in the mire of the vice of impurity, and who are getting closer to hell each day. Stop, and turn around; it is Jesus who calls you and who, with His wounds, as with so many eloquent voices, cries to you, “My son, if you are damned, you have only yourself to blame: ‘Thy damnation comes from thee.’ Lift up your eyes and see all the graces with which I have enriched you to insure your eternal salvation. I could have had you born in a forest in Barbary; that is what I did to many others, but I had you born in the Catholic Faith; I had you raised by such a good father, such an excellent mother, with the purest instructions and teachings. If you are damned in spite of that, whose fault will it be? Your own, My son, your own: ‘Thy damnation comes from thee.’

“I could have cast you into hell after the first mortal sin you committed, without waiting for the second: I did it to so many others, but I was patient with you, I waited for you for many long years. I am still waiting for you today in penance. If you are damned in spite of all that, whose fault is it? Your own, My son, your own: “Thy damnation comes from thee.” You know how many have died before your very eyes and were damned: that was a warning for you. You know how many others I set back on the right path to give you the good example. Do you remember what that excellent confessor told you? I am the one who had him say it. Did he not enjoin you to change your life, to make a good confession? I am the One who inspired him. Remember that sermon that touched your heart? I am the One who led you there. And what has happened between you and Me in the secret of your heart, …that you can never forget.

“Those interior inspirations, that clear knowledge, that constant remorse of conscience, would you dare to deny them? All of these were so many aids of My grace, because I wanted to save you. I refused to give them to many others, and I gave them to you because I loved you tenderly. My son, My son, if I spoke to them as tenderly as I am speaking to you today, how many others souls return to the right path! And you… you turn your back on Me. Listen to what I am going to tell you, for these are My last words: You have cost Me My blood; if you want to be damned in spite of the blood I shed for you, do not blame Me, you have only yourself to accuse; and throughout all eternity, do not forget that if you are damned in spite of Me, you are damned because you want to be damned: ‘Thy damnation comes from thee.’ “

O my good Jesus, the very stones would split on hearing such sweet words, such tender expressions. Is there anyone here who wants to be damned, with so many graces and aids? If there is one, let him listen to me, and then let him resist if he can.

Baronius relates that after Julian the Apostate’s infamous apostasy, he conceived such great hatred against Holy Baptism that day and night, he sought a way in which he might erase his own. To that purpose he had a bath of goat’s blood prepared and placed himself in it, wanting this impure blood of a victim consecrated to Venus to erase the sacred character of Baptism from his soul. Such behavior seems abominable to you, but if Julian’s plan had been able to succeed, it is certain that he would be suffering much less in hell.

Sinners, the advice I want to give you will no doubt seem strange to you; but if you understand it well, it is, on the contrary, inspired by tender compassion toward you. I implore you on my knees, by the blood of Christ and by the Heart of Mary, change your life, come back to the road that leads to heaven, and do all you can to belong to the little number of those who are saved. If, instead of this, you want to continue walking on the road that leads to hell, at least find a way to erase your baptism. Woe to you if you take the Holy Name of Jesus Christ and the sacred character of the Christian engraved upon your soul into hell! Your chastisement will be all the greater. So do what I advise you to do: if you do not want to convert, go this very day and ask your pastor to erase your name from the baptismal register, so that there may not remain any remembrance of your ever having been a Christian; implore your Guardian Angel to erase from his book of graces the inspirations and aids he has given you on orders from God, for woe to you if he recalls them! Tell Our Lord to take back His faith, His baptism, His sacraments.

You are horror-struck at such a thought? Well then, cast yourself at the feet of Jesus Christ and say to Him, with tearful eyes and contrite heart: “Lord, I confess that up till now I have not lived as a Christian. I am not worthy to be numbered among Your elect. I recognize that I deserve to be damned; but Your mercy is great and, full of confidence in Your grace, I say to You that I want to save my soul, even if I have to sacrifice my fortune, my honor, my very life, as long as I am saved. If I have been unfaithful up to now, I repent, I deplore, I detest my infidelity, I ask You humbly to forgive me for it. Forgive me, good Jesus, and strengthen me also, that I may be saved. I ask You not for wealth, honor or prosperity; I ask you for one thing only, to save my soul.”

And You, O Jesus! What do You say? O Good Shepherd, see the stray sheep who returns to You; embrace this repentant sinner, bless his sighs and tears, or rather bless these people who are so well disposed and who want nothing but their salvation. Brothers, at the feet of Our Lord, let us protest that we want to save our soul, cost what it may. Let us all say to Him with tearful eyes, “Good Jesus, I want to save my soul,” O blessed tears, O blessed sighs!


Brothers, I want to send all of you away comforted today. So if you ask me my sentiment on the number of those who are saved, here it is: Whether there are many or few that are saved, I say that whoever wants to be saved, will be saved; and that no one can be damned if he does not want to be. And if it is true that few are saved, it is because there are few who live well. As for the rest, compare these two opinions: the first one states that the greater number of Catholics are condemned; the second one, on the contrary, pretends that the greater number of Catholics are saved. Imagine an Angel sent by God to confirm the first opinion, coming to tell you that not only are most Catholics damned, but that of all this assembly present here, one alone will be saved. If you obey the Commandments of God, if you detest the corruption of this world, if you embrace the Cross of Jesus Christ in a spirit of penance, you will be that one alone who is saved.

Now imagine the same Angel returning to you and confirming the second opinion. He tells you that not only are the greater portion of Catholics saved, but that out of all this gathering, one alone will be damned and all the others saved. If after that, you continue your usuries, your vengeances, your criminal deeds, your impurities, then you will be that one alone who is damned.

What is the use of knowing whether few or many are saved? Saint Peter says to us, “Strive by good works to make your election sure.” When Saint Thomas Aquinas’s sister asked him what she must do to go to heaven, he said, “You will be saved if you want to be.” I say the same thing to you, and here is proof of my declaration. No one is damned unless he commits mortal sin: that is of faith. And no one commits mortal sin unless he wants to: that is an undeniable theological proposition. Therefore, no one goes to hell unless he wants to; the consequence is obvious. Does that not suffice to comfort you? Weep over past sins, make a good confession, sin no more in the future, and you will all be saved. Why torment yourself so? For it is certain that you have to commit mortal sin to go to hell, and that to commit mortal sin you must want to, and that consequently no one goes to hell unless he wants to. That is not just an opinion, it is an undeniable and very comforting truth; may God give you to understand it, and may He bless you. Amen.


In the first Rules on the discernment of spirits, Saint Ignatius shows that it is typical of the evil spirit to tranquilize sinners. Therefore, we must constantly preach and give rise to confidence and the duty of hope in the Lord’s infinite pardon and mercy, for conversion is easy and His grace is all-powerful. But we must also recall that “God is not mocked,” and that someone who is living habitually in the state of mortal sin is on the road to eternal damnation.

There are last-minute miracles, but unless we contend that miracles are the general run of things, we are obliged to agree that for the majority of people living in the state of mortal sin, final impenitence is the most probable eventuality.

Saint Leonard of Port Maurice’s reasons have persuaded us. They are worth listening to. With eloquence and clarity, they develop a consideration of Father Lombardi in his public debate with Italian Communist leader Velio Spano in Cagliara on December 4, 1948. “I am horror-struck at the thought that if you continue in this manner, you will be condemned to hell,” said Father Lombardi to the Marxist Spano. Spano replied, “I do not believe in hell.” And Father Lombardi retorted, “Precisely, and if you continue, you will be condemned; for to avoid being condemned, one must believe in hell.”

We could generalize Father Lombardi’s answer. Perhaps it is precisely such a lack of supernatural faith that is preventing people from arriving at a deep appreciation of the pastoral transcendence of preaching in the manner of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice in its application to our contemporary life. At any rate, it is not because morals are any better now than in the famous missionary’s day. No occasion could be finer for us to apply this reproach of Cardinal Pie: “I see prudence everywhere; soon we will not see courage anywhere; rest assured, if we continue in this manner, we will die from an attack of wisdom.” Not divine wisdom, surely; for only carnal and worldly prudence give rise to vain knowledge, which mocks at the sermon of Saint Leonard.

The doctrine of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice has saved and will save countless souls till the end of time. Here is what the Church says in the prayer of the Divine Office, Sixth Lesson, speaking of Saint Leonard’s heavenly eloquence: Upon hearing him, even hearts of iron and brass were powerfully inclined to penance, by reason of the astonishing effectiveness of the sermon and the preacher’s burning zeal. And in the liturgical prayer we ask of the Lord, Give the power to bend the hearts of hardened sinners by the works of preaching.

This sermon by Saint Leonard of Port Maurice was preached during the reign of Pope Benedict XIV, who so loved the great missionary.


This sermon was found here