This is a rare, serious essay that continues to develop recent themes that have appeared in this ephemeris lately. The Bear hopes you enjoy it.
La trahison des clercs
It is realistic to observe that Catholics have been betrayed by their clergy in countless ways, especially within living memory. Today the only way for a faithful Catholic to avoid scandal is to remain completely ignorant of Church news. We are spoon fed poisonous scandal every day by our treasonous clerics at all levels of the hierarchy.
But that is not exactly what Benda had in mind. In medieval times, clerc simply meant someone who could write. A scribe; by extension, an intellectual. So the actual translation into English is The Treason of the Intellectuals.
The Bear just wrote about French Benda's German contemporary, Oswald Spengler, who authored The Decline of the West. ("Optimism is cowardice.") The famous quote by British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Gray in 1914 also comes to mind. "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time."
Sir Edward was optimistic. Despite our iPhones and ephemera, only a few of us are still waiting to see those lamps again. But it is realistic to acknowledge that night has fallen, and the moral luminaries of civilization are all but forgotten. Our great-great grandchildren shall not see them lit again.
Pope Pius X and Pascendi
Let us not forget the startlingly prophetic 1907 encyclical of Pope Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis which prepared the Church to meet a terrifying new heresy: Modernism, "the synthesis of all heresies." La trahison des clercs indeed. Although it is well before the period we are examining, Pope Gregory XVI's encyclical Mirari Vos stands in forgotten condemnation of our present treasonous clerics.
Sometimes, a realistic Catholic might recognize contradictions, and could choose between popes with conflicting visions for the Church. It is not supposed to work that way, and the Bear cannot represent that as an officially sound Catholic practice. But if, hypothetically, he had to choose, he would go with Pope Gregory in his condemnation of, say, indifferentism. It would not be an arbitrary or uninformed choice, if a choice there had to be.
The Wicked Wind and Many Prophets
What is the Bear weaving here? The alert reader will have noticed that we are orbiting the general vicinity of WWI. WWI was far more historically significant than WWII, which was merely the bigger sequel, made nearly inevitable by the vindictive treaty that ended WWI. WWI took the heart out of Europe.
The first real thing the Bear wishes to share is that the best minds of the age, in different countries, and varied positions, all sensed something wicked in the wind.
The Bear believes they were right. It was not just an ill wind, but wicked indeed, and it blew through every institution in the West. La trahison des clercs captures it perfectly. Now every institution is in an advanced stage of failure, and they have all failed in the same way at the same time. Treason.
|Passion Bearers Tsar Nicholas II, Tsaritsa Alexandra, Anastasia, Tatiana, Olga and Maria.|
This achingly beautiful photograph of Tsar Nicholas II is the most haunting picture the Bear knows. It was taken about four years before the last Romanovs were awakened at 2 a.m. and told to get dressed. The date was July 17, 1918. (It is impossible to escape the gravitational pull of WWI.) This decent, close and devout family was herded into a basement and murdered in the most brutal fashion by the Bolsheviks. The wicked wind was howling across Russia.
The following year, 1919, Irish poet W.B. Yeats gave the same portents in The Second Coming. It begins with striking imagery of some strangely undramatic failure of a fundamental requirement of order. Yeats, in Ireland, felt the same wicked wind as other great minds of Europe. We cannot say we were not warned.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The Bear believes God gives us prophets, and when we are unworthy of prophets, he gives us poets, and when we are unworthy of poets, there falls a terrible silence. What real poets do we have today?
14th of April, Ruination Day
We need to draw this essay to a close with a little space left for revisiting La trahison des clercs. If there is a symbolic beginning of the wicked wind that has swept nearly everything away, it rises in the cold, North Atlantic ocean at precisely 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912.
The reality was that RMS Titanic had been warned by other ships of icebergs. As we have recently discussed, ignoring reality eventually invites consequences. Titanic stayed on course, full speed ahead.
She struck the iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912. It is a perfect image of the great achievements of Western civilization steaming into disaster in glorious folly and being taught a hard lesson about reality. One that the West paid not the slightest attention to.
April 14th is the same date that President Abraham Lincoln was shot in 1865. It is also the same date that saw the Black Sunday dust storm of 1935. This harbinger of the dust bowl swept down through Texas and blotted out the light as people huddled blindly in whatever shelter they could find. A perfect symbol for the the black and wicked wind that Pope Pius X foresaw in 1907, followed by so many others, who probably sensed they would be ignored. This essay proves in a small way that they were wrong about that.
La trahison des clercs captures the essence of the betrayal by the thinking class:
Formerly, leaders of States practiced realism, but did not honor it; … With them morality was violated but moral notions remained intact; and that is why, in spite of all their violence, they did not disturb civilization.
In a word, the real treason of the intellectuals was to destroy "moral notions." It is true that states violated morality in the past, but at least they never denied the morality they were violating. And so, "they did not disturb civilization." Today, the moral consensus has been deliberately destroyed. All we have left is a disjointed collection of taboos imposed by the worst of us. "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."
Unthinkably, even the Church seems uncertain of moral notions. The treason of the clerics.
Restoration Day -- Unknown, Probably Not Soon
We -- who the Bear will boldly call "the best of us" in Yeats' sense -- must remain in the Church as witnesses at all costs. We must keep moral notions alive in the face of the ever-growing collection of taboos and special pleading encouraged by the grievance industry and other agents of evil. We must step up as our generation's intellectuals, as presumptuous as that sounds. We must mercilessly expose the clerks -- and clerics -- for what they are: hollow men and liars. We must have the courage to be real, and to fight for reality in our culture, and in our Church.
We are off to a surprisingly good start, considering the traitors control all the levers of power in every institution. We know what we're up against, and without any sort of plan we have formed our little platoons. We have to think of it as a movement, and consciously do what we can to make it grow. Always, if possible, cultural powers that avoid reality must be confronted by each of us in our own way. We will fight in the night, but we will not be without light.
The 14th of April, Ruination Day, is behind us. Never doubt that Restoration Day is coming.
Here is a haunting song by Gillian Welch called Ruination Day that weaves together the three disasters of April 14th. It is hard to understand, but she sings "the great barge sank," referring to the Titanic, and "the okies fled" referring to Black Sunday. "The Great Emancipator" is, of course Lincoln. The reference to Casey Jones (whose famous train wreck actually occurred on April 30) is a more Americana version of the Titanic sinking.