Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Constantine Option. Looking At the Benedict Option with a critical eye.

St. Constantine the Great, one of the most misunderstood of all Christian saints (and frankly one of the most slandered for that reason) attending (not directing) the Council of Nicea in 325.  This drawing depicts attendees observing the burning of heretical Arian texts.

Rod Dreher's book The Benedict Option has been getting a lot of press recently.  I have, I'll note, not read it and likely will not.

I'll also assume that most people have not, and for that reason it'll get sort of a long winded introduction here, putting me in the unique situation of introducing a topic named for the title of a book I haven't read and likely won't.  However, I've read quite a few of the discussions surrounding it and I've heard Dreher interviewed on the topic of his book (noting, as he has in print as well, that the theme of the book seems to be frequently misinterpreted).  I'll also note that I don't know that the overall them is quite as suddenly unique as its been taken to be.  Indeed, I don't think it is, and there's some current discussion on similar concepts with much less flashy names.

Okay, what's this all about?

Well this.

There's been a sense in generally socially conservative circles, to include orthodox Christian circles, that the culture has been steadily loosing a battle with rationality and truth for some time.  Usually when this comes up, and I don't wholly dispute it by any means, it's referenced in connection with "the last several decades" or "the last decade".  Quite often its tied to "The Sexual Revolution", and not without very good reason.  There's a certain amount of near apocalyptic, figuratively for the most part but on some occasions and in some circles literally, discussion on this but suffice it to say the common view in this circles borders a bit on panic and suggests that the moral compass of the entire globe is gone badly off kilter and there's hardly anyone left who retains one at all.

St. Benedict, and the Option

The Benedictine Option is something that Dreher proposes in frank desperation due to this decision.  Society is so far gone, he argues, that people should follow an aspect of St. Benedict's life.  As St. Benedict is associated with the Benedictine Order this is being taken by quite a few to mean that people should isolate themselves from the rest of the impure world and exist in isolated Christian communities.  

 St. Benedict greets the King of the Ostrogoths.

Part of the problem with this, we should note, is that people don't really quite grasp the life of St. Benedict itself and in part because he was a very early Christian saint about whom only a minimal amount of information is known.  He is the author of the Benedictine Rule which the members of his cloistered community did indeed follow and his followers, who were monks (and through his sister, also nuns) did live isolated lives in a sea of paganism.  He lived, after all, from the late 400s to the mid 500s.  And that's part of the problem with the concept as some understand it.  St. Benedict, who is indeed the Patron Saint of Europe, and therefore an understandable focus in this era in which European culture has become so lamentable, lived at a time when Christianity was still struggling against Paganism and indeed against newly resurgent Paganism as the Germanic tribes overran the falling western Roman Empire.

And there is a  point to Dreher's citation.  Dreher, he claims, doesn't propose that we go off to live in monasteries, which of course is where St. Benedict actually lived.  Rather, he feels that real Christians at this point need to focus on their church and make that the center of their existence, both individually but also communally. Looked at that way, his point is hard to argue against in Christian terms, but I will a bit down below anyhow. Christian islands in pagan seas is how Dreher sees the option.  His thought that if we become intensely centered on our parishes we'll serve the same purpose that early Medieval monasticism did and survive the pagan on-slot to be a new light on the world.  He isn't without a point even if he's not completely accurately assessed the current situation.  Indeed, from a Christian prospective, he may be right even if he's grossly misread the times.

That's Dreher's point but some are taking it, against his arguments, as a call of retreat and to go back into the hills, more literally than metaphorically, and truly live, for lack of a better way of describing it, sort of Amish.

By Didier Descouens - His Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52066438.  Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Sacristy - Triptych Madonna and Child. Benedict of Nursia and Saint Mark the Evangelist by Giovanni Bellini. Oil on panel 1488. Size: 2.75x2.50cm.  This fine image shows St. Benedict pretty much as I imagine he really was, deeply Catholic and intense.  He is the Patron Saint of Europe and for good reason, both originally and now.

Now, I'm trying to approach this topic fairly carefully and I will credit some of the feelings that lead to the sense of panic, as I will detail below, while also discrediting some.  That is, it is pretty clear to me that we are in an era, in the Western World (and only there, quite frankly) which has completely lost track of nature and is badly lost in some very critical ways, morally and otherwise.  This is a huge immense challenge to people who retain a sense of science and nature, which I'd maintain also means a sense of the Christian faith as it actually exists, rather than as some some free lance ministers who make it up as they go might maintain.  I'd also maintain, however, that things aren't quite as dire as some might imagine, particularly if we look at things on a larger, global, scale and that we need to take a longer term view of this story in order to really grasp it.  Indeed, if we do take a long term view it will undoubtedly create discomfort, quite frankly, amongst some of those who are in the camp of arguing for a "Benedict Option" as they might, in some circumstances, have to reform themselves.

So, digging in a little deeper, what's the source of the panic, if that's what it is?

Basically, the Western world is getting increasingly disoriented and needs to pick up a few text books, a few books of philosophy written by people who still had to live real (rather than in a university or a French coffee house), some history books, and some books on basic science and, as they say "get real".*

That sounds superficial and flippant, and maybe it was meant to be, but that's a good place to start.

What's going on and how the heck did we get here?

What really is causing this deep reflection is that we are at a current point in the Western World where moral relativism and materialism is at a dangerous and goofy  and frightening level.  In large part, this became plain in the summer of 2015 when, as Justice Alito put it "a bare majority of Justices can (and did) invent a new right and impose[d] that right on the rest of the country".  This was, of course, what five justices did in Obergefell v. Hodges when, with no basis in the law, they completely rewrote the law of marriage, an area of the law where the Supreme Court had traditionally hesitated to get into.

In that decision Justice Anthony Kennedy displayed a shocking lack of understanding on the actual legal or physical nature of marriage and social conservatives, amongst many others, took note.  Marriage, as a legal institution, has everything to do with biology and nothing whatsoever to do with feelings, but Kennedy failed to note that, showing perhaps that he would benefit from getting out of chambers and down in the maternity ward a bit.  This was shocking enough but what soon followed brought about the current grim attitude.  Floods of politicians, most particularly Democratic ones, sensing a change in the wind abandoned long held stated positions on marriage and joined in with Kennedy and his bare five.  President Obama allowed the White House to be it up on multi colors symbolizing support for the "LBGT community" which not even all who are tagged with those labels support, an act which would have been much akin to having the White House lit up in red during the early New Deal, something that would have horrified even most on the left.  President Obama, who had been largely ineffectual as a President, spent the last two years of his administration ushering in what would have been previously regarded as really extreme social sexual policies, some of which it might be noted seem to counter his earlier expressed views, which raises the question of how much to believe about what any one politician says (something the following election emphasized).  The government took a position, amazing and amusing Europeans, on "transgender" bathrooms.  In a country in which all males professional sports are the norm the armed forces had full gender integration in all roles forced upon it, something setting up future American female personnel to some inevitable future horrors and further ignoring, just as the court did in Obergefell, that there is a real difference between men and women.  Just as critics warned, however, things didn't stop with Obergefell and soon there was a full scale assault in trendy circles upon the very concept of a natural gender with it suddenly becoming hip and trendy for "gender reassignment" surgery in spite of the very well known psychological risks to the same.

To those grounded in science, nature, or faith, all of this is deeply horrifying.  The first two aspect of this horrified triad, moreover, are largely ignored in this discussion, and shouldn't be.  Science has been under assault in the United States for decades now for some odd reason but those who remain grounded in it, particularly as it has evolved over the last two decades, are bewildered.  As time has moved on the claims that all of the conditions that the sexual trends brought into law by the United States Supreme Court are grounded in nature have really started to drop off.  Most of these conditions were regarded as deep psychological abnormalities early on and efforts to prove otherwise have largely failed.  What is now known is that the more common of them, which are still quite uncommon, appear to be very deeply seated, but the evidence that it is genetic in origin is not good at all.  More scary, perhaps, the evidence on "transgenderism" is that it nearly universally reverses itself in the young who feel drawn to it and that acting upon it surgically in adults sets them up for very extreme psychological problems later.  In short, the orthodox religious argument that we're a fallen people who are all, in one way or another, disordered from our ideal, basically appears to be fully correct.

So the question has become, what to do about it?

But in order to really grasp the problem a person has to understand its origin, and this I'd argue is the first flaw in the current set of ideas. That is, this is a longer trend than we imagine, and as it is a long one, we better grasp that first.

Put another way, this entire problem didn't begin with elderly disappointing Anthony Kennedy and his fellows in 2015.  It began with John Calvin in the 1530s.

Lawyer John Calvin.  He'd be horrified by current conditions. . . but he gets a lot of the credit or blame for them.

Now, right away this is going to raise all sorts of hackles, and some of them probably deservedly so.  Some right away would probably decry this and note that Calvin was a "conservative".  He wasn't, he was a radical and indeed a bit of a bully who poorly understood his own thesis and he certainly wasn't a conservative.  Others might wonder why I'd blame Calvin for this rather than Martin Luther, who I suppose I could indeed tag, at least partially here, particularly given that 1517 is the year that Luther supposedly nailed the "95 Thesis" the church door at Worms (he probably actually didn't do that).  

Before people get too far in an uproar, however, I'd note that my thesis here isn't unique and not even mine.  Some people who regard Calvin and his fellow travelers as real heroes (or Luther and his fellow travelers as real heroes) propose the same thesis while retaining admiration for their hero.  So let's see what I mean.

The problem here, as this thread grows and grows, is that a person has to have a solid understanding of the 1400s and the 1500s to even grasp much of this, which most people do not, and beyond that, is not easy to do as much of the history from 400 to 1536 was rewritten a bit in the late 1500s in order to accommodate the "Reformation".* Characters like Hillaire Belloc did yeoman service in trying to address that, but addressing centuries of error isn't easy and the work goes on.  Anyhow, without a good grounding in the nature of the world at at that time what occurred is difficult to grasp.

And the reason for that is that the rebellion ushered in by characters like Luther, Calvin and Cramer were rebellions against authority, and ultimately against all authority.  They stood, ultimately, even if some (certainly such as Luther) wouldn't have understood their acts in that fashion.  Indeed, to some degree these individuals inevitably regarded themselves as the authority and therefore viewed themselves as acting for a counter authority.  But in reality, their blow was levied against any authority.

Now, before a person thinks "that's not so bad", we have to realize what we're speaking of in terms of authority.  We truly mean any. Any religious authority, to be sure, but also any governmental authority, and perhaps more significantly any social or scientific authority.  The latter is what got us where we are today.

So starting, once again, we need to start prior to 1517.  Let's just loosely say we're starting at 1500.

Prior to the Reformation the world, and of course we mean the Western world of which we are part, and even broader than that the European World, was much less monolithic than supposed.  Indeed, this was the case in terms of everything including the Christian faith.  But what was generally the case is that there had developed a system by which everything was subject to some authority.  The Church, both in the East and the West, viewed all authority in terms of Apostolic Succession.  This was the case even though the Great Schism had already occurred in 1054, if we accept that date (its a complicated story).  Governments of various types existed but they were all subject to tempering by the religious authorities, even though that had been a struggle for a long time in some places. That is, governments had secular authority but moral authority was vested by the Church, and taken seriously.  Indeed that was taken so seriously that monarchs would occasionally attempt to usurp that role, but they failed in their efforts in those regards until 1536 when King Henry VIII would usher in the era of serial polygamy and needed to depose the Church in England in order to accomplish that.

St. Thomas a Becket and King Henry II.  Becket lost his life in what amounted to a Church v. Government struggle.

And this was also the case in regards to science.

Due to the Reformation this story has become very warped but generally the Church viewed science highly favorably and backed it.  The reason for this was because the Church viewed science as revealing with greater clarity the mysteries and nature of God.  To understand the early origins of this a person only has to read Augustine's Confessions.

What, you haven't read Confessions?

Well after reading up on the Church Fathers you should. . . 

Well anyway that was the concept. As time moved on there was an effort to basically impose what is now regarded as peer review.  Things moved slowly in the Middle Ages and it wasn't possible to simply rapidly submit your paper for peer review and the Church was the only international institution there was, so it basically took that role.  This made sense as even now its quite possible to submit your paper to the American Committee Of We Approve Your Paper and get it published no matter how bogus it is.  In the Middle Ages, with distances being what they were, that would have been even more possible.

This leads to the nearly completely misconstrued story of Galileo.  Galileo, we often here, was punished by the Church for saying the Earth revolved around the Sun. Baloney.  He was disciplined for insisting on his views being right before people had a chance to review them.  

Indeed, so often missed in this story is that if Galileo had been punished for his views, Copernicus would have been also.  But he certainly was not, even though he advanced the same theory.  He just did it in a more academically careful and less arrogant manner.  Copernicus, in fact, held some species of ordination, although the data isn't super clear.  He seems to have been at least a Deacon in the Church.

Copernicus, scientist and clergyman.

That's significant, however.  If the Church had viewed Galileo's theory as being upsetting, Copernicus' theory, which is the same theory, would have been so regarded also, but it wasn't. The difference was that Copernicus cooperated with the established process of the day which was to allow others to ponder what he was proposing. The Church didn't insist on scientific uniformity, but it did look to prevent bogosity.

Now, a person by this point is probably saying what does this have to do with the current times and Anthony Kennedy?  Well, quite a lot.

Once individuals like Luther and more particularly Calvin declared "I'm the religious authority" and essentially ruptured the Magisterium it was a short trip to political leaders saying "and so am I".  Indeed, that happened nearly immediately.  Luther was only successful due to the backing of German princes who didn't want the Church looking over his shoulder (indeed, in Germany the Church itself didn't go along with Luther. .  not one Bishop followed along with him).  This spread rapidly, although it was often hugely contested by more loyal leaders, into Scandinavia and Switzerland.  In 1536, in an extraordinary muddled fashion, it crossed the English channel into England.

None of the "Reformers" had a concept of every single person being the authority.  Certainly Luther thought he was the authority.  King Henry VIII thought he was the authority.  Calvin thought he was the authority. And so on.  But because they each thought they were the authority it ultimately gave license to each and every person deciding that they themselves are the authority or that at least they can pick or choose their own authority, at least on a scientific, social and religious level (its difficult to choose your own authority on a governmental level as governments don't like that much).

An example of how this works over time is provided by the Congregationalist Church.  I don't mean to pick on them, and if anyone who reads this is a Congregationalist that's not my intent, but its history provides an example.  The Congregationalist descend from the Puritans, and the Puritans were amongst the most fanatic and least tolerant of any "reformed" church.  Real diehard proponents of Calvinism, they wiped out most of the fun stuff anywhere near them if they were in power in any fashion, which briefly here and there they were.  Opponents of Christmas and Easter, they also banned sports of all types.  Oddly, and contrary to the widely held view about them, the only thing they really approved of that would take us off-guard was sex, although obviously in marriage. They also approved of alcohol, but then religious objections to alcohol are quite recent.

Mayflower "Pilgrims".  In fact, they weren't all religious immigrants and those who were may have been very pious, but they weren't what we'd regard as tolerant or fun loving.  This depiction is of them before leaving the Netherlands, which was mighty glad to see them go.

Congregationalist today fit into various groups. They are not all the same.  That shows us something about the nature of authority today.  The Pilgrims would have been upset about this, but they'd be more upset if they knew that today some Congregationalist churches or those that descend from Congregationalist are amongst the most "liberal" of all Protestant churches.  

First Congregational Church, Sheridan Wyoming.  This beautiful Gothic style church in Sheridan Wyoming is a United Church of Christ church.  Some Congregationalist merged with the United Church of Christ in recent years. They vary, and I know nothing about this particular congregation other than that they have their very pretty church, but some branches of this church have strayed very far from their Calvinist origins. 

A person can give other examples, but this highly relates to the topic that we started off talking about above and its specifically cited by Protestant advocates of The Benedictine Option.  That is, they would note, many Protestant (and it isn't just Protestant, we'll get to that) Congregationalist now very clearly depart from big portions of their founders views and in fact from the Gospels themselves.  For a very direct example, one United Church of Christ minister here locally has specifically discounted the writings of St. Paul as just his views. That is, that minister flatly holds that St. Paul is wrong and his warnings regarding various things he specifically cites as sinful can flat out be ignored.  That's a view that would have caused Calvin to come down from the pulpit and give that person a personal blistering, but the fact that Calvin thought he could individually interpret the Gospels without review of authority pretty much gives this later person the right to do so also. Calvin believed in solo scriptura and himself somehow discounted the Catholic Church had determined as canon what books were properly in the bible, and therefore Paul's directive that "traditional" be given weight, which makes Calvin's position automatically rather weak, but at the same time he did believe that each book of the truncated Protestant Bible was to be applied, something one of his local decadents here on the pulpit does not.  He'd be horrified (as well he should be in regards to this), but by the position that person takes rests in part in the confidence of his individualistic view.

 St. Paul on the road to Damascus.  You have to admit that things are pretty far gone when some "Christian" ministers hold the same opinion of St. Paul that Islam does. . . just his opinion. . . although they obviously reach different point in regards to license when they dismiss him.

That's a lot to lay at the feet of John Calvin (and Luther) but as noted, I'm not the only one who has noted this and in this year of 2017 some in what became Protestant Europe have been celebrating that very thing.  I've heard more than one commenter from the UK proudly cite that the Protestant Reformation gave rise to the modern society with plurality of views and there's at least one book on the store shelves right now taking that position.  They may be right, but probably not in the way that they think they are.

King Henry VIII. . . whose actions happily gave us the Vanderpumps and every disgruntled person in Starbucks insisting on their own personal reality.

It wasn't ever true that there was uniformity of thought on anything prior to 1517, or 1536.  Far from it. But there was a concept of authority in matters.  Following 1517, or perhaps 1536, or some date thereabouts, there were a lot of competing concepts of authority.  In the United Kingdom alone competing religious groups came and went with mind bending speed, as the authority,  with the ultimate result that all the churches were permanently weakened and have never truly recovered in spite of the English government's backing of several of them over time, and the Church of England in the end.  The English contest also created different political authorities.  When the English colonies in North America broke away the memory of that caused the early United States to prevent any one state from adopting a single faith as the religious authority, no doubt a good move, and developed a concept that the people were the ultimate authority, a concept that works as long as most people more or less agree on the bigger things.  In France, in violent contrast, French radical intellectuals overthrew the Crown, the prior civil authority, and declared themselves as the authority on absolutely everything, a model which later gave us folks like Stalin and Pol Pot.

It isn't, of course, as if we go right from 1517 to 1917, or from 1536 to 2017.  That would be grossly inaccurate, but over time some interesting developments occurred which give rise to the dangers of lack of recognized authorities of some type.  We can skip, as they are so very well known, the dangers associated with political movements that declare themselves to be the ultimate authority on everything. . . the Communist, the Nazis, and the Fascists, for example, and go on to the dangers which occur with the opposite.

Benito Mussolini.  He was the authority.  All you would have to do to verify this would have been to ask him. . .

The rise of democratic societies, interesting enough, and probably naturally enough, has received a lot less attention over the years than the rise of totalitarian ones.  People do study democracies, to be sure, but there are a lot more biographies of Napoleon Bonaparte than there are of Thomas Jefferson.  It's odd. But supreme egotists are interesting and its interesting that large number of people will follow them.  But democracies have indeed risen and at this point in our global history they're clearly going to be universally ascendant at some point, no matter what Putin or the Saud family may think (and they probably both know that).  In spite of its best efforts, and my pessimistic commentary of the other day, there isn't going to be a new Caliphate either.  Indeed, on that latter item, my prediction is that women in the Middle East will be the downfall of Islam (and I mean it just that way) at the point at which they determine that being a second class citizen who is probably going to Hell, according to Islam's founder, isn't their thing.

But, and its important, democracies, while they accommodate a lot of views, still have to stand for something and there still has to be a culture of some sort within in them.  And that's the problem we're having now.

So Where Are We At?

Democracy is a Christian thing.

Now, I know that somebody is going to come in here and say, "oh yeah? . . what about the ancient Greeks, dagnabit!"

Yes, I'll credit that.  Ancient Greek city states, in some examples, but not in others, were "pure democracies". There aren't any pure democracies around in the world today, and for a darned good reason. They suck to live in.   And ultimately they fail.  The reason for that is that there actually isn't any liberty nor any protected rights in a pure democracy, as the only thing that goes is the law of the mob, literally.

Some might note, however, that right now, we sort of recreate that via screaming fests in our society.  Controversial views, or more accurately views that aren't "Progressive", are being generally screamed down.

That's an side, however, as we don't have a pure democracy.  Nobody does.

Now, before we get too far in it, this is usually the point at which somebody notes that "we don't live in a democracy. . . we live in a republic".  Yeah, whatever.  In generally accepted terms, we live in a democracy.

But one that has certain major cultural underpinnings, like every other modern democracy (most of which really descend from us to some degree, save perhaps for those which descend the English Parliament).  And a major feature of that is that there are "certain truths".

Indeed, its funny that when asked what American democracy stands for you'll typically instantly get a citation to Jefferson's language from the Declaration of Independence**, which states: 
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Now, the Declaration of Independence is not organic law. That is, while it was a legal act declaring the separation of the thirteen colonies from the United Kingdom, it doesn't impose anything on us today nor does it bind or restrain any part of the government today.  But as a foundational document its important as it gives us a sense of how the founders of the nation viewed things.

And key in that, and evident form their other writings and acts from the same period and for many generations thereafter, they were not moral relativist.

No, in actuality they all conceded that there were truths that were self evident.  That's a deep Natural Law view of the world.  It is not necessarily a religious view of the world, contrary to what some might suppose, but it does presuppose and require that there are absolute truths and some of them are self evident.  It does not credit or even tolerate the idea that there's one truth for one person and another for somebody else.

 Thomas Jefferson, enigmatic, confusing. . . but a Natural Law kind of guy.  And looked at in that context, his dabbling in law, philosophy and science makes sense.

All of which explains much about the history of the United States, which I'll not claim, it should be noted, to be perfect in any measure.  People will often comment on the development of science and industry in the US and its no wonder.  A view that the world contains self evident truths will tolerate exploration of them in in any category.

This is, however, deeply contrary to the modern view presently common in our society that "toleration" equates with acceptance.  Indeed, its the polar opposite.  The traditional American view, and the view that prevailed in all democratic societies that actually functioned as democracies, is that any view would be tolerated, but that that toleration was subject to the white hot heat of reality and subject to being extinguished in that flame.  Acceptance had nothing whatsoever to do with toleration.  American tolerance didn't feature a bumper sticker saying "Co-Exist" but rather Missouri's license plate slogan of "Show me".

 Mary Dyer going to the gallows in Massachusetts for the crime of being an unwelcome Quaker violating a Puritan edict that Quakers keep out of Massachusetts.  She lost her life in 1660.  Religious "tolerance" didn't mean, as the founders thought of it, that one line of thought was as good as another. . . they, rather, didn't want the state running around executing people like Dyer.

And that's what has recently been lost.

In the current culture, if it is a culture, we've entered into an era when the only value held dear by any democracy is an oatmeal like understanding of tolerance.  We've gone from "show me" to "don't question" and "don't even say that" as an ethos, and its destructive.  No value, no matter how deeply ingrained it is in nature itself, is to be claimed as superior to any other, no matter how cumulative the evidence that it is may be, is the national creed.  This has reached the state where states of existence which only very recently would have been manifestations of psychological maladies are to be given equal status with states that only recently were to be regarded as fully normal.

We've also gone, it would seem, to an era when certain core democratic principals are held in absolute contempt.  Protestors who absolutely refuse to accept the results of the recent election are heard from again and again.  Recently a large number of students from Notre Dame, a supposedly Catholic university whose connection with the faith that created it is tenuous, walked out on a speech by the Vice President, an act which is contemptible even if you don't like the current administration (in contrast, I've sat through a speech by former Vice President Cheney, who I am not a fan of, and not one person was rude to him, back about a decade ago).

And, moreover, with current competing news outlets various people now freely opt to accept whatever version of the news best suits their personal views.  The left accuses the right of this constantly but both sides do it without restraint.  Even the once venerable New York Times screams daily at the Trump administration in a manner that's fairly unhinged.  Right wing outlets do the same about all things Democratic.

In science, which is dedicated to the pursuit of describable truth, we find that well accepted science has to compete constantly with absurd myth.  This gives us the absolute lunacy of somebody like Jenny McCarthy, whose only claim to fame is prostituting her naked image, being treated seriously on claims that vaccines cause Downs Syndrome.  It's blisteringly absurd at ever level.  That she's given credence without credentials is deeply disturbing.

In the law, as already noted, we have five out of four Supreme Court justices adopting a view of the law based on "evolving" social trends, which isn't acting as a judge at all, but as sort of a Platonic super legislature.

And in the various Christian denominations we now see, and have been seeing for some time, entire branches that simply opt out of unpopular or difficult theological matters, no longer how long accepted, while we also see branches that rather than support scientific exploration oppose it.

And that's what causes the present state of concern.  No matter what a person may wish to view, a society that has no other value other than "its' nice to be nice to the nice, and we're all nice" isn't going to survive.

We Ain't The Whole World
Catholic church in South Korea.  Christianity has been in Korea since 1603 and was outlawed in 1758.  In 1945 2% of the population was Christian.  In 1991, just after I was there, about 25% of the population was Christian, with 18% being Protestant and a little over 6% Catholic.  Today 30% of  the population is Christian and membership in the Catholic church has increased 70% in a decade.  The South has also gone from being a military dictatorship to vigorously democratic since the late 1980s.

But, before we go too far on that, maybe that flat out doesn't matter.

Because maybe we no longer do, as societies.

That may seem very harsh, but over the long term the influence of societies does wax and wane, even if the central ideas that made them great keep on keeping on. And there's pretty good evidence that this is the case right now.

Some of the ideas that we hold dear today were first advanced in Rome. We all know Rome fell, but in some ways it didn't as some of its universalist concepts and legal concepts have persevered.  So too is it the case about  the best of Western society.

Hardly noticed to us, because of our own self absorbed nature, all across the Third World the core of Western values; western democracy, western law, and perhaps most significantly, traditional Christianity, is exploding into full fruition.  While people in the West worry, if they did, for example, about the decline of orthodox Christianity it is in fact absolutely ascendant, just not where they are looking.  The orthodox Catholic Church is growing enormously all over the Third World.  In former British colonies the orthodox branch of the Anglican Church is growing every day and has reached the state where it now lectures Canterbury and the American Episcopal Church about breaches in orthodoxy.  For that matter, African Catholic Cardinals now stand in the first rank of those regarded as in the forefront while German Cardinals look mired in a view of the liberal world that has passed.   The Western World is advancing by leaps and bounds, just not in the West.

Indeed, for many of those now alive its perfectly possible that they will live in an era in which the center of the economic, political, and religious world is Africa, and countries like Germany or Austria matter no more than the Ivory Coast does today.  Even the United States may find itself in the foreseeable future answering to lectures from African states and reacting to them more than t hey currently do to the United Kingdom, France or Italy.  The axis of the world in real terms may be, and indeed is, shifting.  The only question in regards to that is the degree to which the European world, which includes us, will become a backwater.

There was an era when Carthage and Damascus mattered as much as any world capitol does today.  The center of the world shifts.

And maybe panic is overdone here

Additionally, at any one time, a crisis appears to be overdone if you are living it.

When I was a college student I had to read a book called Republic Of Grass.  The thesis of that book, then a really hot one, was that a war between the United States and the Soviet Union was absolutely inevitable due to the war mongering policies of Ronald Reagan and that the only rational thing to do was to surrender, right then, to the USSR.  That is, cash in our chips right now, before the war came. We'd be happier, in essence, Red, rather than Dead.

U.S. Army Honest John missile.  Remember when we used these, equipped with nuclear warheads, on the Soviets.  Of course, not, it never happened no matter what the panicky left thought was inevitable at the time.

The point is that, in the early 1980s, if you read concerned liberal journals there was a very widespread belief that we were on the edge of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, something that had not been true since the Kennedy days and which wasn't quite as true then as people still believe now.

Or recall reading Silent Spring?

Seen a bird recently?  Hmmm. . . . .

We could, of course, go into any number of similar scenarios but the point is pretty obvious.  Maybe things just aren't as bad as they seem, which of course doesn't mean that real problems don't exist or that they are not serious.

Having said that, by objective measures the level of depressive resignation may in fact not be exactly warranted.  Sure, there's been a pile of social decay and right now we're swimming in the results of it, but things have been bad before and not all that long ago in some instances.  Moreover, somethings have been a lot worse.

In fact, in the Western World, in spite of what people like to claim, there's an overall general belief in the Divine.  Even in areas where people claim there's been a mass drop off, there really hasn't been in the way that's often claimed.  Much more of the old faiths are retained than imagined, even if adherence to their tenants is often visibly declined.  But if we go far enough back even in the history of Christianity in Europe we'll see there were plenty of episodes when this was equally true.

Moreover, to some degree, what we may be, and probably are, seeing is the final stages of the Counter Reformation, which would be good for everyone.  People like to think of history in compact short periods but it doesn't really work that way.  The history of Christianity is just over 2,000 years old.  The start of the Reformation was just 500 years ago.  If we went back to the year 500 we'd see that as an era when Christianity clearly had a beachhead in Europe but how it was going to work out remained very uncertain.  Christianity had arrived in Britain by the year 300 but St. Augustine had to be dispatched to England to evangelize it in 595,a  process that would take decades to complete. King Arwald of the Jutes remained a pagan until his death in 686.  Looked at that way, in bookend fashion, we're far ahead of where we were by any measure of civilization than we were back then.  And as noted above, all the real values of Western civilization including religious thought are expanding globally, rather than retreating.  Much of what is expanding, as noted, is highly orthodox and what's also been repeatedly noted is that the "liberal", in this quarter, is passing away.  So what we may be seeing is a messy contraction of the philosophy of "I'm the authority" really beginning to accelerate in one quarter with it being probable that this will then occur in others.

Additionally, and probably part of the reason we're seeing what we are, the West is stupendously rich in a way it has never been before.  The irony of that is that wealthy provides the leisure to really get lazy and to develop problems.  If it seems like we're beset by a flood of unusual social and psychological problems right now, we probably are.  Rich societies provide the leisure to give license to your afflictions.  If you were a Roman Britain in the year 400 and the Saxons were on the horizon, that would so overwhelm your other problems as to eliminate them.  Or, taken more recently, and assuming you've been following the headlines we've been posting, if you were of military age exactly one century ago, you would have been living with much poorer resources even if you were middle class, would probably have lived, if unmarried, with your family, that family was worrying about feeding itself, and you were worried about the Kaiser.

T [Theodore Roosevelt Jr.] in training with Chausseurs Alpins, 1917
Theodore Roosevelt Jr, in training with French mountain troops, 1917.  Even the sons of the wealthy and powerful served.  Roosevelt would die during World War Two as a byproduct of heart strain that was in part a byproduct of a life that was full of stress and injury.

So, by and large, what we may really be experiencing is simply that people took the blinders off to problems that have been long brewing and now are finally bearing weedy fruit, but that might not mean that things are as big of disaster as some might imagine.

Indeed even Obergefell didn't suddenly arrive upon us but rather arrived due to a series of accommodations to compromises to absolutes over a very long period of time.  It may seem like a revolutionary decision but it might more likely be the natural result of legal decisions that came on in the 1960s that aren't even thought of now, followed by the signature of legislation by Ronald Reagan in California in January 1970, which rapidly resulted in the change in domestic law that weakened the nature of marriages of all types.  We don't think of Reagan in the same light as we might now consider Anthony Kennedy but there's ample reason to do so.

January, 1945

Which brings us to this, summarized, I suppose, by the phrase:
It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth***
Whether or not this is true in nature is another question (it isn't physically darkest before the dawn) but t he perception that this is true in human affairs is often accurate.  This is because a new trend, or a turn in an old one, is rarely noted until its well advanced and, moreover, before any trend of any kind is widely reported on by the press and depicted in popular medial it is almost always very well past the curve in its development.  Put another way, anything that the media reports on as a problem, or anything the media reports on as a trend, is so highly advanced by the time its widely reported on that if there's been a change of any kind regarding it, that change has started to be silently pretty developed as well.

None of which makes the titling of this subsection very clear.  So now we'll clear that up.

Polish soldier (in the branch then controlled by the Red Army) raising Poland's flag above Berlin, May 1945.

The reason I've put this in here to illustrate a fact both of history and human nature.  It human struggles, it often is actually darkest before the dawn.  World War Two's history from December 1944 to August 1945 demonstrates that fairly well.  The reason is that those were the bloodiest months of World War Two.

People tend not to realize this. World War Two, after all, had been a titanic bloodbath from day one, no matter when you calculate that day to have begun.  Nonetheless, the killing ramped up on the battlefield enormously in the final few months, really beginning to flow as a blood red sea in January of that year.  This is missed a bit with the Western Allies as the Germans shot their final bolt in regards to the them in December 1945, with their last desperate offensive in the Ardennes in a battle that's gone down in history as the Battle of the Bulge.  But that trailed into January and the Germans, even though they began to give up after that in larger degrees, still fought on sufficiently such that the casualty rate was far higher than any subsequently faced by the United States and the UK in later wars and which even saw at least two additional airborne operations against the Germans.  Against the Soviets, however, the Germans fought harder than ever and Soviet casualty rates were absolutely enormous in 1945. So were German casualty rates.  The Germans went down fighting.

All this when, as any historian would note, the Germans had lost the war months, or maybe years, prior.

So to is the case with the Japanese.  People tend to forget that two of the iconic bloody battles with the Japanese were in 1945, not earlier.  Both the Battle of Iwo Jim and the Battle of Okinawa were 1945 battles. 
U.S. Marine on Iwo Jima. He's carrying a flame thrower and a M1911 pistol.  This battle was fought in February and March, 1945.

And as with the German, any historian would tell you that by January 1945 the Japanese had lost the war.  But people can't quite tell you when.

The fact that nobody can really tell you the point at which the Germans or the Japanese lost as a practical matter is significant in this discussion. So too is the fact that they both went down fighting.  The Germans may have lost the war by February 1943, when they were finally defeated at Stalingrad. Or maybe they lost months earlier when Stalingrad became encircled and doomed.  Maybe they lost when they decided to invade the Soviet Union.  Or maybe the war was won for the Allies when the United States was brought into the war by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, making the full US participation in the war an official fact.  Or maybe its was as late as June 1944 when the Western Allies landed in France.  It can all be debated.  Similar debates can be made about the Japanese.****

Whatever the case may be, the defeated nations seem to have believed themselves capable of winning the war or at least coming to a satisfactory result long after we'd now regard them as doomed.  In the cited examples the victorious nations realized earlier that they would win, but nonetheless at time it wasn't obvious to all when they'd win.  George Patton, crediting German fighting abilities more strongly than some other Allied commanders by late 1944, publicly stated that the war could still be lost as late as December 1945.  In the forward of the original late 1942 edition of They Were Expendable (William White wrote the best seller very quickly after the described events occurred) the author of that forward (whose name I've forgotten) flat out disagreed with White on the course of the war.  White held the opinion, expressed in the book, that the war could be lost to the Japanese.  The forward's author held that the war was being lost to the Japanese.  1942 is pretty early in the war, of course, but almost anyone looking at the Pacific War is left with the question of how on earth the Japanese ever thought they could win a war against the United States.

My point is, more clearly, that the real fighting in any sort of battle, and I could give a lot more examples, often reaches its height at the point where the party that's being attacked suddenly thinks it could be defeated and the party that was rising up out of nothing suddenly appears to start to loose.  The Allies, or at least those in the war, weren't fighting tooth and nail in 1939 or even before April 1940.  That came later, and to a large extent it was hugely amplified in 1945.

Likewise the Confederacy didn't give up in 1863 after Gettysburg. That took until April 1865.  The Battle of the Little Big Horn occurred in 1876, by which times the Northern Plains tribes had no chance at all, and the last real fight of any kind on the Northern Plains wasn't until 1890, at Wounded Knee, no matter what a person thinks of what occurred there.  So too in social battles.  Americans just didn't give up on Prohibition in 1932 with a "well, that was a mistake", it was fought out until the bitter end.

There's a very decent chance, therefore, that the curve on recent cultural items of concern has actually been turned. At the same time, however, that may very well mean that the really big yelling matches have really only just started.

Indeed, there's pretty good evidence for that.

What occurred with the United States Supreme Court's opinion in Obergefell isn't so much that a sudden dam was breached as that a flood was going on for a long time and now people suddenly noticed it.  Indeed this appears to be the case on a lot of social and cultural issues.   These are, I suppose, sort of cultural Pearl Harbors. They're impact is massive and people take note. But what is less taken note of is the line attributed to Isoroku Yamamoto following his successful attack on Pearl Harbor:
I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve^
The point is that a side that's losing ground will often rest on its strength and not react until there's no other choice.  That may very well be the case here.

Looked at that way, conservative and traditional social values, combined with those focused on a natural concept of human nature and who would reflect that back culturally, are in better shape than we might suppose but have also been losing ground for a very long time.  Picking a date on which to pin it would be difficult but some would assert, and with merit, that the long history of Communism actually reflected that. Few really think of it in those terms, but for a very long time Communism was successfully on the rise before its nature, deeply antithetical to reality and human nature, caused its collapse.   And Communism, in theory, was deeply supportive of a a concept of human nature in all things that was deeply divorced from reality.  So much so, in fact, that the first real failure of Communist theorist, once they had power in the Soviet Union, found itself partially crashing against this reality.  Karl Marx truly believed, for example, that all "wives will be held in common".  It didn't work out that way in the USSR, or anywhere else in the Communist world, as people don't think that way.  It's not part of our nature.

If we bring it forward, and assume that's not where the decline set in, we can find plenty of other areas where we could easily pin a date, but not without contention.  Pope Paul VI warned against the meaning of the onset of pharmaceuticals Humanae Vitae*^*^ to defeat human biology in 1968 in a work that was so accurate that some now regarded it as prophetic in nature.  California's passage of "no fault" divorce in 1970, under divorced Governor Ronald Regan, ushered in an era that rapidly worked to erode marriage and bring in an era of partial serial marriages, a point in history in which many thoughtful individuals feel was the real beginning of the current decline.  The entire late 1960s, for that matter, and the Baby Boomer's leaders rejection of any standards is cited by others, and with good reason.  The United States Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, which in a clumsy fashion assumed that the science of the date of the publication trumped deep philosophical questions and that it would remained fixed for all time and eternity was another point that some feel got the ball rolling.

Indeed, all of these are good examples and perhaps the follow up stories on all of them are as well.  Starting with Roe and abortion, the 1973 decision did not stop the debate but rather actually started those who were opposed to abortion on the march. In 1973 a majority of people quietly accepted the decision.  Over time, the silent truth has become that few do, and later developments in science and consideration of the topic have rendered the stability of the decision questionable at best.  Those who fight to keep it now use terms like "choice" and "reproductive health" but few people actually argue the merits of the decision itself as most hold now that it lacks them.  And now the American public has gone from supporting "choice" to apposing abortion, a real natural law and cultural turning of the tide.  There's reason to suppose that the history of Obergefell might turn out to be similar.

Well, what about marriage and divorce?  That is, after all, a topic I referenced above and I said I'd address them all. There's no reason to be rosy about this topic, is there?  And isn't this really the core issue.  That is, the decline of marriage, it could be argued, lead to a loss of its meaning which gave us a situation in which an institution that was geared towards insuring the protection of natural born children which were the product of a natural act by their parents is now confused with a societal validation of love, according to Justice Kennedy and his fellow travelers.

Well, maybe the story there isn't as grim either and things might be heading in the right direction, although it'll take longer.

We might start of with noting a couple of things about the story of marriage and divorce that aren't all that often noted.  One is that this story goes back a lot further, and therefore the story may be considerably different than we imagine it to be, and that myth doesn't equate with actual statistics.

Let's start with going back, as this ties into what we already noted about the deep origins of what we're looking at today.  The assault on marriage goes back at least to King Henry VIII, who kicked off the Protestant Reformation in England basically over his own personal domestic situation. . . his wife wasn't getting pregnant and he needed to bed somebody else.   He asked the Pope to grant an annulment and the Pope declined, so Henry granted himself one. After that didn't work out (which would, to modern medicos, suggest it was Henry, not his wives, that had the reproduction problem) he simply convinced themselves they were all baddies and a bunch of them met the sharp end of the axe. A pretty grim, and not very religious, history.  But one that shows that the Protestant Reformation had, at least in partial origin, an element of serial polygamy going for it at the onset.

 Catherine of Aragon, who Henry became disenchanted with after his marriage to her failed to produce an heir.

Catherine Parr, who had the really good fortune to outlive King Henry VIII, something that not all of his wives could claim.

Indeed, looking at that a bit more closely, and knowing that it provokes ire, we can't help but note that Martin Luther, while he was out independently determining what the Bible meant, determined that his own vows of celibacy didn't really apply to anything and married a defecting nun, Katharina von Bora.  Luther excused the breaking of his vows as the direct intervention of God, noting:
Suddenly, and while I was occupied with far different thoughts, the Lord has plunged me into marriage.
She was 26 years old at the time and he was 41.  Given the age difference, it isn't surprising to learn that she was widowed when he died at 62.  She'd live until age 53. All that is, of course, besides the point.  The long history of redefining the rules, rather, is.

Indeed, this tendency is so strong that it might be noted that at one of the radical Calvinist that King Charles II had hunted down and put in prison chose to go into prison with his mistress, rather than his wife.  He might perhaps be excused that on the basis of whatever he did, he thought wasn't going to matter due to double predestination, something he likely believed even though it was never a  Christian doctrine before that period and most Christians don't believe it now.  However, this shows the very long history of redefining the rules on marriage.  I've cited the 1970 California statute above, but in truth things began to be redefined in 1517.  And indeed, they likely began to be redefined in some instances prior to that, as we can find quite a few examples of English, Saxon and Scandinavian monarchs who contracted Natural Marriages, which have always been recognized as valid by the Church, and then abandoning them, sometimes repeatedly, with very little being said about it.  King Harold Godwinson had a natural marriage to Edith the Fair for years and years before he married the Welsh noblewoman Ealdgyth, the widow of an enemy defeated and killed in battle by Harold's forces, in what was fairly clearly a political marriage. There was no annulment and certainly no divorce in between and the marriages were real, both producing children.  Harold's views on his wives might be best reflected by the fact that upon his battlefield death at Hastings it was Edith the Fair who identified his body, meaning that she was nearby at the time.^^  The point is, however, that departures from the ideal has a really long history.

None of which would give rise to the suggestion of "see, nothing's really changed".  Some things have very much changed in recent years and Obergefell is a massive departure from the entire concept of marriage to something completely astray from its original concepts.  The point is that people being mushy and imperfect on marriage is nothing new.

Now, not to reduce the current situation to unimportant, what is new is the concept of "normalzing" the departures from the mean.  That is, taking desires and conditions which are not normal and pretending they are, either societally or legally. That very much new, and radically so.  People have always departed from the human standard in ways that were less than ideal, debased, immoral and destructive.  But for the most part the human standard grounded in nature has been long recognized.  What causes those advocating the Benedictine Option to do so is a believe that we are now so far gone that is lost.

But maybe it isn't.  While we are seeing massive departures from nature in the name of radical relativism, and a lot of really odd behavior right now in general (this has to be, for example, the most effeminate age for men that's ever been endured) we see a lot of people who in their own lives fall naturally into what nature would provide, or consciously choose to do so.

Marriage is again a good example. We routinely hear, all the time, that about 50% of all couples divorce. But that statistic is one that is really questionable and I've heard at least one commenting on it saying it flat out isn't true. Divorce is common, that's true, but then so is marriage for that matter.  And in my personal experience, if I consider the friends and co-workers I know, divorce is fairly rare.  Not unknown, but fairly rare.  None of my close friends from high school or university who married have divorced something that makes the cited statistic a bit suspect at least on that level.

Finally, I'd note that some of this interestingly taps into a an essay I published here back in March, that being Putting the Boomer Era to Bed: The rebellious rise of Orthodoxy  While we seem to be awash in the lost right now, I wonder if things have begun to turn around already in this recent cycle. That article discussed a series of generations and culminated in the Milennials on this thesis.  To my huge surprise I just recently ran an article, as I noted in the first footnote in this post, dealing with the same themes, but applying a religious lens to the.  I was, quite frankly, quite surprised, but its interesting that somebody else was making almost the exact same observations back in 2012.

So, what to do?  The Constantine Option 

Okay, we've spilled a lot of electrons getting to this point, but what should we do, if anything. Is the Benedict Option the only way to go here, or would it even be a mistake to attempt to apply it?

Well, to start off, that really depends upon what a person means by The Benedict Option.  That's been addressed a bit above but this is a pretty significant aspect of this question.

If it means that people should have their Faith as the focus of their life, that's always been true and still ought to be.  Another way to put it, although it would be putting it in a much more secular manner than Dreher would begin to assert, is that people ought to liven an authentic life.  Dreher would counter all of this, of course, acknowledging it but also noting that when you live in a Christian Culture that's somewhat the default situation anyhow and now that we do not, we must make this focus.

Here's where I depart from Dreher.

I think that Dreher and his followers are unduly pessimistic.  We do not live in the same situation that St. Benedict did. The Ostrogoth's are not at the door.  Rather, we live in a situation that our predecessors have lived in again and again.

Christianity became legal in Rome at a date that's somewhat debated but it's fairly clear that Emperor Constantine (who was not the first Christian Emperor, contrary to common citation to the contrary) legally ended the repression of Christians in 313.  That date, we'd note, is sufficiently early that there were a lot of Bishops, Priests and common  Christians who had directly endured official persecution of the worst types.^^^  This is quite significant, however, as what occurred in this era is that the  Church was on the rise.  In a mere 170  years, more or less, it had gone from being founded to having a second Christian emperor who was about to call a major council.

We'll get to the council in a moment, but what's important about that is that we're beginning to see the era of Christian Rome, and because Rome did become Christian, the Faith spread throughout the Roman World.  Ultimately, today, Europe is what is only because of the Church, and nothing else. Western values are those of the Church and even those who live in dedicated opposition to Christianity, if they live in a European culture, have values they've derived in one fashion or another from the Church.  As one friend of mine who claims to have no faith at all states, "culturally, we're all Roman Catholic".

But history has its ebbs and flows.  When we advance about 150 years we see that Rome was collapsing and doing so in the face of a massive German assault.  The Germans who crossed the Rhine or who crossed the North Sea were not Christians.  Nor, for that matter, were the Celts who started crossing the North Sea at the same time. These were fully pagan people, and their assault was hugely successful. St. Benedict, in his era, faced that.

What Constantine faced, in contrast, was remarkably different.  His world was not yet a Christian one, but it was becoming one.  But at the same time Christianity and what would become Western values were beset by all sorts of challenges, and not only challenges from without, but within.  We do not tend to think of early Christianity as being a period in which Christians needed to worry about decay, but it truly was.  The church, which was close to achieving dominance over competing religions and philosophies through acceptance by the highest reaches of officialdom, was still being attacked by radicals of all types.  Chief amongst those, at the time, was Arius, who proposed a theological concept antagonistic to the accepted one even though he himself was a member of the clergy.  Arius was not alone in his views and indeed they were accepted by some of the Bishops of the day, including the one who baptized Constantine.  Nor was Arianism the only heresy that had surfaced by that time, the early Church was constantly contending with them.

What was done in regards to this, however, stands in real contrast with what St. Benedict did when faced with the crisis of his day. Christians were in the world and ascendant at the time and they took action. More specifically, St. Constantine did.  He called for the Council of Nicaea, which gathered the Bishops of the Church, and which Arius attended.  The council met, rejected Arianism, and the heresy ultimately died out, although not all at once but over a period of many years as Arianism, while discredited, continued to have adherents.^^^^  Discussion there was vigorous, and by some accounts, although it is disputed, St. Nicholas, a Greek Bishop and the origin of the Santa Claus image, hauled off and punched or slapped Arius at one point.

So, the approach was quite different on the part of Constantine. 

So, in other words, do we live in times that more closely resemble those of St. Benedict or St. Constantine?  I think Constantine is the answer to that question.

We don't, in real terms, live in a "post Christian" world awash in a sea of barbarian invaders.  Indeed, the influence of Christianity over the past two millennia has been so deep in Western societies that Christian values have come to be all pervasive.  If it seems to be the case that people are not living out Christian values now to a large degree that's because Christian values have become so common and second nature that people live them out without realizing them.

Which doesn't mean that all is well, far from it.  No, more like Constantine and the Bishops of the Church, we find ourselves awash in a sea of heresy, if you will, and oddity, much like the late Roman Empire.  That has seen, as they saw, professed Christians who have gone badly off the track and profess beliefs that don't square with the Gospels and also don't square with nature.  This includes members of all Christian faiths, all of whom include some "progressive" or "liberal" members, including clergy, who do more to undermine their Faith's through the espousal of "progressive" causes than to support what they claim their Faith's message to be.  Constantine and Pope Sylvester * were facing that very thing.

We also face, and not unlike them, an era in which disorder is proclaimed to be order and relativism reigns supreme.  We have people who profess an anti scientific view of things in the name of religion or politics, both of the right and the left.  Nature is a cruel neutral that doesn't care anything about human beings, our economics, or desires, or anything about us.  We do not have a "Mother Earth". We have Earth, and Earth doesn't care much if we mess up our environment or ourselves. Earth will keep on keeping on, irrespective of us.   Earth doesn't care what the economy of Pittsburgh is or whether any single human feels themselves to be unfulfilled.  People have to comport to nature and nature's Earth, not the other way around.

And its time to take a page, therefore, from St. Constantine and, maybe, from St. Nicholas, or at least his legend.
After the king seated himself on the throne, one hundred and fifty nine fathers seated themselves at either side of him, both they and Arius arguing with much unease.  Saint Nicholas, noticing that Arius was about to quash all the archpriests and moved by divine zeal, rose up and gave him a slap that shook all his members. Complaining, Arius says to the king: “O most just king, is it fair, before your royal highness, for one to strike another?  If he has something to say, let him speak as the other fathers do; if he is ignorant, let him remain silent as his like are. For what reason does he slap me in the presence of your highness?”  Hearing this, the king was greatly disappointed and said to the archpriests: “Holy archpriests, it is the law, that whosoever raises his hand before the king to strike someone, that it should be cut off. I leave this to you, so that your holiness(es) might be the judge.”  The archpriests replied, saying: “Your majesty, that the archpriest has acted wrongly all of us confess it; except that we beseech you, let us unstate him now and imprison him, and after the dissolution of the council, we shall then convict him.

Having unstated and imprisoned him, that night Christ and the Holy Mother Theotokos appeared in prison and said: “Nicholas, why are you imprisoned?”  And the saint replied: “For loving You”. Christ then said to him: “Take this,” and gave him the holy gospel; the Holy Mother Theotokos gave him the archpriestly omophorion (scapular).  The next day some acquaintances of his brought him bread and they saw that he was freed of his fetters and on his shoulder he was wearing the omophorion, while reading the holy gospel he was holding in his hands. Having asked him where he found them, he told them the whole truth.  Having learnt of this, the king took him out of the prison and asked for forgiveness, as did all the others.  After the dissolution of the council, all the archpriests returned home, as did saint Nicholas, to his province.
Damascenos the Monk:  Life of saint Nicholas the wonder-worker. 
No, I don't mean give Anthony Kennedy a stout physical slap.  But I do mean its time to defend reality vigorously, and if that means giving Anthony Kennedy the metaphorical dope slap, so be it.  But not just him.  And that's where I think some of the current proponents of the Benedict Rule will in fact grow antsy and in fact should.  Also the guy on the local radio who drones on and on and on in a recorded loop about his personal inaccurate theories about geology, the people who believe that because they work in an industry anything it does must be good for everyone and everyone's environment, the people who don't want a science taught in school because they're offended by how it doesn't fit their view of the world, and the local pastor who feels that St. Paul was just on some sort of personal misguided mission, need to be addressed.  Truth doesn't care if you find truth to be inconvenient or that its harshing what you think your mellow is.  Truth is Truth.

And Truth is where you find it.   That's something we can take from St. Constantine and his fellows that perhaps comes across in a different way than it might for those who'd look to a Benedict Option.  A hallmark of what Constantine the Great did was to ask for a council so that things could be figured out, not to tell it what to do.  That means, once a truth is discerned, it has to be followed.

Now, that doesn't mean, as I suppose some will take it to mean, that what I'm urging is a theocracy.  No, not at all. Rather, what I'm arguing is that a lot of truths don't square with a person's temporary best interest and maybe not all that well with their own personal appetites.  That's too bad, but that's the way it is.  Caged tigers are rarely really happy but that doesn't mean that your life long indoor cat will really welcome you dragging it outside.

To be a little more clear, one of the interesting aspects of current American life is that there are a lot of people who insist on what the truth must be based upon their own personal interests.  In some cases they insist their must be multiple truths because they're own personal world view is so deeply out of sink with nature.  I'm not going to list every example, which would serve mostly to make everyone who has manged to read this far into this essay mad (which may in fact be nobody at all, as a blog post over a couple of paragraphs in length is generally left unread) but a person shouldn't insist on the age of the Earth, the impact of industrial activities or the lack thereof, or of the morality or immortality of a personal desire based upon what suits them personally. We're subject to Truth, we don't define it.  It isn't the case that just because, let's say, that I'm employed as a a lawyer that there's something special about our court system on a metaphysical level.  People don't, in so far as I'm aware, make that argument, but I've heard similar arguments made about other industries by folks who are employed in them.  Indeed, I suppose the ultimate example of that may be the Mafia in which the participants excused a lot of ghastly behavior on the basis that, after all, this is "our thing" (costra nostra).  Nope, it doesn't work that way.

And that might frankly mean publicly discrediting certain views.  That's an uncomfortable thing, but so be it.  People ought to be frank about that.  If Dr. Oz is on the Today Show that doesn't credit him on everything, and people can say so.  If Jenny McCarthy shows up on television with a medical theory, people ought to frankly say "bull***t Jenny, you're only an expert on flashing your boobs, which is an immoral act, go away.  If a jurist says the Constitution protects people finding happiness in some way unknown in the late 1790s, saying take a hike Jack is perfectly acceptable.  If a person says that science and the Bible can't be reconciled, telling them that humans saying what God can and can't do can't really be reconciled with the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim concept of God.  If someone says we can't address this big problem because its contrary to a certain industry, well that doesn't mean it isn't a problem and somebody ought to say so.  If your Senator and Congressman always side with a local industry, they ought to be called on it because that can't possibly be the product of an active mind.  If people say that there's one reality for me, and another for you, packing them off to Aleppo for a reality refresher is A Okay.


Father Georges Lemaître, Belgian Catholic Priest and scientist, author of the Big Bang Theory.  Scientists as they really are, not as depicted by some stupid television show, and a man obviously not made uncomfortable with the Truth.

If that means being focused on the Truth, in a Benedictine sense, that's good and it should be done.  But it may also mean defending the Truth where it is, and not being afraid to do so.  Right now that seems to be an increasing rarity.



\*It's bad form to use footnote symbols twice in a row, but I'm going to do  that as this footnote was added on an edit.

I'm adding it to note that this falls into context in the form of an essay I wrote earlier calling Putting the Boomers To Bed.  The context actually occurred to me as I ran across, while looking up something on a completely different thread I was looking to post here an article that had almost the exact same them and went through the exact same history but which had been published in 2012.  The difference was that that particular article was written by a Priest and he put the generational decline over the past century, noting many of the very same points I had, in a religious context.

*Terms are important and for that reason I'll credit those who state that the term "The Protestant Reformation" or "The Reformation" is inaccurate.  Recently some have used the term "The Protestant Rebellion" in this context. Whatever term is used, it's important to note that the term "Reformation" is inaccurate at least at some point.  Martin Luther did start off it seems conceiving of himself as a reformer, although he was hardly the first to appear in his own era and others similarly situated to himself did not end up in rebellion in their reformation.  King Henry VIII cooperated with rebellion but probably didn't even realize that he was in rebellion.  Later "reformers" however were quite aware that they were diametrically opposed to the old Church.  The key is, however, that the reform yielded to rebellion, and the rebellion is presently swallowing the rebels.

**For some odd reason the entire Declaration of Independence is very rarely quoted, perhaps because its partially cautionary in its language and perhaps partially because some of the awful things the Crown is claimed to have done don't seem that awful now.  The entire text reads:

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
***A Pisgah-Sight Of Palestine And The Confines Thereof. Thomas Fuller

****Not particularly important for this discussion, but in my view the Japanese lost the war on December 7, 1941, when they brought the US into what was for them an ongoing war in China. There was no way they were going to win that and their efforts were based mostly in misunderstanding and hopeful wishes.

Picking a date for the war against the Germans is more difficult, but I'd place it in February 1943 when the Field Marshall Von Paulis surrendered his forces at Stalingrad in violation of the orders he'd received from Hitler.  The Soviet victory in that fashion finally brought the Soviets to a point where there were not going to cut a negotiated peace with the Germans, something that had not been clear at any time up until that pint, and it also brought in the institutional decay of the German Army as the Nazi Party came to distrust it.

^The provenance of the line is questionable.  It supposedly comes from Yamamoto's diary according to the writer but nobody has been able to produce the original quote.  Irrespective of that, however, it undoubtedly reflects the Admiral's diary, perhaps more poetically than he would have been inclined to do.




Honored Brothers and Dear Sons,
Health and Apostolic Benediction.

The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.
The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.

2. The changes that have taken place are of considerable importance and varied in nature. In the first place there is the rapid increase in population which has made many fear that world population is going to grow faster than available resources, with the consequence that many families and developing countries would be faced with greater hardships. This can easily induce public authorities to be tempted to take even harsher measures to avert this danger. There is also the fact that not only working and housing conditions but the greater demands made both in the economic and educational field pose a living situation in which it is frequently difficult these days to provide properly for a large family.
Also noteworthy is a new understanding of the dignity of woman and her place in society, of the value of conjugal love in marriage and the relationship of conjugal acts to this love.
But the most remarkable development of all is to be seen in man's stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control over every aspect of his own life—over his body, over his mind and emotions, over his social life, and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life.

New Questions
3. This new state of things gives rise to new questions. Granted the conditions of life today and taking into account the relevance of married love to the harmony and mutual fidelity of husband and wife, would it not be right to review the moral norms in force till now, especially when it is felt that these can be observed only with the gravest difficulty, sometimes only by heroic effort?
Moreover, if one were to apply here the so called principle of totality, could it not be accepted that the intention to have a less prolific but more rationally planned family might transform an action which renders natural processes infertile into a licit and provident control of birth? Could it not be admitted, in other words, that procreative finality applies to the totality of married life rather than to each single act? A further question is whether, because people are more conscious today of their responsibilities, the time has not come when the transmission of life should be regulated by their intelligence and will rather than through the specific rhythms of their own bodies.

Interpreting the Moral Law
4. This kind of question requires from the teaching authority of the Church a new and deeper reflection on the principles of the moral teaching on marriage—a teaching which is based on the natural law as illuminated and enriched by divine Revelation.
No member of the faithful could possibly deny that the Church is competent in her magisterium to interpret the natural moral law. It is in fact indisputable, as Our predecessors have many times declared, (l) that Jesus Christ, when He communicated His divine power to Peter and the other Apostles and sent them to teach all nations His commandments, (2) constituted them as the authentic guardians and interpreters of the whole moral law, not only, that is, of the law of the Gospel but also of the natural law. For the natural law, too, declares the will of God, and its faithful observance is necessary for men's eternal salvation. (3)
In carrying out this mandate, the Church has always issued appropriate documents on the nature of marriage, the correct use of conjugal rights, and the duties of spouses. These documents have been more copious in recent times. (4)

Special Studies
5. The consciousness of the same responsibility induced Us to confirm and expand the commission set up by Our predecessor Pope John XXIII, of happy memory, in March, 1963. This commission included married couples as well as many experts in the various fields pertinent to these questions. Its task was to examine views and opinions concerning married life, and especially on the correct regulation of births; and it was also to provide the teaching authority of the Church with such evidence as would enable it to give an apt reply in this matter, which not only the faithful but also the rest of the world were waiting for. (5)
When the evidence of the experts had been received, as well as the opinions and advice of a considerable number of Our brethren in the episcopate—some of whom sent their views spontaneously, while others were requested by Us to do so—We were in a position to weigh with more precision all the aspects of this complex subject. Hence We are deeply grateful to all those concerned.

The Magisterium's Reply
6. However, the conclusions arrived at by the commission could not be considered by Us as definitive and absolutely certain, dispensing Us from the duty of examining personally this serious question. This was all the more necessary because, within the commission itself, there was not complete agreement concerning the moral norms to be proposed, and especially because certain approaches and criteria for a solution to this question had emerged which were at variance with the moral doctrine on marriage constantly taught by the magisterium of the Church.
Consequently, now that We have sifted carefully the evidence sent to Us and intently studied the whole matter, as well as prayed constantly to God, We, by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ, intend to give Our reply to this series of grave questions.
7. The question of human procreation, like every other question which touches human life, involves more than the limited aspects specific to such disciplines as biology, psychology, demography or sociology. It is the whole man and the whole mission to which he is called that must be considered: both its natural, earthly aspects and its supernatural, eternal aspects. And since in the attempt to justify artificial methods of birth control many appeal to the demands of married love or of responsible parenthood, these two important realities of married life must be accurately defined and analyzed. This is what We mean to do, with special reference to what the Second Vatican Council taught with the highest authority in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today.
God's Loving Design
8. Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who "is love," (6) the Father "from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named." (7)
Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.
The marriage of those who have been baptized is, in addition, invested with the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, for it represents the union of Christ and His Church.
Married Love
9. In the light of these facts the characteristic features and exigencies of married love are clearly indicated, and it is of the highest importance to evaluate them exactly.
This love is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment.
It is a love which is total—that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner's own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.
Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all other, and this until death. This is how husband and wife understood it on the day on which, fully aware of what they were doing, they freely vowed themselves to one another in marriage. Though this fidelity of husband and wife sometimes presents difficulties, no one has the right to assert that it is impossible; it is, on the contrary, always honorable and meritorious. The example of countless married couples proves not only that fidelity is in accord with the nature of marriage, but also that it is the source of profound and enduring happiness.
Finally, this love is fecund. It is not confined wholly to the loving interchange of husband and wife; it also contrives to go beyond this to bring new life into being. "Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents' welfare." (8)
Responsible Parenthood
10. Married love, therefore, requires of husband and wife the full awareness of their obligations in the matter of responsible parenthood, which today, rightly enough, is much insisted upon, but which at the same time should be rightly understood. Thus, we do well to consider responsible parenthood in the light of its varied legitimate and interrelated aspects.
With regard to the biological processes, responsible parenthood means an awareness of, and respect for, their proper functions. In the procreative faculty the human mind discerns biological laws that apply to the human person. (9)
With regard to man's innate drives and emotions, responsible parenthood means that man's reason and will must exert control over them.
With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.
Responsible parenthood, as we use the term here, has one further essential aspect of paramount importance. It concerns the objective moral order which was established by God, and of which a right conscience is the true interpreter. In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.
From this it follows that they are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow. On the contrary, they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creator. The very nature of marriage and its use makes His will clear, while the constant teaching of the Church spells it out. (10)
Observing the Natural Law
11. The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, "noble and worthy.'' (11) It does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws. The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life. (12)
Union and Procreation
12. This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.
The reason is that the fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life—and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman. And if each of these essential qualities, the unitive and the procreative, is preserved, the use of marriage fully retains its sense of true mutual love and its ordination to the supreme responsibility of parenthood to which man is called. We believe that our contemporaries are particularly capable of seeing that this teaching is in harmony with human reason.
Faithfulness to God's Design
13. Men rightly observe that a conjugal act imposed on one's partner without regard to his or her condition or personal and reasonable wishes in the matter, is no true act of love, and therefore offends the moral order in its particular application to the intimate relationship of husband and wife. If they further reflect, they must also recognize that an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life. Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will. But to experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator. Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source. "Human life is sacred—all men must recognize that fact," Our predecessor Pope John XXIII recalled. "From its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God." (13)
Unlawful Birth Control Methods
14. Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. (14) Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary. (15)
Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. (16)
Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good," it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (18)—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.
Lawful Therapeutic Means
15. On the other hand, the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever. (19)
Recourse to Infertile Periods
16. Now as We noted earlier (no. 3), some people today raise the objection against this particular doctrine of the Church concerning the moral laws governing marriage, that human intelligence has both the right and responsibility to control those forces of irrational nature which come within its ambit and to direct them toward ends beneficial to man. Others ask on the same point whether it is not reasonable in so many cases to use artificial birth control if by so doing the harmony and peace of a family are better served and more suitable conditions are provided for the education of children already born. To this question We must give a clear reply. The Church is the first to praise and commend the application of human intelligence to an activity in which a rational creature such as man is so closely associated with his Creator. But she affirms that this must be done within the limits of the order of reality established by God.
If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained. (20)
Neither the Church nor her doctrine is inconsistent when she considers it lawful for married people to take advantage of the infertile period but condemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the later practice may appear to be upright and serious. In reality, these two cases are completely different. In the former the married couple rightly use a faculty provided them by nature. In the later they obstruct the natural development of the generative process. It cannot be denied that in each case the married couple, for acceptable reasons, are both perfectly clear in their intention to avoid children and wish to make sure that none will result. But it is equally true that it is exclusively in the former case that husband and wife are ready to abstain from intercourse during the fertile period as often as for reasonable motives the birth of another child is not desirable. And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love.
Consequences of Artificial Methods
17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
Limits to Man's Power
Consequently, unless we are willing that the responsibility of procreating life should be left to the arbitrary decision of men, we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions—limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed. These limits are expressly imposed because of the reverence due to the whole human organism and its natural functions, in the light of the principles We stated earlier, and in accordance with a correct understanding of the "principle of totality" enunciated by Our predecessor Pope Pius XII. (21)
Concern of the Church
18. It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a "sign of contradiction." (22) She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.
Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.
In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife. This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for men whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage "to share God's life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men." (23)
19. Our words would not be an adequate expression of the thought and solicitude of the Church, Mother and Teacher of all peoples, if, after having recalled men to the observance and respect of the divine law regarding matrimony, they did not also support mankind in the honest regulation of birth amid the difficult conditions which today afflict families and peoples. The Church, in fact, cannot act differently toward men than did the Redeemer. She knows their weaknesses, she has compassion on the multitude, she welcomes sinners. But at the same time she cannot do otherwise than teach the law. For it is in fact the law of human life restored to its native truth and guided by the Spirit of God. (24) Observing the Divine Law.
20. The teaching of the Church regarding the proper regulation of birth is a promulgation of the law of God Himself. And yet there is no doubt that to many it will appear not merely difficult but even impossible to observe. Now it is true that like all good things which are outstanding for their nobility and for the benefits which they confer on men, so this law demands from individual men and women, from families and from human society, a resolute purpose and great endurance. Indeed it cannot be observed unless God comes to their help with the grace by which the goodwill of men is sustained and strengthened. But to those who consider this matter diligently it will indeed be evident that this endurance enhances man's dignity and confers benefits on human society.
Value of Self-Discipline
21. The right and lawful ordering of birth demands, first of all, that spouses fully recognize and value the true blessings of family life and that they acquire complete mastery over themselves and their emotions. For if with the aid of reason and of free will they are to control their natural drives, there can be no doubt at all of the need for self-denial. Only then will the expression of love, essential to married life, conform to right order. This is especially clear in the practice of periodic continence. Self-discipline of this kind is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character. And if this self-discipline does demand that they persevere in their purpose and efforts, it has at the same time the salutary effect of enabling husband and wife to develop to their personalities and to be enriched with spiritual blessings. For it brings to family life abundant fruits of tranquility and peace. It helps in solving difficulties of other kinds. It fosters in husband and wife thoughtfulness and loving consideration for one another. It helps them to repel inordinate self-love, which is the opposite of charity. It arouses in them a consciousness of their responsibilities. And finally, it confers upon parents a deeper and more effective influence in the education of their children. As their children grow up, they develop a right sense of values and achieve a serene and harmonious use of their mental and physical powers.
Promotion of Chastity
22. We take this opportunity to address those who are engaged in education and all those whose right and duty it is to provide for the common good of human society. We would call their attention to the need to create an atmosphere favorable to the growth of chastity so that true liberty may prevail over license and the norms of the moral law may be fully safeguarded.
Everything therefore in the modern means of social communication which arouses men's baser passions and encourages low moral standards, as well as every obscenity in the written word and every form of indecency on the stage and screen, should be condemned publicly and unanimously by all those who have at heart the advance of civilization and the safeguarding of the outstanding values of the human spirit. It is quite absurd to defend this kind of depravity in the name of art or culture (25) or by pleading the liberty which may be allowed in this field by the public authorities.
Appeal to Public Authorities
23. And now We wish to speak to rulers of nations. To you most of all is committed the responsibility of safeguarding the common good. You can contribute so much to the preservation of morals. We beg of you, never allow the morals of your peoples to be undermined. The family is the primary unit in the state; do not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God. For there are other ways by which a government can and should solve the population problem—that is to say by enacting laws which will assist families and by educating the people wisely so that the moral law and the freedom of the citizens are both safeguarded.
Seeking True Solutions
We are fully aware of the difficulties confronting the public authorities in this matter, especially in the developing countries. In fact, We had in mind the justifiable anxieties which weigh upon them when We published Our encyclical letter Populorum Progressio. But now We join Our voice to that of Our predecessor John XXIII of venerable memory, and We make Our own his words: "No statement of the problem and no solution to it is acceptable which does violence to man's essential dignity; those who propose such solutions base them on an utterly materialistic conception of man himself and his life. The only possible solution to this question is one which envisages the social and economic progress both of individuals and of the whole of human society, and which respects and promotes true human values." (26) No one can, without being grossly unfair, make divine Providence responsible for what clearly seems to be the result of misguided governmental policies, of an insufficient sense of social justice, of a selfish accumulation of material goods, and finally of a culpable failure to undertake those initiatives and responsibilities which would raise the standard of living of peoples and their children. (27) If only all governments which were able would do what some are already doing so nobly, and bestir themselves to renew their efforts and their undertakings! There must be no relaxation in the programs of mutual aid between all the branches of the great human family. Here We believe an almost limitless field lies open for the activities of the great international institutions.
To Scientists
24. Our next appeal is to men of science. These can "considerably advance the welfare of marriage and the family and also peace of conscience, if by pooling their efforts they strive to elucidate more thoroughly the conditions favorable to a proper regulation of births." (28) It is supremely desirable, and this was also the mind of Pius XII, that medical science should by the study of natural rhythms succeed in determining a sufficiently secure basis for the chaste limitation of offspring. (29) In this way scientists, especially those who are Catholics, will by their research establish the truth of the Church's claim that "there can be no contradiction between two divine laws—that which governs the transmitting of life and that which governs the fostering of married love." (30)
To Christian Couples
25. And now We turn in a special way to Our own sons and daughters, to those most of all whom God calls to serve Him in the state of marriage. While the Church does indeed hand on to her children the inviolable conditions laid down by God's law, she is also the herald of salvation and through the sacraments she flings wide open the channels of grace through which man is made a new creature responding in charity and true freedom to the design of his Creator and Savior, experiencing too the sweetness of the yoke of Christ. (31)
In humble obedience then to her voice, let Christian husbands and wives be mindful of their vocation to the Christian life, a vocation which, deriving from their Baptism, has been confirmed anew and made more explicit by the Sacrament of Matrimony. For by this sacrament they are strengthened and, one might almost say, consecrated to the faithful fulfillment of their duties. Thus will they realize to the full their calling and bear witness as becomes them, to Christ before the world. (32) For the Lord has entrusted to them the task of making visible to men and women the holiness and joy of the law which united inseparably their love for one another and the cooperation they give to God's love, God who is the Author of human life.
We have no wish at all to pass over in silence the difficulties, at times very great, which beset the lives of Christian married couples. For them, as indeed for every one of us, "the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life." (33) Nevertheless it is precisely the hope of that life which, like a brightly burning torch, lights up their journey, as, strong in spirit, they strive to live "sober, upright and godly lives in this world," (34) knowing for sure that "the form of this world is passing away." (35)
Recourse to God
For this reason husbands and wives should take up the burden appointed to them, willingly, in the strength of faith and of that hope which "does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us ~}36 Then let them implore the help of God with unremitting prayer and, most of all, let them draw grace and charity from that unfailing fount which is the Eucharist. If, however, sin still exercises its hold over them, they are not to lose heart. Rather must they, humble and persevering, have recourse to the mercy of God, abundantly bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance. In this way, for sure, they will be able to reach that perfection of married life which the Apostle sets out in these words: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church. . . Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church. . . This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." (37)
Family Apostolate
26. Among the fruits that ripen if the law of God be resolutely obeyed, the most precious is certainly this, that married couples themselves will often desire to communicate their own experience to others. Thus it comes about that in the fullness of the lay vocation will be included a novel and outstanding form of the apostolate by which, like ministering to like, married couples themselves by the leadership they offer will become apostles to other married couples. And surely among all the forms of the Christian apostolate it is hard to think of one more opportune for the present time. (38)
To Doctors and Nurses
27. Likewise we hold in the highest esteem those doctors and members of the nursing profession who, in the exercise of their calling, endeavor to fulfill the demands of their Christian vocation before any merely human interest. Let them therefore continue constant in their resolution always to support those lines of action which accord with faith and with right reason. And let them strive to win agreement and support for these policies among their professional colleagues. Moreover, they should regard it as an essential part of their skill to make themselves fully proficient in this difficult field of medical knowledge. For then, when married couples ask for their advice, they may be in a position to give them right counsel and to point them in the proper direction. Married couples have a right to expect this much from them.
To Priests
28. And now, beloved sons, you who are priests, you who in virtue of your sacred office act as counselors and spiritual leaders both of individual men and women and of families—We turn to you filled with great confidence. For it is your principal duty—We are speaking especially to you who teach moral theology—to spell out clearly and completely the Church's teaching on marriage. In the performance of your ministry you must be the first to give an example of that sincere obedience, inward as well as outward, which is due to the magisterium of the Church. For, as you know, the pastors of the Church enjoy a special light of the Holy Spirit in teaching the truth. (39) And this, rather than the arguments they put forward, is why you are bound to such obedience. Nor will it escape you that if men's peace of soul and the unity of the Christian people are to be preserved, then it is of the utmost importance that in moral as well as in dogmatic theology all should obey the magisterium of the Church and should speak as with one voice. Therefore We make Our own the anxious words of the great Apostle Paul and with all Our heart We renew Our appeal to you: "I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." (40)
Christian Compassion
29. Now it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ; but this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ Himself showed in His conversations and dealings with men. For when He came, not to judge, but to save the world, (41) was He not bitterly severe toward sin, but patient and abounding in mercy toward sinners?
Husbands and wives, therefore, when deeply distressed by reason of the difficulties of their life, must find stamped in the heart and voice of their priest the likeness of the voice and the love of our Redeemer.
So speak with full confidence, beloved sons, convinced that while the Holy Spirit of God is present to the magisterium proclaiming sound doctrine, He also illumines from within the hearts of the faithful and invites their assent. Teach married couples the necessary way of prayer and prepare them to approach more often with great faith the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance. Let them never lose heart because of their weakness.
To Bishops
30. And now as We come to the end of this encyclical letter, We turn Our mind to you, reverently and lovingly, beloved and venerable brothers in the episcopate, with whom We share more closely the care of the spiritual good of the People of God. For We invite all of you, We implore you, to give a lead to your priests who assist you in the sacred ministry, and to the faithful of your dioceses, and to devote yourselves with all zeal and without delay to safeguarding the holiness of marriage, in order to guide married life to its full human and Christian perfection. Consider this mission as one of your most urgent responsibilities at the present time. As you well know, it calls for concerted pastoral action in every field of human diligence, economic, cultural and social. If simultaneous progress is made in these various fields, then the intimate life of parents and children in the family will be rendered not only more tolerable, but easier and more joyful. And life together in human society will be enriched with fraternal charity and made more stable with true peace when God's design which He conceived for the world is faithfully followed.
A Great Work
31. Venerable brothers, beloved sons, all men of good will, great indeed is the work of education, of progress and of charity to which We now summon all of you. And this We do relying on the unshakable teaching of the Church, which teaching Peter's successor together with his brothers in the Catholic episcopate faithfully guards and interprets. And We are convinced that this truly great work will bring blessings both on the world and on the Church. For man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed. On this great work, on all of you and especially on married couples, We implore from the God of all holiness and pity an abundance of heavenly grace as a pledge of which We gladly bestow Our apostolic blessing.
Given at St. Peter's, Rome, on the 25th day of July, the feast of St. James the Apostle, in the year 1968, the sixth of Our pontificate.

LATIN TEXT: Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 60 (1968), 481-503.
ENGLISH TRANSLATION: The Pope Speaks, 13 (Fall. 1969), 329-46.
(1) See Pius IX, encyc. letter Oui pluribus: Pii IX P.M. Acta, 1, pp. 9-10; St. Pius X encyc. letter Singulari quadam: AAS 4 (1912), 658; Pius XI, encyc.letter Casti connubii: AAS 22 (1930), 579-581; Pius XII, address Magnificate Dominum to the episcopate of the Catholic World: AAS 46 (1954), 671-672; John XXIII, encyc. letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 457.
(2) See Mt 28. 18-19.
(3) See Mt 7. 21.
(4) See Council of Trent Roman Catechism, Part II, ch. 8; Leo XIII, encyc.letter Arcanum: Acta Leonis XIII, 2 (1880), 26-29; Pius XI, encyc.letter Divini illius Magistri: AAS 22 (1930), 58-61; encyc. letter Casti connubii: AAS 22 (1930), 545-546; Pius XII, Address to Italian Medico-Biological Union of St. Luke: Discorsi e radiomessaggi di Pio XII, VI, 191-192; to Italian Association of Catholic Midwives: AAS 43 (1951), 835-854; to the association known as the Family Campaign, and other family associations: AAS 43 (1951), 857-859; to 7th congress of International Society of Hematology: AAS 50 (1958), 734-735 [TPS VI, 394-395]; John XXIII, encyc.letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 446-447 [TPS VII, 330-331]; Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, nos. 47-52: AAS 58 (1966), 1067-1074 [TPS XI, 289-295]; Code of Canon Law, canons 1067, 1068 §1, canon 1076, §§1-2.
(5) See Paul VI, Address to Sacred College of Cardinals: AAS 56 (1964), 588 [TPS IX, 355-356]; to Commission for the Study of Problems of Population, Family and Birth: AAS 57 (1965), 388 [TPS X, 225]; to National Congress of the Italian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology: AAS 58 (1966), 1168 [TPS XI, 401-403].
(6) See 1 Jn 4. 8.
(7) Eph 3. 15.
(8) Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, no. 50: AAS 58 (1966), 1070-1072 [TPS XI, 292-293].
(9) See St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 94, art. 2.
(10) See Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, nos . 50- 5 1: AAS 58 ( 1 966) 1070-1073 [TPS XI, 292-293].
(11) See ibid., no. 49: AAS 58 (1966), 1070 [TPS XI, 291-292].
(12) See Pius XI. encyc. letter Casti connubi: AAS 22 (1930), 560; Pius XII, Address to Midwives: AAS 43 (1951), 843.
(13) See encyc. letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 447 [TPS VII, 331].
(14) See Council of Trent Roman Catechism, Part II, ch. 8; Pius XI, encyc. letter Casti connubii: AAS 22 (1930), 562-564; Pius XII, Address to Medico-Biological Union of St. Luke: Discorsi e radiomessaggi, VI, 191-192; Address to Midwives: AAS 43 (1951), 842-843; Address to Family Campaign and other family associations: AAS 43 (1951), 857-859; John XXIII, encyc. letter Pacem in terris: AAS 55 (1963), 259-260 [TPS IX, 15-16]; Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, no. 51: AAS 58 (1966), 1072 [TPS XI, 293].
(15) See Pius XI, encyc. letter Casti connubii: AAS 22 (1930), 565; Decree of the Holy Office, Feb. 22, 1940: AAS 32 (1940), 73; Pius XII, Address to Midwives: AAS 43
(1951), 843-844; to the Society of Hematology: AAS 50 (1958), 734-735 [TPS VI, 394-395].
(16) See Council of Trent Roman Catechism, Part II, ch. 8; Pius XI, encyc. letter Casti connubii: AAS 22 (1930), 559-561; Pius XII, Address to Midwives: AAS 43 (1951), 843; to the Society of Hematology: AAS 50 (1958), 734-735 [TPS VI, 394-395]; John XXIII, encyc.letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 447 [TPS VII, 331].
(17) See Pius XII, Address to National Congress of Italian Society of the Union of Catholic Jurists: AAS 45 (1953), 798-799 [TPS I, 67-69].
(18) See Rom 3. 8.
(19) See Pius XII, Address to 26th Congress of Italian Association of Urology: AAS 45 (1953), 674-675; to Society of Hematology: AAS 50 (1958), 734-735 [TPS VI, 394-395].
(20) See Pius XII, Address to Midwives: AAS 43 (1951), 846.
(21) See Pius XII, Address to Association of Urology: AAS 45 (1953), 674-675; to leaders and members of Italian Association of Cornea Donors and Italian Association for the Blind: AAS 48 (1956), 461-462 [TPS III, 200-201].
(22) Lk 2. 34.
(23) See Paul Vl, encyc. letter Populorum progressio: AAS 59 (1967), 268 [TPS XII, 151].
(24) See Rom 8.
(25) See Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Media of Social Communication, nos. 6-7: AAS 56 (1964), 147 [TPS IX, 340-341].
(26) Encyc. letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 447 [TPS VII, 331].
(27) See encyc. letter Populorum progressio, nos. 48-55: AAS 59 (1967), 281-284 [TPS XII, 160-162].
(28) Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, no. 52: AAS 58 (1966), 1074 [TPS XI, 294].
(29) Address to Family Campaign and other family associations: AAS 43 (1951), 859.
(30) Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, no. 51: AAS 58 (1966), 1072 [TPS XI, 293].
(31) See Mt 11. 30.
(32) See Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, no. 48: AAS 58 (1966), 1067-1069 [TPS XI,290-291]; Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, no. 35: AAS 57 (1965), 40-41 [TPS X, 382-383].
(33) Mt 7. 14; see Heb 12. 11.
(34) See Ti 2. 12.
(35) See 1 Cor 7. 31.
(36) Rom 5. 5.
(37) Eph 5. 25, 28-29, 32-33.
(38) See Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, nos. 35, 41: AAS 57 (1965), 40-45 [TPS X, 382-383, 386-387; Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, nos. 48-49: AAS 58 (1966),1067-1070 [TPS XI, 290-292]; Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, no. 11: AAS 58 (1966), 847-849 [TPS XI, 128-129].
(39) See Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, no. 25: AAS 57 (1965), 29-31 [TPS X, 375-376].
(40) 1 Cor 1. 10.
(41) See Jn 3. 17.

^^As a total aside, some Orthodox Christians, but not a majority by any means, regard Harold Godwinson as a saint.  When this topic comes up its usually pointed out that he lead a good and moral life and that he died, they claim, as an Orthodox Christian fighting a Catholic invader.

That last claim is really strained, to say the least.  Both Harold Godwinson and Duke William of Normandy were Catholic and claims to the contrary are pretty absurd.

^^^This is as good of place to note as any that at the time we're speaking of, no matter how angry it may make some radical Protestants, Chrisitain in this era means Catholic.  Yes, it does. There was one, and only one, church.  One. There were already different Rites, but one Church, one set of Bishops, one set of clergy.  People can pretend otehrwise if they wish but its completely contrary to history to do so.

On this, some would note the Arian herasy, but what they'd fail to note is that even the "Arian Bishops" were ordained in the Catholic Church, that being the only church there was. And that's why, as we'll see, they were there at the Council of Nicaea.

^^^^Arius was exiled, returned from exile, and ultimately exiled again, before being allowed to return to Constantinople. It is reported that his death was as follows:
It was then Saturday, and Arius was expecting to assemble with the church on the day following: but divine retribution overtook his daring criminalities. For going out of the imperial palace, attended by a crowd of Eusebian partisans like guards, he paraded proudly through the midst of the city, attracting the notice of all the people. As he approached the place called Constantine’s Forum, where the column of porphyry is erected, a terror arising from the remorse of conscience seized Arius, and with the terror a violent relaxation of the bowels: he therefore enquired whether there was a convenient place near, and being directed to the back of Constantine’s Forum, he hastened thither. Soon after a faintness came over him, and together with the evacuations his bowels protruded, followed by a copious hemorrhage, and the descent of the smaller intestines: moreover portions of his spleen and liver were brought off in the effusion of blood, so that he almost immediately died. The scene of this catastrophe still is shown at Constantinople, as I have said, behind the shambles in the colonnade: and by persons going by pointing the finger at the place, there is a perpetual remembrance preserved of this extraordinary kind of death.
Socrates Scholasticus

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