Saturday, March 30, 2019



Feedback and conversations with people about the series “The New Reality of War”, led to much reflection on the origins of the state of the human family in these days of such anxiety, hatred, violence, divisions, poverty within the human family.

These are the days within Christianity of Holy Lent, the liturgical season, wherein we are called to look deep in our own hearts that they be cleansed of all that is not of Christ, which is asking for the grace of metanoia: conversion of heart. It is the time to do penance, that is sincere acts of self denial, extra generosity to the poor that we might be more faithful disciples of Christ.

Open to me the doors of repentance, O Lifegiver… in Your compassion, deliver me, purify me by the loving kindness of Your mercy. Lead me on the paths of salvation, O Mother of God….. [taken from a Hymn of the Russian Liturgy for Great Lent]

History is replete with axial moments, stages, when things shifted with usually a clear demarcation of what proceeded and what has followed.

Drawn from a Protestant hymn from 1900, the great song of the 1960’s was: WE SHALL OVERCOME, the song of the civil rights and other ‘rights’ and anti-war movements yet we, the human family, nor any ‘rights’ group, completely overcame anything. Rather the 60’s, the social shifts, philosophies, angers, denial of God, truth etc., have overcome us and continue to ripple through the human family ever more destructively.

The 60’s became the era of the age of blame, anger, ‘me’, the end of ‘other’ before self, the end of forgiveness as primary to Christian fidelity to Christ, for too many Christians live, even when the cause of their pain may be legitimate, in bondage to resentment and refusal to forgive. That latter is an emotional and spiritual quagmire in which satan wants people trapped, the trap being bondage to whatever evil or pain was inflicted on the person in the first place.

While the end of the First World War almost, but not entirely, halted the more than five centuries of European imperialism, [ the reasons for which were not unlike Germany’s justification for WWI, taken to the extreme by the Nazis:  Lebensraum: “living space”], after the Second World War new actors began to spread their own versions of Lebensraum, most notably the Soviets [now still as Russia] and China. With revolutions, many nations threw out their oppressors, resulting often in dictatorships and seemingly incessant civil wars, of which many, both dictatorships and civil wars, continue to this day. At the same time the social upheavals within traditional democracies set in motion axial shifts, which continue to rumble through the lives of ordinary human beings, like an endless tsunami with profound impacts on family life, the lives of working people, and an increasing loss of faith within Christianity. Equally rooted in the 60’s is the reality, given most ‘democracies’ today stress they are secular societies, the only permissible ‘phobia’ now is that which attacks, demeans, discriminates against Christianity.

While the 1960’s appeared to be a new era of hope, how quickly things would change! By 1968, the whole thing had gone sour with assassinations, the emergence of terrorist groups, chaos within the Catholic Church and a plethora of unintended consequences to the supposed gains of the various ‘rights’ groups.

Not primarily civil rights legislation passed in many countries, nor the scientific and technological advances, as many assume, but a shift in the fundamental approach within the way society functions as regards faith, family, and in a major way how economies/businesses function, things unraveled.

By way of example when it comes to business/corporations:  an awareness of the needs of workers and the surrounding communities has been replaced with a fixation on shareholder profits, opening the path to globalization, hiding income from the revenue stream of national governments, money laundering, an increased suppression of unions, the moving of factories ‘off-shore’ to decrease costs and enhance profits.

On the whole matter noted above in the shift in businesses and how they operate, St. John Paul in his Encyclical Centesimus Annus, is not only giving us an overview of the great social encyclical of Pope Leo xxiii, but an in depth study of humanity and the world situation which, while written in 1991 could have been written today: …the purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons who in various ways are endeavouring to satisfy their basic needs, and who form a particular group at the service of the whole of society. Profit is a regulator of the life of a business, but it is not the only one; other human and moral factors must also be considered which, in the long term, are at least equally important for the life of a business. [1]

It is folly in seeking to understand any era to simply study sources from that era. Research should include looking at sources as far back, sometimes even to antiquity, as needed, as well as current sources.

The 1960’s impact on faith and family continues to increase today, while beneath the surface growing anger and hopelessness among significant portions of the population in numerous nations has resulted in extremism, left and right, angry rather than dispassionate-centrist populism and an endless attempt for aggrieved groups to re-write history, demand ever greater financial and other forms of compensation and the embarrassing parade of national and international leaders apologizing incessantly in the name of people alive today for the sins of ancestors, as if some how the blame is irremovable, thus increasing the angry divisions in many nations and fueling the hate of extremists.

How did it all go so wrong so quickly, how did we who sang and marched and worked to overcome injustice, discrimination, poverty, etc., be overtaken by what was set in motion as  presumed good for the human family, and has now become the albatross of chaos, evil, the darkness of the culture of death?

Some clues to the answer can be found in a study of the rise of the Nazis to power [2] as well as a careful study of ancient Rome, of countries such as France, the United States, Germany, England, Russia when social, cultural, religious, agrarian, industrial, political upheavals occurred.

Applicable as much today in the age of terrorism, social upheaval, abortion, euthanasia, etc., as when written, these words from Ven. Pope Pius xii from 1945: As interpreter of the universal anguish by which almost every nation is grievously distressed, We desire to leave nothing undone within Our powers that may mitigate these numberless miseries or that may hasten the end of such great destruction. We know well that the resources of men are unable to heal these great injuries. We know that the human mind, especially when hate and rivalry have blinded it, cannot easily determine a just and equitable solution of affairs along with a fraternal agreement. It is therefore necessary to implore the Father of light and mercy repeatedly. He alone, in the midst of such violent disturbances and tumults, can persuade those concerned that too many catastrophes and devastations have been piled up in a fearful mass, that too many tears have been shed, and that too much blood has been spilled. Therefore divine and human rights demand unequivocally that such hideous slaughter cease as soon as possible. [3]

It is unworthy of we the baptized, and an implicit criticism of God for having breathed life into us at this specific time in salvation/human history, to whine incessantly, or fearfully, that we live in the age of darkness of the culture of death whose immediate roots are in the turbulence of the 1960’s.

Through baptism we are participants in the prophetic mission of Christ, and as Jesus teaches us:  “A prophet is not without honour except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” [Mk.6:4]

Our native place is this earth, our kin are every human being, our house the particular country in which we live.

A prophet….lives close to God……if men [sic human beings] followed the teachings of Jesus, all personal, all social, all national, all international problems would be solved. [4]

Satan wants us to stay in the shadows, to keep the light of Christ hidden deep within us, rather than for us to be shining lights in the darkness, but the consequences of this, added to the amount of time, emotional strength, wasted on simply bemoaning the culture of death, is, [hopefully unintended yet nonetheless real] complicity in the very anti-Christian, anti-life culture which engulfs us.

Alexis de Tocqueville, who wrote the two volume Democracy in America [1835 & 1840] “…was convinced that democracy could not survive the loss of Christian faith…..’one must maintain Christianity within the new democracies at all cost.’”  [5]

In the aftermath of the WWII, as the restoration of the devastation sought to restore the human family, that restoration was uneven and sometimes as bad as the war itself: Eastern Europe became a Soviet prison, China and other countries experienced bloody revolutions resulting in oppressive dictatorships. Western Europe, Canada and the United States in particular saw a baby boom, a virtual flood of men into seminaries, monasteries, religious orders, while convents were bursting at the seams, the economy was in a boom cycle, materialism gaining ground until the logical sequence of nihilism, hedonism, atheism, became the selfie-taking dehumanizing world of today.

Yet, beneath the surface of the apparent resurgence of faith, growth of the so-called middle class, after WWII, dark forces were at work, satan for sure, his human agents as well.

Four events would happen at the end of the 1950’s which would be the first signs an axial shift into a new era was beginning: Pope Pius xii dies and is succeeded by John xxiii [6] who will stun the Church and indeed the world when within months he announces that he will call for a second Vatican Council; a young Polish priest, Karol Wojtyla will become a bishop; not really understood at the time as to the implications, the first human being, in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, at the time known as the Belgian Congo, would die of HIV, AIDS.

[1] cf. para. 35 ~

[2] The Death of Democracy by Benjamin Carte Hett published in 2018, is particularly informative.


[4] The Gospel of John, volume 2, p. 51; William Barclay; Revised Edition The Westminster Press 1975

[5] The Benedict Option, p.89, Rod Dreher, Sentinel 2018

[6] Beyond the scope of this essay to consider in detail, the death of Ven. Pus xii also began the purifying from the Church those remaining pockets of the pernicious heresy of Jansenism which infected the Church from the 17th century for three hundred years. The first major weakening of that heresy was not the various condemnations by Popes over the era, rather it was the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Pius x urging frequent Holy Communion. The documents of Vatican II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the spread of devotion to Divine Mercy, St. John Paul’s theology of the body were/are instrumental, though sadly neo-Jansenism is prevalent in extreme conservative Catholicism in our day.

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph