"But before all things have a
constant mutual Charity among yourselves:
for charity covers a multitude of
…1 Peter 4:8
In his essay entitled "Thoughts About Controversy", British author
Arnold Lunn proposes that men should be able to debate matters of
great public importance without resorting to bitter personal attacks
against each other.
This is a noble practice from our Christian past which has been
largely abandoned by modern society. In nearly every aspect of
public life, modern man has lost all semblance of dignity and
graciousness in his conduct. We have become rude and superficial in
our demeanor, and it has become increasingly difficult to elicit a
sense of shame in the modern psyche. At its core, this represents an
assault against the virtue of charity.
While Mr. Lunn examines it within the more narrow parameters of
public discourse, in our day this assault has gone beyond a general
degradation of manners and has become a full-fledged attack against
both the Natural Law and the Law of God. The result has been a
weakening of our public and social institutions which may eventually
lead to our nation's demise.
Writing in 1937, the author hails from an era in which men of
principle generally respected one another and at the very least
attempted to practice the virtue of charity. In public debate, a
certain decorum was observed which elevated the exercise to an
honorable airing of opposing viewpoints. Lunn states that truth and
right reason should carry the day in any honest debate, and that we
should be as concerned about the edification of our opponent as we
are about proving the correctness of our own position:
I have been involved in many controversies, and have enjoyed them
all, controversies about public schools, skiing controversies,
controversies with the Norwegians, and religious controversy. All
great fun. But though I have crossed swords with many people, I do
not think I have made any enemies in my controversies. I do not see
why controversy should develop into a personal quarrel. Chess is a
form of controversy, but chess tournaments seldom degenerate into
personal brawls. Nor can I see why hard hitting should be a virtue
in a controversy between two boxers, and a vice in a controversy
between two Christians...Hard hitting need not imply personal
bitterness. A controversy need not be acrimonious because it is
uncompromising in its vigor. Contempt for heresy is consistent with
respect for the individual heretic. 1
This is in complete concord with the teaching of our Lord and His
Church. Christ tells us that we should be uncompromising in our
pursuit of what is true and just. But He also demands that we
should love our neighbor as ourselves. Nowhere does this need to be
taken to heart in greater measure than in the realm of American
politics. In many political campaigns, the outcome seems to be
determined not by an honest debate over public policy but by the
cleverness and tenacity of the personal attacks leveled at a
candidate by his opponent. Mud-slinging has become an American art
form, and millions of dollars are wasted each election year in these
embarrassing displays of poor manners and petty bickering.
What is more lamentable is that once elected, these men and women
often display the same dismal conduct in carrying out the duties of
their office. In his autobiography, former Senator Barry Goldwater
compares the United States Senate of the 1950's with the Senate as
it was upon his retirement in 1986. The differences he notes are
significant, and he attributes this to the deterioration of American
society as a whole during the same period; a deterioration that is
even more pronounced today:
Yesterday's giant leaders no longer grace the floor of the Senate.
Their eloquence is stilled in its hearing rooms and halls. These
men were not merely lights of intelligence, the law, and language.
Many acquitted themselves with elegant personal style. Above all,
they were masters of a unique craft and tools – Senate rules and
procedures. Today's Senators are more competitive with one another
and assert their individual prerogatives more than ever. The
younger members seem to know little about everything, but not enough
about anything. Senate procedure is now geared to the individual,
not the institution. The Senate floor today is often chaos. It's
every man for himself, his personal agenda, not completing the
business of the institution. This makes one Senator temporarily more
powerful but often renders the entire body powerless. That is why I
mentioned the old-time respect for rules and procedure...The agenda
of Congress was the business of the nation as a whole, not the
interests and reelection of the few. Nevertheless, the Senate
reflects the country. I do not believe the makeup of Americans and
America is as solid as it was forty years ago. Society has become
more selfish, and, as a result, less dedicated to the common good.
Millions now hail a culture that is more concerned with money and
appearances than genuine accomplishment. We have slipped as a
The selfishness of the American public observed by Senator Goldwater
is important to understanding not only the moral decline of the
United States, but also our possible destruction. For it has
manifested itself in a rejection of God and His dominion over us.
Rather than living our lives in accordance with His law, many of us
have turned away and have opted to live our lives according to our
own disordered desires. Whatever is convenient, expedient, and
pleasurable are now the criteria for most of our decisions.
No institution has suffered more from this general apostasy than the
family—the basic building block of society. Founded on the holy
Sacrament of Marriage between one man and one woman, the family was
created by God to serve as the Domestic Church. It is here that we
are formed to become the men and women God intends us to be. The
new Catechism of the Catholic Church states this clearly:
1666 The Christian home is the place where children receive the
first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is
rightly called the Ecclesia Domestica, a community of grace and
prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.3
If the Christian family is where charity is taught and the moral
virtues are acquired, then the weakening or disappearance of the
family should result in these virtues being absent among a large
portion of the population. This is exactly what has occurred in
America over the past several decades. We now live in a culture
that is openly hostile to the family and to God who established it
as a holy institution. Artificial contraception, abortion, divorce,
pornography, consumerism, the widespread entry of women into the
workplace, and the glorification of homosexuality in American
culture have combined to damage traditional family life on a scale
that could not have been imagined when our parents were born. The
decline of gentility that caused Arnold Lunn to take up his pen
seventy years ago has exploded into a level of moral decay that is
equal to that suffered by ancient Rome. And as the Roman Empire
eventually crumbled under the weight of its sins, so too the
American Empire may fall, as well.
In attacking marriage and the family, modern man has attacked Christ
and His Church. The Sacrament of Matrimony is a living symbol of the
relationship between our Lord and His heavenly Bride. This is
spoken of eloquently by Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical on Christian
marriage, Arcanum. In this jewel of Apostolic teaching
(which every Catholic should read with care), the Holy Father
...Christ our Lord raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament;
that to husband and wife, guarded and strengthened by the heavenly
grace which His merits gained for them, He gave power to attain
holiness in the married state; and that, in a wondrous way, making
marriage an example of the mystical union between Himself and His
Church, He not only perfected that love which is according to nature
(Trent, sess. xxiv, ch. 1), but also made the naturally indivisible
union of one man with one woman far more perfect through the bond of
heavenly love. 4
And what is the purpose of this union? Leo XIII continues:
Furthermore, the Christian perfection and completeness of marriage
are not comprised in those points only which have been mentioned.
For, first, there has been vouchsafed to the marriage union a higher
and nobler purpose than was ever previously given to it. By the
command of Christ, it not only looks to the propagation of the human
race, but to the bringing forth of children for the Church, "fellow
citizens with the Saints and the domestics of God" (Eph. 2:19); so
that "a people may be born and brought up for the worship and
religion of the true God and our Savior Jesus Christ" (Catech. Rom.,
ch. 8). 5
Then, Pope Leo reveals how society as a whole will benefit from the
proper Catholic understanding of marriage and family:
If, then, we consider the end of the divine institution of marriage,
we shall see very clearly that God intended it to be a most fruitful
source of individual benefit and of public welfare. Not only, in
strict truth, was marriage instituted for the propagation of the
human race, but also that the lives of husbands and wives might be
made better and happier. This comes about in many ways: by their
lightening each other's burdens through mutual help; by constant and
faithful love; by having all their possessions in common; and by the
heavenly grace which flows from the sacrament. Marriage can also do
much for the good of families, for, so long as it is conformable to
nature and in accordance with the counsels of God, it has power to
strengthen union of heart in the parents; to secure the holy
education of children; to temper the authority of the father by the
example of the divine authority; to render children obedient to
their parents and servants obedient to their masters. From such
marriages as these the State may rightly expect a race of citizens
animated by a good spirit and filled with reverence and love for
God, recognizing it their duty to obey those who rule justly and
lawfully, to love all, and to injure no one. 6
When seen in this light, we can say without fear of contradiction
that contempt for marriage and the family is contempt for Christ.
We have rejected His right of Kingship over us and have replaced Him
with false gods of our own choosing. The Catholic faith that has
been passed on to us by two thousand years of Saints and Martyrs is
fading away, crucified and scorned upon the crosses of our hearts.
Moreover, the "School of Christian Charity", the traditional family,
is also disappearing before our eyes. Can a nation that has lost the
virtues of faith and charity to such a degree long hope to endure?
Though the extent of his own religious beliefs has been debated by
historians, even Thomas Jefferson understood the folly of removing
God from public and private life. In his Notes On the State of
Virginia published in 1781, he states:
God who gave us life, gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a
nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis,
a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the
gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?
Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just;
that His justice cannot sleep forever. 7
Pride and selfishness have hardened our hearts and caused us to turn
away from the One who loves us and has purchased us with His blood.
If we do not return soon to the service of Christ, the justice that
was spoken of even by Jefferson two hundred years ago will surely be
visited upon us.
Like ancient Rome before us, the United States may soon be the next
great empire to vanish.
PRAYER TO ST.
O glorious St. Stephen, first of the martyrs, for the sake of Christ
you gave up your life in testimony of the truth of His Divine
teaching. Please obtain for us, dear St. Stephen, the faith, the
hope, the love, and the courage of martyrs. When we are tempted to
shirk our duty, or deny our faith, please come to our assistance as
a shining example of the courage of martyrs; and please win for us a
love like your own.
O St. Stephen, we ask this of you for the glory and honor of Jesus
Christ our Lord, who is the model and the reward of all martyrs.
Return To Tradition, Francis Beauchene Thornton, Ed., Roman Catholic
Books, originally published 1948, pg. 241 (Thoughts About
Controversy, Arnold Lunn, 1937).
Goldwater, Barry M. Goldwater with Jack Casserly, Doubleday, 1988,
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Libreria Editrice
Vaticana, 1997, pg. 415.
Arcanum, Pope Leo XIII, 1880, paragraph 9.
Ibid, paragraph 10.
Ibid, paragraph 26.
Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, Query XVIII, 1781,