The New Millennium and Traditionalists
|Reflections of a Purged Una Voce America President|
John Rao, Ph.D.
|REMNANT COLUMNIST, New York|
I later heard Brother Otho say, in talking about our time among the Mauritanians, that a mistake only then becomes an error if one stubbornly persists in it.
(Ernst Jünger, Auf den Marmorklippen,
Ullstein, 2001, p.26)
Entering the Promised Land?
(www.RemnantNewspaper.com) Remember all the enthusiasm over the arrival of the latest batch of a thousand years? Many people—the highest authority of the Church prominent among them—simply could not contain their exhilaration at the thought of the signs and wonders that would accompany the change of the numbers 1-9-9-9 to 2-0-0-0. The year 2001, would, of course, have been the correct date to anticipate, but that spoil-sport digit “one” interfered too sloppily with the purity represented by three, splendid, chubby little zeros in a single, uninterrupted row to be acceptable. So 2000 was the moment anticipated for the definitive arrival of a future brighter than any past.
Ah, for just a brief return to those heady days, when some of my otherwise reserved acquaintances from Opus Dei had answering machines whose messages ended with a rousing “forward to the millennium!” Oh, for but a partial revival of the uncontrollable enthusiasm of Thomas Friedman, optimist laureate for The New York Times, when that one cloud on the horizon, the possible world wide computer glitch, failed to materialize! For him, this failure stunningly confirmed the advent of a luminous age of international peace and cooperation. His first column of the year 2000 was a veritable paean to emerging planetary solidarity. It fancifully depicted the way in which the inhabitants of each city already safely delivered from the terror of midnight chaos stood by their television screens rooting for those a time zone behind them to safely break on through to the other side.
Well, here we all are, five years into the Promised Land. And are you Remnant readers enjoying your new millennium? I dare say that you are not. In fact, I wager that you, like me, are finding that it has all the potential for soon making the justly detested Twentieth Century appear actually to have been days of wine and roses. Perhaps it was the next millennium everyone was expecting? Do you have the patience and health of Methuselah to wait around long enough to find out?
But let us not indulge in numerology any longer. The unpleasantness of the current situation was obviously not the fault of the indifferent date “2000” as such either. The basic contours of our complex and frightening new environment were, as is usual in history, outlined quite some time before. By the 1950’s, Third World issues announced the approach of a future which would disrupt efforts to fit all of life’s conflicts neatly into the context officially approved of by the two Great Powers.
Just ten years later, the Soviet Union, shaken by the failed adventurism of the Khruschev Era, had frozen its structures and policies in time, condemning itself to bankruptcy, cynicism, and, ultimately, western libertinism and its attendant new diseases. “You’re next”, a cardinal from eastern Europe told a friend of mine already sixteen years ago, in 1989, understanding, as he did, that the demise of the East Bloc would inevitably be followed by a trouble-filled disintegration of its American dominated western counterpart.
Still, just as the revolutionary events of 1789-1794 made the developments of the previous two centuries infinitely more real to the public at large, the vertiginous experiences of the last five years have brought home for anyone with eyes to see the fact that “the times, they are a-changin”. Consider the data for yourselves. Jets in the World Trade Center. Fatherland Security. A “Hundred Years War” in the Middle East. The collapse of NATO. A demographic revolution rendering the theories of John Locke and the Founding Fathers as inexplicable to the new populations of Europe and the United States as Hinayana Buddhism to Cardinal Merry del Val. The Chinese economic juggernaut. Indian domination of state and business telephone complaint bureaus. Budget deficits that would send the most radical spendthrift into voluntarily credit counseling, promoted and encouraged by conservative Republicans. Inundations from the sea, earthquakes from below, and, most recently, sick birds from above, stimulating the fear that Chicken Little himself may be the carrier of the aviary infection falling ever westward from out of the Asian skies.
The post World War Two era is indeed totally and irrevocably dead. Irony of ironies, there is even a German pope on hand to say its funeral prayers. But with its demise has come much more: the arrival of the final stage of the Enlightenment. That movement’s underlying message has always been creation’s independence from its God, and man’s need to secure the triumph of his fallen natural will. What distinguishes these latter days of the Enlightenment in America is the recognition that the victory of unbridled will is most effectively attained not through direct, open, Nazi-like commitment to its cause, but indirectly, under the rubric of pursuing democracy and pluralist freedom. This is precisely what is reflected in the work of the bizarre combination of Straussians, neo-cons, oil men, supporters of Greater Israel, and other assorted ideologues and men on the make who dominate our country today. Such adulators of raw strength possess a rhetorical machine sweetening the depiction of their activities that makes Goebbels (Hitler’s minister of propaganda) look like a pathetic loser at kindergarten propaganda class. Moreover, they have at their fingertips a financial power and industrial and technological ability useful for squeezing and destroying anything standing in their way which is exponentially greater than that wielded by any tyrant ever known to history.
So confident of success is this true Axis of Evil that some of its supporters find it hard, even now, to keep the masquerade of democracy and pluralism going. Hence, their often rather surprisingly open talk about the obsolescence of those concepts of “human nature” and “natural law” which somewhat limit their depredations. Given the chance to break all substantive opposition coming from people motivated by higher ideals, they would drop their outwardly noble rhetorical cover definitively and forever. But as matters now stand, this opposition continues to exist. Christian themes are still alive enough to have the power even to make some unconscious members of the Axis of Evil feel guilty and sense the need to justify themselves with reference to permanent truths and morality. Co-option of the remaining Christian resistance, therefore, continues to be the order of the day. Which leads me straight to the main question before us: how is the process of co-option going? And what impact does it have on the Traditionalist Movement?
Let me begin to answer that query by noting that, historically, large numbers of people confronted by bewildering change backed by willful men have responded to it by going on vacation to Never Never Land. Once they have arrived there, they have denied that anything new and dangerous has actually entered into their lives at all. Many ancient Greeks, Romans, and Near Easterners took this holiday of denial, stunned as they were by the innovations accompanying the multicultural empires shaping their world beginning with the conquests of Alexander the Great (336-323 B.C.) and continuing down to the victory of Christianity.
In order to obtain permission for Never Never Land games, however, the visitors to these varied playgrounds had to collaborate with the existing system and its rulers on those matters that really guided their practical lives. Forget about simply avoiding anything which might give offense to the big shots. Personal security required that they enthusiastically praise the divinity of the Establishment oppressing them. And this they readily did: over and over again. Collaboration for the truly powerful might entail the shouldering of active obligations to the great monarchs of the age before rushing home to the more pleasant task of cultivating impotence. Collaboration, for the weak, might mean just working, paying taxes, and never transgressing the sacred wall separating private fantasy from social and political reality. Most collaborators kept the wheels of the regime machinery going because they did not wish to risk their necks by openly opposing it; some since they had become so used to its gears that they took them for granted as an unquestionable given, maintaining ties with their own oppressed traditions through pure inertia. A few of those who collaborated were fully co-opted by their masters. They became fervent propagandists for the new order, even hoping to be accepted into its inner circles.
But not everyone confronted by bewildering, force-backed change has gone down the escapist-collaborationist path. A respectable number have reacted to such transformations by militantly taking up arms against them, and this outside of those legitimate structures of their societies which have cowardly or unthinkingly opted for an accommodating posture .
Both the attraction and problems of this confrontational response are brilliantly analyzed by Ernst Jünger (1895-1998), one of the most important German writers of the Twentieth Century, a man who converted to Roman Catholicism in the last years of his life. His analysis appears in what I consider to be his best work, On the Marble Cliffs (Auf den Marmorklippen, 1939), which takes us, allegorically, from the horrific change and confusion following the First World War to that which could be expected to accompany a second such conflict. Here, Jünger tells us of the activities of the distinctly irregular band of “Mauritanians”, part Crusading Order, part anarchic, untamed horde, which provided an appealing outlet for men seeking solid camaraderie and unapologetic militant action in the midst of collapse and chaos. So understandably alluring is the Mauritanian Order that the unnamed protagonist of the novel and his brother Otho rode out on their horses to fight the many-headed demons of the age alongside them.
Jünger admits, however, that the peculiar “time out of time” spent with this sympathetic fraternal host was not without its risks. Mauritanian irregularity encouraged an atmosphere in which major delusions regarding the past and the nature of the current chaos could be nourished, as well as apocalyptic fears or impossibly utopian hopes for the future. The Order’s wild exuberance could invite new problems which would not be recognized as such until they had become ingrained and exceedingly difficult to uproot.
Most dangerously, its potential for intellectually and strategically anarchic action might unwittingly contribute to the victory of the Oberförster, the novel’s Hitler-like figure, who did act regularly according to a strategic plan, and who saw both the disorder of his day as well as the wild reaction to it as a golden opportunity for the devastation of all civilized life.
It is worth reading On the Marble Cliffs merely for Jünger’s prophetic description of what exactly the consequences of the Oberförster’s victory would be. The protagonist and his brother stopped active participation with the Mauritanian Order before any of its possible mistakes could lead them to unintended disaster, but they never thought that their period militating alongside it was wasted. Neither did they condemn its members for remaining inside, still exposed to its potential flaws. “I later heard Brother Otho say about our time with the Mauritanians”, Jünger has him say, “that a mistake only then becomes an error if one stubbornly persists in it.”
Most of our contemporaries show all the signs of reacting to the big, bad new millennium and its Axis of Evil by indulging in escapism and collaborationism—a totally understandable response, given the almost unbearable economic and social situation in which they are placed if they resist. Moreover, they have long habituated themselves to the escapist collaborationism dictated by American pluralism. This has never tired of encouraging limited, meaningless expressions of freedom inside Never Never Land ghettoes, so long as the poor souls who prance about in them leap and cavort to the tune sung by the strong on matters that really count—and write a poem or two to the glories of the system humiliating them for good measure.
Americans have long learned to appreciate the unparalleled freedom they possess to focus obsessively on secondary matters. And it is undeniably true that they can dedicate themselves to the memorization and even open recitation of the names of the Patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria in the quiet of their own living rooms without fear of police intrusion. All that has changed since 2000 on this front is that they have to make the whole world safe for neo-conservative exploitation and frat boy torture in order to retain their rights to be monumentally inconsequential.
What is truly upsetting in such game-playing is that Roman Catholics are right up there in the front lines, escaping and collaborating alongside the best of them while Nemesis continues his inexorable advance. As usual, some of those who collaborate do so out of fear—in America, fear of missing a golden opportunity for success and “falling behind”. Again, it is more than understandable that they do so today, since it has been made practically impossible for anyone to avoid “falling behind” without plunging into an economic game that claims the attention of both body and soul every single waking hour.
Once more, some collaborate because of an unreflective acceptance of the new rules of the game. Such people maintain ties with their Catholic traditions purely out of a well-meaning inertia. Collaboration, in both cases, means that the bulk of the average believing Catholic’s day is spent living and being forced to adulate a flat, naturalist, God-defying, self-asserting modern life which only the really strong can effectively (and perversely) “enjoy”. This naturalist reality is denied by him upon returning home to live in a private Christendom in no way harmful to the masters of the new millennium. Here, one can sing pious hymns and touch the covers of old Catholic texts bought from nostalgic book clubs. Here, one can read articles in conservative newspapers and journals about past saints, whose whole lives unabashedly condemn his collaborationist subservience to the temporarily forgotten outside world.
Catalogues from bright and shiny new Catholic schools and universities are available to him in Never Never Land. The institutions described therein promise to save the next generation from perdition while they train it to function either in a world that no longer exists or one that is actively engaged in dismantling the remaining pitiful remnants of its Christian heritage. They ensure that Catholic youth will graduate either as cogs for the lowest levels of the global economic machine or as experts in voting for, implementing, and praising the program of their willful capitalist and imperialist masters. The Catholic activism in which their alumni will engage will be of the acceptably harmless variety. Such activists will jot down endless comments in crisp new notebooks at the umpteenth impotent conference leading to nothing other than a post seminar dinner party. The day after celebrating their Action, they will return to flipping their burgers or presiding over investments destroying another age-old culture. Now there’s a return for the modern Never Never Land investor!
Moreover, just as in the Hellenistic Era following Alexander the Great’s conquests, some of these Catholic collaborators are openly co-opted, become cheerleaders for the new order, and marvel at God’s blessing over the entire enterprise. The Novaks, Weigels, Neuhauses, and Acton Institutes of collapsing Christendom rival one another in inventing ever new flips on the theme of why tossing the whole of Catholic Social Teaching out the window is traditional; why embracing a socio-economic modernism shut tight to transformation in Christ is the only truly Christian enterprise worth considering. By all means say your Catholic prayers in your homes and in your churches, they urge us. But be sure to include among them one that begs that the outside world remains safely in the hands of men and laws who brook no interference with their prerogatives. “Don’t tread on me!” is their preferred hymn for the Feast of Christ the King.
Others among our new millennium contemporaries have, of course, taken the Mauritanian pathway of irregular resistance to unpalatable change. Most of the Roman Catholics who are among the Mauritanians actually entered down that route of opposition forty years earlier, in the wake of the conciliar disaster. I am thinking of all those traditionalist men and women who, in the midst of the debacle devastating legitimate religious institutions since the 1960’s, sought refuge in a myriad of different militant, activist associations. In such groups, they were able to wrap their arms fervently round some identifiable remnant of the Catholic shipwreck. There, like the Mauritanians from On the Marble Cliffs, they discovered true comradeship. There, they regained their psychological footing and found a chance to conduct a clear and unapologetic battle against a corruption of both the Church and the secular world which they knew was destined to grow ever more deep. But there they also exposed themselves to the possible mistakes which, stubbornly adhered to, could become errors unintentionally aiding the advance of the Oberförster. Some have gone off the deep end in consequence. The majority, I would argue, really have not.
Una Voce America
All these subjects have been much on my mind lately due to a very great personal disappointment: my recent dismissal from the presidency of Una Voce America. Quite frankly, neither I nor many of the individual chapters of Una Voce has any way of knowing all the motives behind this purge, which was effected by liquidating the position of president entirely and replacing it with a chairman for whom a national search is now being conducted. One has to be part of the Board of Directors to have access to the information needed to understand it fully; it is not, by statute, a decision to be made by democratic vote.
I have tried logically to piece together the reasons for my disgrace from bits of discussions over the past years, and now feel pretty certain that my articles in The Remnant critical of the pontificate of John Paul II played a crucial role in it. It may be that my anti-Americanist politics dictated the verdict as well. Bursts of excitement over one or the other strategy to follow could also have entered into it. In any case, I was, I believe, perceived as being a radical wild card who posed a threat to serious negotiations with the Church authorities in the United States and the Vatican; a Mauritanian whose mistakes threatened to become a dangerous error harmful to traditionalism in America as a whole. If I am wrong about this, I apologize. If I am not, I owe some defense of myself to the many people who have asked me what it is that happened. I decided that the best way to offer such a defense was in the context of a broad reflection on the reality of the situation facing the Traditionalist Movement in America today, and what I think needs to be done to respond to it.
When I first entered that movement, in the early 1970’s, those of us who were neither collaborating with the Establishment nor militating in the ranks of the Mauritanians found themselves in limbo. Our limbo was also shaken by a full blown crisis. Dietrich von Hildebrand, the Roman Forum, and Walter Matt were in the first stages of splitting off from The Wanderer and Catholics United for the Faith. The von Hildebrand alliance was ready to take its critique of the ecclesiastical disaster wherever it might lead in order that its argument would be true to the record and completely coherent. It knew that the pope was really the pope and the bishops really the legitimate bishops, but it did not exempt from criticism any prelate whom it thought to be contributing to the growing nightmare.
The Wanderer was only willing to rake bishops over the coals. It was insistent upon the need to praise the wisdom of a Paul VI who, on the one hand, was actively engaged in egging those prelates on to madness, and, on the other, in caving into their still wilder calls for wider destruction.
CUF was outraged even by attacks upon the bishops, quoting St. Pius X to defend the thesis that it was not the laity’s lowly place to criticize the authorities whom it might have thought were placed in their positions precisely to protect ordinary believers. Presumably this meant that the English laity would have had to shield from criticism the legitimately recognized Archbishop Cranmer of Canterbury while he subverted and protestantized the Church in England under Henry VIII.
If the advice of The Wanderer and CUF had been followed, there would have been no further attack on Pope John’s Council, the Mass of Paul VI, or Cranmer’s Godly Order as a model for the modern weakening of the theology of the Mass. We would simply have had to make the best of them. There would then have been no chance to stand tall before our children when they inevitably asked us if we had spoken out on obvious problems when they emerged, when it was hard to do so. We would have been forced to answer that we had waited until the danger had passed and we were such harmless little flies in a completely changed universe that we could even be invited to reserve a Catholic Social Doctrine table at fund raisers for tastefully liberal or conservative causes for the amusement of our betters.
The non-Mauritanian faction would have joined all the other escapist-collaborationist groups in history. It would have left the Hans Küngs of the world alone to be welcomed into the presence of the Pope with only a Mauritanian Bishop Fellay to present an alternate view of modernity reflecting much our own. It would have ignored the lesson of Church History that reforms of bad situations come in mysterious and complex ways, and not always through smiling and being good little boys while the authorities fawn before the powers that be. Any reading of the writings of St. Bridget or the opponents of the late Renaissance church underlines that lesson quite clearly. “Criticize everything that you think needs to be criticized”, the late Dr. William Marra told me when I first got involved in this movement. “When you fight”, he added, “do not excommunicate anyone who does not excommunicate you first. And even then, check over and over again to see if he really means it or is still willing to talk to you”.
That seemed to me to be good advice then and it seems to me to be good advice now.
What I have always liked about Una Voce is precisely the fact that it was part of this non-Mauritanian method. It worked inside the regular Church structure and yet “rode” closely and sympathetically alongside the Mauritanians, excommunicating neither, critical of both, but, in its heart of hearts, cognizant of the fact that the latter were its true blood brothers. Una Voce’s “insider” approach required negotiations with legitimate authorities committed to “renewal”. But it undertook these discussions out of the noble desire to get from the authorities what they must, in justice, give back to the Catholic world, and to do so before their flirtation with the outside modernist world led to a full scale co-option by it.
Its sympathy for the Indult came from the immediate help that Ecclesia Dei gave to some traditionalist communities to prosper, and the hope that it offered for future expansion. Una Voce’s continued friendship for the Catholic Mauritanians was due to a number of things: appreciation of just how much it was indebted to Msgr. Lefebvre for keeping the Traditional Mass alive in the first place; realization that the continued survival of the movement was tied to their existence as a vibrant pressure group; and recognition of the fact that many—perhaps most—Traditionalists still had little alternative but to turn to their services and protection or suffer unbearable spiritual pain. If it criticized the Mauritanians, it was the friendly criticism of blood brothers who were eager to end the crisis before irregular vigilante action produced any of its possible bad fruits. There was some sort of yin-yang relationship at work here. Was this investigated fully in all its canonical and rational nooks and crannies? No. It was probably impossible to undertake such an inquiry in an era in which everything was in constant, bizarre flux anyway. In fact, given the extent of the crisis, it would have been very difficult to know in specific instances who was taking the right tack in dealing with the legitimate authorities: the Mauritanians or the non-Mauritanians. There are numerous similar situations in the long history of the Church where “good guys” and “bad guys” ended by both being recognized as having assured a happy conclusion to a major problem.
I have never had occasion to associate Una Voce with a different kind of policy. Moreover, it never dawned on me that stating my views on broad ecclesiastical and socio-political matters—and identifying myself only as a private scholar while doing so—might be conceived of as being incompatible with my position as President of Una Voce America. It seemed to me that I was merely following models that were clearly there right before my eyes. Did anyone think that we actually loved the reforms of Pope John, Pope Paul, and Pope John Paul? Could anyone possibly think that we should not honor the sufferings of the Mauritanians, or that we should treat them like lepers and untouchables?
But perhaps it was the character of the criticism, aimed, as it was, at a reigning pontiff, which was deemed unacceptable? Certainly, I did not and I do not take giving such criticism lightly. I know that I am eager to find every excuse for praising the current Pope and encouraging him to do as pontiff what he urged as being good while Cardinal Ratzinger. The Una Voce which I love is obliged to deal with all sorts of people, and I, too, agree that no one should go out of his way unnecessarily to offend them. In fact, my own experience has taught me that some prelates and curial officials who seem to be enemies at first glance may turn out to be nothing but conduits for officially unpleasant policies. Personally, they can show themselves to be open to argument or even already sympathetic to our cause. I agree with Una Voce America in its dislike of making stinging personal attacks on prelates who promote one or two unfortunate decisions. I share its recommendation of a prudent silence regarding a former enemy who looks like he is on the verge of coming round to the traditionalist view and need not therefore mercilessly be bashed about the head.
Still, I cannot, for the life of me, see how backing away from substantive criticism of honestly perceived long-term dangers is in any way useful, even if this means attacking the highest authority in the Church. The whole pontificate of John Paul II was based on disastrous policies which rendered even its admittedly good actions, such as the granting of the Indult, merely bits of icing on an impossible to digest cake. To treat it otherwise would be tantamount to giving oneself a lobotomy. Such a retreat from reality would demand a self-censorship producing hopelessly illogical arguments which could then easily be refuted by one’s opponents. It would encourage an escape from the complete reality of the situation to which we are exposed, the winning of Pyrrhic “victories” filled full of holes, and, most seriously, the danger of real co-option by and conversion to the world view of the masters of the new millennium. And, unfortunately, all these problems seemed to me to be growing ever stronger as the late pontiff’s end neared, and adulation cut off more and more possibility of sound thinking. It appeared to me that all of this was being used by our opponents to serve as a perilous springboard to further radicalization under the next pontificate and its as yet unknown pope.
Calls for a humble, self-critical petitioning of a Pope Benedict who always treated us with understanding while Cardinal Ratzinger strikes me as proper and just. Calls to a similar petitioning of many bishops and curial officials whose chief interests are non-theological staffing and financial problems makes equal sense to me. Being civil to the civil should, I think, guide any man’s order of the day. But self-censorship undertaken to please those members of the post-conciliar Establishment who simultaneously demand that we praise their openness to free, rational discourse would be an intolerable and laughable undertaking, especially when one sees how tempted such men are to kowtow to the strongest expressions of irrational, anti-Christian contempt and pressure.
Why keep our mouths shut and even go so far as to accuse ourselves of failure to be “open” when confronting people who have been unfailingly and publicly contemptuous of our
leaders? Who have dealt with us as though we were uneducated, uninformed boors? Who have charged us with being “fellow travelers on the path of Luther”, while treating the real Luther as though he were actually a friend? Who have demanded our support for the 1965 missal as proof of our possessing even half a brain? Who have held up as models for us to follow weird religious orders which have fallen apart amidst public scandal? And who do not show the slightest bit of regret for their uncalled for behavior? To what end would we do such a thing? To get advice destined to encourage our self-destruction? To ensure our own co-option more efficiently? To earn a reputation for callous feeling for the men and women who have suffered so badly for so very many years?
If the price of being considered acceptable at the court of men who wish we did not even exist is to treat them as more important to us than loyalty to the truth or friendship for our Mauritanian blood brothers, then the unseemliness of it all would be just too much to bear. Such an approach would best be left to other less squeamish hands. Better to pray one’s rosary on his own and wait for victory through a miracle of God alone.
There is absolutely no way that I myself can keep quiet regarding my conviction that the new millennium awaited with such enthusiasm by the numerologists is rapidly shaping up—certainly in this country—to be the age of the Oberförster. That Oberförster is not the Hitler-like figure of Jünger, but an Oberförster Union of all forces dedicated to the victory of naturalist willfulness. This alliance has shown an inimitable ability to co-opt its enemies, Catholics foremost among them, apparently because so many of us are eager to believe in its fraudulent rhetorical commitment to patriotism and freedom and human dignity. The Oberförster Union has no problem permitting Catholics to spout off orthodox doctrine as much as they wish, allowing them regular Traditional Masses, and even sending its many rather unconscious members along to attend them. All that Catholics have to do to ensure the maintenance of these privileges is to abandon the entire vision of the Kingship of Christ over men and society; to become historically and sociologically meaningless. Unfortunately, if the Oberförster Union were then to go down to defeat, it would drag this strange sort of Anglican traditionalist Church into the mud with it. For all of its enemies would have come to think that being Catholic was the same thing as being one with the Oberförsters—or, at the very best, court jesters for their entertainment.
Mistakes are part of fallen human life, and I am always mulling over in my mind whether or not I have been guilty of printed mistakes of substance or prudence or simple lack of charity. I do not think I have been guilty of enough of them to represent an error in the sense that Jünger describes it. I do believe, however, that it would be such an error for us not to face up, in our diverse spheres of activity, to the reality of just how much the new American millennium demands the dismantling of the whole structure of the Catholic life; that it would be an awful flaw not to discuss fully and unashamedly how this reality relates to a complete and coherent defense of the Traditional Mass; that it would be a great blunder not to distinguish accurately among our negotiating partners so as to keep at arms’ length those who would love to co-opt us; that it would be offensive not to recognize our friends whoever they may be--especially Mauritanians whom we may still, nevertheless, feel obliged to critique.
Traditionalists, non-Mauritanians and Mauritanians alike, have got to keep their eyes open and on the final prize of salvation if we are to survive and win victory in this dangerous new millennium of ours. This awakened state must involve a regular self-questioning and self-assessment whose basic framework is not particularly difficult to imagine. Are we really working in a Christian manner or have we tossed charity to the winds and become bitter, spiritless beings? Do we wish to see our enemies crushed or converted? Are we honestly seeking to restore unity within the one true Church of Christ, under the one true successor of St. Peter, Pope Benedict XVI, with its one true Orthodox Catholic Faith? Or have we become obsessed with building an empire out of our own organizations, their leaders, and their narrower causes? Are the allies that we have made in our work of negotiation or militancy intellectually and spiritually justifiable ones, or has their influence caused us to alter our Faith and our understanding of the character and extent of the supernatural guidance that it offers? Are we aware of the whole battlefield on which the struggle that we are in must be fought, or have we limited it to the one escapist, Never Never Land part of it which is to our liking? Is the Enlightenment our God or is Christ?
If we find that we are making mistakes, then we have to spit them out like pieces of tainted meat and move on. We don’t want them to get worse. “I later heard Brother Otho say, in talking about our time among the Mauritanians, that a mistake only then becomes an error if one stubbornly persists in it.”