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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Mystical Body of Christ is a Kingdom--Not a Road Featured

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The Mystical Body of Christ is a Kingdom--Not a Road
"Belgium is a kingdom; not a road". It is with that phrase, whether apocryphal or true, that King Albert I (1909-1934) is popularly said to have responded to the Imperial German request to cross his country to begin the attack on France in 1914.

As the history students among you will know, the German General Staff, following the strategic plan for conflict in the West designed by the Count Alfred von Schlieffen, deemed such a route through the Lowlands absolutely necessary to victory. But Albert's commitment to Belgium as a substantive reality and not a simple passageway to satisfaction of another nation's ends stood in the path—with four years of bitter fighting and civilian suffering being the price paid for holding firm.

I thought about Albert's reputed response recently, when Brussels, the capital of Belgium, was basically shut down in order to get to the bottom of a potential terrorist assault. Sad to say, just over a century after his words were uttered, one has to admit that not just Belgium but the West as a whole is essentially what the king wanted his country to avoid being: a road and not a kingdom.

Everyone can see that the West has become a road in one very clear way: namely, by serving as a route for migrants the globe over to wander through in search of a new and supposedly better home in one or the other of its various component parts. Still, it has only become this obvious kind of road because it has step by step lost all substantial reality as a "kingdom" of its own. For if the West thought that it signified something serious it would post and enforce the rules for those it allows to enter into its house and fight to prevent the arrival of uninvited guests.

But the West cannot do such a thing, because it jettisoned the fuel that made it fly for so many glorious centuries. That fuel was the teaching and grace coming from Catholic Christianity, which gave it—just it can and does give every other culture the globe over—the sense and the courage to use all that is good from its historical building blocks to create and sustain a magnificent civilization.

The West jettisoned this fuel through a Protestantism that destroyed its international character as Christendom and turned the consequences of the Faith into something purely "spiritual" and lacking in solid flesh and blood.

It jettisoned it through an Enlightenment naturalism that did not even want such purely spiritual influences to play a role in daily life.

Most importantly, it jettisoned it through its embrace of Liberalism, which in all of its various forms, with contemporary worldwide Pluralism at the top of the list, allows no role for a community of any sort, Western Christendom included, to survive. All that Liberalism permits the West to be is a "space" for individuals to "do their own thing", with the inevitable result that those with the biggest mouths or the biggest fists or the biggest wallets end up dictating "what's what". It is all of these "biggests" that have made the current obvious invasion of the West possible—through the agency of unhappy migrants whose own native lands were devastated, in one way or another, through the pouring of the corrosive acid of liberal freedoms onto their own soil.

Yes, only the fuel that came from Christ made the West into a substantive reality. Only Catholic Christianity built the glorious Kingdom that was Western Christendom. And yet we Catholics who trudge through the ruins of the West now have the dubious honor of hearing the guardians of the sole fuel for recovery of former glory proclaim to the world at large words that would have shamed King Albert: "the Mystical Body of Christ is a road, not a Kingdom".

For that is exactly what the current mantra is all about, and has been for fifty long years. All of the talk about being "open to the message of the Holy Spirit" is simply a call to become a "road" rather than a "kingdom". It is a proclamation that the Church of Christ has nothing to teach and no mission to transform the world; that she is meant merely to serve as a doormat for those with the most powerful passions and wills to stomp on and grind into the dirt of the fallen world.

How dare the ecclesiastical authorities claim that it can mean anything other than this? If the will of the Holy Spirit is not what can be discerned through scripture, councils, the long line of papal teachings, positive and speculative theology using the tools of Socratic Reason, and the historical experience of the Church, what else can it be? It can only be humbug. It can only be the blind "divining" of silly Church authorities, poking sticks through the guts provided by contemporary passions demanding satisfaction. It can only be pagan augury disguised as propheticwisdom. It can only be road as opposed to kingdom building.

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In my last piece for The Remnant I made mention of St. Augustine's City of God, written when the Roman Empire had become a "road" for the German barbarians invading it. This was horrifying to Augustine, who loved the Empire and did not want it to die. But Augustine knew that the key to its survival—or, if it were destined to die due to human failing, the building of something new and solid and good in its place—was the fuel provided by the Mystical Body of Christ.

The Bishop of Hippo could never have imagined the magnificence of Medieval Christendom. What he did know was that the Church of God was a kingdom-builder. He knew that Christ's—and the Holy Spirit's—will was for that Kingdom to take its message on the road; not for the lands in which Christians lived to become mere "spaces" for willful individuals to exploit or ecclesiastical diviners poking around corrupted psyches to define what Catholics were to believe and how they were to behave. And if fighting and dying for that truth brings on yet another fifty or a hundred or five hundred years of misery for those who love what Christendom must really mean, be would say—so be it.

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Last modified on Wednesday, January 27, 2016
John Rao | Remnant Columnist, New York

John C. Rao, Ph.D. is an associate professor of history at St. John's University, director of the Roman Forum/Dietrich von Hildebrand Institute, and former president of Una Voce America.  In 1977 he received his D.Phil. in Modern European History from Oxford University. Notable works include Americanism and the Collapse of the Church in the United States, Removing the Blindfold, and Periphery. His latest book, Black Legends: The War of the Words Against the Word, a guide to the history of the Catholic Church, was published by The Remnant Press in 2012. A student of Dietrich von Hildebrand and a close friend and collaborator of Michael Davies, John Rao has been a frequent contributor to The Remnant since the early 1980s.  He is known for writing his Remnant columns from Rocco's Cafe, an Italian pastry shop in Greenwich Village Manhattan.