About Christian Progressivism
By Father Julio Meinvielle
Translated from the Spanish by Roberto Hope
The false foundation of Christian Progressivism
Up to here, we have explained in which errors Christian progressivism incurs.
Aside from certain theological and philosophical errors and deviations, and wrong attitudes in the Christian practice, Christian progressivism is wrong above all in promoting an alliance of Christianity with modern civilization. This attitude leads it, consequently, to ally itself yesterday with liberalism and today with Communism. A fundamental error lies beneath all this, which consists of assigning a necessarily progressive movement to the course of history and for the same reason to modern history which develops from the Renaissance to our days.
It is well known that those which assign a necessary progress to history are false philosophies; take, for example, Turgot and Condorcet in the eighteenth century; Hegel, with his famous dialectics; Marx, who adopts such dialectics and applies it to social groups to announce the inexorable advent of the triumph of the proletariat. Also, Comte assigns a necessary progress to history which would develop from a religious stage to a metaphysical one and passing from there to a positivist stage.
This takes us to pose the question of whether modern civilization means a progress or a regress, a perfectioning or a degradation of man. It is clear in modern history, from the Renaissance to our days, that real progress has been achieved in certain aspects of man. There has been an undeniable progress especially in the field of positive science and in the application of these sciences to develop industrial techniques for the production of goods and services. There is, without doubt, an immense, extraordinary technological progress. A progress in man´s taking of conscience in the face of certain fears and injustices. I say progress in man's conscience, not an effective progress, as we will note later. But the question is posed of whether there is a true progress in the fundamental aspect of man, namely, in that which makes man more human, better, more perfect; in short in his moral life through which man gets closer to God. That getting closer to God, principle and end of man, is what measures true progress. Since man is a participated being, he cannot progress in his substance except to the extent that he participates more strongly in God's Being. We hold that not only there is no progress in the man of modern civilization, but, on the contrary, there is a degradation of values which reaches deeper degrees.
The four values of a normal civilization
To examine that question we have to start with the fact that all civilization is a manifestation of human reality. Now then, in a normal man within the actual order of Providence, in which man has been redeemed by Christ, four fundamental values are to be recognized: Man is a thing, man is a sensitive being, man is an intellectual being, man is a supernatural being. These four dimensions of man are related between one another by a hierarchy, in which the lower is at the service of the higher. Thus, man is a physical and chemical being to sense, he senses to think, and thinks to pray. These four human values have their manifestation in the social groups of a civilization. So, to the reality of thing correspond the groups of peasants and artisans, occupied in the inferior tasks of producing economic goods. Above them are the groups of bourgeois which occupy themselves in the higher tasks of economic life. Above them are those who devote themselves to the culture, philosophy, military life, politics, who have as their mission to ensure the virtuous and cultured cohabitation of civilized life. Above these groups is the priesthood, which has as its mission ensuring the supernatural life to which man is destined in the actual order of Providence.
Well, a normal civilization must enclose these four values with its corresponding social groups in a hierarchy. A hierarchy of values which imports at the same time a hierarchy of services. The more valuable groups ought to use their hierarchical superiority to serve the inferior groups. This is why the Prime Pontiff, who is placed at the peak of all values is called the servant of the serfs because he is placed there to serve all men.
In history, there was a century — the thirteenth century — in which this normal civilization manifests itself within the imperfection of human things. That is why that century's civilization produces a very high philosophy in Saint Thomas Aquinas, an admirable politics in the Saintly Kings and also a marvelous art in saintly artists. The works are still there, the cathedrals, the frescoes, the philosophy, the poetry of that century, to reflect how a normal civilization develops itself. It is not the purpose to make an apology of the Middle Ages, and much less to intend to go back to such past ages. Neither is it the purpose to deny the harshness under which the life of the inferior classes of people in that society was lead. That harshness was due not to unjustness, since it had been producing a relief and improvement in human relations, which was passing from slavery to serfdom and from this to complete liberty, Harshness was due above all to technological deficiencies. Man had not yet invented the means of harnessing energy as steam, gas, electricity and nuclear, which now move the entire production system without demanding the subjection of man to the strenuous production of energy. There was harshness in the life of the inferior groups, although a real progress in their way of life has to be recognized, and especially the theologians' preoccupation for ensuring a fair price in all human transactions.
What is important here is to highlight that such century carried out a normal civilization in which its place was given to each of the human values which should not be missing in a civilization.
The three Great Revolutions
With the Renaissance begins a series of revolutions in civilized life, in which the inferior value rebels against the higher value, and so in the Renaissance and in the Protestant Reformation, the purely human, the purely rational, the purely natural rebels against the supreme value, then represented by the priesthood. Thus we see how Philip the Fair, towards the end of the thirteenth century, rebels against Boniface VIII, and, later, how Protestantism rejects the supremacy of the Roman See. A civilization placed no longer under the sign of the Christian values but on purely natural values is then begun. A humanist, naturalist, rationalist civilization begins in which the supreme value is attained by those groups, the humanists, the politicians, which represent purely cultural values, and thus begins then the absolutism of monarchs and the rule of philosophical rationalism. This civilization fills all of the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But this civilization advances towards its ruin, and this for a very important reason.
Without the supernatural value which in the actual order of Providence ensures the integrity of the natural man, this integrity becomes impossible, and thus we see how rationalism is nothing more than the road to the torture by reason, absolutism torture by monarchs, and naturalism torture by what is human. And also, inevitably, rationalism ends in the suicide of reason as in Kant and Nietzsche, absolutism in the scaffold as it happened with Louis XVI, naturalism in the materialism of the nineteenth century'. humanism in the homo economicus of the bourgeoisie and in the humans' animal life of positivism and of Darwin.
The First Revolution, that of the Reformation against the priesthood, leads to the Second Revolution, that against the political, philosophical and human life of the French Revolution.
The French Revolution is, in substance, the replacement of the nobility by the bourgeoisie, of politics by economism, of the human by the infrahuman, of the rational by the animal, of the classical for the romantic, of absolutism by democracy. With the French Revolution began a bourgeois, stupid, animal and positivist world. The homo naturalis no longer functions and the homo animalis takes up his responsibilities. Therefrom the materialism of the nineteenth century. Reasoning having been exhausted, that is, the operation which interprets and unifies the facts, which reflects upon them, nothing is left for man but to restrict himself to prove the facts and collect them.
The French Revolution opens the way to the nineteenth century, which is the century of economism, of capitalism, of the colossal industrial, commercial and financial expansion. But the fact that it is a century of economism, it does not follow that men attain their economic welfare. Because the economist economy of capitalism is inevitably inverted; in it, consumption has the purpose of producing more production is increased so as to sell more, sales are increased so as to profit more, while the right ordering of things demands that finance and commerce be at the service of production, and production at the service of consumption, and both at the service of economy, and economy at the service of politics, and politics at the service of man, and man at the service of God.
This economy so inverted is implacably disastrous and ends in the tremendous contemporary catastrophe which we now witness: an immense production apparatus which promotes wealth in the world and a humanity of which two thirds suffer a lack of roof or shelter, and undergo famine. Just as how the people had to suffer the abuses of politicians in the absolutist era, in the era of economism they become subjected to the yoke of the magnates of wealth.
The French Revolution which raises the bourgeoisie to the top plane, advances inexorably towards the Third Revolution, the Communist Revolution in which the proletariat, the las of the social groups, which does not represent any value other than the material, takes over the entirety of civilized life. We now find ourselves in the Third Revolution, which is the Communist one, the proletarian revolution, in which the unqualified and marginal laborer wants to displace the bourgeois, the politician and the priest.
He wants to supplant the bourgeois and repudiates the bourgeois economy of private property, wants to supplant the politician and repudiates the authority of governments to serve the common good, wants to supplant the priest and erects militant atheism as a system.
Communism, extended now to a great portion of the world, signals the last of the possible revolutions in a cultural century, After it and even with it nothing is possible but chaos in the authentic human values. Communist is a man from whom his supernatural formality of God's child has been taken away and so has his natural formality of sensitive animal. The communist becomes a thing, a bolt, a nut in the great machine that is the collective society of the proletariat. What remains of a man from whom these three dimensions have been taken away? Only one thing remains, something which advances towards nothing. And thus, communism is, definitely, the deification of the reality which tends to nothing. What is the reality which tends to nothing? What is that which continues being something but is nothing by its pure potentiality? It is Aristotle's raw material, that material which of itself is neither essence nor quality, nor quantity, nor any other thing by which being is determined.
That is why communism is not necessarily materialistic. Communism tends to nothingness, to the purely shapeless, to being anything under the all-powerful hand of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This colossal power grabs the man and converts him into the gearwheel of an equally colossal machinery. Man, individual man loses his condition of God’s child made in the image of God to contemplate God, loses his natural condition of lord and master of nature, he also loses his animal condition to enjoy the sensitive pleasures; man becomes a purely useful thing which is utilized or discarded according to whatever the convenience of the great collective machinery demands: man has lost his destiny.
Note how that process against man’s religious life which started with the Protestant Reformation, reaches its sharpest point in Communism. Man first revolted against the Church in Protestantism, then he revolts against Jesus Christ in rationalism, and today the revolt is directly against God in militant atheism. This is why communism must necessarily be atheistic. That is how Marx explains it, finding in religion a frustration for man. To Communism, religion is not only useless, it is positively evil because it destroys man. The dialectics of the opposition of God and man is nurturing all of Marx's thinking.
If God exists and is the Creator of man, man cannot exist and much less be his own creator. Since what one has and is, is at the expense of someone else. But since man exists and is the creator of his own history, it follows that God does not exist nor there a creator of man. The dialectical process leads Communism not only to negate God before man but to affirm that man is god.
Communism also deprives man of his political character, that is, of the relationship of one man with another. Political life, in the noble sense of the word, the relationships of men with other men for their virtuous improvement, does not exist in Communism. Man is nothing but a pure laborer whose value is measured by his relation with the capacity to produce material goods. The politic quality consisting in a relationship of man with man for the completion of the sufficiency required for human living cannot exist in a society which has no reason of being other than using man to produce goods. But there is more, communism is not even interested in the material welfare of man, i.e. the possession of the wealth which supplies a specifically animal enjoyment. This enjoyment was sought by the bourgeois in the liberal society.
But Communism does not even come to this. Communism is not interested properly in wealth, it is interested in work, which is the wealth-producing instrument. It does not seek the living of man but the working of man. That is how Marx teaches it clearly in his book “The German Ideology”. For Communism, the supreme and only value is the labor producing material goods. Man himself and even his material welfare is not of interest. Its only interest is for man to work and produce, even if he does not enjoy.
Communist man finds himself deprived of enjoying the divine of God´s contemplation, deprived of the human enjoyment which political cohabitation affords, deprived of the animal enjoyment produced by the use of economic goods. He is a pure laborer enslaved to the work for the benefit of the collective society.
The convulsive state of modern man
What is the result brought about by modern civilization in which man has been degrading in his human substance? Today's situation reflects the value of this civilization. Man has reached a convulsive state, And we see how man has lived anguished by horrific events happened in the last fifty years. The First World War, the Cold War, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the threat of a nuclear war. Man lives terrified. Therefrom the anguish and terror literature and philosophy. Two-thirds of humankind living in a chronic state of hunger, and many families deprived of shelter.
We are witnesses, after four centuries of the anti-Christian and anti-human character of the proud Modern civilization. Anti-Christian because immense populations of the Communist countries and of the countries who life under a practical, if not militant, atheism, with a total ignorance of God the Creator.
Anti-human civilization because immense populations in the globe knowing nothing other than hunger, anguish, horrors of war and fratricidal strife, such as the strife between proletarians and the bourgeois, and homeless.
Here we note how false is the foundation on which Christian progressivism supports its acceptance of modern civilization. It would be right to accept it if it offered human values that truly perfected man. It should not be accepted to the extent that it exerts a destructive and degrading action on man. True, modern civilization has brought about some partial progress in the techniques of production of material wealth. But in failing to procure the true perfecting of man in his moral and religious aspect, technological advance without a corresponding moral progress turns into a terrible weapon of destruction and degradation of man. It is thus that the paradox comes about that just in the precise moment in which the undeniable advances in technology permit providing well being to the population of the globe, immense multitudes of millions of human beings suffer the penury of a lack of satisfaction of their most elementary needs. What is still much worse, they see themselves threatened in their own physical integrity by nuclear weapons.
This is why it is important for man to make a greater effort to order his moral and religious life without abandoning his effort in the creation of material goods. Herein the prime — absolutely prime — need to recognize the rights of the Church in public life, rights which concretize the higher ones of Christ´s redemption and God's sovereignty. This public recognition of the rights of the Church by nations and by the world order is a fundamental condition for the moral life of the people as well as for their material well being. Here take their place those profound words of Christ ´Seek you first the kingdom of God and His Justice, and the rest will be given to you in addition'.
Christian progressivism, in abandoning this fundamental and primary task of edifying the Kingdom of God in the temporal life, in abandoning the instauration of the Catholic city, of Christian civilization, toils in the edification of the Communist city. This is why Christian progressivism ends up collaborating with communism.
There is no in-between. In refusing to work for the Christian civilization, it labors for the anti-Christian and anti-human civilization.