Dear Reader, new material is appearing at this website rather more slowly than I would like. As a stopgap, I offer an extract from an upcoming piece I am still writing. In it, I consider the prophetic Hilaire Belloc and the possibilities of time-travel …
When Benedict XVI spoke about the ‘dictatorship of relativism’ it would seem he saw much the same thing as Belloc did nearly eighty years ago:
We are living today under a regime of heresy with only this to distinguish it from the older periods of heresy, that the heretical spirit has become generalised and appears in various forms.
It will be seen that I have, in the following pages, talked of ‘the modern attack’ because some name must be given to a thing before one can discuss it at all, but the tide which threatens to overwhelm us is so diffuse that each must give it his own name; it has no common name as yet.
Perhaps that will come, but not until the conflict between that modern anti-Christian spirit and the permanent tradition of the Faith becomes acute through persecution and the triumph or defeat thereof. It will then perhaps be called anti-Christ.
Clearly, Hilaire Belloc was not one to mince words …
However, I say, that, long ago, Belloc’s heart was awake to the unfolding tragedy he witnessed in the West.
The decades that have since elapsed have only proved his essential concerns were far – very far! – from being unjustified.
And yet still, I suppose, there will be those who decry Belloc as being unduly ‘alarmist’ or ‘sensationalist’ in what he writes.
Yet I say it again: Belloc, you were awake whilst others slept. You were a prophet whose heart was ripped and you spoke your heart:
The Faith is now in the presence not of a particular heresy as in the past—the Arian, the Manichean, the Albigensian, … nor is it in the presence of a sort of generalised heresy as it was when it had to meet the Protestant revolution from three to four hundred years ago.
The enemy which the Faith now has to meet, and which may be called ‘The Modern Attack’ is a wholesale assault upon the fundamentals of the Faith—upon the very existence of the Faith.
And the enemy now advancing against us is increasingly conscious of the fact that there can be no question of neutrality.
The forces now opposed to the Faith design to destroy.
The battle is henceforward engaged upon a definite line of cleavage, involving the survival or destruction of the Catholic Church. And all—not a portion—of its philosophy.
We know, of course, that the Catholic Church cannot be destroyed.
But what we do not know is the extent of the area over which it will survive; its power of revival or the power of the enemy to push it further and further back on to its last defenses until it may seem as though anti-Christ had come and the final issue was about to be decided. Of such moment is the struggle immediately before the world.
… No; the quarrel is between the Church and the anti-Church—the Church of God and anti-God—the Church of Christ and anti-Christ.
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The truth is becoming every day so much more obvious that within a few years it will be universally admitted.
I do not entitle the modern attack ‘anti-Christ’—though in my heart I believe that to be the true term for it: No, I do not give it that name because it would seem for the moment exaggerated.
But the name doesn’t matter. Whether we call it ‘The Modern Attack’ or ‘anti-Christ’ it is all one; there is a clear issue now joined between the retention of Catholic morals, tradition, and authority on the one side, and the active effort to destroy them on the other.
The modern attack will not tolerate us. It will attempt to destroy us. Nor can we tolerate it. We must attempt to destroy it as being the fully equipped and ardent enemy of the Truth by which men live. …
Either the Catholic Church (now rapidly becoming the only place wherein the traditions of civilisation are understood and defended) will be reduced by her modern enemies to political impotence, to numerical insignificance, and, so far as public appreciation goes, to silence; or the Catholic Church will, in this case as throughout the past … recover and extend her authority, and will rise once more to the leadership of civilisation which she made …
Your language is very strong, Hilaire Belloc. But what would happen if someone had a time machine and travelled back to your era?
Would he not find a world wherein ‘the traditions of civilisation’ were so much better ‘understood and defended’ than today?
And what if our hypothetical time-traveller were to snatch you, Hilaire Belloc, from the streets of England circa 1930 – and transport you back to England in the year 2014 …?
You would walk these English roads today, Hilaire Belloc, and what would you see?
Hideous, monotonously soulless architecture – the likes of which perhaps even you could not have foreseen?
Yes, indeed …
Capitalism more invasive, exploitative and manipulative than even you could have thought possible?
I should think so.
Materialism, agnosticism and atheism at unprecedented levels in the West? And our children ever more educated in the same?
And what would appear to you as pornography would now be utterly commonplace – if not ubiquitous.
By this, I do not mean magazines like Playboy, Penthouse and all the rest. I mean things we now take as ordinary and everyday – advertising, for example, clearly designed to stimulate male erotic desire in ways unimaginable in 1930.
Belloc, you were a man profoundly chaste and devoted to your wife. You would be appalled to see all this – and rightly so …
All this, of course, is to say nothing of abortion and same-sex ‘marriage’ and soon, perhaps, polygamy and even ‘consensual incest’ decriminalised …
Belloc, how you were decried for your strong language.
Is the problem, then, that you were too aggressive? Perhaps – because, with your heart in pain, you certainly could be aggressive.
And your combative French temperament was certainly less polite than the English one (and probably more honest).
Or is the problem, rather, that most of us are too lazy and complacent and do not like being reminded of uncomfortable things?
And that we would rather write you off as simply ‘intolerant and polarising’ – rather than face the truth of the modern world?
End of extract. This is taken from a book review of Hilaire Belloc’s The Great Heresies. That review will be very long when it appears – and will supply much more context than the above as to how Belloc reached the conclusions he did.
For Belloc cannot be reduced to the clichés which surround him. No, such attempts to reduce Belloc tell us much about a culture that likes facile answers. But they belie the very profound processes which were at work, I think, in Belloc’s soul – which I both hope to understand (and explicate, if I can) ever more deeply as the years go by.
This upcoming book review will also be important to me personally, inasmuch as I hope to express some matters that are of central importance to this website. I hope it will not take long to appear, nor to resume my present weblog series about the core themes of this site (where we will likewise further consider Belloc and his growing influence and impact on my writing here). Finally, I am also very slow in responding to personal correspondence, for which I apologise.