This is something spontaneous and, partly as a result, a bit disjointed and unpolished.
For, suddenly, the thought came to me of pasting-in excerpts from a lengthy upcoming piece I am writing.
It is a piece on the deceased Christian political thinker, L. Brent Bozell (1926-1997) that I have spent long months crafting. When published, it will be the biggest, most ambitious single piece I have yet attempted at this site.
Now, Bozell was an American like myself, and like myself, he also loved Ireland.
My massive, upcoming piece touches on the profound influence Catholic Ireland had for him.
But this Irish connexion might easily get lost amidst the thousands of words I am writing.
Suddenly, it hit me I could both highlight this Irish connexion and preview my upcoming piece at one and the same time.
This means, however, pulling bits and pieces out of context. (What follows then is, as I say, a little disjointed, unfinished, fragmentary.)
Basically, however, in my upcoming piece, I consider Bozell’s horror of 1960s cultural decadence – and how it propelled him towards a Christian politics that would have seemed outrageous to his fellow Americans at that time. But not the Irish of his day!
Thus I write:
If Christ is at work in the depths of the human soul, it follows that Christ must be signified in the cultural and political life. At least, if we wish to avoid … ‘cultural schizophrenia’.
In 1960s America, however, this was a radical notion. It is even more radical there today. Back then, though, it was not radical in two Catholic countries particularly dear to Bozell: Catholic Ireland and Spain.
Dear reader, allow me to digress. For I write these lines from Ireland and the people of the Irish republic once democratically opted for the Christian politics Bozell calls for!
Thus in 1937, the people voted for a new constitution, drafted by Prime Minister Éamon de Valera, which rooted ultimate authority not in the ‘consent of the governed,’ but rather the Trinitarian God of Christianity. Its preamble reads:
In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,
We, the people of Éire,
Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,
Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,
And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,
Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution [Italics mine].
My digression here is not irrelevant. Bozell had a very deep love for Ireland and in the pages of Triumph magazine regularly wrote about her. He knew 1960s Ireland to be a place where Christ was still signified in the public life.
And later in my upcoming Bozell piece, I continue in this vein:
Although most Americans will automatically regard what Bozell’s writes as indefensibly wrong, it was not wrong in Ireland, even fifty years ago. For Irish people back then what Bozell is saying was only natural. And, moreover, they democratically opted for it!
We have already seen how Ireland democratically voted for a constitution which placed ultimate authority in God. We now add that for the Irish of that era the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution sharply separating Church and State would have seemed counter-intuitive.
Moreover, the Irish people, rooted in Catholic values, repeatedly elected governments which passed legislation enforcing Catholic values.
For example, laws were passed excluding divorce and the sale of contraceptives. Many Irish also prided themselves on the fact that their censorship laws were much stricter than England’s. Long ago, British things once carried the label ‘banned in Éire’ to signify their salacious content. (Salacious, that is, by the standards of the day. By today’s barbarised standards, they would seem innocent indeed.)
‘Ah, I see!’ today’s Anglo-American liberal may conceivably exclaim. ‘The key verb above is ENFORCE. Catholic Ireland must have been fascist, enforcing things like that!’
Be careful, if that is your gut reaction, dear Reader. Because today’s Anglo-American (and now Irish) liberal world likewise enforces things – things like gay ‘marriage’. (And it comes down heavily on the various butchers, bakers and candlestick makers who refuse to service the new ideology!)
The difference between Catholic Ireland and secular-liberal Ireland, then, is that one legislates for Catholic values, whilst the other legislates for secular-liberal values …
I say all this to help ease the shock of what follows or at least the shock it may elicit in those who believe (consciously or unconsciously) that the twenty-first century secular liberalism is the only legitimate template for society.
For Bozell has argued that the increasing cultural decadence we witness is due to secular liberalism. It follows that his antidote to cultural decadence is renouncing secular liberalism and, as he puts it, ‘to build a city hospitable to Christian living.’
And so Bozell outlines his vision for the Christian city. (The fact that Bozell speaks of a city here rather than a Christian state is probably in reference to The Secular City by Harvey Cox – a 1960s book praising secularisation.)
Here, then, is Bozell’s sweeping vision of a society that has discarded the sacred cows of secularism. However, discarding secularism does not spell fascism. For Ireland’s history proves that a society can democratically choose not to be secular. And, no doubt, Bozell’s love of Catholic Ireland partly inspired the vision Bozell outlines here . . .
From Roger Buck, co-author of this site. Click to buy at Amazon worldwide!
Here, in our small preview of my upcoming piece, we cannot feature Bozell’s political vision in depth.
Still, I will include just a little from Bozell himself on his vision of the Christian city:
The first citizen of the city would of course be the Church. She would not govern directly the way a President or Congress does, but she would be the anchor for the whole public thing.
Her articulation of divine and natural laws would be the constitution of the city with which any human legislation would be expected to comport. Her ceremonies and feasts, her penances, would set the rhythm of the public life. Her art and music would fill the streets of the public life. Her compassion for sinners and for suffering, would shape the soul of the public life.
She would invite the poor, whether in spirit or in body, to seek mercy and justice from the Church of the Poor. She would invite the rich to seek poverty in the Church of the Poor. She would do all of her tasks imperfectly, but the city would know that without her it would go adrift. The city would not have a First Amendment.
The city would be built around the family, in the way that physical cities in Christendom were built around a church. Families would thus be hallowed ground, sanctuaries. They would be respected as temples in which the union of love and life are consummated: Breaking them, or breaking into them would call the city to arms.
The city’s weapons would be varied. It could not hold man and wife to love; but it would, by denying legal sanctions to divorce and furnishing social sanctions to discourage it, fortify the place where children learn love from living with their parents. It could not prevent the divorce of love from life in the sex union; but it would exclude contraceptive wares from the public commerce and exclude inducements to them in the public conversation. It could not in every case protect those innocents who have gained entrance to the family by gaining life; but it would save for any known abortionist the coldest fury of the public justice.
It could and would assure peace to the family: the peace of privacy, the peace of independence, the peace of freedom in the rearing and training of children. The city would be traced, however inexactly, in the footsteps of the Holy Family.
Here we are light years from today’s secular Ireland.
But, truly, I think we are not at all far from the Ireland that Éamon de Valera dreamed of.
From Roger Buck, co-author of this site. Click to buy from Amazon worldwide
De Valera, as we noted, drafted the 1937 constitution rooting authority in the Holy Trinity, a constitution which also prohibited divorce. Like Bozell, de Valera was horrified by materialistic decadence and envisioned a Christian society that would continue Ireland’s inheritance from the time of Christian saints and scholars.
As he said in a famous speech from St. Patrick’s day, 1943:
The ideal Ireland that we would have, the Ireland that we dreamed of, would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living, of a people who, satisfied with frugal comfort, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit – a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age. The home, in short, of a people living the life that God desires that men should live.
With the tidings that make such an Ireland possible, St. Patrick came to our ancestors fifteen hundred years ago promising happiness here no less than happiness hereafter. It was the pursuit of such an Ireland that later made our country worthy to be called the island of saints and scholars. It was the idea of such an Ireland – happy, vigorous, spiritual – that fired the imagination of our poets; that made successive generations of patriotic men give their lives to win religious and political liberty; and that will urge men in our own and future generations to die, if need be, so that these liberties may be preserved.
But here are shards, shards of things that haunt my soul.
These shards also feature very much in my upcoming book The Gentle Traditionalist, a story set in Ireland, which among other things seeks to honour the memory of Éamon de Valera, Patrick Pearse, Easter 1916 and the soul of Ireland …
As for L. Brent Bozell, those who want a less disjointed, more comprehensive outline of his political thinking are encouraged to look out for my upcoming piece. It should not be long, now. (Update: it is now here.)
Things at this site should be speeding up, as I prepare for the release of my upcoming books. Thus I am finishing up numerous long-unfinished pieces.
However, although I cannot say more of Bozell now, I would like to quote him, once more, on the subject of Catholic Ireland.
Here, Bozell is writing of Ireland in 1971. Seen in hindsight, it may seem a little naïve. It will also appear – like that galaxy in Star Wars – to speak of an Ireland long ago and far, far away …
It has been known for some time that Irish Prime Minister Jack Lynch would be willing to scrap the privileged status given the Catholic Church in the Irish Constitution so as to please the tiny collection of secularists in the Republic who advocate the legalisation of divorce and birth control.
More recently Lynch has let it be known that he might actively campaign for disestablishment if it would ease Ulster’s ‘suspicions’ of the Catholic Republic. Such a campaign, indeed, might very well be one element in the political deal whose shadow now seems to be falling over Ireland: the terms, as they seem to be shaping up, would involve England’s insisting on political reform in the North to grant full civil rights to Catholics, followed by an “evolution” of Ulster’s status away from the United Kingdom and toward some form of reunification with the Republic. England’s condition, of course, would be that the unified Ireland at the end of the deal be a secularist state. Mr. Lynch, it seems, would oblige.
If ever such a deal were consummated, a crime against history would be committed, the memory of hundreds of martyrs would be insulted, the soul of Ireland would be traduced. And in that event the spiritual sons and daughters of St. Patrick and St. Bridget should unite to wage war for a cause far more noble than equal job opportunities or voting rights. Strengthened as their ancestors were strengthened by the rosary and the Mass – they should fight to the death for the restoration of a Catholic Ireland.