This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Reformation: or religious Liberalism

That Liberalism is anti-authoritarian and individualistic we take as obvious. If we understand it to be also an error of reductio ad absurdum, severing branch from vine, then it does not take extensive argument to show that Luther’s three solas unquestionably fit the bill. How else can we interpret sola fide (“faith alone”), sola scriptura (“scripture alone”), and sola gratia (“grace alone”) than as partial selections of a pre-existent whole? The atomized nature of these doctrines is itself implicit in the term, sola. They are the tenets of nothing-but-ness. A partial nihilism, but a nihilism all the same. Add to this doctrinal oversimplification the principle of private interpretation, and the concept of a unifying authority evaporates altogether, taking all hopes of traditional unity along with it.

Here we may benefit from a small work by Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany, published in 1886 under the title El Liberalismo es Pecado, or “Liberalism is a Sin.” This thin volume meticulously refutes the errors associated with religious Liberalism, and it is worth noting that he has in mind not only the Reformation but also the Catholic Church, which was being invaded by the same mentality. Many were seeking to ‘reconcile’ the Church with the modern world, a reconciliation that could not occur without the essence of the former being extinguished:

Liberalism is the dogmatic affirmation of the absolute independence of the individual and of the social reason. Catholicity is the dogma of absolute subjection of the individual and of the social order to the revealed law of God. One doctrine is the exact antithesis of the other.[1]

As for the book itself, in case the bluntness of its title and the relative obscurity of its author give pause to the cautious reader, making him suspicious that these are the ramblings of a radical, unsupported by the Catholic Church itself, we should mention that it was initially intercepted by a Bishop of Liberal persuasion on its way to publication. This bishop submitted it to the Sacred Congregation of the Index, in hopes that the work would be put under ban. The Sacred Congregation reviewed the submission and responded on January 10, 1887 as follows:

…not only is nothing found contrary to sound doctrine, but its author, D. Felix Sarda, merits great praise for his exposition and defense of the sound doctrine therein set forth with solidity, order and lucidity, and without personal offense to anyone.

Thus reassured that the book is truly Catholic, we may cite from its pages and hear what case it brings against Luther’s movement:

Rejecting the principle of authority in religion, [Protestantism] has neither criterion nor definition of faith. On the principle that every individual or sect may interpret the deposit of Revelation according to the dictates of private judgment, it gives birth to endless differences and contradictions. Impelled by the law of its own impotence, through lack of any decisive voice of authority in matters of faith, it is forced to recognize as valid and orthodox any belief that springs from the exercise of private judgment. Therefore does it finally arrive, by force of its own premises, at the conclusion that one creed is as good as another; it then seeks to shelter its inconsistency under the false plea of liberty of conscience. Belief is not imposed by a legitimately and divinely constituted authority, but springs directly and freely from the unrestricted exercise of the individual’s reason or caprice upon the subject matter of Revelation. The individual or sect interprets as it pleases—rejecting or accepting what it chooses. This is popularly called liberty of conscience. Accepting this principle, Infidelity, on the same plea, rejects all Revelation, and Protestantism, which handed over the premise, is powerless to protest against the conclusion; for it is clear that one who, under the plea of rational liberty, has the right to repudiate any part of Revelation that may displease him, cannot logically quarrel with one who, on the same ground, repudiates the whole. If one creed is as good as another, on the plea of rational liberty, on the same plea, no creed is as good as any. Taking the field with this fatal weapon of Rationalism, Infidelity has stormed and taken the very citadel of Protestantism, helpless against the foe of its own making.[2]

If we were to characterize the gist of this reasoning, it is that a process which begins in disintegration must proceed toward disorder and terminate in death. Neither can this argument be called a ‘slippery slope’, for he was not conjecturing wildly about what might happen, but was observing what already had. He was merely connecting dots.

Such is the mainspring of the heresy constantly dinned into our ears, flooding our current literature and our press. It is against this that we have to be perpetually vigilant, the more so because it insidiously attacks us on the grounds of a false charity and in the name of a false liberty…

The principle ramifies in many directions, striking root into our domestic, civil, and political life, whose vigor and health depend upon the nourishing and sustaining power of religion. For religion is the bond which unites us to God, the Source and End of all good; and Infidelity, whether virtual, as in Protestantism, or explicit, as in Agnosticism, severs the bond which binds men to God and seeks to build human society on the foundations of man’s absolute independence.[3]

Nothing else need be said at this point regarding Liberalism in its specifically religious manifestation, because in another section we have addressed the question of religion more comprehensively.

[1] Liberalism is a Sin, ch. 6.

[2] Liberalism is a Sin, ch. 2.

[3] Ibid., emphasis mine.

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