There’s a quote often attributed to Winston Churchill, the prime minister of the United Kingdom during World War II. I don’t know if he said it for certain but the comment, much like he was, is short and to the point:
History is written by the victors.
I like the saying. I don’t see how you can’t. After all, it’s factually true, isn’t it?
Fr. Brian Harrison, an Australian Catholic priest who I have written about before on this blog, explained back in 2002 the meaning of Churchill’s alleged remark:
There is an old saying to the effect that history is written by the victors. The idea is that after a war has been fought, those, who, by emerging as the winners, succeed in controlling the present, can, in a certain sense, control the past as well. They can ensure that the dominant communications media will present the history of the recent conflict from their own viewpoint, depicting themselves, naturally, as the heroes, and the vanquished opposition as the villains. Indeed, it often turns out to be deliciously easy for the all-powerful victors to rewrite that history in such a way as to make it appear that their triumph was not only just and right, but also inevitable: they can depict themselves as simply having moved along on the crest of those great ocean waves of destiny which are supposed to be constantly sweeping human history forward in its inexorable progress toward ever higher levels of maturity, freedom, prosperity, and scientific enlightenment. Such rewriting of history, in short, can often be a powerful weapon in that ‘culture war’ against rationalist secularism in which Catholics have increasingly found themselves immersed over the last century.
If this is accurate, and undoubtedly it is, a question that needs asking is: How do the majority of Catholics today understand history? The answer is obvious. The story goes something like this:
The Catholic Church, following the Protestant Reformation, turned inward on itself. Issuing anathemas and condemnations, the Church embraced legalism and rigidity. Too colored by the French Revolution, the Church grew ever more intransigent, lashing out at the modern world at every turn. This was most evident in Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors, a document that failed to take into account the nuance and importance of the accomplishments of the Enlightenment. What the Syllabus really amounted to is nothing more than a crotchety old man’s bitter anguish over Rome being under siege. his attitude began to shift, however slowly, with Pope Leo XIII, eventually culminating with the papacy of the humble John XXIII. Good Pope John’s simplicity and open-ness to not only the world but also to non-Catholics truly unleashed the Holy Spirit. The Church returned to its roots in the 1960s by re-discovering a deeper awareness of the Early Church, especially Her liturgy. 1600 years of mis-understood teaching on Church-State relations had also finally been revised. So too did the Church free itself from the chains of scribes and pharisees of the law who imposed their Scholastic ideas on the Church since the time of Luther, a man who wasn’t all that bad. We now need to focus on what unites us with others instead of always clinging to what divides us. We are all children of God.
For years I believed this narrative. Many Catholics still buy into it. But this re-construction of the past is misleading. To those who have studied Church teaching before 1962, this story is nothing more than a whitewashing of history by the true victors of the Second Vatican Council – Modernists, Liberals, Progressives, Freemasons, Jews, and others like them.
In an effort to put forth an alternative version of human events since the Protestant Revolution, allow me to first make some citations and then provide some brief thoughts on them.
Abp. Marcel Lefebvre in his book Spiritual Journey:
We will never fully understand the struggle between the good and the wicked throughout history, as long as we do not see it as the personal and unyielding battle for all time between Satan and Jesus Christ.
History is all ordered to a person, who is the center of history, and who is our Lord Jesus Christ.
Fr. Denis Fahey, an Irish priest, in his early 20th century book The Kingship of Christ:
The real history of the world is the acceptance or rejection by the world of God’s plan for the restoration of Divine Life.
History is concerned with individual and contingent facts. In order to discern the supreme causes and laws of the event which historians narrate, we must stand out from, and place ourselves above these event.
To do this with certainty one should, of course, be enlightened by Him who holds all things in the hollow of His hand. Unaided human reason cannot even attempt to give an account of the supreme interest at stake in the world, for in the world, as it is historically, these interests are supernatural.
Human reason strengthened by faith, that is, by the acceptance of the information God has given us about the world through His Son and through the Society founded by Him, can attempt to give this account.
Fr. Juan Carlos Iscara, SSPX:
There is a Christian view of history that attempts to discern the multiplicity of the pattern of God. Some Catholics do not view history this way.
Fr. Iscara’s words cut to the heart of how Catholics should understand the past. But how, one might wonder, can man truly “discern the multiplicity of the pattern of God” since the beginning of time? Carol Robinson, a prolific writer for Integrity magazine in the 1940s and 50s, provides a (partial) answer:
We must first of all see the meaning of history. Time unrolls. It begins with the creation of the world out of nothing. Then there is the beginning of man, the fall, the selection of the Jews as the chosen race, and their history in preparation for the coming of Christ. The Incarnation and the Redemption are the center of history, not the middle-point in years, but the focal point in meaning. After them comes the application of the fruits of the Redemption to successive generations and to all nations until the number of the elect is filled. Then time comes to an end…
Warren Carroll, the founder of Christendom College, held similar views. At one point, he said, “History can be summed up in five words: Truth exists. The Incarnation happened.”
But, it must noted, the vast majority of countries today reject that the Incarnation has any role to play in social ordering. Francis Conklin, in the introduction of a 1992 Neumann Press book on the Eucharist written by Henry Cardinal Manning, said the following about that sad reality:
The Western world, the world formerly denominated Christian, has forsworn Christianity in the Person of the Incarnate Word, and has attempted to implement a culture without a spiritual or moral Foundation. The informing Principle of Christianity was, and will ever be, the abiding Reality of our Lord wholly and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament.
In the sixteenth century, Protestantism arose and attempted to reconstruct Christianity without the Papacy and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: thus religion changed instantly and internally, in all of its aspects, in its very substance and its constituent parts. In that instant of denial, change, distortion and reform, religion became a new thing, a complete departure from the Word Made Flesh, wholly divorced from the Fount of grace and His vicar upon earth.
The denial of the Incarnation, of the Incarnate Word, the True Presence of our Lord in the Sacrament and Sacrifice of the Mass, is the dissolution of the Word made Flesh, the dissolution of the mystical order, and the complete ruin of the order of reality; of such is the work of the Antichrist.
The aforementioned Fr. Fahey agrees. In The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World, he writes:
The decay in the social acceptance of the Divine plan for ordered life, since the 13th century, has had for inevitable consequence the gradual disappearance of supernatural influences and ideals from the political and economic life of nations. This is the first result. There is a second. The elimination of the supernatural from public life is making smooth the path for the coming of the Natural Messiah.
If one takes all of this into account, you can tear away all the myths we have been told about the life of the Church since the 16th century and put forth the following account of history:
Christendom was not perfect but that’s because man is not perfect. Still, it was the fullest manifestation of the Divine Mandate of Christ to go forth and teach all nations. Luther’s heretical ideas and schismatic acts rent the Mystical Body of Christ and led countless souls into hell. His erroneous ideas infected the hearts and minds of untold persons and influence events to this very day. Many of the “accomplishments” of “the modern world” are merely a result of man’s unchecked passions – vain curiosity, intellectual pride, materialism, among other things. The Church, like any good mother, was right to condemn and anathematize the child-like obsessions heretics and the world writ large viewed as noble and good. Liberalism, the political manifestation of Luther’s theology, places man in the place of God in the social life of nations. As such, it plants the seeds for the anti-Christ. To collaborate or to give the impression that such a development is a sign of progress for mankind would be like a doctor prescribing poison to his patients. Holy Mother Church, the only institution on earth capable of defeating this growing enemy, must clearly and forcefully clarify for the sake of the simple-minded the errors of this growing cancer. The Popes of the 19th and early 20th century were not naive, bitter or myopic. They understood the battle the Prince of this World was waging. They relied on principles, centuries old ones, and were acutely aware of the need to defend the Church’s perennial teachings, especially the Social Kingship of Christ and Thomistic theology, against a creeping Modernist mindset. The grave fault of the Church during the 1960s was to view the world, false religions and liberalism as potential allies. Far from unleashing a new springtime in the Church, John XXIII and his successors created a lobotomized Catholic faith, one that without clear denunciations of the evils of the world, has lulled the faithful into a soft and easy going existence that leads them to believe almost everyone is saved. Not just the mass but seemingly everything has changed in the Church. The rotten fruits of these alterations prove they were not inspired by the Holy Spirit. They were nothing more than the novel desires of stubborn men who in the 1940s and 1950s were censured for their blasphemous ideas. God is now punishing His Church for this disobedience by giving to it weak-kneed priests, confused Bishops, Masonic Cardinals and Popes who don’t want to covert anyone to the Catholic faith. The Church is living through its passion, the one predicted by so many Marian apparitions down through the ages.