If there are gongs that sound in history, one of them would have struck on January 22, 2019. It was a day of infamy for America, the Church and the family.
On that 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and to wild applause, we saw the fast-track approval and signing of the nation’s most radical abortion law in New York State. To add insult to injury, the Reproductive Health Act was signed into law by the state’s “Catholic” governor.
All laws allowing the taking of innocent life are wrong. However, this particular law permitting abortion until birth stands out by the ghoulish enthusiasm of those who celebrate it. The liberal establishment showed its true face on that day. We can expect the same passion will be directed against all those who defend a moral law.
Since that time, other states have enacted similar abortion laws. Other moral issues are igniting ever more aggressive debates. America is entering a new phase of disorder in our polarized society. That is why we urgently need a return to order.
Thus, we need to ask what lies at the core of the problems facing America today. We need to propose solutions that address our needs. The book, Return to Order, is a guide that allows us to look at what it will take to return America to God and Our Lady. Its message of hope shows that a return to God’s Law is not only necessary, but possible.
The Purpose of Culture Is to Unite
To get to the core of what went wrong in America, we need to look at the sad state of our culture today.
The culture is where we live out the values we hold in common. The purpose of culture is not to determine the Truth, but merely to apply It to the circumstances of our daily lives, whether in the fields of art, cuisine, education, the economy or anything else.
Saint Augustine has a very beautiful definition of a people. He said it was a gathered multitude of rational beings united by agreeing to share the things they love. Thus, culture involves the sharing of the things we love.
Culture should be, by definition, something that unites. There must be a point of unity in how we express ourselves. However, that unity allows for an enormous and healthy variety of applications.
This variety within unity makes for a rich culture. A national dish, like apple pie, for example, shares basic ingredients that cannot change, yet allows for an almost infinite number of variations and additional ingredients. So also, a culture celebrates myriad applications inside a unified framework.
A Shattered Culture
America used to celebrate this variety-inside-unity vision of culture. However, this is not the case today. Our culture has been shattered into a thousand pieces. We no longer have things we love together. We no longer can agree to share anything.
This is because we are taught that the only universal truth is that there are no universal truths—only what we experience at the moment. Truth is whatever is true to you right now, values are whatever you happen to value, and you are whatever you self-identify as.
Our culture no longer serves its purpose of unity. When a culture no longer unifies but scatters, it loses its very core. It becomes empty and soulless.
We have fallen victim to a great agitation inside the soul of modern man, which might be called “frenetic intemperance.”
The Dangers of Frenetic Intemperance
Frenetic intemperance is a reckless and restless spirit inside our economy and culture that leads us to throw off legitimate restraints and gratify all desires. It creates a society of unrestraint that is frenzied and out of balance. This frenetic intemperance is undermining and now dominating our culture. It is setting the tone, and tearing our economy and society apart. It is eroding our Faith.
This is a profoundly spiritual problem. It is not just socialist regulation, big government or the Fed. It is not only general godlessness and immorality. These are all symptoms of this general agitation deep inside the soul of modern man.
However, we are in our present state not only because this agitation has entered into our lives but above all because moral values have been taken out. America’s moral core has been removed.
What Happens When There Is no Core
When there is no moral core, everything falls apart. You don’t need big government or rabid liberals to destroy our moral values, institutions and our Christian roots. We help them do it.
When there is no core, we open the door, which allows a hostile culture of bad fashions, pornography and vice to come charging in, undermining faith and economy.
We initiate the process of giving in to our passions whereby we start losing our freedoms, where the economy comes unraveled and the faith is destroyed in the souls of men. All this happens when there is no core, and things become soulless.
Where We Want to Go
Thus, we face the problem of dealing with a soulless society. We need to bring back the core that is missing.
The first step for a return to order is to know where we want to go.
Too many times, we know where we don’t want to go—we don’t want socialism. We don’t want socialized medicine. We don’t want procured abortion. We don’t want secularist education.
However, it is often unclear where we do want to go. So much so that if we were suddenly in a position to change things, we really would not have a solid platform to offer.
The noted Catholic thinker, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, compared our plight to that of a doctor who fights so much against diseases that he loses a notion of what a healthy body is. He may do some good to the body, but he will never really be a good doctor since he does not know the end he seeks.
Thus, we need to take care that our fight against the evils of our days does not cloud the vision of the Christian goals of the healthy society that we seek.
Return to a Framework of Orienting Principles
Our goal must be a return to that missing moral core. This core consists of a framework of orienting principles that is called order.
Order is that state where things function according to their purpose and goal. Russell Kirk said it best when he said: “Order is the first need of the soul.” “Without order, one cannot be free,” continues Kirk. “Freedom, justice, law or virtue are all extremely important but order is the first and most basic need.”
When we have a framework of order in place, the influence of vital institutions like family, community and the Church can naturally serve as braking mechanisms that diminish the effects of frenetic intemperance and facilitate the practice of virtue.
When there is order, it gives rise to what Kirk referred to as the “permanent things,” which should govern society. This includes those norms of courage, duty, honor, justice and charity that owe their existence and authority, not to markets or politicians—but to God Himself.
Why a Return to Order Is Needed
And so we need a framework of order…but not just any order. All sorts of people propose orders: socialist orders, green orders or green “new deal” orders, and so many others that promise order yet deliver tyranny.
That is why we must return to order. We don’t have to invent order. It already exists. It is nothing new. It is a social order that comes from our human nature itself, valid for all times and all peoples.
It is a social order that is not imposed; it cannot be regulated, stimulated or legislated into existence. It relies upon those natural regulating institutions inside society that always emerge when men resolve to unite in search of the common good.
It is firmly based on the orienting principles of natural law, the Ten Commandments and rooted in the social institutions of family, community and faith. Though it applies to everyone, the Church is its best and most secure guardian.
Organic Christian Society
The best expression of this order is found in what is called an organic Christian society. It is a return to our distant roots. It is where we came from. This organic Christian society historically existed in Christendom. Thus, it involves returning not to a historical past but a return to a core of ordering principles that brought us so many of the institutions that are now fading—the rule of law, representative government, traditional family and subsidiarity.
This society can be termed “organic” because it is modeled after the family and its warm, loving relationships. It has nothing of the cold bureaucratic machine that favors the socialist model. Organic society brings with it notions of honor, leadership, authenticity, craftsmanship, profession and calling. It is full of vitality and spontaneity, nuance and meaning, poetry and passion. It is the core that puts the soul back into society.
We should not be afraid to say that we desire a Catholic order and not a secular system. When an organic order is Christian, it multiplies the possibilities of our action because we include God and His grace in partnership.
The Catholic ideal brings with it notions of charity, justice, and dignity that did not exist in other civilizations. It becomes easier to practice virtue—especially the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. It lays the foundation for true progress, freedom and prosperity, not just for Catholics but everyone.
We desperately need a return to this order. We need to go back to our moral core because there is no other place to go. We must see this as an essential battle because the alternative is not just another lifestyle or group of lifestyles. It is the descent into chaos of the worst sort.
Find the Means to Return
Some essential steps must be taken to return to order. The first one is to resist the temptation to leave the fight or isolate oneself—to take the so-called Benedict Option.
Contrary to what is now said, Saint Benedict did not write off the pagan world of his time and withdraw into communities awaiting better days. Historically, he engaged the pagan culture around him, burning their sacred forests and toppling their idols. If there was anyone who did not take the Benedict Option, it was Saint Benedict.
We must remember that a return to order is possible because our ideals are very powerful and attractive. Our Catholic position is, by its nature, constructive. And the secular leftist agenda is by its nature destructive because it undermines morality and authority.
However, our Christian ideals are only powerful to the extent that they are presented correctly and unapologetically. We must act upon them with energy and determination. We must be beacons of order in a world of disorder. We must always be faithful to our very powerful principles. We cannot dilute or adulterate them to cave into the politically correct times.
One final reason why a return to order is possible is that we can count on the help of God and His grace.
Counting on God’s Help
We have very powerful ideas, but God is much more than a powerful idea. He is an almighty, powerful God. His grace can touch and change the most hardened sinner. His wrath can overcome the most challenging obstacles. We can, therefore, rely upon God’s help for this return to order.
We have only to make the effort to return. We must be convinced that God and Our Blessed Mother desire our grand return home much more than we do. When God finds effort on our part, He is not outdone in His generosity, and will favor our endeavors.