Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira: Man of Faith and Action
A Tribute to the Great Catholic Counter-Revolutionary Leader
Comforted by the Sacraments of the Catholic Church and having received the Apostolic Blessing, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, founder of the Brazilian Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) and inspirer of 24 other TFPs and kindred associations around the world, rendered his soul to God on October 3 in São Paulo, Brazil.
87 Years of Life, 67 Years of Militancy in Favor of Tradition, Family, and Private Property
The life of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira spanned most of our convulsed century, indelibly marking it with his unblemished example; his consistent and vibrant thought; his steadfast Roman Catholic Faith; his intrepid defense of the principles he professed; and his deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom he consecrated himself in his early youth as a slave of love according to the teaching of Saint Louis de Montfort. In her he placed all his hopes.
On this sorrowful occasion, filled with the hope engendered by the Faith, the directors, members, and supporters of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), with the other 24 autonomous TFPs and kindred organizations on 6 continents, wish to render him grateful homage. His writings and work inspired the founding of all these organizations, and in these troubled times he guided, above all by his example, the ideological fight for Christian civilization.
Simply but eloquently, the facts speak for themselves in the rendering of this homage. We present here, therefore, highlights of the life and work of this gifted man, whose merits and valor history will honor.
An Illustrious Family
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira was born in São Paulo, Brazil, on December 13, 1908. His father, Dr. João Paulo Corrêa de Oliveira, and his mother, Dona Lucília Ribeiro dos Santos, had distinguished lineages.
Sugar plantation owners in the State of Pernambuco, the Corrêa de Oliveiras descended from heroes of the seventeenth-century war against the Dutch. Family members included such outstanding public figures as Councillor João Alfredo Corrêa de Oliveira, life senator of the Empire and member of Emperor Pedro II’s Privy Council. As Prime Minister, João Alfredo enacted the “Golden Law,” which abolished slavery in Brazil, on May 13, 1888. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s grandfather Leodegário Corrêa de Oliveira was this famous statesman’s brother.
His mother, Dona Lucília, was one of the “400-Year Paulistas,” descendants of the founders or settlers of the city of São Paulo. Several of her ancestors were famous bandeirantes, the armed explorers of Brazil’s colonization. Her ancestor Prof. Gabriel José Rodrigues dos Santos, who distinguished himself during the reign of Emperor Pedro II, held a chair at the Law School of São Paulo and was a renowned orator and congressman.
An incomparable educator, Dona Lucília, with her characteristic gentleness, nourished in the soul of her son a devotion to the Roman Catholic Faith, for which he would battle throughout his life. When surrendering her soul to God, this traditional Paulista lady received a son’s greatest eulogy: “Mother taught me to love Our Lord Jesus Christ; she taught me to love the Holy Catholic Church.”
“When Still Very Young”
After a childhood under the solicitous gaze of his mother, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira entered the Jesuit Colégio São Luiz in São Paulo.
Already much given to logic, he developed there a life-long admiration for the methods of formation of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.
Unfortunately, he also encountered moral dissoluteness, vulgarity, and egalitarianism in a significant number of classmates.
Confronted with the contrast between their way of life and the chaste and traditional atmosphere of his home, he resolved to dedicate his life to the defense of the Church and the restoration of Christian civilization.
How could anyone not admire a person who, with a rosy future before him, chose a life consecrated to principles brutally contested by many?
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira clearly possessed the prerequisites for material success in intellectual, political, and professional pursuits. In him, lineage and personal qualities of mind and soul were harmoniously linked. Had he conformed to the prevailing winds of moral decline and religious indifferentism, all the doors to a brilliant career would have been open.
With his Catholic Faith and courage, he charted another course for his life. He summarized his decision in resounding words:
When still very young,
I marveled at the ruins of Christendom,
Gave them my heart,
Turned my back on all I could expect,
And made of that past full of blessings
Early Public Action
In September of 1928, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, a 19-year-old university student, attended a Catholic Youth Congress. This was his first contact with the Marian Congregations, then just beginning to expand. In them he found an ambience receptive to the ideals and ideas that had been taking shape in his spirit from childhood. Here began the noble feats of his public life.
Noted for the talents Divine Providence had given him, he flourished as an orator and man of action, becoming the leading figure of Brazil’s Catholic movement.
In 1929, joined by a few fellow students who also belonged to the Marian Congregations, he founded Catholic University Action (CUA) at the historic Law School of São Paulo, a secularist bastion. CUA grew in numbers and influence, and quickly spread to the other universities in São Paulo.
The Youngest Congressman
When elections were called at the end of 1932 for Brazil’s Constitutional Convention, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira proposed and helped organize the Catholic Electoral League. With its support, he was elected to Congress as the country’s youngest representative at the age of 24. He received the largest number of votes—twice as many as the next successful candidate in the State of São Paulo. He served as one of the leaders of the Catholic congressional bloc.
The testimony of people who cannot be suspected of bias in his favor provides an idea of his decisive role at this crossroads of Brazilian history.
In the words of Osvaldo Aranha, who headed several ministries and later served as ambassador to the United States and president of the U.N. General Assembly, “Brazil would be definitively to the left today if the Catholics had not united to intervene in the elections of 1933” (Legionário, December 12, 1936).
Much later, Former Minister of Justice Paulo Brossard would affirm: “In the history of Brazil, no independent political organization had more electoral influence than the Catholic Electoral League” (Jornal de Minas, June 3, 1986).
Professor, and Director of Legionário
At the end of his congressional term, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira devoted himself to university teaching. He assumed the chair of History of Civilization at the University College of the University of São Paulo Law School and, subsequently, the chair of Modern and Contemporary History in the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo’s São Bento and Sedes Sapientiae Departments of Philosophy, Science, and Literature.
He also dedicated himself to philosophical and religious analysis of the contemporary crises. Legionário, a parish paper that became the semi-official weekly organ of the Archdiocese of São Paulo under his direction, records many of his penetrating insights. His critical observation of the march of events often led him to foretell the future with uncanny accuracy.
For instance, at the peak of Nazism’s political clash with communism—when even most opponents of Nazism considered it a true enemy of communism—few would have dared predict an agreement between Hitler and Stalin. Consequently, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira surprised readers when he categorically anticipated this approximation: “As the various camps define themselves, one movement becomes clearer; namely, the doctrinal fusion of Nazism with communism. In our view, 1939 will see the completion of this fusion’’ (Legionário, January 1, 1939).
Eight months later, Germany and Russia signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov non-aggression pact as well as secret protocols on the German and Soviet spheres of influence in Eastern Europe.
As the Nazi-Communist collaboration intensified, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira warned: “The Germano-Russian pact was a mistake [for it unmasked Nazism’s pseudo-anticommunism]. Soon enough, Hitler and Stalin might once again play enemies—to scare the bourgeois and fool the public” (Legionário, September 17, 1939).
On December 8, 1940, months before Nazi Germany’s stunning invasion of Russia, he insisted: “Legionário has repeatedly affirmed that the Nazi-Soviet masquerade may start anew at any time and that today or tomorrow Moscow and Berlin may well reenact the farce of mutual antagonism that brought them such sizable advantages.”
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira maintained a vigorous editorial policy against Nazism and fascism at a time when they had numerous and influential sympathizers in Brazil, even in the ranks of the clergy. Against the prevailing fashion, Legionário published 2,489 articles attacking Nazism and fascism, 447 of them written by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira himself.
In Defense of Catholic Action
In 1943, as President of the Archdiocesan Board of Catholic Action in São Paulo, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira published his first book, In Defense of Catholic Action, with a foreword by the Papal Nuncio to Brazil, Bento Aloisi Masella (later Cardinal and Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church). A keen analysis of the first stages of the progressivist and leftist infiltration of Catholic Action, the work denounces a movement among the laity to undermine the Church’s principle of authority. In the social realm, this movement repudiated just and harmonious inequalities and advocated class struggle.
In a few years, events confirmed the book’s thesis. For example, the leftist infiltration of sectors of the Brazilian clergy reached enormous proportions.
The Holy See eloquently validated the book’s denunciations. Msgr. Giovanni B. Montini, then Substitute Secretary of State of the Holy See and later Pope Paul VI, wrote the author in the name of Pius XII:
His Holiness is very pleased with you for having explained and defended Catholic Action…with penetration and clarity….
The August Pontiff hopes with all his heart that this work of yours results in rich and mature fruits and that from it you may harvest neither small nor few consolations. And as a pledge that it be so, he grants you the Apostolic Blessing.
Paradoxically, even though twenty prominent Brazilian bishops praised the book in writing, the harshest criticism of it came from other members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, whose rights and authority the author was defending.
The book achieved its author’s goal. Progressivism was definitively unmasked in Brazil and would never again advance under the guise of piety. Catholic public opinion thenceforth viewed progressivism with suspicion.
Lacking arguments to refute the book, progressivists among the clergy resorted to destroying Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s means of action. He suffered a storm of calumnies, was removed from leadership positions among the Catholic laity and, finally, lost one of his main forums, Legionário.
The First TFP
Little did these progressivists realize that they were creating conditions for the founding of the TFP. With his few associates from Legionário gathered around him, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira launched the cultural monthly Catolicismo, whose principal contributor he would remain until his last days.
Catolicismo soon became one of the poles of thought of the Brazilian Catholic press, and its renown crossed the borders of the country and even the oceans.
The expansion of the Legionário remnant gave rise in 1960 to the Brazilian Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.
In a materialistic world that had turned its back on the past, raising a standard around this trilogy was so daring that many deemed it fatal madness. Yet today, the triad Tradition, Family, Property is a point of reference on six continents, a beacon amid the darkness of the contemporary chaos. In 25 countries, TFP organizations unceasingly proclaim that only in fidelity to the eternal principles of revealed truth, taught by the Holy Catholic Church, can one build an authentic civilization: Christian civilization.
Revolution and Counter-Revolution: “A Prophetic Work”
Revolution and Counter-Revolution is Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s magnum opus. First published in 1959, and expanded in 1976 and 1992, it has appeared in numerous editions in the Americas and Europe. It is the handbook of the directors, members, and supporters of the TFPs and like organizations around the world, all of them inspired by this magistral work and the singular example of its author.
Revolution and Counter-Revolution is a philosophical, historical, and sociological analysis of the crises of the Western world, from the advent of Humanism, the Renaissance, and Protestantism to our day. It decisively demonstrates the correlation between these movements and the French Revolution of 1789, the Russian Revolution of 1917, the student rebellions of the 1960s (with their espousal of sexual freedom along with sociopolitical and economic concepts later promoted as “self-managing socialism”) and the present transformations in the former Soviet bloc and in the West.
These developments are but stages of a single gnostic and egalitarian process, which for five centuries has been destroying Christian civilization and the benefic temporal influence of the Holy Catholic Church. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira named this process “Revolution,” and responds to it with the Counter-Revolution, whose goals and methods he outlines. It is a noble ideal that calls contemporary man to reject the Revolution in toto and to restore the Christian spiritual and temporal orders to their full splendor.
Many distinguished figures from the clergy and the laity have highly recommended Revolution and Counter-Revolution. The internationally-renowned canonist Fr. Anastasio Gutiérrez, C.M.F., cofounder of the Institutum Iuridicum Claretianum of Rome and consultant to several Vatican dicasteries, wrote:
“Revolution and Counter-Revolution” is a masterful work whose teachings should be disseminated far and wide so as to penetrate the conscience, not only of all those who consider themselves truly Catholic, but I would say even more, of all men of good will….
In sum, I would dare to affirm that this is a prophetic work in the most elevated sense of the word. It should be taught in the Church’s centers of higher education….
This letter would not be complete unless I congratulated the TFP for the stature and quality of its founder, Prof. Plinio. I foresee a vast development and a future full of counter-revolutionary successes for the TFP, something I desire with all my soul.
I conclude stating that the spirit with which this work is written greatly impresses me: It is a profoundly Christian spirit, one with a passionate love for the Church. This book is an authentic product of Christian wisdom. It is moving to find in a layman such a sincere devotion to the Mother of Jesus and ours—a clear sign of predestination.
The doctrines expounded in Revolution and Counter-Revolution are the most faithful expression of the ideal and goals Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira strove for throughout his long and fruitful life. In it we find the words that best define Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, the counter-revolutionary par excellence:
The real counter-revolutionary is one who:
- knows the Revolution, order, and the Counter-Revolution in their respective spirits, doctrines, and methods;
- loves the Counter-Revolution and Christian order, and hates the Revolution and “anti-order”;
- makes of this love and this hatred the axis around which revolve all his ideals, preferences, and activities.
Decisive Role in Brazilian History
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira actualized this life-long ideal. For instance, as president of the Brazilian TFP, he had a decisive role in the contemporary history of Brazil, alerting and directing public opinion at crucial moments.
His many public stands against socialist-inspired confiscatory “land reforms,” beginning in 1960 with the best-seller Land Reform: A Question of Conscience, were decisive in awakening the vital forces of the nation. Brazil is an agricultural giant dependent on farming and in need of more farmers to cultivate its immense empty fertile lands. Preventing the enemies of private ownership from implementing their disastrous policies and destroying Brazil’s farming base, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira saved Brazil from communism. Land reforms like those he defeated in Brazil have inflicted untold misery on the populations of Cuba, Nicaragua, Ukraine, and so many other countries once behind the Iron Curtain.
Likewise, his timely denunciations of communist infiltration of the Church alerted Catholic public opinion, thwarting communism’s only chance to gain popular influence in Catholic Brazil.
One of these denunciations is particularly memorable: the 1968 petition to Pope Paul VI, signed by over 1.6 million Brazilians, requesting measures against leftist infiltration of Catholic circles. With the signatures collected in other South American countries, the total surpassed 2 million.
In 1976, given communism’s renewed activity in Brazil and especially the magnitude of its infiltration of Catholic circles, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira published The Church in Face of the Growing Communist Threat: An Appeal to the Silent Bishops. Distributed throughout the country, the book revived the anticommunist sentiment of important sectors of public opinion. According to the Rome-based journalist Rocco Morabito, the book was to be seen on Vatican desks as well (cf. O Estado de São Paulo, April 8, 1977).
Another of Prof. Corrêa de Oliveira’s works merits special mention. Indian Tribalism: Communist-Missionary Ideal for Brazil in the 21st Century. Published in 1977, it denounces a new development of progressivism: the neo-missiology of communist-structuralist orientation, which advocates a system even more radical than the failed Soviet-style state capitalism. In this work, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira foresaw the radical environmentalist demands made 15 years later by NGOs at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio.
Targeting Self-Managing Socialism
Prof. Corrêa de Oliveira’s most widely published work was What Does Self-Managing Socialism Mean for Communism? A Barrier or a Bridgehead? This 1981 exposé and analysis of the platform of newly-elected French President Mitterrand appeared in full or summary in magazines and newspapers in 52 countries. Some 33.5 million copies circulated internationally.
Prior to Mitterrand’s election the expression “self-managing socialism” had become the rage in leftist circles worldwide, virtually assuming the qualities of a talisman.
The French Socialist Party affirmed its determination to use France’s prestige and cultural influence to promote self-managing socialism around the globe. Mitterrand elaborated a foreign policy of ideological expansionism and political interventionism.
The repercussion of Prof. Corrêa de Oliveira’s exposé, according to political and historical commentators, was certainly a factor, perhaps the greatest, in the decline of self-managing socialism. Its proponents contented themselves with the enjoyment of office, lacking the dynamism to attain their grandiose goals of 1981.
History’s Largest Petition Drive
In his 1965 address to the Third Latin American Lithuanian Congress convened in São Paulo. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira suggested an international petition asking President Lyndon Johnson to make Baltic independence a condition for dialogue with Soviet Russia. Nothing came of the idea at the time.
Twenty-five years later, however, at a decisive moment in the Soviet crisis, the Brazilian TFP, under his direction, embarked on a campaign in support of a free Lithuania. Its sister organizations immediately joined the effort, extending it across six continents. The resulting petition drive, which gathered over 5.2 million signatures, is registered in the 1993 Guinness Book of Records as history’s largest. More importantly, this campaign, according to the Lithuanian government, undeniably aided the Baltic nation’s successful quest for independence from Soviet occupation.
Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites
In 1993, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira published what was to be his last book: Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII. Based on the teachings of this Pontiff to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility, the work is a bold response to the liberal pseudo-elites at the forefront of today’s cultural revolution. It amply demonstrates the duty of authentic elites—bearers of invaluable religious and cultural traditions—to make a decisive contribution to solving the contemporary crises by fulfilling their leadership role.
This widely acclaimed book has been published in five languages. Its American edition, which features a comprehensive study of the role of elites in American history, was launched at the prestigious Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., in September of 1993.
The many letters of approbation received by the author include those of Cardinals Silvio Oddi, Mario Luigi Ciappi, Alfons Stickler, and Bernardino Echeverría Ruiz; Fr. Anastasio Gutiérrez, C.M.F.; and the renowned Dominican theologians Fr. Raimondo Spiazzi and Fr. Victorino Rodríguez y Rodríguez.
Prof. Corrêa de Oliveira concludes the first part of his final book with a thought-provoking and potentially prophetic commentary:
At the moment of this writing, the nations that constituted the U.S.S.R. have separated. Frictions among them are increasing, deepened as they are by the fact that some of these nations have the means to unleash an atomic war.
It is not improbable that an armed conflict within the former U.S.S.R. would lead to the involvement of major Western nations, with consequences of apocalyptic dimension. One of these consequences could easily be the migration of entire populations pressed by fear of war and actual famine to Central and Western Europe. This migration could assume a critical character of unpredictable scope….
To complete this panorama, we should consider the possible reaction of the Maghreb in face of a Western Europe enmeshed in problems of this magnitude, as well as developments throughout northern Africa and the profound impact of the immense fundamentalist wave sweeping the peoples of Islam, of which the Maghreb is an integral part. Who can predict with certainty the extremes to which these factors of instability will bring the world, and especially the Christian world?
For the time being, the latter is not engulfed in the triple drama of a seemingly peaceful invasion from the East, a probably less peaceful invasion from Africa, and an eventual worldwide conflagration. However, the fatal outcome of the long revolutionary process…is already within sight.
…Under its pressure the former U.S.S.R. lies in ruins—sinister, mysterious, and rotten like a fruit long-since fallen from the branch.
…And what is this most recent ruin generating if not a general confusion that constantly threatens imminent and contradictory catastrophes, which disintegrate before falling upon the world, thus begetting prospects of new catastrophes even more imminent and contradictory? These may vanish in turn, only to give way to new monsters. Or they may become frightful realities, like the migration of Slavic hordes from the East to the West, or Moslem hordes from the South to the North.
Who knows? Will this actually happen? Will this be all? Will it be even worse than this?
Such a picture would discourage all men who lack Faith. Those with Faith, however, can already hear a voice coming from beyond this confused and grim horizon. The voice, capable of inspiring the most encouraging confidence, says: “Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph!”
So there are reasons for hope. Hope for what? For the help of Providence in any work performed with vision, rigor, and method to defend the world from the threats hanging over mankind like so many swords of Damocles.
It behooves us, then, to pray, confide in Providence, and act.
“A Most Faithful Echo of All the Documents of the Supreme Magisterium”
Though the TFP achievements due to the incentive of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira are too numerous to even list here, it was not action that most characterized his life.
Before all else, he was a man of Faith—not a common faith, but a profound, reverent, enthusiastic, and abiding faith in the one true Church of the one true God: the Holy Roman Catholic Church. His Faith and his deep love for Holy Mother Church shine in this meditation—chosen from among so many—on the Way of the Cross.
The representation of the Divine Face was made on the veil [of Veronica] as in a painting. In the Holy, Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, His Face is reflected as in a mirror.
In her institutions, in her doctrine, in her laws, in her unity, in her universality, in her unsurpassable catholicity, the Church is a true mirror in which our Divine Savior is reflected. Furthermore, she is the very Mystical Body of Christ….
Belonging to the Church is a very great and very demanding thing. We must think as the Church thinks, have the mind of the Church, proceed as the Church wishes in all the circumstances of our lives. This supposes a real Catholic sense, an authentic and complete purity of customs, and a profound and sincere piety. In other words, it supposes the sacrifice of an entire lifetime (Catolicismo, March 1951).
Constant devotion to the Supreme Pontiff was a corollary of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s profound love of the Holy Church. As he reaffirmed in one of his last conferences to TFP youth, his final breath would be an act of love, veneration, and fidelity to the Papacy.
This same spirit guided his pen as he wrote Revolution and Counter-Revolution. He did not want to close that work
without a tribute of filial devotion and unrestricted obedience to the “sweet Christ on earth,” the pillar and infallible foundation of the Truth….
“Ubi Ecclesia ibi Christus, ubi Petrus ibi Ecclesia” (“Where the Church is, there is Christ; where Peter is, there is the Church”). It is then to the Holy Father that we direct our love, our enthusiasm, our dedication….
We have not the slightest doubt in our heart about any of the theses that constitute this work. Nevertheless, we subject them unrestrictedly to the judgment of the Vicar of Christ and are disposed to renounce immediately any one of them if it depart even slightly from the teaching of the Holy Church, our Mother, the Ark of Salvation, and the Gate of Heaven.
This unconditional submission to the Supreme Magisterium of the Church, manifest in all his acts, words, and writings, merited the recognition of the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities. In a letter acclaiming Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s The Church and the Communist State: The Impossible Coexistence (1963), Cardinal Giuseppe Pizzardo, Prefect of the Congregation, wrote:
We congratulate…the eminent author, justly celebrated for his philosophical, historical, and sociological knowledge, and we wish the widest circulation for this compact booklet, which is a most faithful echo of all the Documents of the Supreme Magisterium of the Church, including the luminous encyclicals “Mater et Magistra” of John XXIII and “Ecclesiam Suam” of Paul VI.
The Church and the Communist State was read around the world, with editions in 10 languages, more than 40 printings, and 340,000 copies sold.
Like the preceding work, his Unperceived Ideological Transshipment and Dialogue (1965) provoked polemics even behind the Iron Curtain. It denounces a cunning process of subconscious persuasion adopted in communist propaganda, where talismanic words such as “dialogue,” “peaceful coexistence,” and “peace” acquire capital importance.
Profound Marian and Eucharistic Devotion
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira was a paladin of devotion to Our Lady. His conduct, writing, and speech reflected the intimate union a Catholic should have with the Mother of God, the mediatrix of all graces.
Tireless in recommending constant recourse to Our Lady, he never lost an opportunity to gain for her another devotee, to exalt her name, to place her image in some fitting location, to suggest an act of Marian piety.
Many were the times that TFP youths requesting a counsel heard him say, “Have more devotion to Our Lady.”
The Rosary, the renewal of his consecration as a slave to Mary, the Litany and Little Office of the Blessed Virgin were among his daily devotions. His pious practices included the use of the Scapular and Miraculous Medal and visits to Marian shrines.
While the Marian Congregations, to the misfortune of Brazil and the world, have declined over the past 50 years, the flourishing devotion to Mary that characterized them in their springtime continued to grow in Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira.
His Eucharistic piety was no less ardent. From the time of his entry into the Catholic movement, he assiduously encouraged daily Communion, a source of strength for him in his counter-revolutionary ideological struggle.
A True Brazilian
The largest Brazilian daily once termed Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira “the embodiment of Brazilian cordiality” (Folha de São Paulo, January 11, 1979). His kindness and affability captivated those who knew him; his intelligence was agile and intuitive. He was truly the personification of the Brazilian people’s best qualities.
He loved his country. Beyond Brazil’s present crisis—which he regarded as primarily religious and moral—he saw a magnificent future, proportional to the generosity of soul of its people and the immensity of its territory. This future would be a civilization under the sign of the Cross—symbolized by the Southern Cross admirably set in the austral skies as though to remind Brazilians of their calling.
In an outdoor speech at the Fourth National Eucharistic Congress in 1942, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, thunderously applauded by hundreds of thousands, stated:
Brazil’s providential mission consists in growing within its borders, developing here the splendors of a civilization that is genuinely Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic, and lovingly illuminating the whole world with the rays of this great light, which is but the “lumen Christi” that the Church radiates….
If one day Brazil is great, it will be for the good of the entire world: “He that is the greater, let him become as he that serveth,” said the Redeemer. Brazil will not be great by conquest, but by the Faith; it will not be rich so much by money as by its generosity. In truth, if we know how to be faithful to the Rome of the Popes, our city can be a new Jerusalem, of perfect beauty, honor, glory, and joy for the whole world.
An Admirer of the True America
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s spirit was universal and all-embracing, quick to recognize and admire the qualities of other nations, especially those where Christian civilization had shone with greater splendor.
He saw that the Revolution’s centuries-long attempt to overthrow venerable traditions and the basic principles of Christian civilization had advanced as much in the United States as elsewhere. However, here, more than anywhere, he saw the growth, especially in the last 15 years, of such wholesome attitudes among large sectors of the public as opposition to moral decadence, appreciation for refined manners, and readiness for heroism.
Observing this phenomenon, he elaborated one of his favorite theses: Just as before World War I the Austro-Hungarian Empire was the bulwark of the principles and traditions of Christian civilization, so today the United States is the bastion against the Revolution’s effort to immerse the world in chaos. This explains the enmity of the adversaries of Christian civilization toward our country, which they wish to see destroyed like the Habsburg Empire.
He used to counsel Americans: You will be victorious only if you add to extreme vigilance and perspicacity the conviction of your high mission. More than extending your industrial, commercial, and financial might, more than obtaining brilliant military victories or dazzling the world with your temporal wealth, you have the mission of using your enormous worldwide influence to bar the path of the gnostic and egalitarian Revolution and to promote the restoration of Christian civilization.
Founder and Father
Although civic associations, the TFPs are somewhat analogous to religious orders or congregations. Consequently, the relationship between Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira and TFP members was analogous to that between the founder of a religious institution and his disciples.
His exemplary life, his unshakable Faith, his intense piety sustained and still sustain all TFP members. Not a few of them owe him their perseverance in the Faith; many others, modern-day prodigal sons lost down worldly paths, owe him their return to the Faith.
His solicitude for each and every associate of the TFPs seemed unlimited. He was a father to every TFP member. Never was his solicitude greater than when the spiritual welfare of those placed by Providence under his care was involved. Never did he neglect, an opportunity to offer a word of counsel or encouragement or to perform an act of kindness.
On these occasions it was especially patent that he had been favored by Providence with an extraordinary supernatural gift: a knowledge of the secrets of hearts. The unfailing soundness of his counsel, and his keen discernment of character and even thoughts, were testimony to this prodigious grace.
These are some of the milestones in the life of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, who worked tirelessly until the end. His week included four general meetings for TFP members and daily meetings with members of various TFP task forces or study commissions. As a result, his work day usually lasted until 3 a.m.
If his 16 major works and his other published writings—more than 2,500—reflect his dynamism, more impressive still is the number of meetings and conferences he held for TFP associates during the last 35 years. It exceeds 20,000.
The unforgettable weekly Saturday meeting on world news was one of the highlights of the internal life of the TFP. This meeting had its origin in the times of Legionário, when Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, using articles from the Brazilian and international press, instructed his first companions with penetrating insights on current events in the light of timeless Christian doctrines.
Over the decades, following sound Catholic pedagogy, he diversified his themes and methods of exposition, adapting them to his listeners, who were captivated by his impeccable logic, crystalline clarity, and beauty of expression.
A School of Thought and Action
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira founded a school of thought and action. It is characterized, above all, by total and enthusiastic adhesion to the doctrine of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, expressed in the teachings of the Roman Pontiffs and the ecclesiastical magisterium in general.
“I am a convinced Thomist,” reads the simple, clear, and categorical sentence that opens his yet unpublished “Philosophical Self-Portrait.”
From an analysis of reality in the light of the Faith, he deduced a series of theoretico-practical principles, which permeate his writings. A synopsis of many of these principles can be found in Revolution and Counter-Revolution.
One of his foremost interests was the explication of the principles that should guide the development of a society inspired by Catholic doctrine. Revolution and Counter-Revolution presents his conclusion in concise terms:
If the Revolution is disorder, the Counter-Revolution is the restoration of order. And by order we mean the peace of Christ in the Reign of Christ, that is, Christian civilization, austere and hierarchical, fundamentally sacral, anti-egalitarian, and anti-liberal.
According to the medieval chronicles, Godfrey of Bouillon, leader of the First Crusade, was incredibly strong. When asked about the source of his strength, he would reply: “I am strong because I am chaste.”
The ideological crusade Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira idealized demanded of him a strength of soul superior in many ways to Duke Godfrey’s. Disregarding servile fear and human respect, he had the courage to navigate alone against the tide of what was reckoned modern and to nobly confront many persecutions.
He found fortitude to wage this struggle above all in the aid of the Blessed Virgin, but like Godfrey of Bouillon he could affirm: “I am strong because I am chaste.”
Combative chastity, fearless chastity, was an ideal he transmitted to his disciples in the Counter-Revolution.
Aristocrat by his birth and noble by his life, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira projected what Pope Pius XII saw as a noble’s principal attributes: strength of soul, readiness for action, generous adherence to the tenets of Christian doctrine and life, aristocratic chivalrous conduct, and humility with grandeur. To his sense of honor and gentility were added the tact and prudence of a diplomat and the perspicacity of a strategist.
Those qualities led him to devise a unique means of publicity, now used by all the TFPs: street campaigns with red capes and tall red banners emblazoned with a golden lion. TFP members on campaign, in direct contact with the public, bring to mind medieval chivalry. This once prompted a well-known Brazilian journalist to remark on “the grand charm of the TFP.”
In view of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s tireless fight against all the causes of moral disintegration in today’s society, we can truthfully call him the Crusader of the twentieth century.
A Victim Soul
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, who was wont to affirm, “The Holy Catholic Church is the light of my life,” was deeply distressed by the crisis that has afflicted the Mystical Spouse of Christ over the last 30 years. The gravity of this crisis led Paul VI to liken it to a “self-destruction” (allocution of December 7, 1968). John Paul II, also alluding to it, stated: “Outright heresies in the dogmatic and moral fields have been disseminated, creating doubt, confusion, and rebellion” (allocution of February 6, 1981).
To Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, the Holy Church’s sad situation—which aggravates the already acute problems of Western society—seemed insoluble without the aid of Heaven. To him, the hastening of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary—promised by Our Lady herself at Fatima—required souls who would offer to take on heroic sufferings, according to the 2,000-year-old custom of the Church.
During a TFP meeting on the night of February 1, 1975, he explicitly offered himself as a victim soul for this intention. Thirty-six hours later he was seriously injured in a car accident. Its effects lasted the rest of his life.
For twenty years, he bore multiple sufferings with admirable resolution. These culminated in a grave infirmity, for which he was admitted to São Paulo’s Hospital Alemão Oswaldo Cruz on September 1 of this year. He had endured more than a month of indescribable suffering when the hand of God took him to celestial glory.
“Unto Thee I Lift Up My Eyes”
Despite the radical changes in outlooks and lifestyles over the 87 years of his life, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira remained faithful to his early ideals. His consistency merited him respect even among his adversaries. In success and in reversal, in advance and in retreat, unbending even in the worst of storms, always holding high the standard of his convictions and proclaiming them with spirited bravery, he was true to his vocation.
Edified by his life’s luminous course, which points to true solutions for the contemporary crises, we express in this sorrowful hour, filled with inextinguishable yearnings, our admiration and gratitude for everything Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira was and did in 87 years of life and 67 years of heroic endeavors.
In union with the devotion at the core of the soul of this peerless champion, we turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom our admiration and gratitude are ultimately due. She—the Star of the Sea, the Morning Star that guided his life—gave him a hero’s strength.
Determined to persevere in his path, we make our own the words with which he closes Revolution and Counter-Revolution:
Amid today’s chaos, only one thing will not fail, namely, the prayer…which is in my heart and on my lips, just as it is in the heart of all who see and think as I do: “Unto thee I lift up my eyes, unto thee, who dwellest in the heavens. See how the eyes of servants are fixed on the hands of their masters, the eyes of a handmaid on the hand of her mistress” (Psalm 122:1-2). So our eyes are fixed on Our Lady and Mother, waiting for her to have mercy on us.
Behold the affirmation of unvarying confidence of the Catholic soul, which kneels but remains firm amid the general convulsion—firm with all the firmness of those who, in the storm, and with a strength of soul even greater than it, continue to affirm from the bottom of their heart: “Credo in Unam, Sanctam, Catholicam, et Apostolicam Ecclesiam,” that is, I believe in the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, against which, as promised to Saint Peter, the gates of hell will never prevail.
York, Pennsylvania, October 11, 1995
Feast of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property
Sociedade Brasileira de Defesa da Tradição, Família e Propriedade
The Canadian Society for the Defence of Tradition, Family and Property/Société Canadienne pour la Défense de la Tradition, de la Famille et de la Propriété
Sociedad Argentina de Defensa de la Tradición, Familia y Propiedad
Sociedad Chilena de Defensa de la Tradición, Familia y Propiedad
Sociedad Colombiana de Defensa de la Tradición, Familia y Propiedad
Sociedad Ecuatoriana de Defensa de la Tradición, Familia y Propiedad
Sociedad Española de Defensa de la Tradición, Familia y Propiedad—Covadonga
Sociedad Paraguaya de Defensa de la Tradición, Familia y Propiedad
Sociedad Uruguaya de Defensa de la Tradición, Familia y Propiedad
Société Française pour la Défense de la Tradition, Famille et Propriété
Núcleo Peruano Tradición, Familia, Propiedad
Centro Cultural Reconquista—TFP Lusa (Portugal)
TFP Büro Deutschland
The Australian TFP Bureau
Tradición Familia Propiedad—Costa Rica
Tradition Family Property—Bureau for the United Kingdom
Tradition Family Property New Zealand
Ufficio Tradizione, Famiglia, Proprietà (Italy)
Aeterni Patris Cultural Centre (India)
Associación Civil Resistencia (Venezuela)
Fundacja Polska dia Kultury Chrześcijańskiej
Jóvenes Bolivianos pro Civilización Cristiana
Saint Thomas Aquinas Youth Association (Philippines)
Young South Africans for a Christian Civilization
Published in The Washington Times on October 12, 1995.