Progressive Inhumanity, Part Three: Hatred of the Past

progress

 I have long thought that the term “progressive” was a dodge, because no one could tell me exactly where we were supposed to be headed and why.  It seemed to me that the term was teleological but without a telos, as if someone were to practice archery without a target, or shoot a basketball without a hoop.  I expected the self-styled progressive to come forward and identify the goal, so that we might then have an honest and clear-headed discussion.  What makes that worthy goal?  What in human nature does it fulfill?  Is your policy a feasible or morally justifiable way of attaining the goal?

It had not occurred to me that progressivism had long abandoned the notion of a goal altogether, except in a nearly insubstantial sense.  We are, it seems, to aim for increased individual autonomy in the satisfaction of certain appetites: for sexual satisfaction, for self-esteem attached to careers in the world, and for creature comforts.  That is all there is to it.  There is no human nature to fulfill, and certainly no vision of a redeemed body of believers bound to one another in duty and love.  To call it a “society” is to submerge the word far below its essential denotation of friendship, so that it will merely refer to a large grouping of people pursuing private ends without any real relationship to one another.  To call it a “culture” is to submerge that word in turn far below its denotation of cultivation, especially in worship, so that it will merely refer to a large grouping of habits engaged in on private whims, though typically encouraged by mass entertainment, mass education, and the mass media.

It had not occurred to me, in other words, that for the progressive, “change” has been elevated to the status of a deity.  If we ask, “Change, for what?” we make the mistake of believing that our opponents retain a strong notion of human nature and of the moral laws that work towards its fulfillment.  They do not.  They therefore advocate change for its own sake; change, with perhaps an implicit trust that the change will eventually work towards some greater good, as if directed by social evolution, without their being able to specify exactly what that good would be.  Such change is not that of homo viator, man the wayfarer, on pilgrimage towards his heavenly dwelling place.  The pilgrim does not so much abandon his home as seek it, and therefore he does not really abandon it at all, not even the beloved home he has left behind.  “He goes before you to Galilee,” said the angel on that first Easter, as if Jesus wished to return with His disciples to their home on earth before He should leave them forever to be with them forever, as they went forth to baptize all nations.

To greet change for change’s sake is, then, less to unite one’s heart to the homeland ahead (since there is no homeland ahead), but to divorce one’s heart from the homeland behind.  It is to uproot man from that soil wherein he grows in time but towards eternity.

Let me take for an illustration a family homestead in a small village, with a church and a churchyard.  Why do we recognize this as a deeply human place?  It is because the human being is oriented towards what transcends him; towards God, and therefore also towards communion with his fellows, those who walk the earth with him, but also those who came before him and those who will come after.  The homestead and the church are places of remembering.  We acknowledge in piety how deeply we are indebted to our Father, and to our ancestors, especially the father and mother who brought us into the world.  We trust, too, that our children will remember us also, and not just as facts registered and dispensed with, but as still living presences among them.  The truly human life in this sense, even apart from its exaltation in eternity, is a life that breaks the barriers of time.  A man who in life walks with his fathers and who in death will sleep with his fathers, and walk with his children and his children’s children, lives more deeply in fifty years than the impious and forgetful man will live in ninety.  Indeed, he does not simply survive from year to year.  He dwells in time, and bears fruit beyond his time.  His very experience of time as he plows his fields or rests on an evening on his porch is utterly unlike that of the man who has nothing beyond himself to live for.

Am I being unfair to the progressive?  The essential attitude of the progressive towards the past is that of contempt and hostility.  What do we see in the past?  A crime list of vices and stupidities.  It isn’t just that we dwell upon the failings of our forebears and neglect to see their virtues.  Very often we place upon our forebears the worst imaginable construction, or ascribe to them vices they did not possess and crimes they did not commit.  It is not true, for example, that the Puritans of Massachusetts were prigs who hated the body.  It is not true that women of the Middle Ages could not own property (they did, plenty of it) and could not exercise political authority (Eleanor of Aquitaine, Bridget of Sweden, Margaret of Hungary, Matilda of Tuscany, Margaret of Scotland, and so forth).  It is not true that Catholic missionaries hated the Indians and their customs.  It is not true that people at the time of the American Revolution were largely illiterate (the exact reverse was true; Protestants read their Bibles, and The Federalist Papers were pamphlets intended for a broad readership, not to struggling political science students in graduate school).  It is not true that the restriction of voting to males was attributable to misogyny.  It is not true that the framers of the Constitution agreed to count a black slave as three-fifths of a person because they believed that that was what he was.

It is not true that people in the Middle Ages believed the earth was flat (they all knew it was round).  It is not true that fornication was just as common in 1900 as it is now, but that people back then were just hypocritical about it.  It is not true that “millions” of witches were burnt at the stake before the Enlightenment.

We could go on with this.  The hostility is applied also to stupendous human works.  The Constitution is old and musty; we’d be better off with one of those spanking new ones such as Canada has.  Who can learn anything from that woman-hater Milton?  Shakespeare was clever, but he really wasn’t any cleverer than a decent writer for a crime show on television is now.  Dante should be banned from the schools because he believed that sodomy was sinful.  We have progressed beyond tonality in music – in fact, in “rap,” we’ve progressed beyond melody itself, and grammatical sentences.  We have progressed beyond meter and rhyme in poetry.  We have progressed beyond harmonious and beautiful structures in architecture.  We freely “revise” the texts of hymns, translating them from powerful to drab.  Everything that happened before one o’clock yesterday afternoon belonged to the Dark Ages, including an appreciation for such hoary old virtues as steadfastness, modesty, chastity, loyalty, and simplicity.

But what is left of a truly human life?  The commitment to change is like a ride on a roller-coaster, with one important reservation.  We can enjoy a roller-coaster ride because we know that it will soon end, and we can put our feet back on the trusty solid ground.  Imagine, though, a roller-coaster ride that does not end.  Imagine a ride that has all the inconveniences of a bad journey – frenetic pace, confusion, dislocation, loss – and none of the consolations: no end of the journey, nothing but death, which is not now like arriving at a destination, but is instead like being at last tossed out of the car.

It is a horrible life, an inhuman race from nowhere to nowhere.  It should not surprise us, then, that people of our time should cease to take any of the old human consolations from dying and death – and I am not even speaking here of eternal life with Christ.  For there is no meaning whatsoever in being dumped out with the day’s trash.

And yet there are people who profit materially from the dehumanization.  They are ones who stand most to gain from a compliant and rootless populace, and most to lose from people stubbornly loyal to their homes, their traditions, and their kin.  Most of those people are in big businesses (including big entertainment), in what now passes for politics, and in my own corner of organized crime, the racket known as education.  Inhuman educators – more on those next time.

Progressive Inhumanity, Part One: The State against the Family

Progessive Inhumanity, Part Two: The State against the Churches

Anthony Esolen

By

Professor Esolen teaches Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization at Providence College. He is a senior editor for Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine. His most recent books are The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Press, 2010) and, most recently, Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). Professor Esolen has also translated Dante.

  • Vishal Mehra

    The conservative too has his deity “free market” and “growth”. 

    I would even say that it is the conservative who is the leading anti-conservative force now.

    Conservatives are as rigid about Consent in economic sphere as Progressives are in Sexual sphere. To both, it is Consent that justifies things.

    “The Constitution is old and musty; we’d be better off with one of those spanking new ones such as Canada has.”

    The Canadian Constitution is the furtherer point on the same road of which the American Constitution is the starting point. The American Const. suited the virtues of 18C people while the Canadian suits virtues of 21C.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Johnson/521153425 Mike Johnson

      I had no idea that virtue had an expiration date.

    • MarkRutledge

      Your characterization of conservatives is way off base.  If you ask a conservative what it is he wishes to conserve, you will, more often than not, hear a combination of what has become known as the 3 F’s (faith, family, and freedom).  It speaks to the detriment of modern progressives when public figures such as Rick Santorum speak of restoring the American  family and is met with the absurd snarky reply that he is trying to take America back to the (1950s/Inquisition/Middle Ages, etc.). Not only are faith, family, and freedom timeless virtues, but were expressly described as such by the likes of Burke, Adams, and Tocqueville, among many others.

      • Vishal Mehra

        But what is “freedom”?
        Is it to be free of all intrusions and demands, be it State, customs and other people?
        Or is to be free as a self-governing citizen of a free commonwealth?
        Aristotle held that “City is prior to Family and Individual” that is, the individual realizes himself in the city. Even marriage is not between just two: it requires a city in which it takes place. The mutual vows are taken before the City.

        Hobbes and Locke wrought a change in the ancient notion  of liberty. They had a picture of man that is always struggling against other men.  They held that man only forms  society to maintain peace and safety from aggression. The logical end of this essentially negative view is Libertarianism.

        • Mark Rutledge

          Careful, there.  Remember the fate of the one who asked “What is truth?”

          I refer you to the CCC 1730-1748

  • Vishal Mehra

    The political philosopher Patrick Deneen writes about American Constitution that it
    “– was designed expressly to undermine the claims of tradition and culture. Its main ambition was to liberate individuals from the arbitrary authority of place, family, and folkway, and to permit them a life of material success amid an economic system that generated an endless
    bazaar of values and lifestyles”

  • Brian A. Cook

    Are you denying that anything unpleasant ever happened in the “good old days?”   Are you denying the existence of silencing of women?  Are you denying the existence of institutional racism?  Are you denying the targeting and elimination of the Other?  Are you denying the existence of hatred of the earth?  Are you denying the existence of inferior medicine?  Are you denying the existence of lack of literacy?  Are you denying the existence of traditionalist thought control?  Are you denying, denying, denying?

  • Brian A. Cook

    The point is, even if the criticisms were as false as you claim–I’d have to hunt and peck for reputable, serious, scholarly, non-propogandistic sources to find out–are they still not rooted in uncomfortable truth?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Esolen/1184164082 Tony Esolen

    I don’t deny that people are sinners and have always been sinners.  I am noting the extraordinarily odd fact that “progressives” celebrate what decent people would call impiety.  It is foolish to ignore the sins of one’s ancestors.  It is pious to attempt to see those sins in their own context, not to shrug them off but to treat them with decency and fairness.  But it is utterly impious and plain nasty to enjoy exaggerating the sins of one’s ancestors, or even to attribute to them sins which they did not commit.  The charitable thing to do is to admire the virtues of one’s ancestors, and to decry one’s own sins — but it is precisely that attitude that the “progressive” resists. 

    The result is, I’m affirming, an inhuman dislocation. 

    On the free market: I believe in a free economy, but I am no friend of big businesses, especially since they “assist” big government in writing regulations that run their smaller competitors right off the field.

    My friend Patrick Deneen may be right about the American Constitution, but I’d still defend it as vastly superior to the imaginary thing we have now, and to what Canada has — a carte-blanche for intellectual and government elites to adjust “rights” as they see fit.

    • Martial_Artist

      Professor Esolen,

      In response to your comment “I am noting the extraordinarily odd fact that ‘progressives’ celebrate what decent people would call impiety.

      I strongly suspect that there is nothing at all odd about that fact. Progressives, as defined by Hayek, an analysis that is confirmed by the “odd” fact, believe that we are either more knowledgeable, or more intelligent, if not both, than our progenitors, and that the gap between us and them is in some manner proportional to the number of generations bridged in that comparison—the more generations, the greater modern man’s superiority in whichever of the two characteristics is being asserted. But, in all honesty, is this not exactly the fallacy which the serpent used in the Garden?

      From the Douay-Rheims “Why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise? And the woman answered
      him, saying: Of the fruit of the trees that are in paradise we do eat: But of the fruit of the tree
      which is in the midst of paradise, God hath commanded us that we should not eat;
      and that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we die. And the serpent said to the
      woman: No, you shall not die the death. For God doth know that in
      what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall
      be as Gods, knowing good and evil
      .

      I would humbly suggest that the explanation as to why it is not odd, is the recognition that the progressive fallacy is neither more nor less than an endorsement of the idea that the serpent first proposed to our first mother, that we are now arrived at a state of knowledge that we no longer need God’s revelation, or at least that progressives have thus advanced and they no longer need it, in order “know good and evil.” It is the predictable result of the underlying premises of progressivism, including the progressivism of T.R., Wilson, FDR, and countless current politicians of the West including far too many Republicans, as you so rightly suggest in one of your replies to Tiredofthechickenlittles.

      Other than leaving that unstated, yours is yet another excellent and illuminating article, something I have come to associate particularly with you.

      Pax et bonum,
      Keith Töpfer

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Esolen/1184164082 Tony Esolen

    On the political activity of women in 19th century America:

    It was eye-opening to such observers as Tocqueville and Henryk Sienkiewicz, just how active women were in public life.  It’s one of the symptoms of our ills that we now take “political” to refer only to the holding of elective offices, and not to all those actions that people engage in, in a community, to secure the common good.  If we could remember what a polis is, we would then see that a town in 1875, say, was a regular ferment of political activity engaged in by members of both sexes, as witness all the beneficent societies and other social groups powered by women.  Anybody who believes that women were “silenced” then doesn’t know about the time and has forgotten what women are like.  It was precisely on account of the power of their voices as non-electors that the women in the anti-suffrage movement opposed extending the franchise.  I’m NOT saying that they were right; I’m saying that the evidence they brought forth gives the lie to the accusation that women were not heard.  I’m NOT saying that women have always been treated well by men — they haven’t.  But in judging these things we have to be fair — and the progressives are not.

  • J G

    I find it interesting that Dr. Esolen’s essays create a certain discomfort in progressives. In my education I found that any questioning of authority, the politically correct authority of course, was met with unrelenting hostility. I suppose I could make something of the term Achilles heel, but then for many moderns I would have to explain who Achilles was. Even to those who have seen the awful movie Troy. 

  • Tiredofthechickenlittles

    This characterization of a “Progressive” is a caricature and basically serves those few from the fringe who might read it to pat themselves on the back and think of how great they are compared to those who stupidly and stubbornly disagree with them.  Have at it.  Drivel is drivel.

    • Tony

      All right then — what is your definition of a progressive?  Kindly specify what goal we are progressing towards, and exactly how that goal differs from the one specified above.

      • Tiredofthechickenlittles

        Im not sure I would be able to say what a conservative is precisely, any more than a progressive these days.  It changes from year to year, and even website to website. 

        I can liken today’s tribal mentality that I discern among Republicans to be like those among the Jews of antiquity who found that they were the Chosen People and everyone else was an unfortunate gentile.   The Jews were the people who had it right, everyone else is wrong. 

        Just because there are a number of people who dont agree with the talking points of the rich and republican does not mean they are all easily categorized as liars without integrity.

        Besmirching the other tribe will never bring people to mutual understanding nor real unity. 

        This article seems to be more about self congratulations than any kind of real service to the world.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Esolen/1184164082 Tony Esolen

          Did I bring up Republicans?  No, I didn’t, because Republicans can be inhuman worshippers of “progress” just the same as the self-styled “progressives.” 

          There are only three possibilities:

          1. “Progressive” is an empty, self-congratulating term.
          2. “Progressive” implies a belief in progress toward some specific end.3. “Progressive” implies a belief in change for change’s sake, with a trust that such change will be for the good.

          Possibility 1 is beneath notice.  I’ve dealt with 2 and 3 above.

          Have I caricatured them?  This just in: a “progressive” committee at the UN wants to dictate sexual and reproductive freedoms for children as young as ten.  No, I don’t have to caricature them.  They do the job just fine themselves.

        • Martial_Artist

          Tiredofthechickenlittles,

          First, if you can’t define a progressive yourself, how do you presume to characterize Professor Esolen’s description as “a caricature and basically serv(ing) those few from the fringe who might read it to pat themselves on the back and think of how great they are compared to those who stupidly and stubbornly disagree with them.?”

          Second, your description of Republicans as displaying a “tribal mentality … like the Jews of antiquity who found that they were the Chosen People (who) were the people who had it right, everyone else is wrong.” How is that any different than those Democrats like the former speaker who repeatedly and proudly insist that their (IMHO, abominably formed) conscience trumps the unchanged teachings of the church on any number of issues. 

          Finally, F. A. Hayek provided a useful operational definition of the assumptions (whether tacit or implicit) which characterizes Progressives. To paraphrase, he defined them as people who subscribe to the belief that current humanity, by virtue of its added historical experience, is so much more knowledgeable and/or intelligent than its forebears. They then proceed to conclude that, when faced with a societal problem, if we simply gather the brightest experts and give them as a group a place to work, gather all of the data about the problem that might have a bearing and provide it to those experts, they will be able to arrive at “the one best solution.” Hayek, in my opinion accurately labeled this the “progressive fallacy.” He rather thoroughly demonstrated its fallacious nature using via the following observations:

          1. Given that any population representing a significant proportion of a modern society consists of individuals having different states of life, different circumstances, different tastes, different priorities at different times, resulting in the likelihood that no two randomly selected individuals would make the identical choice for themselves. The larger the group, therefore, the greater the likelihood that there will not be three or two, let alone one, “best” solution.

          2. By the time one has collected, collated, analyzed and produced a report on the data, all of the relevant data, it will be stale, that is the various axes of preference along which any particular individual will place themselves will have been altered by the sorts of changes implied in the differences above. Their priorities will have been altered by external changes in a manner that will not allow one to extrapolate how the summary statistics  will have changed.

          I think the good Professor is clearly on to something, and he is not the first.

          Pax et bonum,
          Keith Töpfer

        • Andrew

          “Im not sure I would be able to say what a conservative is precisely, any more than a progressive these days.  It changes from year to year, and even website to website.”
          Soooo…you have no idea what conservatives OR progressives are, but, despite your nearly complete ignorance, you’re gonna forge ahead anyway with a line like this:

          “This article seems to be more about self congratulations than any kind of real service to the world.”

          “real service to the world”?? Bold words for one who just admitted to having NO CLUE as to the nature of what was discussed in said article.

          Even more astounding, you preceded it with this gem:

          “Besmirching the other tribe will never bring people to mutual understanding nor real unity.”

          Besmirching the other tribe?  Um…what, then, do you consider, “This article seems to be more about self congratulations than any kind of real service to the world,” to be, a friendly pat on the back?

          You decry besmirching and then follow it up with…besmirching!
          http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hypocrite

  • MarkRutledge

    One of my favorite Chesterton quotes is aimed at the progressives of his day: “My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday.”

    Little has changed, it seems.  Tenets of contemporary progressivism are usually defended with petitio principii reasoning, which, among other faults, necessarily denigrates the past.  There is no place for this kind of relativistic worldview in an objective universe, where good and evil exist as such, where there are Things good, beautiful, and true, and with an Arbiter outside ourselves.

  • Grace Taylor

    Good article.And a “big business” that profits from this dehumanization is “big abortion.”

    This article reminded me of a quote from Solzhenitsyn, which I just had to hunt up to share: “A level of moral health incomparably higher than that expressed today in simian radio music, pop songs and insulting advertisements: could a listener from outer space imagine that our planet had already known and left behind it Bach, Rembrandt and Dante?”

  • Meggie

    “I am noting the extraordinarily odd fact that “progressives” celebrate what decent people would call impiety. ”

    Bear in mind that some of the grossest indecency occurs within some of the most pious environments. I can’t think of anything more indecent than child abuse, and then covering up such abuse, or of any environment more pious than the Catholic Church.

    I think the article simply builds up straw men in an effort to oversimplify reality, to demonize so-called “progressives” (so what else is new on this blog?), and to preen the feathers of self-declared “conservatives.” 

    • Pargontwin

      Yes, child abuse was committed in the Church, and yes, it was covered up.  But one must also acknowledge that the guilty parties were “progressive” priests, the kind that would make liturgical changes or teach “dogmas” that were never approved – in some cases, even directly condemned – by the Vatican.

      • hombre111

        Actually, I have known several of those abusing priests, and with one exception, they were anything but “progressive.”   That is why I was stunned to discover what they had done.   

        • J G

           I have known or known of a fair number of abusive priests. Most all were “progressives.”

          • hombre111

            If you knew them, you have to be as old as I am, because most of the abuse happened in the sixties and seventies.   And it was the conservative bishops like Cardinal Law who moved them around. 

            • J G

               Exactly, at the time where all the liberal progressive stuff was in vogue. In fact liberal Cardinal Mahoney was  far worse.

      • SavedByTheLamb

        Child abuse is wrong.
        Covering up crimes is wrong.
        Liturgical abuses are wrong.
        Disobedience to The Magisterium is wrong.
        Apostasy is wrong.

        Progressive AND Conservative INDIVIDUALS have been guilty of these things, and it is our DUTY (i.e. Spiritual Works of Mercy) to admonish the sinner for their own sake when it is observed.

        On the other hand, we owe it to the Lord to seek unity, but not at the cost of the Truth. 

        Abortion is gravely wrong, regardless of the supposed limited interpretation of “pro life” by those opposed to it. 

        Homosexual relationships are wrong, regardless of the good intentions of progressives or how “nice” someone is.

        Governmental domination of people, so that their free will is subdued is also wrong, regardless of how many poor people are helped is wrong.  After all these centuries, the ends still don’t justify the means.

        Social justice calls for speaking the “Truth” which is not of this world.

    • J G

       Meggie, in progressive Holland the age of consent was lowered by the enlightened to age 12. Isn’t progressivism grand? It ended child abuse by legalizing it.

      • Meggie

        Not so, J G. Age of consent in Holland is actually 16. See the extract from wikipedia below. The Netherlands actually has a higher average age of onset of sexual activity than we do here in the US, as well as lower teen pregnancy and abortion rates. 

        NetherlandsThe age of consent in the Netherlands is 16, as specified by the Dutch Criminal Code, Articles 245 and 247, which read:Art 245: “A person who, out of wedlock, with a person who has reached the age of twelve but has not reached sixteen, performs indecent acts comprising or including sexual penetration of the body is liable to a term of imprisonment of not more than eight years or a fine of the fifth category.”Art 247: “A person who, with a person whom he knows to be unconscious or physically unable to resist or to be suffering from such a degree of mental defect or mental disease that he is incapable or not sufficiently capable of exercising or expressing his will in the matter or of offering resistance, performs indecent acts, or who, with a person who has not yet reached the age of sixteen (16) years, out of wedlock, performs indecent acts, or by whom the latter is enticed into performing, or submitting to such acts, out of wedlock, with a third party, is liable to a term of imprisonment of not more than six years or a fine of the fourth category.”Consensual sexual relations between adolescents who are close in age are not punished: sexual acts between persons who have reached the age of 12 years are widely tolerated by the courts and the Dutch Public Prosecution Service if the difference in age between the two partners is not too great. The latter is determined at the discretion of the court, though usually three years is deemed acceptable.Article 245, Article 247 (in Dutch)

        • J G

           If so then they changed it. In fact they did in 2001, until then it was 12. This was pushed by the main homosexual group in Holland. In England the homosexuals pushed the age down to 16 from 18. Notice that in article 245 it ONLY criminalizes acts of penetration, not other acts.

          • Meggie

            Again — this is false. Article 245 says “comprising OR including,” i.e., including need not be necessary. Also the old law didn’t mean 12-year-olds could have sex with 40-year-olds. It was a “Romeo and Juliet” law that did not criminalize sexual behavior between 12- and 16-year-olds if their ages were not too far apart. For example, two 14-year-olds who had consensual sex would not be prosecuted as criminals. HOWEVER, parents could challenge based on erosion of parental authority or child exploitation. Hence, protection was provided. To suggest “child abuse was legalized in Holland” is dishonest and untrue. Please — let’s have some fealty to the facts. 

            • J G

               I am a lawyer. I read the law carefully. Up until 2001 the age of consent was 12. Now it is 16, BUT unless there is penetration it is not illegal for a 12 year old to have voluntary sex with a 40 year old. Those are the facts. I checked with a colleague who practices in Europe and he confirms this. So, with that out of the way, as a progressive do you think that Esolen might have a point?

              • Meggie

                This is false, JG. I doubt you have read the law at all. Bear in mind that you’ve been wrong several times up to this point, e.g., claiming the age of consent in the Netherlands IS 12, that Art. 245 only criminalizes acts of penetration, etc. If you are indeed a lawyer, I will merely note that you appear to be following your profession’s tactic of trying to promote one side of a discussion by using factually incorrect information and innuendo to overturn truth. 

                • J G

                   It IS 12, unless there is penetration. So it is legal to fondle children. Does that make you feel better? But wait, the UN is proving my point: http://catholiclane.com/un-may-recognize-sex-rights-for-ten-year-old-children/

                  Here is a quote: “In its official statement, IPPF asserts,  “laws that restrict young
                  people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services, including
                  parental or spousal consent laws” must either be removed or be refrained
                  from being implemented. IPAS goes even further and argues that youth
                  should be considered independent actors free of any obstacles that
                  ignore their own “capacity to make informed decisions.”

                  I am giving you correct information and it is true.

                  • Meggie

                    Neither correct not true.

                    ” Committing an indecent act with a person known to be unconscious, powerless or otherwise unable to express consent or to offer resistance, or committing an extramarital indecent act with a child under the age of sixteen (or inducing the latter to commit or submit to such an act with a third party) is punishable by up to six years imprisonment or a fifth-category fine (article 247)”

                    Fondling a child sexually is an “indecent act.” Look at reactions to the conclusions of the Deetman Commission if you want to get a sense of how the Dutch feel about sexual abuse of children. 

                    • J G

                       I can simply look at how many cases are actually prosecuted. Virtually none. The law until 2001 set the age of consent at 12, that is absolutely true. But even with the changes they don’t enforce it. And you didn’t comment on the UN attempt to reduce the age of consent to 10. Who consistently wants a lower age of consent? Conservative Catholics or liberal homosexuals? We both know the answer and why.

                    • Meggie

                      J G, you are repeating claims that have already been refuted. Continue to do so at your pleasure.

    • Andrew

      @be564943712dfdf9fc12142b69c42020:disqus 

      You may have missed the word “celebrate” in there.  Esolen’s point was not that progressive are the only impious people in the world, but that, in general, progressive are the only ones who CELEBRATE it.

      No one is perfect, but there are degrees of perfection and at least we don’t celebrate impiety, despite how often we may be guilty of it.

      • Meggie

        Different people define “impiety” differently. I would think Joel Osteen celebrates the impiety of materialism, but I wouldn’t call him progressive. I would think Fred  Phelps celebrates the impiety of being uncharitable, but I wouldn’t call him progressive. I would think that certain neocons celebrate the impiety of killing, but I wouldn’t call them progressive. Esolen is setting up straw men by defining progressives in the illogical and hostile way that he does, and there is something profoundly nasty and self-satisfied about trying to divide the world into “decent people” and “progressives.” It’s that divisive “them versus us” thinking that attempts to denigrate the humanity of an entire group.

  • rtjl

    Dr. Esolen – you are one of my favorite writers. I wish I had the opportunity to take a course or two under you.

  • Steve

    Spot on.  Thank you for your insight!

  • Pargontwin

    I think my favorite fallacy about the Middle Ages was from some movie or TV series set in those times – Here I mean “favorite” as the one I most like to throw out to point out the baloney revisionists are trying to feed us.  At a wedding, a noble is killed by the husband in a jealous rage because the noble has demanded something called “Lord’s Rights,” defined as the right of the liege lord to bed the bride before the husband does!  Now I will freely admit that I’m no historian and don’t have access to primary research sources, but I seriously doubt such a custom ever existed in an age where, to state it simply, religion was everything. 

    • Brian A. Cook

      Are you denying the existence of medieval despotism?  What about the “divine right of kings?”

  • hombre111

    I am a progressive because of my deep Catholic faith.  Every Holy Week reminds me all over again about the Resurrection, Christ’s presence in our lives, and his proclamation that the Kingdom of God is in our midst. 

    I am a progressive because I believe God made us to flourish together, as a community, sharing our mission to the common good. 

    I am a progressive because I believe in these words written in the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:  “This doctdrine has its own profound unity, which flows from Faith in a whole and complete salvation, from Hope in a fullness of juscie, and from Love, which makes all mankind truly brothers and sisters.”

    It strikes me that the conservatives, by tossing all questions of justice and peace–except for abortion, birth control, homosexuality, fetal research, and euthanasia–into the dustbin of “prudential judgment” find endless ways to reward the rich and comfortable, and afflict the afflicted.  Just the opposite of the Gospel Jesus preached. 

    I apply this measure to secular progressives, as well.  I decry their contempt for Pro-life.   Respect for life is a critical issue…we can’t treat human beings like machines.  But a secular progressive with a heart for the poor is closer to God’s kingdom than a pro-life person who does not care a hoot for what happens to the lowest and the least in our society, once the little wretch is born. 

    I realized there was a glimmer of hope in my city when some of the Pro-life groups joined us in a protest at an execution in our nearby penitentiary.   

    • J G

       Respect for live is THE critical issue of our time. Social justice is impossible in the culture of death. I will see hope when “progressives” join us outside the abortion clinic for the rosary.

      • hombre111

        I have been outside many an abortion clinic and have walked in various pro-life demonstrations.  I honor the pro-life people for their tenacity.  But I do not honor those “pro-lifers” who have a very narrow notion of what respect for life means.  As liberals wryly point out, many pro-lifers become pro-sorrow and indignity as soon as the little child is born. 

        • J G

           That is a untrue. My diocese offers support for after the child is born. Catholicism has provided hospitals, schools, and orphanages for centuries. Most progressives ignore pro-life issues and support things like “gay marriage” which are contrary to our faith.

          • Brian A. Cook

             But do right-wing politicians actually support the work of supporting the child after birth?  That’s what liberals have been getting at. 

            • J G

               Yes, they do.

          • hombre111

            The biggest support for a poor man is a decent job and the training to get that job.  Decent insurance would be next.  Access to a decent education without being buried under student debt would be next.  Don’t see the conservatives agonizing over those things.  But the lack of those things drive people further and further into poverty. 

        • SavedbytheLamb

           I think it is a gross injustice and an unfair assumption to presume that conservatives don’t care about a child once it is unborn.   There is injustice when those assumptions cause support of political means which short-circuit free will to achieve just ends.  Socialism is evil and violates the principle of subsidiarity.  Doesn’t anyone remember history?

          • hombre111

            Case in point:  The recent budget by Paul Ryan, approved by the House of Representatives.  My favorite part:  Get rid of foodstamps.  But let the kajillionaires keep their tax breaks. 

            • J G

               I doubt it says that. But you do reflect the propaganda talking points of the Left very well.

              • hombre111

                It’s in the bill passed by the Republican House and praised by Mitt Romney.  The Repubs have handed the Dems some splendid ammunition…their own words in writing that reveal them for the heartless scumbags this present generation of Repubs have come to be. 

                • J G

                   It cuts nothing and is less then a trillion dollars less then Obama’s plan. For 3 years there has been no budget from the Democrats. They don’t want to admit on paper what they really want. Your grandkids are going to pay for your goodies. When we can’t borrow anymore then the whole thing crumbles and we all suffer.

                  • hombre111

                    It cuts Medicaid, food stamps, student loans and almost every part of the safety net, in order to pay for still more tax cuts for the rich. 

                    • J G

                       No, it cuts the INCREASE, but not the actual amount. Class war rhetoric does not negate the truth.

    • Mark

       “I am a progressive because …. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church”

      Yes, fallen human nature does have the skill to disregard the preponderance of of evidence and focus like a laser beam on what they were looking for all along.

      Conclusions is search of premises… the opposite of objective thinking.  See Trayvon Martin.

      • hombre111

        First of all, there is no such thing as real “objective” thinking.  We fill our thoughts with our hang-ups, our presuppositions, our fears, and our distortions.   The distortion of the conservative is usually fear. 

        I do agree that conservatives are more generous than liberals when it comes to giving to charity.  But when it comes to using their tax dollars to help resolve problems much larger than any charity can resolve, they scream like wounded rabbits. 

        • Andrew

          “We fill our thoughts with our hang-ups, our presuppositions, our fears, and our distortions.”
          So why is your burdened-with-distortions-presuppositions-fears-and-hangups brain a better judge of Truth than the Church?

          Do you speak with an authority greater than God?  As a Catholic, you are supposed to assent to all Church doctrine.  Maybe you didn’t know that.

        • Mark

          “First of all, there is no such thing as real “objective” thinking.”

          Ah, the lack of perfect objectivity apparently provides a license to spew tired old liberal lies. 

          “The distortion of the conservative is usually fear.”

          I think concern would be a more objective word and concern is not a synonym for incorrect.  In fact, if you look at the concerns conservatives have had over the past several decades vis a vis the contemporary lib agenda, those concerns have been vindicated.

          “But when it comes to using their tax dollars to help resolve problems much larger than any charity can resolve, they scream like wounded rabbits.”

          Very clever — tell normal decent folks to shut up and let others live as they wish and when those anti-christian lifestyles create a moral and financial bankrupt situation, mock the conservatives for not willingly redistribute their wealth to bail out the sub-culture who brought the pathetic situation on themselves.

          To be liberal is to never learn from mistakes because they are both to proud to admit to having made mistakes and have never learned how to actually learn.  A constant state of victimhood in control with no autonomy.  

    • Cathy

      Let me ask a question, if a society embraces abortion, birth control, homosexuality, fetal stem cell research, and euthanasia, can the society be just and peaceful?  In accordance to the Social Doctrine of the Church, which of these, pray tell me, can be accepted by the faithful as “progress” towards a fully just society?

      • hombre111

        Thanks, Cathy, for an excellent question.   I think the Church is spot on about abortion, fetal stem cell research, and euthanasia.  But birth control?  It has taken the most conservative position possible and fails to convince countless other people of good will.  If our arguments were so good, a lot of those people would be convinced.  The same with the question of homosexuality.  Homosexuality is the Galileo issue of our day.  One hundred years from now, the Church will be apologizing and apologizing and apologizing….The way it apologizes now for its stupidity in the Galileo affair. 

        • Andrew

          Birth control? Homosexuality? You do know that these are DOCTRINES, don’t you? As in, the WILL OF GOD.  They are categorically different from Galileo, who is a PERSON, not a DOCTRINE.

          “I am a progressive because of my deep Catholic faith.”

          Or are you a progressive because you pick and choose what parts of Catholic doctrine you accept as true?

          You know, the Protestants will let you believe whatever you want (your progressiveness wouldn’t contradict your faith).  I’m not suggesting you leave the church, but it’s kind of hypocritical to call yourself a catholic and then reject the authority of the Catholic Church in THE matters in which its proclamations are INFALLIBLE (incapable or error).

          “It has taken the most conservative position possible and fails to convince countless other people of good will.  If our arguments were so good, a lot of those people would be convinced.”

          Ever tried leading a horse to water?  

          So…truth depends on public opinion?  I thought the Truth depended on the opinion of God, but I’m just a backward traditionalist, so what do I know?  Sorry to burst your bubble, but human nature is FALLEN.  Romans 7:19 anyone?

          How do you justify your dissent?   What makes you right and the Catholic Church wrong?  What gives you the right/authority to make judgments about Catholic doctrine?  Are you the Pope? Are you infallible?  If not, then kindly stop telling the One, Holy, and Apostolic Church what to do in matters of faith and morals, thanks.

          • hombre111

            Every Catholic picks and chooses among the “doctrines” he deigns to follow.   Liberals often beg to differ with the Church’s teaching on birth control, homosexuality, celibacy, women priests, the role of women, and etc..   Conservatives make “prudential judgments” and decide to ignore the Church’s teaching on social justice. 

            • hombre111

              Oh, by the way, the Pope has chosen to speak infallibly twice, both times dealing with doctrines about Mary.   An infallible statement on morality is much riskier, maybe even impossible.   For three reasons:  1)  Does the Pope have all the facts?   Any new facts put the “infallible” statement in danger, severely undermining the Pope’s authority.  In the past few centuries, no statement has undermined the Pope’s authority among laity more than Humanae Vitae.  (Not infallible, by the way).  2)  What if someone comes up with a more logical argument?   The Humanae Vitae argument contains some serious logical flaws.   3)  Does the Pope speak from the best perspective?   Nobody can convince me that a male celibate has a better perspective on marriage than millions of sincere and committed married Catholics.   And most of them beg to differ. 

              • J G

                 Not everyone picks and chooses, you sure do and that is not justified by anothers disobedience. I don’t think you are open to HV at all. Truth is not dependent on ones marital state. Truth is truth. It is not decided by a majority vote.

                • hombre111

                  It’s not disobedience.  It’s called an adult following a prayerful, thoughtfully formed conscience.   St. Thomas would be proud of me.   Truth is truth.  But how do you find the truth?    Logic.  Facts.  The best point of view.   Humanae Vitae was a reasoned argument depending on the above.  I question its logic.  There are facts it did not take into consideration.  And no celibate has an adequate point of view when he is discussing the lives of married people.

                  Go ahead, keep on thinking like a child. 

                  • Sue

                    Celibates are in fact the very best experts when it comes to witnessing to the capacity for human chastity.

                    • hombre111

                      Celibates can play that role.  But human chastity occurs within a context, and the celibate context and the married context for chastity are not the same.  A celibate knows nothing about sexual intimacy with another human being…or the sexual tensions that arise out of love or mere physical closeness.   Pope John Paul and his Theology of the Body never slept beside a woman every night and had no real clue about the dynamics of living chastely within that framework.   The best he could do was theorize…and I have always wondered why he spent so much of his time theorizing. 

                    • J G

                       Human experience does not guarantee truth. You reject objective truth. Jesus was celibate, so I guess he knew nothing about love eh?

                    • hombre111

                      It comes back to a discussion of logic.   The logic I learned in the seminary was basically deductive.  You posit a known universal:  “All men are animals.”  “John is a man.”  “John is an animal.”

                      Good as far as it goes.  But basic logic is not just deduction.  It is three-fold.  1) An abduction or hypothesis:   I have observed things and posit this as a general rule.   2)  A deduction.  If it is a general rule, then I can predict that such or such a conclusion is valid.  3)  Induction.  The only way I know whether the prediction is valid is I have to test it by experience.   If it cannot match experience, it is not a general rule. 

                      Here is where human experience is crucial.   If my hypothesis does not lead to a flourishing of life, then I reject it.   Humanae Vitae, which is a rational deductive document that ony quotes scripture once–and out of context–has to be tested by experience.  And the experience of millions of sincere men and women says that it doesn’t work. 

                    • J G

                      You weren’t paying attention in seminary. Experience does not determine truth. You are a realativist. For you nothing is really trueh.

                    • hombre111

                      It’s not that I am a relativist, because I do believe in universal laws out of which we make valid decisions to act reasonably and with integrity. 

                      It is just that I am very cautious of universal statements because they are so fragile.  They give the illusion of certainty and allow people to be smug and arrogant.  But all you have to do is find one exception…follow an argument with better logic…or observe things from a better perspective, and down comes the universal statement. 

                      This is what the hierarchy continues to do with Humanae Vitae.  In exchange for the endless assertion of their precious authority on this matter, they continue to squander their authority as endless millions of Catholics beg to differ as they face the realities of their lives.  They end up doing what I have done:  They listen respectfully, pray, face the demands of both the cross and the unfolding struggle of their own lives, and follow their conscience. 

                    • Andrew

                      Running out of space so I am replying to this comment.

                      “millions of Catholics beg to differ…

                      and follow their conscience.”

                      On the subject of logic: following one’s conscience DOES NOT MAKE ONE RIGHT.  It only makes one NOT CULPABLE.  How is this a difficult distinction?  The Objective action is different from culpability (blameworthiness).

                      The objective act (what we do) is different from the intention or goal (why we act).  The moral quality of the objective act IS NOT DETERMINED BY THE INTENTIONS OF THE ACTOR(S).

                      If public opinion should determine the correctness of the Church’s stance on birth control or homosexuality, why not also on abortion, rape, murder, torture, ordination of women, transubstantiation, etc?  Everything is up for grabs if man, rather than God (He that contains all perfections), is the final arbiter of truth. If God decides what is true and right and just, and His Church has been given the authority to pass His will on to us, then NO ONE, not even a hundred trillion “prayerful consciences” can change the Truth by their dissent.

                      Don’t you see the implications of your argument?  If the Church’s authority on doctrine is subject to the will of millions of fallen, sinful human beings (who, by the way, are not guaranteed never to have the gates of hell prevail against them or be infallible on matters of faith and morals), then our Church is not the true Church established by Jesus Christ, Son of The Living God.  His will, not our will, be done.

                  • Andrew

                    ” St.
                    Thomas would be proud of me.” 

                    No
                    saint would be proud of you for rejecting Church Doctrine.  Your
                    mind is infinitely inferior to the mind of God, which is why He gave
                    us the Church to guide us.

                    “Truth
                    is truth.  But how do you find the truth?   
                    Logic.  Facts.”

                    Forgetting
                    something? Like, I dunno, faith, maybe?For many people (probably most), faith, not reason, is what brings them to the Truth.

                    Christ
                    is the Truth.  We find the Truth in Him.  How do we find
                    Him?  Logic and reason are useful, yes, but very limited. Only
                    His Church has the fullness of the Truth (Christ).  You are
                    rejecting the authority of God Himself when you reject the legitimate
                    authority of the Church.
                    Truth is not a mere fact, as you seem to think.  Rather, it is a person–the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  We encounter Christ (the Truth) most intimately in His Church.  You are dissenting from that Church right now.

                    • hombre111

                      There is a book called “Rome Has Spoken,” an hysterical recount of all the times the hierarchy got it wrong.   In the end, the Church is one of the voices we listen to.  St. Thomas said that if my prayerful conscience disagrees with the church, I have to follow my conscience.  

                    • Andrew

                      Hit-job history written by radical feminists and other dissenter?  Have you even checked the sources? This book is worthy of the New York Times, maybe, (but only because they love to print anti-catholic screeds disguised as “scholarship” or “objective reporting”) but doesn’t even come close to actual scholarship.
                      You know, while one in supposed to follow one’s conscience, one will still be held accountable for a failure to form one’s conscience properly.

                      I don’t know how sincere your conscience is, but if this piece of non-scholarship, anti-catholic propaganda is what you’ve been using to form it then, well, you might wanna look into the other side’s arguments.

                      St. Thomas would accept that you might be following your conscience.  However, he wouldn’t be proud of you for dissenting from fundamental Church teaching without actually doing any serious investigating.

                      If you feel the need to actually inform your conscience, try this: http://www.newmanreader.org/works/development/index.html

                    • hombre111

                      I have to smile when I see your link to Cardinal Newman.  Suddenly, he is the fountain of knowledge for conservatives.   But the conservatives of his day were very suspicious of the man and made his life quite difficult.   Kind of like killing off all the Indians and then naming your county after a great Indian tribe. 

                    • hombre111

                      Forgot my final thought.  This only emphasizes the point I wanted to make:  Todaya’s liberal, despised by conservatives, may well by tomorrow’s hero for another generation of conservatives.   This is a burden the liberal accepts.   He knows that conservatives drive into the future by staring at their rear view mirror. 

                    • Andrew

                      Wow, it’s getting cramped in here.

                      “Suddenly, he is the fountain of knowledge for conservatives. ”

                      More progressive distortions.

                      Try this:

                      http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/09/20/the-real-john-henry-newman/

              • Andrew

                “Humanae Vitae.  (Not infallible, by the way)”

                It reaffirmed what the Church has ALWAYS taught.

                http://www.catholic.com/tracts/birth-control
                “Does the Pope have all the facts?

                Nobody can convince me that a male celibate has a better perspective on marriage than millions of sincere and committed married Catholics.”

                The Church (run by male celibates) speaks with the authority of God (in mattes of faith and morals).  God, in case you didn’t know, KNOWS EVERYTHING (He has a pretty good perspective and has ALL the facts). So, you see, the Church is passing the Truth down to us, not making it up or creating it according to human bias (like yourself).

                • hombre111

                  Actually, the Church answers questions when they are asked, and this discussion about birth control is fairly recent, therefore, a work in progress.   Within the Church is the Vox Populi, the discernment of the laity listening to the Spirit.  And the laity have rejected Humanae Vitae.  

                  • Mark

                    Hombre, your pride and promotion of disobedience, on Good Friday no less, is staggering.

        • srdc

          The essence of things is base on it’s purpose and end.  The essence of  human sexuality is based on bonding and pro-creation. Escaping the physical world is not progressive, it’s insanity.  Artificial contraception throws a blanket on reality.

          In the sacraments we encounter Christ in this world.  The redemption of matter.  This is why natural symbols used are in line with the physical world.  Our bodies are not external to our being, they are not foreign places we occupy. Homosexual acts are wrong because of the wrong use of organs created for organic bodily unity between a man and a woman.

          Chesterton said, hostility to the sacramental was rooted in the “horror of matter”

          Catholicism takes the created physical world far more seriously than self-professed progressives.

          • hombre111

            Nicely said, reminding me of Pope John Paul’s Theology of the Body.  But the weakness of the argument is that each sexual act is supposed to carry the entire weight of bonding and pro-creation, and I think that is wrong, in part because medical science tells us that–as far as procreation goes–sexual intercourse is entirely random.  Most of the time, procreation is not even possible because of the condition of ovum, sperm, or both.   And when old couples or infertile couples have intercourse, there is no procreation at all.   If procreation were locked up, act by act, within the essence of things, it would be sinful for them to have intercourse. 

            This is the flawed logic of Humanae Vitae, which emphasizes the unbreakable burdain of each act–bonding of couple and procreation–and then offers an escape hatch where procreation is suddenly separate because the woman is infertile.  If procreation cannot be separated from the act, it cannot be separated, and arguments about “unnatural” separation as opposed to “natural” separation strike me as dishonest.   Medicine does “unnatural” things all the time, instead of simply depending upon biological processes.

            I see the reality within the larger, overarching character of the whole love relationship between husband and wife.   Their whole relationship is open to life and deepening intimacy.  But within that relationship, they realize they can have only so many children.   As long as the whole relationship is nourishing the life of the children, birth control is not only not a sin, but may be a moral necessity.   And if it is a moral necessity, arguing that it can only by done by NPR fails to convince.   

  • Sue

    The evolutionists have their saying, “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”, derived from (turn of the century) Haeckel’s falsified photos.  They claim it as a proof of evolution, saying it shows that the linearity of phylogenetic development follows from the linearity of ontogenetic development.
    Little did they know how true this maxim is, considering that extended ontogeny brings aging and dementia, therefore extended phylogeny brings….progressives!

    The shape of human spiritual development, rather than an ascending line, is a bell curve with Christ at vertex.Remember, man that thou art dust…

  • Alecto

    Is “progressivism” a philosophy which “aims for increased individual autonomy…?”  Progressivism (as practiced, not theorized) seeks to crush the individual and supplant it with the collective.  In a progressive world, no one is a unique soul. 

    That women were tried as witches and some burned during the Middle Ages is a historical fact.  The numbers are not as relevant  as the reasons (unless of course you were one of those women).  It is also a generalization that women were allowed to own property during the Middle Ages.  Esolen cites as evidence a series of noble women.  That isn’t persuasive to one conclusion or another.  In fact, the conclusion must be that in certain very limited circumstances, noble women owned and controlled property.  The distinction between aristocrats and peasants during the Middle Ages was perhaps more pronounced than the distinction between the property rights of men and women.  We have come to accept that women are indeed endowed with the same rights with which men are endowed and that is indeed a good thing.  Women were not granted the right to vote in this country until 1920 (which certain Catholic bishops opposed).   Understanding the reasons for women not being allowed the vote doesn’t remove the fundamental injustice of the thing.  Understanding the causes of slavery or the 3/5th compromise in order to get the South to ratify the Constitution doesn’t negate the injustice of slavery nor does it diminish the greatness of the U.S. Constitution.  There is a distinction to be made in understanding facts versus being able to empathize with the people impacted by history.  It also demonstrates the hopeful possibility of justice prevailing, as we witness with the emancipation of slaves and the participation of women in government.  Personally, I attribute this to our history of religious freedom and the primary importance of religious expression in our society.  Americans have long put God at the center of society.  What does the elimination of God from that center bode for our future?  One doesn’t need to be clairvoyant:  tyranny and oppression most likely if we view history or the current Progressive Administration.

    Finally, I don’t share Esolen’s pessimism about culture, art, music, literature or poetry.   We live in a progressive age where a handful of Hollywood, NY or DC elites with pedestrian tastes attempt to impose collective standards on these endeavors, but they are failing miserably!  Art, music, architecture – all of these are more accessible to more people than ever before.  The Mona Lisa has become a pop icon.  More people listen to Mozart than were alive during Mozart’s life.  They cannot diminish the lasting beauty of Shakespeare, Milton, Schubert or Beethoven, or render the Venus de Milo or the Mona Lisa other than what they are:  standards of beauty.  There is every reason to be hopeful.   

    • Toadspittle

      Very well put, Alecto.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Esolen/1184164082 Tony Esolen

    All right, one at a time.

    The idea of the “divine right of kings” is a Renaissance phenomenon; it has its roots in the Middle Ages, sort of, but nobody, not Philip Augustus, not Louis IX, not Edward I of England ever claimed as much authority as did a James I or a Louis XIII.  The fact is, the medieval rulers found themselves hedged around with plenty of competing authorities: the nobles, the lesser gentry, the Church, chartered towns, guilds with their own charters, and so on. 

    On women owning property: women enjoyed a good deal more freedom of movement in the Middle Ages than they would later on in the Renaissance.  Women in fact were economic actors in the life of a town or village.  Chaucer says of his Wife of Bath that — besides being a rich widow — she was an exceptional weaver.  His prioress is also a woman of some considerable property.  I’m not an expert in medieval property law, but I’ve been told by those who study these things that there were plenty of occupations that women engaged in that we might otherwise consider the sole province of men: butchers, for instance.  English surnames give some evidence: a “baxter” is a woman who makes a living by baking; a “webster” is a woman who makes a living by weaving. 

    On witch-burnings: there were some in the Middle Ages.  They were not particularly common.  Fascination with demons, indeed, is a Renaissance phenomenon.  The Faust-legend stems from the early 1500′s.  The notorious Malleus Maleficarum is a Renaissance book, written, if I remember, by German Dominicans.  James I wrote a Demonology that Shakespeare cribbed from in King Lear and Macbeth.  The portrayal of demons as grim, serious, dangerous meddlers in human affairs isn’t peculiar to the Middle Ages, but of the Renaissance.  Demons in the popular imagination, in the Middle Ages, are malevolent, sure, but also stupid and contemptible — as in the portrayals of the Evilclaws in Inferno 21-22.  Let’s recall that our own Salem witch trials were conducted by well-educated cusp-of-the-Enlightenment men, not by Gregory VII or Boniface VIII.

    On the franchise: I am loath to return to past ages and say, “You didn’t allow women to vote.  Aren’t you blackguards?”  The whole of the relations between husbands and wives would have to be addressed.  That is only fair, when you’re trying to evaluate another culture. 

    I am indeed grateful to Alecto for recounting reasons for hope; I’ll recount what a distinguished professor from Yale told me yesterday, that love of the arts and the humanities will be preserved by small Catholic (and I’ll add, evangelical) colleges.  Perhaps the dreariness of what the media elites give us has made us turn with all the greater determination toward Mozart — and Dante, and Milton, and Rembrandt, and Michelangelo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Esolen/1184164082 Tony Esolen

    On the poor: I demand an apology from the person who suggested that people like me — and how does this person know what things I do? — care only for unborn children but not for them once they are born, and not for the poor generally.  I will not stoop to listing the ways in which I try to assist the poor.

    But if you think that the sexual revolution and secularism generally have not devastated the poor, well, I can’t think what can possibly persuade you.  It’s as if a tornado were do whip through a town, and someone were to look upon it and say, “Considerations of the weather are entirely irrelevant.” 

    • Brian A. Cook

       What about governmental failures to prove aid?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Esolen/1184164082 Tony Esolen

    Sorry for the pile-up of comments…. My main point was not to dress the Middle Ages up in lace and frills — I could talk about the wearisome violence among the Italian city-states, for example.  I could talk about assassinations, or the constant pressure of the English upon the Scots, or the nastiness of the Albigensian heresy, and then the nastiness of the put-down of the Albigensians.  But I have spent all my professional life showing students the wonderful things we have to learn from past ages and from our cultural ancestors — trying to hear them when they speak the truth, forgive their understandable mistakes, and reject their evil.  “Progressive” education consigns all that to irrelevance, or worse — as I keep saying, the “progressive” habit is to dwell with satisfaction upon the sins of one’s ancestors, or to exaggerate the sins, or to attribute to them sins which in fact they did not commit.

  • Barrister13777

    I have been a family law lawyer for nearly 30 years and I have a lot to say. You are right on where you say we see rejection of values because they are old only. There doesnt seem to be any choice in freedom of choice. Instead it seems people are compeled to exercise every possible right without at any time considering the consequences.

    The Judiciary has not been kind to traditional values, although most of the time they are in a reactive mode rather than punishing traditional values. Still in Washington state it is not too much to say that any vestiage of a grandparents right to visit his grandchild was swept away in 2005 by our Supreme Court, followed closely by a new policy that endorses the partner of a gay parent to seek and obtain rights as a parent. The most recent revisions to our Parentage Act I believe opens the door to a legislative endorsement of gay parenthood that could mean multiple parents, more than two. I believe the Judicially created policy allows for the same, notwithstanding one of the underpinnings of the reason to reject grandparent rights was to avoid fragmenting a childs life into more than two parts.

    I endorse your position. I have more to say, but my family needs my time.

  • J G

    Hombre, essentially you are simply a relativist. You decide what is right and wrong based on your opinion and what you read in the papers. You prove Dr. Esolen correct.

    • Toadspittle

      How do you decide what’s right and wrong, J.G.?

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  • Toadspittle

    I live in just such a village as Anthony describes. Where does you live, Anthony?

  • Toadspittle

    I live in just such a village as you describe, Anthony. Where do you live?

  • Toadspittle

    “It is not true that people in the Middle Ages believed the earth was flat (they all knew it was round). “ More importantly, they all knew that the earth was the centre of the iuniverse. Which it is not.

    “It is not true that fornication was just as common in 1900 as it is now, but that people back then were just hypocritical about it. “ We cannot know if that is true or not.

    It is not true that “millions” of witches were burnt at the stake before the Enlightenment. Nobody has ever suggested “millions” were burned. Far too many were, though.

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