November 25, 2015 The Feast of Saint Catherine of Alexandria
So what was the situation of Catholic Europe at the close of 100 year false peace that followed the close of the Thirty Years War? Not good.
The heresy of Protestantism had endured, and this alone may have been enough to shatter the unity of what had once been called Christendom. While the social and political impact of Protestant theology had mostly petered out by the end of the seventeenth century the people of the time could not have failed to notice the outright scandalous alliance of France, the eldest daughter of the Church, with Protestant powers during the Thirty Years War and the live and let live policy adopted by the Catholic powers after the war.
I contend that this is what helped to lay the foundations for the disaster that occurred during the eighteenth century. By the 1750s a century of false peace had allowed some of the core ideas that had fueled the Protestant revolt to take hold underneath the surface within the societies of the still Catholic nations. Most especially hatred of legitimate authority.
This had first come to light during the revolt of Luther, but then it was confined to the Pope in Rome and by later Protestants to the priesthood in general i.e. it was confined to the religious sense alone. But man’s first duty is to God and when he fails in that duty then he will begin to fail in all of his other duties as well. And this hatred of authority has now spread to all aspects of human existence in this sad and decrepit revolutionary age.
Whoever began this plot began it in secret silence, but by 1738 enough had come to light for Pope Clement XII to issue the Bull In Eminenti condemning membership in these new secret societies. The Holy Father observed:
that certain Societies, Companies, Assemblies, Meetings, Congregations or Conventicles called in the popular tongue Liberi Muratori or Francs Massons or by other names according to the various languages, are spreading far and wide and daily growing in strength; and men of any Religion or sect, satisfied with the appearance of natural probity, are joined together, according to their laws and the statutes laid down for them, by a strict and unbreakable bond which obliges them, both by an oath upon the Holy Bible and by a host of grievous punishment, to an inviolable silence about all that they do in secret together. But it is in the nature of crime to betray itself and to show itself by its attendant clamor. Thus these aforesaid Societies or Conventicles have caused in the minds of the faithful the greatest suspicion, and all prudent and upright men have passed the same judgment on them as being depraved and perverted. For if they were not doing evil they would not have so great a hatred of the light.
An excellent point Your Holiness: if your motives are good then why do you bind yourself by secret oaths? If your only intention is the welfare of the human race then why must you keep silence about your doings? If you are not doing evil then why do you evince such great hatred of the Light?
And what was the evil that they were preaching? Hatred of authority. Hatred of all laws and the exaltation of the depraved and selfish will of fallen man. Essentially the same crime that drove someone else from the heights of Heaven to the pit of Hell once upon a time.
How do I know this? Because I have studied the changes in human life and human desires since these secret societies first emerged during the first part of the eighteenth century and I live in the world that has been created by their suggestions.
How these societies were related to Voltaire and his ‘Philosophers’ I do not claim to know, but there must have been something there. Voltaire was a menace who, for a time concealed his true intentions, but was always more or less a public rebel. These others though desired anonymity and still wished to be held as good and virtuous men in the public eye, while pursuing secret and wicked designs in the shadows.
This also helps to explain some of the political figures we will encounter in the coming posts. By the 1750s Portugal had a faithful but weak king but was really run by a mad Marquis who hated the Church of Rome and was beloved of Voltaire. An aging and dissolute monarch sat on the French throne but France was really ruled during this time by the combination of Louis XV’s mistress the Marquise de Pompadour, a great admirer of Voltaire and his Encyclopedists, and his anti-Jesuit chief minister Étienne François, the duc de Choiseul. Spain was ruled by a pious but easily influenced monarch, Charles III, who was surrounded by ministers hostile to the Church in this most Catholic of countries. And all these three monarchs were of the family Bourbon which will play a key role in the coming posts. So now the board is set and the pieces are moving.
Go to Confession and please pray three Hail Marys in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.