2018 Roman Forum Album - The Fittest and the Weakest

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The Fittest and the Weakest: The Interwar Era, the Foundations of Late Modernity, and the Resilience of Catholic Christianity

Presented by the Roman Forum in Gardone, Italy in July of 2018, these talks cover the interwar years of 1919 to 1939

1. The Peace of Christ and the Purification of the Social Order
John Rao speaks of Purification as a Popular Theme, 1914 Onwards

The first of these four talks by Dr. Rao deals with the theme of purification of the social order. That theme was one that became popular in the secular world with the outbreak of the First World War, as though somehow the "beauty" of conflict would purge a decadent society of all its evils. The Papacy also felt that a purification might indeed come from the conflict, but in a negative fashion: by demonstrating through its wickedness and horrors that the warnings that it had been giving since the 1830's regarding the evils of modernity were all too true. Purification could only come through the Social Kingship of Christ; through what Pope Pius XI called "the peace of Christ in the reign of Christ".

2. A Danger on All Fronts
John Rao addresses the subject of Competition in the Call for Purification, 1919-1939

Unfortunately, the Catholic Church was not the only voice offering a purification message competing with that of the warmongers. Three others came onto the scene. One of these was that of Soviet Communism, which argued that the victory of the proletariat would cleanse the world of the evils represented in the last era of struggle by bourgeois capitalism. Another was enunciated by Woodrow Wilson, who saw a new, purified age of eternal peace emerging from the global spread of Americanism: what would, in the future, be called Pluralism. The third, building upon the experience of self-sacrifice and suffering of the frontline soldiers during the War, and resting upon obedience to the will of a leader/comrade in arms, was Fascism.

3. "Occupying the Spaces of the Social Order": The Practical Results
John Rao discusses how Church Theory is Often Defeated by Church Practice

Papal teaching in the interwar period theoretically confirmed the message of the nineteenth century revival movement regarding how to build the Social Kingship of Christ. This required the recognition of the value of all of nature's "spaces"--that is to say, all of nature's activities--but purgation of their evil use and their transformation through grace as well. Building the Social Kingship of Christ was seen as requiring a cooperation of the natural and the supernatural and the recognition of the complimentary character of the individual and social authorities in all of their complexity.
In practice, however, the Papacy, national episcopacies, the clergy, and much of the lay Catholic Action movement seemed more willing to allow the existing governments and ways of life of the world around them to thrive, so long as the liturgy were protected and communism was fought. This meant living a double life: one theoretically committed to Christ the King, and another practically committed to continuing Liberalism, Americanism, and one form or another of anti-communist Fascism.

4. Losing the Purification Struggle
John Rao talks about the Tendencies Leading to the Abandonment of The Theory of Christ the King

Many Catholics in the interwar period were in practice devoted to Liberalism, Americanism, Fascism, and even Soviet Communist ideas. Others were concerned to understand why the new forces of Fascism and Soviet Communism should be so popularly appealing. At least one form of what became known as Personalism provided an explanation. It claimed that all "vital", "energetic", popular forces demonstrated the presence of the Holy Spirit, urging Catholics to "give witness" to what they were saying and allow them to converge into a new a greater understanding of what Christianity "really means". This ultimately would lead to a selling-out of the vision of Christ as King to the willful demands of modernity. All of the leaders of Second Vatican Council's changes came to maturity in the interwar period, serving as agents for this unfortunate change.

5. Antonio Oliveira Salazar and the Catholic Corporate State
Jamie Bogle talks about an Example of Social Doctrine in Practice.

Salazar, an economist at the University of Coimbra, was called in by the army that took power in Portugal from a virulently anti-Catholic government in the late 1920's in order to put the nation on an even keel once again. Perhaps the most intelligent, far-seeing, and prudent representative of the Catholic social movement from the interwar period, Salazar proceeded to create in Portugal a socio-political order founded upon the principles of subsidiarity. This principle understood the individual to be a social being, whose full perfection required participation in many different social organizations, from that of the family up to the Church and State, with all of them playing a role in authoritatively guiding the human person and representing his true will politically.

6. Personalism: A Contrast of Maritain and Maximus the Confessor
Thomas Cattoi discusses – Two Different Theories Regarding the Mystical Body of Christ

Jacques Maritain was one of the most formative figures of the interwar period, with enormous influence over what came after the Second World War through Pope Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council. Maximus the Confessor was one of the greatest defenders of the Roman Primacy and Catholic doctrine at the time of the Monothelite Crisis of the seventh century. Both were deeply concerned with the way in which the individual is perfected through the Mystical Body of Christ, and yet Maritain's view tends to lead to modern individualism, while Maximus' view fits in more clearly with the modern Catholic vision of the Social Kingship of Christ.

7. The Ecumenical Vision of Nathan Söderblom
Clemens Cavallin talks about – An Interwar Demonstration of the Postwar Problems of Ecumenism

Nathan Söderblom, the Archbishop of Uppsala in Sweden, was one of the main promoters of Christian ecumenism in the interwar period. This movement, stimulated by battling of missionaries over territories throughout the globe, and horror over the divisions of fellow-believers in the First World War, sought to avoid such problems and horrors in the future by means of reconciliation among different denominations. This was rejected by the Vatican in the interwar period. A study of the actual thought of Söderblom helps to indicate why the Papacy was not convinced of the value of the movement, since his religious ideas not only denigrate the importance of doctrine in general, but tend to build religious conviction upon feeling and will alone.

8. Montini’s Italy and the Democratization of the Papacy
Chris Ferrara talks about – The Connection of the Interwar Period with the Reign of Paul VI

G.B. Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, was influenced by a number of the pro-democratic and personalist themes discussed by other lecturers, and most especially by Jacques Maritain. He was also interested in liturgical reforms, and his work with FUCI (the Italian Catholic university organization) indicated his dislike of much of contemporary Catholic devotional life as well. All these factors, which gradually made Pius XII suspicious of his activities, then played a central role in his guidance of Second Vatican Council down the path of a democratization which on the one hand weakened the Papacy's power, and on the other guaranteed that its use would be more willful.

9. The Lambeth Conference and the Papacy
Michael Matt talks about – The Anglican Church's Abandonment of the Moral High Ground and Rome

Despite opposition from its more believing elements, the Anglican Church very clearly began to cede the moral high ground to modernism at the bishops' Lambeth Conference of 1930. Here, the necessary liberal opening to artificial birth control was granted. This then became a major stimulus to the publication of one of the greatest of the interwar Papacy's encyclical letters, Casti Connubi of December of the same year. It covered four major topics: the sanctity of marriage, opposition to eugenics, positions on birth control and the purpose of sexuality, and reaffirmation of the prohibition on abortion.

10. The Interwar Neoclassical Turn:
Stravinsky, Paganism, and the Limits of Rationalism

David Hughes discusses – Music and the Rediscovery of the Real

This talk by David Hughes considers Stravinsky's compositional activity just prior to and just after World I, and examines two things in particular: one, how Stravinsky came to be the most prominent exponent of neoclassical composition in the 1920s and 30s, when he was just a few years beforehand something of a revolutionary enfant terrible (esp. with 1913's Le Sacre); and two, to answer why, unlike many other neoclassical periods in music (e.g., that of circa 1730 to 1820), this one of the 1920s didn't last longer as a movement. It looks particularly at his ballet Pulcinella (1920) and his opera Oedipus Rex (1927). The central question is: does the neoclassicist composition of the interwar period contain in itself the seeds of its own destruction? It's not a foregone conclusion that it does, but this lecture explores the problem in detail.

11. The Gods that Failed in the 1930s
Father John Hunwicke talks about the Horror and Hubris of the interwar years that led directly to the evils that are still with us today.

The glamorous images of the inter-War period conceal a hubris that feeds directly into a horror which is still with us. The Anglican Modern Churchman's Union advocated Eugenics and the 1930 Lambeth Conference opened the door to an era of ever-expanding sexual immorality. The Anglican Papalists discerned the signs of the times and bore a powerful witness that is still relevant to us today in the pontificate of Bergoglio. Moral degradation, liturgical deformation, and Bergoglian ultrapapalism run together. This interwar horror and hubris is examined with Fr. Hunwicke’s very unique combination of substantive analysis and wit.

12. Authority in Crisis
Thomas Pink talks about the various views of Authority in the Twentieth Century

Dr. Pink uses Wilfred Owen’s poem ’The Parable of the Old Man and the Young’ with its adaptation of the account of Abraham and Isaac to examine how authority has been seen in the twentieth century - looking at various conceptions of authority both ecclesial and secular, especially in the period following WWI, and at the idea of the patriarch (an idea often appealed to in certain political cultures to explain civil authority - but equally long felt, by a certain tradition in Catholic theology as well as by many secular thinkers, to be a very problematic model of civil authority.

13. The Privatization and Feminization of the Religious Revival
Joe Shaw discusses the seriously distructive consequences of Feminizing the Practice of the Faith.

The nineteenth century witnessed one of the greatest of Catholic religious revivals in history, with an impact that was still very strong in the interwar period. This revival was of enormous value in the realm of doctrinal and moral teaching. On the other hand, there were notable aspects of devotional life that indicated a retreat from the social to the private realm, and an association of faith with ways of thought and behavior deemed particularly feminine in character. This was not without serious consequences, since it seems to make religion appear to have little to do with masculine concerns and practical activity in the world at large.

14. The Philosophy of History of Theodor Haecker
Thomas Stark talks about – A Distinct Catholic Philosopher of the Interwar Period

Aside from being a unique philosopher, Theodor Haecker was a a great translator of both the Danish thinker, Soren Kierkegaard and of Cardinal John Henry Newman, both of him had a deep impact on his work. It was perhaps his translation of Newman’s Grammar of Assent that most assisted his conversion to Catholicism in 1921. This talk discusses the life of Haecker, the existentialist character of his very subtle thinking, most importantly represented by his Journal in the Night and Virgil, Father of the West, and his personal bravery. Haecker’s firm opposition to Nazism caused him many difficulties in his native Germany.

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