Recently I have been looking at a few of the major philosophical influences that contribute to the crisis we have in the Church today and, as a result of the problems in the Church, in society at large. Many in the Church, if not most, see that men with evil designs have usurped our Church. What Catholic faithful to Church tradition in its fullness cannot be struck with grief at the state of our leadership in general?
I say “what Catholic faithful to Church tradition” rather than “what faithful Catholic” because it is this carelessness in our wording that creates problems. The enemies inside the Church manipulate words and transform their meaning to suit their own purposes. Therefore, we must be careful about how we word things. When we challenge others as to who is a “faithful Catholic,” we run into indignation. It is not unusual to find those who describe themselves as “faithful Catholics” supporting abortion rights, gay marriage, contraception, ordination of women, and every sort of “progressive” movement in the Church. They are indignant because they are faithful to what they believe the Church is and should be, which might not have anything to do with traditional teachings. However, when we say “Catholic faithful to Church tradition,” then we have things more closely where we want them.
This play on words with which we are so familiar from the progressives is part of our problem. Many are familiar with the strategies of cultural Marxists and their influence on the Church. We often think in terms of cultural Marxism and Modernism when analyzing the problems in the Church. However, we are missing one very important influence, and we need to shine a light on it. That influence is the philosophy of George Hegel. Hegel’s philosophy explains how it is that progressives can so easily throw tradition to the trash bin all the while claiming that they represent true Catholicism.
Hegel had a great influence on Western thought, notably including Woodrow Wilson who used Hegelian philosophy to fan the flames of American Exceptionalism and America’s Manifest Destiny in the world. That Wilson would see America as the country called forth by Divine Providence as the most recent and highest manifestation of the Spirit of historical progress is due to his reading of Hegel.
Hegel had no use for history or tradition. The Spirit of history raises new nations at the proper hour and throws the old to the dustbin of history. The old is out, the new is in, typically through a violent or turbulent dialectic. History is a movement forward to the great Absolute, and the United States was the nation whose hour had come. This is why Wilson worked vigorously to undo for good the Monarchies of Europe. That was the old, while democracy and “freedom” (perceived as revolutionary freedom of self-will rather than Catholic freedom over our wills) were the new. History is simply the unveiling of the next stage in the march toward the Absolute.
This might sound familiar in the modern Church. It is easy to discern that the “spirit of Vatican II” is a very Hegelian spirit, which spirit hardly comes off as representative of the Holy Spirit. James Hitchcock, in his History of the Catholic Church – From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium describes it well.
“In a sense, Modernism was Hegelian, in that the unfolding of history was said to demand the adaptation of Christian doctrine to changing times, whether or not this was done consciously.
Modernists tended to a radical historicism, believing that it was impossible to transcend the limits of one’s own age and that attempts to do so were illusory. The historic creeds could not remain permanently valid, since they expressed merely the times in which they were formulated.
Some now understood the (Second Vatican) Council in Hegelian and modernist terms, as merely an episode in the history of the Church’s unfolding self-understanding, its function not to make authoritative pronouncements but merely to facilitate the movement of the Church into the next stage of historical development.”
As we fight our battle, the battle for which we were brought in this world to fight, we must know our enemies. It is not sufficient simply to speak of Modernism. Modernists do not see themselves as Modernist. As mentioned above, they see themselves as “faithful Catholics” (remember, as opposed to “Catholics faithful to Church tradition”). We can be more effective by calling out Modernism for what it is at one of its major roots, which is Hegelian. Let the progressive Modernists defend their Hegelianism as opposed to excusing their progressive ideas as faithful.