Archives for posts with tag: Hilaire Belloc

Third Great Crisis in the Universal Church

The longest crisis in the Church of Antiquity, Arianism, began soon after the last and worst Roman persecution, under Diocletian. Its nature was dogmatic, hence a crisis of faith. Arianism advanced a change in the profession of faith (Credo) over a seemingly intellectual and semantic point, unimportant at first sight, but which was in fact the very foundation of all revealed dogma: the double nature of Jesus Christ, divine and human. The main task of the first ecumenical councils was then to establish Christological dogmas on solid bases, including the dogmatic proclamations about the Blessed Virgin, which also aim to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is true God and true Man.

The Arian heresy, being a fundamental one, will still be felt strongly, although with more subtlety, all along the other two great crises.

The second great crisis is the Protestant Reformation. It was not mainly a dogmatic or intellectual crisis, but above all a crisis of authority. The object was to elevate the conscience, the personal will, against the legitimate authority of the Church. Various other heresies were added, but mostly to justify the revolt, and the Protestant individualism, especially the individual interpretation of Scripture, was the main culprit in the crisis and the tens of thousands of divisions that followed.

The nature of the present crisis is one of morals. The problem was already present in Protestantism, but the Reformers themselves and every sensible person saw from the first generation that the depravity consequent to the individualistic outlook in religion was threatening the whole society. The civil powers and the seriously religious people actively fought this tendency and were able to generally maintain the Western Christian moral standards, thus avoiding chaos. But the imbalance remained pervasive.

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The Meaning of Words

My first university studies were in translation. I never worked in the field because I am not perfectly bilingual, having never lived in English. I read and write often in English, but I speak it only occasionally and I still make mistakes that my readers are welcome to point out to me.

Translators have an unflattering Italian proverb: Traduttore, traditore – “Translator, traitor”. In any translation, no matter how literal, there are things lost, added, interpreted. It is the essential part of the trade to choose the words, phrases or style conveying a meaning as close as possible to the original, but even a very good translation will have a different ring, as both the language and the translator have a different voice and style. A fair translation is usually not quite as good as an original text of high quality, but in some rare cases an original of relatively lesser quality might appear in translation as the work of a genius, like Belloc said about Kipling and Chesterton :
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Recently, John C. Wright posted a quote of Bruce Charlton expressing that a return to Antiquity pagan morals and philosophy would be more likely to lessen the divide between our modern pagans and Christianity than direct Christian preaching. Dr Charlton was calling (half-seriously, of course) for pagan missionaries. Here is my take on the subject (in three different posts, slightly edited):

1. Interesting, but we have no need of pagan missionaries. We already have them anyway and they only wreak havoc: from the 18th and 19th centuries we had the Enlightenment prophets and the Progress worshippers. We still have many of those, but for half a century it has been much worse with the New Age missionaries. Absolutely nothing good can come from this church of the velvet-gloved Satan. And they are almost all impossible to convert without much fast and prayer and exorcisms.

Belloc made the following comparison between the modern pagans and the old while explaining why the “Modern Attack”, as he calls the new paganism, is so very dangerous to the Faith: “A man going uphill may be at the same level as another man going down hill; but they are facing different ways and have different destinies. Our world, passing out of the old Paganism of Greece and Rome towards the consummation of Christendom and a Catholic civilization from which we all derive, is the very negation of the same world leaving the light of its ancestral religion and sliding back into the dark.” (Hilaire Belloc, The Great Heresies, 1938)
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