Among the Protestant faiths it is subjectivism—embodied in the principle of private interpretation—and the lack of a central, infallible teaching authority which render them so frequently “up to date” ; deprived of a captain and torn from its moorings, the ship of Protestantism drifts along the currents, while Greek Orthodoxy stays in a drydock of immobility. Catholicism now has to sail against the wind and against the currents. This is the reason why it so frequently seems out of tune with the spirit of the times—frequently but, perhaps, not always and not forever; because we are again beginning to live in an age of dogmatic affirmations. Even Protestant neo-orthodoxy is partly a reaction against liberal conformism, in an age when the failure of a Roussellian humanitarianism and of shadowy ethical notions without a religious foundation are so evident.

While Luther rejected rationality in the strongest terms, and thus fostered the rise of fideism and subjectivism, Catholic theology emphasized reason and logic very firmly. Yet it must also be added that the Church has always been apprehensive about the misuse of reason; this stand has not been affected by the strongly rationalistic and realistic character of Catholic theology since the days of St. Thomas. In contradiction to St. Thomas (and to Luther, after all) the Church often seemed to take the position that man is rather stupid than wicked. Protestantism, though rather pessimistic about the spiritual qualities of the “sin-cripple,” nevertheless gave him the Bible without explanatory footnotes, trusting in his intelligence (or “inspiration”).

Catholicism, on the other hand, frequently tended to adopt the view that a superficial half education was much worse than no education at all, and thus in Catholic countries we saw (and sometimes still see) a large number of illiterates side by side with an intellectual elite of high standards. The Protestant goal of education is usually one of good averages—the optimum for a democracy. In democracies there will always be resentment and contempt for the “highbrow” and the illiterate, the intellectual and the “peasant.” A comparison of the French Canadians with their English-speaking co-nationals, or of Americans with Argentines, will confirm this. The strong intellectualization of the professional classes in French Canada contributes to the incompatibility between the two “races.” In Quebec City, for instance, the poems of Claudel are sold at Woolworth’s and Kresge’s.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time (1940)


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