Agriculture was sunk to a low ebb at the decadence of the Roman Empire. Marshes covered once fertile fields, and the men who should have tilled the land spurned the plow as degrading. The monks left their cells and their prayers to dig ditches and plow fields. The effort was magical. Men once more turned back to a noble but despised industry, and peace and plenty supplanted war and poverty. So well recognized were the blessings they brought, that an old German proverb among the peasants runs, ‘It is good to live under the crozier.’ They ennobled manual labor, which, in a degenerate Roman world, had been performed exclusively by slaves, and among the barbarians by women. For the monks it is no exaggeration to say that the cultivation of the soil was like an immense alms spread over a whole country. The abbots and superiors set the example, and stripping off their sacerdotal robes, toiled as common laborers. Like the good parson whom Chaucer portrays in the prologue to the “Canterbury Tales”:

“‘This noble ensample unto his scheep he gaf That first he wroughte and after that he taughte.’

When a Papal messenger came in haste to consult the Abbot Equutius on important matters of the Church, he was not to be found anywhere, but was finally discovered in the valley cutting hay. Under such guidance and such example the monks upheld and taught everywhere the dignity of labor, first, by consecrating to agriculture the energy and intelligent activity of freemen often of high birth, and clothed with the double authority of the priesthood and of hereditary nobility, and, second, by associating under the Benedictine habit sons of kings, princes, and nobles with the rudest labors of peasants and serfs.”

Henry M. Goodell, “The Influence of the Monks in Agriculture and Christian Civilization” (Sacred Heart Review, 3 December 1910)


One initial difference is that in the confessional tradition only men are named as witnesses, whereas in the narrative tradition women play a key role, indeed they take precedence over the men. This may be linked to the fact that in the Jewish tradition only men could be admitted as witnesses in court – the testimonies of women was considered unreliable. So the “official” tradition, which is, so to speak, addressing the court of Israel and the court of the world, has to observe this norm if it is to prevail in what we might describe as Jesus’ ongoing trial.

The narratives, on the other hand, do not feel bound by this juridical structure, but they communicate the whole breadth of the Resurrection experience. Just as there were only women standing by the Cross – apart from the beloved disciple – so too the first encounter with the risen Lord was destined to be for them. The Church’s juridical structure is founded on Peter and the Eleven, but in the day-to-day life of the Church it is the women who are constantly opening the door to the Lord and accompanying him to the Cross, and so it is they who come to experience the Risen One.

Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (2011)

When those who are not of the fold know even a little of the history of the Church, know a reasonable amount of the other side of controversial problems, and, above all, when they have been brought into personal touch with the Church itself, her pastors and the hierarchy and religious men and women, prejudice disappears and understanding grows. We still have the monks and nuns of the olden time with us, but no one who knows them personally ever thinks for a moment of lazy monks and idle nuns. After a man has met scholarly Catholic clergymen, he has quite a different view of the relations of the Church to education. That is all that the Church has ever needed–to be known in order to be appreciated.

James J. Walsh, The Popes and Science (1908)

Yet the most important result of the shrinkage of phantasy is to be found in the lack of ability for religious metaphysical visualization. The decay of the imaginative faculty has in this field the most detrimental consequences. Eternal life, God and devil, the angels, the lives of the saints, Golgatha and the Resurrection, the whole theistic Weltanschauung surpasses completely the faculties of the technical homunculus, who like the unfortunate Apostle Thomas only believes what he sees.

The religious communities of the United States, in the industrial areas, who depend upon their flock financially, have therefore to interest their members in material, social, and political questions. These religious societies are in exactly the same situation as the “intellectuals” who follow public opinion instead of leading it, the press or the higher institutions of learning. The Catholics at least have nowhere compromised on the essentials. The “Churches” on the other hand, have followed the trend toward the left in a slavish way, trembling in their shoes lest they be accused of being old fashioned, reactionary, or uncompromising. The masses who cared more and more for security, after having lost their enthusiasm for the lottery of liberal capitalism with increasingly unfavorable odds, have induced the shrewder and more “farseeing” part of the ministry to side with Leftism, thus hoping for a longer lease of life. This involves the acceptance of socialist and pink tendencies, an enthusiasm for all humanitarian and “progressive” ideas like birth control, the surgical abortus, euthanasia, “free love,” and pacifism, not to mention the numerous inroads of modern skepticism, so that little of the depositum fidei remains. The residue is a pale, problematic humanitarianism, which looks with greater respect to the “Men in White” than to the ministers of their faith.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)

Political parties of the totalitarian type on the other hand promise “everything” — faith (in a worldly millennium), intellectuality (on a sentimental basis), drunkenness (with words), crime (of the “honorable,” i.e., political type). An American Fascism of tomorrow might actually attract all “better” elements leaving the scum to its pastime of drink, theft, and sex. Needless to say this is a dangerous game. It may be that these elements, having a free hand, would “save America” for the “White Man,” and Christianity might thus well-nigh become a tolerated religion, but the Church as such would suffer bitterly in the long run and the catacombs might be her last stage of development here in this country.

In the sober forties there will be another generation, steeled by the war, grimmer in outlook, far more determined to have its own way. The generation of the twenties was one of despair, of despair for the “right reasons”; there is a danger that our decade will be one of wrong and false aims. The issue is thus far graver. Most planning (whether it is done by ochlocrats, Fascists, Pinks, or Communists) points to a radical decrease of liberty. Yet there is no doubt that the end of liberty in America would be practically the end there of the Church.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)

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)

We should always bear in mind that the Church and ochlocracy cooperated badly in Europe, that the forces inimical to the Church always fostered ochlocratic tendencies. One cannot dismiss the latter fact as purely accidental. Of course there is no incompatibility on dogmatic grounds. The question moves on a plain where in dubiis libertas is written in flaming letters: “In doubtful matters, liberty.” Yet the atmosphere, the parfum of the Church and that of “democracy,” when blended in the political and cultural sphere, emits a bad stench. A parallel reading of the works of our authoritative “democratic” essayists, poets, and other creative writers (from the Leaves of Grass to the City of Man) with the encyclicals of Gregory XVI and Pius IX would give a mortal shock to many “progressive” Catholics who think that the Church ought to come to terms with the spirit of our time . . , (which may, overnight, become the spirit of yesterday). These encyclicals at least express the spirit and policy of the Church in unmistakable directness and clearness.

Efforts have never been wanting to bring Catholicism and ochlocracy under the same denominator, and these efforts can easily be traced back to two specific sources: (1) wishful thinking influenced by the desire to meet certain situations, and (2) wishful thinking due to environmental and personal circumstances…Our great Catholic democratists, who are such excellent logicians, lack frequently the insight into the Catholic mentality of the rank and file in Catholic countries. The “typical” Catholic of the Mundus Catholicus is certainly not a communitarian. While not hostile to a personal attachment, he resents excessive legal ties at the same time. Neither is he free of a healthy cynicism and worldly pessimism, which traits are rare in the (more naïve) Protestant. If medieval man would have been told that he could “appoint” his kings or superiors, he might have become quite interested in the proposition. Yet on discovering that his vote was scheduled to be drowned in an ocean of millions of other votes his reaction would have been that of a man whose leg had been pulled successfully.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)

Thus Innocent III, while ever conscious of the popular distaste for the same man being both accuser and judge, went along with the legal fiction of permitting ‘the public outrage’ to be sufficient for summoning a person to an accounting. But this was only a halfway measure that really did not solve the problem of bringing notorious persons to the bar. For once the popular clamor of the synodal witness had brought the person to court, they then withdrew; they had no part in the examination of the accused. It still seemed as if the judge and the accuser were the same, despite this legal fiction. What was needed was for the synodal witness, who according to Canon Six of the Council, was to investigate the evil report and notify the bishop, to continue on as an active participant in the trial.

This step, however, would not be taken until a score of years later when the ‘inquisitorial procedure’ was adapted by Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241) as a specific institution (the Inquisition) to deal with heresy. As the Inquisitor under the new mandate from Gregory IX organized the process for investigating heresy and heretics, he found it advantageous to appoint minor officials to make the original inquiries and then to assist him in the actual process of the trial. Out of this practice grew the office of ‘minister of the inquisition,’ who was really basically concerned with the investigation of heresy and with prosecuting the accused before the inquisitorial tribunal itself. From this auxiliary office developed the Promoter of Justice in church courts, whose duty it was to investigate wrong doing and to prosecute offenders. In this same century emerged the Grench office of procurateur de rio, and eventually states’ attorneys, precursors of modern day district attorneys.

Thus the Church substituted the inquisitorial procedure for the defective accusatory process. A rational inquiry was now introduced as the ordinary method of weighing the evidence and of deciding the guilt or innocence of an accused person. Moreover a designated official now assumed the responsibility for investigating and prosecuting alleged offenders. Both of these developments found their way into the legal systems of continental Europe. Indeed the ‘enquete’ of Louis IX of France is one of the glories of his reign, and a milestone in legal history. The inquisitorial procedure owers its modern day reputation to its association with the tribunal of the Inquisition, with which it has been mistakenly identified.

The inquisitorial procedure, then, was designed to remedy the deficiencies of the traditional accusatory method which made the detection and prosecution of criminal offenses dependent upon private initiative. The inquisition evolved by the Church to deal more effectively with abuses by the clergy was shortly adapted as a special agency in response to the exigencies engendered by the growth and spread of heresy. The Inquisition as an institution as well as a legal method of procedure was a court of exception, of extraordinary and summary procedure, in the face of a virulent and pressing danger.

Albert Shannon, The Medieval Inquisition (1991)

In order to bring some semblance of order out of heedless mob action it was of first importance to determine the exact beliefs and practices of the major dissident sects – the Cathars and the Waldensians – and the supporting reasons why they so believed. These doctrines were then compared with the teachings of the Roman Church, for both groups claimed that they were the true Christians trying to recapture the original, the pristine faith of the church, the faith of the Apostles. To the extent that their creeds were found to differ from the Catholic Church, the new movements were terms heretical. The purpose of the investigation, the ‘inquisitio’, was to point out to the dissenters wherein their teachings strayed from that of the Roman Church and hopefully, to win them back to their former allegiance. If a wayward son or daughter acknowledged his/her error and was received back into full communion with the Church, success was achieved. A salutary penance was given to the penitent – as is done today in the Sacrament of Penance. On the other hand, if the person knowingly and adamantly persisted in his/her heterodox beliefs, the Church then sorrowfully acknowledged defeat, solemnly declared the person a heretic, removed him/her from the communion of the faithful, and handed him/her over to the Secular Power to answer for the crime of disloyalty committed against political society.

In this way the faithful were protected from the contagion of evil doctrine, and the State preserved the integrity of the political and social order. For in the thirteenth century, and long before, Church and State worked closely together to protect and maintain the religious, social, and political stability that all believed necessary for the commonweal. In principle the separation of Church and State was insisted upon, even though the close interdependence of one on the other brought them into continuous association. The Church became heavily entangled in the feudal system, so much so that its ministers, even bishops, were chosen by the State and its property handled at times as a private possession by lay expropriators. It was only a mighty effort by the Gregorian Reform that reversed this stranglehold. The State in its turn had depended enormously on the Church for its legitimacy, for its higher trained officials and for the only education and culture that existed. Therefore, the unity of Christendom was sundered not only by the anti-ecclesiastical attitude of these new heretical sects, but by their anti-social nature as well (marriage was evil, all oaths upon which feudalism depended were prohibited, the coercive power of political authorities was denied – all of which undermined the very existence of organized society). In the twentieth century this kind of correlation and consensus simply does not exist.

Albert Shannon, The Medieval Inquisition (1991)

The functions of individual parts have importance for the whole and ideologically their functions may be “equal,” but to all practical purposes their hierarchy is evident. A chimney sweep is a valuable as well as necessary member of society, but his function in earthly relation is to sweep chimneys, to beget children, to pay taxes, to lead with charity and authority his family as well as his apprentices, and to raise his voice in these few public matters which by his education, knowledge, and wisdom he is able to judge. His function is not to operate upon cancer patients, to drive locomotives, or to direct the foreign policy of the country. All these functional divisions are matters of reason and prudence. If we need new clothes we will go to a tailor, if we have a bodily ailment we will call upon a doctor, if the country needs a military or a budgetary reform it is reasonable and prudent to enlist the aid of a military or financial expert for this purpose; it would certainly be sheer nonsense to ask a tailor or a doctor to remedy such situations.

Yet ochlocrats who never tired of accusing conservatives and Catholics of superstition, illogical traditionalism, and “unscientific” procedure make an act of faith in the inner illumination of the individual and the infallibility of numerical majorities. Phrases like “forty million Frenchmen can’t be wrong” display, nevertheless, a gross misunderstanding of logic; never in history has there been a more farcical and insipid amalgamation of Lutheran and Rousseauan confusion than in the interpretations underlying elections and the general franchise. Luther already was certain that everybody ought to be his own Pope by making use of his own wits in a private interpretation of the bible after dispensing with expert theological judgment; every interpretation was more or less right and had to be tolerated provided it did not conflict with the general line of the Reformers’ intention, and provided — last not least — that it did not lead back to Rome. The ochlocratic “liberal” is indeed in a difficult position toward the followers of terroristic heresies and his belief that “truth stands by itself” has often proved to be suicidal. He is therefore inclined to abandon his liberalism and to turn ochlocracy into a brutal totalitarianism. Luther with his ducal and baronial disciples was followed by terrorists of the type of Calvin, Thomas Münzer or Jan van Leyden, just as Robespierre succeeded Mirabeau and Noailles

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)