Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Orestes Brownson on True Progress

The conclusion of Orestes Augustus Brownson's Conversations on Liberalism and the Church, 1868:
    "I defend," concluded the priest, "progress, but by preserving the principles and institutions by which it is effected; I accept the New, joyfully and gratefully, so far as it grows out of the Old, and is but its development and application under the law prescribed by the true end of man. I war against what the liberals call new, because it is not new, but a revival of what the race has outgrown and thrown off, and because it tends only to destroy all that has been gained during the last eighteen hundred years. You do not and will not believe me, for you are bent on restoring defunct paganism, though you perhaps know it not. But events are rapidly proving that I am right. Religion is fast losing its hold on the new generation; reverence for the wisdom of the past, the experience of ages, and the universal convictions of mankind, is well nigh gone, and it seems to be taken for granted that our fathers were all old fogies, and that all wisdom was born with us. The youth of every nation become its counsellors. Men of mature age, and ripe experience, are set aside as too slow. Indeed, power passes from men, to women, and boys and not to the women who veil their faces and listen to the priest, but to women who, with brazen front, spout infidelity under the name of philanthropy or humanity, and bid us forget their sex, and treat them as men. The result will soon be seen."

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Blogger Enbrethiliel said...


There's a lot to comment on in this substantial quote!

The first part reminds me of something G.K. Chesterton said about progress: you can't really measure it if you keep changing the standard--and progress that can't be measured is not progress at all. (How do you know you're not going backwards?)

The part in the middle about the rejection of the "old fogies" remains a damning mark against today's "young fogies" who love to bash the Baby Boomer generation. It is unchallenged dogma among many Catholics today that the generation which met Vatican II at the starting gate left us a mess of a Church--and for a time, the corollary was that the new converts would save us. Good luck with that.

As for the last part about the brazen women, I have nothing but an "LOL." But we live 150 years later and those results the priest tried to warn his listeners of have already been seen.

6:30 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Brownson was sometimes called the American Newman, converting in 1845, when doing so was considered crazy. The first part is also reminscent of C.S. Lewis:

"We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive."

7:17 PM  

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