Christ's Faithful People
|People today are almost universally asking, "What has happened to our society?
What is wrong?" The book you hold in your hands, Dear Reader, contains in essence the
answers to these questions.
Liberalism Is A Sin was written in Spain by Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany in 1886 and was translated and adapted for U.S. readership by Conde B. Pallen, Ph.D., L.L.D. under the title What Is Liberalism? and published in English in 1899. The book went through various reprints from the original hardbound edition of the B. Herder Book Company, the latest of which were done by TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., the first in 1979, and then the second one in 1989. This present edition of the book has been completely retypeset in a more readable style, using modern spelling and punctuation. Plus, we have brought up to date Dr. Pallen's statistics cited in Chapter 1. Also, we have changed the title from Dr. Pallen's What Is Liberalism? back to Fr. Sarda y Salvany's original and more provocative title, Liberalism Is A Sin.
We have also added most of the italics and all the capitalization in the text, to emphasize important points and to give the reader a little better frame of reference in each chapter. Other than these minor changes, the book is the same as the one Conde Pallen issued in 1899 and substantially the same as the Reverend Dr. Sarda y Salvany's original Spanish text.
Liberalism Is A Sin is one of the most important books for Catholics today (and for non-Catholics, too, if they will read it with an open mind). For it discusses the problem of Liberalism, both in its principles and in all its details and ramifications. (It must be noted here that as the word is used in this present context, "Liberalism" refers to religion and not to politics, though it definitely bears upon that realm as well.)
By definition, Liberalism is the mistaken notion that "One religion is as good as another." The absurdity of this proposition is immediately obvious to all, for two beliefs that contradict each other cannot at the same time both be true. Therefore, insofar as one at least is false, it is simply not good at all, and definitely it is not as good as a belief which is true. Nor is it even as good as one that is nearer to the truth. Also, Liberalism takes no cognizance of there being in the world a One, True, Divinely revealed Religion that is true in all its doctrines and moral teachings--which is exactly what the Roman Catholic Church unabashedly maintains that it is.
This book shows that Liberalism--at least here in America--is all-pervasive and is almost, as it were, universally victorious over the thinking of our people. Yet as a religious--philosophical tenet it is false! And woefully so! For, as the author points out, it leads to an eventual denial of any truth whatsoever by some of its adherents. For people hear first one religious "truth" asserted and then another that contradicts it, and soon they are so confused that they do not know what to believe. And often they end up believing nothing--or holding that nothing is certain, even in matters relating to the Natural Law, which all people know through the use of their reason alone.
Regarding its source, Liberalism, as the author shows very clearly, is a direct result of Protestantism, with its tenet of private interpretation of the Bible. For if a person has a right to decide for himself what the Bible means, this says in effect that he has a right to choose whether he will believe or not believe certain revealed teachings. Then in effect, he also has a right to believe nothing at all. Whereas the correct view is that when the mind of man sees the divinely revealed truth, he has NO CHOICE, morally speaking, to reject it. Its obvious truth requires that he must accept it as true.
(Society, on the other hand, must concede every person a civil right to reject religious truth, as far as he individually is concerned, but that is only because both religion and society must allow a person to exercise his free will and to choose for himself whether he will accept or reject God's Revelation. He who rejects the truth, however, must personally bear whatever evil consequences that result from his own personal choice.) For some, this book may be difficult because they are unaccustomed to reading abstract, theoretical books, but the issues it discusses are so important to each person individually, and to our society as a whole, that it behooves everyone to persist to the end (the concluding chapter is one of the best in the book, maybe even the best), and even to reread the book, that he or she might become completely familiar with the issues covered here. For Liberalism says in effect that there is no objective truth, which is patently absurd. And in the practical order--in our social and political lives--Liberalism leads to a practiced atheism, that is, to a situation in society where, though we do not deny the existence of God, we nonetheless must conduct ourselves vis-a-vis one another as if God did not exist, because we must in effect deny that He has a right to tell man what to do.
This situation results from Liberalism's denying in effect that there is one body of revealed truth, with which man must comply. Liberalism therefore destroys adherence even to the Natural Law, that law which we all understand to be true without the assistance of divine Revelation. But it also destroys the universal acceptance among people of divine Revelation. Adherence to both the supernatural and the natural order, therefore, breaks down under its influence, and the result is chaos in individual lives and anarchy in society.
The all-pervading Liberal ideas that "one religion is basically as good as another" and that "it does not matter what a person believes so long as he is a good person" were spawned almost automatically and by logical necessity, as it were, due to the historical context leading up to where we find ourselves today.
By the year 304 A.D., Christianity (read here "Catholicism") had pretty well permeated and converted the ancient Roman world, so that with the victory of Constantine the Great at that time in the battle of the Malvian Bridge and with his succession as Roman Emperor in that year, Catholicism became the official religion of society. And as the Roman world more and more influenced its neighbors, especially the northern European peoples, the civilization that developed there was Roman-Catholicized civilization, or Catholicized-Roman civilization, if you will. At the time of the Protestant Reformation (read "Revolt"), starting in 1517 and continuing throughout that century, European civilization had already been well formed by the Catholic religion for, at the most, 1,200 years in some regions to, at the least, 400 years in others.
Significant for our Western civilization is the fact, as Hilaire Belloc points out in Essays of a Catholic, that THE PEOPLE WHO HAD BECOME PROTESTANT DID NOT ABANDON THEIR CATHOLIC MORAL CUSTOMS. They continued to live by the truth which their Catholic forefathers had lived by for centuries. The only problem was that they no longer believed as true the religious-philosophical truths taught by the Revealed Religion, the Catholic Faith, which had created their customary and traditional ethic.
This dichotomy between varying professed faiths in the minds of people, on the one hand, and the continued practice of the traditional Catholic and therefore true moral customs, on the other, has come down into our own time. All during the centuries since Luther's revolt in 1517, society has been able to function fairly well, despite the various erroneous religious-philosophical ideas in the minds of people in the same nation--simply because, practically speaking, they were by and large living by the old inherited Catholic truths and practices, and this was what enabled our society to function more or less harmoniously, despite a diversity of belief among its members. Let us pause here to name some of the Catholic social moral customs that are based on the revealed word of God: to worship God on Sunday, not to work on Sunday, to give honest work for your pay, not to steal, to keep monogamous marriage relations, not to practice polygamy, to avoid adultery and fornication, to shun homosexuality (like a plague!), to have children and not to practice birth control (let alone abortion), to raise and nurture them within the family they were born in, to respect and care for the elderly, to nurse the sick, to bury the dead (in anticipation of the resurrection of the body), etc., etc.
Now, the average person might say, "Most of that we have always taken for granted" But the fact is that now (1993) most of these traditional customs--that have made our society workable heretofore--have been, not just called into question, but simply abandoned by many people, as if there were no objective truth, and definitely as if there were no divine retribution for sin left unexpiated. This abandonment is the direct result of the loss of the one, true Catholic faith as the integral creed of our society as a whole, which in turn has eventuated in the abandonment of traditional Catholic moral customs that enable man to live in conformity with God's laws and enable society to function harmoniously.
Liberalism, which in effect says, "It does not matter what you believe--or whether you believe anything at all"--could be held without dire results by even the majority of people in our present society--so long as the majority of our people were also still practicing the old traditional (read "true," "Catholic") moral customs, for these customs, based on the revealed truths of Almighty God and adherence to the Natural Law, enabled our society to function reasonably well. But now, in the 1990's, with so many people having lost touch with the reasons for morality and goodness, we live in a situation where many of these customs have been abandoned by a large segment of our society, and the result is social disorder of the first magnitude.
It is only when the present disorder arose in our social affairs--when murders and broken marriages and people going berzerk in all sorts of ways--became epidemic that people universally began to ask: "WHAT IS WRONG?!" People in general do not understand philosophy, let alone the bad effects that a bad philosophy can have. These evil effects must first impinge on their lives--"smack them hard in the face"--before they cry out, "What is wrong?!"
Well, Dear Reader, "What is wrong" is what has already been wrong for a very long time in the thinking of our people--they no longer profess the truth. They abandoned it starting in 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the chapel door at Wittenberg and initiated his revolt against the True Faith and a unified Catholic society. They jettisoned the Revealed Religion of God, sort of like naughty children left home alone and rebelling against their parents' firm (but orderly) rule--not realizing that they were destroying the very underpinnings of society itself, not to mention the infinitely more important matter of abandoning the one and only vehicle of their eternal salvation. And it was these people by and large who emigrated to North America and founded our nation.
I believe we can say with good historical accuracy that the Catholic moral customs inherited from centuries of Catholic and Roman civilization survived until the decade of the 1960's, when the rot of Liberalism--spread at an accelerated rate by the immoral movie industry--had prepared the social seedbed for people finally to abandon the traditional Catholic moral customs. This abandonment of order for hedonism and personal licentiousness was precipitated during the 1960's, more than anything else, I believe, by the advent of the birth control pill, accompanied by the utter daring of the movie industry in portraying on the screen people actually committing fornication and adultery. The result over the next few years was a general disintegration of sexual morality, pandemic infidelity, a meteoric rise in divorce, and finally, the coup de grace for society, abortion. Top this all off with the concomitant alarming increase in drug abuse, and the rest of human morals simply disintegrated in the train.
This historical scenario we have actually witnessed in just the past 30 years! The discussion here, therefore, is not academic. For the collapse of Catholic customs has taken place only recently, and that within the lifetimes of many of us. The result--if not soon reversed--will destroy what is left of our civilization.
This collapse ultimately is the result of Protestantism--with its belief in private interpretation of the Bible. With the Protestant Revolt from revealed truth and the divinely established authority in the person and office of the Pope in Rome, everyone became his own little pope. Whereas people could not abide one man's being infallible--one man, who held the divine commission from Jesus Christ Himself, when He said to St. Peter, "I say to thee: that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys to the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven" (Matt. 16:18-20); whereas they could not abide this one man's being infallible, whose authority exists only within the strictly defined limits of a tightly wrought, nearly 2,000--year, universally known tradition, all the while being guided by the Holy Spirit, the "Paraclete" whom Christ had sent; whereas they could not accept this sort of God--assisted, worldwide--visible, tightly constrained infallible teacher; they could and did accept, and continue to this day to accept, THEMSELVES(!) as the infallible, unfailing, inerrant rule of faith and morals--they, who are often mental pygmies in theoretical matters, uninstructed in theology and philosophy, poorly informed, busy with practical affairs, weak, sick and all of that; they themselves are the only, the one, the true and infallible authority which they will accept--only themselves! God preserve us from such nonsense!
Is it any wonder we have ended with the social dilemmas we now face, when the majority of people in our society operate under an idea structure such as this? The moral, social, civil, political chaos we have brought upon ourselves is the direct result of Protestantism, with its disastrous tenet of "private interpretation," and its ugly stepchild, "Liberalism," which blesses the spiritual and moral disorder produced by Protestantism with the gooey mental salve of "One religion is as good as another," and its equally absurd corollary, "It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you lead a good life."
As Fr. Sarda y Salvany states, "Protestantism is now a dead dog." (Page 74). But Liberalism still waxes strong in Protestantism's defense. However, the social upheaval of our times, brought on by these false ideas, now demands the ringing of the death-knell of Liberalism. We can no longer abide this error and survive as a civilization. For liberals in a society are like termites in a wooden house. They live off the house while it is still basically sound, saying all the while, "What harm do we do? The house still stands!" But we know that the house of our civilization is getting progressively weaker as the termite--Liberals increase and thrive, and at some point, in the not-too-distant future, we are going to crash!
It is my opinion that we are now there! We are about to crash as a civilization. And we need immediately to begin the process of exterminating the verminous Liberal pest with large antidotes of real, logical truth, taken from the wellspring of all truth, our Divinely Revealed Religion--the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Faith. No other medicine will do for what is otherwise a terminal case for all of us.
We are at the point where action is imperative. For our very personal, earthly safety is at stake--not to mention the vastly more important matter of the salvation of our souls. But we can only act rightly if we know the truth and act in accordance with it.
Liberalism Is A Sin will focus our sights on the last enemy that needs to be destroyed before we can begin rebuilding the "Lost Faith" that makes life on this earth reasonable and harmonious and that enables people to obtain eternal salvation--if they will only embrace it and live by it. For Liberalism is all that is left standing between us and the shedding of the light of Catholic truth on all the problems of our times and eventuating thereby those real, lasting solutions to the moral, social and religious problems which now afflict us unto the death of our civilization.
Thomas A. Nelson
March 10, 1993