SPAIN HAS HELD A SPECIAL FASCINATION FOR ME, ALL MY LIFE
Perhaps the reason for my fascination is the fact that my paternal forefathers emigrated from Spain to Oaxaca in Mexico in the Eighteenth Century about the same time that my mothers paternal forefathers were emigrating from France to New Orleans, Louisiana. My father’s family kept alive some of the customs and mindset of Spanish culture even as they became immersed in the culture of Mexico. My father, had fled religious persecution in Oaxaca by first moving to Merida in the Yucatan and then to New Orleans with his father in 1915. My grandfather died in New Orleans just a few years later and was buried in New Orleans. My father married my mother and then became alienated from the rest of his family in Mexico after my grandfather’s death, primarily because of a family dispute over my grandfather’s estate back in Oaxaca. Consequently my father seldom spoke of Mexico and as I grew up I focused more on my French and Spanish roots, in addition to my fascination with ALL of American history.
The Spanish Civil War began as I entered my my teen years and I followed its course with keen interest. Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls made a great impression on me and were it not for the persecution of the Church by the Republicans, the murder of thousands of priests and nuns, I would probably have had more sympathy for their cause rather than that of Francisco Franco. However, my avid reading of the history of Spain during those turbulent years enabled me to see the tragedy that socialism and communism had brought to Spain. When I later learned that many of the American volunteers in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who had fought alongside the Republicans were executed when they sought to return to the United States, my disgust with socialist/communist loyalties was made permanent.
I have visited Spain many times. I have drunk deep of Spanish culture. El Cid was one of my childhood heroes and I have visited his grave in Burgos (along with American heroes of the American Revolution and the exploration of the American West.) I was so fascinated by the grace of Manolete that I even foolishly tried my hand at a corrida (luckily with a young cow and not a bull.) Although I was never sympathetic with the repressive methods of Franco’s regime, I admired the peace and prosperity he brought to that Country. Only a Catholic Franciso Franco could have restored order (albeit at times ruthlessly) to a Spain torn apart by the socialist intrigue and the regional ambitions of Catalonia and Vizcaya. I admired the way he provided for the smooth transition from his dictatorship to the constitutional monarchy and democratic republic that succeeded his death.
With the return of the Socialist Party to power under the present prime minister Zapatero I have watched in dismay as Spain become increasingly secularized with consequent hostility to the Church and the enactment of a whole series of laws that are systematically seeking to destroy the Christian heritage of Spain and its moral foundations. We here in America should have been more alert to Zapatero’s election which served as a model for the 2008 election of Obama.
My gloom has lately begun to give way to a more hopeful view of the situation in Spain. As Spain has begun to experience its share of the world recession (the unemployment rate in Spain has reached 20%), the popularity of the Zapatero regime is beginning to fade. The Church seems to be getting stronger bishops. The laity seems to be waking up from its infatuation with Zapatero and hopefully that foreshadows the coming loss of infatuation of American Catholics with Barack Hussein Obama. Sandro Magister reports on a recent Spanish convert who is having a significant impact on Spaniards and other Catholics in other countries.
Catholic Spain Has a New Herald: Juan Manuel de Prada
From acclaimed author to staunch apologist for the Church and the pope, including in “L’Osservatore Romano.” His is one of the many stories of conversion from unbelief to the Christian faith, in Europe. Against progressive “tyranny” by Sandro Magister
ROME, October 12, 2009 – For a few days now, Italian bookstores have been selling a collection of interviews with converts to the Catholic faith, some of whom are very prominent: from Jean-Claude Guillebaud of France to Janne Haaland Matlary of Norway, former deputy foreign minister of her country and an author of books that have been translated into various languages, one of which has a preface written by then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
The collection of interviews, published by Lindau, was written by Lorenzo Fazzini and is entitled: “Nuovi cristiani d’Europa. Dieci storie di conversione tra fede e ragione [New Christians of Europe. Ten stories of conversion, between faith and reason]”.
But “L’Osservatore Romano,” the newspaper of the Holy See, also has a famous convert among its main contributors.
He is the Spanish writer Juan Manuel de Prada, shown above photographed with the promotional cover of the 2003 novel that definitively sealed his success: “La vida invisible.”
In his latest book, de Prada, 39, has collected the combative articles that he has written in defense of Catholicism, not only for the Spanish newspapers “ABC” and “XL Semanal,” but also for “L’Osservatore Romano,” where he has been a contributor since 2007. In just five months, five editions of the book have been issued in Spain. For one month, de Prada has also been one of the main voices of “Cope,” the most important Spanish Catholic radio broadcaster.
Last October 2, “L’Osservatore Romano” translated and reprinted the preface to his book. In it, de Prada recalls how and when his “life changed direction.”
It was the spring of 2005, and John Paul II had just died. De Prada found himself in Rome, and he “suddenly” wanted to adhere definitively to that “ancient liberty” which is the religious and cultural treasure of the Catholic Church: a liberty that is “the antidote to all the tyrannies of the world.”
The book, in fact, is entitled: “La nueva tiranía. El sentido común frente al Mátrix progre.”
The “progressive Matrix” is de Prada’s name for the grand deception that he sees at work in the dominant culture in Europe: “The dictatorships of the past stifled personal freedom. The modern ones induce man to worship himself, and thus deny his own nature.”
And again, he writes:
“The battle that is joined today tends to restore to men their authentic nature. If it succeeds – if the Matrix is dismantled – men will discover that they do not need to build towers in order to reach heaven, for the simple reason that heaven is already within them, even if the new tyranny seeks to strip it from them.”
The following is a translation of de Prada’s preface to “La nueva tiranía.” The original text is included on the Spanish edition of this page of http://www.chiesa.
De Prada dedicated his book to his friend Giovanni Maria Vian, director of “the pope’s newspaper.”
The progressive matrix of the new tyranny
by Juan Manuel de Prada
“How can one talk about a ‘new tyranny’ when never before have men enjoyed so much freedom and so many rights?” It’s a question the reader unfamiliar with the subject might well ask. The classical tyrannies, in effect, were characterized by the fact that they stifled freedom and denied rights. Men were aware of this usurpation because, deprived of something that belonged to them by nature, they felt diminished.
The new tyranny of which we are speaking, instead, exalts man to the point of adoration, giving him the opportunity to turn his interests and desires into freedoms and rights, which however are no longer inherent in him by nature, but become the “gracious concessions” of a power that legally ratifies them. And so, turned into a child who contemplates his own whims as these are maximized and satisfied, the man of our time is more than ever the hostage of the assertions of power that guarantee him the enjoyment of all-encompassing liberty and constantly expanding rights. In the classical tyrannies, the subject at least still had the consolation of knowing that he was oppressed by a power that was violating his nature; but those who are subjected to this new tyranny have no consolation other than the protection of the same power that has lifted them up to the altar of adoration. And so without even realizing it man has become a tool in the hands of those who tend to him with painstaking care, as ants tend to aphids before feeding on them.
In exchange for these “gracious concessions,” man accepts a hegemonic view of the world that is imposed on him and turns him into an object of social engineering. Let’s call this hegemonic view the “progressive Matrix”: a mirage, a grand illusion or trompe-l’oeil that is accepted with a gregarious spirit. Those who dare to question the trompe-l’oeil are immediately the target of anathemas, they are considered reprobates or blasphemers, enemies of the worship of man. The progressive Matrix used by the left has also been assimilated by the right, which has declined to join the battle where the confrontation with the adversary would be dynamic and exciting: on the level of principles. In its capitulation, the right limits itself to introducing insignificant variations on the working of the grand machine, but does not dare to use its gears. It’s like plowing without oxen.
The progressive Matrix has thus become a sort of Messianic faith; it has instituted a new order, it has imposed unassailable cultural principles, it has established a new anthropology that, while promising ultimate liberation to man, holds nothing for him but future suicide. And standing against this new order is only the religious order, which restores to man his true nature and offers him a correct view of the world that undermines the foundations of the trompe-l’oeil on which the new tyranny is based, dispelling its falsehoods. A vision that power makes a great effort in combating, since the religious order is the only bulwark to be destroyed before its triumph is complete.
Rampant secularism accuses the Church of meddling in politics, citing for support the Gospel passage that is typically flourished by those who do not read the Gospel: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” But what is it that belongs to Caesar? Temporal things, earthly realities; but, naturally, not the principles of the moral order that are born from human nature itself, not the ethical foundations of the temporal order. The new tyranny, which is so intent on expanding the “liberties” of its subjects, denies the Church the liberty of judging the morality of temporal actions, since it knows that this judgment would include a radical subversion of the trompe-l’oeil on which its very existence is based. Power longs for a pharisaic, corrupt Church that would decline to restore to humanity its true nature and would accept that “mystery of iniquity” which is the adoration of man; it hopes for a Church brought to its knees before Caesar, transformed into the “whore that fornicates with the kings of the earth” spoken of in Revelation.
Today in the West this great clash is being engaged, which the new tyranny disguises very effectively as an “ideological battle.” But if this were truly an “ideological battle,” power would not consider this a subversion; because ideology is precisely the fertile ground that favors its supremacy, in that it establishes a “demo-tussle,” a “democratic” fight of all against all, capable of turning men into petulant children fighting for their “freedom” and “rights,” just as the builders of Babel fought, in the midst of the confusion, to raise a tower that would reach heaven.
The battle that is joined today is not ideological, but anthropological, because it tends to restore to men their authentic nature, permitting them to emerge from the Babelic confusion fomented by ideology, until they reach the road leading to the original principles. If it succeeds – if the Matrix is dismantled – men will discover that they do not need to build towers in order to reach heaven, for the simple reason that heaven is already within them, even if the new tyranny seeks to strip it from them.
The articles collected in this volume are dispatches from this battle, issued from the platforms that the newspaper “ABC” and the magazine “XL Semanal” have given me for more than 13 years, and that “L’Osservatore Romano,” “Capital,” and “Padres y Colegios” have recently inaugurated. The curious reader will note that these “battle dispatches” combine diatribe and introspection, invective and elegy, reflection of a political nature and artistic digression; he will even find a selection of observations made during a spring in Rome that changed the direction of my life, because it was then – in the days following the death of John Paul II – that I definitively adhered to the “ancient liberty,” the antidote to all the tyrannies of the world. In an age of uncertainty that leaves man adrift in a sea of troubles, Rome stood before me, suddenly, like a rock of salvation: I am not referring to religious salvation alone, but also cultural, because I consider the faith of Rome a bulwark that clarifies the terms of our spiritual genealogy and shelters us from the squalls into which the new tyranny would like to toss us. Rejecting this boundless possession means signing an act of social death; claiming it as one’s own does not constitute an act of submission, but of proud and joyful freedom.
The eternal revolution of Christianity consists in revealing to us the meaning of life, restoring to us our nature; from this discovery is born a joy with no expiration date. When this joy is combined with a minimum of artistic sensibility, life becomes a feast for the intelligence. Chesterton wrote that joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. I, who am a somewhat immodest Christian, have sought in these articles to make public, or at least provide a glimpse of, this gigantic secret that pervades and transcends me.
Madrid, March 2009