Mama’s Manifesto: Why The Revolution Would Destroy The Family First
If it’s politique d’abord—as W. H. Marshner says it must be in the November ’72 TRIUMPH—we’ll have to start at home, because that’s where all the politicians come from.
No one was more aware of the dynamic interaction of public polity and the private home than Friedrich Engels. Writing in 1884 from Karl Marx’s notes, he says in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and State, “With the transfer of the means of production into common ownership the individual family ceases to be the economic unit of society. Private housekeeping is turned into a social industry. The care and education of children becomes a public affair; society looks after all children equally, whether they are legitimate or not.“And this puts an end to the anxiety about the ‘consequences,’ which is not the most essential social—moral as well as economic—factor that deters a girl from giving herself to the man she loves. Will that not be cause enough to bring about the gradual establishment of an unconstrained sexual intercourse, and with this also a more lenient public opinion in regard to maidenly honor and womanly shape?” (One can hardly repress a smile here, he sounds so Victorian.)
If anything, Engels overestimated society’s power to corrupt the home. He postulated—erroneously—that the home “is the creature of the social system, and will reflect its culture,” and that it “must advance as society advances, and change as society changes, even as it has done in the past.” And woman, of course, is the pivot upon which society shifts direction. Her emancipation “first becomes possible when she is able, on an extensive, social scale, to participate in production, and house hold work claims her attention only to an insignificant extent. And this for the first time has been made possible by modern large-scale industry, which not only admits women’s labor over a wide range, but absolutely demands it, and also strives to transform private household work more and more into a public industry.”
Public power, on the other hand, “is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an intolerable contradiction with itself, that it is cleft into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel….This power arising out of society, but placing itself above it, and increasingly separating itself from it, is the State.” As we know, classical Marxism saw both state and family as necessary evils which would gradually “wither away” before the advance of the utopian classless commonwealth.
Thirty-five years before these thoughts were published, Marx and Engels had already professed in the Manifesto, “The bourgeois claptrap about the family and education, about the hallowed correlation of parent and child, becomes all the more disgusting the more, by the action of modern industry, all family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labor.”
Let’s give the devils their due, Capitalism has indeed catapulted the family into its present condition, but Marx and Engels laid down as principle that the family itself is a product of capitalism, doomed to destruction with it. Poor fellows, as atheists they couldn’t be expected to know that the family is a mystery, a divine creation from the beginning, from which all social systems good and bad have sprung. And will continue to spring. If revolutionaries have never underestimated its power to impede their programs, much less should counter-revolutionaries underestimate its power to project reform.
Like the Church, the family is founded on rock. Buttressed from below by the whole mass of natural law, never could it fail to accomplish what God wills it to accomplish if sin didn’t throw it off base. Pope Pius XI underlined the fact that, “Both man and civil society derive their origin from the Creator, who has mutually ordained them one to the other. Hence neither can be exempted from their correlative obligations, nor deny or diminish each other’s rights….But just as in the living organism it is impossible to provide for the good of the whole unless each single part and each individual member is given what it needs for the exercise of its proper functions, so it is impossible to care for the social organism and the good of society as a unit unless each single part and each individual member….is supplied with all that is necessary for his social functions.
“There would be today neither Socialism nor Communism if the rulers of the nations had not scorned the teachings and maternal warnings of the Church. On the basis of liberalism and secularism they wished to build other social edifices which, powerful and imposing as they seemed at first, all too soon revealed the weakness of their foundations, and today are crumbling one after another before our eyes, as everything must crumble which is not grounded on the one cornerstone of Jesus Christ” (Divini Redemptoris).
This being the case, the true family has little or nothing to fear from chaos or even anarchy. In true chaos, natural structures reassert themselves with a vengeance, only gaining strength from the dissolution of the artificial aggregates which were suffocating them. Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that the kind of “chaos” we ate facing today is not salutary, but is itself artificially contrived. In fact we know from the writings of the fathers of Communism that it is a deliberately forged political weapon whereby society is intimidated into accepting ever more tyrannical structure invading the whole of private life. Against these, nature itself trembles.
Monarchy at Home
Nature trembles because the political economy is basically a family affair, its natural outlines first laid out in the home of Adam and Eve in Eden. Centuries later, no better political prospectus had yet been found, for God outlined supernatural, Christian society from a pattern He laid out, again, in a private home. This time it was the one belonging to the carpenter Joseph and his wife Mary in Nazareth, Politique, oui, but the home d’abord. [Politics, yes, but the home first.]
Even now at home, the basic political entity, we can see the interplay of society and individual apart from the caucus, and certain things stand out. We can’t help noticing, for instance, that there are no equal rights, nor even equal votes. The family isn’t a democracy any more than the Church or any other divine institution. And it can be said to be an organization only insofar as it is an organism.
The opinions of the two-year-old are hardly given the same weight as those of the twelve-year-old. On the other hand, the two-year-old enjoys some dandy privileges his older brother doesn’t have, like being permitted an occasional tantrum, for instance.
All this is a folksy way of noting that the classical political entity is a hierarchy. It’s not a classless society. There are gradations and nuances in states of life, rights and responsibilities. Because these deploy from Father on down, however and not from the children on up, or even from aunts and uncles on the sidelines, family government is something more than merely hierarchical. It’s a monarchy, with one person at the top from whom all power and privilege flow. As far as I know, shocking as this may be, this is the only form of government formally and positively sanctioned in Scripture and Tradition, all other forms being merely permitted for the hardness of our hearts. And this ideal form reflects not only the monarchical structure of the universe under God the Father, but the very order of Persons in the Most Blessed Trinity, where God the Father is Source of both the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Knowing what aberrations the world would fall into on this point, God the Father sent His Son to tell the political hack Pontius Pilate, “You would have no power against me, unless it were given you from above” (John 19:11). For “above” Pilate may well have understood merely “Caesar,” but the point is the same, inasmuch as the source of power is ultimately God, from whom Caesar himself receives his credentials. It therefore follows that the human family isn’t even just a monarchy. Because its true head is God the Father, the human family is a theocracy, so constituted by its very nature.
But it’s even more than that. Beginning from the house in Nazareth in the fullness of time, God the Father established a Sacred Humanity in the Person of His Son as absolute ruler of the human family. “All power is given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). And He made it clear to the politician Pilate, “I am a King. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world.” Telling him also that, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:37).
Therefore the Christian family, deriving its hierarchical, monarchical authority from this divine Man, is a supernatural political entity deploying in the world in time, but transcending it utterly. It is an eternal theocracy. Its citizens are immortal. Endowed with power from on high, it is invincible. The Head of the Family had already decreed, “I have overcome the world.” There are the profoundest theological reasons for enthroning the Sacred Heart in every Catholic home.
Parents as Politicians
If parents aren’t politicians, they aren’t parents. The political authority with which God endowed them in the beginning over their domestic economy remains anterior to collectivism, capitalism, democracy, or any other social makeshifts derived from the delusion that power comes from below. Parents have power. They use it for good or ill. In the final analysis, only they can destroy the home, because ultimately only they possess the duly constituted, God given authority to do so. Who else could? In God’s economy, Christ could not have been executed by anyone on earth but Pontius Pilate. Nor could He have been handed over to him for trial by anyone but the high priest Caiaphas. To these men God the Father had delegated power to kill His Son, should they so decide. Christ’s condemnation was eminently legal, a drama of prostituted authority. And Christ furthermore told Pilate, “He that hath delivered me to thee hath the greater sin” (John 19:11), for misused spiritual power has far deadlier effects on its possessor than mere temporal power misused. Nor did Pilate stoop to using his authority to incite the people against Christ as Caiaphas did. Authority used to bend minds will face the strictest reckoning.
Keeping these facts in mind—and they are facts—we can see that unless the home deliberately misuses or lays down its authority of its own volition, it can never be “the creature of the social system” as Engels teaches, nor will it “change as society changes” unless it wants to. Where society falls from the truth, it has first fallen at home. The Christian home has the obligation to stand firm on changeless principles entrusted to it. Did the Christian family of apostolic times conform to declining Roman culture? Emphatically not, because the only society to which the home can have valid reference is the kingdom Christ founded.
The home is the natural ground of counter-revolutions. Today it must proclaim truth in the very teeth of error. It will hurt. Even Plato saw that once disorder occurs, it can be righted only by commensurate suffering. Revelation and authority clothe society from above; but natural well-being is produced from below, where God put it. Anyone who has watched a physical wound heal over a period of time knows the process doesn’t occur from the outside in. The wound doesn’t close by covering itself with healthy tissue from its outside edges. Healing occurs from below, within the very wound itself, where healthy cells are activated and multiply, slowly bur surely displacing the damaged ones. For a while nothing at all seems to be happening; in fact the mess usually seems to get worse. The wound may fester with good results. Or gangrene may set in where cellular action is too feeble. When this occurs, amputation is the only remedy.
Only by deep activation of natural law and natural processes can social wounds be healed today without violence and destruction, legitimate as these may be as last resorts. We face a world whose institutions must be refashioned from the inside out. They can no longer be patched over to make do. Marx and Engels saw this, but unfortunately prescribed a heavier dose of the very irritants that caused the malady in the first place.
America has been making do with second-hand European errors long enough. The Calvinist interpretation of usury poisoned her economy from the start; a false concept of “equal rights’ will in due time dispatch what’s left of her free government. The family has suffered cruelly from subscribing to both errors. What the capitalist didn’t sell the family, the almighty bureaucrat will soon impose on it by force. But the theocratic family is still there, deep in suppurating society and it has the power and authority to increase and multiply by divine command if it will. It transformed pagan Rome into the Holy Roman Empire by the simple expedient of reconstituting itself on the divine pattern in proper relation to natural law, revelation and authority. It produced warriors, economists and politicians who happened to be saints. It can still do so. There can’t be healthy politics without healthy politicians, and these are produced in healthy homes.
Worth Doing Badly
Acknowledged or not, Christ is the true head of every house, the father His vicar, who may act legitimately therein only as Christ would act. St. Paul draws the obvious conclusion that the mother therefore bears the same relation to her husband as the Church bears the Christ, as the heart to the head, as body to soul. Both set the norm of obedience in the family—he to God the Father, she to her husband—for obedience begins with the parents not with the children, who can imitate only what they see.
What child can be expected to obey a disobedient parent? Let’s lay the blame where it belongs. Children in the family are “the faithful,” the little flock of Christ who must be fed and led, who are so easily scandalized, and yet to whom has been promised the Kingdom. Until every vestige of false “democracy” is eradicated from the home, obedience will never thrive there.
Children may certainly be consulted according to their years and talents (and best in private) as the hierarchy consults the faithful; but never must parents slough of their responsibilities on them, relegating major decisions to the general family pow-wows so dear to the writers of situation comedies. If children are to mature and shoulder responsibility themselves, they will learn by watching their elders fearlessly and doggedly bearing their burdens, not by being forced to make decisions beyond their years. If society is losing its grip on the delightful fecundity and security of hierarchy, this grip was first lost at home. Where proper structure is religiously maintained, the home can keep itself unspotted from the world by quietly interposing its authority before that of the state where this has become corrupt.
As a living organism with its mandate from God, the home is the natural enemy of mere organization. Secure in its divine origins, it is privileged to play, to disport itself in the world like Holy Wisdom in the sight of the Most High. Social or religious movements which seek to organize it on a purely rational basis should be quietly ignored. As a theocracy, the home is the citadel of personal government. Quantitative techniques can’t be applied there without turning the home into something other than what it is—a divine mystery.
It can joyously afford to be uneconomical and inefficient in the ordinary worldly sense, for it obeys a higher law. If follows a more excellent way. At home Mother can make a dress for Mary Jane that might be purchased mass-produced at the super-emporium at a fraction of the cost in time and money. “If a man should give all the substance of his house for love, he shall despise it as nothing!…Many waters cannot quench charity, and neither can floods [of efficiency experts?] drown it” (Cant. 8:7)
Home is about the only place left where anything worth doing is still worth doing badly, as Chesterton put it. The prudent steward there is free to meet financial crises by making extra large donations to charity, perhaps prodding Providence a bit, or to make room for the new refrigerator by leaving grandma’s old kitchen table right where she put it. He has a deep, evangelical distrust of the professional approach to life, and if the truth be known, of all the professionals.
Their contribution to the breakdown of the modern home has been incalculable. Professionals, such as the healer Dr. Spock, have been permitted, nay, invited, to reduce the mystery of the home to a system of superlative techniques—many of which, incidentally, might be learned very much better from the family cat. Would you believe it, the home even has a professional storyteller, the so-called Doctor Seuss. Where are the Doctors of the Church?
Mothers and fathers have been led to believe that without professional direction they can’t run a home at all, so hopelessly has expertise become confused with authority. Suddenly galloping gourmets are arbiters of what goes into the stew. Only professional catechists can transmit the Faith, be it live or on tape. Professional fornicators invade the bedroom to teach parents how to “love.” Experts enthroned as the lares and penates of the hearth usurp its magisterium in the same way that theologians have usurped the magisterium of the Church. Demanding adoration and propitiation from their devotees in return for the smallest favors, they end by dictating their every move. Some now openly extort human sacrifice in the form of compulsory contraception and abortion, and they are getting it.
Brandishing the letter that kills, they have all but clubbed to death the spirit that gives life. And giving life is the business of the home, which is not designed to turn out professional products, but human beings. “Thou shalt have no strange gods before Me!” thunders God the Father, as He did at Sinai. Yet not only do parents persist in their idolatry, they teach their children to do likewise. At home children learn to court these false gods by watching their parents do it. The many are incited to become truly professional parents, with homes ordered to the same efficiency and utilitarianism admired by secular society. Even these, however, must give way to the lust for speed, because the devil hasn’t much time left, and time anyway is money, and a really good family must be a rich family. Poverty, once an evangelical counsel, must be exterminated at its source.
That professionals do produce spectacular results with both speed and efficiency within the narrow limits of their trades is what makes their interference so difficult to parry. They have more tricks up their sleeves than Pharaoh’s magicians, and the tricks work. Whatever the prudent steward can do they can do better. Montessori’s successes in child engineering can no more be denied than the ready excellence of the pre-pre-pared frozen six-course dinner. Few parents have the intestinal fortitude to run a second-rate home, doing there quiet, wonderful things worth doing badly in the very teeth of such excellence.
What begins as an incidental aid soon becomes a chronic luxury, ending as a downright necessity. Keeping its nose in the world, the home soon follows its every scent, “advancing as society advances and changing as society changes,” according to the best Marxist principles. Nowhere is this better seen than in the nursery school syndrome. Good in themselves and useful in emergencies, in due time pre-schools became identified with the bourgeois mystique. What began with Dr. Montessori as a much needed support to the poor wound up as status symbol for the rich. Nursery schools generally, along with compulsory education, have for generations been part and parcel of a latent and widespread contraceptive mentality. Parents who would shrink in horror from dropping a family fetus in the garbage can or dropping it by premeditation through artificial contraception, have no qualms whatever about dropping it off at school. Anything to get it out of the house!
Montessori is about as effective a lasting cure for the ills of the home as wall-to-wall carpeting. This over-extended doctor lady, so competent in her field, provides a good example of how innocent, natural expertise can lead to the most dangerous—and silly—aberrations if allowed to go its way unimpeded. I’m referring to her famous (and oft-cited) fabrication of a child-sized church with mini-vestments and pews, whereby children are to be taught to experience worship. Were true worship a natural pastime like hockey, this would make sense, but what a way to introduce a child to the supernatural!
Such an approach nips the sense of awe right in the bud. How can the child by such means be made aware of God’s transcendence, of the fact that worship is essentially a heavenly occupation which in this life will always be mostly beyond him? A parent with sound spiritual instincts would do just the opposite: he would take his child to grand and beautiful churches where everything is much too big for him. He would make him aware of his insufficiency.
God knows how much genuine worship has been stifled by the devilish fad for bringing the liturgy down to the size and level of the adult worshiper, let alone the child. If this practice takes root in the home we’re done for, because the notion of the supernatural will be destroyed in the very place it should take root. Home is where we first face the fact that religion demands a hard pull upward away from ourselves to things beyond our natural strength and understanding. Deprived of the reach only awe can elicit, the child is pulled heartlessly back onto his own puny resources—besides being ruined by entirely too much attention.
Said Pope Pius XI, “Every other enterprise, however attractive and helpful, must yield before the vital need of protecting the very foundation of the Faith and of Christian civilization.” That was back in 1937. It’s later than we think, and parents had better get busy with a good home-made politique before it gets any later. This is no job for mere professionals. Only amateurs, lovers, can tackle it
The platform has already been formulated: Our Father …Thy Kingdom Come. Thy will Be Done On Earth –As It Is In Heaven.