Fr. John A. Perricone, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor of philosophy at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. His articles have appeared in St. John’s Law Review, The Latin Mass, New Oxford Review, and The Journal of Catholic Legal Studies. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This past half-century or so has seen the word love dragged through the mud. Once a queen; now a harlot.
No surprise that beneath this strain the word has lost its luster. Repeated blows have so flattened its majesty that it can mean anything; and thus, it means nothing. In the past few years, this emasculation has reached new depths.
LGBTQ+ agitprop has only buried love more deeply. What is it that they mindlessly chant? Love is love. Love has been invoked so promiscuously as to make it a veritable lie. This gives cognitive dissonance a new dimension. Imagine groups in 1943 reacting to Auschwitz and Dachau by joining in marches screaming “more love.”
Hardly a solution to the Final Solution. More like Alice Through the Looking Glass. Such is this latest folly, reminiscent of those drug-addled hippies in 1967 placing daisies in the barrels of the guns of National Guard soldiers.
In the end, this gauzy antinomianism leads only to more death: the death of truth. If this be love, let us have no part of it.
Such mindless group-think, a witch’s brew of Leftist ideology and therapeutic couture, profoundly eviscerates love and is a profound danger to society itself. The Roman Catholic Church will have none of it—because she alone shows the world the truth about love, for her Bridegroom is Love Incarnate.
Therein lies the answer: truth and love.
All the virtues are regulated, guided, and ordered by truth. So it is that the cardinal virtues take their lead from prudence, an act of the intellect that applies truth to the exercise of all the rest. Of all the virtues, St. Thomas devotes the most time to prudence, citing no less than eight integral parts. Without truth, virtue is like a spinning wheel unhinged from its axis—it wreaks destruction as it takes its pell-mell course.
Love is no exception. Truth bridles its formidable power. The Greeks recognized love’s fearsome wildness in plays like Euripides’ The Bacchae. Their revered Oracle at Delphi not only warned Greeks to Know Thyself, but the often forgotten, yet no less important, mandate Nothing to Excess. Aristotle’s in media stat virtus essentially bowed to truth alone to know the path to the good, thus raising virtue to the impressive heights of arête (excellence).
Love is not some homogenized virtue, one size fits all. Its legitimate expressions fan out like a rainbow, and that array of lights is dictated by truth. Sometimes love demands severity. Sometimes tenderness. Still other times, it translates as indifference. T.S. Eliot wrote on Ash Wednesday,
Lord/teach us to love/and not to love.
That enigmatic verse attests to the strict dependence of virtue upon truth. Otherwise, how can man know when to love and not to love except to consult the unerring standard of truth? Ecclesiastes dramatically confirms the multilayered vernacular of love in its third chapter: “a time to kill, and a time to heal…a time to love, and a time to hate.”
These sacred words are spoken by God the Holy Spirit, and while bracing to pious ears, they must be maddening to the dispositions of sentimentalized Catholics who have surrendered to all the pieties of the Secular Left.
Interesting, how Henri de Lubac, he of the suspicious conclusions of Surnaturel, wrote presciently about trends like these in the Church, making it a hostage to The World:
There is nothing more demanding than the taste for mediocrity. Beneath its ever-moderate appearance, there is nothing more intemperate…. It suffers no greatness; shows beauty no mercy.
When the ecclesiastical world is worldly, it is only a caricature of the world. It is the world, not only in greater mediocrity, but even in greater ugliness.
War, for instance, is an act of love for the injured parties of the aggressor to be able to live in peace. Chesterton declared, “The soldier goes to war not because he hates the enemy in front him, but because he loves those he has left behind him.”
Penalties for crimes: these are acts of love for those who might be victimized by the incursions of the miscreant, to say nothing of the miscreant himself. Or, according to the mind of St. Thomas, they are a loving redress of the fabric of the common good torn by the unjust.
Parental punishment of their children is love’s act, securely building the foundations of character. A student’s failing grade stings, but it is a teacher’s act of love, not only for the student’s future success but a tribute to the demands of truth. In a way, it is all about love, but love dressed in the clothing which truth demands.
Chesterton put his characteristically deft finger precisely on the problem when he wrote in Orthodoxy,
The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.
Malcolm Muggeridge undoubtedly read this text when he wrote about the “inhumanity of the humane” in a 1978 New York Times editorial. Humanism without truth does indeed become inhuman because truth has ceased to be its compass. Today’s young guerillas call for love as an answer to the “rigidities” of the moral law.
Tragically, some of the highest-ranking hierarchs in the Church take delight in mimicking them.
Truth takes the world as it is, not as we wish it would be. From there it fashions strategies that truly serve the ends of love, though reaching it not by naiveté’s straight line. Love is seldom a straight line. Straight lines are only for tyrants. It is not an accident that St. Bernard of Clairvaux summons the Second Crusade, St. Joan of Arc leads the armies of France, and Catholic chaplains ready men’s souls for war. Those closest to God know best love’s splendidly refracted shafts of light.
When love is carefully encased in truth it radiates peace, men scale the heights of perfection, and societies prosper.
Without truth, love is a silk noose strangling the soul of men and squeezing life from society.
Flannery O’Connor slices through the hardened carapace of our post-Christian age with chilling logic:
If other ages felt less, they saw more, even though they saw with the blind, prophetical, unsentimental eye of acceptance, which is to say, of faith. In the absence of this faith now, we govern by tenderness. It is a tenderness, which, long since cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced labor camps and in the fumes of gas chambers.
Be careful when the din of the masses fills your ears with love, love, and more love. Translated, it really means, the end is nigh.