In last Friday’s webinar, Attacks against the family: a historical overview, Professor Roberto de Mattei elucidated exactly what is at stake in the battle between opposing conceptions of the family — that conceived by the philosophical realism of St Thomas Aquinas and those conceived by the succession of subjective philosophies which have arisen since the sixteenth century.
“Luther denied that matrimony is a sacrament, and, consistent with this position, denied its indissolubility. He affirmed that matrimony could be dissolved ipso facto by infidelity on the part of one of the spouses… Divorce spread widely in the following centuries in Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican countries, but civil divorce was officially introduced in public institutions only after the French Revolution.”
Even more than the Protestant Revolt, it was the spirit of 1789 which would become the mother and model of all subsequent attacks on the family. Nowhere is this more evident that in the “philosophy” of one of the French Revolution’s most influential children, the Marquis de Sade (1740–1814).
“One could freely vent impulses and desires, including mating with animals, since there is no qualitative difference between men and animals: both are born, procreate, deteriorate. Every sexual difference is obliterated. The supreme aspiration is to abolish all differences and inequalities in order to drive society into primordial chaos. Noirceul, a character in L’histoire de Juliette says, ‘I want to marry twice in the same day. At ten in the morning, dressed as a woman, I desire to marry a man; at twelve, dressed as a man, I desire to marry a homosexual dressed as a woman.’ All gender theory is already contained in these words.”
In describing how sexual degeneracy would be a common feature of both the utopian socialism of French Revolution and the “scientific” socialism of Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895), Professor de Mattei shows how the destructiveness of these theories, through their practical application to subsequent revolutions, would lead, in the twentieth century, to the conflict between Leon Trotsky (1879–1940) and Joseph Stalin (1879–1954).
“The utopians of the nineteenth century were revolutionary philosophers who lived in the field of ideas — abstract doctrine. Marx, in his ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ announces that the task of philosophers is not to know the world but to change it … what Marx wants to say is that it is in practice that the philosopher verifies the truth of his ideas. This means that there is no truth outside of revolutionary practice. Stalin realised that the total destruction of the family would weaken his power, so for this reason, he stopped the sexual revolution which was introduced by Trotsky in Russia… Dictators, if they want to retain power, cannot completely destroy the family on which every state rests, because family is nature.
Professor de Mattei also explained how the ideas of Sigmund Freud would come to be synthesised with those of Marx and Engels, to form the ideological basis of “most violent attack that the family has ever undergone in the West”.
“If marxism attacks the philosophical bases of familial institution, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) attacks its moral foundation. The family is in fact a reservoir of moral values, that arise from the effort of generations to progress morally and materially. Freud opposed Christian morality, based on the spirit of sacrifice, with a hedonist morality based on pleasure; the libido constitutes the hinge of psychoanalytic theory.”
The resulting synthesis was the “freudo-marxism” of Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957) and the Frankfurt School, which “presented the family as the repressive social institution par excellence, affirm[ing] that the nucleus of happiness is sexuality” and that the “abolition of the family is necessary for the revolution from sex-negation to sex-affirmation”. These ideas soon became prominent in academia throughout the west, contributing more than any other ideological factor to the cultural Revolution of 1968.
“The fundamental thesis of 1968 is that marxism must be overcome because it limited itself to a political Revolution without extending the subversion of values to the field of culture and daily life.”
Among the other theoreticians of the present crisis, Professor de Mattei discussed the influence of Michel Foucault (1926–1984) who, in emphasising the ideas of the Marquis de Sade, succeeded in perpetuating their influence on contemporary society.
“Under the influence of Foucault, the American author, Judith Butler, was one of the first to develop ‘gender’ theory, which constitutes the last frontier of post-modern ideologies. Evolutionary materialism remains the subjective philosophy, which sees man as changing material, without a proper nature, which can be moulded at will according to the desires and the willpower of everyone.”
Professor de Mattei’s instructive approach makes it clear that it is, in many ways, it is the underlying philosophical errors, and not the moral disorders to which they give rise, which have been more operative in setting the historical conditions in which we find ourselves today.
Every organism develops on the basis of a principle and dissolves on the basis of the negation of that principle. The principle on which family life is based is the existence of an order of absolute values, rooted in man’s nature. A nature which man has not self-constructed (and therefore cannot deconstruct) but has received from God, Who has established laws that govern the life of man, human society and the entire universe…
Dependence is the law of humanity reunited in society. Everything depends on something, nothing is determined by itself. The principle of causality rules the universe. This rule belongs to the first and indemonstrable principles which Aristotle already discerned from reality. The rejection of reality, the rejection of evidence, the rejection of logic is the characteristic of the errors we face. These errors lead to imbalance and madness, both individual and social. Only those who follow the immutable laws of logic, metaphysics and morality, illuminated by the light of faith, are able to rebuild a society that is self-destructing.
The defence of the family and the reconquest of its values require right reason and a profound appreciation of our total dependence on God to attain the supernatural destiny to which He calls us. If dependence is the key to our salvation in the natural as well as the supernatural order, it is independencefrom the order created by God which is the common cry of Protestantism, socialism, communism, and post-modernism.
“These are utopian and contradictory ideas, but utopia and contradiction is the soul of error. Truth, on the other hand, does not change, it follows immutable rules, it has an objective and universal value. This is why Pius XI in Casti Connubii invites us to meditate on the divine idea of the family and marriage and, with the help of God, to live in conformity with this idea. The Christian family today needs above all to be defined, because one cannot love and live out what one does not know profoundly.