I recently had opportunity to mention St. Thomas More in a Twitter comment. I kept an image of More on a holy card pinned in my cubicle at the government agency until the day the armed police ushered me out of the building. (Bad organizations feign so well the functions–especially the forceful ones–of legitimate agencies when the former cloak their corruptions and their intimidations of the cowardly.)
I expressed in one of those comments the hope that that image of St. Thomas More made me a better man and a better civil servant. I do believe that the little reminder of St. Thomas More helped me execute the proper actions and service despite tremendous pressures from the hierarchy of the agency bent of petty self-service and expediency. More’s image provided solace in calling to mind that good men are punished most severely and with great prejudice and treachery.
I found the following recommended article in the Twitter timeline of Professor John Cavadini, University of Notre Dame (@JohnCavadini). The article was penned by one of Professor Cavadini’s colleagues at the university, Cyril O’Regan. You may read it here:
…or listen to Professor O’Regan here:
I was familiar with St. Thomas More long before becoming a graduate student at ND. I read More’s Utopia during my college years in the 1970s. The movie, A Man for All Seasons, is still one of my favorites. Today, I very much benefitted from Professor O’Regan’s article, but did so in the case of the second-to-last paragraph only by contradiction.
I found the article’s author Professor Cyril O’Regan’s middle sentence of the following triplet to hint of an excess of mellowness regarding the motivations of the State. (The first and last sentences I found quite agreeable if one ignores the arguable claim that the “secular State…is a much more amorphous reality.”)
“The choice is no longer surely between the King and God but between Catholicism and the secular State, which is a much more amorphous reality. The secular State attempts to advance tolerance, insists on individual rights, and tends to be permissive regarding everything except religious convictions. It insists that religions will be respected, but only as policed by law (which necessarily is merely human), and with this law overriding religious judgments.”
A more accurate assessment, I believe, would be that the modern state is being utilized as a tool of subversion of traditional societies in which the Church had a proper role in protecting the interests of the peoples. Under a traditional view, the Church and the State collaborate in the procurement of the highest goods of peoples ordered within societies most conducive to personal welfare and spiritual safety as well as fostering beneficial international relations and global harmony between states.
Anyone who even scans other entries here at waterwhistleblower.org will realize that my views regarding the motives and direction of government are much less sanguine than O’Regan’s.
More starkly still, I found that I could hardly disagree more with Professor O’Regan’s understanding of the relationship of State and Church—or simply the nature of the modern, trans-State power–when Professor O’Regan remarks:
“The modern secular State is a gentle non-capricious Henry, owned by no one and by all.”
If I understand O’Regan’s view correctly, it would suggest a Brownian-motion view of history, bumbling along, jostled by aimless forces from which some mixture of grassroots dissatisfactions and desires periodically influence the powerful forces of large corporate and non-governmental organizations to manipulate and produce the societies and civilizations as we have it, especially “democratic” societies. Certainly, O’Regan is convinced that the window of this worldly room is wide open to divine action. We agree here, of course. But concerning notions akin to those of a supposed American democracy, nothing could be further from the truth than the myth that the progression of cultural constructions and transformations are anything but horses predetermined as the winners long before arriving at the starting gate. All other horses are for distraction and dramatic show. Though not perfectly so, which would be an impossibility, it appears that history has been following a rather influenced course, though planned would be too strong of a word. The perceived power of oligarchs and elites to employ Hegelian dialectical techniques, fueled by monetary treasure hitherto unimagined, is readily discernable in many effects bearing no other rational explanation than that of conspiracy, greatly accelerated since the time of the Protestant schisms.
(An interesting side rumination that springs from this red-pilled view of American culture, history and trajectory, is the manner in which the University of Notre Dame, as an organ of American culture and state, actively perpetuates certain myths and impotencies of the American secular religion that are conducive to the unfolding means of the oligarchs for achieving world governance and the desired form of that accomplishment.)
Professor O’Regan very much gets it correct that in matters of civil service, one should follow St. Thomas More’s habit of patient, discerning choice–O’Regan calls it “compromise.” Perhaps another metaphor might be profitably considered. In the movie, the boat trips from More’s estate to and fro, in fog and at night, is an apt metaphor for More’s actions as a servant of the king and state, equivalently, and of God. I suggest, then, the metaphor of navigation instead of compromise. In terms of the selection of direction, behavioral tropism, one turns toward or away–or one selects a desired direction of orientation in space with respect to a goal. Life is generally a movement, a behavioral taxis, and so one sails forward in approach and sometimes–necessarily–back in withdrawal. But because life typically offers so many options, we can preferentially opt for forward motion. St. Thomas More lived out with vigor the principles elaborated in of St. Augustine’s City of God. His was a traveling through one to another city–the City of Man to the City of God circumventing hazards and finding favorable winds. But none of these useful images adequately bring the matter into the realm of human discussion, negotiation, ideological conflict and conversation. And if St. Thomas More’s life was anything, it was, yes, a navigation–but a navigation across a sea of words and ideas. These were not abstract words and ideas. If at all theoretical, they were the kind of theory that soon churned More back into the tumultuous waters of action. In this sense, I come full circle and defer to Professor O’Regan’s discussion of compromise and decision. The world of navigation is mostly about men interacting with a hazardous and impersonal Nature, and only sometimes animate in form. The world of conversation, with the potential of compromise, is hazardous because it is peopled, and only sometimes inanimate in form. Maybe both metaphors are helpful after al.
Professor O’Regan’s article is a deserving read and can yield much worthwhile reflection–and action. I strongly recommend it. Since wring the core of this article, I discovered a recorded reading of this paper, with some modifications, by Professor O’Regan. It is a moving talk and I recommend it as well. Properly applied into lived action, one might even lose his head over it.
 In the video, unlike the printed text, one can detect Professor O’Regan qualifying the description of the secular State and thus altering the comparison to that with a king and not to the Catholic Church. Compare the following video quote with that from the relevant printed text above: “The choice for us, I suppose, surely is no longer between God and king, between Catholic and Protestant—[but] it very well may be between Church and the secular State, the secular State is a much more amorphous reality than a king.” I read the text before discovering the video and, thus, based my criticism in the article above accordingly. I think it likely that Professor O’Regan probably would still maintain that the modern secular State is still more amorphous than the Church. If so, I would differ.