Order and Disorder and Our Country

09-18-2022Weekly Reflection

One of the premier Catholic thinkers and philosophers in our country is Edward Feser. He recently published an essay called “Perfect World Disorder” where he talks about the meaning of order and disorder and its effects on our country. You can read the whole essay here:  But for purposes here, some bullet points and observations from his essay and Frank Sheed’s Society and Sanity.

Order is “the arrangement of many things into some unity according to some principle. As St Thomas Aquinas says, this end or final cause or purpose of a thing is “the cause of causes,” that which renders its other causes understandable (Summa theologiae I.5.2). The lens is understandable as part of the eye only by reference to the end of focusing light; the eye is understandable as part of an animal only by reference to the purpose of allowing an animal to see; and so on. Take away the purpose, and you take away the understanding of the whole and of the parts as parts of the whole. This is the root meaning of disorder.

As human beings, the purpose toward which we are by nature directed is (according to the mainstream classical, medieval, teaching) is to know the true and the good. We are well-ordered to the extent that our lower appetites are subordinated to this pursuit. We are also parts of the overall created order, with the existence and nature of its divine Creator being the highest truths we can know, and service to him the highest good. Creation is well-ordered insofar as divine Providence works to ensure that the end for which it exists is realized, and good drawn out of even the worst evils introduced into it by disordered human choices. Man and woman are created to know, love and serve God, and get to heaven. God is truth. God is beauty. God is goodness.

The family is the primary manifestation of our social nature, and the state is a secondary natural manifestation. The latter’s function is to complete the meeting of our social needs by providing what smaller-scale social formations cannot, such as general law and order. The Book of Genesis reminds us it is not good for the man to be alone, thus man and woman are the first meaning of our social nature and the root of family life with their children. But there is a vast mass of truth, nourishing to the intellect and essential, if it is to reach the fullness of its powers, which the family cannot teach him. He must learn it outside. So likewise with his material needs: he needs food and drink, and clothing and housing, far beyond the powers of a single family to provide. For this wider satisfaction and development, a larger group is needed. Families must be united in Society. Society is a positive good. Only in it can man and woman be fully himself or herself.

The State, as this special organization of Society for the Common Good, not only exists to serve men, but in its own nature is a lesser being than the humblest of its members. For of itself, it has no consciousness and no will, it has nothing but what individuals bring to it. And it is a creature of time, and individuals are not. The State as such is concerned with the life of man upon this earth, but it will be healthy only if it realizes that this is not the whole of man’s life. Its job is not to lead men to heaven, of course, but to make the best arrangement of the earthly affairs of beings whose goal is heaven. It keeps the proportions right to realize that the State will one day end and that no one of its members will. If man is not known to be immortal, then he is seen, and sees himself, only as a replaceable spare part in a machine that looks more eternal than he.

There are three fundamental sources of disruption parallel to these orders, famously known to Christian tradition as the world, the flesh and the devil. “The flesh” represents the most direct source of disruption to the order that is the individual human being himself. It comprises those forces that attack us from within ourselves—excessive or distorted passions that are insubordinate to reason, the vices that these can harden us into, and the corruption of reason itself when it becomes blind to the true and the good. “The devil,” of course, is that evil spiritual intelligence who seeks to ape God, and to disrupt the created order by turning it against the purpose for which it was made. “The world” represents malign forces within the social order that act to subvert it and to corrupt the individual human beings who make it up: crime; political corruption; false moral and religious ideologies; the commercialization of grave vice as with pornography, prostitution, and drug use; and so on.

In a healthy body politic, governments will repress both crime and those moral errors that are so egregious that they directly undermine the very stability of the family and the rest of the social order. And the Church, by way of her instruction, assists both individuals and governments in this task, remedying the defects in our understanding of natural law entailed by original sin. Individual minds and governments guided by natural law or the natural order are thus analogous to the body’s immune system.

Positive disorder will exist only if the governing agencies in question cease doing their job. Naturally, this is impossible in the case of divine providence. No matter what the disorder into which the rest of creation falls, providence will ensure that good is, in the long run, drawn out of it in such a way as to realize the end for which the world was made. But society and the individual human being can certainly fall into disorder. Conscience, the voice of reason, may no longer be audible to a man who has fallen into deeply habituated sin. A society can fall into anarchy by virtue of its governing authorities becoming too weak or unwilling to uphold law and order and sound morals.

Perfect or complete disorder exists when the governing forces of an order not only fail to do their job, but act positively contrary to it. It involves a kind of perversity—an authority’s active subversion of the order it governs, its attempt to frustrate rather than realize the end for the sake of which the order exists. This occurs in the individual human being when his mind is in thrall to an ideology that directs him to live contrary to the natural order, and in a society when its governing institutions are dominated by such an ideology. The Church, meanwhile, cannot entirely fall into such a perversion of governance, given the divine promise that the gates of Hell will never prevail against her.

But something approximating this perverse misgovernance can occur temporarily if large numbers of bishops and other churchmen fall into heresy. Worst of all would be a scenario where radical disorientation of this kind exists in all of these orders at once—where large numbers of individual human beings are in thrall to an ideology against the created order, where the governing authorities of states and other large-scale social institutions impose this evil ideology from above, and where even many churchmen cease resisting it or even sympathize with it themselves. That would be the symptoms of an anti-church.

Western civilization appears currently to be approaching something like this condition. The chief manifestation and proximate cause is the sexual revolution, now reaching a culmination in gender theory’s dissolution of the very idea of male and female as objective realities. This is a subversion, first, of the order that is the individual human being. As Aquinas argued, given the unique intensity of sexual pleasure, sexual immorality has, of all vices, the greatest tendency to blind the intellect and corrupt the will. …The sexual revolution subverts the social order insofar as it undermines the family, which is the basic cell of society. As a matter of natural order, sex exists for the sake of bringing children into the world, and binding together the father and mother on whom children rely to provide for and nurture them. It entails self-sacrifice for the sake of spouse and offspring, and in this way is the chief manifestation of our social nature.

But in the diabolical new disorder of things, sex is a matter of self-fulfillment and thereby made radically antisocial. The new life it generates is frequently snuffed out in the womb rather than nurtured. An enormous number of children who are born are left fatherless, with poverty and delinquency the sequel. Others suffer the materially and psychologically destabilizing effects of divorce. Meanwhile, young people’s own sexual sensibilities are thrown into disarray by a pornified popular culture, and their minds are indoctrinated into the tenets of the sexual revolution both by this pop culture and by the educational system. Parents are the first teachers of their children and not the schools or educational bureaucracies which seek to undermine parental authority and indoctrinate them especially into perverse notions of sexuality.

The sexual act is reduced to one item among others on the menu of entertainments. Marriage is delayed indefinitely or never entered into at all. The very ideals of manhood and femininity are mocked, and replaced by the fantasy that one’s “gender” is whichever one among dozens of possibilities one imagines it to be. Chemical and surgical alterations of the body in the service of such fantasy are encouraged, ruthlessly making permanent the effects of what would otherwise be a temporary period of confusion…. The full support of state power, public education, and corporate influence are thrown behind this ideology of sexual liberation. The traditional conception of society as an extension of the family is effectively replaced by the model of society as a political alliance of atomized deviants.

Meanwhile, in the Church the dominant tendency is not to combat these malign developments but rather to accommodate them. Churchmen downplay, keep silent about, or in some cases even apologize for Christian moral teachings offensive to the prevailing ideologies. Where there seem to be at least verbal similarities between these ideologies and the Christian tradition—as with the language of compassion, equality before God, and so on—these are played up, while substantive differences in content are papered over.. Ancient liturgical practices are held in contempt and suppressed. Persistent ambiguity and aggressive novelty demoralize the orthodox and embolden outright heresy.

This election in November is crucial for our country. Catholics must not vote for politicians who support gender ideology, violate parental rights, support political indoctrination in the public school, promote abortion, crime, and lawlessness, the drug cartels, and human trafficking at the border. They must be defeated for the sake of our country. Totalitarian movements seek maximum public disorder, drive wedges between children and parents by political indoctrination, attack God and the Church, so as to make it easier for them to seize power and cancel their opponents. A favorite tactic is to accuse others of what they are actually doing. On the spiritual plane our greatest weapon is the Rosary for the defeat and the conversion of these individuals and for the protection of our country under our patroness the Immaculate Conception. Long live the Sacred Heart, Christ the King and His reign.