Skip to comments.Lucifer, The First Liberal
Posted on 05/01/2003 12:23:02 PM PDT by Forgiven_Sinner
In his encyclical on The Nature of True Liberty (Libertas Praestantissimum), Leo XIII makes the remarkable claim that liberalism is diabolic in its origins. "But many there are who follow in the footsteps of Lucifer, and adopt as their own his rebellious cry, I will not serve; and consequently substitute for true liberty what is sheer and most foolish license. Such, for instance, are the men belonging to that widely spread and powerful organization, who, usurping the name of liberty, style themselves liberals" (Libertas Praestantissimum, n.14). Although the Holy Fathers comparison may seem hyperbolic, nonetheless the principles of liberalism mirror the Devils original revolt.
While many political opinions and projects are lumped together under the name of liberalism, we should remind ourselves of its most fundamental basis. As Leo XIII explains, liberalism begins with the rejection of both natural and divine law; the "followers of liberalism deny the existence of any divine authority to which obedience is due, and proclaim that every man is the law to himself; from which arises that ethical system which they style independent morality" (LP, n.15). Morality comes neither from God nor human nature.
For the liberal, morality is created by the free choice of society. Whether one studies Hobbes or Rousseau, one finds no law higher than the human law. In the words of Pope Leo, "just as every mans individual reason is his only rule of life, so the collective reason of the community should be the supreme guide in the management of all public affairs" (ibid.). This divorce of the moral law from politics affects our understanding of democracy up to the present day, as Pope John Paul notes in Evangelium Vitae (n. 70).
This rejection of Gods rule through the moral law is the sin of Lucifer. As St. Thomas explains, the Devil rejected the law of God for a disordered form of freedom: "The end of the Devil is the aversion of the rational creature from God; hence from the beginning he has endeavored to lead man from obeying the divine precept. But aversion from God has the nature of an end, inasmuch as it is sought for under the appearance of liberty, according to Jer. 2:20: Of old time thou hast broken my yoke, thou hast burst my bands, and thou saidst, I will not serve" (IIIa, Q.8, art.7).
This rebellion was imitated by our first parents, when they decided to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of God and Evil, and "be like God." While sharing in the divine image and likeness is part of our perfection, St. Thomas teaches that man desired this divine likeness in a disordered way by eating of the forbidden fruit: "The first man sinned chiefly by coveting Gods likeness as regards knowledge of good and evil, according to the serpents instigation, namely that by his own natural power he might decide what was good, and what was evil for him to do" (IIaIIae, Q.163, a.2). Here is the liberal principle in its first expression: Man alone should decide good and evil apart from God.
While many understand liberalism as a freedom for certain political equality and civil rights, more fundamentally liberalism is a freedom from the moral law and the teaching authority of the Church. One cannot speak of "Catholic liberals" without contradiction, or at the very least, equivocation. Liberalism, like socialism and Communism, has been condemned by Pope after Pope in the social encyclicals. If we are tempted to minimize the evils of this error, we would do well to remind ourselves that Pope Leo XIII presents Lucifer to us as the original liberal.
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(Dr. Arthur M. Hippler is the director of the Office of Justice and Peace in the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis.)
A quick primer on Satan's various names: Originally, he was call Halael, or "Light Bringer" in Hebrew. This is rendered as "Lucifer" in Latin. After Satan's rebellion against God, he was renamed "Satan" or "adversary". "Devil" means "liar".
That pretty much sums up their position.
The problem modern liberals face is that some choices lead to negative consequences. This fact flies in the face of their claim that all choices are morally equivalent.
They react in two ways in an effort to prop up their view.
First, they turn to government. The role of government for a liberal is to remove the negative consequences of bad choices. This is attempted with enormous sums of money and grand social engineering schemes. Unfortunately, the results have been disasterous for society.
The second thing they do is argue that people are biological machines and not free moral agents. This removes personally responsibility and justifies social engineering theory. In other words, a person is just a machine. If you find the right tool, you can fix any problem. Ultimately, you are left with a population that is dehumanized, demoralized and hopeless.
The war on poverty is a perfect example of the failure of this world view.
Why not have a sense of humor about it?
In essence, "conservatism" then was support for a government that actively favored the rich and powerful, liberalism was support for a neutral government, and socialism was support for a government that actively favored the poor. So a 19th century attack on liberalism -- such as that of this Pope Leo 13th -- would have to be considered quite reactionary by virtually everyone today.
The usurpation in the U.S., by FDR and others around 1930, of the name "liberal" for what is really socialism, was made more tenable given that there basically aren't any longer any people who are conservative in the 19th century sense (actively favoring the rich and powerful). (True conservatism does exist in some countries: for example, I understand that in Pakistan only the poor and middle classes pay taxes; the rich landholding aristocracy pays little or none). Since the socialists slid over to using the term "liberal," and these liberal-socialists controlled the government, media and academy and could thus enforce their use of the language, 19th-century liberals had to take on the name of conservatism or libertarianism.