This is a somewhat personal and possibly off subject posting but it is a subject I feel strongly about and, what the heck, this is my Blog so I can decide what goes in it.
Some weeks ago in the “Catholic Times” there was an article by a Catholic Priest called Monsignor Basil Loftus who writes a weekly column called “Vatican Counsel” where he frequently expresses bizarre and heretical views on Religion and History. I try to avoid his articles as much as possible but occasionally I do read him which is an experience a bit like prodding a toothache just to confirm it is still hurting.
Anyway a few weeks ago he wrote an article in the Catholic Times where he finished with the words that he looked forward to a
"a Franciscan revolution to eclipse in drama and extent the French Revolution"
(The reference to a “Franciscan revolution” is a reference to Pope Francis, Mgr Loftus having appointed himself as chief prophet and interpreter of the frequently off the cuff comments of Pope Francis. For myself when considering the (often opaque) comments attributed to Pope Francis I bear in mind that they usually come via unofficial English translations of remarks made in Italian by a native Spanish speaker with a strong Argentinian accent)
Anyway what sparked my anger with Mgr Loftus was not his remarks about his imaginary Franciscan revolution but rather his extraordinary praise for the French Revolution , not the first time he has praised this destructive murderous event in world history. I therefore wrote a letter which said
“ Even by his own standards the suggestion by Mgr Basil Loftus (19 October) that he looks forward to "a Franciscan revolution to eclipse in drama and extent the French Revolution" is bizarre.
The French Revolution was the cause of the death of thousands judicially murdered in the reign of terror. The Carmelites of Compiegne were guillotined simply for being Nuns and they are merely the best known of the thousands of Catholic Priests, Nuns and believers who were also sent to the guillotine solely for the crime of being practising Catholics.
Besides the reign of terror the Revolution led to massacres in the Vendee and other regions of France and plunged Europe into thirty years of war and destruction stretching from Madrid to Moscow. Is that seriously the "drama and extent" Mgr Loftus wishes on the Church and the world ?
If Citizen Loftus wishes to praise the French Revolution as a model to be followed then he has of course got the liberty to do so but it is a desecration of the memory of the numerous Catholic victims of that revolution for such praise to be uttered by someone who claims the title of Catholic Priest. “
I hoped that the letter would be published and having made my point I assumed that Mgr Loftus would then go on as before like most writers of articles who accept a degree of criticism as part and parcel of their job and are pleased to at least know that someone is reading them. For Mgr Loftus however such a “normal” response is not enough and in an expression of hypersensitivity verging on paranoia he actually wrote a letter himself which was published in the papers letters column as if having 800 words published each week wasn't enough. In his letter he said
“ Yes, the violence of the few did degenerate into the madness of the many, but the French Revolution inspired a continent-wide socio-political revolution of which both Church and State still feel the beneficial effects and, no less importantly, are still building upon.
It is also necessary to recognise that the violence against elements of Catholicism was to no small extent occasioned by the manner in which the institutional Church had identified itself with an oppressive regime which denied basic human dignity to that vast majority of humankind, which had neither civil nor ecclesial rights.
Today, for virtually the first time, Pope Francis is making it possible for voice of every baptised man and woman to be heard in the Church.
This would not have been possible without the progressive effects which the French Revolution inspired. The analogy is quite justifiable.
The puerile attempt at personal vituperation is particularly demeaning in your correspondent as a professional gentleman.
Not only is it lamentable in itself, but it also devalues the otherwise positive contribution which the letter affords as a springboard for further clarification which I am happy to make. “
Well I have a number of points to make but if Mgr Lofus really feels that I was engaging in “personal vituperation” in my letter then frankly he needs to get out more. As most normal people would have realised when I called him “Citizen Loftus” it was a tongue in cheek reference to the fact that during the French Revolution the titles “citizen” and “citizeness” were compulsory and indeed during that era Mgr Loftus would have been Guillotined for using the title “Monsignor”.
However I doubt if that would have happened in his case since Mgr Loftus is not the stuff of which martyrs are made. Having read a number of his articles I am quite sure that he would have been eager to swear to the “Civil Constitution of the Clergy” which in effect nationalised the French Church and made it and its beliefs subservient to the French state. He also I suspect would have been quite happy to participate in the worship of the “Cult of Reason” or the Robespierre inspired “Cult of the Supreme Being”. I am quite certain he would not have joined the thousands who were maintained their faith and were sent to the Guillotine for the crime of being believing Catholics.
For a Catholic priest such as Mgr Loftus to praise the French Revolution for its supposed beneficial effects is a form of Holocaust Denial akin to a Rabbi saying “at least Hitler built good Autobahns”
The reality is that the French Revolution did not help in the human search for freedom quite the contrary it led to a murderous tyranny 100 times worse that the Government which it replaced and in the form of the Revolutionary Tribunal the Law of Suspects and the Law of 22 Prairial it established the legal and institutional blueprint for many other dictatorships in particular that of Lenin and Stalin both of whom were admirers of the Reign of Terror and who followed its example. The French Revolution and its evils put back democratic progress and liberalisation throughout Europe.
In any event to argue, as Mgr Loftus does, that mass murder is justified for the greater good is an historically illiterate and morally repellent argument especially coming from a priest who is supposed to preach the Gospel according to Jesus Christ, not the Gospel according to Robespierre and Stalin
Or, as Marie Roland put it on her way to the Guillotine
" Oh Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name !".