Friday, November 24, 2006

Freedom from Perturbations

Did you ever wonder what a perturbation is? It is when your mental emotions, (the four basic ones are fear, sadness, joy, or hope) are out of whack. A perturbation can happen to an individual or to a society. In Latin, after we pray the Our Father at Mass, the priest prays to libera nos de omnes perturbationes, or to free us from all perturbations. The modern English translates this as "anxieties."

Now, a person or a society can be subject to perturbations.

In the case of the French Revolution, in 1789-1790, the society fell into two kinds of perturbations, the kind that comes from delving into the two kinds of lust, pornography and violence, or sex and power. When a person or a society falls into a perturbation, they will start to rail against whatever strikes them as representing the moral order.

This is why, when Pius VI wrote to the Archbishop of Bordeaux in the summer of 1790, he indicated to him that "France, and Paris in particular, are now “the theater of violent perturbations.” Unless reason finds its way back into society, it “will be agitated to a position from which is will not be able to rise.”

In particular, France will start to direct its violence against the institutional Church. Ironically, the revolution that claims to be in the name of freedom will lead the revolutionarie,s and the rest of France with them, into moral slavery.

The Pope senses that the effects of the revolutionary actions, as represented by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, will be “to abolish the Catholic religion, confirming unbelievers in impious systems, and oppressing the faith by leading faithful Christians down the paths of unbelief. They cover their designs under the pretext of liberty, but it is a liberty that is but a mere shadow of the real thing. This liberty is really nothing other than license with all the excess that goes along with it.”

One might apply the dictum here: "the passions, when they take over the soul, present themselves as liberators, but when they rule in the soul, they rule with despotic tyranny."

Burke and Adams also understood that a regime needed a political and moral order to protect the possibility of living virtue and acquiring freedom. Adams, perhaps more so than Burke or Pius VI, understood the role that well designed political institutions and constitutions could play in helping to preserve this moral order.


Blogger Tortoise(notHare) said...

1. Excellent, truly excellent piece. I had never paused to consider "perturbed" and had always thought of it as the two-dollar version of "bothered". I was unaware that was the root of "anxiety" in the prayer in the Mass.
2. Seems to me that one could characterize the entire life of JPII as anti-perturbation (Faith, courage, Charity and Hope).
3. I would most sincerely encourage you, Joe, to write a book. Your ideas are too worthwhile to be left to the domain of Catholic trivial pursuit (didja know...). You point out connections that are of God, and sadly those connections also that are the work of Evil. I knew nothing about Pius VI except to wonder if his work related to the FR seems "beyond" him, that there was a supernatural component?
4. St. Thomas More would agree with Adams. The best expression of this (to our modern ear) is a paraphrase that Robert Bolt (author of "A Man for All Seasons") puts into St. Thomas More's mouth (essentially, I am quoting from memory), "The law is a narrow causeway but if we remain on it we are free." St. Thomas More saw great freedom in humble and cheerful obedience and adherence to the moral teachings of The Church and, as they are to flow therefrom in practical application, civil authorities.
5. Your book would be a most valuable contribution.

1:28 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home