Fr. Leonardo Castellani

 The Lord loves those who hate evil; he guards the lives of his faithful; he rescues them from the hand of the wicked. Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. (Psalm 97)

We began the post Crisis Number Nine reading the words of Fr. Leonardo Castellani about what happens to countries that allow Liberalism to ravage their culture, their institutions, their religion, their people. Fr. Castellani was no stranger to suffering  persecution at the hands of various brands of Liberals some of them attacking him from inside the Church. Reading his immense literary and journalistic production one can learn how the Liberal phenomenon grew within the Catholic realm, in Christendom, in culture, politics, and in every aspect of human endeavors.

Liberalism has morphed, the word “Liberal” means “the political left” in the United States but exactly the opposite in South America. How could that be? It is easier to understand if we simply admit the obvious: both ends of the political spectrum are historically Liberal. All forms of Liberalism have one simple goal: to build a non-Christian world order, “no Hell below us, above us only sky” —the “brotherhood of man” proposed somehow excludes the fatherhood of God— but Liberals are men also and nothing human is alien to them. Liberals are divided just like the various groups of Protestantism are divided and dividing ad infinitum. In fact, Liberalism would have been not much more than a collection of weird ideas if the Church would have resisted by remaining united. Martin Luther had other ideas.

It is important to remember that, as the Church goes, so goes the world. A divided Church produced the fragmented human reality we contemplate today. However, there was a time when every national group had a permanent leader, and every nation lived under one organic, natural economy. Although there was no concept of a divinity in some nations … there was —in general— no animosity towards the idea of a Creator, or even a natural creating force. Liberalism brought about unnatural divisions in the life and work of mankind. Many of the post-Roman era persecutions of the Church came as a result of Liberal ideas.

Fr. Castellani considers how the Church has sometimes participated in the persecution of her own children, and how the countries that should exist for the benefits of their best citizens end up persecuting them as well. “The enemies of a man will be in his own house” (Matthew 10:36) said Christ. Castellani comments judiciously on his own experience as a victim of persecutions both within and without the Church. He enumerates the complaints first but then he extracts the best from his experience. The sufferings of God’s children are useful to perfect the saints first and then to save other souls. In that sense, both the secular and the ecclesial experiences are beneficial. Yet, passing through the furnace of tribulation is never a pleasant thing but even that dark cloud has a silver lining.

“The first part of a protocol would include a complaint, that the Church has persecuted me, and my country has placed me in the backburner and abandoned me there; thus concluding that there is a level of vitriol in the bottom of the Church and a a maggot that does not die grows in the bosom of the country. But after that I would have to confess that my country has allowed me to live —not a small thing— and the Church has taught me the faith of Christ.”(Fr. Leonardo Castellani, Seis ensayos y tres cartas).

Castellani dislikes the side effects of Liberal thinking (of the left and right) mainly because it is a corrupting ideology born of what he considers serious theological errors. Notice the influence of the Spanish thinker Donoso Cortés who thought all the corrupt ideologies grown in the West are a result of erroneous theology. Bad theology distorts and obscures but good theology illuminates. Now that we can look back in time, the prosperous Argentina of the 19th century decays intellectually as the ideas of Liberalism take hold and choke the simple Catholic faith of the people.

Liberalism, before being a bad political system and a bad economic method, is a bad theology, it is a heresy, a spiritual thing, which cannot be completely conjured except in its own center, which is the region of the stratosphere where the spirits fight invisibly” (Fr. Leonardo Castellani, Literary Criticism). Therefore: “Argentina (…) will not be completely independent as long as it does not know how to think on its own” (Fr. Leonardo Castellani, La Reforma de la Enseñanza).

He is right. We are living in the ruins of what Christendom used to be. The arrival of Columbus in the Americas coincided with the beginning of the Modern Age. The European explorers unwittingly brought contagious infirmities that wiped out millions of natives. Some of the ancient native nations simply disappeared. What was left was a number of semi-connected communities that were about to surrender to Europeans who had barely left the Middle Ages. Most native nations were knocked out by plague before they could even see the first European arrive at their shores. When one looks as how smallpox expanded from Hispaniola Island towards the continent in all directions, one is seeing concentric rings of destruction. Many call that a genocide but in the early 1500’s no one knew what a virus was or how the human body fought infections. What happened was simply an unintended disgrace.

Those ancient American nations were left in a weak position just as the Europeans advanced. That is something that continued even to this day. The Americas gradually became the latest European project. For example. China could preserve its ancient customs for a while but in the end succumbed to Marxism, a European ideology. If the native American nations had any form of philosophy to offer, it was lost in the cataclysm that began to strike in 1492.

Fr. Castellani’s Argentina inherited those circumstances. The American Revolution up north, and the French Revolution across the Atlantic hit the shores of the old Spanish colonies almost at the same time. One succeeded and the other definitely not. The United States struggled hard to keep their Republic going. The French descended into mayhem. They eventually emerged as a strange mix of a Republic and dictatorship as Napoleon unleashed another age of war upon Europe. When Spain fell, the ideas of the French Revolution reached the Spanish colonies. Miranda and Bolivar in Venezuela began the fight that had ironically began in Haiti. There, the locals successfully fought the French and obtained political independence. Latin American countries are still living in that confusing age. They began as one block of countries that had one God, one religion, one language and one king. As the ‘liberation’ wars progressed, peoples that had always lived under monarchs were suddenly asked to create representative republics. The concept was so foreign to their mind that soon those ‘republics’ resembled the kingdom they had left behind. Dictatorial regimes followed more or less to this day.

Fr. Castellani struggles with that reality. He is a contemporary of all the dictators or semi-dictators that inherited the politically fragile Argentine Republic that functioned between 1858 and 1916. When Castellani came of age, the formerly prosperous Argentina had already began a decline that still continues. Deprived of the great men that ruled the country in the second part of the 19th century, Castellani’s Argentina began to paddle in the molasses sea of Liberal-Socialistic ideas. They keep paddling to this day: Radicalism, Fascism, Peronism, Socialism … no “ism” was left untouched on the way to the bottom. Castellani made a titanic effort and managed to develop a full Catholic mind (and what a mind!) while carrying the cross of being an Argentine in the age of decline. Castellani was a veritable genius surrounded by cretins who could only shout slogans, rob the honest citizens, use political power to enrich themselves illegally ransacking the wealth created by  noble previous generations. Does it sound familiar to our American friends of 2022?

How could our realm be like this immense lagoon in which we are desperately trying to stay afloat, swimming against the current and getting bogged down without being able to go backwards or forward; this dilapidated mansion where we breathe this rancid air, eat our stale bread, and are inundated with lies and nonsense, read or see every day how we are slapped in the face, how we are vexed by the infusion of this growing cretinism as we endure national shame!” (Fr. Leonardo Castellani, Six essays and three letters).

[Photo] Gen. Uriburu consummates the first coup d’état in 1930. The young officer standing next to his car is Juan Domingo Perón whose party and ideas would dominate Argentina’s politics from 1945 to the present time. In 2022 this snippet of history looks truly apocalyptic.

Many great thinkers and intellectuals had to endure the same climate Castellani did. His contemporaries Hugo Wast (pen name of Gustavo A. Martínez Zuviría), Fr. Julio Meinvielle, Ricardo Sáenz Hayes (my granduncle) and many others have been forgotten by a culture that concentrates in religiously remembering crooks, assassins, and heretics of all kinds. I know this age will pass (all things must pass) and one day Fr. Leonardo Castellani will enter the collective memory and be appreciated as he deserves. The moment may come for the Americas to fulfill their destiny which is to be a blessing to all mankind. As for Argentina, the tragic past —and the no less tragic present— of this poor nation and their longsuffering people still weights on their shoulders. Their only hope is in Christ because without Christ nothing can be achieved. Fr. Castellani knew that very well. (John 15:4)

Astor Piazzolla’s equally apocalyptic piece, Libertango is an adequate musical picture of the country’s struggle. The obsessive bass represents the dark oppressing forces. The soaring high strings aptly symbolize the spirit of freedom, rising to encounter the true path of a country destined to become a great Christian nation. [Video] Aram Gharabekian conducts the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia – the orchestral version of Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla’s piece, Libertango at the Zvartnots Monument-Complex Gala Concert in 2006 in Armenia.