Sunday, January 06, 2019


Terrible Old Ideologues

H.R. Trevor-Roper (1914-2003), "The Dark Ages," Historical Essays (London: Macmillan & Co Ltd, 1963), pp. 12-17 (at 15):
Nobody can like the Church in those days. It was intolerant and obscurantist, and did not improve with time. St. Augustine read the classics — like Marx, the Founding Father was himself a humanist: the old bigot could weep over Dido, and puritanism struggled in his soul with light. His contemporary St. Jerome with difficulty overcame his taste for Cicero. But he overcame it in the end, and once the insidious spirit of humanity had been beaten down, no quarter was shown: it was crushed. St. Augustine organised the rabble in Africa, reducing doctrine to rhythmical slogans wherewith to drown the voice of opposition. St. Cyril organised a blackshirt claque to applaud his oratory in Alexandria. St. Gregory, the Stalin of the early Church, banned all profane learning as offensive and abominable. Truly they were no saints, those terrible old ideologues, past whose history Mr. Dawson so discreetly slides; and what was the solemn liturgy, which he so extols but a narcotic formulary?
Id., p. 16:
So too, no doubt, our new ideologues view our present state, and their liberal fellow-travellers console themselves with an ultimate respectability. Doctrine — unintelligible, reversible, but indubitable; inexorable discipline; insistent propaganda; missionaries and local cells; the cult of saints; a mind-drowning liturgy — all the old machinery has become familiar again.

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