In the fourteenth century, a transformation of mentality began to take place in
Christian Europe; in the course of the fifteenth century, it became ever more apparent.
The thirst for earthly pleasures became a burning desire. Diversions became more and
more frequent and sumptuous, increasingly engrossing men. In dress, manners, language,
literature, and art, the growing yearning for a life filled with delights of fancy and the
senses produced progressive manifestations of sensuality and softness. Little by little, the
seriousness and austerity of former times lost their value. The whole trend was toward
gaiety, affability, and festiveness. Hearts began to shy away from the love of sacrifice,
from true devotion to the Cross, and from the aspiration to sanctity and eternal life.
Chivalry, formerly one of the highest expressions of Christian austerity, became amorous
and sentimental. The literature of love invaded all countries. Excesses of luxury and the
consequent eagerness for gain spread throughout all social classes.
Penetrating intellectual circles, this moral climate produced clear manifestations
of pride, such as a taste for ostentatious and vain disputes, for inconsistent tricks of
argument, and for fatuous exhibitions of learning. It praised old philosophical tendencies
over which Scholasticism had triumphed. As the former zeal for the integrity of the Faith
waned, these tendencies reappeared in new guises. The absolutism of legists, who
adorned themselves with a conceited knowledge of Roman law, was favorably received
by ambitious princes. And, all the while, in great and small alike, there was a fading of
the will of yore to keep the royal power within its proper bounds as in the days of Saint
Louis of France and Saint Ferdinand of Castile.
This new state of soul contained a powerful although more or less
unacknowledged desire for an order of things fundamentally different from that which
had reached its heights in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
An exaggerated and often delirious admiration for antiquity served as a means for
the expression of this desire. In order to avoid direct confrontations with the old medieval
tradition, humanism and the Renaissance frequently sought to relegate the Church, the
supernatural, and the moral values of religion to a secondary plane. At the same time, the
human type inspired by the pagan moralists was introduced by these movements as an
ideal in Europe. This human type and the culture and civilization consistent with it were
truly the precursors of the greedy, sensual, secularist, and pragmatic man of our days and
of the materialistic culture and civilization into which we are sinking deeper and deeper.
Efforts to effect a Christian Renaissance did not manage to crush in the germinal stage
the factors that led to the gradual triumph of neopaganism.
In some parts of Europe, this neopaganism developed without leading to formal
apostasy. It found significant resistance. Even when it became established within souls, it
did not dare ask them - at least in the beginning - to formally break with the Faith.
However, in other countries, it openly attacked the Church. Pride and sensuality,
whose satisfaction is the pleasure of pagan life, gave rise to Protestantism.
Pride begot the spirit of doubt, free examination, and naturalistic interpretation of
Scripture. It produced insurrection against ecclesiastical authority, expressed in all sects
by the denial of the monarchical character of the Universal Church, that is to say, by a
revolt against the Papacy. Some of the more radical sects also denied what could be
called the higher aristocracy of the Church, namely, the bishops, her princes. Others even
denied the hierarchical character of the priesthood itself by reducing it to a mere
delegation of the people, lauded as the only true holder of priestly power.
On the moral plane, the triumph of sensuality in Protestantism was affirmed by
the suppression of ecclesiastical celibacy and by the introduction of divorce.
and this clear statement of what I have called the timeless orientation of conservatism:
The traditionalist spirit of the Counter-Revolution has nothing in common with a
false and narrow traditionalism, which conserves certain rites, styles, or customs merely
out of love for old forms and without any appreciation for the doctrine that gave rise to
them. This would be archaeologism, not a sound and living traditionalism.