What is Liberalism?

Photo credit: goodfreephotos.com

The difficulty in defining liberalism lies in its continual evolving and ever changing ideas, always mutating into new, more or less radical forms. It is often very difficult to seize hold of, penetrating as it does in varying degrees, more or less well camouflaged, into every aspect of human activity and thought.

However, the principles of liberalism are very clear, and once they are understood the intellectual and moral perversion of this way of thinking and acting can be clearly seen.

Fr. Roussel, in his excellent work Liberalism & Catholicism, defines the liberal in this way:  "The liberal is a fanatic for independence, and proclaims it in every domain, even unto absurdity" (p.6). Consequently it consists not in any particular doctrine, but in a way of thinking. Liberalism is a sickness of the mind, an orientation rather than a school, a perversion of sentiment based on pride, or a state of mind rather than a sect. Liberalism appears then as "a disordered affection of man for his independent liberty, which makes him abhor any limit, bond, yoke or discipline from the law or from authority" (Ibid. p.8).

The other author whose excellent exposé of liberalism is much recommended is Fr. Sarda y Salvany, in What Is Liberalism? He outlines in this way the radical principles which are the basis of its propaganda:

  1. The absolute sovereignty of the individual in his entire independence of God and God’s authority.
  2. The absolute sovereignty of society in its entire independence of everything which does not proceed from itself.
  3. Absolute civil sovereignty in the implied right of the people to make their own laws in entire independence and utter disregard of any other criterion than the popular will expressed at the polls and in parliamentary majorities.
  4. Absolute freedom of thought in politics, moral, or in religion. The unrestrained liberty of the press (pp.18,19).

It is consequently the placing of the individual, society, the people or freedom as absolutes in themselves, over and above Almighty God. One might wonder how it is that Catholics, who of our nature profess submission to God through our holy religion, could fall into such a trap. The answer is our natural desire of independence, on account of which liberalism is in accord with our fallen depraved human nature, and our natural tendency to follow Lucifer’s rebellious refusal to serve. Consequently we are always inventing ways to compromise the absolutes of our Faith with the spirit of the world, entirely penetrated by liberalism. Hence the development of "Catholic" liberalism throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, that Archbishop Lefebvre does not hesitate to stigmatize as "the great betrayal." For an understanding of how these liberal principles became accepted by Vatican II, producing the novelty of religious liberty, the revolutionary idea that all religions should be equally free for as long as they do not impinge on others’ freedom, which is nothing short of the denial of the Social Kingship of Christ, I refer you to the magnificent exposé by Archbishop Lefebvre in They Have Uncrowned Him.

Allow me to sum up by quoting the magnificent 1888 encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Libertas Praestantissimum, in which he describes and condemns the varying kinds and degrees of liberalism, from the radical liberalism of those who refuse the Catholic Faith and the Catholic Church to the moderate liberalism of those who promote separation of Church and State, or maintain that the Church ought to adapt itself to modern systems of government:

To deny the existence of this authority in God, or to refuse to submit to it, means to act, not as a free man, but as one who treasonably abuses his liberty; and in such a disposition of mind the chief and deadly vice of liberalism essentially consists. The form, however, of the sin is manifold: for in more ways than one can the will depart from the obedience which is due to God or to those who share the divine power (§36). 

[Written by Fr. Peter R. Scott. Source]