Current Affairs

The Eight Stages of the Rise and Fall of Civilizations

by Steve Ray on February 14, 2019

Written by Msgr. Charles Pope and posted October 12, 2016 on Community in Mission

Cultures and civilizations go through cycles. Over time, many civilizations and cultures have risen and then fallen. We who live in painful times like these do well to recall these truths. Cultures and civilizations come and go; only the Church (though often in need of reform) and true biblical culture remain. An old song says, “Only what you do for Christ will last.” Yes, all else passes; the Church is like an ark in the passing waters of this world and in the floodwaters of times like these.

For those of us who love our country and our culture, the pain is real. By God’s grace, many fair flowers have come from Western culture as it grew over the past millennium. Whatever its imperfections (and there were many), great beauty, civilization, and progress emerged at the crossroads of faith and human giftedness. But now it appears that we are at the end of an era. We are in a tailspin we don’t we seem to be able to pull ourselves out of. Greed, aversion to sacrifice, secularism, divorce, promiscuity, and the destruction of the most basic unit of civilization (the family), do not make for a healthy culture. There seems to be no basis for true reform and the deepening darkness suggests that we are moving into the last stages of a disease. This is painful but not unprecedented.

Sociologists and anthropologists have described the stages of the rise and fall of the world’s great civilizations. Scottish philosopher Alexander Tyler of the University of Edinburg noted eight stages that articulate well what history discloses. I first encountered these in in Ted Flynn’s book The Great Transformation. They provide a great deal of perspective to what we are currently experiencing.

Let’s look at each of the eight stages. The names of the stages are from Tyler’s book and are presented in bold red text. My brief reflections follow in plain text.

  1. From bondage to spiritual growth – Great civilizations are formed in the crucible. The Ancient Jews were in bondage for 400 years in Egypt. The Christian faith and the Church came out of 300 years of persecution. Western Christendom emerged from the chaotic conflicts during the decline of the Roman Empire and the movements of often fierce “barbarian” tribes. American culture was formed by the injustices that grew in colonial times. Sufferings and injustices cause—even force—spiritual growth. Suffering brings wisdom and demands a spiritual discipline that seeks justice and solutions.
  2. From spiritual growth to great courage – Having been steeled in the crucible of suffering, courage and the ability to endure great sacrifice come forth. Anointed leaders emerge and people are summoned to courage and sacrifice (including loss of life) in order to create a better, more just world for succeeding generations. People who have little or nothing, also have little or nothing to lose and are often more willing to live for something more important than themselves and their own pleasure. A battle is begun, a battle requiring courage, discipline, and other virtues.
  3. From courage to liberty – As a result of the courageous fight, the foe is vanquished and liberty and greater justice emerges. At this point a civilization comes forth, rooted in its greatest ideals. Many who led the battle are still alive, and the legacy of those who are not is still fresh. Heroism and the virtues that brought about liberty are still esteemed. The ideals that were struggled for during the years in the crucible are still largely agreed upon.
  4. From liberty to abundance – Liberty ushers in greater prosperity, because a civilization is still functioning with the virtues of sacrifice and hard work. But then comes the first danger: abundance. Things that are in too great an abundance tend to weigh us down and take on a life of their own. At the same time, the struggles that engender wisdom and steel the soul to proper discipline and priorities move to the background. Jesus said that man’s life does not consist in his possessions. But just try to tell that to people in a culture that starts to experience abundance. Such a culture is living on the fumes of earlier sacrifices; its people become less and less willing to make such sacrifices. Ideals diminish in importance and abundance weighs down the souls of the citizens. The sacrifices, discipline, and virtues responsible for the thriving of the civilization are increasingly remote from the collective conscience; the enjoyment of their fruits becomes the focus.
  5. From abundance to complacency – To be complacent means to be self-satisfied and increasingly unaware of serious trends that undermine health and the ability to thrive. Everything looks fine, so it must be fine. Yet foundations, resources, infrastructures, and necessary virtues are all crumbling. As virtues, disciplines, and ideals become ever more remote, those who raise alarms are labeled by the complacent as “killjoys” and considered extreme, harsh, or judgmental.
  6. From complacency to apathy – The word apathy comes from the Greek and refers to a lack of interest in, or passion for, the things that once animated and inspired. Due to the complacency of the previous stage, the growing lack of attention to disturbing trends advances to outright dismissal. Many seldom think or care about the sacrifices of previous generations and lose a sense that they must work for and contribute to the common good. “Civilization” suffers the serious blow of being replaced by personalization and privatization in growing degrees. Working and sacrificing for others becomes more remote. Growing numbers becoming increasingly willing to live on the carcass of previous sacrifices. They park on someone else’s dime, but will not fill the parking meter themselves. Hard work and self-discipline continue to erode.
  7. From apathy to dependence – Increasing numbers of people lack the virtues and zeal necessary to work and contribute. The suffering and the sacrifices that built the culture are now a distant memory. As discipline and work increasingly seem “too hard,” dependence grows. The collective culture now tips in the direction of dependence. Suffering of any sort seems intolerable. But virtue is not seen as the solution. Having lived on the sacrifices of others for years, the civilization now insists that “others” must solve their woes. This ushers in growing demands for governmental, collective solutions. This in turns deepens dependence, as solutions move from personal virtue and local, family-based sacrifices to centralized ones.
  8. From dependence back to bondage – As dependence increases, so does centralized power. Dependent people tend to become increasingly dysfunctional and desperate. Seeking a savior, they look to strong central leadership. But centralized power corrupts, and tends to usher in increasing intrusion by centralized power. Injustice and intrusion multiplies. But those in bondage know of no other solutions. Family and personal virtue (essential ingredients for any civilization) are now effectively replaced by an increasingly dark and despotic centralized control, hungry for more and more power. In this way, the civilization is gradually ended, because people in bondage no longer have the virtues necessary to fight.

Another possibility is that a more powerful nation or group is able to enter, by invasion or replacement, and destroy the final vestiges of a decadent civilization and replace it with their own culture.

Either way, it’s back to crucible, until suffering and conflict bring about enough of the wisdom, virtue, and courage necessary to begin a new civilization that will rise from the ashes.

Thus are the stages of civilizations. Sic transit gloria mundi. The Church has witnessed a lot of this in just the brief two millennia of her time. In addition to civilizations, nations have come and gone quite frequently over the years. Few nations have lasted longer than 200 years. Civilizations are harder to define with exact years, but at the beginning of the New Covenant, Rome was already in decline. In the Church’s future would be other large nations and empires in the West: the “Holy” Roman Empire, various colonial powers, the Spanish, the Portuguese, and the French.  It was once said that “The sun never sets on the British Empire.” Now it does. As the West began a long decline, Napoleon made his move. Later, Hitler strove to build a German empire. Then came the USSR. And prior to all this, in the Old Testament period, there had been the Kingdom of David, to be succeeded by Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

The only true ark of safety is the Church, who received her promise of indefectibilityfrom the Lord (Matt 16:18). But the Church, too, is always in need of reform and will have much to suffer. Yet she alone will survive this changing world, because she is the Bride of Christ and also His Body.

These are hard days, but perspective can help. It is hard to deny that we are living at the end of an era. It is painful because something we love is dying. But from death comes forth new life. Only the Lord knows the next stage and long this interregnum will be. Look to Him. Go ahead and vote, but put not your trust in princes (Ps 146:3). God will preserve His people, as He did in the Old Covenant. He will preserve those of us who are now joined to Him in the New Covenant. Find your place in the ark, ever ancient and yet new.

This video of psalm 121 is sung in an ancient language and manner, but its message is still current:

I lift mine eyes to the Mountains from whence cometh my help (Psalm 121).

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Where Have All the Christmas Carols Gone?

by Steve Ray on December 25, 2018

I’m not that old. I’ll only be 64 years old this month but I still remember when the frosty month of December was filled with marvelous Christmas carols. It was like magic when the first snow covered the ground and the melodies sprang to life and everyone knew them, believed them and sang them with a smile on their face.

Christmas_Carols_HongKongI remember the glorious carols like “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Silent Night, Holy Night.”

Those warm and cozy memories are rare these winter days. Something is missing. The new generation is being deprived and the world has changed.

I sat for an hour in a dentist chair and heard a litany of secular Christmas songs. Not one religious Christmas carol was heard. All about Santa coming to town, Frosty the Snowman, “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and “I’ll be home for Christmas” and “jingle bell rock”

t54223134-b389781788_s400These are all nice songs too and I remember them from my youth. But isn’t something wrong when I walked through the airport today and I saw mythical Santa, reindeers, Christmas trees but not one manger scene or reference to what it’s all really about? Christmas songs reverberated through the airport but again not one of the beautiful old classic Christmas carols. It had a tinny shallowness to it.

Christmas-Carols-1960-billboard-650It’s Christmas after all. It’s named after Christ which was celebrated for millennia by a Mass — thus Christ-Mass! And it is so bizarre that all the music heard today explicitly and dogmatically refuses to reference Christ which is what the whole holiday is about.

The insanity of our current secularism and pluralism has deprived us of far more than we realize. Our political correctness forces us to retreat in obsequious silence for fear of offending someone. I weep for the current and coming generations that will be so separated from the past that they will never experience what I once knew as a boy.

no-baby-jesusPeople say “Happy Holiday“ to avoid the dreaded association with Jesus Christ. But even when saying “Happy Holiday” they don’t realize that they’re using another Christian phrase. Where do you think the word “holiday” comes from? It means, “holy day” made sacred by the birth of Christ.

I remember in my younger years that the joy around Christmas had to do with Jesus Christ and the joy brought to the world by this divine Savior. It was reflected in the music we sang from our hearts.

I may be giving away my age again here but it reminds me of the Wendy’s commercial — a little old lady looking up from her hamburger bun and saying, “Where’s the beef?“ Approaching December again this year I feel like asking a similar question, “Where’s the heart? Where’s the meaning? Why deny the obvious?”

2012-01-08_00008As for me and my house, we still sing the beautiful religious Christmas carols, honor Christ as the center of Christmas, we will still celebrate Christ at Mass and pray for the days when modern people will hopefully again understand the true meaning and joy of the season.

I’ll enjoy some chestnuts roasting on an open fire but the whole time I’ll be singing, “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him.”

Below: This is beautiful and what Christmas is about – it may even give you chills.

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Some Men Are Born Eunuchs . . .

Some men are born eunuchs, some become eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, and some, to the great profit of unscrupulous surgeons and the pharmaceutical industry, are made eunuchs by fathers who have abandoned them and by mothers who, alas, have not.

The last castrato to sing professionally, Alessandro Moreschi, died in 1922.  It is not known whether he was castrated as a boy to preserve his voice or to remedy an inguinal hernia.  A poor recording of his singing survives.  His voice was a thready soprano, not the kind of thing for which even a partisan of the practice would have recommended mutilation.  Perhaps it was once stronger and surer.  We do not know.

The boy’s voice as he nears puberty has a peculiar quality to it, unique to the temporary configuration of his larynx and oral cavity.  It produces a sound that choirmasters have treasured, and that inspired the talents of such composers as Palestrina, Allegri, and Bach.

To preserve that quality, sometimes a boy soprano would agree to be castrated.  When castrati were the rage in the courts and music halls of the European Enlightenment, a talented boy in a family strapped for means would be tempted to endure the mutilation to provide for himself and his parents.

Naturally, he would be made welcome in the chambers of aristocratic ladies, who might play with him as they would with a puppy, without bringing shame to their husbands.  That is the reason for the stratagem that the aptly named Horner plays in Wycherley’s salacious play, The Country Wife, though in his case the castration was supposed to have been required by what the English called the French disease, i.e., syphilis.  A eunuch might also become a favorite receiver of favors from sodomites.

Unnatural and barbaric.  Pope Leo XIII condemned the practice when he assumed the papacy in 1878.  We will not see it again, thank God.

Alessandro Moreschi

Instead we are seeing what is worse.  Let us think the matter through.

Far be it from me to say anything exculpatory about the filthy priests whose vices warped the lives of many boys and young men and reduced many a parish and diocese to penury.  But when those wicked men were done fondling the family jewels, they were at least still attached to the kid.  He might still grow up to be a husband and father.

That is not the case when the boy “transitions,” that is, when he undergoes surgery to make it seem as if he is a girl when he is not and never can be.

The boy who decided to be mutilated did so to secure something that was in itself good.  It is good, not evil, to have a beautiful voice.  It is good to be the solo in Allegri’s Miserere.  It is not good to mutilate the body for it.  It is good, not evil, to provide for your family.  It is not good to mutilate the body for it.  It is good to praise God.  It is not good to express your praise by what is contrary to nature, as mutilation is.

That boy was, in all likelihood, quite clear about what sex is, clearer than our children now are.  He would have seen barnyard animals all his life.  He would have slept in close quarters with other children.  He would have developed a matter-of-fact attitude toward the embarrassing exigencies of our physical life.  He will have been near men doing hard physical labor, every day of his life, labor that only men could do.

He was not rejecting his sex.  He was not seized by the madness of believing that he was really a girl.  He had not been taught in school that his sex was responsible for all the evil in the world.  He would not have grown up in a divorce, with a mother infected with feminist fantasies, of a world bleached clean of the masculine.  He would not have been subjected to story-time by men in drag.  He would not have gazed at pornography, just a click away.  He was not in the grip of delusion.  The mutilation really would secure the good in question.

He would not be subjected to one surgery after another.  His body would not be pumped full of dangerous drugs, including puberty-blockers and tissue-growing hormones, the latter likely to prove carcinogenic.  He would not be sentenced to a lifetime of pharmaceutical dependence.  His long bones would still grow.  His body would be rather soft, but otherwise he would look like an ordinary man and not a freak.  He would not be troweled out for a mock vagina.

He would not be a part of campaign to preserve and extend a thoroughly anti-Christian ethos, that of our sexual revolution.  As I have said, he might be tempted to sodomy, but he would not be having the operation precisely so that he could engage in unnatural sexual relations.  He was not embroiled in the destruction of language.  He would have been called “he,” and would have thrown a fist at anybody who called him otherwise.

He was not setting a precedent for other violators of the meaning of the human: I mean those who believe we ought to be manufacturing ourselves, via genetic manipulation, artificial wombs, and other bridges thrown from man to the robot or the beast.  He was not setting a precedent for sick people who believe they cannot be made whole unless they are made partial: I mean those who cannot endure the integrity of their bodies, and so they find an evil doctor somewhere who will remove a healthy arm or leg.

He was not the leading edge in subjecting the thoughts and speech and deeds of ordinary and normal people to the oversight of a vast totalizing state, and its symbioses in mass entertainment and mass schooling.

However sick it was to do that then, it is far sicker to do what we do now.

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Why Many Consider Cardinal Pell’s Conviction a Sham

December 15, 2018

After guilty verdict, questions raised about Pell trial By Ed Condon Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, outside Rome’s Hotel Quirinale, March 3, 2016. Credit: Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA. Washington D.C., Dec 14, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- After reports of a guilty verdict emerged in the trial of Australian Cardinal George Pell, […]

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BREAKING: Abp. Viganò urges U.S. bishops to confront sex abuse as ‘courageous shepherds’

November 13, 2018

ROME, November 13, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò today issued a brief message to the U.S. Bishops, urging them to confront sex abuse as “courageous shepherds” rather than “frightened sheep.” The U.S. Bishops are currently in Baltimore at their much-anticipated fall annual meeting at which they were expected to vote on concrete proposals […]

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Are You a Schismatic if you Disagree with the Pope (e.g., Cardinal Burke)?

November 7, 2018

A note on the other kind of schism Canon Lawyer Ed Peters. November 7, 2018 Most Catholics correctly, but incompletely, understand schism as “the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff” (1983 CIC 751). Overlooked here—perhaps because it is much rarer than is typical ‘anti-papal schism’ and is harder to spot when it does occur—is […]

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Maybe a Better Illustration for the Pope to Use

October 2, 2018

In some of his recent homilies and comments the Pope has suggested he is being like Jesus when he retreats to “silence.” When Jesus was at trial before Pilate he kept his mouth closed and was silent. Pope Francis has made it clear that this his position regarding the charges against deviant and sinful clergy, […]

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Winning on Abortion; Losing on LGBTQ

September 30, 2018

According to recent surveys it looks like we’re losing the war an LGBTQ. Here is a survey of the major religious institutions and their change and acceptance between 2007 and 2014. The trend is not good. St  Paul wrote, Rom 1:26  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did […]

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Bishop Barron: Why Remain Catholic? Why Not Cut and Run?

September 5, 2018
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Former Apostolic Nuncio to Washington DC calls prelates out — naming names and exposing corruption to the highest levels including Pope Francis

August 26, 2018

UPDATE Sunday morning:  Bishop Strickland of Tyler Texas responds to the letter below. A courageous Bishop… I hope other bishops follow his lead (write your bishop to do the same). UK Spectator aticle here. (Picture: Pope Francis greeting the perverted predator knowing what he was according to the letter below.) UPDATE COMMENT Sunday Evening: This continues […]

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“Grand Jury Report Debunked“ by Bill Donahue

August 17, 2018

For the the sake of objectivity, I am posting this interesting critique of the recent Pennsylvania Report on sexual scandal in the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania. I am not agreeing with everything in this article, nor am I unaware of Donahue’s association with Wuerl. I am simply posting this because I consider it important to […]

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Who Speaks for God on Morals? Many Choose their Church Like they Choose a Restaurant

August 13, 2018

We have a “church” near our house that is making it comfortable for anyone to join no matter who they are, what they believe or what they practice. They say it is our job to accept and love, to be nice, not to judge. “Celebrate Diversity!” Celebrate Diversity is a slogan of acceptance, multiculturalism, non-judgmental […]

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“Braco the Gazer” Stares at You! World’s Gone Mad!

June 18, 2018

There is the old saying that, “If your mind is too open your brain may fall out.” Or stated another way, “If you don’t stand in something, you’ll fall for anything.” St. Augustine said that we were created with an emptiness in our soul that only God could fill. But for people who have rejected […]

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Farewell, “Catholic” Spain and Secular Europe… While in the United States…

June 4, 2018

Scary statistics from Europe – percentages of people who claim no religion. The big surprise is… Spain, where atheists, agnostics, and those without religion are now at 30 percent of the population and have reached that level in a very short time. To measure how overwhelming secularization has been in Spain, it should be enough […]

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The Jordan Peterson Phenomenon – I Stand Up to Applaud Him!!

February 28, 2018

There is a lot of buzz going around about the Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson who is defying the Canadian government and the tyranny of the lunatic Left. I stand up to applaud him! Here is an article in Catholic World Report written by Bishop Robert Barron. Barron introduces this eloquent, courageous and very bright man. […]

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Major Conference Planned on Divisions in Church, Papal Infallibility

January 21, 2018

National Catholic Register, Major Conference Planned on Divisions in Church, Papal Infallibility Edward Pentin The international meeting in Rome, one of the last wishes of the late Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, is due to take place in April. One of the late Cardinal Carlo Caffarra’s last wishes — to have an international conference to examine ways to […]

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