The following is from Maritain's Christianity and Democracy: The Rights of Man and The Natural Law (Ignatius Press, 1986, 2011):
Men contaminated by Fascism and Nazism do much more than lie: they have perverted the function of language. In France the Pétain regime has sought to spread through the nation a pharisaical ideology wherein all these venerable words like penitence, compunction, purification of the heart and of customs, have lost their sense and their honor and become synonyms of sickly self-accusation which is demanded of enslaved people in order to furnish the really guilty ones with an alibi. The work of purification today demanded of men is not an escape into the commonplaces of a morality that has been turned into a shelter for political resentments and class hatreds and into a glorification of the whip. It is not an epidemic of senile resignation. It is a work of courage and hope, of confidence and faith, which must begin with an effort of the mind determined to see clearly at all cost, and to rescue from the errors which disfigured them, the great things in which we have believed and in which we believe and which are the hope of the world.
We are looking on at the liquidation of the modern world—of that world which was led by Machiavelli's pessimism to regard unjust force as the essence of politics; which Luther's scission unbalanced by withdrawing Germany from the European community; wherein the absolutism of the Ancient Regime changed the Christian order by degrees into an order of compulsion ever more separated from the Christian roots of life; which the rationalism of Descartes and the Encyclopedists swept into an illusory optimism; which the pseudo-Christian naturalism of Jean-Jacques Rousseau led to confound the sacred aspirations of the heart of man with the expectation of a kingdom of God on earth procured by the State or by the Revolution; which Hegel's pantheism taught to deify its own historical movement; and whose decline was precipitated by the advent of the bourgeois class, the capitalist profit system, the imperialistic conflicts and unbridled absolutism of the national States.
This world was born of Christendom and owed its deepest living strength to the Christian tradition. It was all the more severely judged for this. Its ultimate error lay in believing that man is saved by his own strength alone and that human history is made without God. But this world has been great and has done great works; man has taken on a more profound awareness of himself and of his dignity and of the law which calls him to advance in time; civil society on the one hand, rational knowledge on the other, have here achieved their autonomy. Science and the scientific conquest of nature, industry and technology have known wondrous successes—while taking, to our misfortune, the place of wisdom; the machine has brought unheard-of possibilities of emancipation against the day when human reason will have learned how to regulate its use for truly human ends.
Ever since the French Revolution and the effusion of secularized Christian idealism which it provoked in history, the sense of freedom and· the sense of social justice have convulsed and vitalized our civilization; and one would need to have the soul of a slave to wish for the destruction of this very sense of freedom and justice on account of the suffering and disorder it may have occasioned. In short, at the same time that there fructified in the modern world the evils whose seed this world bore within itself, the natural growth of civilization and the inner work due to the evangelical ferment continued within it. Nineteenth century civilization did not know how to manage but it nonetheless preserved in its foundations the heritage of divine and human values which emanates from our fathers' struggle for freedom, from the Judaeo-Christian tradition and from classical antiquity. And it remained, for all that, Christian in the actual principles to which it owed its existence, even though it misjudged them abundantly—in the sacred roots to which still clung its idea of man and human progress, of law and the value of the spirit—in the religious liberty which it willy-nilly preserved, however opposed it may have been at certain moments and in certain countries—and even in the very trust in reason and in man's greatness which its free-thinkers fashioned into a weapon against Christianity—and in the secularized Christian feeling which despite erroneous ideologies inspired its political and social achievements and expectations.
If the ever-growing schism between the true behavior of our world and the moral and spiritual principles on which its firmness depended were to bring about a fatal rupture in balance; if our world has little by little been emptied of its spirit and has seemed at length a universe of words, an unleavened mass; if the catastrophe has become inevitable: the tremendous historical fund of energy and truth accumulated for centuries is still available to human freedom, the forces of renewal are on the alert and it is still up to us to make sure that this catastrophe of the modern world is not a regression to a perverted aping of the Ancient Regime or of the Middle Ages and that it does not wind up in the totalitarian putrefaction of the German New Order. It is up to us rather to see that it emerges in a new and truly creative age, where man, in suffering and hope, will resume his journey toward the conquest of freedom.
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