No, not in a reactionary way. Rather, we need to study the past because republics-and human beings-have faced batty, crude, and even alarming periods before. Nothing is new.
So how far should we go? Rome? Let’s try 19th-century France and pull a figure from it: Emmanuel d’Alzon, founder of the Augustinians of the Assumption.
D’Alzon’s time was much like our own. In an 1835 letter to Alphonse de Vigniamont, a friend, d’Alzon discussed the importance of ideas and education in shaping human character, a truth already beginning to fade. His thoughts are worth quoting at length:
“The more I look at the world from this point of view, the more I am disgusted with politics, which I consider to be a dead end. There is no life there, only death convulsions, powerless attempts to organize, vain efforts, unless Catholic thought penetrates it with charity, justice, and the spirit of Christian liberty, which regardless of what they say is completely suffocated in our day. I have made up my mind, and it is confirmed each day as I read the second psalm, which I urge you to meditate.
“I am convinced that both the people and the kings are at fault; let them chasten each other. It is clear to me that what the priest must do is work with whatever strength he has to establish the reign of Christ without getting lost in useless arguments. His king is Jesus of Nazareth; his tribunal, Calvary; his flag, the cross. Attach no color to this flag; the cross that Jesus hung upon, the one that appeared to Constantine was neither red nor white, and yet the former saved the world, and the latter conquered it. [More]