by HFH Reuvers


After the renaissance and the reformation, new continents had been discovered and new sciences developed. The sound philosophy of Thomas Aquinas was now attacked by erring philosophers who were recklessly mistrusting either the intellect or the senses. In western Europe, people from high society started a movement that summoned everybody to think independently and to turn away from the preachers of the Church. They maintained we can't think and listen at the same time ...
The movement had an underground component too, freemasonry, which was a continuation of the old heathen brotherhoods. The era of enlightenment had come.
"Ecrasez l'infâme", shouted Voltaire, - "Crush that infamous one!" He aimed at the Church. He may have been justly indignant because of the wrongs that some of its representatives did. These are people like you and me who may do wrong, aren't they? But we can't deduce that God doesn't mind how we're doing after He created us ...
Enlightened despots in Prussia and Austria pushed back the influence of the Church, for example by suppressing monastic orders. And in France, the freemasons incited the poor people to revolt against the king and his noble friends.

Let's put first and foremost that the French Revolution brought a lot of good things as well. The assault on the Bastille and the beheading of the noble were the beginning of the emancipation of the lower classes. In the end, administration of justice became more human, and democracy and human rights got priority.
On the other hand, the Infant Jesus was nearly washed away together with the bloody bath water. The Church was forced to surrender many of its possessions, the priests to swear an oath of hatred against the monarchy, and the revolutionaries even wished to replace the personal God of Jesus Christ with the impersonal God of enlightened Reason in public worship. It was also a pity that the guilds were abolished. Later on, they were replaced with forms of organisation that were much more impersonal.
The first Vatican council (1870) decided that thomistic philosophy has to be taught in all seminaries for priests, and that the assistance of the Holy Spirit makes the pope infallible if he pronounces ex cathedra upon questions of faith or morals.