One century after the publication in 1851 of Spaniard Juan Donoso Cortés’s Catholicism, Liberalism and Socialism, Italian-born American Bella Dodd published, in 1954, her autobiographical work School of Darkness. The crisis of our time that Donoso Cortés foresaw in the nineteenth century, Bella Dodd experienced as coming to fruition in the twentieth. And in between the publication of these two works Our Lady appeared in Fatima in 1917, warning that Russia would spread her errors throughout the world.
Why was Russia singled out by Our Lady? There is the obvious connection with Communism, which came to power in Russia in the same year as Our Lady’s apparitions. But Soviet Communism ended, at least officially, before the close of the twentieth century. And Russia is a Christian nation, which in recent years has passed certain laws that make it appear less decadent than the secularized West. However, even before the Communist Revolution, Russia was associated with the Caesaropapism originating with the Byzantine Empire, which meant a certain domination of religion by the State, and of Russian Orthodoxy over Catholicism.
Juan Donoso Cortés foresaw the direction in which modern society was going, and his name is even associated with providing information to Blessed Pius IX for the writing of the Syllabus of Errors. This English translation of his book contains a handwritten blessing by Pius IX to the translator, Madeleine Vinton Goddard, penned the month after she wrote to him. What Donoso foresaw was the increase in the power of the modern secular State corresponding to a decline in respect for the authority of the Church. This development was rooted in rationalism’s declaring reason to be independent of the guidance of the Faith. It then takes political form through liberalism, or a false liberty based upon a denial of sin, combined with a denial of the role of the family within society, and the disassociation of property ownership from the family and from religious institutions. And when this liberalism is taken to its ultimate consequences, it results in socialism.
What Donoso foresaw, Bella Dodd experienced personally, as she drifted away from the Catholic Faith of her childhood and became involved in the American Communist Party. During all the years of this involvement she saw the inner workings of Communism in America in collaboration with the party of Moscow. She witnessed how Russian Communism orchestrated the activities of its party in America as well as in western European countries, seen in Communism’s shifts in policy between Russia and Nazi Germany.
Donoso Cortés had been influenced by liberalism in his early years, but came to see the error of its principles to become one of its most ardent opponents. Similarly, Bella Dodd came to see the errors of her past, and that Communism was not promoting the brotherhood of man because it denied God, and she realized that society can only be reformed through the sanctification of individuals first.
The lessons taught by Donoso Cortés and Bella Dodd are more urgent today than ever, not as if Russia alone were behind the worldwide spread of socialism, but rather because these errors have become dominant virtually everywhere. The persecution of Christians in regions such as the Middle East and Africa is a consequence of the growth of the modern totalitarian State. For this reason these two books by Donoso Cortés and Bella Dodd are truly Catholic classics, as instructive for us of the twenty-first century as they were for our Catholic forefathers when they were written.
• School of Darkness – hardback 264 pages $22 #63290
• Catholicism, Liberalism & Socialism – hardback 236p $16 #63282