On the Contrary
On the Contrary
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The Sublime Contrariness of Solange Hertz
by Charles A. Coulombe
On The Contrary is a sublime title for this book, because it sums up both this work and its author. To say that Solange Hertz swims against the tide is an understatement. There is very little in the current received wisdom in Church and State that Mrs. Hertz does not savage, either in the body of her work or in this volume specifically. Needless to say, this point of view has not made her a popular author.
But popularity has never been her goal. Rather, as these pages will make evident, Mrs. Hertz is far more interested in being truthful. In any disputed case she gives the facts the best she can, and then applies logic thereto. The result is often uncomfortable for many, as when she questions (and links!) both the American Revolution and Vatican II and its results. For her, these and many other events which have shaped (and are shaping) the modern world are all symptoms of a common revolution, to which she is opposed. Unabashedly, unapologetically, she is a counter-revolutionary, and openly describes herself as such.
The first chapter of this book, “The Way It Isn’t,” sets out Mrs. Hertz’s views of revolution and counter-revolution in eloquent terms. She then goes on to denounce the “Black Legend” against Spain and to explore Columbus’ sanctity; to attack Gnosticism in various guises from antiquity until today; to critique Paul VI and all his works; to lambaste ecumenism; to dissect the modern idea of “freedom;” to refute Catholic Pentecostalism; to assault (as a loyal Catholic) “Pope-worship;” to attack feminism and unisexism; to oppose Natural Family Planning and all other forms of contraception; and to condemn the post-Vatican II “reconciliation” of the Church with the World.
On the surface, this sounds like merely a long litany of negatives. But what such a cursory glance does not at first reveal is that Mrs. Hertz is very far, indeed, from being merely negative. In with, and under her continuing condemnations of all that opposes God and His Church, is an ongoing sense of wonder and awe: at God and His miracles, at the Sacraments, at the beauties of Creation, of the heroes of the Faith. For her, Catholicism is not merely a dry set of intellectual principles to be accepted, but a whole manner of life that requires whole-hearted living. She is enthusiastic ―on fire with a real love of the Faith which is only too happy to pass on to her readers. Beginning with the affirmation that the Catholic Faith is literally true and entirely real, she goes on to explore its opponents. Before her withering pen, they are revealed as cheats and falsehoods.
But beyond that, truth is shown in all its beauty and goodness. For Mrs. Hertz, it is not merely, say, that evil and mendacious historians have distorted Christopher Columbus’ life; rather, it is her business to point out his sanctity, to expose his virtues to a world that has heard little of them, and needs exposure to such very badly. If the new liturgy tends toward evil, it is because it obscures the ineffable reality of God’s Real Presence on the altar.
To be sure, many will find a great deal to disagree with Mrs. Hertz about. But what her work demands from us is not unthinking affirmation, but rather, thought. If she challenges many of our most deeply held notions, perhaps we ought to respond to the challenge! Not by getting upset, but by researching and reasoning on our own, as she has done, and seeing if those notions can survive being put to the test presented by objective reality. If her view of the American Revolution, for example, annoys us, it would be better to find out if her facts are correct, rather than feeling resentful. If they are, then the onus lies upon us to correct our views, rather than resort to mere comforting denial.
One area that will surely draw criticism is Mrs. Hertz’s views regarding the theology of the late Pope John Paul II, now on the “fast-track” to beatification. How could she possibly criticize the work of a Pontiff who may well in the near future be infallibly proclaimed to be in Heaven? The answer is that Popes are canonized for their personal holiness, not for their work in office, and Saints may well err theologically. St. Celestine V was a very holy man ―and an utter disaster as Pope. St. Thomas Aquinas was entirely wrong regarding his denial of the Immaculate Conception. In his last book, John Paul II took himself to task for his failing to adequately supervise the creation of new bishops―a failure that the Church will require decades to recover from. The reader, therefore, is invited to look at Mrs. Hertz’s comment on the late Pontiff’s work as her judgment on his work, rather than on the the holiness of the man himself.
Even if her facts or views on this point or that should be proved erroneous, it is nevertheless important for us to pay attention to them. For Mrs. Hertz constantly eggs us on to take nothing at face value, to learn and to work things out ourselves. In an age filled with glib slogans and rote recitals of questionable ideas, her challenge is a necessary one. There can be no doubt that she would feel greatly rewarded if her work led one of her readers to think; if it led to his eternal salvation, she would be ecstatic.
Charles Coulombe wrote:
Mrs. Hertz constantly eggs us on to take nothing at face value, to learn and to work things out ourselves. In an age filled with glib slogans and rote recitals of questionable ideas, her challenge is a necessary one.