On the Contrary
Publisher: Tumblar House
Publication Date: June 1, 2011
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What is a traditional Catholic? Solange Hertz explains: "Given the present state of society, at the polls he rarely finds a candidate to vote for in good conscience, but plenty against, thereby earning himself a reputation for irremediable contrariness on most any issue before the public. In casual conversation his is nearly always the minority opinion, especially if it was once held by the vast majority of educated people in the civilized world and never seriously contested until relatively recently... Offering the only positive remedy to the faltering social machinery, [traditional Catholicism] will appear negative at every level. Whatever reconstruction it proposes is labeled destruction. It is accused of undermining every hope for the future by wholesale retreat into the past when its only objective is to set things straight and get them running properly again."
Arguably the most outspoken traditional Catholic writer of the 20th century, Solange Hertz is one of the foremost defenders of Catholic tradition. In On the Contrary, Hertz tackles topics including the defamation of Christopher Columbus, sex, gender roles, masonry, Americanism, Pope John Paul II, and modern liturgical developments. Hertz's zeal will rub off on you as she vocalizes and outlines the fight that we as Catholics are all involved in. Foreword 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 A. Coulombe
9 April 2011
An established writer before the Second Vatican Council, Solange Hertz wrote for most Catholic periodicals and had five books to her credit, one a selection of the Catholic Literary Foundation. When she refused to adjust her theology to the new “Spirit of Vatican II,” her manuscripts almost overnight became unacceptable to her former editors. After a series of articles on feminine spirituality for the old Triumph magazine, she continued speaking for tradition by successfully producing The Thought of Their Heart and Sin Revisited on her own.
With reading On The Contrary, I wasn't ready for the surprise that was the information that Solange Hertz packs in these pages. Ranging from topics such as Columbus, Ecumenism, Papal Infallibility, Feminism, and Marriage (with much more); it is quite literally a small, comprehensive guide to the Faith for our modern world. However, while the arguments Mrs. Hertz gives both are rooted and quoted from Scripture, Church Fathers and Doctors, and theologians from all walks of life; the area of contention that surprised me the most was how readily Mrs. Hertz took me on a journey on a given topic. For example, on Feminism, Mrs. Hertz begins with the story of creation, Eve, before going to women holding "power" as it were and men holding authority over his wife, to the devil using our differences to divide us from God to democracy and secularizing schools to teach perverted "sex education", before finishing with women being important as they produce great men, as Our Lady had Christ. Mrs. Hertz does a much better job of explaining this than I ever can, but all the while she uses Scripture, quotes from how the great Church Fathers and Doctors understood them, interpretations by today's "modern" crowd, just to get the original point she makes across to the reader.
Another example is her talk on marriage, from which she derives her entire discussion from the Book of Tobias. Either way its a great read to those who want a different voice in their life. Although I do advise a caveat in that I wouldn't recommend memorizing Mrs. Hertz arguments as apologetics to counter anti-Catholic sentiment. While most of what she says I can understand, these were written from her own conclusions she reached in her life, not necessarily for everyone.
Regardless, when I powered thru this book in the three measly days I did, it was a great read and I learned a great deal more. Not just about the Catholic Faith, nor the world around me, nor even about Evil and the Evil One, but about myself. The title of this review is a testament to that, since before this book, I'd rarely read Scripture, but after the fact, I feel like I'd learn more about our Blessed Lord THRU Scripture than in all my previous encounters combined. While I do have some issues with some things Mrs. Hertz says, overall her eloquence has made it that while the gap between the devil closes, nonetheless the path towards sanctity seems more within my reach. A weird dichotomy but one Mrs. Hertz manages to pull off surprisingly well.
This book is both entertaining and informative on a variety of Catholic topics.
I greatly enjoyed reading these essays by Mrs. Solange Hertz. She wrote with a clear head and a strong opinion about the value of tradition in the Church.