Preface by Georges Bordonove

October 28, 2010


Preface

by Georges Bordonove

 

Georges Bordonove 1920 - 2007, French historian and writer

Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, an eminent jurist and specialist in modern and contemporary history, taught in the prestigious Catholic University of São Paulo. His books and articles on social, religious and political issues have earned him an international readership. A militant Catholic, he unceasingly defended traditional values, not in the name of a sterile nostalgia but on behalf of the authentic faith. Furthermore, he never stopped confronting totalitarian tyranny in all its forms.

In this work he recounts the journey of the nobility and the elites in general, showing the prominent role they assumed through the ages and the influence they had, concurrently with the Church; and he emphasizes the reasons for their influence, of which a muffled yet noticeable echo still resounds.

Based on this finding, he goes on to define the duties and obligations incumbent upon the nobility and analogous traditional elites, even though their various privileges have been eliminated and despite the reduction or even disappearance of their wealth. In his exposition, he constantly refers to the speeches by Pope Pius XII to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility. He reasons that the Pope’s thinking is universal in scope and covers all that might be called “patrician.” Professor Corrêa de Oliveira makes a brilliant analysis of those texts (which the book features in their entirety), makes them explicit with commentaries and personal reflections, and draws from them a well-structured argumentation that gives away his acumen as a jurist. He then goes beyond mere analysis to identify the role and mission of the patriciate in the world today and in the future.

Prof. Corrêa de Oliveira ranks among the clear-sighted minds that perceive, with an almost painful sharpness, the metamorphosis underway in today’s society, whose final features one cannot foresee. He fears, not without reason, that the combined effect of a galloping progress and a mistaken egalitarianism will eventually obliterate the individual by a monstrous leveling [of society]. It is in this perspective that he identifies, with Pius XII, the mission the patriciate has, lest it prefers to scuttle itself and disappear. In other words, he invites the elites not to dwell in the lamentation of vanished grandeur, not to estrange themselves from society, but rather to resolutely enter the active life, to place their talents, their heritage of experience, their family traditions, and even their way of being, at the service of society, with the sole concern for the common good.

1857 Blessing of Wheat in Artois Painted by Jules Breton located in the Musee des Beaux-Arts d’Arras

In other words, he invites the elites not to dwell in the lamentation of vanished grandeur, not to estrange themselves from society, but rather to resolutely enter the active life, to place their talents, their heritage of experience, their family traditions, and even their way of being, at the service of society, with the sole concern for the common good.

“Tradition” he writes, quoting Pius XII “is something very different from a simple attachment to a vanished past; it is the very opposite of a reaction mistrustful of all healthy progress. The word itself is etymologically synonymous with advancement and forward movement—synonymous, but not identical. Whereas, in fact, progress means only a forward march, step by step, in search of an uncertain future, tradition also signifies a forward march, but a continuous march as well, a movement equally brisk and tranquil, in accordance with life’s laws….The point, then, is not to go against the stream, to backstep toward lifestyles and forms of activity already eclipsed, but rather to take and follow the best of the past and go out to meet the future with the vigor of unfailing youth.”

Professor Corrêa de Oliveira very specifically attributes to the elite, the mission of preserving and promoting traditional values capable of harmonizing the world of tomorrow, and particularly the religious values without which the human creature is nothing but a robot and people are turned into “masses.”

 

Statue of King Louis IX of France by Charles Henry Niehaus, the namesake of St. Louis, Missouri, is located in front of the Saint Louis Art Museum

One could perhaps say at times that the author, in imitation of the great Saint Louis, dreams about an ideal State, an earthly Jerusalem.

 

One could perhaps say at times that the author, in imitation of the great Saint Louis, dreams about an ideal State, an earthly Jerusalem. This work is remarkable in all aspects, notably for the abundance and rigorous exactness of its documentation, the author’s universal culture, his solid argumentation, and the transparency of his thought. The reader will also appreciate the Professor’s prospective effort when he addresses the question of the world’s future…. It proposes an itinerary; he erects the first landmarks for the road to be followed. Is this the announcement of that twenty-first century which, it has been said, will either be mystical or will not be at all?

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