Heredity in Traditional Elites

July 18, 2013

There is, before all else, a natural fact linked to the existence of traditional elites that needs to be remembered, namely heredity.

Painting by John Callcott Horsley

“The nature of this great and mysterious thing that is heredity—the passing on through a bloodline, perpetuated from generation to generation, of a rich ensemble of material and spiritual assets, the continuity of a single physical and moral type from father to son, the tradition that unites members of one same family across the centuries—the true nature of this heredity can undoubtably be distorted by materialistic theories. But one can, and must also, consider this reality enormously important in the fullness of its human and supernatural truth.

A Victorian Family at the Seaside by Charles Wynne Nicholls

A Victorian Family at the Seaside by Charles Wynne Nicholls

“One certainly cannot deny the existence of a material substratum in the transmission of hereditary characteristics; to be surprised at this one would have to forget the intimate union of our soul with our body, and in what great measure our most spiritual activities are themselves dependent upon our physical temperament. For this reason Christian morality never forgets to remind parents of the great responsibilities resting on their shoulders in this regard.

The Imperial family, Franz Joseph I,  Karl I and Otto of Austria.

The Imperial family, Franz Joseph I, Karl I and Otto of Austria.

“Yet of greater import still is spiritual heredity, which is transmitted not so much through these mysterious bonds of material generation as by the permanent action of that privileged environment that is the family, with the slow and profound formation of souls in the atmosphere of a hearth rich in high intellectual, moral, and especially Christian traditions, with the mutual influence of those dwelling under one same roof, an influence whose beneficial effects endure well beyond the years of childhood and youth, all the way to the end of a long life, in those elect souls who are able to meld within themselves the treasures of a precious heredity with the addition of their own merits and experiences.

Photo of Emperor Pedro II of Brazil, his wife Teresa Cristina and grandson Pedro Augusto.

“Such is the most prized patrimony of all, which, illuminated by a solid faith and enlivened by a strong and loyal practice of Christian life in all its demands, will raise, refine, and enrich the souls of your children.” (1941 allocution to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility.)

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Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII: A Theme Illuminating American Social History (York, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, 1993), 50.

 

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