One of the great thinkers of the late 20th century is without doubt the American cardinal, Fulton J. Fullon Sheen. He is mostly remembered for the defence of Catholic dogma. But his arguments are extremely relevant not only because for what he says but more important for their political relevance.
In a particular video, Sheen compares Thomas Jefferson with Saint-Just, a French revolutionary figure. Both were contemporaries. Jefferson was one of the founding fathers of the American state. In his vision, a state has to be founded on patriotism, which Sheen defines as being the love for your country and God. These two go together. The political force that moves patriotism is the Latin word “pietas”. In classical Latin, pietas meant duty, religiosity, loyality, devotion, religious behaviour and filial piety. In turn, piety is linked to the Latin word pius, from which the term piety in English derives but which also means dutifulness acting dutifully. According to Virgil, Latin word “pius” meant the love towards one’s country and religion. It also carried the meaning of honesty and peace.
Sheen goes to the etymological origins of the word “pietas” in Greek. According to Sheen, the word “pietas” in Greek meant love, love of God, your neighbour and your country. One was tied to the other and one could not exist without the other. In Sheen’s words, Jefferson set the bases for the American state on these three ancient pillars.
We then have Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, a contemporary of Jefferson. In 1793, Saint-Just’s ideas introduced a new phase in the French Revolution. This new phase came to be known in history as the Reign of Terror. A state needs to be based on terror, on the fear that is imposed on the citizens through discipline. The state needs to be built on what Saint-Just defines as a pile of corpses.
Sheen foresaw that the America of the future would no longer be based on Jefferson’s concept of pietas, but on Saint-Just’s political ideal of terror. Sheen foresaw that by the year 2024, this latter idea would predominate American thought.
Sheen was right. Slowly, the entire world society is moving in that direction. It is moving towards a situation where citizens are controlled by terror and such terror is coming through legal means which are being described as enacted in the interest of the common good and for society’s safety.
Michel Foucault gives us a new explanation for Saint-Just’s political view. Foucault calls it a punitive society that is being based on the concept of legal terror enacted in the name of safety and public security.
The following is a YouTube link to Fulton J. Sheen’s conference wherein he exposes these political concepts.