Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
A crisis of mentality brought about by sensuality
The decadence of the Middle Ages (Revolution and Counter-Revolution, Chap. III, 5, A) was caused by a crisis of mentality brought about by sensuality. This evil created a whole moral climate.
The effects of sensuality hark back to the 14th century, when one begins to observe in Christian Europe a profound change of mentality that grows more and more in the West during the 15th century.
It is important to note that the word, mentality, is used on purpose. This is not about doctrine, for doctrine and mentality are too very different things. We are referring more specifically to a state of mind, a mentality, and not to a doctrine.
This mentality is born in a confused way but becomes clearer as it grows. These are transformations of mentality that undergo a process of clarification. This is one of the rules of the process.
The elements of this mentality are, first, an appetite for earthly pleasures that tends to become an anxiety. It is a consented appetite which, upon becoming an anxiety, manifests itself more clearly than when it did when it was a mere appetite.
In the second place comes a need for entertainment that tends to become more frequent, sumptuous and sophisticated with reflections in the way people dress, behave, speak, and on literature and art, and in a life full of fantasy and delights of the senses, provoking sensuality and softness, the end of austerity and seriousness, and giving rise to a mania of making everything smiling, gracious and festive.
People’s hearts gradually shed the love of sacrifice. Chivalry becomes more amorous, a fact reflected in literature, bringing as a consequence excessive luxuriousness and avidity of profit.
All this is not characteristic of a doctrine, but of a mentality. The doctrine ensues.