by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
A friendly reader asked me to explain why the Church has been fought so fiercely throughout her history even though she is the preacher of the Truth. He also wants to know why true Catholics, who do not compromise with present-day errors and remain faithful to the immutable teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ are so relentlessly attacked.
It seems to me that the reader could have broadened the scope of his question even further. Persecutions against the Church and today’s true Catholics are historic prolongations of those carried out against Our Lord Jesus Christ. How to explain that the Man-God, who is the Truth, the Way and the Life was persecuted to the point of being crucified between two vulgar thieves?
This question was given a luminous answer by one of the greatest Church Doctors of all time, Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hyppo. To facilitate the readers’ understanding, I reproduce here, slightly adapted, the teaching of the great Doctor of the fourth and fifth centuries.
Commenting on the famous phrase of Terentius, “truth engenders hatred,” Saint Augustine asks himself how to explain such an illogical fact.
Indeed, he says, man naturally loves happiness. Now, happiness is the joy born of the truth.
Thus, it is an aberration for anyone to see the man who preaches truth in the name of God as an enemy.
Having thus enunciated the issue, the holy doctor goes on to explain it. Human nature has such a propensity to the truth that when man loves something contrary to the truth he still wants that something to be true. In so doing he falls into error by persuading himself of something which in reality is false.
Therefore, someone must open his eyes. Now then, since man does not allow anyone to show him that he was mistaken, for the same reason he tolerates no one to show him the error in which he finds himself.
And the Doctor of Hyppo notes: In so doing, some men hate the truth for the sake of that which they have taken as true! They love the light of truth but not being reprehended by it… They love it when it shows itself to them; they hate it when it makes them see who they are.
This is how such men are punished for their disloyalty: they do not want to be unveiled by it and nevertheless it blows their cover. And yet, it — the truth — remains hidden to their eyes.
“This is precisely how the human heart is shaped. Blind and slothful, unworthy and dishonest, it hides while not allowing anything to be hidden from it. So it happens to be unable to flee from the eyes of the truth, but the truth flees from its eyes.”
With these words, Saint Augustine concludes his masterly commentary.