FTEN ENOUGH, I come across notable books & authors, compositions & composers, paintings & artists that have somehow eluded me heretofore. This recently transpired as I was introduced to a title by Dietrich von Hildebrand that I had never encountered: Trojan Horse in the City of God. The contents of this book are fascinating, and I was surprised to find that it was published in December 1967. So I have no excuse for not finding it sooner.
Von Hildebrand covers many topics, but there are a few overarching themes. Among them are these:
1. Tradition is good.
2. The idea that “progressivism” brings about progress must be challenged.
3. Catholic art & architecture are handmaids, not enemies, of faith.
4. Relativism is a serious danger to faith.
Even so soon after the close of the Second Vatican Council, the author already makes note of discrepancies between what the Council said and how it has been interpreted.
What he says concerning tradition strikes me most. He identifies a tendency toward “temporal parochialism,” which is a habit of heart and mind we can all likely recognize at work around us. This tendency the author defines as “a special kind of pride in the idolatry of one’s own epoch. It produces a spirit of irreverence toward all tradition.” This is so evident in contemporary history textbook. Have you seen the disparaging way in which medieval culture is treated in these textbooks? Von Hildebrand continues: “It is a characteristic symptom of immaturity to feel oneself more mature and independent than men of previous times, to forget what one owes the past, and, in a kind of adolescent self-assertion, to refuse any assistance.”
s easy as it is to recognize this form of pride around us, let’s not fail to see where we, ourselves, are guilty of it. Do we perceive those committed to the “reform of the reform” to be superior beings to those who long for a revival of the “spirit” of Vatican II? In your passion for Neo-Thomism, do you forget that movement’s dependence on St. Thomas, himself, as well as the Enlightenment thinkers? It can work the other way, too. Am I dogmatic that Bach is the greatest organist of all time and that no one can ever possibly approach his stature again? Do I idolize the Church of the 1930’s and 1940’s as the Golden Age of Catholicism in America? Certain ideas, of course, may actually be superior to other ideas, but persons are never better or more valuable than others.
What this book has to say is important for our times. The recovery of our Tradition—not mustiness or trappings or archaisms, but real Tradition—is essential for true progress. In moving forward, let’s not forget what we owe the past. What do we owe? Study, appreciation, gratitude, development, and continuity.