Absenteeism and omission: sin of the elites

August 2, 2012

Unfortunately, not a few members of the nobility and the traditional elites have a tendency to isolate themselves from contemporary life. Imagining themselves to be protected from the uncertainties of life by a secure patrimony and absorbed in memories of bygone days, some of them estrange themselves from real life. They shut themselves off from the outside world and let the days and years elapse in a careless, quiet life with no definite earthly objective.

Canonization of St. Bonifacia Rodriguez Castro, St. Luigi Guanella & St. Guido Maria Conforti

For most of the Church's 2,000 year history, it was natural and frequent for members of the nobility and analogous traditional elites to enlist in the ranks of the clergy and serve the common good of their nation as bishops, priests, or religious. Sadly, few of them do this today.

Search for their names in apostolic works, in charitable activities, in diplomacy, in academia, in politics, in the arts, in the armed forces, in the financial world. It will be in vain. Save for some exceptions, they will be absent. Even in social life, where it would be natural for them to shine, their role is at times null. We may even witness the situation of a country, province, or city where everything happens as if they did not exist.

Why this absenteeism? The cause lies in a mixture of qualities and defects. If we were to examine closely the lifestyle of these elites, more often than not we would find it dignified, honest, even exemplary, because it is inspired by noble reminiscences of a profoundly Christian past. This past, however, seems not to have any meaning except for themselves. They cling to it with exacting obstinacy and alienate themselves from contemporary life. They do not perceive that among those reminiscences, there are elements that are no longer applicable to our day.(1) Nevertheless, that past still holds certain values, inspirations, propensities, and directives that could favorably and deeply influence the “very different lifestyles” of the “new chapter [that] has begun.”(2)

Navy SEALs in Afghanistan prior to Operation Red Wing. All of these soldiers were killed in action, except for the 3rd soldier from the right.

Regrettably, although it is a profession that comes naturally to them, all too few members of the nobility and analogous traditional elites pursue a lifetime career in the military.

This precious ensemble of spiritual, moral, cultural, and social values—of great importance both in the public and private spheres—is tradition, a life born of the past to lead the future. Upholding the permanence of tradition, the nobility and the analogous elites should exercise a profound and co-directive action of presence in society for the common good.

(1) “A page of history has been turned; a chapter has ended. A period has been placed, indicating the end of a social and economic past” (RPN 1952, p. 457).

(2) Ibid.


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), p. 78.


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