When the pure youth Galahad appears at Camelot, he is heralded as the long-desired knight, the one who will bring to their end all of the enchantments lying upon the land. For the world, the flesh, and the devil weave their spells. Those are the pharmakia of the apocalypse of Saint John, as if the world were in the business of squeezing drugs into your drink, so that you will be fascinated by him, and cry out, “Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”

We do not choose between enchantment and plain vision. We choose between love and love, as the Lord says: “Where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.” We know that even in daily human affairs, love is not at all blind. Love brings visions in its wake, and the only question is whether they are true or false, whether they bring us to the threshold of the temple of God, or lead us into the dreamland of idolatry. Jesus Himself tells us that we will not see unless we love, and we do not love unless we obey: “He who keeps my commandments is he who loves me, and he who loves me shall be loved by my Father; and I will love him, and will make myself manifest to him.”

What is abortion among us but an economic deal? We purchase our hedonism, and our economic latitude, with the blood of the children we do not want. That is it, and with only a few exceptions, it is the whole of it. 

Now here is the question. What good does the world have to offer the Church? We believe that grace perfects nature, and that all of the natural goods that human beings enjoy will be made pure by Christ, and elevated beyond what we could have imagined. A mother's natural love for her child finds its holiest expression in the love of Mary for Christ and for us. It is like Mary's love, but rather as a flat black and white drawing of a garden is like the reality, the trees and flowers in their full-bodied and colorful glory. It isn't simply that Mary loves us more or better. We are talking about a transcendent order of being. “As far as the heavens are above the earth,” says the Lord, “so high are my thoughts above your thoughts, and my ways above your ways.”

But the world is under the spell of evil. It isn't just that there is some good in the world and some bad. Then the work of the Church would be simply to disentangle the two. The trouble is that even what good there is in the world is shot through with evil. There are no sinless people among us. 

Consider the case of an advanced civilization of artisans, sailors, and merchants. If you want the precious dye, made from a certain shellfish, which distinguishes royal robes from what the rest of us wear, you have to go to them. That is why other people call them the Purple Makers. Their maritime ventures extend to parts of the world where no one else travels. It is possible that they sailed around the Cape of Good Hope almost two thousand years before Vasco da Gama did it. They have colonies abroad. They have a formidable navy and army. They produced perhaps the greatest military genius who ever lived.

And when times are difficult, these sophisticated merchants, seeking always the main chance, turn to their god for an economic deal. Chesterton asks us to imagine Victorian bankers in black frocks and top hats, proceeding to the temple where, with staid efficiency, a dozen or so Victorian babies are burnt to cinders to win the favor of the exacting god Moloch. We must not believe that these worthy men of Carthage were entirely heartless. The rich among them would often “adopt” babies from the lower classes, simply to sacrifice them to the god and receive the benefit themselves. No doubt they offered them a good price for the children according to current market value. 

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It is hard for us to associate such a dead and dry exchange with sorcery, but let us consider again. What is abortion among us but an economic deal? We purchase our hedonism, and our economic latitude, with the blood of the children we do not want. That is it, and with only a few exceptions, it is the whole of it. The Supreme Court of the United States admitted as much in Moloch vs. Casey, noting that abortion had woven itself inextricably into our whole way of life. Men and women plan their lives with abortion in mind, that fail-safe against the consequences of their hedonism. Abortion is a sorcery, and the payoff is to be money in your wallet, a diploma on your wall, or a title before your name.

What does the Church bring to that world? Not a purer form of child-murder. Not something less heinous to take the place of abortion. She must bring an exorcism. After the exorcism, we can talk about what there is in this world that the Church can bless and exalt. We must remember who it is that Jesus said is the prince of this world, and who seems to have had all the kingdoms of the world up for auction, if only the Lord would compromise just a little and make His peace with the swindler.

Right now, the world is selling sex. It is always something. But this time the pharmakion arrives shamelessly with apharmakion: a spell on top of a spell. If only you ingest this pharmaceutical, then that pharmaceutical will work, and you will may enjoy the blessings of impudence, childlessness, licentiousness, perversion, and infidelity – and then think how happy you will be!

There are many in my Church who recommend going to shop at the pharmacy of the world. It is as if the world were the doctor, and Christ's Church were the patient. “Take this pill,” they say, and then – what? What has it done for the denominations that have sealed that deal? Something “magical” indeed. It has made the brides sterile. No one cares what those churches say about anything, because they say what the world says, with a Jesus-dummy on the lap. The lips move, but the voice comes from the belly of the beast.

Christ is the physician, and only He. He has given His Church the remedies for the world.

More to come.

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Anthony Esolen is a Fellow at the Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, NH.  He is the translator and editor of Dante's Divine Comedy (Random House), and is the author of more than a dozen other works, including Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery) and Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Press).  He regularly writes for The Catholic Thing, Crisis Magazine, Touchstone, and Magnificat.