Matthew Rarey offers us a lovely review essay of Fr. George Rutler’s book, Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943
The inspiration for Principalities and Powers came from a disintegrating pile of newspapers, journals, and radio transcripts from World War II, including German and Italian sources, both Nazi and Fascist as well as ecclesiastical. They were left to Fr. Rutler by a friend and historian, Monsignor Florian Cohalan. The resulting book focuses on those pivotal two years upon which the war turned, and, as the title suggests, is concerned not with military battles but the spiritual moorings of the war—specifically the demonic forces that animated the conflict. They did not unconditionally surrender in 1945, but make our own time a playground in which devils make merry through the perversion of human personhood. Euthanasia, abortion, the sex revolution, the state-manipulation of marriage and the family, eviction of Christianity from the public square—all were in play seven decades ago, and, ironically, viciously plague the victor nations of the “Good War,” prompting one to ask who really won. As Fr. Rutler writes in the preface:
[T]he Second World War can rightly be understood and probably only appreciated as a holy war fought for multiple and mixed motives, but in its deepest meaning as a campaign against evil by defenders, consciously or obliviously, of the good. If anything is to be learned from reading old journals, it is how the same moral dilemmas of an old war, in their display of human dignity and the anatomy of cruelty, are background for the same realities in our own day. If a war covers the whole earth, its stratagems are the measureless size of each human soul.