” … without strong Catholic influence, which has been its foundation and support.” Readers will recognize the stamp and style of JIM, the indefatigable contributor of no less than forty-nine (49 !) of the most outspoken, provocative comments ever to appear in a blog. Those who have read them will recall the academic and professional credentials of this Green Catechism Catholic, with whom I attended primary school from the age of eight. His brilliant future career as an engineer was already predictable in his early school days. Jim won the admiration of his classmates as well as that of our teachers, the Marist Brothers. He had competitors but few equals in the classroom. We all shared a Catholic faith which not a few of us were to abandon later, but Jim preserved his, in all its pristine purity and infantile innocence, these last seventy years. He is so convinced and sure of himself that he can make lapidary pronouncements like that in the title and the first sentence of this post. Previous Dialogues of the Deaf with him on this blog revealed both his extreme credulity (the Lanciano “miracle”, bleeding statues, etc.) as well as his unshakeable religious certitudes. His recent sweeping, quasi-apocalyptic, doomsday statement reveals his dogmatism even in the field of geopolitics : “We’ll all be rooned”, he could have said, in the words of John O’Brien, a talented Australian poet who happened to be a Catholic priest endowed with both literary talent and a funny bone (not Jim’s strong point). Jim is deadly serious in predicting a cataclysm of historic proportions for our world, unless the Church exercises the influence and power it once had in Western society. Jim the dreamer clearly does not realize what a disaster such a retrograde step would be.
Readers familiar with the history of the last two millennia will find this prediction preposterous for their own multiple reasons. I will limit mine to the following, in view of what the Western world was like when it was under “strong Catholic influence” :
1. The Supreme Pontiff would be not only a powerful Head of (a real) State with vast territories, immense wealth and a massive army ready to engage its military forces in bloody battle, but the world’s supreme political figure, dominating if not virtually nominating other Heads of State, as a quasi-universal monarch and king-maker.
2. The Church would exercise considerable influence if not control over the leaders of other States, and would exact tribute from their populations in the form of obligatory “contributions” for the right to exercise certain functions and to benefit from its spiritual powers, including eternal salvation, with which God, it claims, had endowed it.
3. Dissent and non-conformity in any form, Protestantism, non-Christian religions, let alone atheism, or even failure to practise the state religion of Catholicism, would not be tolerated but rather duly punished by restoration of the Inquisition, with the help of updated tools of torture and especially particularly inhumane capital punishment. Books and films would be severely censored, professors would be “silenced”, school and University syllabuses, especially in science, forced to conform with official Catholic doctrine, and worst of all, there would be, on world television, a public incineration of both my book and blog, along with, please God, their author.
These are but the most obvious examples of the “strong Catholic influence” without which “the Western world is doomed”. Jim pines for a theocracy that would surpass even contemporary Muslim versions. Does he seriously believe, literally, that outside the Church there is not only no salvation but even no possibility of maintaining law and order and the satisfying of legitimate needs of humanity, unless the Catholic Church once again exercises a predominant rôle in human society ?
Many of us are convinced that the world today faces unprecedented challenges for its very survival : nuclear and/or biological warfare, uncontrolable ecological disasters, fascism in all its forms, religious fundamentalism and fanaticism, capitalistic indifference to and domination of increasingly hungry, and even thirsty, desperate, exploited peoples. But Jim is suggesting, or rather dogmatically declaring, that Western civilization is doomed unless the universal, political, cultural, spiritual and intellectual influence of the Catholic Church is restored. Along with the threat is a nostalgia for the good old days (?) of “Christus vincit” and the “One True Church”, of dominant Catholicism. If I were not an atheist I would say “God help us !”
Jim, you recently claimed on this blog that “the Catholic Church built Western civilization”. If you want to restore the Ancien Régime, for which you give the Church credit, good luck ! Fortunately such an absurd dream will never happen. Unspeakable crimes were committed in 1789, but the Revolution had to happen, the Catholic Ancien Régime had to disappear. Vive la République laïque ! Long live the secular Republic !
You will no doubt, in a fiftieth contribution to this blog, want to exercise your right to reply to the above, although you have every right not to. Just make your text no longer than this post. Tell us why, in your view, the Catholic Church and its influence, values and doctrines are vital to our survival. Its ghastly track-record of cruelty, exploitation and obscurantism, coupled with its contemporary scandalous behavior, would suggest, on the contrary, that we would be far better off without it. DELENDA ECCLESIA CATHOLICA.