Saturday May 25, 2013
How Rome Didn't Decline and Fall (Yet)
Bill Annett Salem-News.com
'Vatican Human Rights Councl' - courtesy: itccs.org
(DAYTONA BEACH, FL) - I remember as a little boy in our small town saying something derogatory about the Catholic church within the hearing of a catholic man, who not only upbraided me but reported the event to my father. I was punished by being forced to go to the man and apologize and – characteristic of my Dad – I was instructed to write an essay on tolerance. (Or as we say in contemporary America, “Religious freedom.”) It was a great idea on Dad's part, but something intervened which I can't recall, and I never did complete the penance by composition. My life has probably been incomplete as a result.
We Americans are so fixated on protecting our freedom that we will carpet bomb anybody who challenges our worldwide endeavor to make everybody as free as we are. And religious freedom is at the top of our list.
This being a presidential election year, never has religious freedom been more important with a Republican candidate (a Mormon) wresting the prize in the final nomination contest from a medieval Catholic. The winner opposed the Protestant incumbent who probably talks about his faith more than most of us care to hear. So it's entirely topical for me to return to my childhood and at last fulfill my Dad's holy ordinance – to write about religious freedom and the Vatican Occupation of America, which are viewed widely as synonymous. In fact, I'll do it in three parts.
Since Pope Benedict XVI's power originates from God, it's logical that he (He) is obviously the best Person, in an earthly sort of way, to uphold those freedoms of thought, expression, speech, and the press, which we cherish, by influencing the American democratic process, not to mention domestic and foreign policy.
The Roman Catholic Church was slow in getting to America, so it has had to make up for lost time. In 1776, Catholics amounted to less than one percent of the population – inversely, about as many native Americans as we have allowed to survive until today, percentagewise. So we've sort of reversed the numbers. Nobody worried about other people's religion attaining political power in the good old colonial days, except for the Mormons a little later, but Mitt Romney's candidacy demonstrated that we needn't have worried - there's no danger of that happening.
With the huge migration of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, most of them settling in New York and Boston, there began a significant presence of Catholics and therefore the Catholic Church, and it was natural that there emerged a semblance of religion-based political power. (Think Honey Fitz or Lucky Luciano. ) Just a semblance. Not like in Quebec, or Mexico, Central and South America, most of Europe, much of Africa, and the Philippines, and the odd Asian country such as India, Thailand, Indonesia, and, until recently, Vietnam (prior to the advent of Ho Chi Min).
Our cherished freedom, the freedom of religion, denies the possibility that another person’s religion might do a wrong. (As my father believed, circa 1938.) So it was wrong to talk about stuff, think about stuff, and the thinking about other persons' religion successfully disappeared. And what we accomplished is to pass this idea along to public discourse, and best of all the press. The ultimate religious freedom, of course, happens when nobody talks about it, speaks about it or hears about it.
Because the best interests of the Vatican and the best interests of the United States are not always the same, it figures that somebody who is the direct descendant of God knows best. It only makes sense. And one example is that the current fixation on American Catholic fertility doctrine results in the overwhelming majority of American Catholics having the best interests of the United States foremost at heart, simply because that Catholic majority doesn't practice what it professes. So it all works out for the best. That's religious freedom in practice. Impressively, demonstrably hypocritical.
If that last paragraph sounds confusing, the fact is that the process works like a sort of reverse osmosis. Because the Catholic authority is absolute, coming semi-directly from God because it detours through St. Peter's Square, but because at the same time it's ridiculous, the people are bound by it, genuflect about it, but do the reverse behind the bedroom curtain. Therefore, the doctrine is the stimulus that produces the opposite result, like a burr under a saddle or a grain of sand in an oyster. Extending the metaphor, the Church's absolute authority is a pearl of great price.
“Totalitarian” as defined by Webster, who I think was a Protestant, is “centralized control by an autocratic leader or hierarchy regarded as infallible.” Right. But in our case, infallibility creates fallible but effective reaction. The end justifies the means.
More than a half-century ago, Karl Barth, a noted theologian, commented on the relationship between Catholic and Communist politics, concluding that the former was far more effective:
“Both are totalitarian; both claim man as a whole. Both lay great stress on all that is visible... Communism will pass; Roman Catholicism is lasting.”
So far, he's been right.
Pope Leo XIII, according to Dr. Stephen Mumford, a modern theologian, stated that Catholics owe “complete submission and obedience of will to the Church and to the Roman Pontiff, as to God Himself.” Of course, if you buy “the throne of St. Peter” idea of royalty, which we all do. Why else do we cart him around in a chair or a bullet-proof jeep, sit him on a throne and crown him with a hat you don't see anywhere else except on a chess board? That's not the half of it: The infallible spokesman of God, he is also worshiped “as God Himself.” Our Father which art damn near in Heaven.
The Roman Curia, says Mumford, controls the bishops, the bishops the clergy, the clergy controls the laity... and the lay Christians (because they are the ones who continually get laid) control mankind.” (De head bone connected to de neck bone, de neckbone connected to de backbone, de backbone connected to de hip bone. Do you hear de word of de Lord? Italics mine, saith the editor.)
As I learned from my father – the one with lower case, which was not in Heaven at the time - obedience is an essential qualification for securing and holding authority in religion, a nation or a male-dominated family. Inside any closed cultural system, the boss is supplied at second hand with all the arguments against the authority, and learns stereotypical answers. He takes his dogma from on high as a matter of duty because he has been taught that submission to higher authority is the essence of “freedom.” Just as a “private” soldier at the bottom of the totem pole has the greatest freedom. (I know, I've been there. Toward the end of my hitch, I even made PFC, and I noted immediately that I was less free with that single stripe.) Which leaves the clergy, government, or head of household, to do all the thinking for the free ones at the bottom. Religious freedom.
Christopher Dawson, an English Catholic scholar, put it this way: “... it is clear that Catholicism is by no means hostile to the authoritarian ideal of the state. Against the liberal doctrines of the divine rights of majorities and the unrestricted freedom of opinion, the Church has always maintained the principles of authority and hierarchy and high conception of the prerogatives of the state... any resistance on the part of the people is a grave sin...”
Wow. Think of the grave sin that could have befallen anyone who didn't vote for Rick Santorum, who had already committed his place in the hierarchy to memory.
One basic idea about the hierarchy is that a priest is kind of like, as I say, a PFC in the army: He represents the goodness of the Pope, the Church and himself. He is “above and beyond partisan politics,” unlike candidates such as former Senator Santorum. Therefore he, the priest, is a natural leader.
There is also a “superman” quality that makes the priest effective in the hierarchy. Since he always speaks on behalf of the Church, he can directly intimidate democratically elected politicians who don't know any better.
One of the vast fields in which this religious lobbying takes place in America today is the whole area of sex, human reproduction, the maximizing thereof (especially among Catholics) and the minimizing of abortion, for the same reason. This lobby has become so effective recently that we are back in the mid-Fifties in our thinking, and we require a separate issue of The Canadian Shield to discuss it.
Next Newsletter: Part Two of The Vatican Occupation of America: Sex and The Single Church
Bill Annett grew up a writing brat; his father, Ross Annett, at a time when Scott Fitzgerald and P.G. Wodehouse were regular contributors, wrote the longest series of short stories in the Saturday Evening Post's history, with the sole exception of the unsinkable Tugboat Annie.
At 18, Bill's first short story was included in the anthology “Canadian Short Stories.” Alarmed, his father enrolled Bill in law school in Manitoba to ensure his going straight. For a time, it worked, although Bill did an arabesque into an English major, followed, logically, by corporation finance, investment banking and business administration at NYU and the Wharton School. He added G.I. education in the Army's CID at Fort Dix, New Jersey during the Korean altercation.
He also contributed to The American Banker and Venture in New York, INC. in Boston, the International Mining Journal in London, Hong Kong Business, Financial Times and Financial Post in Toronto.
Bill has written six books, including a page-turner on mutual funds, a send-up on the securities industry, three corporate histories and a novel, the latter no doubt inspired by his current occupation in Daytona Beach as a law-abiding beach comber.
You can write to Bill Annett at this address: email@example.com