Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sunday Thought: the Church as Scapegoat

Some time ago Paul Cella referred me to another website whose host (who shall remain anonymous, for I actually like a lot of his stuff) had gone digging for first causes and come up with this one: that "Europe, led by the Church, [had] disarmed itself against Islam.

"...it has often struck me as incredible that the Europeans, whose ancestors waged a thousand-year-long war against Islam to avoid the conquest, enslavement, conversion, and utter destruction of Christian civilization, would be as ignorant of Islam's true nature as Americans are."

So what happened? Nostra Aetate (In Our Time) happened, issued by Paul VI "as part of the work of the Second Vatican Council...alongside its good and sensible parts about Judaism, Nostra Aetate also had some very foolish and dangerous things to say about Islam":

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.

And thus the writer concludes that "...the Pope and the assembled bishops counseled the world of Christendom that we must forget 1,400 years of history, as though they never happened!...No wonder Europe forgot. The historic core of Europe, the Catholic Church, told it to forget."

Said Paul: "As a (ahem) crypto-Catholic with the concerns about Islam I have, this sort of critque of the Church sits pretty heavy with me. I wonder what your response to it is."

So I wrote back:

By coincidence, I was reading Nostra Aetate just the other day for some other purpose. The part discussing Islam struck me as simply the usual Church counsel to reconciliation. Let's put past offenses behind us and move on. A Catholic is accustomed to such naive blather. The Pope is clearly reaching out to Muslims. What else is he supposed to do? Sound the trumpet for a call to arms against the infidel? Perhaps at some point - but in 1965? That's actually the duty of secular authorities, and the only reason Popes did it in the past was that the princes of the world would not.

The real problem with ______'s piece is this line: "No wonder Europe forgot. The historic core of Europe, the Catholic Church, told it to forget." It's funny that Europe would listen to the Church on this point while ignoring it on all others. Europe had forgotten before the Pope ever said a word. Europe forgot because Europe lost the Faith. Or will he lay this at the Pope's feet as well?

If you click that link at the bottom of his post, it takes you to an archived piece on the same subject, where his real beef is the conviction that Vatican II was infected with political liberalism. This was no doubt true to some extent, and though some effects (not the substance) of Vatican II have been sickening to behold, I've never bought the connection between its teachings and the loss of faith. That process was already underway, the revolutionaries (not reformers) in place, and whatever the Council decreed was doomed to meet with defiance. Men lose their faith because they love a culture more than the Church - their satiety more than sainthood, themselves more than Christ. Even today, had we a Pope of the sort who rallied an army to Lepanto (I forget which one), who confronted Islam (and the West) daily with its hypocrisies, its pathological hatred of Jews, the true history of its being spread by the sword, the ethical depravity of its founder, the spiritually unoriginal and heretical nature of its origin, etc., he would be decried by all the West as himself a man of hatred and intolerance, not the voice of the Prince of Peace.

The problem with criticizing the Church is that it's too easy. Though the Pope may have many divisions, they are not to be found in Europe or America, and those that remain are poorly armed. It was not the Pope who disarmed them. They laid them down of their own accord. When Ahmadinejad gives a speech noting that Israel ought to be wiped from the map, I, too, would like to hear the Pope rage from his Wednesday balcony that neither should a man of such homicidal intent be tolerated at the head of a nation. Perhaps I could even blame him for not doing so. But what I will not blame him for is my own spiritual enervation; for failing to keep my lamp well-lit, for failing to do a job the responsibility for which rightly belongs to another.

4 comments:

zippy said...

I appreciate a lot of what that blogger writes too. But it is hard to sort out what he thinks is the cause of what when he talks about the Church. I can understand the argument that the Church forgot too, if you will -- that would be the traditionalist Catholic argument, I suppose, that the Church has become too liberal and too friendly with modernism. (I am working on a post on this, inspired by an email correspondent). But that the West forgot its history, and in particular its civilizational struggle against Islam, because it was told by Nostra Aetate to forget? I'm just not seeing it. Maybe there is something to the criticism in, say, France, that isn't at all obvious to an American. But even then the timeline seems completely off: how on earth does effect precede cause?

William Luse said...

how on earth does effect precede cause?

Exactly. He refers to the Church as "the historic core of Europe." Yes, there was once a thing called Christendom. By 1965 - though the faith stayed alive behind the Iron Curtain in enclaves like Poland, Lithuania, and Slovenia - was there a single head of state whose legitimacy depended on loyalty to the Church? Was there a single truly Catholic nation still in existence? Who was heeding the Pope on any matter, let alone the memory of Islam? Europe once listened to the Church all right, prior, perhaps, to the age of Richelieu.

Paul Cella said...

I'm glad Bill set me straight back when this came up. I think you have That Blogger dead to rights on this one.

It really is sad (I hardly have to tell you guys this) to perceive the degradation that modernism has inflicted on the Church. Researching a recent project, I happened upon an astonishing fact: in 1938, right before he died, Pius XI ordered all Catholic schools and universities to refute Nazi racial theories. Ordered them. And they complied.

Can you imagine what would ensue if Benedict ordered all Catholic schools to, say, refute the latest biotech heresy?

William Luse said...

Or how about the old contraceptive heresy, or any number of others? They would announce their intention to study the Pope's order "carefully," in order to determine what weight of authority was really behind it, and to ascertain precisely what he means by "refute", so as not to alienate hearts and minds or interfere with the freedom of the individual conscience.