The Church’s Growing Role: Oppose Anarchy & Totalitarianism

Henri de La Rochejaquelein (1772-1794)

Is the world getting better or worse? It’s an important question, since the value of current social policy depends on the answer.

Ordinary people tend to see current tendencies as a problem, but opinion leaders are more likely to discredit the past in favor of youth, novelty, and progress. With that in mind, mainstream public discussion doesn’t pay much attention to complaints about basic issues. The official story is that decline is an optical illusion. Everyone gets older, memory is selective, things we love disappear, and new things seem less impressive than they once did. So we see the past through rose-tinted glasses.

The story has some points in its favor. In the simplest material sense, life seems to be getting better for most people. Medicine is more effective, and people are living longer. Also, incomes have mostly risen in recent decades, notably in places like China and India that were subject to actual famine within living memory. There are still wars, crimes, and social upheavals, but on the whole fewer people are dying violently than in the recent past.

Such things matter a great deal. They’re not the whole story, though, since man does not live by bread alone. When immediate physical threats like starvation and violent death recede to the background—as they usually do for most people—other concerns, such as human relations, come to the fore. Even material well-being becomes mostly comparative, so if people are as well off as their friends, neighbors, and relatives they’re not likely to feel seriously deprived.

The official line is that with regard to human relations life has also become better, because government has taken responsibility for them. Apart from their involvement in education, childcare, and public health, which is now broadly construed to include social and psychological well-being, governments have established agencies, often at the cabinet level, for the promotion of social tolerance and inclusion. These agencies enforce comprehensive regulatory schemes designed to prevent division and resentment. Examples include initiatives intended to fight discrimination, promote acceptance, prevent bullying, and so on.

So it seems that today we take intangible aspects of the good life very seriously, and have established a way of dealing with them that is organized on industrial lines, backed by public resources and authority, and guided by what is thought the best available expertise. Such efforts, together with government promotion of material safety and well-being, are thought capable of delivering a complete good life to each of us. They enable us to pursue our individual preferences with the material and psychological support of others, and the satisfaction of preferences, whatever they may be, is now considered the definitive summum bonum.

But how can we decide whether such views are correct? We could, of course, ask those thought to know better, and we know what they will say. Among influential people no basic problem with the approach now established can be taken seriously, since that approach corresponds so thoroughly to the outlook of the expert and media types who design it, operate it, and tell us about it, and who also define for themselves and others what is rational and real. We’ve made real progress, we’ll be told, and remaining problems must be treated as growing pains or evidence that more needs to be done on the same lines. If there is friction among groups, then diversity must be increased and groups brought into ever closer contact. If there is violence against women, then we must eradicate social patterns that accept that the sexes are different and have particular obligations to each other.

Ordinary people are in no position to raise questions. They aren’t experts, and any resistance on their part could only reflect fear, ignorance, rigidity, and bigotry. It may be necessary to take bitter clingers into account as a social problem, but their views can’t be taken seriously on their own terms. Whatever the current problems, nostalgia for a past that was racist, sexist, heteronormative, and religiously intolerant is considered utterly out of place.

Still, there is some reason to doubt the official story. Accepting it at face value is like accepting Bill Gates as our guide to computer operating systems. He’s intelligent and knows a lot, but the same could be said of many people who don’t agree with him, and his views reflect a certain amount of self-interest and professional deformation.

On the face of it, it would seem that there are fundamental problems with an operating system for human society, liberalism, that treats man as a pure creature of appetite and calculation, and abolishes the authority of every institution other than money, certified expertise, and government bureaucracy. Most readers can think of particular problems that result from such a system. A difficulty though is that the problems can’t be put together, evaluated, and acted on in any serious way if the system itself remains beyond ultimate question because there is no settled position outside it from which a critique can be developed, articulated, and asserted. Without such a position it becomes impossible to deal with overall questions like whether life is becoming better or worse.

The normal centers for the development and maintenance of independent views are independent institutions: the family, the Church, local and regional communities, cultural and moral tradition. To be grounded in such settings is to be capable of a certain independence of thought. The problem is that our current liberal regime wants to do away with all of them, or at least reduce them to purely private and sentimental attachments, because it believes that their independence and authority stand in the way of systematic promotion of rationality and justice. If centralized power needs a check, the theory is that it will come from the sovereign individual (who increasingly lacks any basis for independence), and from institutions such as the media, the universities, and the judiciary that are integrated with the regime.

That’s not likely to work. It seems clear that an intelligent check on the liberal regime requires the presence of an independent institution with its own source of knowledge and authority that is able to function and govern itself using its own resources. In other words, it requires a perfect society other than the state. The only example of such a society is the Church. In the West it has been the Church, cultural tradition, and organizational practicalities that have limited the power of secular authorities. The weakening of cultural tradition, the ever-greater power in the hands of secular authorities, and their ever-greater ambition to remake the world and everything in it, makes the Church’s independent and critical role indispensible for human freedom and dignity.

The primary reason for attachment to the Church is that through her we come to know God. A secondary reason, but one of ever greater importance, is that she is the only real obstacle to the combination of anarchy and totalitarianism toward which our current social and political regime tends. Without her we are stuck in a world in which everything is considered a social construction. Such a world will either fall apart or attempt to maintain order on a principle very much like Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato (“Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State”). Either way, humanity loses. Today more than ever, the only true humanism is in the Church.

Editor’s note: The image above portrays Henri de La Rochejaquelein who led the revolt against the French Revolutionary army in the Vendee (1793-1796). The symbol of the resistance was the Sacred Heart along with the slogan “God is the King.” It was painted by Pierre-Narcisse Guerin in 1817.

James Kalb

By

James Kalb is a lawyer, independent scholar, and Catholic convert who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command (ISI Books, 2008), and, most recently, Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It (Angelico Press, 2013).

  • Ib

    Very good. You should develop this essay into a book.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    It seems to me that we have lost the notion of the citizen. G K Chesterton has a salutary reminder that “The citizens not only make up the state, but make the State; not only make it, but remake it”

    He insists that “The idea of the Citizen is that his individual human nature shall be constantly and creatively active in altering the State… Every Citizen is a revolution. That is, he destroys, devours and adapts his environment to the extent of his own thought and conscience. This is what separates the human social effort from the non-human; the bee creates the honey-comb, but he does not criticise it… No state of social good that does not mean the Citizen choosing good, as well as getting it, has the idea of the Citizen at all.”

  • AcceptingReality

    You and I know that the Church’s role is indispensable for human freedom and dignity but does the hierarchy of the Church know that? So little of moral substance comes from pulpits these days. Priests are rarely willing to say anything that appears to support Church teaching with regard to the main moral issues of the day. Most Bishops are timid, too. The head of the USCCB seems to favor rubbing elbows with political elites, never calling them on their progressive anti-life agendas. There is a bishop in Houston who calls “pro-lifers” involved in prayer vigils “grandstanders”. The pastor at my own Church distanced himself from faithful Catholics distributing “The Five Non-Negotiables for Catholic Voters” in the parish parking lot. I could go on and on. The fate of the Church and it’s role seems to lie in the hands of faithful pewsitters. We, the people, need to inspire and encourage and exhort our pastors to stand up for truth in the pulpits.

    • Thomas R

      “We, the people, need to inspire and encourage and exhort our pastors to stand up for truth in the pulpits.” – Maybe you would consider writing an article on exactly how to do that. My experience with the challenge has led me to conclude that pastors are very strongly formed in their own personal status quo, and besides it is their job to teach the laity – not to learn from them. The few who have the precious and sacred fire within, had it before I met them. The many who seem to be more administrator/CEO than shepherds in the Shepherd, seem to be well-fortified within against any threats to the status quo. The “primary directive” for parishes seems to be maintenance. Mission is that thing we schedule maybe once a year, offered by a guest priest with a reputation.

      There are hungry lay men and women in those pews who want more, and will come to receive the more when it is offered – whether by clergy or by well-formed laity. Maybe that is the way that the Lord will awaken the Church, little by little, and maybe before the end it will be the way that sleepy hierarchy, and clergy, will awaken too. It is they, those called to be shepherds, who are to lead the whole flock.

      • musicacre

        Us hungry lay men and women have to pray hard for these things to come about…particularly for the bishops as they are supposed to be the shepherds.. Somtimes I get a little too dramatic but I was saying to my husband the other day after we had the Bishop in our parish, something to the effect that isn’t the staff (crozier) of the Bishop twofold? Not just to be a sign of his office, but as tool to drive away the wolves from the sheep? I know I’m being literal, but who else has authority to smack those wolves and tear off the sheeps’ clothing?

        • Thomas R

          Hello musicacre, I want first to thank you for your excellent response to AcceptingReality, sharing a bit of your family history. Such a testimony is a blessing to and for the whole Church.

          And secondly, you are right on-target to encourage us all to “pray hard” for the bishops of our Church. Their office, their vocation, and their influence, are so very crucially important. God can, and will in His time, give grace that will ignite this Church with a burning fervor of truth. The prayers of the faithful will hasten that day, I believe, because they are hastening the readiness of our own souls for the days of trial that will accompany it.

      • AcceptingReality

        I hear you Thomas. Your viewpoint is totally valid. It has been my experience that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I make sure my pastor knows I’m there. I don’t bring up every liturgical abuse or vaguely heretical homily. But I do pick my spots. Concerns are always respectful of his office and backed up by clearly reasoned appeal to Church teachings. Usually it goes like this. I (or another parishioner) voices a concern, the pastor downplays it, then after a sufficient amount of time for it to seem like his idea, changes are made. Two examples: We had a ministry called the Green Team. They were dedicated to global warming issues and making it sound as though the Church was officially in the business of fighting global warming. Their big event was a lenten retreat entitled “Reconciliation With Our Mother The Earth”. Another parishioner and I complained most vehemently and shortly after the poorly attended retreat The Green Team lost its ministry privileges. Second, we have a local hospital chaplain who says Mass at our parish. After Communion he would let an assisting priest put the Blessed Sacrament back in the Tabernacle while he sat down with his back to Tabernacle. Well, enough people commented to the pastor and now the priest stands facing the Tabernacle until it’s closed. Pastors just want to avoid conflict so they will respond to pressure from the pews.

    • patricia m.

      The pastor at my own Church distanced himself from faithful Catholics distributing “The Five Non-Negotiables for Catholic Voters” in the parish parking lot.

      Your PRIEST (pastor is soooo protestant) is a good priest then, right? At least he distributed the pamphlets? At least! In my church the priest preached in the homily a dozen times against Obama, and also we were bombarded with pamphlets. It’s a good thing.

      • entonces_99

        I’m kinda curious: Why is same-sex marriage a non-negotiable, but not divorce and remarriage? I mean, when New York became the last state to enact no-fault divorce a couple of years ago (as opposed to allowing divorce only on grounds of adultery, as had been the case for over 100 years), why were Catholic legislators not told that they could not in good conscience vote for the new law?

        • Augustus

          Since when in recent decades has New York had good ecclesiastical leadership? Dolan doesn’t even want to question Cuomo’s status as a good Catholic over his more permissive abortion law. When it comes to influencing legislation with Catholic moral teaching, the laity–at least in New York–are on their own.

        • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

          Dunno why bishops draw the lines just where they do, but it should be evident that weakening the marital bond isn’t as radical a change as its fundamental redefinition. As things are now, marriage is simply not recognized in New York as a fundamental natural institution that precedes the state.

    • musicacre

      I get what you are saying and my husband and I have been saying this for years. Being part of the pro-life movement in its early stages really gave us (unfortunate, and disillusioning) insight into how committed (or not ) the priests were, to following the gospel with courage. After a time we realized we couldn’t change them and certainly couldn’t expect them to change before our children entered school and got infected with the same religious malaise… so suddenly home schooling popped into the picture! Very providential, even before we had thoughts of despairing. God rescued us! Over the years we tried to return the favor by telling as many people as possible and share our growing knowledge and experience with homeschooling. I’m taking a long time to explain how our personal policy had to shift from being able to name all the disappointments of contact with lukewarm clergy, instead, we got to know and developed relationships with the outstanding priests of strong faith that gradually become very known widely for wisdom and faithfulness to God. We have had many opportunities over the years, everything from inviting pro-life priest to give talks at conferences, inviting them to our diocese to give talks and say Mass for special occasions, and even visiting Monasteries; and the children have also got to know these priests! Thus presenting to the children robust examples of men of faith, instead of the children hearing us constantly complaining about this and that specific, problems with priests. We knew if we continued that they would eventually lose their respect for the Church in general and it’s not hard to imagine what would happen then…..Here we are 23 years later (and still have 2 homeschooling) I am so grateful for the path we were shown. The many humble and holy priests in our life that have come and gone, and many we are still in touch with has given all 6 children a healthy respect and admiration for the sacrifices of faithful clergy, and gives them a clue to the uphill but rewarding struggles of their future vocations, whatever those may be. I’m hoping and praying they have all emerged from their upbringing, untainted by disbelief. Life is always a work in progress, but so far, so GOOD!

      • John200

        Just a note to thank you for what you have done, from (anonymous) future generations, who will remember your good work.

  • cloonfush

    Mr Kalb….if you have not yet heard from the IRS you soon will.

    • Alecto

      Funny, I have received three letters over the past two weeks.

      • Adam__Baum

        Can you describe the nature of their three communications?

        • Alecto

          I’m sure it’s perfectly legitimate, it wasn’t as though I was applying for a 501(c)(3) or (c)(4).

          1. Audit of return from 3 years ago.
          2. Your last year’s return is wrong (first time that’s ever happened) and you owe us money.
          3. We are still reviewing your return and will communicate shortly!

          • Adam__Baum

            In selecting returns to audit, the IRS uses somewhat secret methods. However, in spite of their misuse of resources, they know they aren’t unlimited and they try to “dig where there are taters”.

            As a result, returns with errors, Schedule C income, higher income levels and other factors will increase your chance of being audited.

            Get a good “circular 230″ qualified professional to represent you. (attorney, CPA or Enrolled Agent) and one with experience in dealing with the IRS. Do not go to those “offer-in-compromise” factories.

            • Alecto

              Thanks, really appreciate the good advice. I think it was my Schedule D reporting. I was risk-on all year, completed invested, and very active.

  • http://www.datelinezero.com/ Lounge Daddy

    The Catholic Church “is the only real obstacle to the combination of anarchy and totalitarianism toward which our current social and political regime tends”?

    I get the claim that Catholicism and totalitarianism (in any form) don’t mix. But anarchism is entirely compatible with Catholicism.

    Unfortunately some people define anarchism to mean agitating for licentiousness; rather than for liberty. And probably this is the sort of anarchism you referr to. The difference might not be a big deal for some; but Catholic figures as Dorothy Day and JRR Tolkien
    would disagree that Catholicism is an “obstacle” to anarchism.

    • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

      I said “anarchy” rather than “anarchism.” I associate totalitarianism with anarchy because it falls short of its goal of perfect order based on a single principle but does succeed in suppressing a variety of other principles of order. So you get a lot of lawlessness, unofficial brutality and corruption, etc.

      • http://www.datelinezero.com/ Lounge Daddy

        Hey, thank you for clarifying; and I think I understand your distinction. Appreciate you taking the time to reply. :)

      • Adam__Baum

        While this essay is interesting, it contains a significant error in asserting that anarchy and totalitarianism are mutually exclusive polar opposites.

        They are not. You can have both, and I think we are rapidly approaching both in contemporary America. We have plenty of laws (and many more regulations issued with the force of law), but little authentic law. Either the CBO or the CRS just recently issued a report that the number of laws and regulations aren’t even countable.

        The state is increasingly removed from governed. Authentic (independent and informed) popular consent has been largely defeated through the creation of dependency. Laws are are often arbirtrary and capricious, exhausting and exacting, obnoxious and opaque. What Angelo Codevilla describes as the “ruling class” is insular, ambitious and arrogant.

        In recent days we’ve been told the massive panopticon created by, no that is the the federal government is a necessity to assure our “security” and that we must accept diminished privacy and security to assure that security, even with the memory of Boston still in our memory to tell us just how fraudulent this idea really is.
        The surveillance architecture didn’t prevent the terrorists, indeed they were paid guests. Final capture occurred not because of the massive effort and publc disruption by the constabulary, but because a man with a sharp eye went out for a smoke.

        As for the contemporary Episcopacy, they are naive regarding the results of statism. Many Bishops, have applauded the growth of the welfare state as legitimate and charitable, even as it debased morality, destroyed the family and the warred against the democratic process and private property. It’s a peculiar form of materialism that says public financial support is a unassailable imperative, even if it causes the poverty of fatherlessness.

        They have encouraged and applauded the growth of the state like small children playing with matches. Worse, they should have known better. When one of the highest ranking prelates expressed shocked indignation at being double-crossed by the present occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he offered testimony about the duplicity of the statist, but incriminated himself as naive.

        I see the state continuing to grow in size, scope and intrusiveness until the costs of maintenance produce an implosion. Before it does, the signs of religious discrimination that are now emerging will result in a tyranny that will have been in part the result of men with mitres who will be answering their Creator’s inquiries about their role in creating a false god. Future prelates will look at the politics of the Episcopacy over the past decades the way we look at certain medievel popes-as scandals impeding the spread of the Gospel.

    • tedseeber

      Dorothy Day and JRR Tolkien were for *distributism* not “anarchism”. Anarchy is always about the libertine freedom to abuse one’s neighbor- either sexually or fiscally.

  • Jambe d’Argent

    Like some other posters I also have serious doubts whether the Church – both as the faithful and the hierarchy – is really still powerful enough to fight secularist forces. The fifth column within it is busy trying to smuggle in the secular values; most of the faithful are insipid in their faith and a substantial part of the hierarchy is either indifferent, corrupt or opportunist. One may say, what else’s new? Yes but in the past there was at least a strong faith among the people; now this all-important foundation is practically gone. When I look around my church before the Sunday Mass, I often wonder, “How many of these people would go into the streets to protest if need be?” Not many, I’m afraid. Maybe in France but not in Canada or even the US.

    • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

      It’s not a matter of pragmatic force but what the Church is in principle and ultimate reality. In order to overcome the world we need a position independent of the world. The Church will always make that possible through what she is no matter how mediocre her members. It is up to us to accept what she offers, and at some point some of us will do so.

      • Nick_Palmer3

        James is spot on. Despair can be easy, but just run the clock back a few days to five loaves and two fishes. Christ has won. My challenge is acceptance of the fact. Despair just takes so much less effort.

        • musicacre

          Yes, can you imagine if David were assessing the strength and size of his foe and relied strictly on that? Sometimes the obvious things in this world like the Goliaths and monstrosities need to be taken less seriously. We just need to trust God more, for some people this might actually be the first time in their life they must trust God completely, so this is definitely a test. Like we tell our students, if you don’t prepare for the test…you will fail.

          • Jambe d’Argent

            Excuse me but who is the David now?

            • musicacre

              David of the Old Testament, sorry I wasn’t more clear.

              • Jambe d’Argent

                Thanks but my question was, who can be compared to David in our times?

                • musicacre

                  I think Nick_ Palmer3 already answered that quite well. I would have said the same thing. I esp like the line from Lord of the Rings. We can learn a lot/ get inspired from good literature also.

            • Nick_Palmer3

              Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s me. I don’t advocate passive waiting and thumb twiddling. Each of us has a role to play. And not a single one of us has sufficient “personal power” to win. That is of God.

              “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

              It may just be a personality thing, but despair (which I battle often) is a drag on my ability to try to discern and do the next right thing. I am responsible for my choices and actions. I try to leave outcomes to God. He has a decent track record…

              I also know the the first words of our Lord to his disciples following the Resurrection were, “Peace be with you.” Which he repeated.

        • Jambe d’Argent

          It’s not despair but a factual evaluation. If you want to bury your head in five loaves and two fishes, you’re free to do so but wait and see where does it get you.

      • Jambe d’Argent

        “In order to overcome the world we need a position independent of the world” But this is exactly what I am talking about! Unfortunately, the Church has been merging more and more with the world since Vatican II. Now there are suggestions coming from the top members of the hierarchy that, in the name of “justice”, the Church should support civil unions for the homosexuals. How’s that for the “position independent of the world”, Mr.Kalb?

        • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

          Is it possible in your view to say those hierarchs are wrong, based on the doctrine of the Church? And do all hierarchs agree with them?

          • Jambe d’Argent

            To question #1: Yes. Since homosexuality is considered by the Church “intrinsically disordered” and “gravely depraved”, the same Church must not support it in ANY way. This is just common sense. To question #2: I don’t know, probably not. What matters, though, is the lack of unity on such an important matter.

            • John200

              We DO have unity on what we should do with wounded people who fall into the practice of homo”sex”ual activity. There is no ambiguity here.

              Why pretend otherwise? The sooner we get clear on our faith and its implications for action, the sooner we make progress.

              Forward, march?

              • Jambe d’Argent

                I’m ready to march but most certainly not to follow the cardinals and archbishops I have mentioned above. Until it is absolutely clear who is really leading, I’d rather wait.

            • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

              If Church doctrine makes the matter clear, then the Church provides an independent place to stand. I agree of course that the lack of unity and general mediocrity is a big practical problem.

              • Jambe d’Argent

                And big practical problems have big consequences. Thank you for your honest reply, Mr. Kalb.

        • Midge

          My take is that the American Catholic Church would LOVE to “evolve” on homosexuality like all the other politicians. What praise the media would shower on the bishops and Cardinals! It would be like that Senator (Portman) who announced he’d changed his position on same sex marriage because his own son is homosexual. I don’t think I saw a bit of commentary that he had betrayed his voters, nor a question about what other public policies his children decide for him. Nope, just lots of praise about what a wonderful person he was now.

          If the Catholic Church changes in any way on homosexuality, how do they keep the prohibitions on contraception? How would they make that argument?

          Of course, I expect that like the politicians, the Catholic hierarchy never expects to be held to any accountability.

          • Alecto

            Let’s ask the gay lobby at the Vatican. LOL

            • Bono95

              I fail to find a homosexual lobby at the Vatican, or to find the idea of one funny.

              • Alecto

                But, the pope himself states there is a gay lobby in the Vatican. Don’t you believe the pope? Are you in possession of facts the pope does not have?

                • Bono95

                  All right, I did not know that the Pope himself confirmed the presence of such a lobby in the Vatican, but I still fail to find it funny. In fact, I find it even less funny because it’s apparently true.

          • M/M Kenneth P & Vicky N Fonten

            We the Church must love the sinner, but absolutely hate the sin. Abortions, adultery, homosexuality, gay marriages, promiscuity are against God’s natural law and we will all be held accountable

    • Bono95

      Would you be among the street protesters if it came to that?

      • patricia m.

        I would!!!!

      • Jambe d’Argent

        I’d love to. I only wonder how many people would be there with me.

        • Bono95

          Looks like Patricia M. for sure, and me too. Maybe our example would inspire others who would otherwise have kept quiet or stood idly by.

          • Jambe d’Argent

            Does that make us three musketeers or three stooges, I wonder? 8)

  • jhmdeuce

    Most bishops cannot bring themselves to defend the Faith, let alone society or government.

    • musicacre

      If they REALLY do stand up for the faith, unwavering, the rest will take car of itself. The govt. and society will be afraid of a man who has the confidence of what he believes! Their example for lay people would shine through and really that’s all that matters. Rather than trying to save the raggedy tatters of what’s left of democracy, which is fleeting compared to the heavenly kingdom.

  • publiusnj

    One thing most people forget when talking about the State is that it is run by politicians. They look on all issues as fungible “chips” to be put into the mix out of which will come a message the politicians can sell to a functional majority in the next election. No better proof of that than the growing wave in the Democrat Party to accept what Obama is doing about electronic surveillance because he is their guy and the facts are the facts. So, the former Democrat “belief” in the Right to Privacy will be softened to meet the facts, as Sen. Feinstein is doing before our eyes.
    Because the politician has no permanent values that must survive the legislative “sausage making process,” anyone who does have them and is unwilling to trade them for something the politician can deliver will be excluded from the deal-making because a deal cannot be made with such “unreasonable” people. For this reason, politicians are a lot more comfortable dealing with “ethnic and sexual minorities” than with the concerns of the Catholic Church.

  • Alecto

    When you have a Church that is for all intents and purposes an accomplice to that State, can any ordinary person truly believe that “through the Church we come to know God”. Does God oppress? Maybe not, but his representatives here on earth do.

    • patricia m.

      The Church is the dear spouse of Christ. There’s no salvation outside the Church.

      • Jambe d’Argent

        Yes but the institutional Church is not necessarily the Church Jesus and St. Augustine were talking about. This is a very common misunderstanding.

        • patricia m.

          No? So the promise that Jesus made us, that the gates of hell should not prevail, was in vain? Which church is this that you talk about then?

          • Jambe d’Argent

            Ah yes, the promise of Jesus, always automatically trotted out in this context. Once again, Jesus was talking about His true Church which is only a part but clearly not the whole of the institutional Church. Please read about the formal and substantial membership in the Church at http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/articles.cfm?id=576 . Only the substantial members constitute Jesus’ eternal Church.

            • Bono95

              Everyone who has been baptized into the Catholic Church is a Catholic. Unfortunately, not every baptized person is as serious about his faith as he should be, but not even the fires of Hell cannot erase the spiritual mark that baptism imprints on a person’s soul (I’ve heard it theorized that this mark is the greatest torture of all to baptized souls who go to Hell). In other words, baptism makes you Catholic, but it does not (necessarily) make you a GOOD Catholic.

              • Jambe d’Argent

                Did you read the article linked to in my previous posting?

        • Bono95

          It is the same Church. It has grown in size and numbers, certain rites and traditions have come and gone, and some dogmas have become more revealed, but no fundamental dogma or teaching has been changed or discarded. And now is not at all the first time the Church has needed fixing. There’s been bad bishops since Judas, the first 8 or so centuries plagued the Church with persecution from without and several heresies from within, the Middle Ages saw several worldly clergy disregarding their vows, getting too involved in politics, and acquiring needless wealth, land, and temporal power, the Reformation Era encompassed the breaking of thousands of Christians from Rome in a tragic and misguided overreaction to some genuine problems and several perceived “issues” that the “Reformers” didn’t like, and modern times have been rife with apostasy, laxness, mild oppression in America and Europe, and harsher treatment in Africa and Asia. As long as there are human beings in the Church, there will always be problems, but as long as the Holy Spirit guides the Church (which he will do until the end of time), there will always be blessings and virtue too. Even in the worst days of the past, there were still good clergy and laity. The same holds true today, we just have to look hard to find it.

      • Alecto

        Not to make light of that statement, but, lately I’m not so sure there is salvation within it either.

        • patricia m.

          Don’t want to judge by a single line of text, but it looks to me that your faith is dangerously waning, which is obviously not good. And waning because of bad priests or bishops? Even worse. We must fight, not flight.

        • Bono95

          I’m no Bible scholar, and I hope I’m not just reading in a meaning here, but it looks to me like Jesus said that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against the CHURCH, not that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against EVERY INDIVIDUAL within the Church. Everyone in the Church who faithfully adheres to her teachings will be safe from the Jaws of Damnation, but CINOs (Catholics In Name Only) will run a much higher risk.

    • John200

      His representatives are not here to oppress, nor are they as worthy as He Himself. For the time being, we have to live with imperfect humans who often miss the point (I am an example, pray for me).

      As an ordinary faithful Catholic, I am convinced that “through the Church we come to know God.” Since you brought it up, do you know the state’s alternative way of coming to know God? What is it?

      I am eager to see your response.

      • Alecto

        I am not defending the State, because it usurps the role of the Church. However, I look around and see the Church’s representatives supporting policies which further that usurpation. I don’t look to them for anything. Whatever you believe, the truth is you come to know God through others, not institutions. Otherwise it’s all just empty words.

        • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

          The Church is others, joined together with formal and informal ties and arrangements. The formal ties and arrangements, which are the institutions, are needed to keep the whole thing together, even though even though they’re not the main point of interest and even though they’ve got problems like the other human parts of the picture.

          • Alecto

            Yes, we are all the body of Christ, etc…. Other than those rituals common to us, when was the last time you were radically influenced by another Catholic’s behavior, not words, but their behavior? When was the last time you influenced someone’s life with your behavior? What does it really mean to give witness to Christ? I daresay for most people that means raising your palms when you say the Our Father at mass. To me that is an action, not a bunch of scriptures, or catechism or canon law, or your title or office.

            • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

              You want more saints. That’s good. It’s hard to think of anything more important than saints. People have tried to multiply saints by getting rid of institutions though and it hasn’t worked.

  • Alecto

    The Catholic Church continues to support S.744, is actively promoting amnesty with parishioner donations, as well as taxpayer funds it receives fulfilling federal contracts. It has spent another $1 million on this effort in the past two weeks. That is in addition to millions already spent on this effort. It is insulting for anyone to write, “…through the Church we come to know God.”

    No, God is not duplicitous, and he doesn’t betray people the way the Church has.

    • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

      The Church is the sacrament of salvation. What do you propose to do without baptism, confession, the mass, the creeds, the scriptures, and the communion of saints, all of which we get through the Church?

      • Alecto

        I guess that would depend on the balancing act between God’s justice and God’s mercy. I propose nothing, I’m trying to work out my salvation. Are we not allowed to do that?

    • patricia m.

      One acceptable thing is to criticize some positions taken by AMERICAN bishops in regards to immigration (the so called s744, the bill of immigration). Another totally different thing is to deny that through Church we come to know God. Did you read what you just wrote? Do you deny that “outside the church there’s no salvation”? You guys sometimes sound lunatics (or better, protestants) when you want to complain about your local priest, bishop, etc.

      • Adam__Baum

        “It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly.”

        St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II, II, q. 33, a. 45

        • patricia m.

          prel·ate
          /ˈprelət/

          Noun
          A bishop or other high ecclesiastical dignitary.

          • Jambe d’Argent

            What’s your point?

            • patricia m.

              The point is that St Thomas’s counsel is valid, to rebuke his prelate in public. The Church is not concentrated in the figure of a prelate. Again, it is valid to complain about your local priest, your bishop, even the USCCB, but not the Church.

              • musicacre

                Good point.

      • Alecto

        Not complaining, I’m desperately trying to reconcile something I see as incompatible. Is it your opinion that we’re not allowed to question, to doubt, to discuss and debate? Is it OK for the Holy Spirit to send bad leaders, liars, duplicitous people? How effective is the Church at its core mission of salvation, if leaders actively detract from it, divert from it to focus on a political agenda or to insult, punish or condemn people who question them or criticize their actions?

        • patricia m.

          Is it your opinion that we’re not allowed to question, to doubt, to discuss and debate? -> Far from it, I think we are totally allowed to question, doubt, discuss, debate the RIGHT things.

          Is it OK for the Holy Spirit to send bad leaders, liars, duplicitous people? -> Not sure, the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways, how are we poor mortals to tell?

          How effective is the Church at its core mission of salvation, if leaders actively detract from it, divert from it to focus on a political agenda or to insult, punish or condemn people who question them or criticize their actions? -> The Church is the mystical spouse of Christ and is eternal and saint. At the same it is composed of fallible and mortal men that err. I think it’s valid to criticize men, but not valid to criticize the Church.

          • Alecto

            Then, it is your opinion there are certain things we’re not allowed to question, doubt, discuss or debate? This is confusing because I’m getting 2 different responses. What is the Church? Is it the people who make up the Body of Christ? Or, is it the collective teaching, history, doctrine and sacraments?

            • patricia m.

              I have a little Compendium – Catechism of the Catholic Church. The answer is as follows:

              What does the word Church mean? The word Church refers to the people whom God calls and gathers together from every part of the earth. They form the assembly of those who through faith and Baptism have become children of God, members of Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit.

              Where does the one Church of Christ subsist? The one Church of Christ, as a society constituted and organized in the world, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. Only through this Church can one obtain the fullness of the means of salvation since the Lord has entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone whose head is Peter.

              What is the meaning of the affirmation “outside the Church there is no salvation”? This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her. At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation.

        • Bono95

          The Holy Spirit does not send bad people. He inspires weak human creatures to rise above themselves. Those who respond to his call and inspiration rise high in holiness (but maintain humility), and those who ignore the call stay where they are or sink. The bad clergy are those who don’t listen to the Holy Spirit and who would be good clergy if they did.

    • Midge

      The new immigration bill is in direct opposition to the interests of American citizens and legal residents. Up is down and Down is up, with supporters of the bill promoting themselves as the great humanitarians.

      Twenty years from now, people will be denied medical treatments because of the enormous burden of these newly legalized immigrants and the chain migration that comes with them.

      This story came up the other day: http://www.sfgate.com/news/politics/article/In-nation-s-breadbasket-Latinos-stuck-in-poverty-4589653.php?cmpid=twitter How much are we really paying per pound for the asparagus this woman picks? Seven children and no fathers any where to be found.

    • Bono95

      The Church has betrayed no one. Traitors within the Church who are by no means the the Church herself are the culprits here.

      • patricia m.

        That’s what I’ve been trying to say in my comments. You can’t condemn the sacred Church because of a local priest or bishop, or even because of a deranged Pope.

        • Bono95

          Amen, Sister!

  • tamsin

    “If there is friction among groups, then diversity must be increased and groups brought into ever closer contact.”

    It’s interesting you mention this. I think that diversity programs bring groups closer… while building ever higher walls to keep the people strictly separated and very mad at each other. Justice is defined so as to be unobtainable. Therefore, no peace. Just tall chainlink fences with razor wire on top.

    “If there is violence against women, then we must eradicate social patterns that accept that the sexes are different and have particular obligations to each other.”

    Yes. Low walls of self-control and mutual respect should remain standing, but they are torn down.

    • Adam__Baum

      Diversity as practiced in political and corporate circles is designed not to promote comity, but bellicosity. It is simply a war to use the old “divide and conquer” to assure the masses are busily engaged in petty squabbles with each other to see the far more serious threat posed by those in power.

  • crakpot

    A perfect image for this column.

    As in the French Revolution, the left’s power rests on the illusion that they are fighting the tyranny of the right. In reality, the streets ran red with blood in the Reign of Terror. How will it end with our IRS, DOJ, NSA, TSA, Department of State, EPA, etc armed with terabytes of surveillance on us, death panels, domestic drones, the power to suppress the vote and seize property, not to mention billions of rounds of hollow points?

    Reagan said it best: there is no left or right, only up to liberty, or down to tyranny.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      “The illusion that they are fighting the tyranny of the right”

      But the French Revolution really was fighting “the tyranny of the right.” In August 1792, the three frontier fortresses of Sedan, Longwy and Verdun had fallen to the Austrians and the Prussians, the British were blockading Toulon, the Royalists of Brittany and the Vendée were in arms and Paris was full of Fifth Columnists.

      The Terror begins with the September massacres – and this is the view of Thomas Jefferson, scarcely a Leftist, on the massacres of September: “Many guilty persons fell without the forms of trial, and with them some innocent. These I deplore as much as anybody. But—it was necessary to use the arm of the people, a machine not quite so blind as balls and bombs, but blind to a certain degree—was ever such a prize won with so little innocent blood?”

      The Terror lasted as long as the peril lasted and no longer, that is, until the victory of Fleurus in June 1794 and the liberation of the Netherlands. The following month, the Terror ends.

      • Jambe d’Argent

        “The Terror begins with the September massacres…” – this is completely incorrect. The period of the Terror in the French Revolution lasted from 5 September 1793 to 28 July 1794 while the September massacres took place in 1792. Check any history book. It ended not because of the victory at Fleurus but because of the execution of Robespierre and his Jacobin minions.

        • musicacre

          And the execution of Robespierre happened after the Martyrs of Compeingne gave their lives. He was dead 10 days later.

          • Jambe d’Argent

            Yes, that’s correct (except the spelling of “Compiegne” which is just a typo). These martyred Carmelite sisters are buried at the Picpus cemetery in Paris in one of the two mass graves of the victims of the Terror who have been guillotined at the nearby Place de la Nation (then called the Place du Trone Renverse). Their enclosure at that now-private cemetery is called the Field of Martyrs and lies next to the grave of General Marquis de Lafayette. It is a very atmospheric place and well worth visiting.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          The Law of Suspects was passed on 17 September 1793 and that certainly initiated a new phase of the Terror, as did the execution of the Girondins on 24 October. The Law of Suspects followed closely on the Levée en masse (conscription) decreed on 23 August.

          The fact remains that, as Belloc tells us, “Command upon the frontier throughout 1793 and the first part of 1794, during the critical fourteen months, that is, which decided the fate of the Revolution, and which turned the tide of arms in favour of the French, was a task accomplished under the motive power of capital punishment. A blunder was taken as a proof of treason, and there lay over the ordering of every general movement the threat of the guillotine.”

          Whether one describes that as “Terror” or not is a matter of taste. The policy throughout was that of Carnot, the War Minister; Robespierre was merely the Committee’s spokesman in the Convention, without any executive authority. Once the military situation was secure, which had been its primary purpose, the Convention was no longer prepared to support the Terror

          To suggest it was not a war against “the tyranny of the right,” when the Revolution was fighting for its life against Austria and Prussia, Britain and Holland, as well as the enemies of freedom at home, is absurd.

          • Jambe d’Argent

            “Whether one describes that as “Terror” or not is a matter of taste.”
            No, it’s not. It is a matter of terminology accepted by all academic historians and it is wrong. Please, not this self-serving obfuscation again, Mr. Paterson-Seymour.

      • crakpot

        The point is that so many revolutionaries become exactly what they pretend to hate. Was this not the fight Jesus refused to join? As Mather Byles said at the funeral of the victims of the Boston Massacre, “Why should I consent to trade one tyrant 3000 miles away for 3000 tyrants not a mile away?” Liberty is the only way.

  • Midge

    There is a conflict between individual rights and the common good and even between WHICH individual has rights and what those rights are. Case in point the other day, the story of Michael Jackson’s daughter attempting suicide.

    News stories about this young lady up until the suicide attempt were celebratory. She is a very pretty girl and she will have lots of money. Then came the suicide attempt and – I hope – many people were brought up short. This young lady and her two siblings were manufactured for Michael Jackson, a man who probably should never have had parental rights over any children. He was probably not a an appropriate parent (I remember a story of the kids having to say “You’re the best Daddy in the world” because he gave them ice cream — kids don’t do that normally.) but now even he is gone and those children have no one, no adult who is there for them the way a real parent is there for a child. All the money in the world can’t buy what those children are missing.

    Apparently, Michael Jackson had the right to pay for children to be manufactured for him but the children did not have a right to parents.

    I have a dear relative who will not be able to have children because of cancer treatment as a young woman. It would be wonderful for her to somehow be able to have a child and for it to at least be her husband’s biological child. They would be lovely parents. Its hard to figure out.

    • Bono95

      Your relative and her husband should adopt a child. He or she wouldn’t be a biological descendant, but would still be a joy to his or her adopted parents and would be given a much better life by them than he or she might have had otherwise. I’m not saying that all orphanages are like the kind you see in books and movies with evil owners, no heating, insufficient food, etc., but kids nearly always do better with 2 parents than with a corporate if caring staff/committee, and having one or more children, biological or adopted, very often brings out the very best in a married couple and helps to increase their love and respect for each other.

      • Midge

        I imagine that is what they will do eventually. Right now, the best thing is to be as stress free as possible. Kids are great but they are stress factories.

        Before her last round of treatment she went through the egg harvesting procedure but it was basically unsuccessful and in any event, even with donated egg (read bought, actually) I cannot see her going through a pregnancy because it would be terrifying that it could somehow bring back the cancer. Even if they tell you it can’t, its terrifying.

  • cminca

    You’re calling the Catholic Church a center “for the development and maintenance of independent views.”
    When the central core of the CC is “pray, pay and obey”?

    • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

      While the central core of the State is … ?

      In order to have well-developed views that are solidly independent of the dominant powers you need a social setting in which they are at home. That setting must itself have a certain coherence and solidity. You might want to compare Catholic to hippie contributions to thought, culture, and civilized life.

      • Adam__Baum

        While the central core of the State is … ?

        Pay,obey and die.

      • cminca

        The core of the state? Simple…..

        “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

        It was a declaration fundamentally formed by the Enlightenment.

        And if you and your Catholic friends have such a problem with a secular, pluralistic state why don’t you move somewhere and create a theocracy? I’m sure you could get Jonestown Guyana for a good price…..

        • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

          Pretty much all the article says is that the Church ought to maintain her independence, because (among other reasons) that will make it possible to form an independent view of the government and other established secular powers. It seems that doesn’t fit into your scheme of things. Why is that, if you don’t like oppression?

          • cminca

            ” A secondary reason, but one of ever greater importance, is that she is the only real obstacle to the combination of anarchy and totalitarianism toward which our current social and political regime tends…”

            The only reason you believe that our current social and political regime a tending towards anarchy and totalitarianism is because it isn’t the totalitarianism that is listening to YOU.

            The CC and its cheerleaders would be absolutely fine with totalitarianism–as it has strived to enjoy throughout history–as long as it is being dictated by the church.

            The entire premise of your article is hypocritical. You don’t like a pluralistic, secular society? Fine. But don’t try and whitewash the history of the CC by pretending it stands up for personal freedom and democracy.

            • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

              Totalitarianism–the conception of a unitary system defined and run by an identifiable concrete authority–is a modern invention coming out of modern radically secular thought, although I suppose it’s really just a reinvention of something the Chinese legalists came up with. My best suggestion is that you learn something about the actual history of Catholic civilization, Church/State relations in the Middle Ages, Catholic moral theology, and so on.

              • cminca

                I always get a laugh when Catholic website remove arguments they can’t refute.

              • Alecto

                You present a false choice between an all Catholic society and a secular totalitarian one. The world has seen its share of Catholic tyranny as well as secular totalitarianism.

                • Bono95

                  All tyrants who called themselves Catholic were liars. Tyranny is sharply opposed to Catholic teaching. Any “Catholic” tyrant you could name (a) was baptized and educated in the faith, but threw it off later (b) was misinformed about Catholic doctrine and acted upon that misinformation (c) most falsely claimed that all the evils he worked were in line with Church teaching, and that he was a “good Catholic” while anyone who dissented or corrected him, however respectfully, was a “heretic”, “blasphemer”, “Antichrist”, etc.

                • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

                  My point has been that the Church is needed to resist a peculiarly modern tendency toward radical tyranny. I don’t claim that the presence of the Church guarantees that everything is OK.

                • Adam__Baum

                  This is an imperfect world and Catholics have their share of sins to account for..but..

                  I don’t know where you’ve seen “Catholic Tyranny”, because no state, either authentically or nominally Catholic that has ever become like the monstrosities of Lenin/Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Castro or any of a myriad of lesser known, but just as evil monsters.

        • Adam__Baum

          Have you been asleep the past few months? The present government bears no resemblance to the limited government described in the Constitution. It is a theocracy, insisting on fealty from its subjects, and a creed dedicated to to the fantasy of an omniscient, all-benevolent and incorrupt god of state.

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