What is the Church’s Political Role?

For more than 1500 years the Church was a major influence on Western politics. That is how it should be. Ultimate standards matter, and if the Church doesn’t explain what they are and how to apply them someone else will. It’s not an improvement when her authority gives way to that of journalists, advertisers, TV producers, cultural entrepreneurs, and “ethicists.”

That’s what has happened, though. Catholic social doctrine and the political views of the hierarchy have become a minor consideration even for the great majority of Catholics, who vote as other people do and in response to the same concerns. As a result, the political influence of the Church is gone except in special situations like communist Poland, where she served as a focus of national resistance to foreign domination.

Elsewhere, and especially in the West, she seems to have less and less power of leadership or even resistance. She feels ever less entitled to give offense, and can’t proclaim her teachings without doing so, so she falls silent. Nonetheless, she still wants to play a public role, so she has tried to stay in the game by cooperating with more influential players and identifying herself with their projects. Thus, Church leaders have lined up behind causes such as the UN, the EU, various social welfare schemes, relaxation of restrictions on immigration, and so on. The “servant church” has become a servant of others’ causes.

In some ways there appears to be a solid basis for such cooperation. Both the Church and the main tendencies of modern secular politics want a society that brings humanity into a coherent whole that eliminates conflict, fosters cooperation, and is concerned for the worldly needs of each member. So why shouldn’t everyone join together to bring that about?

The problem is that evil systems also share those goals. The communists supported them, the rulers of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World supported them, and ISIS supports them. Basic principles matter, man does not live by bread alone, and the Church should be very careful when she gives her support to political projects whose leaders are not guided by a Catholic or even humane vision. We need to think politically, and ask who is being empowered and what system of things we are helping to bring into existence.

Politics today is extremely ambitious. The abolition of transcendent standards in favor of technology and human will give it an ultimate significance it never had in the past. Projects such as the EU and Obamacare are part of a movement of comprehensive social reconstruction—“Hope and Change”—that serves our rulers as a religion. That movement is based on an understanding of man and the world that rejects human nature, natural law, and any transcendent standard in favor of Choice, otherwise known as the Triumph of the Will.

The result is that we live in a world that is evolving less toward the Cosmic Christ than the Worldly Antichrist. The goals at home in mainstream politics today are profoundly anti-Catholic and anti-human, and leave little place for the social teaching of the Church. To support them is to support evil, so cooperation requires extreme caution. Even great successes of the Church’s worldly engagement, such as the fall of the communist regime in Poland, have turned out a decidedly mixed blessing. Poland is now assimilating to liberal EU norms, with mass attendance dropping and doctors getting fired for refusal to perform abortions.

So it seems unwise for the Church today, at least in the Western countries of which I am primarily speaking, to sign on to mainstream political projects. Such a change in approach would be painful from the standpoint of common moral sensibilities, since many things mainstream movements aim at look good and it seems right to give them practical support. A good and intelligent priest who writes on public affairs told me, for example, that comprehensive public healthcare was a matter of “how people ought to treat each other.” That view seemed to me overly optimistic, since comprehensive bureaucracy doesn’t seem the ideal for how people should treat each other, but he had a point. Comprehensive organization looks like a good way to deliver the services of technicians, and that’s what medicine mostly is today, so it seems believable that such programs reduce human suffering. That is a goal we should certainly favor.

Nonetheless, he was, I believe, wrong. Obamacare is developing in accordance with the basic principle any comprehensive government medical scheme will follow today, which is bringing the definition and management of human well-being under the control of bureaucracies guided by our rulers’ understanding of what life is all about. Normalization of abortion and euthanasia are integral to that understanding. So are family and emotional health, categories that easily expand to include moral and religious issues. Since the system is seen as medical, dissent is seen as a public health problem, and cannot easily give rise to a right to opt out.

What such a system aims at, the integration of medicine and its social authority with a political and economic system with little place for what makes us human, may produce some good results but is essentially evil. The Church can’t possibly support it without betraying her mission no matter how many holes in medical coverage it seems to fill.

Some Catholics have suggested libertarianism as a solution to the creeping totalitarianism of modern politics. If politics is too ambitious then we should support political tendencies that would reduce the range of government responsibilities. The strategy seems certain to fail, if only because very few people actually care about limited government. In theory, libertarians want to restrict government to a short list of responsibilities involving protection of persons and property. In fact, their supporters care more about results than procedural limitations. Like other people, they want to know how things will turn out: will they be able to do and get the things they want? Will they be burdened with government programs that seem useless or destructive? The ultimate standard remains the same, maximum preference satisfaction, but with less attention to equality and more to efficiency and the need to foster productive activity. It’s not clear why the resulting society, which would still reject traditional and transcendent standards in favor of something purely utilitarian, would be more favorable to the human spirit than what we have now.

So what should the Church do? Large-scale projects of social reform consistent with her teaching seem out of reach. She should continue to serve human needs and otherwise engage with society, especially by proposing her understanding of the human good and the general standards that follow from it, but she should recognize that her lack of public influence is likely to make that exercise more an inspiration to the faithful and expression of hope for the future than an effective intervention in present-day politics.

Her action in support of that understanding should normally be direct rather than mediated by the political system. She can protest specific evils, but her normal response to human suffering should be doing something about it herself any way that is open to her. The concrete political actions that are most likely to be productive for her will aim at maintaining her ability to do so, as well as her members’ ability to live in accordance with their beliefs. It is possible that that kind of engagement will bear concrete fruit. The contemporary liberal state aspires to uniformity but doesn’t like explicit use of force, so to some extent it’s willing to accommodate minorities with special concerns that are very important to them. If the Church makes demands that affect her members most acutely, and sticks by them, she is much more likely to get somewhere than if she demands more general changes that—if she is true to her mission—will be radically at odds with the principles of the public order under which we now live.

Editor’s note: The image above titled “Check: Napoleon and the Cardinal” was painted by Jehan-Georges Vibert in 1840.

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).

  • St JD George

    Totally appropriate, however, should stay in the realm of reminding of those who are most consistent with church teachings, the flaws of each, and remain above blatant campaigning. There will never be a perfect candidate, but there are many far better than others. Finally, we need to not forget them except for every election and let them hear from us continuously in between, including both praise and scorn when appropriate. I think we forget sometimes that they are human after all and over time will respond to those who are in their face the most. Unfortunately there is a group who have mastered the art form of faux rage and protest to draw attention to themselves, and another group who wants to go about their lives quietly in their families and communities. I say to hell with the goons who wish to strong arm people of faith to keep silent so they can enforce their support for immorality.

    • May I add that we should pray for those we elect, that God’s grace will enlighten them to do that which is just and beneficial to the common good.

      • St JD George

        We should, and I have added many to my prayers recently, however, I find that it is not always easy to do in full sincerity.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    The real nature of the conflict between the Church and the modern democratic state was perfectly described by the Catholic historian, Lord Acton, more than a century ago.

    “Civil and religious liberty are so commonly associated in people’s mouths, and are so rare in fact, that their definition is evidently as little understood as the principle of their connection. The point at which they unite, the common root from which they derive their sustenance, is the right of self-government. The modern theory, which has swept away every authority except that of the State, and has made the sovereign power irresistible by multiplying those who share it, is the enemy of that common freedom in which religious freedom is included. It condemns, as a State within the State, every inner group and community, class or corporation, administering its own affairs; and, by proclaiming the abolition of privileges, it emancipates the subjects of every such authority in order to transfer them exclusively to its own. It recognises liberty only in the individual, because it is only in the individual that liberty can be separated from authority, and the right of conditional obedience deprived of the security of a limited command. Under its sway, therefore, every man may profess his own religion more or less freely; but his religion is not free to administer its own laws. In other words, religious profession is free, but Church government is controlled. And where ecclesiastical authority is restricted, religious liberty is virtually denied.”

    • St JD George

      Wise man that Lord Acton, astute in the affairs of men and ahead of his time. Funny to read about his being born in Naples as he clearly has no traditional Napolitano heritage. The omnipresent state is the religion of the statists and they clearly seek to destroy anything that stands against it’s temporal and immoral wishes, and is only happy when people of faith practice as a private affair like a quaint cultural tradition for display on holidays.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        His family belonged to the English Remnant – Those who had remained Catholic after the Reformation

    • Good quote.

      An additional feature since Acton’s day is what might be called custodial democracy. Democratic equality together with democratic self-rule is taken to require comprehensive state control of social relations so people won’t oppress each other and everyone’s equal right to his chosen identity and way of life will be vindicated.

      The result is that the people collectively can’t be allowed to make any decisions that matter, since that would mean some of the people telling the rest what to do based on whatever prejudices and misconceptions they may have. All collective decisions that matter must therefore be handed over to supposedly neutral expert therapeutic bureaucrats. Elections become a ritual in which the people affirm the system, and maybe register discontents their rulers need to know about.

      Under such circumstances it is not at all clear that religious profession should be free. After all, what people believe and say constructs the social environment in which others must operate, so it can obviously violate the duty to allow others equal freedom and dignity. Why, for example, allow religious bigots to create a homophobic and misogynistic society through their benighted attitudes? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if they were re-educated?

      • St JD George

        Well said, and fully recognized that there are enormous challenges to governing an open society. Not sure why you picked those benighted attitude examples though. You don’t equate homophobic with unwilling to recognize SSM as moral, or as a business/church being forced to provide services as reasonable do you? Our first president said that the constitution was made for a moral and religious people. I can’t imagine any modern President saying it with the same conviction.

        • At that point I was presenting conventional wisdom rather than my own views.

          • St JD George

            I thought so because it didn’t sound like you, but the wording disn’t convey that, to me at least. Great article, God bless. We’ll all have to wait now and see what tomorrow brings.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Acton notes elsewhere that “the love of equality, the hatred of nobility,
        and the tolerance of despotism” often go together. The fear is that, if the central power is weak, the secondary powers will run riot and oppress.

        Of the French Revolution he noted, “The hatred of royalty was less than the hatred of aristocracy; privileges were more detested than tyranny… The substance of the ideas of 1789 is not the limitation of the sovereign power, but the abrogation of intermediate powers.”

        • St JD George

          Astute. For most issues the best model is the military hierarchical model where tactical decisions are pushed down to the lowest level practical. Or if you will, following the intent of the anti-federalists and the bill of rights which reads that all powers not explicitly granted the federal government (few) in it are the providence of the states. Contrarily, most have grown comfortable capitulating that.

        • Vinny

          Looks like we’re bound to repeat history.

      • slainte

        “…supposedly neutral expert therapeutic bureaucrats”….

        None of whom are democratically elected, subject to term limits, or subject to removal by the voting public. They constitute a new and approved Aristocracy.

        • Increasing, they are even beyond the pale of fiscal disapproval, Dodd Frank specifically removed it’s bureaucracy from even the possibility of being reigned in by a diminished Congressional budgetary authorization.

          This has all been done before. Study the history of the Interstate Commerce Commission. MBA classes like to present 20th century railroads as enterprises that were unresponsive anarchronisms, unable to contemplate the competition of the car, the truck and the airplane. The truth is they didn’t die, they were murdered.

  • The problem with placing tax revolts as a higher priority than human beings, is that this too is living by bread alone. Until the Catholic Church gets serious, forms it’s owe politicall party, with a platform that no person with an informed conscience can oppose, we will only have the choice between toleration of evils.

    • Trazymarch

      Church own party? Do you mean the so called “Christian Democracy”? It was already done and failed in epic way…. in every country that had such kind of parties.

      • I’ve yet to see Christian Democracy follow Canon Law. I would suggest, in fact, that it has not been tried in the modern era, and that St. Thomas Aquinas himself put a nail in the crucifix of the idea when he came up with the idea of toleration of evil.

        But until we get serious and realize that toleration of evil just gives room on the battlefield to the enemy, we will continue to lose ground politically. The culture of death is traceable on a direct line through the Reign of Terror in France right back to the legalization of brothels in Paris- and thus traceable back to the Summa Theologicae itself.

        • Trazymarch

          It was tried maaaany times and failed every single time. What’s the point of trying again if it’s obviously impossible? Democracy and Christianity cannot go side by side together.

          • There is only one way they can: If liberty is constrained to that which is right, and not that which is wrong.

            In other words, people shouldn’t be able to create law that conflicts with God’s law- at all.

            And that includes both sexuality and economics.

            • Micha Elyi

              By writing “people shouldn’t be able to create law that…” you abolished Democracy.

              Try again.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      ” a platform that no person with an informed conscience can oppose”

      Which is impossible. In the 1930s, the monarchists of the Camelots du Roi, who insisted on “the sacred and indissoluble alliance of Throne and Altar” ended up fighting the social democrats of Le Sillon in the streets of Paris – and both claimed to be THE Catholic party (and both endeed up being condemned by the Holy See for their pains)

      • If both ended up being condemned by the Holy See, then I rather doubt that either side was working with an informed conscience.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          The condemnation was precisely for turning faith into faction, by claiming to be the political wing of the Catholic Church.

          But, in any event, their differences (sacral monarchy versus democracy) shows that there can be irreducible political differences between people of good conscience.

          • I need to do some study before I accept the idea that their only difference was who gets to rule.

    • Micha Elyi

      One cannot separate taxes from human beings, for taxes are attacks on human beings. Thus, a revolt against unjust taxation is a revolt against unjust treatment of human beings–a revolt “that no person with an informed conscience can oppose”.

      • Read Matthew Chapter 22, all of it, then come back and we will discuss how to live in a civilized nation.

  • publiusnj

    The Church can’t go into American Politics and come out anything but fleeced. The prevalent interpretation of the First Amendment is that it requires amoralism on the part of the State. So, the American politician–Republican or Democrat–will welcome Church assistance where it suits the politicians’ greater goals but if the Church asks for something–whether it is a moral issue (Abortion or Divorce, say) or a financial one (aid to parochial schools, say), the politicians may pretend to make some gesture (or not) but then almost inevitably will come back and say: “sorry Padre, but no can do. The lawyers tell me that we just can’t do that under the First Amendment. Tell you what I can do, though. If you agree to act in a non-discriminatory manner, we’ll get you some aid for that Catholic Charities project I have given you a hand on. I am looking out for the good of the Church but am constrained by the Constitution.”

    What the Church can do, if it frees itself of the advice of most of its lobbyists, is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a first step, Abortion is a vicious sin. The Church should make it clear that any party that supports a woman’s right to kill her baby is a party for whom no Catholic should vote. Even if the party is more pro-immigrant. When the Church keeps silent on Abortion because of Immigration, it is getting fleeced.

    When the Church remained silent on Gay Marriage as it did almost everywhere, it was getting fleeced. At least until Pope Francis indicated he is considering capitulating on the issue; a surrender goes beyond getting fleeced.

    • Micha Elyi

      Define “go into American Politics”.

      If your pol tells you she can’t aid parochial schools in the same manner and to the same degree the State’s schools are aided, she’s lying to you. Stop voting for liars and stop believing their lawyers.

      I do agree that “the Church” (meaning, I suppose, our bishops) should stop lobbying for Catholic Social Gospel and start preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A whole lotta government-gimme lobbying from our bishops is, as I see it, a clear violation of the commandment against coveting. And I can’t find anywhere in the Gospel of Jesus Christ a command to render the poor unto Caesar. Somehow, our bishops often act as if they’ve found it. They certainly preach it often enough.
      Our bishops’ fear to openly preach the pro-innocent-life message, to preach the reasons why medical abortion is a grave wrong and while standing ready to invite those who solicit it, procure it, and provide it to come to Jesus for His forgiveness, to be firm that the publicly unrepentant are not to be invited to Catholic public events (Notre Dame University and a bunch of Jesuit colleges, I’m looking at you) or be supported politically by Christians. Most bishops appear to my eyes to be cultural dyed-in-the-wool Democrats who fear that preaching the truth might aid the Other Party. Or bother their mommas. So much for proclaiming the truth without fear or favor.

      Finally, the bishop who does not frequently and publicly proclaim that medical abortion is an abomination and that the faithful should not support it in any way outside of the political campaigning high season is a bishop whose preaching on that is easily dismissed during the season. But watch most bishops go silent on this most public of Catholic Christian moral teaching now that the campaign high season has ended.

      • publiusnj

        “Go into American Politics” = “Lying down with American politicians” = “Coming up with fleas” = “Getting Fleeced”….QED

        Hmmmm…that almost rhymes (“fleas” and “fleeced”).

        Seriously, I don’t see our bishops’ treating with American politicians as covetousness so much as it is naivete. All is fair in love, war and politics, which means nothing is sacred. The Gospel is sacred, though, and therefore should not be sullied by being tossed into the negotiations ring with American politicians.

    • R. K. Ich

      Agreed, Publius! In the hierarchy of things, infanticide is *the* natural law issue of our land that is sure to call down the fury of the Most High. Politicking about everything else is like blow drying your hair in the shower with the water on full blast. You’ll destroy yourself while vainly fixing the least important matter.

  • Vinny

    “The contemporary liberal state aspires to uniformity but doesn’t like explicit use of force…”
    That won’t last very long. If political correctness (legislative and judicial force) doesn’t work you’ll see brute force instituted quickly.

    • St JD George

      Says who they don’t like the explicit use of force? Maybe not in the military sense except in 3rd world tin-can Marxist states, at least not at first (final solution?). However, I believe they have perfected the art of thuggery and coercion using all the means and power of the government to suppress dissent. Some would argue that what we have now is the “Chicago Way”. Have you not heard of (rhetorical) the President’s enemies list, and also of his would be heir in 2016? They are ruthless people and they play hardball to keep their power. As DE said recently, we’re all probably digitally tattooed for commenting on this site.

      • They’re not comprehensively organized, there’s no liberal central committee and chain of discipline, so they rely on a great deal of voluntary cooperation. Also, the overall outlook justifies individual self-seeking and therefore is likely to lead to more and more inefficiency and corruption. So we shouldn’t think of them as cold-eyed Stalinist supermen. Determined focused resistance is likely to be effective on many issues.

        • St JD George

          Hmm … many times the bodies weren’t ever found for those who stood up to the Chicago machine in the past (ha). The ruthless efficiency of late seems to have paid dividends is unprecedented mastery of mobilizing people in get out the vote campaigns, accompanied by aggressive challenges to those who would like to ensure voting integrity. We supposedly live in a representative Republic and not a Democracy of mob rule, though few could cite the differences.
          Do you doubt that there is a enemies list which isn’t just for keeping track of who not to send Christmas Cards too? Human nature of course will always to be reward people who are loyal, however, some dispose of those with strong contrarian views differently than others, and do so from a close nit well organized inner circle.

        • Vinnie

          Aha! That’s why the progressives love Islam and have disdain for Christianity. They envy Sharia Law. They envy those Muslim sharia squads patrolling the Muslim areas of England.

          • St JD George

            You are funny Vinny, because I’m pretty sure the feeling isn’t one of mutual admiration (ha, I know you’re half kidding). From much of what I’ve read the fuel which serves to draw many IS recruits is the decadence of the west which progressives embrace. When you reach out to grasp hands, watch out for the sword.

  • Rick

    Very thoughtful article. Thanks for writing this.

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    As Philip Rieff said, ; “If a past has no authority, then it is dead, however expensive its artifacts.”
    The constitution of the United States is rapidly becoming one dead, expensive artifact as is the Catholic church since it ‘junked’ 2000 years of continuity – an authority unequaled anywhere on earth. Fifty years ago the Catholic church committed suicide on the altar of the world.

  • gfazzari

    It is easy to get pulled into the two competing but ultimately wrong perspectives of politics based on government (socialism) versus politics based on the individual (libertarian). In fact – society must be based on the family – and so should our politics.

    • Micha Elyi

      …society must be based on the family – and so should our politics.
      –gfazzari

      You are unclear about what you mean by “based on the family”. There is one sense of “based on the family” upon which politics cannot be based. In our millions, we are not all members of the same close family. However, the allure of the foolish dream of the socialists is that multiple senses of “based on the family” can be equivocated, that millions of total strangers can be organized and ruled as if we are all one big family.

      • gfazzari

        Distributism as expressed by Chesterton and others. Good policies are those that support the traditional family – especially their economic autonomy (property ownership, business ownership), tax breaks to help with the burden of raising a family, etc. Business is not just established for profit, but to provide families with jobs and a sense of worth. Keep corporations at a small enough level using the principal of subsidiarity so that employees are valued. There is a too short answer to a beautiful idea.

        • Distributism is a fantasy, inchoate, no stillborn and untried. It is insane to expect that people are going to suddenly start organizing their lives are the 19 volume musings of a long dead priest, whose time woud have better been spent in the confessional than issuing grandeloquent windy tomes that have no value in application.

          • gfazzari

            Maybe…to some…

            Or it is an ideal worth striving for.

            “A culture – a civilization – is only as great as the religious ideas that animate it; the magnitude of a people’s cultural achievement is determined by the height of its spiritual aspirations”. Hart

            • To people who have the slightest economic literacy. Unworkable fantasies are just that, and no matter how much you really, really, really want pigs to fly, they just don’t.

        • Chris Cloutier

          “Business is not just established for profit, but to provide families with jobs and a sense of worth. Keep corporations at a small enough level…”
          I say keep gov’t at a small enough level so as to minimize gov’t interference in the lives of the individual. I’ve never had a corporation force me to do business with it, but gov’t does it all the time. Businesses are established primarily for profit. Without it there are no jobs, and without jobs it’s hard to raise a family.

          • gfazzari

            Completely agree that big government is as troublesome as big business. Your comment about businesses not being for profit only is exactly right. Most businesses I know have a distributive mentality…we are much closer than most people think.

  • Loyd McIntire

    Very good article, and much needed.

  • DE-173

    We are at the beginning of a new round of suppression and persecution.

    • St JD George

      I just read that before I saw your post. In this case at least the coach seemed to think that the Ref was an equal opportunity defender/enforcer of any celebration on not necessarily singling out because an overtly Christian display. Didn’t sound like he knew for sure though, and was able to put in the past. Heartening that he was met with an outpouring of support from his teammates and in the stands.

      • Anti-celebration rules are stupid to start with.

    • It reminds me more of this:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Titor

      But then, so does every school shooting and subsequent attempt at government crackdown.

      • St JD George

        Each which never would have prevented the crime they were intended to curb. Maybe they could make a law where Titor is required to travel back and remove the guns from the hands of the would be perpetrators before they attempt their attack.

      • As you know, I the U.S.S. Eldridge did traverse the space time continuum…
        Actually I selected this moniker for the same reason.

    • St JD George

      I just read where FLOTUS told a crowd that after they vote for one party then they can go home and have fried chicken. I swear, you can’t make this stuff up … it’s like a twilight zone episode. I know it’s such a cliche saying that it’s lost its luster, but could you imagine if a person in the opposite party had said that to a like crowd? There would be rioting in the streets from one end of the country to the other. Also, this doesn’t bode well for the healthy lunch initiative, but I guess it’s ok to suspend on this one important day of the year and indulge.

      http://dailycaller.com/2014/11/04/michelle-obamas-closing-argument-to-black-voters-dont-think-vote-for-democrats/

      • Marie Antoinette: “Let them eaty cake”

        (yeah, I know it’s apocryphal, but never let facts get in the way of a good rant)

        Moochelle Obama: Let ’em eat fried Chicken.

        • St JD George

          Good tie in to the historical theme running through the responses above … I thought I was stretching posting that here today.

          • “Good tie in to the historical theme running through the responses above .”
            Yes I know. (har har)

  • CadaveraVeroInnumero

    The wording “Cosmic Christ” is a bit unfortunate. Not only for conjuring – for me – up the disembodied notions of Teihard de Chardin, but because of the means by which the Occult (from Madame Blavatsky to Alister Crowley – and dark chambers known too well, and seen too much.

    Understand what is meant by it, the exultation of the Lordship of Christ, the Triune Son of God, the Victor over Death. The phrase, though, has been confiscated and emptied of all Christian meaning. Its role – as a 5th column stalker among human seekers – is to distract from the gritty fact that,, in Christ, God became flesh, became man. For without that becoming, that staying put, the Death and Rising of Jesus would be without point and without triumph.

    The Enemy is a clever chap. He mimics what intrigues us most (what we most desire), the utter, above there glorification of all our hopes severed from the grind and pain of this world. The Enemy knows that, bottom line, we desire God more than him; so he is left with mimicking Christ, yet voided of that which makes Christ Word – that he dwelt among us. A Christ without manger straw between his infant toes, one who would shake *all* earthly dust from his never shod feet, is one the Devil an use. Satan will gladly fade into the background for that Christ. Such a “Cosmic Christ” suits him just fine. Such a Christ can never welcome any crucified thief into Heaven.

    The phrase “Cosmic Christ” – in its varied guises – truly has a subversive history.

    The key in understanding the Enemy, Satan, is to know how much he despises (better yet, fears) the flesh of man – and God’s enthusiastic joy to partake of our flesh. Which is why, in the midst of the older Roman Rite of Exorcism, the priest proclaims against the Devil thus, “Let the very flesh of this man (the possessed one) by a terror to thee”.

    I know upon first glance or hearing the words “Cosmic Christ” does not appear to be charged with such a subversive role. Yet, it does. I’ve been there. Seen that. Know the Devil’s use of it too well: how he welds its brittle, fleshing brilliance, but emptied of all saving power.

    Yet . . .

    I have faced the Enemy headlong. Have, by grace, learned to stare *him* down, wordlessly, by the most fact-borne knowledge I know: that the cosmos, itself, lays down its cloak to be trod upon – up and down, heights and depths – by the Infant Babe with straw between his toes.

  • JP

    Before Enlightenment, the Church often acted as a foil to unscrupulous rulers. This continued to some degree during Enlightenment; the Church wouldn’t annul the marriage of King Henry VIII, and as a consequence lost England. King Henry, who was called a Defender of the Church for his attack upon Lutheranism, made himself Pope of the Church of England. Later, the Church faced an entirely new set of political problems set forth by Enlightenment: the Nation State. Revolutionary France, followed by Napoleonic France steadily forced the Church to remove itself for civil affairs. Napoleon officially ended the Holy Roman Empire.

    Through the 19th Century, the Church remained on the defensive. Not happy with being politically irrelevant, the Church decided in the 1960s to make itself morally irrelevant. Few leaders outside the Church see the RCC as an inspiration. Not even Catholic families take the teachings of the Church seriously anymore.

    In this post-modern scene, the Church can still evangelize. But, it no longer acts as a foil either politically or morally to worst instincts of democratic societies. The RCC just hasn’t got that kind of moral clout anymore. Perhaps JPII did have some influence; but, we don’t worship Popes. Bringing people to Christ and keeping them there is our mission. Stripped of its regal past, and its deep connection to traditional European cultures, the Church now must face the world at its most elementary level. If Vatican II and not its “spirit” was fully implemented, the Church had a fighting chance. But, we cannot continue in our fully modernist mode. The Church must again be a Contradiction to the Age. It must again bring the Scandal of the Cross to every living room. In short, the Church must bring forth Contradiction and Scandal. In this sense I do agree with Pope Francis; I just don’t agree in his methodology.

  • Paul Roese

    what about the good old days when the Church had sway in the politics of Christendom? back when the Church could send folks to be burned at the stake for heresy and witchcraft? back when Jews and other minorities could be subject to pogroms or driven out of countries minus their possessions of course. yup, a sad day when the Church lost her influence in controlling state power.

    • RufusChoate

      The Spanish inquisition which tried only Catholics released ~1,400 unrepentant heretics to the Spanish Crown who tried and executed them for heresy which was a capital offense in civil courts over a 375 year period. This was at a time when capital punishment for petty crimes was the norm around the world. The Spanish Crown drove Jew’s from Spain for reason of state not religion which was a pattern in most countries that engaged in pogroms and purges.

      That was a slow day’s work for the Atheistic Left for most of the 20th Century which killed more people in its 80 years of totalitarian rule than were born from the dawn of civilization until the 13th Century.

      The Catholic Church was a far more lenient civil authority in the lands it controlled than any other civil authority of the time and considerably more free than even we are today.

      • Mike

        There is so much propaganda out there that we will never know what truly happened during this time period. (it’s hard to tell what happened 50 years ago, never mind 500)  But yes, I think its fair to say that the barbarism of the middle ages comes nowhere close to the barbarism of modern society, including that of the money powers prized colony- The United States of America 

        As I have mentioned, I attribute billions of deaths to the money power and usury, which is responsible for colonialism and the slaughter of indeginious Americans, transatlantic slave trade, most of the wars of the last 500 years including both world wars, orchestrated to subject the nations of Europe into debt slavery, communism which was funded by western banks, US imperialism during the bogus “cold war” and now the “war on terror”, various population control measures throughout the world, and now the push towards WWIII in the modern age. The blame for all of these atrocities can be attributed to the asendence of mammon over western civilization, which reemerged with the usury of the Renaissance, but goes all the way back Rome, Greece, Babylon and in fact the golden calf and the fall of man. After all St. Paul tells us the love of money is the root of all evil and Revelation 18, describes the final victory of god over the beast and harlot (obviously symbolic for the money power and the nations it rules) 

        • Micha Elyi

          There is so much propaganda out there that we will never know what truly happened during this time period.
          –Mike

          You’re taking the lazy way out, Mike. We do know what the Spanish Inquisition did because they kept records, which still exist. Steer clear of pop-history and you’ll be a lot better off and a lot more clear-headed for it. Pro tips: Monty Python skits are not history and Bill Maher is not a historian.

          • Mike

            Pop history!? Read my posts above. Far from it. I am the biggest defender of the middle ages on this board and have made countless posts about how the controlled media and education system demonize this great period in history to forward a secular agenda. More importantly to cover up the economics that made this period great, where usury was banned and people worked 14 weeks a year. 

            Of course the secular anti-catholic media completely exagarates the inquisition. However, I don’t buy the reactionary Catholic arugument that the church was completely innocent either. 

    • Mike

      The church was by no means perfect or without its crimes against humanity during the middle ages (many of which are in all likelihood exaggerated by our anti-catholic secular media and education system). Of course, many of the popes of this era acted like secular kings concerned with increasing their wealth and power, and rightfully deserve to be criticized. 

      However the biblical values that it was based on, social AND economic, resulted in the most Christ centered and prosperous time in European history, where laborers worked 14 hours a week to feed their large families, giving them plenty of time to pray, live their faith and spend time with their family and friends. Of course the money power fears nothing more then a restoration of such a society, so they aim to smear this great time in European history as much as possible through the controlled media and education system. (other bible based societies such as Puritan New England are also victims of such slander) 

      The point is we should look to the ideas that made this period great, and improve on the bad (the corruption of the feudal system, crusades, burning of heretics and witches, over superstition of the people  etc) 

  • Mike

    The reformation was the fault of the church. The Medici bankers hijacked the papacy during the renaissance, promoting usury and simony and spawning the justified Reformation.

    As usual, the money power funded both sides of the conflict and used the division of Christendom to overthrow Christian society. They did this by creating private central banks, allowing them to covertly rule nations and march towards their goal of world domination. (Revelation 20:8)  This allowed them to replace the order of god with the order of mammon. The church spent the next 400 years trying to regain its lost power, but to no avail. 

    Rothschild, the vicar of satan on earth has run the financial affairs of the church since the early 19th century.  There is really not much that the Chruch leadership can do when the devil runs your finances, and when the media has so much dirt on your officials that any attempt to step out of line will result in a mass media camapaign against the church that will make the sex abuse hysteria look like child’s play. 

    The church sold its soul a long time ago, well before Vatican II.  One ever wonders if there was ever a good church. Dante put every pope besides St. Peter in hell.  But then again, Old Testament Israel was always corrupt as well. The church is still the new Israel, the pope the successor of Peter and the means to administer the sacraments, promote christian unity, and preserve our faith heritage (with all due respect to my Protestant brothers and sisters, an empty “bible alone” faith with no basis in history divided into a million sects that disagree over theological semantics is not the solution)   It’s just like how ancient Isreal was the means of  transferring the messianic bloodline  despite its constant wretchedness and infidelity. It would make sense that the new Israel is just as rotten as the old. 

    The modern society is just the logical conclusion of a very long process of decay that began during the Renaissance . Our elected officials have a duty to submit to the laws of god, which were followed relatively well during the middle ages. This resulted in the most prosperous and christ centered society western civilization has ever known (contrary to secular propaganda)  

    The real church would expose the new world order and would be a voice for its traditional teaching on usury, along with debt repudiation (jubilee) in order to break the death grip that Satan has on our world, a move that would be supported by 99% of humanity. However, due to the aforementioned media and financial control, theres little the hierarchy can do. 

    However, you never know when god is working behind the scenes. 

    • publiusnj

      The Reformation was the wholesale theft of the Church’s property throughout most of Northern Europe. To call that the Church’s fault means one accepts the propaganda of the thieves. As in “it was his fault for leaving his property out where we were tempted to steal it. He was stupid and got what he deserved….”

      What right did the King of Denmark have to steal the Church’s property even if “the Medici bankers hijacked the papacy during the renaissance, promoting usury and simony? ” The same question can be asked about so many other places where the thieving occurred behind the Banner of Ecclesial Reformation: What right did the King of Sweden, or the dukes of North Germany or the Hohenzollern Abbot who ran the Teutonic Knights, or the Queen of Navarre, or the “lairds of the congregation” in Scotland, or the English King have to steal the Church’s property even if “the Medici bankers hijacked the papacy during the renaissance, promoting usury and simony? “

      • Mike

        Enough of the church is completely innocent nonsense.   Yes, the secular history is biased  against Catholics, but that dosen’t mean that “traditional” Catholics should get all defensive and make absurd historical claims that hold the church completely blameless during this era (and all eras for that matter)  I think it’s fair to say that mistakes and crimes against humanity were committed by both sides.

        I am not at all saying the property theft, or the ruthless persecution of Catholics by Protestant leaders was justified. However,  I refuse to buy the “protestants were all evil and the Catholics were all righteous” party line pushed by biased “traditional” Catholics with a chip on their shoulder.  

        As I have said, the wars of religion were instigated by the money  power as a means to divide and weaken Christendom in order to put them in the position to control western society. This was kicked off by the relaxation of usury laws and the eventual creation of the Bank of England in 1694, which would become lucifers vehicle for world domination. (which continues to this very day) 

        The reformation happened because the Rennisnance church was corrupt and rotten to the core. That’s not to say that things didn’t get blown out of proportion afterwards, however Martin Luther was completely justified in what he did and my opinion a hero. (this is not an endorsement of sola scriptura/sola fire, but I understand the thinking behind it) 

        With that said,  I look at the reformation as a form of divine punishment for the churches many sins. Just  like how god broke up Israel in the old testamnet,and allowed it to be destroyed by its enemies due to its infidelity. 

        I am catholic, am all for exposing pusedo-history pushed by secularists aimed at making it seem like the church was the most evil institution that has ever existed (this is of course designed to discredit Christianity and take the heat off the money power).  However, let’s not be under the delusion that the church has never been corrupt or committed crimes against humanity in its long history, which is an absolutely asinine historical opinion.  

        The truth is more important then ideology. 

        • publiusnj

          Mike apparently would rather set up easily refutable straw men–such as “protestants were all evil and the Catholics were all righteous” that has no foundation in anything I wrote–than answer the questions I posed.

          • Mike

            I think that “I am not at all saying that the property theft or the ruthless persecutions of catholics was justified” answers your question.

            Regardless of the unjust actions of many Protestants, it still does not mean that the church was not corrupt and rotten to the core during the Renaissance, or that the Reformation was not justified (despite being blown out of proportion later) or that the church and Catholic leaders weren’t also guilty of crimes against humanity itself during the wars of religion.

            I am not taking sides on this one. I think both were guilty of serious offenses. The division of Christendom was the most tragic event in the history of the church.

            • Get a real Disqus ID, Rothbard.

            • publiusnj

              I guess Mike is saying that the monarchs of Denmark, Sweden, Navarre and England , the Teutonic knights’ abbot and the Protestant nobles of North Germany and Scotland were not justified in their expropriation of the Church’s property or in their persecutions of Catholics. Okay so far.

              Nevertheless, Mike also seems to be saying (in a complex double negative construction) that the Reformation was justified. Which Reformation? Luther’s, Calvin’s? Tudor’s?Knox’s? Thomas Munzner’s (Luther certainly didn’t think that one justified)? All of them? And what connection does the usury of the Medicis or simony have to the Protestant Dogmas of Sola Fide (definitely unbiblical, btw; see James 2:24) or Sola Scriptura?

              And does Mike know how much more prevalent simony became once Henry Tudor and the lairds of the congregation became the de facto popes of the Churches of England and Scotland respectively? Indeed, the Bishops’ Wars of the 1630s were fought between England and Scotland primarily because the Scots lairds wanted to retain the control over church lands that they had seized at the time of their Magister John Knox’s reformation and bargained and sold thereafter? Not that the English were any better. There was traffic in church lands for the entire period from Henry’s break with Rome through the Glorious Revolution. Henry repeatedly gave church lands to his henchmen in exchange for their killings of the king’s enemies (such as the Catholic Pilgrims of Grace).

              • Mike

                Where exactly did I imply that there was not corrupt Protestant leaders who were equally (and in some cases more) corrupt then the Renaissance church? There were good Protestants and there were bad Protestants just like they were good Catholics and bad Catholics.  However, the corruption of many Protestant leaders does not absolve the Catholic Church for its crimes during the Renaissance, or mean that the church was in desperate need of reform at the time, unintended consequences of the reformation that were provoked by the devil aside. 

                All the doctrines promulgated by the Protestants amounted to overreactions against a corrupt hierarchy. They reasoned that since the church was abusing its power and losing its basis in scripture (which was true) that all tradition must be bad. Just like they reasoned that since the church was rotten to the core and selling tickets to heaven, that “works” and following earthly authority was futile, leaving faith in Jesus Christ the sole means of salvation. 

                It was the pagan Rennisance that created a earthly church completely detached from the gospel and medieval theology , fueled by the usury and simony of corrupt Medici popes. The infamous sale of indulgences was the means to pay back the debts of the church to the banking houses of Medici and Fugger. The church was in bed with these represinitives of the whore of baybolon who  impoverished the people of the lands they ruled.  This provoked the Reformation and all it’s theology. Most of the reformers claimed to be the heirs of medieval Catholicism. 

                The debate of faith vs works is the stupidest ever.  I agree that faith alone on the surface implies that you don’t have to put your faith into action, which is obviously heretical and unscriptural. However , I guarantee that 99.9% of faith alone people don’t actually believe that , and the debate amounts to silly theological nitpicking. As long as you believe that we are saved by faith, and are called to LIVE OUT that faith, I don’t really care what your opinion is on this matter. Everything else is semantics and serves to divide Christians over petty nonsense. 

                Likewise, the Church in a desperate attempt to defend itself also overreacted by overemphasizing tradition and papal power, and trying to prevent people from reading the scripture, because it was afraid that the people would become Protestant. This continued for some 400 years. That does not mean that Protestants are not guilty of trying to get Catholics to follow their own invented magnesterium. I actually think Vatican II was a pretty solid attempt to try to bring things back to balance, despite the “spirit” that followed it aimed at completely stripping the church of its history. 

                So with that said, Martin Luther was on the right track, however many of the reformers threw the baby out with the bathwater. The church has never recovered from this ordeal and yet people still want to point fingers and argue over semantics while Satan laughs at the division he has caused which has allowed him to ascend to power over the world unopposed . Why can’t we just respect traditions on all sides, allow for a wide range of theological opinions and unite against our real enemy instead of trying to make people conform to every thelogical subtlety? . 

                The answer is usually somewhere in the middle. Why does everyone have to be a theological moron? The devil always works both sides of the aisle, and it’s up to us to follow the truth wherever it may lead and expose all hypocrisy, rather then acting like our side is without blemish. 

                • publiusnj

                  Mike, once again, is all over the place. I won’t address his Grand Conspiracy Theory.

                  I tried to get him to focus on the total disconnect between his usury as causation of the Reformation premise and the actual supposed basis for the Reformation: the soteriological conceit of Sola Fide. Mike acknowledges that Sola Fide is silly but tries nevertheless to defend the Reformation because nobody really believes in Sola fide anyway. Specifically, Mike wrote this: “However , I guarantee that 99.9% of faith alone people don’t actually believe that , and the debate amounts to silly theological nitpicking.”

                  Well, if no one believes the basis for the Reformation, why is it still going on? But don’t answer, Mike, because it will undoubtedly be a variant on your Grand Conspiracy Theory, which is where I came into this movie.

                  • Mike

                    Its pretty obvious that the theology of the reformation, flawed or not, was developed BECAUSE of the corruption of the church, largely due to the simony and usury of Medici popes. 

                    I don’t care if you believe if your saved by faith or faith and works. No Christian believes you don’t have to live out your faith, whether that these works proceed from faith (making only faith alone necessary)  or not is irrelevant and theological bickering over semantics. 

                    The Reformation is still going on because people are stupid and stubborn and want to fight over petty theological details. What is so wrong about a mutual respect for most faith traditions and theological opinions on all sides? And this goes out to Catholics as well as Protestants.  I might be devoted to our blessed mother, and pray with saints, but I don’t really care if that is not how my Protestant brothers and sisters do things, as long as there is a mutual respect. There are different ways to Christ, and I think many “traditional Catholics” or “bible believing Protestants” will be very surprised when they find out who goes up and who goes down. 

                    To believe this is “consparicy theory” is to deny that the devil exists, and that he gains power through division. 

                    • Mike

                      It’s obvious that you just want to look at things from a Catholic good, Protestant bad viewpoint because its safer and easier, and dismiss any facts that expose the corruption of the church with the intellectually lazy charge of “consparicy theory, and try to justify Papal corruption by arguing “The Protestants were worse” .

                      If exposing church corruption is wrong then the prophets (who were killed by the authorities) were unjustified in their criticism of Israel.,

                    • publiusnj

                      Hmmm…so having all these divisions is okay even though the divisions are the result of “petty theological details.” So, no big deal right?

                      Yet speaking out of the other side of his mouth, Mike goes on to say that “the devil exists, and that he gains power through division. ”

                      Hmmm.. so it is the devil who is causing the divisions, and the divisions are a big deal, right? Mike’s conspiracy theory is NOT internally consistent.

                    • Mike

                      How am I a hypocrite? I think the division of the church which sadly continues to this day has been due to stubbornness and overreaction by both sides and the devil has been all too happy to take advantage of this division.  This does not change my original point that reform of the church was necessary during the Reformation era. I supymphize with the reformers even though many of them wanted to throw the baby out with the bath water. I don’t buy the idea that “outside the church there is no salvation”, despite my desire for all Christians to be united. 

                      I support reforms that allow for people with a different theological opinions on matters such as faith vs works, scripture vs tradition, Marian doctrines ect. to be in communion with us, as long as they respect people who want traditional Catholic devotions and don’t try to make everything and everyone in the church conform to their interpretation of the scriptures or try to erase our history. There is room for all sorts of traditions be they Catholic or Protestant in the body of christ, and they should all be respected as part of our fascinating faith heritage. (this INCLUDES Tridentine Catholicism, which should not be suppressed like it is)  

                      Yet people like you  want to point fingers at “the Protestants” and deny any wrongdoing on the matter of the church in the Reformation.  As I said the devil always works both sides of the aisle. 

                    • publiusnj

                      Huh? Who said anything about hypocrisy. Your lack of internal consistency suggests illogic, but not necessarily hypocritical animus. As for what “people like [me] want to” do or not, your suspicions have no factual basis, particularly your suggestion that I may even be in league with the devil.

                    • Mike

                      No, I didnt suggest that YOU were in leauge with the devil. What I was saying that the devil works through both Catholicism and Protestantism in order to divide Christians over semantics. This is contrary to the opinions of many Catholics who believe that the church can do or has never done any wrong and that her corruption and abuse of power during the Renaissance along with the overreaction and theological rigidity  in the aftermath of the Reformation is not partly to blame for the division of Christians. 

                       Your statements seemed to imply that since Protestant leaders were also corrupt, that papal corruption during the Renaissance wasn’t a problem, and the church wasn’t in need of reform at the time, which is obviously an asinine opinion. As I have said things got blown out of proportion later, and the wars that followed were tragic, but that doesn’t  mean that the church was not in the need of a Reformation. 

                    • publiusnj

                      “Asinine opinion”? Strawmen usually are. As I have said repeatedly, though, you often try to turn more nuanced thoughts into outlandish statements that you can call “asinine.” That serves no useful purpose.

      • PNJ:
        I don’t know if you’ve noticed by “Mike” is sort of the unbalanced version of Ron Paul.

    • We capitalize the name of the Almighty here.

  • Martin Dennon

    This is a very nice, concise statement. It simultaneously sets forth the divine plan for the church in this world, and indicts so many activities undertaken by Catholic bishops and leaders.

  • Evil out numbers good, therefore a pure democracy in a plurality will not result in good. But good is stronger in the end, so I say Viva Christo Rey! !

  • CCIG

    The Church, under it’s leader, Jesus Christ (in person), will rule the entire earth! It is written, so we know it will happen. Sooner than we think? That we do not know. Everyone on earth will love everyone else on earth! It will happen! He has not left us orphans, but is with us. If He is with us, can American politics, Mohammedism, communism or anything else stop it? I believe nothing can stop it and all those who would will be banished forever with their leader – that old father of lies and all his children. They will be sent to their eternal home! Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

  • jacobum

    Well meaning or not the ACC outsourced the funding of the Corporal Works of Mercy (aka Social Justice) to the Government and retained management of personnel and physical resources. They did so in exchange for “Catholic Votes” without a thought to “subsidiarity”. The arrangement worked well until the favored political party of choice (Democrat) became in effect “Godless” while at the same time the Church switched it’s emphasis to “dialogue” and “social justice” rather than “saving souls”. The “Spirit of V2” essentially surrendered the “Spiritual Works of Mercy” and the dogma of “Outside the CC there is no salvation” . The results were entirely predictable and are upon us. The Church has made the classic self-delusional mistake of trying to deal with the “Prince of the World” without putting on the full spiritual armor of God. One quickly discovers that in this human world…”He who has the gold makes the rules”. The fact is most “Catholics” are now CINO. They are as secular as society in general. The demographics from the contraception and abortion debacles have kicked in at a time when Catholic credibility, influence and number of parishes are diminishing rapidly. Overall, a perfect storm created by a transformational change from a “Christ-Centered” Church to a “Man-Centered” Church. No on should be surprised. God will not be mocked forever.

  • Tom Zee

    no spiritual life has anything to do with material politics and if it has, then it should be known as a false apparition.

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