Supplementary, Mr Speaker

In the Comments thread, beneath the last post, there was a storm forming, with a conservative, Catholic, American Patriot waving Dignitatis Humanae at me (the Vatican II document: go look it up) — in defence of America’s gift to the world, of Church/State separatism. John Courtney Murray, SJ, was the original drafter of that document. (Look him up.) Controversy rages still, over whether it represented a fair development of, or deviation from, previous Catholic teaching on the political order. (Look it up! Look it up!) What I append below is a few disjointed notes from that controversy, carried out of Comments and into email, touching on relations between Church and State.

Gentle reader may make of these items what he will. Should he find them utterly baffling, don’t worry. An agent of the Inquisition will be around shortly, to tell you what to do.


Item, what I found odd, was that Murray went to Rome in the train of Cardinal Spellman, and enjoyed more protection there than he had ever received in USA. The final vote within the Vatican Council for Dignitatis Humanae was so lopsided, that even without reading it I would have assumed that the Fathers had succeeded in excising anything genuinely novel. Pope Benedict’s deep parting remark about Vatican II applies here: the damage would have been done, not by the content of the document, but in its presentation by the “Council of the Media.” Not the thing itself but, as it were, “website comments” on it.

Item, Murray was a Jesuit. I note he was convenor for the first “oecumenical” declaration of “peace, peace” back in 1944.

Item, some priest once said to me, “Jesuits should be turned loose on the pagans, not within the Church.”

Item, Leo XIII did not say that the Church is the State. Though sublimely simple, I’ve noticed this point is lost on many from both sides of the hall. They cannot conceive of it except exclusively in terms of worldly power, and bureaucratized at that. People like my Chief Texas Correspondent cannot be shaken from a vision of the Nanny State (which we both despise) whose capital is merely transferred from the Potomac to the Tiber. The point he won’t get is that the Nanny State is itself an unavoidable by-product of secular democracy, wherein the people vote to appropriate each other’s property, under the inspiration of demagogues. But also, in their fantasy lives, we have Trad Catlicks dreaming like Leninists, of taking everything over and ruling by decree. It is hard to argue with morons.

Item, nor does it follow from anything Pope Leo wrote, or the other popes of the XIXth century, that a Catholic order must persecute non-Catholics. That, perhaps, is what we were trying to clarify in Vatican II — that we’d done a few mean things in the past that we don’t feel especially proud of, even when they were just retaliation. In particular: Christ did not preach forcible conversions.

Item, “Are Non-Theocratic Regimes Possible?” by Rémi Brague. Here we get to the crux of the matter. There will always be a theocratic order, even if it is an “atheocratic” pastiche. The question is not “whether we should have a theocracy or not,” as the progressives say — defining their own atheocratic order falsely as a non-theocratic order, when it is as arbitrary as any theocratic order the world ever endured. Rather: Which theocratic order should it be? (Shariah? Rabbinical, perhaps? Lamaist? Shinto? Lutheran? Calvinist? Marxist? Feminist? Gaian? Catholic?) Truly, we are spoilt for choice, but as the modern consumer can hardly understand, you can’t have everything. You have to choose one, to be morally coherent; or if you choose “none,” … someone else chooses for you.

Item, let me emphasize this point. Should the principles be not those of the ancestral Catholic Christendom — buried beneath our Western feet, yet serviceable still as foundation — then they will be of something else. We hardly got e.g. quickie divorce, or no-questions-asked abortion, or gay marriage for that matter, or soon, no-questions-asked euthanasia for your unwanted granny, because the masses suddenly spontaneously rose up to demand them pronto. We got them because the gods we are currently serving required them; and of course, we got them “democratically,” but only in the sense that the people are made to vote until they deliver what these gods require. … (Good news, incidentally. It turns out these gods may not want polygamy after all, so we won’t have to deliver that at the polling booths.)

Item, therefore what I modestly propose is only that a Christian order supplant the current Satanic one. And, Catholic Christian, I was thinking: not some other kind, replete with heresies or, if you prefer, “inconsistencies.”

Item, now, getting back to that American Revolution (or, First Civil War, as I think of it). … For your information, my Loyal ancestors understood all this above, right up to the Catholic part, which, I must admit, they flubbed. There was an established church in most of the Thirteen Colonies, though it was not the same one in all. American federalism required a “workaround” for this sectarian issue, since the probability of reaching agreement on which should be the established church for the whole New Republic was nil. It is an angle from which the issue is seldom assessed; especially by Protestants, to my mind. And this because it perfectly illustrates how easily sectarianism lapses into godless vacuumism — for from a choice among vexatious somethings, we go to a default nothing, which were the devil’s choice.

Item, to be almost unnaturally fair, we wound up with the same thing (i.e. nothing) up here in the Great White North, where, to start, Lower Canada was effectively a Catholic jurisdiction; and Upper Canada a Protestant jurisdiction — but under conditions of Loyalist flight, ridiculously subdivided township by township among the various Protestant factions, with clergy reserves all round.

Item, it was generally assumed, at one point in history, that Jesus Christ had founded only one Church. It took fifteen centuries (in the West) for this point to become controversial.