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Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Catholic Church Cannot Be on the Defensive--Never!

I have been listening to leading Churchmen, such as Cardinal Pell and Cardinal Dolan and I think the inadequacies of some of their statements, as good as these men are, reflect a lack of understanding of the place of the Church in the world today. This may sound like a simple statement, but let me quote Gramsci on this point, in his reference to Catholic Action in Notebook 1 of 1929-1930

C.A. (Catholic Action) marks the beginning of a new epoch in the history of the Catholic religion: it ceases to be a totalitarian world view and becomes only one part and must have a party. The various religious orders represent the reaction of the Church (community of the faith or clerical community), from the bottom or from the top,against the disintegration of the world view (heresies, schism, etc.).: C.A. represents the reaction of the apostasy of entire masses, that is, the reaction against the abandonment of the religious world view by the masses. It is no longer the Church that defines the terrain and the means of struggles, it must accept the terrain imposed upon it from the outside, and use arms stolen from the arsenal of its adversaries (the organization of the masses). The church is on the defensive; I other words, it has lost the autonomy of movement and initiative, it is no longer an ideological world power but only a subaltern force.

Now, obviously, the man underestimates the power of the Church as he can only see it in terms of facism and totalitarian power, and not in a spiritual light. However, his point must be seriously understood by those in power in the Church in America, and in Europe, who cannot understand the type of ideological view expressed here. What I mean is that Gramsci clearly understands the falling away of the people and that the political power of the Church is weakened because of that apostasy.

This is more clear in Europe than in the States. So-called Catholics are more socialist than Catholic and even more communist than Catholic in their world view, defining all, even the individual, in terms of economic struggle and materialism. This is a loss of the Catholic world view. Catholics no longer think like Catholics and Gramsci can claim that the Church has lost Her ability to create Europe and even the States into a spiritual realm, wherein God is King. Now, the fact that Cardinals respond to questions on television in debates or in interviews and do not refer to this larger issue of the lack of power over creating the “terrain” is highly significant. Once the Church is merely one more institution among many, once the Church only appeals to a certain group of people, such as the poor and not the rich, once the Church is on the defensive, She has lost ground.

The thing which Gramsci does not understand is that one does not and cannot define the Church purely as a material hierarchy, without reference to the City of God. We do not see the Church as on the defensive, that is, merely responding to crises, but on the offensive, in the New Evangelism and in the command of Christ to preach, teach and convert all nations.

However, in some situations, the Cardinals respond as if the Church is on the defensive by either pandering to one political party or another, or by ignoring the universality of the Gospel message. Americanism as a heresy has taken its toll on the attitudes, albeit unknown even by those who hold these attitudes, of many priests and bishops. In other words, Gramsci's prediction that the Church has to use the arsenal of its adversaries, that is, the appeal to the masses, sadly seems the case in much of the discussions about religious freedom in the States. The social justice issues become little gods instead of part of the larger teaching based on the Catholic definition of the individual, and not on socialism.

The Church in the States and, indeed, in Europe, including England, must not be on the defensive, but on the offensive. This is not hard, if one truly believes in the Gospel and in the City of God, the Kingdom of God. Either we believe or we do not. Too many so-called Catholics are socialists or Marxists, and therefore, not Catholics.

Now, Gramsci may not have been thinking is such deep terms, as he denies the spiritual reality of the Church and sees the world in material terms. Much socialism and communism is short-sighted, that is, without the long view of history, although Gramsci tries.

The Catholic Church, as the institution created by Christ, God-Man Himself, has the long view, to put it succinctly. The Church brings eternity down to earth, through Her teachings and Her sacramental life.

Christ is present now. That is what is missing in both Gramsci's criticism and those views of the churchmen who do not refer to the Revelation and Tradition of the Church in their presentations. The Church is independent of any national or political ideology. The Church needs to re-create cultural and national identity by Her definitions, as given by God, and not men.


Supertradmum said...

An anonymous person just offered this comment that the Church has to use the language of socialism, as this ideology has been accepted for a hundred years in Europe. I do not think so, but this person's point does make for an interesting discussion. Where do we meet the apostatized in discussion without giving in to their definitions?

New Sister said...

This does present a problem. I don't see how we, as Evangelists, can give in to secular definitions. Even though it will irritate many, I think we have a duty to openly note where we define terms diferently. I do not know if this example applies to discussions with Socialists/Marxists, but when people ask me, e.g., "have you ever been married?" I fully know what they mean in secular terms, yet I will never answer "yes." I take the time to witness to the Faith by responding, "as a Catholic, I have to say that I've never been married... I had at one point in my life entered into a *contract* called 'marriage' in legal terms, but it was not so in God's eyes." When one replies, "O, you 'got an annulment'?" I persist, "the bond was declared null; no marriage ever existed." I am always quick to correct my Catholic friends, too, who are finally in a valid, holy marriage and still refer to the past as "his first wife" or "her first husband." I think it is very important to never say this, when in God's eyes it was an objectively wrong domestic situation --never to be called a "wife" or "husband" by the Catholic.

This is just an example, and it's a lot to put a person through when they've but posed a simple question, but I think we've got to put our foot down at some point and stop going along with these falsehoods that have polluted society. I think Catholics must make a concerted effort to re-define terms when in dialogue w/ the world. [I love the example of Mother Teresa refusing to cave to the term "homosexuals" in an interview, insisting that the journalist instead call them "friends of Jesus"-- utterly brilliant!!]

James said...

"I think Catholics must make a concerted effort to re-define terms when in dialogue w/ the world."

## We're Catholics. We have our own terms for a great many things - if we abandon them, we are in real danger of ceasing to think like Catholics.

AS just one example of this, there was the abandonment of "consubstantial with the Father" in the ET of the Creed, in favour of a looser formulation that favoured the imprecise sort of "thinking" that leads people into heresy.

Granted, there may be modern realities for which the Church does not yet have appropriate language - but if so, what are they ?

On a different plane, I think it would be a very good idea if the character of the Church as an eschatological reality were made a lot clearer. A lot of Catholics (and other Christians too) won't have the foggiest notion of what that means. Yet it is crucial to understanding what the Gospel means by speaking of the "Kingship/Reign/Kingdom of God/Heaven" - and is the reason that the Church cannot be a "kingdom of this world/age"; which is why it cannot be made a party political thing, whether of the Left, Right, Centre, or any kind. It is also why the Social Kingship pf Christ is at the very heart of Christianity.

If we start talking like unbelievers, we shall become like them in mind, even more than we are already; but that is to make the Church no more than an extension of "the world"