Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The New Pope

As everyone knows by now, we have a new pope. Not being Catholic, the identity of the pope has little to do with me (though I’m glad we finally have one – since John Paul II died, I’ve borne the burden of being the only infallible person on the planet, and I just don’t need that kind of stress). Still, I can’t be the only one who finds it disturbing that the man who held the title of Grand Inquisitioner would be named Pope. Been down that road a few hundred years ago, didn’t turn out too well. And it seems that some more liberal Catholics are a tad bit upset by this turn of events. Andrew Sullivan seems quite upset, and I can’t say as I blame him. He writes:

And so the Catholic church accelerates its turn toward authoritarianism, hostility to modernity, assertion of papal supremacy and quashing of internal debate and dissent. We are back to the nineteenth century. Maybe this is a necessary moment. Maybe pressing this movement to its logical conclusion will clarify things. But those of us who are struggling against what our Church is becoming, and the repressive priorities it is embracing, can only contemplate a form of despair. The Grand Inquisitor, who has essentially run the Church for the last few years, is now the public face. John Paul II will soon be seen as a liberal. The hard right has now cemented its complete control of the Catholic church.

Sullivan also points out the absurdity of Ratzinger’s election-eve homily blaming communism and naziism on “relativism”. Totalitarian regimes are anything but relativist; indeed, they are notable for their absolutism, both in terms of ideology (i.e. their positions on matters of both truth and morality) and in their zeal to destroy those who do not agree with it. As Sullivan correctly notes:

The philosophical appeal of Marxism was and is, for the handful of fools who still cling to it, its claim to absolute, scientific truth. Similarly, Nazism asserted as a scientific fact the superiority or inferiority of certain races. These totalitarian ideologies allowed for no dissent because the truth had been proven. You see precious little relativism in Communist or fascist regimes. They created absolute leaders to embody and enforce the maintenance of their truths. And they believed in the conflation of such truths with all political life, the abolition of autonomy and conscience. In structure, they were and are very close to the structure of a decayed version of Catholicism that asserts one version of the truth, suppresses any and all open discussion of such truths within its power, and elevates a cult-like leader and mass demonstrations to reinforce its propaganda.

This annoying use of the phrase “relativism” to describe those who reject the morality of the person speaking is absurd and needs to stop. That one holds to an absolutist conception of truth does not mean that anyone who doesn’t hold that conception is therefore “relativist”. More likely, they are merely absolutists with a different conception. One could scarcely find a better model for a Nazi or Communist leader than the “Grand Inquisitioner”, which ironically happens to be the title held by the new Pope for the last several year.

Comments

  1. #1 Guitar Eddie
    April 19, 2005

    What you say is reason why I left the Roman Catholic Church thirty years ago. Because I began to see that is was in the process of turning right.

    Stick around awhile. You may even have the pleasure of seeing the rise of another Torquemada.

  2. #2 spyder
    April 19, 2005

    Ratzinger was originally a progressive voice, prior to 1968 at least, but like most of our own neo-cons he “converted” to the dark side of authoritarian dominion and since has been instrumental in the prosecution of excommunication of liberation theologians, creation spirituality philosophers. And recently his inquisition self was framed in the Papal orders that the world’s politicians, who are Catholic, should be excommunicated if they do not adhere to the Catholic faith’s edicts and polemics.

  3. #3 Guitar Eddie
    April 20, 2005

    “And recently his inquisition self was framed in the Papal orders that the world’s politicians, who are Catholic, should be excommunicated if they do not adhere to the Catholic faith’s edicts and polemics.”

    Beware. There is more to come. I’m sure he will start giving more support to Opus Dei. They have a training process for Latter Day Torquemadas.

    “All along the watchtower princes kept the view while all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.

    Outside in the cold distance, a wild cat did growl. Two riders were approaching and the wind began to howl…”

  4. #4 Uber
    April 20, 2005

    [quote]Maybe this is a necessary moment. Maybe pressing this movement to its logical conclusion will clarify things. But those of us who are struggling against what our Church is becoming, and the repressive priorities it is embracing, can only contemplate a form of despair.[/quote]

    Sullivan is a bright guy, but I find this statement puzzling. If you no longer agree with your church, perhaps you should find another.

    I mean ‘Can you really believe what you don’t believe?’

    What is real is that the Catholic church of old is dead, deader than a dinosaur. What we are seeing is a last gasp of survival from those who seek to restore something that cannot be restored. It simply is fighting against the inevitable, an important historical church but the fading face of Christianity.

    Despite claims of 1 billion members most independent counts put the number at less than half that amount, half of which are nonpracticing. The simple truth is they count you from birth and include you in said counts forever. So while 1 billion may have been born into Catholic countries and churches they lose many members to other denominations.

  5. #5 Guitar Eddie
    April 20, 2005

    “The simple truth is they count you from birth and include you in said counts forever. So while 1 billion may have been born into Catholic countries and churches they lose many members to other denominations.”

    The Catholic Church also lost quite a few people to totally different, non-Christian religious traditions; i.e. Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism. I am one of these.

  6. #6 GeneralZod
    April 20, 2005

    I was babtized Catholic, went to Catholic grade school, was confirmed, and went to Catholic high school, which means means now, of course, I am an atheist.
    (I am paraphrasing some stand-up, but for the life of I cannot recall who it was. This does apply to me, though.)

  7. #7 CPT_Doom
    April 20, 2005

    “The simple truth is they count you from birth and include you in said counts forever. So while 1 billion may have been born into Catholic countries and churches they lose many members to other denominations.

    In fact, as a baptized AND confirmed Catholic, I tried to get myself ex-communicated because I was so fed up with the anti-gay rhetoric of the church, and they flat-out refused to do it. Despite my statements that I no longer accepted the Pope as the representative of Christ, that I no longer accepted the doctrine of transubstantiation, etc., they would not ex-communicate me. They really must want their numbers to be up there.

    As for the whole anti-relativism argument, it simply infuriates me. As Ed noted, being a moral relativist does not mean foresaking all moral guidance – in fact it requires a stricter scrutiny of one’s moral values, to see how they apply to specific situations.

    For instance, I may be against abortion as birth control, but as a moral relativist I can appreciate the difference between such an action by a well-off woman who finds a pregnancy “inconvenient” and a 14-year-old girl who didn’t use birth control the first time she had sex.

    And the reality is even the Catholic church is a moral relativist organization. Despite being officially against war and violence, they understand the need for a “just war,” as the allies in WWII fought.

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