Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Enmity between Catholicism and Totalitarianism

For if the State has become too totalitarian, that is because the average Christian has not been totalitarian enough.

Christopher Dawson, Religion and the Modern State 1935

In previous blogs I proposed that the only religion capable of withstanding totalitarianism is the Catholic religion. With other points to be made about the issue or topic at hand, there was little room to elaborate on these auxiliary points. As a postscript to the blogs which stated that there is a natural enmity between Catholicism and the Totalitarianism of the State, below is an attempt to give its rationale.


Christopher Dawson, a Catholic historian, wrote in 1935 just a few years before World War II that it is only by belonging to the City of God, or the Catholic Church, that “we shall find an answer to the claims of the Totalitarian State. For if the State has become too totalitarian, that is because the average Christian has not been totalitarian enough." From the nineteenth century into the twentieth century Europe had become more and more secular. What Christianity lost in terms of influence, totalitarianism gained. As James Cardinal Gibbons said in 1919: “[I]t lies in the very nature of man that something must be supreme, something must take the place of the divine when this has been excluded; and this substitute for God, according to a predominant philosophy, is the State.”

As history bears witness, one of the saddest episodes of human cruelty in the twentieth century was the Third Reich's campaign against the Jews in Germany. Albert Einstein, who was of Jewish descent, was surprised by who would and who would not come to the defense of his persecuted people. Due to his prejudices, he could not anticipate who would answer the claims of the Totalitarian State. In the December’s edition of Time Magazine, 1940, he said that he looked to the universities and the great editors of newspapers for help as his people were being rounded up and sent to concentration camps. However, these so-called champions of freedom were silenced. But one institution did publicly resist Hitler’s ruthless totalitarian campaign and that was the Catholic Church. He continues:

Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.

Time and time again throughout her two thousand year history, the Catholic Church served as the balance against the overreaching arm of the State. From the very beginning, in the Apostolic era, the followers of Christ were persecuted by the State. Indeed, the Catholic Church was always conscious of that tension between her mission to save souls and the State's duty to govern. And the future is sure to bear out that she is the only one that can ward off the Totalitarian State. This is not to say that Catholics will be only ones resisting the totalitarian claims; indeed there are many who are unaffiliated with the Church who are fighting the good fight. However, as we will see, the Catholic Church possesses the God-given ability to salvage all that is praiseworthy in Western Civilization. After all, it is due to her inspiration that this civilization came into being to begin with.

The overview and the four reasons why there is an inherent enmity between Catholicism and the Totalitarianism of the State in the next blog.