Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Enmity between Catholicism and Totalitarianism III

It 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.

James Cardinal Gibbons, 1919 Pastoral Letter to the Catholic Church in America

I. Catholicism is Spiritually Totalitarian:

We come to the first reason why Catholics can answer the claims of the Totalitarian State:

First, Catholic spirituality is totalitarian in nature. Totalitarianism is only a blessing in the spiritual realm. But when the life of faith wanes and ceases to inform daily life, the political order takes its place. The State is more likely to be a servant when granted limited power. However, when assuming unlimited power, it invariably behaves like a master. Hence, dedication to a religion or ideology on a part-time basis or adherent who put forth half measures is in no position to withstand the Totalitarian State, be it Secular or Islamic.

It has become more apparent that the drive of Secular totalitarianism in the United States will spare no part of daily life if left unchecked. What was considered off limits by imperial and autocratic States of old, is now subject to scrutiny by the modern State. The following areas, once considered to be of the private sector, is now within the control of federal, state and local governments: a child's diet in public schools, light bulbs, student backpacks, corporate profit margins, health care and banking. With a few setbacks here and there, the political momentum is favoring an unprecedented expansion of the jurisdiction of the State. When we consider the Islamic State, on the other hand, it will undoubtedly have different priorities; nevertheless, it will be no less totalitarian than its secular counterpart. In either case, religious liberty among Christians will not be tolerated.

An alternative, therefore, to Secular and Islamic totalitarianism must be all-encompassing and every bit as totalitarian. This cannot be emphasized enough. In its truest essence, the Catholic Faith is meant to be a way of life twenty four hours a day and seven days a week. The reason why Dawson assigned religion to the sphere of the absolute is because God, eternity, morality and spirituality touches upon every aspect of human existence. With respect to the Church, there is no phase of life that does not fall under its purview. Indeed, it encompasses the totality of life.

In every parish, for instance, a priest baptizes infants, oversees the education and sanctification of children and adolescents, prepares young couples for marriage and presides at their wedding, and most important, prepares the dying for eternity. What is more, confessions are heard from people whose age ranges from eight to a hundred years of age. And to be sure, there is not a sin that a priest hasn’t had to absolve.

The Divine Liturgy (or the Mass) is yet another expression of the life of the Church which is celebrated every day. In this venue, the same Scripture readings are proclaimed throughout the world. The clergy also prays the Divine Office (composed of Scripture and prayers of the Church) at least four times a day, and in every continent so that there is a uninterrupted hymn to the Lord throughout the whole world.

To repeat, the impact of Catholicism on the human person, by its very nature, is spiritually and morally totalitarian; this, more so than any other religion. But as Dawson indicated, when the Faith is relegated to the relative or private sphere, hence only occupying a small portion of human existence, what fills the void is too often a political form of totalitarianism. This has been demonstrated time and time again throughout history.

The Catholic Faith, if it be fully applied, orders life from within; thus making political interventions less necessary. No doubt, the regularity of prayer, the examination of conscience, spiritual reading and a firm resolve to amend one’s life are just a few means through which a Catholic becomes a better person and a law abiding citizen of the State. From these daily spiritual exercises, a network of sound relationships is bound to result; relationships between husband and wife, between parents and children, among neighbors, among citizens and the political give and take between the State and the citizen is better secured.

The second reason why the Catholic Church can best answer the claims of the Totalitarian State…on the next blog.