Wednesday, January 06, 2016

The Vatican in World Politics

by Avro Manhattan, Copywright 1949 by Gaer Associations, Inc.




To write about the influence exercised by religion in general, and by Christianity in particular, in the affairs of a century preoccupied with gigantic ethical, social, economic, and political problems, might seem at first a waste of time. For religion, although still deeply rooted in the modern world, is no longer a factor that can seriously compete with the more cogent forces of an economic and social nature by which our contemporary civilization is convulsed. 

Religion has lost, and continues to lose, ground everywhere. The individual, as well as society, is far more concerned with weekly wages, the exploitation of raw materials, the financial budget, unemployment, the race towards perfecting the best tools of destruction and untrapping cosmic forces, and thousands of other problems of a practical nature. Yet to assume as is generally the case, that religion is today relegated into the background whence it cannot to say serious extent influence the course of political events either in the domestic or international spheres, would be to maintain an illusion that does not correspond to actuality.

Especially is this so in the case of one particular brand of Christianity----namely "Catholicism". For Catholicism, notwithstanding its enormous loss in numbers and influence, is more alive and aggressive than ever, and exercises a greater influence on the national and international events which culminated in the First and Second World Wars than at first seems possible.  

This is sustained, not by mere theoretical assertions, but by crude reality. Other religions or religious denominations continue to exercise a more or less great influence on modern society, but their ability to shape the course of events cannot in any way be compared with that of the Catholic Church.

This is due to several factors peculiar to the Catholic Church of which the most characteristic are the following:---- 

1. (a) Catholicism's numerical strength, its nominal members, a few years after World War II, approximately 400,000,000. 

(b) The fact that the bulk of Catholics live in the leading continents--e.g., Europe and the Americas.

(c) The fact that the Catholic Church has Catholics in every corner of the world.

2. The spirit that moves the Catholic Church and which makes it act with the firm conviction that its fundamental mission is to convert the whole of mankind, not to Christianity, but to Catholicism. 

3. The fact that the Catholic Church, unlike Protestantism or any other religion, has a formidable religious organization spreading over the whole planet. At the head of this organization stands the Pope, whose task is to maintain and proclaim the immutability of certain spiritual principles on which Catholicism stands. His efforts are directed to the furtherance of the interests of the Catholic Church in the world. 

The cumulative effort of these factors is the creation of a compact religious-spiritual bloc, which is the most efficient and militant power of its kind in the modern world. 

The Catholic Church, more than any other religious denomination, cannot confine itself to a merely religious sphere. For the fact that it believes its mission to be that of maintaining and furthering the spiritual dominion of Catholicism brings it immediately into contact---and very often conflict---with fields adjoining religion. Religious principles consist not only of theological and spiritual formulæ, but invariably of moral and ethical, and often of social elements. As they cannot be neatly dissected, and as it is impossible to label each one separately according to its religious, moral, ethical, or social nature, it is extremely difficult to separate them. Whenever religious dogmas are favorably or adversely affected, moral, ethical, and social principles are automatically involved. 

As religious principles affect ethical and social principles, the step from these to the economic, and finally political, sphere is very short. In many cases this sequence is unavoidable, and even when it is thought advisable to keep religious problems within the purely religious field, this is in reality an impossibility, owing to this multiple nature of spiritual principles. The practical consequence of this is that, whenever a given Church proclaims, condemns, or favors a certain spiritual principle, its condemnation or support reverberates in semi-religious and even non-religious fields; consequently the Church, whether willingly or not, influences problems which are not its direct concern.

In the particular case of the Catholic Church, this is brought to an extreme, for the simple reason that Catholicism is more rigid than any other religion as regards the spiritual field. To this is added the fact that a good Catholic owes blind obedience to his Church and must put his Church's interest before any social or political matter. Since this body comprising millions of such Catholics, living all over the world, hangs on the words of the Pope, it is easy to see the long-range power that the Catholic Church can exercise in non-religious spheres. 

To given an illustration: the Catholic Church, in its quality of a religious institution, asserts that when a man and a woman are united by the sacrament of matrimony, no power on earth can loose the bonds between them. Modern society, on the other hand, admitting that a marriage might be a failure, has created a set of ethical and legal tenets according to which those bonds may be cut. As the Catholic Church considers this to be wrong, it endeavors to fight such principles by all means in its power. It not only condemns this to be wrong, it endeavors to fight such principles by all means in its power. It not only condemns them in the religious-moral field, but orders all Catholics to reject and fight the principles and practice of divorce. Thus, when a Catholic becomes a member of the legislative body of a given country where a Bill legalizing divorce comes up for discussion, he must put his religious duty first and fight and vote against such a Bill. In this way the religious issue of divorce becomes not only a question of moral and ethical principles, but also a social problem of great importance. 

Another typical example is that, whereas modern society and modern ethics have accepted the theory and use of contraceptives, these are condemned by the Catholic Church, which asserts that the only function of the union of the sexes is procreation. This it asserts regardless of social or economic factors, such as whether the children thus born will have sufficient food to eat, whether they will get adequate education, and so on. The cumulative result of this religious injunction is that millions of married couples, to obey the law of their Church, procreate regardless of their own or their country's social and economic condition, thus producing or aggravating serious problems of a demographic, economic, or political nature.

 The Church asserts that it has the right to teach moral principles as well as religious ones. It declares, for instance, that the right of private ownership is inviolable, which is against the principles of a great movement of social, economic, and political character known under the general term of "Socialism." As Socialism, in its various shapes and forms, is a purely social and political movement, trying to enforce its principles on the economic, social, and political life of society, it follows that it is bound to incur the hostility of the Catholic Church. Such hostility automatically leads the Church into social and political arenas. Catholics, because they must blindly obey their Church, must fight the theory and practice of Socialism; and this they do in their capacity as citizens, Members of Parliament, or as individuals in the ranks of some powerful political party. 

There are innumerable cams of this kind, from which it is evident that the Catholic Church cannot avoid interfering in social and political issues. The practical result of this interference of religious and moral tenets in non-religious fields is that the Catholic Church is continually intervening, in one way or another, in the social and political life of society in general and of certain countries and individuals in particular. This interference may be of a mild or violent nature, depending on the reaction of the non-religious spheres to the voice of the Church. 

Thus it happens that Catholic countries, where the legislation of the State has been drawn up according to the principles of the Catholic Church, find themselves in harmony with the Catholic Church's condemnation or support of any issue. For instance, a Catholic Government will introduce laws forbidding divorce, penalizing the use of contraceptives, and banishing all activities propagating the idea that private ownership is evil and should be abolished. result will be that in such a country Parliament will pass these against divorce, will close shops selling contraceptives, and imprison any individual and ban any movement actively hostile to the idea of private ownership. 


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