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Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Death of the American Imagination

Many years ago, I taught a class which the students called the "isms" course. It was really a history of ideas and a history of the councils of the Church, but we had fun defining and identifying all the isms. I am reminded by my stay in Ireland that there is a lack of understanding among Catholics, whether lay or priests, that socialism has been condemned by the Church for over 150 years or so. A Catholic cannot be a socialist, and if one is a Catholic and a socialist, it means that there is a deep misunderstanding of the evils of this political and economic system. The Popes in the past have shown us that the definitions of the individual and the State in a socialist philosophy contradict the Catholic idea of a person, personal rights and responsibilities, and the nexus of freedom and rights-natural law.

I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had here and in England concerning socialism as supposedly being acceptable to the Catholic Faith. Today, I shall quote one of the many Popes who have condemned this tricky and insidious system. Here is Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo AnnoBut what if Socialism has really been so tempered and modified as to the class struggle and private ownership that there is in it no longer anything to be censured on these points? Has it thereby renounced its contradictory nature to the Christian religion? This is the question that holds many minds in suspense. And numerous are the Catholics who, although they clearly understand that Christian principles can never be abandoned or diminished seem to turn their eyes to the Holy See and earnestly beseech Us to decide whether this form of Socialism has so far recovered from false doctrines that it can be accepted without the sacrifice of any Christian principle and in a certain sense be baptized. That We, in keeping with Our fatherly solicitude, may answer their petitions, We make this pronouncement: Whether considered as a doctrine, or an historical fact, or a movement, Socialism, if it remains truly Socialism, even after it has yielded to truth and justice on the points which we have mentioned, cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church because its concept of society itself is utterly foreign to Christian truth.

Here is the rub. The view of society and the view of the person which is held by most Christians in America is out and out socialism. And, the current arguments in the Church over social issues reveal this confusion. One cannot be a good Catholic and a socialist. I am reposting this, as it is crucial to the understanding of the decay of the West. The individual is no longer respected, but only seen as the proverbial cog in the machine. Once a philosophy of the idolization of the State and State power takes over the imagination of a people, there is a momentum which is hard to turn back. A few strong voices, mostly Catholics such as Patrick Buchanan, have tried to show the demise of individual responsibilty connected with the bloating of government power. Sadly, many Catholics have fallen into the socialist trap via bad interpretations of Catholic social justice. I am concerned that the current administration is moving so fast that by next year at this time, we shall literally have lost several main freedoms in the Bill of Rights. The three which are on the line are freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to bear arms. This is not hysteria, but a cold evaluation of the takeover of the American imagination. Our imagination was based on English Common Law, Greek democracy, and the Enlightenment ideals. However, our American imagination was also based on Christianity, the Ten Commandments, Christian natural law philosophy, and the years of human rights justification as taught by the Holy Roman Catholic Church based on Tradition and Scripture. Such rivers of influence are all at odds with socialism.