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Saturday 14 April 2012

The Elephant in the Church....

In Notebook 2 from 1929-1933, Gramsci, using R. Michels and Max Weber, writes a long entry on the fact that bourgeois, socialist and Marxist parties have been formed around a charismatic leader. Gramsci also refers to Yves Guyot's idea of the religious orders taking their names and charisms from such men-Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, etc. Gramsci even refers to the anarchists and the anarcho-syndicalists, still alive and well today in Italy as seen in the troubles last Autumn, as groups, oddly organizing sometimes around a person of charism, despite the fact that these groupings are anti-authoritarian.

He goes on the write that the "basis of these parties is faith and the authority of a single individual. (No one has ever seen any such party; certain expressions of interests are, at certain times, represented by certain more or less exceptional personalities. During certain periods of  'permanent anarchy', due to the static equilibrium of the conflicting forces, a mans represents 'order'....there always is a program...which is general precisely because its only aim is to repair the exterior political facade of a society which is not undergoing a real constitutional crisis, but only a crisis arising out of the inordinate number of malcontents who cannot be easily controlled because of their sheer numbers and because of the simultaneous, but mechanically simultaneous, display of discontent across a whole nation...."

This is what Europe saw in the rioting of the past Autumn and early Winter of 2012

Gramsci also refers to "doctrinaire" parties, such as "free market or protectionist parties or parties which proclaim rights of freedom and justice..."

Basing his discussion on Michels, Gramsci notes that Mussolini at the time falls into this category of charismatic leader of a party. We now can add Hitler, Mao, and many others to this discussion.

For the purposes of a Catholic political discussion, we must note that Gramsci is both right and wrong on two accounts, as he finds that communism is the only answer to what he sees as faulty political analyses of Michels and the need for a system which acknowledges class struggles-the fixation of the Marxist.

Firstly, because Gramsci eschews religion as a reality for social change and for social unity, he wants political organizations to take the place of a religious philosophy underlying all; for example, we as Catholics would start with a Natural Law philosophical position and move to an ethical or moral position of government based on Christian principles and the Christian definitions of State and individual (Maritain has an excellent book on this subject-The Person and the Common Good-which I read many years ago, but is still valid for discussion. 

That the Marxist only has a material and in Gramsci's case, a historical view of humankind, and the individual, the spiritual goals of men and women are only considered in terms of a vague morality. Here is Gramsci in Notebook 4- "Clearly, neither materialist nor idealist monism, neither matter nor spirit, but historical materialism, i.e. activity of people (history) .. i.e. applied to a determinate organised material (material force of production), to nature reshaped by people. Philosophy of act (praxis), but not of the pure act, on the contrary, of the impure, i.e. the real, act in the profane sense of the word.." .And, again.."In this way we also arrive at a fusion, a making into one, of 'philosophy and politics,' of thinking and acting, in other words we arrive at a philosophy of praxis." And in Notebook 8, "Where, in a philosophy of praxis, everything is praxis, the difference will not be between moments of absolute spirit, but between structure and superstructures; it will be a matter of establishing the dialectical position of political activity as differentiation in the superstructures." (some quotation marks are changed or missing from my transcription).

Man becomes the only meaning to his own destiny and the only goal of history, which he created. Unlike the Catholic, who sees the Incarnation of the God-Man, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, as the culminating event of human history, combined with the Resurrection from the Dead, as the changing event of all history, Gramsci cannot believe in the spiritual reasons for history-that is-the renewal of the world and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. Man is the creator of his own destiny. And politics becomes the only force for change-that is, political action tied to the Marxist ideology. Some critics disagree with the Marxist ideological underlay to Gramsci's ideas of praxis and history, but these are intertwined and used interchangeably. I am not going to get into the discussions about whether Gramsci's ideas vary from traditional Marxism here. But, I want those in the Church to understand where the financial and social thinkers of Europe have imbibed these ideas and are creating or destroying, the new Europe accordingly.

Now, there is one "party" which has for all time a charismatic leader, who is not a political king but King of the Universe and that is Christ. Sadly, as the Marxist can only think and work in materialist terms, the spiritual nature of the Kingdom, that is, the changing of men's hearts to those of love and consideration for their neighbor, is not a reality.

Secondly, the problem with his analysis of other philosophers of politics or history is that he uses the same framework of class struggle, not believing at all in noblese oblige, or the requirement of the rich to help the poor while recognizing differences. I find it interesting that Gramsci is so optimistic, so hopeful as to political change based on an intellectual change, rather than a change in the spirit. He used the word spirit, but by that does not mean an eternal life in each individual but some sort of movement of man, not unlike those of the progressivists, whom he criticizes. This second error, of ignoring the eternal spirit, means that political struggle and cultural change is all important, is the only way for humans to live in peace. His ideas are utopianism in another disguise, and as such, fall into the heresy of wanting a perfect system on earth, which is not possible.

Once someone denies the spiritual and only works in the material, this utopianism is the only goal of all activity. Of course, I am looking only at the Notebooks and some of the Letters, hardly a complete philosophical system is created therein. But, the effect of such notes and references has been a cultural revolution in Europe and now in America, which needs addressing.

Modern secular humanism substitutes the same ethical framework. The Post-Moderns would find a home in Gramsci, perhaps even the late Christopher Hitchens, who had an ethical outlook without the framework of religious dogma. This type of atheism is popular in Europe and increasingly so in the States. But, what I find most disturbing, and what I am trying to address, are the Catholics who are "practical atheists" in that they believe the same premises as the secular humanists and Gramsci, but call themselves Catholics.

Now, the reason this discussion is so important for me is that too many discussions concerning socialism or communism center only on the economic structures and not the philosophical structures of atheism and secular humanism. Those in the Church need to engage a conversation at this level-of showing that the individual and his rights are at stake not merely because of economic structures, but because of the denial of the Incarnation as a force in history and in the world. This is not to fall into Liberation Theology, which sees Jesus only as a material Messiah, but to stress the recreating nature of Catholicism as a force in politics and cultural renewal from the spreading of the Gospel message. Unless the larger view is established in the minds of priests, bishops and cardinals, as well as the laity, the Church will lose many souls and nations to a more organized social restructuring. The Church can do the restructuring, but only with open eyes and a clear message of evangelization. This cannot be merely a softly, softly approach, but one of passion and conviction, which so many Catholics eschew.

Many years ago, the post office lost my copy of Enthusiasm by Ronald Knox, which would come in handy here as another critique of fanaticism, both spiritual and material, which we are dealing with in the socialists and communists of Europe. If someone wants to buy me another copy, I would appreciate it. The socialist and communist agendas must be examined in the light of Catholic heresies, held by a large majority of Catholics in Europe. Catholic Churchmen in America must stop playing footsy with any type of socialism and communism, which happens too often, even in seminaries.

Are we spreading the joy of Christ in the world? Are we evangelizing? Do we expect exciting things to happen because Christ is in our lives??

The priest who has been giving the sermons this week at St. Joseph's in Dorking is an excellent homilist. Father Terry Martin manages to give ideas in a short manner which one can mull over the entire day. Yesterday, Father exclaimed that when the Resurrected Jesus enters our lives, exciting things happen and we are never the same. True and simple. What exciting things one may wonder, but the life of joy and the life of the virtues would be exciting in this day and age of sadness, gloom and general lack of virtues. The point Father was making is to be open to Christ changing us, giving us grace, and inviting us to join in His Life.

This morning, the message was connected, but emphasized our duty to go out and change the world by our Christian commitment. The world needs us to bring Christ into a morass of paganism and depression. Father noted that the apostles and disciples were grieving at the loss and manner of the death of their Beloved Jesus when Mary Magdalen brought news that He was and is alive. What confusion this must have caused, noted Father, but the message of Life brought hope and joy to all, as it does to us. The command to preach to all nations, to carry the joy of the Resurrection out into the world, needs to be taught from the pulpit, as did good Father Terry this morning and all week.

Mark 16: 9 - 15 (thanks to ewtn website)

9 Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.10,She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept.11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.12 After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.14 Afterwards he appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.15 And he said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.

Mayor Boris Johnson Crosses Christians on Homosexuality

I actually enjoy watching the London Mayor's Question Time, as he is very entertaining. However, I am not happy about this action, reported on LifeSite News. Here is the entire article.

London mayor sued for pulling ‘Ex-Gay and Proud’ adverts from London’s buses

Hilary White, Rome CorrespondentFri Apr 13 11:17 ESTFaith
LONDON, April 13, 2012 ( – Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party mayor of London, is being sued by a Christian organization whose bus advertisements for overcoming same-sex attraction he ordered pulled.

Saying, “Not gay, ex-gay, post-gay, and proud! Get over it,” the nixed slogans were the work of the Core Issues Trust, a Christian organization that helps churches minister to those who want to overcome their temptations to homosexual behavior. The ads were also backed by the group Anglican Mainstream, a worldwide organization of Anglicans who seek to restore traditional Christianity to their communion. The ads were due to run for two weeks on London’s iconic red buses, starting from Monday. Now, however, the group is reported to be instructing lawyers to launch a suit.

The campaign was cleared by industry regulator the Advertising Standards Authority. It was intended to be an answer to a similar pro-homosexual ad campaign that said, “Some people are gay. Get over it,” sponsored by the homosexualist lobby group Stonewall.

Core Issues co-director Mike Davidson responded to Johnson’s action, saying, “I didn’t realise censorship was in place.”
“We went through the correct channels and we were encouraged by the bus company to go through their procedures. They okayed it and now it has been pulled.

“It is of deep concern that there can only be one point of view and that is the point of view of individuals who are determined to push through gay marriage and apparently believe that homosexuality cannot be altered in any possible way. That is not a universally held view.”
Johnson reacted after a chorus of rage from homosexualist campaigners, who argue that homosexuality can only ever be a natural life-long variant of human sexuality, the cornerstone of the homosexualist political schema. The far-left Guardian newspaper reports that the mayor, who is facing an election next month, contacted the paper to announce that he had banned the ads “within two hours of their contents becoming public,” to stave off a political backlash from the homosexualist lobby.

“London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance. It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses,” the Guardian quoted the mayor as saying.

The incident illustrates the growing reality that even to assert that there are some people afflicted with unwanted same-sex attraction who do not want to live the homosexual lifestyle, is now regarded as “anti-gay.”
Lesley Pilkington, a Christian psychotherapist, who is under investigation by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy for her therapy for homosexuals, told that she is not surprised that Johnson would get “cold feet,” over such an ad.
“On the one hand, it’s shocking, such a lack of freedom of speech, but on the other, I’m not too surprised,” she said.

“Boris Johnson is very concerned to get re-elected, and there is such a lot of intimidation on the part of gay activists. You just don’t say the kind of things this bus campaign is saying if you want to get reelected as mayor.”

“I think people don’t understand just how political it is in the UK,” she said. “Anything to do with the gay activists’ agenda, particularly with the marriage campaign, is political dynamite.”

The climate right now, she said, is immensely hostile to anyone who opposes the homosexualist political agenda. She recounted the story of a Christian Conservative Party MP, David Burrowes, who received death threats after he signed a petition to retain the current legal definition of marriage.

Pilkington said that the traditional reserve of British political debate is a thing of the past on these issues, and there is growing tolerance for overtly anti-Christian rhetoric. And it is having the desired effect; Christians, she said, are responding by remaining silent: “There’s just such a lot of fear.”

Mrs. Pilkington related the story of a conversation with a Catholic bishop, Philip Tartaglia of Paisley, Scotland, who gave the keynote address at a conference in Oxford on religious freedom.

The bishop had asked Mrs. Pilkington why there is such a lot of political power behind the homosexualist political movement. She replied that, while it is “good to have an intellectual discussion” on the impact of equalities and hate crimes legislation and related issues, “at the end of the day what it’s about is intimidation and bullying and fear” by homosexuals to silence opposition.

“People are afraid, so they agree rather than face opposition that is aggressive. So people who have the information, those who know about the dangers of the homosexual life, don’t speak out.

“The bishop totally agreed with me, saying that he was glad that I as a psychotherapist could say that, but he couldn’t. People would expect him to say what I said but he couldn’t say it.

“My question is why can’t he say it? Why should that silence him, people saying ‘you would say that,’ when in fact he doesn’t.”