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Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

the church intransigent

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 22, 2006

"Well, his baptism didn't un-Jew him," snickers one Aryan girl to her friend. This Nazi cartoon from the 1930s is primarily anti-Catholic in thrust, taking for granted the viewer's anti-Semitism. The wholesome maidens watch as the convert Jew and his convert wife exit the patently Catholic church (all the expected Romish props are in sight) and they observe that one's ethnicity is not left behind by a change in religious conviction. These are good German lasses, you see -- no missals or rosaries in their pretty hands -- and they understand that Race is more basic than Faith.

The Catholic Church hadn't moved with Zeitgeist, the Spirit of the Age, but remained stuck in her inherited belief that her first members were baptised Jews and that any person of any race that submitted to her teachings and discipline could belong. Nazis resented this retrograde view, especially as the Catholic Church's willingness to accept Jewish converts put those converts into a position vexing to the Nazis' own plans for them. Their very special plans.

Because her doctrine does not change, the Catholic Church is continually in conflict with the Spirit of the Age, which always finds some aspect of that doctrine inimical and so finds the Church infuriatingly intransigent. Of course, the focus of the resentment shifts with shifting cultural values. This week the National Catholic Reporter is snickering at the Church for her intransigence in the matter of fashionable onanism. The editors put sneer quotes around the word "unnatural" (used of contraception) and "disordered" (used of the homosexual libido) so as to make it clear that their own judgments have long since parted from the Church's.

Would the NCR see any similarity between the ridicule Nazi propagandists directed at the Church and its own ridicule of Catholic doctrinal tenacity? Almost certainly not. Part of the syndrome of being a child of one's age is a lack of the historical imagination to recognize oneself in a different setting, endowed with a different array of sentimentalisms. In fact, such people are certain they'd be on the side of the angels in any situation. The personal advantages they have purchased by their social conformity are so enormous and comprehensive that they fail to see it as conformity at all. This was true in 1930s Germany, when the right wing was in the ascendant, and it's true in the West today, when the left wing is. Joseph Sobran once wrote:

[Liberals] want us to believe that their willingness to conform to today's fashions is proof that they would have had the courage to defy yesterday's fashions. Somehow I find it hard to believe that today's coward would have been yesterday's hero, if only he'd had the chance. More likely he would have been, like most people, a timid conformist in any circumstances.

Look at is this way. If it were your goal to move in the most socially prestigious circles of today's world -- at the parties connected with the performing arts or fashion or big media -- whose opinions would let you move effortlessly and contentedly among the beautiful people: those of liberal half-Catholics, or those of the orthodox Catholics they despise? And which group, coincidentally, congratulates itself as the "Thinking" Catholics? To hold views that are currently fashionable is not necessarily to embrace falsehoods, but for a Catholic it ought to be -- at minimum -- an embarrassment. As Chesterton put it, "We do not really need a religion that is right where we are right. What we need is a religion that is right where we are wrong."

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