usurped by choice

By Diogenes (articles ) | Dec 09, 2007

Mark Steyn, always an interesting commentator on public affairs, has his own unusual insight on the Romney speech. (Scroll down a bit, past his comments on the housing market-- although they're good, too.)

Steyn picks up on Romney's reference to the great European cathedrals: "so inspired... so grand... so empty." Romney argued: "The establishment of state religions in Europe did no favor to Europe's churches." And Steyn agrees: "In Europe, the established church, whether formal (the Church of England) or informal (as in Catholic Italy and Spain), killed religion as surely as state ownership killed the British car industry."

The steady growth of the state, Steyn argues, led many Europeans to see the government as "the all-powerful beneficent provider of cradle-to-grave welfare." State agencies provided material welfare and moral guidance. And with churches viewed as adjuncts to the state, active religious faith slid into desuetude.

Now Steyn zeroes in on his own point:

"Freedom requires religion," said Mitt Romney, and, whether or not one agrees, in Europe big government has led naturally to small religion...

Europe's religious decline derives in part from the state's usurpation and annexation of so many of the other supporting structures of society, including the church.

Right on. But there's a question begging to be asked: How did the state annex religion? Or to state the question more directly, why didn't religious leaders fight the usurpation? When you've answered that question, apply the answer to the role currently played in American society by Catholic Charities.

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  • Posted by: - Dec. 10, 2007 11:16 PM ET USA

    I would agree that it is too bad that the government has usurped so many functions that once belonged to the Church and family. However, the problem lies with the Reformation and the subsequent divorce of the Church and state which almost forced the state to take over the functions that were once entrusted to the Church. I don't think there necessarily has to be an official state religion. However, the state ought to acknowledge the true religion and be in harmony with it, as in the Middle Ages.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 10, 2007 10:30 AM ET USA

    In the last 100+ yrs we have witnessed, it seems to me, a rush pellmell by western peoples to cede their responsibilities to the State in payment for an imagined sense of security and sundry newly created "rights" which are, more often than not, better understood as licence. The works of Mercy are a (the) key to Heaven and they must be a part of the individual's life, and not just as part of a Welfare State. We are more at fault than the Bishops.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 10, 2007 9:15 AM ET USA

    It wasn't so much a usurpation as a belief that given the bishop's choice between taking Caesar's coin from Caesar and taking Caesar's coin from each individual Claudia and Claudius, it would better to eliminate the choice in the pews and take their chances with the one vote on the throne. As the Church became less dependent on the men and women pews for money, it became less accountable to them, and more accountable to the men and women on the throne -- the source of funding it has chosen.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 09, 2007 11:37 AM ET USA

    I agree it's a thin line, but I don't think Catholic Charities has the scope of influence in the USA that the church had in Europe. They may be one of the most effective service providers, but they are not the largest, especially outside the east coast. However, I also agree that if the bishops' conference had its way, we'd have a nanny state like Europe. I think they would be more comfortable in the salons of Europe with Justice Kennedy and George Soros. These latest classes miss the point.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 09, 2007 10:44 AM ET USA

    Charles the Great needed validation by the Church, and the Church needed the protection of the emperor against the Lombards. Thus Charlemagne was crowned and anointed by the Pope in 800. He returned the favor by recognizing the mythological Donation of Constantine thus solidifying the Pope's rule over the papal states. This marriage of convenience defined the relationship of church and state until atheism forced a divorce.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 09, 2007 9:21 AM ET USA

    The gradual assumption of civil authority effecting the formation of the Papal States arose from the best of motives: the failure of the Eastern Roman Empire to provide protection from barbarian invasion, and the continuation of charity for the poor. Ever the copycats, bishops demanded civil authority and position for themselves as well. Soon the purpose of the authority became subservient to the rentention of that authority. Small surprise, then, that today the Western Bishops follow the money.