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Post No. 33

April 26, 2010

I have always wondered why – in Malta, at least – people always pressure the Catholic Church to accept intrinsically wrong principles (e.g. divorce, abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriages etc) rather than just walk out and agree to disagree. If the Church doesn’t accept their suggestions they claim that it can’t read the signs of the times and is therefore irrelevant to today’s world, consequently you can’t blame them for refusing to form part of it. But it’s not as simple as that. They leave no stone unturned in their quest to amass evidence why the Church is “irrelevant and antiquated”. Hardly the attitude one would expect from someone who claims to have washed his – or her – hands of the whole business. Daphne Caruana Galizia, on a rare occasion of true insight (you’ll still have to wade knee deep in twaddle, though), illustrates the point admirably.

I was leafing through Bertrand Russell‘s collection of essays/speeches called Why I am not a Christian. Frankly, I expected better – much better – from such a distinguished polymath. He was the Richard Dawkins of his day, albeit in a much better position to discuss religion and God critically.  In an essay comparing Protestant and Catholic Freethinkers *ahem* I stumbled across the following gem – and I’m not being sarcastic here:

The Catholic has quite a different conception of virtue: to him there is in all virtue an element of submission, not only to the voice of God as revealed in conscience, but also to the authority of the Church as the repository of Revelation. This gives to the Catholic a conception of virtue far more social than that of the Protestant, and makes the wrench much greater when he severs his connection with the Church.[…] The Catholic, on the other hand, feels himself lost without the support of the Church. He can, of course, join some other institution such as the freemasons, but he remains conscious, none the less, of desperate revolt. And he generally remains convinced, at any rate subconsciously, that the moral life is confined to members of the church, so that for the Freethinker the highest kinds of virtue have become impossible.

And there I had it. The answer to my conundrum.  It made intuitive sense to me, and it also explained the power of the Catholic Church in our society. It is powerful not because it imposes itself – as many people claim (some even going as far as equating the Church with the Taliban) but because its spirit of submission and humility pervades the fabric of our society. It is also why we want the Church to accept our unethical *ideas*. We cannot really afford – or even bear – to be out of it.

This is a further illustration of the power and validity of the Church’s moral teaching. It shows us that the Catholic Church’s ethics and morals resonate in us at the most fundamental aspect of human essence.


From → The Elephant

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