The Twisted Crosses on Which Catholics are Being Hung
When I was living in Britain, I became friendly with an ex-prisoner of war who had stayed on in the United Kingdom after the conflict ended. He once told me how he used to curse his captors for unceasingly feeding him inedible rations. "Then I was released", he said, "and I discovered that this actually was the basic food of the British people!!" His voice still quivered with continued astonishment at the seeming absurdity of this hideous revelation.
My friend's comments came back to my mind after yet another fit of impotent outrage induced by reading the latest batch of Catholic-baiting attacks: the insistence that use of the term "natural family" is a hate crime; a renewed assault on home schoolers as perpetrators of a dangerous anti-social enterprise; the scurrilous depiction of The Remnant as an anti-Semitic rag; and, lurking behind all of these arguments, the demand, both open and hidden, for state repression of the wickedness uncovered.
Was anger over these assaults justified? I think so. But should anyone have been surprised over the glaring contradiction presented by rationalist freedom fighters expressing a desire to crush the thought and action of Catholics? Not really. For whoever has escaped t he intellectual prison cell built for us by contemporary ideologies in order to explore in depth the awful reality of the world outside must have discovered the score by now. Surely he must be aware that anti-Catholic lies and contradictions benefiting the maintenance of the powers that be, accompanied by calls for militant suppression of serious investigations uncovering the truth and nothing but the truth, are actually the basic food of modern "rational and free" peoples. And yet, as with my friend in Britain, that discovery still seems to retain its ability to astonish us.
Why should this be the case? I believe that it is due to the immense power and sophistication of that passion-friendly and truth-hating campaign beginning long before the birth of Christ, the character of which I briefly outlined in my articles on The Smear Reports. Already in Greco-Roman times, well-paid rhetoricians learned the trade of praising the ever more powerful state and religious machinery designed to keep the masses in unquestioning submission to the will of Alexanders, Caesars and their elitist allies. Central to the standard operating procedure of these words merchants was a two-fold argument: on the one hand, an encouragement of the satisfaction of base desires which dulled the mind and soul and thereby left the grip of the equally debased but more strongly-willed Establishment unshaken; on the other, the call for "closure" regarding discussion of subjects that might seriously disturb the personal power, wealth, and fame of the master class. Indulgence in parochial passions was identified by these talented propagandists as eminently practical; asking deeper questions regarding the meaning of life and the purpose of human existence was excoriated as an anti-social enterprise threatening distinctly impractical consequences--- the imprisonment and death of those conducting the inquiry.
Socratic philosophers, eager to search for the True, the Good and the Beautiful were the first targets of the rhetorical attack dogs, but the Platos and Aristotles of the ancient world were few in number, and their average disciples easily terrorized into reducing philosophy to an entertaining parlor-sport impotence. A Church with a popular mission proved to be a much more dangerous foe. From the standpoint of rhetoricians seeking to imprison the hunt for Truth inside a passion-and-tyrant friendly strait-jacket, the Mystical Body was a revolutionary Monster which had leaped into what was meant to be the eternally-stable, peaceable Kingdom of the Strong. That Monster rejected the very idea of an unquestioning self-indulgence and "closure" for closure's sake. Yes, it did tell men that they had to "move on" and avoid obsessive concern for daily woes, but not under the old rules; certainly not by merely accepting existing natural conditions as unalterable givens. Instead, men were shown that they had to "move on" by bringing the Kingdom of God into all the closed calculations of the existing passion-mad and servile world; by beginning to transform all of life in Christ.
For this crime the Monster had to be destroyed. Hence, the emergence of that strange and not necessarily even fully conscious alliance working to maintain the unquestioned existing order of things: the federation I have elsewhere labeled a Grand Coalition of the Status Quo (GCSQ). This union included in its ranks all who were contented, for varied reasons, with the old rules of petty indulgence and "closure" praised by the rhetoricians; all those who were repelled by Christian rabble-rousers who would not allow men to "move on" to get the real job of indulgent living done. Participants in that partnership were legion, but it was ordinary men---in whose ranks I include the unthinking elite as well as the mindless masses---who most stormed the Coalition's recruitment centers. There was no contest whatsoever for many of these dull spirits if called to make an "either-or" choice: to support either an unquestioning pandering to joys familiar to hedonists both high and low, a protection of order-at-any-cost and an avoidance of the wrath of the strong and successful, or an entry onto the Christian path, with its paradise "seen through a glass, darkly", its self-denial, and the endless disruptions, intellectual and physical, that Christ said His sword had brought into the world.
Foot soldiers of the GCSQ have always sought the aid of governments in their endeavors to destroy the Christian Monster. Nevertheless, both infantry and State have most effectively been stirred to action and justified in their persecutions through "Black Legends" aimed against the Mystical Body of Christ and Catholics by those rhetoricians who had already sharpened their teeth on more easily broken Socratic flesh. So important is the broad role of these Black Legends and their rhetorical manipulators in the union of imposing elements physically battling the Faith through the centuries that the entire clash of the opponents and supporters of Catholic Christianity can legitimately be treated as the book I am now writing discusses it: as a War of the Words Against the Word.
Strictly speaking, the term "Black Legend" refers to the complex of stories invented in sixteenth and seventeenth century Dutch, English and some German circles to defame the Spanish Hapsburgs in general and King Philip II in particular. I am employing it in a much wider sense here, to indicate the entire body of myth-like tales which has been used throughout the ages to attack the Catholic Faith and Catholic believers for the benefit of the master class and its passion-obsessed subjects. Through these Black Legends, the entire Catholic camp and all of its institutions have been anathematized as the opponents of everything of value to human beings and practical day-to-day life.
One crucial reason for the effectiveness of the Black Legends has been the extremely clever manner in which they are presented: simultaneously high-minded and grand in scope, while starkly simple and popular in form. High-minded grandeur is achieved by "seizing images" evoking the nobility of the "practical" spirit contested tooth-and-nail by the base and wicked Catholic enemy; gripping, magnificent, images of enduring significance, such as the Struggle for Freedom and Dignity against Slavery and Self-Humiliation; images which rightfully belong to us, but have been stolen from beneath our eyes to serve anti-Catholic purposes. Simplicity is added to grandeur by incarnating this eschatological battle of obvious good versus palpable evil in easily-recognizable and contrasting stereotypes: e.g., noble, persecuted, naturalist philosophers and scientists or crusading journalists and freedom fighters on the one hand; stupid, obscurantist, often insane, conspiratorial, tyrannical, persecuting popes, priests, monks, mother superiors, mystics, scholastics and all their lay slaves or cynical masters on the other. Popularity is then pursued by promotion of the grand, seized image, incarnated in simplistic, embattled stereotypes through a mixture of demonstrably appealing tools: in song, novels and pamphlets; on stage; in rabble-rousing, press-guided causes celebres; through the bons mots of upper class salons translated by their influential habitues into grounds for dealing decisive socio-political blows against the Catholic Sect; by means of a brutal ridicule which avoids substantive argument the more that it hammers the believer into the dirt. Points are even effectively scored and high-minded lessons popularly taught through a selective silence, which subtly shows that Catholics and Catholicism are not to be mentioned by rational men when topics of political or social importance are under serious discussion.
Responses to Black Legends constructed in this fashion are terribly tedious and time-consuming. After all, the meaning of familiar words which teach the wisdom and goodness of the enemy and the idiocy and evil of Catholics have themselves been consistently seized and battered into acceptable shape along with the particular image which the mythmakers have embraced. Catholics entering the fray---usually long after the damage has been done---find that they need to convince the population to re-examine the way in which each and every term has been defined by their enemies in order to uncover the game that they are playing. The public's mind already has been molded, however, and thus takes the existing, anti-Catholic meaning of words like "freedom", "dignity" and "love" for granted as being the absolutely obvious dictate of a practical common sense.
If one argues that any given "seized image" is founded upon historical inaccuracies, its artisans claim that it is not the literal meaning of a specific event from a dead past which ultimately counts, but the absolutely valid Mission Statement which the rhetorically-reconstructed historical pictures embody. If the Catholic apologist still refuses to surrender, and boldly attacks the fundamental truth of that Mission Statement, its "real" historical foundation will be reasserted and padded with further lies. Rational refutation of the veracity of both the Mission Statement as well as its historical reference points will once again be buried under heaps of familiar, dubious, exaggerated, stereotypical illustrations of Catholic stupidity and brutality of proven popular appeal. Even men and women without firm views on the issues in question will be entertained by the dramatic "historical" wrapping in which the Black Legends are presented, and pass by their scholarly denial with a deep and drawn-out yawn. They will instinctively draw from the legendary well whenever called upon to make some passing comment on historic or contemporary Catholic thought and activity.
Moreover, just when a more logical Catholic mind might think that he was debating successfully on a relatively sophisticated historical plane, the enemy rhetoricians can take further advantage of fallen human nature to press an argument drawn from and appealing to their truly vulgar supporters. This change of tactics requires a corresponding alteration of defensive strategy from the Christian, a lowering to the demagogic level. That modification, if effected, will then itself, in turn, be condemned by other word merchants working for the GCSQ who will insist that civilized people dialogue on the rigorous philosophical or refined aesthetic plane preferred by more sophisticated members of their alliance. If the befuddled Christian, always responding to attack, and never taking the initiative in this cat and mouse game, seeks to point out the strategic equivocations and insist once more upon open, substantive debate, that familiar sigh of frustration highly effective with "practical-minded" audiences from the days of the battles of Sophists and Socratics will be audibly emitted. Catholics will be ridiculed for once again diverting men away from the task of "moving on" to the common sense action of satisfying practical needs in order to satisfy the unrewarding, abstract speculations of impotent "enemies of mankind", losers each and every one. In the Kingdom of the Illogical it is the wily smooth talker who generally calls the shots. And in doing so, he drives the sane man---the Catholic man---stark raving mad.
Moreover, seized images and their Mission Statements, along with the caricatures and the popular tools used to drive them home, also have an accordion-like flexibility. They can readily be changed, based upon what temporarily works most effectively against the hated Catholic enemy. Each time any given Mission Statement no longer serves its purpose, a handy "new deal" can be pulled out of a one-dimensional, surface bag of tricks--this being "new" only in the sense that it varies a word or an image to describe its ever monotonous qualitative anti-Catholic sameness. Each readily available "new deal" or "new frontier" could then be proclaimed some specially brilliant fresh chance for gaining the Beautiful Life that passion-hating, meaning-obsessed Christians would critique and lose. By the time believers finally realize how historically and intellectually false one particular assault upon them is; at the moment they understand the exact way in which Catholics are stereotyped through caricatures cleverly disseminated; just when they discover a workable means of popularly and successfully answering (and ridiculing) their opponents themselves, the seized image and the Mission Statement its stereotypes embody are changed: sometimes slightly, sometimes drastically. Catholics are then left to direct their artillery against a fortress which their enemies have completely dismantled and abandoned.
All of this could be discussed with reference to innumerable examples throughout the past two millennia, the vast bulk of the Black Legends having already been invented and collected into juicy pamphlet form by the time of the High Middle Ages. But why bother to go to the more distant past, when something of immediate significance, involving the issues over which the "anti-Semitic" Remnant rag has been attacked, is readily at hand? Why look back to the 1300's when changes of image, Mission Statement and caricature in the space of not much more than one hundred years have led Catholics from being condemned as enemies of nationalism and scientism to their obvious and sole creators and proponents?
It is crucial to remember that it was Catholicism's international spirit of peace and understanding, and its reiterated warnings against easy faith in pseudo-scientific hype which were held against it by the Black Legends of the nineteenth century. At that time, the need for blind faith in nation-building, national self-interest and the inspired pronouncements of all scientists was taken for granted as the hallmark of the progressive, civilized man. Blessed Pius IX's obscurantism was confirmed for the legend makers due to his insistence, in the Syllabus of Errors, that it was morally unacceptable for men to do anything they wished to do out of love of country. How unnatural! How inhuman! The blindness of Catholics in the face of biological truths (those causing the author of the text used by Scopes in the 1920's to rate the dozens of races inhabiting the globe in order of their superiority, with Blacks and Italians at the bottom) was hideously illustrated by the head of the late nineteenth century German Catholic Centre Party actually adopting an African tribal youth instead of exploiting and sterilizing him. Oh the obstacle to the progress of the human mind! No wonder Catholics worried about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin!
But the faithful, armed with painstakingly accumulated historical, philosophical and theological proofs packaged in an effective rhetorical envelope, fought back against the repeated charge that they were inevitably the enemies of science and their nation's well being. Moreover, the scientists and the nationalists danced through the ballroom of the twentieth century with an ever more impressive application of weapons of mass destruction and record of genocides as their partners. Hence, it was time for the Mission Statement to alter its tune; for the seizing of a new image to foster. Now the argument was that the objects once adored by the enemies of the Faith were evil incarnate; internationalism and suspicion of technology were positive goods. Why should Third World Magic not become a college course, to teach a lesson to arrogant westerners? This being the case, it just had to be Catholics who were the real creators and cheerleaders for jingoism, and, ipso facto, the chief perpetrators of a pseudo-scientific, racist nationalism, anti-Semitic in character, as well. No St. Thomas Aquinas, no Hitler. If the war against Catholicism were not won, then Auschwitz would spring up in every MacDonald's parking lot.
But the machinery of Catholic scholarship and apologetics turned effectively to deflect those absurd charges also,. This meant that the definition of nationalism and racism and anti-Semitism had to be enhanced, not only to include all criticism of the Israeli and American governments, but all defense of Scripture, historical fact and claims to the existence of any philosophical or theological distinction between truth and falsity whatsoever. Do you dislike oppression of the Palestinians? Well why not just show your S.S. badge and be done with it! Do you still accept the principle of contradiction? For heaven's sake, be a man and openly admit that you also read Der Stuermer and you pop a bottle of champagne on every anniversary of Kristalnacht!
As Catholics lag behind clumsily to lay siege to one mythical citadel, the artisans of the Black Legends calmly dismantle it and construct a new one on different terrain. In fact, they now repeatedly deny all memory of ever having defended the nationalism and racist scientism which no longer serves their underlying purposes. Nationalists? Us? Oh, my! And if the Catholics then pull out their copies of Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors, in which precisely such demons of an ever-changing modernism were outlined and condemned? What then? Why, the Legend makers will simply respond with another common sense sigh. There they go again!, they will moan, most pragmatically. Those hopelessly obscurantist and psychologically immature Catholics, lost in dogma, unable to achieve "closure" and "move on" to discussion of more serious issues, like condoms for everyone! Just goes to show that the faithful want people the world over to starve and die of AIDs. No wonder the Inquisition burned fifty billion men in one fell swoop without a peep of outrage from a single believer.
I noted at the beginning of my article that none of this should come as a surprise to any Catholic who had escaped the intellectual prison cell built for him by contemporary ideologies. Unfortunately, however, most Catholics today seem more dedicated to polishing their prison bars rather than preparing for a break out of the intellectual Gulag in which they live. They cannot disassociate themselves from their ideological captors. They are the best proof for the reality of the Stockholm Syndrome visible today. Instead of fighting the lying, contradictory versions of the Black Legends most popular in our time, they appear eager to show that they are "nice Catholics", who take all outrageous attacks upon themselves seriously, and wish to respond to them as though these assaults were rational and calmly presented by people eager for pacific resolution of disputes.
Such a failure to grasp what the food of the modern world really is---namely, a pack of lies---approach is pathetic. The Black Legends are nothing other than twisted crosses on which Catholicism and Catholics are meant to hang. What counts for their authors is the effectiveness of the blow they deliver at the Christian Monster, not the fluff of the particular lie in question, which can be changed at a moment's notice. Our only hope in dealing with the Black Legends---Catholic anti-Semitism at the head of the list---is to expose them openly for the age-old skillful frauds designed to aid the powers-that-be that they really are. Anything less, as the following quotation from La Civilta Cattolica indicates, is merely a recipe contributing to the erection of the crosses on which we will all one day be sacrificed:
"The errors which, in past times, were closed up in scientific volumes and in learned language, and deceived the hearts rather than the heads of instructed and erudite men, are now popularized and simplified in flyers, hurled into the mob by the ham actor on the stage, by poets in odes, by musicians in songs, by the comradely fop in the salons, by the pedants in the schools of children, and find entry into the heads of idiots incapable of unmasking sophisms and consulting documents. An impiety which at the beginning of a revolution would have made horrified souls shiver, repeated audaciously by the libertine press and weakly contradicted by the majority of the timid, of the moderates, of the indifferent, has infiltrated into the social atmosphere with the ambiguous words propagated by the impious, tolerated by the good, blindly adopted by the simple. Thus was formed an erroneous body of opinions, even among many good Catholics, which compels him who should correct these errors to respect them, and therefore to combat them weakly. From one error sprouts forth another. One weakness leads to another weakness. The logic of error silences the good sense that still would want to hear the truth. False principles are embraced without perception. One maintains tenaciously the consequences. Tenacity in these consequences, rising from cause to cause to other superior principles, destroys also these principles which would have provided a thread to exit the labyrinth. And thus, finally, an immense chaos is formed also in the society of Catholics and renders impossible all energy of will, all unity of effort. It is not possible to combat with resolute courage when one fears to combat---if not because one fears doing an injustice, at least for fear of being accused of exaggeration and fanaticism. Thus, impoverished society loses that immense force which honest men and Catholics would have from the unity of conscience and of faith. And the impious triumph and remain tightly unified in hatred and self-interest. ("The Impotence of the Pontifical Government", Civilta Cattolica, IV, 4 (1859), 680-681).
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