Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Crisis of Europe, Debunking Papal Myths, and the Collapse of American Catholic Culture

Thanks to Green Bay's impotent offense and defense, I was able last night to catch up on some reading.

I first finished The Cube and the Cathedral by George Weigel. For anyone who hasn't read a Weigel book, I suggest you do so: his prose is smooth and accessible making for an efficient read. In brief, this particular book is a collection of essays in which Weigel explores the current cultural crisis afflicting the West. This crisis is 'best' embodied in the dramatic decline of birth rates in Western Europe, an increasing democratic deficit, and an ahistorical understanding of Europe's philosophical roots. For Weigel, these are the symptoms of Western Europe's surgical removal of Christianity from its public philosophy. Radical laicism in Europe, which to me seems to share the same goals as the radical secularism of North America, has stripped an entire society of its historical, Christian roots. Exemplified especially by recent developments within the EU, most especially during the drafting of the now failed European Constitutional Treaty, the elite circles of Europe are dominated by the philosophy that Christianity is necessarily divisive and primitive, and that it must be sacrificed for the future health of Europe. Ironically, says Weigel, while most of Europe's leaders trumpet this belief, the continent, in fact the whole of Western European culture is decaying at such a rapid pace that there may well be no Europe in 50 years as we know it today. Thus enter Christianity. For Weigel, and most Catholics I might add, Christianity offers the sound philosophical and moral base any culture requires to survive. By cutting off people from Christianity, European leaders deprive them of the very basis of their own understanding of human rights, democracy, and the social welfare state. Obviously, a tree doesn't grow without its roots. Weigel ends the book by discussing the probable future of Europe, which he narrows down to three alternatives. I won't spoil it any further.

I then proceeded to finish off Rabbi David Dalin's The Myth of Hitler's Pope. It's popular assumption these days that the Catholic Church did nothing during World War 2 to stop the Holocaust/Shoah of 6 million Jews. James Carroll, John Cromwell (pre-repentance), David Goldhagen, Susan Zucotti, and Garry Wills have all made a tidy living recently off slamming Pope Pius XII, alleging a connection between the murderous Nazi persecution of Europe's Jewry and the Roman Pontiff. Dalin, like Rychlak, Doino and a host of others, debunks these allegations en masse. Drawing from primary sources, Dalin shows that every single claim made against Pope Pius XII is false, indeed baseless. In doing so, he exposes a rather depressing tendency of the liberal media to uncritically accept any claim made against Pope Pius XII. As it turns out, virtually all of the allegations are based upon secondary, and usually unsubstantiated, sources - typically interviews and anecdotes. Critics of the Catholic Church, according to Dalin, ignore the massive amount of primary literature which exonerates rather than implicates Pius XII. For Dalin, such ignorance is not innocent. He charges Carroll et al., with attacking the Pope simply because they harbour resentment toward the Catholic Church's teaching. Coming from a Jew, this is a serious claim. Dalin concludes by examining current trends of anti-Semitism and their relation to anti-Catholicism. As it turns out, it is not within Christendom that anti-Semitism is rife, but within Islam. The governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia produce millions of pages of anti-Jewish propaganda every year, while several Islamic leaders have made public their hatred toward Jews. Dalin fears that anti-Semitism is endemic to Islam because of several passages within the Koran which explicitly attack and denounce Jews. This leads Islamic scholars to accept otherwise false claims, such as those envinced by the phony conspiracy book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as true. Troubling stuff.

Finally, I read Joseph Bottum's When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano, in this month's edition of First Things. It is a short essay on the death of American Catholic culture after the Second Vatician Council. Bottum seems to yearn for a return to the Catholic culture of the 1950s and earlier, the culture that was so easily destroyed by the confusion and indifference of the Vatican 2 generation. Sure, there are some surviving cultural bastions such as the pro-life movement, but as Bottum shows, virtually everything else was replaced by utter nonsense. For me and my generation, who all lack a 'Catholic cultural' reference point, all the post-Vatican 2 hooplah does seem extremely silly and increasingly tedious. And in this respect Bottum hits the nail right on the head: younger Catholics don't care about the previous generation's divisions. Though I wouldn't call it a rebellion against a rebellion, there certainly is an element of revolution when the new generation of Catholics categorically rejects much of the 'Spirit of Vatican 2' reform.


Philipp said...

The Pope and the holocaust.

It is a very common claim to Pius XII., that he was responsible to signthe "Reichskonkordat", which makes Hilter a serious politican. But before the signing, there where more then 10 years of discussion, while Pacelli was responsible for it. So he just wanteed to finish a work which did cost him several years.
Another unknown fact is, that the Nazis calld the netherland bishops to name the baptisted "Jews" (now catholics in fact), so that THEY would not be deported, but the others would. The bishops protested, so all were deported.
As the pope recognized this, i burned an enzyclica daming Hitler, because he was afraid: If The protest of bishops makes the nazis to kill more people, what would a protest of the pope do?

The Poodle said...

Good points, and yet even despite the dangers Pius still acted in every way that he could.

What I find particularly concerning is the whitewashing of the complacency of our political institutions and universities while the Holocaust/Shoah occurred. It took the invasion of Austria, Sudetenland, and Poland before the 'virtuous' democracies of Western Europe took decisive measures against the Nazis. Canada and Australia were literally dragged kicking and screaming into the war by their commitment to the Commonwealth, whilst the USA suffered through bitter divisions concerning the proper role of America in the war before Pearl Harbour finally convinced the voting public to go to war.

With our civilization being based upon free and critical inquiry, it concerns me that people have been so easily manipulated to the point where they are attacking the only institution who, in the words of Einstein, 'stood alone against the Nazi regime'.

Harrison said...

I just read the Cube and the Cathedral myself...quite enjoyed it to say the least...and am awaiting my first issue of First Things in the mail...