‘Demons’ in the Vatican and the tenuousness of the Enlightenment
Let us take the time every once in a while to review the known history of our species, paying special attention to certain facts of which many of us may be aware, but which perhaps we do not consider enough, or with sufficient synthesis. There is, after all, no reason to believe that we are giving attention to that which we ought at any given moment, and plenty of indication otherwise. Conveniently enough, we may find those very indications and thus confirm the necessity of our review at the same time as we engage in it, history being a great repository of misplaced human priorities.
There was a time in which the Catholic Church was not simply the buffoon institution it is today, an enterprise run to an unusual extent by mystical pederasts and mediocre semanticists and good for a few laughs here and there. In our relatively pleasant era, the Church gives itself over to the leadership of a former Nazi who claims that he had no choice but to give in to his Nazis, we may chuckle at the absurdity of this fellow’s demonstrably nonsensical defense, noting that one need only look at the previous officeholder to find an example of someone who chose not to give in to the Nazis. We may also remark upon how this new fellow resembles Emperor Palpatine, and we may Photoshop an array of bright blue Force lightning bolts coming from his fingers, and we may call it a day. The Catholic Church is still in a position to do great damage to humanity’s interests, of course, but we need not worry about it to the same degree that, say, the population of Central and South America would have been back in the 15th century, had said population known what was to come from the ideological and material direction of the Vatican and its most loyal and thus viscous adherents, the Spanish and Portuguese arrivals. That Apocalypse is over and done with, and even if its echoes may still be felt to some extent by those residing in the countries that later emerged, we may at least be confident that the Church is no longer in a position to assist in such grand ventures by way of its operational agency, the priesthood. In fairness to Catholicism, the priests of today are not nearly as inhumane as those of yesterday, and many are fine people, as many were even in the Church’s darkest days. In fairness to reality, the Church’s modern reluctance to do the sorts of things it did back when it could only came about after such point as it couldn’t. First the Protestants rose in an attempt to seize primacy from the primate; then came the Enlightenment, which operated under a very different paradigm – one to which we owe the fact that we no longer need speak and act and think in manners allowed to us by some distant theocratic enterprise. To smile upon the Church for reigning in its excesses is to smile upon the Soviet hardliners for reigning in its own. Both were dragged into an age of individual liberty by way of other ideologies. Look back upon the road on which they were taken, and one sees the marks made by fingernails grasping frantically at the ground in an effort to stop the process.
Ah, but the Soviets! Stalin! The Chinese Communists! Mao! Atheists all, we are often reminded – and the most accomplished mass murderers in history. Of course, these particular atheists cheated by virtue of chronology; they had more people to kill, and better methods by which to kill them. Look at what the Catholics did without the convenience of unprecedentedly large populations, to say nothing of machine guns, railroads, telegraphs, tanks, poison gas, mass propaganda, flight, and other staples of the 20th century – and wonder at what they might have accomplished in the course of their own long attempt at world domination had they had access to any of these things.
Is Stalin a worse fellow than the Grand Inquisitor by virtue of having inquired after so many more people than the Inquisitor could hoped to have reached? It is worth noting that not even the most viscous of secular totalitarians could devise a torture as effective as the eternal suffering to which so many Catholic bishops attempted to consign each other by way of the excommunication of whole populations and other weapons of mass damnation. In the eyes of the communist, the damage extends only to death, and is at any rate allowable by virtue of atheistic materialism and the allowances he supposes it to make in pursuit of utopia; in the eyes of the Catholic, the damage was forever, and just by virtue of the morality established by God – and of course he looks down upon all atheists for having no similar source of universal morality of the sort by which the Church has sought to consign so many millions to infinite despair in service to their own, even less probable utopia. The finest one can say about such a Catholic as actually ascribes to Catholicism is that at least his deranged vision of what ought to happen to those victims of his own Leader’s ever-present purge is entirely imaginary. At least, I hope it is; otherwise, I myself shall be subjected, by virtue of having written a few lines and having held the wrong thoughts, to something of infinitely worse degree than anything that occurred at even the height of Stalin’s reign. Next to the Christian God, Stalin was a piker. Of course, simply believing in God does not make one responsible, even rhetorically, for the crimes of the Catholic Church. But neither does being an atheist make one responsible, even rhetorically, for the crimes of the Soviet Union. Before there was any such thing as communism, there were atheists, deists, and agnostics who pledged their allegiance to the Enlightenment – something which never quite took hold in Russia, incidentally.
In every conflict between two factions, there is a tendency for spokesmen of one to exaggerate the threat of the other. I myself am a sort of spokesman for the secularist faction, being director of communications for an atheism-oriented political action committee as well as the author of some countless instances of secular smart-assery. Keeping this in mind, I will try to refrain from overstating the menace civilization faces from some resurgence of power – whether of the hard or soft variety – held by Catholics relative to that held by secularists (including those among the religious who ascribe to the secular nature of the state, which, frankly, is all many of us really ask of them). As noted above, though, certain things bear remembering from time to time. Certain other things we need not remember, as they are happening now. Presumably, such things as these bear even greater attention, being of presumably greater relevance to that future for which those today living have the responsibility of shaping. Thus it is that I leave the reader with this telling account of demons dwelling within the very Vatican, where old habits die hard, and usually only after some degree of outside assistance.
Those who fear demons should embrace the Enlightenment, which appears to have chased demonic possession out of its territories and confined them to those rustic little realms in which demonic possession is still taken seriously, and which for this reason does not require any exorcists of its own.