Thursday, May 25, 2006

Babylon, Part Two

Hislop’s book continues to trouble me. I think he overstates his case against Catholicism, but yet, there is this lingering doubt I have. And I have that doubt because the Catholic Church that I have known is a terribly anti-Christian institution. But I always come back to the Protestant factor. Have the collective Protestant churches done all that much better? It doesn’t appear so. I asked a Baptist minister, who had been coming to my house, this question: Why, if the Catholic Church is the whore of Babylon, do all the Protestant churches seem just as pagan as the Catholic Church? He replied that the Holy Scriptures prophesied that all but a few will remain faithful in the end times and the rest will return to the gods of Babylon. Well, it’s an answer, but not entirely satisfying to me.

Hislop concludes his book with the confident assertion that no objective reader, having seen how closely the Catholic Church resembles the Babylonian church, can fail to conclude that the Catholic Church is the whore of Babylon. Hislop should know that it is not that simple. His own church uses the pagan days of the week and the pagan cycles for Christmas and Easter; does that mean his church is in league with Babylon?

The trouble with Hislop’s case is that it is a case: a lawyer’s case. And we must go beyond courtroom logic to determine just how Babylonian the Catholic Church is. “The letter killeth and the spirit giveth life,” we are told.

So the question remains: is the Catholic Church, in spirit, a Babylonian Church? And to do Hislop justice, he doesn’t deny that many members of the Catholic Church enter the church with Christian hearts. His contention is that the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church is so stacked against Christianity that the Christian who follows that hierarchy will end up in Babylon. Let me follow Edgar’s example in King Lear and skip the lying vacillation:

“The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most; we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long."

The Catholic Church that I encountered during my sojourn in that institution was certainly a Babylonian church. Any devotee who followed the hierarchy was either a Babylonian liberal of the Novus Ordo type or a Babylonian Luciferian type (the traditionalists). The clergy were the deities Hislop describes. The blessed mother was presented in the Novus Ordo as a kinder, gentler deity than Christ, and, in the traditionalist ranks, she was presented as the Babylonian queen of power. One looked in vain to find the virgin who would pray for you, not because she was more merciful than Christ or more powerful than Christ, but because you, a sinner, felt the need of a gentle woman’s prayers.

Yes, the Catholic Church is largely a Babylonian institution today, but I do not think its pagan organization is the result, as Hislop contends, of a deliberate plan. I think it is a temptation to which weak men, that we all are, succumb. The pagan philosophers seem so strong and life on this earth so terrifying. Why not use their strength in the service of Christ? Did the early Church fathers maintain a delicate balance between paganism and Christianity? I don’t think they managed it successfully, but at least they struggled to keep a balance. But by the time of St. Thomas, the balance went too far to the side of paganism, which caused the Calvinist reaction. The Church has never regained its equilibrium.

I think it is terribly significant that the leading Thomist of the 20th century, Mortimer Adler, was an agnostic. That is the trouble with Catholicism: you don’t have to be a Christian to adhere to it. There are too many pagan side doors in the Church to distract you from the reason for the Church’s existence.

Two men could have steered the churchmen (had they been humble enough to be steered) away from paganism: St. Paul and Sophocles. The one could have told them that the incarnation was to the Greeks foolishness, and the other could have told them he had discovered that even a Greek with the intelligence to solve the riddle of the sphinx cold not ultimately defeat the fates without the aid of the “foolish” incarnate God.

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