On Catholicism

(from "Revolt Against the Modern World")




[…] In order to follow the development of forces that shaped the Western world, it is necessary to briefly consider Catholicism. Catholicism developed through (a) the rectification of various extremist features of primitive Christianity; (b) the organization of a ritual, dogmatic, and symbolic corpus beyond the mere mystical, soteriological element; and (c) the absorption and adaptation of doctrinal and organizational elements that were borrowed from the Roman world and from classical civilization in general. This is how Catholicism at times displayed "traditional" features, which nevertheless should not deceive us: that which in Catholicism has a truly traditional character is not typically Christian and that which in Catholicism is specifically Christian can hardly be considered traditional. Historically, despite all the efforts that were made to reconcile heterogeneous and contradictory elements, and despite the work of absorption and adaptation on a large scale, Catholicism always betrays the spirit of lunar, priestly civilizations and thus it continues, in yet another form, the antagonistic action of the Southern influences, to which it offered a real organization through the Church and her hierarchy.


This becomes evident when we examine the development of the principle of authority that was claimed by the Church. During the early centuries of the Christianized empire and during the Byzantine period, the Church still appeared to be subordinated to imperial authority; at Church councils the bishops left the last word to the ruler not only in disciplinary but also in doctrinal matters. Gradually, a shift occurred to the belief in the equality of the two powers of Church and empire; both institutions came to be regarded as enjoying a supernatural authority and a divine origin. With the passage of time we find in the Carolingian ideal the principle according to which the king is supposed to rule over both clergy and the people on the one hand, while on the other hand the idea was developed according to which the royal function was compared to that of the body and the priestly function to that of the soul; thereby the idea of the equality of the two powers was implicitly abandoned, thus preparing the way for the real inversion of relations.


By analogy, if in every rational being the soul is the principle that decides what the body will do, how could one think that those who admitted to having authority only in matters of social and political concern should not be subordinated to the Church, to whom they willingly recognized the exclusive right over and direction of souls? Thus, the Church eventually disputed and regarded as tantamount to heresy and a prevarication dictated by pride that doctrine of the divine nature and origin of regality; it also came to regard the ruler as a mere layman equal to all other men before God and his Church, and a mere official invested by mortal beings with the power to rule over others in accordance with natural law. According to the Church, the ruler should receive from the ecclesiastical hierarchy the spiritual element that prevents his government from becoming the civitas diaboli. Boniface VIII, who did not hesitate to ascend to the throne of Constantine with a sword, crown, and scepter and to declare: "I am Caesar, I am the Emperor," embodies the logical conclusion of a theocratic, Southern upheaval in which the priest was entrusted with both evangelical swords (the spiritual and the temporal); the imperium itself came to be regarded as a beneficium conferred by the pope to somebody, who in return owed to the Church the same vassalage and obedience a feudal vassal owes the person who has invested him. However, since the spirituality that the head of the Roman Church incarnated remained in its essence that of the "servants of God," we can say that far from representing the restoration of the primordial and solar unity of the two powers, Guelphism merely testifies to how Rome had lost its ancient tradition and how it came to represent the opposite principle and the triumph of the Southern weltanschauung in Europe. In the confusion that was beginning to affect even the symbols, the Church, who on the one hand claimed for herself the symbol of the sun vis-à-vis the empire (to which she attributed the symbol of the moon), on the other hand employed the symbol of the Mother to refer to herself and considered the emperor as one of her "children." Thus, the Guelph ideal of political supremacy marked the return to the ancient gynaecocratic vision in which the authority, superiority, and privilege of spiritual primacy was accorded to the maternal principle over the male principle, which was then associated with the temporal and ephemeral reality. […]



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