Monday, March 31, 2014

"The wrong side of history": Can Catholicism survive in a postmodern age?

To read the remote past in the light of the recent past; to think the process of the one toward the other "inevitable"; to regard the whole matter as a slow inexorable process, independent of the human will, still suits the materialist pantheism of our time
                                                                       Hillaire Belloc
                                                                       Europe and the Faith
President Obama said recently that Russia was "on the wrong side of history," when it reclaimed Crimea. Evidently Mr. Obama believes that the world is gradually swinging toward the Western values of democracy and individual freedom and the Western economic model of corporate capitalism. In the President's mind, Russia ignored the inevitability of Western ascendancy and consigned itself to the dustbin of history.

And Mr. Obama may be right. Perhaps the whole world--Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East-- will become like America and Western Europe--materialistic, radically individualistic and secular. And if Russia is on the wrong side of history, then surely the Catholic Church is as well.  In fact, I feel sure that Barack Obama and his postmodern minions believe that the collapse of Catholicism is just around the corner.

But don't count us out. In the nineteenth century, Otto von Bismark and Germany's political liberals concluded that Catholicism was incompatible with the modern German state and they launched the Kultukampf to drive it out of Germany society. Modern Germany would be rationalistic, progressive, scientific, individualistic, and secular. Catholicism, Bismark and German liberals believed, was on the wrong side of history; and there was no place for it in the new Germany.

Otto von Bismark
Believed Catholicism on wrong
side of history
And for awhile it looked like the Kulturkampf would succeed. At the height of the persecution, half of Prussia's bishops were in prison or in exile, dozens of convents and monasteries were closed, and hundreds of monks and nuns were driven out of the country.  Many exiled religious emigrated to America.

But Catholicism survived the Kulturkampf and it survived Nazism that emerged sixty years later. And it has survived all the political movements that have tried to stamp it out--the Calles regime in Mexico during the 1920s, the communist regimes of Eastern Europe, and the Spanish Republic of the 1930s.

President Obama and America's liberal media may believe that Catholicism is on the wrong side of history, but every political movement that made that bet has lost it.  President Obama may win his lawsuit against the Little Sisters of the Poor, but he will never get them to acquiesce in grave sin, which Obamacare forces them to do.

And you can bank on this:  a hundred years from now the Little Sisters will still be doing their good work while Barack Obama will have faded into history, no more memorable than Rutherford B. Hayes, Millard Fillmore, or Chester Arthur.


Michael B. Gross. The War Against Catholicism: Liberalism and the Anti-Catholic Imagination in Nineteenth Century Germany. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004.

Hillaire Belloc. Europe and the Faith. Rockford, Ill: TAN Books, 1920.

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