Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why anti-clericalism in a secular age?

The Pope's visit to Britain has unleashed some astonishingly hostile reactions:

Journalist Claire Rayner:  I have no language with which to adequately describe Joseph Ratzinger, AKA the Pope. In all my years as a campaigner I have never felt such animus against any individual as I do against this creature. His views are so disgusting, so repellent and so hugely damaging to the rest of us, that the only thing to do is to get rid of him.

Scientist Richard Dawkins: the Pope .... A leering old villain in a frock

Philosopher AC Grayling: If the head of a drug cartel was involved in a conspiracy, we would ask some very serious questions once he came to the UK. Why should we treat the Pope any differently?

Author Philip Pullman: In one way, I hope the wretched organisation will vanish entirely.

Peter Tatchell: He has strayed from the moral and ethical values of most Catholics and most of humanity.

This is not just advocacy of secularism or atheism. It is so emotionally charged and hostile to the Church that it better deserves the name of anti-clericalism.

Which raises a question. Anti-clericalism has mostly featured in countries in which the Catholic Church played an influential role in society. There were intellectuals in these countries who, in rebelling against society, sought to attack and undermine the Church through acts of mockery, sacrilege, dispossession or violence.

But modern Britain is run along secular, liberal principles. So why would intellectuals there feel the need to kick so viciously at the Pope?

I'm open to ideas, but I would answer this way. For some decades, a pure form of liberalism has asserted itself. Liberalism no longer accepts values drawn from aristocratic codes of honour, or a family ethos, or identification with a national tradition, or ideals of masculine or feminine behaviour.

So there is no tempering of a liberal world view. Liberalism is going it alone and this is leading to ever more radical forms of liberal concepts of equality and justice.

Admittedly, there are some liberals (e.g. Tony Blair) who seem to want to take the Church with them, i.e. to liberalise the Church. But for those who don't, the gap between what the Church holds in principle and what they hold in principle will have grown - not because the Church has become more radical in what it holds, but because the secular liberals have.

To put all this another way, if you want your liberalism pure and "uncompromised", then you may not react too favourably to the Pope arguing that Christian institutions should be allowed to be run along Christian, rather than liberal, lines. The Pope's views would have been far less controversial even 30 years ago, but now they conflict with the expectations of a section of the political class - even to the point of rousing powerfully anti-clerical feelings amongst some of those most committed to secularism (and betraying the fact that liberal toleration isn't always so tolerant).

28 comments:

  1. Well this is an actual Pope not a watered down all inclusive feel good symbol, so he raises both secular hostility and the traditional conservative regieme bashing. He's also the one in the hot seat when the molestation scandals have finally hit the front pages. What the lefties chose to go after is slighlty random, eg Tony Abbott got a fairly light run in the last election, however a clear flying in the face of left wing tropes, eg Pope Bendict's desire to combat secular licence in the West or his attempted playing down (ie not endless hand wringing) of sexual abuse scandals, is a red rag to a bull.

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  2. To connoisseurs of irony, it is always satisfying to watch ostentatiously tolerant people give free reign to their paranoid hatreds and fantasies of destruction. Liberals are haunted by many hobgoblins, but the Roman Catholic Church has a special place in their nightmares. Hating the Roman Catholic Church, lying about the Roman Catholic Church, identifying its abuses as its essence: this has been at the heart of liberal discourse since that discourse was born in the 18th century. But the true indicator of pathological insanity is that none of these people seem to notice that the Church has no power to enforce its doctrines, even, it seems, on its own clergy. They simply grow crazy at the thought that the world contains people and institutions whose opinions are not altogether liberal, particularly regarding questions of sexual conduct.

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  3. This is the approach of pure ideologues; "If you do not agree with our programme in every jot and tittle, then you are against us. Furthermore, if you don't go along with every new fad or craze we join, you are against us. People who are against us are not just wrong, they are evil".

    I first noticed this line of emoting (it is not thought) in leftists fully 30 years ago. IMO this kind of prejudice and bigotry, unreasoning hate, is a marker that indicates a person or group has rejected thought entirely, in favor of pure emotion.

    Fascist movements, whether of the nominal "right" or "left" have always relied upon such emotion, because it makes groupthink and mob rule easier to create and manipulate.

    I have a number of differences with the Roman Catholic church. None of them are addressed in the absurd screeds cited, unsurprisingly.

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  4. It's based on an odd combination of traditional hatred and fear.

    The traditional hatred is in part based on the strong tradition of anti-clericalism in the Enlightenment tradition. In the UK, however, this is catalyzed by a traditionally (since the Reformation) high degree of antipathy for "Popery" and "Romishness" and so on. Rangers football supporters in Glasgow cheerily chant "Fuck the Pope!" at football matches against rival (Catholic) Celtic and so on. There's a long tradition of just rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Catholicism in Britain that is just a millimeter's scratch below the typically reserved exterior -- and it's coming out in spades with Benedict's visit.

    The other factor, however, is fear. Although they would be loath to admit it, many of the hypersecular still fear the Church. Why? Because while the influence of the Church may have waned to a significant degree in the West, globally the Church continues to grow at quite a clip. The growth of Catholicism in Africa and South Asia in particular has been staggering in recent years. Of course this implies changes for the Church itself, as the demographics continue to shift, but the newcomers are, by and large, *very* conservative and no fans of Enlightenment values. England may chant "Fuck the Pope" and France may just shake its head and ignore Rome, but the reality is that the Church isn't going away, is getting larger, is growing in influence in the non-Western world, and is not backing down from almost all of its positions which the secularists hate. So there is definitely a threat there, perceived by the seculars.

    I think in the UK, these two things come together to make it a perfect storm of hate and vitriol, I think, when it comes to the Pope.

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  5. I wonder what they have to say for the Imams visiting Britain.

    Or the fact Britain let an Islamic war criminal Eyup Ganic free. I guess the establishment fears the Muzzies in Britain more than the Catholics.

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  6. The selection of target is not random, and the intellectuals do not pick on the Pope and the Catholic Church out of fear. Precisely the opposite! The reason for all the gleeful Pope-bashing is captured in the Latin proverb, "Mortuo leoni et lepores insultant" (the lion is dead and the rabbits insult him). The Catholic Church is a spent force, and cannot punish anyone who abuses it. It is precisely because Britain is run along secular, liberal principles - and the Pope has no power - that the Pope is so viciously attacked.

    The intellectual rabbits strike brave postures before the corpse of the once mighty beast. Thus they are deliberately targeting something that cannot hurt them. The same rabbits would never come within a mile of the very much alive and fierce lion of Islam.

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  7. Fair enough Tarl, however, the same level of hostility was not directed towards Pope John Paul II. You are right that the Muslims aren't targeted in the same way, I was quite surprised when "Draw Mohammed day" was embraced by many lefties.

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  8. "But modern Britain is run along secular, liberal principles. So why would intellectuals there feel the need to kick so viciously at the Pope?"

    Because they feel acutely threatened. Simple. Their world based on their values is crumbling around them; they can see it, but they ignore it. The Church does not ignore it and understands what the root of the problem is. Hence anti-Clerical hate. And let's call this what it is. It's hate. If liberals truly were secure about themselves and their worldview, then they would not resort to such vicious language.

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  9. Church-haters have been exposed for what they are; a bunch of frauds and cranks, incapable of resorting to measured, moderate words to hold a true debate. They purport to stand for reason, but they are the very epitome of folly. Though I am no Catholic, I am glad the Pope brought up vital issues such as licence in post-modern Western countries and Britain's Christian roots. The fact he is going to pray with Canterbury Archbishop Rowan Williams is also a symbol of unity among Christians, we may have our differences, but unity of purpose is needed if we want to be a potent force and preserve our civilisation.

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  10. Whilst I don't share the fervent hatred of some towards the pope, I do understand why he has his fair share of critics, and I don't think its simply due to libealism.

    To my mind the following views are quite outdated and almost medieval:
    1) opposing the use of condoms and other forms of contraception, even though condoms prevent the spread of STDs.
    2) opposing stem cell research when it has the potential to help people in need to a very great extent.
    3) Believing that masturbation and homosexuality are inherently evil

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  11. ''1) opposing the use of condoms and other forms of contraception, even though condoms prevent the spread of STDs.''

    I'm a Christian and not against condoms. It's not so much the condoms that worries me but that many individuals are promiscuous and abuse contraception for their own sexual freedom and nihilism.

    ''2) opposing stem cell research when it has the potential to help people in need to a very great extent.''

    It's not stem cell research but embryonic stem cell research. Some articles have published that due to the fragility of embryos (and other factors) that adult stem cell research cells are mostly better, stronger and more effective (but not always). What really aggravates me again is that instead of stating ''Life starts at conception and embryos are humans too but in some instaces we have to use them for medical conditions you know'' they go like this :''Life starts at birth, it's a woman's choice/right/human right to do what she wants with her own freakin body and you are an outdated medieval bigot who wants to control people. Join the progressive modern tolerant multicultural enlightened individuals in society''


    ''3) Believing that masturbation and homosexuality are inherently evil''

    I'll outline the belief system of liberals and conservatives on morality --- alcestiseshtemoa.wordpress.com/2010/08/22/social-liberals-and-social-conservatives/

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  12. I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would want to use condoms. They are so vile! And sex with condoms is so unlike real sex one should probably call it "un-sex" rather than "safe sex."

    Not that it is that safe anyhow...

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  13. Leon Bertrand,
    One can disagree with what the Roman Catholic Church has to say about condoms, masturbation, and homosexuality, and criticize Roman Catholic arguments as vigorously as one likes, but the quoted writers are not offering criticisms. They are not just saying that Catholic doctrine is wrong, but that they are disgusting, immoral, perhaps criminal, and that no one should be allowed to believe, much advocate this doctrine. The delicious irony is that liberalism is supposed to be all about rational deliberation, freedom of speech, and freedom of conscience, when it is in fact a ideology rife with dogma, speech codes, and thought crimes.

    With respect to the three practices you mention, it must be allowed that the Roman Catholic Church advances reasons why they might be considered problematic. There are, for example, good reasons to believe that the habit of regular masturbation is not conducive to a child's social, psychological, and spiritual development. In the end the child will decide whether or not to accept these reasons, but it is hardly fair to the child to tell him that they do not exist.

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  14. "But modern Britain is run along secular, liberal principles. So why would intellectuals there feel the need to kick so viciously at the Pope?"

    My two cents is that liberalism and Catholicism are both universal ideologies and inevitable competitors because they fundamentally differ. The problem is that liberals tend to be more elitist because they tend to operate under the assumption that they know (or can know) everything and non-liberals don't or can't. It follows from liberal logic that other inferior ideologies should eventually kowtow to THE omniscient one and those do are not are ipso facto unreasonable. The fact that Benedict is more conservative than John Paul II reminds liberals that the Catholic church is not becoming more liberal (as they had hoped) but more conservative and thus more unreasonable. They comfort themselves (argumentum ad populum) by pointing to the British nominal Catholics most of whom are opposed to doctrinal stances on abortion, gay marriage and the like and use this to support their contention of unreasonableness.

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  15. JM Smith,

    The Catholic Church opposes masturbation, whether it is regular or not, or by children or adults.

    The belief that masturbation is harmful to an individual's wellbeing is a very old one, which has been debunked.

    Many years ago it was believed that masturbation would cause blindness and mental illness. We now know that's not true. Most experts on the subject say that its actually beneficial. On this issue and others, the Catholic Church represents the anti-scientific, denialist, superstitious and archaic views which go against reason and enlightenment.

    I forgot another reason why some have reasons to hate the Church. The covering up of sexual abuse of children: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/after-20-years-former-priest-abuser-peter-chalk-is-revealed/story-e6frg6nf-1225925642909

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  16. ''Many years ago it was believed that masturbation would cause blindness and mental illness. We now know that's not true. Most experts on the subject say that its actually beneficial. On this issue and others, the Catholic Church represents the anti-scientific, denialist, superstitious and archaic views which go against reason and enlightenment.''

    There are two flaws with this. Science is based only on one segment of reality --- socialpathology.blogspot.com/2010/08/foundations-of-conservatism-minds.html

    The other is that studies are generally useless when it to morality and ethics --- alcestiseshtemoa.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/morality-and-ethics-should-be-based-on-the-transcendent-on-god/

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  17. Also I forgot to mention that sometimes the Catholic Church does go overboard on it's stances and the flaws that I pointed out where more on 'Enlightment'/Reason vs Christianity in general.

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  18. The opposition of the Catholic Church to masturbation is sound, morally, as an "offense against chastity", and is not at all based on physical harms, superstition, denialism or anti-science. Rather, it is based on the long-standing moral teaching of the Catholic Church regarding sexual morality -- teaching which consistently views heterosexual marriage as the only morally legitimate context for any sexual activity whatsoever.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Sec 2352) puts it this way:

    "By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the sexual organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. 'Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an instrinsically and gravely disordered action.' 'The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.' For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of 'the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.'

    To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability."

    I'm not a Catholic myself, but the basis of the Catholic teaching on this is quite sound It's very rigorous and exacting, yes -- and that is what people often find irritating about Catholic moral theology, because it brooks no compromise with the trendy loosey-goosey sexual morality of the contemporary age. But it is remarkably consistent in hammering home its central theme that any sexual activity -- even self-focused sexual activity -- outside the context of heterosexual marriage is morally illegitimate. I'm certain it's precisely this kind of moral stubbornness, born of a clear moral consistency and integrity, which the secular atheists find so irritating about the Catholic Church.

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  19. Leon Bertrand said, apropos masturbation: "Most experts on the subject say that its [sic] actually beneficial."

    Somebody forgot to pass on the memo to E. M. Forster, whose prodigious enthusiasm for pursuing rough male trade was surpassed only by his capacity for onanism. "[W]hen he had to undergo an operation on his prostate, his consultant told him that too much self-abuse had been the cause of his problem."

    http://newstaging.spectator.widearea.co.uk/books/6083758/not-as-sweet-as-he-seemed.thtml

    Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Yet another counter-cultural hero made, by his own efforts, to look ridiculous. Perhaps Mr Bertrand would like to defend Alfred Kinsey's, ahem, somewhat tarnished reputation for moral probity? Naaaaah, best to keep slagging off at Catholicism, innit?

    http://www.whale.to/b/reisman_h.html

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  20. Bertrand writes,

    "On this issue and others, the Catholic Church represents the anti-scientific, denialist, superstitious and archaic views which go against reason and enlightenment."

    And on this issue and many others, the libertines represent weak, pathetic, compromised and, frankly, embarrassing views. Are you really defending this? So what if it doesn't make you blind? It's pathetic.

    Is there anyone out there who thinks the practice of masturbation is a sign of strength, discipline and character? Ask the Lord, and He will show you a way out of temptation.

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  21. Novaseeker,

    If the Catholic Church really had integrity, one would expect that whenever cases of sexual abuse of the children in its care had come to the attention of its officers, it would have stood with the victims and removed the perpetrators instead of engaging in cover-up. Sadly, that has not been the case in the past.

    V. Walter

    You are referring to the opinion of a consultant about 70 years ago. Back then, knowledge about sexual matters was not very well known, partly because of the morality of the Christian Churches which wanted to keep us in the sexual dark ages.

    Bartholomew,

    I don't consider that masturbation shows a lack of character. In order to have that opinion, you would have to believe that masturbation is unhealthy or evil in the first place. Again, there is absolutely no evidence for that proposition.

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  22. Britain is not a Catholic Country. It is a Protestant country with an Established Church of England of which the Queen is Head. There is thus no need for the Pope to visit Britain. The vast majority of the Catholics in Britain are of Irish stock and this is another source of hostility to the Pope's visit. The Catholic church is viewed as the Church of an alien and immigrant propulation (the Irish) who have never been accepted in Britain.

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  23. Bertrand wrote,

    "I don't consider that masturbation shows a lack of character."

    That's not what I asked you. I asked you if you really believed it itself is a sign of character. An honest man must admit it isn't.

    Would you argue that a person masturbates in order to help another? That's too absurd to bother thinking about any further. So, no there's nothing noble about the act.

    The most you might argue is that masturbation is just neutral, neither noble nor ignoble, somewhat like using the toilet or something.

    I saw that you argue masturbation is supposed to be healthful. I have no idea why. Continual wear on anything, including your body, tends to wear it out. Why wear it out pointlessly?

    And anyway, who masturbates for bodily health? Come on. It's done to indulge a craving, and I have no idea how you or anyone else could argue that indulging in one's cravings is a sign of character. In fact, it's a sign of weakness.

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  24. Bertrand wrote,

    "If the Catholic Church really had integrity, one would expect that whenever cases of sexual abuse of the children in its care had come to the attention of its officers, it would have stood with the victims and removed the perpetrators instead of engaging in cover-up...partly because of the morality of the Christian Churches which wanted to keep us in the sexual dark ages.

    You know, the irony is that back in the "sexual dark ages", the Church would have burned those homosexual predators at the stake. It's only been since the Church has liberalized that these pederasts have insinuated themselves between its ranks. In fact, the archbishop of Brussels who so actively covered up for the homosexual priests was one of the most leftist men in the church.

    Your terminology is a lie. Our forefathers lived in the light when they disciplined and denied themselves. They lived with honor, which is almost unknown now. It is we, not they, who live in dark ages, sexual and otherwise.

    Finally, for those who are caught in sexual sin, know that there is hope, there is light, and there is a way out. Just ask the Lord, and He will lead you out, just as He has led all the rest of us out.

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  25. ""Your terminology is a lie. Our forefathers lived in the light when they disciplined and denied themselves.""

    Agreed

    It is also time to stop calling it the "enlightenment" since it could be the reason for the next dark ages.

    About all that came out of that sorry period was communism, fascism and the death of the west.

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  26. Bartholomew,

    Your comments seemed to say that masturbation was a weakness of character. I don't know why else you would start talking about masturbation in terms of character when I hadn't.

    Masturbation is neither a sign of character oor lack thereof. If it is a reflection of anything, it is a reflection of libido.

    "You know, the irony is that back in the "sexual dark ages", the Church would have burned those homosexual predators at the stake. It's only been since the Church has liberalized that these pederasts have insinuated themselves between its ranks."

    This comment conflates homosexuality with pedophilia, and creatively blames a tolerance for homosexuality on the Church's sexual abuse of children.

    There are two problems with this however. Firstly, the vast majority of homosexuals are not pedophiles. Secondly, the Church has never admitted openly gay men into its clergy, before or after it ceased persecuting them. The problem has been that there are pedophiles who became priests, and the Church covered up for them instead of ousting them from the Church and reporting them to the police.

    You cannot blame tolerance of homosexuals for the Church's shameful coverups of the sexual abuse of children in its care.

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  27. Bartholomew said...
    You know, the irony is that back in the "sexual dark ages", the Church would have burned those homosexual predators at the stake. It's only been since the Church has liberalized that these pederasts have insinuated themselves between its ranks. In fact, the archbishop of Brussels who so actively covered up for the homosexual priests was one of the most leftist men in the church.

    Not all clerical abusers are homosexual nor are they all male.

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  28. There were approximately three thousand protesters in London, but 80,000 attended the Pope's mass in Hyde Park and 200,000 people lined the streets. Doesn't that say enough?

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