Catholicism and Secularism: Two Different Creeds

Catholicism versus Secularism
Catholicism: A different Creed to secularism. Graphic courtesy of BellatorDei

Recently, I have been talking about what Benedict XVI called the Dictatorship of Relativism, in modern secularism.

And my beloved Kim has recently posted on Anti-Catholicism.

Rather than write much more today, I simply present an extract from my upcoming book [now published as Cor Jesu Sacratissimum, see here] that speaks to these very same things.

Like all such extractions, it inevitably makes better sense in the context of my book.

But with that caveat, I hope the following will be clear enough.

Book Extract:

The centuries of denial have done their work.

Iconoclasm is now the marrow of our civilisation.

People in the Middle Ages were surrounded by a culture dominated by Cathedrals, churches, stained glass windows, processions, prayer – which proclaimed the Central Mystery of the world.

Today, the iconoclastic agenda of the last centuries has generated an all-pervading ‘surround sound’ environment, which works ‘24/7’ to divert people from the Central Mystery of the world.

It is a visual, aural arena of a million books and newspapers and films and infomercials and tunes and blogs and tweets …

Entire populations are now blanketed by countless forms of ideology, obscurantism and propaganda, which subverts the Catholic Mystery. Decent people cannot begin to glimpse the Church’s true nature, buried as it is beneath layer upon layer …

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Yes, the Church of today is enveloped by terrible misinformation and misunderstanding.

This tragedy is often felt in a particularly poignant way, when souls steeped in the love of the Church find themselves in discussion with their friends, steeped in secularism.

How the disjunction of universes becomes starkly evident at such times!

For how often such discussion becomes hijacked. It will be forcibly dragged to the controversies engendered by the clash between the Catholic Religion and the Secular Creed.

For adherents to this Secular Creed – often without the least consciousness that they do adhere to a creed – frequently demand that Catholics account for their deviation from this creed: ‘How do you defend your Church’s teaching on a male hierarchy or contraception? What about its homophobia?’

Such questions are asked, as though it were self-evident that the Church must account for Her ‘aberrations’ – rather than having the least consciousness that it is a matter, here, of possessing different creeds: The secular world has one creed as to how things should be; the Church has another.

At such points, how my heart protests:

‘But I am a Catholic! I do not assume your Secular Creed!

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Do not presume that I hold the same beliefs as your Secular Religion, which seem to me a half-conscious mixture of the Enlightenment and the post-68 revolution.’

But my protest is likely to invite further hostility:

‘What do you mean Secular Religion? Everyone agrees – or should agree – about things like women Priests and contraception. This is the Twenty First century! You Catholics are a scandal to the modern world …’

Here terms like ‘the Twenty First century’ or ‘the modern world’ clearly represent a set of beliefs. And how often do adherents to these beliefs remonstrate against the ‘heretics’ who refuse to submit.

Enflamed controversies erupt because Catholics refuse to sign up – in toto – to secular doctrines.

Such doctrines frequently concern life, sexuality and gender. For the belief that abortion is morally acceptable – is just that: a belief. The belief that homosexual acts are morally acceptable – is just that: a belief.

How many modern souls are doctrinaire –  seeking to impose doctrine – without being the least conscious they even possess doctrines.

Frequently, these clashes with secular belief would seem to represent the sum total of what modernity knows about the Faith. ‘Catholics: They’re pro-life and anti-women Priests, aren’t they?’

For how often it is only when the Church defies the post-Sixties secular Zeitgeist that the general public has any inkling as to what Catholicism stands for.

How frequently there is talk of these issues, as if such issues were all the Church amounts to (or at least all that matters)!

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Rarely indeed can genuine enquiry be found as to what the Church really is. Instead, any enquiry will be restricted to a narrow pre-selected range of matters.

Thus, Catholics may find themselves harangued about contraception, abortion, homosexuality and given marching calls to include female and married Priests in their Church.

Do not mistake me, dear Reader. I am not suggesting these issues are unimportant. They involve matters of agonising importance, which need to be addressed.

Still, it is conspicuous how regularly these issues are raised to the exclusion of everything else.

It would seem that few people today perceive that the Church amounts to anything more than these bones of contention.

Let me illustrate what I mean. Not long ago, I found myself in a conversation with a man, whose primary source of information was apparently television.

This man became verbally aggressive, while he pressed the controversies generated through secular media.

He did not seem to be interested in what the Church truly was – only in a very select range of issues – which had been pre-selected for him by the media and become enflamed in his mind.

But could he hope to gain any true insight into these matters – without having the least comprehension of the Church?

I probed him. Did my interlocutor have any idea as to why the Church would face off against the modern world?

Did he have the least inkling as to why She would actively court such massive public disdain?

Evidently not: When I asked, all I received were vague, confused mutterings about Vatican indoctrination and control.

I doubt it had ever seriously occurred to him, that there might be anything else to the matter. There are many people for whom a simple little explanation suffices – particularly if it demands no further serious expenditure of mental or moral energy.

They prefer the life of automata, set in motion by the great currents of the media.

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The media is not interested in the central nature – this is to say Mystery – of the Church. It simply feeds on the fodder of the kind of controversy that sells newspapers …

And so if Catholicism arises in ordinary conversation it is likely that attention will be sidetracked from the Church Herself to a few, isolated controversies: these ‘flashpoints’ where She dares to defy the great Creed of modern Secularism.

Now, intelligent discussion about the Creed of the Church versus the Secular Creed is, in fact, urgently needed.

But intelligent discussion is impossible, when the nature of the Church has been a priori eliminated from the discussion.

Thus, it may never occur to many souls that there could actually be human beings of painstaking moral gravity within the Vatican.

It never crosses their minds that there might be men and women who, in the course of their lives, have brought all they had to bear on the ethical issues of our day and saw no other moral option than to uphold traditional teaching.

For such people, the Vatican is not filled with serious people thinking, and praying earnestly for the resolution to global problems.

Rather, they seem to imagine that the Vatican is simply filled with daft, old codgers, who just want to indoctrinate people!

My interlocutor may never have framed the thought in his mind as consciously as that.

But in a fuzzy, uncritical manner, there are multitudes who make this kind of assumption: Catholic moral teaching boils down to nothing beyond a few feeble-minded reactionaries in the Vatican.

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From Secularism to Overt Anti-Catholicism

At times however, the assumptions being made are not fuzzy.

My words are now being written in the aftermath of the 2010 Papal visit of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the UK – a tour where militant atheists brandished the Vatican with terms like ‘crackpot’ and ‘heartless Theocracy’.

This, of course, provided further fodder for the media. Now, there are many discerning souls, who can see readily beyond such ranting.

Yet what of those who cannot?!

For my interlocutor is hardly alone in his steady diet of television. He belongs to that vast legion of souls for whom it is the media that answers life’s profound questions.

Such questions include: ‘What is the Church’? And when faced with the problem: ‘Why don’t Catholics think like us?’ – this vast legion turns to answers like ‘Vatican indoctrination’ and never question for an instant, whether it might be a matter of  ‘media indoctrination’ instead.

The post-1960s Secular Zeitgeist simply has to be right of course, omnipresent as it is in our modern existence.

Many folk have little idea that their cherished ideas DO belong, part-and-parcel, to that post-1960s secular Zeitgeist.

They are not really conscious that prior to that era, many of their prized notions were unthinkable across much of society.

Or if they are conscious of everything that has changed since the Sixties, they are reflexively certain that it all amounts to progress.

We have already considered how, even in the recent past, it was unthinkable that freedom of speech included the right to splatter gore and graphic sex across society.

Pre-Sixties Westerners considered it unacceptable – as they did many other things.

Many people would seem to have little clear idea that until very recently, centuries of tradition in many cultures – not simply Christian, but also Judaic, Islamic, Buddhist and more – rejected numerous things which the modern secular world now accepts (or even demands!) without question.

Why should all this be automatically wrong and we who live just a few decades later be automatically right? Why should our worldview be automatically superior to all that has gone before?

It would seem our cultural superiority is all-too-self-evident: We, of course, live in an enlightened age of soundbites and reality TV. And our lives are replete with further technological dope, unknown before the Sixties.

All this, of course, is to say nothing of chemical dope. Who can say how much our world has changed since the Sixties, due to the presence of Tetrahydrocannabinol and Lysergic acid diethylamide in our collective – and cultural – bloodstream?

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2 responses to “Catholicism and Secularism: Two Different Creeds”

  1. Edwin Shendelman Avatar
    Edwin Shendelman

    Very good and timely blog. It is important, extemely important to lift the veil and shine a light on the unconscious religion of Western culture: Secularism. It is unconscious in most people and they need to be shocked with the truth, the Christian truth. I recall what Tomberg said about Christian Hermeticists being “iconophiles.” Beyond the gnostic (in his sense) of this there are social-cultural imports to it as well.

    1. roger Avatar

      Thank you so much Edwin. Although, I am unfortunately slow to reply, it is definitely good to hear your voice again!

      Yes the ‘unconscious religion’ of Secularism is slowly murdering our souls – steeped as it is in unconscious iconoclasm.

      And so yes healing comes through iconophiles.

      It is both lovely and most apposite that you remind us what Valentin Tomberg writes here:

      The iconoclast is an intellectual murderer. The Hermeticist is, in contrast, an iconophile and traditionalist. This means to say that he does not side with the successive waves of iconoclasm — the waves named “reformation”, “enlightenment”, “scientific faith” … (MotT pg 292)