Monday, May 14, 2012

Catholic Authority and Pope Pius IX's Support for the Confederacy

Pope Pius IX declared The Doctrine of Infallibility
Pius IX was also the only European leader to champion Jefferson Davis' Confederacy.

Dear John,

My Dad said Hope was the unique gift of Catholicism.

Prior to Christ's earthly mission, the ancient world was stuck in the repeating cycles of nature with no expectation that life would ever get better.

Things "were what they were" and cyclical stuckness was the ironclad fact of human existence.

We now assume that the late 20th century marked a definitive change in the Roman church and that her modern "conversion" obviates any need to contemplate centuries of bad popes and the Vatican's longstanding support for oligarchy at the expense of the poor. 


Following his election in 1846, Pope Pius IX reigned for 32 years. During that time Pius sided with Italian oligarchs in their quest to prevent Italian nationalism from establishing the modern state of Italy. 

In large part, Pius IX's ongoing support for oligarchy was attributable to the Vatican's loss of The Papal States at the hands of Italian nationalists.

Ever after, Pius IX referred to himself as "a prisoner of the Vatican." 

It bears mention that Pius IX's motivation for ramrodding The Doctrine of Infallibility was in part a questionable reaction to scientific knowledge which, in recent decades, had actually demonstrated "infallibility" -- and "miraculousness" -- and was therefore winning the hearts and minds of believers. 

The Doctrine of Infallibility was also reaction to Pius IX's loss of princely power, a diminution of temporal authority that inclined Pius to bolster his theological authority in order to compensate. (Devout Catholic scholar Lord Acton penned his famous "dictum" in reaction to Papal Infallibility: "Power tends to corrupt. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

Learn more about Pope Pius IX at 

Excerpt: "Pius IX did not use encyclicals to explain the faith, but to condemn what he considered errors...  The prisoner of the Vatican had poor relations with Russia, Germany, and the United States, poor relations with France and open hostility with Italy." 

To deepen your understanding, scan the following pejorative view of Pius IX which, despite its jaundiced eye, accurately describes Pius IX's declared opposition to rationalism and freedom of religion.

And yes, Pius IX did support Jefferson Davis' Confederacy  

Excerpt: "The most important Catholic opinion on the American Civil War was that of the Bishop of Rome, Pope Pius IX. As noted, after surviving the Italian Revolution over a decade earlier, the pope rethought his past tendencies and adopted conservative policies that reinforced the constant tradition and teachings of the Catholic Church. For the Pope, the situation in America was all too familiar. Liberalism was thriving in the North and progress towards a centralized liberal democracy seemed to remove traditional values from American society. In the South, the pope saw a society that clung to traditional religious and family values, which he believed to be more conducive to Catholic principles despite its support of slavery." 

This fondness for "the traditional South" is the same affection that recently allied American Catholicism with bible-banging fundamentalists, many of whom despise the Roman church as "damned popery," and the pope as "the whore of Babylon." 

It is well known that Catholicism has long opposed secular advancement, which, in turn, is the foundation of American Democracy.

But even before Democracy became an established political form, the Church championed centuries of Crusade and centuries of Inquisition, and less well known - but equally ignominous - a long line of bad popes. 

Not just bad like Barack Obama being a Kenyan-born Muslim anti-Christ who hates America. But really, really bad.

With so many skeletons in the church's closet, it seems fitting that the Vatican should exhibit more tolerance and moderation rather than wielding an aggressive teaching style that defines "what the church is" by condemning "what she isn't." 

Mostly the church leaves itself wide open to criticism on sex and gender issues.

I realize that sex and gender are eternally problematic and that Rome's magisterium rightly teaches prudence and restraint.

I also realize that 98% of American Catholics use birth control and that a growing majority approve same-sex marriage.

All of us must choose our battles. 

Oddly, hierarchical Catholicism chooses red button sexual issues having little (or nothing) to do with the actual teaching of Yeshua. 

How are we to consider the newly-emergent "peculiarity" that abortion and homosexuality are the defining "existential" issues of our age when Jesus spoke not a single word about either. 

Something is wrong with this picture.

A more balanced view - and one that does not exacerbate popular alienation - would direct the spotlight away from abortion and homosexuality just as the Church, under pressure from Capitalism's spreading influence, downplayed the grievous sin of usury. (Speaking of Capitalism, consider Jesus' clearly stated view of money and possessions.  Just where does Capitalist Consumerism fit in? "Follow the money" John! Attention to The Almighty Dollar is more revealing than sticking our heads in people's bedrooms and uteruses.)

In sum, the Church should be focused on the Liberation of Hope which Dad rightly considered Catholicism's unique gift.

To focus the oppression of women and gays -- whether this is done implicitly or explicitly -- is not only to distort the magisterium but results in counterproductive policies that leave the church with ever fewer friends and ever more enemies.

It is true that organizations and institutions can carve niches for themselves so that narrow bands of zealots will always cheer whatever "authority" is in place.

However, the katolikos church - the Universal Church - deserves more than a narrow band of sectarian support.

At bedrock, the church deserves hope, not the wagging finger of scolds.

Pax on both houses


PS Lincoln did not attack the pope as represented at  The quote ascribed to Lincoln therein was, in fact, Know Nothing propaganda.

E.J. Dionne Jr.
E.J. Dionne Jr.
Opinion Writer

I’m not quitting the church

My, my. Putting aside the group’s love for unnecessary quotation marks, it was shocking to learn that I’m an “enabler” doing “bad” to women’s rights. But Catholic liberals get used to these kinds of things. Secularists, who never liked Catholicism in the first place, want us to leave the church, but so do Catholic conservatives who want the church all to themselves.
I’m sorry to inform the FFRF that I am declining its invitation to quit. It may not see the Gospel as a liberating document, but I do, and I can’t ignore the good done in the name of Christ by the sisters, priests, brothers and lay people who have devoted their lives to the poor and the marginalized.
And on women’s rights, I take as my guide that early feminist Pope John XXIII. InPacem in Terris, his encyclical issued in 1963, the same year Betty Friedan published “The Feminine Mystique,” Pope John spoke of women’s “natural dignity.”
“Far from being content with a purely passive role or allowing themselves to be regarded as a kind of instrument,” he wrote, “they are demanding both in domestic and in public life the rights and duties which belong to them as human persons.”
I’d like the FFRF to learn more about the good Pope John, but I wish our current bishops would think more about him, too. I wonder if the bishops realize how some in their ranks have strengthened the hands of the church’s adversaries (and disheartened many of the faithful) with public statements — including that odious comparison of President Obama to Hitler by a Peoria prelate last month — that threaten to shrink the church into a narrow, conservative sect.
Do the bishops notice how often those of us who regularly defend the church turn to the work of nuns on behalf of charity and justice to prove Catholicism’s detractors wrong? Why in the world would the Vatican, apparently pushed by right-wing American bishops, think it was a good idea to condemn the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the main organization of nuns in the United States?
The Vatican’s statement, issued last month, seemed to be the revenge of conservative bishops against the many nuns who broke with the hierarchy and supported health-care reform in 2010. The nuns insisted, correctly, that the health-care law did not fund abortion. This didn’t sit well with men unaccustomed to being contradicted, and the Vatican took the LCWR to task for statements that “disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops.”
Oh yes, and the nuns are also scolded for talking a great deal about social justice and not enough about abortion (as if the church doesn’t talk enough about abortion already). But has it occurred to the bishops that less stridency might change more hearts and minds on this very difficult question?
A thoughtful friend recently noted that carrying a child to term is an act of overwhelming generosity. For nine months, a woman gives her body to another life, not to mention the rest of her years. Might the bishops consider that their preaching on abortion would have more credibility if they treated women in the church, including nuns, with the kind of generosity they are asking of potential mothers? They might usefully embrace a similar attitude toward gay men and lesbians.
Too many bishops seem in the grip of dark suspicions that our culture is moving at breakneck speed toward a demonic end. Pope John XXIII, by contrast, was more optimistic about the signs of the times.
“Distrustful souls see only darkness burdening the face of the earth,” he once said. “We prefer instead to reaffirm all our confidence in our Savior who has not abandoned the world which he redeemed.” The church best answers its critics when it remembers that its mission is to preach hope, not fear.

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