“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
– William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming
The Challenge: Catholics living in a non-Catholic world
- S. Eliot, back in 1939, wrote in “The Idea of a Christian Society” that “[t]he problem of leading a Christian life in a non-Christian society is now very present to us.” The Christian who is not alert to this reality “is becoming more and more de-Christianised by all sorts of unconscious pressure: paganism holds all the most valuable advertising space.”
The new living space of Catholics becomes most evident in mass-media. Starting from a trickle in the 1950 to become a flood from the 1970s onwards the bias against Western Civilization and the Catholic Church in favor of a new social order built around a secularized public square gained more and more adherents among university professors, journalists and mass-media professionals. Over the decades the form of their rejection of Western Civilization altered. For instance, in the 1950s some of them went so far as to present the communist Soviet Union as a viable alternative to democratic society: “I have been to the future”, said the American intellectual Lincoln Steffens after a trip to Russia in 1931, “and it works”. As late as 1985, Paul Samuelson’s Economics declared that between 1928 and 1983 the U.S.S.R. had grown economically faster than the USA, Great Britain, Germany and Japan. Indeed just before the Berlin Wall fell (caused partly by economic reasons), Samuelson and Nordhaus declared that the Soviet economy was proof that a socialist command economy could thrive! And yet while they were heaping praise on the tyranny, thousands of freedom-seekers – the most famous being Solzhenitsyn – were being driven into Soviet psychiatric wards and concentration camps.
Today, the anti-Catholic bias in mass-media is obvious to any clear-minded person as has been shown by the defense offered on our behalf by some of our noble Jewish brothers who possibly recall the Nazi propaganda before Kristallnacht [“The Night of Broken Glass”] on November 9th, 1938. Indeed it was the Jewish international legal scholar, J.H.H. Weiler (himself an observant Jew) who coined the term “Christophobia” to describe the cultural persecution of Christians in contemporary society.
However there is another angle from which we Catholics should look at the media’s “Christophobia”: the idealism of the young liberals who enter journalism as a “vocation”. Especially since “Watergate” in the 1970s many youth have entered the professions of mass media in order to change the world. If there are to be more real Catholics in mass media it means that we priests, the leaders of the Church, must inspire our youth with the fire of Christian idealism to want to create a civilization of truth and justice with a strong culture of life. This will entail raising the quality of “PAC” -Preaching, Apologetics, Catechetics – so that from their earliest years the natural greatness of soul in the young will find nourishment in our parishes – and not have to seek it elsewhere.
Why…if there are so many Catholics?
Walk down Fifth Avenue in New York City: at least one of every five people you pass will probably be Catholic – and the same will occur in Paris, Madrid, Rome or Vienna, Mexico City or Rio de Janeiro and in so many African cities where the Catholic population is growing.
Yet something has gone wrong – wildly wrong.
In spite of these massive numbers –even if you only reckon with the practicing minority- Catholic influence in the world is in a free-fall, the culture is in accelerated de-Christianization, our institutions “no longer direct the patterns of life”(Alfred N.Whitehead): the Christian way of thinking about God and man, time and eternity are either unknown or excluded from the public square.
Indeed at any given moment – as we have all recently witnessed – the Catholic Church can be almost checkmated in the international mass-media by suspicions, jumps in logic, half-truths, suspicions, and damned lies. “HELLO! EXCUSE ME FOR RAISING MY VOICE, BUT I JUST WANT TO KNOW ONE THING – ARE THERE ANY CATHOLICS AROUND HERE?”
Where have the Catholics gone? Why is society under the “Dictatorship of Relativism” if it has so many Catholics?
How can there be numerous Catholics in church on Sundays and none – apparently – in the newsroom on Mondays? How come thousands upon thousands of students graduate annually from Catholic universities and schools and yet we don’t have Catholic (real Catholic) presidential candidates, Catholic TV anchormen and women, Catholic novelists, Catholic movie stars and sports stars all of whom are known to be Catholic, talk Catholic, act Catholic and use their professions to offer Catholicism to society?
What on earth is going wrong?
Where are the Catholic journalists with the Catholic perspective in The New York Times or The London Times? Who is the regular guest on popular talk-shows who stands up for a Catholic world view? Where are the Catholic think-tanks preparing the incisive documents for the governments of the world showing how to apply the Catholic principles in bioethics, education, health-care reform, poverty, crime, AIDS, homelessness and the dysfunctional family? Where are the Catholic writers for Time and The Economist? Why on prime-time TV are there so few real Catholic speakers? Where are the Catholic broadcasters on the Public Broadcasting System and the Catholic writers on the New York Times Best-Seller List? Why is The Passion of the Christ the exception and not the rule among Hollywood movies?
You point out of course – after perhaps a too lengthy hesitation – the names of some Catholic TV personalities, journalists, politicians, sports and movie stars. You rapidly roll off the names of the Christian-inspired movies such as Chariots of Fire, the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia. And of course you’re right: there is some Catholic presence in the public square but the scarecrow numbers are totally disproportionate to the numbers of Catholics in the nation and to the power for influence in the truths of the Catholic vision.
Damning Absence of Catholic Activists!
There are many complex causes of the destruction of Christian civilization. First and foremost is the fact that the fortresses of formal and informal education have practically all fallen out of Catholic hands into the grip of the forces of the Culture of Death and its dictatorship: the formal education through Catholic universities and schools and the informal education of a popular culture that was once Christian are now at best anemically Christian but usually just brute hedonism and relativism.
But there is one eerie fact that is all too evident amid the destruction of Christian civilization and the take-over by the “Dictatorship of Relativism”: lay Catholic activists in the nerve-centers of civilization are noticeable only by their absence.
“For evil to triumph, it is enough for good men to be silent.” Or absent. And Catholics are not thinking, speaking, acting as Catholics at the nerve points where secularists and anti-Christians are busy forging the new social order. They are the Sleeping Giant – sleeping or surfing the internet while civilization burns! Either they are not present in the cultural nerve-points or when they are present they act not like roaring lions but tame cats.
As a result, the air is contaminated and few are the lungs free from the contagion. The majority of Catholics have succumbed and even those in the pews on Sundays often have views on moral issues little different from the average secularized citizen – as polls constantly remind us.
But this picture need not remain this way. It can change. It must change.
“Authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ are needed” said Pope Benedict XVI on 13 May 2010, “ above all in those human situations where the silence of the faith is most widely and deeply felt: among politicians, intellectuals, communications professionals who profess and who promote a monocultural ideal, with disdain for the religious and contemplative dimension of life. In such circles are found some believers who are ashamed of their beliefs and who even give a helping hand to this type of secularism, which builds barriers before Christian inspiration.”
The key-word is “activists”. For lay Catholics are often in powerful positions in mass media, politics and business in New York, London, Paris, Madrid and Mexico City but it is as if they weren’t. They fit into different groups. Unfortunately we have those “Catholic” politicians and journalists and movie stars whose words reveal them as hostile to the Church; whose behavior makes them no friends of the Cross of Jesus Christ. However there are others who may even attend Mass regularly but have adapted themselves to the new world-order: Catholic chameleons blending in perfectly with the secularist colors of the “Society of Relativism”; who never utter a word that might give them away – “Oh, you don’t mean to say that he’s Catholic? I’d never have guessed!” Others don’t hide their Catholic faith: they willingly speak about it when the opportunity arises but have no plan to change their workplace into one operating on the principles of the Culture of Life according to the Natural Law; nor do they actively reach out to propose the Faith to non-Catholics.
Dynamic passionate enterprising lay Catholics are a qualitative leap away from the masses of our laity who, even among those who attend Mass each Sunday do not think they have a duty to spread the Faith beyond their own children. Even among those who attend Mass frequently, the virus of syncretism has infected many since they regard the choice of religion as a purely subjective matter. Even the tiny handful of Catholics who want to do something to build up the Church don’t quite know how to go about it and frequently remain at the level – vitally important though it is – of giving money for Catholic causes. For example, some devout Catholics high up in TV companies may devote time and money to organizing pilgrimages yet do nothing effective to ensure their TV programming is more Christian.
Indeed many Catholics have practically raised the white flag – and non-Catholics notice it. In The Priest and a World Vision, Fr. James Keller quotes a Japanese teacher as saying: “I have been studying your religion, and I am convinced that its philosophy of life could bring lasting peace to all nations. But you have not fulfilled the command of … Jesus Christ. He said to bring his teaching, his Gospel, to all nations. You … have not done this. And you are not even making a serious attempt to do it now.”
Think of how many conversations among Catholics about the state of society and the hostility of mainstream mass media conclude with the cliché: “Well, what else could you expect from them?”
Have we Catholics decided to walk off the stage of history? Have we determined to lower the Catholic Flag that flew aloft over Western Civilization for millennia? Have we decided to go into exile after creating the greatest civilization the world has ever seen?
Soul-stirring should be the question in Paul Claudel’s drama Le Père humilié where a beautiful, blind Jewish girl, Pensée, asks her Catholic friend: “You who see, what use have you made of the light?”