The Obstacle to Catholic Civilization

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“One of the most dangerous errors is that civilization is automatically bound to increase and spread.The lesson of history is the opposite; civilization is a rarity, attained with difficulty and easily lost. The normal state of humanity is barbarism, just as the normal surface of the planet is salt water. Land looms large in our imagination and civilization in history books, only because sea and savagery are to us less interesting.” – C. S. Lewis

A Catholic Civilization Requires Firstly The Rescue Of Man’s Nature

Nowadays Christian culture and civilization is often equated with humanitarian culture as if Christianity were essentially a matter of  human decency, helping the needy, and with a vague belief in the exceptional nature of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

However since Christian culture is born from the truths of the Catholic Faith, its horizons for thought and action are as vast as life and eternity and are comprehensive of all the dimensions of man, of his body and spirit, of family, social, economic, and political activities.

It is the culture created by the men who have been rescued “from the dominion of darkness” (Colossians 1:13), a rescue that encompasses the very depths of man’s soul and body.

It is crucial to understand that the Catholic religion is not just a matter of ideas or theory, a “religion” consisting in a set of principles for building a better society.

If it were just another philosophy or religion it would remain just that – another option among the many to have shown themselves incapable of healing man’s inability to overcome the great human frustration: the ability to know what is right but the inability to do it, so admirably expressed in the poignant words of  St. Paul:

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.

“For I have the desire to do what is right but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inner being but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:15-24)

Man, a psychosomatic unity of body, passions, intelligence, emotions and will to power has a destiny that requires the correct co-ordination of all these components of his nature.

Thus, Catholicism asserts that man, fatally wounded by the consequences of “the aboriginal catastrophe” (J. H. Newman) of original sin, is, without membership in the Mystical Body of Christ, frustrated in his attempts to overcome the gravitational pull towards egotism and evil that is part of his nature. Consequently, all efforts by a wounded human nature  to build a better world are intrinsically flawed and doomed to failure.