Sunday, 27 February 2011

How the Pope became infallible

In this post, I want to gather together (and, where necessary, translate) some of the accounts of the promulgation of the dogma of papal infalliblity at the First Vatican Council.

Review of "Germany Reborn" by Hermann Goering

This is an odd little book that appears to have been written to persuade the British people, and perhaps also the Americans, of the virtues of the Third Reich.  Its author was "General Hermann Goering, Prime Minister of Prussia", and it was first published in London in 1934.  It was reissued in 2003, and I believe that a neo-Nazi publishing house produced its own edition in 2009.

Review of "Fascism: A Very Short Introduction" by Kevin Passmore

"Along with liberalism, conservatism, communism, socialism, and democracy, fascism is one of the great political ideologies that shaped the 20th century....  Yet how can we make sense of an ideology that appeals to skinheads and intellectuals; denounces the bourgeoisie while forming alliances with conservatives; adopts a macho style yet attracts many women; calls for a return to tradition and is fascinated by technology; idealizes the people and is contemptuous of mass society; and preaches violence in the name of order?"

Review of "The Executioner" by Joseph de Maistre

"I very much miss those 'symposia' of which the ancient world has left us several precious records.  Women are pleasant, certainly; we have to live with them in order not to become barbarians.  Large gatherings have their place; it is even necessary to know how to participate in them with good grace; but when one has satisfied all the duties imposed by custom, I think that it's a great thing that the men gather from time to time to have a reasoned discussion, even at the table.  I don't know why we no longer follow the practice of the ancients in this regard."

Catholic ultra-traditionalism

In this post, I want to look at the phenomenon of Catholic ultra-traditionalism - a movement of Catholic clerics and laypeople that opposes the changes that followed the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965, a worldwide council of the Catholic Church which carried out important work in updating Catholic teachings and practices for the 20th century.

A nineteenth century Catholic theologian on freedom of conscience

I have translated the following sections on freedom of conscience from the Summa Philosophica of Cardinal Tommaso Maria Zigliara, a widely used theological textbook first published in 1876, at the tail end of the conservative pontificate of Blessed Pius IX.

Papal Encyclicals of the Nineteenth Century

Faced with the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, the Catholic Church settled on the response of condemnation and resistance.  This policy was far from inevitable.  Pope Pius VII (1800-23) spoke favourably of revolutionary democracy in a sermon which he preached as Bishop of Imola at Christmas 1797: "Bring me a man who burns with love for God, and he will find the doctrine of equality before God in his heart....  Do not believe that the Catholic religion is against democracy."  This attitude, however, did not last.  In 1814, Pius himself complained about the guarantees of freedom of religion and freedom of expression in the draft constitution of the restored French monarchy.  A fairly typical representative of the conservative Catholic position was Mgr Jean-Joseph Gaume, who put the following words into the mouth of the Revolution in 1877, framing political liberalism as a sacreligious revolt against the God-given social order:

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

This overlong and rather boring pamphlet doesn't need much introduction.  Norman Cohn called it a "warrant for genocide".  Hitler thought it was "terrifying".  The judge at the Berne Trial of 1933-35 called it "laughable nonsense".  The writer and rabbi Joseph Teluskin was less amused: "Thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, of Jews have died because of this infamous forgery".

Review of "The Mythology of the Secret Societies" by J.M.Roberts

"Anyone who knows how difficult it is to keep a secret among three men - particularly if they are married - knows how absurd is the idea of a worldwide secret conspiracy consciously controlling all mankind by its financial power; in real, clear analysis."

Such was the admirably rational opinion of Sir Oswald Mosley on the conspiracy theories of his own day.  Sadly, we are not all as level-headed as the blackshirted baronet, and conspiracy theories of all kinds continue to thrive.  Nor are they merely the preserve of frothing political extremists or young single men blogging from their bedsits.  It is said that 36% of Americans think that 9/11 was an inside job.  In recent years, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion have been endorsed by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Egyptian press.  You can even buy a book written by a British Member of Paliament and Under-Secretary of State explaining that Dr David Kelly was murdered for speaking out of turn about Saddam's WMDs.

Review of "The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara" by David Kertzer

"Signor Mortara, I am sorry to inform you that you are the victim of a betrayal."  The officer felt uneasy, but he had his orders.  "Your son Edgardo has been baptised, and I have been ordered to take him with me."

Review of "Vindication of the English Constitution" by Benjamin Disraeli

This is a little book written by the 31-year-old Benjamin Disraeli in 1835 in defence of the nineteenth-century British constitution.  His principal target was the liberal utilitarians of his day, who supported dangerous ideas like popular sovereignty and universal suffrage.