Friday, April 09, 2010

History is history

History is history, which means that it happened and nothing we can do about it, save try to understand it.

For centuries the Church acted in a secular context characterized by a monarchical and aristocratic articulation of society. There it became, in spite of the initial opposition, the main culture of the people, so it was in her that the princes searched for a justification of their representation, that made them other than tyrants. Of course, so the history goes, at the same time the princes tried over again to make of her just the spiritual side of their power: in a word, to subordinate her to themselves as to the true anointed by the Lord.

But there is a little particular: every Christian is, in the Church, anointed.

So for centuries the only one to remind the princes of this little particular was the Pope: the papacy was, over again, the only bulwark to the absolutism of secular monarchs, who in turn claimed exclusive holiness for their kingdoms.

By itself, I could say, the Church (the only one, holy catholic church) is a transcendent monarchical institution, established by God through Christ, leaving Peter and the other apostles with their successors, the Pope and the Bishops, to spread his Spirit through the people, so to have everybody share, once anointed, in his divine kingship.

Things have not changed even after that, also because of the long term effect of the Church's work in society, monarchy left the way to democracy in the secular constitution of states.

In Europe, this required in order to happen a series of revolutions, from Luther's protest to the juvenile movements of the late Sixties. It happened that people, moved by the sense of the equal personal dignity they owed to the Church, saw her on the side of the monarchical and aristocratic powers that be, and so turned also against her as an impediment to their divine freedom. But in this way, having deprived their dignity of its transcendent justification, they followed the way of the old princes, and tended to turn into tyrants.

This again is history, and I don't need to remind the ways this turn to tyranny took. But perhaps I do need to remark that this turn can take a soft as well as a hard face: a needed reminder now days, when the soft character of tyranny risks to make it invisible to us.

Different was the experiment in democracy made in America: not against the Church, but leaving the churches free to educate people to the required royal virtue. Of course, perfection is not of this world, and even the American experiment is subject to the temptation of soft tyranny.

That tyranny it is, is recognizable precisely by the attacks moved to the Church and the Pope.

There are derailing priests, betraying their order by indulging in "paiderastia" (today it is called "pedophilia")? So what is new: that men are sinners, and such unfortunately stay also within the Church, is again history. Nothing to marvel about.

I would marvel only if it were a phenomenon of such diffusion in the Church to exceed by a long stretch its presence in other sectors of human society. Which is in no way the case, quite the contrary.

This means therefore that the Church is attacked for the same old reasons, that she is there to remind people of belonging to a higher society than the one represented by any state of this world. Thus she reminds them of their freedom of children of God, being, because children, heirs, and sharing, because heirs, of his sovereignty.

Hence the royal liberty that makes democracy – the democracy we cherish – possible, keeping us from the otherwise inevitable servitude, to others as well as to ourselves.


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