September 25, 2011


There are times I look around at my fellow American Catholics, and think, "Nah, give it up, guy. We're toast." But the crazy flawed contraption that Jesus fudged-up has been sputtering long for 2k years, and you'd be hard-pressed to find any other institutions that last more than 200 or maybe 300 years. so I'll stick with what works, and let other people go in for "experimental art."

...There Is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilization. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when lions and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheater. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and useful vigor.

The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated for what she has lost in the old. Her spiritual ascendancy extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which a century hence, may not improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe. The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigor when some traveler from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Pauls....

      --- Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1840

I put in this picture of the great Pope Leo XIII just for fun, because I just learned today that Pope Benedict wore a stole belonging to Leo when he visited Westminster Abbey. (Check it out here.) This is hilarious (and of course is a serious bit of honesty and clarity) because it was Leo who settled a big question by declaring that Anglican Orders were invalid. And also it was he who made Newman a Cardinal.

So, *ahem*, atheists! We got jokes that play out over the course of centuries. What do you got?

Posted by John Weidner at September 25, 2011 10:54 PM
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