My friend Kathy Schiffer posts quotable quotes from time to time and today she has a hum dinger from Jonathan Swift:
“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”
I replied that I now understood why everyone is against me.
On further thought, it is true that Swift’s comment may well be applied to the genius of the Catholic religion.
When considering the Catholic religion one of the things which convinced me to leave everything and become a Catholic was the list of enemies of the Catholic religion.
On the one hand we have the enemies who might be referred to as the noble enemies. They protest not against the Catholic religion, but against the abuse of the Catholic religion. These enemies write harsh articles against financial corruption in the Catholic Church, sexual predators in the priesthood, Carnal Cardinals and pompous popes. They launch diatribes against hypocritical Catholics, creepy priests, incompetent bureacrats and absurd Archbishops. Everyone must have sympathy for these critics of the church because they are not really criticizing the Catholic religion, but all those who have failed to live up to the religion they claim to follow. They are fair game and the wolves who circle are entitled to grab those fat, weak and crippled sheep.
The enemies of the Church who really interest me however, are the ones who are truly enemies not just of the corrupt clergy, incompetent priests, carnal cardinals, the pompous popes and absurd archbishops, but true enemies of the Catholic religion itself.
It was brought home to me the other day when my friend Joseph Pearce observed that he was hated in equal measure by two different groups who would otherwise be at each other’s throats. He was invited to appear on a BBC program as the lamb for the slaughter in a program on J.R.R.Tolkien. Pearce was invited to defend the idea that Tolkien was a Catholic writer and The Lord of the Rings a Catholic work. The other two participants were a female pagan and an Anglican female theologian.
He explained Tolkien’s deep Catholic faith and laid out the documentary evidence from the author himself that his epic was indeed a Catholic work. One might have thought that no matter how progressive the Anglican female theologian might be, that she would side with her fellow Christian in extolling the Christian dimension of Tolkien’s work. It was not so. Instead the Anglican theologian took sides with the pagan to launch a joint attack on Pearce and the obvious idea that Tolkien and his work are Catholic.
It’s a reminder that very often the only thing that binds people in an unholy alliance is their hatred of the Catholic religion. So you find feminists (who despise all male secret societies) happily on the same side as Freemasons. Communists will go to bed with Fascists if the target is Catholicism. Modernist Protestants and Fundamentalist Protestants agree on nothing except their shared antipathy towards the Catholic Church. Capitalists hate the Catholic Church for being the church of the poor while Socialists hate the Catholic church for being the church of the rich.
Should you decide to join the Catholic Church your down to earth friends will suspect you of liking baroque churches and the music of Mozart while your hoity toity friends will patronize you for liking Catholic kitsch like those postcards of Jesus and Mary with googly eyes. Social conservatives will blame you for joining a thinly disguised left wing outfit while social liberals will accuse you of joining hands with the establishment fat cats. High Church Episcopalians will say you are going for dumbed down Kumbayah religion while your granola and bean soup Birkenstock friends accuse you of joining the lace and brocade brigade. Intellectuals will blame you for joining a mind-numbing religion of sheer superstition in which you don’t have to think while the dummies will say you are wasting your time with all that Thomas Aquinas innerleckshul type stuff. Holy Rollers will blame you for being too rational while rationalists will blame you for being superstitious and gullible.
So take a light hearted view. Dust down your broad brimmed hat and sharpen your sword. Twirl your mustache and play the musketeer. Put a saucepan on your head and be Don Quixote–realizing that the great adventure will always seem a bit mad to the worldlings, and remember, the ones who complain don’t matter and the ones who matter don’t complain.
For a heftier dose of rollicking religion read my latest book The Romance of Religion.