The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has set off a rat-feast among the talking-head class. No event of such newsworthiness can be left unbloviated about; in an age of comment toward clicks, the cycle of the commentariat is the news cycle. (I’ve observed this pattern myself; talking about recent events brings me more hits than anything except perhaps talking about things that can be even tangentially connected to Stormfront—regardless of what position I take. There is surely some meaning one could draw from this, but I won’t try now.) And given the subject matter of this particular Golden Age of the lightspeed news-cycle, this event-over-events, the inevitable but unfortunate question has again been raised—the Catholic question.
The Catholic question? An odd question indeed, for this enlightened, tolerant era! Have we not become different from the age of the Know-Nothings and the Orange Riots? The Catholic question, like Marx’s Jewish question, Carlyle’s Negro question—are these not artifacts of a past century? The past, as we all know, is foreign to us, the ever more enlightened riders of the Weltgeist’s progression toward the eschaton. Who has not experienced that sense of vague unease upon first learning that a philosopher taken seriously up to the present day wrote an essay cited up to the present day on—a Question? These Questions, these eldritch horrors crawling up from the elle rīċe of the past—no, no, surely these are ellend, exiled from our nation-in-time to the miserable past, the Elendreich…
But despite our mythology of accumulated temporal foreignness as the inexorable wheels of progress drive us from the Elendreich to the New Jerusalem, the Questions carry on. Not as Questions, of course—in an age of lies, as perhaps all ages are, all that matters lies at the furthest remove—but as nameless non-entities, nameless because natural. Names are power; is this not the essence of wizardry?—and light magic works in the shadows, building its bases from cracks in the semantic fabric. Aspiring Sith Lords must learn the unnatural art of naming the nameless, of drawing maps in the no-territory to shine the black light of the Devil on these divine voids.
And is it so impossible that there might be such a Question? After all, Anti-Catholicism has a centuries-long history; what could drive such historically-minded people as the white wizards of our age, the carriers-on of a rigorously monastic tradition of no-tradition, to overlook it? Revolutionary France held priests in chains in prison ships! Surely at least the peddlers of black-Beethoven fables could confabulate a fitting legend, were they so inclined… but they are not. Why not? (Catholicism, as per Catholicism, must remain Catholic; would it make sense to ask that question of blackness, or some other weaponized group identity? Unlikely; blackness, to the dismay of professors everywhere, does not carry necessary doctrinal content, whereas Catholicism does, and that doctrine, unlike the doctrines of certain Protestant sects, does not fall cleanly in line with either progressivism or the interests of capital and their organized false-opposition. Catholicism seems to be unique in this, at least in the West; Judaism seems similar, albeit much less so and much less solidly, and is accordingly less vilified by the mainstreams of both factions. And yes, Catholicism is vilified: why is it that everyone knows and cares about the Catholic rape scandal but not the college rape scandal? I learned about the latter from @FuckTheory, who has also talked at length about the former, and he is not unusual in displaying a clear hatred of Catholics but not of colleges.)
Now—what is this Catholic question?
Consider that old stock phrase: “Is the pope Catholic?” Now perform the Rawlsian reversal: “Should the pope be Catholic?” Rajiv Malhotra answers in the negative:
Given the power of the Vatican, the choice of a new pope will impact people of all faiths, not just Catholics. Whenever there is a change of national leadership in the USA, China, Russia or other large country, it gets discussed and debated by people of all countries because it impacts everyone. Unfortunately, the discussions surrounding the change of the pope have been largely limited to the internal issues within the Catholic Church. I’d like to argue that this transition into a new papacy presents a historic opportunity to change the world in a significant way for the better. All of us, including non-Christians, are stakeholders in this conversation. …
If the Vatican would drop claims of exclusivity over religious truth, and reexamine dogmas such as the Nicene Creed, it would pressure other denominations of Christianity to follow suit. The Vatican, after all, is the single largest corporate institution of any religion in the world. The moral pressure on others would be huge if the Pope were to champion a new world order among all faiths in earnest, and not as a gimmick to increase his own flock.
If the Vatican would drop claims of exclusivity over religious truth! But is this claim not central to Catholicism? Is it not the slightest bit curious that a non-Catholic sees fit to argue that the Catholic Church should no longer be Catholic? Why is this?
What, one might ask, is Rajiv Malhotra’s religion? It is clearly not Catholicism; but is it catholic? Does it claim universality? But then—what is religion? This may seem to the unattentive reader like pointless semanticizing, but in reality, it is black magic, learned straight from a Sith Lord.
For atheists of the all-around variety – including me – the question remains. Why do we believe in “religion?”
One obvious answer is that we have to share the planet with a lot of religious people. If you are an atheist, there is no getting around it: religion, as per Dawkins, is a delusion. Deluded people do crazy things and are often dangerous. We need to have a category for these people, just as we have a category for “large, man-eating carnivores.” Certainly, religious violence has killed a lot more people lately than lions, tigers, or bears.
This argument sounds convincing, but it hides a fallacy.
The fallacy is that the distinction between “religion” and other classes of delusion must be clarifying or important. If there is a case for this proposition, we haven’t met it yet.
So: what is religion? In an age of the furthest remove, can we trust our inherited categories? Rajiv Malhotra is Hindu, but if we have seen Protestant Catholics, Protestant Jews, and Protestant Muslims, is a Protestant Hindu that much of a stretch? Or—what is more important as a distinction: the group Malhotra identifies himself with, or the spells he chants? Is Rajiv Malhotra’s ideography Hindu? Does it strike you, you who likely live in a Protestant society, as elþēodiġ? Do you get the same feeling from it that you do from reading op-eds written by Maoists, Nazis, North Korean sympathizers (for whom, sadly, no adjective exists, besides the horrendously bulky official rendering Kimilsungist-Kimjongilist), and so on? Well, no, probably not. The Huffington Post is, after all, one of the most popular online news sources in the United States. What is popular in one’s own thede is not elþēodiġ.
Malhotra criticizes Catholics and Lutherans for claiming the duty to evangelize, to preach that their way is the only way and that those of other religions ought to abandon their beliefs and accept the contradictory ones of Catholicism or Lutheranism; but, in preaching that Catholics and Lutherans ought to abandon their beliefs and accept the contradictory one of ‘mutual respect’, is he not doing the same thing? This is the paradox of tolerance: it is not an absence of doctrine, but a doctrine in itself, and one that claims universality—that is, tolerance is catholic. Although Malhotra does not appear to understand this, Herbert Marcuse did:
The uncertainty of chance in this distinction does not cancel the historical objectivity, but it necessitates freedom of thought and expression as preconditions of finding the way to freedom–it necessitates tolerance. However, this tolerance cannot be indiscriminate and equal with respect to the contents of expression, neither in word nor in deed; it cannot protect false words and wrong deeds which demonstrate that they contradict and counteract the’ possibilities of liberation. Such indiscriminate tolerance is justified in harmless debates, in conversation, in academic discussion; it is indispensable in the scientific enterprise, in private religion. But society cannot be indiscriminate where the pacification of existence, where freedom and happiness themselves are at stake: here, certain things cannot be said, certain ideas cannot be expressed, certain policies cannot be proposed, certain behavior cannot be permitted without making tolerance an instrument for the continuation of servitude. …
Tolerance of free speech is the way of improvement, of progress in liberation, not because there is no objective truth, and improvement must necessarily be a compromise between a variety of opinions, but because there is an objective truth which can be discovered, ascertained only in learning and comprehending that which is and that which can be and ought to be done for the sake of improving the lot of mankind. …
With respect to historical violence emanating from among ruling classes, no … relation to progress seems to obtain. The long series of dynastic and imperialist wars, the liquidation of Spartacus in Germany in 1919, Fascism and Nazism did not break but rather tightened and streamlined the continuum of suppression. I said emanating ‘from among ruling classes’: to be sure, there is hardly any organized violence from above that does not mobilize and activate mass support from below; the decisive question is, on behalf of and in the interest of which groups and institutions is such violence released? And the answer is not necessarily ex post: in the historical examples just mentioned, it could be and was anticipated whether the movement would serve the revamping of the old order or the emergence of the new.
Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left. As to the scope of this tolerance and intolerance: … it would extend to the stage of action as well as of discussion and propaganda, of deed as well as of word. … In past and different circumstances, the speeches of the Fascist and Nazi leaders were the immediate prologue to the massacre. The distance between the propaganda and the action, between the organization and its release on the people had become too short. But the spreading of the word could have been stopped before it was too late: if democratic tolerance had been withdrawn when the future leaders started their campaign, mankind would have had a chance of avoiding Auschwitz and a World War.
The whole post-fascist period is one of clear and present danger. Consequently, true pacification requires the withdrawal of tolerance before the deed, at the stage of communication in word, print, and picture. Such extreme suspension of the right of free speech and free assembly is indeed justified only if the whole of society is in extreme danger. I maintain that our society is in such an emergency situation, and that it has become the normal state of affairs. … The small and powerless minorities which struggle against the false consciousness and its beneficiaries must be helped: their continued existence is more important than the preservation of abused rights and liberties which grant constitutional powers to those who oppress these minorities. It should be evident by now that the exercise of civil rights by those who don’t have them presupposes the withdrawal of civil rights from those who prevent their exercise, and that liberation of the Damned of the Earth presupposes suppression not only of their old but also of their new masters.
Liberation of the Damned of the Earth! If this isn’t catholic, what is?
I cannot, of course, oppose the existence of catholic doctrine; it has been around for at least two thousand years, and shows no signs of disappearing. What I object to is unconscious catholicism. Malhotra shows no sign of realizing that he is arguing that the pope shouldn’t be Catholic.
Even better examples exist, although their religious undercurrents remain seemingly unnoticed by the authors. Take this, from a college op-ed site:
Altogether in the U.S. Congress, women hold 18 percent of the leadership positions that help to govern our country. Even in other countries, women hold leadership roles as high as presidents. So with all of this being seen, I think it is time for the Catholic Church to recognize women as more than just simple, obedient nuns that serve within the church.
The idea of the Cardinals selecting a female pope is fairly unrealistic, but it is an amazing idea. The Cardinals need to progress right along with the rest of the world, and women deserve a fair chance at major titles such as these. Having a female be selected as pope shows that the Catholic Church supports, not only the rights of their congregation to freely practice their religion, but also the rights of women across the world to be able to reach the goals they may have set for themselves.
This also will give a major sense of equality to women within the church; not only those who may hold leadership positions, but also to the women of their congregation.
Rights! Equality! This is easily recognized as the language of the Huffington Post, and the other organs of the Cathedral. Is the Post Catholic? What is the purpose of the Catholic Church—to promote rights and equality, or to be Catholic? Why are so many non-Catholic writers writing sentences of the form “the next pope must…”? Certainly, catholicism can pose a serious threat to pluralism, but what catholic threat is Catholicism compared to the Cathedral? Especially when there are ‘Catholics’ who display more knowledge of the doctrine of the Cathedral than they do of Catholicism!
It would also be good to have a church that offers some ethical and moral leadership to the wider world. Views on things like climate change, war and peace, the present capitalist economic model and poverty would all be welcome contributions to the public discourse, rather than lectures on gay marriage. …
What is for sure is that more of the same will not do. A new pope who continues the backward approach of recent pontiffs will simply be one who continues to manage the decline of an institution that remains out of date for many in the 21st century.
Backward! Out of date! Would we not wonder about a self-proclaimed Protestant who talks about Vishnu?
(Of course, one may be a doctrinal Vishnuite in a Protestant thede, but the reverse is much more likely. Moldbug’s Protestant Muslims are doctrinal Protestants and thedish Muslims: they think about the world in a Protestant way from within a Muslim ingroup. Thede also gives us the term elthede—less unwieldy (albeit more opaque) substitutions for ingroup and outgroup respectively.)
But to return to the point. I am not Catholic, and neither can I presume that what little I know is of sufficient quality to grant me cause to be catholic; but how can anyone else? Malhotra presumes such for himself, but he appears not even to realize it; and neither do any of the other op-ed writers. I cannot say what the next pope must do, and neither can any priest of the Cathedral; and this is because the next pope must be Catholic.
If anyone questions the propriety of my raising this issue on the grounds that I am an outsider to the Catholic Church, let me simply say that as a world citizen I am a stakeholder in the outcome of this process. I do not think the Vatican can continue to operate with respect and legitimacy if it fails to attend to voices such as mine.
As a world citizen! The concept of world citizenship leads naturally to the progressive antithesis of the Moldbuggian thesis—to all voice, no exit—in a word, to democracy. The world is that from which there is no exit.