K-Punk and the Catholics

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Lamplighter

New member
' ... anti-Catholicism is no different to anti-fascism'. Eh? That's a pretty silly thing to say, really. It's like something out of a sixth-year debate. John Eden makes one good counter-point, but the main problem is that the whole 'argument' hinges on an extremely simplistic, not to say slightly odd, understanding of fascism:

Only a stubborn tribal mind virus that insists that is good to belong to a certain ethnic group.
Fascism in other words.

Even without questioning the conflating of ethnicity and religion here (if the Catholics are an 'ethnic' group now, then what about the Quakers, and so on? Are they all ethnic groups too?), that's a fairly strange definition of fascism. If I remember my political science correctly, it's normally considered to be an extreme form of liberal democracy, the belief that the majority have more rights than minorities. Ethnic pride is surely far too widespread a phenonenom to be given the name 'fascism'? African tribal conflicts, all kinds of nationalist movements all over Europe for hundreds of years, Chinese Han nationalism from 2000 years ago - they're all fascist now, right? It seems to me fascism is now just a cipher for 'bad'.
Actually, I've changed my mind, that's not really the main reason that this is a really silly thing to say. I remember a while ago John Eden, I think it was, wrote something along the lines of ordinary people living ordinary lives, helping people out, being nice, that they were the best political activists there were. I think my point is kind of the same. There are millions of Catholics all over the world, in almost every country, who are what I would call 'good people'. They don't abuse kids, they don't burn Mayans, they help people, they're nice - and if you asked them they would describe themselves as Catholics, and most would say that they live their lives the way they do because of their faith. But we should hate them because they're catholics, and hating catholics is the same as hating fascists, right?

Aw, my second post here and I'm kind of having a go at someone. One of the administrators, no less. It's not my fault, the internet has made me bad.
 

Woebot

Administrator
Staff member
Lamplighter said:
' ... anti-Catholicism is no different to anti-fascism'. Eh? That's a pretty silly thing to say, really. It's like something out of a sixth-year debate. John Eden makes one good counter-point, but the main problem is that the whole 'argument' hinges on an extremely simplistic, not to say slightly odd, understanding of fascism:

Only a stubborn tribal mind virus that insists that is good to belong to a certain ethnic group.
Fascism in other words.

Even without questioning the conflating of ethnicity and religion here (if the Catholics are an 'ethnic' group now, then what about the Quakers, and so on? Are they all ethnic groups too?), that's a fairly strange definition of fascism. If I remember my political science correctly, it's normally considered to be an extreme form of liberal democracy, the belief that the majority have more rights than minorities. Ethnic pride is surely far too widespread a phenonenom to be given the name 'fascism'? African tribal conflicts, all kinds of nationalist movements all over Europe for hundreds of years, Chinese Han nationalism from 2000 years ago - they're all fascist now, right? It seems to me fascism is now just a cipher for 'bad'.
Actually, I've changed my mind, that's not really the main reason that this is a really silly thing to say. I remember a while ago John Eden, I think it was, wrote something along the lines of ordinary people living ordinary lives, helping people out, being nice, that they were the best political activists there were. I think my point is kind of the same. There are millions of Catholics all over the world, in almost every country, who are what I would call 'good people'. They don't abuse kids, they don't burn Mayans, they help people, they're nice - and if you asked them they would describe themselves as Catholics, and most would say that they live their lives the way they do because of their faith. But we should hate them because they're catholics, and hating catholics is the same as hating fascists, right?

Aw, my second post here and I'm kind of having a go at someone. One of the administrators, no less. It's not my fault, the internet has made me bad.
It seems a quite reasonable point, and I hope he takes you up on it. Though I admire his vim, I'll admit to being a little perplexed over Mark's onslaught into the Catholic faith. I do think he has a number of good points (their failure to endorse protected sex is unequivocally insane) but many could be levelled against other organised religions. For instance though the Mayans had a powerfully advanced culture (which it was treason to destroy and their slaughter at the hands of the conquistadores was atrocious) they also sacrificed hundreds of thousands of their own people and their enemies to the gods. I can't help but imagine most Catholics to be pretty straight-forward well-intentioned folk.
 
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Grievous Angel

Beast of Burden
I think Mark is pushing the dialectic of his argument round the bend a bit with this one.

I was raised catholic -- which makes me somewhat virulently anti-catholic church for a number of reasons I won't dwell on here but which you can read about in the archives at uncarved. So critiquing Catholicism as being monolithically fascist has its appeal, but it's an argument that collapses rapidly for the reasons Eden posits.

However, critiquing Catholicism while mounting a defence of "faith" and "belief" -- essentially, as far as I could make out, a version of the existentialist position of "it's better to believe in something -- anything -- rather than collapse into ennui" -- involved too many somersaults for my sleep-deprived brain to deal with. Especially in the context of an apologia for The Passion of Christ over at Hyperstition -- not sure if Mark wrote that, but hey, it's a Kollective :).

Mind you, the last thing I expect or want from my esteemed colleague (and brother in the faith) is measured consistency. Nor would I ever do Mark the disservice of merely (or facilely) "agreeing" with him.
 

Rambler

Awanturnik
So classifying millions of people with a common faith as an ethnic group - and then portraying them all as some sort of 'viral' scum, a grotesque conspiracy - this is the non-fascist position????
 

Rambler

Awanturnik
And if that sounds like I'm lashing out, then I'm sorry. But I'm married to a Catholic who deals personally, thoughtfully and painfully with the impossible contradiction between her faith and the institution in which she exercises it every single day, and ill-focused rants about 'deranged bigotry' and 'institutionalized child abuse' aren't particularly clever.
 

Diggedy Derek

Stray Dog
Fair enough. But, historically, isn't the faith heavily subservient to the insitution? Catholic morality has always been heavily guided by the centre of the institution, and even today it still defines the terms of moral debate. Protestantism encouraged studying the bible yourself, which was a step forward at the time.

Meanwhile, Catholicism still does it's bizarre top-down moral teaching bit- guides to which films are and aren't good, like they'd know- which, whatever their intentions, tend to muddy the waters of moral debate.

I guess one can ignore it all, of course, but the institution is insidious, isn't it?
 

Rambler

Awanturnik
Well, my wife is pretty good at spotting good films from bad you know - and like anyone else is capable of making up her own mind. ;)

The hierachy is obviously deeply problematic, but actually all Catholics I know don't take it especially seriously - anyone can see that the Pope is a senile old fool these days who should be allowed to step down. And let's not forget, the mechanisms by which he is not allowed to step down - Papal infallability and so on - have only been around for about 150 years, not 2000. The institutional history you're talking about is relatively very recent indeed.

As for institutional moralising, that is an unavoidable side-effect of all organised religion. Encouraging personal Bible study and understanding is, I think, better than dictating it, but it comes with its own set of problems - look at the religious right in America: gay bashing and murdering women exercising their right to abortion are justified on selected, and heavily interpreted (distorted) passages of the Bible (ignoring the bit where it says "This is the most important thing: love one another. Nothing matters more than this.") Without someone at the top enforcing moral guidance, bad things will happen. But that's an inevitable consequence of granting freedom and choice ...

Oh, I don't know where I'm going with this any more. The debate is far too big and important to be conducted in a forum like this - but the Catholic-bashing got me personally angry so I couldn't resist getting involved.
 

craner

Beast of Burden
Surely Mark is on strong ground <em>politically</em> re: the Catholic Church as a political apparatus of oppression, abuse, extortion…

As far as anti-Catholic = anti-fascist, this may seem less ridiculous if you consider Vatican collusion with both Italian fascism and German Nazism, even after World War 2. The “ratlines” which helped Nazi war criminals escape to South America were part organised by the Vatican; the Church has pretty much ignored or denied anti-semitic crimes commited by fascists before and during the War. And don’t forget inner-Vatican sects like Opus Dei: a powerful, wealthy, clandestine group who collaborated with the neo-fascist P2 masonic lodge in such ventures as the assassination of Pope John Paul 1. These are just examples.

For the sake of disclosure I should mention that I’m from a High Anglican background, like opulent and arcane ritual, Church architecture, early Christian Music, Vespers at Brompton Oratory, the smell of incense and candles, and the late novels of J.K.Huysmans.

I also found Mark’s defense of Passion of the Christ inexplicable and absurd: the whole movie drips with the worst excesses of Catholic extremism. Its account is largely based on Anne Catherine Emmerich’s: a viciously anti-semitic saint. The fact that he’s a fundamentalist is less…well, I don’t know. Church reform is stupid, dishonest, and sick. The Latin Mass should be sung in Latin. (That’s an aesthetic call when I make it, though.) Vatican II reforms are window-dressing, obfuscation, corruption.
 

craner

Beast of Burden
I meant: the fact that Gibson is a fundamentalist.

To be honest I find Mark's views on North Korea and Stalin <em>far</em> more perplexing than any of this.
 

Grievous Angel

Beast of Burden
Rambler said:
I'm married to a Catholic who deals personally, thoughtfully and painfully with the impossible contradiction between her faith and the institution in which she exercises it every single day, and ill-focused rants about 'deranged bigotry' and 'institutionalized child abuse' aren't particularly clever.
Hang on rambler, I hope you're not trivialising or ... ahhh... denying the 'institutionalized child abuse' of the Catholic church?

Just like to clarify...

BTW it would be interesting (to me at least!) to hear how your wife resolves the "impossible contradiction between her faith and the institution in which she exercises it". Which contradictions are most painful? And which institutions would be more or less painful? I mean, you can be Catholic without being in Opus Dei... and you can christian without being catholic... and you can be monotheistically spiritual without being "christian"... There's a spectrum there; where does she place herself / feel forced to place herself and why?
 

Grievous Angel

Beast of Burden
Derek:
But, historically, isn't the faith heavily subservient to the insitution?
vs...
Rambler:
Papal infallability and so on - have only been around for about 150 years, not 2000. The institutional history you're talking about is relatively very recent indeed.
Rambler, I think it's fair to say that that glosses over an awful lot of history. The "faith being subservient to the institution" point applies for far longer than the last 150 years since infallibility was promulgated. I would argue that it goes all the way back to catholicism's genesis in Pauline christianity as a tool for the unification of Roman Empire.

(I doubt that I need to tell you about the differences between post-Pauline Catholic christianity and the various Jewish / proto-christian groups that existed previously, which turned into non-Catholic christianities such as the Celtic and Ethiopian churches. I can get the potted version from pagans who've done masters-level theology.)

Oliver C:
I also found Mark’s defense of Passion of the Christ inexplicable and absurd: the whole movie drips with the worst excesses of Catholic extremism.
Yes, as I said, Mark's is an interesting and involved position to hold!
 

blissblogger

Active member
cos of its own hierarchical structure perhaps there does seems to be some affinity or predisposition in Roman Catholicism (as institution) towards supporting dictators or Royalism/aristocracy, authoritianian regimes and people want to restore or return to some lost social-political order

-- role of RCC in Spanish Civil War
-- i remember watching a documentary about some nutty Welsh novelist who wanted to make Wales 1/ independent 2/ have its own king and nuttiest of all 3/ be all Catholic! -- i wish i could remember his name as reactionary literati is something of an interest of mine
-- Evelyn Waugh

and let's not forget the Republic of Ireland more or less siding with the Axis Powers in WW2 (although to be fairer that was perhaps the enemy of my enemy is my friend vis-a-vis England)

seem to remember a classic Julie Burchill piece in the Face slagging off Roman Catholicism -- which she took to the nutty point of saying Rev Ian Paisley was a hero -- she got loads of angry letters -- it started off being about Graham Green, her favorite writer, and how the one blot on his copybook was his fatalistic, pessimistic succumbing to the romance of Roman Catholicism

right now some Catholic bishops in the USA are saying that voting for Kerry is a sin (on account of his stance on abortion, stem cell research)
 

dominic

Beast of Burden
i was raised catholic, but don't count myself catholic, xian, gnostic, or any other such thing. i call myself irreligious . . . . i find k-punk's position on catholicism and "the passion of christ" intellectually dishonest, contradictory, and extreme . . . . first, there is his strained reading of "the passion of christ," wherein Gibson emerges as an acolyte of Deleuze, and the "passion" a modality of the Body without Organs. "Better to let the organism be tortured to death than to bow, bent-headed, to Authority." what makes k-punk's reading so bizarre, of course, is that Gibson is one of the few American Catholics who might rightly be accused of zealotry and a fascistic/authoritian political temperament . . . . second, there's k-punk's rhetorical question as to what remains of Catholicism to give "dignified respect" to after its history is cleansed of the Inquisition, the expropriation of wealth from the poor, etcetera. surely there is the faith of one's own ancestors, which found expression in the great cathedrals, paintings, rituals, etcetera, and which continues to ground a way of life that is in many ways better than our own (i challenge anyone to visit southern Italy and not return impressed by the culture, i.e., the "ethnic" Catholic culture par excellence) -- nor do i think it mere "mumbo jumbled idiot ethnicism" to refrain from trashing the culture and faith of one's ancestors -- i think it has more to with gratitude and a conscious effort to avoid undue assumptions, the belief that we who live at the end of time know better than the many generations who came before us (not that i'd ever accuse K-punk of being uncritical, merely that he's reluctant to extend the same kind of credit to catholic apologists) . . . . third, k-punk refers to the "superstitious paganisms" that are incorporated into Catholicism. true, Catholic ritual is pagan through and through, and so too the doctrine of the Trinity. what k-punk fails to explain, however, is why it is okay, nay, praiseworthy for Burroughs and Crowley to take seriously magic and the power of chant, but despicable for RC priests to do roughly the same . . . . fourth, k-punk gives an overly simplistic account of the ethical teaching of Christ. in his review of the ''passion of christ," k-punk reduces this teaching to "loving God and loving others more than yourself," such that an "Affectionate Collectivity" can be "instantiated" among all who undertake this practice. but to reduce Christ's teaching in this manner is to ignore the text of the Bible (which K-punk must do if he is to avoid contending with the JC who propagated "slave morality," not to mention the homophobic JC). to the extent that k-punk avoids the text, he is of course a bad protestant and a good catholic . . . . all that said, the roman in me enjoys the spectacle of k-punk tearing catholicism to shreds
 

Melmoth

Bruxist
[quote - Blissblogger)

and let's not forget the Republic of Ireland more or less siding (??) with the Axis Powers in WW2 (although to be fairer that was perhaps the enemy of my enemy is my friend vis-a-vis England)



Ireland was neutral in the Second World War, but de facto supported the allies. German airmen shot down in Ireland were interned, while allied air crew were returned to Northern Ireland and freedom; when Belfast was blitzed de Valera sent Irish fire crews to help, etc. etc.. Do you have any examples of such support for the axis?
 

blissblogger

Active member
well i stand corrected -- although that was the impression i'd got (neutral tinged with hostility to the UK, and you can sort of see why). but i daresay the impression originates with something written by Julie Burchill, possibly not the soundest source

also have vague memories of a movie with Donald Sutherland as IRA agent trying to help the Germans assassinate Churchill. is that total poppycock?
 

Melmoth

Bruxist
Neutral tinged with hostility to the UK is fair, very different from supporting the fascists, though de Valera
the Irish President famously did go to the German embassy with his condolences when Hitler topped
himself. There were some elements in the IRA who were sympathetic to Germany, but they were also militantly opposed to the Irish Gov and virtually outlawed by it. It was de Valera's refusal to allow
British ships to use Irish ports ( a violation of neutrality) that has given rise to persistent rumours
that Ireland allowed U-boats to refuel and other nonsense. All that said, de Valera's government was very Catholic and incredibly authoritarian, so your broader point stands.
 

&catherine

New member
Diggedy Derek said:
Protestantism encouraged studying the bible yourself, which was a step forward at the time.
Which is not to say, of course, that all sorts of kooky and awful reinterpretations of the Bible have emerged following the 'DIY' approach of Protestantism. But this is more a testament to the ease with which interpretation quickly becomes entrenched conservatism, institutionalism once more...

the institution is insidious, isn't it?
To generalise - yes, it is. But to generalise again - aren't they all?
 

k-punk

Spectres of Mark
OK. I'll come in on this now, even though it is clearly a waste of time, since most of the Catholic apologists don't seem willing to read what I write, or to think beyond the very default categories that it aims to upset.

First of all: I want everyone to put their cards on the table. If I'm dealing with a cult initiate, I want to know.

To make absolutely clear my own position. My father and half my family are Catholic, so I have seen the effects of this dangerous and evil cult at very close quarters. It operates by terrorizing children (read the early part of Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man if you doubt that) and by keeping adults as terrified children. That's one of the ways in which it is a child abuse cult.

1) It's a given, and it was made completely clear in Nina's original post (my, it is difficult to get people to READ things before they wade in, isn't it?) that an attack on the RCC is not an attack on individual Catholics, any more than an attack on Nazism is an attack on anyone who voted for the National Socialists in Germany in the 30s. There were good Nazis in the same way that they are good Catholics. But why defend Catholicism any more than you would defend Nazism? Rather than making silly ad hominem points about 'sixth form' critique, would the defenders of the RCC kindly refute my historical arguments? Millions of people have been raped, mutilated, killed and genocided in the name of the Catholic Church. So when 'good' people say they are Catholic -- what are they signing up to?

2) Catholicism and ethnicity - Dominic's arguments on 'ancestor' and tradition make this point for me quite eloquently, I think. Dawkins is a bigot, but nevertheless some of his attacks on religion have real bite. For instance, it is overwhelmingly the case that most religious believers share the convictions of their parents. Monofascist religion is a mind virus passed through families (one of the many forms of child abuse for which the RCC is responsible). How is this adoration of ancestors different from Aryan 'blood and soil'? Do these ancestors include the Spanish Inquisitors, the witch burners, the crusaders? Catholicism IS fundamentally an ethnicity rather than a set of doctrinal commitments (and as Nina pointed out in her original post, Oirish Catholicism is one of the most pernicious modes of this idiot ethnicity) because when it comes down to it - and Dominic's 'defence' proves this - it is simply about the stupid claim that people who are 'one of Us' are a priori better than other people. Even if they sodomise children. That's why the RCC will defend and systematically cover up child abuse - because sure, it's wrong, but hey, they are Catholics.

3) Passsion of the Christ - I would appeal to people to watch the film, not see it through the filters supplied by Amerikkkan Zionists (Zionism is equally as Satanic as Catholicism obv) and other interest groups INCLUDING GIBSON HIMSELF. Gibson himself clearly thought that he was producing Catholic propaganda, but we're sophisticated post-structuralists now aren't we, we don't fall for the intentionalist fallacy, do we? Gibson is under the delusion that if he presents Christ's life as it is told in the Gospels, then he will be presenting an argument against it. But the principal villains of the film - the Pharisees - are representatives of idiot religious authoritarianism, not Judaism per se (there are many positive images of Jews in the film, anyone who watched it without a Zionist filter would easily be able to see that). The counterparts of the preening Pharisees would obviously be Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor - the Catholic cynic who knowingly puts a returned Christ to death because Christ's teachings are 'too difficult' for ordinary people. Catholicsm has been systematically and symbolically killing Christ for 2 millennia. Astonishingly, Gibson's film shows that they haven't succeeded, that there is something in the story - a Gnostic core - that resists all the attempts of Satanic wordly administrators to distort and conceal it.

4) The authority of the Bible. Obviously it has none whatsoever. That was the point of the Passion of the Christ post, but, again, you have to have read and thought about it rather than simply dashed off a rant in accordance with your existing prejudices. The gospels stand and fall not on their historical truth, but simply on their ethical Example. Dominic accuses me of 'reducing' Christ's teachings to the simple interdiction to love God and love others - as if this isn't what the Biblical Christ himself says (not that this carries special weight, but is Dominic who is accusing me of not knowing the Bible). I certainly plead guilty to reducing Christianity to Christ's teachings - i.e. stripping away all of Paul's nonsense and the mystagogic edifice built upon it. Yes, I'm a bad Protestant - but then, what's wrong with Protestantism is that it is too Catholic. A bad Protestant, but a good Gnostic, and a good Spinozist - that is my hope.

Finally: the only reason people defend Catholicism is that it is still around. If the Nazis had survived world war II to 'liberalize', people would be up in arms about attacking them. 'My grandfather was a death camp guard... My family isn't evil... there are lots of Nazis who do charity work....' Because if there is Evil in Europe, it must in the past. From the White Euro-Amerikkan POV, evil is the evil of the Other (Saddam Hussein, Islamofascism) or must be confined to History ('yes, we were evil once, but not now, of course...')
 

Rambler

Awanturnik
Mark, I admit fully that I did not read all that you wrote - and I've only just followed the link to Infinite Thought's post on the subject. But, if a post begins with the phrase 'Oirish ethnofascist wing of the child abuse blood cult', then you must expect (even invite?) some knee-jerk reaction. If I've included myself among that number, then so be it. To, once again, declare my interest, I'm a Methodist who recently married an Irish Catholic. If it needs to be declared (as one or two people seem to think it does), of course I do not deny that some priests abuse children. Some do, and they are cruel, men who should be punished accordingly. One or two taught at my brother-in-law's school. And there are two factors that make abuse a particular problem within the RCC: celibacy - which is a ludicrous and potentially dangerous doctrine - and an institutional code of silence (not something unique to the Church) propogated by a number of powerful and extremely stupid individuals. Your point about a different form of child abuse, through the catacysm, is well made Mark, and is obviously a more widespread form of fear. I've read Portrait of the Artist, and even as a sceptical teenager that chapter scared me. That's one concrete, faith-based reason why I would never consider converting; fear is a terrible way to turn people to one's will.

On the question of signing up, there is a profound difference between Catholics born into it (OK, maybe that does suggest a loose definition of 'ethnicity'), and those who are confirmed in later life. The latter are attracted by the rituals, the symbolism, the exoticism of the whole thing - this is immediately apparent from reading Graham Greene, say. For all other Catholics, the symbolism - transubstantiation for example - is not exotic, weird or mystical. It can't be explained, obviously, but you just shrug and accept it. What they feel more of is a lifetime communion with God - and this often means an everlasting debate to make sense of him/her, and to reconcile one's personal faith with the hideous atrocities committed in its (and by extension your own) name. Having faith is not a bad thing - it is an immensely attractive and beneficial option to billions of people. It offers comfort and hope in times of difficulty. When people are left utterly powerless, those with faith can still pray: they can still feel that they are doing more than those that don't. The value of faith to the personal lives of most people around the world is hard to overstate. That is what Catholics - and almost any member of any religion - are signing up to. Hope, love, faith. Good things. I wish I had more of them myself.

To end with a contemporary analogy: appalling crimes are being committed in the name of democracy and freedom in Iraq at this very minute, but does anyone outside the neocon cadre actually believe that this is really what democracy and freedom mean? No, of course not. Just because there is a foolish, all-too-human individual at the helm overseeing these crimes at this moment does not mean that democracy or freedom are vessels of evil, tainting all those that believe in them. In this case it is very easy to dissociate the ideals from the fallible individuals working in its name - and this should be equally true of Catholicism.

This debate can - and will - run eternally, and it's not one that any of us can divert into a particular direction, so I'm reluctant to get drawn further into it: these are my cards on the table, play with them how you will.
 
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