God Help Us
Anyone who attempts to construe a personal view of God which conflicts with Church dogma must be burned without pity--Pope Innocent III
In 1929, when John F. Kennedy, our first Roman Catholic president was 12 years old, the last vestiges of the Papal States were dismantled and reduced to 110 acres in central Rome. The Pope’s armies had long since been defeated, his police powers revoked, his dungeons and torture chambers emptied. Catholicism had lost the temporal power that it exercised for 1600 years in what Montesquieu called the bloodiest kingdom of all.
The America of 1929 had just rejected the presidential candidacy of New York Governor Al Smith, partly because he was a papist. The KKK, the Tea Party of its time, was clamorously anti-Catholic. The fear was, as now with Muslims, that the Vatican was out to control America and the rest of the world.
At the birth of the United States, even the Protestant majority was leery of the likely power of its own clergy. America had freed itself from Britain, a nation with a meddling state church. Europe had suffered centuries of horribly bloody religious wars between Catholics and Protestants. Few wanted a repeat of that history here. What’s more, small towns in those days were often congregational rather than civic, making the minister the ex officio mayor. Not very democratic, that. With all this in mind, the founders wisely put in the Constitution that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Better to keep church and state separate.
By 1960, when JFK won the presidency, anti-Catholicism and even anti-Semitism were fading. Americans were becoming ever more willing to vote for politicians who professed belief in anything shy of atheism. The issue of church and state had been settled. Or so it seemed.
Yet here we are in 2012 with papist Rick “Google Me” Santorum in unholy alliance with Protestant fundamentalists to spread theocracy throughout the land. Like the kissy-face relationship between usually antagonistic Bible thumpers and Zionists, the stench of opportunism overwhelms the incense of ecumenism. Should they ever retake temporal power, the three faiths, each with its own perfect message, will be at each other's jugulars in short order. It will be minutes, not hours, before the garottes are unwound and the strappados cranked.
For what is most noticeable about Santorum and the cretinous cut of Christianity he inspires is their apparent eagerness to harken back not just to the idyllic slavery times that ordinary American reactionaries dream about, but all the way back to the actual dark ages. Instead of sitting on the porch and enjoying a mint julep while watching the slaves being whipped, this crowd hankers for seats at the star chamber meting out tortures to those who would dispute dogma. I hope the rest of us have learned enough in 2,000 years to treat this replay of tragic history as farce and blaspheme it out of existence.