Pagan Idolatry and Catholic Fortitude

A writer must at times take back, or at least re-form, opinions once vaguely and lightly and perhaps too hastily held. Even the great Augustine and Newman wrote their retractions. All part of that humility of Christian growth, one may hope. I finally watched, well, skimmed through, the ‘ritual’ held in the presence of the Pope and several cardinals, and I’m not sure what to call it, except pagan. Whatever was going on in the hearts, minds and wills of those present – opaque except to the God Who sees all – bowing down to piles of dirt, trees, and a wooden statue of a nude, pregnant woman – the infamous ‘Pacahmama’ – has all the trappings of idolatry.

I wrote previously that idolatry is primarily and essentially an interior thing, which occurs when one treats what is not God as a god. As the Catechism puts it:

The first commandment condemns polytheism. It requires man neither to believe in, nor to venerate, other divinities than the one true God. Scripture constantly recalls this rejection of “idols, (of) silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.” These empty idols make their worshippers empty: “Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them.” God, however, is the “living God” who gives life and intervenes in history. (2112)

But what we do in the body cannot be separated from what occurs in our soul, and vice versa. We are corporis et anima unitas, a unity of body and soul. Hence, when we willingly make an act of worship, of latria or adoration, bowing, kneeling, prostrating ourselves to that which is not divine, we may presume we have pretty much committed idolatry. Even to ‘fake’ it, to pretend out of some misguided sense of complaisance and irenicism and just getting along with the natives, is, more or less, to do it.

Whatever apologia one makes for this – and the Vatican has tried – it is at the very least incumbent upon our spiritual leaders, as Saint Paul says, to avoid even the semblance of evil. The same Apostle would not eat meat sacrificed to idols (not a sin in itself, since meat’s meat, and let the Lord be thankit), just in case such scandalized any of his brethren. ‘Tis not enough for justice to be done; it must be seen to be done. Again the Catechism, with the emphasis my own:

Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Many martyrs died for not adoring “the Beast”45 refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God. (2113)

We are in strange times, and should keep what wits we have left close at hand. It appears as though things are falling apart, for the centre cannot – or does not – hold. But we should remember that the ‘Church’ is far bigger – in time, space, history, teaching – than the reign of any given Pontiff, and that our ultimate centre, foundation and rock is Christ, Who can and does hold things together. Justice will be done, and the truth wins out in the end, if we, in our own hearts and minds, remain steadfast and true.

On that note, we should commend the young man, 26 year old, and newly married (yes, sorry, ladies) Alexander Tschugguel, an Austrian national, who decided that the First Commandment commanded him to remove the Pachamama idols from that Catholic church in Rome, casting them into the Tiber. Perusing his interview on LifeSite, the convert, who came into the Church from Lutheranism ten years ago – making him a rather prescient teenager – comes across as balanced and discerning, whose act, in his words, was motivated by love, for the Church and for the Holy Father.

I am always a bit wary of dramatic ‘gestures’, as was Thomas More. Part of my initial consternation, I suppose, was the visual image of a grown man punching images of a pregnant women – idols though they may well be – off a bridge into a river. The optics just weren’t all that great. I would prefer it if the idols looked more like, well, devils. Satan is an insidious and crafty foe indeed, for even in fighting him we must beware, for he is quite adept in drawing us in, or drawing others in; or undermining our own very cause (the pro-life movement is filled with examples of such). Saints have generally preferred prayer and perseverance in goodness and one’s duty of the moment, a life away from the spotlight, which, as the Council taught in its teaching on the contemplative vocation, is as effective as it is hidden. I was therefore heartened to hear Alexander recommend such prayer and study as a foundation for anything else, great or small, that one decides to ‘do’.

But at times, especially desperate times, such gestures are necessary. As I wrote earlier, perhaps this is a Saint Boniface moment, and Mr. Tschugguel has in fact started a ‘Saint Boniface Institute’, whose purpose, we may presume, to preserve and defend the one, true Faith. Even thought in the blush of the first months of marital bliss, he is willing to take what consequences come of his actions, including showing his face and identity to the world, which he claims is necessary to all Catholics involved in this great battle. I think the same myself, and good on him.

We need more such warriors. Just the other day, 11,000 ‘scientists’ – a vague and generally useless term nowadays – have called for population control to fight the emergency of ‘climate change’ – may the pox of scare quotes ever be upon that term – and save dear old mother Earth and what few ‘elite’ humans remain. They will not rest easy with counsel and advocacy, but will soon turn to more, ahem, coercive measures. The bogeyman of climate change – scaring children young and old into obeisance – is a gateway to a new Manicheism, and a hatred of humanity. Or, let me rephrase that. A hatred for each new person, each new loveable baby, in all their dear and beautiful particularity, as a new gobbler and emitter of carbon.

‘Tis indeed Ironic that the pregnant Pachamama may soon lead to far fewer babies, unless we draw a clear line in the pagan dirt, and now.

We will see where this all goes. To paraphrase the unwitting counsel of Gamaliel, if this spark be of God, may the resistance to paganism begin, let us rejoice in what good may come.