I like to point out that in any large enough group of people you will find a great deal of diversity, even if the group is one that defines itself by, and tries to enforce, conformity. This is true of persons describing themselves as Catholic, which may include about 1 billion living people. When I write about Catholicism I tend to mean the version of Catholicism favored by the current majority of the Catholic Church hierarchy. If I mean some narrower group I will indicate that, for example: Italian Catholic; American Catholic; liberation theology Catholic.
The same is true of Fascism. There was a great deal of variety in Fascism even of the classic sort, usually defined by the traits that the German National Socialist Party, the Fascist Party of Italy, and General Franco's government held in common. I hear Democrats call George W. Bush a fascist, but they would never call their revered Franklin Delano Roosevelt a fascist, even though FDR had far more in common with the Big Three - Hitler, Franco, and Mussolini - than George W. Bush does. I'll write more about President-For-Life Roosevelt soon.
The Pope, who is German but, according to the Economist [June 2, 2007, p. 49], is working hard to force Catholicism back into Italian politics. This comes shortly after the Pope declared, while visiting South America, that the Spanish conquest, the killing and enslaving of natives and grabbing their lands, was a good thing. That is because, he believes, or God whispered to him at lunch, the native Americans were yearning for Christianity. Who would not trade mere land, freedom, or life itself for an eternity in heaven?
Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph Alois Ratzinger, former member of the Hitler Youth and soldier in the German Army during World War II, was a formidable force in the Catholic Church long before he became Pope. He is best known for his stance against Liberation Theology and the trend towards women's rights and democracy within some Catholic Churches, notably in the United States of America. He was also the model for Cardinal Vlad in the 1990's satire The Last Days of Christ the Vampire.
So far the Pope's moves in Italy have been relatively gentle and might seem to be of little consequence. Rather than going directly after contraception, which the Church opposes, the first step was narrowing what is allowed to happen in fertility treatment centers. In February of this year the Church blocked a plan to extend legal rights to unwed couples, including both gay and heterosexual couples.
The Church is against Living Wills. They don't want old people to give instructions for their own medical treatment.
What does any of this have to do with Fascism? The Catholic Church has always wanted to crush individuality, as it did so successfully during the Dark Ages and Middle Ages. The most fundamental value of Fascism is Totalitarianism, the practice that the State is to make all decisions for all people all the time, including decisions of conscience. The Church has always sought to make the Pope not only a supreme spiritual leader, but a King of Kings (hence the need for kings to be crowned by the Pope during the Middle Ages). The Catholic Church may not have invented Totalitarianism, but has been the globe's most successful historical practitioner of it to date. If the Church fell off its game after the successful rebellion of Martin Luther and then others, it has never, ever, changed its goal of winning.
In the United States we have a lot of people who like to think of themselves as progressive Catholics. They are okay with birth control and often even on women's right to choose to have an abortion. They think women should be allowed to be priests. They think the Church can be diverse and that the faithful have as much right to determine Church policy as the Pope. This is all nice, but it is very strange. Why not just leave the Church, as Martin Luther did? Why fight over the right to the heritage of destruction that is the Catholic Church's?
In Italy there is currently no obvious resurgence in faithfulness to the Catholic Church. No major political party is faith-based. Contraception is so common that Italy's birth rate is among the lowest in the world. Getting baptized or married in a Catholic Church may still be acceptable, but few Italians seem very interested in having a German control freak take totalitarian control of their lives.
The long-term danger, as long as the Catholic Church continues to function at all, is that majority rule is not a church value. General Franco's Spain was 100% Catholic because they shot non-Catholics. No one voted for General Franco; no one voted to end religious freedom in Spain. It happened by force of violence. The Pope may deplore violence committed by Muslims, but he has never renounced violence as a tool for Catholic rule. His statement about the use of violence to convert native American Indians is not just a comment on good times past; it is a dream of things to come.
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