Liberty Matters

My Final Word

George Smith says that he agrees with Lord Acton and me on the importance of the Church in thwarting the rise of the state to omnipotence. I won’t quote Lord Acton here, his statement can be found in my first post, “Why Only in the West?” But I wonder if George understands the full implications. It was the Church that helped set the stage for the rise of liberalism and the whole new way of life that followed in the West. He harbors such an implacable hostility to Roman Catholicism that he never gives it the credit it’s due.
George cites some philosophers in ancient times who did not deify the state. The point, though, is that the Greek and Roman people -- the societies of those times -- did. He brings up “Roman morality,” but chooses to discuss it only in his own restricted terms. Maybe he was unaware of the role of the Church in stopping the blood games in the arena, where the crowd enjoyed its greatest thrills, or maybe he was unaware of the games in the first place.
George states that Dante favored universal monarchy merely as an ideal without actually naming any particularly ruler who espoused it. In fact, the great poet maintained that the Holy Roman Emperor had authority over all of mankind, receiving that authority directly from God. As Liberty Fund puts it, in its online edition of De Monarchia, Dante held that “Christ in dying confirmed the jurisdiction of the Roman Empire over all humanity.”
Attempting to rebut Joseph Stromberg’s article showing that the so-called religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries were in fact political wars waged by secular rulers, George writes, “the ferocious emotions that motivated the horrors of those wars were rooted in religious beliefs and differences.” Unfortunately, he provides no evidence for this claim.
On war and the state, George feels he doesn’t need to be “tutored” on state atrocities. I think he does. We are comparing the evils committed by the Church and the state. The Roman and Spanish Inquisitions together executed some few thousands over centuries. Leaving aside the earlier, essentially political, wars, here are some more modern examples of the horrors committed by states and their military forces: The U.S. army in the Philippines (some 200,000 dead Filipinos), the Japanese army in Nanking and the Wehrmacht in Russia and the Ukraine, the British and American air forces over Hamburg, Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, and now American drones all over the Muslim world.  
Keeping to his agenda of not crediting the Catholic Church, George makes no mention of popes like Gregory VII, who denounced secular rulers in ferocious, contemptuous terms. Nor does he mention St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas, recognized by the Church as its chief theologian, promoted Aristotelianism, and his Summa Theologica was set forth in strictly logical form. His formula was to follow reason as far as it could go, and then faith comes in. Through Thomism rationality permeated all the Catholic controlled schools and universities of Europe, and was a permanent contribution to our civilization.
And that’s all I have to say.