Rorate Caeli

Op-ed by Alessandro Gnocchi
Secular Christianity: A Morality for the Garbage Can is a sign of a Morality in the Garbage Can

["Green" ad of an American Protestant "Megachurch"]

Often one can use a simple question about a specific matter that seems inconsequential in order to comment on a matter of real importance. Our friend, Alessandro Gnocchi, does this in a reply to someone who asked him a question about what he heard in a homily in his parish church on a recent Sunday. He complained that the priest spoke about the moral obligation for the Christian to not only recycle what can be recycled in one’s garbage, but also to separate these items to be recycled in a prescribed manner. The priest said that if the Christian does not do this, he should go to Confession. The man in the pew said that although one should respect recycling laws, this really has nothing to do with preaching the Gospel. The following is Gnocchi’s reply.


Dear Foschi:

I try to imagine going to Confession with this priest, so zealous in his diffusion of the new gospel of this deeply socially aware Catholic.  
--How many time have you failed to separate your garbage item to be recycled as you have been ordered?
--Three times, Father.
--And do you repent of this?
--Not too much, Father, because this strict separation of items to be recycled is really a pile of dung.
--Annibale, don’t make your position worse in the eyes of the Constitution. To give you absolution you have to promise that you will not do this again. Paper with paper, plastic with plastic, moist things with moist things, dry things with dry things, and don’t try to be sly and throw banana peels in with the dry things because in the secret place of the garbage your parish priest sees you even if the town official does not.

But this will not be enough, dear Foschi, because you will have to confess whether you turn off the lights every time you leave a room even if you intend to re-enter that room in a few minutes, whether you turn off the faucet while you are brushing your teeth or while you are lathering yourself in the shower, and whether you turn off the motor of your car when you are stopped at a red light even if this means that you are leading the other 400 drivers in the line behind into the temptation to utter nasty words because you made them miss the green light. 
The situation is dramatic but not serious.  But it is not a laughing matter.  This Church that has decided to embrace the world could in the end only preach what the world wants, to impose what the world loves and to prohibit what the world detests.  It has taken only a few decades of “aggiornamento” to produce a genetic mutation that takes great  pride in how it turned out.  After having gone through a period of spending time at the headquarters of the Communist Party, the Catholic has turned now to secularism and presents himself on the scene as a “cattolaico”, a Catholic secularist.  [Trans. note.  This is a play on cattolico, Catholic, and laico, secular.  In English we may coin the world "Catholaic", but it does not have the same force and meaning as cattolaico in Italian.] One little “a” inserted into the word that means Catholic, but what a difference!  This is what makes your priest an apostle of recycling and also whatever other civic duties, even up to the point of saying that the laws of the secular State must be totally respected even if they go contrary to the laws of God, because in the secrecy of your house your mayor sees you and your parish priest does not.

The secular Catholic is a follower of a new religion that has its own rites in the practice of secular law and has its own Pontifex Maximus in the President of the Republic.  A king can be tolerated but only if he eventually abdicates.   Then are  various ministries, among which stand out those priests who, in order to please the world and its prince, are scandalized and tear their garments when they see a Mafioso going to Mass and who says that he believes in God. Instead they go into raptures in the presence of those most honorable men who never even think about the Mass, who would never talk about God, and who carry out all those laws against nature that the State demands be passed. 

Having adopted the language and the values of the world, this exemplar of this new genetic mutation has no defenses against the aggression of the world and is not able to raise any reasonable argument in his defense.  Indeed, in taking this course he ends up on the mad road to auto-demolition.  In particular, the secular Catholic makes use of, as if they were his own, the two battle horses used by the secular world to attack the concept of Christ’s Kingship over the peoples of the world.  The first battle horse maintains that Christ himself would have sanctioned the separation of Church and State in his affirmation:  “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”.  The second explains that the secular, and then secularism, came into existence to maintain the rights of freedom against clericalism. 

To respond to the first is very simple.  Caesar is a man, and therefore he owes to God what every other man owes to God.  In fact, Caesar owes more to God than other men, because he has a great responsibility for his subjects.  Saint Thomas, in De Regimine Principum writes:  “The end of the upright life that we live is the blessedness of heaven.  For this reason one of the tasks that falls to the king is to attend to the upright life of the multitude so that they my attain heavenly beatitude.  He does this by ordering those things that lead to the blessedness of heaven and by prohibiting,  as much as possible, those things that are contrary to its realization.  What is the path to beatitude and what are the things that are obstacles on this path is known from Divine Law.  The teaching of the Divine Law is the task of the priests, according to the prophet, Malachi.”

If the first argument used by the secularists is false in reference to doctrine, the second is false with respect to history.  Secularity and then secularism were not born to oppose clericalism and to defend the rational foundations of freedom.  Whether from an historical perspective or a theoretical perspective, clericalism, which is a degenerative phenomenon, arises instead as a consequence of secularity.

From the end of the thirteenth century in Europe, the laity, meaning here “those not ordained or in vows”, slowly left the obligation to be religious to the clergy on behalf of themselves.  But in this act of giving over to others this duty, which is seen also in a public way, “laicization” itself is sanctioned in fact and in principle, understood as a withdrawal from the necessity to fertilize and to fortify contemporary society by means of personal faith.

For his part, the cleric who accepts such an assigned task without worrying about whether he should ask the layman to not abandon the religious dimension of his life, becomes, according to a most happy play on words invented by Peppone, the leftist mayor in the Don Camillo novels: “a clerical cleric”. At first it was used to describe authoritarian ways of procedure in the religious domain, but then it ended up by being adopted for lower levels of contemporary life.  This is effectively a form of interference.  But it is not interference by the Church, it is not interference by religion, it is not interference by a religious phenomenon: it is the interference of an “clerical cleric” called into being by the advent of the secular.  It is not by chance that the secular man finds himself at ease with a Catholic suffering from clericalism.  He is always ready to deal with and negotiate in those places in society where decisions are made.  And he is quite willing to concede to him the control of the garbage can. 

[Translated by Father Richard G. Cipolla. Source:  Riscossa Cristiana]