When love itself is taboo : the curse of prejudice and bigotry, and how love becomes its victim

Forbidden Love

he refused to save himself
Sir John Everett Millais. A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew's Day refusing to shield himself from danger by wearing the Roman Catholic badge. 1852.

She (his Catholic love) begs him to save his life, yet true to his religion (French Protestant) he chooses to suffer death rather than betray his God.

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Whence cometh prejudice and fear?

What are the roots of our human "fear of strangers"? Martha Nussbaum writes, "People love homogeneity and are startled by difference. Societies and parents (and churches) set up the tribal rules for the youth, and for individuals. Beware of outsiders, watch out for alien seductions, heresies, and just plain "difference."

And nature is on the side of xenophobia. "Birds of a feather flock together." We tend to "stick with our own." The tribe tells us, don't marry outside the group. EXOGAMY is forbidden. Endogamy is preferred. Be not unequally yoked with outsiders. Stick with people "like us."

Romeo and Juliet were young and in love. What do young people know? They cared little for the hates dominating their elders lives. Capulets hated Montagues, and Montagues hated Capulets.

To the elders, filled with their own prejudice and fears and old hatreds, the young people have been seduced by their own passions. Their love has blinded them, and made them just a bit crazy.

Dissent and non-conformity tend not to be much appreciated by rulers nervous about aggrandizement (or even survival). When the Catholic monarchs of Spain finally succeeded in vanquishing the Moors (reconquista), they felt it expedient to squash dissent, and require either conversion or expulsion. Moors and Jews were hunted down by the "dogs" of the Lord (domini canes = Dominicanes) and Spain was purged by Torquemada's Inquisition. Purity of blood (limpieza de sangre) became the goal.

Darwin saw what had happened in Spain's history and commented that by ridding themselves of the most courageous, and most honest, Spain did itself a disservice in the long run. Jews and Moors had been the most vibrant, enterprising, creative part of Old Spain -- and the heart of its middle class. Later commentators said similar things about France's war against its own Huguenots, who fled to Geneva and Lausane, to Holland and America, to coastal Ireland and to South Africa.

Alas, some of the refugees encountered persecution in the lands where they fled for asylum. For example, in 1564 a band of Huguenots created a settlement in Florida, calling it Fort Caroline. A short time later, the Spanish established their own colony a short distance away, at Saint Aurgustine. Apprising the proximity of these heretics, and their vulnerability, the Spanish leader swooped in on the unsuspecting French protestants and wiped them out in a Matanza (slaughter).

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the Spaniard commander , wrote to the King of Spain (Phillip II) that he had 'hanged all those we had found [in Fort Caroline] because ... they were scattering the odious Lutheran doctrine in these Provinces.' [from Kenneth C. Davis in Smithsonian more on this from Craig von Buseck ]

France meanwhile, without the tempering influence of the mostly bourgeois Huguenots, sunk deeper into absolutism and a tax-free aristocracy, a tax-free church -- but a vastly shrunken middle class. In the days of the early Dominicans of the Sorbonne, France had been the light of Europe, and the Church was proud to call her "the eldest daughter" of the Church. Scholasticism was born there, just as its rival Franciscan philosophy was born in Ireland-England.

La fille aînée de l'Église
From as far back as the time of the Carolingians, the Franks had come to the rescue of the Popes of the Church. History scarcely knows of a more conscientious, sincere, yet at the same time effective and far-sighted ruler as Charles the Great, Charlemagne. But the Popes time and again were forced to turn to these Frankish kings to come to their rescue -- often to protect them from the restive Italians under their own rule.

But by the time influences from outside Europe prompted the awakenings of culture known as the Renaissance, things had changed. There was intellectual ferment, and spiritual hunger. Alarm bells began to ring at the Vatican. France was her eldest daughter and main pillar -- the chief source of money and power. . . . King Pepin of the Franks (the father of Charlemagne) had given the Papal States to the Pope almost 1000 years earlier. Almost half the real estate in the country was owned by the clergy.

Measures had to be taken. In 1545 Francis I ordered the Massacre of the Vaudois of Mérindol, wiping out the Waldensian "heretics" in one fell swoop. [The famous painting is by Gustave Dore]. In 1564 came the massacre at Fort Caroline in Spanish Florida. In 1572 came the St Batholomew's Day Massacre. The Catholic inquisition was victorious everywhere you looked. Protestant blood flowed in rivers. The Cross of Christ was in full triumph. When the success of the St. Bartholomew massacre reached the Vatican, we are told, "Vatican there was jubilation! Cannons roared -- bells rung -- and a special commemorative medal was struck -- to honor the occasion! The Pope commissioned Italian artist Vasari to paint a mural of the Massacre -- which [as of 2010] still hangs in the Vatican!"

There were moments of nobility and compassion, of course. As well as instances of great courage. The story told in the Millais painting is one. She, a faithful Catholic, implored her true love -- a similarly devout Huguenot -- to save himself by wearing the secret Catholic "badge." [And he declined to save himself.] The great "Father of Modern Surgery" -- Ambroise Paré, a Huguenot, was so loved by his sovereign Charles IX, that the king hid Ambroise in his royal wardrobe, saving his life.

In the century following, without the restraints of the Protestant townsmen, the privileged estates (king, nobility and church) had drifted into a corruption and profligacy so extreme that no vice was excluded. Richard Seaver describes the period (reign of Louis XV as "steeped in depravity, hypocrisy, and injustices ... doubtless the most corrupt and decadent" reign in French history. "The four decades prior to [the French Revolution] were marked by the mad, unfettered pursuit of sexual and sensual plesure by the king and his entourage. The number of the king's mistresses was astounding but, not content with plucking ladies of the court for his dalliances, he had a personal bordello constructed in Versailles in 1750 ... to which a nightly supply of women were brought, at the insistance and under the direction of his former mistress, Madame de Pompadour. The network of those charged with supplying the king's apparently insatiable appetite spread from one end of the country to the other."

"Debauchery is the air which [this century] breathes and lives."

Marquis de Sade wrote that "When a royal prince walks the way of vice, he is accompanied by the entire society." Seaver adds that "if the royal court and aristocracy were the main disolute culprits, the French clergy of the eighteenth century share a fair measure of responsibility."

Catholics have suffered, too

No one pretends that throughout history the Catholic kings and emperors are innocent of oppression. Heavens no. Catholics were first to admit it. In fact, it has been Catholics who are their own harshest critics, from Boethius, to Marsilius of Padua, to Abelard and Arnold of Brescia, to Savonarola, to Erasmus.

No one has a better right to criticize than those who know first hand, and have most borne the costs. Who better than the Church's dear children most know her faults and glories, her wisdom (and her TEMPER). John Hus, rather than leave the Church he loved, dared (foolishly) to trust and obey. Thus, he found himself burnt at the stake. Another son of the Church, Martin Luther, felt obliged to speak out, considering his open candor to be a greater loyalty than silent surrender. Surrounding himself with secular countrymen, he fought back against temporal power WITH TEMPORAL POWER. Did Jesus endorse temporal power, and papal domains, and church dominions? Should we all be martyrs to authorities' insatiable appetite for blood? (Why not, if we can just learn a little meekness and masochism.)

The Spanish mystics were all too strongly influenced by Erasmus (Protestant) and Alumbrado doctrines of introspection and using one's "heart emotions" to make contact or approach to God. The Church had to chasten the faithful. Erasmus had excessive trust and confidence on the common man, and these quasi heretical tendencies had to be forcefully quashed by the Church (Counter-reformation) in the Council of Trent, ending humanism and democratic tendencies in Catholic regions.

In England, far too many of the unwashed masses had learned to read books, which made the Church's job of suppressing books and heresy that much harder. Queen Elizabeth, like the Catholic Church, used execution as a means of "protecting" herself from the plots and conspiracies which Spain had funded against her. While she never racked up the record of convictions and executions that her father had (most Catholics decided they were Englishmen first, and their loyalty to the Pope came second), Elizabeth could be ruthless when double-crossed. Thus earning Catholics eternal hatred and fear. Much to the consternation of the Holy Catholic Church, there is still an England. (Blame people like Elizabeth and Churchill.)

But how fair is it to take your anti-Catholic resentments out on the helpless bystanders, such as the poor Irish? The plots to overthrow the English Crown were inspired, principally, abroad. (Especially from Spain's Escorial.) Some came straight from the Pope, who also damned to hell any Catholic still loyal to England. Large numbers of Catholics drifted to the Church of England. The Irish victims of English persecution were innocent victims of a far too reckless hatred of Papists.

King Henry VIII, Elizabeth's father, feeling very precarious with the whole of Europe seeming to side with the Pope (against his marriage problems) imagined himself betrayed by his friend Thomas More, and allowed him to perish as an enemy of the state. More, a man of integrity and deeply faithful Catholic, said "I am the king's good servant, but God's first." Placing his love for Jesus Christ even above his loyalty to England and his beloved king, he became a sacrifice and a martyr. More on More

Jumping forward the American venue, the English speaking colonies were largely settled then governed by a motley assortment of old-line and younger denominations, relatively inexperienced at the business of administering a State-Church. When new immigrants poured in (such as the Irish), they chafed under the control of Established religion. On the frontier, they had greater freedom to live their lives (or develop their own religion) without the elitist authorities breathing down their necks. The Irish shed their extreme Calvinism on the frontier. Baptist styles and Methodist styles competed with each other -- and learned from each other.

Inland America began turning into a religious melting pot. To the Eastern elites, with all their learning, frontier sects were suspect, appeared to be infected with "African" influences, or to have sprouted from the "wild soil" of the West itself. If any ethnicity predominated, it had to be the Irish, who carried with them a stigma all their own, to the old line Americans. By the time new waves of Irish arrived, Catholic by heritage, the old Irish were tempted to dissociate themselves from the raw and "strange" newcomers. Many turned against their kinsmen, now declaring themselves not to be Irish, but "Scotch Irish," (thereby avoiding the stigma).

But to the modern view, there was nothing honorable about this betrayal of their Celtic brethren, nor of the flight from any connection with the "Catholic" label. Partly because of the strangeness and the poverty of the teeming influx of Catholic newcomers, and partly due to the historic memory of the brutal persecutions and inquisitions of Old Europe, prejudice against "Papism" persisted well into modern times. Never mind the fact that, theologically speaking, perhaps 85% of the core teachings of Protestants and Catholics coincide.

Never mind the fact that most of the "sins" of Catholic nations have also been committed by Protestant ones, and most of the "sins" of Protestant states have also been committed by Catholic ones. Prejudices are hard to eradicate, and both sides often deliberately instilled prejudices of an older generation into the newer one. Rapprochement has seemed (at times) an unattainable goal.

Flaws, or seeming flaws, were easy to exaggerate. Nothing illustrates this better than the labor movement, which was a door of hope to many early Irish workers (and other immigrant groups too). Rumors spread that Fenians or worse, a Mafia-like secret society of "Molly Maguires" shrank from no act of violence or criminal activity to gain their will. Nevertheless, the natural home that Unions presented to immigrant laborers is undeniable. Even in the mid 20th century the phenomenon persisted.

Charles Morris notes that "Labor schools for union activists flourished in the 1950s and 1960s. Most of them were run by Catholics, many at Jesuit colleges. (The big industrial unions were often two-thirds Catholic.) The schools taught bargaining and organization techniques, labor law, and labor economics, while extolling the 'solidarist' power-sharing arrangements characteristic of Catholic Europe. [The Trillion Dollar Meltdown]

The Irony of Persecution

Christians of every persuasion, once in power, seem inevitably to fall prey to the tempting resort to enforcing conformity. And who suffers? Almost anyone in a vulnerable condition of weakness. Yet there is a poignant irony here.

Christianity itself began as an alternative sect (read, HERESY) within Judaism. What justification does any Christian, once in positions of power, have for oppressing or suppressing an alternative sect (ie, heresy) seeing Christianity itself began exactly the same way?

That's right. Christianity began as a heretical sect within Judaism. It is even in doubt whether Jesus himself intended to begin a new religion, or to break away from the heritage of Abraham and Moses and David. And Paul, a Jew who did not live in "The Land" of eretz Israel, and at times favored a break away, and welcoming gentiles -- said that God's covenant with Israel would stand forever, would never be changed.

Persecution seems to target those who are different, or those who are most vulnerable. In homes, men can be bullies to women (and children) simply out of force and anger. Persecution of witches and midwives arose in the late middle ages, frankly, for much the same reasons : the vulnerability of the victims and the fear (and ignorance) of the bullies.

Going after witches and midwives
Russell and Alexander say both Catholics and Protestants were guilty: "In Germany the Protestants were more severe in the sixteenth century and the Catholics in the seventeenth. In France the Catholics were worse, but in countries won to the Protestant cause, such as England, Scotland, and Scandinavia, the persecutions were nearly as bad. In some Catholic counties, such as Spain and Portugal, very few witch trials occurred. Variations in time and region were great, but in general the Protestants do not seem to have taken advantage of the fact that they were not bound by the views of the Malleus Maleficarum and of the bull of Pope Innocent VIII. These documents were based upon a long [misogynistic] tradition of witch beliefs that the Protestants accepted as fully as did the Catholics [p82] See the Witch Craze

Groups and creeds always have a tendency to become orthodox or static in their thinking, and this condition seals them into an unpliable condition that becomes fixed, and unprogressive. Life is a living, throbbing process of unfolding -- not static existence. Life is advancement -- not dead decay.

Annalee Skarin. Vol I. p32

Love Without Limits


Why Catholics Are Right
(as Michael Coren says)

Self-honesty shines (sure beats trading brickbats)

RECOMMENDED READING: Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History -- by James Carroll

Christianity's legacy of antisemitism is undeniable. Christianity's legacy of suppression of dissent and unorthodox ideas is also undeniable. What is interesting, however, are the ways in which both of these legacies are related and dependent upon each other. Ranging over the entire history of Christianity and the Catholic Church, James Carroll describes how power has been preserved through the suppression of both internal (unorthodox) and external (Jewish) dissent.

See Review in Catholic League

Some Possible Links of Interest
Medieval Roots of Modernity
Columbus Came ~ in Jesus' Name
America's Roots: from beyond the Atlantic
Our heartland gospelism: drunk on God
Eingedi: true diveristy in Catholic UNITY
Pope tells Christians: Study the Bible more
Jesus the Jew : revolutionary yes. Gentile NO!!
Papal decree: "Religious error has no rights"
Witch-hunting misogyny: 'for the public good'
Christendom's Edict of Milan (Constantine)
Heretic hunters [murderous zeal in God's name]
Let God's Light Shine Forth (Pope Benedict 16)
Defending Columbus: Yes, whites "invaded" the new world
Abraham de Moivre (you can't take France out of the man)
Americanist heresy: CHAOS THEORY : our religious mix
Bob Shepherd by Bob Shepherd
I am one of the folks with a foot in both worlds, so to speak. I have a Catholic education (at least some) and a Bible Belt heritage. A lot of my background was in "gospel" type religion, not really generic, but certainly sharing attributes with similar versions of almost "grassroots" evangelicalism -- with more than a share of fundamentalist tinge, and often a touch of Bible-thumping exuberance thrown in as well. A distinctly American artform, some have claimed.

Truth be told, Western Civilization might as well call itself "Catholic educated" in the sense that for many centuries, the Church of Rome was, for all intents and purposes, the de facto "mother and teacher of the nations." When the masses of the populace were little more than barbarians, benighted by illiteracy and poverty, it was Christianity which tried to lift them, and if history is right, finally succeeded -- such as we see so far.

The Church of Rome
A Church Worth Saving from itself
Is it bad Catholics who dare to speak out, blow the whistle, or shine a light on perceived sins or oppressions committed within the Church? Or is dissent a sign of health, and necessary for healing? Some Catholics proudly declare that the Church will survive after all. Why I am a Catholic by Garry Wills, as well as the thorough work by James Carroll (Constantine's Sword) strike me as very hopeful indications of vitality WITHIN the Church. It has been said there have been dozens of Reformations begun within the Church, virtually all of them suppressed. Resiliency demands adaptability. And that means change. Let's give the Church a chance. God may yet get through to those men who (like old segregationists) vow never to change.

Man cannot live without joy ; therefore when he is deprived of the true
spiritual joys it is necessary that he become addicted to carnal pleasures.

[Thomas Aquinas]

Come ye to the Waters
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Posted by Masaru Emoto on Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Put Children First

Robert Shepherd
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Mother Teresa

Eingedi: where one finds TRUE diversity in unity (cf Ezekiel 47: 9-10)

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