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Why Do They Care?

by Christopher A. Ferrara
February 28, 2013

As the movers and shakers of the “modern world” would have us believe, “contemporary man” has advanced far beyond what was once called Christendom. Today, so the golden legend goes, the “spirit of democratic capitalism” — to use the arch-liberal Michael Novak's famous phrase ” has lifted our civilization out of the dark age of religious superstition and violence and ushered in a peaceful golden age of tolerance, pluralism, liberty and enlightenment.

That our time is actually the darkest of dark ages, and indeed the bloodiest and most depraved epoch in human history, seems to have escaped the notice of such sages of modernity as Novak. In this new age of man, they boast, the Catholic Church is an outmoded institution, no longer relevant to the concerns of an enlightened society. The Church has had her day, they assure us. The Western world has moved on forever from its Catholic past. The Empire of Liberty has superseded the Empire of Christ.

And yet, how is it that in the Empire of Liberty the “resignation” of Pope Benedict XVI was instantaneously and universally headline news, displacing all other events in the attention of the mass media? Even Pope Benedict's change of the rules for the coming conclave, shortening the time for convoking it, is a top story.

Think about it: Is this behavior of the media really consistent with a genuine conviction that the Catholic Church is a mere relic of a past to which we can never return, and that her outdated teaching is of no consequence to modern civilization? Or does it rather reveal an implicit recognition that the Catholic Church is, and always has been, a very big thing indeed — in fact, the single biggest thing in this world of ours?

If it were otherwise, then why would captains of world opinion pay any attention to whether a Pope resigns or remains in office? Why would it matter to them that the abdication of Benedict XVI is unprecedented, as the media have so eagerly reported in the evident hope that this event signals the reduction of the papacy to just another bureaucratic position in a world of bureaucracies?

In short, why do they care? They care because, in their heart of hearts, or perhaps even viscerally at the level of mere instinct, they know. They know the dirty secret that lies at the core of the “modern world.” They know that from the time of Luther's revolt, to the Enlightenment, to the “age of democratic of revolution” in the 18th and 19th centuries, down to the present day, the rulers of modernity have all been engaged in one common project: the overthrow of the influence of the Catholic Church on the ordering of society.

The modern world is founded precisely and only on a rebellion against the Church that Christ founded to make disciples of all nations and whose immense social force is still feared and respected by her worst enemies. For “the devils also believe and tremble.” (James 2:19) That is why the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is such world-shaking news in a world that pretends the Church no longer matters.