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BUILDINGS, CLERGY & MONEY: Part 3 of 3

Posted by Radical Resurgence | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 26-03-2012

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How The Institutional Church Affects The Clergy

We have now seen what, in organic nature, churches show themselves to be. Let us now look at some of the effects of the institution upon churchmen. The dependence of doctrine for stability and of religious societies for continuity upon property, tends automatically to transfer the interest of the priesthood from the superstructure of faith and communion that first attracts them to the foundation of possessions that finally holds them. The manipulation of the gods for the benefit of men gives way to the management of properties for the benefit of Mother Church….

Creed and dogma are recognized as tools merely in the aggrandizement of the ecclesiastical institutions and the fortunes of the priesthood…. The deposit of faith is handled purely as a device for the accumulation of wealth and the concentration of power. Competition is suppressed not because “the faith” is true but because income is threatened. It is the most enfranchised popes that worked the Inquisition and the Index the hardest, that refuse to stir in the face of the Lutheran revolt. It took a generation and the failure of thirty years of horrible religious warfare to convince the ecclesiastical authority that its sources of income could not be restored by the customary devices of the Inquisition, the Index, the crusade and the sword….

As for the lesser and individual clergy, they are what the institution and the general community make them. The practice of their profession sets them in a fixed routine, of which to repeat interminable prayers and litanies in a strange tongue is a large part…. Habit in liturgy leads to heedlessness and boredom. The point is, to get through. “Hocus pocus” is what remains of the solemn mass with its “Hoc est corpus meus.” The Buddhist parallel is the prayer wheel. In that the mantra is brought up to the highest mechanical efficiency — every turn a prayer… Liturgy and ritual and sermons and other priestly duties are to do, and to be done with, as quickly as possible, that other more interesting and novel things may be attended to…. The problems of great churchmen are problems in the management of properties, in the care and acquisition of properties; the Catholic Church once owned as much as a third of England….

Ecclesiastical methods in the field are not different from the methods of any other institutions. There used to be no stratagem at which a church would stop, no device it would reject, in order to increase its property and enhance its power…. No doubt it was because of this infection that they created an enormous trade in relics. Greeks, Jews and Turks provided in quantity bones of saints, navel cords of the Saviour, wedding-ring of the Virgin, her milk and hair, her linens, as well as those of Infant Jesus, pieces of the true cross, different spears of Longinus that pierced the side of the Saviour, and many other charms bringing health, fortune, fertility and salvation.

Churchmen multiplied sins that they might sell forgiveness. They made crime a source of revenue for the marketing of indulgences. They sold the expectation of succession to churchly offices to the highest bidder. Nepotism was a venial sin beside. They murdered one another for the apostolic succession. They forged documents first to establish the primacy of the Roman See in the Christian world; then to appropriate and to claim land and dominion as freeholds of the ecclesiastical establishments. The writings known as the Donations of Constantine, the Donations of Pippin and of Charlemagne are forgeries designed to establish and confirm claims to enormous Italian and continental territories…. Boniface claimed to the world: “He who resists this power,” he declared in the Bull Unam Santum, “resists God. We ourselves affirm, define and pronounce that to be subject to the Roman pontiff is without qualification necessary to salvation for every human creature.”

Monastic orders are, of course, no better than the ecclesiastical establishment of which they are a part. The poverty, chastity and obedience of the individual is paid for by the wealth and pride and self- will of the corporation….

I have used the Roman Catholic organization more than any other to illustrate the character and behavior of churches because it is the dominant ecclesiastical institution of the western world. It has the largest number of communicants, the longest history as a sacerdotal establishment, the most varied record of experience, the greatest wealth and power, and the most unified and disciplined priestly hierarchy. In short, it is a successful religious institution. If it be not representative, no other can be.

But to make the demonstration as definite as time and space allow, let us look at a successful church from the benefits of whose communion Roman Catholics are excluded. This church is of extremely recent origin, with a relatively small body of communicants, no sacerdotal organization as such, and a body of dogmas and disarticulate and ambiguous as Catholic doctrine is organic and precise.

I refer to Christian Science. The behavior of the hierophants of this church repeats in principle the behavior of the Catholic hierarchy. The mechanisms by which power is secured are precise analogues. The devices by which competition is offset and nullified are alike.

Mary Morse Baker Glover Patterson Eddy, the founder of the sect, records that she had been healed of an incurable disease by her “emergency into the light.” She makes her own legend…. In the divine order of succession the Virgin Mary came first, then Jesus of Nazareth, then the author of “Science and Health.” The immaculate idea of that document is represented “first by man, and last by woman.” The lady vehicle of the immaculate idea claimed that she was descended from the British aristocracy, that she performed “such small miracles” as making fruit and other trees bloom in winter, and that merely her spoken word had the power of healing since people with crutches who had heard her sermons walked out of church with the crutches on their shoulders …. The demonstrable failure of her pupils was always to be attributed to the insufficient understanding of the practitioner or the weak faith of the patient…

Mrs. Eddy was indeed a teacher before she became chief hierophant of a new cult. In 1883 she opened her Massachusetts Metaphysical College under a charter from the State and gave twelve hours — later reduced to seven — in the science of healing for $300, six in metaphysical obstetrics for $100, in theology for $200, and six in a normal course for $200. A complete metaphysical education from the lips of the Divine Mother was available in from 23 to 30 hours at a cost of $800, terms strictly cash in advance. Invalids were not admitted to the college …. In 1889 when Mrs. Eddy closed her college, 4000 students had acquired her wisdom ….

In her beginnings Mrs. Eddy rejected churches. She saw the whole history of Christianity as a mistake of churchliness. Creeds and rites were to her akin to mortal error. But events led her to change her mind. In the course of time she applied to the State of Massachusetts for a church charter, with herself as president. She set forth a creed and established rites. The substance of the creed is in the healing formula already cited. By implication, the parity of Mother Eddy with Jesus Christ is added, together with the sanctity and infallibility of her works as the scriptures of the cult ….

In this church, too, heresy has already reared its horrid head, and the public eye is assailed in the public prints by long paid advertisements in which Mother Eddy is invoked as authority against her collective vicar on earth, the Board of Directors, in Boston. The fate of this heresy is in balance; the one thing more than any other it depends on is the cash in hand. For the gospel, no more than the mare, can go without money ….

Is it necessary to draw the moral? Orthodoxy and heresy, the Church of Christ Savior and the Church of Christ Scientist follow similar courses, when due allowance is made for the difference of time, place and circumstances. In view of just those differences, the similarity can hardly be attributed to accident. The two cults are representative samples of the cults of the world; the chances are not small that any other two would exhibit the same behavior patterns.

Certain social consequences follow from this organic relation of the sacerdotal institution to property. Whatever the first intention of a cult may be, its last and enduring one is on the side of property, on the side of the upkeep of that which keeps it up ….

Historically churches have stood on the side of the powers that be. They have defended slavery or have held their tongues about it. They have maintained serfdom and kept serfs. They have opposed every movement undertaken for the liberation of the masses of men. The ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity are the creations of the camps of their enemies, of the rationalists of the 18th century and the liberals and socialists of the 19th. They have opposed the labor movement. They have defended and condoned the industrial exploitation of children. They have fought bitterly the enfranchisement of women. They have justified unjust war …. Ignorance and illiteracy are the greatest where the churches are the most powerful, as in Spain, Italy, the Balkan countries, the South Americas, and Czarist Russia.

Withal, churches are always on the side of the victorious, for the sustenance of their continued institutional survival is drawn from the power of the victorious…. In Russia the orthodox church maintained a traditional existence quite parallel to that of the Roman Church. With the secular arm at its command, it persecuted heresies, compelled conformity, and held the usual ecclesiastical heyday …. [But] when the autocracy fell the church staggered and was afraid, because it was founded on the autocracy and not on Christ ….

Their [the clergy’s] loving kindness, their ardor, their idealism, gets worn down by the inertia and policy of the institution to a disillusioned resignation, a cynical materialism, or a career of personal aggrandizement …. Ecclesiasticism interposes an impassable gulf between profession and practice. Churchmen therefore tend to be either cynics or dullards. They work at their crafts, and the rest is as God wills….

The laity, from the Middle Ages down, is bitter and amused about the clergy. Churches and churchmen are the butts of indignant sarcasm and ribald laughter the world over – from Charcer and Landland to Boccaccio and Rabelais and Voltaire and Dickens and Tolstoy and Anatole France. Churchdom is despised, its services are called for nevertheless . . . .

In the long run, churches and churchmen adjust themselves . . . to the changing scene of the life of civilization . . . . The same Christ, the same Buddha, the same Isaiah, can stand at once for capitalism and communism, for liberty and slavery, for peace and war, for whatever opposed or clashing ideals you will. For the life and the power of a church is in the persistent identity of its symbols and properties. Meanings change anyhow, but things endure. The rock upon which a church is founded is not the word of God; the rock upon which a church is founded is the wealth of men.

By Dr. Horace Kallen, a disciple and interpreter of William James, was a lecturer at The New School for Social Research and the author of Culture & Democracy in the United States & Zionism & World Politics.

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