The Catholic Thing
The Ground of a Real Christianity Print E-mail
By Bevil Bramwell, OMI   
Sunday, 16 June 2013

In his study of the history of religions, Joseph Ratzinger says: “Christianity, from Paul’s speech on the Areopagus onward advances the claim to be religio vera.” The true religion “is the worship of that being which is the foundation of everything that exists, the ‘true God’.” Throughout Christian history, many groups claimed to be the true religion and yet they are not complete enough, too simplistic, or simply wrong. And so do not measure up to the tradition of the Catholic Church. These include Arianism, Gnosticism, and hundreds of others as well as all the private adaptations that individuals arbitrarily put together to make their “Catholicism” easier.

Taking another step, Ratzinger says that: “According to [Saint] Augustine and the biblical tradition that is normative for him, Christianity is not based on mythical images and vague notions that are ultimately justified by their political usefulness.” Myths and politics have been the foundations of many religions, even including the “Christianities” above.

One example: Adolf Hitler frequently spoke about Christianity. The title of the present column is drawn from a stunning statement of his: “Nazism stands on the ground of a real Christianity.” Michael Lackey contends in The Modernist God-State that Nazism did not evolve out of secularism (pace Charles Taylor’s analysis), but out of a “specific version of Christianity that made Hitler and the Nazi’s possible.” It’s impossible to examine here in detail his exhaustive analysis of Hitler’s speeches related to this thesis.

But in the thirties, for political reasons and to better establish certain manufactured myths, Hitler’s henchmen organized a “Christianity” that held that Jesus was an Aryan; he is manifested in the Nazi State; and the Old Testament is thereby rejected, etc. This “Positive Christianity,” as it came to be known, was a grab-bag of convenient notions.

You can see the mythical elements popping up – the Aryanism, Kant’s attribution of  “materialism” of the Jews, and so on. Furthermore Hitler regarded: “Christianity as the unshakeable foundation of the morals and moral code of the nation.” And so, here was a new catchall national “Christian” church that the mass of German people would comfortably slide into while dissidents were simply rounded up.

The history of Christianity is often really only the history of the fabrications of different “Christianities” through the ages driven by prevailing myths or political expediency at a greater or lesser distance from the Christianity of the Church’s Tradition.

         St. Irenaeus

The Church of Christ, despite the divisions which exist among Christians, continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church.”(CDF) The problem with Christianity is that it comes from a Man who is also God, Jesus Christ. So it is inevitably an organic unity. Everything is related to everything else.

Drop Christ as the Light of the World, and you do not have the Christ anymore, but someone else – a human fabrication. And in the process, he is not the full meaning of the world anymore. Or change the anthropology – follow Locke or Kant instead – and you no longer have Christianity either. Ignore sin and you have the same problem. Worse still, treat Christianity as eclectic and it can even become the religion of the Third Reich. Liberal Catholicism is developing its own threats without even having an army.

The living Tradition of the Church “includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God; and so the Church – in her teaching, life, and worship – perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes.”(Vatican II) This is the living Tradition because it embraces “her teaching, life and worship” as they express the life of the one Jesus Christ present and active.

But as to the eclectic “Christians,” No one said it better tan St. Irenaeus:

Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skilful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skilful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king's form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king. In like manner do these persons patch together old wives' fables, and then endeavor, by violently drawing away from their proper connection, words, expressions, and parables whenever found, to adapt the oracles of God to their baseless fictions.
Irenaeus wrote these words in the second century. Eclecticism was alive and well, even back then. Some things never change.
Fr. Bevil Bramwell is a member of Oblates of Mary Immaculate and is Undergraduate Dean at Catholic Distance University. He has published Laity: Beautiful, Good and True and The World of the Sacraments.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.


Rules for Commenting

The Catholic Thing welcomes comments, which should reflect a sense of brevity and a spirit of Christian civility, and which, as discretion indicates, we reserve the right to publish or not. And, please, do not include links to other websites; we simply haven't time to check them all.

Comments (6)Add Comment
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, June 16, 2013
And it is always Peter who, in his office, keeps the Church from straying from Christ. The Bishop of Rome is not like a CEO; his office is the Holy Spirit in action - always breathing life into the Church. Separate from Peter and whatever iteration you've come up with will eventually fall apart.
written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, June 16, 2013
Mgr Ronald Knox makes an excellent point: “Strange as it may seem, I had always assumed at the back of my mind that when my handbooks talked about " Arian " and " Catholic " bishops they knew what they were talking about ; it never occurred to me that the Arians also regarded themselves as Catholics and wanted to know why they should be thought otherwise. “ Ah! But," says my Church historian, “the Church came to think otherwise, and thus they found themselves de-Catholicized in the long run."

But what Church? Why did those who anathematized Nestorius come to be regarded as “Catholics” rather than those who still accept his doctrines?”

“But if you ask a Catholic “What is the Catholic Faith? " and are told it is that held by the Catholic Church; if you persevere, and ask what is the Catholic Church, you are no longer met with the irritatingly circular definition "the Church which holds the Catholic Faith “; you are told it is the Church which is in communion with the Bishop of Rome.”
written by Manfred, June 16, 2013
The Modernist heresy, in which we have been living since Vatican II, was fought by the Popes who took the name Pius for over a hundred years ending with the death of Pius XII in 1958. This year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of Pius XII's Mystici Corporis Christi in which he lays out that the One, Holy, Apostolic Roman Catholic Church was the True Church established by Christ and he stressed the necessity of the Catholic Church for the attainment of eternal salvation. For centuries there was a sense of a Super Church which contained all Christians and the Catholic Church was just part of this. Pius XII made very clear that bishops derived their authority not from Christ directly, but rather through the Sovereign Pontiff. Should a future Pope ever select the name Pius XIII, we will be very fortunate indeed. Otherwise we are doomed to wander in a desert of confusion and misunderstanding which result in the loss of souls.
written by Grump, June 16, 2013
Hitler said in Mein Kampf, “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

The same sort of mindset prevails in Islam and indeed many other religions that claim to worship the "True God."

Religious zealotry has marred Catholicism as well -- from the venal and money-grubbing Popes that reigned in the early days to the apostates of today that would transform the Church today into a modern, secularized institution.

And so, stick to the Narrow Path, as Christ advised.
written by Clement Williams, June 16, 2013
Genesis 1:27 God created mankind in His image; in the image of God He created them; male and female* He created them.

mankind looked in the mirror, looked at its reflection and
imagined god in its image; in the image of mankind, mankind created god; male and female mankind created it!

I know I did.
written by Michael Lackey, June 29, 2013
One quick correction: the Nazis were split with regard to the Old Testament. One group argued that it was written by Jews, so it should be rejected. But the other group argued that it demonstrated that the Jews were always defying God. These Nazis actually used the OT to support their anti-Semitism. It is worth nothing: to justify their particular version of Christianity, the Nazis cited Martin Luther's "On the Jews and Their Lies" more than any other work.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters


Other Articles By This Author