Opium for Catholics

June 2003

Karl Marx famously said that religion is the opium of the people. For a century and a half, Christians have been trying to live that down. But with the collapse of Marxism, many Christians have forgotten that stinging charge and have returned to numbing and blissful bromides such as “God loves us just the way we are.” Many priests and ministers find that life is sweeter when they comfort their flock rather than challenge them — in the lingo of our times it’s called being “pastoral.”

Marx was wrong about a lot of things, but his rebuke to religion carried a kernel of truth. Marx was of course thinking in terms of the class struggle. He saw religion as a potent sedative, from which he concluded that workers under the influence of religion would not struggle for a better world.

But what if there is a kind of class struggle — a civil war, really — inside the Church? Marx couldn’t have cared less about that, but orthodox Catholics should care. In this regard, we were struck by a direct-mail appeal from Our Sunday Visitor.

Now, the appeal did say some good things, promising subscribers

- “Evangelization. A solid resource for non-Catholics interested in conversion.”

- “Pro-life understanding. Support for the Church’s position on all life issues.”

- “Faithfulness. Steadfast support for Catholic teachings.” Yes, such support is much needed. But isn’t this excessively defensive? We would have preferred to hear that the Visitor actively promotes Church teachings by going on the offensive against the dissenters and heretics who are undermining them.


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New Oxford Notes: June 2003

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