Saturday, April 18, 2009

Democracy in America & Catholics, Part Two

Truly one of the great books, that readers continue to mine for intelligent analyses of our American way of life, is Democracy in America, by a very perceptive French nobleman, and devout Catholic, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) and here is what he had to say about Catholicism in America, in three parts; part three tomorrow:

"If Catholicism disposes the faithful to obedience, it does not therefore prepare them for inequality. I shall say the contrary of Protestantism, which generally brings men much less to equality that to independence.

"Catholicism is like an absolute monarchy. Remove the prince and conditions are more equal in it than in republics.

"It often happened that the Catholic priest left the sanctuary to enter society as a power, and that he came to seat himself there amid the social hierarchy; then sometimes he used his religious influence to assure the longevity of a political order of which he was a part; then also one could see Catholics become partisans of aristocracy by the spirit of religion.

"But once the priests are turned away or turn themselves away from government as they do in the United States, there are no men more disposed by their beliefs than Catholics to carry the idea of equality of conditions into the political world.

"If, therefore, Catholics in the United States are not carried violently by the nature of their beliefs toward democratic and republican opinions, at least they are not naturally opposed to them, and their social position as well as their small number bring them, as by a law, to embrace them." (Democracy in America, Mansfield/Winthrop translation, p. 276)