November 27th, 2009

The Roman Church

There was a time when I wanted to be a Roman Catholic. I was reading G.K Chesterton and he had me backed into a corner with the bludgeoning force of his wordplay . Like Chesterton I had a craving for authority in my life. It's one of the deepest of human needs, I think- the need to belong to a pack and the need of the pack to have a leader. Thankfully it can be outgrown.

I love the art of the Middle Ages- which is, of course, overwhelmingly and inescapably Catholic. Catholicism was the air they breathed back then.

Catholic art went wrong at the Reformation. It ceased to be a universal language and became parochial. It was no longer entirely sure of itself and became hectoring on the one hand and sentimental on the other. The first artist to display these tendencies is Michelangelo. After him, the deluge. There is no Catholic art worth a damn after the 17th century.

I suppose I should say something about Catholic teaching. Insofar as that teaching is specifically Catholic as opposed to broadly Christian it is obviously piffle. Totalitarian piffle, at that.

The modern church reposes on the glory of its past. We cut it some slack because it built Rouen and Chartres and once employed Michelangelo. But that's the only thing that differentiates it from outfits like Scientology or The Unification Church. And if one of those were to be hit by something on the scale of the Irish paedophile scandal we'd have no hesitation in calling it an "evil cult".