By 1938, Belloc concluded Christian Europe was done:
“The bad work begun at the Reformation is bearing its final fruit in the dissolution of our ancient doctrines — the very structure of society is dissolving.” He was right. Europe is the dying continent.
And looking back at the history of the Old Continent, we see the truth of G.K. Chesterton’s insight: When men cease to believe in God, they do not then believe in nothing, they will believe in anything.
Consider the idols to which European Man has burnt incense since losing his faith: Darwinism, Marxism, Bolshevism, fascism, Nazism, now globalism — the idea of a secular paradise where mankind’s needs are met by the state and people spend their lives consuming cultural and material goods until the time comes for the painless exit.
Wednesday, even as Europe has said goodbye to Rome, Rome began to say goodbye to Europe, where the fastest growing faith is manifest in the mosques rising from Moscow to Madrid.
The College of Cardinals, for the first time ever, chose a pope from the New World: Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina.
To be exact, Pope Francis is not of the indigenous peoples of the New World. His father was an immigrant from Italy who came to Argentina before he was born. Yet, though by blood an Italian, Pope Francis, heart and soul, does not belong to Europe.
The reaction of our secular media to the election of this first Jesuit pope, who lives his “preferential option for the poor,” was easily predictable.
On redistribution — “Is he a conservative, or a Great Society liberal who will push the ‘social gospel’?” — the new pope passes with honors. He has a simple apartment, rides the bus and lives among the Buenos Aires poor.
But on the “social issues” — “Is Pope Francis a progressive who will move the Church to a more ‘tolerant’ view of abortion and same-sex marriage?” — the disappointment of the media elite was evident.
Pope Francis adheres to orthodox Catholic teaching that abortion is the killing of an unborn child entailing automatic excommunication for all involved. He has denounced same-sex marriage and regards homosexual adoptions as a crime against children.
That the media showed visible disappointment at learning this makes one wonder if they know anything at all about the Catholic Church.
To be Catholic is to be orthodox. Indeed, let us presume the impossible — that the Church should suddenly allow the ordination of woman, and decree that abortions in the first month of pregnancy are now licit, and that homosexual unions, if for life, will henceforth be recognized and blessed.
This would require the Church to admit that for 2,000 years it had been in error on matters of faith and morals, and hence is not infallible. But if the Church could have been so wrong for so long, while the world was right, and many had suffered for centuries because the Church erred, what argument would be left for remaining Catholic?
If the Church were to admit it had been wrong since the time of Christ about how men must live their lives to attain eternal life, why should Catholics obey the commandments of such a fallible and erring Church? Why not follow our separated brethren of the Protestant faiths, and choose what doctrines we wish to believe and what commandments we wish to obey?
And how have those churches fared that have accommodated themselves to the world?
Of the Christian denominations, the closest to Catholicism has been the Anglican or Episcopal Church. For a time, Anglicans were not regarded as heretics. For though they had rejected the primacy of Rome, they had not rejected the truths fundamental to Catholicism. They had been seen in the time of Henry VIII as schismatics.
But lately the Episcopal Church has been in the vanguard of all Christian churches in ordaining women priests and consecrating women and homosexuals as bishops.
Result? No church has suffered greater losses, as Catholicism has benefited from a steady stream of defecting Anglican clergy.
What the secular media reaction to Pope Francis reveals is that traditional Catholicism is today almost as deeply alien to our present-day West as it was in Roman times, only the West chooses to ignore Catholicism, where Rome feared and persecuted it.
One hears that President Obama will send to the official installation of the Holy Father to represent America our ranking Catholic officeholders, Vice President Joe Biden, along with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
One wonders what His Holiness will be thinking as he greets these ornaments of American Catholicism, both of whom regard Roe v. Wade, which has resulted in 53 million abortion deaths, as a milestone of progress for women’s rights and homosexual marriage as the civil rights cause of the 21st century.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”