Anniversary Post: Humanum genus

Pope Leo XIIIOn this day in 1884, Pope Leo XIII released the papal encyclical, Humanum genus. Oh, that Catholic Church! It is always angry about something. And at that time, it was angry about, well, democracy. Or more precisely, it was not keen on popular sovereignty — the idea that government has the right to rule because of a mandate by the people and not because God decided it. Or as Dennis puts it Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!” Pope Leo begged to differ.

It also isn’t keen on separation of church and state. So basically, the whole damned thing was very un-American. The funny thing is that now a good 35% of the country — almost exclusively protestants — would totally agree with Leo the Pope. Among conservatives, democracy itself is out of favor. And most of these ninnies think the Constitution itself — you know, that document that rather pointedly doesn’t mention God — is divinely inspired. I really do wonder what kind of American history these people learned. Or is it just anything to justify getting what they want?

Anyway, back to the Humanum Genus, most of it was presented as an attack on the Freemasons. That makes sense, because they were a secular force. And they were of what is fast becoming my favorite American religious group: those who just don’t care enough to have much of an opinion about God. They are much more sensible than atheists like me who spend a lot of time on it. I mean, I would save a lot of time if I just became a Catholic and went to Mass each Sunday.

The Pope was also concerned about public education. Basically, the Pope was concerned that the people would be self-reliant and not dependent upon the hierarchy that God himself set up. In other words, Pope Leo was the same as the power elite at any time: he was just complaining about trends that were threatening his power. I think people should give Pope Francis a little slack in that regard. But it’s a different time. At least in America, it isn’t the pope who is oppressing us. It is the corporate state. And just like the many Catholics in 1884 who loved the oppression of Humanum genus, so there are many today who love their modern subsistence wage economy.

Happy anniversary Humanum genus!

4 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Humanum genus

    • Yes, while doing some tests recently, I noticed that the software does not allow one to provide a very short comment. I will have to look into that, because “Wow” is a completely reasonable comment. Although I’m interested in exactly what you mean.

      I have, of course, put a very negative spin on the document. You might find Albert Pike’s Freemason response to the document interesting. Pike, however, is best know today as a big supporter of slavery. But he was a character — known for negotiating treaties with native tribes, he actually lead native mercenaries during the Civil War. And he apparently couldn’t get along with his superiors, so he eventually resigned, went into hiding, was arrested and charged with treason (against the Confederacy), and much more. A colorful guy, but very much in favor of slavery. Just the same, should we hold up Sherman as a hero: a man who wasn’t actually against slavery and went on to oversee the slaughter of countless native peoples? Mostly, humans are just awful.

      • Oh, it’s just very well-written; a ton of history, attitude, modern commentary in a very short piece. That always makes me go “wow.”

        The nice thing about Catholicism is that it more-or-less leaves religious faith out of the equation. You have to go through little stages as a kid, classes and so on, but once you’re in, nobody pays much attention to the theology. It’s just comforting rituals and the feeling of belonging to a community. Which unfortunately means the church can stand for some pretty noxious stuff; the upside is very few Catholics know or care what the church stands for. If you consider birth control, for instance, most North Americans pay no attention to the church’s teachings, and Central/South Americans are probably more worried about their crazy-devout old relations criticizing them than they are hellfire.

        That last is a big thing among poor communities, as when you’re poor, you can’t really afford to piss off any member of your extended family. No wonder the church was staunchly anti-democracy in 1884; it saw that democracy can lead to greater economic equality and make people less reliant on family members full of tribal superstitions.

        • Thank you, but I think it was just a rant. But if you liked it, you should like tomorrow’s on the Coinage Act of 1864!

          Catholicism is kind of the Paint By Numbers of religions. And why not? Andrea was raised Baptist and she was always worried about going to hell. But the Catholics make it easy.

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