Rome Is Falling! Rome Is Falling!

The next papal election will be more important than the next presidential election.

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X, the social media platform, is all atwitter that men think about Ancient Rome every day. 

Well, yes, of course we do. 

Women, apparently, find that astonishing. 

Orthodox. Faithful. Free.

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Well, yes, of course they do, which is why the Roman Republic limited the franchise to men.  

You know what else men think about every day? 

(Clue: it also has to do with Rome.)

Yes, that’s right: men constantly wonder who the next pope will be—because men know, in their patriarchal, heteronormative, cisgender wisdom, that the next papal election will be more important than the next presidential election; they also know that the next pope is likely to be much younger—and therefore hipper—than the next president. (If Joe Biden were a cardinal—heaven forfend—he would, given the voting rules, be too old to cast a ballot for the next pope.) 

Now, you may ask, how could the next papal election be more important than the next presidential election? America, after all, is the new Rome, the greatest power on earth, a government capable of declaring that men are women and women are men. How can the election of a cleric in old, decaying, European Rome, possibly match the authority of a reelected Joe Biden or Kamala Harris or even a newly elected Mike Pence or Donald Trump?

The answer is that the papacy is 2,000 years old. It is the ultimate reality show survivor. The United States, on the other hand, is not quite 250 years old and seems to be as unsteady on its feet, and as unclear in its mind, as the president. 

There’s a reason for this. 

It is often said that America is a creedal nation. I’m not sure that’s true. But even if we grant that, then, what is the American Creed? Some might point to the Constitution. But that’s not a Creed, it’s a system of government. 

Others might point to the Declaration of Independence. But the Declaration is mostly a list of complaints, not a Creed. 

The partial exception, of course, is the most frequently quoted passage in the Declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” But these “truths” are “self-evident” only to those who bring such assumptions with them. 

In the course of history, you will find these assumptions asserted as truths in only one place: the Judeo-Christian West. If the Declaration is America’s creedal document, it relies—perhaps ironically, given its Deistic author—on the Creed proclaimed down the centuries by the Catholic Church. 

We can envision the deposit of faith as a reservoir. Liberalism, in its various aspects, is dependent on that reservoir, but it has also drained that reservoir to provide water for various imaginary unicorns. Protestantism—an imaginary version of historic Christianity—was one. The Enlightenment—with political philosophers positing imaginary “states of nature” and imaginary atomized individuals (absent families, tribes, cultures, religions, nations)—was another.  

As the reservoir—the deposit of faith—runs dry, liberals backfill it with the sewage created by their mistakes. The result is what we have now. Call it what you will: post-Modernism, cultural Marxism, simple insanity. The reelection of Joe Biden will accelerate it. The election of Mike Pence won’t stop it. Perhaps Donald Trump is right—perhaps he alone can fix it.

But he’ll need some help. The biggest help he, the United States, and Western Civilization could have, is a reinvigorated Catholic Church—teaching the Catechism, spreading the Gospel, renewing the reservoir of faith so that sanity may be nourished again. 

That’s what real men think about. That’s why football has its Saints, baseball has its Padres, and basketball has its (King of) Kings. It’s all because men are always thinking of Rome. 

Author

  • H. W. Crocker III

    H. W Crocker III is a popular historian and novelist. His classic history of the Catholic Church Triumph, updated and expanded, has just been reissued in hardcover.

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