The talk continued about the Church.  Dan, it appeared, was much entertained by those who considered the Church to be totalitarian.

“You’d think, to hear some good people talk,” he said, “the Church has some sort of secret Swiss Guard like a slave state’s secret police to seize me in the dead of the night if I should deny her authority.  The truth is I am the police, the judge and the jury– I am the jailer and the firing squad.

“If I gave up going to church and apostatized, no one I know of would be the least concerned except my lovely Doris here.  The bishop, who never heard of me, would certainly not chase after me in great perturbation.  And if I took up a life of crime, about the only interest in me would come from the police.  The truth is, alas, I’m free to go to hell any way I wish.  My salvation is my own personal problem.  The Church is about as totalitarian as my own dear mother was.  It might have been better for me if both of them had had a little of the totalitarian in them.”

He sipped his wine.  “And so far as the Pope and the hierarchy being a gang of political schemers plotting like a bureau of internationalists to take over countries of the world–!”  He laughed again.  “In recent centuries, the guardians of the Church have, with few exceptions, been politically so innocent that the Church’s survival can be explained only in terms of her divinity.  And this I hold is good.  Far better political failure and spiritual progress than the other way around, as happens with nationalist churches whose desire for security commits them to the devious practices of politics and hence to compromise, and dooms them thus to eventual extinction.

“But the shepherds of the Church are always and in every way suspect, as the First Shepherd was always and in every way suspect.  Whatever is done or said, even if it is only the warning of the threat divorce is to the home and hence to the nation, is misconstrued as being against the freedom of man and even against the welfare of the country.  He who insists on the rules of the game becomes by strange reasoning the enemy of liberty.  But so it must be, I suppose.  The absolute is always suspect. […]

“Once, one of these invectives against old Mother Church so put me in a dither that I could not write a letter.  I wrote some verse instead.”  He smiled, took a little wine.  “It is always good when you are in a dither to write verse.” […]

The towering beauty of my Love
I had not known before;
If you will hate her quite so much
Then I will love her more.

I knew her fair, I knew her sweet,
But not so sweet and fair
That she should drive you blind with rage
And wild with such despair.

I looked on her with common eyes, 
As on a common face,
And looking so did not discern
Her glory nor her grace.

But that was ere you made me see
How fair she is and great:
I had not known of half my love
Until I knew your hate!

–from Dan England and the Noonday Devil, by Myles Connolly