And the stars will grant each man new hope . . .

“And the stars will grant each man new hope . . . his sleep brings dreams of home.”

Paraphrase of Christopher Columbus

I fancy myself a "Catholic science fiction writer" so have, of course, often considered the possibilities of Catholics ever exploring space. Being a voracious science fiction reader and life-long enthusiast of the American and Russian space programs, I like to think that exploration of the universe would be of interest to the Church rather than being frowned upon. Historically, Holy Mother Church was always a great patron of the sciences and the Vatican housed one of the first observatories in earth's history. Catholic nations funded the first great exploratory voyages, most noteably Columbus' discovery of the New World (it is from Columbus that I drew the title of this article).

On the other hand, many argue that to build spaceships requires a strong military-industrial base which is incompatable with Catholicism and an agrarian "back-to-the-land" philosophy that many (most?) of us traditionalists advocate. From this, many would say that starships could never be created in any Catholic way, that Modernism and Industrialism are necessary ingredients, and that it is therefore irresponsible to even harbour imaginings about Catholic science fiction.

I disagree with such assertions, although I do see there is merit in them. It is not an accident, I don't think, that all the truly Catholic countries fell well behind when the Industrial revolution stormed into history. I would further agree that the unmodern and unindustrial Confederate States were a more Catholic economy and society than the Union in 1860s America. That said, I don't equate traditional Catholicism, distributism, and anti-modernity with Luddism. Firstly, I am of the view that technology per se is not evil and even the knowledge that allows the construction of televisions can be used in a Catholic way (albeit cautiously). Modernism is not technology, it is a heresy and a mode of using technology in an improper way. E-slavery does not result from technology's mere existence, but from how we use it.

I also don't think going back to the land excludes the possibility of having a space program, albeit one that is funded in a totally different manner than NASA. It seems to me that if massive cathedrals like St. Peter's Basilica, Notre Dame de Paris, and others could be constructed in totally Catholic milieus, I don't see why a spaceship couldn't be constructed by Catholics in some happy future. in the Middle Ages they still had specialised professionals in the cities, which included engineers and scientists with a high degree of skill and knowledge (relatively speaking). It was thanks to the Catholic Church, in fact, that European powers were always more technologically advanced that other cultures up to the present era (that is to say, we are still enjoying the benefits of the boost Holy Mother Church gave Europe as it struggled out of the Dark Ages following the fall of the Roman Empire).

Practically, it might take tens or even hundreds of years to construct an interstellar craft in a Catholic, distributist economy, with dozens of nobles and churchmen donating funds for the cause, but I think it could ultimately be done.

1 comment:

Mowgli said...

I too hope we can one day explore the cosmos. Although it appears the military industrial complex was the reason the space program was funded it seems the designers of the technology never wanted nor intended for them to be used for war. At this point it looks like we will be relying on private enterprise as we transition to a type II civilization.


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