Were most Catholic Cardinals ever believers in their own orthodoxy?

By Donald A. Collins | 27 February 2019
Church and State

(Credit: Andrea Gastaldi (1826-1889) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Back in the early 1970’s, several of my colleagues and I were having lunch in a private dining room in an Eastern US city where I worked at the time with the famous Herman Kahn, who Wikipedia describes as “one of the preeminent futurists of the latter part of the twentieth century. He originally came to prominence as a military strategist and systems theorist while employed at the RAND Corporation. He became known for analyzing the likely consequences of nuclear war and recommending ways to improve survivability, making him one of three historical inspirations for the title character of Stanley Kubrick’s classic black comedy film satire Dr. Strangelove. His theories contributed heavily to the development of the nuclear strategy of the United States.”

At the time of our lunch in about 1970, the US was embroiled in a failing war with North Vietnam, which none of my colleagues had yet realized would prove such a disaster.

Having since been there twice for extended meetings with North Vietnam government leaders and the chance to travel all over the country, I was horrified to learn that the total deaths on both sides including civilians could have been over 3 million when the population of Vietnam in the early 1970’s was something over 70 million.

The atheist North Vietnam and the Catholic South were basically vying for power and the North, despite US involvement, won overwhelmingly.

Kahn had an interesting background, again quoting Wikipedia, “Kahn was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, the son of Yetta (née Koslowsky) and Abraham Kahn, a tailor. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. He was raised in the Bronx, then in Los Angeles following his parents’ divorce. Raised Jewish, he later became an atheist. He became involved with the development of the hydrogen bomb, commuting to the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in northern California to work closely with Edward Teller, John von Neumann, Hans Bethe, and Albert Wohlstetter.”

Again, Kahn saw nuclear war as survivable, but certainly not desirable. Brilliant, clearly, Herman must have weighed in at least 400 pounds, barely fitting into the padded arm chair from which he pontificated at our early 1970’s lunch.

After hearing his erudite review of current events, one of us asked him, “Herman, if you had your choice to be any one in history, who would that person be?” He paused a moment and then said with a slight smile, “A 16th Century Cardinal living in Florence.”

His scholarship is still widely quoted, but his avoirdupois at 400 suggested he relished a fulsome life style. He died in 1983 at 61.

Were most Catholic Cardinals ever believers in their own orthodoxy? Who would know? But why would they want to give up being God’s representatives on Earth when they could control so much wealth and power down through the ages?

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
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