This so-called pandemic has provided ample demonstration of the old adage about government, that the only area in which it shows competence is incompetence. And now, after a year of fumbling and incessant contradictions we are being advised by countless governments to put our undying faith in an untried, experimental “vaccine” which is, in reality, and experimental gene therapy with totally unknown and untested long term consequences. Being touted by Popes and bishops, presidents, celebrities, and corporate honchos as the salvation of mankind ~ a claim entirely unproven ~ the “jab” has taken on a mystical aura; a kind of 21st century Holy Grail.
But how “holy” is a therapy produced at the expense of innocent human lives, aborted in order to produce cell lines from which the “jab” has directly descended? Ethicists, bishops, and assorted sophists are taking the line that the remoteness of the initial intrinsic evil excuses one’s participation in and profiting from such a monstrous evil. I am immediately reminded of arguments found in that greatest of 20th century literary classics, “The Lord of the Rings.” The solidly Catholic J.R.R. Tolkien perfectly understood, and clearly saw through, such Jesuitical reasoning. As I re-read his great trilogy I am beginning to understand the metaphors and symbolisms he employed in much greater depth. Tolkien, in fact, tackles the very point that is being bantered about today regarding the moral efficacy of the “jab.”
The Ring represents Original Sin which, in a larger sense, can be described as man’s concupiscent “will to power.” Remember in Genesis we read “you shall be like gods” (Gen 3:5) emanating from the lying tempter’s mouth. Likewise, the Ring gives its bearer power to be like a god – but there is always a catch. The Ring answers not to its current bearer but to Sauron, the dark Lord: the Power of Evil. Rather than bestowing liberty, it ultimately enslaves. This explains why the only creature fit to be the Ring bearer is a humble hobbit. Hobbits are the least corruptible precisely because they are the least powerful. Tolkien makes this very clear throughout his tale. It is the childlike qualities of hobbits: their simplicity and purity of heart that protects them from the Ring’s corrosive, corrupting influence. Men and even wizards are the ones who fall most easily under its spell. The one most corrupted is Gollum of course, once a man but now a hideous creature enslaved by the Ring’s evil power.
Tolkien is saying that we cannot compromise with evil – ever – and still hope to come out on top. One cannot use an evil means, even for the most noble cause because, like the Ring, evil has a will of its own, or rather the will of the Evil One behind it who will twist, corrupt, and bend those who foolishly employ it to his own ends. In this regard, Tolkien is perhaps a better moral theologian than many of today’s “experts.” Like Boromir, they are tempted to use evil against itself. Boromir reasons, “valour needs first strength, and then a weapon. Let the Ring be our weapon, if it has such power as you say. Take it and go forth to victory!” “Alas no,” said Elrond. “We cannot use the ruling Ring… It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil… The very desire of it corrupts the heart… For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so.”
Tolkien shows his true brilliance in this passage. To compromise one’s morals is to be eventually consumed by the very evil one might seek to curtail. Remember the claim 50 years ago that contraception would strengthen and even save the family? I do. Much like the Ring, any small evil will overtake the one who wishes to use it for some good end. The widespread acceptance of contraception quickly ushered in the greater evil of abortion. It also opened the door to unrestrained extra-marital sex which in turn undermined both marriage and the family. And today, researchers routinely traffic in body parts from aborted children in order to find new “cures” and make “vaccines.” Yet numerous Catholic clerics, administrators, and especially politicians have so seriously compromised their Catholic principles to the degree that many are no longer even recognizable as Catholics in spite of their outward claims. They have come to resemble pathetic “Gollums” transfixed by and obsessed with their “precious” rings of power.
The point is that in a sense we are all Ring bearers because each of us is carrying the burden of original sin – that human “will to power” celebrated by Nietzsche. “Unless you become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mk 10:15) So powerful is that burden of original sin that even for the humble hobbit, Frodo, at the critical moment of decision even he faltered, unwilling to destroy the Ring that had been such a burden to him. Positive evil is real and it is powerful. It is not something to be trifled with. It will inevitably deceive the one who sees some potential for good in it, just as the Ring betrayed any who would use it for their own ends.
“Ah, the Ring! Is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt for so small a thing? So small a thing…” reasons Boromir. “You seem ever to think only of its power in the hands of the Enemy… of its evil uses not its good… But why, if it were with us?” The “jab” is so small a thing that most bishops have waved away any moral objections to its use, and in fact most have taken it themselves. But leave it to a small hobbit to remind us all of larger realities. “Were you not at the Council?” answered Frodo. “Because we cannot use it, and what is done with it turns to evil.”
Our human “will to power” is a kind of pride driven lust that drives us, like Gollum, to possess “my precious.” We are busy at one end of the line tugging at some object of desire, much like a fish nibbling on bait. But we need to consider who, or what, is at the other end of that same line waiting to reel us in. There is another kind of will, the Free Will, which when supplied with grace, can defeat that dark brooding “will to power” which is the residue of original sin. But we must become humble as hobbits in order to conquer it. For if we refuse to destroy “the precious,” namely that concupiscent will, our fate will be the same as Gollum’s, eternal destruction. For the Ring does not ultimately grant one power but slavery to the same Dark Lord that it was made to serve. To compromise with evil is to approve it. Nobody understood that better than Tolkien. Perhaps now, if we could only get our pastors to carefully read Tolkien’s great classic, they too might gain a hobbit’s courage. And wouldn’t that be wonderful!
Francis J. Pierson +a.m.d.g.