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Friday, April 2, 2010

Roman Catholicism

The Epanchins decide to have a party in order to present Myshkin to their rich friends as the future husband of Aglaia.  Myshkin desperately wants to make a good impression and is mostly quiet throughout most of the evening until he hears the name Pavlishtchev, his benefactor.  One of the partygoers, I van Petrovich, knew Pavlishtchev and saw Myshkin when the latter was a child.  Petrovich then mentions that Pavlishtchev converted to Roman Catholicism, a total shock to Myshkin.  The Prince goes on to launch a verbal assault on Catholicism, calling it an "unchristian religion."  This verbal onslaught excites Myshkin to the point that he gesstures violently and knocks over an expensive vase belonging to the Epanchins and has an epileptic attack.

Myshkin's attack on the Catholic Church is not spiritually based but politically based.  He states that Roman Catholicism is nothing but the "continuation of the Western Roman Empire" and that the Pope has an earthly throne and carries a sword.  He sees the Pope as someone having too much unquestioned temporal authority, sanctioning killing for the faith through the Jesuits.  He further states that "socialism springs from Catholicism," suggesting that the Church removes individuality from its adherents.  It denies everyone property, having bartered the truth for money.  The possibility that his benefactor converted to Roman Catholicism proves too much for Myshkin, who has another epileptic fit.

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