China and the Great Catholic What-If
History being linear, â€œWhat ifâ€¦.?â€ is an unanswerable questionâ€”but always a fascinating one. What if George Washington had failed in New York in the early days of the American revolution and the rebellion had been crushed? What if Lee had heeded Longstreet, won Gettysburg, and then taken Washington, thus ending the Civil War and achieving Confederate independence? What if Charles Lindbergh had been the Republican candidate in 1940 and had defeated FDR? What if Bush vs. Gore had been decided differently in 2000?
â€œWhat ifâ€¦? questions involve more than politics, of course. What if the Apostles had turned right rather than left on leaving the Holy Land, so that Christianity was first â€œinculturatedâ€ in a civilization (India) lacking the Greek principle of non-contradiction: Could the Church have developed a doctrinal architecture if Christianity had first been planted in a culture where something could both â€œbeâ€ and â€œnot beâ€?
Then there is the great â€œWhat ifâ€¦.?â€ involving Christianity and China, of which Iâ€™ve only become aware thanks to a November 2011 lecture by the distinguished historian, Hugh Thomas, published in the March 2012 issue of the British journal Standpoint.
According to Lord Thomas, a combination of Spanish conquistadors and missionaries, led by a remarkable character named Lopez de Legazpi, proposed to use the new Spanish colony of the Philippines as the launch-pad for a Spanish and Christian takeover of Chinaâ€”an ambition they styled la empresa de China, â€œthe China Project.â€ The â€œprojectâ€ fired the imaginations of Legazpiâ€™s successors, who pressed the Spanish monarch, Philip II, for permission to bring China under Spanish control. Philip, whom Hugh Thomas styles â€œthe Great Procrastinator,â€ dithered, being preoccupied with rebellion in the Spanish Netherlands, and eventually cooled to the idea. [more]