Sunday, June 17, 2018

Some Thoughts on the Child Sexual Abuse Crisis in the Catholic Church

I think one of the most important tasks facing the religious Dissident Right is trying to determine why Christianity has been unable to stop the assault of Modernism. In my mind there are many reasons for the failure however I think the main culprit is the Church hierarchy. There is something seriously wrong with the generalship.

Anyone with any exposure to the media cannot be unaware of the ongoing saga with regard to child sexual abuse which just seems to go on and on. Here in Australia, two weeks ago, one of the Australian archbishops was forced to step down after it was discovered that he covered up instances of child sexual abuse. Then there's Chile, where the entire Chilean Catholic leadership was forced to resigned as a result of their inept and criminal response to the sexual abuse of minors in their jurisdiction. Not only did they try to discredit the victims, but they seemed to have covered up some of the crimes and lied to the Pope.  In Ireland, the U.S., parts of Europe and Australia, a consistent pattern has emerged of a leadership that has been either inept in its dealings with the matter or outright criminal. 

Here in my home town, Melbourne, most of the crimes occurred during the reign of a liberal Church environment, while in Chile and Ireland, the crimes occurred within a conservative institutional framework: It's a problem that crosses factional lines. Furthermore, investigations into the abuse show that it has historically extended all the way back, well before Vatican Two, so it's not a problem, as some "conservatives" would like to say, of Church liberalisation, Many of the crimes occurred during the papacy of "conservative" Popes and during periods of  traditional orthodoxy. These statements are are not my opinions, they are statements of fact.

A lot of rubbish has been written about the issue but as I see it, the sexual abuse saga needs to be considered on two levels; that of the personal and of the institutional.

With regard to the personal level, in any institution of any size there are always going to be members that are going to go bad. the Catholic Church is no exception.  The job of a priest is hard, temptation is constant and the selection criteria are going to favour either the holy or the weird.  Furthermore, priests are men and like all men, sinners: it's a fact of life that you're going to get a few bad eggs.  From the figures that I have seen,  it appears that roughly ten percent of priests were child sexual predators, a figure that appears to be less than that seen in the general community. 

I grew up in a working class migrant community and in my childhood stories of "bad priests" were a not infrequent thing; the issues involved usually implied illegitimate children, fraud and alcoholism. The thing is that most of the community could make a clear distinction between the actions of the an individual priest and the institution of the Church. Individual priest may have been bad but the Church as a institution was good.

It's my opinion that it is at this, institutional level, where the sexual abuse saga seems to have done the most damage. It's at this level where the Church has been undermined most grievously. It's widely acknowledged that sexual abuse saga was a significant factor in the dechristianisation of Ireland.

The church is in an unusual position because, given its moral nature, it must be seen as an exemplar of what it preaches. If it fails to do this it seen as a corrupt organisation with all the negative sociological and religious implications that entertains. When you espouse high moral standards yet turn a blind eye to the corruption in the ranks you're going to be seen as a hypocrite, which totally undermines your original moral position. The bottom line is that the church, as an institution, failed to adequately deal with the problem of sexual abuse at the institutional level. And now it is paying the consequences.

And this institutional failure needs to be seen in a broader context. While sexual abuse allegations are the salacious topic du jour, the financial shenanigans of the church have proven to be just as resistant to eradication as well. Theft does not generate as much moral disgust as the sexual abuse of children but it's a moral evil none the less, and it's an evil that's been extremely difficult to eradicate. A healthy institution would purge itself of these corrupt elements and yet it can't. Rather, it has taken secular outsiders, sometimes quite hostile to the Church, to expose and force change upon an institutional apparatus which seems blind to its own failings and responsibilities.*

A common theme which emerges from investigations into the matter is that a repeated motivation among many of the clergy for keeping the abuse quiet was the desire to avoid scandal. In other words, the clergy were more concerned with need for the church to appear to be good rather than it actually being good. I don't know how to phrase this less bluntly but this, dear readers, is Pharisiacism 101, all done with the most noble of intentions of preserving the the image of sanctity while turning a blind eye to corruption, and in the worst instances, persecuting those who exposed the crimes.

What's very interesting in this whole saga is that the laity seem to have had a greater grasp of the seriousness of situation than their clerical superiors, but given the monophoric structure of the Catholic Church, meant that their concerns went unheeded. Bishop Long, himself a victim of sexual abuse, highlighted this mentality in his testimony to the Royal Commission on Child Sexual Abuse here in Australia.

MS FURNESS: You've also heard evidence that clericalism has been described as a factor or playing a role in the abuse of children and the response to that abuse and the connection between the deference and power that is part of clericalism and the more traditional approach of some seminarians. Now, do you see it like that?
BISHOP LONG: I do, and I see the clericalism as a by-product of a certain model of Church informed or underpinned or sustained by a certain theology. I mean, it's no secret that we have been operating, at least under the two previous pontificates, from what I'd describe as a perfect society model where there is a neat, almost divinely inspired, pecking order, and that pecking order is heavily tilted towards the ordained. So you have the pope, the cardinals, the bishops, religious, consecrated men and women, and the laity right at the bottom of the pyramid.

I think we need to dismantle that model of Church. If I could use the biblical image of wineskins, it's old wineskins that are no longer relevant, no longer able to contain the new wine, if you like. I think we really need to examine seriously that kind of model of Church where it promotes the superiority of the ordained and it facilitates that power imbalance between the ordained and the non-ordained, which in turn facilitates that attitude of clericalism, if you like.


BISHOP LONG: Accountability in that perfect Church model only works upwards. You're accountable to the person above you. As long as the bishop has the backing of the Pope, he's safe. As long as the priest has the backing of his bishop, he's safe. There's no accountability that reaches outwards or downwards, and that's the critical problem, as far as I see. That discipleship of equals calls into question that upward accountability that is in operation as a result of that ecclesiastical model of a perfect society where everyone knows their place and the pecking order is strictly dictated by ordination.
I personally think that this is a superficial analysis but does illustrate the institutional mentality of the clergy and their hierarchy of "holiness". The problem with this institutional mentality is that it a fertile breeding ground for the Pharisaical mentality and it's a mentality that those of conservative temperament are particularly prone to.

What the child sexual abuse saga has illustrated is that there is something seriously wrong with the institutional governance of the Church, and while it does appear to be making some attempts to change church procedures in order to protect children it--as an institution--still seems clueless as to why the problems occurred in the first place. As I see it, the institutional cancer still remains.

Traditionalist interpretations with regard to the failure of Christianity in the 20th Century tend to see the issue as one of disobedience of the faithful to the hierarchy, i.e. a failure to respect authority. But clearly a obedient faithful which which knowingly kept quiet about the abuse--under the authority of a bishop-- would have been just as morally reprehensible as the hierarchy which turned a blind eye. The institutional church is much like a general blaming his troops for a battlefield loss, it never occurs to them that he problem may be with the quality of the generalship and the decisions made. It's this blindness which is the core of the problem and it's one of the reasons for the dechristinisation of the West.  I have this sneaking intuition that the clergy may have inadvertently set themselves against God.

*A long report commissioned by the Catholic Church into the nature and extent of the sexual abuse crisis.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Age of the Empozzment

One of the reasons why I tend to focus on the religious aspect of the Dissident Right is because I believe that the collapse of religion in the West is THE primary cause of the Western decline.  The transformation in values that came about with the ditching of Christianity lead to the Age of the Empozzment with its current societal consequences.

For better or worse, until about the First World War Christianity was the underlying cultural foundation of the West. Since then its secular replacements have attempted to build a new and better world--with the body count as predicted by Neitzsche-- and while we are, admittedly, materially and technologically richer, it's pretty clear to any objective observer that Western civilisation is on a downhill spiral. It's the last round of drinks before the party ends.

I think that there are many even in Neoreactionary circles who would deny this view of Christianity and feel that a Western restoration can come about through some kind of secular program.  I wish that this was so since the task would be easier but I think it is impossible.  Even the best versions of secularism still run on the "fumes" of Christianity.  Equality, one of the foundation beliefs of the modern secular state is a credal belief  and not one that is supported by a rational appraisal of the evidence. Rationality in the absence of a creed will therefore, in the long run, push against the notion and once the Christian memory of the West is extinguished so will the notion that all men are equal. I know that there are those who will argue that humanistic notions can be derived from rational deliberations but they're on a fools errand. The Neocons, have a similar view, and quite openly advocate the notion that the modern world is purely a secular product. However, as Havers and Gottfried have shown there was nothing in the rationality of "Athens" which supports our current liberal beliefs.  As any good lawyer knows, with enough skill you can make a good argument for anything.

Nietzsche wasn't so stupid and he realised that a post Christian world was going to be was going to be different and not necessarily a world of hugs and kisses. If you want to know why your art is shit, the streets unsafe and degeneracy is advancing in society it has come about from the ditching of Christianity and the embrace of secular values. The "transvaluation of values" comes with consequences.

Recent events in Ireland demonstrate just how profoundly a change in religious attitude affects political outcomes. In what really is a tragedy of European civilisation, what was once a deeply Catholic country has now transformed itself into another secular state.  The legalisation of gay marriage for instance, would have been impossible in a country that believed in the Catholic faith. It's another example of politics being downstream from culture.

The process of secularisation does not necessarily have to lead to a kumbayah pozzed state, it could just as easily of lead to a Japanisation of society, where a culturally homogeneous and peaceful society gives rise to affluent herbivores jerking off to paedophillic anime at below replacement rate. Or it could have gone Natsoc and gotten nuked. Yeah, I know, just like all true believers assert, the next time it will be different, but the money is on it not being so: the road to perdition is wide.

Therefore any attempt to restore the world to one which had some semblance of continuity with world prior to the First World War is going to have to involve the rechristianisation of the West. The problem is that, except for the most deludedly optimistic, Christianity has not been able to mount an effective pushback against the pozz.

One of the aims of this blog is to understand why Christianity failed. Like many Trads, I too believed that "relaxation of discipline" which came about in the 1960's, especially with regard to Catholicism was responsible for the decline, but the more I look into this matter the less satisfied I am with this explanation. Robust systems can take a lot of punishment, it's the weak systems which collapse suddenly. The sudden collapse in the 60's can only lead to the conclusion that despite appearances to the contrary religion in the West was in a very parlous state. The smart guys like Blondel and Troelstch saw years ahead what was happening but no one listened.

And I want to make a distinction between Protestantism and Catholicism. As my thinking stands at the moment, I feel that that each was attacked by a different method.  Protestantism was effectively destroyed by Modernism directly whereas Catholicism was destroyed a "spiritual failure" largely mediated by clericalism which arose in response to the battle against Modernism. Features which both respective religions regard as their strengths have also been responsible for their inability to  mount an effective response to the secular world.

It is my belief that Protestantism, taken as a whole, is beyond reform. I don't say this triumphantly it's just that institutional Protestantism is so thoroughly pozzed that it is unable to recover the critical mass of adherents necessary for societal change.  Small elements of Protestantism are probably quite doctrinally sound it's just that they're going to remain on the margins, Christian witnesses unable to do much.  On the other hand Catholicism still has enough "mass" to effect social change but unless it reforms, essentially by incorporating some of the 'best bits of Protestantism" it's going to ossify into irrelevancy, with tragic consequences for the West.

Monday, May 14, 2018

A Religious Dissident Right

Rod Dreher--who I don't agree with very much--put up an interesting article which I felt deserved far more comment in this corner of the Web.

What's the Matter with Orthodox Countries?

Rod opines on why Orthodox countries have relatively poorer economic performance than that of the West. Now, I don't really want to get into that debate now but wish to simply to show just how powerful an influence religion has in other areas not traditionally associated with it. Weber said the same thing with his work on the relationship between Protestantism and Capitalism.

From my perspective, religion is the structure upon which a culture is built.  Our current religion is Secularism with its essential belief in the irrelevancy of supernatural faith, and the pursuit through reason of health, wealth, pleasure and popularity. Our "slouch to Gomorrah" is primarily as a result of our ditching Christianity for Secularism.

I think it's a truism that politics is downstream from culture. Crappy culture pretty much ensures crappy politics and no matter how you rearrange the political structure it's always going to be a reflection of the prevailing culture. The U.S. founding fathers understood this in a way that Moldbug doesn't. Virtue matters.

This doesn't mean that Secularists can't be virtuous, whatever that means in a secular scheme, it just that virtue, as a Christian would recognise it is a statistical outlier, while in Christianity it is the statistical norm.

What this means that any restoration of the West--if it is going to have any continuity with the past--is going to have to rely on a restoration of Christianity.

The problem is that Christianity has been totally sideswiped by Modernism and has been unable to mount an effective offense against it.  Measures which aimed at "liberalising" the Churches so that they would become more "relevant" have proven to be self destructive failure. On the other hand "Traditionalist" doubling down has produced a few defiant outposts but no real growth. Religious capture of state power hasn't worked out in the long term. The "Benedict Option" so favoured by Dreher, works only under the assumption that the rest of society will leave you alone. Unfortunately militant secularism doesn't work like that. Defence does not win wars.

That 's why I think a revival of popular religion is the only long term solution. However a revival of the "old" religion is unlikely to be of any benefit since the old religion, even when it was popular and strong, proved unable to handle the onslaught of Modernism. What will be needed is something "new". And by "new", I don't mean some new or foreign religion to the West. Rather, it will be the old Christianity, practiced differently and with different emphasis.

Personally, I think this new religion is going to develop among the laity, since I feel that in the Catholic Church at least, the clergy are polarized into their respective ideological camps by temperament rather than reason, one group wanting novelty without intellectual rigor and other stuck with the fear that any change is error: whimsy and paralysis. What will unite both of them will be a an opposition to a religious Dissident Right.  The liberals will hate it for its attack on Kumbaya Christianity while the Trads will hate it for proposing any change at all.

If this group can reform Christianity we have a chance otherwise I don't see any way out at all.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Neoplatonism, Thomism and Modernism

I thought I would just follow up with a few more thoughts on the subject of Neoplatonism in the Church.

I can't say that I'm a scholar of Church history but what's apparent in a brief survey of it is just how often the spirit/body duality pops up as a heresy. A brief review of Church history shows the the Manichee's, Gnostics, Albeginians, Bogomils and  Jansenists.  As Chesterton remarked:
What is called the Manichean philosophy has had many forms; indeed it has attacked what is immortal and immutable with a very curious kind of immortal mutability [ED]. It is like the legend of the magician who turns himselfinto a snake or a cloud; and the whole has that nameless note of irresponsibility, which belongs to much of the metaphysics and morals of Asia, from which the Manichean mystery came. But it is always in one way or another a notion that nature is evil; or that evil is at least rooted in nature. The essential point is that as evil has roots in nature, so it has rights in nature. Wrong has as much right to exist as right. As already stated this notion took many forms. Sometimes it was a dualism, which made evil an equal partner with good; so that neither could be called an usurper. More often it was a general idea that demons had made the material world, and if there were any good spirits, they were concerned only with the spiritual world. Later, again, it took the form of Calvinism, which held that God had indeed made the world, but in a special sense, made the evil as well as the good: had made an evil will as well as an evil world.
We'll get to the immutable immortality a bit later but the important thing to recognise that it is a persistently recurring heresy one that the Church has never really been able to stamp out completely. But it's important to understand that just because the Church has actively fought against the error it in the past does not mean that there isn't a well of sympathy within it.
This error then had many forms; but especially, like nearly every error, it had two forms, a fiercer one which was outside the Church and attacking the Church, and a subtler one, which was inside the Church and corrupting the Church. There has never been a time when the Church was not torn between that invasion and that treason.
It's the treason that I'm interested in.

Let me illustrate what exactly I mean with this passage on the subject of Caritas by Pope Benedict.
According to Friedrich Nietzsche, Christianity had poisoned eros, which for its part, while not completely succumbing, gradually degenerated into vice.[1] Here the German philosopher was expressing a widely-held perception: doesn't the Church, with all her commandments and prohibitions, turn to bitterness the most precious thing in life?
Nowadays Christianity of the past is often criticized as having been opposed to the body; and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed. Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure “sex”, has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity.
In philosophical and theological debate, these distinctions have often been radicalized to the point of establishing a clear antithesis between them: descending, oblative love—agape—would be typically Christian, while on the other hand ascending, possessive or covetous love —eros—would be typical of non-Christian, and particularly Greek culture. Were this antithesis to be taken to extremes, the essence of Christianity would be detached from the vital relations fundamental to human existence, and would become a world apart, admirable perhaps, but decisively cut off from the complex fabric of human life. Yet eros and agape—ascending love and descending love—can never be completely separated. The more the two, in their different aspects, find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized. Even if eros is at first mainly covetous and ascending, a fascination for the great promise of happiness, in drawing near to the other, it is less and less concerned with itself, increasingly seeks the happiness of the other, is concerned more and more with the beloved, bestows itself and wants to “be there for” the other. The element of agape thus enters into this love, for otherwise eros is impoverished and even loses its own nature. On the other hand, man cannot live by oblative, descending love alone. He cannot always give, he must also receive. Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift. Certainly, as the Lord tells us, one can become a source from which rivers of living water flow (cf. Jn 7:37-38). Yet to become such a source, one must constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God (cf. Jn 19:34).
Superficially, it's typical Catholic teaching and would appear to benign, but if you think about it for a minute, the implications of what Benedict is saying is that without the benefit of Agape, Eros is bad. i.e the natural human proclivity for procreation is a bad thing. Let me illustrate the implications of this by way of analogy. Imagine the human passions as being like horses tied to a chariot, with Eros being a particularly wild steed. What Benedict is saying is that Eros, on its own, is a bad horse because he is so randy all the time that he loses his way. The addition of Agape makes for a more docile horse. What a Thomist would say, on the other hand, is that a randy horse is a good horse, he just needs to be kept firmly in the reigns. What you get with Benedict's vision is a gelding what you get with Thomas's vision is a wild stallion. It's subtle neoplatonism but its there. Nietzsche is vindicated.

"Christian" Eros after the Neoplatonic treatment, gets "transformed" from something bad into something better, beocmeing something of "consideration of the other" and "respect", and draining it of its passion and abandon. Passion are abandon, features inherent in intense erotic love are suspect, it can never be "mere" sex but must have some agape dimension to it as well.  Even within a chaste marriage, mere sex need to be expunged, its no wonder that sin is where all the fun is at.  Sex becomes a passionless affair because the Neoplatonist thinks that sex should be a passionless affair. Instead of recognising Eros as it is, he constructs Eros as it should be.

Now Benedict explicitly reaffirms the hylomophic conception of man in his encyclical but the problem is that it's not how he treats the subject. Similar things were going on during the Albigensian heresy.
 Anyhow, it is historically important to see that Platonic love did somewhat distort both human and divine love, in the theory of the early theologians. Many medieval men, who would indignantly deny the Albigensian doctrine of sterility, were yet in an emotional mood to abandon the body in despair; and some of them to abandon everything in despair.
As Chesterton says the Platonic approach to love distorts it. The point about Christian Neoplatonism is that it seeks to transform human nature, instead of accepting it as it is, since the originial version is "deficient" i.e. bad  In that way, Christian Neoplatonism is very much like Blank Slatism which rejects man as he is and seeks to transform into a "New Man". The analogies are clearly there.

An this stuff doesn't just affect the domain of Eros, but it spreads over to other areas where human nature plays a prominent role. Take parochialism for example. Civil and ethic strife exists all over the world because one mob feels that certain limits have been crossed by another. It's a fact of life, present across different cultures and times.  But the tendency, particularly post WW2, has to be regard this aspect of human nature as morally suspect. Christian Churches, in particular, have been at the forefront of pushing global migration on the grounds of charitable love of the poor, labeling anyone who opposes the notion as being sinful. Once again, human nature is seen as problematic. ( The secular analogies are eerie)

The interesting question to ask is, what would St Thomas do?

Being speculative here, I imagine he would start off by saying that the parochialism that human beings are born with is good, however God also commands us to be charitable to our neighbors and those in need. Can we find a solution which accommodates both?  Let us keep people where they are as we want to avoid inter-racial strife, if possible,  and ensure their safety and prosperity where they are. This train of thought is not even entered into by the modern Church men, instead man's natural love of "blood and soil"--Patria--  is immediately denounced as anti-Christian.

As a Christian, I believe in the Devil, and it's becoming apparent to me as to how the game is being played.

1) Firstly, promote doctrinaire religious aesthetes within the hierarchy of the Church who practically, if not explicitly, shape the Church thinking along Neoplatonist lines.

2) Declare normal things sinful or change the norms in such a way to denature their vitality.

3) Encourage the reshaping of the person--"transformation in Christ"--by encouraging the person to shape their personality according to aesthetic ideals with constant negative reference/no reference to reality of our natures. i.e. promote practical Neoplatonism.

4) Set up alternative organisations outside the Church  which embrace normality but tie them to some other pathology.  i.e. Natsoc, Patria+ murderous hatred of the other. Providing them with a psychic escape, drawing people away from the Church and leading them to sin.

5) Stifle any attempt at reform by appealing to Tradition, making sure that the status quo remains.

Now, the reason why I'm harping on about all this stuff is because I've been trying to understand why the Christian religion has been unable to mount a viable defence against Modernity. In my opinion, the reason is because the motor of modernity is part and parcel of the Neoplatonic tradition of the the Church. Attacking Modernity, it attacks the Neoplatonism within itself, and any successful assault on Modernity is going to rely on shift within Church culture which affirms "pragmatically" the implication of Thomistic teaching.

When commentator Goldenye asked in a previous post,
In my musings as to why we're in this mess, I realized that modernity only appears to come from Western Christianity. Eastern Christianity doesn't appear to have modernity unless it's imported in from the West. What part or parts of Western Christianity cause modernity?
I think the answer lays in the fact Neoplatonism is a tendency rather than explicity declared doctrine, with the doctrine mitigating the Neoplatonic tradition. Thomism gained enough traction to make the scientific revolution ultimately possible but it did it against institutional resistance.

Let me give you an example. The whole Gallileo saga illustrates that battle between Neoplatonism and Thomism in the Church. The Neoplatonists said the Bible says this, the Thomists said but my eyes see that. The Thomistic view eventually won but the Church had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the accept of the reality acknowledged by the Thomistic view. It's quite probable, had Thomism not won, that Christianity would be dead now and that we'd probably be living in some form of fifteenth century hovel.

Modern Trads like to blame the Enlightenment on all our troubles but that's a simplistic view. The Enlightenment was a broad thing, and something I'm generally in favour of. However two malignant strands came out of it. The least malignant of them was Positivism, the more dangerous one was Rousseauean Idealism, and guess where Rousseau got a lot of his ideas from.  Interestingly, the expulsion of James Watson from polite society should be seen as a secular version of the Gallileo controversy.  Secular idealism trumps scientific fact.

On a final note. Chesterton made the comment that Platonism seems to be a heresy that continually reappears, though in different forms. I agree but disagree with his understanding. I personally believe that this heresy is a consequence of the nature of human cognition and the tendency for cognitive miserliness. Hence, it's continual manifestations across a variety of cultures and times, though with various local modifications. It's very easy to imaging a spirit flesh duality, it's intuitive: Hylomorphism is hard.

I don't think that there are Churchmen secretly squirreling away copies of Plato and worshiping him on clandstine altars, rather Plato was the most explicit exponent of the spirit/flesh duality and people trying to understand the phenomenon of Neoplatonism try to undestand it within the model of human rationality, not recognising that it is a type of System 1 misattribution error.  Neoplatonism is a type of cognitive error, and the philosophy comes after the fact.

*Chesterton's quotes are taken from his book on St Thomas Aquinas.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Reps for Jesus

 The Body was no longer what it was when Plato and Porphyry and the old mystics had left it for dead. It had hung upon a gibbet. It had risen from a tomb. It was no longer possible for the soul to despise the senses, which had been the organs of something that was more than man. Plato might despise the flesh; but God had not despised it. 

(G.K. Chesterton, St Thomas Aquinas)
While on Twitter the other day, this particular tweet thread caught my eye;

Now, I've got to admit that excesses of any kind are a sign of mental imbalance but the overall tone of that comment, and later ones, suggested that author was disparaging the idea of a "muscular Christianity".  Now the point of this post is not to rag on the author of those comments but to point towards what I think is a persistent tendency in Christian thought and one that has caused a lot of untold harm especially with regard to the Christian understanding of man.

Machialvelli, when it came to institutions, was fond of making a distinction between the "formal" and the "real".  The formal being that which was publicly expressed and the real was what actually happened.  Now Christian, especially Catholic theology, tends to be a formal acknowledgement of the goodness of the created world but in practice there tends to be strong suspicion of it.  The Christian "tradition" itself, tends to have a strong Platonic bent to it, emphasising a the flesh/spirit duality, with this duality having an implicit hierarchical aspect to it: the spirit being "higher" than the flesh.  Giving weight to this view are certain oft quoted texts in the Bible. So when JG states that a disparaging of the body is one of its strengths he is certainly justified by "tradition" for his view.

Certainly the Bible cautions about following the ways of the flesh, but I really can't find an endorsement of neglecting it entirely or pretending that it doesn't matter. Much like the rider of horse, the role of the spirit is to guide the flesh and not let the horse lead the way. Platonism certainly doesn't dispute this, however the way it approaches the subject it's as if the well being of the horse doesn't matter at all. In fact, especially among the religious ascetics, there seems to be a certain notion that treating the horse badly or neglecting is a virtue. Chesterton recognised this as well;
This Platonic influence could be seen particularly in the fact that "the earlier school of Augustine and even of Anselm had [treated] the soul as the only necessary treasure, wrapped for a time in a negligible napkin." Chesterton even detects in the Greek theological tradition "a sort of dried-up Platonism" that translated into "the last indeed noble abstractions," but too far removed from the concrete world, the consequence being that the Logos of the Byzantine Greeks "was the Word, but not the Word made Flesh." As a result, "the earlier Christian ages had been excessively anti-corporeal and too near the danger line of Manichaean mysticism."
The truth is that the historical Catholic Church began by being Platonist; by being rather too Platonist. Platonism was in that golden Greek air that was breathed by the first great Greek theologians. The Christian Fathers were much more like the Neo-Platonists than were the scholars of the Renaissance; who were only Neo-Neo-Platonists. For Chrysostom or Basil it was as ordinary and normal to think in terms of the Logos, or the Wisdom which is the aim of philosophers, as it is to any men of any religion today to talk about social problems or progress or the economic crisis throughout the world. St. Augustine followed a natural mental evolution when he was a Platonist before he was a Manichean, and a Manichean before he was a Christian. And it was exactly in that last association that the first faint hint, of the danger of being too Platonist, may be seen.
This Platonic tradition had caused serious problems in the Church that there was a serious danger of incursion of Islamic philosphy into Christiandom (I don't want to go into to this now for the sake of brevity). Theologically, the real blow to this NeoPlatonistic view of the person was dealt by the work of St Thomas Aquinas who was able to reconcile Aritistolean hylomorphism with Christianity. i.e  the Man was both spirit and flesh. Again, quoting Chesterton,
In a word, St. Thomas was making Christendom more Christian in making it more Aristotelian. This is not a paradox but a plain truism, which can only be missed by those who may know what is meant by an Aristotelian, but have simply forgotten what is meant by a Christian. As compared with a Jew, a Moslem, a Buddhist, a Deist, or most obvious alternatives, a Christian means a man who believes that deity or sanctity has attached to matter or entered the world of the senses.
I really want to emphasise this point, Christianity emphasises that sanctity and matter are conjoined.  The view espoused by JB is explicitly rejected by Aquinas. This is why actions of the flesh impact upon the spirit, it's because you dealing with one thing possessing two different qualities rather than two separate discrete things. What we do with our bodies affects our souls. Matter has some dignity.

Now while Christianity, Catholicism in particular, may affirm the teaching of St Thomas, the manichean Neoplatonist tendency is still strong in the Church. Historically, the Church has been quietly supportive of mortification of the flesh in the pursuit of sanctity but has remained rather silent or very hostile on the subject of the perfection of the flesh in pursuit of sanctity. Fasting for Jesus is good but doing reps for Jesus is suspect. But why is fatness less an evil than fornication? Why is the prudent pursuit of physical perfection a morally suspect thing?

Even in the understanding of evil, the tradition of the Church still operates on Neoplatonist lines. The sin of gluttony is "abstracted" into the broader sin of excessive sensuality. Maybe I've not read a lot but I've never seen gluttony pointed out as an offence against the body, a mutilating sin. For a Neoplatonist it doesn't matter since the body is not important. And that's the problem with Neoplatonism it neglects realities for theories. The idea is more important than the substance.

And yet the logical consequence of a Thomistic theology is that prudent perfection of the body should be spiritually beneficial.  If the object of Caritas is to perfect the form of the thing considered then its operation on the flesh is to perfect it. Now, for the spergs out there, I'm not advocating bodily perfection at the expense of the all the other facets of life a man must attend to, rather there needs to be a prudent balance, with the recognition that the neglect of the body is a sin. Doing a few reps for Jesus is a corrective.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Rules of the Club

He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.
(Matthew 12:30)

As I've said before, any restoration of the West is going to have to involve a recongition of the importance of Christianity in the formation of Western identity. Our "slouch to Gomorrah" has primarily come about from Western society's rejection and, in some instance, perversion of its Christian faith. It follows therefore that any restorative movement is going to have to acknowledge the role of Christianity in any reinvigoration of the West.

So where does it leave the others, who neither have faith or a Christian heritage.

It may surprise many of you that I have a very strong sympathy with regard to honest Atheism. My own predilections are strongly empirical and I can understand how a man looking at the universe around him sees no God.  The apparently inert response of a supposedly loving and active God in a world of so much injustice and evil is a very strong argument against his existence. Looking at the world around me, the empirical data, superficially, is powerful evidence against His existence and it's sometimes only the gift of Faith that lets you see God when the rest of your senses are telling you He is not there.

Christian theology affirms that faith is a supernatural gift doled out to those whom it pleases Him. And why God chooses to dole it out to some rather that others is a mystery. I certainly didn't warrant it and I know plenty of other better people than myself who don't believe.

Now this poses a problem. As a Christian, how can I expect the non believers to believe in the things that God has chosen to withhold from them? How can I, in good faith, expect them to believe in stuff that I wouldn't believe if I hadn't been given faith? The answer is, I can't.

Expecting an atheist to believe in God is like expecting me to deny him, a violation of conscience. Furthermore, it's contra Caritas, which protects conscience.

So given the hugely influential presence of Christianity on European identity can an Atheist or Jew be part of the European Right?

As I've said before, the fundamental criteria of Rightism is commitment to the Truth.  But as God seems to dole out the supernatural gift of Faith to whomever he pleases and he withholds from some, I don't see any obligation for non believers to uphold the articles of Christian faith which from their perspective, they don't believe to be true.  However, I do expect them to be honest in all other things.

In fact, some of the writers that have been most acknowledging of the Christian tradition, have been atheists such as Theodore Dalrymple and John Gray.  Gray, particularly, recently savaged Steven Pinkier's book and exposed it for the  propaganda polemic it was. One doesn't have to believe in the Christian religion to acknowledge its role and social utility in the formation of the West. But what characterises these atheists, as opposed to the New Atheists, is their honesty.

As I see it criteria for non Christian inclusion in the European right are;

a) Honesty with regard to the facts of European history and empirical observation.
b) A goodwill towards Christianity, which at its bare minimum is a tolerance of it.