Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Luther's Knocking




I have been in Italy one week, and have had countless rich, stimulating conversations with Italian Catholic friends. Yet I find that I struggle to convey the gravity of the scandal roiling the US Catholic Church. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to many folks here. Some think it’s nothing more than a political attack on Pope Francis. Others agree that it’s bad, but they say the Church has always been corrupt to a certain degree, and don’t grasp why Americans are so worked up about it.
Rod Dreher: The Very Big Deal Catholic Crisis

Massimo Faggioli and Rod Dreher have both been writing--and tweeting--extensively on the sexual abuse saga that seems to have thoroughly permeated the Catholic Church.  While both writers have polar opposite approaches to the issue one thing both can agree on is recognition that American Catholicism is different from it's European version..

Faggioli, particularly, seems to have grasped  just how vast the difference is between the two in mindset,  and recognises that the Europeans have underestimated the seriousness of the American angst--and desired response--to the situation as it is. The Europeans, on the other hand, perplexed as they are by the American response, don't seem particularly perturbed by the saga as their underlying attitude seems to combine both a recognition of the historical corruption of the Church hierarchy and a resignation to its permanence and inevitability.

The Italian response, in my mind, is probably a consequence of Italian culture and I'm not saying this pejoratively. Catholicism has had a long history of illiberality when it came to the rights and opinions of the common man. The laity were subjects to both clergy and nobles and were expected to do what they were told.  Pushback was not permitted, and if the elites or the clergy were corrupt there was nothing you could really do about it: it was a matter for elites to sort out among themselves. This attitude and the reality of life on the ground encultured among the people an attitude of resignation and adaptation.  The family, instead of the State, became the unit of social organisation Any new initiatives were strictly private affairs because assistance from above was likely to be counter productive. It had been this way for centuries and as a result,  a certain resignation cultural resignation within the Italian mindset. You learn to accept it and work around it because there's nothing you can do to change it. When you hear that the local bishop's a pedophile and not much is being done to remove him you've heard it all before; what's the big deal? The Church (clergy) is corrupt.  In a Darwinian manner, Italians have learned to forge a life in a manner which accommodates and accepts institutional corruption.**

This Italian attitude is prototypical of the Latin mindset. One of the things that European, particularly Latin, Catholic culture suffers from is its inability to deal with institutional corruption in any meaningful way. There are many reasons for this. Some are the result of traditional habit, others the result of certain theological biases and it's beyond the scope of this post to go into this deeper, however the overall effect is that corruption remains an entrenched endemic phenomenon.

Protestantism didn't have this problem. One of the main drivers of national development and wealth is institutional honesty and it's no surprise that until the advent of widespread secularisation the Catholic countries were Europe's most backward. Protestantism's apparent economic superiority wasn't just due to the work ethic but the superiority of its institutions, which relative to Catholic ones, were seen to be more honest and efficient.

Protestantism, on the other hand, gave the believer far more legitimacy in public affairs  and the theology of Protestantism expected the  believer to behave act as one of the elect. There was no reliance on the confessional to wipe away misdeeds and poor behaviour was an outward sign of perdition which rightly disqualified a man from institutional office. The net effect of this "theological bias" in Protestant culture was attitude towards institutions which demanded honesty and efficiency.

Which brings us to the phenomenon of American Catholicism. The United States was founded as a Protestant Enlightenment project: the institutional culture is Protestant. While the country was explicitly secular, Protestantism was the de-facto institutional religion of the country and within its theological framework established it's habits, ideas and cultural practices. It was into this culture that the waves of Catholic migrants flooded and eventually became assimilated. However, the assimilation wasn't one way, Catholicism too had to adapt to the culture with the overall result that American Catholicism became Protestantised. (The Church recognised the phenomenon early on issuing an encyclical.) The same phenomenon seems to have occurred in other countries where Catholics lived within a dominant Protestant culture. The Germans and Canadians seem to have been liberally Protestantised while the Americans have assumed more of the conservative faction. Australia seems split down the middle.

Years ago while reading G.K. Chesteron's, Why I am a Catholic, I was struck by this line.
In all probability, all that is best in Protestantism will only survive in Catholicism; and in that sense all Catholics will still be Puritans when all Puritans are Pagans.
What I think what I'm seeing now in American Catholicism, particularly, is the realisation of Chesterton's prophecy, in that it has incorporated the best bits of Protestantism and is now using it as a battering ram to reform the institutional corruption of the Church.  Unlike Latin Catholicism, American Catholicism won't put up with institutional corruption. Massimo Faggioli, in analysing the current situation, sees it as the  machinations of the "right wing" of the American church, using the sexual abuse crisis as an opportunity to dispose of the Pope and his process of reform,  and there is certainly an element of truth in this.  However,  I don't think he fully realises that the current revulsion by the American Church, particularly the laity, is less directed towards the Papacy per se, than the institutional corruption which he is seen to be upholding by failing to adequately deal with the issues at hand. The Catholic Church in America wants the Church leadership to live up to it's ideals. Acceptance of the fallen nature of man as an excuse to do nothing is not going to cut it.

I am generally supportive of Francis and his policy of reform, if not his liberal theology. However I do feel that he his management of the sexual abuse crisis, on the basis of the facts seen by me, hasn't been up to scratch. The Church has got some serious problems that need to be fixed and I'm getting the impression that Luther is going to get his second chance at instituting church reform.

*In other news, Brazilian Bishop Jose Ronaldo Ribeiro of Formosa resigned after he was arrested for stealing $606,000 of diocesan money. Apparently he'd done something similar before and was "transferred". The Church has got some serious problems.

**De Gasperi, one of the great Italian politicians following WW2 shocked Italians by his lack of corruption. To quote Wiki:
It is said that he had to be given a State funeral as he had died with almost no means of his own - a jaw-dropping fact in a country where, even then, politicians were expected to do well for themselves.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Teleology of Coitus......Again

In the previous post commentator Goldeneye said;
Doctor,

This is off topic, but I want your thoughts on this. You've talked about the purpose of sex before on this blog, and after mulling on it for a while, a thought occurred to me.
If I remember correctly, there are supposed to be two parts to sex, the unitive and the procreative. What if the primary purpose of sex is actually the unitive part,and the procreative part is a secondary purpose?

These are half formed thoughts, but critiques are welcome.
I though I'd start thsi by bringing up the relevant passage from Humanae Vitae which deals with the matter in question:
The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, "noble and worthy.'' It does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws. The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.[ED]
If we look at the female menstrual cycle, we notice that the potential for fertility is not present throughout the cycle but is limited instead to about six days.

In other words, in an "average" 28 day cycle, there is no potential for procreation in roughly 22 of the 28 days present. Sexual activity during this period has no "intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life." This is not my opinion, it is an empirically observable fact, like the Earth's rotation around the Sun.

The fact that for most of the menstrual cycle sexual activity is intrinsically infertile has several important implications:

Firstly, what exactly is sex for? Clearly that assertion, carried over from Aristotle, that sex is primarily for procreation is wrong given that most sexual acts occur outside the fertility window. As I see it, sex is teleologically ordered towards getting people together, i.e. it is primarily unitive.  The generation of life is a second order phenomenon which occurs after union.  In fact, this second order phenomenon is completely outside the couple's control. If you look at the above graph, the probability for fertility is only about 35% when sex activity deliberately occurs at the optimal point in the menstrual cycle.  Even in healthy people sex at the optimal time is still not "intrinsically" linked to fertility.

Secondly: Given that the unitive meaning seems to be the primary reason for sexual activity does that mean that all acts of infertile sex are legitimate. In my opinion acts which private the sexual act are acts which are contra Caritas and are therefore forbidden. The difficulty here is determining what constitutes a privation.

For instance, does a using a condom during the infertile phase of the cycle constitute a privation?


The old "manualist" theologians, divided the sexual act into voluntary and physiological components.
The sexual act was understood as depositing the sperm into the vagina, the physiological component took care of the fertilisation. Taking a holistic view with regard to Church tradition and  the notion of privation, it's my opinion that privation of sexual act consists of measures which aim to frustrate the deposition of live semen into the vagina. That means things like condoms, pessaries, caps, spermicides are morally illicit.

Actions which mutilate the reproductive tract, vasectomy and tubal ligations are likewise illicit.

However, the gravity of the sin in these circumstances needs to be evaluated in the context of weighing the unitive good vs the procreative good should they come into opposition for whatever reason. Suppose a couple are too poor to afford contraception and already have six children and don't want anymore. A U.S. government sponsored program is offering free sterilizations. I know it's wrong but I don't know if it's mortal given the new evaluative context. I don't have a firm position on this.

What's interesting is the Pill and other anovulants. The aim here is to induce a state in the woman that is akin to the infertile phase of the menstrual cycle and therefore such agents should prima facie be licit. The question here does the suppression of ovulation in itself constitute a privation in fertility. Strictly speaking, it does constitute a privation of the periodicity of fertility, though it does not constitute a privation in fertility per se. As women who take the pill return to their previous fertility once stopping it. What the pill does is modulate fertility, not abolish it.

The thing is that the Catholic Church does permit the use of the pill provided that it used for the treatment of a medical condition, once again from HV:

On the other hand, the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever.
This bit of text is actually quite problematic. Here the Church is permitting the use of Pill based on the principle of double effect. But the whole point of double effect doctrine is that the benefit of the intended effect is greater that privation of the unintended one. What that means is that, as a treating physician, I have to "weigh" the benefit of the therapeutic affect against the trade off in fertility.  The Pill, for instance, is quite effective at dysfunctional uterine bleeding. Is the treatment of heavy periods worth the loss of fertility? The Church seems to think it's OK. It also works well for acne. I mean is the treatment of it of more gravity than the loss of fertility. Clearly, according to the Church, acne seems to be a more serious condition than the loss of fertility. Go figure? This is one of the reasons why I reckon the document is a mess and it's why I started thinking that maybe the laity's rejection of it may have had deeper origins than just simple rebellion to Church teaching.

However, what most people don't know is that the Church actually does permit the suppression of ovulation for the regulation of fertility through the Lactation Amenorrhea Method.  The Church is quite OK with the use of an endogenous anovulant, though it's not happy with an exogenous one. Once again, go figure? However, all things considered, it would appear that the Church has unintentionally permitted the regulation of fertility provided there is a good reason.

Summing up, I think an evaluation of coitus in the the light of empirically demonstrable data leads to the conclusion the primary end of coitus is unitive with procreation being a secondary end. This view is much more in alignment with human nature and common sense than the traditional view. A view which I feel was strongly influenced by a Manichean bias in early Christianity which saw no good in Eros, even within marriage.

Bonus.

The Teleology of Coitus.
A Slow Toxin. Natural Law and Tradition

A slightly bigger if less accurate study on the fertility window.





Monday, September 10, 2018

Atheist Service Notice

Over the next few posts I plan to post on religious themes so I thought I'd give a few of my atheist readers a heads up in case they wanted to avoid the posts.

As I've said before, it is my opinion that the collapse of religion is THE fundamental problem of Western Civilisation and without the restoration of religion we're going nowhere.  However unlike the Trads it is my opinion that an attempt to turn the clock back, and practice religion like it was practiced in the 1650's is not going to work. Rather, the Christian religion is going to have to transform itself in someway if it is to successfully combat Modernity.

As for Christianity, Western Civilisation is really the civilisation built on basis of the Protestant and Catholic religions. Eastern Orthodoxy, while Christian is not of the West, and I would advise the Trads, those looking to turn the clock back to look at it, as it lacks the ability to change: It's all tradition.

With regard to Protestantism, I see it as a dying religion. Not because I want it to be so, rather it's how I interpret the facts. It seems to have completed it's divinely ordained purpose--more on that later--and is now in terminal decline.

I'm increasingly of the opinion that without the Second Vatican Council the Catholic Church would have shared the same fate of either Protestantism or Orthodoxy. It is the only organisation which has the capacity to drag out out of this mess, unfortunately it's own house is currently not in order. The problem with the Catholic Church is that while the Council gave it a mandate to change the institutional cultural mindset of the Catholic Church ensured that the changes done after Vatican Two were botched.

I know it's hard to believe for many, but this is why the current crisis within the Catholic Church is vital for the future of Western Civilisation,  If it goes down so does Western Civ, and what's going on is a three way fight, between the Trads, the Liberals, and the Reformists.

In one corner you have the Trads, who are increasingly trying to return to the old pre-V2 Church. Let me explain the problem here in military terms. What these guys want is return to the old frontal infantry assaults of WW1 against an enemy who wants to use blitzkrieg tactics.  Their idea is that strict discipline in the face of withering fire will eventually triumph, no matter what the cost. That strategy worked great in Ireland and Spain.

In the other corner you have the Liberals, who much like the Vichy French, want to "fight" for their country but secretly admire the enemy and want to come to an accommodation with him. If they win, it's all over.

Finally you have the reformers, who seem to want to reform the Church and recognise it has problems but don't really know how to reform or what to reform to. Francis is of this group and illustrates its problems. Francis, sees that frontal attacks are stupid and counterproductive, and he hates the generals who can't see this, however his own vision of seeing the Church as a field hospital, places the Church in a passive position and neglects the "offensive" aspect of the Christian religion. The job of Christianity is not to take a beating but to proclaim the truth and overwhelm the enemies of Christ.

Massimo Faggioli, a self-proclaimed theological liberal, gets a lot of heat from the conservative side of the religious divide but in my opinion he has penned the best analysis of the current situation that I've seen around and it's well worth a read. I don't agree with a lot of what Massimo says but he has a more nuanced understanding the Church than many of his critics have.
The rift within U.S. Catholicism, and between traditionalist Catholics and Francis, cannot be understood apart from the political polarization of America. The first phase of the problem was the growing identification of the U.S. bishops with the Republican Party, largely because of a few social issues. As the Republican Party has been radicalized in the past decade, so have more than a few bishops. During the same period, some prominent conservative intellectuals have embraced Catholicism for reasons that seem purely political. This is not a new phenomenon. It has much in common with Charles Maurras’ Action Française, a nationalist movement condemned by Pius XI in 1926.* Maurras had no time for the Gospel but saw Catholicism as a useful tool for the creation of an antidemocratic social order. The new enthusiasm for an older version of Catholicism on the part of conservative intellectuals with no interest in theology also mirrors the rise of Ultramontanism in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Jesuit John O’Malley’s latest book on the theological movements that set the stage for Vatican I helps us see the many similarities between nineteenth-century Ultramontanism and early-twenty-first-century traditionalist Catholic Americanism. In both movements, the game is played mostly by journalists and other lay intellectuals whose understanding of the church is essentially political rather than spiritual. They celebrate the church as an institution that can withstand modernity, and especially the modern state. They have little or no interest in ecclesiology or sacramental theology—or anything else that cannot be easily weaponized against their political enemies.
*Massimo doesn't give the complete story here. Action Francaise was initially supported by the Pope, then condemned and when the threat of Communism loomed again in the 1930's,  supported again.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Some Thoughts on the Clergy and Christian Revival

Atheist warning: Another religious post.


One of the things that impressed me most about the U.S. founding fathers is their recognition that good laws cannot constrain bad men. They understood that it did not matter what type of managerial structure you put in place, if the the people you were managing were corrupt the organisation was going to fail. Virtue, not better management, is the foundation of a stable and prosperous polity.

Living a virtuous life comes with the presupposition of knowing what virtue is. Hence the importance of philosophy, faith, ethics, etc.  These establish the norms of virtue and until modern times it was taken for granted that foundational stone of virtue in the West was religion and it was only relatively recently that men thought a system of ethics could be built on pure rationality alone.

Now, the point of this post is not to debate the respective merits of various ethical systems but simply to point out that ethical systems are foundational basis of any kind of "stable" society. In other words, values matter. In fact, values come before management. As the the old NRx adage goes, politics is downstream from culture,  and the current problems of the West should not be seen as a problem primarily of poor management, rather it needs to be recognised as a problem of crappy people. Nietzsche understood this very well.

Therefore the most important institutions in a society are its cultural institutions, and here I don't mean art galleries and libraries, but the whole system of value generation and management that concerns itself with the society's beliefs. Don't get me wrong, management matters, but management is primarily concerned with achieving desired goals and ideals and therefore, in a sense, management is subordinate to the culture.

It is this blog's contention that  what primarily ails the West is the collapse of the Christian value system and empozzment by both the modern secular project, a radical branch of the Enlightenment and the decay in quality of Christian thought. Secular has attacked Christianity from the outside but theological developments within Christianity have undermined it from within.

Therefore any restoration of the West has to come about with a restoration of the Christian value system first. Failing this and system is unable to reboot. However, Christianity itself has serious problems which seems to make this unlikely. That is why the task of fundamental importance for the West is the reformation of Christianity. Everything else is second order.

It is beyond the intention of this post to go into a through analysis as to why Christianity failed but it's important to briefly dwell on this subject. For years, the standard trope from the "orthodox" factions of Western Christianity laid the blame at  the feet of the laity, who they asserted, had been disobedient, and all would be right if they subordinated themselves to authority and doubled down. There is probably an element of truth in this position however, consistent loss, over a long period of time points to systemic error in operations and what this means is that there is a serious problem with command.

Unfortunately, one of the "faults' to which Catholicism is particularly prone to is the "preferential option for the clergy" which in essence means that when things go wrong the clergy looks exclusively among the laity for error. This Clericalism in the Church isn't just a problem about church power, but a mindset affects the Church's role in the world and how it responds to it. It assumes that when things don't go the way as the clergy expects it should, it is the "world" and not themselves which are at fault. It facilitates a sort of blindness when it comes to clerical self examination  and conditions them to look for faults everywhere else but themselves. From a systems analysis point of view it means that problems within command system don't get fixed and continue to perpetuate. Mistakes keep being made.

Things seem to have however come to a head with this current sexual abuse crisis--some sense of the awareness of the magnitude of the evil seems to be beginning to be grasped even by the clergy--however this should not blind us to the fact that corruption is not just sexual in nature, and the leadership of the church has been "inert" to many issues which verge on the morally negligent.  The Vatican finances have been a mess for decades. Theft, fraud and money laundering may not inspire in us the disgust that pedophilia does but they're moral evils none the less.  Idiot trads, blaming everything on V2, need to be reminded that prior to it many Catholic Priests were sympathetic to Vichy and the Nazi regime. Garrigou-Lagrange, one of the foremost Thomists of his time and the supervisor for JPII doctoral thesis, felt that the support of Charles De Gaulle (a pious Catholic) was a mortal sin, while the support of Vichy was morally upright. Dwell on that for a while.

Now, bad priests are always going to be a problem in the Church and that's not really the issue, the real issue is how the Church as an institution handles them and by any objective measure the handling has been a mess. Apart from what appears to be a lavender mafia within the hierarchy, many of the senior clergy, even when not complicit, seems to be suffering from a spiritual HIV which makes them incapable of recognising and  dealing with evil appropriately. The average contracepting, spiritually lax, morally dubious Catholic had a better grasp on the moral evil of pedophilia than many theologically trained bishops. Reflect on this for a moment and it illustrates just how deep the problem is. With Shepherds like these......

What the sexual abuse saga has forced is the recognition that the hierarchy has some serious systemic problems, the problem for Catholicism is, how do you fix up a system where the clergy have gone bad and even the virtuous laity have no rights. The answer is you can't while still operating in the system. For a reboot to occur some sort of "disruption to the usual process" is going to be necessary. And I do think we're headed for a period of disruption.

As I see it, the rechristianisation of the West is a precondition of any Western revival but before this can happen Christianity has to sort its problems out. For better or worse this is a problem with Catholicism rather than Christianity in general. I do not feel that Orthodoxy is up to the task and "sound"  Protestantism is a spent force. Therefore the action will be in Catholicism.

As I see it the following will need to occur:

1) A replacement of the current ecclesiastics, i.e. the officer corps. I imagine that what will happen here is that the Christian laity will through a sense of sensus fidelium put their weight behind certain bishops over others, purging the malevolent ones. It's gonna get sectarian. The Church will split into three factions; the trads, the lefties and the doctrinally sound.

2) Theological developments will have to occur which enable Christianity to engage modernism effectively. (Modernism, except in the case of a divinely willed apocalypse, is not going away) Some of the required development will come from the legacy of Protestantism, work ethic, acting like the elect, less reliance on the confessional, less mystical and more pragmatic Christianity, etc. A new "Theology of the Body" will be developed but I feel it will only have tenuous links with the work of JPII. These developments will most probably arise in the unexpected fringes and perhaps from the laity as well.

Interesting times lay ahead.

When I started writing this post the latest allegations against Francis (which I believe are false*) were not yet made. Things are moving much faster than I expected.

*Some of the revelations reported by Rod Dreher indicated that the homosexual subculture in the church exists in both liberal and apparent ultraorthodox variants. I feel that that this is a good cop/bad cop routine being played on Francis. Being Pope is a bit like being president, your information is given to you by your subordinates and so you are dependent on them. It became apparent during the recent Chilean controversy that Chilean bishops had lied to him, he finding out the truth after sending his own investigators to ferret the truth.  A lot of Trads don't like Francis, and are quite prepared to believe anything negative about him, (conformation bias) and while I'm not a big fan of his, I do think he is being set up.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Sheep are Bleating

Atheist warning: This is another religious post.
Woe to the pastors, that destroy and tear the sheep of my pasture, saith the Lord. Therefore thus saith the Lord the God of Israel to the pastors that feed my people: You have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold I will visit upon you for the evil of your doings, saith the Lord. And I will gather together the remnant of my flock, out of all the lands into which I have cast them out: and I will make them return to their own fields, and they shall increase and be multiplied. And I will set up pastors over them, and they shall feed them: they shall fear no more, and they shall not be dismayed: and none shall be wanting of their number, saith the Lord.

Jeremiah 23
Unlike many Dissident Right bloggers who tend to gloss over the subject of religion and hope for restoration of the West through better management structures™, this blog believes that any restoration of the West is going to have to draw upon the religious culture and practice which were its foundations. SovCorp doesn't really work if its constituent members are self-interested spivs.

Neitzsche saw that the death of Christianity created a moral vacuum which needed to be filled and he knew that the process was going to entail an astronomical body count. Where he got it wrong was in the assumption that there was another workable solution besides Christianity. Viktor Orban isn't that stupid. He has just delivered an amazing speech which sees Christianity as the central platform of European restoration.
Let us confidently declare that Christian democracy is not liberal. Liberal democracy is liberal, while Christian democracy is, by definition, not liberal: it is, if you like, illiberal. And we can specifically say this in connection with a few important issues – say, three great issues. Liberal democracy is in favour of multiculturalism, while Christian democracy gives priority to Christian culture; this is an illiberal concept. Liberal democracy is pro-immigration, while Christian democracy is anti-immigration; this is again a genuinely illiberal concept. And liberal democracy sides with adaptable family models, while Christian democracy rests on the foundations of the Christian family model; once more, this is an illiberal concept.
Now, the important thing to note here is that muscular Christianity is being spread by the laity talking, not the clergy.  In Italy and Bavaria "populist" movements are pushing for Crucifixes to be placed in public buildings, much to the dismay of some of the clergy. (I understand the clergy's argument but I think in this instance it's poorly thought out.) Over at Rod Dreher's blog the vitriol directed toward the indifferent and ineffectual bishops with regard to sexual abuse saga verges on a lynch mob mentality. Samuel Gregg, one of the saner Trads out there has openly pilloried the idea of bishops investigating themselves.

The flock are not happy and are beginning to take things into their own hands. The sheep are bleating.

Lynch mobs are never a good thing since they're just as likely to punish the innocent as they are the guilty,  but the fault with the mob lays in its lack of respect for due process not in it's sentiment for justice. That's the thing about mobs, while devoid of reason they very much express human sentiment: it's incarnated human nature without any cerebral refinement. The mob, in a sense, is the reflection of the average man, and its nature is human nature incarnate

When you add a Christian dimension to the mob you get a Christian laity. In other words, as Catholic ecclesiology asserts, the nature of the mob is influenced by the Holy Spirit. What this means is that laity, as a group, is a reservoir of Christian goodness. So when when the Christian mob bleats there's a good chance that it's God doing the talking. And by Christian, what it means is Christian enough to be pleasing to God, not simply calling oneself Christian.

One of the problems with the strict hierarchical model by the Church, as advocated by the Trads, is that this "reservoir of goodness" conception of the laity is effectively nullified. The laity are there for the teaching, not for the instructing, since the clergy are implicitly inerrant. What this also means is that in the  real world practice the clergy does not have to answer or give an accounting to the it. Masters don't ever have to answer to their servants, even if the master is wrong. Rank overrides truth.

What the Trads seem unable to grasp is that the "structure" is just as much of a problem as the malign elements that infest it. (It also goes a long way to explaining the culture which failed to deal adequately with the sex abuse scandal) Monarchical absolutism is a good thing........except when it's wrong. The question is how to tell when it's wrong.

Catholic ecclesiology solved this problem, in theory at least, by insisting that proof of the soundness of any Papal teaching was in it's acceptance by the laity. It needed to be "received" in order to be legitimate. It also implied that the laity had a capacity to vet the quality of the teaching. It was a sort of system of checks and balance and the bleating of the sheep was meant to be a sign that somethings wrong. Of course, the Trads never took this concept seriously and now it has come back to bite them.

Humanae Vitae, as I see it, was the first instance in modern times where the laity pushed back against the clergy. If there is any catholic teaching that has not been received by the laity it is this one. Trad Catholic theologians got past this problem by arguing that anyone who didn't do what the Pope says wasn't really a faithful catholic and therefore their opinion didn't matter.

See how it works.

But instead of Humanae Vitae, let's substitute Francis's new take on the Death Penalty, which a lot of Trads, (and myself) are up in arms about.  If you take a Trad approach to the matter, then the Trads who disagree with the Pope on this issue are just like the "liberals" who oppose Humanae Vitae: they're not real Catholics and need to be bought to heel by the application of Papal Authority. The "authoritarian mentality" advocated by the Trads to delegitimise dissent against HV works just as effectively to delegitimise their own dissent against a poorly performing clergy. When the rule is established that the lower down orders don't have the right to criticise those higher up then it really doesn't matter if the lower orders are conservative or liberal, they simply have to "shut up and row".
This is the situation which the "authoritarian mindset" has led us to.

Still, God works in mysterious ways and as I see it, the continual revelations of clerical impropriety  have reached a point where even the Trads are now beginning to question the legitimacy of the authoritarian model, in practice if not in theory. The sheep are bleating yet the shepherds are deaf; something is going to change.

As I see it, the end consequence of this period of religious crisis in Catholic Church will be the recognition of the legitimacy of the laity with the Church being a less "top down" and more collegiate organisation, with the laity playing a greater role.  Till this happens there's going to be a period of chaos until the clergy starts instituting meaningful reforms.. In the ensuing tumult a new Christianity will arise whose whose members will probably originate from Christianity's own Dissident Right purging both the  clergy of its diseased members and re-orientating the nature of Christianity.
And I will set up pastors over them, and they shall feed them: they shall fear no more, and they shall not be dismayed: and none shall be wanting of their number, saith the Lord.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Reflections on the Anniversary of Humanae Vitae




Almost since the day it was issued, Humanae vitae (HV) has been the signum cui contradicetur which Pope Paul VI anticipated it might become. The encyclical met with an opposition and dissent stronger and more public than any papal statement within memory, and the controversy that ensued quickly excited profound and even violent emotions and reactions.
If emotions are somewhat calmer today and a certain peace, or at least truce, now rules over the Church's pastoral practice, opinions have not ceased to be divided on the subject and authority of the encyclical. A recent survey claims that nearly 77% of Catholic wives were practicing birth control in 1975, 94% of whom were using methods condemned by the Church. It is reported elsewhere that only 29% of the lower clergy believe that artificial contraception is morally wrong, and that only 26% would deny absolution to those who practice it. A major study by the National Opinion Research Center concluded two years ago that Humanae Vitae was the chief factor responsible for the decline in religious practice among Roman Catholics, and its principal investigator was moved to remark: "I have no doubts that historians of the future will judge Humanae Vitae to be one of the worst mistakes in the history of Catholic Christianity."

"HUMANAE VITAE AND ITS RECEPTION: ECCLESIOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS
JOSEPH A. KOMONCHAK The Catholic University of America 

One of my favourite movies is Excalibur, John Boorman's take on the Arthurian legend. I imagine that most people know the story so I'm not going to repeat it, however I do want to concentrate on one aspect of it. The power that lies behind Excalibur is meant to be used wisely and when it's put bad use everything goes to ruin. It's my opinion that Humanae Vitae was the Church's Excalibur moment.

No matter how you cut it, there is something profoundly wrong going on in the Catholic Church at the moment. Declining numbers, pozzification, lavender mafia, institutional inertia, etc. are all symptoms of some underlying malaise that is seriously weakening the Church. And for those of us who have been studying this for a while it's apparent that this malaise has been there for a long time, well before Vatican Two.

Statistics don't fully convey the picture. On paper, the Church was definitely stronger before Vatican Two, pretty much in the same way that the U.S. Army is stronger that the Taliban in Afghanistan.....on paper. Yet the Taliban have not lost, despite the mountain of treasure spent and rivers of blood spilled.

Numbers are sometimes incapable of conveying the complete story.  A healthy Church does not crumble as quickly as the Church did in the 1960's, it crumbled because it was rotting from the inside. The Trads will argue differently, stating that taking the screws of the people is what is responsible, but what this ultimately entails is a vision of Church that is like a gulag; as long as the lash is being applied people stay, as soon as it's taken off they run away: It really isn't the basis for a healthy religion. Yet the "gulag" model works in trying to understand why there was a mass exodus following the Council.

In many ways the pre Vatican Two Church resembled the Communist party.  The Politburo, much like the Magesterium, was inerrant and the role of the laity was to obey. Sure, the Workers could originate new ideas as long as the Politburo approved, if it didn't, the ideas were ruthlessly crushed. Implicit in this idea is the notion that laity/workers have no rights in judging the Politburo/Magesterium, they are simply beyond judgement.  The problem with this approach is that if the Politburo does go bad there is no error correcting mechanism. This has been a problem with Catholicism for a long time.

Vatican Two attempted to address this problem by giving more legitimacy to the laity, recognising that the Holy Spirit dwells in them as well. However the Politburo mindset is still strong with the clergy. If the Holy Spirit was trying to speak to the clergy through the laity, trying to censure it for some of its opinions, how would the clergy know? With the current Politburo mindset it would simply see criticism as rebellion and attempt to quash it. This is the Pharisaical  traditionalist opinion with regard to dissent generated by HV. From an organisational systems perspective, any form of error correction is thus stymied, the system continues on its path of self destruction.

I know that the Trads will balk at this but this Politburo mentality renders the clergy deaf to their other moral failings. Take for example the current migration crisis in Europe. In Italy, a populist party is being actively opposed by the clergy for it's "hate of refugees." The whole idea behind all of this is that unless you're pro open borders--like the clergy--your intention is sinful. The idea that the laity may actually more in-tune with the will of God is beyond them. The clergy are always right.

My take on Humanae Vitae is that the "disobedience of the laity" is a sign that Church got it wrong. It was a flawed document which promulgated an error and thereby violated the Church's explicit commission to teach the truth. And just like when Arthur lost Excalibur,  it left the kingdom in ruins.



Monday, July 23, 2018

And the Agony Continues


I'm not a big fan of Rod Dreher but his latest articles of on the Cardinal McCarrick sexual abuse allegations make for compelling reading and back up my previous post. In yet another iteration of the stories we have seen in the past, it appears that McCarrick's activities were known for a long time, reported to the Vatican, and yet nothing appropriate was done about it.
"Those ambitious clerics who climb the hierarchy the back-door way depend on the complicity-by-silence of the straight arrows. Pope John Paul II, who moved Uncle Ted[Ed: McCarrick] to Washington and who made Uncle Ted the US Catholic bishops’ point man in dealing with the abuse crisis, is known to have been so viscerally disgusted by the idea of sexually corrupt priests that he refused to see what was right in front of his eyes (Cardinal Schoenborn has spoken publicly of this, and others in a position to know have said the same thing privately.) Refusing to acknowledge the truth in cases like this and act to restore justice and is a moral failure. It’s a moral failure when it’s done by religious superiors, as in the cases Barbara Nicolosi discusses in her former order of nuns, and it’s a moral failure when it’s done by a Pope who is also a saint."
and;
Cardinal Schönborn told me that he sat directly opposite John Paul and pleaded with him to make a statement about Cardinal Groër, the Fatimaniac molester that John Paul had appointed, against the advice of the bishops of Austria, to the see of Vienna. John Paul told Schönborn that he would like to make statement, but that “they” wouldn’t let him. “They?” John Paul wouldn’t explain, but it was clear then and Schönborn has since publicly made it clearer that Cardinal Sodano, the Secretary of State of the Vatican, and his underlings were protecting molesters like Groër, Gino, and Maciel.
The Schoenborn statement was remarkable. In 2010, the Catholic Herald wrote:
The Vatican Information Service has just released an unusually detailed communique relating to a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn and Cardinal Angelo Sodano in which the Austrian cardinal was made to explain public criticism he had levelled against Sodano.
After Cardinal Sodano made a surprise speech at Easter criticising the media’s reports about abuse as “idle gossip”, Cardinal Schönborn publicly accused the former Secretary of State of having deliberately obstructed an investigation into accusations of child abuse against Cardinal Hans Hermann Gröer of Vienna. In today’s meeting, Pope Benedict seems to have done several things: he has reminded Cardinal Schönborn that the disciplining of members of the hierarchy is the responsibility of the Pope, he has clarified Sodano’s controversial comments about “idle gossip” and has brought the two men together. Interesting.
Got that? Cardinal Schoenborn told the truth about Cardinal Sodano, whose public statement was intended to throw people off the trail — and he was upbraided by Benedict XVI, essentially for airing the Church’s dirty laundry in public [Ed]. Benedict appears to have been more interested in protecting the Church’s outside image, and maintaining the formal hierarchical order, than in telling the truth about a matter of sexual corruption that devastated the Austrian church.
Comments were made in my previous post that the inability of the Church to deal with these issues was due to the presence of a large number of homosexual clergy who were attempting to stop any investigation, but it's clear that this is not the case as the ability to purge these corrupt elements from the Church rests with the celibate heterosexual clergy who have failed in their task.

Clearly not all of the clergy are responsible for this. As Dreher recounts, others have spoken up and been either ignored or censured, so to tar all the priests with moral corruption is unjust. But what's really important to see here is that there is no faction that is pure, either conservative or liberal; it's the wrong way of analysing the problem. The homosexuality issue also obscures the fact that the moral failures occurring in the hierarchy affect other domains as well. It isn't just sexual abuse the coverups include financial irregularities, nepotism, performance. issues etc.

Reading through Dreher's comments section I was struck by just how many people still believed in the Catholic Church while being appalled by the hierarchy.  This is important because I feel the Church is the only organ out there capable of resisting Modernism but its clear that the hierarchy aren't up to the task at hand. Any renewal of the Church, and therefore West, is going to be a "bottom-up" affair.  Probably with much opposition from the hierarchy.

On a further note, Bishop Juan Jose Pineda Fasquelle resigned as a result of allegations of sexual and financial abuse.