Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Victorian State Election

Apropos my last post, recent events in my home state, Victoria, Australia, illustrate just how important principles are when it comes to determining what constitutes the "Right".

Australian politics, much like U.S. politics is divided into two main camps. The Australian Labor party, on one side, represents the Left in Australian politics which has become progressively more radicalized. The Right, confusingly, for U.S. readers is represented by the Liberal Party of Australia.
The Liberal party of Australia was formed by Robert Menzies from a coalition of various different "right" parties in the 1940's,  but the values it represented were those of a conservative Christian Protestant Australia.  It wasn't an expressively religious party but it's values were derived from the "habits" of traditional Protestant Christianity even when the faith wasn't there.

Australia's glorious age, from 1950-1973 were in large part due to the near continual governance of the party.  A large part of the party's success could be attributed to the fact that the Australian Labor Party was effectively neutralised by an ideological split bought about by the Cold War in the 1950's  being effectively divided between the socialists and the the DLP, which was  and explicitly Christian Catholic interpretation of the labour movement. It's formation is one of few instances where communists have been beaten at their own game, and it was engineered by Bob Santamaria, one of the unsung heroes of the cold war.  The DLP did a lot to moderate some of the harder economic rationalist ideas of the Liberal party thus ensuring its electoral success.

The rapid secularisation that occurred during the 1960's result in the modernisation of the liberal party and the loss of voter base for the DLP.  So that by the early 1970's the Liberals had secularised and become progressive and the DLP died as a political force.

Robert Menzies, disgusted at what his party had become voted against it for the DLP on two occasions. Bemoaning to Bob Santamaria that the DLP was the party he wished the Liberals to have become.

From my perspective, the Liberal party transformed itself into the worst of all things. Strictly economically rational while socially progressive, the party of Ayn Rand in many ways,  and for many years drifted in the wilderness, only really gaining a foothold with the pseudo-traditionalism of the Howard years. Since his election loss the party has been drifting left.

State elections were held over the previous weekend and the Liberal party was routed, despite running against a candidate who appears to corrupt and who is spending away all the seed corn.  The magnitude of the setback shocked the local Liberals and seems to have frightened the federal Liberals as well. It also seems to have started off a vicious civil war within the Liberal Party of what the party actually stands for.  On one hand, there are the small-l-Liberals, who much like the Rockefeller Republicans are progressive in everything but economic policy. Then there are the large-l-Liberals, who increasingly rejecting the globohomo agenda and are increasingly asserting their Christian underpinnings.

In the post election analysis, many of the lefty media and the small-l-Liberals blamed the election loss on the fact that the party had not moved sufficiently to the Left. Despite the party really being indistinguishable on many issues from the Labor party. This of course has raised the question of what does it mean to be an Australian Liberal. No one really has the answer.

This is why principles matter.

I don't like purity tests as much as the other guy but you've got to think of them as akin to a mooring posts or as cardinal points on a compass, something that stops you slowly sliding away from your original ideals. It also stops infiltrators from from undermining your ranks from within as has so devastatingly been demonstrated in Victoria.

I welcome this fight, it has to happen. Nothing can be fixed till it happens. Whatever else may be I think its fair to say the right side of Australian politics as it currently stands is dead.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Whittaker Chambers: The Enemy Within


August 5, 1954

Dear Bill:

 I no longer believe that political solutions are possible for us. I am baffled by the way people still speak of the West as if it were at least a cultural unity against Communism though it is divided not only by a political, but by an invisible cleavage. On one side are the voiceless masses with their own subdivisions and fractures. On the other side is the enlightened, articulate elite which, to one degree or other, has rejected the religious roots of the civilization—the roots with-out which it is no longer Western civilization, but a new order of beliefs, attitudes and mandates. [ED]

In short, this is the order of which Communism is one logical expression, originating not in Russia, but in the culture capitals of the West, reaching Russia by clandestine delivery via the old underground centers in Cracow, Vienna, Berne, Zurich, and Geneva. It is a Western body of belief that now threatens the West from Russia. As a body of Western beliefs, secular and rationalistic, the intelligentsia of the West share it, and are therefore always committed to a secret emotional complicity with Communism of which they dislike, not the Communism, but only what, by the chances of history, Russia has specifically added to it—slave-labor camps, purges, MVD et al. And that, not because the Western intellectuals find them unjustifiable, but because they are afraid of being caught in them. If they could have Communism without the brutalities of ruling that the Russian experience bred, they have only marginal objections. Why should they object? What else is socialism but Communism with the claws retracted? And there is positivism. 'What is more, every garage mechanic in the West, insofar as he believes in nuts and bolts, but asks: "The Holy Ghost, what's that?" shares the substance of those same beliefs. Of course, the mechanic does not know, when he asks: "The Holy Ghost, what's that?" that he is simply echoing Stalin at Teheran: "The Pope—how many divisions has the Pope?" [ED]
That is the real confrontation of forces. The enemy—he is ourselves. That is why it is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within. That is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that some-thing else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of hope and truth.


Sincerely, Whittaker

Look at the date. People tend to think of the 1950's as the Halcyon years of the West yet Whittaker Chambers saw that West was on its death spiral even then. The suddenness of the cultural revolution of the Sixties was due to the fact that the Western cultural institutions were by that stage hollow shells and one only had to push on them a bit for them to fall over.

Also note the fact that Chambers equates the West with a belief in God. Anyone selling you a "West" without God is selling you a false bill of goods.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Stink of the Common

Every now and then you read something on the internet that is so good that you want to share it with others. This is from a book review of Whittaker Chambers, Witness by the Brothers Judd.  The book was written in the 1950's but the insights are pertinent today:
What was truly unfortunate about McCarthyism was not the fact of the Red Hunt itself, but that it was left to such an incompetent as Joe McCarthy.  If, instead of circling the wagons to protect their own, responsible members of the Left had joined with the Right to root out men and women in government, academia, and the media who were actively trying to subvert democracy, the entire process might have been salutary, rather than turning into one of the more divisive episodes in our domestic political history.  But the Left, as a general rule, which had been untroubled by FDR's decision to imprison every American of Japanese descent on the West Coast during WWII, reacted viscerally to the idea of exposing and removing genuine agents of an enemy government from positions of power.

To a great, and unacknowledged, degree, this reaction was dictated by class animosity.  For the bitter truth is that Communism, particularly in America, was an ethos of the upper classes and the intelligentsia.  The middle classes, for obvious reasons, and the lower classes, for more complex reasons, never subscribed to the ideals of Communism.  And so, when the time came to destroy the Fifth Column, the destruction was led by men like McCarthy and Nixon, men with the stink of the common on them, and opposed by those who, like Hiss, had gone to the best Eastern schools and moved in the best social circles :
No feature of the Hiss Case is more obvious, or more troubling as history, than the jagged fissure, which it did not so much open as reveal, between plain men and women of the nation, and those who affected to act, think and speak for them.  It was, not invariably, but in general, the "best people" who were for Alger Hiss and who were  prepared to go to almost any length to protect and defend him. It was the enlightened and the powerful, the clamorous proponents of the open mind and the common man, who snapped their minds shut in a pro-Hiss psychosis, of a kind which, in an individual patient, means the simple failure of the ability to distinguish between reality and    unreality, and, in a nation, is a warning of the end. 
Those seeking to understand the passions stirred up by the Hiss Case need look no farther than the condescending aside of Hiss to Nixon : "My college was Harvard, I understand yours was Whittier."  There, in a sentence, is expressed the contempt and animosity between classes which would soon turn a simple espionage case into the cause which separated a generation of Americans.  So while it was common to blame Chambers and his supporters for McCarthyism, most of the blame should really fall upon the Anti-Anti-Communists, those who, though they did oppose communism, could not bear to see their peers brought down by commoners, no matter what crimes those peers may have committed in the putative name of those very commoners.

The further time removes us from the events of the Hiss case and the more information is revealed from the secret archives of both the U. S. government and the old Soviet Union, the less ambiguous the legacy of Whittaker Chambers becomes.  No one outside of the most irrational Left wing circles will any longer argue that Hiss was innocent; at most they try to impugn the character of Chambers, hinting darkly at elements of psychosexual drama in the case.  And the files further reveal that throughout the Cold War, many of the groups on the Left (like those disarmament groups that Clinton and Blair supported) were, either wittingly or unwittingly, funded and controlled by the Soviet Union.  The scope and effectiveness of Soviet subversion in the West is continually being revised upwards and those who warned about it and opposed it look better and better in retrospect.  No one looks better than Whittaker Chambers, whose life's journey from darkness into light so closely parallels that of the West as to serve as an allegory for the age.  Witness, his testimony to that journey and his statement of faith, stands as one of the great books of any age and perhaps the best book of the 20th century.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Z-Man, Whittaker Chambers, Principles


Recently,  Z-man put up a post, Learning from the Past, which I felt deserved some comment. I like Z-man, he's one of the sharpest tools in the shed but the post itself was intellectually incoherent and illustrates just how conceptually confused the Right is when it comes to an understanding of itself.
Similarly, paleos were prone to negotiating with themselves. The endless debating over principles is really just an excuse for not moving forward. It may not be intentional, but that is the result. When the conqueror sets out to sack a city, the one thing he never does is wait until he has a detailed administrative plan for managing the city after the siege. The winners of life never lose sight of this truth. Principles are the things you create after the victory to lock in your gains and give the people a reason to celebrate your dominance.

Another thing that all forms of conservatism in the democratic era have struggled to understand is the role of the pseudo-intellectual trimmer. These are the sorts of people who attach themselves to right-wing movements, and immediately begin working to turn them into useful losers. A good recent example of this is Ross Douthat, who thinks the goal of his tribe is to infiltrate populist movements and then purge them of anything useful, turning them into a uniform that poseurs like himself can wear in the morality play.

This is exactly what happened with the Tea Party. What started out as an authentic white middle-class revolt was quickly hijacked by charlatans. In fact, the grifters arrived so quickly it looked like the Normandy invasion. These types of people operate in the same way English pirates operated in the age of sail. That is, the people in charge give them a free pass, as long as they meddle in the affairs of dissidents. The Right has never figured out how to defend itself from this attack or even tried to understand it.
Now here's the problem; how do you pick who is the pseudo-intellectual trimmer, what's your metric?  What exactly makes Douthat so toxic? Z-man bemoans the influx of underminers but undercuts any corrective principles to identify them.

One of the big reasons why the Right has never been able to defend itself from undermining attacks is because the current definition of the Right seems to be simply "not Left", and that is a stupid definition. Defining yourself by the negation of your enemies principles doesn't exactly reality calibrate you. Being against stupid doesn't automatically mean smarts, because there is always the possibility of being stupid in another way.  And most for most of the 20th Century that exactly what the Right was doing, it was being stupid in its own way. Understand this and you'll understand why the Right has been on a century losing streak.

Because what exactly is "the Left". How does it differ from the Right? Once you start drilling down a bit deeper into the distinctions things aren't as they seem.

It's a shame that Whittaker Chambers doesn't get much love these days because he is deep, really deep. In fact I'd go as far to say that he really needs to be understood as the American Right's only ever political mystic.  Emerging from the cultural and spiritual abyss of the early part of the last century he saw what the shit-fight of the 20th Century was really all about:

What I had been fell from me like dirty rags. The rags that fell from me were not only Communism. What fell was the whole web of the materialist modern mind—the luminous shroud which it has spun about the spirit of man, paralyzing in the name of rationalism the instinct of his soul for God, denying in the name of knowledge the reality of the soul and its birthright in that mystery on which mere knowledge falters and shatters at every step. If I had rejected only Communism, I would have rejected only one political expression of the modern mind[Ed], the most logical because the most brutal in enforcing the myth of man's material perfectibility.
The important line here is "only one political expression" implying that there were other forms of materialist political expression.  This is the key insight.  Chambers recognised that modern materialism could morph into different political forms, different forms which would superficially appear to be mutually incompatible and yet on foundational principles ultimately the same.  Chambers understood that when a Communist fights a Fascist the outcome doesn't matter because materialism wins in the end.  This is why the Left never loses even when the "Right " wins, because the modern Right is merely a differently dressed version of the Left.

The average person doesn't see this is because he is a cognitive miser and judges political ideologies on superficialities instead of foundational principles. They judge on gut instinct instead of reasoned principle.  The sad fact of life is that most conservatives are cognitive misers of a conservative temperament. As long as someone waves the flag, kicks out the wogs and keeps taxes low he becomes part of their club, never mind the fact that the managerial state continues to expand and his freedom becomes slowly diminished. Better managerialism does not get you out of this trap.

Chambers understood perfectly well how to defend the Right from being undermined because chambers understood what this battle was all about. He could not, for instance, ever ally with the Libertarians because he knew that they were selling the same progressivist rubbish, albeit in a different packaging.  His evisceration of Ayn Rand comes from a deep understanding of the philosophical principles from which her ideology arouse. They were the same principles which underpinned Communism, Fascism and  Radical Liberalism. He would have loathed the Neocons.

Unfortunately for Chambers, he was one of the very few people who saw this and that's why he was so despondent, famously stating that he was joining the "losing side" after defecting from Communism. He was literally a lone voice in the Right intellectual wilderness of the mid 20th C.  The key principle that Chambers, Solzhenitsyn and Dostoevsky  had discerned was the 20th Century was going to be a fight between those who saw man as a child of God and those who had cast God out.

The other guy who has a lot to teach us is George Orwell. My impression of Orwell is that while he was not the smartest of men he had that great, but rare, virtue of being intellectually honest and would modify his beliefs in light of the facts. While he, temperamentally, always remained a socialist his intellectual honesty led him to repudiate the contemporary expressions of political Socialism/Communism.  He recognised the other great principle that separates the Left from the Right was Truth.

When Chambers left the National Review he famously told Buckley that he "was not a conservative but a man of the Right."  Chambers understood that the conservative movement had it own pretty lies and he wanted no part of it. From Z-Man again:
They spend a lot of time rehashing old fights and discussing the things they fought, like the Civil Rights Act or the Reagan amnesty, but they always seem to stop at the water’s edge when analyzing these things. It’s almost as if they agree with the Left that these policies were inevitable, due to the tides of history. Part of it, of course, is the losing side never wants to spend a lot of time dwelling on their own failures. Even the humbling experience of being hurled into the void is not enough to overcome ego. We see that on our side of the great divide, where some alt-right figures simply cannot come to terms with the fact that they screw up a lot.
I think there are many people on the Conservative/Dissident/Alt-Right who prefer their pretty lies to the Truth. Belief in "Race Realism" requires one ignore a fair chunk of reality.  IQ fetishists have to explain away why Hi IQ people do dumb things.  Push some of the stupid ideas out there to the limit and they become self-repudiating and start resembling those of the Left.  Hence the stepping back from the brink and the gradual acquiescence. Many of the Right are really crypto Leftists.

Still, I'd give the Paleo's some respect. They were given a bum deal.  The American Constitution, as a stand alone document, was a product of radical Enlightenment thinking with all the errors that entailed, and the only reason why it "worked" was because of the legislative "correctives" that were enacted soon after, and the relatively homogeneous cultural outlook that the U.S. had until the 1960's.  The Paleos who in the whole were reality-calibrated were tasked with defending the indefensible. No wonder that they couldn't real-think to the limit while defending American founding principles.

The "principles" are incompatible.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

People Like Us

One of the tactics deliberately used by communist guerillas is to conceal themselves among the local population. This approach has many advantages as it makes it very difficult for the enemy to distinguish friend from foe. When the inevitable reprisals are unleashed in response to the actions of the guerillas, the enemy's lack of discrimination results in many innocent bystanders being caught up in events. This hamfisted approach results in many ambivalent bystanders being forced into the guerilla camp, which is the precise intention of communists. The lack of discrimination in reprisals multiplies your enemies while decreasing your friends. 

Now the reason I bring this up is in response to a recent post by Z-Man on the subject of race and the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Z-Man is one of smarter bloggers out there and has plenty of intelligent things to say but I feel he was completely way off  in this post.
Despite spending so much time with Kavanaugh, they appear to have misjudged how he would handle being smeared. It also reveals how petrified white men in the Democrat coalition feel right now. They just assumed Kavanaugh was as scared about this stuff as they are right now. Either way, the judge turns out to be a Boy Scout, who thinks he has a duty to defend his honor in public against these smears. His speech last week resonated with white people, who are the only demographic that still believes in fair play.
Z-Man then linked to a graphic produced by Audacious Epigone showing support for Brett Kavanaugh according to race and sex. Now, despite obvious confounding factors, I do think that support for Mr Kavanaugh is a good proxy metric for belief in fair play.


Looking at the graphic, the first thing that comes to mind is that there are a hell of a lot of White people who don't support fair play. The notion that whiteness and fair play are inherent is repudiated by Z-Man's own data. Indeed, the support levels between White women and Hispanic men were very similar.  If we translate the Black support figures in to real world numbers, there are about four and half million Black men in the U.S. who support fair play. That's a lot of allies, people you really don't want to alienate.

What the data also shows that nearly 40% of White men and 50% of White women don't support fair play. Z-Man's own choice of data repudiates the simplistic NPC like notion that {White=Good: Not(White)=Bad} Real life, unlike simplistic conceptual reductions is far more complex. The problem with Genetic Calvinists is that they assert that those people working against me are my allies by virtue of the colour of their skin, while the 24% of Black men who support Kavanaugh are my enemies.  People who assert this sort of crap are just dumb, not only dumb but counterproductive. It's one of the huge problems of racial supremacist ideologies. It's also one of the reasons why white racial consciousness goes nowhere.  People who believe in fair play recognise that this is unjust and want to have nothing to do with it, no matter what the race.

Of course, in asserting this position, I immediate exposed to the charge that I'm a civic-nationalist, as if color blind civic-nationalism or straight out racism were the only two political options out there. There are other alternatives, the problem is that you have to THINK about them. It may just be that a dignified soft segregation is possible and may be the best possible outcome for all parties concerned. But it's hard to advocate that position when vice is overlooked because you're White and imputed because you're Black. The Dissident Right is about reality calibration, not make-believe and you really can't say that you're an advocate for fair play if you want to throw under the bus other people who believe in fair play but who have a different skin colour.

One of the great "what ifs" in Military history is what if Hitler had invaded Ukraine as a liberator instead of an exterminator. The Germans were welcomed with open arms in the Ukraine after the experience of Soviet Terror and many Ukranians would have gladly joined the fight against communism. Many Russians would have probably done the same thing. Instead, the Nazi's stupid racial ideology, ensured their eventual defeat. It seems like some people never learn.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Little Eulogy for Zippy

I image that the people who frequent this corner of the blogosphere have by now all heard the news that Zippy Catholic was killed in an accident about a month ago. Zippy are I were long term intellectual opponents, clashing on the issues of sexuality and the application of the principles of double effect. I know he made a bit of name for himself on the subject of Usury, something I didn't have a particular interest in. I didn't really care much for his debating style nor, do I imagine, did he care much for mine.

One of the things about debating a guy like Zippy is that it forces you to dig deeper into the reasons and logic of your own arguments. In this sense, Zippy's arguments helped me develop a deeper intellectual foundation for my own. I don't imagine it was the effect he intended but it was the effect produced.

I'd like to think that there is still some honor in the world and while we were intellectual opponents I cannot but feel grieved at his loss. Some of his personal details were accidentally revealed in the blogposts of others and I'll admit that I fished around, curious to know the personal details of the man whom I debated with so often. Surprisingly, we had a rather remarkable amount of similarities.  It made his loss more personal.

Even more eerily, I too had a health scare over the last few weeks and was fortunate to have "dodged a bullet." Zippy was not that fortunate. You realise just how fragile our grip on this life is. I feel so sorry for his family at this loss.

By all accounts he was a loving father and husband, a  successful businessman and a good friend to those who knew him.  I will miss him as an opponent.

May he rest in God's eternal peace.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Mr Kavanaugh Goes to Washington

It's all there in the 1930's movie, Mr Smith Goes to Washington.

The Cathedral has been put to work to destroy him.


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.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Catholic Inertia




Back to our regular programming.

Warning: for those of an atheist bent this is a religious post.

It's this blog's primary contention that the civilisational failure of the West has primarily come about because of the collapse of the Christian religion. While it is true that there were other factors in the formation of Western Civilisation, Christianity provided the unifying foundational principles of it. Pagan and other traditions were incorporated insofar as they were in conformity with the overarching Christian principles.  By the end of the 19th Century, Western Civilisation was the dominant power of the planet. However by the end of the 19th Century the warning signs were becoming apparent and  the smart guys saw that Christianity was beginning to fail, and they were under no illusions that the decline of Christianity would require a new "value system" to replace it. Marxism, Fascism, and Liberalism were attempts to replace what was lost. We're still groping for meaning despite the rivers of blood.

It is my opinion that there will be no restoration with some kind of  Christian restoration.  However, any restoration of a Christian West is going to have to avoid the mistakes of the past and therefore it's necessary to have a good hard look at where things went wrong. 

As I see it, the two major branches of Western Christianity, Catholicism and Protestantism failed by different modes. Protestantism failed because it denied objectivity and legitimised  the subjectivity of the individual.  Neoreaction has dealt with this subject at length.

Catholicism's mode of failure is different:  Unlike Protestantism, Catholicism affirmed the objective nature of morality--as affirmed by the Magisterium--but was unable to deal with the problems because of the institutional inertia of the Church. And it's this inertia that has allowed Modernist movements to run rings around it when changes have occurred in the cultural environment and inhibited any dynamic response. As it stands, the Catholic Church is basically a defensive organisation and is incapable of cultural offense.

The Benedict option, for example,  is a typical of this mindset. In my opinion Benedict XVI has one of the sharpest minds out there, but even with all of his erudition and spirituality the best response he could give to the problem of Modernity is to curl up in a ball and to ride it out: He had no plan to take the bastards on.

Even Catholic Integralism, with all of its intransigent militancy was in effect a militant a neo-Luddite movement which, unable to beat the modern state,  aimed to co-opt it to secure it's aims.   The paradox of Integralism is that the apparatus of modernity and it's underlying philosophy, i.e. the modern state and its control over the interior life of the individual,  is the vehicle by which modernity is to be fought. The approach is contradictory and paradoxically furthers the transmission of modernity. It's an own goal! A weak religion does not become strong by co-opting a strong state, it simply rides the tiger of the State. It's also why the State, when it throw the rider off, rapidly reverts to modernist form. Cue Spain and Portugal.

As I see it, the institutional inertia of Catholicism is a product of both in its structure and it's mindset.

The Church understands itself of formally being composed of both the clergy and the laity but in reality the Church operates on a notion of a directing clergy and a passive laity. As some wag said, the priests do the thinking but the laity is simply meant to pray, pay and obey. Passivity is the feature of the laity, or as Pius X famously stated:
It follows that the Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of per sons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful. So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors
In many ways this "structure" is like that of the old Soviet army, individual action is only permitted from higher up and initiative is frowned upon. Maurice Blondel recognised this problem and called it monophorism.  Apart from killing all spontaneity in the faithful, the problem with this approach is that any new challenge has it's locus of response in the clergy. But what the historical record and the recent sexual abuse saga have demonstrated is that even with something as offensive as child abuse the clergy was unable to respond appropriately. It had to be dragged kicking and screaming by a hostile media into instantiating an appropriate response. Unfortunately, as the historical record shows, this is a recurring theme in Catholicism across the centuries. The Council of Trent, for example,  may have been a resolute response to the rise of militant Protestantism but it was also a tacit admission that the Church needed to be reformed. The sobering thought here is that it took nearly the loss of half of Christendom to recognise this fact.

Why has  the clergy has found it so difficult to respond to crises effectively? There are obviously many factors but one to consider is the fact that the Church is the prototype for the modern multinational managerial organisation. The Church may be a spiritual body but its also a practical organisation which needs to be practically run.  It has an "organisational structure" which in many ways resembles a modern business. There is a strict hierarchical order of authority, much like in any modern large corporation, where the CEO calls the shots and everyone is expected to toe the line.  And the Church, just like the modern corporation has it's managerial class, and just like all multinational organisations suffers from bureaucratic inertia.  Understanding the Church's institutional response to the sexual abuse saga becomes a lot more easier to comprehend if you do from the framework of a bureaucratic imperative. Being obsessed with rules and regulations, preservation of position and prestige, procedure orientation instead of results orientated are key features of the bureaucratic mindset. A Pharisee is a simply a religious bureaucrat in whom the rules matter more than the effect that they are having.  His job is to maintain the rules even if they lead to totally absurd outcomes.  Just to make myself clear, the bureaucracy's obsession with avoiding scandal resulted in the total repudiation of the Christian teaching of Justice.

The other factor impacting upon the Church is how the Church understands Tradition, which has a direct influence on the organizational mindset. This is a huge topic but, briefly, in times of ossification Traditional is understood as an absolute expression of faith, whereas in times of renewal Tradition is understood as a contingent one. Rules are "strict" in conservative times and "liberal" in times of renewal.  Given the defensive position of the Church and its institutional nature,  the interpretation of Tradition has almost verged on the Spergy, with Tradition = literal Truth. The point here is that any innovation is almost automatically seen as heresy, therefore the even the ability to develop solutions even from within the framework of tradition is stymied by this mindset. Any novel doctrinal development is by definition anti-traditional and the object of pushback by the institution.

The combination of both bureaucratic and cultural inertia have resulted in the Church being unable to respond to the shifting cultural landscape bought about the impact of technology and population growth which was first really felt at the end of the 19th Century. It much like a saddler bemoaning that people don't ride horses anymore and insisting that they should continue to do so.

No one takes any notice, except the romantics who like riding horses.

Vatican Two was meant to be an attempt to break this mindset but it was poorly thought out and poorly implemented: the result being a mess. Yves Congar and Herni de Lubac may be have been great diagnosticians but I'm not sure they had the right therapy. Old fogey bureaucrats, attempting to look cool and relevant can never pull it off and the who thing looks silly and awkward. That's explains a lot of the silliness in the Catholic Church following Vatican Two. Still, there is a silver lining to the "faults" of Catholicism, the bureaucratic inertia meant the Church was resistant to the pozzification of it in a way that Protestantism wasn't. But it's no advantage in being right when no one is noticing and  sliding back into the same ineffective Traditionalism of the past just simply takes you back to square one.. A new way will have to be found to go forward but I'm not sure how that is going to play out.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Illustrated Political Spectrum: Slumlord's Reality/Temperament Graphs

This is a follow up to the last post.

Sometimes I find it easier to visualise things using drawings.

For a "Man of the Right" what matters is that his beliefs calibrate with reality regardless of his temperament. We can visualise this as follows. If we place conservative/liberal on the X axis and Reality/Non-Reality on the Y axis we would get an illustration as follows.



What we get is a temperament/calibration-to-reality map. Political/ideological/religious beliefs can be expressed as a set of points on this map, however in order for the map not to be impossibly multidimensional we plot particular beliefs only with regard to their relationship to reality.




The reason why I've included that big circle in the middle of the map is dispassionate Spock-like objectivity or depravity is hard. (achievable with some effort though!) It takes a fair amount of temperamental override to cross from one side to the other.

Now, what we do next is take various ideologies and belief systems and map them and what we get is as follows.



What we see by dividing belief systems is that we get clear groupings which fall into the liberal/conservative spectrum and this is how people conventionally think of the terms. This map also illustrates how real world (i.e. Mass-man) politics plays out. Catholic Integralists will absolutely hate Stalinists and Kumbayah Catholics, but will share the political bed with Fascists and Nazi's, and  Kumbayah Catholics will fear the Integralists more than the Trotskyists.

But none of the temperamental stuff really matters, what matters is where you sit on the reality/non-reality axis. And here is where all the interesting stuff in politics happens. If we look at the relationship between Kumbayah Catholics and Transgenderists, they might sit on the same side of the political spectrum but are mortally opposed ideologues. They may be allies of convenience but when time comes they're at each others throats.

This is why I hate the Fascists, it's not because they're the "real" liberals, rather its because they have many beliefs which are non calibrated to reality.

If we look at this graph we'll also see that conservatism is a meaningless term when it comes to reality calibration, since many conservative ideologies have a fair amount of error associated with them. Once again the important point is reality calibration, not temperament.

The Zen point of belief can be expressed by this illustration. Here, regardless of temperament, belief is reality calibrated and this is is what a "Man of the Right" aims for.




*I'm limited in time today so these are really a "back of envelope" illustrations and where I've placed the ideologies is based upon quick convenience rather than deliberation.