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."

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."
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.