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.

9 comments:

JPW said...

Pacifism - it isn't for wimps. It is a necessary, though insufficient; condition for a decent society. THis is why Christ came as The Prince of Peace.

Anonymous said...

Two questions, if you would:

1) What specific theologians, bishops, priests, and lay commentators do you consider Trads?

2) Is artificial contraception (condoms, IUDs, the pill) morally licit?

Anonymous said...

The laity certainly have not rejected Humanae Vitae as a whole. Does anyone seriously think so? Have the laity rejected that specific part of Humanae Vitae forbidding contraception? This would require that people expressly believe that the unnatural prevention of fertilization during the act of sexual intercourse is NOT unnatural and therefore NOT a sin. Does anyone really think that? A more robust explanation is that people want to have unnatural sexual intercourse, know it's sinful, and do it anyways just as people engage in all sort of other sinful acts. Engaging in sin is far from a rejection of Church doctrine.

The rejection of the recent pretended change to doctrine on capital punishment is based wholly in the belief, affirmed explicitly by doctrine, that legitimate action to protect life includes the potential for ending the life of one who explicitly threatens to kill others. And a recognition that neither the Pope nor any other authority can possibly promise that such a need will never occur. There is no equivalence between the two examples.

MK said...

One problem with using the "laity bleating" as a guide is that the laity is different in each culture (and over time). Many of these cultures are so sick they won't be with us long. Like ours. So who cares what they bleat? Why not listen to the bleating of the successful laity?

I wonder what the laity would say about HV over history, and over all cultures, not just our imploding wasteland of a culture? Personally, I place more weight on the sheep of those cultures who are growing, since their culture has at least some level of success regarding natural law. They are the victors of the past and the future both, all wrapped up into one.

A second problem: Christianity is supposed to "guide" the culture and slowly transform it, not the other way around. And the only way this happens is Darwinian; slowly, those who fight natural law go extinct by their own actions. On birth control, this sin has a direct, immediate, obvious consequence. Death.

So we must look at the whole picture of the laity throughout history. Would Christians throughout history be pro-child, or anti-child? Who is more generous, more Christ-like, the lusty lover of life and children...or the modern, self-absorbed, fat, below-replacement Westerner who will soon be forgotten and replaced? And this why the discussion is so delicious: who cares what armchair theologians think, anyway? I'll take the advice of the simple mother who successfully grows her brood into the next generation and beyond. She's found the real truth.

The Social Pathologist said...

@JPW

It is a necessary, though insufficient; condition for a decent society.

Blood lust is an evil but so is passivity before it.

@Anon

Theologians: Grisez, John Ford, Alfredo Ottovani, Garrigou-Lagrange.
Bishops/Priests : The Dubia Four, George Pell, FSSP
Lay Commentators: Ross Douthat, Michael Voris,

There are others but these convey a sense of what I mean by Trads.

As for artifical contraception, It's my opinion that methods that regulate ovulation are licit while those that pervert the act are not.

Refer to this previous post of mine.

http://socialpathology.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-teleology-of-coitus.html

@Anon

The laity certainly have not rejected Humanae Vitae as a whole

You're joking aren't you? Only 3% of sexually active women in the U.S. are using NFP as a mode of contraception. That's pretty much a wholesale rejection of the teaching.
Here's a link to, Trends in Contraceptive use Among Catholics in the United States.

https://epublications.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1025&context=nursing_fac

@MK

Why not listen to the bleating of the successful laity?

How do you define success? More babies and a successful culture are two different things. Look at Nigeria.

Christianity is supposed to "guide" the culture and slowly transform it, not the other way around.

The way you're using the term implies that Christianity = clergy. The transformative function of Christianity happens through both the clergy and the laity. That's official Catholic ecclesiology.

Anonymous said...

So these are the Trads:

Theologians: Grisez, John Ford, Alfredo Ottovani, Garrigou-Lagrange.
Bishops/Priests : The Dubia Four, George Pell, FSSP
Lay Commentators: Ross Douthat, Michael Voris,

And that explains why your views are a muddle.

SP, you put a lot of words in the mouths of Trads, but you aren't actually quoting anybody when you characterize the Trad view the way that you do. There is a real history of clericalism in the Church, but this has nothing to do with a coherent philosophy of "Traditionalism."

If you had a research project: describe a coherent position within the Catholic Church going under the label Traditionalism, and demonstrate how that view is exemplified by your chosen examples, you wouldn't be able to do it.

Consider:

You list as a Trad someone who wrote a whole book criticizing the view of the Pope that you attribute to Trads:

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/04/ross-douthat-book-excerpt-pope-francis-vatican/

So I guess either Douthat isn't a Trad, or Trads don't believe what you think.

Or consider how Michael Voris has been a hardcore critic, really and obnoxious and stupid one, of the actual Trad Michael Matt, for being insubordinate to the Pope, while Matt - the actual Trad - argues for a proper understanding of the limits of Papal authority.

"Ah, you say, that shows the contradiction in the Traditional view."

No, it shows that the Trads are not the ones who are Papal positivists. You are lumping together the conservative wing of the pre-Vatican II church with the Traditionalists, who only come into existence post-VII, and responded to the errors of VII by drawing on church Tradition to argue that ultramontanism was an error.

Or consider The Dubia Four. How can they, who explicitly asked for Pope Francis' teaching to be clarified in light of past teaching, be considered Papal Positivists? If they believe this:

"Masters don't ever have to answer to their servants, even if the master is wrong. Rank overrides truth."

or this:

"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."

On what basis did they raise the Dubia?

No, the fact is that the Traditional understanding of the Pope is that Tradition is not what the Pope says, but that the Pope is accountable to Tradition, which represents the Objective Truth about the Faith, and about Reality. And that is why Cardinals can present Dubia to the Pope, and that is why the Trads were hoping that they would move on to issue a Formal Correction.

Here's another example:

https://onepeterfive.com/lessons-church-history-papal-lapses/

There is no way Kwasniewski can be characterized as believing anything you attribute to Trads about the nature of authority in general, of the proper understanding of obedience to churchmen, or of the role of the Pope.

He clearly believes that the basis upon which you can hold the Pope accountable is precisely because the Faith is a knowable thing that exists independently of the Pope.

So you are just straw-manning, here. You're playing out an argument in your head. And it comes out incoherent because the very people who argue that the Pope is not the Faith, and that the laity have a traditional duty to not follow churchmen into error, are the same people who hold to traditional teaching about contraception. My reading of your writing is that you have a chip on your shoulder about authority, which is perfectly understandable. Authority hasn't been properly understood in the West for a couple hundred years, at least.

Thanks, though, for the clarification on the birth control pill. There are mistakes in your understanding of teleology, and I could not tell if

a) You were using those mistakes to argue that the pill was morally licit, or
b) You believed that using the pill was immoral and were merely criticizing the Church's explanation as to why.

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Anon

Thanks for your response.

No, it shows that the Trads are not the ones who are Papal positivists. You are lumping together the conservative wing of the pre-Vatican II church with the Traditionalists, who only come into existence post-VII, and responded to the errors of VII by drawing on church Tradition to argue that ultramontanism was an error.

I don't like the Sedevacantists but recognise that they are logically consistent.

From: https://novusordowatch.org/2015/08/true-vincentian-canon/

"But when it comes to the adherents of the traditionalist “recognize-and-resist” position (including well-known writers such as John Vennari, Michael Matt, Atila S. Guimaraes, clerics in the Society of St. Pius X, and others), who, although they recognize as valid and legitimate the “Popes” after Pius XII, nevertheless resist their doctrinal heresies and errors — we like to call them Semi-Traditionalists, Pseudo-Traditionalists, or Neo-Traditionalists — it is interesting to see that in essence they are really not doing anything different from their liberal counterparts: They are choosing to accept some teachings of the Church (all those from the beginning up until the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, but not others....."

I've never said that the Trads don't criticise the Pope, they're quite happy to disagree with Pope and throw authority out of the window when the Pope says something they don't like, but when the Pope teaches something they do approve of they invoke his authority..and the Magesterium...as something binding on the conscience of the faithful. They're cafeteria Catholics of a different persuasion. Their Papal positivism is selective.


".....didn't do what the Pope says wasn't really a faithful catholic and therefore their opinion didn't matter.""

That was Grisez's argument trying to explain away the lack of reception of HV and does not apply to the context of the Dubia Four.

No, the fact is that the Traditional understanding of the Pope is that Tradition is not what the Pope says, but that the Pope is accountable to Tradition,

Yes, but it also comes with the prior assumption that Tradition is inerrant and that the Faith has been completely illuminated by it. Therefore any innovation is seen as as a repudiation of it. So if new knowledge comes about, let's say through the natural sciences, which has a baring on theological understanding, tradition will oppose change, seeing it as an undermining of religion. This is one of the big reasons the Church was sideswiped by the 20th C.

My reading of your writing is that you have a chip on your shoulder about authority, which is perfectly understandable.

I don't have a chip on my shoulder as much as I recognise that there is potential for tension between Truth and Authority in infallible matters, especially when the error is subtle. I have no problem when authority is contingent on truth, but Catholic doctrine, which requires religious assent of the mind and will when it comes to non-infallible matters, logically raises the prospect that Catholics may be obliged, under the pain of sin, to believe in error by virtue of authority. That's the crux of the problem.

Jason said...

I think the most positive spin on Orban is that he's trying to recapture some of the best aspects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was in many ways actually "liberal" but also had authoritative/authoritarian elements. Time will tell whether this works in Hungary and other Visegrad nations.

You might enjoy this essay by Rusty Reno, who appears to be echoing many of your arguments here doctor. https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/08/a-failing-episcopal-establishment The fact that it appears in the relatively conservative FT may be significant.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Jason

Re: Victor Orban. I think you're right about him. I think Central Europe has a bit of thing for the Belle Epoque as it experienced it. I've got to admit that I've got a bit a thing for it too.

I had a look at the essay and I think it's quite good.

Something has changed and I think it is significant that First Things has chosen to publish the essay. I think there is an overall sense of disgust at the way the whole clerical abuse thing has been handled,but this I think is a final straw in a long list of other clerical idiocies. The ugly architecture, the perpetual vagueness, the sympathy with criminal over the innocent, the bizzare view of sex and so on. I don't think that this is going to blow over. I honestly do think that there will be a shift in the "center of gravity" of the Church towards the laity, how it plays out I don't know.