Sunday, April 21, 2019

Resurrection: Signs and Omens



In ancient Rome it was the role of the auguries to determine the will of the Gods through the omens observed. The Romans, unlike our modern contemporaries, were religious people who felt that the Gods communicated to men though signs and phenomenon from which the carefully observant would divine their will. So firm was their belief in this state of affairs that they would not proceed with an important issue unless the God's were on their side.

By nature I'm very skeptical sort of guy, not prone to such practices, but I've got to admit that the burning of Notre Dame sure felt like an omen to me: an uneasy one. Notre Dame isn't just another Church, it's in many ways the symbol of French Catholicity--with all that brings--and its partial destruction seemed to be a foreboding sign.  Unlike many other church fires, even the atheists recoginised that the is fire had a far greater symbolic significance.

Some traditionalist wags on Twitter--wishing to prove that God was on their side-- commented that the new modern altar was buried under the rubble while the "traditionalist" one remained unscathed.  What they forgot to point out is that a lot of the old Church was destroyed and if destruction was a sign of the Divine Will,  then God seemed to be unhappy with some bits of the "old" Church as well.

Some of the more liberal commentators felt that the destruction while regrettable was a new opportunity to rebuild the Church in a way "reflective of contemporary French society".  Anyone familiar with modern architecture and contemporary politics  can only interpret this angle with a great deal of apprehension.  The French secular state has been hostile to the Church and it is not beyond the realms of  possibility that it will exert its power to "rebuild" Notre Dame in way which both asserts its authority and humiliates the Catholic Church.

Knowing what crimes modern architecture is capable of, many are calling for the Church to be restored to exactly how it was before the fire.  I'm not particularly opposed to this view, especially considering the potential modern alternatives but if this fire really was an omen of sorts then I don't think that's going to happen. This is what comes to mind;
Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables,and to those who sold doves he said, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace. His disciples recalled the words of scripture, "Zeal for your house will consume me." At this the Jews answered and said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?"Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.

As I said before, I'm a skeptical sort of guy, but it there is any omen here, in my mind it is signifying that a change is coming,  probably through French Catholicism first. The temple is being torn down and its going to get rebuilt but it won't be a copy of the old.  Still,  I couldn't but feel looking at the photos of the old altar standing relatively unscathed by the fire that everything was going to be alright in the end. No matter what calamities may befall us, the Faith will endure.

He has conquered death and its corruption.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Quote du Jour



Houellebecq is back at it, this time at First Things, talking about religion, particularly Catholicism. I thought this was very good:
And the Church seems to apologize for her existence. Currently in France, we are experiencing a vast insurrection by those who could be termed the “leftovers of globalization,” the gilets jaunes. These people are crying out with an anger that has been growing for a long time, and they have been ­supported by a majority of the population. A social phenomenon of this order cannot escape the notice of any institution claiming to have a plan for men. In lieu of exercising a political influence, the Church could be offering a spiritual plan to those who are fighting against a loss of fundamental meaning. There are approximatively a hundred dioceses in France, and a few more bishops, all of whom are the representatives of the Church in the country. Only one of them has decided it would be a good idea to go to a meeting of the gilets jaunes.
From Restoration, over at First Things.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Theology of Sexual Abuse


As I've said before, before the restoration of the West will only occur once its  religious underpinnings are re-instituted. Most bloggers on the subject of Western restoration tend to focus on political and immigration reforms but these things are all moot if the culture underpinning them is rubbish. Religion matters, particularly the Catholic religion, which IS the foundational element of the West.


One only has to pick up a newspaper or browse online to realise that there is something seriously wrong with the Catholic Church and while many, including many in the leadership recognise this the fact is that the leadership is floundering. As someone who has been following events for a while now it's quite obvious that most of the Church's governing class and commentariat are clueless  So it was quite a surprise to see that  Pope Emeritus Benedict weigh into the conversation by publishing a series of notes with regard to his reflections on the sexual abuse crisis.

I felt that they deserved some comment.

While I admire Benedict's first rate intellect, one whole, the notes themselves did not seem to rise to his usual level of theological insight, and seemed more an interpretation of events as you would expect from some traditional provincial priest. This is worrying as it is a reflection of the thinking that was occurring at the top during his pontificate and goes a long way to explaining why the Church has not been able to adequately deal with the issue.

Benedict seems to blame the the following for the crisis:
a) A loss of belief in the real presence of God in our lives.
b) With consequent loss of reverence towards the Eucharist.
c) The cultural/sexual revolution of the 60's which infected the Church and legitimised many previously illegitimate sexual behaviours including pedophillia.
d) Liberal theology which denied any kind of intrinsically wrongs acts.
e) Canon law which made it effectively impossible to get rid of a bad priest.
Leon Podles does a good takedown of Benedict's claims, while I agree with a lot of what he says I don't agree with him on the subject of clericalism. In my mind clericalism is only a minor component of the abuse crisis. It's malign effects are felt elsewhere. Rather, the problem is much deeper, rooted in modern "orthodox" theology  and I get the feeling that Benedict is only just now  beginning to grasp the true nature of it. The other guys are clueless.

To illustrate the true nature of the problem you have to perform a thought experiment. Consider the following:

Suppose Pope Francis, JPII or Benedict were put in charge of a prison-or for a matter of fact any senior cleric: How would they deal with the  inmates? Suppose a prisoner came up to the Pope and said he was sorry for what he did and promised he'd never commit a crime again. How do you suppose the Pope would react. I think it's reasonable to think that the Pope would pardon the prisoner and either commute his sentence or let him free. The justice owed to the victim of crime would not be factored in at all.

This, in a nutshell is the story of the whole sexual abuse saga.  i.e the redemption of the sinner takes priority over justice for the victim. Focusing only on the sexual abuse aspect misses the bigger picture; which is that the welfare of the sinner always takes priority over the justice owed to the victim in Catholic practice.  And it doesn't just affect how the Church deals with issues of sexual abuse but also how it deals with all other crimes such as fraud, embezzlement and murder. A slap on the wrist and all is ok.

For example, here is the rationale for the impermissibilty of the Death Penalty as taken from the Catechism:
“Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption,”

Note:  The redemption of the criminal matters more than the justice owed to the victim. Massimo Faggioli is absolutely right, the Church is incapable of punishing crimes and requires state intervention to do so. (This is going bring a whole lot of pain in ways that people can't imagine including the "punishment" of innocent priests by the State who aren't politically correct.)

Now, I get the impression that Benedict is finally beginning to see that there is something wrong with the Church's kumbayah approach when he writes:
A balanced canon law that corresponds to the whole of Jesus’ message  [ED] must therefore not only provide a guarantee for the accused, the respect for whom is a legal good. It must also protect the Faith, which is also an important legal asset. A properly formed canon law must therefore contain a double guarantee — legal protection of the accused, legal protection of the good at stake. If today one puts forward this inherently clear conception, one generally falls on deaf ears when it comes to the question of the protection of the Faith as a legal good. In the general awareness of the law, the Faith no longer appears to have the rank of a good requiring protection. This is an alarming situation which must be considered and taken seriously by the pastors of the Church.

What Benedict is saying here is that when it comes to legal matters the Church can't just simply look at the good of the sinner but needs to take other factors into account as well, and in this instance it is the good of "the Faith". This is a welcome improvement in thinking but still misses the mark. Benedict is beginning to realise that you can't just neglect justice for mercy without having some serious consequences, including the loss of the Faith.

The Faith is not injured primarily by mercy towards the sinner but rather by a failure to render justice to the victim. The people who have the left the Church have left primarily because of their disgust at the way the victims were treated and there tormentors were allowed to escape punishment. What kills the the good  of "the Faith" is not the application of Mercy but the neglect of Justice. Something that the Church despite all of its affirmation of, honours in the breach.

While the cultural changes that have occurred int the 20th C have contributed to the loss of Faith in the Western nations it has been some of the theological developments--or lack thereof--which have done the most damage. Pastors which practice and preach an ostensibly orthodox theology which neglects the victims of crime are contemptible to the laity and their walking with their feet. Their sensus fidelium is working quite well. It's the senior clergy that are blind.

More importantly such a theology is contemptible to God as well.

That's why the pews are empty.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

A Church Impotent




Sorry atheists, another religious post.

This is St Paul thundering at the early Christians telling them to get their act together.


Dare any of you, having a matter against his neighbor, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?  Or know ye not that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world is judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?  Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more, things that pertain to this life?  If then ye have to judge things pertaining to this life, do ye set them to judge who are of no account in the church?  I say this to move you to shame. What, cannot there be found among you one wise man who shall be able to decide between his brethren,  but brother goeth to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? [ED] Nay, already it is altogether a defect in you, that ye have lawsuits one with another. Why not rather take wrong? why not rather be defrauded?  Nay, but ye yourselves do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.

1 Corinthians 6:1-8

I put up this post a few days ago quoting St Thomas on the relationship of Justice to Mercy with the implication that a lot of the Church's problems in dealing with sin in its ranks was due to the progressive theological emphasis on mercy at the expense of justice. This theological shift, largely under the watch of conservative Popes, reached it's definitive expression in the Church's recent change in the Catechism, effectively outlawing the death penalty. The other aspect to this theological shift has been a diminshing sense of the social dimension of sin. A theology which which emphaises mercy to the criminal at the expense of justice to the victim is going to be one that ends up being soft on crime.

Understanding the institutionalised failure of the Catholic Church to combat sexual abuse is much easier when you look at the situation through this perspective. When crimes were reported to Church authorities their primary aim was the rehabilitation of the criminal and not the restitution due to the victim. The problem with this theological approach is that it paralyses the administration of justice.  The Church becomes effectively incapable of punishing crime in its ranks. While there is no doubt a large element of sin present the core of the Catholic Church's  problems is not malice, it's theology.

I'm bringing up this subject again because Massimo Faggioli recently penned a good article in the local news following the conviction of Cardinal Pell for sex abuse*, showing just how bad things have gotten. Massimo is what many Americans would call a liberal, but he's an honest one, and while I disagree with him on a lot of issues I can't really find much to fault in this piece. I thought this was pertinent:

And both Church and State are repositioning themselves in response to this crisis. With the pontificate of Francis, there is no question that the institutional Catholic Church no longer fights against secular justice or shields alleged criminals from prosecution by the civil authorities. The Church actually welcomes secular justice, knowing now that without the intervention of public prosecutors many cases of sexual abuse in the Church would have never been addressed, investigated and punished.[ED] The Catholic Church is now totally on the defensive [ED] ― locally and globally; in Australia and in the Vatican; in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion. And it is on the defensive because of an uncovered history of the indefensible practices of covering up abusers, re-victimising victims, vilifying the media investigating the cases and shielding top clerics from justice ― sometimes by shipping them to the Vatican (beginning with the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, in 2004).

The point worth emphasising here is that the Catholic Church is now structurally, even if not explicitly, reliant on the verdicts of the secular courts to make determinations about the firing (and the hiring) of its cardinals and bishops[ED] This is why any talk of "zero tolerance" for abusers in the Church ― in the Church's ministries as well as among the Catholic clergy as ordained members ― becomes meaningless if it does not consider who determines if a member of the Church is a sexual abuser. The fact is that the fight against sexual abuse in the Church is, to a large extent, only as good as the rule of law in a given country or state.[ED]

Right.

Read that carefully and realise we've reached the situation deplored by St Paul. We need pagan courts to police the ranks.  We can't do it ourselves. Francis has had to call in the cops because the clergy institution has been unable to administer justice.

WTF?

Now, also notice that the all the lurid stuff which transfixes the minds of the shallow is a secondary phenomenon to the primary evil, which has been the mutilation of justice, all under the high principle of Mercy. Also note, that it was a doctrine emphasised especially during the pontificate of JPII, so you can't stick this on Francis.

Chesterton understood what was going on. In Orthodoxy he wrote:
The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful. 

and:
This was the big fact about Christian ethics; the discovery of the new balance. Paganism had been like a pillar of marble, upright because proportioned with symmetry. Christianity was like a huge and ragged and romantic rock, which, though it sways on its pedestal at a touch, yet, because its exaggerated excrescences exactly balance each other, is enthroned there for a thousand years........ .......Patriotism is a perfect example of this deliberate balancing of one emphasis against another emphasis. The instinct of the Pagan empire would have said, "You shall all be Roman citizens, and grow alike; let the German grow less slow and reverent; the Frenchmen less experimental and swift." But the instinct of Christian Europe says, "Let the German remain slow and reverent, that the Frenchman may the more safely be swift and experimental. We will make an equipoise out of these excesses. The absurdity called Germany shall correct the insanity called France."
Last and most important, it is exactly this which explains what is so inexplicable to all the modern critics of the history of Christianity. I mean the monstrous wars about small points of theology, the earthquakes of emotion about a gesture or a word. It was only a matter of an inch; but an inch is everything when you are balancing. The Church could not afford to swerve a hair's breadth on some things if she was to continue her great and daring experiment of the irregular equilibrium. Once let one idea become less powerful and some other idea would become too powerful.[ED] ....... Of these theological equalisations I have to speak afterwards. Here it is enough to notice that if some small mistake were made in doctrine, huge blunders might be made in human happiness. A sentence phrased wrong about the nature of symbolism would have broken all the best statues in Europe. A slip in the definitions might stop all the dances; might wither all the Christmas trees or break all the Easter eggs. Doctrines had to be defined within strict limits, even in order that man might enjoy general human liberties. The Church had to be careful, if only that the world might be careless.

The Church has been careless and has become unbalanced. There is no doubt that the sexual abuse crisis has resulted in a crisis of faith among many. But here's the question, given a choice, is it better for God to let people lose the faith and become pagans that punish child abuse, or "faithful Christians" that are incapable of dealing with it because of "principled" forgiveness. Better the Samaritan than the Pharisee.

 What would a loving God do in such a circumstance?

For the Christian, any understanding of the secularisation process has to involve some element of Divine agency. From the Christian perspective God is not passive but active in human affairs. It may not be that the Church is dying because of modernism, it may be because there is something wrong with it, and God is mighty displeased. Modernism is a merely a correlate.


*BTW, George Pell is innocent. It was a stitch up.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Some thoughts on Secularisation



Atheist warning, this is a religious post.

One of the things that has been occupying my mind for quite a while now is the process of  Western secularisation.  Despite what the fedora-wearers say, we've gone from a culture that was highly religious to a culture where religion doesn't really matter at all. I have read a few books on the secularisation  process and there have been good insights in some, I haven't really read a book which has provided a convincing theory. I think it is a truism that  there are many factors which have  contributed to the secularisation,  there is perhaps another dimension to this problem that is missed when tackled by mainstream sociological analysis.

This traditional approach tends to see secularisation as a emergent phenomenon bought about by the application of science and reason to traditional society.  Implicit in the view is the notion that science and reason are religous solvents and are  incompatible with it.  This is the traditional Positivistic view and despite their best intentions, knucklehead Trads play into this frame, keeping it alive, every time they rally against "da Enlightenment", seeing it as toxic to Christianity.

St Thomas would not be amused.

The approach I intend to take is theological one, and where I want to start with is a little bit of scripture;

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven[ED].
Matthew:16:13-20
and
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him [ED}, and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:44

Now, what's interesting in both of these passages Christ explicitly alludes to the notion that belief in Him--as God's son-- is contingent on some kind of operation by the Father upon the believer.  I don't want to get into the mechanics of what this operation is, the point is that belief in God is not a simple intellectual operation of the believer alone, rather something else must be added to the human person in order for there to be sincere belief. As I've said before, faith is a perceptive noetic sense and and it is only after God has passed onto the individual some kind of potency that the individual is able to "see" and "hear" the truth of the Christian claim.

Now, while it may be possible for some kind of ersatz like "faith" to be produced through social engineering or philosophical argument it is impossible for true faith to arise in this matter.  Factual instruction and logical presentation of the data is not enough. The important point to recognise is that faith is contingent upon divine agency.

But if this is indeed the case then the implications of this line of thought raises some rather disturbing questions, especially with regard to the relentless march of secularisation.

Traditional Christian understanding of the phenomenon tends to see the main culprit of secularisation being liberalism. But, maybe we've got it all wrong, maybe liberalism is not the problem, because if faith is contingent upon the agency of God, then is the phenomenon of secularisation due to a lack of divine agency. Is God holding back?

Now if that's the case, then for us who are Christians, we've got a serious problem, since any type of "managerial" solution is not going to work unless God is on board, no matter what we do.

You see, if God by his own free choice, chooses to infuse the virtue of faith into an individual, it really doesn't matter what kind of environment the person is in, they will see the truth of the Christian faith and have the capacity to believe. We actually see this stuff happen all the time.  Conversion stories are replete with individuals who were unbelievers living in Christian hostile environments who suddenly saw the light. St Paul's conversion is a case in point: from hostile persecutor to christian missionary, in a flash: He turned on a dime.

On the other hand, we all know of individuals who are absolutely stone cold on the faith yet were raised in solidly Christian environments. And disbelief is not necessarily a consequence of living a life of debauchery and sin, there are many who live quietly virtuous lives but are simply unable to convince themselves of the truth of Christian propositions.  Nor is disbelief always due hostility towards the faith. There are other individuals out there who are very sympathetic to Christianity who want to believe but simply can't. Whatever His reason, God has chosen not to give these people the gift of faith.

The disturbing line of thought here is that secularisation is, at least,  partially due to God holding back.

Like most Christians, as a result of my upbringing, I always had this conception of God as "always being there" for those who wanted to believe. That faith was somehow just a matter of chosing to believe and that God would take care of the rest. But that line of thought does imply a certain lack of agency by God. It also tends to contradict scripture which implies that it's God that does the picking and choosing of who gets to believe and not man.  I don't think I'm being heretical here in asserting that faith is a gift from God and not a right of Man.

But if this is the case, then why is God holding back?

Since I don't have a direct line to God and He doesn't consult me on these thing my thoughts on this matter are speculative, but at the moment my thinking is anlong two lines.

The first line is more "Traditional" in nature, in that God is holding back because we are so wicked and has abandoned us to our ways. Scripture clearly indicates that faith is a "two way street", in that the believer has not only to be guided by this noetic sense of faith but also has the responsibility to nurture it, as neglect will result in its loss.  For example, if you know that fornication is wrong but continue to fornicate, with time the sense of its wrongness will be lost.  The idea here is that sin progressively destroys faith.

If this is indeed the case then we're screwed. By traditional standards we're a modern Sodom with vice and sin being ascendant. Passing some critical point a while ago, we've entered a positive feedback cycle which we cannot escape. The only way to break this cycle is by some deliberate act of God and that's something we cannot assume will happen.  God's justice demands that we be damned for our sins and  and we cannot presume on His mercy. As the priest told Whittaker Chambers, who's to say that the West deserves to be saved.

The second line of thought which is increasingly occupying my mind is the notion that God is holding back because--as a loving God-- he is "protecting" the people from a distorted faith. While  he while he may not like a "Godless society" he much prefers it to one based on a "distorted" Christianity. Better let the people lapse into a healthy Paganism or Utilitarianism than Methodism, or a Catholicism that seems unable to deal with the simple issue of sexual abuse.  What I'm trying to say is perhaps a kumbayah/integralist Catholicism is more offensive to God than a honest atheism, hence--for their own good-- he keeps people atheist.

I know that this may shock some people since it implies that a lot of the secularisation that has occurred in the 20th Century may have a degree of divine input into it, but theologically, I imagine from God's perspective, that a perversion of the faith would seem to be worse than atheism, since the perversion masquerades as a truth. If this latter thought is indeed the case, then Christianity does not make a comeback until it gets reformed to God's pleasure. It's only at that point that the faith "tap" gets switched on and society becomes desecularised.

And by reform, I don't mean code for reform according to my i.e. Slumlord's pleasure. What I mean is deep examination of where it all went wrong, and correcting the mistakes. My own analysis of the problem points me in many directions, some of which I've written about in previous posts. Now, I could be wrong about some of them but the important point here is that what is attempted by the Christian community is a movement towards what God wants with a recognition that there has been error.

Now, there may be other reasons as to why God is holding back the faith, but the important point that I wish to bring across here is that any understanding of the secularisation process can't simply be done from a secular frame without any acknowledgement of an element of divine agency. I think one of the reasons why we've been so bad at fighting the secularisation process is because we act and think like secularists instead of Christians.



Friday, February 01, 2019

The Preferential Option for the Criminal

As mentioned previously on this blog, there is going to be no restoration of the West until a re-evangelisation of the people occurs.  For a variety of reasons, I don't feel that the Protestant churches have the ability to execute this function, which leaves the Catholic Church as the only institution capable of doing so. If the Catholic Church fails, it's all over. Fortunately we have the word of Christ, so we're going to win.

However, as things stand, the Catholic Church is in a lot of trouble and is fighting for its survival. Therefore before any re-evangelisation can occur it needs to get its own house in order and therefore its problems, and the battles to fix them, are of vital concern to anyone with an interest in a Western restoration.

From my perspective the Church has several deep theological and structural faults which have seriously hampered its ability to tackle Modernism. The sexual abuse saga in many ways illustrates some of the problems affecting the Church and I think it's worthwhile looking into them in order to diagnose, and then work out correctives to these institutional pathologies. And as an aside, I think that Francis is correct in that a simple "judicial" approach to this affair is wrong, and that a deeper analysis of the problem is required.

As I see it, the institutional failure in response to this crisis has several dimension which include.
1) Clericalism, which in this instance is the presumption of priestly impeccability by virtue of holding the office.
2) The avoidance of scandal. Which in this instance meaning the preservation of reputation at the expense of truth.

3)The influence of materialistic psychology which viewed moral fault as an "organic disease" which absolved the the guilt of perpetrator by removing responsibility because "he was sick".

4) Theological developments in the 20th Century which elevated the role of Mercy at the expense of Justice. i.e. the victim doesn't matter.
I actually think that this last one (4) is probably the biggest issue. Issues like homosexuality and greed are actually peripheral, as they they determine the types of crimes committed not the institutional response to them. What reports into the corruption of the Church have shown is that it was equally inept at punishing or reporting crimes no matter what their nature. Hetero's, homo's and thieves were all given free passes.

I suppose a good illustration of what I'm getting at is by looking at latest amendment to the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the subject of the Death Penalty.
The death penalty

2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

Astute readers will notice that the whole focus on the entry is primarily on the criminal and their redemption, secondarily on the protection of society, with there being no mention at all of the justice owed to the victim: The victim doesn't matter.

The recurring theme in the sexual abuse saga, across all continents, is the fact that the complaints of the victims were dismissed, suppressed or not openly acknowledged, and that priests were given multiple opportunities for redemption at the expense of their victims. Given the consistency of this response across various times and cultures it points towards an institutional feature and not a local anomaly.  It was standard operating procedure to have a presumption in favour of the priest at the expense of the victim.

I don't think that it was explicit malice that drove this presumption, rather theological developments in the 20th Century have led the Church to develop an implicit doctrine which results in a real world "preferential option for the criminal"..... at the expense of the victim. It may not be formally stated as such but it's what happens in reality. Being merciful to the wicked means being unjust to their victims. It's this institutional and cultural imperative--despite the well meaning natures of many who had to investigate sexual crimes within the Church--that led to the total organisational failure with regard to the protection of minors. It's a systemic problem with its roots in modern theology with its strong emphasis on the personal aspect of the faith at the expense of its communitarian " Church" dimension.

What the old guys understood and what the new guys have forgotten is that the thing about Mercy and Justice is that they are in opposition, and a theology which focuses exclusively on Mercy is one that is going to downplay Justice. They knew that the good ordering of society was just as necessary as the redemption of the criminal  and that's why they came down hard on the criminals in the past, sometimes too hard. They knew, as magistrates and judges, that they had a duty primarily to the victim and to the criminal to see that justice was done, otherwise they would be answerable to God. Letting the criminal off the hook was just not going to cut it.

Paradoxically, this new theology of mercy is just as likely to result in injustice to the criminal as well. If the primary metrics have now become redemption of the criminal and protection of society who determines when this has been achieved, how do long to prison sentences last? You don't have to be that bright to see the horrific potential for abuse in real world settings.

My own understanding of Christianity leads me to the conclusion that God is merciful, in fact He wants to be merciful: He's not a hanging judge. But the existence of Hell leads to the implicit conclusion that this faculty of mercy is at His discretion and is not always exercised. There are also good reasons to believe that his mercy may at times be conditional and that he is primarily just. This new theology seems hard to square up with scripture and tradition and goes a long way to explaining the mess in the Church and the reforms needed. This isn't just about homo's and sexuality as the Trads would like you to think, the problem is far deeper.

BTW, this isn't a swipe at Francis. From my perspective he's a mixed bag as a pope but he does seem to have grasped, in a way that his predecessor's haven't, that this is a far deeper problem than first appears.  He seems to have a good grasp of the structural reforms needed while being blind to the theological ones.  Fortunately, he seems to have the capacity to change his mind, whether he does so is a different matter altogether.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Two Quotes


Justice without mercy is cruelty, but mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution.

St. Thomas Aquinas
The clerical sex abuse scandal was made possible because of a prevailing mentality, especially in the 1970s and 80s, that notions of crime and justice had no place in the post-Vatican II Church.* The crimes of clerical abuse were labelled as “struggles with chastity” and “mental issues” and there was an entire cottage industry of therapy centres and clinics which would helpfully label the abusers as victims of their own traumas, often blaming it on the wicked institution of clerical celibacy, and then “rehabilitate” abusive priests and send them back, certified as ready for ministry. This approach, which was consciously identified as a “merciful” way of handling matters, caused a chilling illustration of what a mockery of itself mercy can become when it is uncoupled from justice.




ED: The author deludes himself in thinking that this wasn't a problem prior to Vatican Two. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

It can't happen here.....It already has


“He did not know how long she had been looking at him, but perhaps for as much as five minutes, and it was possible that his features had not been perfectly under control. It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself—anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face.....was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.”

George Orwell, 1984