Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Wages of Monophorism

 “Monophorism” was Blondel's term for a reigning clerical authoritarianism which on principle refused to recognize that grace can be at work from below. 

One of things which you become aware of when you start digging into theology is that some guys foresaw the current apostasy from miles away.  Maurice Blondel was one of these and recognised that the traditional model of "Priests Smart and People dumb" i.e. Monophorism,  devastated the interior spirituality of the laity and facilitated the destruction of the faith.  Now, while many of the laity could be "good" under this model,  it was a goodness of docility and obedience. The layman was not meant to have ideas or internal volition and the faith was to be received and not really thought about and it produced a sort of spiritual infantilism which as able to lapse if the strong parent went missing.

The Catholic Church under this model resembled a typical World War 1/Soviet Era combat formation. Strongly disciplined and led by the general. A battle plan was drawn and the soldier was expected to advance according to the plan;  individual initiative being frowned upon, especially by the lower ranks, since everything had been worked out and co-ordinated by the staff officers.  The innovators of stormtroop tactics immediately recognised  that there was a weak-point with this approach: if you could decapitate the leadership, then the troops would be helpless and easily destroyed. Sure, there would be pockets of strong resistance, but without command from the top many of the troops would simply surrender and walk away. There was no defence-in-depth.

Protestantism, especially in its evangelical versions, avoided this approach and tended to stress the layman's strong personal relationship with Christ and left the individual to their own Christianity. As this blog has mentioned, there are many faults with this approach but it does tend to produce a more autonomous Christian than traditional Catholicism does.

To illustrate what I mean here are two bits of data from Pew Research. The first, graph compares the commitment gap between Catholics and Protestants in South America. The metric of commitment--a reasonable one in my opinion--being attendance at regular Church services and praying daily.  From the table we can see that in every country in South America, Protestants out perform Catholics by this metric.

The second table, looks at approval of same sex "marriage" by religious denomination in the U.S. The data is pretty damning for U.S. Catholics. Mainline Protestant denominations are marginally worse but not by much. However , those "dumb" Evangelical Christians appear to have views which have a far better correlation with Biblical views of homosexuality. What gives?

One of the things about Protestantism is that it a religion strongly associated with the bourgeoisie. And one of the the thing about bourgeois society it the strong emphasis it places on individual act and responsibility. Protestant societies encourage more individual autonomy and internal locus of control. What this means is that although Protestants may think badly--with all the problems that brings-- they think for themselves. Paradoxically, "simplistic" Protestants who take the Bible literally are quite likely to be its strongest adherents as they can't "explain away" Biblical imperatives to conform with contemporary fashions.

In my opinion, Catholics can only provide a strong pushback against the Pozz  only if they are capably led and strongly disciplined. When the leadership is effectively "decapitated" the average Catholic lacks the internal resilience to push back against it. This would--in a way--seem to shore up the arguments of the Traditionalists who see Vatican Two as the great mistake of Catholicism. Vatican II gave the spiritually-infantile freedom........with predictable consequences.

See, the thing to understand is that Catholicism prior to Vatican II, despite all of it's window dressing  and railing against Modernism was actually Modernist itself and was unwittingly encouraging the production of Mass-Man and it's hard to fight the thing when you're the thing itself.

Let me explain by way of uncomfortable analogy.

Life inside the Soviet Union Catholic Church was strongly controlled by the clergy Party. Information was heavily censored filtered, lest the laity workers be corrupted. The Papacy Party was always right and it was the duty of the worker to obey the party and deviation from the party line sent the worker to Hell Siberia.

The underlying principle at play here was the if the Church Party could engineer a society where it could control what the laity workers were exposed to and protect them from bad ideas they could engineer a faithful Catholic Worker through social engineering. Just as the modern degeneracy feels that through appropriate social engineering and censorship it can create the soytopia, traditional Catholicism felt as long as it had the reigns of power it could create its own version of the same.

Astute observers will note that this is the Leftist project in a nutshell. Once you start looking into it, the similarities in social structure and command between Communism and Pre-Vatican II Catholicism are uncomfortably close.

So, in a sense, the critics of Vatican Two are right: "relaxing the system"  bought the whole house down in the same way that Perestroika eventually destroyed the Soviet Union.  The old System only worked under strong social control.  The problem for the wistful trads is that although they may dream for a return of the pre-Vatican II Church, the social and cultural contingencies that shored up the authoritarian societies of the past have been undercut by the phenomenon of modernity. As Franco's Spain, De Valera's Ireland and Salazar's Portugal have shown, Integralist societies rapidly collapse into "Modernity" as soon as the thumbscrews are taken off. Years of integralism did not produce the internal resilience to protect against the Pozz, and paradoxically may have created the preconditions for its rapid adoption.

On the other hand, despite the being exposed to the cultural sewer that is the contemporary West, Evangelical Protestants tend to be holding firm.

It is my opinion that the Vatican Two would have been far more successful if the Church gradually relaxed its rules and "softly" Protestantised the Church but this is just speculation and beyond the scope of this current post.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Catholic NPC-ism

As I have said before, any renewal of Western Society is only going to come about from a renewal of the Christian religion and therefore an understanding of why it "failed" is important in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes of the past. And one of the big mistakes, at least for Catholics, has been the religious approach to the laity which encourages their infantilisation and passivity.

In the previous post commentator John Rockwell said:
@Social Pathologist
"Heavy-handed authoritarianism which never admits its mistakes and has the effect of puffing up the leaders and infantilizing the subjects.

This is a complex topic but I think you're largely right here. An infantilized laity is not only a spiritually dead one but one also prone to capture by other ideologies."

This sort of thing is characteristic of Communist and other forms of super-centralized socialist regimes. [Ed]

Seeking to turn adult subjects back into children who do not have the agency to act in a responsible and competent manner as well as into programmable automations.

Akin to NPCs in video games which act only according to script and unable to change their routines.
I think that John Rockwell is absolutely right. Until recently, one of the things that Catholic Trads/Ultramontanists would be at pains of emphasising is the importance of of obedience to Papal teaching by virtue of his authority. The Catholic laity was meant to show an Obsequium Religiosum when it came to religious instruction by his ecclesiastical superiors. It being defined as:
Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra;[ED: even when he could be wrong] that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.*
The good Catholic was not meant to have any active relationship with the faith, his job was to let the Pope do his thinking for him even in instances where the Pope could be wrong. Here's George Orwell, in 1984,  expressing pretty much same concept:
“Oceanic society rests ultimately on the belief that Big Brother is omnipotent and that the Party is infallible. But since in reality Big Brother is not omnipotent and the party is not infallible, there is need for an unwearying, moment-to-moment flexibility in the treatment of facts. The keyword here is BLACKWHITE. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to BELIEVE that black is white, and more, to KNOW that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary.”

Big Brother may not have called it Obsequium Religiosum but he wanted submission of the mind and will. 

Really makes you think.

*The topic of conscience is a complex one, and although Ultramontainsts like to play it down, the Catholic has a duty to conscience first and then to the Pope. Though, in practice--i.e. most of the Pre V2 Church--this was discouraged.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Rethinking Protestantism

I think that it is a fairly standard trope in neoreactionary circles to lay the blame of modern Liberalism at the feet of Protestantism and I must admit that I'm in broad agreement with this position. Once you ditch the idea of an objective truth (as Catholicism understands it) you're left with subjective truth which results in every man being his own Pope.  Soon enough, in such society, serious differences of opinion will appear and in order to practically stop that society from tearing itself apart you have to allow some tolerance of opinion. 

Now a common sense, or prima facie reading of the Bible does put some limits on what is tolerated, and a cursory reading of history will show that, by and large, until recently mainline Protestantism did not permit the degeneracy that is about us. i.e.  a simple "textual" reading of the Bible provided protections against excessive tolerance. However with the delegitimisation  of "traditional" interpretations of the Bible through modern biblical scholarship, democratic idealism and the progression of atheism , these "brakes" on tolerance evaporated.  Dechristianised Protestant society, while having the habit of tolerance, has lost its limiting mechanism----and we see the ruins about us.

I think that this brief sketch outlines the one of the main arguments against Protestantism as put forward by Catholic and reactionary authors, and an objective student of this subject will have to admit that they have a point.  However, I think that while this analysis is correct, it misses a proper understanding of the role that Protestantism has played in the development of Christianity. And I'm increasingly of the opinion that Christianity's survival in modernity may in large part due to its existence.

One of the things that strikes the observer of Catholicism is its strong sense of tradition and its resistance to change. Now, of course, a lot of this is due to the nature of Catholic theology but I think the institutional nature of the church plays a large role here as well. The lay observer, when reflecting on the current sexual abuse crisis, is struck by the fact of how the Church was unable to spontaneously institute the appropriate changes in governance and acknowledge fault, but rather had to be dragged "kicking and screaming" into recognising that it had a problem. The institution simply does not move.

It is said that God permits lesser evils so that greater ones will be avoided. When Luther nailed his thesis on the Church door he wasn't intending to break from the Church, but that's the way it turned out, and a large part of it was due to the institutional inertia of the Church in dealing with the problems of the time. Trent, when it finally came along, corrected many Protestant errors but it also honored may of its criticisms.  But its important to note that without Protestantism there would have been no Trent, and all of the reforms it instituted.   What I'm trying to say is that the institutional nature of the Church is reactive rather than proactive and without the Protestant push, it's unlikely that the Church would have spontaneously self corrected. God may have not wanted the Church to split but the clergy was incapable of self-generating reform, it needed Protestantism's dynamism to do that.

Scholars, looking at the relationship between modernity and Catholicism, have noted that Church's position was oppositional and other worldly, and until recently, it encouraged a culture apart from modernity. Catholicism's approach to modernity was literally defensive hoping for modernity to collapse and for medievalism to return.  Given that modernity did not fail and the fact that the Churhc did not have the "in house" skills to attack it meaningfully and it's no surprise that the Catholicism in the West collapsed suddenly with Vatican II, the Church pulled down the ramparts without going on the attack--it didn't know how to--and was simply overwhelmed.

Protestantism, unlike Catholicism,  did have a history of engaging with modernity.  England never went as feral as France and the Victorian Age was one of religious  piety with great social reform. Christianity in the Victorian Anglosphere was respectable and modern and it was able to achieve a successful transformative arrangement with modernity. Still, it ultimately suffered from the weakness of Protestantism and self-destructed because it could not filter the good ideas from the bad, it lacked a governing authority.

In my opinion, Christian Liberalism was the high point of the Protestant engagement with Modernity  and which gave us the marvelous Belle Epoque. However, Protestantism's inability to draw the line saw that liberalism degrade into the modern liberalism about us.

Staring at history from an Olympian perspective, one can think of Protestantism as an incubator of Christian ideas which served as an antidote to the institutional inertia of the Catholic Church which seemed to be happy to sit on the sidelines and complain. Some of these ideas;  like the abolition of slavery, religious tolerance, work ethic,  less reliance on the confessional, etc. were very good. The Catholic Church may have thundered anathemas at the Protestants but it was they who managed to achieve some kind of temporary workable synthesis with modernity, something the Catholics still can't do. The Church may have held the deposit of the faith but it was the "sound" Protestants who took it out to the field.

And there is no doubt that the success of Protestant culture had profound influence on Catholic culture which was able to absorb some of the ideas through cultural diffusion rather than explicit agreement. Newman's ideas on the freedom of conscience come straight from the Protestant playbook and have now become part of the "deposit of faith". When he converted he bought some of his Protestantism with him and the Church incorporated it. As I see it, the only way that Catholicism will be able to engage with modernism meaningfully is if it incorporates the "best bits" of Protestantism within it's body of faith.

What I'm trying to say is that from a big picture perspective, the "freedom" of Protestantism balanced the institutional inertia of Catholicism and gave Christianity--as a whole--the ability to adapt to the modern world in a way which would have been incapable had the Church remained in control: its institutional inertia--by the clergy and traditionalists-- being way too strong to overcome "in house." Protestantism provided the Christian space for innovation which produced both good and bad developments with the Catholic Church "filtering" and incorporating  the ideas when they were proven.

As G. K. Chesterton said:

"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."