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.


Kentucky Headhunter said...

You don't mention either the homosexual or socialist natures of large parts of the clergy in the Church. Why is that?

The Social Pathologist said...


I'm not sure what your getting at.

Firstly, with regard to homosexuals, there have been persistent rumors of a "gay mafia" within the Church and I'm inclined to believe the rumors. Though, I don't think this mafia is "large". Once again, it illustrates the point I was trying to make in that the Church's institutional response to moral evil in its ranks is severely lacking.

Prior to the 1950's, large part's of the Catholic Church were very sympathetic to Fascism, a moral evil incompatible with the Church, post V2 large numbers of the clergy have swung to the Left and embraced the ethos of the SJW. But they're not forming doctrine and have been rebuked on many times. Liberation Theology, for instance, has been roundly condemned. The fact that the current Pope is civil to some of the theologians does in no way mean he condones their theology.

I'm very hostile to socialist economics but I really don't care what a priest thinks about the economy as long as he teaches the Faith.

Kentucky Headhunter said...

The homosexuals are why the church can't form a real response to the child sexual abuse issue. The gay mafia doesn't have to be large as long as it's the group making decisions about shuffling abusers around instead of throwing them out.

Socialists are always socialist first, and can't compartmentalize or sublimate their true beliefs in favor of historic Catholic teachings.

The Social Pathologist said...

The homosexuals are why the church can't form a real response to the child sexual abuse issue.

The problem is that the sexual abuse saga is widespread and it excludes the notion of some small cabal being a enabling factor. It's the heterosexual priests who have failed in their task.

As for Socialism, I agree that there is far too much of it in the Church but the Itegralism of the past isn't its antidote.

Hoyos said...

I'm leery of many Catholic traditionalists because I see the same psychology of some fundamentalists. What I mean by that is that while you may believe in everything that they say, there is a tendency towards a belief in a system more than a belief in Christ. The conservative failure and the liberal failure of the church has frequently been at the behest of preserving a system. The system was the important thing, not the individual souls involved.

Actual charity entails some common sense and fighting. In the abuse scandals, the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska stands out as amazing. They had two priests accused and the bishop, not especially conservative as I understand it, investigated, defrocked the priests, turned them over to the authorities, and personally visited the families of the victims. You know, common sense from a man with a functioning soul, not especially outlandish. By "not protecting" the hierarchy, he protected the hierarchy. As opposed to a giant soul destroying tragedy and scandal, you just had a terrible thing happen that was immediately dealt with appropriately. My guess would be also that predators stayed away from a posting in the diocese; they would know their nonsense would not be tolerated.

The real question is why are we so seemingly impotent? My theory is that we have neglected a reason not to be.

The Social Pathologist said...

What I mean by that is that while you may believe in everything that they say, there is a tendency towards a belief in a system more than a belief in Christ.

Yes, I think this is the essence of Pharasiacism. Mistaking the rules for the reason for the rules.

By "not protecting" the hierarchy, he protected the hierarchy.

Absolutely correct.

The real question is why are we so seemingly impotent?

In my mind, the reasons for our impotence are many. But primarily we don't actually understand what we are fighting for, so in many instances we ally ourselves with elements, ideological and political, which undercut any efforts at renewal.

In my mind, the primary task of the Right is to try and understand why religion, the bedrock of culture, has failed in the 20th C West. Unfortunately many in the Right see politics as the solution to life's problems, just like the Marxists.

Hoyos said...

I don't like Nietzsche, truth be told, but he said one very wise thing, "he that has a strong enough why can bear almost any how."

We need a stronger why. Part of the appeal of Jordan Peterson is not the usual criticism that he makes "commonplaces sound profound" but that he makes commonplaces attractive. I know I should clean my room, he gave me a good enough to reason to lead to me actually doing it.

A lot of the morality I was taught was a terrible sales job; you do it because you do it and you're awful if you don't. Ironically the Bible isn't really like that, God goes out of His way to make doing the right thing attractive, and the wrong thing ugly. The reason you can get past some horrors that may befall you is that the eternal weight of glory outweighs it.

I had no idea courage felt better than not being courageous for a long time for example. That doing the right thing wasn't always some white knuckle bout of stress but could be an active pleasure. Interestingly enough, it's even better for your health, your nervous system responds differently if you're active under stress than if you're passive.

We've lost our why, and even the guys who have a "why" tend to emphasize the pain and horror, making virtue a very stressful running away as opposed to a running toward.

Anonymous said...

I would say that the RCC's official (Tridentine) position is that capital "T" Tradition is a body of faith and practice that goes back to Christ and the Apostles. Therefore it does not and cannot change. And if it is unpopular, and no one in the world wants to be Catholic anymore, so much the worse for them. Christianity is not a product to be sold by making it relevant to the modern world.

The Social Pathologist said...

@John Milton

Therefore it does not and cannot change

And yet it has.

Slavery, Usury, Conscience, Tolerance and ideas of salvation outside the Church, etc.

We don't crusade anymore.

Oh, and it's not a question of making it relevant to the modern world, it's actually an issue of trying to discern the mind of God. The recognition of the "intrinsic evil of slavery" was a long time coming in the Church even though it is a repository of the Faith.

MK said...

SP: He had no plan to take the bastards on.

Yes, this. What a fine post.

SP: It is my opinion that there will be no restoration with some kind of Christian restoration.

I think you mean "withOUT some kind of..."

The Social Pathologist said...


I think you mean "withOUT some kind of..."

Yes, that is correct.