Monday, August 27, 2018

Some Thoughts on the Clergy and Christian Revival

Atheist warning: Another religious post.

One of the things that impressed me most about the U.S. founding fathers is their recognition that good laws cannot constrain bad men. They understood that it did not matter what type of managerial structure you put in place, if the the people you were managing were corrupt the organisation was going to fail. Virtue, not better management, is the foundation of a stable and prosperous polity.

Living a virtuous life comes with the presupposition of knowing what virtue is. Hence the importance of philosophy, faith, ethics, etc.  These establish the norms of virtue and until modern times it was taken for granted that foundational stone of virtue in the West was religion and it was only relatively recently that men thought a system of ethics could be built on pure rationality alone.

Now, the point of this post is not to debate the respective merits of various ethical systems but simply to point out that ethical systems are foundational basis of any kind of "stable" society. In other words, values matter. In fact, values come before management. As the the old NRx adage goes, politics is downstream from culture,  and the current problems of the West should not be seen as a problem primarily of poor management, rather it needs to be recognised as a problem of crappy people. Nietzsche understood this very well.

Therefore the most important institutions in a society are its cultural institutions, and here I don't mean art galleries and libraries, but the whole system of value generation and management that concerns itself with the society's beliefs. Don't get me wrong, management matters, but management is primarily concerned with achieving desired goals and ideals and therefore, in a sense, management is subordinate to the culture.

It is this blog's contention that  what primarily ails the West is the collapse of the Christian value system and empozzment by both the modern secular project, a radical branch of the Enlightenment and the decay in quality of Christian thought. Secular has attacked Christianity from the outside but theological developments within Christianity have undermined it from within.

Therefore any restoration of the West has to come about with a restoration of the Christian value system first. Failing this and system is unable to reboot. However, Christianity itself has serious problems which seems to make this unlikely. That is why the task of fundamental importance for the West is the reformation of Christianity. Everything else is second order.

It is beyond the intention of this post to go into a through analysis as to why Christianity failed but it's important to briefly dwell on this subject. For years, the standard trope from the "orthodox" factions of Western Christianity laid the blame at  the feet of the laity, who they asserted, had been disobedient, and all would be right if they subordinated themselves to authority and doubled down. There is probably an element of truth in this position however, consistent loss, over a long period of time points to systemic error in operations and what this means is that there is a serious problem with command.

Unfortunately, one of the "faults' to which Catholicism is particularly prone to is the "preferential option for the clergy" which in essence means that when things go wrong the clergy looks exclusively among the laity for error. This Clericalism in the Church isn't just a problem about church power, but a mindset affects the Church's role in the world and how it responds to it. It assumes that when things don't go the way as the clergy expects it should, it is the "world" and not themselves which are at fault. It facilitates a sort of blindness when it comes to clerical self examination  and conditions them to look for faults everywhere else but themselves. From a systems analysis point of view it means that problems within command system don't get fixed and continue to perpetuate. Mistakes keep being made.

Things seem to have however come to a head with this current sexual abuse crisis--some sense of the awareness of the magnitude of the evil seems to be beginning to be grasped even by the clergy--however this should not blind us to the fact that corruption is not just sexual in nature, and the leadership of the church has been "inert" to many issues which verge on the morally negligent.  The Vatican finances have been a mess for decades. Theft, fraud and money laundering may not inspire in us the disgust that pedophilia does but they're moral evils none the less.  Idiot trads, blaming everything on V2, need to be reminded that prior to it many Catholic Priests were sympathetic to Vichy and the Nazi regime. Garrigou-Lagrange, one of the foremost Thomists of his time and the supervisor for JPII doctoral thesis, felt that the support of Charles De Gaulle (a pious Catholic) was a mortal sin, while the support of Vichy was morally upright. Dwell on that for a while.

Now, bad priests are always going to be a problem in the Church and that's not really the issue, the real issue is how the Church as an institution handles them and by any objective measure the handling has been a mess. Apart from what appears to be a lavender mafia within the hierarchy, many of the senior clergy, even when not complicit, seems to be suffering from a spiritual HIV which makes them incapable of recognising and  dealing with evil appropriately. The average contracepting, spiritually lax, morally dubious Catholic had a better grasp on the moral evil of pedophilia than many theologically trained bishops. Reflect on this for a moment and it illustrates just how deep the problem is. With Shepherds like these......

What the sexual abuse saga has forced is the recognition that the hierarchy has some serious systemic problems, the problem for Catholicism is, how do you fix up a system where the clergy have gone bad and even the virtuous laity have no rights. The answer is you can't while still operating in the system. For a reboot to occur some sort of "disruption to the usual process" is going to be necessary. And I do think we're headed for a period of disruption.

As I see it, the rechristianisation of the West is a precondition of any Western revival but before this can happen Christianity has to sort its problems out. For better or worse this is a problem with Catholicism rather than Christianity in general. I do not feel that Orthodoxy is up to the task and "sound"  Protestantism is a spent force. Therefore the action will be in Catholicism.

As I see it the following will need to occur:

1) A replacement of the current ecclesiastics, i.e. the officer corps. I imagine that what will happen here is that the Christian laity will through a sense of sensus fidelium put their weight behind certain bishops over others, purging the malevolent ones. It's gonna get sectarian. The Church will split into three factions; the trads, the lefties and the doctrinally sound.

2) Theological developments will have to occur which enable Christianity to engage modernism effectively. (Modernism, except in the case of a divinely willed apocalypse, is not going away) Some of the required development will come from the legacy of Protestantism, work ethic, acting like the elect, less reliance on the confessional, less mystical and more pragmatic Christianity, etc. A new "Theology of the Body" will be developed but I feel it will only have tenuous links with the work of JPII. These developments will most probably arise in the unexpected fringes and perhaps from the laity as well.

Interesting times lay ahead.

When I started writing this post the latest allegations against Francis (which I believe are false*) were not yet made. Things are moving much faster than I expected.

*Some of the revelations reported by Rod Dreher indicated that the homosexual subculture in the church exists in both liberal and apparent ultraorthodox variants. I feel that that this is a good cop/bad cop routine being played on Francis. Being Pope is a bit like being president, your information is given to you by your subordinates and so you are dependent on them. It became apparent during the recent Chilean controversy that Chilean bishops had lied to him, he finding out the truth after sending his own investigators to ferret the truth.  A lot of Trads don't like Francis, and are quite prepared to believe anything negative about him, (conformation bias) and while I'm not a big fan of his, I do think he is being set up.