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.