Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Vatican II as Catholic Perestroika

It is said that the priestly ordination of lay people in distant communities is necessary, because of the difficulty encountered by ministrants in reaching them. In my view, the setting of the problem in these terms reveals an ingrained clericalism. It seems that where there is no "priest" or "nun" there is no ecclesial life. The basic problem is much more serious. A Church has been created where the laity do not see themselves as protagonists and where there is little or no sense of belonging, a Church that, if there is no "priest", does not work. This is an ecclesiological and pastoral aberration. Our faith, as Christians, is rooted in baptism, not in priestly ordination.
(Father Martin Lasarte)

I really did not take much interest in the Amazon Synod simply because to me it looked like more of the same thing that the Church has been doing for the past fifty years. People got worked up about Pachamama and the issue of lay ordination but to me it really was all about rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.  Still, one guy did catch my attention and that was Father Martin Lasarte, a hand picked representative of Francis, who seemed to have more sense than most when it came to the issues at hand.

Unlike the partisans who pitched battle during the Synod, Lasarte recognised that the Church's problems are much deeper than the superficial issues blathered about in the media. Lasarte recognised that Catholic Church seems to have a serious problem with the laity, regarding them as sort of half-Christians, with the consecrated life being the only true "authentic" Christianity. And, as Lasarte recognises, this "operational" view has devastated the life of the Church.

While many may balk at the proposition, in understanding the trajectory of modern catholic history its useful to think of the Catholic Church as being sociologically similar to the Communist party of the USSR. There was Big Brother (Pope), the Inner Party (Curia), Outer Party (Clergy) and the Proletariat (The faithful). The Party was always right and it was the role of the Proletariat to follow instructions......or else, especially in Pre V2 (Stalinist) times.

Ask any old Commie(Trad) what killed the Soviet Union and they'll all point the finger to Gorbachev, their John XXIII, who initiated the policy of Glasnost and Perestroika, the Soviet Union's version of Vatican II. And they would be right since the system, as it was envisaged, left no room for independent action within it. It also needs to be remembered that many of the men who initiated the policy of Perestroika weren't sentimentalists, rather they could see that they were being out-competed by the West (Modernism) and they had to reform if they were to survive.

Following the collapse of the Soviet system it was felt by all the boffins at Harvard that all one had to do to encourage the flourishing of the free market in Russia was to enshrine property rights, liquidate inefficient industries and lower taxes and all would be hunky dory. But what was never considered is the fact that how do you produce a free market in a people who were for generations deliberately prosecuted for showing any entrepreneurial spirit and who were continually weaned on the nipple of state managerialism. What eighty years of the soviet experience had produced is an economically docile and inept man who had no skills at operating in a free market, and when the market was finally liberalised the only people who had actual authority and initiative made off like bandits, impoverishing the rest of the country.

Likewise, Catholic glasnost came about at the same time as the cultural revolution of the Sixties, and catholic laymen, much like "freed" soviet workers, got to fend for themselves  in the "free market of ideas" with the same observed results. When you start thinking about it the parallels are very eerie.

The reason why perestroika failed to produce the expected benefits in the Soviet Union is because the Stalinist/Leninist system had wiped out the entrepreneurial spirit that is vital in the formation of small to medium businesses, the backbone of any capitalist system. Likewise, the Catholic system had wiped out any form of spiritual entrepreneurialism leaving the laity open to Modernity.  The theologians conflated obedience with faith. and failed to recognise a very deep weakness of the Church.

Lasarte recognises that arguing about all the other stuff is useless unless the fundamentals are sorted out first. He also lists several instances where because of circumstances, the laity were able to build thriving Christian communities in the absence of clergy and one certainly gets the impression that Church governance rather than lay "disobedience" may be more of an issue.   For those who are interested, here are a few pertinent links. 

Amazon Synod: Are married priests really a solution? 

Amazon Synod: New paths and pastoral illnesses (Part Two) 

Evaluating the Synod for the Amazon: Fr Lasarte’s ten ‘likes’ and nine ‘dislikes’

My own thoughts are that any Christian revival of the West is going to be lay led, I also imagine that it will be strongly opposed by large sections of the Clergy.