Saturday, September 28, 2013

The End of Christendom: How must we then live?

A courier was waiting outside my door when I answered the knock this morning. He handed me a letter containing the following lengthy and meaty ruminations (slightly edited) from our correspondent on retainer, Guy Noir, Private Eye:
So why does this ["Secretary of State and married priests," RC, Sept. 12, 2013] depress me? It's not Celibacy: It's Celibacy and Everything Else!

Let' see...

The Vatican Secretary of State thinks priests should marry. Because that will help the drastically ebbing tide of vocations. The answer is to upturn old policy and down the requirements.

Benedict XVI is tired, and can no longer stomach his job, so he thinks the answer is upturning old policy and allowing Popes to retire.

George Weigel finds old school legalism off-putting, so historic modies of expression should be upended and "Friendship with Jesus" as the answer.

Francis thinks clerical trappings are a turn-off to moderns, so the answer is to overturn old policy and be the plain brown wrapper pontiff.

This Pope thinks pagans feel unwelcome in Church, so we should simply baptize their babies.

Christopher Schonborn thinks we have disenfranchised gays and lesbians, so the answer is to do a reverse and admire their relationships and install them on parish boards.

The head of the CDF thinks traditionalists are embarrassing, so they should be upbraided and abandoned.

Hans von Balthasar and Robert Barron are offered as replacements for the now deserted Garrigou-Lagrange and Gerald Vann. Adrien Von Seyr is the new Sister Lucia. GK Chesterton is to be sainted, and on the internet he and Benedict XVI are wishfully dubbed mystics by their articula champions.

... Post-evangelical Derek Webb has a new album out called "I Was Wrong, I'm Sorry, and I Love You." Sounds like the current message of Modern Catholicism. A Church that does nothing but change seems to have very little base unchanging truth it is called to defend. Oh... enter the essential theological thrust of Modernism. Enter Bishop Jerferts Schori and ABC Rowan WIlliams. We seem that much closer to That Glittering Unity. The new Church Basilica can be in what the Holy Father might call The Malvinas.

On a related note, "Beautiful, Liberal Chautauqua" (On the Square, September 6, 2013) by Mark Tooley, resonated with me, given its familiar ethos from the 1970s in which I grew up.

Catholic readers say tut-tut, and, "There you go! Without the safeguard of the Magisterium, dissenters like Protestants will devolve into Liberalism!" John Henry Newman theorized similarly.

I think the argument has merits, but it is not exactly full-proof. Protestantism, to my Catholic mind, is of course deficient, but it also has an element that self-reforms or regenerates in response to Liberalism. Hence the endless splintering by conservative Presbyterians.

Catholicism, on the other hand, has a a harder time reforming, since the institution itself is part of the Faith. And I also think the comments in Tooley's piece on evangelism sound an awful lot like what Joseph Ratzinger wrote at the time of Vatican II. In essence he said our way is the fullness, but we can't expect everyone to embrace it. We must encourage them to be their best selves, in their own faith worlds. He did nuance this by insisting that we do possess the Objective Truth, but then went on to essentially nullify the law of non-cobtradiction. Thus your observation that it is hard to find stories of Catholic converting nonbelievers to Christianity. Thus the unavoidable observation that the "New Evangelization" seems an awful lot like a re-enculturation project for lapsed Catholics. Catholic TV ads seem to say, "Come home, to Eurocentric culture with a tradition and a school system and jokes you know!"

And I'd argue that what Rev. Ms. Brown has done at Chautauqua and the liberals have done in the ECUSA, Catholics like OBrien has done at Notre Dame, Raymond Brown has done in the community of Catholic scholars, and Sister Joan has done in the Sisterhood. As for Bishops of various dicoeses, well...

And the Magisterium has said to Catholics... Well, I am not sure it has said much at all. Check out the various comments at FIRST THINGS over Adrienne von Speyer and HvB. But a lot of what it HAS said, or at least Popes have said, sounds just as much like Ms. Brown as it does like Tradition! I think your comments about a potential future are jarringly possible. Of course an earlier pope is famous for having roared, "I AM TRADITION!" I never understood why that was problematic, until I realized if every individual defines it variously, Tradition becomes a meaningless phrase, a person and not a custodian.

The economy is bad. Times are bad. Yet the schools are crammed with students who are starry-eyed about a materially robust future. My friend call me lamenting how difficult it was for his medical student son and his cohabiting girlfriend to find an affordable apartment...They "settled" on a place that rented for $1200 monthly.

I believe it was on the cover of Malcolm Muggeridge's "The End of Christendom" that I read part of this quote from Archbishop Fulton Sheen:
The world in which we live is the battleground of the Church. I believe that we are now living at the end of Christendom. It is the end of Christendom, but not of Christianity. What is Christendom? Christendom is the political, economic, moral, social, legal life of a nation as inspired by the gospel ethic. That is finished. Abortion, the breakdown of the family life, dishonesty, even the natural virtues upon which the supernatural virtues were based, are being discredited. Christianity is not at the end. But we are at the end of Christendom. And I believe the sooner we face up to this fact, the sooner we will be able to solve many of our problems.

Thirty or forty years ago, it was very easy to be a Christian. The very air we breathed was Christian. Bicycles could be left on the front lawns; doors could be left unlocked. Suddenly, all this has changed; now we have to affirm our faith. We live in a world that challenges us. And many fall away. Dead bodies float downstream; it takes live bodies to resist the current. And this is our summons.

We will have to begin a different church. We are for a moment on a trapeze. We are in between the death of an old civilization and culture and the swing to the beginning of the new. These are the times in which we live. They are therefore wonderful days; marvelous; we should thank God that we live in times like this. (From the book Through the Year with Fulton Sheen, pages 27 & 28)
[Hat tip to JM]


5 comments:








Lynne

said...

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over (watering down the faith) and expecting different results.





Sheldon

said...

And now the Vatican Secretary of State is suggesting, like the morons over at National Catholic Fishwrap, that the solution to the crisis in priestly vocations is to open the door to married clergy. What brilliant insight! Like shooting yourself in the foot with admirable unerring accuracy.





I am not Spartacus

said...

The Vatican Secretary of State thinks priests should marry. Because that will help the drastically ebbing tide of vocations. The answer is to upturn old policy and down the requirements.

Excellent. When hasn't sexual intercourse been the answer to crucial problems?





Ralph Roister-Doister

said...

"Thirty or forty years ago, it was very easy to be a Christian. The very air we breathed was Christian. Bicycles could be left on the front lawns; doors could be left unlocked. Suddenly, all this has changed; now we have to affirm our faith."

What are you saying, archbishop? Surely all this safety and security was in no small part the result of people who were already living their faith, as today they
are not. If we were not "affirming our faith" before, what exactly were we doing?


"We will have to begin a different church. We are for a moment on a trapeze. We are in between the death of an old civilization and culture and the swing to the beginning of the new. These are the times in which we live. They are therefore wonderful days; marvelous; we should thank God that we live in times like this."

I wonder when Ab Sheen said this. It sounds very much like a man of the Church giving up the ghost and coming to terms with the "New Springtime." With Sheen you could never be sure: his golden oratory tended to melt away like cotton candy before it could be analyzed. Catholics were in tune then, far more so than today. Analysis seemed superfluous: they knew what he meant. Now Catholics hardly recognize one another as CAtholics. And much of the reason why is the "wonderful, marvelous" event of the sixties. If the Tiber is choked with "dead bodies" today, perhaps the reason is that too many priests, bishops and cardinals were all too eager to make their peace with the nouveau regime, and go on living their lives.





JM

said...

R D-D: Hear Hear! Same exact scenario unfolded with Frank Sheed and his publishing house, and Sheed + Ward today is about as Catholic as Mother Jones Press. Most today too seem far too eager to make their peace with JPII, BXVI, and now Francis as the perfect and incorruptible expressions of all things Catholic, even when any one of them might at unfortunate moments sound closer to the Dali Lama. In fact, reading interviews, even Paul VI often sounds more "Catholic" in overall verbage than his successors, since the determination to speak in Meaningful Phrases has become ever more central, driving utterances farther and farther from real points of relevance. Because God gave us the Church as an institution, it seems a bit harsh to judge people as enthralled with an institution versus Truth, but that seems the very evident reality. No one is recounted as hyperventilating around Peter (or Paul, for that matter), but Francis is near to passing Obama in the Venerated category.