Saturday, January 18, 2014

Humani Generis and Downton Abbey

The underground correspondent we keep on retainer in an Atlantic Seaboard city that knows how to keep its secrets, Guy Noir - Private Eye, wired me this really excellent and intriguing set of reflections:
Interesting piece here by a priest writer I have found quite on target in the past: Fr. Brian van Hove, S.J., "Looking Back at 'Humani Generis'" (Homiletic & Pastoral Review, December 23, 2013)

I tacked on a comment at the end. [See below]

But really, to you I'd coment, what are we really reading here? I find it an an exercise in wishful thinking or maybe an unintentional whitewash.

I wonder if you asked seminary students to read Humani Generis and summarize each section in easy to understand modern phraseology, and then asked them to parallel that with modern Catholic parish attitudes towards language, evolution and Scripture... Would any one of them would say the general advice of the Pope was still given credence today?

And does anyone retain a remote appreciation for the perceived attacks that prompted the encyclical? I ask this since it amuses me that it is perceived as an artifact when it is dealing with the exact same challenges being posed today. That's why Mohler asks of TV's hit "'Downton Abbey' and the Modern Age—What Are We Really Watching?" That show is a story of what unfolded in the same period that Wilfrid Ward knew men like Belloc and palled around with guys like Huxley and von Hugel.
Guy Noir's comment on the linked piece by Fr. Brian van Hove, S.J. on Humani Generis
A fascinating article, but for me it begs a question. Why is it that the revival brought about by the New Theology finds its exponents doing things like defending de Chardin? Why did these same defenders seem so unconcerned about the erosion of Biblical authority and so naively surprised by the liturgical hijinxs that followed? They met Modernism by changing rhetoric, but not by directly answering its challenges. That is what the Papal Office sought to do.

Honestly, not many of the masses who were put off by Latin syllogisms were much more helped by DeLubac’s or HvB’s cerebral works in the vernacular. A guy like Frank Sheed welcomed the lifting of the manualist straightjacket, but he also found the cummulative result of the progressive reforms he helped initiate so disturbing he had to ask, “Is It the Same Church?” Meanwhile, we now have Popes quoting De Chardin! Yes, Garrigou Lagrange and Merry del Val advocated an exactitude that was self-defeating, but within that advocacy there was an appreciation for the necessity of precision, clarity and plain-speaking in doctrine that would go a long way towards eliminating the confusion that now is constant. Evolution is a prime example. Check out the CCCs comment that Genesis relates a historical reality against the mantra assumed to be doctrine that is quoted by priests at the parish level based on JPIIs comments. The later cannot be squared with HG, but it can be squared with the soft edges of Nouvelle theology.

Harshness in doctrine kills, absolutely, but so does a fuzziness that reduces everything to vagaries that are suffocated in an avalanche of footnotes. That is somehow where the New Theology helped to take us, albeit unintentionally. I think it was right to point out the deficiencies of Scholasticism, but we now also need to appreciate the problems in the Nouvelle school that are very real as well. I am glad to see the reputation of Garrigou Lagrange being gradually rehabilitated (It is fascinating that he and Maritain were good friends.)
There are also a couple of good comments by John Lamont.

[Hat tip to JM]


Ralph Roister-Doister said...

Oh dear, that harsh harsh scholasticism, and the harm that it has caused! Even conservatives must hold it at arm's length, lest they be banished to the children's table at the Nouvelle Dumb Ox Roast & Lawn Fete. Priests and theologians are as much careerists as anyone else, and they are NOT going to let their glorious careers be sidetracked in such a manner. Viva el papa of the month!

Antiquarianism is not necessarily a bad thing, but the antiquarianism of the French and German nouvelles of the last century was compromised by a spineless pliability toward modernism. The manuals of the scholastics were sooo oppressively boring, and the jargon of the romanticists -- of Bergson, Blondel, Schelling, De Chardin and Barth, for starters -- was so EXCITING!!! The foppish nouvelles wanted to ignore the Church as it existed in their time, and pose as leaders of a romantic catacomb community that did NOT exist in their time. At the same time, they longed to embrace modernist delusions such as religious freedom with an enthusiasm that they may have been naive enough to think would win over their secularist partners in dialogue. This they could not do in a "manualist" environment.

They failed to see the contradiction between their Church and their aspirations to be at play in the fields of the Lord. Their failure of vision and lack of integrity in governance resulted in a restoration of the dogmatic instability, heresy, and fratricidal confrontations of those early centuries -- things that one would have hoped had been left behind by time of the Middle Ages. Now those things were back with a vengeance, because of the foolishness of "antiquarian" romanticists who wanted to save us all from the scourge of the scholasticist "harshness" that everyone seems so strangely compelled to apologize for, even in the act of "defending" it.

A millenium and a half of refinement and clarification down the drain! A deconstruction and outright perversion of thomism at the hands of De Lubac, Chenu, Lonergan, Rahner, etc, ratified by Pope Wojtyla in support of his own briar patch of fuzzy nuptialism and personalist sexuality -- the new basis for "higher discernment." Once again, the Holy Spirit will have to teach the lesson of egotism as the true basis of pietist-romanticist enthusiasm. Nothing is more costly to the soul than bad leadership.

Sheldon said...

=) Lovely.

JM said...

"...Pope Wojtyla in support of his own briar patch of fuzzy nuptialism and personalist sexuality'..."

Wildly non-deferential, but also 100 percent on point. I can no longer even begin to listen to people extol the "theology of the body," it seems so lame on the face of things.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

The Nouveau’s dysfunctional family:

(a) The Church, in all of its patriarchal character, is the nonetheless the bride of Christ, after the Song of Songs.

(b) Believers, male and female, are figurative brides of Christ

(c) The Holy Ghost is the father of the incarnated Christ

(d) But Scott Hahn’s family is the earthly analogy of the Holy Trinity, with Scott as the Father, the children as the Son, and Kimberley as the suddenly “bridal-maternal” Holy Ghost.

This must be why why nuptial theology is often called “mysticism”: logically, it is absurd. Even as aesthetic theology – that is, theology processing from metaphor rather than dogma – it is mixed metaphor of such a degree as to inspire laughter rather than aesthetic rapture (much less adoration). Absurdly mixed metaphor is not a sign of stunning theological advancement, but of theological impoverishment. To make of this confusion a shibboleth is odd behavior indeed.

JM said...

Meanwhile you can read Fr. Van Hove reveal his antipathy. It DOES make you wonder at conservatives and how they can alienate people. VH writes,

"If the European bishops had not been so angry at what they had seen and experienced in their formative years, they might have been less motivated to correct this particular abuse at Vatican II. The solution of the problem of today creates the monster of tomorrow."

Likewise, Wilfrid Ward writes that Frank Sheed often preferred the company of liberals to brittle conservatives.

Caricature? Sure. And we see where the "Let's be friends" vibe gets us. Nonetheless, never hurts [too much] to see how others see us. The Pope stays busy reminding us, but he also becomes hard to take seriously. So I figured...

Johannes de Silentio said...

The comments that make reference to St. Louis IX are rather choice as well.