Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Repost: Pt 2: The Enemy Within

Nietzsche had a mandatory criterion for the possibility of God, meaning to Life etc ; and that was Love being eternal....

He could not believe it ; and I truly believe that the major source of the crisis in the Church is the simple fact that despite wanting to believe it, and all the verbiage and innovative ritual attempting to compensate or paper over the hints of disbelief, this lack of belief is prevalent.

But the unbelief isn't the disease, it's merely a symptom of something a lot more subtle.

The cause ? We need to go back a century and the age of presumption and arrogance. Italy , France and Germany were beginning to settle down after generations of crisis; Britain and Ireland were beginning to reap the benefits of the decades-long struggle to re-integrate catholicism, The US was gaining the security in the power of money and distance from warring europe - and catholicism leapt on the bandwagon grasping the opportunity to thrive espcialy among the millions of immigrants, the British Empire was stealing a quarter of the world from its rightful owners and instigating 'peace' down the barrel of a gun and utilising every available natural resource - and we resided in the shadow of that effect ; The Church was gaining ground, there were no significant adversaries and theological/scriptural/moral/canonical and clerical spheres were beginning to become effective and powerful influences within societies; the social teaching of Leo XIII made this even more of a concrete visible active prevailing force - we built churches, hospitals, schools, junior and senior seminaries bulging at the seams - and it's here we begin to see the first signs of complacency...

I'm not going to go through a history lesson - it's all readily available to anyone interested - but the first major test to the Church in the new century was modernism. Now Pius X was truly a saint and he sought to remedy a crisis in a specific way - suppression of the questionable ; and the re-emphasising and reformed expression of age old dogmas and their doctrinal implementation and consequences - almost every available resource was oriented towards what the church teaches and how it is to be taught....

You see the problem ? It's very subtle , but here's the root of what followed - we were complacent in that we presumed that society and the individual were not going to significantly change in their outlooks and lifestyles...

Inadvertently we'd become contaminated with Hegelianism - we'd catholicized his notion of the Geist - the development and progression of society and the Church along a certain path - all that was required was a reiteration of 'the what and the how' of Church teaching ; the 'why?' we believe or act wasn't exactly ignored, but it was never deemed an absolute intrinsic necessity towards understanding and living the catholic faith - and anyway, catholic society possessed the capabilities to deduce the 'why' from the hearts and minds of those who thrived in the overwhelming thrall of the Church. Because we had a surplus of understanding 'the why' among the average cleric or devout parishioner, we merely assumed that feeding the faithful [and the trainee clergy] with 'the what and the how' was more than amply enough for doctrine and praxis to be sustained. We presumed that the monolith of the teaching authority of the church would suffice. We were negligent because we failed to notice the idol of 'Church authority' had feet of clay.

Thus the message of the 'why we believe and live that belief' was neglected and compromised; and in a way it became distorted and obfuscated into being perceived as not primarily a spiritual authority ; but more a regimented temporal [albeit religious] was seen as 'surplus to requirement' to do anything other than 'state the faith', not continually prove was seen as an unnecessary exigency to do anything other than 'show love of neighbour' through teaching, healing, feeding, housing, consoling and caring - very little effort was made to emphasise the 'why we love' or to validate or prove or remind the faithful 'what business we are about and why'

This negligence only took three generations to wreak havoc -war irreparably altered society and the clergy were already being contaminated by this black hole in their catechesis and training; the ignorance manifested itself in two ways:

a] questioning every aspect of the Church and the faith it professed and the morality it demanded; failing to realise that one was not personally equipped or experienced or educated enough to assess or discern the core motives and reasonings of the fundamental teachings, these people decided that they could work out their own , personalised theology, morality and ecclesiology - or sought answers from sources external to the church [regularly of the protestant ilk like Bultmann, Barth or Tillich]

b] defiantly refusing to contemplate the possibilities of the motives or reasonings behind the church teachings [possibly out of fear or a sense of possibly losing the newly acquired temporal power within a parish/diocese] and rather than attempt to understand the why ; instead blindly following what the church says to the letter [and possibly adding a more rigorist or pietistic flavour to it in the process] - 'Just do what you're told and stop asking questions!!!'

It was a lack of education, a dearth of understanding , and a childish arrogance [something only truly present among the ignorant] that led to the initial divergence of what we perceive now as progressive/liberal/neo marxist and the Ultra-traditionalist 'fascist'.

rather than being a Faith ; this ignorance allowed ideology to pervade and contaminate the ranks of the clergy.

But what about the parishes and dioceses ?

Well charitable activity, intense social interaction, continuous prayer and devotion and the machinations of the Holy Spirit through these corporal and spiritual works of mercy delayed or even halted the progression of the 'intellectual' malaise...but even within this there were detectable flaws, especially amongst the attitudes of certain clergy - whereas previously they had taken up the mantle of responsibility for their flock, burdened themselves, sacrificed and lived their love for the parish - with subsequent generations this responsibility and earned position of spiritual authority became distorted into the presumption of the younger priests [or the older priests who had been 'tainted by habit to forget the origins of things' ] that this clerical position was one of temporal , civic, social authority. The ostensible 'shepherd' slowly metamorphosed into a normatively benign well-meaning dictator !!! But this was by no means a universal occurrence - the high amount of clergy and their busy lives interacting with the communities allowed human living and loving to deflate a lot of clerical egos and autocratic ambitions....the only places it was truly likely to happen was where socio-cultural influences thrust the cleric into more than just a priest but a civic representative of authority - this usually occurred in either the rural backwaters [e.g. in ireland where the priest was practically a minor deity - we can still se it today in certain regions of the developing world or in the US among the ultra-conservative protestant bible belt pastors] or amongst the isolated or disenfranchised immigrant communities - Italians, Irish, Poles etc....

This clerical ambiguity of their role as a priest ,
and the ecclesiastical consequences of poorly trained catechetical intellectual ignorance ,
with the splitting of the church along the lines of ignorant loyalty [right-wing] and ignorant defiance [left-wing];
together with the rise in political ideologies of all flavours and their mixing with the realms of philosophy and social sciences and even transgressing into theology ;
all wrapped up in the social upheaval after the second world war - inevitably led towards Vatican II

....and we all know the consequences of that. [To be continued]

1 comment:

shane said...

Good post. It's easy to forget the strength of the pre-conciliar Church. The Second World War, and Communism, were crucial undercurrents leading to VII.