Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Updated Repost: The 'Cleverness' of things...

"Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him." [Napoleon Bonaparte]

"If Jesus Christ were to come today people would not even crucify Him. They would ask Him to dinner, and hear what He has to say, and make fun of it." [Thomas Carlyle]

"Joined whom, what clever people?" cried Alyosha, completely carried away.
"They have no such great cleverness and no mysteries and secrets....
Perhaps nothing but Atheism, that's all their secret.
Your Inquisitor does not believe in God, that's his secret!"
['The Grand Inquisitor' from Dostoyevsky's 'The Brothers Karamazov']

On the Catholic Herald blog a while back  Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith commented on The Observer's '300 British Intellectuals' List and sadly noted the dearth of Catholics among the renowned [even the few Catholics present aren't exactly recognised for their Catholicism - did anyone know Mark Lawson was a Catholic? Awkwardly pretentious yes: But Catholic?] The Reverend Dctor asks is the Church so far out of touch with the mainstream as the list indicates? Where are the new Bl Cardinal Newmans, the new Graham Greenes, Evelyn Waughs, Malcolm Muggeridges?

I'll continue this and ask why is it so different elsewhere? The US recognises its Catholic Intellectuals and amongst the Clergy and 'professional' [in the real [i.e. good] sense] Catholic laity they have some really big hitters! Look at some of their {Arch]Bishops and Cardinals who are world-renowned for their intellect and erudition...Then there's Fr Benedict Groeschel, George Weigel, Michael Voris,Fr Frank Pavone, Fr Mitch Pacwa, Fr Larry Richards and on and on and on- even Fr Corapi before his's phenomenal - the spirit of Fulton Sheen continues....

But in England and Wales?
Who do we have?
Let's face it shall we - Preaching and Evangelising have gone out of fashion in perfidious Albion
Our Bishops are most definitely NOT advocates for, defenders of, or evangelists expounding the One, True Faith.
Our Intellectuals and Academics much prefer to stick to their own specialised elitist circles and write for them
- whether it be desiccated tomes on the liturgy or Church history or autobiographies...hiding from the faithful.

Ever heard of Joyce Meyer? I may disagree with her doctrinally and socio-economically but I wish to God she was a Catholic - because she's a better Christian preacher than ANYTHING I have ever heard from the Catholic Church in this country for decades...

The Redemptorists used to be fantastic - their missions would be phenomenal - unforgettable - and the Churches would be packed to bulging - even in the siales and chapels- children by the hundred sitting on the sanctuary because there was simply no room - and oecumenical? Ye gods! They were so popular we'd have atheist spouses, anglicans, methodists, jehovah's witnesses and the staunchest Orangemen or starchiest Eastern Star Matriarch for whom being seen in a Church would normally be a 'black affront'...but they were NOT going to miss out on the 'Reds' being in town...
What happened? Oh the Redemptorists found publication more lucrative, they found that watering down the faith made it more accommodating for themselves and the Conference/Diocesan keepers of the's now got to the stage where their trite inanities which contaminate the obverses of our parish newsletters have become utterly devoid of Catholicism - if not Christianity.

What went wrong?
There's a tale of the Old Desert Fathers:
St Antony was praying in the desert when the devil dropped in to say hello, after the regular banter and boasting of his temptations throughout the world the exasperated Devil declared:
"Antony you pray for hours depriving yourself of sleep - I NEVER sleep;
Antony you spend days fasting and abstaining - I NEVER eat;
But Antony you are humble - and so you have defeated me...."

So answer one is Humility - we stopped being humble
- oh we didn't stop being 'demure and self-effacing on occasions' but it was a sham...we lost the humility.
Well we became a mixture of Cafeteria Catholic and Pharisee
- we knew all the answers and where the Church disagreed? Well the Church should change....but more on that at a later time.


Answer two is easier and more recognisable:
How do you recognise a good text-book? Or a good history book or instruction manual?
The author is clever enough, wise enough, capable enough, experienced enough and empathic enough to be able to teach the truth with a childlike simplicity that anyone - given time and patience- can understand.
[The great language-mentor Michel Thomas argued that there is no such thing as a bad student - only bad teachers]

Oliver Wendell Holmes stated
"I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity."

Was St Paul anything but a scholar?
Was Chesterton an ill-read buffoon?
Was CS Lewis a school drop-out with only a cse in woodwork to his name?
Is St Francis de Sales being the patron Saint of writers a woefully inept designation?
Are the two Ss Theresa not intellectually qualified to be considered as Real Doctors of the Church?
Is Benedict XVI a 'bit backward'?

Then why have their writings the overwhelming simplicity of Truth which leaps from the page and thrusts itself all so simply and readily into our understanding?

Happenstance I have two moral theology books next to my keyboard - One is a massive annotated tome by Germain Grisez where he expounds every conceivable aspect of Catholic Morality - endlessly debating this and that aspect, reflecting on the overawing 'profundity' and 'complexity' and 'struggle', always advising caution in one's choices, reticence requiring reflection and never assessing anything's moral worth or the potential rightness/wrongness of an action without a scrupulous dialectical analysis. It gets to the stage wherehe refuses to make a decision on the important things while being rigoristly opinionated about the little and somewhat irrelevant things.
Next to it lies a tiny little battered, torn, coffee-stained copy of the Domincan Fr Gerald Vann's " Morals and Man" and I'm telling you now - That book has taken me to hell and back - led to sleepless nights - hours gazing distantly mid-air in thought - a whole day at work or doing housework and I cannot recollect a single instant of it because I've been lost in thought at a paragraph - or single sentence.
But it's a 'simple' book - very readily understandable - if one made the attempt one could complete it in a few hours..but it's diamond dust - for it contains that simplicity past complexity [something sadly lacking in the Grisez]

Take a look at contemporary theology books, or spirituality books and you find they are usually of two types - the first is dumbed-down and watered down beyond credulity - wasn't worth writing let alone reading.
The second type is even worse - exercises in narcissistic vanity; intense, complicated references and sesquipedalian terms to obfuscate and make the simplest of notions or principles incomprehensible - allusions to scripture or some 19th century german philosopher or a 17th century french poet or a dodgy latin phrase from some 'ahead of his time' monk who was burned for heresy in 1232 or whatever - all of which simply confuse rather than substantiate or edify; references to the greek nuances [usually eschaton and kerygma find their way in ] and page after page of guesswork by the author - usually on the hypothetical applications or metaphysical speculations or secret unmentioned motives or the conjectured actions of what someone might have thought, said or done. These authors should be charged for crimes against their own intellect - to have the arrogant deceit to hide a reality behind so many clouds of linguistics and ill-conceived flights of fancy - all to seem as if one is clever?
Well - it's a travesty!

So - it's either Books you don't need to read:
Or Books impossible for anyone to understand [I'm practically certain most of the authors can't - and those who swear by them as 'prescribed texts' have never even attempted to read them]

So answer two is intelligence and understanding - WE STOPPED CONVEYING THAT TRUTH

Now this is a long-term issue - it goes back over a century and for the necessity of brevity I'm going to have to refer you to a previous post and provide you with the conclusion here - We stopped using apologetics - we simply stated the what and the how without ever giving any cogent reasoned answers 'Why..."

Answer three is the I'll state it then try to explain it - although I remain utterly incredulous.


Virtually every day I have spent on the internet speaking on a Catholic issue I have been accused of being doctrinaire or cruel or uncharitable or thoughtlessly insensitive or arrogantly dismissive or ignorantly presumptuously unwilling to compromise or accommodate or give people's opinions and beliefs 'the respect they deserve'. I have been denounced as a 'Taliban' Catholic or an 'Ultra' - "more Catholic than the Pope" - an insensitive abusive Pharisee - a Jansenist - who 'neither reflects nor relates contemporary Catholic understanding or teaching on the issues' and I should be roundly condemned accordingly [One dear Catholic lady [an Austen Ivereigh fan] even suggested I should have my children removed by social services because I was so despicably hateful and must be prevented from indoctrinating my children with this vitriol].

I'm going to leave the response to Chesterton:

"If a critic tells a particular lie, that particular lie can be pointed out. If he misses a specific point, that point can be explained. If he is really wrong in this or that, it will be on this or that that the insulted person will eagerly pounce. But “malice and spite” are vague words which will never be used except when there is really nothing to pounce on. If a man says that I am a dwarf, I can invite him to measure me. If he says I am a cannibal, I can invite him to dinner. If he says I am a coward, I can hit him. If he says I am a miser, I can give him half-a-sovereign. But if he says I am fat and lazy (which is true), the best I can answer is that he speaks out of malice and spite. Whenever we see that phrase, we may be almost certain that somebody has told the truth about somebody else."
The Illustrated London News, 13 November 1909.
We are caled to be 'The Salt of the Earth" - both a part of it yet apart from it .
Now I don't know if anyone's said it before but here's the deal:



So When Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith asks us "Where are the Catholic Intellectuals" The answer is sadly the majority have ceased to be intellectuals [much preferring to be elitist incoherent 'academics', populist dumbed-down well-loved 'characters' or socialite raconteurs who 'know everybody worth knowing']
and in the process they have also ceased to be 'public' Catholics - the price of Catholicism being far too high to be accommodated or acceptable in Modern social circles...
The true Catholic Intellectuals are far too invisibly getting on with God and getting on with Life - and that's definitely not part of the Observer's understanding of the social milieu.

Where are our modern day Chesterbellocs and Muggeridges and Fulton Sheens?
They're all around us - they're just not wanted.
Remember the adage of the Abbot of Worth?

"The Media is no place to evangelise!!!!"

So many are so willing to oblige him!!!

 Countercultural Father is also concerned

The what we believe and how we live mean nothing without the why - and for that we need apologetics - and frankly virtually anything that's been proffered recently and called 'apologetics' [and sorry to name names but that includes Dr Ivereigh's latest] has had absolutely nothing to do with apologetics.
If Protestants can do it
- if we have Church Militant TV running intensive apologetics tv programmes,
if Maryvale is doing a Masters course in it,
if we have the gold dust of the works of Peter Kreeft & Scott Hahn
and the Diamond Encrusted Platinum excellence of Sheed & Ward and a heritage of the CEG - we frankly have no excuse...

When did we turn utilitarian appealing to the consequences/benefits/detriments of society rather than the intrinsic moral rightness and wrongness of issues?

In my Catechetics classes I've had to throw out virtually all the available material of the past forty years and resort to Frank Sheed's works as i t thrives within and proffers that 'simplicity beyond complexity'.

I'm getting a little bit sick of those claiming to speak for me as a Catholic neither knowing nor understanding basic Catholic principles and teachings - and instead replacing it with 'common sense best-guesses and platitudinous 'winging it''.

This has nothing to do with being highly educated or undergoing intensive media/evangelical/apologetic training - this is about the basic [hitherto adolescent-level] fundamentals of our faith...

...and it's frankly becoming more and more embarrassing when 'professional' clerics and laity aren't delivering the mesage because they never 'got it' in the first place...


Left-footer said...

Brilliant analysis! Thank you, and god bless.

Left-footer said...

Sorry, please delete my previous comment with its typo.

It should have read: "Brilliant analysis! Thank you, and God bless."

Mhairi said...

When my family lived in St Louis MO we used to attend Joyce’s church each week. She is truly a powerful preacher and I have heard her many times but you wouldn’t look favorably upon a lot of what she says. Joyce is what is called an economic evangelical. In other words, if we have enough faith then we will not only be spiritually but financially prosperous. Faith is translated into money, promotion at work, big houses (Joyce has several) luxury cars (Joyce has several - but for distance travel she uses her Gulfstream plane).

Now, my family does happen to be financially prosperous: husband a lawyer, three privately educated kids: a lawyer, a pediatrician and one still in college (Johns Hopkins), good vacations, a housekeeper, excellent health insurance - you get the message? So according to Joyce we are faith-filled Christians. Of course, by extension, those suckers who stack shelves in our local Walmart are lacking in faith. Let’s not even begin to talk about those nasty illegal immigrants who come over here and steal jobs from patriotic Americans. Nope, those folk are “chained in the superstition of Catholicism”. Hardly the message of the Gospel.

I guess you’ve figured out that we don’t attend Joyce’s church anymore. My husband and I,together with our eldest son became Ctholics some time ago. My other 2 preferred the ECUSA which is too liberal for us, but fine for them.

Joyce is adorable and nspirational in many ways but - like many Catholic bloggers - she is simplistic and tends to think that those who disagree with her also disagree with Jesus. (Hmm) As for your statement that you wished she were Catholic - Joyce would I’m sure rather die than join a church she believes to be run my misogynists who wont let a woman in the pulpit.

Smiley said...

Humility is hard, because it means speaking the truth and facing being misunderstood and being name called and even being called a liar. That is hard. Its hard to be humble cause it hurts that part of us we love the most ourselves. BUt is it posible to be christian if one is not humble or not striving to humility?

Anonymous said...

A pity that nowdays people who quote from the old "Penny Catechism" (which was the epitome of clarity and truth) are rubbished.

Hidden One said...

I regret to have to inform/remind you that Fr. Corapi's dropped out of that list, effectively.

He was suspended with cause and has now begun a 'ministry' sans the title "Father". He's abandoned SOLT, his religious order.