Sunday, December 31, 2006

On ‘hispanicising’ RC culture in the US
Fr Andrew Greeley is a liberal, seemingly the kind of condescending one who likes traditional things for sentimental and anthropological reasons, a bit like Joseph Campbell, but often once you get past that — and his famous literary preoccupation with sex — this priest and sociologist has a point as he does here. (And Thomas Day understood the Irish Jansenism that Greeley’s obviously railing against.) He seems to take a gringo’s boutique ‘spirituality’ approach — ‘sure, a lot of it’s superstition but I know most of it’s not true and I can make it work for me’ — and never mind his blather about Trent vs Vatican II but his valid point is that a kind of living tradition like mediæval Christendom can be found in some Hispanic cultures. (¿Verdad, Arturo?) A lot of it is sanctified natural religion. Different from the ice-cold consolation of a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ without any community or praxis.

But as the late Canon Colin Stephenson observed (in a manner not unlike Greeley’s) if you want to see mediæval Catholicism in action see Eastern European Orthodoxy.

In unbowdlerised form I dare say that’s not what the spirituality-shoppers chafing at the big bad church’s rules had in mind! The sexes standing in church on opposite sides for hours-long services... headscarves and long skirts in church for the women... only men are allowed behind the iconostasis... ‘priest’s back to the people’ (really Godwardness: priest and people facing the same direction)... midnight Communion fasts, no meat on Wednesday and Friday and four serious fasting periods of the year in which no sex is allowed... I dare say not. They tolerate it from people deemed exotic enough and in small enough numbers to be non-threatening but they’d scream bloody murder if Roman Riters did it. Ah, political correctness. As a friend observed a long time ago if this lot took it seriously Eastern Orthodoxy would be an embarrassment to them.

In traditional societies it’s not ‘spirituality’ where you’re in control of things including God; it’s religion where you know you’re not entirely in control and humbly ask a higher power to help you. And conforming yourself to objective reality: ‘reason’ as the Schoolmen and classical Anglicans understood it.

Yes, ‘here comes everyone’.

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