Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Arturo Vásquez and his friends on the Catholic faith
Sorry for the length: when you lose track of a good blog there’s much catching up to do!
Ninety-nine percent of all confessions that a devout Roman Catholic will make in his life will be rather routine affairs. Yes, sin is dreadful. Sin is horrible. Sin is the only real evil in the cosmos. Mosquitoes aren’t evil. Leeches aren’t evil. A child stealing a cookie from a cookie jar: that is the only real evil in the world. The other two obey their nature, the third is rebelling against his nature, and therefore against the purpose of existence that God has given to Him.
Why, even though we can hope there are no people in hell, universalism makes no sense:
Many people have a problem with the doctrine of Hell. Anti-Staretz used to always say that he found Hell to be a rather consoling doctrine. Maybe he said this because he was just trying to be funny, but I found that other people who I have respected in my life have said the exact same thing. The problem of Hell has nothing to do with the failure of the mercy of God. It has everything to do with the horrible nature of human sin.
Theodicy: he and I don’t claim to have the answer of course.
Aside from the mystery of the Trinity Itself, perhaps the other great mystery is the mystery of evil. How will God be all in all when many of His creatures will be separated from Him for all eternity? How can they definitively turn away from God in the first place?
Contrition: good thing the imperfect kind is good enough for absolution.
Feeling bad about yourself yet? Don’t. It doesn’t help. You might be very contrite for a while, but then you will just go back to being your old self, stuck in your sins, comfortable with them, and treading water until you die and go before the Judgment Seat. Again, welcome to the human race!

It sounds cynical, but you have to realize that true contrition is not something that you can squeeze out of yourself as if you were squeezing water out of a sponge. It is a special gift from God, and if it were a regular event in your life, it would make you a total basket case.

I suppose this is one of the reasons I am extremely adverse to things written in Christian circles that reflect the sighs of
“o tempora, o mores!” Does any of this calling down wrath on our neo-pagan society help?
I wouldn’t say I’m extremely averse to them but am suspicious of them for similar reasons.
It is not that the evil of this age is not evil. It is rather that we as people who live in this age must claim responsibility for it. It is OUR fault that things are like this. If I have learned one thing from reading St. Silouan of Mt. Athos, it is that real holiness is not about feeling separated from the sins of the world, it is rather feeling responsible for the horribleness of all of the sins in the world as if you had committed each and every single one of them yourself. That is real contrition, and I may not feel it now, but at least I know that this is the direction I should be heading towards.

Many Catholics in the English-speaking world, along with convert Orthodox and Anglicans, will attempt to make sense of this cosmic catastrophe of sin and passion. They will try to use theories of asceticism, moral conduct, and other theoretical tools to soften the blow of proud modern man confronting the darkness and abyss of the fallen human heart. Rest assured that none of this stuff ever works, and what will endure, what has always endured, are the sacraments that Christ left us and the traditional piety that in an infinitesimal way compensates for our almost total lack of attention to the things of God.
On the lighter side:
We believe that a crucified Jewish carpenter rose from the dead. Some Lourdes water won’t kill you.
On ‘book religion’ or ‘living-in-your-head’ religion (RC neoconservatism or ‘as long as it’s a Wal-Mart’ churchmanship: ‘Yay! Imagination church!’) vs praxis:
There is a greater point I would like to make, however, and it has to do with the rest of our blogger's superb post, and it concerns what I call the rationalization of Roman Catholicism. That is to say, the creating of another parallel religious praxis of Roman Catholicism after the Second Vatican Council to replace the old one. In an earlier post on this featured blog, it was put very well in this manner:
“Well, at least we have the real sacraments!” is an oft-heard cry, but with it carries a smidgen of triumphalism and something more pernicious – that it doesn’t matter what they or we believe, as long as our sacraments are valid. We then give a point in argument to our critics: that all that holds us together is what the Catholic Church teaches about itself legally – that as long as one is tied to the pope, one is doing just fine in the spiritual sojourn.
I have been condemned for using the term "neo-Catholic" on this blog, and I realize that categorizing people often does not help. If, however, we are to understand what is going on in our own church, we must apply some labels, if ever so delicately. My main fear about Catholic conservatives who unquestionably accept the order that has emerged out of the Second Vatican Council is that they are creating a religion out of the book, and not using the book to guide the religion. That is, what is occuring now is no longer an organic development of what has been done in the past but rather a formation of something new loosely based on what some experts think the past should have been like.

Many of the more prominent neo-Catholic voices are either converts or Catholics who grew up in a very secularized Anglo-Saxon culture. Those of us who had the benefit of growing up in a Catholic culture that was merely the normal way of life often cannot understand their very polemical and all-too-Anglo concerns about having to justify the Catholic triumphalist position at every turn. ... I cannot help but feel that these intellectuals are creating a safe, paper religion that does not know how to keep vigil all night in a cemetery, do the Stations of the Cross on one's knees, or pray in front of a rosy-cheeked statue of the Child Jesus. Is the heart of this new conservative Catholicism,
Novus Ordo, faithful to the Pope, able to cite Newman at the drop of a hat, just cultural Protestantism on which a Catholic ideological structure is supposedly built?

...they have no idea what was lost; they have no idea how powerful all of those "decadent" things that have been consigned to church basements in the wake of the
aggiornamento really were.
My father confessor agrees entirely with that last bit.

Of course this Anglo will add a good word for the culture even whilst acknowledging (and bewailing my manifold sins and wickedness) Arturo’s points. With deep roots in Catholicism including the right understanding of reason as ‘conforming yourself to objective reality’ (the teaching of the Schoolmen and in turn classic Anglicans) English culture brought you tolerant conservatism and the foundation of classical liberalism, the culture that Newman of course belonged to. He was thought too conservative by the Anglicans (‘I can relate’ as they say) but too liberal by the Romans but had he really changed? I don’t think so.

On the difference and danger of ‘pre-modern by choice’ vs unself-consciously pre-modern:
It can be argued that even the mumbled pre-conciliar Mass of a distracted priest in an old Baroque church carries much more weight than even the sung Novus Ordo Mass as done by Solesmes. The former was unconsciously traditional, the latter is not. Tradition is truly tradition because we are beholden to it, not because we can re-make it according to our fancy.
I am barely old enough to have got my religion not just from reading books (‘the end of the world’ in the late 1960s happened when my father confessor was in his 20s; I got the aftershocks 25 years ago when I was a teen-ager and already catechised) so I think I understand you here, Arturo.

¡Muchísimas gracias!

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