Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Normal Catholic life or lack thereof
Or what’s wrong with both the RC traditionalist movement (Fr Anthony Chadwick nailed this when he was blogging) and conservative Novus Ordo. From Moretben via Arturo Vásquez.
Catholicism, one might be forgiven for observing, only actually exists today on paper. What Bishop Fellay calls "normal Catholic life" is not possible anywhere - not in a "conservative" parish, and not in the SSPX, either. Whatever one's position, one requires an additional layer of theory (“hermeneutic of continuity” or “state of emergency”, according to inclination) to qualify it - to paper over the theological or ecclesiological gaps and fissures one has to live with in practice.

What to do about it it? I don't know. Telling the truth, though, has to be the indispensible condition of an integrated Christian life. A religious posture which requires to be shored up with ideological constructions and historical contingencies in order to preserve the appearance of coherence - of
realisability - cannot be maintained indefinitely.
Well, at times in the past 40 years — in my case about 25 out of about 30 as a consciously practising churchman — it’s felt that way!

First of all, as I wrote to Fr Marshall Scott recently, there was the destruction of the Catholic Movement in Anglicanism, really accelerated in the time period I named above. Just like I’m sure Moretben doesn’t mean there are no churches with holy and sound priests and valid (‘grace-filled’ in Orthodox lingo) sacraments for a Western Catholic to go to (he and I aren’t advocating ‘home alone’ religion, which is just another form of ‘imagination church’ he’s rightly criticising) of course I know there are still Anglican parishes, even officially ‘non-aligned’ ones really ‘under the radar’, that have got the Catholic religion. What I meant was there really is no more Movement — the Congresses*, the Church Union, the American ‘biretta belt’ — that can confidently claim it alone speaks for Anglicanism (which, I said, wasn’t really arrogance, like it was all one person’s idea, but rather faith) no matter how much you can read Catholicism into classic Anglicanism.

So Moretben is saying here about some well-meant movements among RCs.

From one of his more recent entries:
... pray the Office anyway. Pray the Missal. [Mass-and-office Catholicism!] Adopt both as the primary source and inspiration of your devotional life - but for the good of your soul, keep clear of TradWorld!
As I like to say the real pre-conciliar Western Catholic church was neither 1) monolithic nor 2) a perfectionistic, even Jansenist, little sect like the traditionalism I think Moretben is criticising. ‘The Catholic Church: here comes everybody’: you had the good, the bad, the indifferent and lots of it!

I know because not only am I barely old enough to remember the tail end of the old Anglicanism but my father confessor for the past 11 years remembers old-school RC: he grew up in it and loved every minute of it. (Prays for every Sister of St Joseph who taught him.) According to him what I just wrote above was true!

This natural traditionalism, not the cultish self-conscious kind, came up recently when I was talking to two Russian Orthodox priests, both of whom grew up old-school RC... we were talking about the people who reject the recent reunion of the Russian Church (more). These men, on the other hand, understand what it means to be the mystical body of Christ, in the Una Sancta: how could they not? The nasty doxer-than-thou converts who write much online about Sergianism, ‘evil’ ecumenism and how wicked the reunion is (and, unlike 19th-century Russian gentlemen, are beastly not only to other Christians — that toxic anti-Westernism — but, among them, other Orthodox!) often came from Protestantism and just don’t get this! Many born Orthodox do however — because of that, among them the big issues tearing the West apart never really come up. (Sure, there are lots of people with wrong opinions but they usually don’t about changing the church to fit them. Old-school RCs knew better too even when they didn’t live up to the church’s teachings.) And all without charismania, ‘Santo subito!’, EWTN or even this medium for that matter.
On the other hand, although I am grateful to the SSPX on whom I have depended, on and off (and never exclusively) for twenty-five years, they remain committed, apparently, to a mere restoration of the status quo ante.
Yes but the trouble is it’s not even really that but a fanatical sort of caricature of a certain kind of 1950s church life, not the real stuff with all its depth and breadth: people from Francisco Franco to Dorothy Day reading their traditional missals and Little Office and telling their beads.
That last forty years during which your family apostasised and you were pushed out of your parish? They never happened.

Asserted continuity is meaningless here. It springs from the same desperation that leads conservatives to insist, whenever an official statement includes something obviously at odds with reality,
"Oh well, of course he has to say that..." - as though Our Lord could ever require us, like Soviet Communists, to falsify reality in order to preserve the credibility of some a priori ideological position or "foundational myth" - the Conciliar Renewal or the Glories of the Revolution.
IOW people especially like my father confessor who lived through the horror of the changes don’t believe the neocon line about how wonderful everything really is, or ‘as long as it’s a Wal-Mart’, or ‘go to the Novus Ordo emporium run by people who are really non-Anglo liberal Protestants... because it’s under Rome and that’s what counts’.

You can know better and not hate Western Catholicism. Quite the opposite in fact.
Why has Western Christianity shattered into pieces at least twice in the past 1000 years? Why does it seem so predominantly arid and legalistic? Is a restoration of all the appurtenances of the central-bureaucratic Papacy, and an officially asserted “continuity” the answer? My own attitude to the Papacy - notwithstanding a sincere admiration and affection for its present occupant - is...
In the question at the end of the first entry here.

(Not at all the same as hating the Pope because he’s Catholic like the Western liberals do!)
...my "heart-thinking encounter" with Orthodoxy...
Like I wrote above the Orthodox understand all this.

And now to be fair some criticism of the Orthodox. In his marvellous little book Witness to the World (in which, in the 1970s, he perfectly describes the Catholic view on the Episcopal row) Fr John Meyendorff writes:
...the Orthodox tradition disagrees with some Roman Catholic attitudes towards human sexuality and, particularly, married clergy, which were also firmly espoused by the Pope [John Paul II]. And we know that this Orthodox tradition (which also rejects some newer Roman Catholic dogmas [he means doctrines]) is not based on ‘modern trends’ or Protestant liberalism but is rooted in the very apostolic foundation of Christianity.
The rule on clerical celibacy is a matter of discipline not doctrine. And the Orthodox practise it: all bishops are monks. My objection is Fr John implies that the modern Orthodox view on artificial birth control is traditional as well as correct; it is neither. For example in the first edition of The Orthodox Church Bishop Kallistos (Ware) teaches the Roman position (as did all Christians before 1930) whilst the newer printings fudge this much like Fr John does here. I’m sorry but he seems to be telling a fib.

Roman Catholicism’s unique contribution to my life is traditional moral theology including the practice of the confessional. It’s the gold standard.

*A long time ago in England I spent part of an afternoon with somebody who was at some of the first Anglo-Catholic Congresses.

P.S. Here is a photo I like from Arturo of a Roman Mass in what looks like a 1940s parish church.

P.P.S. There are Russian exiles in their 80s and 90s who fled the USSR during World War II and reject the reunion because they are still afraid. (The KGB used to kidnap people in the States.) I know a few. Of course I understand.

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