Monday, January 14, 2008

Providentially right after posting this yesterday and before praying the day’s afternoon offices together a friend brought up the movement started by the late Fr Leonard Feeney (he of the horrible but allowable opinion and no more that all outside the visible church go to hell), an example of the dangers of charismatic (both in the old slangy sense and the modern religious movement) cults of personality, really cults in the colloquial sense.

In his 20 years ironically outside the official Roman Church (not for his views but for disobedience; in true ‘enthusiastic’ fashion as described by Ronnie Knox he disobeyed his superiors and returned to Boston to run the St Benedict Center when in the 1940s they realised it was becoming a cult and tried to correct that by transferring him) Fr Feeney encouraged his married followers to separate and have their children reared communally. (Part of his monastic dreams — after he returned to the official church and died many of his followers became Benedictines and are now a few monasteries and convents in Massachusetts. Real monasticism, a specialised form of Christian living likewise a separation from ‘the world’, has built-in safeguards to stop this degeneration into a cult.)

Liberals in the Anglican and nominally in the Roman churches often now accuse Catholics and other conservatives (such as the Protestants dominating the conservative side of the Anglican row) of being pharisaical and trying to turn the church into an ecclesiola, a perfect (as in sinless people not the Catholic non-negotiable of an infallible church) ‘little church’ when they try and separate from obvious differences in teachings that make remaining in the same communion impossible. (One can argue basic Catholic/Protestant differences nothing to do with sex make that so anyway.) ‘Purity cult’ is what the Anglican left are calling it now.

Of course real traditional (pre-conciliar) Catholicism is nothing of the kind!

As the wise friend pointed out, just like Arturo Vásquez did, the real church is on the human not doctrinal level messy and corrupt thanks to fallen (still good but wounded by sin) human nature. It’s most emphatically not a purity cult nor does it try and micro-manage people. (Your auntie with odd views won’t go on trial for heresy.)

In an infallible church governed by rule of law there’s... lots of freedom.

Not like the real cults that spring up, well-intended, in the name of defending the faith, from the excesses of the independent Catholic traditionalists (Jansenism and basing oneself on only one example of Counter-Reformation religious-order life to make a one-dimensional kind of caricature of the church?) to the ‘hope of the church’ advertised as such in the 1980s, charismatic ‘covenant communities’ (often keen on chasing a certain fake Marian apparition in Bosnia, condemned by the local bishop), the soap opera of the Old Calendarist fringe groups splintered from the Orthodox and the potentially explosive new experiment in utopianism, Ave Maria, Florida. As I’ve blogged before, an impulse as old and Protestant as Plymouth Rock!

Mgr Knox, Arturo and my friend get it.

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