The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Friday, March 03, 2006

Response to a Critic

"the modern Roman Catholic Church is looking more and more like the non-entity that Newman perceived the Anglican Church to be in the 19th century"Excuse me, but I find this statement patently absurd.Mr. Vasquez's next question is illuminating. "Is the Catholic Church of today still a bastion of certainty in a world rife with subjectivism, or has it made its peace with modern liberalism hoping to at least slow down the revolution a little?"Has it? No, it has not. Not even Romano Amerio's "Iota unum" could make that claim convincingly.Nonsense? Sure. Confusion (sociological, at least, not theological) and ugliness? But compromise in *doctrine* with theological liberalism? I say no. Prove me wrong, Mr. Vasquez.

From a comment made on the Conservative Blog for Peace

First of all the vaciliation of the Catholic Church on finer points of doctrine has already been adressed on this blog here, here, and in a series I did on Vatican II that can be found in the January archives.

The point of the controverted post, however, was not to get bogged down in points I have already made, but rather to focus on the reality of the Church today. To steal from another's terminology, it is not to focus on an "essential" ecclesiology (for me, this means what the Church looks like on paper), but rather on an existenial and phenomenological ecclesiology (what St. Agnes Catholic Community is like in its "worship space"). To illustrate my point, I will tell an anecdote. If you read a sonnet by John Donne on a semi-darkened stage in a full, clear voice, the experience is one thing. If you take the same sonnet and read it in a hip-hop night club with loud music blaring, the experience will be completely different. The same sonnet, two different circumstances. Take traditional Catholic doctrine and the Tridentine Mass, that is one religion. Take what passes for your average "children's Mass" at your local Catholic "worship space" and lip-service to Catholic doctrine, that is another. The former, I would argue, could pass for apostolic Christianity. The latter cannot. To quote St. Pavel Florensky, truth is manifest, it is not proven. And what is being manifested here are two completely different things.

Many conservative Catholics argue the point that "abusum non tollit usum" (the abuse does not take away from the use). They argue that there exists some "perfect way" that hovers above the reality of the Church today like a Platonic idea that is never really incarnate anywhere, not even in the Vatican itself. They argue that it is almost reached in certain isolated ghettos if one is willing to drive an hour and a half and be content with the crumbs that the Catholic hierarchy meagerly offers. They argue that this is a "participation in the Passion of the Church", as if having to witness widespread heresy and banality were something virtuous when the Fathers of the Church preached otherwise.

I would argue that the whole modern Catholic Church is really based on an abuse. The Novus Ordo liturgy was designed for improvisation, so complaining about abuse is like complaining to a jazz virtuouso that the song doesn't go like that. The Second Vatican Council documents were written as cowardly compromises that tried to please everyone, but ended up confusing all. What then does it mean to be Catholic, and what does its communion mean? How can Holy Spirit Catholic Community at U.C. Berkeley be in communion with the indult parish in Oakland, California down the road?

I think in this sense, the analogy with the Anglican Church of the ninteenth century is clear. Vatican II is the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles; in order to remain a sincere intellectual Catholic you have to become an expert at mental gymanstics, making excuses for being in a church that is no longer consistent with itself.

I do not say this so that all can leave the Roman Catholic Church for better waters. I say it only to sober up those who are drunk with ultramontane illusions. If one can remain a Roman Catholic in good faith, let them do it. But let them not judge those who cannot bring themselves to do so.

2 Comments:

At 6:01 AM, Blogger J. Gordon Anderson said...

Very well said.

 
At 8:26 PM, Blogger thirsty scribe said...

"The Novus Ordo liturgy was designed for improvisation, so complaining about abuse is like complaining to a jazz virtuouso that the song doesn't go like that. The Second Vatican Council documents were written as cowardly compromises that tried to please everyone, but ended up confusing all."

Eloquent, and sobering.

 

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