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

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why I don't read many Catholic blogs



The Internet is not the best place to express one's indignation. The ability to self-publish your thoughts quickly and having perfect strangers read them is not a healthy thing. At least in older forms of publishing, the difficulty of printing something physically meant that "gate-keepers" were always present to calm the hottest heads, revise the most impertinent comments, or even just correct grammar and orthographical errors. This, however, is not the place to lament the loss of a mandatory imprimatur on whatever one writes. Nevertheless, one must at times speak one's mind about things, at the risk of perhaps alienating some people.

I found the above picture on this site which I will not give the dignity of naming. To think that someone could depict the torture of a human being and the Cross in the same painting is completely lost on me. Granted, Pius V was an Inquisitor before he was a Pope. And, granted, the individual who manages this site did not paint this image. If anything, it probably hangs in some august gallery, even a church, inspiring horror to all but the most sadistic minds. So why post it again in a public forum? Why celebrate it? Why this need by some circles to celebrate our bloody, intolerant past?

I will say this right now: I much prefer to raise my children in a society with "gay marriage", relativistic morals, and secularism than a society that threatens its citizens with torture. This image is not funny. It's not even cute. It is thoroughly disgusting, and if we celebrate it, we deserve every accusation that an atheist like a Marx or a Christopher Hitchens can throw at us about religion being "the oppium of the people" and "barbaric".

But there is a deeper issue involved, one that I think the Catholic hierarchy gets but not some more zealous Catholics. The argumentative and triumphalist tone that many Catholics take towards their Protestant and other non-Catholic neighbors is a direct result of this bloody discourse. It may have been cleaned externally of the blood, but it is still very much a product of the time of the rack, the stake, and the auto-da-fe's. Vatican II, in spite of its unwarranted capitulation to the modern world on many issues, aimed at the very least to heal this overly-militant discourse.

It is good to correct your neighbor, especially if one does it out of love. But to appoint oneself as a instrument of correction is something that someone should think twice about before embarking on a one-man crusade. Whatever happened to dialogue, real dialogue, which in spite of my thinking that it can be a four-letter word at times, is still very necessary?

Notice that this blog does NOT have a maximalist Roman Catholic identity. I will sometimes slam Protestantism and agnosticism, but I don't want the people who hold these views to stop reading. The label "Roman Catholic" is a necessary one; it invokes the fact that I belong to the Church that the Apostles founded, and that I am far more certain of my own membership in the Body of Christ than of someone's who is not Roman Catholic. But it is a distinction that I still very much lament. For I would have it that all men were members of the Body of Christ in the fullest possible sense, but I cannot say that this is the case. It is the vocation of all humanity, indeed the entire cosmos, to be grafted into Christ. The necessary label, then, makes it an issue of "us" vs. "them", and that is an ethos that the Roman Catholic Church is trying to move AWAY from. This ethos is ineviatbly a result of sin, violence, and injustice. And I would a thousand times prefer to live in a society where the Truth was the minority than to have obtained hegemony by violent means that contradict that Truth.

It will always be the case that we Christians are apart from the world in a fundamental way, but, as in all of the dichotomies that we Christians must balance, this does not give us license to de-humanize the other. We are still engaged members of this pluralist, postmodern society, like it or lump it. To flaunt our differences without necessity is the ultimate form of counter-cultural navel gazing. And this is why I don't read many Catholic blogs. I am just not very fond of "rooting for my team" especially when that "team culture" is the result of a non-Christian attitude. I am a member of this all-too-human society. And you have to be a human being before you can be a Christian.

33 Comments:

At 1:57 PM, Blogger BJA said...

I'm sorry, but that painting has got to be some kind of anti-Catholic joke. I'd really like to know where the blogger got it from. Kyrie eleison.

 
At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Walt C said...

I don't comment much, if at all, but it's posts like this one are why I always stop by your blog Arturo. Yes, the internet can be a distraction and an exercise in the vice of scurrility, but the time I've spent reading your thoughts here hasn't been. It has aided my spiritual life.

Pax tecum,
Walt

 
At 3:18 PM, Blogger The young fogey said...

I agree, which is why I draw from my own tradition of English tolerant conservatism (whence comes some of my libertarianism and traditionalism) and don't read many RC or Orthodox sites either.

 
At 3:41 PM, Anonymous jacobus said...

I like to think that bja is correct; that the painting is an anti-Catholic joke.

I also like to think that the other blogger simply tried to find a picture of Pius V and found this one, choosing it for its bright colors and simply missed the scene in the background (I did at first, until it was mentioned).

But who knows.

 
At 5:36 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

The authenticity of the painting itself is not the issue. It appears not to be a very "high" work of art in any sense. What is at issue is that it has been proudly displayed on at least two Catholic sites to my knowledge, and the torture scene in the back can hardly be considered an oversight. (Indeed, on one blog it was celebrated with some relish.)

 
At 7:16 PM, Anonymous His Excellency said...

If you keep on promoting an almost Hans Urs von Balthasar view (if not Karl Rahner view) of those who are part of the Body of Christ AND
posting and promoting dances to the pagan Hindu diety Shiva, and the pantheistic poetry of the homosexual follower of the schismatic heretic Mohammaed (who is split from his anus to his top in Dante's inferno) Rumi and his Sufi followers:
THAN YOU SHALL BE ON THAT HOLY WHEEL TO TORTURE THE HERESY OUT OF YOU!!!
Return to the SSPX seminary immediately.
Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus

 
At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

I will say this right now: I much prefer to raise my children in a society with "gay marriage", relativistic morals, and secularism than a society that threatens its citizens with torture

What about Franco's Spain?
or Pinochet's Chile?
More stability?
No?
Economic growth?
Less crime?

There is torture and threatens of citizens in our own homosexual, permissive, MTV, relativistic society. The Papal States were preferable to the Secular ones (ask the Dalmatian Croats about the Venetians)

Look into the torture of Jon Burge in Chicago.
Look into urban America (you claim to be from the ghetto (Black) and rural barrio)

Part of order comes from fear and strength.

You have a dichotomy that is not necessarily correct.

However, I agree that some Catholics are too triumphalistic AND that torture is a bad part of our heritage (although again exxagerated even with the nuances and specifics of the Spanish Inquisition etc)

There are many Catholic Blogs including yours.
This is a bad choice of painting--high, low, or otherwise--perhaps in jest.

However, what do you thin about
FRANCO (and the alleged and possible real benefits of a regime like his)
or PINOCHET (that killed people no doubt but not as many as others)

 
At 7:24 PM, Anonymous Opus Dei Albino Monk Assasin said...

I thought this was normal aesthetic mortification practice for Traditional Catholics?
Weren't you put on the wheel of fortune in Argentina?

Maybe it is an early form of Pilates.

 
At 7:24 PM, Anonymous GMF said...

You are right about tolerance. Like Biggie and Tupac.

 
At 9:02 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Sometimes I really think I need to regulate comments on this blog...

But I just let a thousand flowers bloom.

All those who give some real consideration to what I say should just ignore these rather colorful comments.

 
At 9:34 PM, Anonymous Grand Inquisitor said...

"Why this need by some circles to celebrate our bloody, intolerant past?"

So, let's just tolerate all false sects and religions right now, let's let them take souls to Hell without lifting a finger - sounds like a formula for perdition to me.
But that does not mean physical violence, per se.

"I will say this right now: I much prefer to raise my children in a society with "gay marriage", relativistic morals, and secularism than a society that threatens its citizens with torture."

Fine, if that's your wish, but don't you realize that the most perverse will deprave to a point where they will enforce their depravity, remember sodom and Gomorrha, they were not live and let live with preferences, it became something that was enforced by the perverse population, which will happen soon enough with these false moral mentalities.

I reiterate, outside the body of Christ, there is no salvation for anyone at all.

 
At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually like the colorful comments. And like the Latin Phrase: In vino veritas--I think there is also truth in humor.

You seem to roll with the colorful comments quite well.

I am assuming that means that you were not on a wheel as a means of mortification and aesthetic practice while in the seminary and that you do not think your posts potentially honoring Lord Shiva (I am death? destroyer of the worlds?) do not make you a candidate for the inquisition and torture methods once employed (in error?) by our own Holy Mother the Church.

I think I do get your point though.

Is the grand inquisitor serious or is that sarcasm? Forgive my ignorance or lack of humor or lack of agreement with some traditional triumphalism but I cannot tell.

 
At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the colorful comments are the best ones

 
At 10:22 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

Arturo,
Please answer:

1. That relativistic, permissive, pro-homosexual societies (or just current US society) can have torture and coercion of citizens.
Thus it is not necessarily a correlation to have more "freedom" and have less concerns about torture or government interference.
There are plenty of cases of torture in urban areas, coerced confessions, non-government and government actions that are atrocious in supposedly permissive and free societies.

2. The problems notwithstanding (and differences and nuances for each) that many Catholic governments that did have some restrictive and even authoritarian governments and at times repressive actions were on balance good or better than what we have today including:

a. The Austro-Hungarian Empire (that had due process rights, minority protections and protections for culture that are not true in the modern secular societies that force assimilitation)

b. Franco's Spain that is a popular topic on many monarchist and Catholic blogs because of new laws--and the seeming reality (although I did not live through it) that Spain under Franco was safer, less crime, cleaner, and obviously and certainly more Catholic.

c. Pinochets Chile while killing maybe 3000 (a sin and crime and bad no doubt) is better than the chaos of Peru or the narco wars of Columbia (Columbia with a democracy and the longest history of democracy in South America)

d. Smaller Catholic Nations like Belgium and smaller even Monaco that do not have the US freedoms but are economically strong and inherently Catholic (although and albeit changing)

e. The fact historically that the Spanish Inquisition was not as bad as many say neither the secularists in the universities nor the Jack Chick or more mainstream and credible Protestant critiques. That the Church always gave due process (of some sort) and were considered fairer than the secular non Church authorities.

f. The Papal States, while did have torture at times, were better and more fair to the citizens than the more commercial oriented secular counterparts.

g. You have created a perhaps not accurate or unfair dichotomy of either/or--or a correlation that does not or did not exist.

h. Not putting things in historical context.

You are hard to understand, being very traditional on one hand and even sympathetic to your SSPX roots (if they are roots) or at least experience and Traditionalism generally but at the same time having a more Vatican II approach to ecumicalism, the Rahnerian anonymous or invisible Christian, a more "liberal" view of the Body of Christ, and a very sympathetic (beyond just admiring cultures or comparative religions) view to non Christian religions with many posts on Rumi, Mycistism, Hinduism, and of course your favorite neoplatonism discourses while at the same time claiming the simplicity of the Apostles creed and being clearly a Catholic Christian.

There is no doubt, in my mind at anyrate, or in the post Vatican II church (this is a good point) that torture (and the Church has been good about this for some time) is deplorable and an ugly part of our and human history (that still exists) Slavery and many other ills that existed (and still exist) were justified (at least by some) theologically.
But there were always witnesses to the dignity of the individual (one reason I like Pope John Paul II so much), rights of the individual, freedom of conscience (including religion while there may be no rights to error there are rights to those who practice error and always have been or at least should have been)
Bartolome de las Casas comes to mind.
Your Jesuit with the Incas comes to mind.
Many other Jesuits (Matteo Ricci, Roberto di Nobili) come to mind.
The Popes who condemned slavery.
Pope Leo and Rerum Novarum.
Vatican II
The Christian "Humanism" that has grown up with the Papal Encylicals on the rights and dignity of the human being as Created by God with inherent rights and the importance of each individual as unique and created, redeemed and loved by God especially through Jesus.

 
At 2:07 AM, Blogger Gillibrand said...

The picture has now been replaced with a more edifying one of the same Pope. My eyesight is failing me in my old age. I had no intention of making glory out of the activities of the Inquisition.

The many positives in his life include the richly deserved excommunication of Queen Elizabeth I.

 
At 5:32 AM, Blogger Levi Sorenson said...

Arturo,

I am only 20, and so I am a product of this culture. And I know being as young as I am I know very little, but it is really post like this that leave me with doubt and confusion(just being honest); which may just be a personal problem.

I agree that this picture is horrid, and that torture is a terrible atrocity. But what I don't understand is could be expressed with this question: Why does it sound like there is really no difference between Catholicism and Protestantism when you or others express things this way? Never mind, you posts about other religions...I just figured you were facinated by them; not indulging in them. People should give you the benefit of the doubt there. I'm not here to make fun of you or criticize you..I just need to understand. I can't wrap my mind around this at all.

I am a protestant who became catholic. Am I just wasting my time? Do things like Apostolic Sucession, the papacy, and presence of Christ in eucharist really even matter? Does being in communion with "true church" matter? Should I even call it that? In the end does it all get reduced to the personal individualism that I felt like I was obligated to get away from?

All I want to know is if there is a real difference, and whether or not it actually matters. Or are we just wasting our time differentiating ourselves from protestants.

Please don't think I am attacking you, I'm not. I'm just confused, and I feel like people are saying you need to stop sinking your feet in the ground, and just attack every idea and expression as equal.

If anything, this a cry for help, because it is things like this that make me feel lost.

 
At 5:38 AM, Blogger Levi Sorenson said...

Sorry for the really poor grammar...I was typing it rather quickly before class.

Also,

"just attack every idea and expression as equal."

Is not a mistake...I mean it like that. Ideas naturally seem to assert themselves as superior to others in truth. But I feel like the notion as them all being equal is an attack on what they naturally are; which leaves the concept of even having any as worthless in my mind.

(Also, I know there are false dichotomies, but that is the issue here for me. People want them all to be false.)

 
At 8:59 AM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

There is a lot here, and I really don't have time today to answer any inquiries. Perhaps I will get to some of them tonight, or perhaps late this afternoon.

Levi,

I am not the best person to get any certainty from. I have defended the Roman Catholic faith many times on this blog, and you have already probably read these posts. In the end, I think that you should take any hard doctrinal questions you have to people like Jonathan Prejean at the Crimson Catholic blog or Dr. Liccione at Sacramentum Vitae (both links to the right). I am not the ideal person to dish out certainty, and, truth be told, I don't have the time nor the motivation to study hard questions of theology as it applies to different Christian confessions.

 
At 12:40 PM, Blogger Levi Sorenson said...

Arturo,

Unfortunately, in the rush I was in this morning I believe that I did not express clearly what I wanted to say. I am not looking for someone to defend the Catholic faith for me, or give certainty about it. Indeed, I have read most of your posts, and also many of Jonathan Prejean's. The questions were meant more to be rhetorical, and I think when I explain myself it will make more sense. I was asking these questions in light of this post you made. If I am misunderstanding you please correct me, but when I read this post it sort of seems like it is saying we should stop trying to draw such a fine line between Catholicism and Protestantism. That is the context of the last set of comments I made. In light of what you said above...Why be Catholic over Protestant? And does it matter? This is essentially what I was wondering.

But now that I read through the post again, without being in such a rush; I think I understand what you were saying better now, and my questions have been answered. So, sorry for wasting your time with a lengthy post about nothing.

-Levi

 
At 12:40 PM, Blogger Levi Sorenson said...

Arturo,

Unfortunately, in the rush I was in this morning I believe that I did not express clearly what I wanted to say. I am not looking for someone to defend the Catholic faith for me, or give certainty about it. Indeed, I have read most of your posts, and also many of Jonathan Prejean's. The questions were meant more to be rhetorical, and I think when I explain myself it will make more sense. I was asking these questions in light of this post you made. If I am misunderstanding you please correct me, but when I read this post it sort of seems like it is saying we should stop trying to draw such a fine line between Catholicism and Protestantism. That is the context of the last set of comments I made. In light of what you said above...Why be Catholic over Protestant? And does it matter? This is essentially what I was wondering.

But now that I read through the post again, without being in such a rush; I think I understand what you were saying better now, and my questions have been answered. So, sorry for wasting your time with a lengthy post about nothing.

-Levi

 
At 2:45 PM, Anonymous CNMOSKO said...

Levi--Jewish name?

Sorenson--Danish? or maybe Norwegian or Swedish

Arturo seems to be getting a little testy.

 
At 3:52 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Not testy at all. I am just being realistic about all of this. There are those who are readily available to answer all questions concerning the Faith. In spite of my five years of religious life, I am not the most theologically literate. Call it boredom, call it mental laziness, call it whatever you want. The book I am reading right now is on Marsilio Ficino's Commentary on the Phaedrus dialogue, hardly the stuff that will clear the doubts of a self-admitted confused twenty year old (no offense, Levi, but when I WAS twenty, I was a complete basket-case).

In spite of my cockiness and my sometimes showy displays of erudition, I am pretty much a dilettante when it comes to many things. Best to point people in the direction of those who are the "real deal", i.e. people who are not like me.

 
At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arturo, I think you are more of the real deal than you humbly give yourself credit for.
Many of your posts make the point that it is not theological exactness nor intelectual explanatins (not that they are bad per se) but practice, and love and surrender. This is part of the criticism of the Orthodox and Oriental Christians to the Latin Christians insofar as that they intellectualize everything and everything has a detailed description a la Aquinas--when much of it is mystery.

You do not have to have an apologetics blog nor be an expert in theology to answer (even if rhetorical and emotional rather than intellectual or even theological in an academic sense per se) the questions of if it is important to be part of a specific Church or if Jesus is actually present in the Eucharist.

 
At 4:38 PM, Anonymous Bob Guccione said...

Bodily beauty is not to be loved for its own sake but is to be thought of as an image of the divine beauty. -Ficino

This could be interpreted in many different ways.

 
At 4:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

at twenty and a basket case--were you a Marxist or a SSPX seminarian?

also, you make your exit out of the SSPX seminary sound dramatic like the Vatican II helicopter came down and broke you out in the middle of the night around Christmas with priests dressed as clowns saying everyone is saved

 
At 5:21 PM, Anonymous Juan said...

I like that Arturo seems to have a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and encourages people to go to Her.

Santa Maria, Madre de Dios
Ruega por nosotros

 
At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Torquemada said...

Levi maybe you would like to be on the wheel after Arturo.

 
At 7:51 PM, Blogger Levi Sorenson said...

Maybe.

 
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