Our Present Discontents

Thursday, January 12, AD 2017

 

Father James V. Schall, SJ, in a brilliant essay at Catholic World Report, examines the current sickness that afflicts the Church:

 

Vatican II presented itself as a massive effort to retain tradition but also to reconcile the Church with the modern world in such a way that they harmonized with each other. It was not noticed at the time, as Tracey Rowland pointed out in her Culture and the Thomist Tradition, that the word “culture” was not neutral. Modern “culture” already contained some good things, but it also had with in it principles and techniques that could eliminate both faith and even the structure of man as we had known him. In many ways, “to conform oneself to the culture” was a form of religious and intellectual suicide. 

In this mix, the thought of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI stood as a corrective. They carefully sorted out the subtle principles and tendencies motivating the modern mind. They identified where these ideas and customs were leading. Under their guidance, it was clear that the mind of Catholicism knew what it was about. Neither of these two popes had many intellectual peers. Those who were their peers usually recognized their genius. Catholicism understood where it came from in history and tradition. It clarified what it meant in relation to basic modern ideas, ideas that the two popes often defined more clearly than their advocates. 

This papal teaching was profound and incisive. Not a few, however, came to think it was over the heads of most people, even most bishops. There is a kind of clericalism, as Fr. Mark Pilon has pointed out, that assumes that the laity cannot think. The request for clarification, which is their due, is often taken for disobedience. We needed a return to the original Gospels, it is said, to the simple life of faith.

Catholicism did not have to present itself before the world as understanding it. It is better to leave things more open, undefined. In this light, however, with Pope Francis’ more recent emphasis on mercy and the poor, his many off-handed remarks, his hesitancy about explaining doctrine, the Church now, to many, seems confused, unsure of itself. It no longer seems to be a “rock” on which we can build.

The faithful are told that they are too “rigid”. The divorced and the homosexuals are, rightly or wrongly, convinced that the Church has changed its doctrine at least implicitly, if not explicitly. Divine positive law does not seem to hold against what people “do” do. Everything must be discerned. Every act seems an exception, which in a way it is. But there can be no “law” of only exceptions. 

Many recent converts begin to wonder whether the Church is not reverting to positions that they thought, in the name of truth, that they had left. It is difficult to see why anyone should convert or even be preached to. To many, the Church seems to present itself as a kind of modern humanism in culture and socialism in political preference.

In the meantime, some three thousand mosques, with much Saudi money, have been built in the United States, probably more in Europe. They are mostly closed enclaves. The decline of population of European citizens has been often noted. Traditional European  national populations are being replaced by a more fertile group of Muslims who, for the most part, do not assimilate or convert, either culturally or religiously. Some predict that Sweden will be Europe’s first Muslim country; others think it will be England. And if there is a first, there will be a second. 

Islamic thinkers themselves shrewdly seem to opt both for terrorist and for democratic means to expand into Europe and America. The martyrdom and expulsion of so many Christians from the Mideast have gone largely unaccounted for. They appear more as an embarrassment than as objects of justice. Their specific witness seems almost lost. 

It is a rare commentator or politician who notes the connection between Humanae Vitae, the decline of population, and the rise of Islam in Europe and America. “Refugees” fleeing into Europe can probably more accurately be described as “invaders” than immigrants, however sad their tale.

We are now experiencing something new, an incipient reaction. With Pierre Manent and Joshua Mitchell, we see that the nation-state and the family are the heart of true civilization. Globalism and world-state notions constantly reveal totalitarian tendencies. Emphasis on the poor has neglected the old Aristotelian notion of the middle-class, by far the majority in any decent society.

What are we to conclude from these considerations? The title of these opinions, and opinions they are, concerned “confused Catholics”. The conclusion is that the confusion of Catholics about the unity and consistency of their faith has dimmed or even taken out of the public order a firm voice that has connected in our civilization the present and the past, time and eternity.

Few seem certain about where the Church stands on many core issues that once were thought to be settled. Practice does not really replace thought. It merely produces another kind of practice that seeks justification in a different line of thought. Practice, overtly or covertly, depends on thought. The origin of all deviant practice is deviant thought. The knowing why it is deviant is a function of mind based on a standard of reason. It is the steady “knowing why” that, before anything else, we are missing.

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39 Responses to Our Present Discontents

  • As in Alice in Wonderland, Humpty Dumpty can ascribe to words/reality any meaning he choses. But remember, Humpty Dumpty eventually fell.

  • One of the best “summaries” of our present condition. It is not for mere fallen man to resolve the dilemma that he alone has created.

  • The more I read it, the more I see Humane Vitae as a breach in the dam of sorts, or a classic hegelian thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis creep of progressive agenda –

    Thesis – RC teaching is that the primary end of the marital act is procreation and raising of children to the Glory of God.
    Anti-thesis – the primary end of the marital act is the unity of the spouses/strengthening of the marital bond
    Synthesis: the primary ends (can two things be primary?) of the marital act are procreation and the unity of the spouses.

    There really is no escaping that HV changed the teaching on primary ends. It is indisputable that “procreation is the primary end” is not the same thing as “procreation and unity are the primary ends”. A = Primary is not the same as A+B=Primary.

  • Given that, at the time, it was widely expected that the Catholic Church would slide into a genteel Anglicanism of sorts, it seems to me that Humanae Vitae is the plug in the breach in the dam; leaky as it might be.

  • A minor point: it’s doubtful Muslims in Europe are particularly fecund (or, if they are, that they will be in a generation). The source countries do not have particularly fecund populations. (total fertility rate: Egypt, 3.3; Turkey, 2.1; Libya 2.5; Tunisia, 2.2; Algeria 2.9; Morocco 2.5)

  • Another human being, body and soul, is the only reason to engage the marital act. Some people point to barren women, but the hope, the prayer, the desire for another human being is always there or the marriage and the Sacrament of Matrimony is non-existent, annulled by the non-existent intent of the participants.
    Is there more bonding of human beings than their bonding through another human being who makes a father of a man and a mother of a woman, whose perfectly legal and moral innocence is the standard of Justice for the state and whose sovereign personhood institutes the state?
    The intent and desire for a child makes a family of the couple. Without the desire for a child, the family, the marriage does not exist and the child does not exist. The state that the sovereign personhood of the newly begotten child might institute does not exist.
    Our constitutional POSTERITY cannot exist without our newly begotten, innocent sovereign persons.
    This is God’s plan for mankind and the support of divine Providence for our Declaration of Independence.

  • It’s possible, however, that their old evangelization is better suited to the (post-)modern temper than is our New.

  • cmatt:There really is no escaping that HV changed the teaching on primary ends. It is indisputable that “procreation is the primary end” is not the same thing as “procreation and unity are the primary ends”. A = Primary is not the same as A+B=Primary.”
    There is no bonding nor unity without procreation or the intent for procreation. Bonding and procreation are one and the same. The rest are not. The rest are fraud and perjury in a court of law.

  • We have the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. We have Jesus.

  • Pingback: Canon212 Update: Combative, Bad-Tempered, Idealistic, Vengeful, And Free Of Charge – The Stumbling Block
  • Outstanding article. Brilliant summary of what is happening now in the Church and the world. Bottom line: In the absence of divine intervention we are entering a new dark age where Islam will dominate the culture. In my opinion, it was at Vatican II that the Church decided to make peace with the world and become both humanistic and socialistic—both aspects of Modernism. At this stage of the game–the Church having decided on a strategy of voluntary surrender–the only solution I see is prayer and penance on our part and divine intervention on God’s part. Let us ask Our Lady of Fatima for her help. She is more aware of our situation than anyone.

  • Friends…We have all observed, since Jimmy Carter ( and probably before him ) the Liberals’ fondness for dwelling on ideas involving an observed “malaise” in the Nation. Conservatives mostly speak of Hope and Shared Adventure. It is all a Humanist Dodge !
    Timothy R.

  • To clarify, a Dodge on the part of Liberals.
    Timothy R.

  • Art Deco wrote, “The source countries do not have particularly fecund populations.”
    Iran has a TFR OF 1.92 – below replacement.

  • I just tried to send a message. Did it come through. Having trouble with my device.

  • So, then, SSPX or Orthodox?

    I do not mean this flippantly. I recognize in the piece an overwhelming and depressing amount of Truth. Put in the general context of BXVI’s recognition that the general acceptance of Christianity in the West is failing and falling away and that there is something sublime in this resurgence of a smaller, more passionate, more dedicated and focused Church. (Admittedly, my impressions, rather than his words.)

    So, if the Vatican is veering towards Modernity, is there not wisdom and faith in becoming Orthodox or, if SSPX is regularized, becoming SSPX?

  • David S. brings up a good point. Our job is to try and save our souls and those around us. If this can be done in a better and safer through SSPX or becoming Orthodox –both approved, as far as I know, by the Church –why not?

  • Edie Eason, you came thru loud and clear. Timothy R.

  • “both approved, as far as I know, by the Church –why not?”

    The Orthodox are schismatics as is the SPPX. I will live and die a Roman Catholic, the True Faith. The idea that any bad pope could chase me from the Faith founded by Christ is laughable.

  • Per Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, the SSPX is not in schism. They have an irregular status but do not deny any of the deposit of faith. The Orthodox are in schism.

  • Penguin fan is correct – the SSPX is not in schism, but their status is irregular, and that is fast approaching regularising, with the Vatican offering them a Personal Prelature – like Opus Dei and the Anglican Ordinariate.
    There is a centre of the SSPX here in NZ in Wanganui, and they work in co-operation with some of the diocese where there are priests who offer the TLM and with the FSSP in Auckland, the Transalpine Redemptorists in Christchurch, and offer the TLM as frequently as possible – fortnightly or monthly in several cities in NZ. I have been in discussion with the head of the SSPX here in NZ who also cover Oceania – I have met him, along with some TLM supporters when he called to Tauranga a few months ago. I am continuing to work with him to try to establish a full SSPX parish as close as possible to Tauranga. They have a shortage of priests , but their seminary in Goulburn NSW Australia is full and they hope to have more priests in the next few years. They are having much success, and when I look what has happened in my lifetime over the past 74 years in the Church, I am gravely concerned and see the evidence of collapse happeneing everywhere – except where the “Usus Antiquior” is promoted. I will do my best to revert back to that – the Novus Ordo and the liberal Church of today is frought through with Modernsim and Heterodoxy – and with Kasper, Marx and co, direct heresy.

  • Hear ! Hear ! , Donald R ! Timothy R.

  • I ask the question because the Orthodox are in schism and the SSPX are headed to schism if the “regular” church continues down her present road.

    I am Roman Catholic and not troubled by the NO or many of th other expressions of our faith. They are not my preference but the umbrella of practice is quite large.

    Doctrine is an entirely different matter to me. I care a great deal about faithfulness to the teachings of the Church and am dismayed by what I see. It is increasingly hard for me to think clearly and it disturbs my prayer life.

    None of that is good and much of it is my fault, not the Pope’s.

    The haunting thought is that the Orthodox and SSPX are on a different course by choice. The Church, particularly with regards to SSPX, is in increasing contrast, doctrinally, from the faith of our brothers. They claim to be staying the course set by Peter and Paul and that it is we who are departing from the way.

    This piece eloquently voices those concerns and the question “why not Orthodox or SSPX if their status were regularized” naturally follows.

    Suppose SSPX reconciled, how many of the most devout would shift their practice that direction? I rather think many would and what remained in our parishes would be outnumbered by the very sorts described here, those consumed with hope for mercy without reconciliation and fostering community, rather than a relationship with God.

    I am worried, not because I seek a change; I do not. I am Catholic and will not leave but this nonsense has gone on too long and driven too far to be ignored.

  • Re: David Spaulding. ” This nonsense has gone on too long and driven too far to be ignored.”

    This nonsense has been going on for over 50 years. In trying to raise our 11 kids as Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit beginning in the 1960’s it was necessary to keep them as far as possible from Catholic schools, CCD programs, any of the new catechisms of the time . We and other like minded Catholics started our own school and our own Catechism Program. We also had to find our own priests and an out of diocese Bishop for confirmation. To say the least, it was all very difficult trying to communicate the Catholic faith to our kids. We certainly would not have gone through all of this if there had been an SSPX Chuch and school available at the time. Parents have a duty not to contaminate their kids with a false version of Catholicism.

  • Could we attribute some of the problems in the Church to the heathenistic atmosphere surrounding the Church ? For example, the FEDERAL Government’s takeover of Education in America ? Timothy R.

  • Timothy Reed. Re: Could we attribute some of the problems in the Church to the heathenistic atmosphere surrounding the Church ?

    Yes, the Church was certainly influenced by these secular events as we all are to some extent. However, Vatican II opened doors to the acceptance of the many evils of modernity which are corrupting the Church to this day. The Church has largely accomplished it’s implied V II mission of becoming Protestant in the formation of it’s followers. Now we have a very Lutheran Pope bent on even greater conformity with a secular ethic and the creation of a new world religion. Or so it appears to me.

  • We know this much, Mike, when the Liberals say, “Let us HELP you”; they are really saying “Let us CONTROL you ” ! Timothy R.

  • Timothy Reed.

    Liberals, in their own minds, see themselves doing the work of God. While not many would argue with this charitable disposition, the problem arises because they also think they can make the decisions for others and for God. That’s why socialism, failing to recognize human nature and without the wisdom of God, always fails in the end.

  • I could not have said it better ! Timothy R.

  • David Spaulding wrote, “They claim to be staying the course set by Peter and Paul and that it is we who are departing from the way.”
    So they do; so does the Assyrian Church of the East, which separated from the rest of Christendom after the Council of Ephesus in 431. They will tell you that they alone have remained faithful to Apostolic Tradition and continue their distinctive witness down to our own day.
    So, why do we say they are wrong? Are we prepared to trust our own theological judgment on such a question and insist that we cannot possibly be mistaken?
    When he was still an Anglican, Mgr Ronald Knox asked himself a simple question: “Why did those who anathematized Nestorius come to be regarded as “Catholics” rather than those who still accept his doctrines?” He realised that we do not have to concern ourselves with the theological arguments at all; the short answer is that the “Catholics” had the bishop of Rome in their party and the Nestorians did not.
    As he says, “if you ask a Catholic “What is the Catholic Faith? ” and are told it is that held by the Catholic Church; if you persevere, and ask what is the Catholic Church, you are no longer met with the irritatingly circular definition “the Church which holds the Catholic Faith” ; you are told it is the Church which is in communion with the Bishop of Rome.”

  • Go to Novusordowatch.com for the full post:
    SSPX Deal on the home stretch…

    Vatican “Abp.” Pozzo:
    guido-pozzo2.jpg
    Bp. Fellay has Accepted Personal Prelature Proposal for SSPX, Details being Worked Out

    [UPDATE 29-JUL-16 19:01 UTC: Society of St. Pius X (SSPX): What is and what is not negotiable for reconciliation with the Catholic Church? (Vatican Insider)]

    The head of the Vatican’s so-called Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, “Archbishop” Guido Pozzo, has revealed in an interview with the German Christ & Welt that Bp. Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), has agreed to canonical regularization under a personal prelature solution, although details are still being worked out. Pozzo added that this regularization will not take place until the remaining doctrinal issues are resolved, while at the same time clarifying that these issues do not include such “non-essential” and “pastoral” topics as ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, religious liberty, and the relationship between the Church and the modern world.

    In plain English: The deal is done, they’re just putting the finishing touches on the wrapping to make it look as presentable as possible.

    The interview is somewhat lengthy and has not yet been translated into English in its entirety, although we provide our own translation of some of the more salient portions below. A Spanish translation has been made available here, and the original German can be found here.

    Vatican “Abp.” Pozzo:
    guido-pozzo2.jpg
    Bp. Fellay has Accepted Personal Prelature Proposal for SSPX, Details being Worked Out

    [UPDATE 29-JUL-16 19:01 UTC: Society of St. Pius X (SSPX): What is and what is not negotiable for reconciliation with the Catholic Church? (Vatican Insider)]

    The head of the Vatican’s so-called Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, “Archbishop” Guido Pozzo, has revealed in an interview with the German Christ & Welt that Bp. Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), has agreed to canonical regularization under a personal prelature solution, although details are still being worked out. Pozzo added that this regularization will not take place until the remaining doctrinal issues are resolved, while at the same time clarifying that these issues do not include such “non-essential” and “pastoral” topics as ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, religious liberty, and the relationship between the Church and the modern world.

    In plain English: The deal is done, they’re just putting the finishing touches on the wrapping to make it look as presentable as possible.

    The interview is somewhat lengthy and has not yet been translated into English in its entirety, although we provide our own translation of some of the more salient portions below. A Spanish translation has been made available here, and the original German can be found here.

    DavI’d Spaulding
    Friday, January 13, AD 2017 at 9:44pm

  • Without an “Edit” function it is very difficult to do a post properly, and with the very limited window for the comment, it is difficult to read and add/delete anything – but this was in response to David Spaulding on Jan 13th.
    The issue stems from some – not all – of the documents from V II, and the Vatican has finally agreed with the SSPX that many of the documents are Pastoral rather than Doctrinal. If you search, you will find that A’bp. LeFebvre had formal approval of his Order from Paul VI – but a few years later when the liberals in the Vatican gained ascendancy, the SSPX Order was made irregular because of their point of view.
    There is no doubt that the SSPX adhere completely to the Tradition of the Church and recognise the duly elected Pope as the Successor of Peter. There is no dispute there, and they have never been declared as in schism. If they are adhering to the Tradition of the Church and the Fullness of the Church’s teaching, and if the “Today” Church moves on, how can that put the SSPX into schism? The logic fails.

  • Don the Kiwi asks, “If they are adhering to the Tradition of the Church and the Fullness of the Church’s teaching, and if the “Today” Church moves on, how can that put the SSPX into schism?”
    I do not feel you are giving full weight to Saint John Paul II’s Motu Proprio, Ecclesia Dei Adflicta of 2 July 1988. “In itself this act was one of disobedience to the Roman pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience—which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy—constitutes a schismatic act. In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for Bishops last June 17, Archbishop Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law.”

    How does the SSPX’s position comport with the Pope’s primacy of jurisdiction, as defined in Pastor Aeternus “to which all, of whatsoever rite and dignity, are bound, by their duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, to submit, not only in matters which belong to faith and morals, but also in those that appertain to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world; so that the Church of Christ may be one flock under one supreme pastor, through the preservation of unity, both of communion and of profession of the same faith, with the Roman pontiff.”

  • They put in a nickel, and they want a “quarter” song. Ok. Here is my “quarter song”. If we ever are blessed again with a Pope, that is like the Pope, who was a real man, the Polish Pope who CRUSHED communism, there will be a cry of JOY, heard all over this sad World, from Catholics and non-Catholics alike !!! Timothy R.

  • And, if such a Pope does “arrive”, I hope his Advisors recommend that he approves the design of different Vestment, of different colors, like maybe “pink” for the heretical Priests. Timothy R.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour.
    Perhaps this link will answer your comment. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cbishops/documents/rc_con_cbishops_doc_20090121_remissione-scomunica_en.html

    The excommunication against the four bishops – including Bp. Fellay is lifted, and encouragement given to regularise the situation – not a schism anymore.

  • Don the Kiwi wrote, “The excommunication against the four bishops – including Bp. Fellay is lifted, and encouragement given to regularise the situation – not a schism anymore.”

    It is the remission of a penalty; it does not alter the character of the original consecrations as a schismatic act.

    It also expresses the hope that “this step will be followed by the prompt attainment of full communion with the Church on the part of the whole Society of St Pius X, which will thus bear witness to its genuine fidelity and genuine recognition of the Magisterium and authority of the Pope by the proof of visible unity.” Until this is achieved, the Society is not in “full communion” or “visible unity.”

    We find similar language in the Common Christological Declaration of 11 November 1994, between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, “[W]e pledge ourselves to do everything possible to dispel the obstacles of the past which still prevent the attainment of full communion between our Churches, so that we can better respond to the Lord’s call for the unity of his own, a unity which has of course to be expressed visibly.”

    Now, Canon 751 defines schism as “the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.” Individuals and churches either submit to the Supreme Pontiff (“genuine fidelity and genuine recognition of the Magisterium and authority of the Pope by the proof of visible unity”) and are in communion (“full communion”) with the members of the Church subject to him, or they are not; there is no half-way house.

  • I want to thank y’all for directly answering me.

    My subject matter expertise is not in theology or any other discipline useful to this discussion. This why I have spent my life accepting, at face value, what the Church teaches. In general, my process is to ask “what does the Church say?” and then try to live that. Where the Church allows for different voices, like the death penalty, I then apply Scripture, reason and experience. I always begin with Church teaching.

    I think this is why I find Pope Frances to be unsettling: if one counts on clear guidance and that clear guidance is ripped away, confusion and anger are natural human reactions. I do not think I am alone in this.

    Again, thank you for your patient and carefully considered responses.

The Claremont Reviews Advent Interview with Fr. James V. Schall

Tuesday, December 15, AD 2009

Since 2002 Ken Masugi, a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute and lecturer in Government at Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, has conducted Advent interviews with James V. Schall, S.J., author of over thirty books on political theory and theology. Fr. Schall teaches in the Government Department of Georgetown University.

The interviews themselves are a delight to read and span a variety of topics from current events to the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI to issues in philosophy, theology and ethics — and sometimes, in addition, what books Fr. Schall himself is reading at that particular moment in time.

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