I thought I’d toss out some impressions of those who have made the current mess in the Church. I have no special knowledge of any of this, but these are indeed my impressions, so other views would be welcome:
Walter Kasper is basically a German engineer. He likes systems that have been thought through and work smoothly and predictably in accordance with well-articulated basic principles. He accepts as a basic reality the German social welfare state that looks after all human concerns and turns the German bishops into well-paid functionaries with large budgets to use as they wish, and he wants to fit the Church seamlessly into that model. Hence the radical disjunction he makes between “praxis” and “doctrine.” By turning doctrine into a sort of decorative accessory, like the British monarchy, that move is the most simple, practical, and reliable way to unify the two in all practical respects. (Germans like thoroughgoing coherence, so it’s not surprising Cardinal Marx has openly suggested changing doctrine as well.)
Francis is quite different. Continue reading
My Catholic columns this month discuss a call for tradition by Pope Saint Pius X in his encyclical against modernism, and a call for–God knows what?–by soon-to-be-blessed Pope Paul VI in his speech closing the Second Vatican Council.
The speech is fascinating and should be read. Paul VI appears to have been a man with considerable intellectual and spiritual gifts who was unable to take seriously how perverse, obstinate, cruddy, stupid, and downright evil people can be. The problems he saw all around him didn’t make sense, so they must all be a big mistake that would dissolve if we only showed sufficient intelligence and good will so the mistake could be cleared up. That’s how he seemed to come out, even though as an intellectual matter his account of the modern world in the speech was quite astute, as a Catholic he should have remembered that superstrength measures were needed to overcome the world, and in any event he was obviously aware of problems with the Council itself. (Otherwise why talk of its “real and deep intentions” and “authentic manifestations”?)
Reading him reminds me that we’ve had a run of pontiffs who were major figures even though they might not always be perfect or make the right decision. The run seems to have come to an end, and the uninspiring day-to-day reality of the post-Vatican II Church has caught up with us at all levels. That’s no fun, but I can’t say we deserve better.
On other fronts, I have a shorter piece at the Catholic World Report weblog about why the Church should keep making natural law arguments on sexual matters even though nobody can make sense of them (they present essential aspects of the Christian view of reality). There’s also a longer piece at the International Journal of Architectural Research on the architectural theorist Christoper Alexander.
My columns this month have to do with good fences, good neighbors, the One, the Many, and inclusiveness (that’s the one at Crisis Magazine), and with carrying on the battle: we’re not going to be able to slide through the current situation by lying low until it all blows over. The issues are too basic.
I have some new or newish pieces up on the current regime and how to fight it. There’s one just out at Crisis Magazine about how bad ideological pluralism is (for starters, it’s a particular system of social control that obviously can’t be pluralistic). There are also a couple at Catholic World Report about why the Church can’t use modern public language to speak to modern man (it’s a sort of technological Newspeak), and about Socratic questioning as a way to disrupt the flow of sophistical patter. And then there’s a piece published at Crisis Magazine during Lent about how to how to be a bit more Lenten if you happen to be a political ranter.
My current brace of columns includes one at Crisis Magazine about the trend away from concrete loyalties and objective principles toward radical subjectivity and a combination of money and bureaucracy as the basis for what’s still called public life. The other one, at Catholic World Report, makes the obvious point that the result is unlivable and we should all go out and refound Christendom.
I have more comments on subsidiarity at Catholic World Report. Basically, I say that the concept is incomprehensible in a liberal technocracy, and to promote it we have to insist in principle on the autonomy of the family and the Church, and act in ways that make its value evident. I also have something about the sad state of internet discussion up at Crisis Magazine. The conclusion: preach the word in season and out of season even if people are morons. You never know who might be reading.
I have a couple of pieces up at Catholic World Report and Crisis Magazine, the first on whether “natural” and “normal” make sense as standards, and the second on whether the Church will revert to type (because it has such a strongly marked essential form). I say that those are the basic issues in today’s battles, and that the answer to both questions is of course “yes.”
Or at least self-organizing communities. In support of the latter anti-technocratic cause I have a column on subsidiarity up at Catholic World Report, and also a two-part series about inclusiveness, that universal attack on the possibility of local self-organization, at Crisis Magazine (it can be read here and here). The latter basically gives a thumbnail sketch of the argument of my recent book.
I have a new piece up at Crisis Magazine about the futility of generic conservatism and the need for Christendom as a goal, and one at Catholic World Report that says that Christendom is always with us, since there is always some scheme of connections, loyalties, and authorities that is in fact authoritative.
Those are the topics of my last two pieces published elsewhere, a column at Catholic World Report about why the Church is so much at odds with secular journalists and academics, and a piece at Crisis about the ultimate instability of the liberal order.