Cross-post: becoming a traditionalist is only the beginning of thought

My quarrel with the thinking man

In his essay What we think about, G. K. Chesterton relates his perplexity at finding someone  write “Mr. Chesterton does not mean to enlighten us, for all we know he is modernist enough in his own thoughts.”

What the man really meant was this:  “Even poor old Chesterton must think; he can’t have actually left off thinking altogether; there must be some form of cerebral function going forward to fill the empty hours of his misdirected and wasted life; and it is obvious that if a man begins to think, he can only think more or less in the direction of Modernism.”  The Modernists do really think that.  That is the point.  That is the joke.

Now what we have really got to hammer into the heads of all these people, somehow, is that a thinking man can think himself deeper and deeper into Catholicism, but not deeper and deeper into difficulties about Catholicism.  We have got to make them see that conversion is the beginning of an active, fruitful, progressive, and even adventurous life of the intellect.  For that is the thing that they cannot at present bring themselves to believe.  They honestly say to themselves:  “What can he be thinking about, if he is not thinking about the Mistakes of Moses, as discovered by Mr. Miggles of Pudsey, or boldly defying all the terrors of the Inquisition which existed two hundred years ago in Spain?”  We have got to explain somehow that the great mysteries like the Blessed Trinity or the Blessed Sacrament are the starting points for trains of thought far more stimulating, subtle, and even individual, compared with which all that skeptical scratching is as thin, shallow, and dusty as a nasty piece of scandalmongering in a New England village.  Thus, to accept the Logos as a truth is to be in the atmosphere of the absolute, not only with St. John the Evangelist, but with Plato and all the great mystics of the world….To set out to belittle and minimize the Mass, by talking ephemeral back-chat about what it had in common with Mithras or the Mysteries, is to be in altogether a more petty and pedantic mood; not only lower than Catholicism but lower even than Mithraism.

In our day, we are familiar with the “thinking Catholic”.  “Thinking” means that he accepts the modernist consensus without question, and “Catholic” means he insists the Church adjust herself to accommodate his lack of imagination.  Similarly, we all know the “thinking conservative”, the type who only ever thinks about what new concessions we must make to liberalism.  I have pointed out before this asymmetry between the Left and Right, that the intellectual leadership of the Left is expected to be more radical than most Leftist voters, whereas the intellectual leadership of the Right is expected to be more moderate than most Rightist voters.  This is one of our major disadvantages.

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Conscience: Catholicism’s contribution to world sophistry

My only reaction to the Synod:  in an age of such great concern for pastoral effectiveness, why cannot the body of bishops working together for three weeks speak plainly?  “Adultery is a mortal sin.  If you do it and don’t repent, you will go to HELL, and you probably won’t care while being tormented in fire for all eternity how integrated you once were in parish life.”  Is that so hard?  In fact it seems to be.  Even aside from the cowardice of our bishops, there is an idea that keeps them from being able to formulate this simple truth.  Let us consider this idea.

There’s not much creative in Catholic progressivism, mostly just aping the prejudices of the secular mainstream.  If there’s anything distinctive in it, it’s the focus on “conscience”.

The reasoning seems to be as follows:  one is only culpable for a sin if one understands and believes in the sinfulness of one’s act.  Therefore, people who reject the Church’s teachings about certain acts being naughty are not sinning–one almost infers, not incurring any spiritual consequence whatsoever–when they engage in those acts.  There is thus presumably no urgency in convincing them of their sinfulness, since they are not, in fact, sinning.  In fact, making people aware of the moral law only increases their spiritual peril, since they are only responsible for laws they are aware of and accept.  This is related to the “salvation by invincible ignorance” story that many of us even in conservative Catholic environments picked up in childhood.  (Kasper is right.  There is a connection between religious and moral indifferentism.)  The impression we got was that heathen had it much better than us, getting into heaven almost automatically, while we Christians have all these rules to follow.  In fact, one might perversely reason that people should not be given the Gospel and not be told the moral law.  If they’re given the law and don’t obey, then they’ll go to hell.  The pastoral thing to do is to keep the sinfulness of peoples’ actions secret from them.

So, we Catholics have created this monster, and now we’ve got to slay it.  What to say?

  • First, it’s fair game to question the sincerity of people who invoke it.  It is only ever applied to sexual sins. (And maybe usury.  See Zippy.)  No prelate ever says that they should refrain from preaching against the alleged sins of racism or of wanting to restrict immigration.
  • What’s more, it’s just not the case that people are invincibly ignorant.  Catholics all know that the Church condemns remarriage and contraception; they just choose to defy the teaching.  It may be true that they don’t understand why the Church condemns these things, that their consciences are not well-enough formed to see anything wrong with them.  Even so, they would gravely sin simply by defying the legitimate authority of the body of Christ.  No one’s conscience commands them to commit adultery; it may merely fail to forbid, but the silence of one’s conscience is not a permission slip to disobey orders.  We make it more difficult for people to do their duty by failing to explain to them why the Church’s teaching is true, reasonable, and ennobling.
  • Even those who have never heard of Catholicism’s condemnation of divorce and contraception are in spiritual peril.  Regardless of culpability, these acts invariably cause spiritual harm (that’s why they’re sins), and the damage they do to people’s souls makes them more likely to commit what are sins even by their own lights.  With sexual sins in particular, any more permissive set of rules tends to seem arbitrary and degrade under pressure.  Also, Saint Paul affirmed that the natural law is written onto the hearts of the Gentiles specifically to show that they are culpable for their sinful behavior and are in need of salvation.  We can’t count on people’s innate moral intuitions being sufficiently underdeveloped or deadened to give them get-out-of-hell-free cards.
  • Knowing the truth is an intrinsic good, and people deserve the chance to be able to freely conform to it.  As in some theodicy arguments, just because people will probably misuse their freedom (in this case, the freedom of knowing the truth and being able to choose whether to follow it) doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be given it.
  • Even if preaching moral truth does lead to more people going to hell, God has commanded us to do it.  Catholic morality is not consequentialist.  We could probably send more people to heaven by killing lots of just-baptized infants, but this would still be a wicked thing to do.

Vatican II as a “new Pentecost”

What a shockingly blasphemous claim!  The first (that is, the real) Pentecost was when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles.  So, if Vatican II was a new Pentecost, the Spirit of Vatican II is a new Holy Spirit.  In fact, the Spirit of Vatican II is superior to the Holy Spirit, because trading the third person of the Trinity for this new spirit is supposed to have been a good thing.  Shocking as it is, this is what the phrase “new Pentecost” implies.  If the Spirit of Vatican II were the same Holy Spirit Who has guided the Church for the previous two millennia, Vatican II would not be on a level with Pentecost, but only with, say, Chalcedon or Lateran IV.  What’s more, if it were the same Spirit before and after, we wouldn’t expect Him to contradict Himself so blatantly.

And since it was Jesus who sent the Paraclete to the Apostles, so it was Pope John who sent the Spirit of Vatican II to the bishops, meaning Pope John is a new, improved Christ!  And indeed this seems to be what the conciliar church thinks.  The original Christ freed us from the Mosaic Law, which was pretty nice, but the new Christ, by unleashing his spirit upon us, does better by releasing us from the natural law as well.  True, Pope John didn’t get around to doing this before ascending into Heaven, but ditching the Mosaic Law also didn’t really get settled until Saint Paul, and many have been the theologians who have wanted to play the role of Paul for their new Savior.

We should be grateful that the Fathers of Nicea, Trent, and the rest never imagined that they were instituting a second Pentecost or thought they needed to concoct a new “spirit” to guide the Church.

In which the pope is reminded that you don’t have to always log in as root, and probably shouldn’t

Even when one is an absolute monarch, it is best to bring the plenitude of one’s authority to bear only when necessary.  This is quite clear to me as absolute lord of my computer.

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Russia’s birthrate now the highest in Europe

According to Anatoly Karlin at Unz.com.

Back in the First Things stage of my intellectual development, I was told that, despite appearances, Vatican II was a good thing because without it, we would be stagnant and on our way to extinction like the Eastern Orthodox, who never had the benefit of “confronting modernity”.  (The gulags don’t count.)

Yes, I’m so grateful to Pope John that instead of being confident, resurgent, and fertile like the Russians, Catholics are devoting our energies to discerning the “spiritual gifts” of homosexual couples.

Everything you’ve read about “manual” Thomism is a lie

unless you’ve been reading here or a few other places, as we’ve expressed our skepticism of nouvelle theologie propaganda.

Really excellent essay by John Lamont on the neomodernist misrepresentation of neoThomism and Garrigou-Langrange.

Faith in the Church

In his essay Faith and Doubt, Cardinal Newman argues that it is perfectly right for the Catholic Church to forbid her children to doubt her.  Not only must we accept what we currently understand to be Catholic doctrine, we must put faith in the Church herself as the “oracle of God”, and we “…must come, I say, to the Church to learn; you must come, not to bring your own notions to her, but with the intention of ever being a learner”.

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