Daily Archives: August 1, 2010
If there was any need to persuade ourselves that the perception of Christianity is fading away in large parts of the Christian world, the writer Anne Rice and many bloggers around have given us another convincing example.
Some days ago, Ms. Rice decided that she is “quitting Christianity in the name of Christ”. Please don’t laugh. Her lines are amusing, so I do not want to deprive you of this little diversion:
Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”
At school we would have been asked: “what does the author want to say?”. She wants to say that she is so superior to all those people commonly called Christians; that she will not accept to be in their company anymore; that she is so good that in her eyes Christians are an “infamous group”; that by accusing them of being “quarrelsome, hostile and disputatious” she is not showing all these qualities herself; that her conscience is so pure that it will not allow her to do anything else. Poor lamb. I feel like crying.
This would be enough to let you understand the abyss of self-delusional, home-made, fantasy Christianity some people want to live in. But it gets better. Try this:
In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”
We learn here that Jesus was clearly in favour of homosexual activism; a feminist; a supporter of contraception; obviously “democratic” and, in general, perfectly aligned with the lady’s thinking. How unfortunate that those quarrelsome Christians never understood Christ!
Ms. Rice was – or said she was – a Catholic. Not being illiterate (she is a writer after all) she had to know some ten years ago, when she came back to Catholicism, what the Church’s position on a lot of things she doesn’t like is. She can’t say she didn’t know. She can’t say she took ten years to better reflect. She must, on the contrary, admit that her conversion was a fake one from day one and what has now become intolerable is its obvious hypocrisy.
Let us reflect, though: perhaps has the lady some private, personal agenda to let her conclude that “Christianity is wrong”? Maybe has she, say, a homosexual son? A homo activist, perchance? Could it be that the lady “opts out” of Christianity just because her Church forces her to look his son’s perversion and road to perdition in the face?
Much easier, then, to take refuge in a cosy self-made “mummy knows best”-Christianity, happily adapted to all the errors, heresies and outright abominations which the lady happily supports either because they are, alas, in the family or because they match a system of values totally antithetical to the message of Jesus, but nevertheless defended in His name. What a shamelessness, and what a blasphemy.
Not more persuasive is the other remark, that Christians be “quarrelsome”. Of course they are. The idea of a Christianity of the past in which all lived a wonderful life of mutual love shows that the lady not only doesn’t know her history, but hasn’t even read the Acts of the Apostles or many of the Letters! This is a fantasy world, opposed to today’s life merely to avoid reality. The reality is that Christ demanded that his faithful take the sword and this is what they have – imperfectly, of course – done since.
Not more encouraging are many of the reactions on the blogosphere. “What has become of Christianity”, they ask themselves as if Christianity had ever been pro-homos, feminist, democratic and all the other things which would have made it acceptable to Ms. Rice. One can vividly imagine all these people supporting contraception, abortion, sodomy, priestesses and what not sighing at the thought of the lost innocence of the first Christians, and feeling so good….
Without any doubt, the recovery of proper catechesis is the first step to the recovery of Christianity in the West.
I am now in the process of reading (and digesting) Romano Amerio’s Iota Unum. Professor Amerio was chosen as perito from the Bishop of Lugano during the fateful years of the Second Vatican Council and therefore not only had all the documents going through his desks, but was also best informed on the background events.
Professor Amerio’s ruthlessly honest analysis of the changes experienced by the Church in the way it presents itself – and of how the Church hierarchy has modified the way of interpreting Her role – offers the starting point for a vast number of discussions. Today I would like to dwell on the role of the Pope.
Professor Amelio identifies the role of the Pope as being basically twofold: direction and prescription. The first is the identification and formulation of proper rules of conduct which are in themselves not binding but mere suggestions; the second the prescribing and enforcing of a certain behaviour. Historically, Popes have used both functions in various ways, but the ability of the Pope to act as a source of prescriptive law (that is: to demand and to enforce rather than merely to suggest) has never been downplayed.
With the Second Vatican Council, a dramatic change occurs. The papacy shifts, to use Amerio’s words, “from governing to admonishing”. The first function is clearly downplayed and considered more or less obsolete, the second one is now declared to be the weapon of choice.
Let us read from the Opening Speech of the Council: confronted with the problem of how to deal with error, John XXIII declares that the Church
prefers today to make use of the medicine of mercy, rather than of the arms of severity.
John XXIII indicates that the Church wants to resist error
by showing the validity of her teaching, rather than by issuing condemnations
This concept that mercy and severity be intrinsically opposed (so spread today, even in the everyday language) is a novel idea. It is, in fact, contrary to the firmly held belief of the Church that, as Amerio beautifully puts it,
the condemnation of error is itself a work of mercy, since by pinning down error those laboring under it are corrected and other are preserved from falling into it.
This tragically weak conception of the role of the Papacy rests on the rather naive idea that errors be, in the long term, self-correcting; that in other words be sufficient for the Church to merely point out to the right thinking in order for the straying sheep to, in time, see the errors of their ways and naturally come back to orthodoxy.
This new concept of the way a Pope exercises his powers – which Amerio aptly calls, with Isaiah, Breviatio Manus Domini or “foreshortening of the arm of the Lord” – does not die with John XXIII but continues unabated, and even in a dramatically accentuated form, under the pontificate of his successor Paul VI.
Paul VI is so weak that when the “Dutch schism” occurs (an unbelievable event in which a so-called “Dutch Pastoral Council”, a gathering of more than 5000 representatives of the Church in Holland, convened in the presence of the Bishops and voted with a 90% majority for the abolition of priest celibacy, the employment of secularised priests in pastoral position, the right of bishops to exercise a deliberative vote on papal decrees and even the ordination of women) his reaction is to point out to all the errors of the deliberation, but at the same time to ask the bishops: “what do you think that We can do to help you, to strenghten your authority, to enable you to overcome the present difficulties of the Church in Holland?”.
This is breathtaking. Paul VI is confronted with a compact group of heretical bishops and far from severely punishing them, he asks them what he can do to strenghten their authority. Here we see not only the great personal weakness of the Pope, but the utter inability of the new “soft” approach toward error to avoid its spreading and its becoming more and more aggressive. The Dutch schism was in fact not silenced until John Paul II demanded obedience rather than meekly suggesting it.
But Paul VI was not the only one. Let us read the words of Cardinal Gut, the then prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, regarding Paul VI’s approach to liturgical abuses:
“Many priests did whatever they liked. They imposed their own personalities. Very often unauthorised initiatives could not be stopped. In his great goodness and wisdom, the Holy father then made concessions, often against his own inclinations”.
Here, a Cardinal sees in the giving in to unlawfulness an indication of “goodness and wisdom”. Furthermore, the repeated indication of initiatives which “could not be stopped” by those whose job would have been to stop them reveals all the scale of the weakness dominating the Vatican corridors in those fateful years.
Even heresies can be stopped. Even extremely spread ones. It just takes the right people at the helm.
Only two days ago I have pointed out to the great courage and firmness showed by Pope Pius XII in front of Nazi evil. Today I point out to the “self-demolition” (not my words: Paul VI’s) started just a few years after the death of that great Pope.
The contrast couldn’t be more dramatic.