Tuesday, March 22, 2016

'Realities' more important than ideas

Andrea Gagliarducci writes a very interesting piece here on Pope Benedict's recent interview, it highlights the great breach between the Pontiffs, it is not, as Gagliarducci points out, a significant doctrinal breech between the two but rather one of approach but it is this which is vital.

Some people accuse the present Holy Father of all sorts of heresies. I simply don't understand what he says, nor actually am I that interested in searching his long speeches and even longer documents to discover a heresy. What is more I don't have the Spanish to understand him and taking what he says in the media, seems to me be just spin, form but no substance.

The real difference is, as Gagliarducci points out, the lack of intellectual substance in the present Pontificate, the principle that 'realities' are more important than ideas, is as Benedict points out ultimately bankrupt.
Benedict XVI’s recent words also challenge the principle that realities are more than ideas, which Pope Francis states as one of the four pillars of his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium.” This notion is quite widespread in Latin America, and can be considered a relic of liberation theology. Practiced Marxism has become a pragmatic Marxism, close to common thinking and tailored to foster the social development of peoples.
Gagliarducci is right this idea of that 'realities are more important than ideas' seems to underscore the thought of many of Francis' placemen, Cardinal Parolin and Rodriguez Maradiaga are prime examples, so too is Cardinal João Braz de Aviz of the Congregation for Religious, whose merciless pogrom against of the Franciscans of the the Immaculate, started under the guise of a financial investigation by Fr Volpi but has been increasingly revealed as an attack on their intellectual exploration of the  of the Vatican Council and significantly in the light of Benedicts interview their questioning of Rhanner's 'anonymous Christianity'. In rather terrifying Marxist terms Braz has even spoken of the need for their 're-education'. On the part of the present men of power in the Church there seems to be a real contempt even hatred of the intellect.

One can see that 'realities' will be important to the massive German church corporation, which though it is haemorrhaging members, still seeks public support from an increasingly secularised membership who look to the Church not for its proclamation of Christ but for its schools, hospitals, child and nursing home care. It is one of the biggest German employers, and therefore feels obliged to deal in 'realities'. To be quite unkind, what seems the bottom line 'reality' for the Germans is what fills its coffers and its place at whatever table it can get its snout into. One can see how this search for 'realities' has formed Kasper's theology, especially his theology of  'Mercy'.

The great problem is that in the world 'realities' change, Germany's realities today are radically different from what they were 18 months ago. The men who choose the Church's 'realities' perhaps have a certain blindness, the (rumoured) movers and shakers behind Francis' election, Kasper, Daneels, Marx, Murphy O'Oonnor even, are men of certain age, experience and ecclesiology, they reflect a very narrow perspective. Fewer younger bishops, even among their own appointed successors would share their 'realities', society and the Church has moved on. Frankly, if the Church followed their trajectory it would collapse, even for the most factionalist supporters, mission or death stares them in the face. Those very carefully chosen 'realities' that have been  the focus of the Pope's generation and seen in the life work of many of those Cardinals who have retired in the last ten years, have been very narrow, and myopic. Their chosen 'realities' have often been about power and faction within the Church rather than about its Dominical Mission to teach the nations but they have failed to reflect the 'signs of the times'.

The signs of times are different, even beyond the European or North American experience: migration, climate change, economic disenchantment and injustice, shifting power bases, the rise of aggressive secularism, the rise of even more aggressive Islam, the rise of nationalism or regionalism and terrorism are creating a world far different than what might have been understood even three years ago. In the Church the signs of the times are different too, old men simply have nothing to say to the young; three ordinations in the almost 3 million strong diocese of Buenos Aires sums up how much a generation has failed in its proclamation of the Gospel and how unattractive they have made following Christ.

No-one today is interested in the Church that merely mouths what any other NGO can say more articulately. Indeed as the Church enters into partisan politics rather than gathering the faithful it divides them. Younger clergy and even new bishops are a distinct from the previous generation, their values and formation have occurred under vastly different conditions to the previous generation in training during the turmoil of the Council.

The great problem with a Church focussed on 'realities' is all it can do is to do what any other NGO does and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned - not an unimportant part of Christ's teaching - but it is the sum of it. Christ raises the dead to life, opens heaven, reconciles mankind to his Father. Christ changes man in the depth of his being from sinner to saint, he not only comes alongside of man in solidarity but raises him up, even to the point of enthusing him with divinity. Such a Church is incapable offering hope, especially if cuts itself off from the supernatural.



philipjohnson said...

Fr.I am 63 yrs of age and i agree with every word you say.The last 50 yrs of post Vat 11 New Church has been a disgrace and a travesty.Long live Tradition!God bless.

Gabriel Syme said...

Fantastic article Father, I could have cheered when reading it.

You description of the contemporary German Church and its motivations is bang-on. Money, money, money. They argue for communion for adulterers, but simultaneously deny the sacraments to those who don't or can't pay the German Church tax. So essentially, it's do what you please - just as long as you produce the cash.

And too right that a generation of clergy has failed miserably to spread the Gospel. All they ever do is fawn over false religions and search for loop-holes in Christs teaching. No wonder young people abandon the Church in droves - yet, when you think about it, its a miracle that the Church has anyone left at all, given the puerile gruel its been dishing out instead of Christianity these past decades.

I am 38 and was lapsed between 16 and 29. I found Catholic tradition about 4 years ago, thanks to the SSPX. I will be forever in their debt. I mostly attend their masses, but am happy to support other sources too, such as the (very few) Diocesan traditional masses on offer.

Since finding tradition, I at last learned how the Church managed to last 2,000 years thus far - I could never figure it out based on what had hitherto been on offer to me. Suddenly there is a real substance to, and intellectual tradition behind, the faith. Suddenly our liturgy is God focused and beautiful. Suddenly things matter. Suddenly the Church is actually Catholic, as opposed to a 2nd rate Church of England tribute act.

Stephen Turton said...

When the world sees the evil around it, and asks where are the christians and christianity, and the answer is 'nowhere', it is dismissed as irrelevant, or 'collaborating with the evildoers', then it is fought against. More atheism has been caused by a Christianity seemingly able to do only the good work secular systems do just as well if not better, than by scientific criticism, technological progress and modern philosophy put together. So says Paul Quay S.J. in The Mystery Hidden in God for Ages, which addresses this very topic. I think this captures something of the essence of the problem. His solution ? well it's a challenging book and I haven't got that far yet, but it centres around 'recapitulation in Christ'.

Gillineau said...

Ideas require intelligence, realities only the senses. The pope evidently isn't the sharpest knife in the draw; like Obama his election clearly shows that he was seen as 'teachable' by those who wished to control his actions. Which in the pope's case is our insatiable Teutonic kith and kin, nature's most tenacious imperialists.

Michael Dowd said...

Below is my simple (minded?) opinion on how the Church got to where it is today. Hint: Money is the root of all evil.

My guess is that the Church's worldliness (decline of the divine) began around the time of Constantine when Christianity became accepted and made the official religion of the Roman Empire as a way to morally focus and aid in the control of the populace. By this political "marriage" the Church became rich and powerful. And becoming rich and powerful it also became corrupt from time to time. Over the years, now rich and powerful, the Church began losing it's political power as a means of control and needed to depend more on moral means to persuade. With the advent of Modernism the Church began a process of philosophical and theological deterioration largely becoming irrelevant to secular world. By this time the Church was a vast financial enterprise supported by lay Catholics world wide. The writing was on the wall that this vast financial enterprise could not long continue if the millions of Catholic were infected with Modernism and decided to drop out. As a remedy to this potential collapse Vatican II seen as the answer by Protestantizing the Church and making it more relevant in order to keep the Catholics coming to Mass and obtain new members from converting Protestants.
This has not worked and within the next 25 years or so the Church will become a remnant. At this point the Church can start to be rebuild much poorer and much wiser. Having money and power was not the way of Christ and it should not be the way of His Church.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I think that is a bit simple minded, the Church is both sinful and holy, where there are saints then the Church is far from what you describe. When Christ is not at its centre then there is all types of corruption (both before and after Constantine).

Michael Dowd said...

I agree Father Blake. My main point is that the Church is supposed to be a Kingdom not of this world but, in large measure, did the opposite and became morally compromised and often focused on matters irrelevant to eternal life, e;g., climate change.

Woody said...

I feel what has happened is that those in the Church have put their fellow man first, seeking God through him. This makes it more important to serve man first and then claiming you are serving God. This is the essence of Protestantism: Serve your fellow man and then you are serving God. In reality, this places man before God. This is wrong and will put you, no matter how much you serve your fellow man, on the road to perdition. The Mass and all other sacraments become unimportant when you place man first and God second. Reality becomes more important than spirituality. All the sacraments become unimportant. The salvation of your soul, eternal life, is no longer dependent on the sacraments but on how you treat your fellow man. As long as you lived a life "loving your fellow man" you will attain heaven. The sacraments won't get you to heaven. This is error. Tradition is the only way to attain heaven. Serving God first and partaking in the holy sacraments which only the Catholic Church can render. These will get you to heaven. These will give you the impetus to serve your fellow man.

David O'Neill said...

At almost 78 I too can clearly remember the beauty of our Church & its liturgy. I had hoped that Pope Benedict might restore much of what was lost. Insofar as Pope Francis is concerned; if I am being charitable I think he is naive in speaking ad lib to journalists with our realising they will extract from his words what they want to hear regardless of the context. If I'm being uncharitable I think he speaks before he thinks & often speaks to be reported.

John Fisher said...

We all know the story of "The Prodigal Son". In the new "updated for modern man" the Father (God, the Church)does not wait for the son (sinner) to return after destroying themselves in sin (eating the husks given to the pigs, floundering in the muck and covered n the stench of sin) but actually jumps in with them and the other pigs and urges them to stay and sin because it might hurt feelings. If the synod document allows Holy Communion for those living together without marriage it is our duty to hound episcopal authority and this Pope. I speak as the child of a thrice civilly divorced mother with one annulment. Do you think those that do this stuff care about God and the Church? You are joking...its just lip service... but in the end in old age as they physically fail that is the time they return... if they ever do. The Church prior to Vatican II and after gave the impression this was what being modern meant. Doing what the world did and becoming worldly while their children suffered.... so much few trust marriage. One major point that is sidestepped. The governments invented civil marriage and if it did not exist them we would see people as they are. Living together vs married in the Church.

John Fisher said...

“Vatican II was a re-reading of the Gospel in light of contemporary culture. . . Its fruits are enormous. Just recall the liturgy. The work of liturgical reform has been a service to the people as a re-reading of the Gospel from a concrete historical situation.” Pope Francis lastest news is he washing even the feet of Moslems in the liturgy this year. Please Pope Francis go and wash the feet of ISIS. His way of thinking is really a problem... I don't consider this "rereading" its a falsification part of the liturgical deform. A great fruit? It is a stinky fruit in which something ancient and connected to Christ and the Apostles is edited and changed by men like Bugnini and foisted on us. It is modern in that like all great dictatorships it denies the past and imposes itself because it can not because it should

Michael Dowd said...

Re: Woody and John Fisher

What is happening with the modern Catholic Church is it is losing it's authority, structure and credibility as it waters down what it means to be a practicing Catholic in an effort to be more pleasing to it's members and potential members. This approach is completely contrary to Christ's teaching that we must carry our cross and be obedient to God's commandments if we are to have eternal life.

Woody said...

Michael Dowd
I agree with you. And yet, I know it will get better. As a fire destroys the forest, green sprigs begin to shoot up within the chard ground after time. These sprigs grow into mighty trees and the forest once again becomes sustaining and beautiful. Try as they may, they can't destroy God's Church. To all and especially Fr. Blake, have a Blessed and Happy Easter!

James said...

The phrase "realities are more important than ideas" as explained in the pope's Apostolic Exhortation allows for an interpretation entirely in line with traditional Catholic doctrine. Leo XIII pointed out, for example, that what forms of governmental organization are best in the abstract are not always best in the particular circumstances of particular societies at particular points in history. "Realities are more important than ideas" is probably not the best way to summarize the type of truth pointed to by Pope Leo, but it is not a strictly false way to express that truth. Under some circumstances, such as military combat, a doctor can only maximize how many lives he saves by allowing some to die. The reality of how to maximize the saving of life must take precedence over thinking it would be nice to save everyone.

To say that attaining realistic goods under particular circumstances rather than what is abstractly best is simply Aristotle's and Saint Thomas's doctrine of prudence as the guiding virtue.

So within the limits of insisting upon essential goods and rejecting moral evil it is true to say that "realities" (the realistic goods under the circumstances) are, perhaps in an imprecise manner of speaking, more important than "ideas" (insistence upon trying to attain goods unrealistic under the circumstances).

And it must be admitted that some in the Church today want to always insist upon what is most perfect rather than be content with what is acceptable and realistically attainable.

What would be an error would be to reject essential goods (such as the indissolubility of marriage) because the "reality" is that people violating it (such as by getting divorced and remarried). It is a simple fact that some in the Church today are willing to accept true evils because such evils are the "reality".

Whether or not Pope Francis wishes to accept such evils as "realities" does not change the fact that the precise working of his Apostolic Exhortation allows for an interpretation consistent with Catholic doctrine on this point.

Nicolas Bellord said...

James: Whilst particular circumstances may mean that you can only achieve the second best that does not mean you should not continue to strive for the best by changing the circumstances. Too often we have been content to accept the second best and not strive for the best. Reality is not static and if we are not striving to go up we will inevitably go down.

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