Strasbourg Cathedral as a Temple of Reason in 1793-94
I have read some opinions on this blog responding to my postings concerning the unhappier aspects of human nature and the downside of clericalism. Clericalism is not merely a problem in the Church but in every public organisation where an elite is created by education and complicity. You will find this in every institution of politics or business, education, law and even charitable organisations. How do you deal with it when it becomes corrupt and complicity extends to protecting the guilty? The natural reaction is to destroy the institution and then pick off the escaping rats one by one, like when the Nazis were defeated in 1945 at the end of World War II.
What do you replace the destroyed institution with? It turned out rather well for Germany. The smaller fry of the old Nazi regime were allowed to stay in the police, civil service, etc. and they died out as they got older. The present-day bands of neo-Nazis are marginal and present little in the way of a threat to stability in Germany and the European Union. Things were allowed to resolve themselves through compromise and picking off the worst rats through the various war crimes trials in 1945-46.
To what extent ridding the Church of paedophiles will restore the credibility of the whole is a matter of individual judgement. If Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus is to be the rule, then the priesthood and sacramental nature of the Church must be done away with to prevent any possibility of corruption and complicity arising in the future. We have only to look to the Reformation and the more radical reformers like Calvin and Zwingli. We can go further and seek to abolish all religion and make atheism the norm like in revolutionary France or the Soviet regime. Will this solve the problem of human nature? Richard Dawkins would say “Just the ticket”, whilst most of us know that nature abhors a vacuum.
We have the vision of all churches and monasteries being emptied of all “churchy” things. It happened during the French Revolution, with classical rationalism being turned into an ersatz religion through the Goddess Reason. The monasteries were sold off as stone quarries. We could now imagine the UN deciding to send troops and police units into the Vatican to evict all the bishops and monsignori, and then turn the buildings over to the Italian State, the EU or the highest private bidder. Is this what we would like to see? Perhaps we are so little different from the people who voted for Hitler in the 1930’s!
Whatever is done, if anything is done from the outside, it is sinful human nature combatting sinful human nature. Corruption in the Church is something that disgusts us all, but the solution can only come from within the Church, and to some extent by its being deprived of paying customers and their money.
If Christianity goes, so does all our culture, as T.S. Eliot once said (more or less). The motivation for humanism in the Renaissance time came from Christianity. No other philosophy or religious system promotes the intrinsic value and rights of the human person. All other systems advocate competition and the elimination of the weakest, which is the natural principle held by all species of animals.
I don’t know what others will propose to replace the priesthood and sacramental / liturgical life of the Church. Suppose that all that is gone, repressed, made illegal. Is all that we have left is DIY spirituality? What form would that take? Do we adapt eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism for western consumption, as was doubtlessly tried in the 1960’s by people returning to the west from India, Nepal and Tibet? That said, we do have things to learn from peaceful and humanist spiritual traditions, and I am myself curious to learn more about Dom Bede Griffiths who incorporated elements of Hinduism in his Benedictine monastic way of life.
I still haven’t read Dreyer’s Benedict Option, so I am still prevented from offering an informed opinion. There are Christian communities around, Protestant and Catholic, incorporating lay people with families, not only monks and nuns. To what extent are those communities hierarchical or democratic? Are those communities the only way?
I am attracted to the idea of the alternative community based on a democratic government and a reaction against modern consumer capitalism, ecology, a philosophy of life with much in common with Romanticism. Perhaps some culture of this kind can partially assimilate a notion of Christianity that is open to democracy and anarchism, small numbers in the community and, if there is a priesthood for the sake of a sacramental / liturgical life, they have to be “ordinary guys” in everyday life and not tin-god clerics. Perhaps this is suggestive of the “basic community” of Latino Americano Marxist communists. I think that Distributism would be more in order, and allowing people their own philosophies of life. We have to learn to live with diversity, just as long as it comes from nobility of spirit.
Any church of the future has to be a marginal community without political privileges or masses of real-estate and money. This is already a reality with Continuing Anglicans and independent Catholics like the Nordic Catholic Church, whose priests have to earn their own living through work or their old-age pension. In the light of everything that has been tried and found successful or a failure, we need to re-think the priesthood and not discard the precious things the donkey is carrying (referring to my older article with the Aesop fable).
Remember, if churches have to be suppressed by secular authorities, there would be bloodshed as in the past. The transition has to be slower and without constraint. If our little Churches can excel in virtue, beauty and nobility, then we will be lights in the darkness, a powerful and quiet witness in a world that already knows that money isn’t the end of history.