Just this morning, I came across the blog of Adam DeVille, an Eastern Rite Catholic intellectual who is trying to grapple with the various problems with bishops, priests, sexual abuse and something for which there seems to be no solution or hope.
I have ordered his book Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power. Its price won’t break the bank and I am willing to approach the subject with an open mind. This morning, as over a period of years longer than I can remember, I mulled over the problems of clericalism, authority and obedience (the Church’s “leader principle” – I won’t mention the term in German!) and what all that has to do with Christ.
Whether the Church is declining or growing is anyone’s guess, since anything written on the subject is biased. In my life here in France, I hardly ever meet anyone who goes to church, and when they do, it is for “cultural” reasons. I had experience of clericalism in traditionalist circles, and those bishops, prelates and priests could be somewhat self-important. I have not been a victim of sex abuse by a priest and I have not personally seen any convincing evidence. It has happened, and continues to happen, but thankfully outside my personal experience. I once had a married Anglican incumbent of a parish begin to run fingers over my thigh when I was 18, not a Roman Catholic priest. For me, it sufficed to tell the reverend gentleman to stop – and he did. I was lucky. What I can say is that abuse is not always a consequence of totalitarian authority and clericalism, but simply being human and in some state of moral weakness. I am less absolute in my analysis than those who say there is too much authority or too little of it.
In the same blog, I was interested by another article Wanted: A Theology of Disobedience in the light of the Jesuit psychoanalyst Carlos Dominguez-Morano. How far can one go in a plan to reform the Church? My own reaction was “Burn the lot and God would recognise his own” – and I realised that I had quoted the words of the Inquisitor as he ordered the wholesale destruction of the Cathars! Perhaps one just walks away and comes to terms with a materialistic life – or joins another religion or belief system. That’s what most people have done.
The clericalism we bewail comes in different forms, old celibate bishops and priests with cobwebs in their birettas, but also the bureaucracies, committees and groups of activists in the Church of England and various other “established” entities. Perhaps smaller “families” of Christians might help, like the old Little Gidding community or Dreher’s Benedict Option. They might help to an extent and for a time, but the same realities keep coming back again and again. Our little continuing Anglican churches seem to have come out of the “bishops’ brawls” of the 1990’s. The G4 offers a lot of hope with the possibility of being in communion with the Polish National Catholic Church, the Nordic Catholic Church and the Union of Scranton. How long will it be before corporate groupthink saps away the last remnants of human intelligence and critical thought? I can only hope the experiment survives for a few years until some other prophetic inspiration comes up.
Left to myself, I become that much more cynical and at the limit of nihilism. My nausea on occasionally reading articles about Brexit brings me to give Calvin that much more credence for his particular take on total depravity. I was then brought to the idea that often comes up in our days – that optimism and pessimism are our own choice. The glass is half full or half empty. I have read stuff on the Internet, and it occurs to me that most British people want Brexit. Many people in Europe want authority and a life without freedom or responsibility – even if it might mean some new form of “national socialism”. Freedom is only possible or desirable for those who are ready and prepared for it spiritually. What else can I say? There simply isn’t one truth for everyone.
What of the future? Utopia? Dystopia? The one idea that enters my head is that whatever happens, humanity will survive and take an unexpected direction. New forces will come into play. When the old is consumed by fire, only then can the new be built from necessity and man’s creative ingenuity. My reader might ask me why I say so little of God or Christ. It is simply because our present time, including the Church, has little time for anything other than the power and wealth of the elite. In such times of human evil, God remains silent, and the only sign he will give will be that of Jonah.
Most of the time, I have nothing to say on my blog, and my posts are rarer. When there is little to say, silence is the best counsel. Perhaps that is truly a part of a Benedict Option: silence and contemplation, far away from the mendacious caricatures of church and civilisation.