Update: this article of mine inspired another blog article Is the Pope Catholic? Who cares!?
I have already criticised Pius IX’s infallibilist ideology as something that is intellectually absurd, and which is in fact the basis of sedevacantism. I find this interesting:
Three dominant narratives have framed Vatican II : forced continuity (Conservatives); formally authorized secularization to religious institutions and theological propositions (Liberals); and demonstrable discontinuity, with a helping of latent apocalypticism (Traditionalists). There is an emerging movement. The Traditionalist narrative has a certain amount of momentum – there are, as De Mattei notes, more voices questioning the events of the 50s through the end result of the 70s.
Catholicism in the 1950’s, often seen as halcyon days, contained the seeds of its own destruction. Alan Watts was writing in 1947, in the heady days of Pius XII! Perhaps there may be a new tendency that combines liturgical traditionalism with a critical attitude in regard to the Papacy. I encountered this when I was at Fribourg University, especially with a few German priests I knew.
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I am thankful for the work Dr William Tighe does most days to provide a few interesting links to current events surrounding the Church. This link made my blood boil.
I don’t know which planet those people, including the Pope, live on – but most of us are worn down and alienated, or never had anything to do with this clerical organisation.
I was talking with a friend of mine a couple of days ago. We both know a brave parish priest in the area of Sens who came up with the most damning reality check. When I was a seminarian in the early 1990’s, we had a visit from a French archbishop looking for traditionalist priests. During a talk he gave us, he forecast that most French dioceses had about ten years’ life left in them. The statistics of French people going regularly to Sunday Mass in their parish churches was averaged out to about 5%. That was early 1992. This priest in France (for whom I have installed an organ in his church) talks of 0.06% in a particularly degraded diocese with two cathedrals and a large area. What do we conclude? It’s finished.
The Pope seems to be pandering to Mr. Biden and an American world, but American Christianity too is dying. As often, I return to the quotation from a man who was far from being a saint in his 1947 book, Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion.
The present low ebb of Church religion consists in the fact that rarely, even for Church people, does it give the soul any knowledge of union with the reality that underlies the universe. To put it in another way, modern Church religion is little concerned with giving any consciousness of union with God. It is not mystical religion, and for that reason it is not fully and essentially religion.
If we are going to talk of institution, authority and magisterium, we have to remember the foundation of all that – Christ and an idea of life that contradicted that of the world of which the institutional church (and Old Testament Judaism) is a part. Pope Francis cites the example of the Old Catholics rejecting the definition of Papal infallibility at Vatican I, and uses the example to condemn dissident and even critical minds of our own time about Vatican II. The old cracked record goes on and on in a kind of infernal circle. Perhaps Francis the Jesuit sees himself as the new Pius IX who feels infallible *. Quite honestly, it is revolting and supremely cynical.
* I have mentioned this notion is several postings in this blog, and I really think I should give my source: August Bernhard Hasler, How the Pope Became Infallible, New York 1981, p. 113 “Many people claimed that Pius IX actually spoke of feeling infallible”. I must admit that Hasler was of a similar mind to Hans Küng, namely theological liberalism. At the same time, his historical work seems to be honest. Pius IX was on record as having shown signs of what might now be interpreted as mental illness and an inflated ego. Naturally, the notion of infallibility will be an insult to an evolved notion of truth and foundationalism.
In his criticism of post-institutionalism (if anyone would use such a label to identify themselves), Mattei makes a distinction between those who are keeping their heads below the parapet and those in “open revolt”. So post-institutionalism is a dead end… Fine by me, since I am neither pre, post or institutionalist. My own world is so far away from that polarised world in America that is now influencing the media and popular culture over here in Europe.
I belong to an institutional church as a priest, but one that is anchored in Anglicanism. Most of us ordinary folk are far from the authoritarian culture of Rome since the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and the days of the three popes strutting around Europe like some caricature from Palmar de Troya! It is legitimate to aspire to a different form of Catholicism, something like the vision of Western Orthodoxy, a more spiritual than political Old Catholicism and Anglican Catholicism. We can unite body and soul without getting into the kind of cognitive dissonance associated with the modern Papacy, the Vatican Bank, paedophile clergy, big money and favours gained from American presidents. If that is the institution and spiritual life is not possible without it, it is time to read Nietzsche!
In my conversation with my friend, we talked about the traditionalist societies, fraternities and institutes we knew, and how everything has remained so static and sterile in the name of stability. Doubtless, those men have lived through their inner conflicts and Angst. Like a man stuck in a toxic and childless marriage, they are unable to see a different horizon. Am I able either? It is the question I keep asking.
Such a level of thought is probably going to bedevil every man who is considering the priesthood, whether in a diocese, a religious order or some traditionalist institute trapped in its pseudo-baroque rigidity. Many have fallen by the wayside as priests or seminarians. They would be dismissed as the chaff who were not part of the elected and chosen elite. These are human souls, and most of us have turned over the page and moved on. A part of the purpose of this blog, especially when I once called it New Goliards, is a testimony from the casualties of the anti-Christian ideology represented by Papal institutionalism.
In my thoughts, I keep returning to Oscar Wilde. He was not the wisest of men and got himself put in prison through his own appalling choices, but he took the consequences with courage.
You may realise it when I say that had I been released last May, as I tried to be, I would have left this place loathing it and every official in it with a bitterness of hatred that would have poisoned my life. I have had a year longer of imprisonment, but humanity has been in the prison along with us all, and now when I go out I shall always remember great kindnesses that I have received here from almost everybody, and on the day of my release I shall give many thanks to many people, and ask to be remembered by them in turn.
The prison style is absolutely and entirely wrong. I would give anything to be able to alter it when I go out. I intend to try. But there is nothing in the world so wrong but that the spirit of humanity, which is the spirit of love, the spirit of the Christ who is not in churches, may make it, if not right, at least possible to be borne without too much bitterness of heart.
I know also that much is waiting for me outside that is very delightful, from what St. Francis of Assisi calls ‘my brother the wind, and my sister the rain,’ lovely things both of them, down to the shop-windows and sunsets of great cities. If I made a list of all that still remains to me, I don’t know where I should stop: for, indeed, God made the world just as much for me as for any one else. Perhaps I may go out with something that I had not got before. I need not tell you that to me reformations in morals are as meaningless and vulgar as Reformations in theology. But while to propose to be a better man is a piece of unscientific cant, to have become a deeper man is the privilege of those who have suffered. And such I think I have become.
What has become of Roman Catholicism represents for some of us a spiritual prison, condemning us to circular ways of thinking and endless paradoxes. Wilde did not know the infallibility of Pope Francis, but of Pius IX, the bourgeoisie and the clerocracy. Christ was absent from all that. The body of the Church had to be elsewhere if the spirit could be recognised. The Victorian prison killed Oscar Wilde, not immediately but through the illness that would take him after his move to Paris and his inability to rebuild his broken life.
Some of us have been broken to a lesser extent by what proves simply to be unredeemed human nature, sadism, pride, cruelty, dominance, hypocrisy and every other sin of the spirit. If institutionalism is merely a cover for these sins in a corrupt state like many governments of countries have become, then the institution no longer means anything.
That, my friends, is the cause of empty parish churches and empty seminaries.