The Ungodly Dystopia

A friend of mine who is a scientist wrote this on his Facebook:

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“The Church has degenerated into factional disputation. As Paul VI said it is “engaged in a process of self-destruction.”

The Magisterium equates “love” with “romance” and “sexual bonding.” The only relationship that the Magisterium is interested in is marriage. The Magisterium has little interest in what Jesus says is the greatest love: friendship.

Modern catechesis is empty of content. My Godson and his younger brother both lapsed after deciding that Catholicism – as it was presented to them by a top-notch Catholic school and a “vibrant” progressive parish – made no sense whatsoever. I know of many other decent, deep-thinking, people who have lapsed over the last few years because the Church has failed at a profound level to nurture their faith, but rather has done one thing after another to erode it. When they asked for bread, they were given lumps of rock. When they asked for a fish, they were given a serpent.

The Vatican is obsessed with pandering to the inhumane ideologies which are Islam and the totalitarian tyrannies of Russia and China. The papacy is betraying the Chinese Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Greek Catholic churches.

The hierarchy is obsessed with protecting its reputation by covering-up financial corruption and sexual misconduct. This has (and will continue) to back-fire.

The two things that were most wrong about the Church in 1960 were, first: that it was too focussed on sex and gender; and second: that it was too authoritarian. These were the ONLY things that did not change as a result of Vatican-II. In fact, both of these problems were compounded.

Modern preaching is – at best – trite, undemanding and complacent. At worst it is heretical.

John Henry Newman said that he wanted an educated laity; but is in the interest of the hierarchy that the laity be ignorant: and rendered passive by being brain-washed into the belief that they should simply believe and do what they are told. As a result, there are very few laity who have any competence in theology, philosophy, scripture or liturgy.

The state of priestly (and diaconal) education is abysmal. It seems that the purpose of seminary “education” is simply to brow-beat candidates into brain-dead “yes men”. A young man I know of, who as a lay person had had an active intellect, returned from seminary with the attitude: “its OK to exercise your human reason as a way of amusing yourself; but when it comes to religion one should simply rely on authority and never think for yourself – that is Protestant!”

The Church is too clerical. Too often an ignorant priest tells a well-informed lay-person: “I know what I’m talking about because I am a priest, and you don’t know anything because you are not ordained.” Too often, laity do what clergy tell them merely because they are systemically conditioned to respect clergy and never to engage their own powers of discernment.

The Church is too focussed on obedience; but obedience is only demanded by the Liberal establishment from the Conservative faction. Obedience is never asked from the Progressivist faction – and if it were to be asked, it would be withheld, of course!

Change and novelty is pursued as an end in itself. This is the Progressivist agenda, poorly disguised as a concern for justice. It is opposed to any concern for right-belief – orthodoxy – and right-behaviour – orthopraxy. It has no interest in Gospel Truth; but only what is compatible with a Secularist, Socialist, Globalist, and Permissivist narrative.

Modern liturgy is tedious, dull, impoverished, casual and uninspiring. I want to worship “with reverence and awe”, not attend some low-key informal get-together. I want – and demand – convenient access to Traditional Catholic Liturgy: the Latin Mass, or one of the substantially intact and “unNovusOrdoed” Eastern Rites. I refuse to accept the Mess of Paul VI (even when celebrated in best accord with tradition – which is rare indeed) as normative, wholesome or pastorally effective. By its fruits I know its nature.

The papacy has arrogated much too much power and prestige to itself. The pope is now seen as the embodiment of the Church: on the lines of “L’Estat est moi!” as a French monarch is supposed to have said of himself. Rather than the pope seeing himself as the servant of the Gospel and merely the stand-in deputy for Christ, he presents himself first, as a celebrity to be adulated; second, a creative instigator and innovator; and third, as the “Custodian of Tradition” – behaving as a prison guard strictly constraining the life of his captive”.

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This is not the first time I have expressed this kind of thought about institutional Christianity or quoted others. I speak of Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism and even parts of Orthodoxy, any community engaged in nihilistic deconstruction for ends known only to themselves.

My friend has expressed himself many times about love as friendship, of the kind described in St Aelred’s Spiritual Friendship. I remember reading that St Philip Neri’s ideal was to create a community of priests based, not on authority, obedience and constraint, but on friendship. Such a notion has been encouraged very little in the history of the Church. Love in friendship far surpasses that in marriage, which is analogous with religious vows. It is understandable given the stability needed for family life and the good of the offspring. Friendship between men has been associated with homosexual relationships, but this is not always the case. Many of the most noble friendships, as has been my experience, are completely “Platonic”.

Most ordinary people have a very shallow view of religion, which is not entirely their fault. The kind of Papalist infallibilism I have discussed leaves us with an absurd view of the whole.

Decades ago, Catholic bishops and priests collaborated with the Nazi tyranny in Europe, as mentioned in the story of Leone Ginzburg when faced with his old friend and colleague who had became a Nazi and trying to persuade him that human freedom was a futile delusion. In our own days, the Erastian relationship is with Islam and Chinese Communism – and generally with the world of big money.

What about Newman’s desire for an educated laity? Pray, pay and obey! Most people I see in churches are on the brink of lapsing through indifference and a nihilist / materialist view of life.

Like modern politics, churchmen are obsessed with obedience, and a one-sided version. It is like cancel culture which calls itself liberalism but is not concerned for man’s freedom. It is truly what C.S. Lewis called The Abolition of Man. When man is cancelled, so is God.

For the liturgy, I am content to be a priest, but we are not priests for ourselves. I am rarely in church for Mass or any kind of service, because I have everything at home in my chapel. Not everyone has, and my friend expresses himself as a layman. It is essential for the isolated priest I am to have empathy for those who are spiritually starved by the thin tasteless gruel they will find in their parish churches.

I very much identify with my friend’s lamentation. I say this as a priest of the ACC, which is a small independent Anglican church. What can we draw out of it? The first thing that comes into my mind is self-reliance and avoiding the general slide into Chinese Communism and dystopia. My separation and a life of near solitude for nearly a year have taught me many things. Concentrate on what you CAN do about all this: write books, organise talks and social get-togethers, counselling for people on the brink of losing faith and hope. For us to be inventive and let the bastards know that we don’t need them and that they are only good for the big shut-down. Also work hard at writing and art – Beauty will save the world.

We have to react with a new way of living the Faith. In our time of despair and learned helplessness, we need to take ourselves in hand and find out what is the most essential. I encourage people to read – real books, and learn about what Christianity has really meant in history. It cannot be allowed to die because it got an unjust trial! I think many of the traditionalists will capitulate and comply, or adopt extreme and radical positions. Others will find ways to survive in a new Church of the Catacombs, the new Recusants.

We are called to be self-reliant, not wait for God to work miracles or ecclesiastical institutions to change their minds. It is down to us. I am a very little man, a fool for Christ – and I do what I can through writing and music. Each of us according to the charismas we have received from God must decide to act and persevere – and be brave.

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4 Responses to The Ungodly Dystopia

  1. raitchi2 says:

    Speaking as a layman in the Roman Catholic Church, but I think the reality is that it’s seen in all other Churches with an ordained ministry is just the absolute worthlessness of our clergy. It’s a regression to mediocrity with them. It’s as if God were calling only beta-males to be priests because otherwise they’d starve. I say this with half a truth to it, but I see the clergy continually defending their right to a cushy salaried lifestyle (living off of the laity’s donations) while they seem to push for the laity to do more and more. I don’t see them writing impressive homilies or out there founding works of mercy.

    In the RCC, we now have instituted lay ministries of Lector, Catechist and Acolyte. The clergy push more and more for many lay pastoral associates that help run parishes. At my home parishes we have: Coordinator of Youth Ministry Gr. 9-12; Director of Faith Formation Gr. K-8, Director of Evangelization and Adult Formation, Director of Music & Liturgy, Business manager, Office manager, receptionist, the wives of the 3 deacons are listed, on top of all that we have a resident priest in addition to the pastor. I honestly wonder what the hell the pastor does all day since these people are in charge of these various ministries…I suppose there’s no “Director fo Geriatric Ministry” so there’s that. It’s like at a certain point you keep giving jobs that were traditionally the priest’s job to lay people and we start asking, “why do you deserve a salary and retirement again?” Is it because he can consecrate, absolve and anoint? I mean that might be, but saying the magic words for sacramental validity is not the most difficult thing in my mind of being a pastor (counseling, consoling spiritual direction–all things we let lay people do). Why does someone need 7 years of adult boarding school education for these last few skills (which are largely reading out of a book).

    I also see the clergy as having totally abdicated their responsibilities to the Church. Sometimes institutions fail because institutional policies are bad and need to be reformed. Anytime things go bad it’s always the laity who need to step up, be holier, done more, volunteer more. It’s never the possibility that we have a clergy that is financially parasitic and institutional yes-men who can’t come up with a creative solution to a problem. In my home diocese we’re closing parishes left and right, but I don’t see our pastors…our spiritual fathers taking up part time jobs to donate more money or leading new charges in the Church. They just kind of roll with the punches as long as their salary and retirement continues to be paid.

    The solution is to further de-mystify RCC priest, by severing the link between priest and full time salaried position and remove the barrier of mandatory celibacy. This would reduce the artificial supply restriction that in some places is literally restricting access to the sacraments. What if some priests were funded the way we fund permanent deacons? These are largely financially independent married men who have other jobs and volunteer their time at the Church. What if they were upgraded to married volunteer priests? Would my parish look different if we had 1 salaried priest with 3 volunteer priests at his disposal? Would we see growth in hours of liturgy performed? Growth in confessions heard? I don’t know, but it might be worth a shot. Ideally I’d love to see something like a married priest simplex return on a volunteer basis. Imagine if every parish had let’s just say 15 men ordained in this way–what would that do to liturgies, sizes of the parish, preaching styles etc. I think this would help with the personal connection to a priest which is essential in our ordained Church (i.e. I need a priest to get to heaven…without a priest there’s a lot of relying on God’s mercy and hoping things work out). This could be a way forward to revitalize these institutional Church structures.

    Shy of that I think as a layman we are just going to have to acknowledge we are unlikely to have easy access to the sacraments over the next 15 years or so especially as the older priest cohorts retire and die. We will have to plan to make partners with like minded Christian communities on cooperative projects and otherwise live out our faith praying in a semi-hermitage.

    • One of the conflicts of our time is between “toxic masculinity” and Woke / Cancel Culture feminism. We really need to cast out minds back to a time when these weren’t issues. We must also be careful about wanting stereotypes of men who would have done well in the Army, who are physically strong, powerful and strong willed, leaders. Perhaps such qualities are needed in city parishes, but country parishes are less bureaucratic, or they were. It sufficed to be an average person with sensitivities for people, beauty and goodness.

      I would have no objection in principle to full-time clergy if the ministry in question involves real work! I would hate to be involved in one of those urban / suburban parishes where it is all organised and all-go. One thing that kills anything is bureaucracy, automation and “artificial intelligence”, the abolition of the human element. It is bad enough with parish council meetings. In most of the more rural parishes where I have worked, the main areas are liturgical services – where you have people serving and needing to be trained and rehearsed – and music involving an organist, other instruments as needed and singers. After that, there is the minimum of finance and administration. For visiting the sick and dealing with people with problems or particular spiritual need, it’s down to the priest to be available. Catechising children or “Sunday School” can be divided between the priest and one or two competent lay teachers. The more simple a machine is, the better it runs and the more reliable it will be.

      Thus, the example I have seen is old-style parishes in rural France and Italy where the human element was uppermost. The kind of parish you mention is truly a dystopian nightmare. You mention the long years of seminary training. As I have experienced it, it seems to be geared to the transformation of a young layman into a cleric. That is a double-edged sword: the emphasis on the “otherness” of the priesthood, but also confirms a narcissistic personality in his arrogance. College life in Oxford and Cambridge before World War II was a lot less repressive but was disciplined and gave a certain clerical “gravitas”.

      Models of future ministry? The married priest with his wife and children and a secular job. Not a bad idea. Perhaps the priest being self-employed would give more flexibility in his life and his vocation / ministry. The other ideal model would be a community based on friendship like the Oratory of St Philip Neri that some traditionalist priests are trying to emulate. In my own experience, a toxic marriage has brought me to appreciate the value of celibacy, something that becomes less of a burden in a mature man. It takes a lot of introspection and self-knowledge to assume solitude, for example for rural ministry. For the married priest, a lot is demanded of the wife who needs to be a mature and reflective woman, not some kind of fickle personality who is self-entitled and competes with her husband’s vocation. Marriage is no guarantee of a priest of quality, especially when the marriage is toxic, a conflict between feminine vanity and the vocation and an inner conflict in the priest which can lead to psychological difficulties and even suicide.

      I fear that the crisis has gone too far, and we will see cathedrals and churches become concert rooms, cultural centres or less noble secular buildings. Lay people will have less access to the Sacraments and priests like me will be kept out of ministry for reasons of canon law and which institutional Church we belong to. I earn my living (self-employed translator) and pay my own bills, but it also means that I can’t go where the communities of faithful are. Christianity in the future will become less sacramental as the supply of priests dries up and the only church services and community prayer become independent of sacramental priesthood. Much can be learned from John Wesley’s Methodism and Quakerism. Also, not all Muslims are terrorists and murderers – there is a deeply spiritual message in the non-extreme versions like in Morocco where Muslims and Christians live together in harmony. I experienced this when I lived in Marseilles. Christianity could again find its dimension of universal loving kindness and bringing the highest inspiration from the human spirit. We can’t fight the future, but we can learn to life in a new way with it.

      Christianity must become intimate and human, a simple way of life for people who are pure and just of heart, innocent like children yet cunning enough to deal with people of this world. We need to be out of cities and mechanisation, and live more like in the “old days”, using technology as a tool and not becoming addicted to it. Priests won’t be richer than anyone else, and without the support of a community will not be able to build up a parish. There has to be a middle course. Otherwise it will be the way it is for you as a layman and me as a priest.

      What next?

      • raitchi2 says:

        “One of the conflicts of our time is between “toxic masculinity” and Woke / Cancel Culture feminism.”

        Absolutely. My usage of the word ‘beta-males’ was inaccurate. I don’t think we need football QBs and army rangers as priests. What I’m really tired of is the lazy priests that just seem to leech off of the Church’s finances (aka the laity’s donations). In my own experience I’m not seeing fantastic holiness of priests, great advice in the confessional, great liturgy, corporal works of mercy. Even on the few times I’ve met with priests in my area for counseling on personal matters it was little more than laying out options in some secular fashion…like I don’t need a priest to let me know what my secular options are–I’ll go to a social worker/therapist/physician for that. I need a priest to help me see Jesus and His love in all the twists and turns of living in this world.

        “In most of the more rural parishes where I have worked, the main areas are liturgical services – where you have people serving and needing to be trained and rehearsed – and music involving an organist, other instruments as needed and singers.”

        Exactly this gets to the heart of the issue. In your rural parishes, it sounds like the parishioners are looking for liturgy, music and a small taste of the transcendent beauty Jesus brings into the world. The goals are clear: Mass on all holy days of obligation, confessions for 30 minutes weekly, anointing of most our sick, marriages celebrated within a reasonable time frame, teaching our youth the faith… These are all goals that could reasonably be followed and maintained with a small group of parish faithful and priest (or a group of volunteer priest simplices). To operate a parish like this, administratively they probably need a monthly meeting. Most of this is routine because our faith is routine. I don’t really understand what innovations need to happen in a parish other than planning things like farmers’ markets, or cookie bakesales but all of this seems secondary to the faith itself.

        With all the reforms and changes in my local and global Catholicism, I’m not sure our leaders even know what our goals are as a Church. As a successful institution you need to set objective and measurable goals. What are they in the Catholic Church’s: donations, infant baptisms, adult converts, number of liturgical events, vocations to the priesthood, new parishes built? Any of these is a great goal for a local diocese, but we just need some direction so that we can achieve that goal. Unfortunately it seems most of the clergy don’t want to be leaders and help set large goals like this. Why then are they in leadership positions? I’m a married ayman in a suburban parish who works a fulltime secular job. Am I really the one who should pivot my time and interest so that I can work my way up to the parish and eventually archdiocesan advisory councils so that I can deliver advisory statements like, “we should set a 10 year objective measurable goal with smaller subgoals so that we can see if we are moving in the right direction.”

        “The kind of parish you mention is truly a dystopian nightmare. You mention the long years of seminary training. As I have experienced it, it seems to be geared to the transformation of a young layman into a cleric.”

        In my own experience with the seminary system it seems like the real goal is to sever your connections with your old life. For example I looked at my local seminary system and my childhood home is geographically quite close–why for training did they require me to live on campus? From my secular undergrad I already had 4 years of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and 4 years of philosophy–why did they state I would have to go through all the basic language and philosophy courses for the seminary curriculum? It seemed like the goal was to simply have a large block of time and to isolate me from the parts of my life that made me myself. If it were really about the education and training I received, then surely I could have gotten transfer credit for the Introduction to Ecclesial Latin course. This was all really about beating me into their model of a priest–an institutional yes-man who doesn’t rock the boat. It’s much harder to mold people when they have a way to escape from your oversight.

        Regarding married priests:

        The goal here is twofold. First, by allowing men the option to be a married priest I think this will remove the largest hurdle in the current vocation’s crisis in the Catholic Church–celibacy. When I spent my 20’s discerning, I wasn’t discerning could I bury an infant, could I console and guide a woman with a preganncy from rape, could I absolve a pedophile. I was discerning celibacy. It seems like the majority of our discernment and one of the largest reasons for discerning out is celibacy. Just look at the number of permanent deacons in the USA. I bet a survey of them would show a large number discerned marriage over priesting in their younger years. Simply allowing married to become priests would remove this artificial restriction on the supply of priests. I’m not saying married men will be great saints, nor am I saying celibates are wierdos. I just think we need to stop bootstrapping the vocation of celibacy to priesting.

        The second goal of allowing potential priests the option of either marriage or celibacy is that this will change the dysfunctional culture of the Catholic Church. Because the supply of men in ministry is so small dioceses can micromange each one. Allowing the institution to squish the quirks of each if necessary. If we were to increase the supply significantly this would no longer be possible on an institutional level. For example, in my own Archdiocese, they list ~700 active and retired priests (I suspect the active is probably less than half). They also list nearly the same for deacons. If you were to simply upgrade these deacons to priests on a volunteer basis there’s no way the administrative Church could keep tabs on them all. Naturally this would allow all priests (married and celibate) a little breathing room not only from the eye of administration, but also to share the sacramental load–I’m sure there are some who would benefit from a small break from anointing, absolving etc. Finally this would naturally increase the diversity of the priests. Some would be liturgical liberals, others conservative trads and all in between, but this would allow them to start their own pet projects and ministries to the betterment of the laity. Imagine a parish that had a full diven office, mass, confessions in both the new and traditional rites daily because it had 15 volunteer priests, not to mention the ability of these priests to lead pet devotions of the laity (some obscure devotion to the sacred shoulder wound of Jesus…sure you can have a priest present because we’ve got a ton of them).

        Your discussion about toxic marriage is hard to read. I’m sorry this happened to you. I really can’t imagine what it was like. Life is hard enough without collapses in most people’s major support systems. Many of my coworkers and extended family have had marriages end in divorce. Some are amicable, but most have scars from the ordeal. However, I do think part of the resistance in the RCC to married clergy is just this the messiness that family life brings to priesting. With married men, their wives and children, you can’t move them from parish to parish you may have to have models of priestly service that allow time off for grieving, or going to little league soft ball games. We will also have to have a more human image of the priest as personal tragedies compound with more people in a priest’s family (how will a parish and diocese manage priests who have divorce, domestic abuse, death of a spouse or child). Inevitably this will force us to see our priests as more than sacrament dispensers.

        “I fear that the crisis has gone too far, and we will see cathedrals and churches become concert rooms, cultural centres or less noble secular buildings. … Christianity could again find its dimension of universal loving kindness and bringing the highest inspiration from the human spirit. We can’t fight the future, but we can learn to life in a new way with it.”

        I too sadly see this happening. I think cultural christianity is quickly dying. We won’t see triumphant eucharistic processions when I’m old (I rarely see them now). However, I think expanding the number of men in ministerial priesthood without salaries and moving to a volunteer model is our best bet. What would your life look like if even 10 families in your neighborhood were had a priest in them? Would you come together at each other’s homes on Saturday/Sunday to celebrate vespers, and eucharist in converted living rooms and basements? I think this model is the most durable

  2. Caedmon says:

    Your friend’s comment that his godson and godson’s brother rejected Christianity because it didn’t make sense should alert us to something which I never see mentioned in discussions about why church attendance is dropping; that as time goes on Christian beliefs are making sense to fewer and fewer people.

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