Cancelling Humanity

I came across this slightly unusual view of tradition and modernity – The problem of religious traditionalists. When I first saw the title and the first lines of the text, I thought this was an apologia for the “cancel culture” aspect of the generic ideology known as woke. If you go to this link, you can even listen to this article as a short talk to accompany your daily chores in the kitchen or wherever.

There is a fine dividing line between fanatical self-identification with words believed to confer identity and purpose in life – and the nihilism of destroying everything in the name of equality. There is a notion of tradition in all religions and every human institution, above all the nation and the Patrie. There is no doubt that humanity would be so much poorer without these traditions, whether they are traditions with which we ourselves identify, or which we respect in other peoples of the world.

It is interesting to see the comparison made between Victorian churches in England and the old Roman liturgy in Latin. Anglican and Roman Catholic clerics are expressing their opinion that mission and growth are made impossible by the symbols of “stuffiness” and immobility. Would they think the same way about medieval church buildings and the Use of Sarum? Perhaps the nineteenth century image of tradition emphasises rigidity unlike a Romantic middle ages or 1970’s brutalism. Pope Francis has in the same way condemned lace on albs and fiddleback vestments, and mocked them as being in some way effeminate. Myself, I wear plain albs and surplices, but I don’t mind what others do.

The various examples given by “progressives” about Comper churches and the Chartres pilgrimage are quite heart-rending. What do they want? Something comparable with American Evangelical mega-churches? What makes people like Victorian churches or the Latin Mass? The “experts” would reply that they are mentally ill! What seems to be behind this criticism of traditionalists (for want of a better word) is the

contrast between a community-focused, immanent conception of worship and of God, with a transcendent, hierarchical and masculine conception.

There it is. But something isn’t right. Some of us men are not the butch stereotypes who beat their wives. Some of us consider gentleness, kindness and tolerance as virtues like forbearance and resilience. But, any masculinity has to be cancelled by toxic femininity. Not all women are the same, and some are virtuous and good. But when they are toxic, they can be really evil in a way that men find it difficult to imagine. We are up against an ideology like Marxist Communism or Nazism, just with different appearances and language.

Interestingly enough, the trappings of traditionalism are being re-used, pews sold to fashionable pubs, church music sung by choirs in a purely secular concert setting, churches re-used for sports centres or businesses. Everything is being privatised from culture to law enforcement. If Pope Francis warns us that tradition is not a museum, it is becoming precisely that. Anything beautiful is considered as unfit for liturgical use – so is given to a museum or sold to the highest bidder.

Read the article. Be on the lookout for ideas and opinions now emerging since the death of Benedict XVI. I thank commentators on YouTube and elsewhere for their scepticism, reserve and intellectual honesty. All the same, something seems to be happening over this new year as one era gives way to another yet unknown but suspected all the same.

There is little to nothing I can do about the general situation. I am committed to my obscure life in the country, in a house I have named Rievaulx, keeping away from cities and the ideologies. I am a poor sinner and an unworthy priest. All I can do is to pick myself up time and time again. I had an illuminating experience seeing a documentary about the Turin Shroud after hearing the opinions and rants about Jesus having been nothing more than a political revolutionary and concerned for merely moral issues. I found reason and science in the service of faith. Those who have faith have no need of having anything proven to them, and those who do not believe will not believe however much evidence you show them.

A friend wrote this on his Facebook page:

Are you a devout Catholic? Which scapulars do you wear? Do you have a miraculous medal on your rosary? Do you keep your rosary in your pocket at all times? Do you have a picture of the Sacred Heart on display at your home? Do you also have pictures of the Holy Family, the Divine Mercy, and Our Lady of Fatima? Do you have a holy water stoup by your front door? Do you recite at least five decades of the rosary every day without fail? Do you recite the Angelus three times each day? Do you recite the Divine Mercy chaplet? Do you attend daily Mass – or at least go to Mass on the First Fridays and First Saturdays of every month? Do you say grace before and after every meal? Do you examine your conscience every evening and say your morning and night prayers every day? Do you abstain from flesh meat every Friday – except for festive solemnities? Have you been on pilgrimage to Lourdes, Fatima, Rome, and Medjugorje?

Are you a better person for being so devout? Are you kind, generous, prudent, attentive, slow to anger, and forgiving? Are you empathic, compassionate, considerate, discrete, and slow to condemn? Do you live your life as in the presence of Jesus? Are you a peace-maker? Do you hunger and thirst after personal righteousness and social justice? Do you hope and believe that Jesus is your friend? Do you earnestly desire to be done with this life and be united with Him; but in the meantime are you focussed on realising the Kingdom of God in your own character, personal habits, and pattern of behaviour?

Do you realise that piety is no kind of substitute for an authentic spirituality? Do you understand that every popular devotion and religious observance is only valid and wholesome to the extent that it makes you a better person? Do you realise that it is not those who cry out “Lord! Lord!” and point to their religious practice who will be acclaimed by Christ as His friends; but only those who have lived lives full of real good works? Do you realise that it is those who perform their religion as a poet might declaim their favourite stanzas – with joy, love, and childlike simplicity – who will be saved; and that accumulating religious achievements and ticking-off checklists of piety is utterly without merit?

It is an old problem of Pharisaism, a “rigid observance of external forms of religion or conduct without genuine piety“. Pope Francis uses this word “rigid”, but too often in inappropriate contexts. We need to rediscover our culture as well as a spiritual life that is focused on the transcendent and desire for truth, beauty and goodness. Without nobility of spirit, culture will die, and humanity with it. The anti-Christian ideology is often called humanism, but there are different types of humanism.

Christian humanism is particularly present in the teachings of Pope John Paul II who was often accused of secular humanist ideas by traditionalists. To understand his thought, I would like to draw your attention  to a slim little book by Andrew N. Woznicki, A Christian humanism: Karol Wojtyla’s existential personalism. Wojtyla was up against the Communist regime in Poland after having suffered from the ravages of the Nazis. From this bitter experience came the insistence on human dignity, freedom and happiness. The Christian humanist movement has its roots in the Renaissance, and is badly understood. After all, God became man in the person of Jesus Christ in order to re-create or redeem humanity at the higher level of nobility of spirit. It is Christianity that gives meaning to reason, freedom, human rights, emancipation from slavery and oppression and progress. The very notion of secularity (the present world, saeculum preserved by God until Christ’s return) is inconceivable without our Christian humanist roots.

Cancel Christian culture, and you cancel humanity. That is exactly the idea of the post-humanists who would replace us with immortal “conscious” machines and a hell on earth! It seems also to be in the ideas of many secularists just using Christian words to mean their ideologies.

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