Sunday, March 17, 2019

What are we supposed to think about the Roman Catholic Church?

I haven’t commented much about Roman Catholicism lately, although that has always been the primary thing that I have written about. There is a saying attributed to Napoleon that I find useful at times like these: “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”.

The official Roman Catholic Church has been making a number of them … the “official” “Church” being heavily constituted by that hierarchy which, according to Vatican II, is integral to “the Church that Christ Founded”:

Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation through which He communicated truth and grace to all. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visible assembly and the spiritual community, nor the earthly Church and the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element. For this reason, by no weak analogy, it is compared to the mystery of the incarnate Word. As the assumed nature inseparably united to Him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ, who vivifies it, in the building up of the body [emphasis added].

In other words, “the ”visible hierarchy” is to the Roman Catholic Church what Christ’s flesh was to the person of Christ”: a strong analogy to the flesh, the “assumed nature”, of “the divine Word”. In the same way, this “visible hierarchy” is (IS!) “vivified” by the Spirit of Christ.

There is no way any Protestant apologist could do more damage to Rome, than Rome is inflicting on itself these days.

This is something to mention to the Roman Catholics who poo-poo the notion the bad popes (and in our era, if media accounts have any basis at all in fact, perhaps 30% to 50% of the ordained clergy) can still be tolerated because “the Church” itself, as the “Bride of Christ” is always “holy”. This “holiness” is to be found, of course, in some unverified and unverifiable “Tradition” – “Tradition” coming in whatever wax-nosed form the Roman Catholic apologist-du-jour needs it to be.

Given the widespread homosexuality (where the sex abuse scandal is merely the visible tip of the iceberg), it is evident that almost no part of this “visible” “hierarchical organ” is unaffected.

So as Pope Bergoglio continues to implement his policies, while at the same time finding himself having to deal with sex abuse and homosexual scandals (I was going to provide some links, but these are all front-page news), it is clear that it is not “the Spirit of Christ” who is vivifying this hierarchy.

* * *

All of that crossed my mind when I read this account of a disillusioned Jesuit in the Sandro Magister account of an updated book on various “testimonies” of Jesuits. The Jesuits, according to WSCal professor Scott Clark, “proved to be a genuine difficulty for the Reformation”. “They began to make more sophisticated appeals to tradition and to Scripture that required increased sophistication from the Reformed”. They did more than this, of course.

While they have had a long and varied (and sometimes sordid) history, during the post-Reformation era, especially, the founders of the Jesuits labored with “unrelenting persistence in the face of seemingly insuperable odds and an unquenchable belief in ultimate success under God’s guidance”.

Whatever you think of the notion of “God’s guidance” of that Roman sect, the example set by their belief and persistence is a good example for Van Tillians and in fact, all Reformed believers in our day. In the process, the early Jesuits controlled the message (theirs was not the Gospel, to be sure, and it was full of skepticism about the Scriptures). But they took with them the kind of missionary zeal needed to work tirelessly in the pursuit of missionary activities, the formation of schools, universities, and seminaries.

The Jesuits’ reputation for academic excellence, which continues today, began almost as soon as the order was founded. As part of their determined efforts to reclaim Protestant Europe for the Catholic Church, they built schools and colleges in nearly every important city by the mid-eighteenth century, they had established more than 650 educational institutions (from the back cover, Jonathan Wright, “God’s Soldiers: Adventure, Politics, Intrigue and Power – A History of the Jesuits”, Doubleday, 2004).

However, in the meantime, the Jesuits have taken a turn for the worse. Even though the most celebrated Jesuit of today is now pope (“Pope Francis”), the Society of Jesus (their official title) has seen a sharp decline.

This decline is captured vividly in Magister’s account on the recently updated work, “Confesiones de jesuitas” (not available in English at this point). Although the Jesuits are not officially “clergy”, many of them are ordained to the priesthood (many do not become ordained), the weight of the organization sees its pinnacle in the clergy now, in the person of “Pope Francis”. Other names recognizable to a US Protestant audience, named in this book, would include Avery Dulles, Carlo Maria Martini, Henri de Lubac, and Jean Daniélou.

In all, the “Confessiones” of 31 different Jesuits are included. Magister provided the account of one highly “representative” Jesuit, “Xavier Tilliette, a life-long Jesuit from France, who died at the age of almost one hundred on December 10 of 2018 and was hailed the next day in ‘L’Osservatore Romano’ as ‘not only a thoroughbred philosopher and theologian, but a true Jesuit.’”

Magister says of him:

Tilliette had no rival as a scholar of the German philosopher Schelling, to whom he dedicated a monumental book that is still unsurpassed. But his research ranged farther, on the border between faith and reason, gaining him the admiration and friendship of giants of Catholic thought of the 20th century like Gaston Fessard, Henri de Lubac, Jean Daniélou, Hans Urs von Balthasar, the first three also Jesuits.

And here follow some selections from Tilliette’s own account:

“My religious vocation in the Society of Jesus was precocious, and practically never wavered. Only in the last decades, in the face of changes that made its original traits unrecognizable, it was put to a hard test and questions arose for me: on the exercise of the vows, on poverty and obedience, on the function of the superiors, on the future of the Society.”

In what follows, Magister says “This is how Tilliette describes this ‘crumbling,’ in a Society of Jesus [that has, in his lifetime], become unrecognizable to him and to many of his confreres”:

“In parallel with the sudden tumult of 1968 [it is not referenced in this article, but I would guess that he means the uproar following the publication of ‘Humane Vitae’ – JB] and without relation to it, there took place the methodical transformation of the Church following the Council. But the increase of freedom that stemmed from this had disastrous consequences for the scholasticates of the Society.

“On that occasion I also had a very bad experience of the evolution or transformation of our way of life. The rebellion of the scholasticates seemed absurd to me. I remained convinced that the Society had steadier nerves and an inner strength capable of overcoming the crisis without giving in on anything essential. But the result was not what I hoped.

“Thanks to God, the spirit was saved, but the body of the spirit, the letter, suffered in a lasting form. It is a hard trial, that which was inflicted on the Jesuits of my generation, of the previous generation, and of the following one. It may be a lack of flexibility, a lack of adaptation, but these no longer recognize themselves in the relaxed lifestyle that was established, they no longer recognize themselves in the order that in previous times welcomed them.

“The general congregations took note of the changes that were produced in behaviors, of the desire for independence among their members, of the permissiveness that comes from civil society and has spread among us. They set aside the treasure of the rules, the priority of priorities is no longer the communal religious life, which ended up in pieces, but the preoccupation with justice and the predilection for the poor. Wonderful ideas, that however run the risk of deteriorating into mere words and being unrealizable for the most part.”

The entire progression described here is one that we have seen in the movements of the mainline denominations into theological liberalism and then into a utopian form of secular liberalism. From a personal point of view, when I was much younger, I looked into “becoming a priest” and also becoming a Franciscan. It was precisely the “relaxed lifestyle” that I looked into and liked. The life of being in a Religious Order, of the measure of independence, of intellectual prestige. All of those are vapors, gone in the space of a breath.

“I spent my existence as a Jesuit in the traditional positions of college director and professor, of magazine editor and writer, of university professor. I took on these austere tasks convinced that Jesuit humanism is primordial and that intellectuals are the apples of the Society’s eye. Instead it seems that today it is no longer so and that the preference is given to directly apostolic ministries.

“I think that a virtue is being made of necessity: the scanty recruitment does not permit the maintenance of a high level of studies and superiors do not have subjects available to fill openings as little by little these become open. From this point of view, the future of the Society is rather dark. Houses are being closed and the elderly are being placed in residences staffed with medical personnel. Without a doubt there is no other solution. But we would like it if this inevitable retreat would not be accompanied by customary euphoric discourses, which are reminiscent of wartime proclamations of defeat.”

So the once-mighty Jesuits are being shuttered.

That aside, Tilliette still held to the “old” doctrine of “The Church”, and he (like many current Roman Catholics) is holding onto that doctrine as a way of remaining a faithful Roman Catholic:

“Our age, one of the darkest in history, nonetheless sees the blossoming of sublime sacrifices, heroism, examples of holiness. There comes the desire to repeat with Gertrud von le Fort after the first world war: only in disaster and in universal ruin does the Church stand firm. The holy Catholic Church, like a lighthouse on the hill. Which remains intact in its divine essence even when our sins have stained its noble face.

“My early education instilled in me love and respect for the Church, its sacraments, its liturgy, the refuge of mercy, of prayer and of knowledge that it offers to the people of the world. The life of the saints, the example of Fr. de Lubac, the assiduous reading of Claudel taught me to venerate the Church, to subordinate membership in the Society to the service of the Church and of the pope, for which it was created and which remains its reason for being...”

There is that “divine essence” again. But what we are seeing, from the “the visible social structure of the Church”, is not any indication that it is guided by any divine essence. It seems to be led more by its homosexual libido and its accompanying desire to keep that libido a secret.

There is no reason to think that “the Church” is not following along the same path that we’ve seen here with the Jesuits, where there is no ability to maintain “intellectual excellence”, where churches are being shuttered across the country, and where the few “faithful” clerics now deceased or in “residences staffed with medical personnel”.

No doubt there are anecdotal cases of “the faithful” being faithful. Salvation is promised to all who “turn” (Acts 28:27). But the institution itself has run off the rails, and the hopes that you see among conservative Roman Catholic writers and YouTubers, for a “faithful” pope after “Pope Francis”, are not going to have anything at all to draw from.

No comments:

Post a Comment