On inefficient church governance and other thoughts

28 04 2009

vatican

I have not commented on “churchy” stuff in a while, and since I know people like to comment on that kind of thing, I will write a some lines on it.

Via Fr. Chadwick’s page, I found this George Weigel essay on how Pope Benedict’s theological brilliance is being eclipsed by the foibles of the “old boy” network of the Vatican Curia. An interesting read all around. I do have to disagree with his characterization of the Lefebvrists: their problems are far from just being political, though it is hard to separate that aspect of it from their legitimate critiques, as I well know from personal experience. My real underlying thought, one that many of you can already predict, is a big “so what?” Maybe the Gospel isn’t being preached because of the old school methods of some Italian ecclesiastics. But to think having a well-oiled bureaucratic machine will lead to a better church is something that I find highly unlikely. Like Gideon on the battlefield, perhaps God is counting on our human weakness to show that only He can save the Church.

All pious rhetoric aside, I have long ago put away the idea that the fate of the institutional church and the fate of THE Church are one and the same. Such a Hobbesian idea is almost a metaphysical principle of modern Catholicism, but this has not always been the case, not even in recent memory if we dig deeply enough. It was not always in the mind of the common Catholic that history would somehow get worse and worse before the Second Coming of Christ, yet the Church would somehow remain untouched by such degeneration. The being of “the Church” is far from that of a uniform institutional entity; often there is no one “Church position” on this or that given issue at a precise moment in time. Nor has the Catholic lay imagination been given to thinking of the Church in terms of a precise, top-down hierarchy of Pope-Cardinal-Curia-Bishop, etc. Such diagrams were useful in the illustrated Baltimore Catechism to indoctrinate youth into the “official Catholicism” of the governing class, but this idea also distorts the Church, making it follow too closely the laws of human polity. Ecclesiastical corruption and inefficiency are perhaps necessary to prevent such politicized idolatry.

On a personal level, I am very weary of any form of “party line”, offficial or otherwise, when it comes to my own personal Faith. I have bought into too many, and I am quite tired of all of them. In a lot of ways, I am very liberal, especially on cultural and historical issues. In other ways, I am very sympathetic to the traditionalist critique, if only because I think that cognitive dissonance in the favor of authority can degenerate into tyrrany in the modern context. (That, and I find the traditionalists to be more aesthetically sympathetic.) I am still very much influenced by Eastern Orthodox thought, even if only in a negative way. And finally, my flirtations with Anglicanism and Protestantism often make me very sympathetic to their critique of Catholicism only to the extent that I believe that Catholicism cannot be seen as a higher and more consistent form of Protestantism. At the heart of both confessions as they have surfaced in modernity are principles that I heartily disagree with.

The driving idea behind my intellectual projects, however, is a postmodern agnosticism towards attempts by any institution (divinely instituted or not) to hem in the limits of the enchanted world. Intellectually, I suppose, these reservations are due in large part to my studies of Neoplatonism, particularly of Marsilio Ficino. This is where a lot of my perennialism and admiration for folk religion comes in, as well as my profound distrust of theological abstraction. Since the human intellect is the lowest form of immaterial existence, and since our knowledge of the material world is constantly evolving, I am beginning to think that entering into the realm of religiosity is not an invitation to blissful certainty, but is rather more like being tossed into a lion’s den with forces that we barely understand. One can of course try to keep on the “straight and narrow” of “official” sacramental Christianity, but I have never found that road to be as clear cut as most would like to think. In the end, we may be living in a world haunted by gobblins and witches, where the evil eye is very much a problem that we are sedating with modern drugs, and where Santa Muerte is coming to get you (though she is really your friend). Though we would still need to walk by faith and not by sight, what we can see is much more than we think is out there.

The good news is that there are helpers, but those helpers are often not found in high offices or fancy robes. They are the Virgin Mary, the saints, las ánimas del Purgatorio who sometimes are let out to wander the earth, the angels, and heck, Santa Muerte herself if you believe in that sort of thing. They may not work with the bureaucratic efficiency that we often desire, but they do work. And there is of course wonder. But that wonder is the result of this existential gamble we call our lives, and here certainty is often not in the cards. But it does, at the same time, make life worth living, and living well.


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30 03 2015
Making Christianity Weird Again | Dark Lucubrations: Christendom as a Candle in the Dark

[…] I wondered what he means by Catholic Christianity needing to become “pagan, full stop” — and then I found this passage from a Vasquez post about Church governance: […]

7 10 2010
Bernard Brandt

As is my wont, I tend to come a trifle late to certain parties. This is one of them.

What you say here, Arturo, deserves much more thought than is given by most of the commenters, or by the institutional Church. I have long ago come to the conclusion that if, as the Fathers agree, the church is the hospital for sick souls, then these days the Church may well be considered to be God’s psycho ward. It also appears rather evident that in the institutional Church, the inmates are in charge of the asylum.

It also appears evident that among the inmates in charge, which is to say the bishops, priests, and deacons, few of them have either the knowledge of the Scriptures, Holy Tradition, the Fathers, or even of Church Authority, or the experience of the spiritual world, to realize that things are far more weird and wonderful than would appear to be the case with their tidy little minds.

After all, it was not to el Obispo de la Ciudad de Guadalupe that la Santa Madre Maria appeared to give the tilma, the icon written without hands, those centuries ago. Things, if they have changed, have only gotten much worse. Fra Francis also got it about la hermana santa muerte, in a way that the popes of the time could and did not. This is surprising?

1 05 2009
Adrian

I think it’s hilarious that all of these “good Catholics” think the Church of Jesus Christ is some kind of corporate bureaucracy like J.P Morgan or the Dept. of the Interior, with the Pope as “the Boss” and the Vatican as “the headquarters.”

Real existing Catholicism is a gorgeous, evolving fideist heresy that boggles the simple minds of Bishops and topples their lame apologetics and their lousy systematic theology. They are the superstitious ones. Only God, the angels and the saints are real.

30 04 2009
FrGregACCA

The sun, the earth, etc., are not persons, “made in the image and likeness of God [the Divine Persons]”. The sun, the earth, etc., are not “partakers of the Divine Nature” as are the Saints and yes, the holy souls.

“He who says he loves God and hates his brother is a liar. How can one love God whom he has not seen, and hate his brother, whom he has seen?”

Think/pray about it. It applies here.

30 04 2009
Fearsome Comrade

God is also glorious in creation. I suppose I should start burning incense the Earth Mother and beseeching the Sun to come to my aid when I have need.

You should stick to ghost stories to establish your pantheon.

29 04 2009
FrGregACCA

Sorry, Comrade dude, but “HaShem is glorious in his Saints”. Don’t know about Santa Muerte, but following the Blessed Virgin, the rest of the Saints, and the Holy Souls IS following HaShem, Blessed be He.

It’s a package deal. Hook up with God, and you get God’s closest friends, and vice-versa.

29 04 2009
Fearsome Comrade

The good news is that there are helpers, but those helpers are often not found in high offices or fancy robes. They are the Virgin Mary, the saints, las ánimas del Purgatorio who sometimes are let out to wander the earth, the angels, and heck, Santa Muerte herself if you believe in that sort of thing.

I’m more a fan of that old-fashioned piety that says, “Our help is in the name of Yahweh, who made heaven and earth.” Santa Muerte might be able to hook you up with some goodies, but “as for me and my house, we will follow Yahweh.”

29 04 2009
Sophia

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