From a recent Internet discussion

24 09 2009


I decided to share part of this with the “general public”:

…I can hardly gel this religion with the rather tame faith of post-Vatican II Catholicism. What the changes of modern Catholicism articulate for me is that the traditional Roman Faith has always been a hodge-podge of official, “clericalized”, theologically correct beliefs and practices, as well as equally important, pagan, “folk” elements. You can try to justify all this stuff with just the Bible, or with the Bible and Patristics, but what you will get is exactly what we inherited in the last half century: a reductionist, bland, modern faith of people obsessed with proof-texting every last belief and practice of the Church; people who in order to see the forest from the trees, begin chopping down a large number of trees they think “get in the way”. Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

I suppose my studies of paganism and Neoplatonism have helped me understand my Faith better. I’m sort of Jack Chick’s evil doppelganger. I realize now that what modern people, even modern Catholics, deem “pagan” is a historically conditioned category. That is just how people have always acted; it is just how people do things. This is quite clear to me in my limited studies of Protestant “folk systems”: even good Protestants of the past read astrology charts, did all sorts of conjuring using the Psalms, and even had the occasional “folk saints” who could be called upon for help (the Kabala-inspired angel magic of the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses comes to mind, a favorite in the deep South, as well as the figure of “High John the Conqueror” amongst African-American Protestants.) When approaching the text of the Bible, we tend to bring to the table our own very sterile and embedded prejudices that the average first century Jew was basically a liturgical Quaker who shared the same cosmology as Richard Dawkins, only with a light sprinkling of “God” on top. This was probably not the case.

Protestants seem to think that Catholics have added on to what the early Church believed; Catholics retort that Protestants have taken away from what the early Church believed. I am sort of starting to think, just from my own religious anthropological investigations, that perhaps no one believes what the early Church believed, and that is perhaps not such a bad thing. The Shepherd of Hermas? Millenarianism? People speaking in tongues and St. Peter making people drop dead just for “lying on their tax returns”? Seven years canonical penance for adultery? And that is just from the paltry documental evidence we know about. Who knows what those first assemblies of believers were really like? Newman quipped that to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant. I reply that to be deeper in history is to cease to be anything. And pace Newman, to have changed often does not mean that one is perfect. It merely means that one is mortal.

Perhaps I am too subtle or too honest to be on the Internet. I can say, however, that many Catholics take great solace in what I write… So in the end, at least with some of the stuff I write, I am helping a lot of Catholics out. But I do so not by engaging the enemy “on his own terms”… but by trying to argue for Catholicism within the safe confines of its own inner logic. If we were just faithful to who we are, even in our most “pagan” elements and “man-made” traditions, I am convinced that the Gospel will shine forth in all its splendor to the point that we will not have to argue for the Truth: it will be manifest through the Church. I know this because I have seen it myself, and am confident that we don’t need to change one iota of it to make it any more convincing. It has always been my contention that few can “prove” the Truth effectively, but many, even simple people, can SHOW it.