Notes on liberal religiosity

6 12 2018

I was listening to a lecture of a “liberalizing” tendency of an unspecified religious tradition, and saw parallels to reform-minded tendencies in other religious traditions that I am more familiar with. For the sake of not entering the fray of an argument where I don’t have all sides of the story, I will keep this rather vague. I am referring here specifically to externals. In Catholicism in particular, the last half century has seen a rather thorough attack on all things deemed medieval and triumphalist. Though a vocal minority seems to defend the old ways, for the most part, they have been discarded as remnants of a world that no longer exists and no longer makes sense to the common person of today. This is most evident in the design of churches, the dress of clergy and religious, the language of prayer, and so on and so forth. The now very familiar reasoning states that these externals were preventing people from coming to the essential message of Christ and his Church; that focusing on rules and insignificant details prevented people from seeing the forest from the trees. Read the rest of this entry »

Lost in translation

20 07 2009


Random notes on Jonathan Spence’s The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci

Spence’s book is one that I have wanted to write on for weeks, but I am not really feeling disciplined enough to write a tight, well-crafted essay on it. To summarize, the book is about the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci’s ambitions and dreams to convert the Emperor of China and thus the whole country to Roman Catholicism, and all the misfires, foibles, and tragedies that occur along the way. For this task, Ricci felt it necessary to adopt the garb of a Confucian scholar and attempt to lure the upper class into Catholicism through education, a typical Jesuit tactic. The particular bait that Ricci was trying to use was a set of memory techniques once popular but now extinct in the West. (I can’t even remember AG’s cellphone number.) He hoped to help young aspiring bureaucrats pass the exams necessary to enter civil service in imperial China, and in exchange, he hoped to show that the “barbarians” of the West had much to offer, especially in the religious realm. While not a total failure, he was far from a success. The closest he got to the Emperor himself, for example, was prostrating before his empty throne; the “divine” ruler was far too paranoid about his own safety to see anyone other than the inner circle of his court.
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On the Founder

19 02 2009


I just read John Zmirak’s latest on Inside Catholic on the scandal of Fr. Marcial Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ, among other things. The general sentiment behind it, as the opening lines explicitly say, is that it is not a great time to be Catholic. With a sex scandal in one of leading “conservative” religious orders in the Church, the hubbub over Bishop Williamson’s eccentric views, the almost open rumblings of the a rebellious episcopate in Europe, and the general malaise of the world in general, the Church in the world’s eye is in a bit of a funk. Gone are the years of “JPII, we luv u” and other ecclesiastical hype. We now have a church that is no longer led by a photogenic leader, weakened by scandals, and with many bishops giving a quiet “non serviam” to Benedict’s more reactionary measures. The “santo subito” cries are seldom heard, and the cults of personality seem to be slowly dying away.
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