Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Outer Darkness

John Paul IIThis post will have a long expostulatory introduction, followed by an explanation to commenters about what will be permitted to remain posted on any given thread on this blog.

In a recent post, “The Self-Imposed Christian Cage” the Baron discussed the pacifist thread in modern Christianity and the implications which follow from that viewpoint. He used Gandhi as an example of someone whose civil dissent was possible only in the context of the humane (and Christian) British protectorate. Under Stalin, Gandhi would have been one more anonymous martyr. In Tiananmen Square, he would have been faceless history.

It was a pertinent post when you consider the inane pacifism of “martyrs” like Rachel Corrie. Her ignorance brought about her death. In my view, mainstream American Christianity has taken on much of the coloring of modern secularism. Its stampede to divest from Israel, to lead the charge on America’s “ugly racism,” and its Sloane Coffin need to be relevant have forced it into a Faustian bargain that has led to declining church attendance and its members flocking to less “with-it” denominations, churches with a clear sense of identity and a firm set of rules.

But that wasn’t part of the post. The Baron’s point was well made in his title: Christianity in a self-imposed cage. All in all, I found what he had to say interesting, but then religion in the public square is of great interest to me personally. Besides I’m married to the author of that discerning essay.

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Then began the comments. The first one took us to task for not mentioning Roman or Orthodox Catholics. Say what??

It went on to talk about “good Muslims” being saved from the evil ways of their beliefs because they led good lives. This was Boinky’s contribution, including a mention of the “baptism of desire” – a catechetical concept I hadn’t heard mentioned in many decades.

I responded by reminding Boinky that the post was not about Muslims, but about Christian pacifism:

This post is not about good Muslims. It is concerned with the fact that Western freedoms and the sanctity of the individual, which are principles which derive from (a)Judaism, (b)Christianity, and (c)Platonist ideals as digested and formed by Christian belief.

While your ideas about what constitutes personal salvation are interesting, they don’t impinge on the threat that faces our secularized, once-upon-a-time-Christian culture — including many corrupted aspects of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

I didn’t go into details, as I thought they were self-evident, but you can choose your own. For example, the close cooperation of the Russian Orthodox Church with the USSR when it was in power. The reverberations from that will be with us for a long time to come.

Nor did I mention the current crises facing American Catholicism, of which there are many. The two that are most critical right now is the widespread pedophilia among the current generation of middle-aged priests, and the almost total secularization of what are now only nominally Catholic colleges (I will have more to say about that in a subsequent post).

However, I did suggest to Boinky that she look at Oriana Fallaci’s position:

btw, if this doesn’t correspond with your thinking, I recommend that you read Oriana Fallaci’s The Force of Reason. Now there’s an atheist who has long since experienced a baptism of desire… it’s only her personal witness of the corruption of Catholicism which keeps her where she is…

Since I am in the middle of Fallaci’s book I am well aware of her fiery pen when it comes to Catholicism, but particularly to Italian Catholicism. She is ravaged now by cancer, and finds the Church the lesser of two evils; you can see her struggling with her long-held atheism. I didn’t say that, but I did suggest reading her book.

Are those remarks indicative of a “distaste for the Catholic Church and the Holy Father”?

Sluggo_f16 seemed to think so. Suddenly he popped up with this bit of advice:


If you could overcome your distaste for the Catholic church and the Holy Father for a minute you would recognize a man who understands this well. Pope Benedict has been quietly (and sometime not so quietly) promoting just this issue. Pope JP was a great man, but the threat of Islam was lost on him. Benedict is not about to give up Europe without a fight.

Umm… exactly how did the thread get hijacked here? The post was about the folly of Christian pacifism, the politically correct kind. While Benedict is an expert historian, he himself has said, out loud and in interviews before assuming the papacy, that Europe was “lost” and that the future of Christianity lay in Africa. Given his German background and the events of the time (about ten years ago) I could see his point.

So tell me, where is this distaste for the Catholic Church and the Pope evidenced in what I said? WHERE?

Then Dan M came in with a diatribe of ugly, and most un-Christian comments about the post and my remarks:

I find fascinating the mixture of intense loathing of the Catholic Church, coupled with calls to remember past CATHOLIC victories, such as Poitiers, Lepanto, and especially, the victory that occurred at “the Gates of Vienna.”

Say what?? “Intense loathing?” WHERE? Since when is criticism synonymous with intense loathing? Does this guy have no sense of proportion? I guess not. As for remembering past victories, if I really “loathed” the church I could recount past atrocities. We could start with, oh, the slaughter of the Jews on the way to the first Crusades. And, of course, there’s always the Inquisition, that threadbare set-piece for “let’s-hate-the-Papists” – so old it’s boring, but very reliable, like references to Hitler.

You might do well to remember something from a bumper sticker i recently saw, which said: “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a GI. If you can read this without peering through a veil, thank a Catholic.”

Oka-a-ay. And this is relevant to what? That someone likes to put preachy bumper stickers on their cars? We should emulate this behavior? We should consider this moralizing an uplifting experience? What do you think Jesus would do? Personally, I think he’d rip off the bumper sticker and tell the driver to look at the mote in his own eye. Just sayin’…

But Dan isn’t finished with his lesson yet. The Catholic haters need some history:

Roman Catholicism was the bulwark behind which the Protestants worked their historic mischief. While Catholics were driving the muslim out of Spain, out of Sardinia, out of Malta, out of Sicily, out of the Balkans, the Protestants were ripping and tearing apart the mystical body of Christ himself.

That’s one hell of a record to be proud of.

Well, that’s one way to look at it. However, I know half a dozen conservative Catholic theologians who would argue with Dan’s take on who was doing what with the Mystical Body. You could start with simony, the corrupt (oops) mendicant friars, the degradation of the monasteries, the political infighting and sexual incest among the heirs to the Papal Crown – all the behaviors that repelled the average Johann in the pew.

Dan goes on, really getting wound up now:

But hey, “corruption” I suppose, is an intrinsically “Catholic” sin.

I liked too that comment that the only thing holding Fallici from embracing Catholicism was her being scandalized by “Catholic corruption.” Cut me a fricken break. And grant Fallici a degree of mental sophistication. She isn’t some blockhead scandalized by the sin of her fellow humans.

How do you know this, Dan? Have you read her books? She is quite angry about the Italian Church’s failures. She terms them moral failings, in fact.

Corruption was endemic to the 12, via the misdirection of funds by Judas himself.

If this is the first place you see moral failings among the twelve, I suggest you go back to the primary sources and look at the story of the Transfiguration where the apostles are jostling for first place, or the feeding of the crowds with a few loaves bread and some fish — which the apostles claim can’t be done — or the Garden of Gethsemane, where everyone fell asleep. Judas wasn’t the only slacker in those stories. Even Jesus’ mother tried to have him put away. But I suppose pointing these things out makes me anti-Apostle, doesn’t it?

Dan is rounding the final turn now, layering jibe after jibe onto those unredeemed PROTESTANTS, those unwitting fools who are “brain dead, sophomoric, juvenile, and ahistoric.” These failings simply stagger Dan, who is obviously used to a better quality sinner:

Whereas the Catholic sees that sin, corruption, graft was present even within the Apostles, and that sin is not something to be scandalized over, but rather something to be constantly on guard against, the Protestant pretends that the presence of sin within the institutional Church damns and blasts the entirety thereof. I love it, Christ was NOT scandalized by sinners, “tax collectors, prostitutes,” and he was and is the Son of God. But the dainty, scrupulous, pure as the driven snow Protestant chooses to be scandalized by behavior that Christ himself was not. Christ wasn’t scandalized to be seen in the ranks of the “sinner,” but some Protestants are scandalized to be shoulder to shoulder with Ratzinger, a Wojtyla, a Cardinal Newman, a George Cardinal Pell.

God, irony upon ironies.

It’s sophomoric, it’s juvenile, it’s ahistoric, and it fails to take account of the fallen nature of man. To say that the Church is condemned for her many “corruptions” is to say something so brain dead that it simply staggers the mind.

Martin Luther had issues. However, some of his problems, particularly the practice of simony, warranted remedy. But there wasn’t any need to leave the Church, only to work within it.

And what a picture that Protestantism presents to us today. What is it now, the protestants create a new splinter group every what, 8 or 9 days, something like that. Even before Luther was dead and buried, the “protestants” were “protesting” against one another. And have been ever since.

If you are looking for scandal, just take a good look at what the protestants have wrought to Christian doctrine over the last couple hundred years.

THERE is the REAL scandal, because it impacts the life of the Church, the body of Christ on earth.

Yea, that’s what Christ intended, endless splintering, endless breaking away, endless groups of people looking for some charismatic “pastor” or “preacher,” who says what they want to hear.

The Roman Catholic Church has existed for 2,000 years plus, it’s seen all forms of corruption, financial, sexual, you name it. But throughout it all, one thing has remained inviolate, because of the protection of the Holy Spirit, and that is the deposit of faith.

Whew. All those Protestant splinter groups while the holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church sails on in her serene waters, untroubled by the bickering outside her walls.

And Martin Luther had “issues”??? Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk who had constipation, a bad attitude, and no intention of ever leaving his order, much less the Church. He just wanted reform. The Church cancelled HIS membership, Dan. This made him testy.

Finally, blessedly, Dan finishes his wipe up:

Dan M said...

Baron, the 2d and 3d entry on this comment thread were an attack upon the Catholic Church.

But maybe I’m being too harsh.

Maybe I’m reading too much into the line about “corrupted practises of the Catholic and Orthodox Church,” from entry #2. And Maybe I’m overly irritated about that comment that Fallici would have become Catholic by now, but for the scandals plaguing the Catholic Church.

Corruption and sin no more disprove the Catholic Church than the flood disproves the Ark.

Christ came FOR the sick, he came to call “sinners,” NOT the “righteous,” not the self-satisfied, not the smug.

Hmm… if that’s the case, Dan, perhaps you’d better reconsider your position. Because if I’m sophomoric, juvenile, etc., you sir, are one smug son-of-a-bitch. Smuggest one I’ve seen in a month of Sundays. You’re so smug you’d make a right fine Protestant.

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And this was my comment on the thread itself. Fortunately, as a blog administrator, I get the last word:

The complaints about my “anti-Catholic” attitude on this thread are puzzling. My views re ecclesiology, which I have discussed on other posts, are quite conventionally Roman Catholic, as is my celebration of the liturgical year and my reading of the lectionary.

However, having my ideas called “sophomoric” or being perceived as having an “intense loathing” of the Church makes me angry. In no way did I say I loathed the Church; if someone chooses to infer that from my words, go for it… but why ratchet up the dialogue like that?

You’ll bruise yourself jumping to conclusions, but, hey, be my guest. Fortunately, your judgments as to my orthodoxy are simply that: your judgments.

We all know the scandals that have ensued in the long history of the members of the Church. That does not mean that the ecclesia is itself corrupt; it merely means that its members are human and fallible and always will be. Sometimes brave souls have paid with their lives for that.

As for Fallaci, when it comes to loving God with one’s whole heart, soul, and mind, she’s got two out of three. Not bad. It is hard to be Italian and see the machinations of the Roman bureaucracy up close and not be disillusioned if you’re an idealist. And if she is anything, Fallaci is that. Have you actually read what she has to say? She didn’t title her last book The Force of Reason for nothing.

The strength of the Catholic Church lies in the sacramental life she provides for her members. The Eucharist is primary; the kerygma is secondary — though still essential.

By the way, Christ may not have been scandalized by sinners — as Dan claims — but he had some choice ideas for certain kinds of wrong-doing — e.g., that it was better to have a millstone hung around your neck and be thrown into the sea… that was for those who harmed children. So you cherry pick your Bible verses, and I’ll do the same with mine.

Anti-Catholic? I don’t think so. A little reactive are we? Maybe it’s the plank in your own eye you’re seeing?

Here’s the deal:

If what you perceive of my theology offends you so much, just hit “next blog” because I guarantee you that there will be no further insults allowed to let stand in the comments. The next blowhard (yes, Dan, I can do ad hominem attacks as well as you can any day) who arrives here to breathlessly pontificate on what he or she perceives as the merits of my theology, ecclesiology, catechesis, church history, or scriptural interpretation will be cast into the outer darkness.

Go gnash your teeth and do your name calling and judgmental jumping to conclusions (on quite limited evidence) on your own bandwidth.

What Christian charity I’ve witnessed here. My heavens… maybe I ought to try the Protestants. They certainly can’t be any worse than ol’ Dan here.

Pax vobiscum, y’all.


Frank said...

Errr...what was your reason for hating innocent Catholic babies again?


KG said...

Nicely said. And a well-deserved broadside for the frothing loony.

Wally Ballou said...

Don't bottle it up, Dymphna - let us know you are pi**ed off.

fluffy - it's either congratulations or condolences depending on what day it is.

Wally Ballou said...

The comedian Jim Gaffigan describes his wife as a "Shiite Catholic". Maybe a soulmate for ol' Dan.

Seriously, can any Catholic deny the Church's deep and thoroughly evil corruption in the past that in fact provoked the Protestant Reformation? Talk about rose-colored glasses. The present or previous Pope wouldn't deny it. The Devil was well astride the Church there for a while (say, during the Hundred Year's war, when several popes in both Rome and Avignon were incredibly cruel and violent men). Urban VI, like Byron, was "mad, bad and dangerous to know". Worse than the bad popes were incompetent and corrupt clergy and friars who preyed upon the people they were supposed to serve. Read your Chaucer, if nothing else.

The idea that criticism = loathing is nonsense, of course. If Dymphna didn't care about the Church, she wouldn't grieve over its faults.

Always On Watch said...

Well said!

I receive many an unrelated comment to many of the articles I post. And when that kind of comment-thread continues, the posting gets hijacked and any points I tried to make get lost in dust-rolling.

ZMalfoy said...

The strength of the Catholic Church lies in the sacramental life she provides for her members. The Eucharist is primary; the kerygma is secondary — though still essential.

A-frakkin'-men! This is why, despite all the peculiarities of my personal faith, I still attend a catholic church and call myself Catholic. The Eucharist is kida addictive. . .

Frank said...

"2) I find that instead of church members leaving due to the watered-down Christianity, it is also the reverse. Some churches are softening their message in hopes of attracting more members. "

You are clearly wrong here. Sorry, but this is just off the top of your head, and there are any number of objective studies pinpointing the reason people are leaving the mainstream churches. The churches losing members fastest are the ones who are "softening" their messages.

Besides, think about it: either a religion is or it isn't. If a church has to change its message to "attract" followers, of what use is it or the message to its fllowers? A Church is not, or ought not, be a function of focus group politics.

mrp said...

FWIW, in her recent New Yorker interview, Oriana Fallaci now refers to herself as a "Christian Atheist".

hank_F_M said...


I did not comment on the Barron’s post as I was putting, what I hope is some common sense, in the comment section of blog that the Barron could have cited as exhibit “A”. If I’d checked the comment section I would have been happy to give him a little affirmation.

There is a difference between “having issues” and anti-Catholicism, come on, even the Pope has issues with parts of the Church, such as a good part of the North American wing. The Gates has never come close to crossing the line.

OreamnosAmericanus said...

Anybody care to remember the issue of pacifism, which the Christian churches are so thoughtlessly pushing these days?

I have personal reasons to really dislike Benedict XVI, but I don't...partly because he seems to get the reality of Islam as Christianity's and the West's antagonist. Less pussyfooting than his predecessor. Of whom, by the way, I have a photo kissing the goddamned Koran. That made me blanch with shame.

Mark said...

Crusader Coyote:

Sorry folks! This is off topic, but...

I did what you asked of me yesterday, but I couldn't submit the essay after all. It just wouldn't let me. Any suggestions?

X said...

Perhaps your mistake was in letting your rage boil within, rather than letting it out at the appropriate moment. If those sites were jibing at the church then you defend the church at those sites, instead of taking it all out on people who don't deserve your criticism and anger.

Wally Ballou said...

Right - go to blog run by a believing Catholic (a saint, no less) and dump all your bottled up protestantophobia over her. There's no rationalizing it - it was stupid.

Steve Bodio said...

Dymphna-- I had never considered you were ANYTHING but a Catholic!??

"endless protestant sniping"? I don't think he has been reading you all that long.