What will survive? The ruin of Catholicism and the death of liberalism

In the essay below, I’m not going to question the necessity of the lockdown, so skip the outrage.  The consequences follow regardless, not just economic depression and poverty (about which I have no special expertise), but social and spiritual ruin, which is what we especially concern ourselves with at the Orthosphere.

A study once found that weather predictions are, on average, less accurate than the prediction that tomorrow’s weather will be the same as today’s.  Weather forecasts are still useful though, because only they can warn one about upcoming extreme weather events.  So it often is with predictions.  Suppose I must guess the value of some y in the future.  The simplest among us, myself included, use dy/dt=0.  The slightly more sophisticated notice that y is changing and extrapolate from its current rate:  dy/dt=constant.  The really smart reason that the slope is itself likely to be a function of y and so guess at the linear form dy/dt = k y.  Exponential growth (or decay, for negative k)!  I’ve noticed smart people are always jumpy, always saying the world system is about to crash.  And, 99% of the time, it’s the dumbest people, who assume stasis, who are right.  The world system has been around for many times 1/k, so presumably there are higher derivative terms, and/or there are nonlinear terms providing negative feedback that our puny minds don’t comprehend.  I admit to being on the lower-IQ side myself, so I always assume tomorrow will be like yesterday.  99% of the time I’m right, but occasionally I’m spectacularly wrong.  For example, I didn’t see the pandemic and lockdown coming.  This gives me no reason to reconsider my way of thinking; I expect it to be spectacularly wrong from time to time.

The media poisons every debate it enters, because it moralizes everything.  According to journalists, there is never genuine uncertainty or ambiguity; there is never a case of balancing competing legitimate goods or interests.  Everything is a battle between absolute light and absolute darkness.  Social life, or at least the online simulacrum that is all we have left, is a scramble of each man to prove he is one of the good people with the good opinions.  Notice how much interest there is in deciding who bears the blame for the coronavirus, a natural phenomenon.  The media consensus is, of course, that it’s all President Trump’s fault.  Right wing media counter by blaming the China.  Few entertain the natural assumption, that through no one’s fault a novel threat emerged, and the right response was–and is–not clear.  The media is pushing hard for “shut down everything indefinitely”, making dissent–or even uncertainty or grumpiness–risky.  That’s one reason lifting the lockdown will be difficult.

There’s also the legitimate quandary that most people still haven’t caught the virus, including most of the percent or so whom it would probably kill; if the world’s lockdown were to end, cases would begin growing exponentially again, so that we would only have delayed those deaths.  Delaying those deaths was, I thought, the original justification, but even spreading them out over a year–so the virus would “only” something like double the normal death rate–would surely require massive quasi-totalitarian restrictions for many months.

I don’t claim to judge the contents of men’s souls.  Leave that to the prophets!  I needn’t even judge their wisdom.  When I say that shutting down religious services for months to years will be absolutely ruinous to the Catholic Church, I needn’t argue that the bishops did it from a lack of faith.  Grant if you like that they had no choice, or that they made the right choice.  The consequences will follow nonetheless.  Perhaps the global elite did not intend, did not want, to pull off a totalitarian coup.  Perhaps they were forced to do it as selfless servants of the common good.  Nevertheless, they have unquestionably done it.  Organized religion has been outlawed.  Social life has been crushed, its online replacement under the control of a small number of large corporations in the hands of ideological zealots.  Small businesses will soon all but cease to exist.  The wildest dreams of every centralizing technocrat since the time of Comte have been realized.

Let us deal with the Catholic Church then, because it is the most important of all institutions.  The Church has been hemorrhaging members since Vatican II, but even by those standards this will be bad.  As JMSmith pointed out, many people who have for months or years gotten out of the habit of going to church will not be persuaded to get back into the habit if they are ever again allowed to.  As Bruce Charlton has pointed out, it has been impossible for bishops to avoid leaving people with the impression that the Church is inessential.  (Again, it does no good to argue that they had to do it to save lives; the impression remains even so.)  Impressions evolve with practice.  In a year’s time, it may be the accepted belief among all high status people that religious services are inherently unsanitary, public health menaces that perhaps (for archaic constitutional reasons) cannot be outlawed but ought at least to be discouraged.

Really, though, it all comes down to basic logic from premises every Catholic must accept.  Do you grant that (all other things equal) attending Mass is beneficial?  Then it follows that (all other things equal) not attending Mass is detrimental.  I had certainly always been told that the Mass, and not merely obedience to ecclesiastic authority enjoining me to go, is beneficial.  True, we are not completely without the sacraments.  The graces of baptism, confirmation, and (for some of us) marriage presumably remain.  However, to the extent that what we have always been told about public prayer and liturgy and reception of the Eucharist being important were true, to that extent we must expect that as the months go on our faith will weaken.  The goal of all our home prayers and services is to slow this weakening.  Even so, we will be more vulnerable than ever before.  It is not unlikely, for instance, that I will be an atheist by the end of the year.  None of us knows to what extent we have been sustained by the ordinary life in the Church.

Some may counter that God can employ extraordinary means of grace.  By that same line of reasoning, there was no reason to shut down the churches, because God can employ extraordinary (miraculous) means to protect His children from diseases.  We all think it would be foolish to simply expect God to suspend on a mass scale the ordinary sequence of cause and effect in the physical realm; neither should we expect it in the spiritual realm.

And yet, the Catholic Church is not yet dead.  Even if we are deprived of the Mass for years, some would return afterward, perhaps even a majority of those who were going before.  Then we could continue self-destructing at the previous rate.

My old nemesis, liberalism, is certainly not in a good way either.  I am surprised at how much of my writing at Throne and Altar is obsolete–not wrong, but directed at an enemy we no longer face.  Like many conservatives and communitarians, I had long presumed that the single great enemy is liberalism, in its fully-developed, Rawlsian form:  the idea of government as a neutral arbiter between competing belief systems, exclusively concerning itself with promoting individuals’ material comfort and safeguarding their liberty against the community.  This ideal was on the way out even before the pandemic.  It was already being criticized for having no interest in historical grievances.  The liberal strives to balance rival interests that he does not presume to judge.  Today’s Leftists never think this way.  When two interests clash, they identify one as that of the oppressor and totally illegitimate, the other as that of the victim and unquestionably righteous.

No one believes in freedom of speech anymore.  They may acknowledge it as a constitutional right, but they will consider its exercise harmful and will be pleased when private sector forces work to discourage it.  We have to fight “deniers” and “haters” of various stripes, because lives are at risk.  No one anymore thinks that the free “marketplace of ideas” serves to promote truth.  If anyone did, he would encourage vigorous debate and dissension especially in matters of life and death, where it would presumably be most important to have this epistemological advantage.  (And really, what political question of great concern isn’t a matter of life and death?)  Freedom of speech is not something we enjoy, but something we suffer.

Even the capacity to entertain different points of view is no longer valued.  I’m an advocate of public censorship, but even I seem to have a higher opinion of this capacity than most.  I know university professors who boast of their inability to understand dissent from Leftism.  It is considered a mark of virtue.  Not only is it considered wrong to hold dissenting views; it is considered wrong even to engage respectfully with or “give a platform to” those who do hold them.  And this pre-emptive closed-mindedness applies not only to matters of fundamental principle, but even to empirical questions like the causes of global warming, the potential side effects of this or that vaccine, IQ distributions of different races, the number of victims of the Holocaust, and now the dangers of the coronavirus.  I’m often tempted to ask Leftists if there is any question that they consider a matter of legitimate debate.

One notes the loss as well of a less ideological form of liberalism, which one might call “conservative liberalism”.  This based itself not on commitment to some variant of the theories of Locke but on an appreciation for our political inheritance from classical and medieval times–the “traditional rights of free Englishmen”, and that sort of thing.  Concerns over the Bill of Rights and Separation of Powers now seem quaint.  Such niceties are set aside in times of emergency, and now everything is an emergency.  Presumption of innocence has been repudiated in the name of Believe Women and Protecting God’s Children.  Freedom of assembly has been taken away for an indefinite time in the name of Flatten the Curve.  Presidents and governors largely rule by decree.  Democracy is meaningless when experts tell us what to do, and it’s considered irresponsible to question them.

Even if all of this is justifiable, the remarkable thing is that it is all uncontroversial.  Being a liberal now just means docility toward experts and victim groups.  The old heart of liberalism has been completely excised.  Religion has been abolished, so liberalism has served its purpose and can be retired.

25 thoughts on “What will survive? The ruin of Catholicism and the death of liberalism

  1. Whoa, whoa, whoa, not unlikely you’ll be an atheist by the end of the year?

    God doesn’t abandon men in gulags, I’m sure He won’t abandon you because your bishop closed up shop for a few weeks.

  2. Also keep in mind that a year from now (or six months from now, for that matter), you’re liable to be faced with the reality that … renewing your driver license, say, will require showing proof you are one of the vaccinated. Just say’in.

    I’m actually kind of glad it’s come to this, in a weird sort of a way. I mean, it was inevitable, really, right, given the trajectory we’ve been on for … umpteen years? Yes, I think so.

  3. Speaking as a Protestant, and an adherent to the notion that the various Catholic, the Protestant, and the Orthodox Churches collectively comprise The Church, I do not believe there is any force here on Earth or in Hell below that can ruin her. This will not. We have done more harm to ourselves through our terminological wranglings than the Romans or the Muslims or the Revolutionary French or the Communists ever did, and yet we are all still here.

    This may cause those who for whom going to church was a matter of habit, rather than of conviction, to fall away. That will diminish us, to be sure, but it may also show us who needs to be (re)evangelized. It may weaken bureaucracies, but the beaucracies of our churches are not The Church. If those bureaucracies get in the way, we should dispense with them. If they cannot survive this, perhaps they were superfluous and needed pruning.

    • Those who really, really want the Sacraments will sacrifice to get them. The hardest hit will be those who silently capitulated to NuChurch out of ease and comfort.
      The most vilified and calumniated Catholic order on the planet the Society of St. Pius X, has tried (and in fact did) make Confessions and Eucharist available even after the lockdowns. In California.
      When the Church has no choice but to return to the catacombs, it will be the clergy who resisted the comforting lies of the modernists every step of the way that I expect to find leading their flocks.
      On another note, this crisis has drawn a bright line not only between totalitarian Leftists + their brainwashed thralls and everyone else, but also those who are fighting to practice their Christianity versus those clinging due to cultural inertia. Before we had a Christianity of feast days, cathedrals and papal bulls, we had a Christianity of martyrs. The Left had infiltrated the visible structure of the Church and kicked Christ out. This Twitter post is very illuminating: https://twitter.com/tiggawild/status/1248760786077528065

    • This may cause those for whom going to church was a matter of habit (…) To fall away.

      I say again: Coronavirus is doing what demographics was already going to do in the next 10 years anyway. This foreshock is a blessing, lets steel ourselves for the main event.

  4. We live in very depressing times. Not because of the pandemic (epidemics are not unknown in history) but because, for the first time in history, the Catholic Church has suspended the sacraments (their own reason of being) and has done it without delay, without protesting and without looking for alternatives (as in previous epidemics).

    It reveals the corruption of our (Catholic) authorities that, in reality, don’t believe the doctrine they are called to defend. Actions speak louder than words. I guess they are only our authorities because this means a living for them but they don’t believe that sacraments are important. The rotten fruit of the Second Vatican Council is in the open.

    There are people with more individualistic ways of worshiping (Bruce Charlton comes to mind) but I am a person that really needs the sacraments to feel close to God. Without the sacraments, my faith wither and dies. I have been reduced to watching a Mass through Facebook live. With no confession or communion, my sins increase and my soul drifts away from God. I feel the same way as when I was an atheist. In this, I am with Bonald.

    • Do you, by chance, pray the Office? It’s liturgical even when said alone and in some sense it extends the grace of the Mass throughout the day.

  5. That;s pure 100 percent absolute moralizing hypocrisy, because you demonize the media for standing up against Trump and all he does. There was no nuancing of good versus evil in world war II. Trump is our American equivalent of Nazi German. It is that simple. There is no mediating point between light and darkness. The Democrat Party is not all Light; they, too, have darkness of pro choice pro-abortion Democratic women. But at least the Democrats are honest and reasonable. See former conservative Sykes’ book, “How the Right Lost Its Mind.

    • Frankly, I perceive it is you who has lost his mind. You are merely perpetrating a terrible insult against the victims of Nazism. Your over-reaction is so utterly disproportionate as not to be in the least bit rational. What on earth has Donald Trump got to do with the state of the Catholic Church? We are discussing a decline whose roots might be, not just decades, but perhaps centuries old. Arguably, the problems are traceable back to the Garden of Eden and you can only rave about the President of the United States, who hasn’t even fulfilled his first term yet. I’m not even American, I’m Irish. Can you not imagine how this Americo-centric balderdash seems to non-Americans?

    • “…By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive”
      So the Democrats support mass murder of the unborn, but are “ honest and reasonable” (in your opinion), so that’s all right then? But Trump, who opposes this slaughter, is a “Nazi”?
      You are on a seriously dark path dude.

    • So uh… does anyone want to point out to our interlocutor here how many people in the U.S. supported what Hitler was doing in the years running up to WW2? And can we also talk about the eugenic programs the U.S. engaged in during this time, too? Or how U.S. politicians and their constituents were extremely reluctant about entering the war until Pearl Harbor? And is he also aware that the Democrats were the Southern party of black repression during this time?

      As a certain someone said of SJWs like this, it is always year zero to them.

  6. Both Comte and J.S. Mill said that liberalism was just the negative phase, a kind of corrosive oven cleaner that would remove the old prejudices of Christianity and tradition. Mill is somewhat more guarded in his language, but Comte is very clear that history ends with a positive phase of rule by experts. Skepticism is an offensive strategy, and the congenital skeptics go to the wall once the new regime is in place.

    Do you know if the mass is still being celebrated in empty churches. I once saw two priests celebrate mass in an all-but-empty church in Austria. They were on their knees ad orientern, so they were old-school, but I found it very moving. As a physicist, you probably know the story that Isaac Newton would lecture to an empty auditorium from a simple sense of duty. Celebrating mass in empty churches and publicizing the fact would, perhaps, impress some people that mass is more than bad music and platitudes.

  7. JMSmith,

    FWIW, my parish priests still celebrate private masses alone multiple times a day. I might also say – but clearly I’m not being serious for any feds watching – that non-devotional confession is to be had for those truly needy. As a convert to Roman Catholicism, I’ve never – I suppose – truly grasped how “sacramental“ our holy faith is until now.

  8. Pingback: What will survive? The ruin of Catholicism and the death of liberalism | Reaction Times

  9. Corona plague will not destroy the Church. The Church is the Orthodox Church. The gates of hell shall not prevail against the Orthodox Church. Catholicism already lost its soul to Filioque. So they are lost, until they return to Orthodoxy. God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, but that must include in His perfect will showing Catholics and Protestants that Filioque is damnable heresy. He may yet change their minds about Filioque. By His grace, I was not damned for saying Filioque. He opened my heart to His Word, Jesus, Who says the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone John 15:26. If I can be saved from my sins and my delusions and fantasy, Catholics and Protestants who do not have these past erotic problems I had so many years can yet be saved from their Filioquism, too. God can do all things. And save all the lost. All us men are lost until Christ comes to us and we find Christ. In Orthodoxy,

  10. God certainly can and shall save the heterodox if He chooses to. Matropolitan-Archbishop Philaret of New York. Will the Heterodox Be Saved? Orthodox Christian Information Center. Barnes, Patrick. (1999). The Non-Orthodox: The Orthodox Church Teaching on Christians Outside of the Church. Salisbury, Mass: Regina Orthodox Press.

  11. >Freedom of speech is not something we enjoy, but something we suffer.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fighting_words#Chaplinsky_decision interpreted freedom of speech not as an inherent human right, an end on its own, but clearly as a mean towards an end, namely, finding truth.

    There are two kinds of people not interested in finding truth. Those who think they have it already. Like the Soviets. And those who think it does not exist, because everything depends on your perspective. I think SJWs are the later.

    BTW I, too, believe in public censorship, but because it can interfere with finding truth, there must be free-speech zones where smart and knowledgeable people can exchange just about any idea. It is just that these do not necessarily have to be shared with the greater public. Esoteric vs. exoteric, the usual. It is darkly ironic that academia, because of its original truth-finding goal, was supposed to be such a free-speech zone and is today the opposite. This simply comes from the temptation of power.

  12. Dear Bonald,
    >The liberal strives to balance rival interests that he does not presume to judge. Today’s Leftists never think this way. When two interests clash, they identify one as that of the oppressor and totally illegitimate, the other as that of the victim and unquestionably righteous.
    I am trying to read Eric Gans. Trying to, as he is one very difficult writer to understand. But one of his easier to understand ideas is “victimary thinking”, which has a long history but in its current form developed after 1945, in which any social question or conflict is interpreted as the Holocaust. Like, for example, you could not have a morally nuanced view of the British Raj in India, rather ther British were described as utterly evil Nazis and the Indians as gassed innocent Jews, and thus one could no longer talk about reforming this or that ascept of it, it was a moral outrage that had to be dismantled immediately.
    So it is not just the result of the last ten or so years, Bonald. I think this thing tends to come in waves, you know? I suppose the in the sixties the SDS kids with their Maoist Little Red Books were also similarly brutal moral absolutists. But the hippies were likely more relaxed.
    The wave of more relaxed liberalism you described seems to me a nineties thing, a Clinton era thing. The era when The Atlantic under Andrew Sullivan formed sort of a political center, a liberal and a conservative could have a respectful argument on those pages. It was in this era when Eastern Europe where I am from escaped the Communist yoke and thus it seemed there is a sort of a unified Western view we should follow. It seemed most Westerners are roughly on the same page, just some want lower and others higher taxes, some want stricter and others more tactful policing, but everybody orbits around a moderate-liberal to moderate-conservative center. It was a Fukuyama moment. History is over. The Western center won people are just arguing about details now.
    9/11 and Iraq demonstrated history is not over, but yet they strenghtened that center. Or the illusion of such center. Aside from a small number of no-war-for-oil Kos Kids, it seemed largely everybody agrees that the Western center is at war with extremist Islam and there is no question who are the good guys.
    What we are seeing today is the death of the center. Sort of everybody is an extremist, radical, or hard-reactionary these days. The funny part is that they even respect each other more than they respect the centrists of yesteryear.
    This is visible on Reddit on /r/politicalcompassmemes. It is a funny place, people of the four major extreme and “extreme” persuasions, Stalinists, Left-Anarchists, Anarcho-Capitalists and Authoritarian Rightists respect each other more than the centrist who just wants to grill steaks because he is generally okay with the world. I think that might represent their own Boomer parents. Because what they agree with each other in is that there is something fundamentally screwed up with the world and can be solved only by some form of really radical change.

  13. Bonald,

    I don’t come to this site much and I’ve never posted before, but when I saw how worried you and some of the commenters were over not being able to attend Mass and receive the graces thereof, I wanted to share some verses and prayers that I hope will be of some comfort to you and anyone else worried for their soul. In no particular order:

    Offering of all Masses in the world
    I unite myself with every Mass which at this time is being offered throughout the world. I place them in the hands of Mary, the Mediatrix of all grace, that she may obtain by this presentation of the Blood of Christ to the Most Holy Trinity, the deliverance of souls from purgatory, relief for the sick and dying, the conversion of infidels and sinners, and the perseverance of all the faithful.

    Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? Or distress? Or famine? Or nakedness? Or danger? Or persecution? Or the sword? For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus Our Lord.

    Your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask Him.

    Which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? Or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father give the good spirit to them that ask Him?

    How lovely are Thy tabernacles, Lord God of Hosts! My soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord.

    Quaerens me, sedisti lassus,
    Redemisti crucem passus,
    Tantus labor non sit cassus.

    An Act of Hope
    O my God, with a firm confidence I hope in Thee, that thou wilt grant me, through the merits of Jesus Christ, the assistance of Thy grace, and after keeping Thy commandments, wilt bestow upon me life everlasting, according to Thy promises, Who art almighty, and Whose word is truth.

    How to Make a Spiritual Communion
    Quote from that page:
    “What is the value of this practice? The graces received may be as great as — or greater than — those received by some people in the actual Sacrament. Though, of course, the Sacrament itself is inherently greater, our disposition toward the Sacrament affect whether and how we receive its fruits. For example, imagine a woman who is unable to be with her husband but who desires him as contrasted with a woman who has her husband’s presence but doesn’t care for him. Which husband would be more apt to pour out his love for his wife?”

    “We all think it would be foolish to simply expect God to suspend on a mass scale the ordinary sequence of cause and effect in the physical realm; neither should we expect it in the spiritual realm.”

    To “simply expect” so, perhaps, but not to pray for it.
    (Ctrl+F “Epidemic”)

    And we know that to them that love God all things work together unto good.

    Remember what the priest says in absolution, “May the passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, and all the good you do and the suffering you endure, gain for you the remission of your sins, increase of grace, and the reward of everlasting life.”

  14. What may remain is the fait accompli already happened time is not linear prophecy not cerebral armchair philosophy jazz stuff. Like in the Terminator movies. Again and again like the number 8 turned sideways symbol of endless closed loop Ouroboros self-consuming snake infinity. And stuff. “May” because we can prevent it. Like in an adventure where there is real risk-reward.

    Rev 13:18 “And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (666).

    Microsoft Publication Number: WO/2020/060606


  15. “It is not unlikely, for instance, that I will be an atheist by the end of the year. None of us knows to what extent we have been sustained by the ordinary life in the Church.”

    I have been Christian for years without being able to attend Church.

  16. Follow up on Microsoft Publication Number: WO/2020/060606 CRYPTOCURRENCY SYSTEM USING BODY ACTIVITY DATA. Kevin Shipp (fired from CIA, lost his pension for NON anonymous whistleblowing) conducts nefarious Microsoft patent application presentation to connect human brain and body function to cryptocurrency payments as part of a digital economy. Microsoft must think the 060606 connection is humorous and is sitting back eating popcorn watching the Kevin’s of the world being drawn out. 🙂



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.