@Kristor – I find your post and comments both surprising and confusing! Your post concedes pretty much all the ground to Romantic Christianity; so that you seem to be advocating the same attitude to churches.
Your comment of July 25, 2022 at 4:49 AM suggests that any particular actual or manifest church (including the RCC) is ultimately ‘merely’ (secondarily) helpful or harmful – but never should be regarded as primary or decisive – precisely the Romantic Christian attitude.
And that the individual person’s intuitive knowledge of the mystical/spiritual/immaterial ‘church’ is all that *really* matters at the bottom line (albeit, I cannot distinguish this concept of ‘church’ from knowledge of deity – of God the Father/Jesus Christ/the Holy Ghost).
Most remarkably, you apparently regard the actual, worldly functioning of the Roman Catholic Church to be a matter of ultimate indifference to you! I.e., whether or not the RCC locks its churches; if it ceases to offer the mass, marriage, funerals; and if most of its bishops and priests focus their teachings on defending and endorsing … whatever policies the global totalitarian Establishment are currently pushing – you say:
I am not too troubled by all of this outward and merely formal ecclesial subjection to the tyrannical civil authority.
I suppose the crux is that you regard this as ‘merely’ formal submission. Yet when formal *and informal* RCC discourse overwhelmingly endorses – and indeed instructs – not just submission, but enthusiastic and active participation, over many years and increasingly … Well, I believe you are in error.
Altogether, I don’t [see] you are putting forward a coherent argument here – which may simply mean that you are in a transitional phase.
Indeed I hope so; because I find your casual, dismissive attitude to the RCC enthusiastic-self-shut-down of 2020 (etc.) to be abhorrent!
Like Archbishop Viganò; I regard 2020 as probably the worst disaster in the history of Christianity, an existential catastrophe, the significance of which can hardly be exaggerated.
These are all important points, and it is important that I respond to them cogently, and forthrightly. The first thing that I would say in response is that this latest travesty of the craven responses of the various church hierarchs to the mandates of the civil authorities in respect to the supposed crisis of covid is not our first rodeo of that sort. Things were much, much worse with the Church during the Black Death, a real pandemic:
… Black Death was an occasion of abandonment by Church and family alike. Normal practices of dying –ubiquitous in late medieval Europe – were replaced by getting rid of bodies. For most, there would be no viaticum, no last confession of sins, no Eucharistic liturgy praying for the dead, no procession from the home to the church and then to the grave. There was death, and death alone.
… Jesus Christ and his Church were therefore present throughout the lives of men and women. Especially in times of dying, when loved ones were carried home “together” to God. During the plagues, all of this disappeared. Liturgical feasts were postponed. Public processions ceased. The dead, even if buried in an orderly way, were not accompanied home to God.
What happened, for the most part, was abandonment. Now, this is not to say that every clergy member left his post, abandoning the city. It is clear, based on death rates, that many clergy died in the plague itself. The new mendicant orders, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, suffered a great number of deaths. But the entire liturgical-sacramental system of the Church, during the plague, was questioned. Who could hear the confessions and bring viaticum to the dying if there were no priests around? Worse, if the local priest fled the city for the sake of his own protection, what did this reveal about clerical commitment to the Church? Who would pray for the dying, especially if at least some family members abandoned their spouse, parents, or children? Remember the Cito, longe fugeas, tarde redeas?
We know, at least some ire during this time, was directed toward the Church. New lay movements came into existence including the flagellants. A pilgrim group of penitents, the flagellants roamed from town to town, thousands in number and engaged in public penance. A master – not a clergy member – would whip penitents, while they cried out in lamentation for the sins of the Church and the world. Flagellants, although not always beloved by city or Church, were greeted with enthusiasm by the faithful. With the challenge brought about to sacramental confession, with so many dead, what were people to do?
Stiff stuff, no? Covid is obviously nothing to the Black Death, but then we moderns are all complete pathetic pantywaists compared to our medieval forebears – or any other of our forebears, for that matter. This, not just in the realm of the ecclesial and spiritual, but in *every respect whatsoever.* So, covid looks to pantywaist moderns like the Black Death, when really it is much more like the flu or the common cold or a bad hangnail.
That this massive delusion has hold upon our peoples is no fault of the Church, except insofar as she has – like everything else human – been weakened by the last 500 years of sustained and relentless assaults upon her authority, and upon the traditional and classical metaphysics of all men prior to about 1500.
Excursus: The Romantic Christians delude themselves if they think they are somehow insulated from that attack. On the contrary, Romantic Christianity, which as one of its first premises discounts ecclesial authority per se – “see, the Church is imperfect here, and also there, and also in this other place” – is therefore to be numbered among the first salients of that attack. Not wittingly, of course. But then, Hell, good intentions, etc. Romantic Christians make themselves – I feel honestly, to be sure, and with the best will – enemies of the Church of Christ. They attack her. When per their avowed convictions, they should be supporting her, and indeed as needs be correcting her. Sad.
Excursus: I should not here perhaps forbear to mention that the Romantic Christians have been in the forefront of an attack on traditional Christian metaphysics, and so on Nicene Christianity, as she has been handed down to us from the Apostles, and indeed their ancestors and teachers the Patriarchs and Prophets, whose witness is consistent throughout the Old Testament. They argue, e.g., that God is not God – not eternal, not Absolute, not True, not as Ultimate therefore before all gods (Exodus 20:2-3) – but just a guy among many such other such guys – among such as we, indeed – who got super powerful among billions of other such gods because, well, reasons.
On Romantic Christianity, as propounded online, the *entirety* of Nicene Christianity is false.
Think about that. The whole of the Christian Tradition, according to the Romantics, is wrong. Polycarp, Origen, Clement, the Cappadocians, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Boethius, Anselm, Aquinas, Eckhardt, Maximos, Therese of Lisieux, Francis, Benedict, Dominic, the Cloude of Unknowing, the Philokalia, John of the Cross, Dante, Milton, George Herbert, Donne, Lewis, Tolkien: all of it just wrong. Evensong? Just wrong, and so a waste of time. Plus all the Councils, all the Popes, and all the mystics and theologians and doctors. Indeed, even all the Protestants: Luther, Hus, Calvin, Wycliffe, Cranmer. All of them, wrong.
The cathedrals? Wrong.
The Orthodox, the Catholics, and the Protestants, all of them wrong. Also the Copts, the Ethiopians, the Saint Thomas Christians, the Eastern Rite Christians, the rump Nestorians and Arians, if such there be. All of them, totally wrong. For, Jesus was just a guy. The whole of Christianity, for thousands of years, has totally misunderstood things, from before Nicea. All those bishops in AD 325 – on both sides of their debate – totally wrong.
Indeed, on the Romantic Christian reading, even Islam has got Jesus totally wrong. He was on their reading much less than what the Muslims take him to be.
It is a bit of a reach, no?
Covid is nothing near as dangerous as the Black Death, *of course.* But, misled by their modernity, moderns take it to be such; so they respond as if it were such. So they – among them the priests, all chthonic moderns despite themselves, and despite the ostensible and quite real costly commitments of their lives qua religious – react with panic. Just as their ancestors did, with far more justice than their heirs of today.
It is indeed all silly, and pathetic. Humanity. So silly, so pathetic. So sad. If only we could just all march steadfastly toward the scythe that awaits us all, without fear or trembling. But most of us can’t. It is the way of things, always.
It is almost impossibly difficult for a modern, steeped from birth in the notion that this life is all there is, to welcome martyry. Even the ancient pagans, hoping at the least for glory, had easier that basic sacrificial requisite of all mortal life, in which only it can find any meaning, any reason or purpose at all, and were therefore more ready to offer their lives on the altar that must at last claim us all, willy nilly (the recognition of our end, all of us, in some final immolation of sacrifice is among the most basic of adult human apprehensions; no sort of principled system of life can disagree with it). All life is formed by and toward death; this is manifest in the logic of sex, of biology, and indeed of physics; of thermodynamics.
The modern is of all men uniquely unequipped to cope with this basic predicament and problem of life per se. He hopes for an utopian escape from the Second Law. No such luck.
So here’s the question: does such foolishness of the Church in response either to the Black Death or to covid at all, in any way, vitiate the basic ecclesial proposal? Does it weaken the notion that among all human institutions the Church is uniquely the Body of Christ, and thus endowed with extraordinary spiritual authority, that the very Gates of Hell cannot withstand?
No. Obviously, it does not.
I had thought as I contemplated this post to expatiate a fair bit upon that point, but now that I come to it, the labor thereof seems moot. Augustine settled this point definitively in his logical demolition of the Donatist heresy of his day. Men are weak: the Church is not. Despite the weaknesses of her weak men, the Church is nowise weakened. For, the Church *just is* Christ. So, her sacraments depend for their efficacy, not upon the perfection of her imperfect human ministers, but rather upon the motions of God Almighty, who through them – despite their weaknesses – disposes of his church – as of his creation – as he wills to do from all eternity.
So, by all means, avail yourselves of her sacraments. The Church as the Body of the Eternal One can nowise be weakened or gainsayed by the weaknesses of her members. The Sacraments do not depend upon mere men, forsooth! To think so is a silly sophomoric category error. The Sacraments are a participation of God. They are not operations of mere men – for, that would make of them no more than profane magics – except inasmuch as such men in their operations partake the operations of God.
It is God who is in all things operant. Avail yourselves then of his operations, or else array yourselves in opposition to his just motions. That is all. What else, possibly, could there be? Get on with it, then, in fear and trembling.
This is for real, and you are nowise prepared for it. But, you must perforce get on with it. There is to life nothing else, than this.
All this talk about the crisis of the Church today in respect to covid and her responses to the state in respect thereto are but froth upon the tumult. Dive into the tumult. Dive into the Tao. Come back later with your reports, in all humility with respect to what they purport to represent to us.