Monday, August 30, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
What simple-minded believers in this simple minded “Evil Empire Clerics vs. Plucky Rebel Alliance Laity” myth never seem to understand is that it was just as often the laity who were eagerly tanking up on the Blood Libel and chucking Jews down wells for the supposed crime of drinking the blood of Christian children while it was the clerics who were telling everybody to cool off and stop believing urban legends.
So, for instance, the simple tale of slavery turns out to be fraught with complexity, not least because it was not all laypeople opposing it (lots of laity got stinking rich off it) and it was not all clerics supporting it. Slavery, it turns out, was an immemorial institution throughout all of human civilization and the way in which the Church engaged it simply cannot be boiled down to laity good/cleric bad. Lots and lots and lots of laity had as little patience for the Church’s nuanced arguments for the dignity of the slave as readers like the one above have for the Church’s nuanced arguments for the distinction between the dignity of the homosexual person and the sin of homosexual intercourse.
Indeed, one of the ironies of the Church’s history is that, for most of it, the main charge brought against the Church is not that it is too conservative, but that it is too liberal. It is the laity that, again and again, rushes off all agog for some form of extremist rigorism. Had the Church listened to the “opinions and wisdom of the rest of the body of Christ” during the Donatist enthusiasm, we would have excommunicated large portions of the Body of Christ because they did not measure up to the hyper-rigorism of the Donatists, who held that any priest who did not measure up under persecution could not validly consecrate the Eucharist and any bishop who did not measure up could not validly ordain. We would have caved in to Lollards who insisted that anybody not in a state of grace could not function as an agent of the state and need not be obeyed by citizens of that state. Asking whether the cop who is arresting a mugger is in a state of grace may seem spiritual to some of our more ethereal members of the Body of Christ, but for most of us it is, as Chesterton noted, “wanting in actuality.” Most Catholic heresies down through the ages have been attempts to keep as many people away from the grace of God as possible, urging the faithful to stay away from the Eucharist, shut up, and give up the hope of salvation. The “wisdom” of the first antipope in history was that the Pope was a wuss who welcomed people back to communion far too easily, when what they needed was merciless rejection by the pure.
Indeed, the reason for the Church’s creation of a system of Inquisitions was precisely that laypeople were, in their profound wisdom that needed no guidance from celibate old men, already running around doing it on their own as vigilantes and lynch mobs. Turns out the Church thought that having a system whereby the facts were obtained and evaluated in an orderly way was better than something like this.
Of course, most people get their history from Monty Python and therefore could not tell you five intelligent words from a primary source about what actually took place in an Inquisition (and yeah, there were more than one and they weren’t all in Spain). Similarly, most people don’t seem to know that though God does indeed sometimes raise up “ordinary pwople to challenge the istitutional church of the time”, He also raises up clergy to challenge the easy assumptions of fat, dumb, and happy ordinary people, who are quite certain that, whatever Gregory X says, Jews are drinking the blood of Christian children; or that whatever out-of-touch Dominicans may say, Indians are natural slaves; or that whatever pantywaists like the pope and bishops say, the nuclear murder of thousands of Japanese or the torture of prisoners in the War on Terror is the glorious work of God; or that whatever the Church says about the value of human life, abortion is a beautiful right and the sole core value of the Democratic party. Looking around at our violent, selfish and sex-besotted culture, I’m not immediately persuaded that we glorious laity are a civilization of St. Catherines who are prevented from flourishing in sanctity by the evil machinations of Benedict XVI. This optimistic self-assessment, while quite in keeping with the enormously high self-regard of the Baby Boomers, fails to premise itself on much resembling “reality”. One forms, rather, the impression that Benedict is a thoughtful, gentle, and holy man who is doing his best to speak the Church’s beautiful teaching to a braying horde of crazies compact of talk radio lackeys, cokeheads, horndogs, warmongers, sex maniacs and addicts of therapeutic moralistic deism who let Oprah or FoxNews do all their thinking for them. That he maintains his gentle and thoughtful composure in the midst of such a TV-addled culture with the attention span of fruit flies is astounding to me.
Read the whole thing.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
It's well worth a read.
Reading it also brought to mind James Lileks' spot-on discourse on the subject of hang-ups:
“Hang-ups,” for you younguns, was one of those pop-psych terms used to describe people whose vestigial molecules of morality keeps them from personally participating in a barnyard orgy, even though they may decline from judging those who do. “Hang-ups” were the watery Freudian version of “problems,” which were called “neuroses” by people too old to smoke pot. There was nothing worse than having a hang-up in those days. Squares had hang-ups. It didn’t matter what you had a hang-up about; the point was getting over your hang-up, because its very existence implied that you were not a free person open to experience.
I have no idea how this actually worked in the real world, but I suspect the term was used sarcastically as much as it was employed with conviction. Depended on your age. If Young Angry Hip directors made some cheapo groovy movie for American International, the heroine would accuse the hero of having a hang-up, and she’d mean it. If it was a big-studio movie meant to capitalize on the counterculture and explain it for the squares in a nonthreatening way, well, you’d find some middle-aged fellow at a Love-In stammering fractured hip-talk at some blessed-out blonde in a flower-printed miniskirt; she was usually too stoned to notice he was an old dude who was wearing this ruffled shirt entirely by accident, amusing chain of events don’t you know, honestly I’m a respectable married man with a career who has been drawn into your intoxicating demimonde, and she would run a finger down his sternum and coo something about her guru; he’d realize she was bonkers, and utter a riposte that told the audience he was too clever and decent to have sex with her, and then he’d leave. Some mutton-chopped guy with red sunglasses would sidle up and ask the blonde why the guy split the scene, and she’d say “he had hang-ups.” The audience would know what that meant: chick’s an idiot.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
To this end, she is asking for pledges for a half marathon she's running on September 6.
Jocelyn has been motivated to get herself running and exercising after hearing about a Nun Run the Poor Clares had earlier this year, in which she and several friends participated as shadow runners in support of these wonderful sisters' efforts to build a new chapel at their Our Lady of Solitude Monastery. Currently they are raising money to help construct new stained glass windows for the chapel.
The Poor Clares have left the world in order to spend all their time with Our Lord, adoring Him, and praying for us and the Church. I would very much appreciate your support as Jocelyn trains for and runs this half marathon on their behalf on September 6.
The easiest way to make a donation is by clicking the PayPal button at the bottom of the sisters' home page.
You can also send a check payable to Our Lady of Solitude, Inc. to:
Our Lady of Solitude Monastery
P.O. Box 92
Black Canyon City, AZ 85324
Either way you choose to give, please indicate that your donation is a "Pledge for Jocelyn Jansen's half marathon".
Please keep Jocelyn in your prayers as she prepares for this race, that her efforts may be fruitful and be done for the greater glory of Our Lord.