“An Taiseirl” (The Resurrection), Noirin Ni Riain & The Monks of Glenstal Abbey, from the album “Vox de Nube”, 1996.
At 3800+ words this post turned out rather longer than I thought it might at the start. Nevertheless let’s get on with my thesis.
How did the undeniably greatest civilization in history fall to the depths of corruption, misery and ruin we currently observe all around us in our daily lives? I think I have an idea about the how and the why of this.
I recently read a wonderful little book called “The Gentle Traditionalist“. One of the ideas in this book is the notion that our western culture has been de-sacramentalized. This thought finally connects all the dots for me in trying to understand “What is wrong?”.
In the beginning (The Alpha) there was just the Church created by Jesus Christ and founded upon Peter or Petrus (The real Rock). Resting upon the solid bedrock of 2000 years of Jewish Tradition (as passed down in the Old Testament), Jesus created One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, ordered by God the Father through Christ the Son to spread the GOOD NEWS throughout the world “To All Corners and All Creatures”.
From the Douay-Rheims Bible: “And he said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature“.
This was to be accomplished by means of the Seven Holy Sacraments, the preaching of Holy Scripture, and the passing on of the traditions of the Magisterium as the unchanging Truths they were intended to be.
The fact of Jesus’ Church, The Bride of Christ, gave rise to a civilization unequaled in human history. Denied on all sides by the fashionable brights and the self interested, self worshiping of our modern English culture this reality should not surprise anyone, because Jesus Christ is unique in history – He is BOTH man and GOD.
First, consider that IF Jesus WAS merely human, then 2000 years of Catholic thinkers and billions of believers were and are just colossal dupes, gullible idiots following a 2000 year old guru into the grave, and, as posited in our modern English culture, there is really no valid reason for good behaviour beyond self interest. Just look around, we can see where that gets us these days.
What makes Jesus Christ different from everyone else is the interplay between His humanity and His Divinity. All of the poetry and drama of the Catholic Faith, on display in Chartres Cathedral, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Aquinas’s Summa, John Henry Newman’s sermons, Chesterton’s essays, the mysticism of Teresa of Avila, and the ministry of Mother Teresa, is a result of the interaction between human and Divine in the person of Jesus Christ.
There is a singular distinction between the story told in the 4000 year old Bible and ALL all other religions, and philosophies of the world. All those other spiritualities of the world relate the great story of humanity’s search for God, and they do it very well. The Catholic Bible is the opposite. It tells the story of God’s search for us.
One undeniable fact is that in all of the cultures of the world, in all of history, one great epic story is repeated, that is man’s great search for God.
But the story told in the original pre-reformation Catholic Bible is not one more version of this same old, same old story. The Bible (I use the Douay-Rheims and the Navarre versions) is, for people accustomed to being the centre of the story, a deeply disturbing story of how God, the Creator of the universe, tracks us down personally, and eventually comes after us personally in Jesus Christ.
Now, I get this, that this personal Love for us as individuals is disorienting. This Truth was a great stumbling block for me in my youth, in my personal search for God. I really appreciate this disorientation and even anger at this outrage. This concept of a personal God is so disturbing that in my own case, as a teen, I could not imagine a God that cared about me personally.
What with all the other stuff he had to look after in the universe how could he possibly care about me personally. That belief simply struck me as a massive outpouring of egotism, an easy out for weaklings. So, measuring all things against and by myself and in purely human terms I rebelled.
There was much turmoil in the Church in the 60’s, much dis-information and even downright lies about what was now acceptable. Much that I held dear I perceived as being simply “thrown away”. So “In the spirit of Vatican II” I rejected it utterly and the Catholic Church along with it. I pulled a “Luther”. Clearly the baby went out with the bath water.
“The Beatitudes“, Noirin Ni Riain & The Monks of Glenstal Abbey, from the album “Vox de Nube”, 1996.
As life turned out, I changed my mind over the nearly 30 years that passed after my 16th year. After much soul searching and consideration of many spiritual paths and religions, and after actually reading the documents of Vatican II instead of believing what others told me about them and their intent, I came full circle. I had to admit that: I – was – wrong. In 1995 I came home to Rome.
I now believe. I believe it IS True! Jesus is not simply another good man, another guru looking for God; He IS God in the flesh, searching for His people: As the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible explains in John 15:16 “You have not chosen me: but I have chosen you; and have appointed you, that you should go, and should bring forth fruit; and your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”
So back to “What is wrong?”
For starters it is evident, upon honest examination, that no prior, greater or longer lasting civilization existed which could hold even the tiniest candle to the sheer magnitude and benevolence of Catholic civilization.
Yes, many evils were and are evident, because, as we are all well aware, if we honestly look at reality, anything, any human endeavour, any organization which involves human beings will have some evil in it because humans, all of us, are fallen creatures and have some evil in us, some place where we worship ourselves and reject God “who is all good and worthy of all our love”. The absence of that “good” is what we call “evil”, and it is particularly difficult to see it in ourselves.
But the unalloyed good derived from the precepts and customs of Catholic culture transcends petty human evils and has done more good for more people (both good and bad) than any other culture in history. Where are all the other “great” cultures now? And where are we finally going, having abandoned the sacraments and having gradually abandoned Catholic culture these last 600 years or so?
In 1517, Martin Luther posts his 95 Theses in Wittenburg, Germany; beginning the Protestant reformation (and consequently the rapid and widespread rise of capitalism and mercantilism in northern Europe and England). Luther was unhappy with the status quo in the Catholic Church of 1517. Luther knew better (sound familiar?). So Luther started his own church, nominally christian, but with an abridged bible, the “Reader’s Digest” bible, missing quite a few of the original chapters (books) which he didn’t like.
More importantly, he established a church without the Sacraments which Christ Himself set up to protect, strengthen, and encourage Christians. Those channels of Divine Grace were specifically and intentionally cut off. Our culture was intentionally cut off from God’s own help and protection because of pride and self worship. We knew better than God. We no longer needed God.
As someone famous once remarked, “Catholicism has never been tried and found wanting, it has been found hard and not tried”. And, as Luther learned to his great grief, in the years after 1517, once the genie was out of the bottle he could no longer control his plan, he had fathered a revolution and it ran away from him completely out of control, spawning an unimaginable number of variants, some of which are only marginally Christian and some not Christian at all. And all of them doing it their way … I once heard or read somewhere that Frank Sinatra’s tune “I did it my way” is the most popular ear-worm in Hell. It would not be surprising if true.
I not infrequently come across folks in the electronic universe who articulate exactly the idea I am trying to capture and illuminate. Why re-invent the wheel? I found this quote at an old disused blogsite archive, which unfortunately I have not had time to fully explore. We will get to that one eventually. Here is one of his posts …
Matthew 6:33 states,”But seek ye first the kingdom of God,and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” …One of the hardest things a Christian has to learn is to rely on God’s ability and not our strength…our own sufficiency…Relying on self has to literally die…God tells us to put our trust in Him…We may be having problems…God tells us to seek Him out…Prayer is communicating with God…Through Jesus Christ we can enter into the very presence of God…We can take our failings…our problems…our fears…our needs…any troubles or trials that beset us…and seek God…and He promises He will be found and will answer us…Praying is actually talking to our Father…who holds all the answers to our every need…our Mediator is Jesus…The fears we have…the troubles we may be experiencing…seem to get stronger and more menacing in the dark…in our minds…God directs us to bring them into the light of His presence…”Cast thy burden upon the Lord(Psalm55:22)…God tells us over and over again…”Be not anxious”…He wants us to put our trust in for Him…Look to Him for all our needs…As we seek first the Kingdom of God,and His righteousness…in other words as we pray…talk to God in Jesus’ name…as we rely on our Father’s ability ..on our Father’s. strength…we see the hand of God working in our lives…He opens up the way for us…He makes the paths straight for us…He guides us…He leads us in the way we should go…He answers our prayers …He takes care of our needs…Don’t worry about fancy phrases…or fancy prayers…Just seek God out…talk to Him ,really tell Him what is on your heart…tell Him of your joys.. .your problems …the things that bother you or whatever is weighing you down…Hand everything over to Him…seek His answers…prayer is a form of praising God…(Psalm145:18) says, “The Lord is nigh unto all them all them that call upon Him.” Amen
Christ himself said “You cannot worship God and Mammon”. Luther, and his followers, and his spiritual descendants chose Mammon and all that that implies. 600 years on, purged of all access to the sacraments, we live in a culture and a society where pursuit of success and wealth “trumps” everything and all cultural, moral and ethical standards have been cast aside producing the most materially successful civilization in history and at the same time the most corrupt, and evil civilization in history. That is what is wrong. Our society abandoned the sacraments.
Luther wanted to stop evil practices. So he abandoned the structure set up by Jesus in an attempt to assert his own will against the perceived evils of other men. What he got was a watered down, “easier”, more “humane” Catholicism. And as so many times since, while wanting an easier “Catholicism Light”, the unknowing victims of the Reformation still wanted the name, they wanted the name without playing the game.
In retrospect, observing 600 years of “progress”, Luther was a likely unknowing, but very active, agent of the father of lies, the catalyst, so to speak, in the creation (at last count) of some 33,000 distinct denominations (rebel churches) in 238 countries which are all really nothing more than meeting halls for xenophobic social events and which basically embrace the “I’m OK, and the rest of you are ALL wrong” philosophy of worship. That is what is wrong.
“A Dhia Ghleigil” (Oh Glorious God), Noirin Ni Riain & The Monks of Glenstal Abbey, from the album “Vox de Nube”, 1996.
And the Catholic Church still stands, and is of course especially picked out for attacks because THAT CHURCH is the only one which can legitimately (as in “with authority”) shine a light on the cesspool of modern moral and “religious” beliefs, therefor she MUST be destroyed at all costs.
Attacking the Catholic Church plays into that fashionable and even laudable objective or desire, to attack “organized religion” as the cause or source of all evil and violence in the world. Evil just can’t be our fault, can it? How can we, the “practically perfect in every way“, regular Poppins folks, be evil? We just project our own failings and sins onto that body which continually shines a light on them because we can’t admit our sins and ask forgiveness and mercy. That is what is wrong.
And of course, it is much more comfortable (and safer too) to attack the Catholic Church than to indulge in provoking some other religion, say, that so-called religion of peace, Islam? “Je Suis Charlie” and all that, don’cha know? I am never surprised when all the courageous brights of the progressive secular media are very careful to only attack those they are sure will never retaliate. Is it that only one “organized religion” is the cause and source of evil and violence? The material evidence daily suggests otherwise but our politically correct masters won’t let us think those sorts of things, and we accept it all without thinking, without thinking, without thinking. That is what is wrong.
That’s a surefire telltale exposure of their True Colors. Take the broad, easy, safe road every time. Take the name of courageous without the risk of playing the real game. Ah Pride, Pride, Pride, self righteous pride. As St. Augustine relates, we lack a firm purpose of amendment and rather than disciplining ourselves and repenting of our evils, we pursue satisfaction and gratification of our appetites and passions, whatever the cost and whatever the result. That is what is wrong.
During the 600 years or so since Luther’s revolt in 1517, the growing gulf between the faiths of the of people of our society, together with the unmentioned but continuous practice of the traditional Catholic moral customs (it’s common sense, right?), inherited from the previous (previous to Luther that is) 1200 years of undivided practice of the Catholic Faith throughout the western world, has slowly come down by lesser degrees, century by century, year by year, into our modern times.
This process of very a gradual denouement of moral values and customs permitted our civilization to continue to function fairly well in spite of being largely de-sacramentalized and blighted by the abandonment of the Truths taught and Sacraments administered by the Catholic Church.
The abandonment of common decency and care for our fellow man is the abandonment of the very defensive works of the fortress of our civilization. Western society continued to function, in spite of various false philosophical ideas in the minds of the people simply because, they were by and large living in the slowly deteriorating structure of old inherited Catholic truths and practices, and this was what enabled our society, our “culture”, to function more or less harmoniously, despite a diversity of beliefs among its members.But, lately, the spiritual woodpeckers and termites have finally brought the structure down. That is what is wrong.
Vater Unser: Joa Bolendas (Our Father), Noirin Ni Riain & The Monks of Glenstal Abbey, from the album “Vox de Nube”, 1996
So, let’s look at the Catholic social teachings and moral customs that are based on the revealed word of God: to worship God on Sunday, not to work on Sunday, to give honest work for your pay, not to steal, to keep monogamous marriage relations, not to practice polygamy, to avoid adultery and fornication, to shun homosexuality, to have children and not to practice birth control, to raise and nurture them within the family they were born in, to respect and care for the elderly, to nurse the sick, to bury the dead (in anticipation of the resurrection of the body), etc., etc. the practice of the corporal works of mercy, as they were once called.
Now, the average person says, “Nonsense! All of that we have always taken for granted! This is just common sense!”, and that statement reveals their total lack of knowledge of history and the history of their own civilization. The brutal truth is that, in 2016, most of these traditional social teachings and moral customs have been completely abandoned by most people in our Western Culture, our modern English society.
Our society has embraced with a vengeance all the sins of the flesh as if there were no objective truth, no divine retribution for sin left unforgiven and unexpiated and demonstrably no temporal results of bad behavior. These customs and traditions, now abandoned in the name of “freedom to do your own thing” and “I’m OK, Your OK” were and are the very foundation of our culture. They are everything that has made our society work for 20 centuries.
This rejection of traditional moral values and customs is the direct result of the loss of the Catholic faith and especially Catholic Sacraments as the integral creed of our society as a whole. It is a fact that the last nation state to actively embrace the Catholic Faith and the Sacraments was Ireland under Eamon de Valera. This loss of faith and the Sacraments has inevitably resulted over time in the abandonment of traditional Catholic moral customs that enabled men to live in conformity with God’s laws and enabled our society to function harmoniously.
Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences (original Latin: Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum) as written in 1517 are widely regarded as the initial catalyst for the Protestant Reformation. The disputation protests against clerical abuses, especially nepotism, simony, usury, pluralism, and the sale of indulgences.
No doubt everything he protested was true and is recorded historically in the same sources which teach us about Rome and Constantine the Great. But Luther threw out the structure of the church as if it was to blame for the evils worked by some members of the church and thus spawned a legion of new churches in which the evils of mankind were free to grow and play, free of the old structure by which that very evil was measured and recognized.
Regardless of the truth of his protest, given the reality of “progress” since Luther’s time, it is not a stretch to contend that this revolt constituted the first and deadliest nail in the coffin of western civilization. The second nail was (As I experienced it personally) the catastrophic post-conciliar collapse of the Catholic Church after 1965. Have you read Blessed John Henry Newman’s description of those years in “The Second Spring”? Please read it, read it and weep.
Screwtape must be laughing all the way home, ” I will not serve!”, indeed!
I often think of Al Pacino’s last line in “Devil’s Advocate” : …”AAAH! Pride is my favorite sin!”.
The beliefs of Secular Humanist Progressivism (aka modern English culture), which say, “It does not matter what you believe—or whether you believe anything at all“, could be held with impunity, without any noticeably disastrous results by even the majority of people in our present society, but only so long as the majority of people in our society were also still practicing the old traditional (read “true,” “Catholic”) moral customs.
These traditions, based on the revealed truths of God and adherence to the Natural Law, enabled our society to function reasonably well. In other words, what you do is more important than what you say. Another version of that is “By their works shall you know them.”
“Pater Noster” (Our Father), Noirin Ni Riain & The Monks of Glenstal Abbey, from the album “Vox de Nube”, 1996.
But now, in 2016, (The Omega) after 600 years of no sacraments and passionate pursuit of Mammon, so many, perhaps most people have lost touch with any reasons for morality and goodness. We live in a culture and a society where most of these ancient moral customs have been abandoned by a huge majority of our society, even including possibly a majority of those claiming to be Catholic, and the result is extreme social disorder. That is what is wrong.
Now we worship wildlife and murder children. Now we worship Prestige Goods and murder the elderly and the handicapped. Now we collectively bow down and grovel before the father of lies and all his gibbering minions for fear of losing or displeasing our idols and gods of Mammon. In the name of this material success we have willingly become prostitutes and wage slaves.
A person who believes there is no such thing as Truth will believe anything. It is both sad and fortuitous that the present artificial polarization of all peoples into opposing political and social camps has brought forth the full chaos of modern secular morals which impact directly in our personal affairs, with daily rapes, murders, broken marriages, muggings, drugs, people going berserk in mass shootings or running crowds down with their cars, or school shootings, or family murder suicides, or blowing up buildings, prostitution, pornography, child abuse, pedophilia, shack-ups and hook-ups, corruption daily in business and especially in government, etc. We have become a culture of poltroons, subsidiary to no man and no law and we can do whatever we want if we have a large enough gang.
It is ONLY when ordinary folks (the masses) feel the pain up close and personal that they begin to pull their collective heads out and ask: “WHAT IS WRONG?!” One can only pray that it is no too late to save our society for, as so often in the past, much that is good is being drowned in a sea of corruption.
What is Wrong? What is Wrong? What is Wrong? What is Wrong? We abandoned Gods Sacraments and Gods help and teaching, that is what is wrong.
Just Keep Reading, Just Keep Reading (paraphrase of Dory’s advice in “Finding Private Nemo” 🙂