Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Real Catholic Restoration

Daniel Mitsui has been posting some reassuring reflections here and here probing the deeper underpinnings of the current state of Catholic aesthetics. What he concludes about church archietecture, music, and iconography is exactly what I feel about church morality, politics, and ecclesiology.

My research is finding a whole bunch of books on the reform of the hierarchical and pastoral structure of the Church…all written by liberal, modernist technocrats – a sordid alliance of dissenting theologians and “successful” lay Catholic Democrats of the business, political, and legal elite who simply don't get the form of the Church, or the Catholica , to use von Balthasar's term. These reformist ideas are brimming with the conceit of “managerial expertise” with absolutely ZERO sense of the Fathers or the martyrs. After all their long-winded paeans to the glories of the laity (contra the incompetencies of the hierarchy), and when they actually get around to referencing Catholic tradition, it’s only with a most selective and superficial gesture.

A must read. Especially the last paragraph.
I wrote in my essay on Bonfire Motets and Missionary Icons that Roman Catholics have shown a remarkable genius for understanding controversialists independent of controversy; and for incorporating seemingly incompatible elements of Catholicism into an ancient and joyful piety. This is entirely different from a cynicism that continually gropes farther back in history for a purer faith; it is rather an innocence that considers the religion in itself and not as a reaction against something; that considers it with the mind of the Apostles and advances it under their principles.

This is also different from what is proposed by many contemporary apologists. To read the discourse in Catholic websites and periodicals, the hermeneutic of continuity means pretending that ruptures did not occur, even though they are plainly observable. This is not defending the faith; all it does is make the Church look ridiculous, like something that requires a willful obliviousness and doublethink to believe. The solution advanced by these apologists is essentially that all Catholics think like dialectical philosophers. But a continuity attained by employing an intellectual approach contrary to apostolic principles is no continuity at all; it is just another rupture.

A true recovery of the greatness of Roman Catholicism cannot rely on apologies that hide the ruptures under triumphalist bluster, or under a new ultramontanism that reduces the Catholic religion to a mere expression of magisterial power. For the recovery to succeed, Catholics must be allowed to believe in its necessity.