Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Anti-Culture

A Facebook friend writes about various Catholic publications ...

Jeff is right about the Wanderer's brave stance in the abuse crisis and the "Lavender Mafia," but their reporting on immigration is so one-sided and anti-bishop, it's hard for me to respect.
My Sunday Visitor and National Catholic Register are often fluffy... staying "orthodox," but only because they never print anything the least bit risky.
America and Commonweal are smart, but prone to sell out the Magisterium on social issues. Jesuits use these publications to defend all kinds of heterodox ideas that in another time would have promoted accusations of heresy.
Although I like much of their stuff, both Crisis and First Things have published some of the most dangerous positions I have ever read... just incredibly wrong-headed American civil religion nonsense. It is Catholicism as the "Republican party at prayer." Crisis did this at the most dangerous time possible---when Pope John Paul II was trying to stop the war in Iraq.
My favorite Catholic magazines are New Oxford Review, Communio, and Gilbert. Hard to go wrong with those. But even they fall short sometimes. 
The fact is Catholicism is big field... Many saints, many sinners, many unique charisms that we ought to learn to respect.

Note that the new Crisis Magazine is much better than the old Crisis Magazine, though our Facebook friend has apparently not discovered this yet.

***

But this all makes me realize something.

Our culture began to turn away from the Church deliberately with the Reformation, and is now officially and utterly anti-christian and nihilist - so much so that almost all of the Catholic bishops and the vast bulk of the laity have been co-opted by the culture-at-large, and the best we can muster is a lame fortnight for freedom belied by our own secret compromise on the very issues we yap about.  The reason we see such a strange and strained attempt by various media outlets to publish with a Catholic heart and mind is that it's never been harder to be Catholic - for a Catholic culture (a culture that would automatically and organically produce such things) has ceased to exist.

Those who attempt to write or create from a Catholic perspective have to carve out a forced and unnatural position, with no help from either the clergy or their fellow Catholics, as a rule.  Thus everything is a bit off-balanced.

Factor in the market and things get worse.  You can probably make money targeting liberalist pro-abortion Catholics or targeting right-wing libertarian-leaning Catholics, but you can't make money playing to the middle because the middle is muddled.  The middle are simply sane secularists who are no more serious about Christ and His Church than the average man-on-the-street, whose sons are nihilists and whose daughters are whores.  He believes mildly in a benign god but denies that there is such a thing as sin, and he is no more interested in partaking in a Catholic culture than he is in doing anything that seems to him unreal and contrived.  He has his sports and his big-screen TV and unlimited access to porn and other addictive diversions - and nothing in the world around him tells him that a life lived for Jesus Christ would be anything but fake and self-serving.

The only possible way to combat this is to do our best as individuals and in small groups (usually not parishes) to approach sanctity and to beg the Holy Spirit to make us holy and to conform us to life in Christ - though corporate life in Christ is not being modeled for us anywhere but in the past, generally speaking.  If we radically give ourselves to Jesus, He will radically transform us, and from that personal transformation a new culture (at first a counter-culture) will spring.  Absent such a commitment, we will at best be Catholic in a "safe" way or in an unbalanced and bizarre way - but perhaps that is all we can do under the circumstances.

2 comments:

jvc said...

Ugh, while we're on First Things...

I've been a subscriber for about four years. A friend, who got me into the magazines, has been a subscriber for probably going on 8-ish years.

You can whip through the magazine in ten minutes or less. There is probably no opinion journal in existence where a larger percentage of its pages consists of letters to the editor and book reviews.

Each month, I mention to my friend that there is going to be a Vatican II article, an evolution article and a gay marriage article. This prediction never disappoints. I don't think these are unworthy subjects, but, every month?

It's really become unreadable.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't know that our terrible situation is unique. I've been reading up on the history of the Reformation, and you should really take a gander at what religious conditions were like for the average Church-goer back then. Taking Communion only once a year, at Easter, was practically the norm, married priests were a fact of life and men who didn't even know Latin were regularly ordained as priests. Bad liturgy is one thing - how about Mass conducted by a drunken buffoon who can only imitate the actions of a priest and mumble a few words in psuedo-Latin? And remember, you can't just get in the car and find a new parish - you're stuck with him pretty much for life.
When Albert Cutie's relationship with his girlfriend was revealed, the matter was dealt with almost immediately. That would have been impossible in the Middle-Ages - an age defined by the Catholic Church. Lukewarm and ignorant laity, and terrible or just mediocre clergy are nothing new. It's been the norm throughout the Church's history.
And lest we over-idealise our forefathers even the most orthodox, pious and holy Catholics back then didn't bat an eye at doing something like burning heretics to death - Thomas More, though a saint, was no different in this regard. I don't know why this doesn't bother Catholics more - "Oh yes, once upon a time we used to encourage the torturing to death of people who didn't want to be Catholics, but we've stopped now."
And you still had vulgarity, sexual misconduct, violence and irreverance at work in the culture. Arguably more of it, at least in the way of public crime and violence. The violence nowadays has shifted more to the private sphere - i.e abortion.
That's not to say that the ages past were worse or ours were better, or that the Church in days gone by was hideously corrupt and our age us better by comparison - just that the things that bother you about the Church are nothing new or suprising.