Sunday, November 27, 2016

When churches fail

Recently, a comment was left on Fr. Chadwick's blog:
You feel that the Pope, as the chief representative of the world’s biggest Christian grouping, is in bed with the globalists but that the Orthodox and other communions such as your own are different; they stand in opposition to this universalism – because of their autocephalous nature, I presume. You instinctively mistrust what you perceive as man-made structures, which you feel have let us down. The Benedict Option, which in your view means individuals and small groups doing the right thing, is the only game in town.For me, the man Bergoglio and his eco-encyclicals will soon be dead and gone and I really can’t see future pontiffs pursuing a globalism which is inevitably the enemy of all religion; unless the conspiracy theorists have got it right and the Church is in the clutches of the same Masons who substituted a doppelganger for Pope Paul VI and scribbled the Second Eucharistic Prayer...
There is, to be sure, a lot to unpack here.

The person who made the comment sees the Roman Church's current flirtation with globalism/globalization as a temporary trend produced by Francis' pontificate. Otherwise, the institutional structure of the Roman Church is sure and true and will make the ideological pivot away from Francis' program upon his death. Reports to the contrary (that is, that the Roman Church has aligned itself with the scope and aims of globalism) are tenets of a conspiracy theory borne from an ingrained distrust of institutional structures.

I had considerable attachment to the anti-globalization currents that circulated in the Roman Church at the end of the 1990s and early 2000s. I watched as Traditionalists and more liberal sectors in the Roman Church came to converge around what was then perceived to be a common cause in rejecting and resisting the looming changes to society and economy promised by fully initiated globalism. I was also there as the same movement was subject to attrition as the Roman Church's official policy towards globalization/globalism (among members of its teaching authorities) came into focus. For sometime, based upon comments made by Ratzinger in various forwards or essays, there was the expectation that the Roman Church would come to a critical stance towards globalization/globalism, echoing the force of Rerum Novarum.  On April 27, 2001, John Paul II released hi long awaited statement on globalism in the form of an address to the pontifical academy of social sciences. The document fell short of expectations among both Traditionalists and liberals. Globalization was described as a value neutral process (neither good nor bad). The socio-political-economic system proposed by globalism was conceived as inherently neutral - the nearly universal commerce of goods, services, money and people and the corresponding cultural impact were excluded from any moral judgment. John Paul II placed emphasis on the intentionality of the institutions and entities facilitating globalism, shifting moral responsibility to the human agent and avoiding any moral implications embedded within the system itself, running contrary to the tendency in both Traditionalist and more liberal schools of thought at the time.

The anti-globalization movement in the Roman Church found it had subsequently lost momentum. The position of being opposed to globalism and seeing moral culpability embedded in the system itself, independent of the human agents involved was thereby relegated to a fringe position, outside the approved confines of magisterial acceptance. Traditionalists and liberals were both of the position that globalism was a system operating on parameters designed to force the human agent to an immoral choice - it was impossible to choose the common good in globalism because in order to succeed globalism had to violate the common good - this was about the expansion of commerce, not the development of an integral human society.

Criticism of globalization continued, although it was increasingly academic in nature. There was cautious hope that Caritas in Veritate would issue a robust critique of globalism, following as it did upon the 2008 financial crisis. The hope was in no small part derived from Joseph Ratzinger's former criticisms of globalism/globalization while he was cardinal. The optimism was proven to be unfounded as the encyclical accepts globalism as normative and continues along the intellectual path forged by John Paul II and entertains no option for another way, assiduously avoiding the idea that Christians should reject globalism and instead work towards something else that can run current with and contrary to the dominant paradigm.

We cannot say the Francis' alignment with globalism is new or unique to him. Nor ought we take refuge in JP II Catholicism. Francis is following along John Paul II's trajectory. The historical record does not leave much room to interpret otherwise and only carefully applied amnesia can help us find any other conclusion. What is unique is that where previously neo-conservatives found the Roman Church open to globalism, Francis has successfully presented globalism as aligned with the concerns of liberals who opposed it a decade and a half ago.

It is advisable to avoid any allegations of conspiracy in this area, where incompetence can easily provide explanation. In virtue of the developments under Pope Pius XII, the Roman Church finds itself fully participating in globalism through its financial holdings. It is not a conspiracy that Catholicism offered an open avenue for full acceptance of globalism. Rather, it is the inability to step back from the institution's stakes in the venture to provide some prospective.  Much like the adoption of modernity at Vatican II, the Roman Church believes it can pick and choose what it wishes from globalism. Sixty years ago the dominant thought was that there was "good modernity" and "bad modernity" and the Roman Church could become thoroughly modern and safeguard itself from disruption be choosing the "good modernity." Soon thereafter it would be discovered that "modernity is modernity" and once you open an entire religion to that perception of reality, you effectively adopt modernity in toto. Similarly, the last three pontiffs have operated on the presumption that  Roman Catholicism could pick and choose what it likes from globalism.

Much like modernity, globalism is an all or nothing proposition. The difference, perhaps, is that in this instance we are living contemporaries with the engineers of globalism. We live among the entities and interests that have forged globalism and end point of society and economy it envisions - it is one in which the traditional religions of the West are increasingly obsolete and  are opposed to the new definition of humanity presented in this new system of things. It is a profound indication of failure on the part of ecclesiastical authorities that adherents (in large part) have so thoroughly succumbed to many of the greater cultural propositions embedded in globalism, both material and (even) spiritual. It is a thorough condemnation of the poor reasoning among ecclesiastical authorities that gambled (once again) on being able to mediate the impact of all encompassing worldview which seeks to displace any remnants of the former cultural paradigm and, in so far as it can, create a new referent for matters of religion and spirituality as part of a redefinition of humanity and culture.

Such failure is not exclusive to the Roman Church. Mainline Christianity shares in the same failings. Among the Orthodox churches, the Greek Church has most closely parodied Rome's attempt to synthesize Christianity and globalism. Mainline Anglicans, Lutherans, and Protestant churches are similarly enmeshed in the value propositions offered by globalism, seemingly unable or unwilling to extract themselves from the process. All of these churches share a common tendency to reject the possibility that failure could have occurred, either doubling down on their adoption of globalism as normative, or, where criticism of globalism still exists, accepting the possibility that their church could have made such a concession. The adoption of globalism and (among Western churches) the prior adoption of modernism, test notions of the indefectibility of the church. Although doctrinal statements may not necessarily be at issue (in so far as it is not a matter of mass apostasy), nevertheless, the notion that ecclesiastical authorities could willingly choose to adopt systems with embedded hostility to Christian dogma and anthropology, and furthermore persist in failing to recognize the impact such adoption has had upon their religion, brings most adherents to a crisis point in relation to their ecclesiastical structure. The perception that comes to mind seems to suggest that the ecclesia can err and err severely. The institutional structure is either bereft of the surety that the adherent expects for continued observance, or the surety persists, with culpability being assigned to external factors or select elements in the institutional structure (the passing of which will enable revitalization of the institution). More often then not, it is a cross denominational segment of believers who come together in their willingness to deviate from the institutional line and persist in the criticism of failure in leadership that has resulted Christianity being engulfed by a system that would displace it as it seeks to displace every remnant of the older of things.

This is not to say that future of Christianity involves a loss of its institutional make-up. That is simply not how religions work. It is to suggest that Christianity has no future worth pursuing if the cross-denominational criticism of globalism and modernity does not result in a cross-denominational movement to rediscover and re-implement the praxis of Christianity.

No comments:

Post a Comment