The Secularist Critique
a philosophy of religion blog from a catholic perspective

Friday, October 31, 2003  

The need for a secularist critique
Bill Cork at ut unum sint says:

A few years ago Peter Kreeft wrote a provocative book: Ecumenical Jihad: Ecumenism and the Culture War (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996). He aruged that the "fundamental fissure" today — a Grand Canyon — is "between secularists who acknowledge no law above human desire and all the religions of the world." He called for "ecumenical jihad," a "World War of Religion," against secularism. He called for Christians to link arms with Muslims and Jews wherever possible in this struggle.

He then says "Yet Kreeft's argument leaves me a bit cold, too--Christianity is more than moralism; we have a message to preach which is not simply a legislative program". He goes on to state what he sees as a better way using St. Francis as an example.

I think Bill is overlooking something very important here. Of course Christianity is more than moralism and we have more to preach than that. But Kreeft's proposal is very important. We do have a common enemy to fight, an enemy that threatens all religions, not just Christianity. Secularism is destroying man's religious consciousness and replacing it with a new 'secular' mythology that makes nihilism the omnipresent context of man's life from origin to death. When inhuman mythologies replace the genuine religious consciousness, man becomes incapable of religion and consequently authentic religion dies.

When this consciousness is lost or suppressed, will it matter that Christianity is more than moralism? Theological differences are entirely irrelevant in the face of an enemy that seeks to swallow up 'religiosity' itself. To my eyes, this is one of the most important issues of our times, what is at stake here is the identity and definition of man. Thus it is in every religion's self-interest to come together to address what is a philosophical and not a theological problem. When men can understand again that they are religious beings, only then will the specific theological differences among religions become a real issue.

This requires a project that will involve a critique of secular culture and ideologies to show their utter lack of foundation; and by bold philosophical explorations of the basis in human experience and history for a religious outlook. Only then will man regain the memory of what he truly is.

| posted by theist | 11:42:00 AM

Thursday, October 30, 2003  

Liturgical thought experiment
Imagine that the Tridentine rite was restored to official status in the Roman Rite. This means that the secularist liturgists who were once in charge of the Novus Ordo, now have the Tridentine in their hands. Is it reasonable to conclude that the Tridentine as it exists in the mind of many traditionalists and as celebrated by good and knowledgeable priests would retain its reverence and beauty? Would it not in fact become an ugly wasteland in a similar fashion that the Novus Ordo celebration has become a wasteland? Would the liturgists who have not spared the Novus Ordo, spare the Tridentine? Would the liturgists who don't care about law or norms or rubrics, suddenly take heart with the Tridentine in their hands? I don't think so.

Shouldn't this illustrate that what is wrong with the liturgy today is not primarily what rite is used, but whether or not the rite is in the hands of heretics and secularists? Shouldn't we point our fingers more at the liturgists than at what missal is used? Of course the Tridentine is beautiful in the hands of people who understand liturgy, but it need not be in their hands just as the Novus Ordo need not be in the hands of people that obviously don't understand liturgy.

It is wrong to blame all the nonsense that goes on in liturgy since VII on the Novus Ordo itself; it is obviously caused by people who are hostile to Catholic liturgy. Of course, the Novus Ordo missal can be criticized like any missal, and individual prayers can be judged in relation to other prayers, but this not a question of orthodoxy or heresy. The heterodoxy that is glaringly obvious to any Catholic that cares, occurs in the sacramental and symbolic level of the liturgy. It could be said that it is not so much the form, but the matter of the liturgy that is sick.

In fact, the majority of the most repulsive elements of today's secular celebrations occur despite a relative or even strict conformity to the missal itself. This means that the celebrant can stick more or less to the literal format of the mass and it can still exude a secular spirit and message. Does this mean that the mass itself is corrupt? No, it means that liturgy is corrupt at the incarnational level, the symbolic level that communicates and mediates the spiritual content of human person's participation.

Jeff at el camino real says "Furthermore, the Novus Ordo Missae is still on trial. It isn't working." I think that is entirely unfair. It totally misses the distinction between the mass itself and the way in which it is being interpreted and implemented by religion hating buffoons. The reality is that the new mass has barely even been tried yet.

| posted by theist | 4:34:00 PM

Monday, October 27, 2003  

Society for Catholic Anachronisms
That is what I call the 'traditionalists' that other Catholic bloggers refer to as the 'lidless eye brigade'. The title is supposed to bring to mind the people that get together to dress up as knights and squires and re-enact medieval battles and such. The reason I think of them as anachronists is not because I think tradition is anachronistic, but because they wrongly identify non-essentials as essential; consequently they end up absolutizing certain stylistic or periodic elements of Catholicism captured from a specific period in time, say the 50's.

So you end up with these groups like FSSP and SPPX that, like the societies for creative anachronisms, get together and dress up in their pre-conciliar garbs and their tonsures and pretend that its 1952. They celebrate all the sacraments according to pre-concilliar rites and can not tolerate any kind of change whatsoever. They have absolutized the Tridentine mass, heap suspicion on the new rite, view the Tridentine in competition to the new rite, think that liturgical renewal consists in going back to pre-conciliar forms, and are just generally narrow minded.

And it doesn't matter if its the official schismatic anachronists like the SSPX or the groups within the Church like FSSP; they are all of the same family. I have no doubt in my mind that there are schismatic and heretical tendencies in the FSSP and others that are canonically part of the Church. After reading certain essays by Fr. Chad Ripperger, a teacher at an FSSP seminary, I think there is plenty of reason to suspect these groups. We don't need their mentality in the Church.

Truly, this spirit that animates the 'trads' is infected with rationalism. The symptoms are seen in their complete aversion to any change and development in the Church. Since they are unable to see how change and development can be orthodox they take refuge in older forms and past periods that they consider 'safe'. They cling to a dead and static past that brings stability and certainty to their minds, allowing them to analyze frozen papal statement and past documents and history to the point that feel that they understand everything it is to be 'Catholic'. But this supposed certainty comes at the price of killing a living thing; the Church, a living developing entity that must always frustrate the rationalist's temptations to comprehend.

The Church is a diving thing, it is grounded in God; and is called by Christians 'the body of Christ'. Unless man can in fact comprehend God, it would stand to reason that we will never be able to comprehend the full reality of what the Church is, where it's going, etc. Men are limited beings with limited reason, and we often mistakenly reduce orthodoxy to what we understand it to be. But Orthodoxy, in itself, is beyond any one persons understanding; it is so rich, so deep, so expansive that only God alone is the infallible judge of what is orthodox; and even when the pope participates in this infallibility, he only sees a sliver of the truth.

Rationalism in religion is a perennial temptation to be resisted, we must be satisfied to understand what we can of the Truth, and constantly remember that Truth is always more then we see of it; this means that we can not be satisfied with what we can see of the vision, but must always be open minded and broaden our understanding. Especially in religion, where we are dealing with the fundamental Mystery; we must resist to urge to kill the living mystery for the sake of a false and illusionary security.

| posted by theist | 4:38:00 PM

Friday, October 24, 2003  

Thomist Rationalism
Among Thomists there is a camp that seem obsessed with proving that all our knowledge of God comes from deduction. Technically the term is 'a posteriori' meaning something like 'after the fact'? The term is used in opposition to 'a priori' meaning prior to the fact? Whatever the Latin meaning of the terms, they are used in the context of our natural knowledge of God -- including the proof of the existence of God-- to mean that we reason to this knowledge, the knowledge is a result of an inference, its not just there in our minds, prior to any argument or discursive reasoning. This camp of Thomists may be called 'A posteriori Thomists'.

I consider this obsession with emptying the person of all experience of God that is not the result of argument to be quite distasteful and an ugly example of scholastic rationalism. Why is it so important that we should not have a natural experience or knowledge of God prior to deductive reasoning? Is it supposed to be somehow unorthodox to say that man is in contact with God and that he can be aware of it?

Personally I find it incredible that we should not have any sort of apriori knowledge of God, and it may even be that the proofs for the existence of God presuppose this apriori knowledge.

| posted by theist | 4:02:00 PM

Sunday, October 19, 2003  

Further Reflections on Rationalism
Rationalism is an attempt to view man as God. Rationalism would create a world in which man was the sole creator, omniscient, and omnipotent. Creator by surrounding himself with things that he has made, omniscient by defining knowledge in terms of things he has made or will make, and omnipotent by being the lords of this little man-made world; producing it, manipulating it, and understanding it to his own satisfaction.

Thus by technology men can create an illusionary world where they are the gods; and deny reality to all that does not fit that narrow world. There is no necessity to such a use of technology, but why have ideologies like materialism and atheism wedded themselves to the scientific project when science is really an ideologically neutral project?

Is it because they are so weak as philosophies that they need to leech off the authority and success of science to give them seeming legitimacy? Perhaps, seduced again by power, those were the ideologies required for fostering the illusion of creator-man.

| posted by theist | 10:20:00 PM