Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Everybody's Right

To say "everybody's right" is to assure that everyone will think you're wrong. But the Bear was thinking about an old saying: "Every heresy is the revenge of a forgotten truth."

Let us not talk about heresy, but, rather emphases or tendencies. Several decades ago, the Bear read a book called The Catholic Center. He doesn't think it's on Amazon; in fact he can't find it anywhere. But the Bear clearly remembers the message. An argument for the truth of Catholicism is that the Church invariably places itself in exactly the right place between extremes of error, marching right down the highway and avoiding the ditches on either side. Not in the bland and cautious "middle of the road" way, but in the disciplined and determined journey along the very best of courses.

Naturally, it got down to cases, but, unfortunately the Bear cannot remember more than the thesis. However it was one of those books that stick with you your whole life.

It's not so much that the Church is not healthy; it's not whole. The body isn't sick, it's broken. Of course, it will always be one, holy and apostolic, but "as constituted in society" it seems that there are too many competing visions for the Church. The Bear does not want to go into details, because most of us know what he's talking about. Even more so, it would not serve the purpose of this little essay to get bogged down in labels.

Being not particularly attached to any camp may be wisdom or laziness. But it is true for the Bear. And as he looks around, he agrees with everyone -- but only so far. There is indeed a blessed place for mercy. There is a place to advocate for the poor and homeless, and for fair dealing with workers. Tradition is essential. The traditional Latin Mass is great. The newer liturgy can be awesome. The Bear will happily go to either.

Sadly, Catholics are divided. If one person is right and the other wrong, that's unfortunate. If two people are both right, that's much harder to deal with. It is not our vices that separate us, but our virtues. Our insults are actually unintended compliments, because they mostly touch on the essence of each other's good. Being "rigid" is not necessarily a bad thing, nor is being "merciful." Somehow, in the Bear's opinion, we have to meet one another once again in the Catholic center.

When the Church is whole again, we will not pit one virtue against another to identify ourselves.

It can happen, but not now. The Bear just wrote about Pope Francis' mad virtues, and that is exactly what the Bear is talking about. The Bear does not think it will happen by taking things away from people. That would be exactly wrong. It will happen when the wild virtues on every side are curbed, and the Church remembers who she is. It is not just "those other Catholics," that need to be straightened out. It's going to take all of us.

It's hard to imagine today, with such a polarizing Pope. But we do not know what the future will bring. The Bear can't even imagine when it will happen, but he knows exactly what it will look like when it does.


  1. GK Chesterton, in The Everlasting Man, is your sought for source.

    1. Chesterton's best book (with Orthodoxy a close second), but the Catholic Center is the particular book the Bear was thinking about.

  2. Very ideal Mr. Bear. I wonder if the Catholic Church has ever been in the balanced state you describe. It seems to me it has always been in turmoil which is another name for reality.

    1. The Bear does think the Catholic Center has existed for most of the Church's history. The Church can be in the sweet spot and still experience troubles.

      To make up an example on the fly, God cannot abide unholiness in his presence. The Catholic Church does not condemn most everybody to Hell, nor does it say -- like the Protestants -- that God will just pretend we're holy because we're justified. ("Snow on a dunghill." -- Luther)

      The Church teaching is between these two errors. No, God cannot allow anything unholy in his presence. Yes, most of us will die in some degree of imperfection. The Catholic Center is Purgatory, which takes everything into account in a sensible manner.

      The Bear does not see Catholics coming together in the center (used here in an expanded way). He sees good people who have allowed their virtues to pull them apart. And of course some knaves, as always. Now more than usual, it no doubt.

      But there is no consensus. We have hand-Catholics and tongue-Catholics, and bareheaded-Catholics and veiled-Catholics. We have Catholics who worship the Pope, and Catholics who hate the Pope. (And let's not pretend otherwise.) We have Vatican II-Catholics and anti-Vatican II-Catholics. We even have Catholics who enjoy sex and Catholics who say any enjoyment of sex is a sin. (This is true. The Bear can't say exactly what website he read this one, but he hopes his readers would agree that it is a the virtues of purity or philoprogenitiveness gone mad.)

      And they are all (except the knaves, who are probably fewer than we imagine) virtuous -- too virtuous.

      Looking at the list, it seems that the changes after Vatican II are responsible for most of the division.

      Traditionalists have stayed closer to the Catholic Center. Progressives have moved further away. The Bear believes the key to solving this is recognizing the virtues that have pulled us apart. Mercy yes. Making everything about mercy, no. Respect for tradition, yes. Making everything about the traditional Latin mass, for example, no.

      This is a message that no one will like. The Bear gets that. Does anyone really want a Bear who is afraid of what people will think of him and not write what he believes? Wouldn't be much of a Bear.

      Please keep in mind that this is all written under very stressful circumstances. Ma'a salaam. Do svidanya.

  3. I'm not sure about what you say here. I'm not particularly learned, but my thought is this: the End of everything is truth; the Means can find a median.

    For example your idea that the Traditional Latin Mass, and the New Order Mass can both be beautiful is true, if their End is the same: the Holy Sacrifice represented to God for the four purposes for which we offer it. If the priest and congregation at either Mass have that for their goal all can be well. The means in each are different. But in an important way, the different means must reflect the end.

    Being ridged about ends is crucial, being flexible about means is diversity.

    1. At the risk of blowing up this ephemeris, if someone thinks Catholics who take communion in the hand are flat-out bad Catholics and the practice must be stamped out at all costs, then what the Bear sees is someone who has the great virtues of belief in the Real Presence and respect for Our Lord. Is it a wild virtue? The Bear does not say. He has never claimed to be a Traditionalist. He and traditionalists just have common enemies at present. (And the Bear uses that term advisedly.)

    2. What about people who think that the practice should be stamped out at all costs (said practice having contributed mightily to the degradation in belief in the Real Presence, and an invitation to profanation of the Sacred Species), while still maintaining that those who practice it aren't all 'flat-out bad Catholics'...just poorly catechized ones.

      Though the production quality and acting are a bit rough, this makes the point rather succinctly....

      and this....

      and the whole stated purpose of the wreck-o-vators of the 70's who claimed 'it is time to stand and take rather than to kneel and receive'....the arrogance makes my blood run cold.

      It simply has to do with Truth and Tradition, which always seem to go hand-in-hand. And it just seems to me that standing up for Truth as a hill always worthy to die on is simply being a true disciple of Truth Himself, (not to mention two of the Spiritual Works of Mercy...Instruct the ignorant, and Counsel the doubtful...whether or not they know they're ignorant or doubtful. And yes, I've been on the receiving end of both, many times, and after ascertaining that Truth was imparted, have been very grateful for the rebuke/instruction).

  4. Perhaps this is it, Mr Bear?

    1. That is exactly right. I even remember the cover. Thanks.

  5. Of course the Bear is not talking about some mean, and took some pains to avoid suggesting that. Nor is he talking about a Church without issues. Actually, he believes the Catholic Center talked about doctrines. The Bear is expanding that to include how we approach doctrines, and how we all differently "do Catholic."

    Finally, the Bear understands no one will like this article. No one wants to admit that their vision is not the exclusive way the Church must be. But the Bear believes that outside the mushy 85% who just don't give much thought to their faith, many of us are right in the wrong way. The Bear catches this in himself. It is a question of balance and unity.

    But the Bear is not a skilled enough writer to say what he wants to say: that he is not talking about any compromise of sound doctrine or practice, or a mean, or just singing Kumbaya. The Bear does believe that the Church has been much less broken in the past, and what he is talking about is a relatively recent phenomenon.

    1. I actually do like this post. It reminds me of all the different saints, many of whom I would not consider emulating - St. Simon Stylites, for example - but all of whom I recognize as God's design for a particular person in a particular circumstance.

      I'm speaking as someone who veils, I think uniquely in my parish, but has received only positive comments about it.

    2. The Bear thinks the nuance is that you are not condemning other parish members for not wearing veils. Personally, the Bear likes them. His mate would rather die than wear one for reasons the Bear does not understand. Identifying yourself as a "veil-Catholic" would be a virtue gone mad, in the Bear's opinion.

    3. No, I don't condemn others for not veiling - it didn't even occur to me to make that explicit. I just find it helps me focus on the Mass, which includes being less concerned about what others are doing.

    4. That's because you're not what the Bear is talking about :-) Is that a Samoyed?

    5. She's an American Eskimo Dog; similar to the Samoyed, but smaller. They're apparently excellent circus dogs. Did you ever meet one?

    6. No, the Bear had enough of dogs through the centuries and wouldn't work with them. But now his son has a Samoyed who is like some fluffy cloud-dog who is very friendly. He's pretty big, though.

  6. This is the Christianized variant of the Aristotelian Mean, not to be confused with Hegelian Dialectic, which is all too common now days. The system is very prevalent within Catholic Scholasticism that is Aristotelian based, but it is also not the only way to look at the virtues. Christian Neo-Platonism (Augustine) is going to see the virtues in a typological fashion.

    This way of thinking about things is not thinking of things in terms of black and white with gray being the optimal choice. Rather, it is seeing that virtue lies between two extremes -- perfect white is between two extremes of white. The virtue of Courage lies between between the vices of cowardliness and rashness.

    1. "Child of Earth, remember that- unbalanced force is evil, unbalanced mercy is but weakness, unbalanced severity is but oppression."

      A bit of Qabbalism the Bear has not forgotten from his days in England at the end of the 19th century. What can he say? He fell in with a bad lot. Often has the Bear gone astray. There was as much neoplatonism as genuine Jewish mysticism in it, with the typical Victorian enthusiasm for costume drama.

  7. A truly Catholic Center. In a sense, that is what the whole "breathing with both lungs" project is all about. The goal is to find that center, or rather completeness of the totality of the Catholic Faith rather than just one aspect of it. There are more than a few things that are part of this project that Western Latin Catholics assume are hetrodoxy when they are really just Eastern expressions of the Faith. However, there is a lot of corruption in there as well.

    I am not sure that the Western Latin Rite understands who she is anymore. That the Magisterium can find the center takes the Magisterium understanding who the Church is.

    There is a crisis of pneumatology, and that is what is driving a lot of this. There are a lot of competing theologies of the Holy Spirit floating around and people are being tossed in the winds. I would argue that these are not simply extremes one way or another, but that, as the Holy Spirit is a PERSON, the descriptions depict very different persons not just different ways of relating to said person.

    FrancisMercy is not necessarily B. Rabbit's Mercy of Pope Francis, but it is the cudgel that the Mr. Kitsunes of the world use to change everything. FrancisMercy is not an extreme of the virtue of Mercy, but it is not, in fact, Mercy at all.

    Leaving aside whether or not Pope Francis' Mercy is within the bounds of mercy, there is the problem of divisiveness within the modern Church. The Church should be about unity in plurality but it has become about plurality in unity -- a unity which is increasingly so thin that it has lost meaning.

    1. "The center cannot hold."

      Sometimes the Bear feels like General Pickett. "Sir, I have no division." The core problem is pride. People somehow felt empowered to reconsider everything. After all, the windows to the world were being thrown open! Then there were reactions to that, and counter-reactions, and Catholic virtues, which were never meant to exist outside of and under the authority of the Church, were let loose to cause mischief. Today, which "Church" would we all rally around? Pope Francis is the worst possible pope we could have gotten at this time in history. When we need to start coming together, he has persistently hammered a wedge between us. "Humble" the Bear's furry butt.

    2. In all reality, the Church that people will rally around is the one closest to where they live their lives -- both physically and spiritually.

      I am not sure where I belong either. The parish where I go is alien to me -- and it is not bad as far as parishes go but it still....

  8. I think you raise some really good points, Bear, and also very well articulated. I see very sincere and good people trying to do what they think is pleasing to God. And sometimes they are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

    In my earliest days of religious training, things were very clear cut. Sins were mortal and venial, and the mortal ones were in all capitol letters, clearly identified in the little blue Examination of Conscience. There were heaven, hell, and purgatory, and the expectations were well defined. The ten commandments were exactly that, commandments, and the extensions of those were also pretty clear. Quarreling with my siblings didn't kill them, but it fell under the fifth commandment. Mortal sins could send us to hell, FOREVER, and venial sins could send us to purgatory for an unknown amount of time. But in God's mercy, He sent His son to redeem us, and He gave us the sacraments to help us on the path to holiness.

    After Vatican II, everything turned muddy and ambiguous. Sexual mores changed with the availability of birth control and abortion. Furthermore, pop psychology took hold with books like, "I'm OK, You're OK," which worked somewhat well in secular life, but didn't work at all when projected onto God, who can't necessarily be counted on to accommodate the moral relativism of the late 20th century in a church which talks about separating sheep from goats. With today's emphasis on "inclusiveness," it's become inconceivable, evidently even to the pope, that God would condemn anyone to hell for doing "what everyone else seems to be doing."

    What seems to be problematic for those of us today, is that we have a church which says one thing in its doctrine and catechism, and something entirely different and in its practice. And in its inconsistent application, a church which has always been considered universal, is now very diverse, depending on what country, diocese, or parish one resides in. The trads adhere to the doctrine and the catechism and the progressives push the envelope toward what culture accepts. In the process, TRUTH, becomes very hard to discern. We have cognitive dissonance and even THAT becomes more intense as we try and accommodate the fact that even our pope seems to be contradicting in practice what the church teaches, while continuing to claim that nothing has been compromised. Meanwhile, we ask, "Can this really be happening? It isn't supposed to be this way."

    1. Articulated very well, Sheep. The Bear has frequently mentioned cognitive dissonance and even written at least one fairly long article about it.

      For those who may not know, it is a condition of psychological distress caused when facts contradict one's beliefs. The seminal book on it is When Prophecy Fails, which is a very interesting read. The Bear believes that some of the basic positions we take are how we attempt to deal with cognitive dissonance, e.g. if the Pope doesn't seem to be a Pope, you can change your beliefs about popes, or just decide that the Pope isn't really Pope. People will usually not change their beliefs to accommodate challenging facts.

      So, yes. Cognitive dissonance in the Church is thick enough to cut with a knife. The Bear tries not to think about it too much, because none of the logical solutions are very comfortable.

  9. Thanks Bear for all the effort and thought you expend in trying to find the Catholic mean, median or mode of what being a Catholic means today. I grew up in pre Vatican II days when the sense of mortal sin was much more prevalent. There was a Catholic culture back then. Today the wide-spread sense of mortal sin (or any sin for that matter) is gone, the belief in the Real Presence has greatly weakened, the sense of the holiness of Mass has likewise diminished, etc. Being a Catholic today is like being a Protestant yesterday. In no way can this be considered a good thing except for the fact that many of us, by our very strong rejection of a watered down Catholic faith, have hopefully become better Catholics which probably would not have happened in the absence of Vatican II. Anyway, keep up your good works. It is always provocative.

    1. Actually, the Bear agrees. There was a time when you could write a book and call it "The Catholic Center." (The Bear thinks that was '62.) In theory, at least, there really was a Catholic Center, and it was there for everyone to see. From the pews, the Church looked sound.

      But, we now know it wasn't at the level of the movers and shakers, who wished to depart from that center. They moved the markers and all the dissidents felt free to dismantle the Church.

      The Catholic Center is not found by splitting the baby between progressives and traditionalists. It is by everybody finding the virtues that are important to them, and slowly restoring sanity to them. This will necessarily mean that progressives are going to have to move farther, since they are father away from the center. But the Bear does not mean that, say, the Bear, does not need to examine the sanity of his own virtues. Not being afraid to tell the bitter truth is a virtue. Going full-out Bear attack on someone carries that courage and correctness too far. Everybody is going to have relax and be willing to move where it is necessary. The Bear does not see the 1958 reset button, for better or worse.

  10. I am not a Neo-Thomist, so I probably would have been amongst the "progressives" at VII.

    To carry on Great Bear's point about virtues becoming overstressed and falling into vice...

    If one is only looking at PreVatican II books that are Neo-Thomistic in nature, one is going to miss the theological struggles that were going on over legitimate questions surrounding the pervasiveness and overbearing prevalence of Neo-Thomism. Just as the Latin Church has had a tenancy to Latinize the Eastern Churches, it is legitimate to say that Neo-Thomism wasn't giving orthodox but non-Thomistic expressions of theology room to breath. Granted, Neo-Thomism was trying to put out the fires of modernism, but it was also sucking all the air out of the room.

    Even if we go back to 1958 AND have killed off all the heresy, there STILL is the problem of where the Catholic Center is.

    There is the problem of basic metaphysics and first principles. We can run different philosophies / theologies / actual practice of the faith so long as we are in agreement to basic metaphysics and first principles. When you don't agree on those things, it is impossible to move the tent posts far enough to include everyone. But instead of recognizing that, we have luminaries in the Church who are hell bent on redefining the very tent posts themselves and not just working on moving them.

    1. Orthodoxy developed in a a very different way, what with their talk of "energies" and the like. They never had a Counter-Reformation. They are conservative when it comes to liturgy and tradition, but have odd moral lacunae like allowing more than one divorce and remarriage. But they are fissiparous, too, with different bodies trying to be more Orthodox than the others. Their ecclesiology is a mess, and phyletism is rampant, as you would expect from Churches that are closely connected with nationalism. Probably the vast majority of Russians identify as Russian Orthodox, but few actually participate. Still, it's part of their identity. The Russian Orthodox Church was heavily involved in Soviet intelligence. Who knows if things have changed that much today? The Bear suspects few thing are done by the Russian Orthodox Church that are not weighed in the Russian political scale. And the Ecumenical Patriarch in Turkey was tooting the global warming and all things green horn long before Francis came along.

      At the local level, we are so close, but above that, huge differences start to emerge.

    2. Indeed. The Church as, or as a function, of a political society is a fun discussion. What can be said about the current trajectory? Church as soul of a unified secular plural-religious polis? But again, this issue, of how the Church relates to the polis is pre VII and is the reason for VII. How does the Church relate to the modern world?

      Badly is the answer from experience.

    3. What were the alternatives to neo-Thomistic thought that were being deprived by oxygen before Vatican II?

      What did the progressives who handed us Vatican II think they were saving the Church from? The Bear cannot believe the majority of bishops were simple bamboozled by questionable new trends in theology.

      Few living today have much experience with the pre-Vatican II Church, and even that might be clouded by nostalgia. The Bear still surmises that there must have been legitimate concerns, and that the Church was not all the people back then thought it was, seeing things from their local perspectives.

      The Bear always thinks of the Father Peyton rosary rally in San Francisco. Dignitaries attended. Whatever else the Church was, it was a cultural force, which is pretty remarkable in a Protestant country. 1961: Rosary Rally. (See Bear's YouTube video if you are unfamiliar.) 1962: The Catholic Center published. 1965... utter collapse overnight.

      Bear wonders if it might have entailed a shift in the very concept of authority, which disastrously continues today, and includes the regrettable cult of the pope which JPII started. And where is the dissent? Virtually no bishops have organized to at least present a different perspective. Nature abhors a vacuum, so we have amateur bloggers doing the job the people whose duty it is to protect the faith have neglected.

      One only has to look at the obsession with worldly relevance to wonder whether churchmen have completely lost their faith and Fr. Rosica's "rebranding of Catholicism and the papacy" is to hold on to their power in a new, secular institution that will continue to de-emphasize the supernatural, while maintaining religious language to justify their secular agendas. Look at Pope Francis. He's a politician in a white dress.

    4. Alternatives to Neo-Thomistic Thought That Were Being Deprived of Oxygen:

      The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ott, written from a Neo-Thomistic position lays out several alternative Catholic theological metaphysics on multiple doctrinal points before siding with the Neo-Thomistic Position. It is a good starting point.

      The Resourcement Movement / Nouvelle Théologie. This is basically a "back to the patristics" movement that sprung up in the early 20th century.

      Pretty much anything coming out of the Eastern Church.

      What did the "progressives" think they were saving the Church from? Scholastic rigidity. I like the manuals, BUT they are a peach for most people. The anti-scholastic movement also included a lot of anti-Church types.

      Nostalgia is good, but there is a lot of it. The average pewsitter DID go along with the deformities that came out of VII. Never underestimate the willingness of the common folk to grab the pitch forks and torches when people in power try to do something that they don't want.

      Rosary Rally Collapse -- Without studying the events, probably more to do with the "grand bargain" that allowed American Catholics into the political sphere and out of the Catholic Ghetto. American First, Catholic Second allowed Protestants to elect JFK.

      If VII was about an ecclesiology of the episcopate to balance out the strengthening of the papacy by VI, and what we have is an impossibly weak go along episcopate, I'd hate to see the pre VII episcopate.

      Owl strongly believes there is a concerted effort to destroy the authority of all social institutions, and this has been going on for several decades.

      Oh I hate this game of whack-a-pope but not as much as spot this weeks heresy in the homily. I hate whack-a-pope because it plays into the hands of those that are out to destroy the authority of social institutions but there has to be a vocal pointing out and correcting of the record because the Pope is creating the record. He is the Pope - the rule of faith and if that rule is distorted then generations will measure wrong.

    5. Thank you. The Bear shall now just pace in his quarters in Damascus and occasionally snarl at Slava and Kostya. He's beginning to feel like a prisoner.

    6. Alice and I are really sorry about that.
      We thought you *wanted* us to contact the Russian Fleet. Poor Alice was so proud.

      ...the path to Damascus is paved with good intentions...

      I'm guessing you'd rather we not "help" anymore.

    7. The Bear will chance this. This is very much an improvement on Turkey, which had colluded with certain persons who did not appreciate the Bear's ephemeris to kidnap the Bear and assassinate him. The Bear had wondered how the Russians became involved. They were happy to twist Turkey's tail after that shoot down, and rescuing the Bear is good publicity. They even built his stature by Putin and the Patriarch of Moscow sending public best wishes.

      But the Bear has figured out he is being used for propaganda purposes now. Fair enough. He had is photo-op with Assad, and read the prepared statement they gave him. The Bear is on the side of whoever kills more ISIS fanatics. Right now that looks like Assad and the Russians.

      The Bear does not feel threatened, but they are keeping him around for a reason.

      What do people back home make of the Bear breaking with U.S. foreign policy and siding with Assad?

    8. Owl approves, for Assad kills ISIS, but more importantly, he is a friend to and protector of Christians. The people who want Assad gone also want Christians gone.

    9. Well, let me put it this way.

      I had to take the transmissions down as they were proving to be very popular in DC and Virgina. There are an unusual number of men in suits with dark glasses hanging around the local wifi cafe.

    10. In other news, the TSA is hiring suspected war criminals.

      So you can tell Asad that if things don't work out in Syria there's a job waiting for him at DC airport security. [not that I'm implying he's guilty of war crimes].

      I'm just waiting for it to come out that we've got ISIS agents working at TSA.


Moderation is On.

Featured Post

Judging Angels Chapter 1 Read by Author

Quick commercial for free, no-strings-attached gift of a professionally produced audio book of Judging Angels, Chapter 1: Last Things, read...