Rod Dreher

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Forming The French Resistance

With Martin Steffens, in Paris

On Thursday, my last night in Paris, I spoke at a church gathering with Martin Steffens, a young Catholic philosopher who is an expert on Simone Weil. I don’t speak good French, so I had to rely on a translation for his words, but everything he said about Christianity and the modern world struck me as profound and original. He’s published several books in France, and last night, after hearing him speak, I can’t remember the last time I felt so acutely the pain of not being able to read French well. Some American publisher would be very wise to read Martin Steffens and buy translation rights.

Anyway, we had something of a public dialogue – difficult to conduct given that I had to wait for things to be translated, and Martin and the audience did as well. I was frustrated with myself for not being clearer, but we were very well received. There must have been 200 or so people there in the crypt of the church, most of them in their 20s and 30s (my translator told me that it appears the main audience in France for The Benedict Option is 18-35 year olds). People stood in line for nearly an hour to have me sign their books (they did the same for Martin).

The message I kept receiving over and over was some version of: Thank you for saying these things. I have been thinking them too, but was unable to speak. It is hard to overstate the enthusiasm from French young people for this book. I have seen nothing like this among Americans, even when they praise the book. I began to get an idea where this intense reaction comes from when, after the talk, on the way to a nearby café, I spoke to a young American woman (and a Hillsdale graduate) who is here teaching. She said that having been here for four or five months, “You can feel the laïcité seeping into your bones.”

Laïcité is the word the French use to express the ideology behind the separation of Church and State. It is not simply a matter of law, but a very powerful mentality, one that drives religious faith out of the public square. On this trip, I’ve heard at least three French Catholics speak in various ways of how hard it is to be openly religious here in France. Tonight at dinner, a man spoke of a Catholic diplomat friend who said that the closer one gets physically to France, the harder it is to talk about God.

As you know, I am pessimistic about the decline of Christianity in the US, but we have a long way to go before we reach the level of the faith here in France. And yet, this beautiful country was once strongly Christian. Here in the town of Moulins, where I am today, an old farmer, Jean-Louis Laureau, told me that when he was a young man in the 1950s, nearly every soul in his village went to mass regularly. One Catholic family had twelve kids, and produced four priests. Today, it’s a ghost town for the Church. There are no priests, and you have to drive a far distance for mass.

This collapse happened in a single lifetime. Do not ever think that it couldn’t happen in America. In fact, the process is well under way. The more I talk to French Catholics – older and younger alike – the more concerned I become about the relative lack of alarm among American believers about our own situation.

Jean-Louis Laureau and Yves Reichenbach (L to R)

Jean-Louis is the founder of a national organization of Catholic agrarians, called Les Journées Paysannes. I had dinner with its leadership last night, almost all of them real farmers. I will be writing more about it this weekend (I’m here for their national conference). I spoke with a Breton dairy farmer who was the fifth generation on his land, and the last. He had to close down. Couldn’t make it in this agribusiness-dominated market. He said over the course of his lifetime farming there, nine — that’s right, nine — of his neighboring farmers committed suicide. The crisis of small farmers in France is critical. Again, more on this later.

Interestingly, among the young French Catholics I’ve met (by “young,” I mean in their 20s and 30s), I don’t sense any sort of panic. In fact, their faces almost glow with the radiance of faith. But many do feel quite alone and besieged, and seem to resonate with the Benedict Option vision, as it describes the world that they live in.

Someone told me that a particular French bishop was praising The Benedict Option to the skies. Another man told me that some Benedictine monks of his acquaintance who had read it did not like it; if I understood the man correctly, their critique was more or less the same as the people around Pope Francis, who see the Benedict Option as strictly moralistic and separatist.

The man asked what should he tell those monks who didn’t like the book. It wasn’t clear to me until someone explained later that this was his precise question, so I didn’t have a good answer for him. But tomorrow I’ll search him out, and I’ll tell him that he should ask the monks for their ideas about what to do, given that the Benedict Option is the wrong move, from their point of view. Seriously: it is clear that the John Paul II/Benedict XVI style has not been as successful as one wishes, but is going back to 1970s-style Catholicism really the answer to the grave problems the Church faces in the West? Can these monks possibly think so? I would also ask them: what is the Church for? My impression from talking to some – not all, but more than a few – Catholics of my generation and older is that they are content to manage terminal decline.

If I were a believing Catholic in my twenties and thirties, I would want to have nothing to do with that defeatism. See, people say the Benedict Option is defeatism because it rejects the hope that Christians have a realistic chance of meaningfully influencing the wider society. There are still lots of Christians – conservatives and liberals both – who think of the Church (Catholic and Protestant) as a player. To adopt a Benedict Option way of thinking is to vacate the battlefield, they say.

To me, though, theirs is the real defeatism. It is a kind of Christianity that depends on the respect of the world for validation. Of course I wish the Church had more influence over the direction of popular culture, including politics. I believe that Christians should use every means offered to them to advocate for truth, justice, and the common good. But what does any of this mean if we cannot even pass the faith on to our children? This is a question that ought to haunt – and I mean haunt – both conservative and liberal Christians.

How did Jean-Louis’s village go from being fervently Christian, and fecund, to a secular ghost town in 60 years? Nobody, least of all me, has any easy answers for how to reverse this trend. But to accommodate oneself to this post-Christian – and indeed positively anti-Christian, in many ways – order is going to mean spiritual death for the Church.

It’s well under way. I have no patience — none — for Christians who want to temporize, to ignore the great emergency, and to think that everything is going to be fine if we just sit still and wait, and make nicer with the world. If you sit there and do nothing, you’re going to die. It’s that simple. If you sit around waiting for your bishop, your pastor, the institutional church, your political leaders, or anybody else to save you, you’re a fool. We are facing a situation that is unprecedented in the West in the Christian era — and we’re all in this together. If you don’t like what I propose, then I invite you to propose something better — something that’s not the same old thing, repackaged differently.

Today I will meet the man who wrote the following e-mail to me this week. Here, readers, is a source of hope:

We have to rebuild a society bottom-up and not rely  in ancient forms of organisations who are not relevant anymore today; worse who might look like Christian movements but work in fact for the opposition or the enemy as you name him.

Your solution: just follow the Rule of Saint Benoit is excellent. Your are going a step further (if possible) than Pope Benedict in his famous speech in Les Bernardins in Paris in 2008 when he proposed the example of Benedict the monk and his rule to the French and European world of culture.

Because you are proposing a simple and practical way of buiding a christian life in the actual world, who is not only unconcerned about religion, but severely hostile. But if Providence has put us here at this very moment, we have got to do something,  here and now. Not only to save our souls, but also our fellow men.

Not far from Souvigny, we have an extraordinary parish priest. Let’s say our modern curé d’Ars in the old province of Berry.  He has a very acute and profound spiritual sense, his masses are superb, gathering slowly more and more people. But he doesn’t forget the world we are living in. He has asked to a small number of parishioners to start up a non-profit organisation to build up a network of Christians living here. A Christian should not stay alone; he needs his human brothers and sisters.

We are farmers, forest people, craftmen, doctors, teachers and entrepreneurs and so on living locally.

We try to establish among us and our families trust, solidarity and mutual assistance.

We try to promote any local development project be it in education, farming, forestry, economy (in the old greek sense) etc, respecting environment and local culture, in the framework of Christian ethics and Christian Social teaching.

We all live in Boichaut, full in the middle of France, in what sociologists call “La France Périphérique”, away from the mainstream country. Most of us were born here; others, as my wife and myself, decided recently to live here. Tough and very nice. But it is probably a good place to start with The Benedict Option. Away from the mainstream and unnoticed until it is needed that we expand to other places.

We forgot the Benedict Option in our statutes until now, but this will be corrected soon, since I am profoundly convinced by your excellent book. The Holy Providence has found an inspired interpreter. God bless you for what you have accomplished.

Ambitious, no? We are few, with little means but we all have faith in the Christian message and want to embody it in our whole lives, not only on Sundays. And the immense luck to have an excellent spiritual guide, our priest.

I have bought several copies of your book to discuss it among us. No need to build a doctrine of what we should do; you have already done that. An immense thanks for the time and efforts spared. We need only to be fully convinced by what you propose and start to work, and pray. If it is good, the Holy Providence will help us; if not we would at least have tried. She will decide, but we are confident and faithful and not too naive.

I am coming to Souvigny next weekend. I didn’t kwow Les Journées Paysannes before, but it looks like a nice start.

Stunning, at least to me. This man gets it — and he and his parish community have already been living the Benedict Option, thanks to the leadership of their priest. Last night, Jean-Louis Laureau told me that he loved my book because finally somebody has written about the spirit by which his community has sought to live for the last 30 years. I am here to give a talk to these French Catholics, but I am under no illusion that I have anything to teach them. Rather, I am here to learn from them — and, I hope, to give them encouragement. As an American, it is at times shocking to hear how hard it is to be a believing Christian in France today, but it is soul-stirring to see how bright the light burns in those who are still holding on. You should come see it for yourself sometime.

And you Christian agrarian Wendell Berry fans in America, please reach out to the Journées Paysannes. They are your brothers and sisters — and they need your help. By the way, nobody I’ve talked to here knows Wendell Berry’s work. I’ll be quoting him in my talk on Sunday. Somebody really needs to translate Berry into French. People here (and not just among the farmers, but also in Paris) were visibly delighted when I spoke of him.

OK, off to start the day, helping the French build the Resistance. More later. This morning, I’ll be praying with them in the church at the Souvigny priory, one of the oldest daughters of the Cluny monastery, and where two of its abbots are buried. This is deep France. This is deep Christian history. I am a stranger here, but I am at home.

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Tea And (Sexual) Sympathy At Baylor

Take a look at this clip, which two sources independently tell me that Baylor University compelled incoming freshman to watch in August 2017. This is a cleaner version of what was first required in 2016, I am informed:

It’s about teaching the concept of sexual consent. It’s rather crude. I’m told that the university took down the page where it was promoted. One can imagine why they took the page down — but a source sent me an image archived on the Wayback Machine.

Discouraging, for sure. Sex, in this video, is nothing but a bodily function. What is Christian about it at all? Is this being shown in other Christian universities?

In related news, did you see that athletes at the Winter Olympics have been given a record number of condoms? What a world…

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Last Ben Opportunity In Paris

Hey readers, last time to see me this go-round in Paris:

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – 8:30 pm
Exchange with the philosopher Martin Steffens
Organized in partnership with the association ICHTUS
Crypt of Saint Ferdinand des Ternes
23, rue d’Armaillé – 75017 Paris
M ° Charles de Gaulle-Étoile or Ternes

Off to Souvigny in the Auvergne on the weekend, then back to the US on Monday.

Come say hello!

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Birthday In Paris

That, my dears, is what you call a Grand Marnier soufflé. Julie and I split it tonight after dinner (and don’t get huffy with me; Lent doesn’t start for us Orthodoxes until Monday).

Julie and I had a late lunch of galettes and Breton cidre, then daundered around the city this afternoon. We stopped at my favorite secular shrine for a birthday shot (I’ll go have a dozen oysters there tomorrow):

Then we went into the church of St. Germain des Prés to admire and to pray. I love this statue of St. Benedict in an austere side chapel:

Afterward, we strolled through the Latin Quarter, and ended up at Mariage Frères to buy tea for ourselves and our daughter, who loves tea from this special place. How did a fathead like me end up with a wife so beautiful? It is a mystery:

Then, under grey skies, in a drizzle, we made our way to the church of St. Etienne du Mont, where what is left of the relics of St. Geneviève of Paris remain, along with the slab that was her tomb. I have a special devotion to this great 5th century saint, the patroness of Paris. During the French Revolution, a mob broke into her tomb, stole her body (which had been venerated there for over a thousand years), carried it down to a square by the Seine, burned it, and threw the ashes in the Seine. Parts of her bones were spared, though, and the stone on which her body lay from the fifth to the ninth centuries is still in the church. It’s inside the structure on the left of this photo. In the center, I do believe that is a shard of the saint’s bone, inside the glass cylinder. I lit candles for friends who asked me to remember them in prayer:

I prayed a litany before the saint’s grave. Then we went back to the hotel to rest before dinner.

We dined at a classic French bistro near the Boulevard Montparnasse (sad news, by the way: Le Bec Rouge, the neighborhood Alsatian joint where I first tried choucroute garni, has permanently closed). That’s where we shared the transcendent Grand Marnier soufflé. Before, though, I ate stuffed morel mushrooms. Look at these beauties:

As we started our meal, a wonderfully wacky French couple came in and took the table next to ours. They were in late middle age, full of zest, and regulars at this place, given the reception they received. He looked like a beanpole Woody Allen, with a corona of fluffy curls framing his gaunt face. He looked like a tofu eater who teaches sociology at NYU. His wife was the Belle of the Boca Raton Ball, wearing sparkly clothes that were not appropriate for her age, her hair bottle-blonde, her lips pouty from injections, and mascara like fondant spackling her Botox-paralyzed face. If Charo were a cake left out in the rain, she would have been this woman.

I loved her instantly. She spoke rapid French, impossible for me to understand. When my morels arrived, she looked at them and squealed, “Formidable!

The couple ordered a big bowl of some kind of creamy soup with shaved black truffles on top to share. They clinked their spoons as a kind of chin-chin before diving in. No kidding, they were really cute, clearly still very much in love with each other. I wouldn’t even bother telling you about them except for this one thing, this very, very impressive thing, this thing that will make them live forever in my memory.

The waiter brought their entrée out, and my jaw hit the floor. It was a massive cut of beef, at least four pounds of meat. The waiter sliced it tableside, and served each one a large platter of beef scarlet red with blood. They were beside themselves with delight. Formidable, indeed.

How on earth is that woman going to eat all that beef? I thought. I couldn’t have done it myself. And Tofu Man, can he really put all that bloody meat away? With the fried potatoes too?

I sat there and watch Charo eat every slice of her steak. Not only did she eat it, she ate it lustily. It was something to behold. Tofu Man at every last morsel of his beef too, but she, she is an Amazon who among us walks. These two oddball French folks clearly have an appetite for life.

As we stood to leave, we bid them farewell. I asked her if she had ordered the Grand Marnier soufflé for dessert.

Mais bien sûr!” she squealed. But of course!

Cuchi-cuchi, mes amis. Happy Valentine’s Day from Paris.

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Benedict Option ‘A Matter Of Global Import’

Monday night’s Benedict Option event at a church hall in Paris went well. The hall was full, and people seemed interested. Last night, I went down to Tours, and had a lovely time speaking to folks. I stayed with the family B., a real Benedict Option Catholic family. It is so, so encouraging to meet fellow Christians who see things like I do, and who are enthusiastic believers, as well as quite obviously “creative minorities,” as Benedict XVI told Christians to be in the post-Christian world. That family, and others I’m meeting here, are such an inspiration.

On the train back to Paris, I discovered that Sandro Magister, the widely read Vatican journalist, wrote today about The Benedict Option. It’s a knockout column. Here’s how it starts:

“The Benedict Option” has now crossed the Atlantic and become a question of global import. A question that is certainly of no little account, because it concerns the future of Christianity in an ever more post-Christian era.

The American Rod Dreher, author of the proposal and of the book, is now traveling around France on a conference circuit and has given an exhaustive interview to the Catholic magazine “la Nef.” His book has been translated into French, and will soon be available in other languages.

But it has been the frontal attack that “La Civiltà Cattolica” has unleashed from Rome against “The Benedict Option” that has ratcheted up even more the level of the controversy.

Dreher is not Catholic. He used to be, now he is Russian Orthodox. But it is above all in the Catholic camp, and initially within the Catholicism of the United States, that his proposal made a splash and produced a very heated discussion.

It is a proposal, in fact, that radically brings into question – in addition to contrasting them with each other – both the current pontificate of Francis and that of his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

The Benedict of the “option” is not pope Joseph Ratzinger, but Benedict of Norcia, the great saint of the 5th and 6th centuries who was able to generate a formidable rebirth of Christian faith and culture in the chaos that followed the collapse of the Roman empire, that rebirth which the other Benedict, the pope, evoked masterfully in his memorable address of September 12 in Paris, at the Collège des Bernardins, essentially proposing that the Catholics of today grasp and revive his lesson, at the present juncture of civilization.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that from Rome, from a pope like Francis who is the standard bearer of an opposite vision, “The Benedict Option” should have been thrust onto the index through that organic mouthpiece of Jorge Mario Bergoglio which is “La Civiltà Cattolica” directed by the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro.

Read the whole thing.

The rest of the piece examines the argument between myself and a couple of Jesuits around La Civiltà Cattolica. Regular readers of this blog will already be familiar with it.

What I especially like about Magister’s article is that a Vatican journalist of his stature to has said that the Benedict Option is the vision around which the older, Benedict XVI vision of the Catholic Church, is coalescing in the age of Pope Francis and his “new paradigm.” I am honored that Magister thinks so, and am profoundly pleased that with this essay of Magister’s, Benedict XVI no doubt will know now that this ex-Catholic who nevertheless believes in his cultural vision am on his side.

I did not seek to pose The Benedict Option in contrast to Pope Francis, or in criticism of him. You won’t find in the book one word of criticism of Pope Bergoglio. But Francis’s top allies — the Jesuits of La Civiltà Cattolica, and Cardinal Cupich of Chicago — have laid down the gauntlet. This struggle is important. This morning, I spoke to a veteran Catholic journalist in Paris, who told me, “The battle is here, now.” Indeed it is.

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Ben Op Goes To Czechia

Had a well-attended talk last night here in Paris. Off to Tours shortly to speak there this evening. Don’t let snow deter you! I will be handing out Mardi Gras beads, so who in their right mind would want to miss that?

Mardi 13 février 2018 – 20h30
Amphithéâtre de la DDEC
33, rue Blaise Pascal – 37000 Tours

Back in Paris for a Thursday night event:

Jeudi 15 février 2018 – 20h30
Échange avec le philosophe Martin Steffens
Organisé en partenariat avec l’association ICHTUS
Crypte de Saint Ferdinand des Ternes
23, rue d’Armaillé – 75017 Paris
M° Charles de Gaulle-Étoile ou Ternes

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More On UK Christians

Ruth Hunt, a leader of UK gay activist groups Stonewall (NHS Employers/Flickr)

This in my inbox tonight:

Thank you for writing The Benedict Option. It offers a sober wake up call to Christians in the West.

I’m writing in response to your recent article “Life in post-Christian Britain” as a 33 year old reformed Christian in the UK. There are two points I would like to make.

We have an extremely powerful LGBT movement in the UK spearheaded by “Stonewall” who call themselves a human rights charity but are a LGBT pressure group. I recently went to a public lecture by their CEO (Ruth Hunt) who was open that they have sought to work in non-democratic means, seeking to get legislation passed which they knew would not have public approval at the time. They are extremely intelligent, focused and well resourced and know how to apply pressure to politicians. They have also secured a place in the church of England, writing anti-bullying guidance for CofE schools. Unbelievable.

At the presentation I attended, Ruth said that one major pocket of disapproval for LGBT lifestyles is the Pentecostal church. They know that they will not be able to take on the leadership of these communities directly so their strategy for this is to target teenage girls in these communities through outreach programs, to try and persuade them that LGBT lifestyles are an acceptable alternative. These girls can then be advocates for LGBT “rights” in their communities. They have run pilot programs and are now moving to roll out. These are smart, smart people who are prepared to play a long game.

My second point is that I am extremely rare in being concerned about Christian education. Most evangelicals I know think it is selfish, and possible sinful, to take children out of state education because of the evangelistic opportunities one can have at the school gate. It is also argued that children can’t be kept out of the world indefinitely. None of this makes sense. There is a deep, deep naiveté amongst most Christians and when you consider what we are up against, we are going to be eaten for breakfast. I just find a deep seated objection to thinking the way you do in the Benedict Option but with no clear rationale as to why.

That said, there are a few Christian schools which have been set up in the UK in the last few years which are excellent, however most evangelicals I speak to are suspicious about them.

One often hears US Evangelicals claiming the same thing about public schools. My guess is that it’s far, far more likely that the Evangelicals kids are going to get “evangelized” by the popular culture than the other way around. I also wonder if some parents who could afford these schools for their kids aren’t simply rationalizing the fact that they would rather get the free education than make a sacrifice to pay for them.

Anyway, yes, the reader is  correct: I’ve been doing this long enough to where I can see that many, maybe most, objections from conservative Christians to the Benedict Option  don’t make a lot of sense.

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A Traveling Mercy

Good morning from Paris, people. It was not easy to get here. Well, scratch that: it was easy for me, but my wife Julie came down with an apparent case of food poisoning from a meal she ate in the New Orleans airport before we boarded our British Airways flight. About an hour outside of London Heathrow, she started to vomit.

It was epic, and continued to be epic as we made our way through Heathrow to catch our connecting flight to Paris. I’ll spare you the gory details. I haven’t seen her so sick in years. She was so pale (green, actually) and weak that it appeared we weren’t going to be able to get on the plane for the short hop to Paris.

A British Airways employee manning that particular gate was incredibly kind in that moment of distress. Without complaining, but instead showing gentleness and understanding, he ordered our bags taken off that flight — holding the flight at the gate — so we could catch a later flight. But when he checked the computer and found that the next flight wouldn’t be for six hours, Julie said it would be better to go ahead and take it, so she could get to the hotel and rest.

Again without complaining, and showing nothing but tenderness and compassion, he ordered the bags re-loaded, and escorted us down to the plane. Julie was sick on the plane, and in the taxi all the way to the hotel, but as we live in the best of all possible worlds, airsick bags were well deployed.

She’s resting now, and doing better, but will probably have to spend the first full day in Paris in bed rehydrating. Awful! But the one good thing that came out of that experience was witnessing the compassion of this stranger to a couple of distressed travelers. Had he been merely professional, that would have sufficed. But he went above and beyond that call.

Last night I tweeted this:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The manager of the airport’s Twitter account wrote to ask for more information. I gave them the flight and gate information (I wasn’t sure that his name was Gavin, but Julie said she thought it was.) Anyway, this came this morning

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

How satisfying! Everybody tweets when something goes wrong while engaged in air travel. It’s important also to tweet when, despite things going very, very wrong, things also go very, very wright. Whatever that gentleman’s name, Julie and I are grateful for his kindness, his traveling mercy. His good deed made me resolve to be kinder to people I meet in everyday life. Me being me, who knows how long that will last, but I appreciate the inspiration.

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Faith & Reason Vs. Mush

How quickly we have forgotten what he said (Thoom/Shutterstock)

Discouraged by Cardinal Cupich’s relativistic “new paradigm” speech? Read Archbishop Charles Chaput’s muscular defense of Pope John Paul II’s 1998 encylical Fides et Ratio, which is, obviously, about the connection between faith and truth. Excerpts:

Finally, without vigorous philosophy, theology and the very life of the Church risk slipping into emotivism. In the name of being pastoral, the Church threatens to become merely indulgent, malleable, affective, and practical; in effect, anti-intellectual. This is exactly the wrong moment for that kind of mistake.

We live in a time when Christian truth is increasingly misunderstood, disdained, or simply unknown, even among baptized Catholics. Michael Polanyi would have recognized our culture’s contradictions, and its emerging shape. It’s a mix of “fierce moral scepticism [paradoxically] fired by moral indignation. Its structure is exactly the same as that of the moral inversion underlying modern totalitarianism”—a contempt for traditional morality, fused with and fueled by ferocious moralizing for social change. Rational consistency is irrelevant. Passion becomes its own justification.

At a more immediate level, the pastor of a local church must meet his people in their hearts and real lives, but also in their minds. We’re beings made for the truth. Thus a clear, appealing presentation of the faith plays a vital role in forming Christians. As a bishop, I sometimes hear from parishioners that one of their concerns with some priests has to do with the content of the homilies they hear each week. They’re happy with calls for kindness or generosity, but they also hunger for homilies that present the substance of the faith, its mysteries and doctrines, in ways that are accessible and attractive. That kind of homily isn’t easy to do. But it’s impossible to do if we don’t have a credible theology, one informed by the strong philosophical traditions of learning that are at the heart of the Church and her patrimony.

More:

Writing in the wake of Vatican II, the Italian Catholic philosopher Augusto Del Noce made three simple observations. First, our era is a “peculiar combination of the greatest perfection of means with the greatest confusion about goals.” Second, in the face of modern atheism—often less a hatred of God than a technology-driven indifference to him—“for a large part of today’s religious thought, the quest for aggiornamento simply means surrendering to the adversary.” And third, much of what styles itself as Christian progressivism, no matter how good its intentions, serves as the instrument of that surrender.

For Del Noce, the Church’s mission in every era is to bring the world into line with eternal principles while respecting the good in those things which are new. Much of progressive thought does the “exact inverse, since [it seeks] to bring Catholicism into line with the modern world.” By stressing action over contemplation and politics over metaphysics, progressivism reduces the supernatural core of Christian faith to a system of social ethics—a kind of baptized, humanitarian chaplaincy to a world that doesn’t need or want it. The result is obvious. The proof, for Del Noce, would be the hollowed-out national churches that now mark much of northern Europe.

A truly great Catholic intellect, in contrast, speaks from the heart of the Church because he or she is both a rigorous thinker and deeply attuned to the Word made flesh, wisdom incarnate. The confusion that dogged the Catholic world in the years immediately after Vatican II emerged in part from the absence of that kind of rigorous intellect fused with a deep and sincere faith. John Paul did much to heal the confusion. But it has never entirely disappeared, and it’s alive in our own day with new force. This is why the substance of Fides et Ratio is so important—not just for scholars, but also for everyday Christians who turn to the Church for guidance and a path to eternal life.

Read the whole thing. And read it in conjunction with the Cupich address. There is a titanic intellectual and spiritual struggle going on in the Catholic Church today. Whether or not you are a Catholic, and especially if you live in the West, this matters. A lot.

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No Sunday School, Please, We’re British

Won’t someone please save these English children from this mad rabbi?! (wizdata1/Shutterstock)

A reader writes:

As a British reader I think your post “Life in Post-Christian Britain”is mostly spot-on. I just have a few thoughts.

The abortion lobby here is very powerful with little in the way of serious political opposition. I know many committed pro-lifers but there is the general feeling that the political battle has more or less been complete lost, at least for the time being. This might be overly defeatist or it might be an honest assessment of the situation. I am unsure.

As you say, we have a Tory government but there is very little that is actually conservative about them. One possible cause for hope is Jacob Rees-Mogg, the unfaltering MP for North East Summerset. Rees-Mogg is a practicing traditional Catholic and will not shy away from questions about abortion and same-sex “marriage”. Although he is of course pilloried in the press for doing so. Despite this, his strong Brexit stance as well as his honesty ensure that he remains wildly popular with much of the Tory parties traditional conservative base – most of whom loathe the direction Cameron, and now May, have taken the party.

In regard to the rearing of children in the UK, as I have recently married, I share many of your Catholic friend’s concerns. I have even considered moving to the States for the similar reasons (and still wouldn’t rule out that possibility). With the state pushing LGBT ideology in their schools and increasingly coming after private schools, I have no doubt that home-schoolers are living on borrowed time.

There remain pockets where Catholics might be receive a real Catholic education (I do not know about other non-Catholic Christians) but the majority of Catholic schools are Catholic in name only, and those schools which really do teach the faith are not only few and far between, but as said, perhaps will not be permitted to teach the faith much longer.

Additionally, the Head of Ofsted (the UK teaching regulatory body) has talked about the need to go after “Sunday school”. So any teaching/education beyond a certain number of hours a week will be monitored and possibly censored by the state. This presumably could include Confirmation classes and first Holy Communion classes, as well as bible study which any (good) parish happens to run.

I imagine to American readers that this would sound like a serious case of state overreach, but the other side of this which conservatives might be sympathetic to is the need to crack down on the spread of violent Islam through madrasas. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-34933970) Even the “conservative” government has realised there is a problem and such establishments really do need to regulated, or indeed shut down. (This raises all the usual questions about the compatibility of Islam with the West, which no mainstream politician or media figure wants to face).

Nevertheless, in an effort to tackle a real problem (the spread of violent Islam) the state has, by accident or design, cast a wide net and now all Christian education not only inside but also outside school faces the prospect of monitoring – and then shutdown if they do not meet required standards. No serious Catholic is in any doubt about the standards by which we will be judged to be raising our children: are they being taught that gayness is next to godliness? If not, such bigotry will not go unpunished!

In regard to the questions you ask: my wife has already made it clear that obstetrics and gynaecology is more or less closed off to her and being a GP will also be extremely challenging due to the expectations about abortion and contraception. This is despite the fact that we have protections in law for physicians who do not wish to be involved in such practices. For myself, I would like to teach one day, but I will not promote any of this LGBT stuff, so perhaps this career path is closed to me.

For the US, I would say to monitor your immigration very carefully. I know and have known many good people who are Muslims. Yet there are clearly strains of Islam which are incompatible with the West (perhaps even this is true of Islam as a whole) and as the state cracks down on them, in the name of “liberalism” and fairness, it’ll come after Christians of every stripe as well.

As you have mentioned before, I would continue to implore your readers to take the task of educating their own children with the utmost seriousness and not assume that others (whether the state or church) will do this for them. As for what this looks like from a Ben Op perspective, I have no idea.

Feel free to publish this if you wish, I just ask that you omit my name.

Please do read the entire speech by Amanda Spielman, the Ofsted chief. It is breathtaking. Yet there are some, no doubt, who will express gratitude that at long last Her Majesty’s government is taking action against the Evil Vicar, before he poisons the minds of the wee ones.

The C of E is biting back,  with the marvelously named Rev. Nigel Genders, who oversees Anglican education, saying:

Revd Genders said the “blanket regulation” and powers of inspection that Ofsted is calling for are a massive burden, unhelpful and ineffective: “It would be creating a massive haystack and never being able to find the needle.” He argues there is confusion over the issue of tackling extremism because a distinction needed to be made between voluntary church settings and illegal schools. He stressed that the church wanted to work with the government to keep children safe and if they have got concerns about particular settings “they should intervene.” But, he added: “It’s not for the state to tell churches how to behave or to get into state regulation of religion.”

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