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Laxists Of The World, Unite

The traditionalist Catholic writer Steve Skojec is really concerned about Pope Francis. Several readers have sent me this link with comments to the effect of, “He speaks for me.” Skojec begins by denying the charge, from Catholic blogger Simcha Fisher, that he’s a “rigorist” for expressing serious worry about the current papacy. Excerpts:

Now, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m no rigorist. If anything, I’m a laxist. By nature I am a lazy hedonist. I find the motto, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you may die” far, far more appealing than “Turn the other cheek” or anything you find in the Beatitudes. I have no interest in the trite niceties of religion. I struggle to care sufficiently about the poor. I hate praying the Rosary. I’d far rather have an acid tongue than a charitable one. When I read the lives of the Saints, I often think that they sound like impossible caricatures which only mean I am more damned than I ever could have thought, because how could I be that good? I am much more inclined to pursue wine, women, and song than I am the Cardinal virtues. I am a sinner first and foremost, and my selfishness is almost limitless. I have yet to reach a point in my life where my sanctity might inspire the heathen, though I count myself fortunate to know that my words have helped to bring about conversion. Anything that I can count in my favor on Judgment Day, I’ll cling to.

No, I am no rigorist. I am simply a man who needs boundaries, who knows that the (apocryphal) Dostoyevskian adage, “If God is not, then everything is permissible” would apply only too strongly in my own life if I were to try to live without Him.

Yes, yes, yes. Skojec’s laxist heart speaks to my laxist heart. It’s not for nothing that I reached the Sloth terrace of Dante’s Purgatorio, and realized that I had found the Promenade Deck. More:

For the life of me, I can’t fathom why anyone faced with the Church of 2013 would choose to convert to Catholicism. [Emphasis in original — RD] For fellowship? I can get fellowship from the local MegaChurch, with far fewer impositions on my personal liberty. For the sacraments? But most Catholics don’t even believe in the Real Presence, most parishes have no adoration or Eucharistic devotions, most priests offer an hour or less per week of confession time on the parish schedule.

I was drawn to Catholic tradition and the Old Latin Mass not because of some nostalgia, or even a predilection for dead languages. I’ve never taken a day of Latin class in my life and I still don’t understand it. I love traditional liturgy and theology because they mean something. Because they show me my place in the cosmos. Because one can’t help but notice the absolute seriousness and importance of what is going on up at the altar when one isn’t dodging giant puppets and felt banners and Eucharistic ministers and guitar-strumming minstrels and the tinkling of glad tambourines. Because traditional Catholic piety and worship give rise to a feeling that this religion I have been a part of all my life ACTUALLY ACTS AS THOUGH THE COMPLETELY FANTASTIC THINGS IT CLAIMS TO BELIEVE ARE TRUE rather than perpetually undermining its own teachings with watered-down “worship spaces” and infinitely regressing theological nuance.

Catholicism is a “Go big or go home” religion. Catholicism is radical. It is radical in its claims, in its demands, in its beliefs, in its scope, and in its trappings. When it ceases to be radical, the whole enterprise becomes significantly less credible. It becomes merely one choice among many in a spectrum of religions all more or less following the natural law. It ceases to be the fulfilment of a covenant with a chosen people, and instead becomes a lifestyle choice.

Yes x 100! Go big or go home. I’m not even a Catholic, but I agree with him about this, and it’s true about Orthodoxy too. Skojec writes long, and it’s all worth reading, but here is his main point:

I don’t have any ill-will for Catholics defending the pope, but I do wish they would stop already. He is doing a lot of damage. He is muddying the already unclear theological waters and making it very, very easy for a world hell bent on seeing Catholics as the bad guys to misinterpret things until we have no chance of having an honest conversation about anything anymore. They’re already using “but the pope said” arguments against people out there defending the unborn and arguing against gay marriage. It isn’t going to stop. So while there may not be malice at work, I think these papal apologists need to step back and ask themselves if they’re maybe, just maybe, being a bit willfully obtuse.

Read the whole thing.  Provocative stuff. Does Skojec speak for you? If so, why?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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