Steve Skojec’s Benedict Option
In the Facebook discussion, some mentioned the notion of a faithful “remnant”, as so often comes up in conversations like these. My response was to say: talking in vague terms about a Remnant is fine, but what does that mean? Where is it? How does that play out in the lives and families of those trying to simply stay on the path to salvation? How do we raise kids in this without them becoming bitter or giving up on what seems a quixotic refusal to let go of something dying?
How do we boil down what the Church truly is, in her essence, and separate that from what we get in almost every parish we walk into? Just saying “I’m Catholic” could mean virtually anything in 2018, and that’s a problem for us.
So I ask again: where is the Church? What does it consist of when 95% of parishes and bishops and priests and laity are actually not, in any substantive sense, Catholic?
What does it mean when the handful of orthodox bishops in the Church — those very few who give us hope — would prefer to endure unjust persecution rather than stand their ground and fight on behalf of the faithful?
I think paring down the bloat and getting to the lifeblood of what the Church is, and where we find it, is actually where people are going to find some hope.
This, as the interminable winter in the Church stretches on, is where I think more of our time could be well spent. Preserving the beloved things. Finding green shoots poking up through the ice. Reminding each other that despite all appearances, hope is not lost.
I plan to dedicate more of my time in the coming months to such pursuits.
I will spend more time with books. I will attempt to find more time for prayer, and in gratitude. I will seek out the true, the good, and the beautiful. I will, I hope, find a way to recharge somewhat, and seek healing for my battle-weary soul.
Read the whole thing. It sounds to me like this weary pilgrim has found his way to The Benedict Option. Remember that Father Cassian Folsom, the founding prior of the monastery at Norcia, told me that Christians who don’t undertake some version of it, à la the Tipi Loschi community of San Benedetto del Tronto, are not going to have what it takes to make it through the coming darkness with their faith intact.
Check out the site Steve runs, One Peter Five. He posted this video there a week ago. Hard stuff. NSFW, incidentally. This is what it looks like when an ordinary Catholic dad gets fed up:
UPDATE: Good grief, people, I don’t know that Skojec’s “95 percent” estimate is accurate. I assume it’s overstated for rhetorical effect. But if that’s what you’re focusing on, and ignoring the entirely of his critique, you are straining at gnats and swallowing camels. And if you think the things he’s talking about are limited to the Catholic Church, you’re dreaming. Hope is not optimism, and it can’t be built on sentimentality, whether of the progressive or conservative sort.
“Charity is hard, and endures,” said Flannery O’Connor. I think this is also true about hope. I don’t know Skojec personally, but it seems to me that he has reached a point at which he has stopped expecting to be rescued by institutional leaders. He has stopped thinking that criticizing is going to do much effective good. Instead, he is going to work hard to nurture the green shoots, and to focus on prayer, and on finding and cultivating the good, the true, and the beautiful. Why is this not the right thing to do? He’s not doing this because he’s giving up on his Catholic faith. He’s doing this because he wants to save it.
All of us — including us non-Catholics — can learn from this. Again, I don’t know Steve Skojec, but he seems to be where I was in 2005 as a Catholic. What’s he’s saying that he’s choosing to do now is the right thing to do if he wants to save his Catholic faith. If I had done it, I might still be Catholic … but then I wouldn’t be Orthodox, for which I am grateful. I had to learn early in my Orthodoxy, after a bad mistake, that I cannot allow myself to get drawn into intra-Orthodox church fights, or allow myself to trust institutions more than I have to.
UPDATE.2: I gotta note something. At the same time I’m having Catholic commenters in this thread griping at me for posting something from the horrible, terrible, no-good Steve Skojec, and yelling at me for causing Catholics to lose their faith, I’m getting — seriously, it just came into my e-mail box — a letter from a parish priest in a troubled archdiocese, thanking me for writing about this stuff (especially the Uncle Ted story), and telling in detail, naming names, about how Uncle Ted-dism (gay clerics in positions of real and lasting power) has devastated his archdiocese.
Here’s what I think: sooner or later, all Catholics (and all Christians to some degree) who wish to be honest are going to have to face the kinds of things Steve Skojec is facing, and figure out how to continue in the face of those hideous truths. You can avoid it, but doing so means turning your eyes away from some unpleasant truths. Doing so, though, means you aren’t preparing yourself or your children to live in the post-Christian world as it actually is. Our kids aren’t going to stay Christian if all we give them is the religion of relentless suburban cheer, including turning our eyes away from the things that distress us.