Institutionalized adultery, incest, infanticide, shameless sexual abuse of children, and homosexuality. After about a hundred pages of overlap with Catholic truth, the fifth book of The Republic reminds one of the dark side of paganism.
The shock of reading Plato talk so uninhibitedly about what we now know as horrific vice is refreshing, like a cold shower. Western civilization is in a halting, halfhearted plunge back into the kind of practices and attitudes readily accepted and even encouraged by Plato, retaining just enough of its Catholic roots to make its slide painfully slow, but inevitable nonetheless.
As the lukewarm person is worse than the truly good or bad, so too is the lukewarm society. There is a kind of sincere ignorance in the pagans, providing a stark contrast to the Christian euaggelion as it swept through Europe.. G.K. Chesterton, in his magnum opus, The Everlasting Man, generalizes that pagan poetry was haunted by a sort of sadness. Is there any doubt this is because they took for granted what Catholicism, in its otherworldly dignity, illuminated as cruelty? Culture today isn’t sad; it’s cynical. If paganism is a kind of childhood, and Christendom is adulthood and marriage, the modern West is a dilapidated, tired divorcee.
No doubt Catholic evangelization has to glean what perspective it can from this state of affairs. The overall evangelization of the West is really the reconciliation of a ruined marriage, with all the bitterness, mistrust, and misunderstanding implied. The current “New Evangelization” project was ostensibly devised to confront this reality. More subtly, so was the Second Vatican Council.
Most of this is fairly obvious, or should be.
Now a more controversial opinion. After the Constantinian era, during which the Church wedded culture, she grew accustomed to operating in close synergy with both state and society. Together they governed and guided the West, through better and worse, for about fifteen hundred years. This went on for so long that the Church began to assume that she would be always working with a partner; even when that partner was holding her at arms length. The West’s radical divorce of Catholicism came in stages, beginning in the Reformation and coming to completion last century. Over this period of about five hundred years Mother Church was slow in realizing the full gravity of the change at hand. This was not just another heresy, another internal problem, but the dawn of another age, as monumental a change as that of pagan Greco-Roman culture to Christendom. It thus requires a new approach.
Vatican II “got it right” insofar as it was the Church’s first substantial attempt to grapple with the change. The flaw lies in its response. In speaking in almost unconditionally positive terms, without any condemnation or correction — and in hastily conceding everything that could be conceded without substantially ruining the Catholic religion — the Church went well beyond a tender invitation to come back home. She became truly vulnerable, opening herself to abuse and mockery. John XXIII’s open window was more of an open door, which Mother Church threw ajar in her bedclothes, out of which she bolted, begging to be taken back. Like a newly separated wife overcome by weariness, she surrendered her dignity, groveling and pleading and assuming fault.
In 1968, Paul VI observed with concerned horror that the Church was in self-doubt, even self-demolition — and he was right. That self-doubt and self-demolition is ongoing. This is why rather than asserting the Church’s unique dignity and liberty, the bishops of the United States ask simply for equal treatment under human law. They should be doing both. Since the Council the West has responded with nonstop contempt, persecution, and invasion; it is abuse the Church has literally asked for. By invasion I mean that faithless children of the West have passed themselves off as children of Mother Church and sown terrible corruption in the Church, some of it institutionalized corruption. One example of this is the clerical sex abuse scandal, a kind of pagan sexuality. Another is the liturgical destruction Benedict XVI so decried.
Incidentally, this is perhaps the surest critique of Francis’ pontificate. Not since the Council itself has the Church more humbly prostrated herself before the secular world, and followed after the new paganism in hopes of winning it back. The desperation is palpable. Bishop Athanasius Schneider, one the greatest voices of our time in the Catholic episcopate, strongly urged young people to “refuse to conform to the neo-pagan spirit of this world, even when this spirit is spread by some bishops and cardinals,” for which he lambasted progressive clergymen who brought it fully to bear in the Synod on the Family.
In her 1977 book The Sin Eater, Alice Thomas Ellis wrote of the modern approach of the Catholic Church that
“it [was] as though…one’s revered, dignified and darling old mother had slapped on a mini-skirt and fishnet tights and started ogling strangers. A kind of menopausal madness, a sudden yearning to be attractive to all. It is tragic and hilarious and awfully embarrassing. And of course, those who knew her before feel a great sense of betrayal and can’t bring themselves to go and see her any more.”
The Church simply must stop this perverse groveling and reassert herself as the innocent party. She must do so without becoming jaded and cynical like the West, keeping hope of true reconciliation alive. Only by acting in a truly dignified and worthy fashion will she inspire Western civilization to treat her like the wife she was and is, and not like a whore. Why should he treat her with respect now? She doesn’t respect herself.
When this happens — when the Church regains her sense of dignity, of self-respect — the New Evangelization will begin in earnest.
Unfortunately, this moment may only come to pass once the West begins to physically beat the Bride of Christ, and she at last awakes from her stupor, recoiling in the shock of shed blood.
Originally published on November 17, 2014.
Jonathan Pierre Cariveau is a Minnesota native and a convert to Eastern Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism. He writes on Eastern Catholicism, Church history, liturgical theology, and Catholic life in the 21st century.
I like this line: “the overall evangelization of the West is really the reconciliation of a ruined marriage, with all the bitterness, mistrust, and misunderstanding implied.” And now the focus has moved. The bitter old people have to be reconciled not to the marriage but a) to their upcoming death and b) for the sake of the grandchildren. The marriage is gone. That’s not to say the old divorcees shouldn’t be looked after. Palliative care is still care, but it’s earthly horizons are limited.
I think whoever taught you Plato has done you a dis-service. What Plato is doing in the Republic is following the great insight from Socrates in The Apology: perfect justice (a harmony of the virtues) is found in the soul, and not in political/social arrangements. Thus, his exploration of the perfect political order is actually a send-up, an exercise in irony.
Thus, Plato earnestly shows the reader what justice looks like in the soul, and then shows that if one were to try to create that in social/political arrangements, then you would end up with grotesque and outrageous institutions. So what is his point? That the world is fallen, and so constituted that perfect justice is only possible in the soul. That’s why the “truly just man will always be torn to shreds” (from The Apology). That’s actually a very profound insight, and one the saints knew well.
The early Church fathers often viewed Plato and Socrates as proto-Christians, as men who had come near to the faith through natural reason. What they lacked, of course, was divine revelation. Pax Christi.
Have you been reading Leo Strauss? Or even worse, Allen Bloom? I remember Bloom saying much the same thing; his interpretation of the Republic was scandalous for all right thinking intellectuals. According to Bloom, Socrates was attempting to show the world what a “happy” city looked like when filled with citizens who were deprived of those natural institutions that make life worth living. In other words, his was a happy city filled with unhappy resident. Or as you describe those institutions – grotesque.
I’m not quite sure I follow you. The question is, does Plato follow his mentor Socrates (whose views are reliably recorded in The Apology–as the Xenophon account confirms), or does he make a decisive break from Socrates and become drunk with political and social dreams for a perfect social order? In other words, is he an anti-totalitarian like Socrates, or a totalitarian (to put it crudely)? Given the whole arc of Plato’s writings, I don’t believe he briefly descended into madness while writing the Republic.
I have no pet interest in Leo Strauss, though one of my profs in my PhD program was influenced by Strauss and is an expert on ancient Greece. Another one of my profs was CDC Reeve–perhaps the foremost Plato translator of today–and certainly not a follower of Strauss.
I believe that whether or not Plato was being ironic is still a matter of much debate. The Straussian view is not a settled fact. Is the character of Socrates lying when he admires the proposals?
First, I use Plato as a symbol for the world of his time, which undeniably did accept, at least in some places, the abandonment of unwanted infants, homosexual activity, and the sexual abuse of children. The standard of morality in the pagan world of classical antiquity is far more lax than that of Christendom; in returning to similar sexual liberties and abuses and to the destruction of the weak the modern world is descending into a new paganism.
That is the basic thesis that informs my analysis of the Church’s concessions to Western civilization in and after the Second Vatican Council. Examples include the near about-face on the nature of the authority of the State in controlling the spread of vice and error (Dignitatis humanae) and the anthropocentric and nearly pelagian obsession with man, man’s goodness, and man’s power to improve himself, (Gaudium et spes). However, even worse than these is the program of liturgical reform, the raison d’être of which was the reorientation of the Church, in her truest expression in the Mass, from an explicitly transcendent and mystical posture, to an anthropocentric posture. All of the changes that came about, whether official or allowed begrudgingly, whether in Sacrosanctum concilium or afterward, serve to refocus the Mass from the service of God in the abstract, to the service of God qua serving humanity, with the priest facing and addressing humanity on behalf of God. All of these are intended to make the Church more agreeable to the modern outlook on man, who he is, how his societies should be organized, and how he ought to look for God.
Second, the Church Fathers certainly viewed Plato and Socrates as in touch with the Divine Logos, who would later incarnate as man. I don’t deny that in the slightest. Like I said, the first four books of The Republic are a masterful exposition of truth and have been a tremendous joy to read. However, it’s unclear to me whether Plato (and/or Socrates) is intentionally being ironic in advocating for the kind of state he does, especially in book five when it begins to take on a truly monstrous visage. I will say however that Plato’s reference in book five to homosexual abuse of young boys (I’m not sure the exact reference as I write this) is presented as a kind of parenthetical comment, not so much as a function of his state. It seems that he accepted both homosexuality and child sexual abuse at the very least, whether his state is meant to be ironic or not.
Reorientation “from an explicitly transcendent and mystical posture, to an anthropocentric posture”? Man became God so that God might become Man. 😉
I had the same question as Scott, for the same reasons.
To avoid imputing the worst to Plato, one can write “The shock of reading Plato’s Socrates talk so uninhibitedly about what we now know as horrific vice…”
I wonder how much of our priest’s formation is anchored in Post-Modern thought? One priest complained that not enough seminarians study philosophy, and are therefore not fully prepared to engage the world; how many clerics use the same categories and language that atheists and secularists use? Are they even aware such differences exist? The original Jesuits could intellectually defend the Church and its entire theology and philosophy against anyone.
This is important, in that once seminarians graduate and get ordained they must not only be able to defend the faith, but more importantly evangelize and make the Faith real to everyday people. This is especially true of Bishops, who must confidently and eloquently spread the Gospel to larger and more hostile audiences. Yet, from my perspective it appears most priests and bishops either are not interested, or they fall back upon cliches, and empty platitudes (usually borrowed from the culture at large) when confronted with some challenge from “outside”.
Other than a few rare statements of apology from Pope Saint John Paul II for what the modern church has done, most of the apologies delivered by the shadow church have been cast on the bodies of long dead catholics who, owing to them not being in full communion with life, can not complain about being singled-out for unfair criticism.
And to reference apologies is apt in that the modern shadow church has a duty to apologise to its flummoxed faithful for having treated its ancient and permanent enemy, the world, as though it were aught but a brother in the same naturalistic fraternity of life.
But, if one desires to look like Papa Smurf, all one has to do is hold his breath waiting for an apology by the magisterium for getting everything wrong since they launched Vatican Two without any infallible fuel.
Groveling is the perfect word.
Interesting metaphor. I fear we are re-paganizing. Okay, we are re-paganizing. Okay, we’re pagans. I was at the public library yesterday to find a copy of That Hideous Strength, and realized I need to read the first two books because it is a trilogy. So I went looking for Out of the Silent Planet, and ended up in the young adult (YA) fiction room. Two Boys Kissing, and more. The gays are out there, evangelizing in every medium of course. Bringing the Good News that we are defined by the satisfaction of our sexual appetites.
The formal accommodation brokered by Christ between men and women on this central point is being formally set aside by Western governments. Which is Bad News.
GREAT article, thank you!
Loved this article! But at the end I felt kind of discouraged. Not your fault I guess, but it just seems like the Church is this freight train dropped from an airplane—it’s heading down and what can us “little folks” do? We can’t make the bishops be less liberal. We can’t sway the culture of even our local parishes. A contrary message is presented by every human institution—education, media, government, and even the Church as a whole. Anyone who speaks truth is drowned out. Or better yet, they are thought to be against the truth, because all the messaging coming from the Church is saying something else.
The Church is, of course, the Bride of Christ. Thus, any scenario in which the Church views herself as wed to the world is one that is essentially adulterous. The groveling mentioned in the article, therefore, is not that of a woman rejected by her husband, but is worse by an order of magnitude: it is a woman groveling at the feet of her adulterous lover. To make matters worse still, the adulterous lover is, in fact, her own adoptive son.
That’s not to say that I reject the post-Constantinian Church and all her social affluence as an adulterous woman in the manner of the Protestants (Whore of Babylon, anyone?). On the contrary, it was her unflinching fidelity to her True Spouse which inspired the children of men to place their souls under her maternal heart. I agree, therefore, with the conclusion of the article insofar as the Church must stop this embarrassing groveling at the feet of the world, though I would add that she needs to rebuke those same ungrateful children who, like the Olympians, would seek the usurpation of their own father.
The matter is far worse than opening to the world while refusing two thirds of what constitutes the substance of the One, True, Holy, Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church – its Juridicial and Coercetive aspects – and so she continues to parade in public as a shadow church– lacking substance- but what makes the matter infinitely worse is that Vatican Two was an act of egoist enthusiasm firmly rooted in Pride; that which took Satan down.
In moments , IANS wil return here and post the link to a speech delivered by Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council which is prolly the WORST and most embarrassing speech ever delivered by a Pope in that it was an example of pride soaring far above where Icarus dared.
Pope Paul Vi publicly praised his own self and the Bishops as the holiest Catholics ever and who, more than all Catholics ever preceding them, were prepared to actualise the commands of Christ.
Lord have Mercy.
The Pride of Vatican Two has led to our collapse and and the living prelates who participated in it can not bring their own selves to confess their sinful pride and to repudiate it; no they continue to public proclaim the good work of Vatican Two and to celebrate it while the only confessions they offer is for the putative sins of long dead Catholics who can not defend themselves.
This is, indeed, diabolical disorder in action.
The liturgical destruction was Papally sponsored. It could not have happened without the Pope. Until those at the very summit of the Church face up to their responsibility for the mess, there can be no healing for the Church, because it is unthinkable that anyone but the Pope should exercise the Pope’s authority, which is the authority needed. That is what comes of having a highly centralised command structure – it may work fine when the Pope is free of unCatholic thinking, but when the Pope thinks like a liberal, it is an ideal way for the infection to spread.
The one consolation may be, that the greater the Church’s troubles, the more certain she can be of God’s help – sooner or later.
Good article. “The New Evangelization” sounds like a sick joke to me, when it is the modern Popes, prelates and priests that need to be “evangelized” first. We are a conquered people, humanly speaking. Anibale Bugnini said as much. We are not able to “evangelize” outsiders since the Masons and Satanists that occupy the “Church” hierarchy actively work to suppress the Catholic Faith and engage in unholy intercourse with the world.
The NE also sounds like a complete non-event, something to be talked and talked and talked and talked and talked, etc., about. Spreading the One True Faith to *all* mankind – what’s that ?
I guess “the shock of shed blood” of her Assyrian Catholic children does not shock their bigger, stronger Argentinian Jesuit brother, Pope Frank the First, enough…yet. At this rate, it doesn’t seem as if it ever will impel him to act, does it?? In fact, he just keeps inviting the abusers back into the house and calling them “refugees.” Weird, huh? A loyal son should do more for his dear, confused Mother, shouldn’t he? Ah, but, traditionalists, they’re the “real” enemies, right? Come on, brother Francis, fight, dammit!!! Your mother is about to be violated!!
As someone who held a very similar view to what this author expresses, I would like to mention the following reason that made me abandon the position.
It seems to me that the reason why the Church is in such self doubt is because the Church has subscribed to the idea that the world is presenting a unique and novel challenge, and needs a different approach. The moment one embraces this as true, then one must necessarily abandon ones past (because a novel situation cannot be solved by what was used in the past). When one abandons the past, one abandons the wisdom of those who went before us. But that ultimately leads to self-doubt.
In reality, what the Church faced in the 20th century was no different than what the Church faced in pagan Rome. Did the 20th century world misunderstand the Church? Sure it did. But so did pagan Rome. Did the 20th century world hate the Church? Sure it did. But so did pagan Rome. The solution now, as it was then, should have been to maintain discipline, defend doctrine, and send out a clear call to repent.
Instead, well… Vatican II and its aftermath happened…..
The Church cannot play the innocent victim because it is not. By failing to censure ‘catholic’ politicians that support abortion, and even acting in some cases to defend their pro-death agenda, the Church has lost all credibility. Until the Church truly defends what it claims to defend, it will be accused of hypocrisy and will not be able to deny it.
“In 1968, Paul VI observed with concerned horror that the Church was in self-doubt, even self-demolition”
And he thought that the Novus Ordo Mass and abolishing the Traditional Mass would be the best treatment for this.
In those days there appeared in Israel
men who were breakers of the law,
and they seduced many people, saying:
“Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us;
since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us.”
The proposal was agreeable;
some from among the people promptly went to the king,
and he authorized them to introduce the way of living
of the Gentiles.
Thereupon they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem
according to the Gentile custom.
They covered over the mark of their circumcision
and abandoned the holy covenant;
they allied themselves with the Gentiles
and sold themselves to wrongdoing.
Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people,
each abandoning his particular customs.
All the Gentiles conformed to the command of the king,
and many children of Israel were in favor of his religion;
they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. – First Reading, Monday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time.
Dear Mr. Cariveau,
Your thesis, as I understand it, is that at the Vatican II Council the popes and the bishops faced up to the fact that they had lost their longtime partner, the State, and then, for some unexplained reason, commenced to prostitute themselves out to the people of the dominant secular society in an attempt to gain acceptance, favor, and approval from them.
But to me that begs the question: Why was THAT their response to the loss of the State as partner?
They could have had a different response at the Vatican II Council. The popes and rthe bishops at the Council COULD have set out to re-convert/convert the people of the dominant secular world.
As everyone knows, the only real partner that the Church has is Christ. Scripture and Tradition call the Church the Bride and Christ the Bridegroom. At Vatican II, that could have been the focus, and the emphasis could have been on winning souls and doing what is described in Colossians 1:13 “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,”
But that’s NOT what the Vatican II Council was about. It was about Ecumenism and Religious Liberty for all. It was about “renewal,” “updating,” and embracing the modern secular world.
Again, all this begs the question: WHY? Why was THAT the orientation of Vatican II, and NOT a call to the traditional sort of missionary work carried out by St. Patrick of Ireland and St. Francis Xavier and all those priests and brothers who were sent to preach to and convert the Jansenists, Cathars and Muslims?
Therefore, I suggest that your thesis describes WHAT happened (and is still happening), but has the terrible weakness of failing to explain WHY this happened or HOW such a thing could happen at all among the prelates of Christ’s Church. Without such a deeper analysis, what hope is there of a WAY OUT of this mess?
You wrote: “The Church simply must stop this perverse groveling and reassert herself as the innocent party.”
Must she? Who says? Pope Francis doesn’t say so. Cardinals Marx and Kasper don’t say so. So what, are we just supposed to write letters to these men and ask them to stop doing what they are doing because we don’t like it?
Another whole way of looking at the history of the Roman Catholic Church at and since Vatican II is that non-Catholics took over the leadership of the Church. Under this view, they aren’t Catholic, and have NO INTEREST in being Catholic. They are in madly love with a “different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4), and are using the institution of the Roman Catholic Church to spread this different gospel.
In other words, it all comes down to DOCTRINE.
Who beside me in today’s Catholic world says this? The priests of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) have said this for years. See: http://op54rosary.ning.com/for…
Now, I understand that many Catholics who consider themselves to be solidly faithful, solidly conservative or traditional, do not agree that the doctrine taught by the popes and bishops of the last 50 years has ACTUALLY become corrupted. They would find such a thing to be impossible, based on the Doctrine of the Indefectibility of the Catholic Church.
But is it really realistic to suppose that the whole problem in the Church is that the Church’s pastors have, for some unexplained reason, decided to grovel before the secular world?
Since 1970, the SSPX priests and bishops have produced a large literature of books, articles, essays and sermons that explain on a doctrinal level what was going on at the Vatican II Council and what has been going on since. They have explained (and I would say proved) how the doctrinal statements in the Vatican II document dealing with Ecumenism and Religious Liberty are incompatible with the Catholic Faith and as a result have corrupted the teaching and preaching of the popes and bishops.
Now, of course the bishops and priests of the SSPX are not infallible. But they are the only ones I have found to have a coherent and systematic explanation of what has gone wrong and why.
A decent introduction of the views of the SSPX can be found in Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s An Open Letter to Confused Catholics.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner.
May the grace of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.