Ephemera XI

Peter E. Gordon has a review up at The New York Review of Books of a(nother) new book on Søren Kierkegaard, this one by a staunch non-Christian. Based on Gordon’s summary, the book sounds ghastly; his remarks, however, merit some attention. Kierkegaard is a vexing figure in the history of theology/philosophy. The kids love him, but by the time they settled into their mid-to-late 20s, the gloomy Dane’s writings start to lose their savor. Kierkegaard the seeming non-conformist is “cool”; the real man behind the writings is decidedly less so, what with his melancholy religiosity fueled by fideism, individualism, and maybe a wee bit more Hegelianism than Kierkegaard himself would admit. His call for others to live as “authentic Christians” (a height he may or may not have achieved during his relatively short stay on earth) has a certain attractiveness to it, at least until people have to get jobs, juggle marriages, deal with kids, etc. Gordon, naturally, tries to find contradictions in Kierkegaard, such as his support for the old Danish regime over and against 19th C. liberalizing reforms. How can such a staunch individualist like Kierkegaard not buy into the promises of liberalism? Gordon doesn’t really bother with what Kieregaard had to say on the subject (it’s really not all that much anyways). He just shakes his head in disappointment, unable to reconcile how someone who saw Christianity to be the narrowest path in life couldn’t be bothered to embrace the wide and easy road to comfort, entertainment, and indifference — the unholy trinity of the liberal imagination.

Rorate Caeli may have blocked me on Twitter for not agreeing with their pro-Trump heterodoxy, but I still check-in on their blog. Their latest post, an op-ed, discusses the perennial importance of Latin in the Roman Rite. While I find the piece a tad it ahistorical and maybe a little too enamored with the exoticness of Latin, I remain generally favorable toward the idea of Latin being retained as the Romans’ primary liturgical tongue. Today, in the age of hand missals, it is not terribly difficult for a layman unschooled in Latin to follow the Tridentine Mass. Moreover, basic ecclesial Latin is far easier to pick up than other extant liturgical languages such as Byzantine Greek and Church Slavonic. In fact, some time ago, I posted a defense of Church Slavonic which, for better or worse, was met with some mixed reactions. My point then — which some missed — is not that Slavonic should hold primacy of place in the Slavo-Byzantine Rite, but that it should not be abandoned wholesale. There is much to be said about retaining a basic sense of liturgical continuity through the ages and for local churches not to abandon their patrimony fully even as they seek appropriate ways to spread the Gospel.

Yesterday’s post, “Heaven Forbid,” along with “All Earthly Cares,” were not intended to signal a new direction for Opus Publicum, though I can understand how some may have interpreted them that way. If anything, they represent a “summation” of certain views which I have developed over the course of this particular blogging endeavor, though I doubt either post constitutes my “last word” on the fraught matter of religion and politics. What is starting to become clear to me is how tempting it is to turn Catholicism, particularly traditional Catholicism, into a political religion that fills-in certain moral and metaphysical gaps left by liberalism. It is disturbingly easy for an authentic concern for the common good to degrade into an ideology or, worse, associate itself with an extant ideology (e.g. Marxism) to the point where advancing the ideology becomes more crucial than preparing for the return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. On the opposite end of the spectrum is a temptation to flee, to build-up a quasi-Gnostic existence that shuns the world entirely and hope that something — anything — saves us.

As a final remark, let me say that yesterday’s post in no way, shape, or form questions the reality that the entire deposit of faith is to be found in the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. In discussing the Eastern Orthodox, my point was entirely empirical and I believe I was clear enough on the fact that contemporary Orthodoxy limps when it comes to certain moral matters. Obviously the Orthodox do not agree with the Catholic conception of primacy in the Church, a crucial fact that sadly keeps the East/West estrangement alive to this day. However, on any given Sunday, what an Orthodox priest thinks privately about the Ordinary of Rome and the extent of his jurisdiction is peripheral to what he preaches based on the infallible Word of God. A priest who believes it is his duty to share his personal theological opinions or pet social causes from the pulpit is in dereliction of his duty, or so I believe. This is not to say there aren’t Orthodox priests who go down that road; they just appear to do it far, far less on average than Latin Catholic clerics. If Latin Catholics are uncomfortable with that reality, then praise be. Do something about it; don’t just sit there and lament and make excuses.


1 Comment

  1. matthewgaul
    October 28, 2016

    What’s a Latin Catholic going to do about it?

    The Latins are so heavy on authority that tradition holds almost no weight with them.

    So beleaguered orthodox Latins have little recourse but to feed on whatever scraps they’re given.

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